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Increasing Your Daily Joy with Jane Austen

“As Many Holds Upon Happiness as Possible”:

Increasing Your Daily Joy with Jane Austen

Michele Larrow, Regional Co-Coordinator

In January of this year (2022), our region created and hosted an “Eat. Read. Love.” scavenger hunt on Zoom as part of our celebration of Jane Austen’s December birthday.  We had people attend from all over the country and a few other countries.  The three categories were food and drink in the novels; books related to Jane Austen, examples of the novels, and reading mentioned in the novels; and items displaying our love for Jane Austen, the Regency era, and the video/film adaptations.  I was struck by how much joy attendees had in sharing their Jane Austen-related items with others and the variety of ways we proclaim our love of Jane Austen.

I will discuss how to be a bit more intentional and mindful throughout our day in using our Jane Austen love to increase joy.  Some of these suggestions might be things that you already do, and my hope is that doing them more intentionally will help you feel more joyful.

Take a breath and smile when you see anything related to Jane Austen.   Most of us have Jane Austen mugs, or pictures, or figures.  When you use or see something that is Jane Austen-related, take a breath in, smile, and think about a specific scene or quotation that makes you feel good.  For example, I have three bone china mugs that I use with my morning tea with botanical pictures of apples, peaches, and cherries.  Apples remind me of Mr. Knightley and Donwell Abbey (big smile), peaches remind me of Mr. Darcy and Pemberly (when Lizzy and Mrs. Gardiner visit with Georgiana), and cherries are mentioned by Mrs. Elton during the strawberry picking monologue in Emma (I always smile because of the genius of how Austen portrays Mrs. Elton’s speech). Using bone china also connects me to Jane Austen’s time (although it is not Wedgwood or Staffordshire).  Have Jane Austen items in places where you can see them throughout your day to frequently have that pause and smile. 

Connect Jane Austen to something else you love.  I work as a psychologist at a university counseling center.  We are privileged to work with students from all cultural backgrounds and all gender identity and sexual orientations.  I have a large “More Pride, Less Prejudice” graphic in my office (see below) that was designed by Georgie Castilla of Duniath Comics https://www.duniathcomics.com/.  I also ordered some of Georgie’s P&P stickers and brought them into work to share with my co-workers and the graduate student trainees.  Thirty stickers were gone in no time and even the “big boss” wanted one.  It is so neat to see the stickers around the center, and I feel happy to have spread some Jane Austen and Pride joy!

Do some GIF therapy.  My favorite GIF is the “Knightly Approves” GIF.  I laugh every time I see it and it has become a running joke with a small group of other Mr. Knightley fans on our region’s Facebook page.  Our region officers also love a good Clueless GIF (“As if!”).  When I see a GIF, I have associations to the work it is from, which brings more happiness.  Take some time each day for a little GIF therapy.  [Also, my computer friends want me to note that it is pronounced “jif”, like the peanut butter, according to the late Steve Wilhite, the GIF creator.]  Another alternative is to find video clips of the TV show/movie adaptations you like on a video platform when you don’t have time to watch a whole movie or TV episode. Knightley Approves: https://tenor.com/UyTp.gif and Cher, “As If”: https://tenor.com/xUTi.gif.

Wear your Jane Austen colors.  We can’t always wear our Jane Austen t-shirts or Regency togs, to work for example (darn professional standards!).  We can pick colors to wear that we associate with specific characters or film adaptations.  I have several Cher-yellow (Clueless) items that make me extra happy when I wear them.  See if you can make Jane Austen associations to the colors of clothes you own—Captain Wentworth navy blue, Lizzy (2005) loden green, Emma (2009) pink, Catherine or Fanny white (preferably in muslin with glossy spots), Elinor (2008) muted lavender, Marianne (1995) ice blue, Darcy black, etc.  I also have a pashmina scarf that I bought at an AGM that I have taken to wearing in the winter instead of packing it away in the cedar chest.  I call it my “Pride and Prejudice Peacock Edition” shawl and very much feel like a Regency woman when I wear it.

