7 Matching Annotations
  1. Jun 2022
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    1. Every morning now brought its regular duties—shops were to be visited; some new part of the town to be looked at; and the pump-room to be attended, where they paraded up and down for an hour, looking at everybody and speaking to no one.

      For a comparative analysis of Northanger Abbey's and Pride and Prejudice's depictions of the city in relation to contemporary ideas of the city "as moral pollution," see Celia Eason's essay, "Austen’s Urban Redemption: Rejecting Richardson’s View of the City." Easton shows us how characters like Isabella Thorpe and Mr. Bennet defy contemporary ideas that women were helpless in the city or that remaining ignorant of the city proved morally useful, respectively. As Catherine's character will prove, knowing how to navigate the city and its traps is essential for any young woman.

      Citation: Easton, Celia. "Austen’s Urban Redemption: Rejecting Richardson’s View of the City." Persuasions, no. 26, 2004.

  3. Apr 2022
    1. baseball

      For a long time, Austen's use of the word baseball in Northanger Abbey was cited as its first appearance in the English language. But as this episode from the podcast The Thing About Austen explains, this was a mistake. Co-hosts Zan Cammack (she/her) and Diane Neu (she/her) address past speculation regarding Austen's role in the invention of this word, while providing illuminating historical context about Regency sports (Did Austen's contemporaries play baseball?), gender (Was it socially acceptable for women to play cricket and baseball?), and the supposed "all-American" game (If it was common in Britain, when did baseball makes its way into American national identity?).!

  4. Mar 2022
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    1. She says there was hardly any veal to be got at market this morning, it is so uncommonly scarce.”

      Veal, the meat of young male calves who are slaughtered between eight and twelve months of age, is not as popular in the UK now as it was in Austen’s time. At the time, it was an expensive food, hence Mr. Bingley’s decision to offer White Soup, which was made with veal broth, at the Netherfield Ball. It is unsurprising that Bath residents like the Allens would be accustomed to finding this expensive meat in the market since, as Maggie Lane explains, Bath was second only to West London “in the range and luxury of its shops” ('Domestic economy' 14). Its geographic location put it at great advantage to receive variety and high quality in foods: meat from Wales; fruit and vegetables from the Cotswolds; dairy produce from Somerset and Devon; fish from the River Severn; and imported wines from Bristol (13). So, Mrs. Allen’s concern about a shortage of veal in the Bath market strikes Lane as somewhat odd. However, as Lane herself states in more recent work, “any mention of a specific food stuff in Austen is made by a character who is thereby condemned for being greedy, vulgar, selfish, or trivial” ('Food' 268). Austen’s letters confirm that she learned about the complex social meanings of food and eating from her own domestic duties. So, although this might seem like a passing remark on Mrs. Allen’s part, it brings attention to the triviality that characterizes both Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Thorpe.

      Mrs. Allen’s remark highlights her selfishness as well as her inadequacy as a guardian. Catherine is walking in from spending more time with Isabella and Mr. Thorpe, and her intuition about his dishonesty, although not yet formulated as such, is conveyed through her thoughts about him. She realizes that he “did not excel in…making those things plain which he had before made ambiguous.” After being with him, she feels “extreme weariness” creeping over her. But Catherine’s intuition is not affirmed by her temporary guardian, Mrs. Allen, who rather than ensuring that the Thorpes are good company for Catherine, is much more concerned with the shortage of veal. The veracity of Mrs. Thorpe’s information itself must be questioned, given that her children characterize deceitfulness. Yet, in addition to underscoring character flaws, Mrs. Allen’s and Mrs. Thorpe’s reliance on the market to acquire their meat emphasizes their class. As Barbara K. Seeber points out, “[t]o be able to command food that others cannot inscribes social hierarchy” (94, 97). In this case, while Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Thorpe might be performing refinement and wealth in their preference for veal, their inability to access it emphasizes what they do not have—a large estate and cattle.

      Today, veal is consumed globally. It is prized for its tenderness, which requires that calves be restricted from exercise to avoid building muscle. For long, the farming industry has used crates to confine calves and restrict their mobility, a practice that animal advocates deem inhumane. In January 2007, the European Union banned these crates. The UK has implemented this ban for calves destined to be slaughtered for food. Otherwise, since bulls don’t produce milk and adults are not deemed good for meat, male calves are often shot when they are born. Calf crates continue to be used in the US and other countries.

