November 2018 meeting: What Carrie did next, Or, How an Australian Jane Austen sequel came into being

November 20, 2018

Carrie KableanPrepared by member Jenny.

Janeites generally regard Austen sequels with ambivalence if not hostility.

However a meeting with an Australian writer who has recently published a sequel to Pride and Prejudice proved to be informative, entertaining and exhilarating.

A lifelong journalist and editor, Carrie Kablean, felt very strongly that Kitty was badly miscast in both the 1995 television and 2001 movie versions of the book.

Journalism work was drying up so Carrie decided upon a bold experimental project. She wanted to give Kitty a life.

“She couldn’t be that stupid, after all, she was a Bennet,” she pointed out.

Having a teenage daughter of a similar age gave her further material and understanding.

She was determined to make Kitty feel confident within herself. She wanted to rescue her.

However, Carrie also realised would be “standing on the shoulders of a giant.” She created a back story, based on the little information we have about Kitty, to develop her Kitty character. And she determined to keep the tone of Austen’s work, including some kind of romantic interest. A crisis would occur two thirds of the way through her novel.

Carrie’s only starting point was that she realised that Kitty and Georgiana Darcy were a similar age, so she decided it would be good to get them together so that they could become best friends. Carrie believed this to be feasible as they had much in common both being emotionally lonely, shy and withdrawn.

With a strong love of research and also of London where she was born, her next move was to travel there where she went on a steep learning curve as well as “going down some rabbit holes.”

Her discovery that London in 1813 to 1814 experienced a particularly dire winter provided the backdrop for part of the story. The relevant families visiting London at about the same time were confined inside due to extremely heavy fogs lasting for two weeks followed by heavy snowfalls. Part of the Thames froze over between Blackfriars and London Bridge which enabled a traditional Frost Fair to be held on the ice. However, in her story, this could only happen after an elephant had been employed to test the strength of the ice cover, providing a point of excitement for Kitty and the Gardiner children.

Initially Kitty’s musical talent is encouraged in the Bingley London home with Mr Bingley taking her to concerts. He also engaged a music teacher for her who coincidentally tutors Miss Darcy. This teacher helps to inspire her confidence in her abilities.

Eventually invited to Pemberley, her friendship with Georgiana Darcy is cemented. However a crisis occurs for which she gets unfairly accused. Not surprisingly, Lydia is involved in the background. We won’t give the plot away – but remember that this in an Austen-inspired story so it all works out in the end.

Carrie writes her heartfelt thanks to Jane Austen: “She is incomparable, of course, and this novel a mere homage. I only hope that, were she able to read it, she would not be too vexed at this trespass into her world.”

What Kitty Did Next by Carrie Kablean reveals a very thorough and deep knowledge of Jane Austen’s work and life. Convincing characters play out an entirely original plot.

Carrie also shared a bit about her publishing journey. She came close to finding an Australian publisher, but in the end it fell through, and she was able to find a hybrid publisher, Red Door Publishing, in England. She is currently working hard on marketing her book, as authors with independent and hybrid publishers need to do, while also working on her next work of historical fiction. It is also set in Georgian England, and springs from a family she imagines for What Kitty did next, but it will, she said, be a bit darker than What Kitty did next.


The meeting concluded with our regular secret quote and quiz, and a reminder about our Jane’s birthday and Xmas lunch on Saturday 15 December.

We also agreed on the schedule for the beginning of 2019:

  • January: No meeting
  • February: Read a book by one of Jane’s favourite authors. Maria Edgeworth
  • March: Discuss why Jane Austen was so popular in the trenches (WW1)



The November Meeting

November 13, 2018

The November Meeting is this Saturday, 17th November, at 1.30pm in the Friends’ Lounge of the National Library. Carrie Kablean will be talking about her novel, What Kitty did Next.

October 2018 meeting: Subscription and Circulating Libraries

November 7, 2018
Portico Library

Portico Library, Mosley St, Manchester, by Stephen Richards, via Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.0

This month’s discussion was inspired by member Anna’s recent visit to the Portico Library in Manchester, England. It was built in 1806 as a subscription library, and still operates as such.

Wikipedia describes its establishment as follows:

[It] was established as a result of a meeting of Manchester businessmen in 1802 which resolved to found an “institute uniting the advantages of a newsroom and a library”. A visit by four of the men to the Athenaeum in Liverpool inspired them to achieve a similar institution in Manchester. Money was raised through 400 subscriptions from Manchester men and the library opened in 1806.

