Saturday, 25 August 2007

Progess. It's Mighty Satisfying.

I am back from our sojourn on Salt Spring Island, where you can be sure that though I got in many Austen style long country walks, the activities mostly boiled down to sitting around doing nothing but eating, drinking and basking in the sun and occasionally foraging for sun warmed blackberries, peaches, apples and figs. A city dweller has to make the most of fresh fruit, fresh air and sea breezes after all but it was my birthday and I celebrated by sitting down an awful lot and partaking of our host's fine beverages and cheeses. I really am quite amazed by how much a person can put away when they're on holiday, it's like psychological appetite enhancement.

I must humbly ask that my dear readership, parva sed apta, stand by me with angelic patience while I take yet a little more time off from writing. After more than twelve months of worry, of fussing about with paperwork, of pushing forward blind and not really knowing where were going and lamenting not having a lawyer, I've recently been notified that next week I am being granted my Canadian residency, for as some of you already know I'm Australian and married to a Canuck. My residency will finally allow me to work, study and leave the country. Though I'm just across the border in Vancouver I haven't been able to visit America in almost two years and I'll tell you, the stores in Seattle that carry Tom's Shoes and Ethiopian coffee beans and competitively priced liquor are not going to know what hit them. Me. In a caffeine fueled, Tom's wearing shopping frenzy with my Seattle based sister in law. (Hi Dieringers!)

But that's for later. Right now I need a little time to prepare for my entr
é into Canadian Residency. I'll still be manning Old Grey Pony as before when I've gotten myself organized. In the meantime, here's a few points of interest.

  1. Many Books is a fantastic resource from which you can download many books in PDF, eBook or iPod Notes format, and from where I just acquired some long desired works of Elizabeth von Arnim.
  2. Many readers of Jane Austen's novels and short stories enjoy a dive into the dubious world of Austen film and TV adaptations and I'm not immune to an occasional dip myself. I have seen every, and I mean every, adaptation and the only ones I can recommend unreservedly are Persuasion 1995 (Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds) and Northanger Abbey 1986 (Peter Firth and Katharine Schlesinger).
  3. It has nothing to do with Austen but I think Indexed is adorable. Enjoy.

Back in a week or so.

Thanks for reading.


Friday, 17 August 2007

Short Haitus

Mr Hasenauer and I are getting out of the city for a few days and will be on holiday on Salt Spring Island, rusticating in a wee cabin on a vineyard.

Posts will begin again shortly on the 25th of August.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Extra Long Georgian Item of the Week

Emma, Lady Hamilton
c. 1765 - 1815

Study of Emma Hart as Circe
circa 1782-85
George Romney
Tate Gallery, London

One of the most scandalous relationships of Georgian England was the devoted alliance between Emma, Lady Hamilton and the hero of the nation, Horatio Nelson. Like any public and unconventional woman, an inordinate amount has been written about Lady Hamilton, much of it unflattering and most of it untrue. The daughter of a Blacksmith, Emma, born Amy Lyon in Cheshire circa 1761-5, at the age of sixteen or seventeen was a most ravishingly beautiful girl who had become the full time mistress of the Hon. Charles Greville in London after having been very lately abandoned pregnant by her former lover Sir Harry Fetherstonehaugh. Before her entry into the demi-monde Lyon worked as nursemaid in two or three private houses. Greville set her and her widowed mother up in their own home and Amy Lyon thereafter went by the more upwardly mobile name of Mrs Emma Hart. Her daughter Emma Carew was brought up by her grandmother in Wales.

During the five years she lived with Greville, Emma sat more than 100 times for the painter George Romney. Though a majority of these sittings were by Romney's obsessive desir
e, many of them were commissioned by Greville and it was the cost of these portraits that helped contribute to the massive personal debts that forced Greville to give Emma up in 1786 in search of a wealthy bride. Greville sent her to Naples to be the guest of his uncle Sir William Hamilton, leading vulcanologist and British Envoy to Naples and a widower, with the expressed plan of following her shortly. In reality Greville intended to remain in England and marry an heiress, and that the fascinating, charismatic presence and angelic, Grecian beauty of Emma would prevent the already fond Sir William from remarrying elsewhere and thereby disinheriting him. After months of waiting faithfully for Greville, the reality of her situation dawned on her and Emma became instead Sir William's mistress, whom she admired and grew to love, and as such she was educated and 'finished', the benefits of elocution, foreign language and singing lessons added to her natural graces, and in 1791 he married her, much to the chagrin no doubt of Charles Greville.

