Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Godmersham Park Book Tour ~ Excerpt

Hello, my friends! Today I have a lovely excerpt from Gill Hornby's new book, Godmersham Park! This story fascinates me! It's inspired by the true story of Anne Sharp. She was a governess at Godmersham Park. She and Jane Austen became good friends. 


Godmersham Park
A Novel of The Austen Family
by Gill Hornby


A richly imagined novel inspired by the true story of Anne Sharp, a governess who became very close with Jane Austen and her family by the #1 International bestselling-author of Miss Austen.

On January 21, 1804, Anne Sharpe arrives at Godmersham Park in Kent to take up the position of governess. At thirty-one years old, she has no previous experience of either teaching or fine country houses. Her mother has died, and she has nowhere else to go. Anne is left with no choice. For her new charge—twelve-year-old Fanny Austen—Anne's arrival is all novelty and excitement.

The governess role is a uniquely awkward one. Anne is neither one of the servants, nor one of the family, and to balance a position between the "upstairs" and "downstairs" members of the household is a diplomatic chess game. One wrong move may result in instant dismissal. Anne knows that she must never let down her guard.

When Mr. Edward Austen's family comes to stay, Anne forms an immediate attachment to Jane. They write plays together and enjoy long discussions. However, in the process, Anne reveals herself as not merely pretty, charming, and competent; she is clever too. Even her sleepy, complacent, mistress can hardly fail to notice.

Meanwhile Jane's brother, Henry, begins to take an unusually strong interest in the lovely young governess. And from now on, Anne's days at Godmersham Park are numbered.

chapter xi 

‘Miss Sharp!’ Fanny burst into the Godmersham attic. ‘Look!’ She brandished a letter. ‘All that time, I was expecting to hear by the morning post, and it came by the evening.’

They both studied the paper, weighed up its width and its quality, ran their eyes over it to judge the length of what was written upon it. ‘In my mind’s eye, I had seen myself receiving it at breakfast and reading it there, just as Mama does. I mean, like a proper young lady.’ She worried at her lip. ‘But now is just as good, is it not?’

‘I should say it is a fine time for the reading of letters,’ Anne reassured her. ‘A lovely end to the day. And remember, my dear, if this is to be a full correspondence, you can look forward to more in the future . . .’

Fanny breathed out. ‘You are so right. I am beginning to think, Miss Sharp, that you are in the habit of being right on all matters. So, what happens now?’

Anne was becoming a little concerned by her pupil’s over-keen sense of deference. If they went on like this, Fanny would soon be incapable of putting one foot in front of the other without appealing for guidance. ‘I suggest that you read it?’

‘Oh,’ Fanny gave a little laugh. ‘Of course! Shall we do so together?’

‘No, my dear,’ replied Anne, though she was not un-intrigued. ‘This is to you.’

Fortunately, Fanny – who was one of the world’s greatest sharers – chose to read it out loud:

My dear Fanny,

Your letter occasioned such joy among all in your Bath family – but in me, in particular. I cannot imagine what I have done to deserve such an honour – and nor can your superior aunt, my dear sister. When the post came for me, there was a danger that she might drop dead from sheer jealousy, but I quickly revived her with my shrewd observation – Cassandra is harder to spell and consumes too much ink. God bless my short, simple name!

We all marvelled at hearing your Godmersham news, and you have the advantage of me. How can my dull existence compare with the revelation that you have a new governess? It is clear she is a woman of substance for your pen was clear and the contents quite perfect. If you are so kind as to reply to me now, please do us the favour of addressing the following concerns. We all long to know what books you are reading – in particular, which poets? Your grandfather desires that you acquire a sound basis in Shakespeare and, as always – he cannot be helped – issues a plea on behalf of the Classics. Is your Miss S. – among her other perfections – strong in the Classics? If so, then she is truly a paragon.

As you know, your Grandmama has been most unwell and the worry and fear has kept us at home more than is usual. But I am here to report she is now well on the mend, and her spirits returned to their usual height. It cannot be long before we return to the social round. Though I am relieved that the illness is over, I cannot rejoice at being turned out of doors. The streets of Bath are made so dirty by this dreadful wet weather – it keeps one in a perpetual state of inelegance.

We all look forward to hearing from you again, and pray you send our love to all of the Godmersham family.

Your fond Aunt, 
Jane Austen.

Each expressed their delight in tones of great rapture and agreed it to be one of the greatest – possibly the best – letter yet to be written. Fanny read it twice more, so as to be thoroughly sure, before disappearing down to the library to share it anew. Anne, at last, was able to pick up her own pen, and then Sally came in.

