Members Meeting - Nov 17 2012
Ann Craig began the meeting with an introduction to Jane Austen film and theatre adaptations.
She found 65 productions of Austen's six books, including a 1936 stage play written by A.A. Milne titled Miss Elizabeth Bennet.
Her presentation showed us playbills for many of the adaptations, dating from Mrs Steele MacKaye in Pride and Prejudice in 1906.
Others included Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier in the same title in 1940, and Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth in 1996.
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 Beaufort Sea 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.