Fans and Manners
2016 November 19
Ann and Leslie enlightened us on the exquisite handling of one's fan.
Jane Austen, Game Theorist
2016 September 17
After a long summer with no JASNA meetings it was wonderful to be back in company with our friendly group. For this meeting, Judith shared with us the insights of Michael Suk-Young Chwe in his book,
Jane Austen, Game Theorist.
Game Theory is a theory of strategic thinking. Chwe argues that, though the Theory was not officially defined until 1944, Jane Austen was a master game theorist and her works have contributed to game theory itself. Game Theory is defined as follows: "human interactions are a series of moves and countermoves aimed at maximum gain". Game Theory involves a strategist or game player, a choice that the game player must make, a preference, and a revealed preference. In Jane Austen's works, the choice is often whether or whom to marry, and the preference is the sorting through a flood of emotions to make a decision.
As a prime example of the exercise of choice, Elizabeth Bennet (PP) radically states to Lady Catherine that she will act in the way that in her opinion will most secure her own happiness. This is quite at odds with a character such as Mary Musgrove (P) who at one point stated that she wanted to have no opinion which would be disagreeable or inconvenient to her family. To illustrate preference, we can view Catherine Morland (NA) who examines a mixture of feelings to resolve into a single feeling. Revealed preference can be shown in Jane Bennet's (PP) dilemma to choose between accepting Mr. Bingley, causing herself great happiness but causing unhappiness to her would be sisters-in-law, and rejecting Mr. Bingley at the cost of great personal unhappiness.
One of the primary indicators of strategists in Jane Austen's works is the maturing of a character by having to make decisions in demanding situations, such as the case with Catherine Morland (NA), Marianne Dashwood (SS) and Elinor Dashwood (SS). In Mansfield Park, Fanny learns to trust 'the voice within herself' and matures in this way.
Pitfalls in Game Theory include poor strategic thinkers, less rational decisions, and self-superiority. Some of the classic examples of poor strategic thinker include Mr. Collings (PP), Mrs. Jennings (SS), Sir John Dashwood (SS), Caroline Bingley (PP), and Mrs. Elton (E). These characters all lack some element of a strategist either in their selfish manipulations (Caroline Bingley), their misunderstandings of other characters (Mrs. Elton), or their sheer cluelessness (Mr. Collins). Less rational decisions can be caused by things such as bad habits as in John Willoughby's idleness (SS), rules as in Elinor's (SS) self-destructive decision to protect Lucy Steele's confidence, social factors as in Mr. Collin's (PP) obsequiousness, or excessive emotions as in Marianne's (SS) pursuit of Mr. Willoughby.
Though generally advantageous, some disadvantages of strategic thinking include interference, becoming overburdened, having a complicated moral life, an enlarged scope of regret, and possibly being less attractive.
Jane Austen contributed to Game Theory by recognizing the elements of social context and cluelessness.
Chwe defines cluelessness as the failure to understand others.
- linear thought
- lack of social experience
- using the self as the universal example
- disregard of inferiors, and
After she presented the basics of Chwe's book, Judith invited us to form into four groups. Following a brief break for tea, each group was given a question to ponder some of the novels’ plot points.
- What if John had allowed the Dashwoods to remain at home? (SS)
- What if Harriett had accepted Mr. Martin immediately? (E)
- What if Lydia had not eloped? (PP)
- What if Anne Elliott had maintained a correspondence with Captain Wentworth? (P)
Though varied in our suppositions, it became quite clear that without these elements in the novels, the stories would have completely unravelled. The discussion illustrated Austen's true mastery of game theory Yet another reason why Jane Austen reigns supreme! Thank you, Judith, for presenting this thought provoking book!
The Quintessential Regency Picnic
For our final meeting of the season, we were treated to a discussion about the Quintessential Regency Picnic from Michelle while enjoying some delicious Regency punch.
2016 May 21
The picnic as we know it originated in the mid-eighteenth century. It was an indoor, high fashion, elite occasion, almost similar to a potluck, in that the guests would bring something to contribute to the event. Notwithstanding the addition of dishes from the guests, these events would have required a great deal of effort and organization by the staff of the hosting house. In the mid-nineteenth century, picnics morphed into more of an outdoor excursion, similar to what we identify as a picnic today but on a much grander scale including furniture, dishes, etc., essentially taking the grandeur of the dining room outdoors.
In Emma, there were two picnics: the strawberry hunt at Donwell Abbey and the excursion to Box Hill. The outing at Donwell Abbey was the picture of order and peace. Michelle likened the nature of the day at Donwell Abbey to the owner of the estate, Mr. Knightley. Mr. Knightly made a comment which may have been a foreshadowing of the events to come at Box Hill.
"My idea of the simple and the natural will be to have the table spread in the dining-room. The nature and the simplicity of gentlemen and ladies, with their servants and furniture, I think is best observed by meals within doors."
The excursion the Box Hill took place the following day and what should have been a glorious day for all, turned out quite differently. The parties, for the most part were idle and cross, and in feeling constrained Emma lashes out at poor Miss Bates. Following her rudeness, Emma simply wants to be left alone and to go home and when Mr. Knightly confronts her for her poor behaviour, Emma feels the full weight of his disappointment, and in the following days, attempts to make amends for her behaviour. Michelle proposed that perhaps Jane Austen was mocking those similar to Mrs. Elton in their sense of decadence and frivolous leisure. (There was also a planned picnic in Sense and Sensibility but the event was cancelled last minute when Colonel Brandon was called away urgently.)
Kathleen, adorable little Teigen, and Michelle demonstrated some of the pastimes, including the Game of Graces (throwing and catching of one or two hoops), Lawn Bowls, Battledore/Shuttlecock (modern day badminton), croquet (which became more popular in Victorian times), Bilbocatch, and Maypole dancing.
Following Michelle's discussion about picnics, she enlightened us as to the various pastimes which may have been enjoyed during a picnic.
