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Austen Chat: Episode 7

January 4, 2024

Jane Austen & Dido Belle: A Visit with Renata Dennis

Portrait of Dido Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray

JASNA member Renata Dennis joins us to discuss the fascinating story of Dido Belle, a woman of color caught between two identities. Dido was the daughter of an enslaved woman and a British naval officer but was raised as a gentlewoman in the household of William Murray, Earl of Mansfield and Lord Chief Justice of the Court of the King's Bench. Until recently, she was lost to history. Renata also shares her thoughts on Dido Belle as the inspiration for Jane Austen’s character Miss Lambe in Sanditon.

Renata Dennis is a clinical research nurse at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. She has been a JASNA member since 2008 and currently serves as the regional coordinator for the Georgia Region. She is also a member of JASNA's Board of Directors and chair of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee.

Show Notes and Links

Many thanks to Renata Dennis for appearing as a guest on Austen Chat!

Further Reading Mentioned in this Episode:
  • Byrne, Paula. Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice. Harper Perennial, 2014.
  • Clune, John and Stringfield, Margo. Historic Pensacola. University Press of Florida, 2017.
Links for JASNA Announcements:

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Listen to Austen Chat here or on your favorite podcast app: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and other streaming platforms 

Credits: From JASNA's Austen Chat podcast. Published January 4, 2024. © Jane Austen Society of North America. All rights reserved.  Image: Portrait of Dido Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray by David Martin, c. 1778 (Wikimedia Commons). Music: Country Dance by Humans Win.


Transcript

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and readability.

[Theme music]

Breckyn Wood:  Hello, Janeites, and welcome to Austen Chat, a podcast coming to you from the Jane Austen Society of North America. I’m your host, Breckyn Wood, from the Georgia Region of JASNA. Today, I'm happy to have as my guest Renata Dennis. Renata is a clinical research nurse at Emory University School of Medicine, but she has also been a JASNA member since 2008 and currently serves as the regional coordinator for the Georgia Region. She's been a JASNA board member since 2020 and chair of the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee since 2021. Today she's here to talk to us about the fascinating story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the daughter of an enslaved woman and a British naval officer who lived during Jane Austen's time and was possibly the inspiration for one or more of her characters. Welcome to the show, Renata.

Renata Dennis: I'm glad to be here.

Breckyn: Thanks! Okay, so before we get into Dido's story, I’d like to start with a segment called Desert Island. You're stranded on a desert island, and you can only bring one Austen work with you. Which do you choose and why?

Renata: So, I would bring the Juvenilia.

Breckyn: Awesome.

Renata: They're the ones that I have not read as much. And the Juvenilia—she was a young woman, young. She was a teenager when she wrote them. And I know there are lots of little funny stories and that there are skits and things, and I need to get up to speed with them. So, that's what I would read and not have any other distractions—and that way I would get to know them.

Breckyn: I'm so delighted that you picked that. I think that's a bit of a dark horse, but that's awesome. And they're so weird. They're so weird. There are murders and affairs and everyone's drunk all the time. It's a lot of fun.

Renata: Right. You wonder what she was observing to have written that. So, that's what I would take. Even if I don't go on a desert island, that's on my short list. Maybe we'll do that as a theme one year: the Juvenilia.

Breckyn: That's awesome. I love it. Okay, let's start at the beginning. So, who is Dido Belle, for those listeners who haven't heard of her?

Renata: Dido Belle was the daughter of an enslaved woman from the Caribbean or maybe Florida. Her father was a British naval officer, and he brought her to England and asked his great uncle, who was Lord Mansfield—he was basically the equivalent of the senior judge of the supreme court of England—to raise her. And he raised her—he and his wife; they didn't have children of their own. He raised her alongside her cousin, Elizabeth Lindsay [Murray], because she also was the daughter where one of the parents died. So, the two girls were second cousins and were raised together as sisters. And we know about Dido—or recently, we know about Dido—because there's a very famous painting of her, of these two women—young women in Regency or Georgian England that are painted sort of as equals. And that was highly unusual at that time. So, that's who Dido is.

Breckyn: Right. So, let's talk about that painting, because there's a good chance that even if people don't know her by name, they've seen this painting, because it's very famous. And so, it's from 1778. It was painted by David Martin.

