Members Meeting - Nov 16 2013

Topics in Jane's time

On an extremely cold and snowy day twenty-five members and guests attended our meeting.

Margaret and Randie introduced a group discussion, 'The Gaining of Experience', as seen in the Austen novels. The group concluded that experience for the upper classes was not necessary, as status was more important than passion, but lower class women had to do the best they could to raise their position. Mr Wickham was the most experienced, but poor Mr Collins had no experience at all. Was Mr Knightley always in love with Emma - or when did he have his epiphany?

Sir Arthur Dobbs 1755 from the portrait by William Hoare

Sir Arthur Dobbs 1755 from the portrait by William Hoare

After tea, Professor George Colpitts (University of Calgary) presented a most interesting and informative talk entitled 'The Arctic Absurd: Nineteenth-Century Literature and the Debate about the North-West Passage 1800-1850', examining the influence and impact of Arctic exploration on writing and art.

The Arctic fuelled voyages representing Britain's outward gaze. In the early eighteenth century Sir Arthur Dobbs, an Irish MP, started to push for exploration and initiated the word 'passage', a much more evocative word than 'strait' or 'channel'. The government offered a prize for the location of this passage.

Sir John Barrow attributed to John Jackson circa 1810

Sir John Barrow attributed to John Jackson
circa 1810

Colpitts went on to outline the part played by Sir John Barrow, second secretary to the Admiralty and founder member of the Royal Society who diverted naval resources to exploration in the north.

The nay-sayers did not believe that Britain needed expensive Arctic exploration to prove British ethos;

and a minor war raged in the press, such periodicals as the Quarterly Review actually defaming such eminent explorers as John Ross.

In our century, the Arctic is again in international news, imposing itself again on the popular imagination.

Amber has provided a detailed report on our meeting, describing the group discussions more fully and explaining more about the obsession with the Arctic.