Thursday, December 24, 2009

Regency Era Christmas Tree

Although Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria usually gets the credit for bringing the Christmas tree to England, it was actually Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, who was responsible for England's first Christmas tree. German born Charlotte set up the first known English tree at Windsor in 1800.

"In the middle of the room stood an immense tub with a yew tree placed in it, from the branches of which hung bunches of sweetmeats, almonds, and raisins in papers, fruits and toys, most tastefully arranged, and the whole illuminated by small wax candles. After the company had walked around and admired the tree, each child obtained a portion of the sweets which it bore together with a toy and then all returned home, quite delighted."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Report from the Big Apple

Your Regional Coordinator had a wonderful "all-Austen" day in New York City on December 5. First, in company with her hostess, Margarita Levin, and several other JASNA New York Metro friends, she visited the "A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy" exhibition at the Morgan Library and Museum. This exhibition is everything everyone has said it would be, and CNY Janeites are urged to make every effort to see it before it closes on March 14. The Morgan is located at 225 Madison Ave. in NYC.

The exhibition includes a generous selection of JA's letters to her sister, Cassandra (several written in the paper-saving criss-cross style described by Mrs. Bates in Emma as "chequer-work"); the first several letters from the fair copy of Lady Susan, to which a few heavily marked-up pages from the rough draft of The Watsons present an intriguing contrast; one of the letters JA received from the Prince Regent's librarian, the Rev. James Stanier Clarke (who, perhaps fortunately, never seems to have realized the close resemblance between himself and Mr. Collins!); JA's "Plan of a Novel," incorporating helpful hints from the Rev. Clarke and other self-appointed critics; a rich assortment of supplementary material (too much to list here, but your RC confesses to liking the caricatures by James Gillray best); and the beautiful and moving letter written by Cassandra to niece Fanny Knight after JA's death ("I have lost such a treasure, such a Sister, such a friend...").

The second great pleasure of the day was the JASNA New York Metro quarterly regional meeting, held at the Midtown Executive Club on 45th St. The NYM co-RCs, Jerald Vetowich and Nili Olay, presided with characteristic flair. After a brisk diversion called "Mrs. Jennings's Match Game" (involving pairing up suitable characters from different Austen novels; even the relentless Mrs. J herself might have been stumped by this!), the day's main event was a presentation on "Women's Health Issues in Jane Austen's Time" by longtime JASNA member Dr. Cheryl Kinney of Texas. This highly informative and entertaining talk covered a wide range of topics: mother and infant mortality rates in 1809; the respective knowledge bases and social roles of "quacks," apothecaries, barbers, surgeons, midwives, and "gossips" (neither term in quotes had the meaning it has today); the status of birth control efforts (primitive/ineffective) and sexually transmitted diseases (widespread/virulent); some appalling treatments for menopause; and, finally, the various current theories about the cause of JA's death at age 41 in 1817. Of these last, the most interesting to your RC by far is the idea that JA could have caught a form of tuberculosis from her brother Henry, whom she nursed through a serious illness in London at the end of 1815. Henry is known to have had a serious respiratory ailment during the very early 1800s, but he survived both this and the 1815 attack and lived until 1850, so he may have had a less deadly form or less virulent strain of TB. JA, alas, was not so fortunate: She may have had the form affecting the adrenal glands, which at that time was invariably fatal.

The talk was followed by an excellent tea, the traditional birthday toast to JA, and a raffle drawing. And the visiting member from Upstate--JASNA NYM generously considers all NY State JASNA members as its own--was made to feel most welcome.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

JASNA Syracuse "Candlemas" Meeting

JASNA Syracuse's next informational meeting about JASNA and membership in JASNA will be held at Books & Memories, 2600 James St., Syracuse, on Saturday, February 6, 2010, at 2:00 PM. Our original intention was to try to hold JASNA Syracuse meetings on or about the "quarter days" that Jane Austen would have known (Michaelmas, Sept. 29; Christmas; Lady Day, March 25; and Midsummer, June 24). However, the realities of modern life convinced us that trying to hold a meeting near Christmas would be impractical. So we've decided to hold a meeting near "Candlemas" (February 2), the date that marked the end of the extended Christmastide in JA's time--as those of you who attended Lisa Brown's "A Regency Christmas" presentations in Oswego and Rochester now know! As this meeting's example of "what we talk about when we talk about Jane Austen," we've chosen to discuss Pride and Prejudice and at least some of the "paraliterature" offerings (sequels, retellings, etc.) it has inspired, since this meeting date is also close to the anniversary of P&P's publication on January 28, 1813.

Monday, November 30, 2009

"JA Singing School for Young Ladies" Concert

Here's a slightly belated review of the concert given by the "Jane Austen Singing School for Young Ladies" at the Skaneateles Library on November 21. Your Regional Coordinator attended the concert along with new JASNA member Sophia Battaglia (and, at the gracious invitation of Miss Joanna Manring, assisted in welcoming the audience). Under the capable direction of Miss Manring, the seven Young Ladies--the Misses Ellie Crough, Sofia Darovskikh, Phoebe Glowacki, Christina Marshall, Hana Polachek, Olivia Sheppard, and Chloe Strang--acquitted themselves admirably. The selection of songs from JA's period (some from her actual hand-copied collection) included several that are familiar to viewers of film and television adaptations, such as "Slumber, Dear Maid" and "You Who Have Tasted Love's Mystic Spell" from the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice, and "Weep You No More, Sad Fountains" and "The Dreame" from the 1995 film of Sense and Sensibility. The songs were interspersed with readings from the novels and letters--and your Coordinator was extremely pleased to learn that the Young Ladies have been studying the Regency period this autumn in various other ways (including experimenting with recipes that would have been familiar to JA). Altogether, a splendid time was had by all, and we can only hope that this is the first in a long series of public performances by the School.

P.S.: Here's a link to another review of the concert, with quotes from Miss Manring's opening remarks about the School and its studies (

Sunday, November 29, 2009

JA Exhibition at the Morgan Library

The Morgan Library and Museum in New York City is having a very special exhibition this fall and winter. "A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy" opened November 6 and will run through next March 14 (for details, go to The Morgan holds the largest collection of Austen manuscripts and other materials in this country, and it sounds as if any CNY Janeite who can possibly make it down to the city to see it should do so. Your Regional Coordinator, indeed, will be visiting the metropolis soon and will bring back a report.

Jane Austen's Birthday Lunch in Rochester

JASNA Rochester Regional Coordinator Celia Easton announces: "We will gather on Saturday, December 12, 2009, to celebrate the 234th anniversary of Jane Austen's birth at 11:00 a.m. in the Chatterbox Club, 25 N. Goodman St., Rochester. This gathering is made possible through the invitation of Chatterbox Club member, Sharon Buzard. Our speaker, Amy Green, will address us with a talk entitled, 'An Easy Step to Silence? Politics and Dancing in the Late 18th Century.' The food at the Chatterbox is always a delight--and the popovers are generously distributed."

The cost of the luncheon is $30 per person--but your Syracuse Coordinators make haste to add that it's well worth it and that they are planning to attend. If you decide to do likewise, please mail Celia Easton a reservation at 488 Harvard St., Rochester, NY 14607, with a check made out to JASNA-Rochester (or contact her at Registrations must be received by Saturday, December 5.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Musical Afternoon in Skaneateles

Soprano and doctoral student in music Joanna Manring announces that she has been conducting a "Jane Austen Singing School for Young Ladies" in Skaneateles this autumn, for pupils between the ages of 12 and 18. Ms. Manring reports that the school's first concert, in costume, will take place on Saturday, November 21, at 2:00 p.m. in the upstairs performance hall of the Skaneateles Public Library. Songs will include music from Jane Austen's personal collection, as well as a few solo songs from popular film adaptations; readings will be interspersed. The concert is free and open to the public, though donations are appreciated. Music-loving Janeites are urged to attend!

AGM Report

The 31st Annual General Meeting of JASNA, which took place on October 8-11 in Philadelphia, is now history--but it will certainly remain a fond memory for the three members of the Syracuse Region and seven members of the Rochester Region (plus three companions) who attended it. Excellent full accounts of the proceedings are available on several sister blogs, such as AustenBlog and Jane Austen in Vermont (see "Links"); only the Upstate New York highlights will be noted here.

Rochester Regional Coodinator and SUNY Geneseo Professor Celia Easton, above, may have chosen a controversial title for her breakout session ("The Sibling Ideal in Jane Austen's Novels: When Near Incest Really Is Best")--but in fact she reached the interesting and much less controversial conclusion that Austen characters with opportunities to experience "pseudo-sibling" relationships (along the lines of those advocated in Plato's writings) may in fact have the best chances to get to know one another before marrying, and thus the best foundations for solid marriages.

Colgate Professor Deborah Knuth Klenck, above, titled her breakout session "'You Must Be a Great Comfort to Your Sister, Sir': Why Good Brothers Make Good Husbands." The quotation, of course, is from Mrs. Allen's praise of Henry Tilney's knowledge of muslins in Northanger Abbey, and Deborah made the point that brothers who can enter into their sisters' interests as Henry does--or who can otherwise assume a feminine frame of reference, as Frederick Wentworth does in comparing an old ship to an old pelisse in Persuasion--indeed may make much better husbands than "locker room" types like John Thorpe may!

Syracuse Co-Coordinator Lisa Brown's fashion demonstration, "Dressing Mr. Darcy," was agreed by all to be among the biggest hits of this AGM. Beginning with nine volunteer models in shirtsleeves and breeches, Lisa showed how the Regency look for men can be achieved in various ways and on all budgets. The models got thoroughly into the spirit of the occasion, and the audience reaction varied from enthusiastic to downright impudent!

And at Saturday night's Regency Ball, Upstate's accomplished country dancers distinguished themselves. (Of course, they've now had three Jane Austen Balls in Rochester to practice--and all upstate Janeites should make their plans now to attend the fourth edition, on May 2, 2010!)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

JASNA Rochester Announces Traveling Lecturer Grant

Our sister region, JASNA Rochester, has just been awarded a Traveling Lecturer Grant from the national JASNA organization for next April. On Saturday, April 17, 2010, Professor Peter Graham of Virginia Tech will give a presentation titled "Jane Austen and the Labor of Leisure." This event will take place at the downtown Rochester Public Library, and will include a lunch at the library's in-house branch of the Simply Crepes cafe. There will be a charge for the event--but it should be well worth it, and all upstate Janeites are urged to save the date! Further details will be provided as they become available.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Informational Meeting in Oswego

Regional Coordinator A. Marie Sprayberry and Assistant Coordinator Lisa Brown will hold an informational meeting about JASNA and membership in JASNA at the river's end bookstore, 19 West Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126 (, on Saturday, November 7, 2009, at 3:00 p.m. Banna Rubinow, a river's end employee and JASNA member, will be assisting with the meeting.

JASNA AGM in Philadelphia: "Janefest"!

The high point of the JASNA year is coming up soon: the Annual General Meeting, to be held this year in Philadelphia on October 8-11. This year's theme is "Jane Austen's Brothers and Sisters in the City of Brotherly Love." For Janeites, the AGM has it all: stimulating plenary speakers and breakout sessions; workshops and demonstrations; the Regency Emporium; and a banquet, promenade, and ball!

Registration for this AGM closed long ago, alas, but several upstate Janeites will be making the trek to Philly, and three will be among the presenters. Celia Easton, the regional coordinator of JASNA Rochester and a professor at SUNY Geneseo, will be giving a breakout session titled"The Sibling Ideal in JA's Novels: When Near Incest Really Is Best"; Deborah Knuth Klenck, a professor at Colgate, has titled her breakout session "'You Must Be a Great Comfort to Your Sister, Sir': Why Good Brothers Make Good Husbands"; and Lisa Brown, JASNA Syracuse assistant coordinator, will be giving a fashion demonstration called "Dressing Mr. Darcy," on Regency men's wear. (A. Marie Sprayberry, JASNA Syracuse coordinator, will also be defending the quiz championship she won at the Chicago AGM last year!)

Do any other Syracuse Region members besides those just mentioned plan to attend the AGM? If so, let us hear from you!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Colgate Bookstore JA Book Club's fall schedule

The Jane Austen Book Club at the Colgate Bookstore in Hamilton, NY, has announced its fall 2009 schedule. All meetings will be held at the Bookstore (3 Utica St., Hamilton, NY 13346) at 2 p.m. Go to "Events" at the Bookstore's website ( or contact Heather Elia ( for more information. (Heather is a JASNA member, by the way.)

On Saturday, Sept. 19, "Catharine" and other early writings by JA will be discussed. On Saturday, Oct. 17, Colgate professor Deborah Knuth Klenck (also a JASNA member) will share her impressions of the JASNA AGM in Philadelphia and discuss her AGM breakout session, "Why Good Brothers Make Good Husbands." On Saturday, November 12, the group takes on the new novel Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, which follows in the bloodstained footsteps of the recent bestseller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! And on Saturday, December 12, the group celebrates JA's birthday.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Informational meeting

Regional Coordinator A. Marie Sprayberry (at right in the photo opposite) and Assistant Coordinator Lisa Brown (at left) will hold an informational meeting about Jane Austen and membership in JASNA at Creekside Books and Coffee, 35 Fennell St., Skaneateles, NY 13152, on Saturday, September 12, 2009, at 2:00 pm.