On the same day, I also finished Jane Austen the Secret Radical by Helena Kelly.
Brackman's quilt block patterns represented members of Jane Austen's family, her friends, and her society. There was a Flickr group where quilters could share their versions of the blocks. Everyone had such brilliant interpretations. And I made several friends in the group.
I added some applique bits to the block above.
|Austen Family Album by Nancy A. Bekofske|
The Jane Austen silhouette I used is used on the cover of Kelly's book.
Kelly shakes our view of Jane up...a lot! Jane's younger family members grew up in the Victorian Age and tweaked Jane's image to fit the ideal of a pious, quiet, unassuming, Christian woman.
Through a deep reading of Jane's novels, Kelly concluded that Jane was a secret radical whose books addressed issues that her first readers would have recognized: slavery, poverty, enclosure, war, feminism, changing societal values, the hypocrisy of the church.
One might think it is a matter of seeing what one wants to see in a book, but I will warn you that Kelly builds her case based on the texts and family letters and a thorough knowledge of Austen's life, time, and place.
In Northanger Abbey, published after Austen's death and years too late for the audience it was intended for--readers who were well versed in the Gothic novel of the 1790s--Kelly sees "The Anxieties of Common Life."
"The Age of Brass" finds Kelly's reading of Sense and Sensibility as a book about "property and inheritance--about greed and the terrible, selfish things that families do to each other for the sake of money."
In Pride and Prejudice, that sparkling and delightful novel so beloved today, Kelly finds a "revolutionary fairy tale, a fantasy of how, with reform, with radical thinking, society can be safely remodeled" without the revolution that had wracked France.
Mansfield Park is about "The Chain and the Cross," referring to Fanny's amber cross from her brother and the chain gifted her by her cousin Edmund. (Inspired by Austen's own amber cross from her sailor brother.) It also refers to British wealth from slave plantations in the Caribbean and how the Christian church profited from them.
Enclosure was the turning of common lands into privately held lands for use by the rich only. "Gruel" is Kelly's chapter on Emma, in which Jane references how wealth was concentrated into the hands of a few while workers starved, unable to afford British wheat. The Corn Laws kept the price artificially kept high; good for farmers and disastrous for the working poor.
The Lyme cliffs hold a treasure chest of fossils. The characters in Persuasion make a visit to Lyme where a series of events change their lives. "Decline and Fall" places the novel in perspective of Jane's personal life and the alteration in British society. The book takes place in a brief moment of peace with France, just before Napoleon escapes from Elba.
After reading this book, you will realize that Jane is not the person you thought you knew.
|Austen Family Album by Nancy A. Bekofske, 2018|