Saturday, January 7, 2012

Boys & Jane Austen - Among Other Sundries

Boys & Jane Austen
Among Other Sundries

“Oh, have you really read that book, too?” This was the exclamation of a circle of bright-eyed young ladies standing in the narthex of a church. They were looking incredulously, yet with good humor, at the young man - a visitor to the church who had been invited into the circle. He was doing his best to join in their conversation. All it took was one concisely phrased comment to reveal his knowledge of Mr. Collins. The opinion he shared probably would never have passed the lips of a female - even if it were true. “Mr. Collins was pompous, yes, but he wasn’t all that bad.”  (A true story.)

Here is a list of some of the fiction my son, Nigel, read in high school and after. I took a recent photograph of him for this post on a day when he was dressed smartly for church. Notice the book title at the end of the list. It was his choice to read Pride and Prejudice after the British film series and book drew so much of his sisters’ and his sisters’ girlfriends’ attentions. He was curious to understand life from the puzzling female point of view.

Ben Hur  - Lew Wallace
The Prisoner of Zenda – Anthony Hope
Animal Farm - George Orwell
Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini
The Dooms Day Book - Connie Willis
Frankenstein  Mary Shelley
Doctor Jekylle and Mr. Hyde - R. L. Stevenson
The Screwtape Letters - C. S. Lewis
Fareinheit 451 - by Ray Bradbury
David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Enders Game - Orson Scott Card
The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hound of the Baskervilles - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett
Tarzan (some of series) - Edgar Rice Burroughs
John Carter of Mars - a collection - Edgar Rice Burroughs
Time Traders Series by Andre Norton
Star Soldiers by Andre Norton
A Choice of Gods by Clifford D. Simak
City by Clifford D. Simak
A Pocketful of Rye - Agatha Christie
The City and the Stars - Arthur C. Clark
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

When I opened Peter Leithart’s book, Miniatures and Morals – the Christian novels of Jane Austen, I was tickled to find his first chapter to be “Real Men Read Austen.” Mr. Leithart believes that Miss Austen’s novels are highly instructive for men. The value of her novels is not just for the opportunity is seeing love through her perceptive feminine eyes. Her stories uphold a man’s responsibility for “the course the courtship takes.” Toying with the affections of a woman, encouraging her to fall in love without a commitment in view, makes a man into an egotistical scoundrel. These men add to the antagonism in her stories. Miss Austen thankfully provides us with examples of honorable men – protagonists - that our sons can esteem and emulate. 

Reading Miniatures and Morals has been contributing to my Mother Culture. A friend using it with her four daughters, recommended it to me. A close look at several of Jane Austen’s novels would certainly compliment a beautiful girlhood and help a young lady wisely distinguish between a Frank Churchill and a George Knightly.

A maiden may dream of wearing a Regency gown and meeting a Mr. Knightly but Miss Austen’s stories are far too witty to be equated with a shallow or overly sentimental romance novel. What she conveys through her characters is sometimes profound and at other times comical. Peter J. Leithart’s insights on all six novels light a candle to Miss Austen’s Christian ethics. She writes about her world close up, in miniature and “recognizes that the greatest ethical challenges come in the midst of daily life.” This is precisely when Christian morals, manners and discernment are needed – and how we love our neighbor properly – in a variety of settings.

“She taught me to knit, which has been a great amusement.” – Mrs. Smith in Persuasion.

During our road travel in December I spotted “Jane Austen Knits” while browsing a magazine rack at one of our stops. Fond of knitting and fond of Jane Austen its cover caught my eye with the utmost swiftness. Back on the highway I read the interview of Jennie Chancey of the Sense & Sensibility pattern company as a first treat. Another interesting article gives some history of domestic life in Georgian England when “everyone but the very wealthy spun wool yarn and knitted.” All the articles have an intelligent and friendly touch to them.

I can’t imagine what I would wear with the purple “short stay” or on what occasion I would wear it. This vest has been the source this knitter’s daydreaming of late. I remind myself that anything pretty - though out-of-fashion it may be - can be worn at home.  Perhaps it could be worn while gardening, under a protective apron, on a cool spring morning. It is a small enough project to be completed by spring, surely. And purple yarn would match the lilac buds in our back yard in spring . . . Do you ever day-dream while washing dishes, contemplating a project for weeks, a sort of warm-up to attempting it?

The “Lydia Military Spencer” is a jacket with decidedly out-of-fashion puff sleeves. But it is charming – and I like puff sleeves. It is in the majority of challenging patterns.

