At this year's annual Box Hill meeting members of CNJ JASNA spent some time catching up before beginning out discussion of Jo Baker's Longbourn. Set during (and a little after) the events of Pride and Prejudice, Longbourn is set at the Bennett house and focuses on the lives of the staff.
One of the topics discussed was criticism on the number of staff Baker shows the Bennett household having. In this novel there is the butler and housekeeper (Mr. and Mrs. Hill), two maids (Sarah and Polly) and a footman (James). It was discussed whether this was too low a number for the household. We seemed to be split on this idea that the Bennetts didn't have the money to hire more help because Mr. Bennett didn't earn enough or if their lack of savings played a part in the size of the household staff.
We also discussed Baker's use of the war in the novel, something Jane barely hinted at in her novels. This novel gives us a better understanding of the political landscape of the time. England was at war with France (well Napoleon was at war with everyone) and this resulted in James fighting in Spain. The Napoleonic Wars spanned the time period between 1803 and 1815. Between 1801 and 1814 English troops helped Spanish troops in Spain, this is when James was involved in the war. These events were ongoing while Jane was editing P&P. Given a penchant for research one could look at P&P and attempt to glen an insight to troop movements in relationship to English troop movements in relation to the war (I think that sentence makes sense).
We enjoyed the little glimpses we got into P&P while not being a retelling of the novel. Comments about the mud on the bottoms of petticoats, to needing to go fetch the shoe-roses, and the flogging of a private all became major aspects of Longbourn.
We also discussed:
* the similarities between the two stories. Elizabeth is torn between Darcy and Wickham and Sarah is torn between James and Ptolmey
* how Wickham is even more horrible in this novel
* the mixed feelings on Mr. Bennett's characterization
* the inclusion of Ptolmey and how he was similar and yet different from James
Please feel free to share you're thoughts on the novel!
A GENTLEMAN AND A LADY travelling from Tunbridge towards that part of the Sussex coast which lies between Hastings and Eastbourne, being induced by business to quit the high road and attempt a very rough lane, were overturned in toiling up its long a scent, half rock, half sand. The accident happened just beyond the only gentleman's house near the lane ~ a house which their driver, on being first required to take that direction, had conceived to be necessarily their object and had with most unwilling looks been constrained to pass by. He had grumbled and shaken his shoulders and pitied and cut his horses so sharply that he might have been open to the suspicion of overturning them on purpose (especially as the carriage was not his master's own) if the road had not indisputably become worse than before, as soon as the premises of the said house were left behind ~ expressing with a most portentous countenance that, beyond it, no wheels but cart wheels could safely proceed. The severity of the fall was broken by their slow pace and the narrowness of the lane; and the gentleman having scrambled out and helped out his companion, they neither of them at first felt more than shaken and bruised. But the gentleman had, in the course of the extrication, sprained his foot; and soon becoming sensible of it, was obliged in a few moments to cut short both his remonstrances to the driver and his congratulations to his wife and himself and sit down on the bank, unable to stand. "There is something wrong here," said he, putting his hand to his anle.- Sanditon, Jane Austen
Today is Best Friend Day so to celebrate I think we should all read Love and Freindship.
In the short epistolary novel is a series of letters. Frist Isabel writes to her friend Laura asking if Laura could please share her upsetting past with Isabel's daughter Marianne.
As any best friend would do, Laura shared her story with Marianne, a story full of over dramatic episodes filled with running mad and fainting spells.
LOVE AND FREINDSHIP
in a series of Letters
in a series of Letters
"Deceived in Freindship and Betrayed in Love."
Letter the First
How often, in answer to my repeated intreaties that you would give my Daughter a regular detail of the Misfortunes and Adventures of your Life, have you said "No, my freind, never will I comply with your request till I may be no longer in Danger of again experiencing such dreadful ones."
from Isabel to Laura
Surely that time is now at hand. You are this day 55. If a woman may ever be said to be in safety from the determined Perseverance of disagreeable Lovers and the cruel Persecutions of obstinate Fathers, surely it must be at such a time of Life.
ALTHO' I cannot agree with you in supposing that I shall never again be exposed to Misfortunes as unmerited as those I have already experienced, yet to avoid the imputation of Obstinacy or ill-nature, I will gratify the curiosity of your Daughter; and may the fortitude with which I have suffered the many afflictions of my past Life, prove to her a useful lesson for the support of those which may befall her in her own.
Laura to Isabel
AS the Daughter of my most intimate freind, I think you entitled to that knowledge of my unhappy story, which your Mother has so often solicited me to give you.
Laura to Marianne
My Father was a native of Ireland and an inhabitant of Wales; my Mother was the natural Daughter of a Scotch Peer by an Italian Opera-girl -- I was born in Spain, and received my Education at a Convent in France.
When I had reached my eighteenth Year, I was recalled by my Parents to my paternal roof in Wales. Our mansion was situated in one of the most romantic parts of the Vale of Uske. Tho' my Charms are now considerably softened and somewhat impaired by the Misfortunes I have undergone, I was once beautiful. But lovely as I was, the Graces of my Person were the least of my Perfections. Of every accomplishment accustomary to my sex, I was Mistress. When in the Convent, my progress had always exceeded my instructions, my Acquirements had been wonderfull for my age, and I had shortly surpassed my Masters.
In my Mind, every Virtue that could adorn it was centered; it was the Rendez-vous of every good Quality and of every noble sentiment.
A sensibility too tremblingly alive to every affliction of my Freinds, my Acquaintance, and particularly to every affliction of my own, was my only fault, if a fault it could be called. Alas! how altered now! Tho' indeed my own Misfortunes do not make less impression on me than they ever did, yet now I never feel for those of an other. My accomplishments too, begin to fade -- I can neither sing so well nor Dance so gracefully as I once did -- and I have entirely forgot the Minuet Dela Cour.
Professor Kathryn Sutherland from the University of Oxford talks about some of Jane Austen's manuscripts from the novel "The Watsons" and what we can learn about her from these.
The video can be found here.