Subscription vs Circulating Libraries

As always, we had carried out research in preparation for the meeting, but most of us had soon become bemused by the terms “subscription” and “circulating”. Some of our sources seemed to use these interchangeably, but it gradually became clear that they are, in fact, different “types” of libraries, with somewhat different purposes and users.

Both these libraries were, however, precursors to free public libraries as we know them today, albeit there was at least one significant freely accessible library in Britain by this time, Manchester’ Chetham’s Library.

Subscription Libraries

Also called membership libraries or independent libraries, these were established and financed by private funds either from membership fees or endowments. Access to them was traditionally restricted to members, but access rights could also be given to non-members, such as students.

These libraries developed with the increased interest and availability of secular literature in the 18th century, and often grew out of small, private book clubs – and were usually the province of men. They charged annual fees or required members to purchase shares, and used this money to build their collections and later create their own publications. These sorts of libraries starting appearing in England by the mid-late 17th century. Benjamin Franklin established a similar library in Philadelphia in 1731.

Subscription library collections tended to be “serious”, covering areas such as biography, history, philosophy, theology, and travel, rather than fiction (or novels.) Their aim was self-improvement.

According to Wikipedia, subscription libraries were democratic in nature created by and for communities of local subscribers who aimed to establish permanent collections of books and reading materials that would be mutually beneficial to the shareholders/subscribers.

Circulating Libraries

Like “subscription” libraries, circulating made books available to readers for a price. The difference lies in their establishment and intent. Circulating libraries were established by businesses – by publishers, for example, or by retailers – so their goal was financial gain, while subscription libraries’ aimed more at the self-improvement desired by their shareholders or subscribers. Indeed, James Raven notes that the success of publishers relied to some degree on “the success of their own circulating libraries.”

Circulating libraries were, however, important cultural institutions in Britain and America during the nineteenth century, because they provided the rising middle class access to a wide range of reading material, including poetry, plays, histories, biography, philosophy, travels, and especially fiction which was increasing in popularity. Users of circulating libraries could “subscribe” for a set period (such as three months, or a year) or they could pay per use (which was helpful on holidays.)

The difference in intent – and audience – was reflected in their collections. Their commercial goals meant circulating libraries more closely reflected public demand, resulting in larger collections of fiction. James Creighton’s Circulating Library in Covent Garden advertised itself in 1808 as offering “Rational Entertainment In the Time of Rainy Weather, Long Evenings and Leisure Hours”. Jean Gates writes that in the USA social (subscription) libraries were about self-improvement, while circulating libraries, were more about making money, so entertainment tended to drive the collections.

Another difference was that their customers were often female. Circulating libraries were the first to serve women and actively seek out their patronage. It was not coincidence that some of these libraries were located in millinery and stationery stores and midwives’ offices.

Richard Cronin writes that Emma was published by the gentleman publisher John Murray, whose publications differed from the kind of novel published by AK Newman (Minerva Press) which were “priced at five shillings, and sold almost exclusively to circulating libraries.” Apparently, too, circulating libraries influenced book publishers to keep producing multi-volume books – because they charged per volume – instead of the single-volume format.

Libraries and reading habits

We discussed the role libraries played in reading practice and habits. We wondered where Jane Austen’s characters got their books from – like Anne Elliot and the Dashwood sisters? It’s not always clarified.

Regarding the use of circulating libraries by women, we noted that they gave women autonomy of choice, that is, they could choose their own reading rather than have their father choose for them.

However, not everyone, our research uncovered, approved of circulating libraries. The Rev Edward Mangin (1808) disapproved of circulating libraries). They encouraged careless use of books. Novels, he thought, were alright for occasional relaxation but they encouraged, particularly in the daughters of gentlemen and tradesmen “false expectations about the nature of the world and their place in it” (Abigail Williams). The poet Coleridge thought these libraries encouraged sloth; they lent out trashy novels which offered nothing better than “laziness” and “mawkish sensibility” (Janet Ruth Heller).

One member brought along a short excerpt from Sheridan’s play The rivals (1775) (Act 1 Sc II), which resulted in an impromptu play-reading. Mrs Malaprop and Sir Anthony discuss niece Lydia, and on Mrs Malaprop’s calling her an “intricate little hussy”, Sir Anthony replies that “It is not to be wondered at, Ma’am–all this is the natural consequence of teaching girls to read ….” The scene continues:

Sir ANTHONY: In my way hither, Mrs. Malaprop, I observed your niece’s maid coming forth from a circulating library!—She had a book in each hand—they were half-bound volumes, with marble covers!—From that moment I guessed how full of duty I should see her mistress!

