August 2018 meeting: Two reports

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!

Business

  • 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

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