Many of the song lyrics in Jane Austen’s personal music books (some collected or transcribed by her, some inherited or passed on from family members) are couched in the sentimental poetic diction prevalent in the eighteenth century, with highly conventional pastoral settings and imagery.
Dr Gillian Dooley, recently retired from Flinders University, Australia, has been particularly struck by a long ballad in seven parts titled Colin and Lucy, which is a 1783 setting by Tommaso Giordani of a 1725 poem by Thomas Tickell (1685 to 1740) describing the betrayal, death and revenge of a wronged woman. The printed music of this ballad is bound in a book inscribed by Jane Austen, and it seems likely that she was familiar with it and probably sang and played it herself.
Several incidents included in the song are echoed and perhaps deliberately parodied in Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility (1811), although the rhetoric and imagery are strikingly different. The novel’s language, though often dramatic, is matter-of-fact and literal. In this seminar Dr Dooley will discuss the ballad’s musical and lyrical rhetoric and how Austen alters and undercuts its poetic imagery in her treatment of similarly dramatic (though not fatal) events in the novel.
Dr Dooley is currently an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the Humanities and a Visiting Research Fellow in music at the University of Southampton. She has published widely on literary and historical topics, including the work of Iris Murdoch, VS Naipaul, JM Coetzee and explorer Matthew Flinders, in addition to Jane Austen, and she has been researching music in Austen’s life and work for more than 20 years.
Since 2007 she has presented many concerts of the music from the Austen family collections in Australia and Europe. She was one of the convenors of the ‘Immortal Austen’ conference held at Flinders University in June 2017, for which she organised the concert ‘Dirges and Sad Ditties from Jane Austen’s Music Collection’.
This event will be taking place in The Lawson Lecture Room, Kennedy Hall