If it fits with your space and your budget, get the DELUXE edition!  I have several versions of most of the novels and enjoy reading the notes in annotated editions.  I bought Bharat Tandon’s edited Emma: An Annotated Edition (2012, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press) a couple of years ago and recently bought the Robert Morrison’s edited Persuasion: An Annotated Edition (2011, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press) and the Patricia Meyer Spacks’s edited Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition (2010, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press).  They are each such beautiful editions with excellent annotations and pictures.  It is a pleasure to hold them and feel their heft.  I plan to get the Belknap editions of Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, and Northanger Abbey soon.

I hope that these suggestions seem doable.  The main point about each is being intentional as you interact with objects you already have in order to take a minute to let the positive emotions associated with Jane Austen create joy in your day.  Leave a comment if you have another way you bring Jane Austen joy into your day.

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The Other Bennet Sister Review

Review: The Other Bennet Sister

By Janice Hadlow, Henry Holt and Company (2020) 463 Pages

Reviewed by Charles Pierce, Eastern WA/Northern ID Region member

The Other Bennet Sister is more of a companion read to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice (P&P) rather than a retelling. Hadlow’s four-part novel chronicles the story of little-known Mary Bennet, one of five Bennet sisters in Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Part one of The Other Bennet Sister does retell, in part, Austen’s P&P but from the perspective of enigmatical Mary Bennet, beginning as a young girl to her eighteenth year when the arrival of Charles Bingley and his sisters to Netherfield disrupt small-town life in Hertfordshire County. Mary learns at a young age of her insignificance as plain looking, unlike her four sisters who are considered beauties. She is neither her father or mother’s favorite as she lacks beauty, charm, and wit. Mrs. Bennet does not fail to constantly remind Mary of her disagreeable appearance growing up in a household of four beauties. Early on Mary begins to realize that she must compensate for her deficiency in appearance, charm, and wit by distinguishing herself through some other means. Study and music, she determines is her avenue to gain attention and her mother’s affection. Parts two, three, and four depicts Mary Bennet’s own story after the death of her father.

Mr. Bennet dies not long after Elizabeth Bennet marries Mr. Darcy and Jane Bennet marries Charles Bingley; thus, forcing the remaining women of Longbourn out of their life-long home as Mr. and Mrs. Collin’s take advantage of the entail and move in. Mary begins her struggle to find comfort in a new home. Her first option is to move in with the Bingleys along with her mother. Here she encounters continued disparagement from her mother, and subsequently is in frequent company of Miss Caroline Bingley whose verbal abuse of Mary inflicts grief. Mary’s threshold of disparagement and verbal abuse is exhausted. She now accepts her sister Mrs. Darcy’s, invitation to make Pemberly her home. Arriving at Pemberly Mary finds Mr. Darcy and his sister are not at home, allowing for Mary and Lizzy time spent together reinvigorating their sisterly bond. This connection and bond quickly changes upon the return of the Darcys as Lizzy gives her full attention to Mr. Darcy and his sister, leaving Mary to believe herself an outsider.

Mary accepts an invitation from Charlotte Collins to visit Longbourn. All is initially well at the Collins’s until Mrs. Collins begins to notice that Mary and Mr. Collins have developed a close friendship. Jealousy ensues. Charlotte begins to appear affable toward Mary. Mary understands this is likely from Charlotte’s misinterpretation of her and Mr. Collins’ time spent together. Mary abruptly severs her frequent interaction with Mr. Collins in an effort to placate Charlotte. Charlotte’s demeanor towards Mary softens, but she implies that Mary’s time to depart is nearing.

Mary contemplates her limited options. How about her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner in London, she asks? Lizzy and Jane were frequently invited to visit the Gardiners at their home in London, so why not her? The Gardiners response to Mary’s request for a visit was enthusiastic. Mary, once again, is on her way to another prospective home. Mary blooms under the loving care of her Aunt Gardiner who manifests the affection towards Mary that she never received from her own mother. Mrs. Gardiner delicately schools Mary on dress, appearance, and proper conversation. This affectionate guidance galvanizes a transformation of Mary into an attractive young woman, bringing potential suitors Mary’s way.

