It’s that time of year again: time for the annual posting of the Lost Intro to The Mischief of the Mistletoe.
Why “lost”, you say?
As you know, Jane Austen appears in Mistletoe as a side character. This terrified me. Sure, I’d dragged Napoleon through the mud, written about the madness of King George, taken the name of various other historical characters in vain, but Austen? No. I lived in fear of angry Austen-ites coming after me with stakes fashioned from annotated copies of Austen’s Complete Works.
So I decided to include a little “scholarly” introduction to the novel, just to let everyone know that everything was all in good fun. The problem? My publisher was afraid that people would think it was a real scholarly introduction.
Out it went– but here it is, back for your amusement:
From the Introduction to the Oxford Addendum to the Cambridge Companion of the Collected Letters of Jane Austen:
“… the Dempsey Collection, as it is called, was for some time denied a place in the Austenian epistolary canon. Due to the destruction of the bulk of Austen’s correspondence after her death, for some time there were believed to be only one hundred and sixty letters extent. The discovery of a cache of correspondence, preserved in an old trunk in an attic in Norfolk, underneath a series of shockingly gaudy waistcoats embroidered in a carnation print, tucked inside an early nineteenth century recipe book concerned entirely with Christmas puddings, was thought for some time by the Fellows of the Royal College of Austen Studies to be nothing more than a malicious act of sabotage on the part of unscrupulous members of the rival Dickens Society, who had turned to thuggery as the inevitable result of immoderate consumption of late Victorian serial fiction. Although the Dickens Society denied the charge, relations between the two groups remained frosty, culminating in the great Tea Incident of 1983, which scandalized Oxbridge and caused a rift of which the reverberations are felt to this day. As footnote clashed against footnote, and members of warring factions refused to pass the port at High Table, the Dempsey Collection was relegated for some time to the academic abyss, discarded as nothing more than Austenian apocrypha.
“After two decades of painstaking scrutiny, including chemical testing, textual analysis, and the consultation of several Magic 8 balls, the scholarly community has tentatively accepted the Dempsey collection as genuine, with some significant reservations. Although the dates of the letters and the identity of the author have, indeed, been authenticated, there are serious doubts as to the veracity of the contents. While Jane Austen writes in her own name, addressing the letters to a supposedly “real” young lady of her acquaintance, the events narrated within them are of such a sensational and fantastical nature as to defy all belief.
“The more serious members of the academic establishment adhere to the theory that Austen was, in fact, engaged in an epistolary novel, a style she employed for both the unfinished Lady Susan and the original draft of Elinor and Marianne, the novel that was to become Sense and Sensibility. There is some argument that the letters comprise a failed early draft of her incomplete novel, The Watsons. As in that work, the Dempsey collection features a heroine returned to the unaffectionate bosom of her family after being disappointed in her hopes of an inheritance from a wealthy aunt, who casts her from the household upon the elderly aunt’s imprudent second marriage to a handsome young captain in the army. Many of the names Austen uses in the Watsons appear in the Dempsey collection, although somewhat altered.
“There, however, all resemblance ends….
“That the letters and their contents were, in fact, the product of a contemporary correspondence conducted with an actual acquaintance in reaction to authentic events is a possibility entertained only by the most radical fringe of Austen scholars. This view is generally discredited…
“What Englishman, one may ask, would answer to the name of Turnip?”
Excerpt reproduced courtesy of the author, Perpetua Fotherington-Smythe, M. Phil., D. Phil, R. Phil, F.R.C.A.S.*, S.o.S.A.S.S.I..**, GAE (MEOAE).***
* Fellow of the Royal College of Austen Studies
Happy holidays, all! More Mistletoe fun coming soon….
Weekly Reading Round-Up
I am deep in the throes of finishing up Pink XI, so this week has been all about wrangling Sally and watching BBC videos about stoats (which are both adorable and deeply disturbing creatures).
I did just start Sarah MacLean’s latest, No Good Duke Goes Unpunished– so all I can tell you is that the opening is pure dynamite and I’m dying to get back to it.
What have you been reading this week?
If You Like….
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!
Today’s If You Like is a guest post by Christine (thank you, Christine!) on “Bucket List Books”. Without further ado, the bibliophile’s bucket list, a la Christine:
You know those books that you hear about and you know you absolutely HAVE to read them, but for some reason, you just never get around to it? This is my bucket list of books.
I’m so embarrassed. It’s been 7 months and I STILL haven’t read Ashford Affair. I have no excuse, really. Life happened. But in this coming year, I will read it.
