Category Archives: Persuasion

Top 100 Books proves that Jane Austen is the Teacher’s Pet

CLASS lets get reading…

TES (Think, Educate, Share) a website dedicated to bringing the latest teaching news and strategies to educators and the public asked 500 primary and secondary teachers what their top 10 books were. They crunched the numbers and came up with the following list of 100 top books.

It is an interesting list and it ranges nicely from early-ish chapter books — the kind that got us all hooked on reading in the first place, like Dahl and Lewis — to more mature novels like Atonement.

I was glad to see that my girl Jane made the grade (#1, 32, 52, 58). And you’ll recognize lots of other Thought of the Day authors on here too (I put them in italics — if you  are interested in reading the bioBlogs go to the search box to the right and type in their name.)

1. Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait b...

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait by her sister Cassandra, 1810 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee

3. Harry Potter (series) J.K. Rowling

4. Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte

5. Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte

6. Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell

7. The Lord of the Rings (series) J.R.R. Tolkien

[Image courtesy Biography online

[Image courtesy Biography online

8. The Book Thief Markus Zusak9. The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien10. The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald11. The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini12. The Hunger Games (series) Suzanne Collins13. The Time Traveller’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger

14. The Chronicles of Narnia (series) C.S. Lewis

15. Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck

16. Birdsong Sebastian Faulks

17. His Dark Materials (series) Philip Pullman

18. The Gruffalo Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

19. The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger

20. Life of Pi Yann Martel

21. Tess of the d’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy

22. Rebecca Daphne du Maurier

23. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Mark Haddon

24. Lord of the Flies William Golding

25. Matilda Roald Dahl

My Roald Dahl collage featuring some of his most popular characters (as drawn by the amazing Quentin Blake).  Surrounding Mr. Dahl and his pups are: at the top left are: The BFG, Sophie, Dahl with his pups, The Enormous Crocodile, Mr. Fox, James, the Grand High Witch, Willy Wonka, and Matilda.

My Roald Dahl collage featuring some of his most popular characters (as drawn by the amazing Quentin Blake).


26. Catch-22 Joseph Heller

27. Millennium (series) Stieg Larsson

28. Animal Farm George Orwell

29. The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood

30. Persuasion Jane Austen

31. One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez

32. Kensuke’s Kingdom Michael Morpurgo

33. Goodnight Mister Tom Michelle Magorian

34. The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck

35. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl

36. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas John Boyne

37. Little Women Louisa May Alcott

English: Bust of Louisa May Alcott

English: Bust of Louisa May Alcott (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

38. One Day David Nicholls

39. We Need to Talk About Kevin Lionel Shriver

40. The Twits Roald Dahl

41. Wolf Hall Hilary Mantel

42. A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hosseini

43. The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame

44. Frankenstein Mary Shelley

45. Great Expectations Charles Dickens

46. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin Louis de Bernieres

47. George’s Marvellous Medicine Roald Dahl

48. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams

douglas adams inspired "Hitch hikers guid...

douglas adams inspired “Hitch hikers guide to the galaxy” H2G2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

49. Room Emma Donoghue

50. Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy

51. Atonement Ian McEwan

52. Emma Jane Austen

53. Middlemarch George Eliot

54. The Shadow of the Wind Carlos Ruiz Zafon

55. The Color Purple Alice Walker

56. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle

57. Brave New World Aldous Huxley

58. Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen

59. The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath

60. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll

61. Charlotte’s Web E.B. White

62. Dracula Bram Stoker

63. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

64. A Prayer for Owen Meany John Irving

65. The Secret History Donna Tartt

66. The Little Prince Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Scanned drawing.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Scanned drawing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

67. Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky

68. The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver

69. Jude the Obscure Thomas Hardy

70. Skellig David Almond

71. The Woman in White Wilkie Collins

72. Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell

73. Game of Thrones (series) George R.R. Martin

74. David Copperfield Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens, a former resident of Lant Street.

Charles Dickens, a former resident of Lant Street. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

75. Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro

76. Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak

77. Twilight (series) Stephenie Meyer

78. Beloved Toni Morrison

79. The Help Kathryn Stockett

80. Sherlock Holmes (series) Arthur Conan Doyle

81. Half of a Yellow Sun Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

82. Moneyball Michael Lewis

83. My Family and Other Animals Gerald Durrell

84. Memoirs of a Geisha Arthur Golden

85. On the Road Jack Kerouac

86. Cloud Atlas David Mitchell

87. Wild Swans Jung Chang

88. Anne of Green Gables L.M. Montgomery

89. Les Miserables Victor Hugo

90. Room on the Broom Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

91. Private Peaceful Michael Morpurgo

92. Noughts and Crosses Malorie Blackman

93. Cider with Rosie Laurie Lee

94. Danny the Champion of the World Roald Dahl

95. Down and Out in Paris and London George Orwell

English: George Orwell in Hampstead On the cor...