Mrs. MALAPROP: Those are vile places, indeed!

Sir ANTHONY: Madam, a circulating library in a town is as an evergreen tree of diabolical knowledge! It blossoms through the year!—And depend on it, Mrs. Malaprop, that they who are so fond of handling the leaves, will long for the fruit at last.

Poet Robert Burns (1791), by comparison, was not impressed by the tastes of his Scottish subscription library, the Monkland Friendly Society Library, which he co-founded with Robert Riddell. He wanted secular works, including the novels of Fielding, Smollet and Cervantes, but they wanted religious/devotional Calvinist literature, which he described in a letter to a bookseller as “damned trash” (Introduction to the The Oxford edition of the works of Robert Burns.)

Our member wondered whether Sir Edward Denham’s comment to Charlotte in Sanditon was an ironic allusion to Burns:

“You may perceive what has been our Occupation. My Sister wanted my Counsel in the selection of some books. — We have many leisure hours, & read a great deal. — I am no indiscriminate Novel-Reader. The mere Trash of the common Circulating Library, I hold in the highest contempt.”

Richard Cronin says that Sir Walter Scott divided novels into two groups  – “the ephemeral productions which supply the regular demand of watering-places and circulating libraries” and those, like Emma, which were “exalted and decorated by the higher exertions of genius.” He makes a distinction between readable novels (you get from circulating libraries) and rereadable novels (you buy) and says that Austen judged the best novels as being those that survive rereading.

Jane Austen herself, then, was a user of libraries. In this letter to Cassandra, December 18, 1798 she conveys the prevailing attitude regarding novels and such libraries:

I have received a very civil note from Mrs Martin, requesting my name as a subscriber to her library which opens January 14 and my name, or rather yours, is accordingly given. My mother finds the money… as an inducement to subscribe, Mrs Martin tells me that her collection is not to consist only of novels but of every kind of literature. She might have spared this pretension of our family who are great novel readers and not ashamed of being so: but it was necessary, I suppose, to the self consequence of half her subscribers.

In this letter to Cassandra, 24 Jan, 1813, the “Society” is presumably a subscription library:

We are quite run over with books. She [her mother] has got Sir John Carr’s Travels in Spain from Miss B. & I am reading a Society octavo, an Essay on the Military Police & Institutions of the British Empire by Capt* Pasley of the Engineers, a book which I protested against at first, but which upon trial I find delightfully written & highly entertaining. I am as much in love with the author as ever I was with Clarkson or Buchanan, or even the two Mr* Smiths of the city-the first soldier I ever sighed for-but he does write with extraordinary force & spirit.

And in this letter to Fanny, 30 Nov 1814, she comments on the impact of borrowing on authors:

People are more ready to borrow & praise, than to buy – which I cannot wonder at; – but tho’ I like praise as well as anybody, I like what Edward calls Pewter too.-I hope he continues careful of his eyes & finds the good effect of it.

Libraries in Jane Austen’s novels

We shared references to libraries in Austen, which indicate not only her awareness of them but of attitudes to them. More fun though is that, as we’d expect from our Jane, they are rarely mentioned unless to offer some commentary on character.

Pride and prejudice

Lydia and Kitty are attracted to Meryton’s circulating library because of the officers frequent them – and, Mr Collins, when asked to read

readily assented and a book was produced; but on beholding it, (for everything announced it to be from a circulating library) he started back, and begging pardon, protested that he never read novels.

Mansfield Park

Fanny in Portsmouth, no longer having access to her uncle’s library, wants books:

There were none in her father’s house; but wealth is luxurious and daring, and some of hers found its way to a circulating library. She became a subscriber; amazed at being anything in propria persona, amazed at her own doings in every way, to be a renter, a chuser of books! And to be having any one’s improvement in view in her choice! But so it was. Susan had read nothing, and Fanny longed to give her a share in her own first pleasures, and inspire a taste for the biography and poetry which she delighted in herself.)

Alan Richardson quotes this passage to support his argument that libraries (versus the home library) “represented the threat of promiscuous reading and individual autonomy of choice.”


