Jane Austen in Winter

When I think of Jane Austen and winter, I always think of Emma.  The snow that occurs during the Christmas Eve party at the Westons is pivotal to the plot as a way to get Mr. Elton alone with Emma.  It is also another example of how characters’ various responses to the same event reveal their personalities and whether they treat others with compassion or not.  I like that once the snow has set in for several days, Mr. Knightley still trudges through the snow to Hartfield to spend time with family.  There is so much humor in Mr. Woodhouse’s response to the snow:

“It was weather that might fairly confine everybody at home; . . . [I]t was very pleasant to have her father so well satisfied with his being all alone in his own house, too wise to stir out; and to hear him say to Mr. Knightley, whom no weather could keep entirely from them,–

’Ah! Mr. Knightley, why do you not stay at home like poor Mr. Elton?’”  (138-9, Oxford Edition)

Of course, winter in the Pacific Northwest means snow, especially in February this year.  We debated whether to reschedule our Spokane book discussion from 2/10 and ultimately decided to do so.  We were glad we did, based on the road conditions that day.  Both the Moscow Book Discussion on 2/17 at One World Cafe and the Spokane Book Discussion on 2/17 at Mary Ellen’s house were fun explorations of Northanger Abbey.  The weather and roads were clear enough that members were able to travel from significant distances (in some cases) to attend. The group in Spokane enjoyed the treats everyone brought and the discussion so much that the meeting went over 3 hours, instead of the usual 2. Unfortunately for the Moscow meeting, many members were ill and not able to attend the meeting.  We will try to reschedule something in warmer weather for those who missed.  With a smaller group in Moscow, we discovered all sorts of connections, like that two of the three attendees had both gone to Michigan State (and had very strong reactions against Ohio State).  It was nice to have time to get to know our fellow members more deeply.

In January we did a virtual movie night on our Facebook page for the movie “Love and Friendship”, Whit Stillman’s brilliant tribute to “Lady Susan”.  We had participants from Idaho, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Washington.  It was so much fun to interact with people from across the country and the comments were often hilarious.  Since it was online, we did not have to worry about the weather.

One of the best parts about winter for me is making a cup of tea and snuggling under a blanket to read Jane Austen.  I think reading when it is cold outside is especially enjoyable.  In addition to re-reading Northanger Abbey for our book discussion, I have been re-reading Emma because it brings me such joy and is a way to de-stress for me.  I also read all three of Pamela Aidan’s books in the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series in preparation for our tea at the end of April (see our Events page for more information).  I thoroughly enjoyed these books and am looking forward to hearing Pamela speak.  She will have books for sale at the tea and will be autographing books, so I plan to stock up!

I hope that you all are surviving the snow, winter illnesses, and the cold.  Most of all, enjoy some Jane Austen to brighten the days and warm your heart.  Michele



The Joy of Reading Lady Susan

There is something truly breath-taking about reading Jane Austen’s novel-in-letters “Lady Susan”.  Most scholars believe that she wrote it before she turned twenty.  In the Oxford Edition of the Minor Works, Brian Southam hypothesizes that it was written between 1793-94 (MW, 243).  Because it is a novel in letters, we get to see how characters portray themselves to different letter recipients and then how they are perceived by others who write letters.  So the main dynamic of point-of-view is between Lady Susan and her sister-in-law Mrs. Vernon.  According to Juliet McMaster in Jane Austen, Young Author, “‘Lady Susan’ features a totally self-seeking female protagonist whose considerable power lies in her freedom from moral scruple” (12).  The language of the letters and the variations on perspective are a pleasure to read.

You can see the dueling perspectives of Lady Susan and Mrs. Vernon in the following quotations.  First, Lady Susan being candid with her confidante:

“There is exquisite pleasure in subduing an insolent spirit, in making a person pre-determined to dislike, acknowledge one’s superiority.” “Lady Susan”, Jane Austen Letter 7, Lady Susan to Mrs. Johnson (about Mr. De Courcy) Minor Works, 254

Next, Mrs. Catherine Vernon portraying her view of Lady Susan in a letter to her brother:

“[Lady Susan] is clever & agreable, has all that knowledge of the world which makes conversation easy, & talks very well, with a happy command of Language, which is too often used I beleive to make Black appear White.”
“Lady Susan”, Jane Austen  Letter 6, Mrs. Vernon to Mr. De Courcy, Minor Works, 251 (spelling and capitalization from MW)

The male characters are rarely given a voice in their own letters, with the exception of Reginald De Courcy, who has a few to Lady Susan and one to his father.  Juliet McMaster calls him “a bag of goods contested over by the women” (Jane Austen, Young Author, 12).  In a reversal of the reality of the time, the men are portrayed as dominated by the women (McMaster, 12).

