Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Touring Austen's Country Houses, today at Austen Authors

The housekeeper came; a respectable-looking, elderly woman, much less fine, and more civil, than she had any notion of finding her. They followed her into the dining-parlour. It was a large, well-proportioned room, handsomely fitted up. Elizabeth, after slightly surveying it, went to a window to enjoy its prospect. The hill, crowned with wood, from which they had descended, receiving increased abruptness from the distance, was a beautiful object. Every disposition of the ground was good; and she looked on the whole scene -- the river, the trees scattered on its banks, and the winding of the valley, as far as she could trace it -- with delight. As they passed into other rooms, these objects were taking different positions; but from every window there were beauties to be seen. The rooms were lofty and handsome, and their furniture suitable to the fortune of their proprietor; but Elizabeth saw, with admiration of his taste, that it was neither gaudy nor uselessly fine; with less of splendor, and more real elegance, than the furniture of Rosings. 
Touring Pemberley's Interior (Sudbury Hall, Pride & Prejudice 1995)
In Jane Austen's time, it was an established matter of hospitality that great country houses could be petitioned by the public for access to their grounds and public rooms. Such tours served as a means of additional income for the housekeeper and groundsmen, who one can assume were inclined to accept or reject such requests not only in deference to the family's convenience, but also based on the seeming affluence (and likelihood of tipping) of the applicant. Obviously, Elizabeth Bennet and the fashionable Gardiners are welcomed kindly to Pemberley, the same manner in which they were presumably greeted at the many other houses they are said to visit during their time in Derbyshire. It is during the tour that Elizabeth's feelings towards Mr. Darcy begin to undergo a radical change. His good taste and the testimony of Mrs. Reynolds in his favor all act to increase her opinion of his character. Indeed, throughout Austen, a man's home reflects who he is and what he values. We are privy to three thorough house tours in the six main novels, each of which illuminates the strengths and failures of their owners.

Pemberley is perhaps such an idealized place because Mr. Darcy, despite his crusty introduction, proves to be such an ideal man. In his late-father's favorite room, we see that Mr. Darcy has preserved it in his honor, even thought this means keeping a miniature of George Wickham, certainly distressing to both him and his sister, on display. We also observe his affection for his sister, both in the new pianoforte he has purchased for her, and in the care taken in having the room she favors redecorated: "On reaching the spacious lobby above, they were shewn into a very pretty sitting-room, lately fitted up with greater elegance and lightness than the apartments below; and were informed that it was but just done to give pleasure to Miss Darcy, who had taken a liking to the room when last at Pemberley." Upon the tour's conclusion, Elizabeth has an entirely new notion of Mr. Darcy, as revealed when she seeks out and studies his portrait:

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy (Pride & Prejudice, 1995)
There was certainly at this moment, in Elizabeth's mind, a more gentle sensation towards the original than she had ever felt in the height of their acquaintance. The commendation bestowed on him by Mrs. Reynolds was of no trifling nature. What praise is more valuable than the praise of an intelligent servant? As a brother, a landlord, a master, she considered how many people's happiness were in his guardianship! -- How much of pleasure or pain it was in his power to bestow! -- How much of good or evil must be done by him! Every idea that had been brought forward by the housekeeper was favourable to his character, and as she stood before the canvas, on which he was represented, and fixed his eyes upon herself, she thought of his regard with a deeper sentiment of gratitude than it had ever raised before; she remembered its warmth, and softened its impropriety of expression. 
What a very different notion we receive of Mr. Rushworth, when his mother conducts the guests from Mansfield Park about Sotherton Court! We already know him to be rather trifling. As Edmund Bertram succinctly puts it, "If this man had not twelve thousand a year, he would be a very stupid fellow." We also can judge him by the fact that he is happy, maybe even relieved, to entirely turn over the task of improving his estate to a near stranger, Mr. Crawford. Certainly, Mr. Darcy would never treat the grounds of Pemberley in so cavalier a manner. It further diminishes Mr. Rushworth's dignity that the man in whom he confides this trust is a rival for his betrothed's hand, but these damning facts aside, let's just examine what actually happens on the tour and how it reflects the man:
The whole party rose accordingly, and under Mrs. Rushworth's guidance were shewn through a number of rooms, all lofty, and many large, and amply furnished in the taste of fifty years back, with shining floors, solid mahogany, rich damask, marble, gilding, and carving, each handsome in its way. Of pictures there were abundance, and some few good, but the larger part were family portraits, no longer anything to anybody but Mrs. Rushworth, who had been at great pains to learn all that the housekeeper could teach, and was now almost equally well qualified to shew the house.
Two major points are here revealed. The first is that Mr. Rushworth entirely concedes the tour to his mother's direction, much in the same way he does his life. As mistress of the house, it is fitting that Mrs. Rushworth lead the tour, but a more engaged landowner would surely have something substantive to contribute. Secondly, we learn that the house and furnishings were once the property of another family, who presumably sold it off lock, stock, and barrel after falling upon hard times. That the Rushworths' have added no portraits of their own to the collection suggests they have no familial history of which to brag, indicating low origins supplemented by wealth, presumably gained through trade. Austen is not so terribly elitist that a made fortune renders a family unworthy (Mr. Bingley and Captain Wentworth are both prime examples of her egalitarianism), and Mr. Rushworth is obviously at least a few generations removed from the "taint" of trade, but it does, nevertheless, further weaken an already flawed character. The man and house are also diminished by its low situation, devoid of the fine prospects to be commanded from each of Pemberley's windows:

Pemberley's Exterior (Lyme Park, Pride & Prejudice 1995)

The situation of the house excluded the possibility of much prospect from any of the rooms; and while Fanny and some of the others were attending Mrs. Rushworth, Henry Crawford was looking grave and shaking his head at the windows. Every room on the west front looked across a lawn to the beginning of the avenue immediately beyond tall iron palisades and gates.