The sullen maid of Anne’s first evening had warmed into a garrulous creature and now, while Anne sat alone working, Sally would work alongside her. Her clear philosophy was that, while the hands toiled at tidying and cleaning, the tongue should not idle.

‘What is it you’re up to there, miss?’ She was sifting through Fanny’s drawers and refolding the inexpertly folded. ‘Another letter, is it? You do write a lot of letters and no mistake.’ She came and looked over Anne’s shoulder. Anne covered her page. ‘Don’t worry about that, miss. All scribbles to me.’

‘You cannot read or write, Sally?’ Anne felt that glorious, prickling anticipation of a new project. ‘Would you like me to teach you? When is your afternoon off ? I am sure I could spare a few hours every week.’ She was quite magnificent in her own generosity.

‘Ta, miss, but I’m right as I am.’ Sally went back to her work. ‘My afternoons off are my afternoons off, thanking you very much. I go out on the gad, then, with Becky.’ Anne picked up her pen again, crushed. Suddenly intrigued, she put it back down. ‘You must be most expert gadders to find any gadding to be had in Godmersham, surely?’ The village did not even have a shop, let alone a High Street. Anne had found no amusements beyond solitary walks. How does one even begin to gad in a field? 

‘You’d be surprised, miss. There’s some new lads down
at the tithe barn.’ Sally gave a little shriek. ‘Ooh, but we do like a laugh with them.’

‘And Mrs Salkeld does not object?’ Anne herself could never be so brave as to incur the wrath of the housekeeper.

Sally shrugged her thin shoulders. ‘If she does, she daren’t say so. We’re still young, miss. Got to enjoy yourself, haven’t you? It’s only a job, after all. If they stopped me, I’d tell them to stick it.’

Anne paused to reflect on their relative positions. She was certainly paid more, but Sally – with her uniform and its upkeep provided – had fewer expenses. Sally enjoyed hours off in the day and the companionship of life in the servants’ hall; Anne belonged neither to staff nor family, was almost always on duty and, when not, entirely alone. It appeared that a maid could make an exhibition of herself abroad and it was tolerated, yet if a governess were to attract even the eye of a gentleman, she would face instant dismissal. The comparison provided food for thought on the question of privilege and the cost of its benefits.

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About the Author

Gill Hornby is the author of the novels Miss Austen, The Hive,
and All Together Now, as well as The Story of Jane Austen, a biography of Austen for young readers. She lives in Kintbury, England, with her husband and their four children.

Advance Praise

"This is a deeply imagined and deeply moving novel. Reading it made me happy and weepy in equally copious amounts…I read it straight through without looking up.”— Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Bookclub 

Hornby’s skillful mix of fact and fiction captures the complexities of the Austens and their era, and her crisp, nimble prose sparkles throughout. Best of all, Hornby genuinely channels the sentiment of 19th-century English literature. Janeites aren’t the only readers who will relish this smart, tender tale."— Publishers Weekly, starred review 

“…a well-written and delightfully observant novel…an excellent read.”— The Historical Novel Society

So, friends, any thoughts? Sounds like the life of a governess could be very lonely. But I think Anne Sharp does ok for herself. I'm looking forward to reading this one. How about you?

Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen's England by Brenda S. Cox ~ Blog Tour ~ Guest Post

 Hello, my friends! I have Brenda S. Cox here with her new book Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen's England. Such an interesting topic! Please give Brenda a warm welcome!

Fashionable Goodness
Christianity in Jane Austen's England
By Brenda S. Cox

The Church of England was at the heart of Jane Austen's world of elegance and upheaval. Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen's England explores the church's role in her life and novels, the challenges that church faced, and how it changed the world. In one volume, this book brings together resources from many sources to show the church at a pivotal time in history, when English Christians were freeing enslaved people, empowering the poor and oppressed, and challenging society's moral values and immoral behavior. 

Readers will meet Anglicans, Dissenters, Evangelicals, women leaders, poets, social reformers, hymn writers, country parsons, authors, and more. Lovers of Jane Austen or of church history and the long eighteenth century will enjoy discovering all this and much more: 

     • Why could Mr. Collins, a rector, afford to marry a poor woman, while Mr. Elton, a vicar, and Charles Hayter, a curate, could not? 
     • Why did Mansfield Park's early readers (unlike most today) love Fanny Price? 
     • What part did people of color, like Miss Lambe of Sanditon, play in English society? 
     • Why did Elizabeth Bennet compliment her kind sister Jane on her "candour"? 
     • What shirked religious duties caused Anne Elliot to question the integrity of her cousin William Elliot? 
     • Which Austen characters exhibited "true honor," "false honor," or "no honor"? 
     • How did William Wilberforce, Hannah More, and William Cowper (beloved poet of Marianne Dashwood and Jane Austen) bring "goodness" into fashion? 
     • How did the French Revolution challenge England's complacency and draw the upper classes back to church? 
     • How did Christians campaigning to abolish the slave trade pioneer modern methods of working for social causes? 

