Exactly one week before the publication of this issue, “‘something very shocking indeed’” came out in London. Eleanor Tilney’s imagined scene, or at least what Henry imagines on her behalf—a “‘mob of three thousand . . . ; the Bank attacked, the Tower threatened, the streets of London flowing with blood,’” troops called up—seemed almost to materialize as rioters took to the streets to protest the government’s plan to increase tuition at the nation’s universities. Demonstrators tried to ram their way into the Treasury building. Store windows were smashed. Police and protesters were injured. A car carrying the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall was attacked by a mob crying, “Off with their heads!”
With charges and countercharges of mob violence, harsh police tactics, oppressive economics, the anxieties articulated (before being dismissed) by Henry Tilney seem to have recurred. We live, as the late Angela Carter wrote, in gothic times.
JASNA’s 2010 Annual General Meeting, Jane Austen and the Abbey: Mystery, Mayhem, and Muslin in Portland, explored the dimensions of Austen’s gothic novel, following its passages, illuminating its corners, examining its tapestries (or at least the quality of its muslin). At this exciting conference, organized by Susan Schwartz, Pauline Beard, Frank McClanahan, and Mary Margaret Benson, participants engaged with the power and craft of Northanger Abbey, certainly a “work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour are conveyed to the world in the best chosen language.”
This issue of Persuasions On-Line prints a selection of essays from that AGM. (Others will be included in Persuasions 32, to be mailed in the spring.) The offerings here examine Austen’s construction of character, her relationship to the literary and cultural contexts of her age (and later). The Miscellany provides a rich group of essays on the novels, on adaptation, and even on Jane Austen’s death. This issue also marks the resurrection of the yearly Jane Austen Bibliographies, previously the work of the late Barry Roth. We are extremely grateful that Deborah Barnum has taken on this challenging project.
As always, this journal is the product of much work by many volunteers: the members of the editorial board (listed on the title page), who read and comment and share their expertise with boundless good will; Lee Ridgeway, who sharpened images for this issue; and of course Carol Moss, JASNA’s indefatigable web master, whose technical know-how, attention to detail, creative energy, and wisdom keep mayhem at bay.