“Lady Susan” is such a fun read.  If you have never read it, I encourage you do so.  You can download a free copy through Project Gutenberg:

I think the quotation in the header of this article, “Facts are such horrid things,” is remarkably post-modern.  And I must close with another favorite quotation from the work, that shows that underneath it all, Lady Susan wants something else besides money:


Fun, Uncategorized

Holiday Cooking

Our new treasurer, Cassandra Bates, enjoys Regency cooking.  Here is her blog post about black butter:

Shortly after Christmas, Jane Austen wrote her sister, Cassandra, about an evening party at her brother’s house in Southampton:

“The last hour, spent in yawning and shivering in a wide circle round the fire, was dull enough, but the tray had admirable success. The widgeon and the preserved ginger were as delicious as one could wish. But as to our black butter, do not decoy anybody to Southampton by such a lure, for it is all gone. The first pot was opened when Frank and Mary were here and proved not at all what it ought to be; it was neither solid nor entirely sweet, and on seeing it Eliza remembered that Miss Austen had said she did not think it had been boiled enough. It was made, you know, when we were absent. Such being the event of the first pot, I would not save the second, and we therefore ate it in unpretending privacy; and though not what it ought to be, part of it was very good.“ Jane Austen to Cassandra, December 27, 1808

The Black butter that Jane Austen referenced in her letter to Cassandra is not what one might think (a sauce of blackened butter), but rather a thick, dark conserve of fruit, often apples (much like American Apple Butter). The other is a French style “beurre noir” and is a sauce of brown butter (if it goes black it is ruined, why the name, who knows, French Culinary).

Below is a rather traditional Black Butter similar to the one in Jane Austen’s letter:

Take 4 pounds of full ripe apples, and peel and core them. Meanwhile put into a pan 2 pints of sweet cider, and boil until it reduces by half. Put the apples, chopped small, to the cider. Cook slowly stirring frequently, until the fruit is tender, as you can crush beneath the back of a spoon. Then work the apple through a sieve and return to the pan adding 1lb beaten (granulated) sugar and spices as following, 1 teaspoon clove well ground, 2 teaspoons cinnamon well ground, 1 saltspoon (about ¼ tsp) allspice well ground. Cook over low fire for about ¾ hour, stirring until mixture thickens and turns a rich brown. Pour the butter into small clean jars, and cover with clarified butter when cold. Seal and keep for three months before using. By this time the butter will have turned almost black and have a most delicious flavour. –  Maria Hubert von Staufer March 1995



A Thousand Thanks

As I reflect on our Jane Austen Birthday Tea, there are so many people to thank. Thanks to the staff at the Roosevelt Inn for the great food and kind service.  Amy Lyons, co-Regional Coordinator, suggested the Roosevelt Inn and coordinated arrangements with them.  Jane Provinsal, our Social Media coordinator, made the lovely cinnamon Jane Austen ornaments/decorations (see the header image).  They smell heavenly.  So many people donated to the door prizes to raise money for our group.  There were basketball tickets; Regency dresses, reticules, and scarves; many books and games; embroidery; and grab bags.  We also had five theme baskets: Tea Time, Lavender Potpourri, Dress Up, Fun and Games, and Book Lover.  Thanks to Pamela Mogen, Cassandra Bates, Nancy Jo Tschida, Brenda Bye, Chuck Pierce, Sara Thompson, Debra Peck, Anne Hollum, Cindy Bell, Michele Larrow, and Yvette Tremblay-Kelly for donations.  We were able to raise over $150 for our group due to the generosity of the gift donors and those who purchased tickets to win the prizes.  (There are many pictures of the tea on the Photos of Past Events page).

