All Things Austen: Mrs. Elton in America

8 Feb

I love Jane Austen — all things Jane — her books, the movies, the knock-off sequels, and modern day adaptations.    While I draw the line at zombies, I don’t mind a little vampire and think the Bollywood version of P&P is a hoot!  (If you haven’t seen Bride and Prejudice, you need to run right out and rent it!)  So with so much Austen in the marketplace and in my home, I thought it would be fun to highlight some of the better examples of this phenomenon.

For my first All Things Austen post, I have chosen one of the best sequels written (IMHO) — Mrs. Elton in America. While I found little to recommend Mrs. E. within the pages of Emma, dear Augusta redeems herself in her adventures in the American wild west.  She faces adversity and Indian raids with aplomb.  Unfortunately Mr. Elton is still a weenie, but this is his wife’s book after all.  And don’t you just love the cover.  I can just see Mrs. Elton commandeering the horses in the corral.  The three stories in the collection are great. Check them out today.

Diana Birchall writes:

In Defense of Mrs. Elton had an interesting evolution. It began as an internet serial told on the Janeites online literary list. The group was discussing this obnoxious character from Jane Austen’s Emma, and I undertook to defend her. My defense took the form of a serial story, told in eleven parts over the period of about a month, and the response from the geographically far-flung, but intellectually close-knit Janeites community was startling. I received responses, actual fan letters, while I was still writing, and had the amusement of seeing more scholarly inclined readers analyzing what I was writing while I was still writing it. One person wrote that watching “Mrs. Elton” unfold electronically must be like the way it was when people in America met ships from England at the dock and shouted, “Did Little Nell die?” Yet the early serial writers never knew the instant response that is now possible on line, and which was so thrilling for me. The story’s popularity led to its publication and distribution by The Jane Austen Society in America in Canada, Australia and England, in an edition wittily illustrated by Juliet McMaster. A play based on The Courtship of Mrs. Elton has been performed by Jane Austen groups. All three “Mrs. Elton” stories are collected in the volume, Mrs. Elton in America.

Diana Birchall grew up in New York City, and was educated at Hunter College Elementary School, the High School of Music and Art, and C.C.N.Y, where she studied history and English literature. She has worked in the film industry for many years and is the “book person” story analyst at Warner Bros. Studios, reading novels to see if they would make movies. A lifelong student of Jane Austen, whom she calls her writing teacher, Diana is the author of Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, a charming and best-selling sequel to Jane Aust en’s Pride and Prejudice. Originally published by Egerton House Press in England, it is now available in a new reprint edition from Sourcebooks. Diana’s comedy pastiche In Defense of Mrs. Elton, based on characters from Jane Austen’sEmma, was published by the Jane Austen Society in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. It forms part of the “compleat” Mrs. Elton Trilogy, which is collected in the volume Mrs. Elton in America, published by Sourcebooks.

Diana has also written a scholarly biography of her grandmother, Onoto Watanna, the first Asian American novelist (University of Illinois Press, 2001), which was nominated for an MLA Independent Scholar Award and favorably reviewed in Library Journal, ANQ, Choice, Toronto Globe and Mail, Montreal Gazette, and Macleans Magazine. 

Her story, “Jane Austen’s Cat,” is featured in a forthcoming anthology of Austen-inspired stories by top “Austenesque” authors, to be published by Random House in Spring, 2011.

She has lectured about her books across the country and in Canada and England, has been the subject of a Master’s Tea at Yale University, has addressed the Writers in Oxford Group at Oxford University, and has been keynote speaker at a Romantic Novelists Association conference and a Western History conference at the University of Calgary. Other lectures have been at Columbia University, N.Y.U., the Simone de Beauvoir Institute for Women’s Studies in Montreal, the Association for Asian American Studies, Ethnic Studies Association, Western Literature Association, Vancouver Asian American Festival, American Literature Association, the Silver Lake Film Festival, Beyond Baroque, and many others. Her play, The Courtship of Mrs. Elton, has had readings/​performances in a dozen cities, notably at the JASNA Vancouver AGM and at JASNA-New York, with the actress Kathleen Chalfant as the Narrator. Diana lives in Santa Monica, California with her husband and son.

2 Responses to “All Things Austen: Mrs. Elton in America”

  1. howard February 11, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    The Post Is:

    This week I reviewed a work of suspense fiction that is such a wide departure from the thriller genre that I feel everyone – fans and foes of the genre alike – really should investigate.

    Hop on over to my blog and see for yourself –

    Howard A. Sherman, Implementor
    Get Inside a Story


  1. Book Blogger Hop « BY THE BOOK - February 11, 2011

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