Explore the church of Jane Austen's world in Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen's England.

Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England, by Brenda S. Cox, tells the story of the church in Austen’s novels and in Austen’s world. Here’s a taste of one of the many topics in this wide-ranging resource.
Women as Religious Leaders in Austen’s England
Guest Post by Brenda S. Cox

All of Jane Austen’s clergy are men: Mr. Collins, Mr. Elton, Edmund Bertram, Edward Ferrars, Henry Tilney, and others. In Austen’s Church of England, only men could be ordained as clergy. But when I visited Bath a few years ago, I got to hear women preaching at both Bath Abbey and Christ Church. Women have only been ordained as Church of England priests since 1994 (though some other countries in the Anglican Communion began ordaining women earlier). 
In Jane Austen’s England, however, some women were already ministering in public ways. 

The Countess of Huntingdon

I discovered the Countess of Huntingdon quite by accident as I was walking through Bath. Her lovely chapel is on the way to St. Swithin’s Church, where Austen’s parents were married. The Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel, founded in 1765 (ten years before Austen’s birth), is now the Museum of Bath Architecture. But you can still see how the chapel was set up.

Caption: The Countess of Huntingdon built houses for herself in places like Bath, with large attached “private” chapels, open to the public. © Brenda S. Cox 2022

The Countess became a Methodist in the 1700s, when Methodist revivals were sweeping England. At that time, Methodists were trying to bring new life into the Church of England. They separated from it by the end of the 1700s. Most of their followers were from the lower and middle classes, but the Countess of Huntingdon, of course, was from the nobility. She did not preach, but was a powerful church leader, always looking for new ways to spread the gospel message.

The Countess hosted “spiritual routs,” parties where Methodist ministers preached, in her London home to bring the gospel message to her peers. She held separate meetings for poorer people. However, that was not enough for her.

Methodist ministers, although ordained in the Church of England, were having difficulty finding places to preach. Their “enthusiastic,” or emotional, style of preaching, and their message of salvation by faith alone, were not popular among other clergy. So the Countess came up with an ingenious solution. As a noblewoman, she could have a private chapel attached to her home (as the Rushworths have in Mansfield Park). She could also hire private chaplains, and get them ordained if necessary. So she built homes for herself all over England, with large chapels attached to them. (She was not as wealthy as you might think; she had to sell her jewels to build the first chapel, and she raised money for the others.) She chose chaplains from among the Methodist preachers, including the famous preacher George Whitefield. Then she invited those chaplains and other Methodists ministers to preach in her chapels around the country.

Caption: Methodist preachers, including George Whitefield, took turns preaching at this pulpit in the Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel in Bath. © Brenda S. Cox 2022

The Countess also started her own seminary to train clergymen, after Oxford University refused to ordain several “methodistical” students. 

However, when she built a chapel in London at Spa Fields, the local clergyman sued her and won. At that point she had to separate from the Church of England. But her services were still essentially Anglican services. The Countess of Huntingdon “Connexion” is still operating, listing 22 chapels in England and more than 30 chapels in Sierra Leone.

The Countess was sometimes as imperious as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and her work was often controversial. But she was a church leader, with a heart for God, who influenced many people.

Hannah More

Hannah More was another woman of Austen’s time who influenced many toward deeper religious faith and moral behavior. She was from a very different strata of society, the daughter of a middle-class schoolmaster. However, with her wit and intelligence, she made friends with influential people, especially Samuel Johnson (author of the first major English dictionary), David Garrick (famous actor), and William Wilberforce (leader of the abolition movement). She became part of the “Clapham Sect,” a group of Christians who led the fight against slavery and the slave trade. 

More wrote many books, which were far more popular than Austen’s at the time. They don’t appeal to us much today, though. One of Austen’s reviewers called More’s only novel, Coelebs in Search of a Wife, a “dramatic sermon”; he praised Austen for her less obtrusive religious approach. (This novel is mentioned in Austen’s letters of Jan. 24 and Jan. 30, 1809; Cassandra recommended it to Jane.) Many of More’s other books confronted the immoral behavior of the upper classes. However, the upper and middle classes still loved her books. In a letter, Austen mentions some of her friends reading More’s latest production (May 31, 1811).