As Lady Hamilton Emma was literally the toast of Naples society. She was a favourite at the Neapolitan court of Kind Ferdinand IV and the close friend and confident of the Queen, Maria
Carolina (sister of Marie Antoinette of France). In Naples she developed her Attitudes, a repetoire of tableaux vivant poses representing classical characters from Ancient Greek and
Roman history, that became famous and much admired in Europe by many, including writer Johann Wolfgang Goethe and composer Joseph Hadyn, other artists and academics and many of the members of parliament, of royal families and of aristocracies within Sir William's vast and
varied ambassadorial and scientific circles.

Emma Hamilton as the Goddess of Health (Vestina)
circa 1786-90
Robert Cosway

The National Maritime Museum London

Although Emma was very beautiful, it was the way she could embody a character as an ideal and her eye for the visually artistic, the skills of a good model and a muse, that made her prized by many painters as a subject, including Vigée le Brun, Marie Antoinette's friend and principal portrait artist. The Neoclassicism of the Enlightenment and the European Republican admiration for Ancient Greece and Rome were the driving forces behind the radical change of dress in the Georgian period and the simple, classical, Grecian costumes of Lady Hamilton's Attitudes were hugely influential on the Directoire and Empire styles of women's dress in Europe and Britain. Lady Hamilton was certainly not clever, she could be very critical and she had a healthy appetite for admiration, and for wine but she was also good company, warm, loyal, an excellent wife to Sir William and a widely respected society hostess.

Emma first met Admiral Nelson briefly in August 1793 when his ship The Agamemnon docked in the Bay of Naples but it was not until he returned after five years of war in 1798 that their unique relationship was solidified. The bond between Sir William, Emma and Nelson was complicated and highly nuanced. A frail, injured and battle-weary Nelson was nursed back to health and joyfulness by an attentive Emma. First as his nursemaid, with the skills and patience she'd learned in her pre-courtesan career and then as his mistress, Emma nurtured and worshiped Nelson who was, at the same time, treated as a son and friend by Sir William. For the next 18 months, Nelson, who was childless but married to a wife in England, lived in a ménage-à-trois with the Hamiltons while his ships were moored in the bay of Naples.

In 1800 the Hamiltons and Nelson returned to England, where society was far less forgiving and where Nelson, his estranged wife and family were adored and Emma was despised and ridiculed in the press. Nelson did spend some time with Fanny, Lady Nelson at first but eventually gave her up entirely and, between naval engagements, he was most often a guest in Sir William's house in London and openly continued his affair with Emma. The affair was an outrageous scandal, sympathy and solidarity for the abandoned and blameless Lady Nelson was intense and Emma, though the wife of the highly respected Neapolitan ambassador, was denied presentation at court and duly shunned by good society. But she was believed to have become a friend of the Prince Regent, naturally. In 1801 while in the late stages of pregnancy, she still went abroad in London, defying the accepted practice of gentlewomen to not socialize at large once they had began to show, and to remain confined entirely to their homes in late pregnancy. She was consequently lampooned in the press as hugely obese and, despite her education, charm and grace, as vulgar and irredeemably working class.

Their daughter Horatia was born in 1801. Sir William, quite elderly by this time, died in London in 1803 and Nelson purchased a house for Emma at Merton but he himself was assigned to the HMS Victory and would not return to England for two years. Their second child Emma was born not long after his departure and died early of chicken pox. Upon his return , he and Emma lived happily for a few short months as husband and wife at Merton before he was recalled to the war. Horatio Nelson was killed in action at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. In his will, Nelson entrusted Emma's care to the nation, as his estate must fall to his brother, but this was ignored by George III and his government. With her working class roots, her questionable past and her penchant for self-display Emma Hamilton was an embarrassment. Struggling to keep up Merton as a monument to England's beloved Nelson, she swiftly burned through all she had within three years and after borrowing money she couldn't repay, she spent a year with Horatia in King's Bench debtor's prison, where the Prince Regent dined with her on occasion. She then left England permanently for France. Emma had always been a drinker and she died destitute of alcoholism ten years later in Calais in 1815. Emma Carew is believed to have died without issue, abroad or in Wales not long after her mother. Horatia Nelson was taken in by Nelson's mother's relations and later married the Reverend Phillip Ward at the age of 21. They were apparently very happy and had ten children together, eight of who survived to adulthood and whose descents still live in Norfolk.

I sometimes wonder if the very public and well publicized scandal of Emma and Nelson had an impact on the way Austen chose to portray the navy, sexual misconduct and sexual misconduct within in the navy in Mansfield Park.

Emma Hart, later Lady Hamilton in a White Turban
George Romney
The Hunting Library, San Marino, California

Monday, 13 August 2007

Philosophical Gothic

Residents of Vancouver BC may be interested to know that in January 2008 the East Vancouver Cultural Centre will be housing the Catalyst Theatre's very well received production of Frankenstein.

Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was published in 1818. The production is an original and faithful adaptation by Jonathan Christenson.

