|Ozias Humphry, The Rice Portrait of Jane Austen, 1788|
By Jane Austen, edited by Robert Morrison, Cambridge, Belknap Press, 2011
Another super annotated edition of a Jane Austen novel by the smarties at Belknap Press. The emphasis by the editor, Morrison, is how this late novel shows Austen's increasing interest in emotional states (i.e., proto-Romanticism) and her swing to a more evangelical infected Anglicism.
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
|Servant bells and hurricane lamps|
By Jo Baker, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2013
I'm not usually a fan of books that retell classic stories, but this novel by Baker is a great reimagining of Pride and Prejudice from the servants' point of view. The story weaves together the West Indies slave trade, chilblains, and Elizabeth's fate as the mistress of Mr. Darcy's estate. Effective but could have been a wee bit more subtle.
|Max Beerbohm, Mr. Browning Brings a Lady to Meet Mr. Rossetti, 1916|
By William d'Arfey, edited by William Plomer, New York, William Slone, 1947
This novel was suggested by an article in The Guardian listing the top ten books about servants.
|John Singer Sargent, Duchess of Portland, 1902|
By Frederick John Gorst with Beth Andrews, New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1956
Memoir by an elderly royal footman, written during his retirement in the United States, of the elegance and splendor found in Edwardian high society. Gorst puts a positive spin on his life story, but its possible to read between the lines and perceive the rigid cruelty inherent in a class system that the world wars swept away. When Gorst's sister dies, the Duchess of Portland instantly whisks him to the train station by private car, but Gorst feels horrible guilt for ignoring his family. He hasn't had a vacation in two years, and Gorst had achieved the very pinnacle of a career in service. A gentle, romanticized view of Edwardian life in the great houses and the promise of equality once found in the States. Ironic to read this now during what many commentators see as America's Second Gilded Age.