English: George Orwell in Hampstead On the corner of Pond Street and South End Road, opposite the Royal Free Hospital. The bookshop has long gone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

96. The Magic Faraway Tree Enid Blyton

97. The Witches Roald Dahl

98. The God of Small Things Arundhati Roy

99. Holes Louis Sachar

100. The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde.

English: Oscar Wilde, three-quarter length por...

English: Oscar Wilde, three-quarter length portrait, facing front, seated, leaning forward, left elbow resting on knee, hand to chin, holding walking stick in right hand, wearing coat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So… what do you think? Did the teachers get an A+ for their list?  Are there any other books that you treasure that didn’t make the top 100?

If you were asked to list your top 10 books what would you include?

Richard Thompson 1.16.13 Though of the Day

“To stand up on a stage alone with an acoustic guitar requires bravery bordering on heroism. Bordering on insanity.”–Richard Thompson

[Image courtesy Helpless Dancer]

[Image courtesy Helpless Dancer]

Richard John Thompson was born on this day in Notting Hill, London, England in 1949. He is 64 years old.
Thompson was born into a musical family. His father was an amateur guitarist and other family members played music professionally. His first band, which he started in school, was called Emil and the Detectives. Thompson embraced rock and roll, jazz and traditional Scottish music influences as he kerned his skills.
At 18 he joined Fairport Convention, a folk, electric folk, folk rock band.
In his four years with the group, they released a half a dozen albums that married electric rock with acoustic folk, changing the musical landscape in Britain… []
His strong guitar playing helped the band gain traction both in the UK and in the States. Thompson also wrote most of Convention’s songs like “Meet on the Ledge” .
Thompson left Fairport Convention in 1971 and struck out on his own. His first solo album, Henry the Human Fly failed to impress critics and the record buying public, but it did yield an important professional and personal connection — Thompson worked with Linda Peters on the project. Peters and Thompson fell in love and married in October of 1972.
Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson (Photo credit: artolog)

Richard and Linda Thompson put out a half-dozen albums including I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, Hokey Pokey and Pour Down Like Silver.
The duo hit their professional stride with the well received album Shoot Out the Lights. Unfortunately their personal life together had begun to unravel. After touring to support the album the couple divorced in 1982.
Here’s Wall of Death from Shoot Out the Lights
From 1983 on Thompson was a solo act — kind of — he found a myriad of other performers who mixed well with his vocal, guitar and folk/rock style.
No artist to emerge in the second half of the ’60s has gone on to have a more productive and vital career than Richard Thompson. The England-born, L.A.-based artist has amassed an astounding body of work comprising more than 40 albums, containing artfully shaped material that seamlessly and expressively integrates traditional and contemporary modes. And Thompson is among the most distinctive of guitar virtuosos, capable of breathtaking drama and sublime delicacy, prompting Rolling Stone to hail him as “a perennial dark-horse contender for the title of greatest living rock guitarist.” [ — Richard Thompson Biography]
Richard Thompson at Cambridge Folk Festival

Richard Thompson at Cambridge Folk Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s 1952 Vincent Black Lightning a beautiful exhibition of his storytelling and musical skills.
The Thompson’s son Teddy began singing professionally with his father in the 1990’s. The two performed a duet, Persausion, for Action Packed, Richard Thompson’s 1999 best-of record.
That same year Thompson was asked for a list of the most popular music of the previous millennium for Playboy Magazine.  Thompson knew they were only looking for a pop look at the past 20 years or so, but he took the task to heart and researched songs stretching back 1068.  He started with Sumer is Icumen In and ended with his own take on Oops! I Did It Again. Thompson decided to record the songs (he did 23 in all).
To get a comprehensive taste of Thompson music you can listen to this NPR concert:


Jane Austen 12.16.12 Thought of the Day

“If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”
Jane Austen

Jane Austen

Jane Austen was born in the Steventon Rectory, Hampshire, England in 1775. Today is the 237th anniversary of her birth.