Vacation to the lakes with the Gardiners provides Mary with the pleasure to see new country. A potential suiter for Mary, a distant relation of Mrs. Gardiner’s, is to follow them to the Lakes. Mary is most ecstatic to continue this association. A few days after their arrival to the lakes and enjoyment in each other’s company, another young potential suiter, who is connected with Miss Bingley, and Miss Bingley also, arrives to enjoy the lakes and Mary’s company. Once again, the verbal abuse begins. How does Mary cope? Read the book.

As one who is considerably biased in favor of P&P and Lizzy Bennet (now Mrs. Darcy), I found the portrayal of Pemberley in The Other Bennet Sister a bit unsettling, if not disagreeable. Lizzy and Mr. Darcy’s transformation in P&P significantly enhanced their ability to comprehend the sensitivity of others. Of all Jane Austen’s characters, Mr. Darcy underwent the most significant and radical transformation. The narrative that the Darcys would dismiss Mary’s presence and not ensure she was welcomed in their activities fail to recognize this transformation experienced by Lizzy and Mr. Darcy. The Darcys would have easily recognized Mary’s unhappy state, and engender comfort and welcome to Mary, involving her in the family’s pursuits. And, Caroline Bingley’s ending was impractical. Miss Bingley would never give Lizzy Darcy the satisfaction that she has sunk in her esteem, and thus would not abscond no matter how desperate she is for marriage.

The development of Mary’s character, her struggles in finding a home, and interacting with old and new acquaintances is well formulated. Hadlow illustrates Mary’s early persona as that of one whose air is pedantic and somewhat vain in her attempt to overcome plainness of appearance to convey that of one who is accomplished, then superbly develops Mary’s evolving transformation into an attractive young woman whose confidence and comfort in who she has become brings happiness and romance.

At 463 pages The Other Bennet Sister does drag a bit at times; however, the narrative still flows skillfully and provides for an interesting and worthwhile read. While no book, in this reviewer’s mind, is a peer to Jane Austen’s written works—dialogue, wit, narrative, etc.—this book is in keeping of Jane Austen’s style of writing. I consider a novel’s worth based on whether it compels one to re-read. The Other Bennet Sister is well worthy of re-reading. Lastly, a question the reader must ask at conclusion of this read is: Has Mary’s story actually concluded, or is a continuation forthcoming?

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Tea with Miss Austen Mouse: “Pride and Prejudice” Discussion

by Cassandra Bates, Region Treasurer

I was fortunate enough to be able to take tea with my dear friend Miss Austen Mouse this past week. With the upcoming regional discussion of Pride and Prejudice we both thought having a lively discussion of one of the most loved novels of Jane Austen fitting.

As we sat in Miss Austen Mouse’s parlor sipping a lovely new English Breakfast blend and snacking on wonderful scones, we began our discussion of all things Pride and Prejudice. I opened with two words: Mr. Darcy. My friend’s response to my utter shock, was “Yes, and what of the man, I see nothing outstanding about him”.  To this, once dear reader, I composed myself, I responded with: This is a character so deeply affected by a woman as well as his societal obligations and yet so socially awkward and shy that you cannot help but feel for him in all situations. (Dear reader, did I not preface this by telling you we had a lively discussion?). I understand where my friend was coming from for on the surface, here is a man who was taciturn, conceited, and disdainful and then once he realized his own feelings towards Elizabeth Bennet, and the subsequent loss of a relationship with her, saw the error of his ways, so to speak. However, if one were to dig deeper, it would soon become apparent that although outwardly this is a man in control, inwardly a battle is raging. He does not like to be in large groups, especially of unknown people, he knows his place in society and yet, is drawn to someone societally beneath him as she is his opposite and yet, so much like him. He is rich and handsome, so is at the top of every marrying Mama’s list. He has made himself a walled fortress and, except for those he holds in close regard, does not let anyone in. Along comes Miss Eliza Bennet and throws his world into a tailspin. She is not like any woman of his acquaintance, not swayed by his money, gives her opinion rather decidedly, and calls out his poor behavior. I like to imagine her like a bright light and Darcy stumbles backwards all whilst shielding his eyes yet keeps trying to look. My dear friend, I believe was coming around to my side (and dearest reader, pray forgive my friend); until she mentioned the possibility of what if Miss Elizabeth was not as head strong (or at least outwardly) and was not as put off by his curt behavior, but rather quickly understood, here was a man struggling. Would he have been so taken in my her? Would there even have been an Elizabeth and Darcy story? Or were these two people destined to be together?