Renata: Are they sure?

Breckyn: From what I've read, it's changed a couple of times. Scholars aren't sure about that, and it has been attributed to several different artists. But what I saw most recently—they say David Martin, and it features Dido Belle and her second cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray, is what I saw, but I think they all had, like, five names. So, can you describe the painting a bit for our listeners?

Renata: So, they're home; I believe that's Kenwood, which you can still visit, not real far from London. And Lady Elizabeth Murray is in a very nice Georgian outfit with the waist, which makes it Georgian rather than Regency. It's lower.

Breckyn: Like the corset.

Renata: Yeah—with an open book. And then Dido is next to her. And it's interesting because she's dressed in—she's got a turban on with a feather. She's carrying a bouquet that looks like it's got, maybe, tropical fruits in it or tropical food. And she's got this white—

Breckyn: Really shiny.

Renata: —Shiny kind of robe on, and it looks like she's pointing to her brown skin.

Breckyn: Oh, is that what she's doing? I thought she was being cheeky, pointing to her dimple or something.

Renata: Maybe.

Breckyn: Like we need that. Like, "Hey, look, I'm brown!"

Renata: Right. So, evidently, it was commissioned by their great uncle, Lord Mansfield. And in that time period, you just don't see black people in paintings at equal level. And it's obvious that, with Elizabeth touching her, there was affection between the two.

Breckyn: Right, it's a friendly touch.

Renata: Right. So, it is in Scone Palace in Scotland, and my understanding is that it wasn't out for I don't know how long. Decades, maybe longer. And they put it out, and they didn't know who Dido was.

Breckyn: Oh, really?

Renata: They had to go back.

Breckyn: She was kind of lost to history.

Renata: She was kind of lost to history. And so, there are several other paintings—there are paintings during that time period that depict African Americans—

Breckyn: Or, just Africans, right?

Renata: Africans or African Americans or Afro-Caribbeans. So, Agostino Brunias painted women of the Caribbean who were enslaved or were—what we would say now—mixed race people very favorably. There's a painting by a German painter about people at a kitchen ball. And it's in Virginia, where people are—yes, Kitchen Ball at White Sulfur Springs, 1838. And it's by Christian Mayr. It's a very favorable painting. But normally what we see is an aristocrat or royal person with a young boy, usually, that's a servant in the painting. And I have seen TV shows or documentaries where somebody has gone through a stately home and said, "This is so and so," and completely ignored the black person.

Breckyn: They didn't ... Really?!

Renata: And I was just furious.

Breckyn: They're like scenery.

Renata: Right. At least acknowledge that they're present.

Breckyn: Right.

Renata: And so that's why this painting of Lady Elizabeth and Dido is so remarkable, because she features so prominently, and she's obviously not a slave.

Breckyn: She's not kneeling.

Renata: Right, right. It's a grown woman that's favorably painted, and there was a favorable relationship between the two of them.

Breckyn: It's astonishing. It's a really beautiful painting. For listeners who can't see this, Renata and I are looking at a PowerPoint that she made for a different presentation. And when you see the Dido Belle painting next to these other very common paintings of the time, it's even more astonishing, because, as she said, it's always like—these people of color, these black boys, are just—they're props or they're scenery, or they're just in the background, whereas Dido is very prominent, and she's clearly at the forefront.

Renata: Right.

Breckyn: So. Okay, let's talk a little bit more about Dido specifically. So, based on this painting and records of the time, we know that she was treated pretty well by her great uncle's family, right? She was given an education. She was raised as a gentlewoman. She even inherited a pretty good amount of money when her uncle died. Do we know what the rest of the surrounding gentry thought of her? Was she a novelty?

Renata: We have some records of when people came to the house, and it seems as though when there was a formal dinner—when people outside of the home were invited to the house—she did not eat at the table with them. 

Breckyn: Okay. So, she was a bit of a second-class citizen, even though she was treated pretty well.

Renata: On the other hand, after dinner, when the ladies retired to their room to do whatever they did and the gentlemen went to the room to smoke and play billiards—

Breckyn: Have their port.

