Sigh. As you all know, I'm a HUGE Jane Austen fan. HUGE. So when I heard about the Jane Austen exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum on 36th and Madison, I was beside myself.
I went last night to the last Gallery Talk and the experience was awesome. Obviously I can't actually meet Jane Austen (that will be the first person I introduce myself to up in heaven, believe you me), but going to this, seeing her actual letters and the first editions of her books, was more amazing than meeting any author or celebrity that is still alive.
The Gallery Talk was presented by the curators of the gallery. They gave us insight into why they picked some of the pieces and they offered a little more information on Jane Austen's life. The exhibit contains 51 of the 160 or so letters that are still in tact, first editions of all 6 of her complete novels, the first draft of The Watson's (that is scribbled and scratched on and if I didn't think I would have gotten caught stealing it, I would have snagged that thing so I could sleep with it at night), and various line drawings by artists in the 1800 and 1900's of the characters in her books. Also, they had around 15 books from Jane's own library. And finally, there was a reproduction of the watercolor drawing Cassandra did of Jane (the only way we know what Jane looks like) and a reproduction that Cassandra had someone do after Jane died.
Which leads me to the heart-breaking part of the exhibit, Cassandra's letter to a niece after Jane's death. She goes on to say,
"I have lost a treasure, such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed. She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow; I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself. "Of the other letters, I especially loved one of them that starts with:
"I believe I drank too much wine last night at Hurstbourne; I know not how else to account for the shaking of my hand to-day. You will kindly make allowance therefore for any indistinctness of writing, by attributing it to this venial error."Jane Austen was hungover! There was another one in which she drew the lace pattern of something new she had just gotten on the paper. The neat thing about Jane's letters were how she used all available space on the page. Back then, sending a letter of more than 1 page to a recipient meant the recipient had to pay extra, so she often wrote over her paragraphs in a different direction and between lines.
One thing I learned about her though, was that she could be sarcastic. I might be slightly off about the facts on this, but I believe at one point, a clergyman of the king gave Jane tips on a new novel she could write. She goes on to write a plot outline for it full of cliches and ridiculous plot points!
After the Gallery Talk there was a video which I didn't watch because it's available online and I wanted to look at all the stuff again and go to the museum shop. The shop had some of the stuff I already have (puzzle, paper dolls) and some stuff I do not (notecards, notebooks, earrings!) and I wanted to buy everything. But I didn't.
The gallery is over March 14th, so if you are a Jane Austen fan, run, do not walk, to this exhibit!