Mary Musgrove, staying in Lyme Regis, to “look after” Louisa:

Mary had had her evils; but upon the whole, as was evident by her staying so long, she had found more to enjoy than to suffer. … there had been so much going on every day, there had been so many walks between their lodgings and the Harvilles, and she had got books from the library, and changed them so often, that the balance had certainly been much in favour of Lyme. She had been taken to Charmouth too, and she had bathed, and she had gone to church, and there were a great many more people to look at in the church at Lyme than at Uppercross; and all this, joined to the sense of being so very useful, had made really an agreeable fortnight.

A lovely ironic comment on Mary!

Northanger Abbey

Henry Tilney to Catherine and Eleanor, being his teasing, superior, self:

“… The confusion there is scandalous. Miss Morland has been talking of nothing more dreadful than a new publication which is shortly to come out, in three duodecimo volumes, two hundred and seventy–six pages in each, with a frontispiece to the first, of two tombstones and a lantern — do you understand? And you, Miss Morland — my stupid sister has mistaken all your clearest expressions. You talked of expected horrors in London — and instead of instantly conceiving, as any rational creature would have done, that such words could relate only to a circulating library, ..”


Charlotte was to… buy new Parasols, new gloves, and new brooches for her sisters and herself at the library, which Mr P was anxiously wishing to support.

An example of a circulating library which did more than provide books.


  • Richard Cronin, “Literary scene” in Janet Todd, Jane Austen in context
  • Jean Gates, Introduction to librarianship
  • Going to the Library in Georgian London (Mar 1, 2015), Jane Austen’s London (blog)
  • Janet Ruth Heller, Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, and the reader of drama
  • The Oxford edition of the works of Robert Burns
  • James Raven, “Book production” in Janet Todd, Jane Austen in context
  • Alan Richardson, “Reading practices” in Janet Todd, Jane Austen in context
  • Abigail Williams, The social life of books: Reading together in the eighteenth-century home

Business, etc

The meeting ended with our usual quotes, and a discussion about venues for our annual Christmas/Jane’s birthday party, with Rodney’s Cafe and Bookplate being frontrunners.

The October Meeting

October 16, 2018

The October meeting is this Saturday, October 20th, at 1.30pm in the Friends’ Lounge of The National Library. We will be discussing subscription libraries and Jane Austen’s novels, inspired by one member’s visit to the Portico Library in Manchester in July this year.

September 2018 Meeting: Sisters and Siblings in Jane Austen’s Novels

October 1, 2018


So many sisters to discuss. Supportive sisters, quarrelsome sisters, scandalous sisters, disdainful sisters, all distinctive and memorable.

Our research revealed a number of articles, which tackled different aspects of sisters and siblings in Austen’s novels, and informed and enriched our discussion.

1. Sisterly Affection, Sisterly Competition: Sibling Rivalry in Jane Austen’s novels by Mary Oakley Strasser focused not on sisterly devotion but rather on sisterly rivalry and competition, using Louisa and Henrietta Musgrove, Lydia and Kitty Bennet, and Julia and Maria Bertram as examples. “ In each pair of sisters, one sister dominates the other in competition for affection.”

However Strasser concludes that the women “ who seek the gentleman’s affection do not win it”. For example, although both Julia and Maria Bertram initially compete for Henry Crawford’s attention, Julia symbolically withdraws from the play and the competition with her sister . Eventually Henry proposes to Fanny and while Maria is exiled to a life with her Aunt Norris, Julia enjoys a respectable married life.

To Strasser, Austen’s claim, in one of her letters to Cassandra, that “pictures of perfection” made her “sick and wicked”, its not surprising that she would enjoy creating characters with such human flaws as Lydia Bennet and Maria Bertram.

As one member commented, the women who actively pursued the men didn’t catch them (though Lydia did, she was then exiled to the north!), jealous competitive behaviour is not rewarded, while the sincere sisters find happiness.

2. Heads and Arms and Legs Enough: Jane Austen and Sibling Dynamics by Kay Torney Souter draws upon the research of Frank Sullaway in Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics and Creative Lives ( 1996).

Souter aims to “tease out Austen’s treatment of family dynamics, especially in terms of sibling competition and birth order and the implications of this treatment.” For instance, the personalities and behaviour of the Bennett girls affirms this view with the older sisters conventional and cautious, the younger sisters more inclined to rebel and take risks and the middle child is ignored. Sulloway suggests that sibling problems are best understood in terms of Darwinian competition for parental “investment”.

