Members Meeting - March 15 2014

Whiling Away the Ides of March

March 15 at JASNA Calgary was a sunny day of good financial reports, book reviews, "A Tea Talk" and "A Spirited Look at Jane's Heart". Judith, in her role as librarian, suggested three new books in our library, including Joanna Trollope's novel Sense and Sensibility, Jo Baker's Longbourn and Syrie James' The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. This is sure to be a favourite addition to our get-togethers (at least for our scribe!).

Ann delighted us with her "Tea Talk"comparing tea today with tea in Jane's time. Ann gave credit to the U.K Tea council for much of her research. Tea today is the most popular drink consumed in the world with 4,321,011 tonnes consumed in 2011. The history of tea in England is a fascinating tale of illegal smuggling, heavy taxation, religious calls to abstinence (yes, from tea!) and various degrees of drinkability. Ann's talk included many appealing tea photographs making one anxious for our tea break where we were welcome to try the delicious Jane Austen tea blend.

After tea, Catherine brought us "A Spirited Look at Jane's Heart" where she shared her fascinating research on the Evangelical movement in England and its effect on Jane and her writing. The Evangelical movement grew in response to the moral depravity of England, including in the Anglican church at the time. Austen's severity on the clergy in her novels was a reflection of a church system that saw ministers who were not there so much because they loved the Lord and the study of theology but because they desired a leisurely, cultured life. Many clergy purchased sermons to preach without putting in the time and effort of studying the Bible for themselves. 


Evangelicalism preached the living of our faith through good works. It called for the purification of the national church of England and a personal spiritual commitment. Jane experienced the rise of Evangelicalism in her time and wrote some conflicting statements about the change. In 1809, she wrote that she did not like the Evangelicals, but in 1814, she wrote that everyone should be an Evangelical. Catherine concluded that Austen was not fond of public zeal, but in the three prayers she wrote for her family's use, she prayed for fervent devotion and a personal faith without question. 

The ideals of Evangelicalism were also evident in Austen's novels, though few characters discuss their religious beliefs. Instead, church attendance is mentioned, morality is a common theme and many characters' struggle to overcome flaws and to live in line with Christian morality. Emma strives to be patient with others and helps the disadvantaged. Mr. Knightley is generous and kind. Austen also portrays the consequences of sin; Lydia, for example, ends up with Wickham and is likely to live a difficult life. Marianne Dashwood proclaims that religion, reason and constant employment will be her cure of Willoughby. 

In conclusion, there was certainly nothing to dread on this auspicious date and much for a Janeite to enjoy. (With thanks to Ann Marie for highlighting the importance of March 15!)