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Jane Austen’s letters, her novels Emma and Persuasion, the virtue of charity, the history of Nova Scotia, and the composition of Edith Wharton’s novel The Custom of the Country: these topics and other favourites appear right from the beginning, in the first few posts I wrote when I launched this blog in the summer of 2010. It’s hard to believe five years have gone by since then (and, given my later obsession with Mansfield Park, it’s hard to believe there was no mention of it at all in those early posts).

Thank you for reading the blog and for writing comments and guest posts. It’s been a real pleasure to create a place for “good company and a great deal of conversation” and I’m looking forward to future conversations with all of you!

To celebrate the five-year anniversary of my blog, I’ve put together a list of the first five posts, plus the five most popular posts and five of my own favourites. If you’d like to read each post in its entirety, click on the title.

"My Long Jumble"The first five:

“My Long Jumble”

“‘I do not mean to take any other exercise, for I feel a little tired after my long Jumble.’ Jane Austen was writing to her sister Cassandra after the journey to her brother Henry’s house in London. I love the idea of a long, tiring road trip as a ‘jumble’….”

"French Fact and American Fiction"French Fact and American Fiction

“Edith Wharton was in the process of moving to France during the years she worked on The Custom of the Country, which makes me wonder if her increasing affection for France and her attempts to distance herself from her American life prompted her to fictionalize – and satirize – American places while implying that there was something more ‘real’ about France….”

Blueberries at Donwell Abbey

Nova Scotia blueberries“The other day, on a sunny summer afternoon when I was picking blueberries in the Annapolis Valley, I happened to overhear a conversation about Emma and Mr. Knightley. A couple of rows over (these were high bush blueberries), one woman was telling another about the scene on Box Hill, describing how Emma insults Miss Bates and how Mr. Knightley tells her that what she has said was ‘badly done.’ For a moment I felt like Anne Elliot in Persuasion, overhearing a conversation that interests her from behind the hedgerow….”

Mr. Lushington and the Franfraddops

“I think one of the reasons Austen is so good in her novels at dramatizing the problem of how to speak and act in a charitable manner is that she knows all too well the very human temptation to speak ill of others….”

Historic Gardens, Annapolis Royal, Nova ScotiaHistoric Gardens

“The town of Annapolis Royal is celebrating its 300th anniversary this year, and when I was there I was thinking about how different the history of Nova Scotia would be if Annapolis Royal had remained the capital of the province, as it was from 1710 to 1749, before Halifax was founded….”

The five most popular:

200 Years of Pride and PrejudiceJane Austen’s “Darling Child” Meets the World

“Jane writes to her sister Cassandra that she’s grateful for Cassandra’s praise of the novel because she has been having ‘some fits of disgust’ recently. She is at home in Chawton without Cassandra, keeping the secret of her authorship from her neighbours and enduring the irritation of listening to her mother’s interpretation of her characters….”

Your Invitation to Mansfield Park

An Invitation to Mansfield Park“The party begins on Friday, May 9th, with Lyn Bennett’s thoughts on the first paragraph, followed in the next few weeks by Judith Thompson on Mrs. Norris and adoption, Jennie Duke on Fanny Price at age ten (‘though there might not be much in her first appearance to captivate, there was, at least, nothing to disgust her relations’), Cheryl Kinney on Tom Bertram’s assessment of Dr. Grant’s health (‘he was a short–necked, apoplectic sort of fellow, and, plied well with good things, would soon pop off’), and Katie Davis on Mrs. Grant’s promise to Mary and Henry Crawford that ‘Mansfield shall cure you both’….”

Why Is Mr. Darcy So Attractive?Why is Mr. Darcy So Attractive? (and of course the reasons for the popularity of this post are totally mysterious to me)

“We now live in a world that relies heavily on visual images, which is part of why ‘Colin Firth in a wet shirt’ signifies passion and desire in Pride and Prejudice. Yet in the novel, Austen makes clear that this moment is significant not because Elizabeth is looking at Darcy and admiring his handsome face or figure, but because there is such a strong connection between the two of them already that ‘their eyes instantly met,’ and they simultaneously blush at meeting in such circumstances. They’re looking at each other. It isn’t that the heroine and readers or audience are gazing at Darcy….”

"Redmond College"/Dalhousie UniversityAttending Redmond College with Anne Shirley

“Redmond College is based on Dalhousie University and the ‘quaint old town’ of Kingsport described in Anne of the Island is based on Halifax….”

Clarity and Complexity: Mansfield Park Begins

“Happy 200th anniversary to Mansfield Park, published on this day in 1814. Mansfield Park is not as famous as Jane Austen’s ‘darling child’ Pride and Prejudice, but it’s still beloved, and the celebrations are just beginning. … I’m very happy to introduce Lyn Bennett’s guest post on the opening paragraph of Mansfield Park….”

Five of my own favourites:

"My Own Darling Child"Books as Children

“Jane Austen thought of her books as her children. Pride and Prejudice, which she called ‘my own darling Child,’ was sold to Thomas Egerton in November 1812. Two hundred years ago today, Jane wrote to her friend Martha Lloyd that ‘P. & P. is sold.—Egerton gives £110 for it.—I would rather have had £150, but we could not both be pleased, & I am not at all surprised that he should not chuse to hazard, so much’….”

Mansfield Park is a Tragedy, Not a Comedy

"The Tragic Action of Mansfield Park"“Many readers find the ending of Mansfield Park disappointing. I think that’s because most of us tend to approach Austen novels with the expectation that they will be romantic comedies. And most of them are. But not this one….”

What Edith Wharton Tells Us About the Way We Live Now

“Wharton’s criticism of materialism, cultural ignorance, and the dangers of extreme versions of Emersonian self-reliance is more relevant than ever….”

L.M. Montgomery's Literary Pilgrimage to Concord, Mass.L.M. Montgomery’s Literary Pilgrimage to Concord, Mass.

“Given how many fans of L.M. Montgomery visit ‘Green Gables’ in Cavendish, PEI each year, I find it fascinating to read about Montgomery’s own literary pilgrimage to Concord, Massachusetts, when she was visiting her publisher, L.C. Page in Boston in November of 1910. ‘Concord is the only place I saw when I was away where I would like to live,’ she writes….”

How to Write a Happy Ending

“‘Happy for all her maternal feelings was the day on which Mrs. Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters.’ The opening line of the last chapter of Pride and Prejudice is my favourite line in the novel because it’s the only mention of the wedding day for Elizabeth and Darcy, and Jane and Bingley. I like it because the focus on Mrs. Bennet’s attitude toward weddings ties the ending of the novel to the beginning, because the sentence is short and snappy, and because this line challenges the expectations of readers who come to the novel expecting a big wedding as the culmination of the courtship plot. There’s no question that Pride and Prejudice has a happy ending — but the wedding day isn’t the most important part of the happy ending….”

Thanks again to all of you for being part of the conversations and celebrations here!