For immediate release: Austenacious requests proposals for a JANE AUSTEN THEME PARK!
Goals: To have a fun place irl to hang out with our peeps, being sarcastical, laughing at our neighbors, and trying not to be sport for them in return. Why? Why not, she said!
Rules for theme park proposals:
Note, we are not talking about some kind of holodeck adventures where we roleplay with low-rent actors dressed up as Mr. Darcy, ala Austenland. That is not a theme park. Nor is it, as AustenBlog pointed out, ironic enough for the Austen fans. We are as ironic as all hell, damn it. That is why we are Austen fans!
Nor, actually, do we want some kind of honest attempt to immerse tourists in Jane Austen’s Bath, or her villages, or even her country houses, with actors waylaying you and attempting to interact or something. How pathetically embarrassing! (OK, I am scared of those people. I admit it.) That sort of thing may be fine for Dickens’ World, but honest, vulgar sentimentality is not for us.
And we have no desire to sully Chawton, Bath, or even Lyme Regis with our water slides. You are talking to someone who almost cried when she saw the Anne of Green Gables theme park, Rainbow Valley.
But Austen is not Brontë. (I guess you knew that.) We can have some ironical, Austen-spirited fun, right? Sure, Bath is practically a Regency theme park, but the essence of Austen isn’t the world—it’s the snark. So we need a theme park with some snark, some fun, a Louisa Musgrove Drop ride, OK, yes, a Colin Firth splashing into the water roller coaster, and maybe Lady Catherine vs. Elizabeth Bennet paintball. The rest is up to you.
That’s the goal. Now hit us!
It’s that time of year again. Yeah, that’s right . . . it’s not even Thanksgiving, and Christmas songs are on the radio and glittering lights are out on the streets. In case you’re like me and haven’t started buying holiday gifts yet, here are some suggestions.
Are you tired of searching through the piles and piles of holiday cards at Target? Try these handmade Regency Christmas Cards from Etsy:
Looking for some new wall art to remind everyone that you (heart) libraries? Try this photo of Bath (Circulating Library and Reading Room) from Etsy:
And for the bookworm who has everything, how about this Pride and Prejudice necklace from Etsy:
WANTED: Country home, not too Gothic and not too far from town, in a nice neighborhood of at least five-and-twenty families and the possibility of balls at least monthly. Good library space, land to wander in search of romantic adventure, and probably a letter-writing desk required. Slightly hysterical neighbors preferred.
In other words, it’s moving season here at Austenacious! Mrs. Fitzpatrick has moved to the sea–basically to the California equivalent of Lyme, so that’s nice as long as she doesn’t fall off the seawall–and is probably a) without the internets and b) buried in boxes as we speak. (It’s rather far from her Beloved Sisters, actually, but what is fifty miles of good road?) I, Miss Ball, have agreed to take new quarters after spending the season in the country with Mr. and Mrs. Ball, but have not yet taken possession of the place. One hopes the neighbors are all atwitter (if not <a href=”http://twitter.com/#!/austenacious”>aTwitter</a>), especially those with single gentleman children. And by “children,” I do not exactly mean “children.”
I feel like Jane gets the experience of moving house–perhaps the upsides, but definitely the stress of it. After all, she moved a number of times: to Bath, within Bath, and eventually to Chawton, plus ferrying back and forth to school as a child. And she certainly internalized the experience: people move all the time in Austen! Both Fanny Price and Catherine Morland move (permanently or temporarily) away from home; Charlotte Collins moves to Rosings, while Lydia Wickham (nee Bennet) only comes to visit and rub her sisters’ noses in…uh, whatever it is she’s got going. Sense and Sensibility is, in the beginning, basically a novel about downgrading houses. I think it’s safe to say, taking her body of work into consideration, that Jane considered moving traumatic. Maybe it’s because she never experienced the thrill of the Craigslist hunt and the joy of her own parking space, but it’s nice to carry a little bit of Jane (not to mention a Little Jane) as we go from place to place.
In the mean time, may you all have spacious living rooms and exactly the kind of flooring you prefer!
Action Jane and I have a confession to make: We did not go to Bath. Jane, you know, never wanted to go there at all, and she convinced me that a fine spring day would be better spent in the countryside than in the glare of a town. I’ve been to Bath before, so my regret is all for you. But there you have it. A fine estate (formerly an abbey!) appealed to us more. For Miss Morland’s sake, we also looked at many real ruined abbeys, and a ruined castle or two.
Lacock Abbey was indeed bought from Henry VIII after the Dissolution and converted into a private home.
Catherine was pleased that, even though most of the building looks like an ordinary manor house, the cloisters and some abbey rooms still remain.
Only the ghosts of Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Snape walk here, though. (At least they did in the first two movies.) Being good guests, we did not search for mad Mrs. Tilney’s bedroom.
To cheer Catherine up, we took her to Tintern Abbey in south Wales. Catherine declared Tintern a little too clean for pure Romantic atmosphere, but at least better than Glastonbury Abbey, which was in the middle of a bustling market town!
However, we all acknowledged Conwy Castle to be a fine, manly pile of a ruin.
Jane and I then returned Catherine to her village to await Mr. Tilney, and headed north on a mission of our own . . .
To enter the Brontë Parsonage by stealth! The sisters’ home was indeed interesting, though they forbade photographs.
Our mission accomplished, we moaned supernaturally in the graveyard, and headed for home.
Photo credits: ©2011 Heather Dever. All rights reserved.
. . . as the sign for Hampshire County proclaimed! Action Jane and I have been having a jolly time here, with her showing me all the sights. In London, we stopped at the British Library. My dear friends, I cannot even describe to you the treasures in their little gallery. Even the sight of one of Jane Austen’s handwritten volumes of juvenalia was overwhelmed by the sheer physical presence of so many manuscripts handwritten by her, by Wordsworth, by Chaucer, and, yes, by Charlotte Brontë (and that was just part of one display case). In the spirit of Brontë/Austen relations, I’ll admit that seeing “Reader, I married him.” in Charlotte’s own hand was simply stunning. And that her writing was more legible than Miss Austen’s. We’ve talked before about how indescribable it is to see handwritten copies of Jane’s work. I think, more than anything, the proof that she and these other were all real people, is overwhelming.
Jane frowned on my friend Mr. Coles’ suggestion that I sit on her tomb and sing New Age chants, so we headed on to her last house, where she lived from 1809 to 1817.
Chawton is a lovely little village, and Jane Austen’s House Museum quite worthy of pilgrimage. Really ridiculously so, given the number of things that were hers and that clearly inspired something in one of the books. I found the lock of her hair another shocking proof that she really lived. Some other highlights:
The sacred writing table. It is, as mentioned, very small! In fact, I can’t see how Jane’s writing desk, which was at the British Library, actually fit on it. I’ve heard people say that everything in Austen’s life was small: her paper, her table, the rooms in her house. Paper and table, yes, but to this apartment dweller, the rooms in her house seemed plenty commodious! Not huge, but nothing I’d turn my nose up at.
The actual dress worn by Kate Winslet as she fell down the hill in Sense and Sensibility! Really! Squee!!
Miss Osborne and other aspiring Regency chefs: Here is the recipe book Jane’s friend Martha Lloyd kept when she lived with them. I couldn’t read it, unfortunately, but I have no doubt it’s for jugged hare or some other delight.
And here is Action Jane in the kitchen. To the left of the fireplace is the safe that Miss Austen had the keys of, where the sugar and tea were kept.
In reward for our pilgrimage, we had an amazing cream tea at Cassandra’s Cup across the street. Cream tea consists of tea, plus one or two scones with jam and clotted cream to spread on. Clotted cream! Heavenly. Then, because I am a thorough pilgrimess, we headed down to Lyme Regis.
Lyme is the seaside resort on the south coast where Louisa Musgrove falls down the Cobb steps in Persuasion. (Falling down things is a favorite among Austen girls, isn’t it?)
We arrived in Lyme at sunset, and went to the sea first, as Jane says “lingering, as all must linger and gaze on a first return to the sea, who ever deserve to look on it at all.” Believe it or not, we actually stayed at the Cobb Arms, and next morning, we walked along the lower Cobb.
Jane wanted to walk along the upper Cobb, but I wouldn’t let her. Indeed, considering that it’s a sloping stone walkway, with no handrails, 8 feet above the lower Cobb and probably 20 feet above the harbor, and very windy, I’m surprised the ladies were walking there at all.
I liked Lyme Regis, but then I do have a weakness for seaside resort towns. And Lyme has some commercialism, but not too much. I don’t think Jane would be displeased, were she to return. However, as far as I know, I didn’t see any unknown cousins who will later be charmed by my beauty. One can always hope.
Next up: Bath!
Photo credits: ©2011 by Heather Dever. All rights reserved.
My fellow Austenites, you may have seen that there’s a new Jane Eyre movie out. I can’t honestly say I’ve seen the movie, though at least, unlike some reviewers, I’ve read the book. What I did see was this article from the Washington Post, which neatly pits the title “Jane Eyre Movies Rekindles Austen vs Bronte, the Battle of the Bonnets” against the plaintive cry of “can’t we all just get along?!” Way to play both sides against the middle, Monica Hesse!