Photo by Photomagic featuring Tracey Penner

Friday, 10 August 2007

Books on Tape Techie Time: iTunesU Podcasts

Life can be so sweet when you least expect it. It's not as if I was having a boring Friday night but certainly it was well behaved. While we here at Chez Old Grey Pony were relaxing on the sofa, eating spaghetti, listening to music and gleefully playing with our facebook pages, we couldn't help but wistfully think of our more cashed up acquaintances drinking wine and eating tapas on a restaurant patio somewhere late into the summer evening. But, ours is the fate of all who must pay off student loans and I cheerfully sat down to stroll through my iTunes podcast menu while the blueberry muffins we were baking were in the oven.

Little did I expect to come across The Greatest Podcast of All Time.

iTunesU features a brand new selection of free podcasts created and published by universities for their students and the Lit2Go (love the name) cast created by the University of South Florida is phenomenal and includes, among many others, a fantastic reading of Sense and Sensibility in the Group 9 collection and Northanger Abbey in the Group 12 collection. I don't know who the narrator is but his voice and his style of reading are excellent and it's very refreshing to listen to an Austen novel read by a male narrator for a change, and who is much more talented at reading than some of the actors narrating purchasable titles.

Lit2Go is very exciting and features many classics, too many to mention here but a quick look reveals several Georgian and Austen related works, including:

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Castles of Athlin and Dublayne by Ann Radcliffe

Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

The Purple Jar by Maria Edgeworth

There are so many more and a quick special mention to the Brontë sisters, Sir Aurthur Conan Doyle, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Lewis Carroll and Virginia Woolf, as well as poetry and traditional readings and also another collection En Espaňol. Nice one, University of South Florida. If you do not have iTunes already, you may download it free of charge on the Apple website.

I'm going to have a good old browse through the rest of iTunesU and a blueberry muffin.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Belated Georgian Item of the Week

Scientists: Joseph Priestley 1733 - 1804

Joseph Priestley
circa 1801
Rembrandt Peale
The Trout Gallery Dickinson College, PA

A native of West Yorkshire, Joseph Priestley was a natural philosopher, chemist, educator and Dissenting clergyman, and he is credited with the discovery of the existence of oxygen. A clergyman-chemist, Priestley called the gas he discovered, "dephlogisticated air." It was French physicist Antoine Lavoisier, a great admirer of Priestley’s, who named it oxygen. Priestley, a close friend of Benjamin Franklin, experimented with electricity before turning his attention to chemistry in the early 1770s. His other discoveries include hydrochloric acid, nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and sulfur dioxide, and he invented soda water.

Priestley’s contributions to education were as important as those to science. He was the first British educator to insist on the value of modern history as a subject and that a thorough understanding of history was necessary not only to worldly success but also to spiritual growth. Priestley was innovative in the teaching and description of English grammar, particularly his efforts to disassociate it from Latin grammar, and the founder of the first liberal arts curriculum. He communicated with Thomas Jefferson regarding the proper organization of a university and when Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, it was Priestley's curricular principles that dominated the school. No wonder it’s so awesome.

Priestley helped found the Unitarian church and was a supporter of the French Revolution, and due to his nonconformist views, in 1791 a mob destroyed his house and laboratory in Birmingham. This episode and subsequent troubles made him decide to emigrate to the United States, where he died in 1804 in Pennsylvania. His house on Priestley Avenue, Northumberland PA, with the first scientific laboratory in America, may still be visited

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Accidents and Coincidence in Persuasion

Anne Elliot and her two suitors Captain Wentworth and Mr Elliot, are traveling in a web of accidents and coincidences in Persuasion. This web puts them all in the same field, gives both suitors the advantage of luck and mystery, yet keeps them tangled away from Anne, struggling and gradually moving in their necessary directions, towards and away from her, as the novel progresses.

Wentworth is most strongly associated with luck and lucky accidents. At the time of his youthful engagement to Anne he had already 'been lucky in his profession’ and later Admiral Croft comments on his luck at having been assigned the Laconia by the navy, in which he had chanced to take enough privateers and war bounty to make him rich. Coinciding with his return from the war, his sister and brother-in-law the Crofts ‘accidentally hear’ of Kellynch Hall being to let while at Taunton, and thus the new tenants of Kellynch, Anne’s rightful home and the scene of her historic courtship, are the immediate family of her one time fiancé, and expecting Wentworth moreover to stay with them.

