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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.

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“Perfect Happiness” on Viewing Four Jane Austen First Editions

A few members of our region had the good fortune to visit the Washington State University (WSU) Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC) room in the library to view four first editions of Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion.  A WSU alum, Lorraine (Kure) Hanaway recently left the first editions to WSU in her will (https://news.wsu.edu/2021/06/07/first-edition-jane-austen-novels-added-wsu-libraries-collection/).  Lorraine was one of the founding members of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) and was a member of the Eastern Pennsylvania region (http://jasna.org/publications-2/persuasions-online/vol-41-no-1/memorium-hanaway/). Dr. Trevor Bond, Associate Dean for Digital Initiative and Special Collections, and Greg Matthews, Special Collections Librarian at MASC, were our guides for the viewing and arranged all the books that we saw.  I think two themes that shape my reflections on seeing the first editions are:  the importance of preserving and understanding Jane Austen’s early editions and the joy of finding your “small band of true friends” who love Austen. 

Preserving and Understanding Jane Austen’s Early Editions

It seems centrally important to understanding Austen’s works to maintain the volume structure of the novels.  The three volumes structure clearly organizes the novels that were published during Austen’s lifetime.  (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published posthumously each as two volumes of a four-volume set so we can’t be sure of author intent in terms of volumes.)  For example, in Mansfield Park at the end of Volume I, the volume ends quite dramatically when Sir Thomas comes home, and his return is announced to those rehearsing the play by an aghast Julia.  While most recent edited editions of the novels preserve the three (or two) volume structure, it is wonderful to actually see the three volumes and think about what it must have been like to read one volume and then be so excited to start the next volume to find out what came next.  In the first editions we also see the ways that the printers kept continuity in the text by printing the first word of the next page at the end of the previous page (aka the “catchword”, see Deb Barnum’s blog on collecting books: https://janeausteninvermont.blog/2021/03/06/collecting-jane-austen-book-collecting-101/).  We also can see that not many words are printed on each line, so that the words on one page of a current edition might be spread out over two pages in a first edition (compare the Emma proposal scene in the first edition to the proposal scene in the Penguin edition edited by Juliette Wells, marked in the picture below by blue brackets).  It feels amazing that these volumes from the early 1800s have survived into the 21st century.

Finding Your “Small Band of True Friends”

It was so special to see the first editions with two of our region’s “founding members”.  Vic was at our very first meeting in Pullman in June 2017 and Chuck was at our first tea in Spokane in July 2017.  They both joined JASNA that year and helped our region to be recognized as an official region.  One of the joys of being a regional coordinator is getting to meet new Jane Austen fans in our region in person (such as Deb, who came with Vic) and, through social media and on Zoom, getting to meet people from all over the world who are Janeites. When viewing the first editions I also felt a connection to Lorraine Hanaway, who donated them, although I never had the pleasure of meeting her.  I could imagine her walking around the WSU campus in the late 1940s, thinking about the next edition of the student paper, The Daily Evergreen, in her job as editor.

T to B, L to R: Michele, Chuck, Vic, and Debbie are all smiling widely behind their masks!

The other Janeite I connected with at the MASC was, unexpectedly, Virginia Woolf!  The MASC has a large collection of volumes from Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s personal library (http://ntserver1.wsulibs.wsu.edu/masc/onlinebooks/woolflibrary/woolflibraryonline.htm).  I knew that Woolf was a big Jane Austen fan.  Trevor Bond and Greg Matthews arranged for us to see the Jane Austen books from the Woolf personal library.  The novels were mainly the “Everyman Library” versions from the early 1900s, although there was a two volume edition of Pride and Prejudice printed in 1817 by Egerton that was given to Virginia Woolf from John Maynard Keynes (the economist, who was also a part of the Bloomsbury group) and signed by him.  I was excited to see first editions of several of the Oxford publications from the 1920s: Lady Susan (pictured), Volume the First, and the final chapters of Persuasion, including the canceled chapter 10.  Another volume was probably quite rare since it said in the volume that only 250 were published:  a special printing of the final chapters of Persuasion printed on handmade paper with a facsimile version of the canceled chapter 10 in Jane Austen’s handwriting (see picture).  Holding volumes that Virginia Woolf held was very special.

