Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen

“Always resignation and acceptance. Always prudence and honour and duty. Elinor, where is your heart?”
      Sense And Sensibility

In 1811 Thomas Egerton of the publishing house Military Library (Whitehall, London) published a novel by “A Lady”.  The young nineteen year old author paid for its publication – the cost of which was roughly one third of her annual household income - and then paid the publisher a commission on sales. Entitled Sense And Sensibility, it was her first published work.

This young writer was to have four major novels published during her lifetime and two posthumously.  Sadly, it was only after her death that she was identified by name as author of her works.

Born a country clergyman’s daughter on December 16, 1775 at Steventon Rectory in Hampshire, Jane Austen was educated at home, drawing from her father’s extensive library and the educational atmosphere created with Mr. Austen’s live-in pupils.  Even as a child, Jane entertained her family with poems, stories and plays.  And she has continued charming countless readers ever since.

Sense And Sensibility was originally written sometime around 1795 in the epistolary style and was called Elinor And Marianne. Jane Austen then worked on and completed another novel, First Impressions that her father sought to have published but which was met with a rejection letter.  Returning to Elinor And Marianne, she changed the form to third person narrative and after much revision the work became Sense And Sensibility. There is not enough information to know for sure how much of the original work was retained but we do know that a depth of philosophical thought was added.

Set in the Southwest England of the 1790s Sense And Sensibility explores the necessity of finding a workable mid-ground between passion and reason.  Over the years biographers have questioned what Ms. Austen herself believed in regards to this question…  Should sensibility triumph in the end? And what of passionate love and romantic hope?

Filled with satire, humor and sharp social commentary, Sense And Sensibility carries us into the heart of a family and the devoted love and friendship between two sisters – a fertile ground that Jane Austen thoroughly understood herself.

Our next High Tea and Book Discussion will take place on Saturday the 19th of January 2013.  After happily exploring British Victorian Authors from 2010 through 2012, we are now returning to revisit Jane Austen and her six major works in the order in which they were published.

Our first selection will be Sense And Sensibility and there is plenty of time to walk the lovely path that this book offers.  Don’t pass this masterpiece by and miss the experience!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Current Read - Sherlock Holmes

'Come, Watson, come!' he cried. 'The game is afoot. Not a word! Into your clothes and come!'

Sherlock Holmes Quote from The Adventure of The Abbey Grange

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1859, Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle fought his way through a childhood filled with the instability that his alcoholic father brought to the family and, supported by wealthy uncles, was given the opportunity to receive an education that then enabled him to begin his medical school studies at the University of Edinburgh in 1876.

And it was during that time that Arthur Conan Doyle began to write. 

His experience, talents and medical studies contributed to his creations but although he began to submit short stories to magazines, nothing gained him any significant recognition until A Study In Scarlet was accepted by Ward Lock & Co on November 20, 1886.  It then appeared in Beeton’s Christmas Annual to good reviews and brought Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson into the literary world and permanently into reader’s hearts for generations to come.

There are thought to be several inspirations for the inimitable detective Sherlock Holmes, but Joseph Bell, one of Conan Doyle’s university professors, is generally recognized as having introduced ideas regarding deduction, observation and inference that found their way into Sherlock’s personality and methods of detection.

After A Study In Scarlet, The Sign Of The Four was commissioned, followed by other successful and popular short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.  With a writing career that continued to be far more successful than his medical career, Conan Doyle began to dedicate himself to also writing historical novels which he considered to be more “important works”.  To clear the path for his new passion, he decided to send Holmes and his nemesis, Moriarty, to their deaths in the story “The Final Problem”. 

Bad idea.

Needless to say, public outcry brought Sherlock Holmes back in more stories – 56 short stories altogether and four novels produced between 1887 and 1927.  Dr. Watson narrates all but four stories but Holmes tells the story himself in “The Blanched Soldier” and “The Lion’s Mane”. The stories  “The Musgrave Ritual” and “The Gloria Scott” feature Holmes relating the storyline to Watson through his memories as the Doctor narrates between. Both “The Mazarin Stone” and His Last Bow are related in third person and A Study In Scarlet and The Valley Of Fear include additional narration both of events known and unknown to either Sherlock and Watson.