The second youngest of eight children, Jane was also the younger of two girls in the Austen family. As was the custom for a family of the Austen’s class and means, baby Jane was sent to live with a wet-nurse, Elizabeth Little, until she was 18-months old. She was very close to her sister Cassandra and the two girls, along with their cousin Jane Cooper, were sent to Mrs. Cawley’s school in Oxford when Jane was 7. The school moved to Southampton when measles broke out in Oxford. But Southampton proved no safer. Typhus broke out there and all three girls caught the disease. The girls came back to Steventon where they were home schooled for a year before going to school at Mrs. La Tournelles (aka Sarah Hacket) where the girls received instruction in spelling, needlework and French. But by 1786 she was back home, this time for good.

Jane never had any formal education again…From their experience of school we can gather that Jane and Cassandra had perhaps learned some social skills, had had the opportunity to read, take part in plays, learn some French and learn the piano. These were things that were all available at home anyway. [Janeaustensworld]

And the Austen home was an excellent place at which to be home schooled. Her father took in tutors and taught his own sons. He had an impressive library (which Jane had free access to) The older boys included her in their theatricals  and charades and “even as a little girl Jane was encouraged to write” []


Austen’s immediate family tree. [Image courtesy:]

Jane had six older brothers: James, George, Edward, Henry, Francis and Charles.

By 14 she was writing to entertain her friends and family, penning such comedies as Love and Freindship (sic) and the parody   A History of England by a partial, prejudiced and ignorant Historian.  She collected 29 of her stories into three bound books, now known as Juvenilia.

In 1793 she began to write longer works in the epistolary style. Lady Susan was one such novel in letters.  She wrote Elinor and Marianne in the same style before she rewrote the work as a third person narrative and changed the title to Sense and Sensibility.

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait b...

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait by her sister Cassandra, 1810 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1801 Rev. Austen moved (with Mrs. Austen, Cassandra and Jane) to Bath. Jane’s productivity took a nose-dive. She was either too busy to write — with all the shopping and socializing in Bath — or too depressed to write. The Austens lived in Sydney Place, no.4…

which offered both an easy walk into town and handy access to Sydney Gardens, a great outdoor attraction at that time with regular gala nights featuring music and fireworks.[Seeking Jane Austen]

…until Mr. Austen died  in 1804. By 1806 the ladies had left Bath for good, and moved Chawton in Southampton. As soon as they had settled in their new home she renewed her writing in earnest .

English: Back View of Jane Austen, Watercolor

English: Back View of Jane Austen, Watercolor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1811, Thomas Egerton, a military Library publishing house printed 750 copies Sense and Sensibility, largely on Austen’s dime. The book sold out of its first edition by 1813. And Austen eventually made 140 pounds on it.  It  appeared under the pseudonym “A Lady,” and Austen carefully guarded her anonymity .

Encouraged by this success, Jane Austen turned to revising First Impressions, a.k.a. Pride and Prejudice. She sold it in November 1812, and her “own darling child” (as she called it in a letter) was published in late January 1813. []

In May of 1814 her third novel, Mansfield Park was published. It sold out in six months.


Despite carefully guarding her name, word had begun to leak out. People knew who  the  “Lady” was…important people…like the Prince Regent. While she was writing Emma she was summoned to the palace and invited to dedicate her next novel to the Prince. Austen was less than thrilled to be given the honor, but couldn’t exactly refuse, so in wonderful Austen wit she flattered him as only she could…


In 1815 she began working on Persuasion. By then her health had begun to deteriorate. She completed the first draft by 1816 and began The Brothers which later became  Sanditon. Her condition rapidly worsened. In May her bother Henry took Jane to Winchester for treatment, but on July 18, 1817 at the age of 41 Jane Austen passed away. She was buried at Winchester Cathedral.

English: Jane Austen's memorial gravestone in ...

English: Jane Austen’s memorial gravestone in the nave of Winchester Cathedral (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Henry, with Cassandra’s help, got Persuasion and Northanger Abbey published in December of 1817. For the first time the author was listed as “Jane Austen.”

Happy Birthday Jane!!!

Ooops forgot to link to my own blog on the Pride and Prejudice Essay Contest!

