Sunday, December 27, 2009
A Day with Two Girlfriends
That's me up there.. I do dream about wearing those hats and walking through the country sides of England getting my hem all muddy. (Colin Firth is there too)
Over the holiday break - (yes- I took a holiday break! One day! - it was fabulous!) - So I met my friend, former college roommate - text book publisher extraordinaire- and fellow Jane Austen fanatic - writer of Austenacious -(Jane Austen Blog to bookmark!) Christine Osborne in NYC. We were off to The Morgan Library to see an amazing exhibit "A Woman's Wit" - Jane Austen's Life and Legacy. It was a small exhibit- but like Jane herself and her books- good things come in small packages.
The exhibit was made up of her own letters mostly written to her niece and sister. One handwritten manuscript - of Mansfield Park.. and awe inspiring little first editions of her books. We were determined to make out her handwriting in an effort to know Jane better- she wrote backwards and crossways- and was not very neat at all. But in her handwriting was the person she was- the personality that comes through in her books. I could sense the frustration that a woman of her intellect felt living at such a time. You could feel the boredom...at dances and the agitation of finding "neither wit nor genius" in the people she had to talk to. She found solace in her writing- but wrote little of it to her loved ones- concentrating on topics like who was in the dog house in the family or how she was making the most of the fabric she could afford to sew a dress. She wrote multiple letters a week- sometimes they were so casual- as we speed off an email these days.
The most touching letter in the room was written by Jane's sister. It chronicled Jane's death. Untimely at the age of 41. It was written in such vivid detail- you could sense her pain at the loss. What books would she have written? What would she have done- married? Traveled?... Like so many great talents.. they burn a little brighter- and their light goes out much too soon.
We left to tour the rest of the Morgan library.. and saw amazing things. William Blake was a revelation to me- an artist focused more on Winsor McCay and Walt Kelly. I found his work entirely - amazingly- ahead of it's time.
We stood in a room containing 5 Gutenberg bibles!- Mary Shelley's own Frankenstein edition ...that J.P. had good taste... original copies of Dickens - Shakespeare.. signed music sheets by Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, and Mozart... a Botticelli here- a Rembrandt there.... ... Eee Gads!
We went back up to say goodbye to Jane. It felt no different than saying goodbye to Christine late that night in Penn Station. I don't see her often (she lives in California) - so saying goodbye is hard- but when we're together it's enjoyable and laughter is easy.
We stayed through dinner and drinks with another long time friend from SU. Brooke, Christine and I filled the evening with every pleasantry and much wit and genius was found! (ahem... thanks Jane)
What a gift some people are to the world and to eachother!
My Jane story- wouldn't you just love to read it?