The personality of Sherlock Holmes has intrigued and inspired readers ever since their publication and have influenced other works of  fiction, film and television shows.   In London the famous address of 221B Baker Street is as important to lovers of literature as 10 Downing Street is to polititians and Sherlockian fans can even visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum at the well known location.

Members of The Jane Austen Tea Society – you still have plenty of time to read one of the Sherlock Holmes novels or short stories so that we can meet and discuss over tea & scones on Saturday, October 6th.  You may do as I am doing and read “A Study In Scarlet” so that you can discover how Holmes met Dr. Watson.  But you might choose “A Scandal In Bohemia” if you want to read about Sherlock’s love interest or “The Final Problem” to as he crosses paths with Professor Moriarty.

Lay aside your preconceived notions about Sherlock and Watson and go back to the source – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original works!  After all, as Holmes said in “A Study In Scarlet” – 
“There is nothing like first-hand evidence.”

Monday, July 9, 2012

"To see my soul!" muttered Dorian Gray...

... "Your name was implicated in the most terrible confession I ever read.  I told him that it was absurd - that I knew you thoroughly, and that you were incapable of anything of the kind. Know you? I wonder do I know you? Before I could answer that, I should have to see your soul."

"To see my soul!" muttered Dorian Gray, starting up from the sofa and turning almost white from fear.

"Yes," answered Hallward, gravely, and with deep-toned sorrow in his voice -"to see your soul. But only God can do that."

A bitter laugh of mockery broke from the lips of the younger man.

"You shall see it yourself, to-night!" he cried, seizing a lamp from the table. "Come: it is your own handiwork. Why shouldn't you look at it? You can tell the world all about it afterwards, if you choose. Nobody would believe you. If they did believe you, they would like me all the better for it. I know the age better than you do, though you will prate about it so tediously. Come, I tell you.  You have chattered enough about corruption.  Now you shall look on it face to face."

Chapter XII
The Picture Of Dorian Gray

Our Book Tea for The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde will take place this coming Saturday, July 14th at 1pm at our favorite Tearoom over high tea delicacies, steaming, seductively fragrant china cups of Cream Earl Grey and shared & savored analysis.  

You may be with us in person or you may leave us comments here at our blog.  In either case, you hopefully enjoyed this Victorian classic by the singular and quite indomitable Oscar Wilde.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

 “I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying.”

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland on October 16th, 1854 and died impoverished in Paris on November 30th, 1900.

"I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china."

He was often ridiculously flamboyant and a brilliant conversationalist.  Celebrated and praised by glittering London society and the fashionable elite, he energetically expressed his own daring, personal style through long hair, colorful clothes and a habit of carrying little bouquets when lecturing.

"The only thing worse in the world than being talked about is not being talked about."

Mostly known as a playwright in the early 1890s, Wilde also exercised his writing talents & wit into works of poetry, epigrams, essays, dialogues and his one novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

“With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?”

First appearing in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in the summer of 1890, The Picture Of Dorian Gray was the only published novel by Oscar Wilde. From the magazine version, Wilde amended and revised the story into the novel that was then published in April of 1891 by Ward, Lock And Company. The craving to stay young and beautiful is certainly not foreign to our present age… but what lengths will you go to preserve it. Leading a double life is a dangerous and tricky path to walk.

“The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.”

Fame, a fourteen-year marriage to the wealthy Constance Lloyd and various law suits, combined with unprincipled friends and a growing double life of his own to send Wilde into a decline that finally carried him into a prison sentence at Pentonville and then Wandsworth Prison in London. 

His health ruined, Oscar Wilde went into exile in Paris and spent his last days there in a dismal room -  about which he quipped – “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death.  One of us has got to go.”   Originally a pension house called Hôtel d’Alsace, this renovated Left Bank luxury hotel now offers a stay in various rooms famous for their former occupants – including The Oscar Wilde Room.