Having visited many more rooms than could be supposed to be of any other use than to contribute to the window-tax, and find employment for housemaids, "Now," said Mrs. Rushworth, "we are coming to the chapel, which properly we ought to enter from above, and look down upon; but as we are quite among friends, I will take you in this way, if you will excuse me."
They entered. Fanny's imagination had prepared her for something grander than a mere spacious, oblong room, fitted up for the purpose of devotion: with nothing more striking or more solemn than the profusion of mahogany, and the crimson velvet cushions appearing over the ledge of the family gallery above. "I am disappointed," said she, in a low voice, to Edmund. "This is not my idea of a chapel." 
Even Fanny Price, who barely dares offer criticism elsewhere, can speak confidently about Sotherton's deficiencies. The house is as opposite Pemberley's perfections as it could be, both "gaudy" and "uselessly fine," as made clear by the abundance of windows. Those descriptives are intended to juxtapose Pemberley's "real elegance" to that of Rosings Park, which, interestingly, is the only other house in all of Austen whose description invokes a reference to the window tax, a property tax determined by how many windows a house possessed. In Mansfield Park, Austen dismisses Sotherton's many and prospectless windows as mere pretension. In Pride and Prejudice, it is Mr. Collins who displays an absurd pride in Rosings "by his enumeration of the windows in front of the house, and his relation of what the glazing altogether had originally cost Sir Lewis De Bourgh."

Hugh Bonneville (aka the Earl of Grantham) as Mr. Rushworth (Mansfield Park 1999)

Such pretension seems the perfect introduction to Austen's third house tour: Northanger Abbey, home of the insidious General Tilney. This is the most complete and detailed of the tours (appropriate, as the novel takes its name from the place), revealing much about the General's character. As Mrs. Rushworth's dominant presence during the Sotherton tour reflects her relationship to her son, so does General Tilney's usurpation of his daughter's right to conduct her guest about the house and grounds demonstrate the total authority he seeks to yield over his children: "Something had been said the evening before of her being shewn over the house, and he now offered himself as her conductor; and though Catherine had hoped to explore it accompanied only by his daughter, it was a proposal of too much happiness in itself, under any circumstances, not to be gladly accepted." Yet even Catherine Morland's enthusiasm for an abbey is totally overwhelmed by the General's determination to show off his possessions, and indeed, it is he who provides all the desired admiration he intends to excite:
They set forward; and, with a grandeur of air, a dignified step, which caught the eye, but could not shake the doubts of the well-read Catherine, he led the way across the hall, through the common drawing-room and one useless antechamber, into a room magnificent both in size and furniture -- the real drawing-room, used only with company of consequence. -- It was very noble -- very grand -- very charming! -- was all that Catherine had to say, for her indiscriminating eye scarcely discerned the colour of the satin; and all minuteness of praise, all praise that had much meaning, was supplied by the General: the costliness or elegance of any room's fitting-up could be nothing to her; she cared for no furniture of a more modern date than the fifteenth century. When the General had satisfied his own curiosity, in a close examination of every well-known ornament, they proceeded into the library, an apartment, in its way, of equal magnificence, exhibiting a collection of books, on which an humble man might have looked with pride. 
Stoneleigh Abbey, believed by many to be the inspiration for Sotherton Court 

As the tour proceeds, we see that unlike Mr. Rushworth, General Tilney has taken a managing hand in everything pertaining to his home. His pride in his work is so acute that he cannot perceive how little such details matter to his audience, and he is determined, with military precision, to account for every dimension and each improvement:
From the dining-room, of which, though already seen, and always to be seen at five o'clock, the General could not forgo the pleasure of pacing out the length, for the more certain information of Miss Morland, as to what she neither doubted nor cared for, they proceeded by quick communication to the kitchen -- the ancient kitchen of the convent, rich in the massy walls and smoke of former days, and in the stoves and hot closets of the present. The General's improving hand had not loitered here: every modern invention to facilitate the labour of the cooks had been adopted within this, their spacious theatre; and, when the genius of others had failed, his own had often produced the perfection wanted. His endowments of this spot alone might at any time have placed him high among the benefactors of the convent. 
His persistence in flouting his family's prosperity is so complete that General Tilney totally misses the fact that modern conveniences mean absolutely nothing to Catherine, who would far prefer it were the Abbey in some half-ruinous state, more in keeping with her notions of Gothic grandeur.
With the walls of the kitchen ended all the antiquity of the abbey; the fourth side of the quadrangle having, on account of its decaying state, been removed by the General's father, and the present erected in its place. All that was venerable ceased here. The new building was not only new, but declared itself to be so; intended only for offices, and enclosed behind by stable-yards, no uniformity of architecture had been thought necessary. Catherine could have raved at the hand which had swept away what must have been beyond the value of all the rest, for the purposes of mere domestic economy; and would willingly have been spared the mortification of a walk through scenes so fallen, had the General allowed it; but if he had a vanity, it was in the arrangement of his offices; and as he was convinced that, to a mind like Miss Morland's, a view of the accommodations and comforts, by which the labours of her inferiors were softened, must always be gratifying, he should make no apology for leading her on. 
Liam Cunningham (aka Sir Davos) as General Tilney (Northanger Abbey 2007)

We see that the General not only has no notion of what might please Catherine, but that he also has formed entirely faulty conceptions of what she values (later, he proves similarly mistaken in her monetary value). Surely, after it's suggested, Catherine can acknowledge that modern conveniences in the kitchen and offices greatly benefit the staff that must toil within them, but it does not decrease her sense of loss for what was swept away to make room for such accommodations:
The purposes for which a few shapeless pantries and a comfortless scullery were deemed sufficient at Fullerton, were here carried on in appropriate divisions, commodious and roomy. The number of servants continually appearing did not strike her less than the number of their offices. Wherever they went, some pattened girl stopped to curtsy, or some footman in dishabille sneaked off. Yet this was an Abbey! -- How inexpressibly different in these domestic arrangements from such as she had read about -- from abbeys and castles, in which, though certainly larger than Northanger, all the dirty work of the house was to be done by two pair of female hands at the utmost.
Let us stop to note what Catherine misses in her chagrin with the General's improvements: the rather suspicious activities of the many maidservants and inappropriately attired footmen. The General may pay scrupulous attention to the accoutrements of his house, so much of which he claims is for the benefit of his servants, but the morality of his staff seems beyond his notice. It is in keeping with the way he presents a false picture to the world, concealing his true character: domineering, materialistic, and rapacious.