The firstborn are sure of their parents” interest, middleborns are often negotiators, ie Elinor Dashwood and Anne Elliott (though not Mary Bennett), later borns need to “find their own special niche . . . to maximize parental interest”.

Austen’s plots usually focus not on the predictable oldest or the rebellious youngest but rather on the fortunes of the second born: Elinor Daswood, Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot for instance. “Middleborns are typically skilled tacticians and observers”. Souter focusses particularly on Pride and Prejudice because it concerns “ the fortunes of a sibship disadvantaged by both the parents behaviour and the social system”. Parents are essential in the marriage market which ensures survival, in Darwinian terms, through reproduction.

Souter also comments on sibling hatred in Austen’s later novels, especially the contempt Elizabeth Elliot shows for her sisters and “the cannibalistic ferocity” of Maria and Julia Bertram.

The discussion that ensued turned to members position within their family dynamic. It was fascinating.

3. The role of Mary Bennett in Pride and Prejudice.

One member questioned why Austen created Mary Bennett as such a caricature. She appears to be a foil for her other sisters, neither attractive, nor brilliant, nor flighty and empty headed. Just Mary in the middle. Was there more to her in the original version?

The member felt that “her silent futile existence haunts the pages of P and P. She is like an automaton – no critical faculties, only recites memorized tracts in contrast to Elizabeth discovering her misjudgements”. She appears to have no interior life.

Siblings in JA divide into the good and the bad but Mary is neither. Movies make her unattractive with glasses, poor hair styles and clothing. Colleen McCulough tried to redress the balance with her The Independence of Miss Mary Bennett but Austen revealed to her family a kinder future for Mary after P and P. She married one of Mr Phillip’s clerks and “was content to be considered the star of Meryton society”.

4. Brothers, Sisters and the Idea(l) of Fraternity in the Novels of Jane Austen, by Katrina Clifford. Sensibilities, June 2009.

With this article we extended the topic from sisters to siblings and how Austen uses brother/sister relationships extensively to discuss ideas of women’s liberty and equality. She uses them to examine women’s place in society.

Ruth Perry in Novel Relations points out that in 18th century novels the main requisite of a hero was that he be a good brother, attentive, generous, protective and wise. Darcy is the ultimate example.

When her families do not have a protective brother, Austen creates the brother-substitute. The first being Sir John Middleton. To be brotherless leaves women defenceless. For instance being brotherless lies at the heart of the Bennett family’s problems. It’s even more of a difficulty when Lydia elopes. A brother would have had more chance of finding Lydia than Mr Bennett and Mr Gardiner. Darcy, therefore becomes the brother substitute.

Darcy is also a good brother to Georgiana and their relationship is characterized by provision, protection and love.

Henry Crawford on the other hand does not provide for his sister in the same way. He should have provided her with a home but, possibly because he felt he would be bored, he forces her to stay with her sister. But most telling of all is that he writes very short letters. Letter writing is an indication of affection in Austen’s novels. Henry cannot take the time or effort to write at any length to his sister.

Clifford writes at some length about Persuasion and how in this novel, “ the brother-sister relationship opens out to the world to form a new society based on the principles of fraternity enabling women, as well as men, to live as valued equals in “Jane Austen’s vision of a brave new world”’ (Auerbach), that is the brotherhood of the navy.

In marrying Captain Wentworth Anne joins this fraternity, leaving behind her familial ties to the land and “ connects with a society of brothers and sisters who love and value one another upon their merits and treat one another as equals”.

There was then some discussion about Austen’s brothers and their response to the poverty of their mother and sisters after the death of George Austen.

The meeting ended as usual with a quiz and quotes.

The September Meeting

September 9, 2018

The September meeting is next Saturday, September 15th, at 1.30pm in the Friends’ Lounge of the National Library of Australia. Carrie Kablean will be talking about her book What Kitty Did Next, followed by a general discussion of the role of sisters in Jane Austen’s novels.

August 2018 meeting: Two reports

August 31, 2018

We devoted our August meeting to two reports:

  • Member Sally’s Literary Tour of Ireland (with Susannah Fullerton)
  • Members’ impressions of the 2018 JASA Conference: Persuasion:  Piercing souls for 200 years

Literary Tour of Ireland

While the tour covered a wide range of Irish sites with literary connections – including those related to James Joyce, Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, CS Lewis, and so on – Sally focused on those relating to Austen, of course.