The Maypole dancing was indeed most entertaining for all of us as we followed Kathleen's instructions of weaving eight ribbons around a maypole. We did fairly well but things took a bit of a turn when we attempted to turn around and unweave the ribbons.
Next we were invited to enjoy tea, fruit, and cookies while enjoying some activities including crafting picnicking headbands, and personal games of bilbocatch. It was a wonderful end to a wonderful season. Thank you Michelle, Kathleen, Teigen, and everyone else who contributed to our Quintessential Regency Picnic!
Enjoy Michelle's Powerpoint presentation at home.
Study of Mansfield Park
2016 March 19
Kathleen first provided a detailed synopsis of Mansfield Park, starting with a summary of the three Ward sisters who became Mrs. Norris, Lady Bertram and Mrs. Price. Next, she described the main settings of the novel and their symbolism in the novel. Her summary of the plot included helpful insights into the characters and the backgrounds of each.
Randie and Jane presented character studies. Randie provided us with a character study of the Ward sisters, all failing, each in their own way, to be a good mother to Fanny. Jane provided a humorous discussion entitled "Nothing But Buffoonery" about all of the young people surrounding Fanny Price.
Kathleen returned to present on Fanny as a heroine and the debate about the likeability of Fanny Price. She discussed the proposition that Fanny is the epitome of Fordyce’s ideal woman: intellectually accomplished, domestic and elegant, modest, pious, meek, delicate, reserved, and active in pursuit of good works. Also she urged us not to be too harsh in our judgment of Fanny as she is only a teenager!
Link to the full description of the talks.
Finally, Judith treated us to a discussion of Antigua and slavery at the sugar plantations. She discussed the absentee owners of plantations such as Sir Thomas Bertram. The name "Mansfield Park" has interesting implications because Lord Mansfield was the Chief Justice in Britain prior to the abolition of the slave trade, and he made some landmark decisions against slavery. Throughout her presentation, we were all treated to illustrative photos that Judith took in Antigua.
Medicine in the Regency Era
2015 November 21
Dr. Marli Robinson and Dr. Kevin Levere treated us to a very well put together presentation about Medicine in the Regency Period. Dr. Levere even arrived dressed, cravat and all, as a regency period physician which added great interest to our meeting. The presentation began in describing the various levels of medical practitioner that would have been around in Jane's time. The three doctors were the apothecary, surgeon, and physician and there were a large variety of individuals described by Dr. Robinson as the "Allied Health Care Team" and these folks ranged anywhere from nurses and midwives to blacksmiths in the form of tooth-drawers.
Unfortunately, there was still a general trend of the treatment for illnesses having as much likelihood of killing off the patients as curing them in medical treatment called "heroic medicine", likely referring to the dramatic elements involved.
"Taking the waters" became a popular treatment for illness and caused a substantial growth in the population at places such as Bath. Sea bathing later became all the rage and resulted in a mass exodus to beach towns such as Brighton. "If one could but go to Brighton" (Mrs. Bennet).
With all the blunders made by medical practitioners in the regency period, Dr. Levere reminded us all that without some of the observations and experiences of the doctors in that time we would not be where we are today.
Michelle then proceeded to discuss the role of death in Jane's works and how she used the theme in each work. When examined more closely, death plays a significant role in all of the books. Often, it was the death of a parent or the impending death of a parent which was the base of the story and usually the parent who is the more sensible or practical of the parents would be the one to die or to have died.
After a brief tea, Michelle rose to give an excellent
on Death and Mourning in the Regency Period. Life expectancy at that time was around 40 years. There were no funeral parlours or embalming at this time so oftentimes the dead were placed in a room of their home and wrapped in wool.
Depending on the time of year and weather, they would be buried at the next opportunity which would be sooner than later during the warmer months. For those with less money, they would be placed in a borrowed coffin and then be buried in a common grave.
Even more details on early medical and funereal practices in the Regency Era.
Crafts in Jane's Time Workshop
2015 September 19
We were pleased to welcome Michelle as the new Regional Director for JASNA Calgary. Good luck Michelle, we know you will do wonderfully!
Following Michelle's introduction and summary of upcoming events, we were treated to a discussion about the crafts in Jane Austen's time by Ann. Some of the crafts focused on by Ann were bookmarks, paper dolls, Christmas ornaments, orange pomanders, and floral broaches. The creation of crafts were only the occupation of the upper classes to occupy idle hands; those in the lower classes would have had no time for crafting.
Bookmarks have been in use in some form since the time of scrolls in ancient Egypt but were not formally introduced until the time of Queen Elizabeth I. Paper dolls have been in existence basically as long as paper but the function of the paper dolls has changed throughout that time. In ancient times the paper figurines would have been used in religious ways. Different cultures have had different forms of paper figurines including Japanese origami, Balinese puppets, Polish wy'cinank formations, and French pantins, or jumping jack puppets. The creation of homemade Christmas ornaments began in the 16th century with the introduction of Christmas trees but did not become popularized until the time of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Greeting cards have been exchanged in Europe since the 1400s but in the 1800s, bought greeting cards were made more affordable by the creation of the printing press. Christmas cards were first printed in 1843. Orange pomanders were popular during the middle ages and were believed to have been of some use in combatting the black plague as it was believed at that time that bad smells were the cause of disease. Another popular craft during the Regency era were floral broaches.
Calgary members were then treated to several craft stations which had been set up for a chance to create our own bookmarks, Christmas ornaments, paper dolls, greeting cards, cloved orange pomanders, and floral broaches. We then split up and were at leisure to try the crafts while enjoying some lovely tea and good conversation. The materials and instructions allowed all to try their hands at some of these creations and when the meeting adjourned, the room was full of beautiful products and the sweet scent of oranges and cloves. What a success!