  • JASNA (Jane Austen Society of North America)

Pride and Prejudice Essay Contests

Today’s blog features two essay contests: the official JASNA Student Essay Contest,
and the ritaLOVEStoWRITE Essay Contest for the rest of us.



JASNA essay contest






Attention: Students at the high school, college and post-graduate levels:



In celebration of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, JASNA (The Jane Austen Society of North America) is looking for short essays on the following topic:



“Though Pride and Prejudice may be regarded as timeless, nevertheless within the novel Austen plots her time very carefully. Timing is everything for important relationships and events. And the characters are deeply connected to the time in which they live, which is both like and unlike our times. What do we discover about time, times, or timeliness from reading Pride and Prejudice?”


Title page from the first edition of the first...

Title page from the first edition of the first volume of Pride and Prejudice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Judges will be awarding scholarships ranging from $250 to $1000, plus a years membership to JASNA, plus tickets and lodging to the 2013 JASNA Annual General Meeting in Minneapolis. The winning essays will also appear on the JASNA website.



Deadline is May 15, 2013. 



Click HERE to go to the JASNA Essay Contest Page for more details.



[Please note that the contest is open to students outside the United States too, but the essay must be written in English.]






English: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Austen, Jane. Pr...

English: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. London: George Allen, 1894, page 5. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ritaLOVEStoWRITE  Contest for the rest of us:



So what about the rest of us Pride and Prejudice lovers? Can’t WE write an essay*? Well, sure you can. I’m calling for entries right here and right now.



We too will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of P&P! But guess what? Any one can participate!  Couple of RULES here:



  1. TRY and keep it under 1200 words please.
  2. The “essay” should be Pride and Prejudice centric.
  3. Please submit your essay in English.
  4. Have fun with it!
  5. Oh, and no pornography == THIS is Austen after all!


English: Français : Une gravure de 1833 illust...

English: Français : Une gravure de 1833 illustrant une scène du chapitre 59 du roman Orgueil et Préjugés de Jane Austen. À gauche M. Bennet, à droite Elizabeth. Avec File:Pickering – Greatbatch – Jane Austen – Pride_and_Prejudice – This is not to be borne, Miss Bennet.jpg, il s’agit des toutes premières illustrations de l’œuvre. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Prizes include… All entries will be published in an upcoming special edition of the award-winning ritaLOVEStoWRITE blog. All entries will receive a participation banner for your blog. The top three entries will receive a special “Finalist” banner for their Blog Page, and the top entry will win a Darcy mug! (Please make sure to include an email contact — which I will remove before posting so the whole world doesn’t see it.)



Deadline: 28 January 2013 (That’s the anniversary date of the novel’s publication)



*I seriously encourage you to think outside the box. For you illustrators out there… how about some character studies? Are you a play wright? Why not treat us to a re-imagined scene or two?



AND … Although I’m not going to snark on your intellectual property I strongly suggest you throw a copyright on all your original material in case any one else takes a liking to it.


English: This diagram, or map, illustrates the...

English: This diagram, or map, illustrates the relationships between each of the main characters in the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Secondary Character Saturday — Mary Musgrove (Persuasion)

[Most of you know that I’m a Jane Austen fan. And you are probably surprised that it has taken me three whole weeks of Second Character Saturdays to get to an Austen character. Frankly, so am I!  I suppose I was warming up a bit with Horatio and Ron. But today, dear reader, I present you with my absolute favorite Austen creation… a confection of comedy, social commentary and self absorption (and even pathos)… Mary Musgrove from Persuasion.

If you’ve never read Jane Austen’s wonderful Persuasion you can go HERE to read it online via Project Guttenberg; or get it from Amazon Kindle HERE.  Or if you prefer to listen to Austen’s lovely prose HERE is a link to the Librabox recording. All three of these sources are free. You can also go to a book store or library and get something I like to call a B-O-O-K that you hold in your hand and turn the paper pages with your fingers.]


Name: Mary Musgrove, Nee: Elliot

From: Persuasion

By: Jane Austen

Written In: 1816

Illustration from an early edition of Persuasion.

Illustration from an early edition of Persuasion.

Why: Through Mary Austen holds a mirror up to the Elliot’s (and through them the upper class in general)  over inflated sense of self-importance. Society is changing in the novel, there are the established gentry and the up and coming gentry, and each group admires different things. The Elliots are clearly old money and Mary feels, as a Baronet’s daughter, she deserves the best of everything. Unfortunately for her the Musgroves don’t give her the respect she thinks her rank deserves.