Renata: Right. Then she would come. She'd be invited into that room. And if there was a walk on the grounds afterwards, she and Elizabeth were seen walking arm in arm. She was sort of like a secretary to her uncle. She helped him with his notes. We know that she helped with the hen house and the dairy.

Breckyn: And that was common. That wasn't like, "oh, you're a servant." That was something that a lady would do.

Renata: Right. So that's what we know about her from that end. And so, I don't know if you're going to go into this, but I maintain that she's definitely the inspiration for Miss Lambe.

Breckyn: Oh, yeah, we're going there.

Renata: And then maybe from Mansfield Park—

Breckyn: Fanny Price.

Renata: Fanny Price.

Breckyn: Yeah. We're going to go there. So, even though she was raised alongside her cousin and given many privileges and advantages, she was a bit of a second-class citizen, as you said. She wasn't invited to the table when guests were there. And so, although her uncle left her an inheritance, he doesn't acknowledge her as a niece in his will, even though he acknowledges all of his other nieces and calls them family. And so, she also served as her cousin's companion and a kind of errand girl for her uncle. And so then, when I was reading accounts of the time, she did remind me a lot of Fanny Price from Mansfield Park. And the uncle who raised her was William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield. That cannot be a coincidence!

Renata: Right.

Breckyn: What do you think, Renata?

Renata: I definitely think Lord Mansfield and Mansfield Park were the same thing. Jane did a lot of that. She named Mrs. Norris—the Norris family was a family of notorious slave traders.

Breckyn: Oh, my gosh. Really? Mrs. Norris is the evilest character in all of Jane Austen, so that makes sense to me.

Renata: Right, right. She did use names like that. I don't think that's a coincidence at all.

Breckyn: And so, you were saying that Jane Austen—what I was really surprised by—she definitely would have known about Dido Belle.

Renata: Everybody knew who she was. Lord Mansfield was in charge of two cases that were related to slavery. One of them was a man named James Somerset, who was enslaved. He was brought to England, and he ran, and he was captured. And then he had Granville Sharp appeal to the court and say, "Look, we don't have slavery here. He's not a slave." And so, Mansfield evidently thought about it for months and then finally said that because he was in England and not overseas, that he could be free. So, the freed Somerset is not the question. What Mansfield said more generally about slavery is that he described it as "odious," but he did not declare it as illegal. So, he went up to the decision but didn't step over it. This and the Zong case, which is about a British-owned vessel called the Zong. It left Accra, Ghana, in 1783, was insured for 8,000 pounds at that time, eventually sailed to the Caribbean and overshot its destination of Jamaica. The crew, including its captain and surgeon, decided to kill some of the slaves.

Breckyn: All. Was it some or all? They just threw them overboard.

Renata: Women and children. Men, women, and children.

Breckyn: A horrible case of genocide.

Renata: They reached Jamaica and said—and the remaining slaves were sold there. And then the log disappeared, and they got to London and the owners sued the ship's insurers and underwriters for the value of the 132 dead slaves. And a jury decided to pay the owners. The underwriters went to the chief justice, Mansfield, who agreed to a new trial. However, they withdrew their petition and no new trial took place. Both of these cases took place while Dido was living in the house.

Breckyn: Oh, my gosh. She would have heard about it.

Renata: She would have heard about it. And people feel that raising this girl, this half-black girl, in his house—and the emotional attachment that he had to her—helped influence his case. The thing that I cannot find—and I think it's the Somerset case—I can't find a second source for this—is that we know that Benjamin Franklin was in England at that time. He may have been in England during the Somerset case.

Breckyn: Wow.

Renata: And he went back to the States and thought, you know, "Is this what's coming in the United States?" I can't find a second source for that, but I've seen one.

Breckyn: That's interesting.

Renata: So, everybody knew about these cases. Everybody knew—this man was very prominent—that he was raising this black girl.

The other thing is that Jane was visiting Edward's family and Lady Elizabeth Murray [then Lady Elizabeth Finch-Hatton] either came over to the house or Jane went over to her house. Dido had died by this time, she wasn't around. The only reason we know the visit took place is that Jane wrote a kind of snarky letter to Cassandra.

Breckyn: Did she not like Elizabeth?