Reaching for the tea pot, I had to ask, what makes this story so special that there have been numerous movies, various written variations, published in countless languages and recognized everywhere? Setting aside her tea (I anticipated a very elegant discourse to follow); Miss Austen Mouse informed me that it is because it is the genesis of every romance, every social situation, and every interpersonal exchange. I was taken aback, every, truly not! But my friend explained. If you (forgive the vulgarity, dear reader) strip down the novel unto its very basic parts: boy meets girl, there is a huge miscommunication, boy and girl come to an understanding, boy and girl ride off into the sunset together (I may have indulged on the last part). Throw in some social commentary, awkward family, conflict and a happy ending and you have the making of a pretty good story. Dear reader, might we say every story?

As our time and lively discussion was coming to an end, we both agreed that Pride and Prejudice and Mr. Darcy are both swoon worthy and timeless in every sense and will continue to endure through the ages. If you thought Miss Austen Mouse and I had a lively discourse, please join the region for our very own discussion of Pride and Prejudice on Sunday, March 20th at 2:30 PM Pacific Time. Please register here: https://forms.gle/gRenAqcVjpdy6gz3A

Now, this is not tea with Miss Austen Mouse without a recipe. As she handed me the recipe, Miss Austen Mouse shared, “Tyler Florence is the Charles Bingley of chefs.”

Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze by Tyler Florence

Makes 8 scones

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. sugar

5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing the scones

Lemon Glaze:

½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 lemon, zest finely grated

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Sift together the dry ingredients; the four, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Using 2 forks or a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat the pieces with the flour. The mixture should look like course crumbs. Fold the blueberries into the batter. Take care not to mash or bruise the blueberries because their strong color will bleed into the dough. Make a well in the center and pour in the heavy cream. Fold everything together just to incorporate; do not overwork the dough.

Press the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 12 by 3 by 1 ¼ inches. Cut the rectangle in half then cut the pieces in half again, giving you 4 (3 inch) squares. Cut the squares in half on the diagonal to give you the classic triangle shape. Place the scones on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the tops with a little heavy cream. Bake for 15-20 minutes until beautiful and brown. Let the scones cool a bit before you apply the glaze.

You can make the lemon glaze in a double boiler, or for a simpler alternative, you can zap it in the microwave. Mix the lemon juice with the confectioners’ sugar until dissolved in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water for the double-boiler method, or in a microwave-safe bowl. Whisk the butter and the lemon zest. Either nuke the glaze for 30 seconds or continue whisking in the double boiler. Whisk the glaze to smooth out any lumps, then drizzle the glaze over the top of the scones. Let it set a minute before serving.

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Miss Austen Mouse Reviews “Confined with Mr. Darcy”

by Cassandra Bates, Treasurer

The country,” said Darcy, “can in general supply but a few subjects for such a study. In a country neighbourhood you move in a very confined and unvarying society.”

“But people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them for ever.”

Darcy and Elizabeth – ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Chapter 9

“Confined with Mr. Darcy” By L.L. Diamond

Another visit to my dear friend Miss Austen Mouse brought about the most enjoyable discussion about a book over many cups of tea and probably just as many cookies. We both stumbled upon a book by the authoress L.L. Diamond titled “Confined with Mr. Darcy”. Dare I say it, as the Pandemic continues, I thought it a wonderful premise, being under lockdown with a Mr. Darcy.

The book is short, coming in at 107 pages, this is more of a novella and was first released in June of 2020 (so right when, in some areas, were under strict lockdown). The length, Miss Austen Mouse and I decided, was perfect for a cozy afternoon with tea and cookies. This story is a modern adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and would be taking place after the disastrous proposal at Hunsford. In this story, Elizabeth is a writer (and not just any writer, she writes Regency Romance novels) and Darcy is a publisher, and the disastrous proposal is more of a guy asking a girl out after not so much as showing any interest in her and not being all that nice either (very similar to canon). Darcy then proceeds to ask Elizabeth to Pemberley to spend however long during the lockdown, with the justification that she would be able to go outside and not be as restricted in the country whereas if she stayed in London, she would be. Of course, Jane is now married to Bingley so Darcy also dangles the carrot of being able to see her sister whenever she wants as they will be staying at another cottage on the grounds. Without giving too much away, if you are at all familiar with ‘Pride and Prejudice’ this story is a cozy modern parallel using the pandemic lockdown to mirror regency era lack of easy travel. There is a fair amount of banter and flirting, Georgiana is your typical teenager, who just happens to be a musical proficient, with aspirations of Juilliard, and a cat named Tilney. We do not see Caroline or even Wickham as Darcy is pretty well capable of mucking things up on his own without the help of others.