A highlight of the tea was our reading of a short play Jane’s Dancers that we got through the script bank that JASNA has for the regions to use.  It was developed by the JASNA, Northern California Region.  Our readers/performers were highly entertaining and the words of Jane Austen about dancing were a fitting way to celebrate her coming birthday.  Thanks to Vickey Bolen, Van Brink, Brenda Bye, Debra Peck, Sara Thompson, and Nancy Jo Tschida for your wonderful rendition of the play.  See below for a few short snippets of the video.  Apologies for the poor stops and starts of the videos.

Thanks to everyone for a great tea.  I am thankful for all our members and everyone who has come to all our events this year!  We appreciate Sheryl DeShields who served as our treasurer for a year but had to resign.  Thanks to Cassandra Bates for agreeing to serve as our new Treasurer.  She was elected unanimously at the meeting portion of the tea.  Michele Larrow, Co-Regional Coordinator

  1. Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney

2. More Catherine and Henry

3. The Narrator from Northanger Abbey

4. Part of a scene from The Watsons


A survey for region members!

Hello, fellow Janeites of the E. Washington-N. Idaho Region,

One of the main reasons for our Saturday meeting is to discuss our region plans for 2019. We want your opinions and ideas, so we created a survey for everyone to fill out in advance, whether you can attend the meeting or not! It will give us a good foundation for planning. If you are not a local member but follow us on social media, such as this Facebook page, you may still take this survey!

We are posting the link here, on our Facebook and Twitter, and emailing it, but you only need to take it once. Thank you for taking a few minutes to share your ideas and opinions with us!

The survey will be open until 11:59pm on Thursday, 11 October and can be taken here:


Ten “Exquisite Moments” of the 2018 Persuasion AGM

The JASNA Annual General Meeting in Kansas City, MO, hosted by the JASNA Metropolitan Kansas City Region (Julienne Gehrer, AGM Coordinator) was magical and the largest attendance ever—900 people.  Each day was filled with fun events and informative presentations.  I thought I would share a few highlights for those not able to attend and, I hope, convince you to attend one in the future.  I’ve sprinkled in a few quotations from Persuasion, the Oxford/Chapman version (for page numbers).  Note that some of the photos were taken from the jumbo screens, so the coloring might be off.  I took all the pictures here myself (or had someone use my camera for the pictures I am in). The picture in the header is the canvas tote bag that we got at the AGM along with a colorful luggage tag.  Michele Larrow, Co-Regional Coordinator


  1. “Glowing and lovely in sensibility and happiness” (245). AMANDA ROOT shared dramatic readings from the novel and from her journal that she kept during filming Persuasion (1995). She said that Persuasion was her favorite movie to act in of all time! She was funny, kind, and warm and stayed around the next day to listen to several of the speakers and go to the concert.  Many people got pictures with her and several times I was within feet of where she was.  After her talk, it was a treat to re-watch the 1995 adaptation with about 900 other fans.


  1. “The company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation” (150). Everyone at an AGM is so friendly!  I met and talked with folks from all over the country and Canada, even connecting with some friends from the area who follow our Facebook page.  At the meeting for the Regional Coordinators (RCs), I met most of the RCs from the Pacific Northwest and also got to chat with Liz Philosophos Cooper, current VP for Regions and incoming JASNA President.    I sat at the banquet and the breakfasts with the welcoming members for the Puget Sound Group (see picture below of the group).  I was especially lucky that Agnes Gawne (far left in picture), the RC from Puget Sound, took me under her wing.  She helped me learn more about being an RC and gave great Regency fashion advice.  She is an expert Regency dancer who was very patient in helping me learn the steps to the dances.  I also danced with Shirley from Puget Sound and other JASNA members for across the country.

puget sound

  1. “The sense of an Italian love song” (186). The Bath Assembly Room concert was amazing.  Ensemble Musica Humana did a performance of the kinds of music one might have heard in Bath in Jane Austen’s lifetime.  There was Italian singing, a piano concerto played on period instruments, and a flute concerto (see below concert program).  The performers played and sang with such passion (the video is very short from the end of one of the songs).



  1. “She could only resolve to avoid such self-delusion in the future” (42). JOHN MULLAN (author of What Matters in Jane Austen?) was seriously funny as he discussed the many delusions about the self that characters operate under in Persuasion.  He moved from the funny (Sir Walter) to more subtle self-delusions (for example, how Anne thinks she must be happier because Captain Wentworth thinks her altered), suggesting that inner dialogue with the word “must” is a good clue to self-delusions.  He was entertaining and informative, all while speaking with a charming British accent.