Renata: She said she wasn't impressed.

Breckyn: Oh, wow! That's really funny. So, she definitely knew about Dido. She knew Dido's white cousin, best friend.

Renata: She knew. Everybody in the country was aware, but Jane had an acquaintance—at least met the cousin.

Breckyn: Okay, and that's fascinating. You're the one who told me that. I had no idea they were that closely connected. They lived geographically close together. They were living around the same time. She died only a few years before Jane, right? She was only a few years older; she died at 43. Jane Austen died a few years later at 41. Okay, so back to Mansfield Park really quick. Another reason that I think the link is pretty strong—maybe Fanny was inspired by Dido—is that that's the only book that really directly references—and directly is in air quotes. One time, Fanny says, "I asked my uncle about the slave trade," and then the whole room goes quiet.

Renata: There's this big silence.

Breckyn: Awkward pause. Nobody says anything. And then they just go on. 

Renata: Right. And there are a lot of interpretations—what did they mean? Was Fanny really questioning the slave trade or was she just asking about Antigua? Brenda Cox, in her book Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen's England, talks a little bit about that.

Breckyn: What does she think?

Renata: Well, she's—

Breckyn: I think it's pretty clear that Fanny would be anti-slavery just based on her character.

Renata: But she's not sure that's what she was asking, and she's not sure if that's what the silence was about. She brings that into question. I think that whole scene—the fact it's brought up—there's no question that it's brought up—but what it means is left a question. People aren’t sure.

Breckyn: Well, I was reading—and again, this is going to show my historical ignorance and my Jane Austen ignorance—but I was reading a little bit about that. And we know that Sir Thomas goes to Antigua to check on his holdings there. But he is the only member of Parliament of Jane Austen's characters. And he would have been—at this time, he would have been sitting in Parliament when they were considering a slave trade bill. And so, I read that what Fanny was asking was about that: "We're considering abolishing this. What do you think?"

Renata: Oh, that's interesting.

Breckyn: So maybe the awkward silence was like, "Oh, slavery. Awkward. We don't want to acknowledge it." Or maybe the awkward silence was—everybody else is so ignorant in this family and Fanny's the only one who reads newspapers and books.

Renata: And they couldn’t have cared less.

Breckyn: Right.

Renata: The rest of them couldn’t have cared less.

Breckyn: Right. Like, "Boring. Let's play the harp." Because that's what she said. She's like, "I could have pressed further and asked more questions, but no one was saying anything. And so, I didn't want to act like I was showing off my knowledge."  Clearly, it seems Fanny maybe has been following this bill that's in front of Parliament in the newspapers, and since her uncle is a member of Parliament and would sit there and have influence on the decision—Again, Jane is so coy about it. I think we'd all like to say, "Jane, what do you think about the slave trade? Give us some more opinions!" 

Renata: Right. That's one I had not heard. I'll have to go back and look at that.

Breckyn: Yeah, definitely something that I would like to do some more research on.

Okay, even if the link between Dido influencing the Fanny Price character is a little tenuous, I think the undeniable case is that the character of Miss Lambe from Sanditon is influenced by her. So, tell us a bit about that character and how Dido Belle might have been Austen's inspiration.

Renata: Of course, there are only eleven chapters. She basically just introduced her, and she used a term that we don't use anymore. She said that she was "half-mulatto," which means she had one black grandparent, if I'm doing the math correctly.

Breckyn: Yeah, I was going to say mulatto means half.

Renata: Right. I think she had one black grandparent. In The Woman of Colour and in Vanity Fair there are heiresses that have fathers who are plantation owners and mothers who are—we're assuming—enslaved people, and they send them to England to find husbands. And so, we're guessing that's what's going on.

Breckyn: It's so bizarre.

Renata: Well, it's very interesting that they acknowledge them as children; a lot of times they didn't. And of course, it seems we have this happening more in the Caribbean, definitely more than in the United States.

Breckyn: Yeah, in the United States it's like, "Well, you're enslaved now, even though your father is the plantation owner."

Renata: You know, what they may have done is brought them in the house to be house slaves.

Breckyn: That's the only distinction.

Renata: That's the whole Hemings thing with Thomas Jefferson.

Breckyn: That's what I was just talking to someone about.