The projects are pretty. The word “pretty” says much. It means that the projects are a refreshingly feminine upgrade from today’s gender-neutral garments. They range from simple to startlingly complicated. You’ll find lacey shawls, fingerless mitts, capes, drawstring bags and stockings. I’ve knit an Aran sweater for a male member of my family but none near as complicated as the handsome one given. The Celtic cable on my soft-as-a-cloud angora rabbit scarf is the most complicated I’ve yet to attempt - from a different pattern book. A beginner would find inspiration inside “Jane Austen Knits” while she kept most of the 35 projects on hand for a time when her skill was developed. (  

Over the holidays I began filling in the maiden on the chair pad while sitting in the parlor. I like the tweedy wool strips provided for the sheep. My loops are not aligned in neat rows as those shown in the kit. Mine are hooked higgly-piggly. I also tend to fill in the burlap a too snugly. But I’m enjoying this beginner’s project and am pleased with it regardless of how higgly-piggly the loops are turning out to be.

The reproduction friendship sampler is framed. It hangs on a narrow piece of wall in the front parlor - not as crookedly as my photograph. It fits nicely in this narrow corner.

As it is often viewed through the open French doors I might move it upstairs. We’ll see. Domestic decisions are perplexing on those days when a homemaker takes domesticity rather seriously. But there is also something thrilling about the outcome of the details that make homemade touches worth the effort. Do you find this to be true?

Have you received a January seed catalog in the mail yet? To plant seeds in a raised bed of rich soil using your mouse, click the image of Nigel’s Magic Garden. Water them and watch them grow. Then rearrange your flowers and vegetables as you like. The latest flash plug-in is required.

Comments are cordially invited on any of the "sundries." 
Karen Andreola 


  1. Oh, where to start? I loved this post. I am very appreciative of your review of the Jane Austin Knits magazine. That sounds like something I would very much enjoy owning, and I will be on the search for my own copy immediately! Second, I just love the hooking project you are working on. Karen, it makes me want to try a project like that also. I already have so many hobbies and interests I pursue (knitting, sewing and embroidery) but I do not think adding another needlework skill to my repertorie would hurt at all, do you?
    Finally, many many thanks to Nigel for the fun garden! That is just genius and so pretty and fun and happy! Nigel is a handsome young man and the photograph is such a nice one. I enjoyed seeing his book list also, and I plan to use some of those listed as recommendations for my own nephew, who is in junior high school.
    Oh and yes, Karen, I too oftenr spend many hours contemplating new projects before I actually begin them - thinking of various color combinations, how the project will be worn and by whom, or where it will fit into our home. Those hours of dreaming are indeed a big part of the joy handwork brings. Thank you for sharing your own joy with us.

  2. Karen,

    Wonderful post. I enjoy contemplating projects, too . . . it's just that I find I want to try so many things and I must choose carefully or I'll have a dozen started at once!Do you ever do that? In any case, I love handmade things - they show an investment in time, care and love.

    I'm eagerly awaiting seed catalogs . . .

    Thank you for the post,

  3. I played Nigel's game a few weeks ago - it's fun!

    I also love that you think it is still available? I hope so! We do love Jane here at our cottage.

    Your stitcheries and wool hook work are lovely - I think the higgley-piggley look just might be perfect for a wee sheep!

  4. I have to confess that I often find myself daydreaming of projects, and, like Natalie, I, too, have to be careful to not take on too many. Just the place I find myself as the new year begins to unfold. One goal I've set for myself this year is to finish my many projects before starting new ones -- Lord willing, I'll stick to it and be successful!

    Karen, I gave my daughter-in-law the same knitting magazine for Christmas this year! It really does present some lovely projects. I was tempted to purchase a copy for myself, but as I already shared, no starting new projects for now...

    Thanks for sharing your stitching and knitting projects as well as your son's reading list. Many blessings to you and your family in the new year,


  5. The garden game is just what I needed. I was perusing our seed catalog just this morning!

    My son finds most female opinions to be too decided and extreme. Personally, Mr. Collins gives me the absolute creeps (notice my feminine use of the word absolute!). I think that may come more from the movie than from the book itself.

    It's good to hear from you!


  6. What a coincidence! My 11th grade son and I are currently in the middle of a 3 week "study" of Pride and Prejudice. I gave him the choice of Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, Pride & Prejudice, and Ivanhoe. (Thinking for sure he'd choose either the first or last suggestions.) To my surprise, he wanted to read Pride and Prejudice, and has greatly enjoyed Austen's wry wit and over-the-top characters, often commenting how much Mrs Bennett or Mr Collins acted like various people we knew. I believe it is the years of exposure to good literature of all kinds that helped my son to understand that literature is not specifically "boy" or "girl", and can be enjoyed and understood by all thinking people. Of course, his older sister's interest in all-things-Jane-Austen probably helped to salt the oats a bit. ;-) She recently had "Austentatious Crochet" from the library, and I'll be sure to tell her about the Austen Knits magazine, as well.

  7. Oh Andrea...I have enjoyed this post immensely.

    My oldest son (11th grader) is also reading these books as a way of understanding the female mind ;-D he also reads quite a bit of contemporary fiction and so far, he is truly enjoying it and sharing quite a bit from his perspective.