The more she demands attention, the more the Musgroves roll their eyes and ignore her.  The more she pushes herself to (her rightful place at) the front of the line, the more ridiculous she looks (and the more resented she is). By the time we meet her in the novel the only way she can get attention is when she is sick.

Poor Mary:

…is the least attractive daughter in a family where personal vanity is rated a virtue. While Elizabeth is a beauty whose looks have lasted into her late twenties, and Anne was “an extremely pretty girl”, though her bloom faded early, Mary “was inferior to both sisters, and had, even in her bloom, only reached the dignity of being ‘a fine girl’.”  [Literary Characters: Mary Musgrove in Persuasion]

Since Elizabeth never married, Mary would never have been able to enter a wider society. At about 19, she married a man who preferred her sister, and into a family where the members were blindly partial to one another and would always view her as an outsider and a second choice.” [Jane Austen-Her Life and Works] 

Not even her little boys listen to her.

Masterpiece Theatre - The Complete Jane Austen: "Persuasion" - Julia Davis as Elizabeth Elliot, Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot, Amanda Hale as Mary Musgrove [Photo credit: Nick Briggs/Masterpiece Theatre]

Masterpiece Theatre – The Complete Jane Austen: “Persuasion” – Julia Davis as Elizabeth Elliot, Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot, Amanda Hale as Mary Musgrove [Photo credit: Nick Briggs/Masterpiece Theatre]

Anne (the heroine of the story) inherited her mother’s soothing ways. It’s no wonder Mary calls on her when ever she feels “ill.”

…she is not a first object to anyone. It is understandable that a young woman brought up with so little affection might think herself ill-used when surrounded by evidence of it in a family where she can never fully share it, and where another would have been clearly preferred. [Ibid]

Here’s how Austen describes Mary:

“While well, and happy, and properly attended to, she had great good humour and excellent spirits, but any indisposition sunk her completely; she had no resources for solitude; and inheriting a good deal of the Elliot self-importance, was very prone to … fancying herself neglected and ill-used.” [from Persuasion, by Jane Austen]

Pros: She loves her boys, her husband and her sister. She’s funny. She brings much-needed comic relief to the novel (at her expense).

Cons: hypochondriac, elitist, selfish

Best Moment: ummmm… well…. I think Mary really does love Anne. And she appreciates her much more than any one else in the family. Although on the surface that may seem to be for purely selfish reasons I think Mary is genuinely happy to see Anne and spend time with her.

The fabulous Sophie Thompson played Mary in the 1995 version of Persusion. (Amanda Root is Anne). [Image courtesy: Collar City Brownstone]

The fabulous Sophie Thompson played Mary in the 1995 version of Persusion. (Amanda Root is Anne). [Image courtesy: Collar City Brownstone]

Worst Moment: When Mary gets hysterical at Lyme. Her sister-in-law, Louisa Musgrove, has just taken a serious spill from the top of a stone wall and lies critically injured, and Mary freaks out — causing some of the others to pay attention to her, and not to the unfortunate Louisa. Fortunately Anne keeps her head, calls for a doctor and gets Louisa to their friend’s the Harvilles’ house. “Captain Wentworth asks the capable Anne to stay and assist. Mary is offended, insisting she should stay.” [Literary Characters: Mary Musgrove in Persuasion] Every one gives in, of course, and Anne removes with Wentworth and Henrietta Musgrove to break the news to Mr. and Mrs. Musgrove back at Uppercross. When Mary finally returns to Uppercross we learn …

how useless Mary is as a ‘nurse’, compared with what Anne would have been. While her sister-in-law lies seriously ill, supposedly nursed by her, Mary goes out enjoying herself. Jane Austen writes, that, during her stay in Lyme, Mary ‘found more to enjoy than to suffer’. [Jane Austen-Her Life and Works] 

Why I love her: In my bucket list of fantasy things I’d like to do in this life… one of them is to play Mary Musgrove on stage. She is such an interesting character, and it would be a challenge to bring out the humanity to this character who can so easily be portrayed as a cartoon. She makes me laugh, but I feel for her too. I also get pretty frustrated with her. That’s a pretty interesting Secondary Character …. hmmm now that I think about it she’s a lot like Ron.