Northanger Abbey (Lismore Castle, Northanger Abbey 2007)


They returned to the hall, that the chief stair-case might be ascended, and the beauty of its wood, and ornaments of rich carving might be pointed out: having gained the top, they turned in an opposite direction from the gallery in which her room lay, and shortly entered one on the same plan, but superior in length and breadth. She was here shewn successively into three large bed-chambers, with their dressing-rooms, most completely and handsomely fitted up; everything that money and taste could do, to give comfort and elegance to apartments, had been bestowed on these; and, being furnished within the last five years, they were perfect in all that would be generally pleasing, and wanting in all that could give pleasure to Catherine. As they were surveying the last, the General, after slightly naming a few of the distinguished characters by whom they had at times been honoured, turned with a 
smiling countenance to Catherine, and ventured to hope that henceforward some of their earliest tenants might be "our friends from Fullerton." She felt the unexpected compliment, and deeply regretted the impossibility of thinking well of a man so kindly disposed towards herself, and so full of civility to all her family.
The gallery was terminated by folding doors, which Miss Tilney, advancing, had thrown open, and passed through, and seemed on the point of doing the same by the first door to the left, in another long reach of gallery, when the General, coming forwards, called her hastily, and, as Catherine thought, rather angrily back, demanding whether she were going? -- And what was there more to be seen? -- Had not Miss Morland already seen all that could be worth her notice? -- And did she not suppose her friend might be glad of some refreshment after so much exercise? Miss Tilney drew back directly, and the heavy doors were closed upon the mortified Catherine, who, having seen, in a momentary glance beyond them, a narrower passage, more numerous openings, and symptoms of a winding stair-case, believed herself at last within the reach of something worth her notice; and felt, as she unwillingly paced back the gallery, that she would rather be allowed to examine that end of the house than see all the finery of all the rest.

Excessively gracious one moment and cold and forbidding the next, the General's tour of the Abbey portends much of what we learn of him (and his eldest son) as the novel progresses. Like his home, he has gilded his exterior to hide the decay beneath. Even the innocent Catherine can see there is falsity behind such display, though she imagines him guilty of even worse than his real and rather commonplace sins. It is all there for the divining reader to uncover in the house tour.

Many other country houses feature prominently in Austen's novels and most provide an accurate reflection of their owners' personalities. Prosperous Donwell Abbey is the embodiment of Mr. Knightley, just as the forsaken Kellynch Hall symbolizes Sir Walter Elliot's failures as a father and landowner. Yet it is in her three house tours that Austen really draws concise correlations between estates and their masters, capitalizing upon these scenes to provide complete character sketches of the gentlemen in question. It is a brilliant use of narrative, but I admit I am rather relieved the authoress can't knock on my door and request to inspect the premises. One can only imagine what devastating conclusions she would draw! On that note, I think I'll go clean my bathrooms ...

Friday, September 8, 2017

Jane Austen's Juvenilia, today at Austen Authors

It's my day again at Austen Authors! Come check out a post introducing the young Jane's earliest effusions of fancy: http://austenauthors.net/jane-austens-juvenilia/

Volume the First
My mind is well-entrenched in an article I’m writing for the October edition of Pride & Possibilities, the periodical of the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation (a fabulous non-profit, for those of you unfamiliar with it, promoting literacy endeavors worldwide and founded by Austen’s descendent, Caroline Jane Knight). My subject is the radical nature of Austen’s childhood writings, or juvenilia, and it occurred to me that these earliest recordings of her brilliance have been seldom discussed here. So while I’m in the zone, I thought I’d provide something of an introduction to the topic.

Between the ages of eleven and seventeen, Austen filled three volumes with her productions, simply titled Volume the FirstVolume the Second, and Volume the Third. These volumes are composed of not just “novels” (which she insistently calls them, despite the very short length of most), several of which are composed in the epistolary style, but also plays, a poem, and even a revisionist history, the work of “a partial, prejudiced and ignorant historian.” The latter is probably the most famous of all her juvenilia: A History of England (lines from which I stuck in the mouth of the Mouse in my latest book, Darcy in Wonderland), featuring illustrations by her sister, Cassandra. The British Library has digitized the original manuscript so you can flip through it online. You can read it in Austen’s own hand, or, as her handwriting is a bit difficult to decipher, listen to an audio recording. Do check it out, as it is an amazing resource: http://www.bl.uk/turning-the-pages/?id=152707d0-a674-11db-a95e-0050c2490048&type=book.
Volume the Second
Generally, it is Volume the Second that is best known, probably because it was published several years before the other two were made publicly available (1922 and 1954, respectively). It includes not just The History of England, but also the epistolary novel Love and Freindship (Austen’s spelling), which gave its name to last year’s film production of Lady Susan. Austen numbered the pages of the volume throughout, which is how we know she removed twelve of them sometime before writing the contents page. You can read the entire volume in Austen’s handwriting (with handy transcriptions for each page) at Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts, an extensive collection of online facsimiles of Austen’s original manuscripts, including Lady Susan, the unfinished novels, Susan (which later became Northanger Abbey), and Persuasion. It’s such a thrill to read these works in Austen’s own hand! Here are direct links to the three volumes of her Juvenilia:
Personally, I find Volume the First the most interesting. It is in the worst repair, which is maybe why it wasn’t published earlier, or maybe it was just too different from her beloved novels for fans and academics to process. As Austen continued to pursue her writing, her father must have found that her productions warranted a better repository than their first, calfskin-bound home. Volume the Second and Volume the Third are bound in white vellum, and Austen wrote in the front on the former, “Ex dono mei Patris,” which means the gift of my father. Volume the Third contains more ambitious work – a completed epistolary novel, Evelyn, and an unfinished novel, Catherine, or the Bower – and Reverend Austen wrote inside, “Effusions of Fancy by a very Young Lady Consisting of Tales in a Style entirely new.” “Entirely new” is right! As I argue in the article I’m writing, nothing similar emerged in literature for more than a hundred years, when writers became far more experimental in the 20th century. Austen’s youthful voice is outrageously absurd, morally ambivalent, and insatiably hilarious. It is in that first volume that these qualities are most apparent, which is probably why I return to it over and over again.
Volume the Third
I’ve referenced one of my favorite pieces, Henry and Eliza, in a previous post. Actually, I transcribed the entire thing to this blog, so please do check it out: http://austenauthors.net/henry-and-eliza-on-eliza-doolittle-day/. On my own blog, I wrote about and transcribed the text of the short but fabulous The Beautifull Cassandra (read it here: http://alexaadams.blogspot.ch/2011/01/beautifull-cassandra.html). And four years ago, for Austen in August at The Book Rat (an excellent annual event that only just wrapped up), I wrote about and transcribed Amelia Webster (read it here: http://www.thebookrat.com/2013/08/amelia-webster-guest-post-giveaway-from.html). Lots of Volume the First ramblings for you to explore. I strongly encourage anyone who can’t get enough Jane Austen to purchase one of the many collections of her minor works that include the juvenilia. These writings are an incredible treasure, giving us unique insight into Austen’s mind and personality. We see glimpses of the writer she would become, but even more, in these less polished products, intended for the entertainment of her family and friends rather than publication, we get a sense of who she really was. Thank goodness Cassandra didn’t decide to burn the three volumes along with so many of Austen’s letters, despite the fact that they show us a very different Austen than that of the image so carefully honed by her family postmortem. I assume they meant far too much to her sister to destroy. They were an intimate part of who she was.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Darcy in Wonderland Review at Laura's Reviews

Come by Laura's Reviews to read a beautiful review of Darcy in Wonderland. May favorite bit:
I found this novel to be very enjoyable with charming illustrations. One of my favorite scenes was the tea party in Wonderland which was a fantastic comedy of manners with Mr. Darcy trying to maintain good manners, which is increasingly hard to do with the Mad Hatter in attendance. I thought this novel was a perfect blend of both tales. 
Come by to read more!

http://lauragerold.blogspot.ch/2017/08/darcy-in-wonderland-by-alexa-adams.html 

Austen in August at The Book Rat

I'm participating in The Book Rat's annual Austen extravaganza - Austen in August - with a guest post and excerpt from Darcy in Wonderland. Please stop by and check out my contribution, plus all the other excellent happenings:

http://www.thebookrat.com/2017/08/the-perfections-of-pemberley-guest-post.html

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Savvy Verse and Witt Guest Post, Plus an Excerpt at My Love for Jane Austen (Darcy in Wonderland Blog Tour)

The Darcy in Wonderland blog tour wraps up at two wonderful blogs. First I'm discussing poetry and parody in the book at Savvy Verse and Wit (home of one of my beta readers and fabulous poetry editor - isn't that sophisticated? - Serena Agusto-Cox). Next I have an excerpt at For My Love of Jane Austen. It shows what happens just after Darcy comes crashing down through the rabbit hole. Lot's of fun to conclude an awesome two weeks. Thanks to all who participated!

https://savvyverseandwit.com/2017/08/guest-post-wonderlands-poetry-by-alexa-adams.html

http://forloveofausten.blogspot.ch/2017/08/darcy-in-wonderland-blog-tour-excerpt.html

Friday, August 18, 2017

Babbling of a Bookworm Guest Post and Excerpt (Darcy in Wonderland Blog Tour)

The penultimate day of the blog tour takes me to Babblings of a Bookworm, a blog which I have long wished to visit. Come by to read about my history with Alice in Wonderland and read an excerpt from Darcy in Wonderland:

http://babblingsofabookworm.blogspot.ch/2017/08/darcy-in-wonderland-by-alexa-adams-blog.html#more

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell Review (Darcy in Wonderland Blog Tour)

Today Darcy in Wonderland has a review posted at Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell. It includes a rather interesting prediction:

"I think Alice will grow up to be an author. I am sure of it."

Read the full review at the link below!

http://books-forlife.blogspot.ch/2017/08/darcy-in-wonderland-alexa-adams.html

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Jane Austen Book Club Guest Post and Giveaway (Darcy in Wonderland Blog Tour)

Wow! We're starting to wind down. A few more days of the blog tour (honestly, I need the rest!), and one more giveaway, today at My Jane Austen Book Club. Have you been curious about the fate of the other characters from Pride & Prejudice, a few decades on? Come and learn where the Collinses, Miss Bingley, and Colonel Fitzwilliam landed, plus enter the international giveaway:

http://thesecretunderstandingofthehearts.blogspot.ch/2017/08/guest-post-and-giveaway-alexa-adams.html#more

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

More Agreeably Engaged, Conversation with K. Wiedemann and Giveaway (Darcy in Wonderland Blog Tour)

Today's stop on the blog tour is at the fabulous blog More Agreeably Engaged, home of Janet Taylor: Austenesque artist extraordinaire.  It only seemed appropriate when visiting Janet to use the opportunity to showcase my sister's illustrations for Darcy in Wonderland. Join us for an international interview and a conversation between Katy Wiedemann and myself about the process of creating the images.

https://moreagreeablyengaged.blogspot.ch/2017/08/ever-since-alexa-adams-mentioned-idea.html

Monday, August 14, 2017

Diary of an Eccentric Guest Post and Giveaway (Darcy in Wonderland Blog Tour)

Today takes me to the blog of my fabulous editor, Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. I've spent a lot of time on the Darcy in Wonderland blog tour focused on Darcy and Alice, as well as the other children, but today I've made Elizabeth my subject. Stop by to see how masterfully she mistresses Pemberley and enter the international giveaway.

https://diaryofaneccentric.wordpress.com/2017/08/14/excerpt-giveaway-darcy-in-wonderland-by-alexa-adams/

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Musings from the Yellow Kitchen Review and Recipe (Darcy in Wonderland Blog Tour)

I love scones! And I love tea parties. So does Alice, which makes it infinitely appropriate that my hostess today at the beautiful blog, Musings from the Yellow Kitchen, should include a delicious looking scone recipe along with a delightful review of Darcy in Wonderland. Here's a snippet. Continue reading at the link below:
But the character who steals the show is little Alice. She is a delight – headstrong and imaginative, with her mother’s impertinence and a sense of wonder that is infectious.  She has no trouble offering her opinions, even when they are not wanted, and is happy to allow her curiosity free reign. While her poor father frets over the bizarre events around him in Wonderland, Alice happily accepts a world in which animals talk and people can grow and shrink with a nibble of food or a sip of some potion. From her first impulsive dash after the White Rabbit to her bewildered participation in the Queen of Hearts’ croquet game, she is never without something to say.
https://musingsfromtheyellowkitchen.wordpress.com/2017/08/13/book-review-and-a-recipe-darcy-in-wonderland-by-alexa-adams/

Saturday, August 12, 2017

"Sofa Chat" with Sophia Rose at Goodreads (Darcy in Wonderland Blog Tour)

Whew! We're half way there.

