Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Jane Austen at School

From Madame Gilflurt's blog:
Some Austen biographers suggest that the girls’ parents scraped together the money to send them to this larger, more well-established school for the express purpose of acquiring genteel “accomplishments” considered desirable on the marriage market. If so, it may well have been a shrewd initiative, given that Cassandra and Jane would have no money of their own, sharply limiting their appeal in a world where such deficiencies mattered.

Off they went to the Abbey School in Reading, twenty miles away, presided over by one Sarah Hackitt, a cheerful, gossipy woman sporting a mysterious cork leg, who despite the fact she was neither French nor spoke French dubbed herself “Madame La Tournelle” — thus lending her little school a certain fashionable cachet.

What do we know about this interval in young Jane’s life? How are we to think of it? And what was most urgent to me, in working with the illustrator of Young Jane Austen, was how to visually present Jane’s experience at the Abbey School in a single evocative image.

Jane herself is silent on the subject, aside from a glancing remark in a letter to Cassandra, ten years after the event: “I could die of laughter at it, as they used to say at school.”

In her mature work as a writer — at a safe remove from the experience — she would issue some scathing little comments about girls’ schools; we come across them in Emma and in Sense and Sensibility. (Read more.)

No comments: