Last Saturday was the Jane Austen Society’s annual study day and for the first time I made the trip up to London to attend. I was very excited about going but more than a little nervous about being on time – my train was due to arrive 40 minutes before the first lecture started and as trains were delayed by the weather that weekend I was convinced I would be late. However, my journey ran perfectly and I arrived at Senate House with time to spare.
The talks were all based on the theme of reading but took us in a wide variety of directions and I found them fascinating. I was greatly interested in the Reading with Austen project and I would highly recommend having a look at their website. They are trying to locate all the books which were in the Godmersham Park library when Austen was there and the virtual bookshelves are wonderful.
I also particularly enjoyed the talk on 19th century illustrations in Jane Austen. I found it fascinating that the illustrations focused so much on typically feminine objects like dresses and bonnets and pictured very few books. The speaker suggested this gave the impression that the books were very frivolous and I think this is an idea which continues today. Certainly I have heard people writing off Jane Austen as ‘just’ a romantic novelist when in reality she is so much more. On the other hand, some illustrations made the books look like highly sensational novels – I found them rather amusing!
The break times were an excellent chance to chat with other Janeites and I was in my element with so many other like minded people. It might have been my first study day but it’s certainly won’t be my last.