It’s been noted that Ms. Hesse’s pacifistic tendencies sound a little ironic after 1 1/2 pages of warmongering, but I do think she has a point. We can like more than one female author at a time. Even more than one English 19th century female author. Just because Charlotte Brontë talked smack about Jane Austen doesn’t mean we have to pit Team Brontë against Team Austen for all eternity. Mark Twain talked smack about Miss Austen too, but you don’t hold a grudge against him, do you? (at least until now . . . ) Partly, I think, it’s that Austenites SO WISH Jane had had a chance to return fire. What would she have said about Charlotte? Minds can be devoured by this thought! We want to say it for her, something, anything!, but none of us are Jane Austen, alas, so we really can’t.
I’m really of many different minds on this topic.
- Of course we can like both Austen and Brontë if we want, and George Eliot too! It’s probably less weird than liking both Oscar Wilde and J.R.R. Tolkien (which I do).
- But it’s fun to get into literary fisticuffs with the ladies and gentlemen of Team Brontë. People caring passionately about literature, especially without killing each other, how cool is that?! (Just ask Jasper Fforde.)
- On the other hand, if the moichendisers want to make Brontë consumerism the new thing and give us a break, it would be a relief. (Jane Eyre party games! Burnination for all!)
- Clearly, this means that in addition to taking Action Jane to Chawton and Bath in my upcoming England trip, I’ll have to take her to Haworth as well. To DOMINATE . . . er, see how the other half lives. Yeah, that’s right.
By the way, the moratorium on Jane on Jane mud wrestling in the title of this post does not refer to Jane Austen clones. We reserve all rights to the Jane Austen clone wars. Just so you know.
Travel has been much on my mind lately. I need to get away. I need to see new places, have new experiences. I need to go and stay with my friend and her obnoxious husband for two months. Wait . . . back up. Can we try that again?
Take 2: I need to go to London to get my hair cut. And while I’m there I can stay with an annoying old woman, try to glimpse my not-fiancé, and avoid my evil sister-in-law . . . maybe not.
Take 3: OK, yes, let’s take a trip to Bath for someone’s gout (thank goodness not mine). Ooh, and I could meet a handsome young man and maybe he’ll ask me to stay at his family’s abbey, and I can get in some quality ghost time! This is getting better.
Take 4: I know! Let’s drive to the seaside. Someone can fall down and injure themselves, and then we can go to Bath, and . . . and I’ll meet an old schoolfriend and be saved by her from a disastrous marriage, and finally marry the man of my dreams. Under an umbrella. There. That’s a wrap!
I do love it when the characters travel in Jane Austen. You just know that dramatic things are going to happen. Characters and destinies will be revealed. Not like in real life, where they . . . probably won’t. And I have a feeling Austen herself loved travel in spite of her better judgment. She may make snobby comments about the Eltons’ “exploring,” but you get a breath of fresh air when her heroines are on the road, when they look at the sea.
Photo credit: ©Tardiskey. Used under Creative Commons licensing.
We at Austenacious don’t know about you, but we sometimes say to ourselves, “Selves,”—that’s what we go by around Austenacious HQ—”Selves, we do not exist in enough places online.”
(Note: This is a lie. Mrs. Fitzpatrick and Miss Osborne are, I suspect, currently choking on their tea at the enormity of this lie. Apologies, ladies!)
We do, however, occasionally crave some good Janely discussion, right here! and right now!—life can’t be one long Masterpiece liveblogging party (I’m told), no matter how hard we try. I suspect we’re not totally alone with, say, the urge to discuss whether or not Jonny Lee Miller’s Muppet nose improves or detracts from his performance as Mr. Knightley. (Answer: Improves, and I’ll hear no more about it.) Should this be the case, you might check out the forums sponsored by the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England—they’re an existing community, but the more is apparently the merrier. They’ve specifically welcomed the Austenacious readership, which we thought was kind of them.
In any case, whatever you’re itching to talk about, you’ll find it in the forums: Jane’s works, Jane’s characters, Jane’s characters, adaptations, sequels, relevant actors (for all your sudden-onset OMGFIRTH!!1! needs), and a good old-fashioned “Jane Austen catch-all” thread, for good measure and to make all possible content technically “on topic.”
So if you’d rather be sitting at a table somewhere with a nice sharp pen, a quiet moment, and a beloved sister to address—well, this isn’t exactly that, but surely a nice…key-ey keyboard, a quiet moment, and some good Janeite company is the next best thing?
The Jane Austen Festival is on in Bath right now, and oh, the Austenacious sisters do so want to go! Mrs. Fitzpatrick may be married, but she still likes the sight of a redcoat. We hear there’s also dancing, talks, workshops, performances, and walking tours! Plus, they tried to get into the Guinness Book of World records with an attempt at the most people dressed in Regency costume at one place in one time. Apparently, strict rules governed the attempt. We’ll let you know how they do. The Festival runs until September 27.