Jane Austen in Alaska
Of course Jane Austen didn’t go to Alaska. She probably never even heard the name, as the place was called New Archangel in her lifetime, and was mostly settled by Russians, whose doings she was unlikely to have read about. In 1783, Grigory Ivonovich Shelikhov founded the first permanent Russian settlement in Alaska on the island’s Three Saints Bay. The Russians were mostly interested in the glossy black fur of the sea otters, and established several settlements around Cook’s Inlet.
What drew men to Alaska. “Oh no! what an impudent dog I was!” (said Frank Churchill)
Jane Austen would have been more certain to know the name of Captain James Cook, who on his third and final voyage of exploration in 1778, sailed along the west coast of North America aboard the HMS Resolution, from California to the Bering Strait. He discovered Cook’s Inlet, which was named in his honor in 1794 by George Vancouver, who had served under his command.
Statue of Captain James Cook at Cook Square, Anchorage
So Jane Austen never went to Alaska, or had much truck with it, but I just did, and so this is to be one of those all too familiar posts in which an Austen Author goes somewhere exotic and then struggles and strains to find an Austen connection for her blog. I submit that finding one for Alaska was perhaps a more than usually difficult (though enjoyable) challenge for one of our ilk.
Husband Peter in Cook’s Inlet. “What are men to rocks and mountains?”
I had wild ideas in my head of desperately looking up the Alaskan representative of JASNA, solely to make a connection for the blog, and obviously should have, since he rejoices in the appealing name of Dr. Toby Widdicombe, is a professor at the University of Anchorage, graduated from the University of Southern California (where I live) and is an expert on Shakespeare and Raymond Chandler. What stopped me? Well I was busy touring, and as Jane Austen herself said, “What are men to rocks and mountains?” I certainly will look up this outpost in his own person of literature and civility another time. Meanwhile, here are a few of my pictures, firmly attached to some Jane Austen quotations and associations. For the full show, please visit my blog, www.lightbrightandsparkling.blogspot.com, where I have written two lavishly illustrated posts.
Austen Author Monica Fairview recently blogged about Jane Austen visiting the home of her uncle Francis Austen, which was called The Red House. It was doubtless grander than this cheerful cabin belonging to a friend, similar only in its redness!
“I must beg you not to talk of the sea. It makes me envious and miserable; I who have never seen it!” said Emma.
“When I look out on such a night as this, I feel as if there could be no wickedness or sorrow in the world” (said Fanny).
“What a thing here is, by way of a boat!” (Admiral Croft)
On Resurrection Bay. “The happiest part of my life has been spent on board a ship. While we were together, you know, there was nothing to be feared.” (Admiral and Mrs. Croft.)
“If I am a wild beast I cannot help it.”