It was a dream come true for me to be able to hold some Jane Austen first editions. I need to go back and study the first edition volumes in more detail.  I also want to get a better look at the P&P from 1817 that belonged to Virginia Woolf.  If you live locally and would like to see the volumes, they are available to view when MASC is open.  See https://libraries.wsu.edu/masc/ for more information about hours and how to access material in the reading room at MASC.

Michele Larrow, Regional Co-Coordinator

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Coffee or Tea

by Cassandra Dole Bates

During Jane Austen’s time that was the question. The first Coffee House in Britain came about in 1675 and coffee was in favor until 1830 when coffee houses became almost extinct. This was due to the heavy political and sometimes unsavory conversations had at coffee houses as well as it was a drink mostly favored by men (probably due to the discourses had at these establishments). It was said that because of these conversations women were not in favor of said coffee houses and by Jane Austen’s time, tea was much more preferred as it was a much more non-bias family friendly drink to be had as it could be enjoyed by all not just men and elite at clubs and coffee houses. Coffee drinking is mentioned in five of Miss Austen’s seven novels (Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, and Pride and Prejudice). In Pride and Prejudice in particular, Miss Austen uses coffee and tea as means to exacerbate Darcy and Elizabeth’s tension. Dr. Jessica Volz has an excellent write up on this very subject through the Jane Austen Literacy Project, check out the narrative here: https://janeaustenlf.org/pride-and-possibilities-articles/2017/2/21/issue-8-coffee-tea-and-visuality.

What would be a Coffee post without a recipe?

Mrs Maria Eliza Rundell, in A New System of Domestic Cookery, 1808

To make Coffee

Put two ounces of fresh ground coffee, of the best quality, into a coffee-pot, and pour eight coffee-cups of boiling water on it; let it boil six minutes, pour out a cupful two or three times, and return it again; then put two or three isinglass-chips into it, and pour one large spoonful of boiling water on it; boil it five minutes more, and set the pot by the fire to keep it hot for ten minutes, and you will have coffee of a beautiful clearness.

Fine cream should always be served with coffee, and either pounded sugar-candy, or fine Lisbon sugar.

If for foreigners, or those who like it extremely strong, make only eight dishes from three ounces.  If not fresh roasted, lay it before a fire until perfectly hot and dry; or you may put the smallest bit of fresh butter into a preserving pan of a small size, and, when hot, throw the coffee in it, and toss it about until it be freshened, letting it be cold before ground.

*Isinglass is a clarifying collagen, produced from the swim bladders of fish, prior to 1795 from sturgeon but after that also from cod; nowadays we would use gelatin.  Lisbon sugar, otherwise known as clayed sugar, was manufactured in the colonies of France, Spain and, as the name suggests, Portugal.  Wet pipeclay was laid on top of the sugar and water poured over which removed the molasses.  Sugar candy is formed of large crystals of sugar, today known as rock candy or sugar. *

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Jane Austen’s Poetic Life

by Debra Lynne Peck © 2020

As for ourselves, we’re very well; as unaffected prose will tell – Cassandra’s pen will paint our state, the many comforts that await, our Chawton Home – how much we find, already in it to our mind, and how convinced that when complete, it will all other houses beat, that ever have been made or mended – with rooms concise or rooms distended. You’ll find us very snug next year, perhaps with Charles and Fanny near – for now, it often does delight us, to fancy them just over-right us!

The happy little verse above is an excerpt from a poem called “My Dearest Frank, I Wish You, Joy.” Jane Austen wrote this poem in 1809, to congratulate her brother Frank on the birth of his second child, and to sing the praises of her new home – Chawton Cottage. Jane was often inspired to write poetry for her family and special friends, to both entertain them, and to let them know in her humorous way, how much they meant to her. She composed poems on every subject, from headaches and praises, to current events and snippets of gossip. Writing imaginative verse was second nature to Jane, as she grew up in a family of talented poets. Her Mother, Brothers James and Edward, and even her Sister Cassandra, all tried their hand at rhyming. Later, her nieces and nephews joined in the fun, and her nephew James Edward Austen (later Austen-Leigh,) upon finding out his dear Aunt was responsible for writing the novels he had come to love, wrote her a humorous poem of applause! James Edward would later write one of the first biographies on Jane Austen’s life.