Today the blog tour takes me to Goodreads for a sofa chat with the delightful Sophia Rose. She has been supportive of my books from the very beginning and has also posted an excellent review of Darcy in WonderlandHere is just a quote (read the complete review here).
From the moment I heard of Darcy in Wonderland, I was drawn to it. I thought it exciting that the talented author was turning her attentions to writing a mash-up of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice and Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Full of curiosity and anticipation, I began and I only set it down twice before finishing it on a note of complete satisfaction. 
https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/15524579-sophia-s-sofa-chat-with-alexa

Friday, August 11, 2017

Austen Authors, Excerpt and Giveaway (Darcy in Wonderland Blog Tour)

OK, so it's my regular day at Austen Authors, which just so happened to conveniently fall smack in the middle of the Darcy in Wonderland blog tour! Very convenient. Today I'm offering another international giveaway (almost at the end of those, so don't miss out) and an excerpt from the book. It's the Caterpillar scene, which leads right into the long-necked moment portrayed on the front cover. Lots of fun. Please join me!

http://austenauthors.net/darcy-in-wonderland-excerpt-and-giveaway/

Thursday, August 10, 2017

From Pemberley to Milton, Review and Giveaway (Darcy on Wonderland Blog Tour)

The Darcy in Wonderland blog tour rolls on! A second day at From Pemberley to Milton brings us a beautiful 4 and a 1/2 star review from hostess, Rita Deodato. I think she described the book particularly well in this passage:
Darcy in Wonderland is not a romance, and readers who merely want an Elizabeth/Darcy story will not find it here, but they will find a beautiful sequel showing us how delightful their life was after they married, and how funny their household became over the years with so many different children. The relationship they established with their children is endearing, and we also have the pleasure of seeing how happy and content they are as a couple.
Also readers may enter for a second opportunity to win the international giveaway of a copy of the book. Please join the fun!

https://frompemberleytomilton.wordpress.com/2017/08/10/darcy-in-wonderland-review-giveaway/

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

From Pemberley to Milton, Guest Post and Giveaway (Darcy in Wonderland Blog Tour)

Today I'm having my first visit to Rita Deodato's fascinating blog, From Pemberley to Milton, where I am excited to be sharing information about Alice Liddell, the young girl for whom Lewis Carroll wrote his memorable tales. It's a strange story, full with lots of questions, but it's also fascinating, if a tad sordid. As well as the guest post, there is also an international giveaway on the table.  Come join us!

https://frompemberleytomilton.wordpress.com/2017/08/09/darcy-in-wonderland-guest-post-giveaway/

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Just Jane 1813 Interview, Review, and Giveaway (Darcy in Wonderland Blog Tour)

Today Claudine at Just Jane 1813 was kind enough to interview me, write a lovely review, and host an international giveaway of Darcy in Wonderland. Please visit her beautiful blog for more, but I just had to include a bit of the review:
This is also one of those heartfelt stories where we’re able to catch up with the Darcys many years after their wedding, and not only enjoy their happiness, but also see how the bonds of parenthood have changed them throughout the years. Readers are reminded once again why we have such high hopes for their marital felicity when we close the final pages of Pride & Prejudice. Alexa Adams’ new story allows us to experience their parenthood in a highly imaginative way.
http://justjane1813.com/2017/08/08/darcy-in-wonderland-by-alexa-adams-a-review-an-author-interview-giveaway/


Monday, August 7, 2017

Austenesque Reviews Guest Post and Giveaway, Plus Excerpt at VVb32 Reads (Darcy in Wonderland Blog Tour)

Join me today at one of my favorite blogs, Austenesque Reviews, where I am offering an international giveaway of Darcy in Wonderland and introducing you to the six Darcy children: Bennet, Ellie, Helen, Rose, Cassie, and, of course, Alice. Don't miss out on the fun!

http://austenesquereviews.com/2017/08/guest-post-giveaway-author-alexa-adams-2.html#more-20058

Also today find a short except from the book and a preview of one of the illustrations at another delightful blog I have been visiting for years: VVB32 Reads.

https://vvb32reads.blogspot.ch/2017/08/guest-post-darcy-in-wonderland-by-alexa.html

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Laughing with Lizzie Guest Post and Giveaway - First Stop on the Darcy in Wonderland Blog Tour!

The blog tour is off and running! The fun begins at Laughing with Lizzie, where you can read a guest post about combining the worlds of Pemberley and Wonderland and enter an international giveaway to win a copy of the book. Don't miss out!

https://laughingwithlizzie.blogspot.ch/2017/08/blog-tour-darcy-in-wonderland-by-alexa.html

Friday, August 4, 2017

Darcy in Wonderland Blog Tour

My new book is out! The ebook was released two weeks ago, the paperback one, but as I was traveling in the United States at the time, I did not get a chance to properly announce and celebrate. So here it goes. Yippee! My first publication since the "big move." Thank goodness I am finally back in the game.

So on Saturday I officially launch the book with a two week blog tour. Here is the schedule. Lot's of chances to win copies of the book, read about the writing process, and examine excerpts. I hope you will join me as I visit many old friends (and some new ones) to spread the world about Darcy in Wonderland.

August 5th - Laughing with Lizzie
August 7th - Austenesque Reviews
                     VVB32 Reads
August 8th - Just Jane 1813
August 9th - From Pemberley to Milton (Guest Post & Giveaway)
August 10th - From Pemberley to Milton (Review)
August 11th - Austen Authors
August 12th - Sophia Rose's Blog (Goodreads)
August 13th - Musings from the Yellow Kitchen
August 14th - Diary of an Eccentric
August 15th - More Agreeably Engaged
August 16th - My Jane Austen Book Club
August 17th - Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell
August 18th - Babblings of a Bookworm
August 19th - Savvy Verse & Wit
                       For Love of Austen

Buy the book now at Amazon.com!

Friday, July 14, 2017

My 7/14/17 post for Austen Authors! Check out the original to join the conversation:  http://austenauthors.net/poesy-and-parody/

My new book, Darcy in Wonderland, come out tomorrow! Well, the ebook does (paperbacks to follow soon). Next month we'll have a giveaway and release party, but today I just want to step back and reflect on how much fun I had writing this book! Though the book is both a Pride and Prejudice sequel and an Alice in Wonderland mashup, I've filled it with references to other Austen novels, some more obvious than others. In particular, I had an amazing time taking the poems that occur throughout Alice in Wonderland and parodying them with a twist of Austen thrown in. Lewis Carroll's poems are parodies themselves of verses that would have been quite familiar to his Victorian audience, so it felt like a very natural place to go a bit wild. Here is a couple of my favorite. Do you recognize the references? Also get a glimpse of some of the original illustrations by K. Wiedemann featured in the book. Share your thoughts and insights on both in the comments!


‘Tis the voice of the Lobster: In tones not muted,
‘Take no pleasure in novels? Intolerably stupid!’
Like a lady when shopping for muslins and lace,
Our minds shout agreement, even as our hearts race.
‘Little boys and girls should be tormented,’ he said,
But only so long as it is good for their heads:
‘To torment or instruct: words found synonymous.’
All precision of language has now simply gone amiss.

I passed by his garden, and to my surprise,
Something shocking indeed was happening inside.
‘Indeed! Of what nature!’ The questions were fret.
‘More horrible than anything we’ve met with yet.’
‘Good heaven! A riot? Give me peace of mind!’
‘I expect murder and everything of that kind.’
 Laughing, ‘The riot is only in your own brain!
The confusion there might drive anyone insane.’

Know the scene and place? Well this one is a bit more tricky:

They told me you had writ to her
And mentioned me to say,
Good things about my character:
That she should hear me play.

She then sent word that I should come
And be her governess.
The offer like a cherry plum.
Refusal, stubbornness.

I gave her one, and then two more,
And yet three more in time,
Excuses, each that she ignored,
And yet I still opined.

We learned through hearsay, during tea,
Just after I gave in,
A sickly woman ceased to be   
To no one’s great chagrin.

This obstacle now done away,
He only needed come,
To Mrs. Suckling’s great dismay,
I passed the cherry plum.

In wedded bliss I soon shall bask,
At Enscombe, a few miles hence.
Not of you shall I ever ask,
Nor give you recompense.

And let's wrap up with an easy one. Everyone should get this:


“You are old, Lady Catherine,” the young girl said,
“And your hair has become very white;
Yet you improved Rosings alone, you swellhead!
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

“In my youth,” Lady Catherine said to the girl,
“I’d command someone else to do it;
But since the first time that I gave it a whirl
I know no one more equal to it.”

“You are old,” said the girl, “as I mentioned before,
And your bones have become quite brittle,
Yet you goad your relations, prompting uproar —
Don’t you fear it will end in committal?”

“In my youth,” said her ladyship, a frown on her face,
“I’d lambaste you for speaking so shrill;
But now that death and I shall so soon embrace
I’ll simply write you out of the will.”

“You are old,” said the girl, “and your jaws are too weak
For little else other than pudding
Yet you told off the Rector, the Cook, and a Sheik —
Why so disagreeable, woman?”

“In my youth,” said the Dame, “I knew it my call,
And argued with all and sundry.
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw
Allows me to keep speaking bluntly.”

For more fun, order the book from Amazon today: https://www.amazon.com/Darcy-Wonderland.

And check out more of my sister's amazing artwork as www.wiedemannillustrations.com and katywiedemann.com.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Finding Solace in Austen, today at Austen Authors

View the original post at austenauthors.net.

Did you know that during World War I, Jane Austen's novels were recommended as an antidote for soldiers coping with shell-shock? And during the Second World War, sales of her works in England tripled? If you are unfamiliar with it, I highly recommended reading Rudyard Kipling's short story The Janeites, which provides insight into the importance Austen held to soldiers in wartime. It is believed that when Kipling's own son, John, died in WWI, that it was the writer's reading of Austen's books aloud to his grieving family that helped them to overcome their grief. I know in my own life, whenever tragedy strikes, I immediately turn to Austen for escape. She led me through my first and most agonizing miscarriage, helped me conquer the debilitating bouts of depression I suffered in my 20s, and provided a much needed outlet in 2014, forever in my mind branded as the year of death (I lost three beloved grandparents within six months of each other, as well as a host of other relations and friends). There is no doubt in my mind that Austen's books provide solace and comfort when little else can, but what is it about her stories that endows them with this extraordinary power to heal?



Jane Austen herself lived in a time of massive upheaval. Revolutions were changing the world, and England was at war for almost her entire life. Uncertainty about what the future might bring was rampant and justified. In many ways, it was a lot like our own time, when her popularity and devotion to her has reached unprecedented heights, yet such chaos rarely makes an appearance in Austen's books. Many believe it is precisely this almost blithe dismissal of the world's dangers in which lies her appeal: allowing readers to escape present angst and replace it with drawing-room etiquette, witty observation, and timeless romance. But are Austen's novels so very void of turmoil? Certainly, the Dashwoods' entire existence is thrust into uncertainty with the loss of their home and financial security, and the Bennets' live beneath the specter of the same real threat. Only Emma Woodhouse, of all Austen's heroines, lives a truly charmed existence. Nevertheless, despite the fragility of her characters' financial status, it is inarguable that Austen rarely confronts the horrors of war that permeated her world. Yes, most of the books contain a fairly strong military presence, but the dangers these soldiers and sailors face in the line of duty are barely addressed. There is almost no acknowledgement that they might die, or be maimed, yet we know from primary sources that limbless former soldiers littered the city streets, begging for the assistance that the government refused to provide. Of course, Austen knew the very real consequences her naval brothers faced when she saw them off to sea, but nothing of that concern is imparted to sensitive and intelligent Fanny Price, when she says good bye to William, her own sailor brother. Indeed, Fanny's sorrow in seeing him off seems all based in selfish concern for her own comfort, which is really rather bizarre in a character as selfless and sacrificing as Fanny:
Before the week ended, it was all disappointment. In the first place, William was gone. The Thrush had had her orders, the wind had changed, and he was sailed within four days from their reaching Portsmouth; and during those days she had seen him only twice, in a short and hurried way, when he had come ashore on duty. There had been no free conversation, no walk on the ramparts, no visit to the dockyard, no acquaintance with the Thrush, nothing of all that they had planned and depended on. Everything in that quarter failed her, except William's affection. His last thought on leaving home was for her. He stepped back again to the door to say, "Take care of Fanny, mother. She is tender, and not used to rough it like the rest of us. I charge you, take care of Fanny." 
William was gone: and the home he had left her in was, Fanny could not conceal it from herself, in almost every respect the very reverse of what she could have wished. It was the abode of noise, disorder, and impropriety. Nobody was in their right place, nothing was done as it ought to be.


Typically, the military is highly glamorized in Austen: dashing men, handsome in their uniforms, off to make great names for themselves while exploring the world. Pride and Prejudice gives us some inkling of the nuisance the military (particularly a militia) can prove, but generally it is all pomp and circumstance. Indeed, it is only in Persuasion that Austen gives us some true inkling of the dangers associated with war. We receive a sense of uncertainty in Captain Wentworth's future in chapter four, when Anne's recalls the arguments used to persuade her to break off their engagement, yet these can be interpreted as fear of financial insecurity rather than of the possible loss of life. Wentworth rather flippantly jokes about the possibility of his death when dining at Uppercross, but even this might be read as merely a way to poke at Anne for her abandonment of him and test her sensibilities: "Four-and-twenty hours later, and I should only have been a gallant Captain Wentworth, in a small paragraph at one corner of the newspapers; and being lost in only a sloop, nobody would have thought about me."

It is only in the very last lines of the novel that the true perils inherent to Captain's Wentworth's career are seriously expressed:
His profession was all that could ever make her friends wish that tenderness less, the dread of a future war all that could dim her sunshine. She gloried in being a sailor's wife, but she must pay the tax of quick alarm for belonging to that profession which is, if possible, more distinguished in its domestic virtues than in its national importance.
There are two casualties of war in Austen, both in Persuasion:. The first is Richard Musgrove, lost sometime, somehow, at sea. However, his death is little lamented:
The real circumstances of this pathetic piece of family history were, that the Musgroves had had the ill fortune of a very troublesome, hopeless son; and the good fortune to lose him before he reached his twentieth year; that he had been sent to sea because he was stupid and unmanageable on shore; that he had been very little cared for at any time by his family, though quite as much as he deserved; seldom heard of, and scarcely at all regretted, when the intelligence of his death abroad had worked its way to Uppercross, two years before. 
He had, in fact, though his sisters were now doing all they could for him, by calling him "poor Richard," been nothing better than a thick-headed, unfeeling, unprofitable Dick Musgrove, who had never done anything to entitle himself to more than the abbreviation of his name, living or dead.
Doesn't exactly evoke sympathy, does it?

The other casualty is Captain Harville, a fully developed and relatable character, but his injury acts more as a plot device than anything else: "Captain Harville had never been in good health since a severe wound which he received two years before, and Captain Wentworth's anxiety to see him had determined him to go immediately to Lyme."



Yet even though Austen never fully confronts the realities of war, she does give us the tools, modeled in her best heroines, to cope with such shattering anxieties: Elinor Dashwood's stoicism while her relations fall apart, Elizabeth's determination to follow her heart despite external pressure, and, more than any of the others, Anne's philosophical approach to loss, resignation, and survival. I think this is why Persuasion has always been my favorite of the six novels. Anne imbibes the reader with strength when all seems lost, and gives us hope that we may triumph in the end, even when the future appears immeasurably dark. I think not just of her advice to Captain Benwick, or even of her moving words to Captain Harville on constancy (so often overshadowed by "the letter," which immediately follows), but the unwavering example she provides in her conduct of humanity's ability to endure sorrow with grace and resilience. Yogis would call her zen. Many ask, "What would Jane do?" But in my mind, the question is always, "What would Anne do?"

How has Austen's writing provided solace to you in times of sorrow? Which characters galvanize you the most? Please share your stories in the comments. Like Austen's novels, they might prove just the inspiration another needs to carry on.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Darcy in Wonderland Cover Reveal, Today at Austen Authors

Join the conversation at Austen Authors.

My next book, Darcy in Wonderland, will be published this summer - assuming I can focus long enough to get the final draft to my editor! The book is part Pride and Prejudice sequel, set twenty some years after the Darcy's marriage, and part pure mashup with Alice in Wonderland. I'm super excited because this project has given me an opportunity for which I have long yearned: to work with my incredibly talented little sister, Katy Wiedemann, who has created beautiful illustrations for the book. It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I am able to reveal the cover, featuring one of her drawings, here today. She based her image of Darcy on David Rintoul, who played the role in the 1981 BBC mini-series. Isn't she incredible?
One of the great challenges I've encountered in writing this story is trying to combining the styles of two very different writers. This proved a particular problem when it comes to the thorny issue of contractions.
Over the years, I've been told by more than one person that Jane Austen never used contractions. This is not exactly true, though her use of contractions is very limited. Lewis Carroll, on the other hand, uses contractions nonstop. I compromised between the two by limiting the characters from Austen's world to her contractions, letting Carroll's characters pretty much run wild (it would have been impossible to fight this, as that is just what Carroll's characters do), and I split the difference on Alice. As a result of this process, I produced a rather handy list of contractions Austen did use in her six major novels and those she did not (several do appear more frequently in her earlier works). Let's start with those she definitely never uses:
aren't, couldn't, could've, didn't, doesn't, hadn't, hasn't, haven't, he'd, he'll, he's, how'd, isn't, it'd, it'll, it's, let's, mightn't, might've, mustn't, must've, needn't, oughtn't, she'd, she'll, she's, shouldn't, should've, that'd, that'll, there's, they'll, they're, wasn't, we'll, we're, weren't, we've, what's, where's, who'd, who'll, who's, wouldn't, would've, you'd, you'll, you've
Now let's discuss what is far more interesting: those contractions Austen does utilize and why.
There are only three she uses fairly regularly: don't, 'tis, and won't (note that 'tis never occurs in Persuasion, while making a regular appearance in all five of the other novels).
There are a three more that appear a handful of times in the novels: can't, I'll, and shan't/sha'nt (note that the latter is only ever used by Mrs. Jennings, Mrs. Bennet, and Miss Bates).
Then there are those that appear very infrequently. Word geek that I am, I find this highly compelling. Usually, these contractions reflect a character's lack of education or refinement. Let's take a look at them in context.

An't

This archaic contraction occurs a bit more frequently than the others on this list, but really only in Sense and Sensibility, in which it is used five times.
Anne Steele (she uses it twice - also see notes below on "I'm"):
"Lord! my dear, you are very modest. I an't the least astonished at it in the world, for I have often thought of late, there was nothing more likely to happen."
Mrs. Jennings:
"Mind me, now, if they an't married by Mid-summer."
and
"The Colonel is a ninny, my dear; because he has two thousand a-year himself, he thinks that nobody else can marry on less. Take my word for it, that, if I am alive, I shall be paying a visit at Delaford Parsonage before Michaelmas; and I am sure I sha'nt go if Lucy an't there."
And, curiously, Fanny Dashwood:
Perhaps Fanny thought for a moment that her mother had been quite rude enough,--for, colouring a little, she immediately said,
"They are very pretty, ma'am--an't they?" But then again, the dread of having been too civil, too encouraging herself, probably came over her, for she presently added,
"Do you not think they are something in Miss Morton's style of painting, Ma'am?--She does paint most delightfully!--How beautifully her last landscape is done!"
Fanny is a far more socially elevated character than the other two, and I think Austen very deliberately puts this contraction into her speech in order to display Fanny's internal coarseness, despite her fashionable trappings.
The only other time "an't" occurs is in Emma, where it is used by Mrs. Elton when speaking to Jane Fairfax. She is a character rather like Fanny, when you stop to consider their personalities. Both are petty and self-absorbed. It is also possible that both ladies saying 'an't' is some kind of affectation, perhaps a modish slang. If so, I think it is clear Austen does not approve of such verbal laziness.
"Now I say, my dear, in our case, for lady, read----mum! a word to the wise.--I am in a fine flow of spirits, an't I? But I want to set your heart at ease as to Mrs. S.--My representation, you see, has quite appeased her."