Renata: She was actually his wife's half-sister.

Breckyn: Yes, I heard about that.

Renata: So, anyway, that's the most that would happen. It was rare for them to acknowledge or definitely leave the money to them.

Breckyn: Or even free them.

Renata: Right. Whereas it seems that a lot of times they freed them upon their own death.

Breckyn: Great.

Renata: But not while they were still alive. Whereas we have isolated cases that are at least famous that we know about—where British slave owners brought some of their children, boys and girls. Vanity Fair and The Woman of Colour are the two that are probably the most famous.

Breckyn: Are those post-Austen, though?

Renata: The Woman of Colour should have been the same time period. That's one that has been translated or redone in the last—I don't know—20, 30 years, maybe more, where we don't know if the protagonist wrote it or someone else wrote it. And it's also written in letter form. Anyway, Miss Lambe is sent to England. It says that she's "chilly, cold and tender"; I think that's how she's described. And I think those words mean something else. I get the idea when I read it that she's describing somebody like Lady Catherine de Bourgh's daughter.

Breckyn: Oh, somebody imperious?

Renata: Somebody that's kind of quiet and maybe physically fragile. And she's come from Antigua to England, where it's cold.

Breckyn: It's freezing.

Renata: So, the question is—and she's got companions and she's got money. So, are all these people going to be after her for her money? Is she going to be—and this is the trope we call the "tragic mulatto"—somebody that a lot of people feel like, if they've got one white parent, that they've got an advantage? And actually, because you have—

Breckyn: Being caught in the middle is actually worse.

Renata: Right. You get caught in the middle of your identity; things go badly for you. So, we don't know where Jane was going with this at all. Because we know Dido married. She married John Davinier. They had three boys, a set of twins. Her husband was a steward. They had enough money to live comfortably and send their sons to school. She died in 1804.

Breckyn: So, about 13 years before Austen?

Renata: Right. Her husband remarried. She had nine great grandchildren. Her last known living descendant died in 1978 in South Africa, where he was living as a white person.

Breckyn: If you had a choice in 1978 in South Africa, that's what you would do.

Renata: Sure, absolutely. Well, I'm going to guess that if she was half black and he was white, everybody else was white. That's what I'm going to guess. So probably, unless he had known, it would take a DNA test for him to find out who he was.

Breckyn: So, let's go back for a minute to her father, because he cared enough to bring her back instead of just leaving her. But then he just dumps her on his great uncle. Does he ever see her again? Was he involved?

Renata: We don't see anything. It says he was married, later on, to a Mary Milner. He did not have children with her. However, he was a sailor. He fathered at least, maybe, one or two children out of wedlock. One was a son, and he asked Mary to provide for him. We don't know if this is Dido's full or half-brother.

Breckyn: We think that he went back and fathered another child with Dido's mom?

Renata: We don't know the story of what he asked his second wife to do.

Breckyn: It's kind of unclear.

Renata: It's unclear. However, his obituary in the London Chronicle of 1788 assumes his paternity. "He has died, we believe, without any legitimate issue, but has left one natural daughter." Of course, we know what that term means. "A mulatta, who has been brought up in the home of Lord Mansfield." So, as I was doing this research, I found—and I forget where I went to this link—there is a woman in Florida—in Pensacola, Florida—who has written a history. Pensacola was British for a while; I had no idea.

Breckyn: Yeah, I thought it was all Spanish.  

Renata: Pensacola, Florida, and Mobile, Alabama, were briefly British. Who knew? As part of the cession of Spain at the close of the Seven Years War. The town of Pensacola was actually established in 1764 by a new company of London merchants, which included the Earl of Bute, Lord Mansfield, Augustus Keppel, Marriott Arbuthnot, John Lindsay, John Kinnion, and Samuel Touchet. The Dukes of York and Cumberland may have also been members. A book called Historic Pensacola—I checked it out of the library. It's really cool because it talks about the different groups—Native American, French, British, Spanish, American—and it has recipes or crafts from each one.

Breckyn: So, you're saying it was founded by Dido's father and her great uncle?