  1. “In earnest contemplation of some print” (169). DEB BARNUM, owner of a collectible books store and member of the JASNA VT Region, presented on the history of illustrations of Persuasion. The first illustration was actually for the French translation in 1821. There were many examples of the classic illustrators (Hugh Thompson and C.E. Brock; see below for two Brock illustrations of Louisa’s fall at Lyme) but the funniest were some covers from paperbacks (see below).  Deb also presented on creating reading groups in your region with Holly Fields, so I have some great ideas for that.



  1. “The girls were wild for dancing” (47). After taking one of the optional dance workshops, I danced at the Ball!  There was a wide range of levels of dance experience among the attendees and the caller taught the dance moves to beginners before the music started.  I was not very elegant, but I had great fun and danced several times, including to Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot, which was in both Pride and Prejudice (1995) and Emma (1996).


  1. “A gown, or a cap would not be liable to any such misuse” (142). One of the pleasures about this AGM was actually creating a ball gown before the event.  I sewed a white silk under-slip and a blush silk overdress and created a reticule.  Jane Provinsal, our wonderful social media coordinator, knit me a shawl that I wore around my shoulders.  Overall, I felt happy with my first attempts at Regency attire. Agnes Gawne loaned me a small gold tiara with leaves (see photo below of Agnes and me).  There were so many amazing costumes.  The video show about a minute of the promenade before the ball when all the costumed attendees paraded around the fountain.  Perhaps the most elegant costume was worn by the woman who portrayed Lady Dalrymple at the concert, with her escort (below).  We also had versions of a French captain (with the bad mustache) and a British naval captain.


8. “To take up a new set of opinions and of hopes” (249). KATIE DAVIS (Liberty in Jane Austen’s Persuasion) did an excellent presentation on how Lady Russell changes over the course of the novel, showing a source of hope for “aging with grace”.  She focused in part on how Lady Russell saw Anne as so like her mother that she may have had trouble differentiating Captain Wentworth from Sir Walter in imagining Anne’s future at the initial proposal time.


9.  “A foolish spendthrift Baronet” (248). SHERYL CRAIG (Jane Austen and the State of the Nation) did another informative talk on money and financial crises in Jane Austen’s time.  She discussed how after the Battle of Waterloo, Britain experienced a financial crisis that ended up bankrupting Jane’s brother Henry.  Contemporary readers of Persuasion would have known that the crash was coming soon after the end of the story, and this would have added an element of tension to the story.  Naval officers’ money would be quite safe, but there is a chance that Sir Walter could have ended up in debtor’s prison!


10.  “I must learn to brook being happier than I deserve” (247). One of the most amazing things about an AGM is actually getting to talk to some of the Jane Austen scholars and experts.  I got to visit with two of JASNA’s grande dames.  JULIET MCMASTER (Jane Austen, Young Author; Jane Austen on Love, etc.) did a wonderful presentation on the Lake Louise AGM in 1993 that was on Persuasion.  She is also the illustrator of The Beautifull Cassandra and I had a chance to chat with her a little about that book and how I got an autographed copy used through Amazon!  I also had breakfast with JOAN KLINGEL RAY (Simply Austen; Jane Austen for Dummies, etc. and former JASNA president) one morning when we entered the crowded breakfast buffet at the same time.  We chatted about the history of JASNA, which novel is our favorite (her heart loves P&P and her head loves Emma, but I love Emma most, head and heart), and traveling.  To quote The Beautifull Cassandra: “This is a day well spent!”



I feel so lucky to have been able to go to the AGM.  It is such an exciting experience if you love the novels.  Many of the talks will be featured in Persuasions On-Line, which will come out in December 2018, and the published Persuasions for next spring.  Next year’s AGM will be on Northanger Abbey October 4-6 2019 in colonial Williamsburg, VA (see more info at  The fortieth anniversary of the founding of JASNA will also be celebrated at that time.   Then on October 9-11, 2020, Cleveland, OH will host an AGM on the Juvenilia:  So, save the dates, make your plans, and please join the festivities!  Michele


Using Vintage Handkerchiefs to Decorate a Reticule

Using Vintage Handkerchiefs to Decorate a Reticule by Michele Larrow

I have several vintage handkerchiefs that have lovely lace on them.  I wanted to use a couple of them in making a reticule to go with my gown for the ball at the JASNA Annual General Meeting in September.  The gown is of a cranberry-color cotton and the over-dress is a blush-color dupioni silk.  I had one handkerchief that had roses embroidered on a corner and I thought that would be perfect for a reticule as a center applique.  I had another linen handkerchief with crocheted lace (cotton, I think) for a nice lace border decoration.  I planned to use the blush color silk for the body of the bag.