- The River of No Return – Bee Ridgeway
Time travel? Secret societies? Why haven’t I read this one either?!
- A People’s History of the United States – Howard Zinn
I double majored in history and American Studies in college. One of my classmates recommended this book to me in 1999. There’s currently a copy residing on a bookshelf in my house.
- anything by Jane Austen that’s not Pride and Prejudice
Junior year of high school, we spent almost an entire semester reading Gone with the Wind. It was great, but that meant we didn’t read a lot of the standard high school books. I’ve always meant to go back and read them. I even downloaded them all when I got a Kindle. Nope, not one yet.
I once found the Complete Works on sale for $7.99 at Barnes and Noble and grabbed it… in 2001. The number of Shakespeare plays I’ve read hasn’t changed since 1999. My AP English teacher loved Kenneth Branagh, so if Sir Ken made a movie version, we probably read the play so she could then show us the movie “for comparison.” I’ve never read Romeo and Juliet, so I’ve always meant to start with that one.
I absolutely love the PBS Sherlock, so I got it into my head that I would read all the Sherlock Holmes stories. This is another set that I downloaded for the Kindle, then never touched. I fear that, without the sarcasm of Benedict Cumberbatch injected into the plot, it will just not be the same.
Looks like I have a lot of reading to catch up on over the holidays! What’s on your reading bucket list?
Thank you so much for this, Christine! I love this idea. I stumbled upon the Complete Sherlock Holmes fairly young, and, as a Renaissance Studies major (yes, yes, that really was a major!), I can quote you more blank verse than you want to hear. My big blank spot is the Russian novelists and dramatists (with the exception of Tolstoy, who did make it on to my bookshelf). Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Chekhov…. I have a basic idea of what their major works were about– enough for cocktail parties– but aside from the one rather irritating Turgenev novel we did in ninth grade English class, I’ve never actually read them and probably should.
Next up there would be mid-twentieth century British authors like Kingsley Amis. Somehow, I’m guessing seeing the PBS adaptation of Lucky Jim just doesn’t count.
I also have some British crime fiction gaps that need to be filled. As a huge fan of the Peter Wimsey books, I’ve always meant to read Margery Allingham’s Campion series, but it just never seems to happen. Ditto Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford books and P.D. James’s Dalgliesh mysteries. (I read The Murder Room some time ago, but really need to go back and read the whole series from the beginning.)
On top of those, I would add the Books That I Read Because I Had To and now wish I’d paid more attention– but that’s the subject of another list.
What are your book gaps?
Safe travels, all, and happy turkey eating!
For next year, I think there should be A Very Eloise Thanksgiving as an extra here on the website. What do you think?
If You Like….
There was much excitement this weekend over the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who, that quirky British time travel show that’s so very hard to explain. It seemed like a good to do an If You Like about Doctor Who– but for the fact that I’m drawing an (almost) blank. Only two books came to mind:
– Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and
– Charles Stross’s Laundry Files Novels
both of which mesh modern Britain with quirky paranormal and alien activity, with that same sort of tongue in cheek sense of humor.
Other than that, I’m having a hard time thinking of anything that fits the Doctor Who bill. What would you recommend for hard core Whovians?
Weekly Reading Round-Up
If You Like….
This week’s If You Like comes courtesy of Christine, on a topic that certainly rings a bell for me: books you discover and then wonder what on earth took you so long.
I recently had a conversation with someone about coming in late to a book that has been around for years. She has just started reading Outlander. When I read Outlander, in 2010, I couldn’t believe I had never read this book before. It was like, where have you been all my life? Or, rather, where have I been for the last 18 years? (or maybe it’s that I was 11 in 1992 and it would’ve been really inappropriate for me to have read it then) Here are some other books that it took me a long time to find.
- The Secret History of the Pink Carnation – published 2005, read 2008
I’ll start with an obvious one. When I read Pink Carnation, I absolutely couldn’t believe I hadn’t found this series before. It covered just about every genre I love – historical fiction, spies, romantic comedy. I fell in love.
- Harry Potter – published 1997, read 2001
Back in 2000, my little cousin was raving about a book she was reading. I had no idea what she was babbling about – wizards, scars, Volde-who? I just thought it was cute that she was so into it. A year and a half later, the first movie came out. My roommate had the first two books so I thought I’d give it a shot. I finally understood why my cousin had been so excited.