Renata: Evidently, they set up a settlement, and John Lindsay was a leading citizen and owned a parcel of land in Pensacola, Florida, from 1764 to 1765. Lindsay Street is named for him. Tartar Point on Pensacola Bay was named for his ship.

Breckyn: And this was all before Dido Belle was conceived?

Renata: Right. So, records indicate that he left for England in 1765, and a slave woman named Maria Belle went with him.

Breckyn: Okay.

Renata: In 1774—so, afterwards—he still owned in the navy yard a deed, a lot, "to a Maria Bell, a negro woman of Pensacola in America, but now of London and afford and made free." So, what kind of deal—? We all assume she died.

Breckyn: Yeah. Some records say she died on the ship.

Renata: So, in the same year, a woman named Maria Belle paid a manumission fee of $200 in Pensacola. And then once the Spanish regained control of the settlement—this is all from the book—a Mrs. Belle is listed as a widow. Of course, we know people did that.

Breckyn: Right, because he's gone; he's not coming back.

Renata: Is listed among the property owners.

Breckyn: So, you think that's her?

Renata: I think this is her, yeah. So, the woman who's written this book has a new book, and I've tried to contact her. Margo Stringfield is researching, writing a book called Prelude to a Portrait: Searching for Maria Belle.

Breckyn: Which is Dido's mother?

Renata: Which is Dido's mother.

Breckyn: That's cool.

Renata: Yes.

Breckyn: And new stuff is always coming out. Like you said, 30 or 40 years ago, this painting was hidden, and nobody knew who she was. And now we've got this amazing movie about her and books.

Renata: The painting evidently is back in prominence at Scone Palace, and they get a lot of visitors because of the painting now. And Kenwood also is visited quite a bit now. That is—I think that's who Miss Lambe may have been.

Breckyn: Definitely. I think probably a good number of our listeners have seen the PBS Masterpiece Sanditon series. I'll admit I hadn't read Sanditon before, so, when I first watched it, I assumed that they were just doing colorblind casting, because that's really popular now. They did that in the Netflix Persuasion. They did it in the Bridgerton series. So, I was like, "Oh, that's just what they're doing." But then when I found out, like, "Wait, Jane Austen had a black woman in her actual book? That's so cool!" So, yeah, all of this—just learning this story about Dido Belle and how Austen would have actually heard about her, and she's actually a really big part of the history of that's going on there. And like you mentioned, the uncle that raised her is the supreme court justice of all England. He's having influence on law that's coming forward about slavery. It's just this web. It just spreads really far.

Renata: I mean, who knew?

Breckyn: Yeah. And so, it's really worth digging into these archives and just finding out who these people were. So amazing. Thank you so much for telling us more about her, Renata. And do you have a book or a website, recommendations where listeners can go to learn more about Dido Belle?

Renata: If you go online—there was a 2007 exhibition on englishheritage.org about the slave trade: the Slavery and Justice Exhibition at Kenwood House. And it's got a little pamphlet on Dido and her life there. There are things in Persuasions, our own Persuasions On-Line: "Ambiguous Cousinship: Mansfield Park and the Mansfield Family. " Also, "Mansfield Park vs. Sotherton Court." The Florida Historical Society talks about colonial Pensacola. Let me see, what else? Paula Byrne also wrote The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things. She takes items from Austen's life and expands on them in each chapter. So, she's got a chapter, I think, on the Navy about the amber crosses. And then she's got a chapter on the painting.  So, she talks about that. There's a book called Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice, also by Paula Byrne. She took that chapter and actually expanded on it.

Breckyn: So, she's done a lot of her own research about it.

Renata: Right. And then Historic Pensacola, with information on John Lindsay. A lot of stuff. A lot of stuff. Just google Dido Belle.

Breckyn: Yeah. I think those are a good place to start, though.

Renata: Right.

Breckyn: Okay. That's wonderful. Thanks so much, Renata.

Renata: You're welcome. I enjoyed it very much.

Breckyn: I did, too. This is really fascinating. This is an area of Austen history that I knew very little about. So, I'm so glad that you've made it your own research project.

Renata: Yeah, for people who say that there weren't any persons of color in England at that time, we know that there were. And she's just one of them.