    The delightful! My last purchase last year on December 31st no less, was a crochet book from the Jane Austen inspired books. I am truly looking forward to trying the patterns out.

    Thank you so much for sharing.


  8. Thanks so much for the list. I'm always looking for things to have my older boys read. I've never thought of Pride and Prejudice but with this "impressiveness" to young ladies I might just be able to convince them to pick it up! I planted and water the seeds in the garden ...much to my three year old's delight. She kept saying "Do It Again!" Tell Nigel thank you!

  9. What a delightful post!! I tuck away many ideas for rainy days or for different seasons of my life...right now, I am most concerned about getting this baby birthed ;) and trying to keep hubby & other children fed! :-) I've done a WEE bit of crafting and reading lately, but not much. Soon enough, I suppose!! Thank you for sharing!

  10. My daughter and I love the garden game!! :)

  11. A nice taste of spring--thank you Karen (and Nigel). I just love when the catalogs begin to arrive in January. Its nice to dream of the spring garden while still hoping for a few good snowfalls before winter ends.

    The knitting magazine sounds inspiring, as does the Peter Leithart book. Didn't he write the high school level Shakespeare study? It's also on my list for the children in a few years.

    Your projects progress rapidly. I'm on my second mitten after 2 months. I guess they'll be ready for next winter.

    Happy New Year.

  12. Tis a book list to keep on hand for my young man soon to be high school aged.

  13. Dear Karen,

    Two delightful book (or magazine) reviews in one post; how wonderful! I am so glad that there are men out there who can see beyond the term "chick flick" when speaking of Jane Austen.

    The knitting patterns look so delightful (and complicated!). As someone who calls herself a "past dresser," being out of fashion is perfect for me!

    Your "hooking" is coming along well, I'd say, and not higgly-piggly at all.



  14. My little guy (who just turned 12) enjoys watching the Jane Austen movies with us girls...perhaps when he is older he will tackle the books?!?
    What beautiful projects to work on...if only I knitted, I am a crocheter!
    I was just browsing through a seed catalog the other day and dreaming of what to plant this coming spring, so many choices!


  15. I just found your blog, and instantly recognized your name from reviews at CBD. I've been homeschooling for the past 21 years, and have benefitted from your reviews immensely.

    I am new to Charlotte Mason, however. I don't know why it has taken me so long to read any of her writings, but I simply LoVe them!

    Thank you for your helpful advice!

    God bless you, Karen!

    In Christ,


  16. Dear Karen,
    This post was delightful. Could you share where you find your kits? We have zero resources here and I would like to use quality fabrics and yarns. I am most interested in the stitching and rug hooking kits that you use. Thank you for any help!

  17. Reading your comments has given me refreshment. Thank you.

    It is good to read that you daydream about projects, too, that you think highly of Jane Austen, and that Nigel's Magic Garden Game gave you or your children some minutes of mid-winter fun. He took pains to write the one thousand lines of code that it required to create it. The code part of "flash" is the most difficult he tells me.

    Yankee Peddler is the designer of the kit I purchased titled "Have You Any Wool?"
    I'm using a quilter's hoop to hold the burlap taunt.

    Thanks for visiting,
    Karen A.

  18. Dear Karen,
    Thank you for your lovely comment on my blog. I enjoyed your post and my goodness is Nigel getting old! He looks alot like Dean, I think. Nigel is obviously one sharp young man, reading to understand a woman's perspective will serve him well when he marries:-) Oh, I do love that jacket too, even with puffy sleeves, but, I tend to like old-fashioned and classic styles and shun trendy. Lovely peeking into your wintry thoughts and activities.

  19. I have a fun story related to your post. When hubby and I had a 'getting to know you' dinner with a new acquaintance, the discussion of the BBC version of Pride and Predjudice came up with the women. My husband said 'Oh we love that movie!" The other husband said "Oh, another man that loves Pride and Predjudice....we'll get along just fine!" We have ended up being the best of friends for the past three years.
    I always enjoy seeing your projects. Thank your for sharing, and tell Nigel that he certainly is dapper!

  20. When we first saw the movie (BBC Jennifer Ehle), my husband was working at his desk that was situated behind the couch where I was seated. He had expressed strong doubt about the movie, preferring to work. He was typing away at his computer as the movie began. About 15 minutes into it, however, I realized that I was no longer hearing typing sounds. "Someone" was hanging over the back of the couch intently listening to every word!


  21. Reading your comments and hearing your stories shows me that we enjoy a similar sense of humor. I laughed out loud.

  22. Thank you Karen.


  23. Karen,

    I answered the question about the crochet edging on my comment page.

    (I never know the proper place to answer questions it seems, so I cover all the bases).

    And as far as commenting on your sundries, you do have a gift for covering a range of topics, all good. I believe the maiden stirs my fancy to the utmost (sheep and all). I hope you will consider showing it when it is completed.