“We feel kind of special about Austen,” said Olivero, who oversees the only comprehensive Austen archive in America. Over a lifetime of collecting, wealthy Baltimore couple Henry and Alberta Hirschheimer Burke amassed first editions, letters, documents, pictures and drawings, and more from Austen’s era — even a lock of her hair (“mousey blond,” the librarians say). The Burkes’ endowment supports the “Pride and Prejudice” celebration, Olivero said.
From Jan. 28 to July 31, Goucher will welcome visitors to its Athenaeum, a large multipurpose complex on the densely wooded campus at the northern tip of the city. Festivities include “Pride and Prejudice” movies, a tea, a champagne reception and a talk with Austen scholar and college professor Juliette Wells about her new book, “Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination.”
A Regency dance by the college’s Choreographie Antique historic dance ensemble will showcase the dances Austen loved, which appear throughout her novels. Would-be Elizabeth Bennets and Mr. Darcys who show up are invited to take a spin on the dance floor with free lessons, Olivero said. After that, visitors may sample a collection of replica gloves, scarves and parasols, and are invited for hands-on tutorials on how ladies would use them to signal their intentions at parties and dances in Austen novels.
“There’s a language,” said ensemble director Chrystelle Bond, explaining that visitors will be encouraged to try on and use the replicas, “so you’ll get a sense of the material world of Austen.”
Bond said Austen wrote key moments around movement in “Pride and Prejudice,” as well as elsewhere in her six novels. The Goucher demonstration, she said, will explore Austen’s notion that a “woman drawing her handkerchief across her lips invites a man standing across the room to speak. Fanning very slowly, and placing the fan over her left ear signals ‘I wish to get rid of you.’ ”
Upstairs behind glass cases in front of the special collections area wall-size blowups of pictures and designs from the books will be displayed. Also on exhibit will be three rare first editions of the novel worth $75,000 each, plus artwork, translations in dozens of languages, children’s books, cut-out dolls, DVDs from around the world, 10 Austen scrapbooks collected by Alberta Burke, fabrics from the era and even a CBS radio script from a 1940s adaptation of the novel.