The Sunday Salon: Jane Austen Cured one Fever and Caused Another

I have to say, the dogs exceeded my expectations with last week’s guest post.  It was a comfort to know my blog was in good hands … er, paws.  After “snowmageddon” on February 6, and a “snowpocalypse” on February 10, cabin fever had set in big time.  We needed a family getaway, so off we went to New York City.  Our destination:  The Morgan Library, to see A Woman’s Wit: Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy.   Three months ago I read an enticing exhibit preview on Austenprose, and my 17-year-old Jane-ite kept pestering me to make a pilgrimage.  My husband and younger daughter happily came along for the ride. We arrived on the steps of The Morgan just as it opened, and we made our way directly to the second floor gallery housing the exhibit.  The walls were lined with actual letters written in Jane’s own hand, mostly correspondence with her sister Cassandra.  These were written in a “cross-hatched” style:  to save paper and reduce postage, Jane wrote across the horizontal lines of text at right angles.  The writing was legible, but the museum also posted excerpts on adjacent descriptive plaques.  There were also works of art on display, including Portrait of Mrs. Q, by François Huet-Villiers, which Jane claimed was exactly as she imagined the character of Jane Bennett in Pride and Prejudice.  She wrote in a letter, “Mrs Bingley is exactly herself, size, shaped face, features & sweetness; there never was a greater likeness. She is dressed in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I had always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her.”  The most moving piece was in a glass case in the center of the gallery.  Written by Cassandra to Jane’s niece Fanny Knight, the letter reports the sad news of Jane’s death.  If you’re in or near New York City between now and March 14, this exhibit is well worth your time.  And if not, you can still enjoy the exhibit online.  Several images, a short documentary film, and additional video content are available on The Morgan’s website … how wonderful!

We emerged from The Morgan with cabin fever safely at bay.  But I felt another kind of fever coming on.  Feeling all literary, we were compelled to pay a visit to The Strand Bookstore and its trademark 18 miles of books on floor-to-ceiling shelves.  The onset of “book shopping fever” was fairly mild:  each family member came away with about two books apiece.  But my own “sickness” escalated rapidly.  During the week I was the lucky recipient of three books from swaps (including two Viragos).  This had unexpected side effects, and come Saturday I was desperate for more book shopping.  My “sick bay” turned out to be Book Corner, run by the Friends of the Free Library of Philadelphia.  I came away with four more books: three classics and one Orange Prize nominee.

My finds appear below, and link to LibraryThing descriptions.  Am I cured now?  Alas, I think not.  Thank you, Jane Austen!

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Read more from The Sunday Salon here.

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7 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: Jane Austen Cured one Fever and Caused Another

  1. Oooh, sounds like so much fun. I had a wee splurge on Amazon on Friday, but it’s not really the same!

    Neat to hear about the Austen letters. I’d love to see that.

  2. I know what you mean about cabin fever. My mother cracked me up one day, saying that going to the grocery store sounded like a real adventure and she wished she could go!

    Your trip sounds great!

    • Oh, that was how I felt when I was home on maternity leave. I made up reasons to go to the store a few times a week!
      Thanks for your comment!

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