Overall, a short enjoyable read of a modern version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ while utilizing the pandemic as a backdrop and finding some positivity while being under lockdown.

And now as the snow is falling, I am dreaming of Summer and Miss Austen Mouse had the perfect tea cookie recipe to share:

Lemon Tea Cookies

From a Spoonful of Flavor: https://www.spoonfulofflavor.com/lemon-tea-cookies/

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour

½ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus 2 more cups for rolling

1 egg yolk

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 heaping tablespoon lemon zest

½ tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and I cup of the sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. On low speed, mix in the egg yolk, lemon juice, zest and vanilla until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients, mixing on low speed just until combined. If the dough is crumbly, use your hands to knead the dough gently until it comes together and forms a ball. Roll dough into 1” sized balls and place 1” apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. While the cookies are still warm, roll in the remaining 2 cups confectioners’ sugar and place on a wire baking rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

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Christmas Musing with Miss Austen Mouse

by Cassandra Bates, Region Treasurer

With the Holidays approaching and snow falling I decided to take a trip to see my good friend Miss Austen Mouse to discuss what is so magical about this time of year, especially to Jane Austen. We had wonderful gingerbread scones and a nice black tea with a drop of honey and some cream (you must try this combination if you have not had the pleasure).

We started our discussion about winter and what it must have been like during Jane Austen’s time. Cold and everything smelled of smoke, was my opinion; however, Miss Austen Mouse had a different perspective. She agreed that everything smelled of smoke as that was the primary way of heating, but she also focused on the comforting thoughts of foot warmers, wool blankets, hot tea, and family.

Which led us into, what we thought was Jane Austen’s favorite Holiday. We both agreed, Christmas had to be it, being so close to her birthday (December 16th, 1775), she had to enjoy the Holiday immensely. In addition, we both realized that Christmas (or similar Holidays) are mentioned in each of her novels. Who could forget the disaster of a proposal by Mr. Elton to Emma as they traveled home from the Weston’s Christmas Eve dinner? Or how festive (possibly seen as chaotic) the Musgrove’s house was around Christmas time, spawning Lady Russell to remark “I hope I shall remember in future not to call at Uppercross in the Christmas Holiday”. Or even how the Gardiners traveled to Longbourn to spend Christmas with the Bennets “as usual”. But on a more personal note, for Jane Austen, she first met Tom LeFroy around Christmastime and she was also proposed to by Harris Bigg-Wither over the Holiday as well, momentous events to be sure. Miss Austen Mouse did inform me that Regency Christmas was celebrated longer than we do today. Christmas was a season from December 6th (St. Nicolas Day) to Twelfth Night, January 6th, which is also the day that Jane Austen exchanged presents and had a glorious feast and special cake.

As you are celebrating the Holiday however you do, Miss Austen Mouse and I would like to wish you all good tidings and good health this coming New Year. And without further ado, a Miss Austen Mouse post with out a recipe, just would not be a proper post.

Gingerbread Scones

From St. James Tea Room

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour OR 2 cups gluten free flour

1Tbsp. baking powder

½ tsp. Salt

½ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed

1 ½ tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground cloves

½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1/3 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup unsulfured molasses

1 large egg, lightly beaten

4 pieces candied ginger, cut into 1/8 inch squares

For the Frosting:

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 Tbsp. heavy cream + more if needed

Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to 400 °F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the four, baking powder, salt, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and molasses. Add buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until dough is just combined (the dough will be sticky).

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and pat to ½ inch thickness. Using a small star cutter, cut out 30 scones, gathering up scrapes and rerolling as necessary.