I'd

Toni Collette as Harriet Smith, 1996.
Used four times, and in a rather broad set of circumstances. Anne Steele, who uses more contractions than any other character in Austen, says it once:
"Good gracious! (giggling as she spoke) I'd lay my life I know what my cousins will say, when they hear of it. They will tell me I should write to the Doctor, to get Edward the curacy of his new living. I know they will; but I am sure I would not do such a thing for all the world.--'La!' I shall say directly, 'I wonder how you could think of such a thing? I write to the Doctor, indeed!'"
It occurs twice in Mansfield Park, and always by the Portsmouth Prices. First by William:
"I should like to see you dance, and I'd dance with you if you would, for nobody would know who I was here, and I should like to be your partner once more."
And then later in the story by his father, who uses courser language than any other character in Austen:
"But, by G--! if she belonged to me, I'd give her the rope's end as long as I could stand over her. A little flogging for man and woman too would be the best way of preventing such things."
It is also used once in Emma, by Harriet Smith:
"Will you read the letter?" cried Harriet. "Pray do. I'd rather you would."

I'm

Austen only uses it three times, and just in her first two novels. Anne Steele says it in Sense and Sensibility: twice in the same sentence! Anne's frequent use of contractions is definitely a reflection of her lack of education and low status, and this paragraph is loaded with them:
"Nay, my dear, I'm sure I don't pretend to say that there an't. I'm sure there's a vast many smart beaux in Exeter; but you know, how could I tell what smart beaux there might be about Norland; and I was only afraid the Miss Dashwoods might find it dull at Barton, if they had not so many as they used to have. But perhaps you young ladies may not care about the beaux, and had as lief be without them as with them. For my part, I think they are vastly agreeable, provided they dress smart and behave civil. But I can't bear to see them dirty and nasty. Now there's Mr. Rose at Exeter, a prodigious smart young man, quite a beau, clerk to Mr. Simpson, you know, and yet if you do but meet him of a morning, he is not fit to be seen.--I suppose your brother was quite a beau, Miss Dashwood, before he married, as he was so rich?"
Lydia Bennet is the other character to utilize "I'm":
"Oh!" said Lydia stoutly, "I am not afraid; for though I am the youngest, I'm the tallest."

   

I've

Elizabeth Spriggs as Mrs. Jennings, 1995.
Only used once by Mrs. Jennings, another great peddler of contractions:
"Oh, Lord! I am sure your mother can spare you very well, and I do beg you will favour me with your company, for I've quite set my heart upon it. Don't fancy that you will be any inconvenience to me, for I shan't put myself at all out of my way for you. 

How d'ye

Bit of a weird one, and akin to our modern "how'd." I definitely think she is representing colloquial speech with this contraction. It is always used in greeting. John Thorpe says it in Northanger Abbey:
"Make haste! make haste!" as he threw open the door-- "put on your hat this moment -- there is no time to be lost -- we are going to Bristol. --How d'ye do, Mrs. Allen?"
It is how John Knightley greets his brother in Emma (love this quote, by the way):
This had just taken place and with great cordiality, when John Knightley made his appearance, and "How d'ye do, George?" and "John, how are you?" succeeded in the true English style, burying under a calmness that seemed all but indifference, the real attachment which would have led either of them, if requisite, to do every thing for the good of the other.
Miss Bates also uses it:
"How d' ye do?--how d'ye do?--Very well, I thank you. So obliged to you for the carriage last night. We were just in time; my mother just ready for us. Pray come in; do come in. You will find some friends here."
And Admiral Croft says it in Persuasion, when he is walking with Anne:
"But here comes a friend, Captain Brigden; I shall only say, `How d'ye do?' as we pass, however. I shall not stop. 'How d'ye do?' Brigden stares to see anybody with me but my wife."

 

That's

Romola Garai & Johnny Lee Miller as Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley, 2009.

This one is very interesting. It only occurs twice in Austen. Both times are in Emma, and both occur in the same chapter (12). I have to wonder if this wasn't an editing oversight on Austen's part, because instead of the "that's" being dropped by side characters of questionable educational background, here it is used by our hero and heroine. The other theory I have is that both characters are flustered when they use the contraction. Perhaps it reflects their state of minds? First it is used by Emma:
"That's true," she cried—"very true. Little Emma, grow up a better woman than your aunt. Be infinitely cleverer and not half so conceited.
And then later by Mr. Knightley, when he is trying to redirect the dinner conversation away from the subject of Mr. Perry's medical opinions:
"True, true," cried Mr. Knightley, with most ready interposition— "very true. That's a consideration indeed.—But John, as to what I was telling you of my idea of moving the path to Langham, of turning it more to the right that it may not cut through the home meadows, I cannot conceive any difficulty."

They'd

Only appears once in Austen, in Sense and Sensibility. Servants don't usually have much of a voice in Austen, but the Dashwood's Thomas has quite a speech at the end of the novel, in which he drops the "they'd":
"I happened to look up as I went by the chaise, and so I see directly it was the youngest Miss Steele; so I took off my hat, and she knew me and called to me, and inquired after you, ma'am, and the young ladies, especially Miss Marianne, and bid me I should give her compliments and Mr. Ferrars's, their best compliments and service, and how sorry they was they had not time to come on and see you, but they was in a great hurry to go forwards, for they was going further down for a little while, but howsever, when they come back, they'd make sure to come and see you."

We'd

Daisy Haggard as Miss Steele, 2008.

We wrap up where we began, with Anne Steele:
"Dr. Davies was coming to town, and so we thought we'd join him in a post-chaise; and he behaved very genteelly, and paid ten or twelve shillings more than we did."
So what have we learned from all this? While some contractions are broadly used by all manner of characters in Austen, her use of them is highly selective, usually chosen to highlight lack of education or some other character fault. I hope this exercise is useful to my fellow writers, and that it provides a heightened awareness in readers of Austen's careful choice of language.
Thanks for joining me on this exploration into some of the less obvious aspects of Austen's writing style.
More information on Darcy in Wonderland coming soon!