Out of Doors
JASNA Calgary members were treated to new and exciting perspectives on the life and work of Jane Austen. Deirdre shared some new additions to the library including Young Jane Austen by Lisa Pliscou and Expectations, Suspiciously Reserved and Banff Springs Abbey by Samantha Adkins. We also learned that one of our long-time members, Judith Umbach, has had a library named after her. Congratulations Judith! They couldn't have chosen a more deserving person.
Dr. Leah Branneh, a fitness instructor for over twenty years, shed new light on the role of physicality and physical exercise in Jane Austen's novels. While many readers have noticed Austen's focus on the spiritual, social and emotional, Branneh explained that all of her novels reference the physical in some regard. In most of her novels, physicality is used to demonstrate character. In Sense and Sensibility, Marianne overdoes her walking and becomes gravely ill. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy is a superior dancer while Mr. Collins dances awkwardly. Jane Fairfax uses walking to escape her confined existence in Emma. In Persuasion, exercise improves Anne Elliot's bloom. Branneh noted that the
Regency era corset may be credited with women's ability to enjoy some exercise during this time. Branneh recommended the work of Oliver Pritchett and Mirabile Dictu for interesting reading on exercising like Jane.
After tea and good conversation, Shannon Campbell shared part of her paper to be presented at the upcoming JASNA AGM Louisville, Kentucky. Campbell's talk entitled Meet The Beast That Made Britain Strong was a fascinating look into the role of agriculture in Britain in Austen's time. Campbell, explained that Austen's father, Reverend George Austen, was descended from The Grey Coats of Kent, a family of clothiers whose family fortune was built on wool. Unfortunately for George, the fortune was mostly gone by the time he arrived.
In 1798, Jane Austen writes of her father selling sheep. Campbell's research revealed that these were Leicestershire sheep, which were a new breed which produced more meat than other sheep at the time. This demonstrates Rev. Austen's knowledge and interest in farming. Jane Austen mentions Leicestershire sheep in Emma. Robert Martin has a fine flock of this breed of sheep. Campbell also traced the importance of sheep and wool throughout history in England leading up to the Industrial Revolution.
At Home with Jane Austen
A blizzard near Edmonton kept our speaker, Shannon, close to her home; meanwhile, we made our own entertainment.
Members of the Jane Austen Society of Calgary gathered to quiz, hear the latest news in Jane Austen themed books and learn how to design their own Jane Austen Costume.
Judith began with a brief overview of the newest additions to the JASNA Calgary library.
Alexander McCall Smith is a modern retelling of Emma, with an expanded view of Mr. Woodhouse's history.
Charlie Lovett's book,
First Impressions, focuses on a modern character uncovering a mystery behind Jane Austens book, Pride and Prejudice.
Continuing with the theme of new books,
Samantha Adkins read a chapter from her latest book,
Banff Springs Abbey. Banff Springs Abbey is a modern retelling of Northanger Abbey, set in Strathmore and Banff, Alberta. This is her third book in the Jane Austen-themed genre.
Elizabeth then challenged members with a quiz on various Austen categories. Three teams competed to answer questions on Austen Biography, Books to Film and Whose Line is It Anyway? Many thanks to Elizabeth for her well-researched questions.
After tea and refreshments, Michelle extended an invitation to Calgary members to attend a Regency Ball May 16 at the Palliser Hotel. The Ball will feature the Zephyrs & Flora, Haymaker and Indian Queen dances. Tickets may be purchased online or by contacting Michelle. Gowns may be rented through Tara, who organizes the Ball.
Leslie then shared her presentation on Designing Your Own Jane Austen Costume. There are several costume options for the Regency Period including the puffy
Robe a la Polonaise which was popular in the 1770s, but still worn by older women in the 1800s. A lighter chemise gown became popular in the 1780s, followed by the plain white muslin which women wore in the hopes of appearing like a Greek statue come to life. In 1798, the
Round Gown came into fashion, which was a warmer reprieve from the chill of shear muslin. Hair was worn short and curly in the front, while the rest of the hair was twisted into a bun and the covered by a bonnet when out of doors. By 1810, more colour, embellishments, ruffles and puffy sleeves became popular. Leslie provided several excellent
online resources for patterns or completed dresses and recommended Fabricland, Apni Hatti and Fabric Depot in Calgary for fabric.
Tea With Mr Darcy
2015 January 17
What could be better for a Jane Austen aficionado than tea with Mr. Darcy? Absolutely nothing! JASNA Calgary guests and members gathered at Sunalta Community Centre on January 17 to find Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy waiting to greet them. The celebrities allowed a personal portrait, complete with a selection of fashionable hats. Guests were then invited to purchase raffle tickets and peruse the final plans for the first formal dinner given at Pemberley after the Darcy marriage.
Once all guests were assembled, they were invited to partake of various delights including miniature scones, an assortment of cheeses, pickled cucumbers and onions, Leslie's decadent bread pudding, and steaming cups of fragrant tea. Scattered amongst lively conversation, were readings by Sir Walter Scott, Samuel Johnson, and Jane Austen at fifteen on the History of England.
After tea, Sprigged Muslin delighted all in attendance with their dancing, which is of course, "one of the first refinements of polished societies." They demonstrated the intricacies of Mutual Love, Mr. Beveridge's Maggot, The Alderman's Hat, and the Durham Reel. Interested participants were then invited to join in and learn the Reel. There were a pleasing number of couples allowing for three full sets on the dance floor.
The tea ended all too quickly, and we must all wait another year for the most excellent celebration. Many thanks to all who helped make this day possible.
What to do! What to do!
Where would you seat Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mrs. Bennet if you were Mrs. Darcy hosting a dinner? What would you serve? And what on earth would you talk about? Eager participants at the latest Jane Austen Society Calgary gathering attempted to find the answers to these daunting questions. It was all lively discussion and exciting possibilities as the room buzzed with ideas. The results will be shared at our annual Jane Austen Tea in January aptly titled "Tea with Mr. Darcy". Many thanks to Carole for organizing our dinner debate.
