Deborah Yaffe


By Deborah Yaffe, Mar 30 2015 01:00PM

So it turns out there’s a cliffside hotel with amazing views of the Pacific where all the rooms are named after famous writers and, since no one gets a TV, a radio, a landline or even Wifi, there’s pretty much nothing to do all day except read.

Oh, and did I mention that one of the rooms is named for Jane Austen?

No, this is not my imaginary dream-fantasy vacation spot. This is an actual place in Newport, Oregon, called the Sylvia Beach Hotel. You can stay in a Virginia Woolf Room with a view of a lighthouse! How perfect is that?

I happened across this little slice of paradise via my daily Google alert for Austen mentions, which yielded a traveler’s tale of a stay in the Jane Austen Room. “Austen is right next door to the Melville room,” wrote Washington State gardening blogger Tangly Cottage.

I like to imagine sensible Jane running into brooding Herman in the hallway, perhaps on the way down to the dining room. (Did I mention that this hotel also serves breakfast and dinner?)

“Mr. Melville, I do hope you do not always write doomy seafaring stories,” she might say, in the polite yet firm manner that we Janeites know she must have had. “I think it is the misfortune of dread-filled allegorical tales with intense religious overtones to be seldom safely enjoyed by those who enjoy them completely. The strong feelings which alone can estimate them truly are the very feelings which ought to taste them but sparingly.”

And then she would recommend some lighter reading promoting a greater faith in the ultimately just and well-ordered nature of the universe – the kind of thing found in the hotel’s Agatha Christie room, perhaps.

And he would listen attentively, seeming grateful for the interest implied, and – though with a shake of the head, and sighs declaring his little faith in the efficacy of any books on existential misery like his –would jot down the titles of Murder on the Orient Express and Peril at End House, promising to procure and read them.

Alas, such an encounter is only possible in fantasy, since Melville was born two years after Austen’s untimely death. Still, if I’m ever on the Oregon coast, I hope to stop by the Sylvia Beach Hotel’s Jane Austen Room.

By Deborah Yaffe, May 6 2013 01:00PM

A cooking story from the Emporia Gazette of Kansas recently popped up on my Jane Austen Google alert. “I have long adored scones,” wrote the author. “Initially it was because that’s what everyone in my Jane Austen and Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse books were always eating.”

Scones in Jane Austen? I couldn’t remember any, and a few online searches through Austen’s novels, fragments, letters and juvenilia explained why: the words “scone” or “scones” never appear. Scones are so quintessentially English that we feel sure Austen’s quintessentially English characters must have eaten them – but they didn’t, at least not as far as she tells us.

Still, it seems quite likely that Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse, who published more than 130 novels between them, put in a scone or two somewhere. And the recipe looks yummy.

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