As we mentioned in our last post of 2015, one of our readers, Sarah Emsley, offered us the perfect opportunity to re-read Jane Austen’s novel, Emma, for her online celebration of the bicentenary of its publication.
You can see our post about the role of female friendship in the novel as part of the Emma in the Snow celebrations on Sarah’s site.
This gave us the idea to record a conversation about Emma to post on here. We ended up talking about the role of female friendship in the novel, and our different responses to this theme on first reading the book and on re-visiting it now. Our discussion also took us into the territory of Jane Austen’s own life and the female friendships she established off the page.
We do hope that some of you also took the opportunity to re-read Emma exactly two hundred years since the very first readers got their hands on the published book.
Jane Austen jotted down the opinions of her nearest and dearest, so you can read what Anne Sharp and others had to say about it here:
Please do share your thoughts with us by using the comment facility below.
We enjoyed this so much that we have decided to share more literary conversations about female friendship over the coming months. In January, we are challenging ourselves to read The Absentee – a novel by Maria Edgeworth, which we believe Jane Austen enjoyed discussing with her governess and amateur playwright friend, Anne Sharp.
We’ll post up our conversation at the beginning of February and we do hope that some of you will choose to read along with us.
When we began to work on this month’s challenge to create a ‘family tree’ showing the literary ancestral lines that we’ve traced on the site, we soon realised that we couldn’t possibly accommodate all the intertwined connections between the forty-five authors we’ve profiled so far.
Instead, we decided to focus on the literary forebears and successors of just four of our favourite novelists: Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf. You’ll need to click on the image and zoom in to read it.
Our literary family tree includes the following connections:
Du Maurier’s night nursery directly faced Mansfield’s bedroom.
Du Maurier corresponded with the younger author, Oriel Malet, and the pair shared their love of Mansfield’s work in their letters.
One of our readers, Sarah Emsley, offered us the perfect excuse to re-read Jane Austen’s Emma as she is hosting Emma in the Snow – an online celebration of the bi-centenary of its publication. Our piece will go live on her site on January 1st, and we’ll also post a conversation between the two of us about the novel here on Something Rhymed. We’ve had such fun reacquainting ourselves with this novel – an old favourite.
If you are looking for a holiday read, we’d love you to choose Emma so that you can share your thoughts with us in the new year.
In the meantime, we both hope that you have a peaceful holiday and that 2016 is full of creativity and friendship.
As girls, we were both great fans of the Anne of Green Gables series. Though we grew up in different towns on opposite sides of the Pennines, L.M. Montgomery’s fictional Canadian community of Avonlea was a haven we each knew well.
It was after we began Something Rhymed at the start of this year that we began to look back on those books. We remembered feisty Anne’s longing for a ‘kindred spirit’ and ‘bosom friend’, and wondered whether there was a real-life Diana Barry in her creator’s life.
We have one of this blog’s readers, Sarah Emsley, to thank for putting us on to this particular friend. Knowing of her interest in all things Montgomery, we asked Sarah if she had any ideas. She was kind enough to come up with a couple of possibilities, although it was Lefurgey that really captured our interest.
She and Montgomery became pals in 1902, when Lefurgey was a young schoolteacher working in Cavendish, on Prince Edward Island, where Montgomery had spent most of her childhood and recently returned to care for her grandmother.
This was still some time before the publication of the novel that would catapult her to stardom, but her short stories were being regularly published by then and her literary earnings were beginning to grow.
Unlike Maud – as she was called by those who knew her – Lefurgey was not a professional writer. But she did produce an unpublished novel, belong to a writers’ club, and, like her new friend, keep a journal throughout her life. Most thrillingly for us, over a five-month period, when she’d left her previous lodgings to board with Montgomery and her grandmother, the two women kept a collaborative diary.
Whereas Montgomery’s personal journal entries of that time were often melancholic in tone, a very different side of her emerges in her lighthearted published writings of the era, and another side again in this joint-diary.
Here, she and Lefurgey indulge in tales of flirting with young men, and exaggerated neighbourhood gossip. They often use their separate entries to tease each other, seemingly in anticipation of how the other will react when she takes up the story. They decorated the book’s cover with interlocking hearts, perhaps a reference to their shared closeness or to the giddiness of the heightened romantic contents within.
A more naturally gregarious personality than Montgomery, Lefurgey seems to have filled a void in the life of an author who’d experienced a sometimes lonely childhood living under the strict care of her grandparents.
Her early impressions were that Lefurgey was ‘a positive godsend’. Although they were forced to part when Lefurgey left Prince Edward Island to be married, she re-emerged in Montgomery’s life twenty-four years later, and soon established herself as the main confidante of a woman who was by then one of Canada’s best-loved authors.
In their diary entries, L.M. Montgomery and Nora Lefurgey often reported on the same incidents from their differing points of view. This month, we’ll recall a day spent together and each write it up in our own style.