2014 November 15
Ann also enlightened with her talk on Employment and Education in Jane Austen's time. The topics are closely related and both employment and education were difficult for women to attain. King James I rejected the more open opportunities women had enjoyed under the reign of Elizabeth I. Census information does not include occupations for women, even though many women worked as domestic help, helped to run small businesses, and cared for children and homes. The only opportunity for upper-class women in paid work was in governess positions. There were approximately 25,000 women employed as governesses in 1821, yet there was no training available for the job until Queen's College opened in 1848.
Ann also shared slides from her recent trip to England including stops in Milton Ernest, Bedfordshire, Worthing, Brighton and London in her speedy five-minute tour of England.
2014 September 27
In the freshness of fall and a newly renovated hall, JASNA Calgary members gathered to celebrate the work of Jane Austen. New program coordinator Carol introduced the exciting upcoming events including the annual Jane Austen Tea on January 17. Also, she provided a copy of the proposal from Edmonton for the JASNA AGM to be held in Banff in 2018.
Judith then highlighted several new offerings from the library including
What Matters In Jane Austen?,
The History of England, and a modern retelling of
Northanger Abbey by
She also read an excerpt from the fascinating
Memoirs of A Highland Lady.
2014 May 10
It seems there is no topic that cannot be related to Jane Austen, her books and her world.
On May 10, JASNA Calgary met to discuss the fascinating topics of plumbing and gardening.
Stuart's plumbing research focused on the three topics of Supply, Waste and Fittings. Plumbing in Austen's time was little changed from the technologies developed in Roman Times. It wasn't until the late 1800s that plumbing became standardized. Private home water supply was still very rare, so water was mostly brought in from the outside. Toilets were commonly holes the in ground or chamber pots. Bathing was generally done weekly, with water carried into the home to be heated and poured into a bath, used by each family member in succession. Servants usually brought the water in and carried waste away. In cities, waste was dumped into holes in the sidewalk, while cesspools were more common in the country.
Humphry Repton was famous for his Red Books, which showed a drawing of a landscape and then had flaps to show what his suggested improvements would look like. Repton was not a great landscape artist, but was more of a 'timid' improver. In the book, Repton is hired to improve Sotherton.
Diana's talk on Gardens in Mansfield Park focused on the questions "Why does Fanny dislike improvement?" Diana quoted several characters in Mansfield Park in relation to gardens and their improvements. As Fanny "always thinks as she ought", Diana surmised that her thoughts on all subjects must, therefore, be correct.
Fanny is very loyal to her home at Mansfield Park, while she distrusts the improvements being done at Sotherton. Mansfield is described as "well-placed" by Mary Crawford, while Sotherton is noted as being ill-placed since it is down a hill. Fanny respects the house at Sotherton and the avenue of oak trees. She thinks it is a pity to cut down the avenue as suggested by Humphry Repton.
Diana also showed pictures of real homes and gardens of Jane Austen's time.
The best documented was Stowe. She explained the improvements of Stowe from 1753 to the 1800s, whereby Stowe moved from having more symmetrical, walled and separated areas to being more natural in appearance. She also explained the use of the ha-ha, as mentioned by Mary Crawford, which was a wall with a ditch, used to keep wild animals out of gardens without obscuring the view.
2014 March 15 - Whiling Away the Ides of March
March 15 at JASNA Calgary was a sunny day of good financial reports, book reviews, "A Tea Talk" and "A Spirited Look at Jane's Heart". Judith, in her role as librarian, suggested three new books in our library, including Joanna Trollope's novel Sense and Sensibility, Jo Baker's Longbourn and Syrie James' The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. This is sure to be a favourite addition to our get-togethers (at least for our scribe!).
Ann delighted us with her "Tea Talk" comparing tea today with tea in Jane's time. Ann gave credit to the
U.K Tea council for much of her research.
Tea today is the most popular drink consumed in the world with 4,321,011 tonnes consumed in 2011. The history of tea in England is a fascinating tale of illegal smuggling, heavy taxation, religious calls to abstinence (yes, from tea!) and various degrees of drinkability. Ann's talk included many appealing tea photographs making one anxious for our tea break where we were welcome to try the delicious Jane Austen tea blend.|
Evangelicalism preached the living of our faith through good works. It called for the purification of the national church of England and a personal spiritual commitment. Jane experienced the rise of Evangelicalism in her time and wrote some conflicting statements about the change. In 1809, she wrote that she did not like the Evangelicals, but in 1814, she wrote that everyone should be an Evangelical. Catherine concluded that Austen was not fond of public zeal, but in the three prayers she wrote for her family's use, she prayed for fervent devotion and a personal faith without question.
After tea, Catherine brought us "A Spirited Look at Jane's Heart" where she shared her fascinating research on the Evangelical movement in England and its effect on Jane and her writing. The Evangelical movement
grew in response to the moral depravity of England, including in the Anglican church at the time. Austen's severity on the clergy in her novels was a reflection of a church system that saw ministers who were not there so much because they loved the Lord and the study of theology but because they desired a leisurely, cultured life. Many clergy purchased sermons to preach without putting in the time and effort of studying the Bible for themselves.
The ideals of Evangelicalism were also evident in Austen's novels, though few characters discuss their religious beliefs. Instead, church attendance is mentioned, morality is a common theme and many characters' struggle to overcome flaws and to live in line with Christian morality. Emma strives to be patient with others and helps the disadvantaged. Mr. Knightley is generous and kind. Austen also portrays the consequences of sin; Lydia, for example, ends up with Wickham and is likely to live a difficult life. Marianne Dashwood proclaims that religion, reason and constant employment will be her cure of Willoughby.
In conclusion, there was certainly nothing to dread on this auspicious date and much for a Janeite to enjoy. (With thanks to Ann Marie for highlighting the importance of March 15!)