  1. My first step was to find some inspiration online for reticules. I found a great Pinterest page on “Regency Bags and Reticules”  that had many wonderful period examples.  There was one bag especially that caught my eye from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston because it had roses, had a drawstring, and was made out of silk.  It was also about the size that mine ended up being.  Although it was painted instead of embroidery, it was good inspiration for me.

reticule MFA

Reticule MFA:


  1. I started by creating the center applique of the roses. The cotton of the handkerchief was quite sheer, so I backed it with the cranberry color of my gown, using the sturdy cotton that was used for the lining.  I first pinned the handkerchief over the cotton backing measuring so that the embroidery would be centered.  After I pinned it and cut a rough oval bigger than I needed, I folded over the edges and basted the two fabrics together, making sure to keep the piece even and centered all around.  Next, I took the lace from another handkerchief and pinned it to the back around the edge of the oval, trying to get it as even as possible.  I basted the lace onto the oval applique, leaving some of the linen from the handkerchief to secure the layers on the back.  When I got to the lace on the corner of the handkerchief, I had to cut the linen close to the lace to get it to lay as straight as possible, but I was able to complete the full oval with two sides of the handkerchief.


  1. Once the applique was basted, I decided on the dimensions of the reticule based on the size of the center applique. I wanted to have about one and a half to two inches of the silk on the sides and bottom (which I made round to echo the oval applique) and I left more space at the top of the fabric for the drawstring.  I ended up with finished dimensions of about 8.5 inches by 12 inches, including the top border.  The pattern that I created for the silk was about 9.5 by 12 because the border at the top was a different color.  Once the silk was cut for the bag, I basted the oval applique on the right side of the fabric toward the bottom with even margins for sides and bottom.  After it was basted, I machine-stitched it twice right around the perimeter of the applique, through the layers of the applique and the linen that holds the lace border.


  1. On the other side of the silk fabric I basted the lace for the bottom of the bag on the right side of the fabric, pointing the lace toward the top of the bag and sewing along the linen border that was left from the handkerchief. I had to hand-sew two pieces of lace together to make a lace piece that was long enough because I had to cut out some stains from the lace border on the old handkerchief.   I made sure to tack down the lace at the sides so that it would not get caught in the side seams when the bag was stitched together (see drawing).  I basted the two bottoms sides together to be sure the lace was positioned correctly and then I sewed the sides and the bottom of the bag and turned it right side out.  The bottom lace is not perfectly aligned, but pretty close.


  1. I made a lining of the same sturdy cotton fabric that was used for the applique, using the same dimensions as for the bag. I sewed the sides of the lining, but left the bottom open for hand-sewing after the lining was sewn to the bag.  I also created a small band at the top of the bag of the fabric of my gown, which is a looser weave (as wide as the lining and about 3 inches long).  I sewed the sides of the border and attached it to the bag and the lining, pinning right sides together and matching side seams.  Once the lining was complete, I turned the bag right side out and then hand-sewed the bottom of the lining closed using a slip stitch.  I put the lining inside the bag and made the border even at the top. Next, I sewed two lines around the bag near the top border to create the pocket for the drawstrings, leaving about 5/8-3/4 inch for the drawstrings to move freely.  I opened the seams on the outside of the bag in the pocket for the drawstring.  The drawstrings were created by folding a one-inch wide ribbon in thirds and then sewing down the middle.  One drawstring came out on one side of the bag and the other on the other side, so that it is easy to cinch and open the bag.  I threaded the drawstrings through using a safety pin to push them through and it required a little maneuvering to get the drawstrings out on each side.  Once they were out I made them even and knotted the ends, hand sewing the end of the ribbon to keep it from unraveling.


  1. Once the bag was completed, I realized that I had to tack down the lace around the central applique because it flopped over the top when it was held upright. After doing that, the bag is ready to go.  The finished dimensions of the bag are 8.5 inches by 12 inches, the perfect size for my Emma and other necessities.bagEmmacrop.JPG