Susannah Fullerton is one of Australia's leading authorities on 19th and early-20th century writers, and is a regular lecturer on the NSW speakers circuit, giving talks on the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Pepys, the Mitfords and Rudyard Kipling, among others. Each year she leads literary tours to the UK – these are booked up three years in advance. She is the President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia. Susannah's latest book, A Dance with Jane Austen, has just been released.
Jane Austen loved to put on her satin slippers with shoe-roses, her white gloves and muslin gown, and go off for an evening of fun at the Basingstoke assemblies. The Bennet girls share their creator's delight and go off joyfully to dance, and of course to meet future husbands.
Drawing on contemporary accounts and illustrations, and a close reading of the novels as well as Austen's correspondence, Susannah Fullerton takes the reader through all the stages of a Regency Ball as Jane Austen and her characters would have known it.
Her subjects learn their steps, dress in readiness, find transport to convey them to a ball, choose between public and private balls,worry over a shortage of men, prefer a cotillion to a quadrille, talk and flirt with their partners, sustain themselves with supper, fall in love, and then go home to talk it all over at the end.
Susannah selects her Five Books of Influence
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
My mother read me this book when I was about 12 years old and it was my first encounter with Jane Austen. I was hooked from the beginning, though little did I know how then her novels would change my life. I have just finished writing my book Happily Ever After: A Celebration of Pride and Prejudice about the 200 extraordinary years of this wonderful novel. No matter how often I read it, I still laugh over the characters, rejoice when Elizabeth and Darcy get together, and adore every word of it.
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
Before I discovered Jane Austen, the ‘Anne’ books were my favourite novels. Anne of Green Gables taught me that it was vital to use your imagination, that young women could rejoice in literature and quote it, and it showed me that mistakes can teach a great deal and that one can recover from grief and from upsets. When I took a literary tour group to Prince Edward Island a year ago I couldn’t stop crying from the emotions of actually being on Anne’s island.
Emma by Jane Austen
For me this novel is the ultimate standard of perfection – no other novel can match it! I read it at least once a year, and learn something more from it every time. I relate to Emma herself – she is so wonderfully human in her failings and her virtues – and I see the characters from the novel around me every day. I recently travelled with a ‘Miss Bates’ – she could not stop talking! Jane Austen’s understanding of human nature and what makes us all tick is so relevant and so fresh in this incredible novel.
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
This novel gives such a superb picture of Scottish history in its understanding of the doomed Jacobite cause, with all its romance, in the character Alan Breck Stuart, and the more practical Hanoverian side in Lowlander, David Balfour. Kidnapped made me want to lead a literary tour to Scotland, it brought back memories of my time as a student at Edinburgh University (Stevenson’s university), and it set standards for historical novels which have rarely been met by any other writer.
He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope
I adore Trollope’s novels and this one is a brilliant study of a manic depressive, but also contains wonderful comedy about husband-hunting girls. I read it as part of my ‘Anthony Trollope’ book group - the group is making its way through Trollope’s 49 novels with huge pleasure. Knowing that Trollope came twice to Australia was an inspiration in writing my book Brief Encounters: Literary Travellers in Australia and I loved discovering where he went and what he saw while he was here. Trollope is one of the most soothing writers I know and his work has also been brilliantly filmed for TV which has given me added pleasure.
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