How important was fine art to Jane Austen? And how does it influence her books? We know that Jane sketched, and so did other members of her family. A couple of her heroines draw, too — but it’s not portrayed as their calling in life. It’s more of a hobby.
Janine Barchas, an associate prof at the University of Texas, points out in her essay “Artistic Names in Austen’s Fiction: Cameo Appearances by Prominent Painters,” that Austen also alludes to artists in some of her characters’ names. In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy’s housekeeper, who shows off her employer’s portrait to Lizzie, is named Mrs. Reynolds — maybe a reference to portrait painter Joshua Reynolds? In Emma, the title character, who sketches, has a housekeeper named Hodges — maybe inspired by William Hodges? Other characters who share names with painters of the time are George Moreland in Northanger Abbey and Charles Hayter in Persuasion.
In my Regency-set romance, The Artful Miss Irvine, the title character is a serious artist, and her work plays a key role in the plot, giving the hero insights into her personality and her past. Of course, art is always open to interpretation, and her artwork also sets the stage for a misunderstanding between the characters. 🙂
For a description and sample chapters of The Artful Miss Irvine, please hop on over to the book page here. Janine Barchas’ essay is available (for a price) from Amazon here. It also appeared in Volume 31 2009 of the Jane Austen Society journal Persuasions. More on them on this this site.
If you have a Kindle or read Kindle books on other devices, hop on over to Amazon now through Monday to get a free copy of my Regency romance novella A Perfect Duet. Here’s the blurb:
Meek Miranda Granville only comes alive at the pianoforte, but even there, Andrew Owen intimidates her. His playing moves her like nothing else, but his critiques of her spoil the effect.
Andrew only wants to share the advantage of his training with Miranda, but his words always come out wrong. The trouble is he’d rather run his fingers over her than the keyboard, but she’s been promised to his rogue of a cousin Julian since childhood.
When Julian stands Miranda up at a bonfire celebration, Andrew gets a chance to strike a chord with her –- but if he wants to make her his, he’ll have to outplay both his cousin and her father.
Have a great three-day weekend!
In 1753, a law passed in England that banned people under 21 from marrying without the consent of their parents. Meanwhile, in Scotland, males only had to be 14 to marry, and females could wed at 12(!). As a result, Scotland became the go-to place for getting married without your parents’ blessing, as attested in books like Pride and Prejudice and my novella A Perfect Duet.
Locally, we used to have a comparable situation, where Pennsylvania required a blood test for marriage licenses, but Maryland didn’t. My parents considered getting married in Maryland to avoid red tape, and my grandparents actually did wed in Elkton, MD — a town once known as “the Gretna Green of the West.”
I’ll have to ask my grandmother what the big deal was about having to get a license — the money, the hassle, taking time off from work? What I suspect is that the main appeal of the quickie wedding has nothing to with consent. It’s about not having to do all the negotiating — and I don’t mean with vendors; I mean with your family about who will be invited and how it will all be done. Instead, you walk into a place, pay them and get married. Eloping also has a romantic lure about it. It’s intimate — only about the bride and groom, not about making a splash.
An average 120,000 weddings couples get married in Las Vegas each year. And Elkton, MD, a town with a population of only about 12,000, also still has thousands of weddings a year. Thinking about it? Read more in this article.
A bonfire celebration on the eve of May Day is the backdrop for some of the most pivotal (and fun) moments in A Perfect Duet. Do (or did) English villages really have such celebrations? Kind of.
A few years ago, I was curious about how the Mummers parade in Philadelphia originated. Googling around led me to (among other fascinating celebrations), a May Day tradition from Padstow, Cornwall, in the UK. The festivities center on a strange costumed creature called the Obby Oss (a variation of “hobby horse”). Two of them wander around the village, strutting and attracting followers and spectators. The osses have been known to pull women under their costumes, and if you go under, it’s said to grant you fertility.
How does this tie in with bonfires? Well, I read somewhere that the village’s private celebration actually starts the night before with drinking, singing, and the usual types of general misrule. I can’t confirm there’s a bonfire, but May Day bonfires in England are mentioned on this web page.
Hubby and I happened to be in Cornwall one May Day and checked out the Padstow celebration. It was fun and had a good, traditional pagan air about it that made me feel connected to my British/Welsh ancestors. Find out more here. Then go next year! Wear white.
… then “A Perfect Duet” should whet your appetite for romance. In addition to a hero and heroine who speak to each other through their piano-playing, it has a Regency-England setting (Jane Austen-style), a May Day bonfire with celebrants pairing off in the woods, and a mad-dash elopement with an uncertain outcome.
The novella (about 20,000 words) is available as an ebook for the first time and is also my first 99-cent offering. (“Cheap!” as they say over at MAD magazine.) Kindle and Nook editions are both live now.
For a description of the plot and/or to read a sample, hop over to the brand-spanking-new “A Perfect Duet” page here.