No words can express, my dear Aunt, my surprise – or make you conceive how I opened my eyes, like a pig Butcher Pile has just struck with his knife, when I heard for the very first time in my life, that I had the honour to have a relation, whose works were dispersed through the whole of the nation. I assure you, however, I’m terribly glad; Oh dear, just to think (and the thought drives me mad) that dear Mrs. Jennings’ good-natured strain, was really the produce of your witty brain – that you made the Middletons, Dashwoods, and all, and that you (not young Ferrars) found out that a ball, may be given in cottages never so small – And though Mr. Collins so grateful for all, will Lady De Bourgh his dear patroness call, ‘Tis to your ingenuity really he owed, his living, his wife, and his humble abode! Now if you will take your poor nephew’s advice, your works to Sir William pray send in a trice – If he’ll undertake to some grandees to show it, by whose means at last the Prince Regent might know it – for I’m sure if he did, in reward for your tale, he’d make you a Countess at least without fail – and indeed, if the Princess should lose her dear life, you might have a chance of becoming his wife!

Her Father’s extensive library at Steventon Rectory, along with the circulating library of the day, afforded Jane access to works of the great poets of her time. Jane’s brother, Henry, was recorded as stating that her favorite poet was William Cowper. Jane herself refers to his works “Tirocinium, and The Task” many times in her novels and letters. Other poets Jane admired were Dr. Samuel Johnson, the Reverend George Crabbe, Lord Byron, Charlotte Smith, and Anna Laeticia Barbauld. Jane was known to have joked with her family about being the second Mrs. Crabbe. Upon hearing of the death of the first Mrs. Crabbe, she remarked in an 1813 letter to Cassandra – “I will comfort him as well as I can, but I do not undertake to be good to her children…she had better not leave any!” George Crabbe wrote realistic poetry depicting how harsh and depressing life in the countryside could be – poems that were neither idyllic nor pastoral. Perhaps Jane admired Crabbe’s poetry for his attempts to bring the harsh reality of poverty into the social consciousness. An excerpt from William Cowper’s “Tirocinium (A Review of Schools”) from 1784 shows a romantic point of view and a lyrical rhythm which is more inviting –

Spring hangs her infant blossoms on the trees, rocked in the cradle of the western breeze. Summer in haste the thriving charge receives, beneath the shade of her expanded leaves, till Autumn’s fiercer heats and plenteous dews, dye them at last in all their glowing hues.

An excerpt from Charlotte Smith’s “Invitation to the Bee,” would have appealed to Jane’s love of nature and the joys of living in the country –

Child of patient industry, little active, busy bee, though art out at early morn, just as the opening flowers are born – among the green and grassy meads, where cowslips hang their heads, or by hedge-rows, while the dew, glitters on the hare-bell blue – then on eager wing are flown, to thymy hillocks on the down, or to revel on the broom, or suck the clover’s crimson bloom – murmuring still thou busy bee, thy little ode to industry!

There is some dispute about a little needle and thread case that Jane Austen made, in which she enclosed the following poem – written by herself. Three different biographers list the possible recipients as being Jane’s dear friend Martha Lloyd, her sister-in-law Mary Lloyd, or her niece Caroline Austen! I would like to think she wrote it for Martha Lloyd, a faithful bosom companion and friend of her lifetime.

This little bag I hope will prove to be not vainly made – for if you should a needle want, it will afford you aid – and as we are about to part T’will serve another end, for when you look upon the bag, you’ll recollect your friend!  

Loyal friends were vitally important to Jane Austen, and close companions Martha Lloyd and Anne Sharp were models for perfect friendship. – From the poet Anna Laeticia Barbauld’s “Pious Friendship” –

How blest the sacred tie that binds, in union sweet according minds! How swift the heavenly course they run, whose hearts, whose faith, whose hopes are one!