2013 November 16 - Topics in Jane's time
On an extremely cold and snowy day twenty-five members and guests attended our meeting.
Margaret and Randie introduced a group discussion, 'The Gaining of Experience', as seen in the Austen novels. The group concluded that experience for the upper classes was not necessary, as status was more important than passion, but lower class women had to do the best they could to raise their position. Mr Wickham was the most experienced, but poor Mr Collins had no experience at all. Was Mr Knightley always in love with Emma - or when did he have his epiphany?
After tea, Professor George Colpitts
(University of Calgary) presented a most interesting and informative talk entitled 'The Arctic Absurd: Nineteenth-Century Literature and the Debate about the North-West Passage 1800-1850', examining the influence and impact of Arctic exploration on writing and art. The Arctic fuelled voyages representing Britain's outward gaze. In the early eighteenth century Sir Arthur Dobbs,
an Irish MP, started to push for exploration and initiated the word 'passage', a much more evocative word than 'strait' or 'channel'. The government offered a prize for the location of this passage.
Amber has provided a detailed
report on our meeting, describing the group discussions more fully and explaining more about the obsession with the Arctic.
Colpitts went on to outline the part played by
Sir John Barrow, second secretary to the Admiralty and founder member of the Royal Society who diverted naval resources to exploration in the north. The nay-sayers did not believe that Britain needed expensive Arctic exploration to prove British ethos; and a minor war raged in the press, such periodicals as the Quarterly Review actually defaming such eminent explorers as
John Ross . In our century, the Arctic is again in international news, imposing itself again on the popular imagination.
2013 September 21 - A Visit to England
After the worst flood to hit Calgary in recorded history and a summer to recover, the Jane Austen Society of Calgary met on a warm September afternoon to renew friendships, share summer stories and especially to share all things Jane.
Amber Adams enlightened us with the reality of Jane Austen's England from 1775 – 1817. She based much of her talk on the works of
whom she contacted to obtain permission. Austen's England was at war for all but 17 years of her life. Although many of her family members experienced the tragedies of war first hand, Jane, like other women in her class, existed in the protected world of leisure afforded by the Royal Navy.
It was a time of incredible riches celebrated by the aristocracy while the lower classes endured great poverty. Among the upper classes, there was further distinction between those who worked and those who did not. A true gentleman was devoted to keeping his world and the world around him "smooth" and "polished". As a clergyman, Austen's father was Oxford-trained and lived amongst the polite, polished society. For this reason, Jane had ample opportunity to "explore human behaviour" in this setting. Such intimate knowledge is portrayed in all of her novels.
Amber's conversation led seamlessly into Carol Marion's talk on
The Oxford Experience: In Search of Jane Austen's World.
Marion gave those in attendance a first-hand experience of her own travels to Oxford this past summer by providing dried lavender and the materials to create sachets. Lavender Gardens may still be found at Chawton Cottage and Oxford today. |
After tea, Marion described her one-week course at Oxford where she studied Jane Austen's Heroines.
Marion stayed in the dorms at Christ Church College with a former roommate from Queen's. She was greatly impressed by her accommodation and the meals provided by the college, however she encouraged others to book early to secure good lodgings and access to washrooms. For four hours each day, Marion met with a tutor and 11 other students to learn and discuss characters from Austen's novels, focussing on Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Marion studiously prepared by reading the books and articles recommended by her tutor before the trip. She said this greatly enhanced her experience. Some of the topics discussed were The Role of Parents in Pride and Prejudice, Are Elizabeth and Darcy the Ideal Couple?, and Are There Any Dependable Adults in Emma?
As a librarian in Calgary, Marion greatly enjoyed her tour of the library at Christ Church where the author of Alice in Wonderland worked from 1852-1898. She was also impressed by the very different way that books are stored and catalogued at the college.
Marion also had the opportunity to visit
Chawton, Winchester and Bath during her visit. She was especially touched by Austen donkey cart on display at Chawton. The donkey cart was Jane's only way to get around once she became ill, and she eventually quit even this mode of transportation in her final days.
Marion's final tips for those seeking a similar experience were to Prepare, Reserve Early, Mix and Mingle, Relax and Just Do It! May we all get the opportunity.
Entertainments for All - 2013 May 18
On the Victoria Day weekend we had an unexpectedly large meeting of 31 members and guests.
Ann Craig presented a well-researched and very entertaining talk entitled
'Entertainment and Royalty in the Regency Era 1795-1830'.
She explained the social structure of contemporary England and how the different levels of society intermingled and touched each other.
Some highlights: in the theatre the quality sat in boxes, the prostitutes in the pit; audiences chattered and threw garbage at bad actors; Beau Brummel spent five hours getting dressed. Jane Austen enjoyed the theatre.
The rich left London in the summer because the streets were full of smelly, dirty horse droppings and riots were not uncommon.
Pleasure gardens, such as Vauxhall, were open to both rich and poor. Exhibitions of exotic animals had great appeal,
and gawking sightseers loved visiting Bedlam (Bethlem Hospital) to view the mad people.
After our tea and cake, Ann went on to test us: she had put together a quiz on Jane Austen's novels and life. Some of us did it in groups and some on their own;
some of us did very well, and some of us were horrified at how much we didn't know - but we all enjoyed it!
2013 March 16
How is one to survive a grey, blustery mid-March Saturday in Calgary? By attending a lively Jane Austen Society gathering at the cozy Sunalta Centre of course! With several newcomers in attendance, we were treated to a talk by Amber Adams titled
"Only 11 Guineas for the Tables" - a fascinating history of travel and weather in England in the 1700s.
Adams began by revealing that Austen's writing is filled with references to these topics. Like Emma's Mr. Woodhouse was fond of telling his friends and relations, travel at this time was dangerous. The Reverend Samuel White recorded the flora, fauna and unpredictable weather of the 1700s, revealing blizzards, frosts, wind and rain. Mix in the transportation of the time which consisted of walking, horseback riding and carriages along bumpy, muddy roads and you can see why Mr. Woodhouse preferred to stay at home.
