Preface to the 2008 Edition of His Cunning or Hers
Fifteen years down the road from that unforgettable JASNA AGM at Lake Louise in 1993, it has been wonderfully refreshing to revive June Menzies’ engaging epistolary novelette, His Cunning or Hers, at the instigation of Carol Moss, for the JASNA website. I like to think of that conference, in its beautiful setting among the Canadian Rockies, as one that inspired us all. I still have a mental picture of Margaret Drabble sitting in a window recess overlooking the lake and the snow-clad Mt Victoria beyond, and writing a postcard; and I remember envying the recipient of that postcard, thinking how the external beauty was being channeled through that capable pen in the novelist’s hand.
Like all conveners of AGMS, Bruce Stovel and I wanted to make our conference a stunner. And besides the stunning speakers (Drabble, Grundy, Showalter ...) we had other creative forays: a full production of An Accident at Lyme, Paula Schwartz’s musical version of Persuasion; the launch of my picture book of Austen’s The Beautifull Cassandra; and the special conference book that follows, His Cunning or Hers, the secret (and recently discovered!) correspondence between the maneuvering Mrs Clay and the unscrupulous William Walter Elliot. June Menzies, the author, splendidly rose to the occasion when Bruce and I invited her to become the author of this Persuasion spin-off, and her novelette was originally issued as a little blue hardcover book stowed in the delegates’ package. That volume is now long out of print. We welcome its new incarnation on-line, with many thanks to Carol Moss, the mastermind behind this version.
I had happy times making the illustrations to June’s (and Penelope’s and William’s) lively and elegant prose, and evoking freckled Mrs Clay, self-consciously handsome William, and aquiline Sir Walter as visible personages. And as June sent me copy, and we agreed on such small strategies as a mirror motif for prose and pictures, I felt a pleasing sense of camaraderie, not only with my present author, but also with our original muse, Jane Austen.