Hannah More and her sister also started and supported Sunday schools throughout the impoverished region of Cheddar, where they lived. These schools gave a basic education to poor people, both children and adults, teaching them reading and other skills that enabled them to improve their lives. More also wrote popular tracts which were sold cheaply to the working classes to give them what was considered good reading material.

More’s influence as a Christian leader (though she was not in the clergy) helped to improve the moral values and behavior of the whole country of England.

Hannah More published dozens of books, but only one novel: Coelebs in Search of a Wife: Comprising Observations on Domestic Habits and Manners, Religion and Morals. Because of its title, Austen asked, “Is it written only to Classical Scholars?” But it was wildly popular, in the UK and the US. First published in 1808, it was already in its 11th edition in 1809.

Other Denominations

The Methodist leader, John Wesley, allowed women to preach if they felt they had an “extraordinary call” from God. He told one of them, “Sister, do all the good you can.” Later on, when women preachers were visiting a congregation, Methodists often listed them by their husbands’ names, with an asterisk to show that the wife would be preaching!

The Quakers were the most egalitarian religious group of the time. They did not ordain ministers, but officially “recorded” those with a recognized gift of spoken ministry. Some of these were women. Elizabeth Fry, who led the fight for prison reform in England, was a Quaker minister.

You can read much more of these women’s stories, and much more, in Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England, now available from Amazon and Jane Austen Books.

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“Finally! Fashionable Goodness is the Jane Austen reference book that’s been missing from the bookshelves of every Austen fan and scholar.”
~ Rachel Dodge, bestselling author of Praying with Jane

“You will look at Mr. Collins, the Crawfords, the Dashwoods, the Tilneys, the Wickhams, and Willoughbys--and especially Fanny Price!--with new and surprising insights. Bravo to Brenda Cox for giving us this very accessible, illuminating take on the ‘fashionable goodness’ of Austen’s era!”
~ Deborah Barnum, Jane Austen in Vermont

“Brenda Cox’s Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England is an indispensable guide to all things religious in Jane Austen’s world.”
~ Roger E. Moore, Vanderbilt University, author of Jane Austen and the Reformation

“This scholarly, detailed work is a triumph. Easily read, helpful and accurate, it provides a fascinating panorama of 18th century Anglicanism and the various challenges the Church and wider society faced. Cox’s many insights will enrich readers’ understanding and appreciation of Jane Austen’s novels and her life as a devout Christian.”
~ The Revd. Canon Michael Kenning, vice-chairman of the Jane Austen Society (U. K.) and former rector of Steventon

About the Author

Brenda S. Cox has loved Jane Austen since she came across a copy of Emma as a young adult; she went out and bought a whole set of the novels as soon as she finished it! She has spent years researching the church in Austen’s England, visiting English churches and reading hundreds of books and articles, including many written by Austen’s contemporaries. She speaks at Jane Austen Society of North America meetings (incuding three AGMs) and writes for Persuasions On-Line (JASNA journal) and the websites Jane Austen’s World and Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen.

Blog Tour

Oct. 20 Jane Austen’s World, Vic Sanborn, Interview
Oct. 21  My Jane Austen Book Club, Maria Grazia, Giveaway and Guest Post, “Sydney Smith, Anglican Clergyman and Proponent of Catholic Rights, Potential Model for Henry Tilney”
Oct. 22 Clutching My Pearls, Lona Manning, Book Review
Oct. 23 Jane Austen Daily on Facebook, Austen and Her Nephews Worship (1808)
Oct. 25 Jane Austen in Vermont, Deborah Barnum, Giveaway, Excerpt from Chapter 1, and Book Review
Oct. 27 Australasian Christian Writers, Donna Fletcher Crow, Guest Post, “Seven Things Historical Fiction Writers Should Know about the Church of England”
Oct. 30 Regency History, Andrew Knowles, Book Review and Video Interview
Nov. 1  So Little Time, So Much to Read!, Candy Morton, Guest Post, “Women as Religious Leaders in Austen’s England” ~ You're here!
Nov. 2 Austen Variations, Shannon Winslow, Interview, Excerpt from Chapter 7, “The Clergyman’s Wife”
Nov. 3 Laura’s Reviews, Laura Gerold, Book Review
Nov. 4 Jane Austen’s World and Kindred Spirit, Saved by Grace, Rachel Dodge, Book Review and Giveaway
Nov. 7 The Authorized Version, Donna Fletcher Crow, Book Review
Nov. 8 Julie Klassen, Book Review and Guest Post, “Jane Austen at Church”
Jan. 10 The Calico Critic, Laura Hartness, Book Review

Thank you Brenda! That was fascinating. Your book looks like a excellent reference book. Congratulations on its release!

So, friends, what are your thoughts? Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below.   

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