Adams then went on to fill in details of the clothing during this time - especially the women. Shoes were made out of fabric or leather which was not waterproof. The only invention to keep feet out of mud and muck (there was no plumbing, remember!) was wooden pattens - a kind of overshoe which was attached to the foot by leather thongs. Women's dresses were made out of fabrics that could not be washed. Pelisses did not come into fashion until 1804 after many women died in what was referred to as Muslin Death, where they literally froze to death in their thin dresses. A pelisse was something of a long coat with a fur or wool lining in winter. Jane and her sister Cassandra spent 17 shillings each to have these coverings made.
A refreshing tea was served and we were invited to inspect the newly released Jane Austen stamps, peruse the library offerings and catch up with one another.
After this, Michelle Agopsowicz gave her talk
"One Half of the World Cannot Understand The Personality of the Other".
Inspired by the book Quiet, Agopsowicz decided to investigate the personalities involved in Austen's beloved novels. She discovered that introversion was more highly valued during the Georgian times where a conduct manual advised "the coolest reserve" was preferred to "undue familiarity". At a time when the word "personality" did not yet exist, people who displayed extroverted tendencies were not considered trustworthy.
Agopsowicz compared this with our current culture where personality has become more important than character. Today's ideal self is gregarious, individual and talkative. In fact, extroverted people are considered better looking, smarter and more interesting than their introverted counterparts. She explained that this is a result of industrialization, which put the individual above the collective. She then had her audience conduct the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator tests for various Austen characters. Captain Wentworth was proven to be Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking and Judging while Elizabeth Bennet was controversially revealed as Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking and Perceiving. In conclusion, Agopsowicz noted that Jane Austen herself has been categorized as Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking and Judging - a combination shared only with her famous character, Mr. Darcy - and described as The Mastermind.
Of Beaver Hats and Show Biz - November 17
On November 17, our group was treated to two very informative talks.
Where would Jane's gentlemen be if it weren't for Canada's fur trade?
Then a voyageur-clad Jane Papenhuyzen enlightened us with the history of the
Beaver Hat, mentioned in several Austen books as the height of fashion for Regency men.
Jane presented her illustrated talk as 'Pierre', a member of
Sir Alexander Mackenzie's crew on his journey by voyageur canoe from Fort William (now Thunder Bay) to the
in quest of a water route to the Pacific. Dressed as a voyageur, and complete with sash, music and literature, she told us of the contemporary conditions and duties of crew members crammed into the canoes, the hardships of strenuous paddling (55 strokes per minute) for many hours every day, the pains of portaging, the significance and uses of the uniform, the trading of goods. Among the last were furs, greatly prized in Europe. Jane made references to the top hat, made from beaver fur, mentioned several times in Jane Austen's novels, as illustrated with movie stills. The trading rendezvous was at Fort William where the
North-West Company exchanged bales of furs for supplies of trade goods from Montreal.
It is amazing to see how Jane Austen's work can be tied to so many different topics! As a student at Lakehead University in 1989, Papenhuyzen herself followed Alexander MacKenzie's 1789 trek along the MacKenzie River to the mouth of the Arctic Ocean. Sir Alexander Mackenzie was so disheartened when he found that the river he discovered (subsequently the Mackenzie River) went north instead of, as anticipated, west to the Pacific that he named it the River of Disappointment.
She was a member of the expedition by university students celebrating the
200th anniversary of Mackenzie's voyage, beginning their re-enactment at Fort McMurray. She read parts of her journal, giving us her thoughts on her experiences at the time. The original voyageurs slept under their canoes, but the students had individual nylon tents – and also had food drops every 10-15 days. Not much time was spent on shore because of mosquitos, and such were the rigours of even twentieth century travel that on occasion sleeping in the open and many extra hours on the water seemed akin to the experiences of the original adventurers. The students presented performances at schools and community centres along the way, bringing history alive. Jane's enthusiasm and delight in this expedition were evident, and there were many questions from the audience.
September 15, 2012
Diana Patterson of Mount Royal University, Calgary, spoke on Elizabeth Inchbald's play Lovers' Vows in Mansfield Park, a novel, she notes, which does not fit into the postcolonial frame. She painted a vivid picture of the social context of the people and place involved and the content of the play, Lovers' Vows, and its performance in the novel. This play, very popular at the time, was published in numerous editions and performed all over Britain, especially in the upper echelons of society, and has a story centring round adultery and revenge, with a happy outcome. Fanny Price and Edmund did not approve: the young people 'were not thinking as they ought'. The dramatic return of Sir Thomas ('Julia with a face all aghast, exclaimed, "My father is come!"') puts an end to the theatricals. Diana discussed the social and family implications and the function in the narrative of this pivotal part of the novel, indicating that Austen's purpose was to illuminate her characters - but did Jane really approve of this 'itch for acting'?
Great Exhibition on Pastimes and Progress
12 May 2012
Our May gathering was a celebration of all things Regency. Many of our members shared their expertise to an eager audience. Catherine began with an
of the life and times of the Prince-Regent. Judith illustrated her talk on
Regency architecture with a beautiful powerpoint and stories from her recent trip to India.
Stuart and Ann Marie developed a fascinating insight into science and technology during the time.
Ann gave a spirited talk on religion in Regency England and led an informative discussion on the topic.
Our tea was a refreshing elderflower water and dainties. Then the floor was open to a less formal "exhibition", Emma-style, whereby each of us was challenged to share one very interesting, two moderately interesting or three very dull pieces of information regarding either Jane Austen or the Regency era.
Our Bring and Buy was very successful, with everyone finding some Austen-themed trinket to take home.
Finally, a new group of leaders was selected. We thank Catherine, Helen and Ann Marie for their excellent guidance and look forward to what Ann, Amber and Ann Marie organize in the future.
