On the first two Saturday afternoons in February, local Janeites gathered at historic King Manor in Jamaica, to read aloud from Jane Austen’s last completed novel. Persuasion felt appropriate for the time of year, given our proximity to Valentine’s Day (it is her most romantic work, isn’t it?) and the fact that its action concludes on February 25th.
Volunteer readers took a chapter apiece, with the first volume read on February 1st and the second on February 8th. Most of us worked at handcrafts while listening to the story — sewing, knitting, sketching, making valentine cards — just as our Jane and her family would have done. We also drank a great deal of tea. It was a pleasure to hear the story told with such a variety of voices. As many times as I have read Persuasion, and even listened to the audiobook, I noticed new moments and felt new feelings, this time through.
I hosted this event in partnership with Kelsey Brow, executive director at King Manor Museum, which was once the home of founding father Rufus King. Kelsey was kind enough to give several of us a private tour after the first day’s reading: we saw a newly opened bedroom upstairs, decorated for the year 1805. King Manor has a number of promising-looking events coming up this year, both educational and social, for those with an interest in the past. I’d encourage you all to visit when you can.
-Sarah Rose Kearns