"Never trust a woman who tells you her real age; a woman who tells you that would tell you anything."

Buried in Père Lachaise cemetery, Oscar Wilde’s monument was kissed so many times with red-lipsticked smooches that to prevent further damage, it has been encased in glass.  It remains a favorite grave in the famed Paris cemetery.

The next read for The Jane Austen Tea Society will be – The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.  Find a copy to start reading now!  Our book tea to discuss this enjoyably discussable read will be July 14th, 2012!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Book Tea & Discussion - Dracula by Bram Stoker

My companion followed me quickly, and cautiously drew the door to, after carefully ascertaining that the lock was a falling, and not a spring, one. In the latter case we should have been in a bad plight. Then he fumbled in his bag, and taking out a match-box and a piece of candle, proceeded to make a light. The tomb in the day-time, and when wreathed with fresh flowers, had looked grim and gruesome enough; but now, some days afterwards, when the flowers hung lank and dead, their whites turning to rust and their greens to browns; when the spider and the beetle had resumed their accustomed dominance; when time-discoloured stone, and dust encrusted mortar, and rusty, dank iron and tarnished brass, and clouded silver plating gave back the feeble glimmer of a candle, the effect was more miserable and sordid than could have been imagined. It conveyed irresistibly the idea that life – animal life – was not the only thing which could pass away.

Dr. Seward’s Diary – Chapter 15

High Tea & Book Discussion this Saturday next - April 21st - at 1pm at our favorite Tearoom. If you are not finished with the highly imaginative Victorian classic, then keep the pages turning.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Conversations... Dracula & Jonathan Harker

I seek not gaiety nor mirth, not the bright voluptuousness of much sunshine and sparkling water which please the young and gay. I am no longer young. And my heart, through weary years of mourning over the dead, is not attuned to mirth. Moreover, the walls of my castle are broken; the shadows are many, and the wind breathes cold through the broken battlements and casements. I love the shade and the shadow, and would be alone with my thoughts when I may.”

Count Dracula - From Jonathan Harker’s Journal­

From Dracula by Bram Stoker - Chapter 2

Friday, March 2, 2012

From Dracula by Bram Stoker - Chapter 1

"I read that every known superstition in the world is gathered into the horseshoe of the Carpathians, as if it were the centre of some sort of imaginative whirlpool; if so my stay may be very interesting. (Mem., I must ask the Count all about them.)"

From Jonathan Harker’s Journal

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Next Jane Austen Tea Society Read For April


by Bram Stoker

"Was this a customary incident in the life of a solicitor's clerk sent out to explain the purchase of a London estate to a foreigner?"
 Chapter 2 - Dracula

Have you ever been on a business trip that just went terribly wrong somewhere along the way?

It starts innocently enough. You enjoy the scenery. It’s always fun to try new regional cuisine and you happily take down recipes to share with friends and to try back home. And you love seeing all of the colorful clothes and fashion styles in a new and unfamiliar culture.

But then someone makes a furtive sign with their hand that you learn afterwards “guards against the evil eye” and they murmur words behind your back that you look up in your handy polyglot dictionary only to find out that they mean “vampire”
No generous expense account is going to help you to feel much better.

If your Hampton Inn desk clerk begs you not to travel on but you insist that this trip is a necessary part of your job… If by chance she gives you a cross…. Just put it on. Seriously.

And so - basically - begins the famous epistolary novel, Dracula by Bram Stoker.

An early, unknown childhood disease kept young Abraham Stoker bedridden and left to his imagination and thoughts. Did time alone engender the stories that would later bring him to fame or was it his mother’s Irish wit and storytelling abilities… some of which may have strayed into the Irish folkloric areas of horror and superstition filled with evil spirits and vampires …

Born Abraham Stoker on November 8, 1847 in the northern side of Dublin, Ireland, Bram Stoker progressed from the innately quiet, pensive child into an athletic youth. Educated at a private school and then at Trinity College in Dublin he graduated with honors in mathematics and showed a flair for philosophy.