More Jane Austen Blogs from ritaLOVEStoWRITE:

Thought of the Day 8.28.12 Shania Twain

Man! I Feel Like a Woman!

–Shania Twain

Greatest Hits (Shania Twain album)

Greatest Hits (Shania Twain album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eilleen Regina Edwards was born on this day in Windsor, Ontario, Canada in 1965. She is 47 years old.

She is the eldest of five siblings and grew up about 500 miles north of Toronto with her mother Sharon and her adoptive father Jerry Twain.

According to the biography on her official web site she …

“grew up listening to Waylon, Willie, Dolly, Tammy, all of them…But we also listened to the Mamas and the Papas, The Carpenters, The Supremes and Stevie Wonder. The many different styles of music I was exposed to as a child not only influenced my vocal style, but even more so, my writing style.” []

Impressed by the girl’s singing, guitar playing and song writing skills, her mother became her defacto agent and  began to book the 8-year-old Twain at local venues and radio and TV spots. Twain says she would be awaken after midnight and taken to local clubs to sing with house bands — bar stopped selling alcohol at midnight.

The “b” side of Twain’s rural Canadian upbringing was summers spent on reforestation crews with her stepfather where she “learned to wield” a different kind of axe (and “handle a chain saw as well as any man.”)

An automobile accident took the lives of  both Sharon and Jerry Twain, and 21-year-old Eilleen took over raising her little brothers. She got a job at the Deerhurst Resort in Ontario which not only allowed her to pay the bills but also introduced her to musical theatre.

At 24 Twain recorded a demo of original music and changed her first name to Shania (Ojibway Indian for “I’m on my way” in honor of Jerry Twain’s Ojibway’s ancestry.) She signed on with Mercury Records and put out Shania Twain in 1993. The CD included the hits “Dance With The One That Brought You” and “What Made You Say That.”

She joined forces with rock producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange  (both professionally and personally — the two married  in 1993.) Her single Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under came out in 1995 and went to #11 on the  country charts. Woman In Me, her second album made “Twain the best-selling country female artist of all time. “ “Any Man of Mine,” “(If You’re Not In It for Love) I’m Outta Here!” “You Win My Love and “No One Needs to Know” all went to number 1, and the project won Country Album of the Year at the Grammies.

She released Come On Over in 1997 and listeners from pop and rock stations took her invitation seriously. She became a crossover artist with “You’re Still the One”  (which was #1 in Country and #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 pop chart) and “Man! I Feel Like A Woman.” The album sold over 11 million copies.

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In 2002 she continued in a more pop vain with the release of  UP.  In the music video  for the single I’m Gonna Getcha Good she leaves behind her trademark bare midriff and  jeans and opts for a futuristic Tron style leather get up as she takes a motorcycle ride through a dystopian landscape.

In 2011 she did a six part documentary on the OWN network and released her memoirs. To date she has sold over 75 million cds and has earned the moniker “The Queen of Country Pop.”

Literary references in Jane Austen’s Persuasion

The following is a talk I gave at the JASNA:MD winter meeting in Baltimore. (JASNA stands for Jane Austen Society or North America). It is written (and was given) in first person, as Jane. I didn’t feel up to presenting in front of a room full of JA scholars as just little ole me. The numbers at the beginning of some of the paras refer to where the allusions fall in novel. 


The last novel I completed was Persuasion. It is shorter than my earlier works, and, perhaps because of my illness it is a bit less polished. The pace of Persuasion is uneven with some scenes being tight, brisk and full of information, while, I fear, others lumber along  like a country dance and take pages and pages in getting to the point. And I’m ashamed to admit that subplots and characters are unsatisfactorily deployed.  Alas it was left to my  dear brother Henry to publish it, along with Northanger Abbey, after I left this mortal plane in 1817.

Like many of my novels there’s an touch of the Fairy Tale lurking in the plot. Persuasion and Mansfield Park both owe a bit to Cinderella. Anne Elliot is treated as a “nobody” through out the book by her ridiculously vain father, Sir Walter, and her sisters, Elizabeth and  Mary.  There maybe no pumpkin or glass slipper, but, dear reader, rest assured there is a ‘prince’ at the end.