      Veal production and consumption remind us of the power dynamic that justifies human dominance over nature. Seeber has argued that this dynamic was familiar to Austen, who was well aware of its intersection with male dominance over women (97-99). Indeed,these two power dynamics intersect in characters like John Thorpe, whose preference for hunting and mistreatment of horses signals his perception of Catherine Morland as prey to be caught and consumed.

      Works Cited

  6. Feb 2022
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    1. consoling herself, however, with the discovery, which her keen eye soon made, that the lace on Mrs. Thorpe’s pelisse was not half so handsome as that on her own.

      The pelisse, a popular garment most recently revived through the iconic yellow model worn by Ana Taylor-Joy in Autumn de Wilde’s Emma (2020), might be included as a footnote in the twin history of fashion and ecological degradation.

      By donning a pelisse, Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Thorpe, whatever their rivalries, were both at the cusp of early nineteenth-century fashion. Austen herself owned at least two pelisses, as historian Hilary Davidson has demonstrated. The pelisse, an overdress, was developed partly in response to the new Empire-period silhouette and partly due the “muslin disease” or influenza that ailed young women wearing fashionable lightweight fabrics in freezing weather.

      In the colder months, pelisses could be lined with fur, so Mrs. Allen’s observation that Mrs. Thorpe’s lace is not as handsome would indicate that this scene takes place in the warmer months. The pelisse’s popularity led it to replace the fur cloaks of the earlier eighteenth century. Soon, though, pelisses themselves would be replaced with fur coats, which gained popularity throughout the nineteenth century, reaching a high point in the 1850s. Their popularity was in large part due to new methods of processing fur, which made it more supple (Fashioned 86). The consumption of fur and sealskin jackets, as well as feathers and cotton, throughout the period would lead to the devastation (e.g., India’s cotton industry) of ecosystems (71).

      As we read these lines, then, we are reminded, of Austen’s critical eye for the consumer habits of her time. Although her critique here pertains to petty fashion rivalry, when reading about fashion items in her novels, we might find ourselves considering not only how little our fashion rivalries have changed but also how fashion and environmental degradation are historically linked.

      For more on the pelisse, the spencer, and muslin, head over to Austenprose to read Hilary Davidson's post on Regency fashion in Emma (2020).

      Works Cited

  8. Jan 2022
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    1. Every morning now brought its regular duties—shops were to be visited; some new part of the town to be looked at; and the pump-room to be attended, where they paraded up and down for an hour, looking at everybody and speaking to no one.

      Jane Austen’s contemporaries, including everyone from the laboring poor to the royals, shared a belief in the restorative power of spring water and in the consumption of natural remedies. In the years when Austen was writing Northanger Abbey, the warm springs offered at Bath’s Pump rooms were a popular treatmentfor those suffering from loss of appetite, nerves (Mrs. Bennett!), gout, and ailments affecting the stomach, head, and vital parts.

      In 1813, a guide to the resort claimed that the waters contained carbon dioxide, azotic gas, sulphates, muriate of soda, selenite, carbonate of lime siliceous earth, and a very small portion of oxide of iron (Guide 32). These properties probably gave the water a sulfuric aroma. As the opening of this chapter suggests, though, whether ill or healthy, the resort provided for all. For the healthy visitor, the prime activity was to consume in ways that are familiar to us: purchasing clothes or textiles, as Catherine learns to do from Mrs. Allen, window-shopping, and people-watching.

      These lines express Austen’s awareness of the period’s rapidly growing consumer market, resulting from an unprecedented growth in the middle class, which in turn increased demand for domestic and foreign goods. Purchasing power allowed Bath visitors to pay about one guinea a month for access to the warm spring waters served in the newly renovated Pump Room, and to provide a handsome gratuity to the pumper serving water from the King’s Springs .jpg) (Guide 38). But they would likely also be paying to imbibe other popular drinks, including tea, coffee, and chocolate, which albeit pricey were increasingly affordable to the growing middle-class (Selwyn 215). As any Austen fan knows, the Pump Room continues to serve tourists today. Although bathing is no longer allowed, tea, chocolate, coffee, and warm spring waters can still be imbibed.