Some of the sites and/or events she attended, included:

  • a gathering of the Jane Austen Society of Ireland, at which a member read her translation into Gaelic of the first chapter of Pride and prejudice.
  • a house owned by Richard Mulholland, Austen’s great-great-great-great-great-nephew (I think that’s right) via Austen’s brother Edward Knight and three (well, one of them) of his daughters, Marianne, Louisa & Cassandra, who all lived in Ireland. He talked to the tour group about the family’s money. They visited the sisters’ graves. In a lovely literary twist, Mulholland’s wife is descended from the man on whom Charlotte Bronte based her character of Mr Brocklehurst in Jane Eyre.
  • places related to some of the Irish writers Austen read, including Edgeworthstown, which was named after Maria Edgeworth. Sally shared some of Edgeworth’s comments on Austen, from her letters. Edgeworth saw Northanger Abbey as “stupid, nonsensical”, calling the General’s behaviour “out of nature”. She likes more natural writing (!), so approved more of Persuasion.

We noted that many of the writers Jane Austen read were Irish, including Oliver Goldsmith (on whose history she based her own), Richard Sheridan, Maria Edgeworth, and a Miss Owenson. Austen was influenced, on other words, by many Irish writers, and many of them liked her. Oscar Wilde, who lived of course after her time, was a fan, and after his time in Reading Gaol apparently said he’d like to donate good books to the gaol, naming Jane Austen among the authors of those books.

Sophia Hillan, Mary, Lou and CassBooks mentioned by Sally:

  • Jocelyn Harris, Satire, celebrity & politics in Jane Austen (has references to the Dalrymples)
  • Sophia Hillan, May, Lou & Cass: Jane Austen’s nieces in Ireland
  • Valerie Pakenham (ed.), Maria Edgeworth’s letters from Ireland
  • Rose Servitora, The Longbourn letters (fun fan-fiction not related to Ireland)

All in all, a wonderful tour, said Sally.

A member reminded us of Austen’s satirical comment in a letter to Cassandra about Sydney Owenson’s books. She writes, commenting apparently (says critic Miranda Burgess) on the fear current at the time that just the act of reading can arouse excessive feeling in the body:

We have got Ida of Athens by Miss Owenson; which must be very clever, because it was written as the Authoress says, in three months. – We have only read the Preface yet; but her Irish Girl does not make me expect much. – If the warmth of her Language could affect the body, it might be worth reading in this weather.

2018 JASA Weekend Conference

Marilyn, with contributions from Jenny and Cheng, summarised the conference which focused on Persuasion. However, given we expect the papers, as usual to be published in Sensibilities later this year, this part of the meeting report will be brief.

The conference presenters included Jocelyn Harris, Sheryl Craig, Dorothea-Sophia Rossellini, and Susannah Fullerton. The papers included:

  • Finding Captain Wentworth, by Jocelyn Woodhouse (on possible inspirations for Captain Wentworth)
  • Money lost and money found, by Sheryl Craig (on money management at the time, and how Persuasion illuminates or reflects that.)
  • Persuasion: Where is volume 3?, by Dorothea-Sophia Rossellini (on the fact that Persuasion needs a third volume to complete the narrative and fully develop the characters)
  • The Baronetage, by Susannah Fullerton (on who reads what in Persuasion, such as Sir Walter Elliot’s reading of Debrett’s)
  • Virtue rewarded: Mrs Smith’s economic recovery, by Sheryl Craig (on the challenges faced by women, particularly regarding access to and management of money.)

The Canberra attendees particularly enjoyed Dr Craig’s papers, for their research and thoughtful arguments.

By-the-by, it was noted that Sheryl Craig has written an article for Persuasion, titled “Jane and the master spy”, Britain’s first master spy, William Wickham (1761-1840), who was head of the British secret service. She says that Austen’s

“first readers would have immediately connected the surname Wickham with deception, secrets, spies, and disappearing money, giving Austen’s contemporaries an early clue as to George Wickham’s duplicity, which her modern readers miss.  And George Wickham’s fate in Pride and Prejudice—that is, his transfer into the regular army—was actually what military commanders were advocating for the British secret service.”

Interestingly, Wickham ran a spy network in Ireland!! That seems a neat place on which to end this report of our meeting containing reports!


  • We ended as usual with our guess-the-quote game and a quiz.
  • We agreed that our next meetings would be: September: Guest author, Carrie Kablean, with her sequel novel, What Kitty did next; October: Subscription libraries, with particular reference to Austen