But throughout all Bram retained a love for writing and drama, which eventually lead him into the position of theatre critic for the Dublin Evening Mail. He began writing in earnest, producing reviews on current plays, various stories and a non-fiction book.

In 1898 Bram and his wife Florence moved to London for Bram to take a role as acting manager for then celebrated theatre star Henry Irving and to manage Irving’s London theater, the Lyceum. He became acquainted with worldwide high society and the popular literary community of the day. Bram traveled to many countries as Irving’s manager, but never visited the area where his most famous work was centered around – Eastern Europe.

Many theories have spread regarding exactly where the idea for Dracula came from, but the answer is not clear. It is known that he began a story revolving around a vampire after spending seven years researching European folklore and stories of vampires and then settled on the key name of Dracula during a visit to Whitby, a town located on the North Sea about 50 miles northeast of York, England. Actually begun in 1890, the book Dracula was first published in 1897.

One of the most prominent of the Gothic authors writing at the end of the Victorian age of literature, Bram Stoker died in London on April 20th, 1912. He was cremated and his ashes placed in a display urn at Golders Green Crematorium and Mausoleum – the first crematorium to be opened in London, and one of the oldest crematoriums in Britain. Should you visit, you can - on request - be escorted to see Bram’s ashes…

There is a Bram Stoker Memorial Seat in Whitby where one may sit and look across the harbor to the well-worn & well-known stone steps, St. Mary’s Church and the picturesque Abbey ruins… And as dusk falls on a cold & windblown day, one might easily picture the “Demeter” coming ashore amidst wave & mist. Just don’t sit there until night completely falls.

The next read for The Jane Austen Tea Society and our study of British Victorian authors will be – Dracula by Bram Stoker. You have plenty of time to exorcise a book from your local book monger or library! Start reading! Our book tea to discuss this atmospheric & highly discussable read will be April 21st!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Happy Birthday George Gordon

Sonnet On Chillon

by Lord Byron (George Gordon)

Eternal Spirit of the chainless Mind!

Brightest in dungeons, Liberty! thou art,

For there thy habitation is the heart--

The heart which love of thee alone can bind;

And when thy sons to fetters are consign'd--

To fetters, and the damp vault's dayless gloom,

Their country conquers with their martyrdom,

And Freedom's fame finds wings on every wind.

Chillon! thy prison is a holy place,

And thy sad floor an altar--for 'twas trod,

Until his very steps have left a trace

Worn, as if thy cold pavement were a sod

By Bonnivard ! May none those marks efface!

For they appeal from tyranny to God.

Written in 1816 after Byron and Shelley visited the Castle

The Château de Chillon, located near Montreux, Switzerland, is a sturdy, compact fortress nesting in lovely Lake Léman and resonating with over 800 years of feet pacing the worn stones and voices echoing along shadowed corridors.

When Lord Byron and Shelley visited the castle on the 22nd of June 1816, Byron was deeply impressed by the history of François de Bonivard, a Genevois monk and politician who was imprisoned there from 1530 to 1536. The poet was inspired to write a sonnet and later a longer fable. While in the dungeon, he scratched his name upon a column.

As a young woman I stood in that dim and silent room. I stared long at Lord Byron’s signature above me – preserved forever in stone. I listened to the water high overhead crashing in waves against the wall, the muffled squeak of a mouse hidden nearby and registered deep within that the dust below my feet retained the chill of a grim prison that stilled the beating hearts of countless victims.

But as I walked the hallways, peered through window slits formed for archers and gazed far into the lake from battlements… I found that it was Byron’s spirit that whispered along behind me as I took these pictures…

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Quote From Gabriel

... From Our Current Read

Thomas Hardy's Far From The Madding Crowd

“And at home by the fire, whenever you look up there I shall be —

and whenever I look up, there will be you.

- Gabriel Oak

It is one week until we meet for High Tea to discuss this literary masterpiece.

Keep reading!