      Walking the streets of Bath with Catherine as we read through Northanger Abbey’s first volume, we might keep in mind who teaches Catherine her consumer habits, and how the novel’s development may be commenting on these practices. We might also consider how the novel records a turning point in the consumption of natural remedies and other goods extracted from apparently distant communities and environments. How much do our current consumer habits differ from Catherine’s?

      Works Cited.

    1. feeding a canary-bird

      The famous opening of Northanger Abbey describes Catherine Morland “as plain as any.” Yet from the list of qualities and habits that set her against narrative expectations—the Gothic and the sentimental—and social expectations—femininity and propriety—Catherine’s character ultimately emerges as unconventional, too. In seemingly trivial and funny details, such as her preference for cricket over “feeding a canary-bird,” the narrator intimates her inconformity with dominant beliefs about the nature of women. The canary alludes to existing associations between birds and women that underscored women’s lack of rationality and their supposed vulnerability.

      In many portraits of the period, young girls were eroticized through their connection to birds, particularly when portrayed weeping for a dead pet bird, a sign of their loss of sexual innocence. Canaries, a favorite songbird in the late eighteenth-century household, were associated with young girls through their delicate size, beautiful and soft feathers, and prized songs [1]. At the same time, women’s musical abilities, as exemplified in Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Emma (1815), were a sure-fire sign of their marriageability: good singers made good wives [2]. Maturity didn’t save women from disparaging associations with birds. Spinsters were oftentimes portrayed surrounded by parrots and bird cages, the equivalent of crazy cat ladies [3]. By creating a heroine who is more likely to be found outdoors exercising than feeding a small, delicate bird, Austen disassociates Catherine from these sexist beliefs. Not all associations to birds were troubling, though. Songbirds figured in stories for young children to instill kindness toward other animals, as in Sarah Trimmer’s Fabulous Histories (1786). Austen’s contemporaries shared a strong belief that educating children to treat animals with kindness was the foundation for instilling sympathy toward other humans [4]. Yet, as Mary Wollstonecraft argued in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), a rational woman knew that compassion “for the bird starved in a snare” came second (or third) to compassion for her fellow humans.

      This annotation draws on research developed for a forthcoming essay which will appear in Science and Storytelling, edited by Dave Alff and Danielle Spratt.

    2. feeding a canary-bird

      The famous opening of Northanger Abbey describes Catherine Morland “as plain as any.” Yet from the list of qualities and habits that set her against narrative expectations—the Gothic and the sentimental—and social expectations—femininity and propriety—Catherine’s character ultimately emerges as unconventional, too. In seemingly trivial and funny details, such as her preference for cricket over “feeding a canary-bird,” the narrator intimates her inconformity with dominant beliefs about the nature of women. The canary alludes to existing associations between birds and women that underscored women’s lack of rationality and their supposed vulnerability.

      In many portraits of the period, young girls were eroticized through their connection to birds, particularly when portrayed weeping for a dead pet bird, a sign of their loss of sexual innocence. Canaries, a favorite songbird in the late eighteenth-century household, were associated with young girls through their delicate size, beautiful and soft feathers, and prized songs [1]. Women’s musical abilities, as exemplified in Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Emma (1815), were a sure-fire sign of their marriageability: good singers made good wives [2]. Maturity didn’t save women from disparaging associations with birds. Spinsters were oftentimes portrayed surrounded by parrots and bird cages, the equivalent of crazy cat ladies. By creating a heroine who is more likely to be found outdoors exercising than feeding a small, delicate bird, Austen disassociates Catherine from these sexist beliefs.

      Not all associations to birds were troubling, though. Songbirds figured in stories for young children to instill kindness toward other animals, as in Sarah Trimmer’s Fabulous Histories (1786). Austen’s contemporaries shared a strong belief that educating children to treat animals with kindness was the foundation for instilling sympathy toward other humans [3]. Yet, as Mary Wollstonecraft argued in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), a rational woman knew that compassion “for the bird starved in a snare” came second (or third) to compassion for her fellow humans.