Another dear friend of Jane’s youth, Madam Lefroy – inspired her to write a poem of tribute after Mrs. Lefroy’s untimely death from a horse accident on Jane’s birthday in 1804. An excerpt from one of Jane’s most heartfelt and emotional poems shows her deep feelings for her kindly mentor:

Angelic woman! Past my power to praise, in language meet thy talents, temper, mind – thy solid worth, thy captivating grace, thou friend and ornament of humankind.

The following verse is one of my very favorite Jane Austen poems, written for her niece Fanny Knight, on the occasion of Francis Austen’s wedding to Mary Gibson, July 24, 1806. The imagery this verse calls forth pulls one right into the heart of the story where you can feel every bump in the road and hear the rumbling of the carriage and the sound of the horse’s hooves pounding the lane!

See they come, post haste from Thanet, lovely couple, side by side – They’ve left behind them Richard Kennet, with the parents of the Bride! Canterbury, they have passed through, next succeeded Stamford Bridge – Chilham Village they came fast through, now they’ve mounted yonder ridge – Down the hill, they’re swift proceeding, now they skirt the Park around – Lo! The cattle sweetly feeding, scamper – startled at the sound! Run, my Brothers, to the Pier gate! Throw it open, very wide! Let it not be said that we’re late in welcoming my Uncle’s Bride! To the house the chaise advances, now it stops – They’re here, they’re here! How d’ye do, my Uncle Francis? How does do your Lady dear?

Many “Janeites” of yesteryear, inspired by the writings of Jane Austen, felt compelled to honor her – both in verse and prose. Lord Morpeth: 7th Earl of Carlisle and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Anne Isabella: Lady Ritchie, Andrew Lang, Virginia Woolf, and Rudyard Kipling, were just a few. Of these, Rudyard Kipling offers the most touching tribute, when he imagines “Jane’s Marriage:” Try not to cry when you read this – I always do!

Jane went to Paradise: that was only fair, Good Sir Walter followed her, and armed her up the stair. Henry and Tobias, and Miguel of Spain, stood with Shakespeare at the top, to welcome Jane – Then the Three Archangels, offered out of hand, anything in Heaven’s gift that she might command. Azrael’s eyes upon her, Raphael’s wings above, Michael’s sword against her heart, Jane said – “Love.” Instantly the understanding Seraphim, laid their fingers on their lips and went to look for him. Stole across the Zodiac, harnessed Charles’s Wain, and whispered round the Nebulae, “Who loved Jane?” In a private limbo, where none thought to look, sat a Hampshire gentleman, reading of a book. It was called “Persuasion,” and it told the plain, story of the love between Him and Jane. He heard the question, circle Heaven through – closed the book, and answered – “I did – and do!” Quietly but speedily (as Captain Wentworth moved) entered into Paradise, the man Jane loved!  – Jane lies in Winchester, blessed be her shade! Praise the Lord for making her, and her for all she made. And, while the stones of Winchester – or Milsom Street – remain, Glory, Love, and Honour unto England’s Jane!

It is serendipitous to me that Kipling chose Jane Austen’s most mature novel for the subject of his poem because I believe Persuasion to be her most poetic novel. Jane lived a very creative life. Though her verses are few, her stories teem with all the drama poets love. They are filled with tragic and disappointing love, separation of lovers, unsettled home life, the longing for a real home, failed communication between lovers, the desire to have it all, (love and independence) and the tragedy and comedy of the human condition. How can one not see the poetry in her novels? Is not the line “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you,” or “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more,” pure poetry? And from “Persuasion,” “Prettier musings of high-wrought love and eternal constancy, could never have passed along the streets of Bath, than Anne was sporting with from Camden-place to Westgate-buildings. It was almost enough to spread purification and perfume all the way.” Consider Captain Harville’s speech to Anne at the White Hart, and Oh! Captain Wentworth’s letter! It is poetic from beginning to end!

But, alas, it is a line from Jane Austen’s last poem that says what we all feel. On July 15, 1817, St. Swithin’s Day – Jane wrote a poem about the Winchester Races. The story in this verse tells the humorous tale of St. Swithin cursing the horse races held on a day that was supposed to honor him. She says: “When once we are buried, you think we are gone, but Behold me Immortal” and we do.