My first literary allusion is to John Debrett’s Baronetage of England. The Baronetage is Sir Walter’s favorite book, indeed it is the only book he ever reads. It is almost always open to page on the Elliot’s of Kellynich Hall.  The book is a genealogical guide to the British Ton, a Regency Who’s Who of the Peerage. Inclusion in the book reinforces Sir Walter’s very high opinion of himself.  And although HE is quite fictional, I am afraid to say there are those of my acquaintance who spend more time turning the leaves of the Baronetage than those of the Good Book.

Here’s an ABBREVIATED listing from the REAL Baronetage:

 Barrington, of Barrington-Hall, Essex. Created Baronet, June 29, 1611.

Ti/TR. Camden, in his Britannia, fays, * Barrington-Hall « the feat of that eminent family of the Barringtons, who, in the time of King Stephen, were greatly enriched with the estate of the Lords Montfitchct;  a match with the daughter and co- heir of Henry Pole, Lord Montacute…

By including the book’s fictionalized entry for the Elliot’s I cleverly introduce several of the novels main characters.

1.8 Another reference list appears in Chapter 8. We are at Uppercross. Captain Wentworth is having dinner with the Musgrove’s and Anne. The eldest Musgrove sisters, Louisa and Henrietta pull out the Navy List to find out which ships Captain Wentworth had commanded. It is a calculated move of flirtation on their part. He is looking for a wife, and any pretty girl who shows a passing interest in the Navy will be sure to catch his eye.

The Royal Fleet

Here’s an example of a real listing from the Navy List:

  • Wallib, Sir P. W. P., Mid. of “Cleopatra” when captured by the French frigate ” Villede Milan,” after a long action, 1805; Lieutenant of “Curieux,” and cut out a vessel in St. Ann’s Bay, Guadeloupe ; subsequently wrecked, in “Curieux” on the enemy’s coast…

So now you have it,  two list, the Baronetage and the Navy List. The  Linked-in and Facebook of the day if you please. By having a character read one verses the other I’m giving you a hint as to where their values lie. The older establishment members of society clung to the Baronetage, while the up and coming youngsters liked to read the Navy List.


While at Uppercross my characters take a long November walk. Captain Wentworth is deep in conversation with the pretty Miss Musgroves, and pays no attention to Anne. Her goal, as usual, is not to be in any body’s way, and any pleasure she is to get from the walk “must arise from the exercise” and the beautiful autumn day which she describes as “the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges.”  You’ll forgive my gentle echos of the romantic poetry of Byron, Wordsworth and Scott, and the sonnets of Shakespeare. Anne is 27, and I wrote it when I was nearly 40, we are both in the Autumn of our lives — caution and reserve in love as young women has lead us to loneliness and regret as we’ve grown older — and it is particularly tender that we find solace from the beauty in a fall day, is it not?


The Literary Allusions really start sailing when the group travels to Lyme to visit Captain Wentworth’s  friends  Captain Harville and Captain Benwick. Benwick was to marry Harville’s sister Fanny but the young woman died while he was at sea. Benwick, heartbroken takes solace only in long walks along the cobb and in reading depressing poetry.  Anne, no stranger to self punishment, joins him in conversation about literature as they discuss Sir Walter Scott’s “The Lady of the Lake” and  his “Marmion: A Tale of Flooden Field”

The Lady of the Lake is a narrative poem. Although it enjoys the same name of an Arthurian legioned it doesn’t share the same material as the Once and Future King.

“Marmion” tells how Lord Marmion lusts for the innocent Clara. Marmion  conspires with Constance a fallen nun, to implicate Clara’s fiancé, Sir Ralph De Wilton, in treason. De Wilton looses a duel goes into exile.  Clara takes refuge in a convent to escape Marmion’s advances. Constance is abandoned by Marmion and she ends up being walled – up – alive in the convent for breaking her vows. But she redeems herself by giving witness to De Wilton’s innocence. He returns and seeks his revenge at the Battle of Flooden Field.  Marmion dies in the combat, while De Wilton displays heroism … regains his honor … retrieves his lands … and marries Clara!  

Both poems are long and exciting, and were well known in in my circle, but “Marmion” has the added benefit of being about two lovers unjustly torn apart for years. Sound familiar?

So, Anne hopes to be of some use to her new friend by encouraging a “larger allowance of prose in his daily study.” She suggest works of the best moralists, … “calculated to rouse and fortify the mind.” … Then wonders ironically at her being able to preach patience and resignation when, after so many years of both, she is currently feeling very little of either.