- Susanna Kearsley – Mariana first published in 1994, read in 2012
I know a lot of people on this site rave about Susanna Kearsley, and it’s completely warranted. Her books are fantastic. Unfortunately, not all of them are currently in print in the US. I use Mariana as the example because it’s her oldest book that is currently available in the US. The Splendour Falls, first published in 1995, will be available in the US next year and I’m so excited. I’ve been waiting to read this one. My first Kearsley was The Rose Garden, and since then, I’ve read all the ones that are available here and each one is unbelievable. The history is incredibly well-researched, to the point where I really thought all the characters and events were fictional, only to learn that, in some of the books, she had inserted her own characters into the lives of real people. She brings characters alive and you feel like you actually know them. I want to hang out with some of them.
This book was first published as Daughter of the Game, then re-printed as Secrets of a Lady. The sequel, Beneath a Silent Moon, was published in 2003. I read both in 2010 and loved them. Also historical fiction, with spies and a bit of romance, but darker than the Pink Carnation series. After the first two books, Tracy got a new publisher and the rest of the series was published under the name Teresa Grant. The names of the characters, and some of the details, have been changed, but it’s largely the same series. The character name change took some getting used to (I still think of them as Charles and Melanie), but the books are the same great quality. Wonderful, vibrant historical settings, and great mysteries.
- The Firm – published 1992, read 1996
I haven’t read a Grisham in years (mostly because I felt there was a noticeable drop-off in quality) but the first four were amazing. The Firm was my first, followed quickly by The Client, The Pelican Brief: A Novel, and A Time to Kill. Heart-pounding thrillers, great characters, books I could read over and over again.
- The Ring – published 1980, read 1996
I read a lot of Danielle Steel in high school. I loved the historical fiction, wasn’t so crazy about the contemporary ones. The romances were always over the top and sweeping, the historical settings were always time periods I was interested in, and there were just so darn many of them! You knew exactly what you were getting into with a Danielle Steel book. I even wrote my AP English final paper about Danielle Steel. I don’t think my teacher was too crazy about that. I devoured these books. The Ring came first for me (after I saw the made-for-tv movie), followed by many many others. I spent the summers of 1997 and 1998 reading every historical Steel book that had been published up to that point that the library had. Over time I outgrew the books, but there are a few, like The Ring and Message From Nam, that will always hold a special place in my book-loving heart. And along a similar line…
- A Woman of Substance – published 1979, read circa 1997
Sweeping historical family saga?! Why couldn’t I have been born sooner so I could’ve read this when it first came out?! Another series of fantastic books. This book kicked off a huge Barbara Taylor Bradford kick that lasted years, but, unfortunately, I felt a drop-off in quality in her books as well. The original Emma Harte trilogy was the best. The ones that came after in the series were not so great., but I read them anyway. There were also a handful of stand-alones that I loved.
What books did it take you years to discover? And when did you first read a Pink Carnation book?
I feel vaguely smug that I discovered Outlander and the Kearsley books right when they came out, but there are a number of others to which I came late. To add my list to Christine’s:
- Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Chicago Stars series, starting with It Had To Be You (published 1994, read 2007). My sister had been telling me for ages that I had to read these…. It took me a while, but I quickly made up for lost time.
– Elizabeth George’s Lynley novels, starting with A Great Deliverance (published 1988, read 2002). So much better than the PBS adaptation!
– Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Clare and Russ Van Alstyne mysteries, starting with In the Bleak Midwinter (published 2002, read 2009). I owe this one to social media buzz. Once I read that first book, I rushed out and bought all the others to date.
– It feels like it took me a very long time to discover Kristan Higgins’s contemporary romances, starting with Just One of the Guys, but now that I look it up, I discover that I was only two years late to the Higgins party: the first, Fools Rush In, came out in 2006 and I discovered Just One of the Guys in 2008, thanks to an All About Romance review. (Thanks, AAR!)
Which books did you come late to?
Weekly Reading Round-Up
Do you ever have books that you mean and mean to get to– and then finally do, a decade or so later?
Back in the early 90′s, when I was all about paperbacks with atmospheric looking houses on the cover, I picked up Alexandra Raife’s Drumveyn– and when I saw that it was women’s fiction rather than a Gothic, promptly put it down again.
It’s a bit like Monarch of the Glen (complete with a young laird named Archie), but the protagonist is the laird’s mother, and it’s more heart-wrenching than madly comic. Alexandra Raife is brilliant at tugging the heart strings, as well as conjuring up the Scotland of twenty years ago, right down to the wet wellies.
What have you been reading this week?
If You Like….
… will return as scheduled next week.
Apologies for the delay!
In the meantime, I’ll try to think up something special for Teaser Tuesday tomorrow.