She's Not Finished! The Neglected Novels
17 Mar 2012
On the brink of spring, we met to celebrate the unfinished novels of Jane Austen, guided by Elizabeth Marshall in
The Watsons and Sanditon.
She shared the reasons why the novels weren't finished, their basic plots and a smattering of the efforts by other authors to complete these fragments. None could compare, though, with what Austen might have done herself if she'd only had more time.
In honour of St. Patrick's Day, we drank a cold green tea favoured by the Prince Regent, though without the large quantity of alcohol he usually preferred. Amber Adams made Irish soda bread to have with our tea. Amber also shared an enlightening account of Tom Lefroy's life and family. There is evidence to show that Lefroy,
from a prominent Irish family, was Jane Austen's ideal choice for a husband.
Helen led a discussion on P.D. James' new book,
Death Comes to Pemberley. While the book has received some negative reviews, most members seemed to feel it was worth a read.
Several changes will be in store for future meetings, whereby Judith and Deirdre will now take over the running of the library, which is now posted online. New member, Penny, will be the new tea coordinator.
Murder of a Matchmaker - A Jane Austen Murder Mystery Tea
The Dove's Nest in Glenmore Landing was the perfect backdrop for this year's Jane Austen Tea and the mystery game, "Murder of a Matchmaker". The pretty rooms were abuzz with gossip, slander and accusations. Between courses of finger sandwiches, scones, pie and endless cups of tea, members of the Jane Austen Society of Calgary became characters from Austen's books. Miss Bates, Jane Fairfax, Fanny Price, Isabella Thorpe, Lucy Steele and Mrs. Bennet - all had ample opportunity and motive for killing Miss Anne A. Juste, a well-known matchmaker in Highbury, England. The charming mystery was written by Samantha Adkins, and the event was planned by program co-ordinator, Helen Gardner.
21 Jan 2012
Those in attendance were also delighted with props made by a team of Regency sewers. Together they created eight fetching bonnets and eight sweet lace caps which brought out the Miss Bates and Mrs. Bennet characters seated at our tables.
Linda Payne gave a marvellous tribute to Jane on her 236th birthday and several lucky members won Austen-related door prizes.
Happy Birthday, dear Jane, we only wish you could have joined us.
In Their Words: Critics on Jane Austen
The November 19 meeting of JASNA Calgary began with interesting bits of news and updates from several members. Judith Umbach opened her update on the website with the announcement that JASNA Calgary can now be found on Twitter. @JasnaCalgary Several book reviews, links and other reading information have also been added to the website.
19 Nov 2011
Elizabeth Marshall shared her recent trip to the JASNA AGM in Fortworth, Texas. Among several of her highlights was a talk given by Andrew Davies on his "sexed-up" version of Sense and Sensibility. The AGM film festival including a Spanish version of Sense and Sensibility entitled From Prada to Nada, and a modern adaptation called Scents and Sensibility.
After tea, we were delighted with
In Their Words,
a play in the form of a panel of critics on Jane Austen and her work. Among those present were Sir Walter Scott, Caroline Austen, Mary Bridges, and Charlotte Bronte. Our own Judith Umbach wrote this play after a recent visit to England where she was set on obtaining a British Library card. In order to do this, she needed to create a research question. Her question became "What were the contemporary reviews on Jane Austen." She used this research as the basis of her play.
Cultivating Sense from the Cult of Sensibility:
The Influence of Frances Burney and Maria Edgeworth
in Sense and Sensibility
24 Sept 2011
Prior to our main speaker,
Catherine Gardner, Regional Coordinator, recommended a new collection of essays from the U of A press entitled
Jane Austen and Company by Bruce and Nora Stovel.
Kathleen announced that Sprigged Muslin will start up again and welcomes new members to our dance group.
Helen Gardner announced Jane Austen's Birthday tea on January 21. We will celebrate with a Murder Mystery Game, Murder of a Matchmaker,
written by Samantha Adkins. Tickets are now on sale for $20 and are selling quickly.
After tea and refreshments and a chance to chat, Emma Spooner shared her work, Cultivating Sense from the Cult of Sensibility: The Influence of Frances Burney and Maria Edgeworth in Sense and Sensibility, which she will present at this year's AGM in Texas.
Jane Austen was not the first female author to satirize social expectations for female behavior and exemplify rational thinking in women. Emma Spooner, who has a Master's degree in English from the University of Calgary, compared Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility to Burney's Cecilia and Edgeworth's Belinda. Austen said of these books that "the greatest powers of the mind are displayed". She examined the way
Burney's Cecilia and
deal with the feminine ideal of sensibility in the late eighteenth-century and how these works may have influenced Austen in her portrayals of Elinor and Marianne.
All three women were pioneers of a more realistic fiction, in contrast to the popular sentimental fiction of their time.
China and Charity - 2011 March 19
With slightly warmer temperatures and spring on the horizon, we met at the cozy Sunalta Community Centre once again.
The meeting began with some tantalizing promises of events to come - The May Gala, Words, Wands and War,
an upcoming Bonnet Making workshop and a "mystery event".
The first speaker was Dr. Diana Patterson,
an associate professor of English at Mount Royal University who instructed us in the history of
the evolution of porcelain in England and the rise of the popular willow pattern.
She noted that Wedgewood china would be the type found in most of Austen's books.
Next we had a lovely 'lenten' tea of brownies and gingerbread hosted by the Barton's.
Finally, Michelle Agopsowicz, who has a Masters of Social Work, imparted her research on charity in Austen's work and times.
We learned of the importance of two classes of poor – the deserving and undeserving.
Such classes may still hold in our views of social services today.
Michelle shared several Austen quotations which revealed the importance of charity as a theme in her works.
Thanks to Michelle's generosity, her presentation is available in pdf.