1.12 The next day as their party is taking their last walk along the Cobb, Captain Benwick draws near Anne. When he says “Lord Byron’s ‘dark blue seas’ could not fail of being brought forward by their present view.”  I’m alluding of course to Byron’s poem “Chile Harold’s Pilgrimage” …

He that has sailed upon the dark blue sea,
Has viewed at times, I ween, a full fair sight;
When the fresh breeze is fair as breeze may be,
The white sails set, the gallant frigate tight,
Masts, spires, and strand retiring to the right,
The glorious main expanding o’er the bow,
The convoy spread like wild swans in their flight,
The dullest sailer wearing bravely now,
So gaily curl the waves before each dashing prow.

… Anne and Benwick give their full attention to both poem and scenery until it is drawn away when Louisa is injured.

Mathew Prior

Anne attends to the invalid as others loose their heads. Anne, ever anxious to be of use, is ready to stay and nurse Louisa, who is now clearly Captain Wentworth’s favorite. The passage: “Without emulating the feelings of an Emma towards her Henry, she would have attended on Louisa with a zeal above the common claims of regard, for his sake…”  refers to Matthew Prior’s  “Henry and Emma”  a ballad based on the much earlier “The Nut-Brown Maid.”

As Beauty’s Potent Queen, with ev’ry Grace
That once was Emma’s, has adorn’d Thy Face;
And as Her Son has to My Bosom dealt
That constant Flame, which faithful Henry felt:


In the second volume of the novel I move the action, alas, to Bath. Here my critical eyes are wide open and looking everywhere as I skewer society’s witless and vain. With the Elliots I find easy fodder. In Chapter Three Mr. Elliot, Anne’s Cousin, and heir to Kellynich Hall, pays a late night visit to the family at Camden-place. I neatly set the time of the visit with the phrase “The elegant little clock on the mantle-piece had stuck ‘eleven with its silver sounds” an allusion to Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock”.

Thrice rung the Bell, the Slipper knock’d the Ground,
And the press’d Watch return’d a silver Sound.

“The Rape of the Lock” is a mock-epic poem. Forgive me if I join Mr. Pope in lampooning Society. In Bath one must fine one’s sources of amusement where one can.


It comes to pass that Captain Wentworth also winds up in Bath. When Anne, her family and Frederick all show up at the same concert Anne attempts to get a seat that will let her both keep an eye on the Captain and allow herself to be seen by him. “She could not do so, without comparing herself with Miss Larolles, the inimitable Miss Larolles …” is a reference to  a character from Fanny Burney’s 1782 novel “Cecilia.”  There is some synergy between the books as both Anne and Cecilia have a parent obsessed with social rank center, and both their families live beyond their means. Miss Larolles, a member of the Ton, takes measures to explain the best place sit at the opera if one is to enjoy oneself.

“Do you know” says Miss Larolles “Mr Meadows has not spoke one word to me all the evening, though I am sure he saw me, for I sat at the outside on purpose to speak to a person or two that I knew would be strolling about; for if one sits on the inside there’s no speaking to a creature; you know so I never do it at the opera… It’s the shockingest thing you can conceive, to be made sit in the middle of these forms one might as well be at home for nobody can speak to one.” 

I just adored “Cecilia.” I mention it in both Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, and even borrowed the title of Pride and Prejudice from a passage near the end of the novel.


The final Literary Allusion in Persuasion is to The Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Anne’s friend, Mrs. Smith, has informed her of Mr. Elliot’s true nature, but she must wait before she reveals it. “Her faith was plighted, and Mr. Elliot’s character, like the Sultaness Scheherazade’s head, must live another day.” Scheherazade, of course, kept her head by telling a new story to the Sultan every night.  Thus both The Thousand and One Arabian Night and Persuasion are stories of deferral, with Anne’s taking seven years to come to fruition.

In the end the Sultan was so entranced with Scheherazade that he did not kill her…

… His mind had become softened, and he was convinced of the great merit and good sense of the Sultana Scheherazade.  He well recollected the courage with which she voluntarily exposed herself to destruction, in becoming his queen.”

He had become very much PERSUADED, indeed.

If in some small measure I have managed to illuminate the great works that have influenced me I will be most pleased. And I hope that the next time you lift the pages of this novel you will discover the hidden gems in my beloved Persuasion.

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