Members Meeting - Sept 21 2013
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 Brian Wilks, 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.