Portland Vase, about 1790, made by Josiah Wedgwood for the Duke of Portland
On 16th September, 1813, Jane Austen wrote a letter to her sister Cassandra, in which she noted a visit with her brother and a niece to Wedgwood's in London: "We then went to Wedgwoods where my brother and Fanny chose a Dinner Set, I believe the pattern is a small Lozenge in purple, between Lines of narrow Gold; - and it is to have the Crest." The dinner set was owned by Jane Austen's brother, Edward Austen, and as Jane was a frequent guest at her brother's house in Chawton she must have seen, used and eaten from these dishes many times.
Birthday Tea - 2011 January 15
Enjoy the photos on the Tea page and the Photos page.
Reading in the Rectory: Did Jane Know These Books?
2010 Nov 27
Amber Adams fascinated a standing-room only audience with her presentation of books
from Jane Austen's time.
Making use of her personal book collection,
Amber showed us books from the mid-17th century to the mid-18th century.
Her friendly amanuensis, Laine Simpson, carefully displayed these old, well-worn documents.
The book list
ranged from volumes that Jane Austen's father might have known to books written by and about
people in Jane Austen's world. Some of these are referred to in Janeís
writing; some she may have seen in her fatherís library; she may have been familiar with
some of the plays. These books were available at the time from booksellers, grocers
and pedlars. Widely dispersed and used ephemeral material helped us understand terms
used in the novels, such as buying a book in boards.
Amber Adams is a former librarian at the Queen's University of Belfast and current editor of
The Mystique of the Pineapple: A Lure for General Tilney
2010 Sept 25
Carrying the weight of international rivalry with the Dutch and the cachet of royal approval,
the growing of pineapples in cool and cloudy England was an alluring challenge
for many of the landed gentry during the Regency. Why did Jane Austen select the pinery
as the appropriate part of the garden for General Tilney to highlight?
How else could he impress Catherine Morland and his wealthy neighbours except by cultivating
the most expensive fad of his generation?
First brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus, pineapples quickly
became a symbol of wealth and trendiness.
Shannon Campbell of JASNA Edmonton, a botanist with an interest in the history of
horticulture, agriculture, and climatology, is one of the few people
who could address the rise of the pineapple. After her presentation to us on Apples
and Apple-blossom Time (Wherein Jane Austen's Reputation for Meticulous Observation
is Vindicated), we were full of expectations - all fulfilled and more!
Shannon will be continuing her presentation at the Portland JASNA AGM.
Literary Opinions - 2010 March 20
Emma shared her review
a musical spoof (written in part by a Calgarian)
about a ego-drenched theatre group staging Pride and Prejudice. Others had this to say.
For even more literary explorations, two invited speakers addressed our group.
- Catherine Spencer related her persistent efforts in writing a novel, Good Intentions.
inspired by Jane Austen and finding an agent willing to help her publish a work true to the
tone and morals of the age. The audience was supportive and discussed publishing options.
Amy Stafford delighted us with her analysis of the bad girls in Jane Austen's novels.
Fools, Flirts and Floozies was an illustrated romp through the questionable morals and brains
of many secondary characters, with a few nods to some heroines.
Jane's Life - 2009 November 21
Margaret invited us to the January birthday tea and requested everyone to sign-up as a volunteer.
Judith conducted a tour of this website, with its new pages and information.
Also, we were introduced to some great sites for Janeites.
We learned about Jane Austen and Her Family, and
several members reviewed biographies of Jane Austen, both old and new.
On 2009 September 19 Margaret, Emma and Randi led a discussion on the many marriage proposals
in the novels (successful and unsuccessful) that Jane refers to
but doesnít actually include in her novels. We wrote and acted out
what we imagined was said by whom to whom.
On 2009 March 14 Judith Umbach and Deirdre Harris entertained members
with stories of their trip through
Winchester, Chawton and Bath.
Their DVD and photo show brought back memories for some
and inspired others to plan a trip to see the Jane Austen sites.
Following the presentation, everyone contributed
their own stories and tips for travel.
On 2008 November 15, member Bob Stamp proposed that
Jane Austen chose 'Hanoverian' names for LOUISA
Musgrove (Persuasion), CAROLINE Bingley (Pride and Prejudice),
AUGUSTA Elton (Emma), and Mary (a.k.a. AMELIA) Crawford in
Mansfield Park. These less-than-stellar characters are clearly
rivals of the 'English' named heroines -- ANNE Elliott,
ELIZABETH Bennett, EMMA Woodhouse and FANNY Price, respectively -
- rivals for the attention and affections of the male heroes
in these four novels. The talk concluded with a lively question and answer session.
Also at our November meeting, Catherine Gardner shared her enjoyment of many sessions
at the Chicago 2008 AGM. To find out more, link to the
On 2008 September 20 we enjoyed two speakers.
What Would Darcy Drive?
Beatrice Nearey unravelled the mysteries of horse-drawn travel in Jane Austen's time,
enlightening us about the differences between
coaches, Barouche-Landaus, gigs, curricles - more than just carriages!
Everyone was a tea-lover when Jeanne Worton told us about the pot that tea was steeped in.
Jeanne is the president of the Edmonton JASNA Region and an avid teapot collector since 1985.
She has approximately 200 teapots.
On 2008 May 10 Dr. David Oakleaf, Associate Professor in the
English Department at the University of Calgary, entertained us with his
theme of sexual pursuit in Jane Austen. The discussion questioned the balance of sexual pursuit
and the desire for economic well-being.
On 2008 March 15 we discussed the Pride and Prejudice movies and the shows
A lively discussion concentrated on the many interpretations of Elizabeth Bennett's evening
with the Bingley family and Mr Darcy.
In 2007 November, member Tom Barton took us on a tour of Derbyshire.
In 2007 October some of us attended the gala ball at
Annual Conference, held in Vancouver, B.C.
In 2007 September, author Phyllis Ferguson astonished us with her talk
on the range of autism in Pride and Prejudice.