While Sir Walter and Elizabeth Elliot decamp to Bath, Anne embarks on a long visit to her married sister Mary in the adjoining neighbourhood of Uppercross and, given the sociable habits of the Uppercross family, the Musgroves, she is understandably uneasy at the prospect of socializing with a man whom she had been persuaded to break off an engagement with eight years earlier, who has improved with time while she has faded, and with whom she is still in love. But a Persuasion accident allows her to absent herself from the dinner party she was to first meet him again at, when her nephew suffers a bad fall from a tree. In order that the child’s parents may attend the dinner, she offers to stay at home and nurse the him, preventing a long, painful and public reunion for them both. A coincidence is discovered by Mrs Musgrove when she suddenly remembers that Wentworth was the one of the captains their son Richard had served under in the navy. Never much loved on land but having died at sea, the troublesome Dick’s association with Wentworth, who had encouraged him to write the only two letters that weren’t supplications for money that his parents ever received, gives a touchingly pathetic and grateful tinge to the already healthy Uppercross admiration for the captain. And at Uppercross, accidents and coincidences first seem to pull Wentworth towards Louisa Musgrove.

The occurrence of accidents is a dominant motif throughout the narrative and never more so than on the day of the young people’s long walk to Winthrop, does this motif tie Anne, Louisa and Wentworth together. Whilst Anne is mediating on poetry that depicts the sweets of autumn, Wentworth tells of the Crofts’ adventures in their gig:

“…I wonder whereabouts they will upset to-day. Oh! it does happen very often, I assure you; but my sister makes nothing of it; she would as lieve be tossed out as not."

"Ah! You make the most of it, I know," cried Louisa, "but if it were really so, I should do just the same in her place. If I loved a man, as she loves the Admiral, I would always be with him, nothing should ever separate us, and I would rather be overturned by him, than driven safely by anybody else."

It was spoken with enthusiasm.

"Had you?" cried he, catching the same tone; "I honour you!"

Anne’s thoughts ‘could not immediately fall into a quotation again’ after this exchange, understandably.

Later on the Winthrop walk she accidentally overhears a conversation between Wentworth and Louisa. Having sat down to rest, ‘she very soon heard Captain Wentworth and Louisa in the hedge-row, behind her’, an accident which has two-fold significance. In one way, the exchange between Louisa and Wentworth draws him superficially closer to Louisa as he admires her strength of resolution in comparison to Henrietta Musgrove’s wavering about Charles Hayter, and by unmentioned proxy, Anne’s youthful wavering about him. But she also overhears Louisa tell him how she had refused her brother Charles' proposal a few years earlier too. Louisa wrongly speculates that Lady Russell persuaded her to refuse Charles Musgrove, leading Anne to assume Wentworth will now believe her to be completely without judgment for herself. And yet, ‘there had been just that degree of feeling and curiosity about her in his manner’ to pose the idea that he now begins to hope she might still be in love with him.

On the close of the Winthrop walk, the party comes across the accident prone Crofts in their gig and Wentworth, having noticed Anne’s fatigue, orchestrates a lift for her with them and Anne is driven home by the couple who unknowingly almost had become, and later would become her in-laws. And though on the drive they speculate on a romance at Uppercross for Wentworth, due to Mrs Croft’s precision, any other accidents here were avoided:

…by coolly giving the reins a better direction herself they happily passed the danger; and by once afterwards judiciously putting out her hand they neither fell into a rut, nor ran foul of a dung-cart.

To be continued

Thursday, 2 August 2007


I'd be interested to learn others' feelings on reading Emma.

Among novelists who have written more than one or two books, for me it is happens most often that I will like only one or two of a particular writer's works, and it is very rare that something about the writer's style or subject matter will make me very keen, obsessed even at times, to read all of their books, usually as soon as possible. This occurred most strongly for me with Jean Rhys, George Eliot, Henry James, Thomas Hardy, (indeed, this was very nearly a Hardy blog) Fyodor Dostoevsky and of course, Jane Austen. With one notable exception.

I read Emma first when I was about seventeen and at the time probably simply thought as it as my least favourite Austen book, shelved it for three or four years and never thought about it.

In a fit of boredom I re-read it again years later, that time with more respect for the character writing but still with no great attachment to it and I remember calling Emma something along the lines of a self important airhead as I finished the book. I read it too in my Eng Lit class days and though my appreciation for the story grew and my dislike of the central character dwindled it was still the least interesting work in my book, and I didn't enter into the stance held by scholars who articles I read in lit journals, that it was Austen's most complex work. At the time I thought it as light, relatively enjoyable but not significant reading.

Today, in the middle of reading Emma for the fourth time, I wonder how I could have been so blind. I'm astounded really that I never picked up on the depth of Emma before. Perhaps that it takes place in a inward looking, confined area squashed in with characters whom I could never like. Mr Knightley and Jane Fairfax are the most interesting and the reader's time with them is so limited, necessarily. I really can't put it down on this reading and am amazed that I disliked it so much before. I think perhaps it takes maturity to not misread Emma.

I'll be writing more about Emma once I've finished and I'm interested in your perceptions of the novel...