Breckyn: Yeah. And now I feel like once you know what to look for, it crops up a lot more. And I'm glad that we're getting Sanditon, and we're getting—

Renata: Right. I know people have issues with it. I kind of wish they would call it "Tales from Sanditon."

Breckyn: Right.

Renata: But I think it's interesting.

Breckyn: Everybody knows there were only eleven chapters, so if you're going to make five seasons out of it, you're extrapolating. Anyway, thank you so much for coming today, Renata.

Renata: You're welcome.

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Iris Lutz: It's time to kick off the new year with a few bits of JASNA news. First, registration for our 2024 Tour to England is now open. This year's tour is a celebration of Sense and Sensibility and will run from July 7-17. The itinerary, which is tailored for JASNA members, will include the houses, towns and cities that shaped Jane Austen's life and fiction, including Steventon, Chawton, Bath, Winchester and Lyme Regis, as well as locations associated with Sense and Sensibility in Devon and London. If you're a JASNA member and visiting “Jane Austen Country” is on your wish-list, we recommend that you register now to avoid disappointment. Only one tour is being offered this year and spaces are limited, so it's likely to fill up fast. To learn more about the itinerary, pricing, and how to register, go to JASNA.org, click on the “Conference and Events” link in the main menu, and then select “Tours of England” from the left-hand navigation bar.

Here's another bit of news. The topic for the 2024 Essay Contest has been selected, and our annual competition for high school, college and grad school students is officially underway! The deadline for submissions is June 1st, but we'll begin accepting entries online in February. First-, second-, and third-place winners in each division will be awarded cash scholarships and more. If you're a student—or you know someone you think should enter—be sure to check out the topic description, contest rules, and eligibility requirements on our website. Go to JASNA.org, click on the “Programs” link in the main menu, and then select “Essay Contest” from the left-hand navigation.

And last—but definitely not least—we want to spread the word that the latest issue of JASNA's web journal, Persuasions On-Line, was published on Jane Austen's birthday on December 16 and is now available free to everyone. Volume 44, No. 1, contains 24 essays that we think Mr. Knightley would have approved for Emma's reading list, including twelve of the presentations offered at our 2023 AGM in Denver: “Pride and Prejudice, a Rocky Romance.” Other treats include essays about Austen's family circle, her afterlife in a variety of media, approaches to teaching Austen, and more—including the 2022 Jane Austen Bibliography. More talks from the Denver AGM, including the plenary sessions by Janet Todd, Claudia Johnson and Stephanie Barron, will be included in our print journal, Persuasions 45, which will be mailed to JASNA members in the late spring.

The easiest way to get to this new issue is to go to our website at JASNA.org, click on the “Publications” link in the main menu, and select “Persuasions On-Line” in the left-hand navigation. That will take you to the index page listing all of our issues. You can also find the links for all these web pages in the show notes for this episode.

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Breckyn: Now it’s time for “In Her Own Words,” a segment where listeners share a favorite Austen quote or two.

Erna Arnesen: Hello, my name is Erna Arnesen and I'm from the Northern California Region of JASNA. One of my favorite Austen quotes is from Pride and Prejudice, Volume Three, Chapter 16. It says, quote, “You, must learn some of my philosophy, think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.” Though Elizabeth is not entirely serious or truthful when she makes this statement to Darcy, they both exert themselves in this passage at the end of the book to smooth over the many difficulties of their shared past. They have both experienced a lot of pain from rehashing awkward and uncomfortable moments. I think of this philosophy often for myself. It reminds me not to dwell too much on the past nor to have regrets. Rather, we can focus on the sweet memories of positive experiences while still learning from the past. And in the end, we move forward, not back, to our future.

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Breckyn: Hello, dear listeners. I just want to ask you a favor. If you’ve enjoyed listening to Austen Chat, please give us a five-star review on Apple Podcasts and leave a comment saying what you like about the show. The more positive reviews we get, the more people will see and hear about the podcast and the more Austen fans we’ll find to join our community. Though Emma Woodhouse may have disagreed, I side with Mr. Weston: “One cannot have too large a party,” or too many Janeites. Also, just a reminder to follow JASNA on Facebook and Instagram for updates about the podcast or to send us a line at our email address, podcast@jasna.org, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions.

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“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

Northanger Abbey