JASNA-West Coast Florida Welcomed Sandy Lerner to Tampa Bay!

by Amy robinson
What is the difference between mince pie as we know it today and mince pie in Jane Austen’s era? Why is it significant that Anne is the “mistress of a very pretty landaulette” by the end of Persuasion? And why does Austen have Sir William Lucas reside in a lodge? Dr. Sandy Lerner discussed these and other intriguing topics during her two stops in Tampa Bay as part of her Second Impressions book tour. On Sunday, November 4, Dr. Lerner spoke at Barnes and Noble in Tampa and Monday, November 5, she addressed a crowd of at least 30 at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Ms. Lerner began her talks by describing her efforts to track down and purchase volumes for the Chawton House Library and Centre for the Study of Early English Women’s Writing, 1600-1830. Lerner explained that only about 1/4 - 1/3 of the books written by so-called “Mothers of the Novel” will be found because of the poor quality of the paper on which they were printed and the poverty of the authoresses, among other causes. Dr. Lerner only half-jokingly encouraged her audience to search their own libraries for such hidden gems.

Lerner’s Second Impressions is the first novel published by Chawton House Press and all proceeds go to the Chawton House Library. One of the unique aspects of this sequel to Pride and Prejudice is how Lerner is able to approach Austen’s own language and style, which accounts for Lerner making use of at least 37 dictionaries when writing her book. Dr. Lerner reminded us that Austen’s writing didn’t have any throw-away words and hence the importance of paying attention to words like mince pie, landaulette, and lodge. Amusingly, Lerner also challenged readers of Second Impressions to spot the book’s two sex scenes, which she says most readers miss. After Lerner’s talks, we were left inspired by her contribution to Austen studies and her championing of early women’s writing.