Jane Austen and Chawton House Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Rita Greer, Licence Art Libre, Copyleft

British Library Public Domain Photos

Works cited:

A Memoir of Jane Austen:  James Edward Austen-Leigh, Richard Bentley and Son, London 1886

A Portrait of Jane Austen: David Cecil, Penguin Books LTD, London 1980

Charlotte Smith Complete Poetical Works: Delphi Classics, East Sussex, United Kingdom 2014

Debits and Credits: Rudyard Kipling, Doubleday/Page, New York 1926

Jane Austen’s Letters: Edited by Deirdre LeFaye, Oxford University Press, New York 1995

Persuasion: Jane Austen, 1818, Penguin Classics, London 1998

The Poems of Anna Laeticia Barbauld: Edited by William McCarthy and Elizabeth Kraft, University of Georgia Press 1994

The Poetry of Jane Austen and The Austen Family: Edited by David Selwyn, University of Iowa Press/Jane Austen Society 1997

The Works of William Cowper:  Hardpress, Miami, Florida 2018

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Introducing: Flat Jane Austen!

We have been working on a special project which combines friendship with something Jane Austen loved doing, writing letters, and are so pleased to share it with you today!

Introducing “Flat Jane Austen”!!!

In the last three years, we have loved developing friendships with you, whether on our various social media platforms or at our events, through your comments and emails. It has saddened us not to be able to meet in person for our usual lovely gatherings. In an effort to strengthen our friendships, provide a connection between members and the friends we have made in the Jane Austen world, and have a little fun while possibly staying closer to home than usual, we have set up this special project with Flat Austen, as we affectionately call her, an endeavor similar to the “Flat Stanley” activity popular with many school children.

Here’s how it works:

1. After you have read this post, if you wish to participate complete this form that adds you to our database for the project: https://forms.gle/GR6RnfiVvmodSDFm8 . If you have any questions, email us for the project at: FlatJaneAusten@gmail.com.
2. Let’s say Anne Elliot signs up first and gives us her address. Flat Austen travels to Anne’s home via the mail (hopefully not too bumpy or hot like a ride in a mail coach).
3. Anne and Flat Austen visit Anne’s house, yard, favorite places, famous places in Anne’s city, and Anne takes photos of Flat Austen there (and herself, if she wishes!). Maybe they have tea or make cookies or read a book or go on a boat! The sky is the limit (although please nothing which would scandalize someone like Mrs. Weston or Jane Bennet Bingley)!
4. Anne emails the photos to us at the email above so we can share them on social media & in a Google Photos album for everyone to see, and shares them on social media herself, if she wishes, using the hashtag #FlatJaneAusten. We give her the address of the next participant.
5. Anne writes a little note about where Flat Austen has visited on the sheet provided, puts it and Flat Austen in an envelope, (and maybe a little letter to the next recipient) and mails them to the next person on the list.
6. The next person receives Flat Austen in the mail and repeats the process! Each “visit” to someone’s house should last about 3 days at most (unless there are special circumstances—email us!).
7. We all wait to find out what lovely things Flat Austen has done with our wonderful friends and how far she has traveled! This can go on as long as people are interested.

If this sounds like fun to you, then fantastic! Please do sign up by completing this form: https://forms.gle/GR6RnfiVvmodSDFm8. This project does require you share a mailing address with us, give us permission to share it with someone else who will then send Flat Austen to you, and be willing to provide your own regular envelope and stamp to send her on to another person. We promise to keep your information confidential and only give it to the next person on the list. It will not be used for any nefarious purposes (We are NOT Willoughby, after all.)

If you are outside of the United States and wish to participate, please contact us and let us know. Hopefully the mail between countries will begin moving quickly again and we can open this up for international “travel.” 😉

If you wish to write a reply to the person who sent Flat Austen to you, then that’s absolutely lovely and completely in the spirit of this project and Jane Austen’s life! We hope this project can be a way to connect our region members until we can meet again in person.

Questions? If you want to create a Flat Austen project for your group, email us at FlatJaneAusten@gmail.com!

Keep an eye on #FlatJaneAusten & #FlatAusten on social media!