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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I went to the Morgan Library & Museum with a gorgeous and exceptionally nice friend* earlier this year. How nice is my friend? After I told her there was no need to apologize for a statement that didn’t offend me in the slightest, she apologized for the apology. She is the only person I know who needs to be a little meaner, so I was delighted to show her an example of vintage bitchery in an exhibit called A Woman’s Wit:  Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy. In a September 1796 letter to her sister Cassandra, Jane Austen damned a fellow party guest with this faint praise:

“Miss Fletcher and I were very thick, but I am the thinnest of the two – She wore her purple Muslin, which is pretty enough, tho’ it does not become her complexion.  There are two Traits in her Character which are pleasing; namely, she admires Camilla, & drinks no cream in her Tea.”

You know Cassandra was like, “Oh no, she di’int!” when she read the letter.  When I read it, I dragged my friend over and said, “If Jane Austen can say something like that, you can too.”

Portrait of mean girl Jane Austen by her sister Cassandra. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

The Jane Austen exhibit is over but Demons and Devotion: The Hours of Catherine of Cleves, an exhibit of an illuminated prayer book from the 1440s, runs through May 2.  No reproduction of the images does justice to the brilliant colors — particularly the blue and yellow — surrounded by gold, but if you’re not going to be in New York and like medieval art, the book of the exhibit is available.

Sadly, there are no images of the cream-avoiding Miss Fletcher in her purple dress, but you can click here to see me wearing purple. If you want to say bitchy things about whether purple becomes me, save it for your sister because I’m not interested.

*Name withheld to protect the extremely nice.

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41 Responses to “Jane Austen Is All Like, “That Dress? Bitch, Please!””

  1. apparellel says:

    hahahaha! you….. i love! seriously and my captcha is “kidding”. sweet!!


  2. Susan says:

    LOL, I always love your writing :))

  3. sharon rose says:

    Another fab post, I think I could learn some from Miss Jane!!!

  4. I/M says:

    So if the letter gets an “Oh no, she di’int!” what does Northanger Abbey get?

  5. Arushi Khosla says:

    Hahaha, man, we were always bitchy.

  6. lol!! u’re too funny, wendy!


  7. What a nice freind you have indeed! Such rare trait in people, yet something that usually makes those people struggle in every day life. Jane Austin does look a little mean in this picture, btw haha

  8. Cybill says:

    I love me some Jane Austen! When are you going to do a Jane Austen jewellery series? I want a little Darcy head (oh that came out so wrong).

  9. Ah the art of the artful put down!

  10. Oh no, you di’int!
    purple looks fab on you Wendy~

  11. Jennifer says:

    I’ve been meaning to go to the Morgan Library. I haven’t been since they renovated the place.

  12. stacy says:

    I love this! Too fabulous… bitch please! Ms. Austen looks like a “mean girl” in her portrait.

  13. enc says:

    B!tch, no you di’in’t put me in this post!

    Now you HAVE to make me a ring inspired by the art in that book about C. of Cleves you got the day we were in the Library together!

    I’m sorry, was that too rough?


  14. Francy says:

    A Jane Austen exhibit? How lovely. Thanks for commenting on my blog! Hope you drop by again.

  15. liz says:

    I absolutely love the Morgan Library, I saw the Blake exhibit earlier this year. It’s such a delightful little place, they had a live jazz band playing for the dining crowd, so fantastic

  16. Maddy says:

    Lol! I can totally see Jane Austen saying that!

  17. Sally says:

    Hahaha. I should’ve known Jane would have a catty streak!

  18. jeno says:

    If she were still alive, I’m sure we will be BFF´s. but then again, I’m sure you will steal her first.Bitch.
    lovely post as always Miss Wendy.
    Besos from Spain.

  19. Sabine says:

    Jane Austen was a champion at the hilarious insult, I think and can’t we all learn from her (or are most of us bitchy enough already?)

  20. Jill says:

    Meow! I love cream in my tea…and coffee for that matter.

  21. tess says:

    wow she was quite gossipy. This seems very Caroline Bingley here…hmmm

  22. Those proper Georgian and Victorian literary women were anything but timid in their writing.
    Wendy, If you haven’t read Edgeworth’s “Belinda” yet I encourage you to. The Lady Delacour has some really snappy lines.
    I just might have to take a trip to NY to see the Demons and Devotion exhibit!

  23. Lexie says:

    i have never made it through a jane austen book! maybe i should try again.

  24. Midtown Girl says:

    My attention went right to the “*” LOL. And purple looks fabulous on you…for shiz.

  25. Myself and my band, Vintage Bitchery, would like to thank you for the free publicity. 🙂 And is it just me or is that how being a bitch should be done? Poetically and prettily?

  26. ash fox says:

    i live right near the morgan and yet i’ve never been to an exhibit there. i once had brunch in their cafe though which was lovely. sorry that i missed jane austen. it sounds like it was a nice show.


  27. Amanda says:

    Who knew Jane was such a bitch. I sure didn’t. Although now that I think of it some of her characters are a little bitchy. She must’ve based those characters on herself. 🙂 Anyway, great post as always.

  28. jennine says:

    hahaha…well if anyone can teach a person how to be charming and mean, it’s you my dear! although, i don’t think you’re ever mean.

  29. Hysterical post, per usual, darling WB!

    Love Jane Austen!

    And you look smashing in purple!


  30. marian says:

    I constanty get into trouble for apologizing for apologies :), its a bad habit.

    Your posts are always super witty! Love.

  31. Candice says:

    Fab post. And you look fab in purple; and I hate you for that. Sadly, like Miss Fletcher it does not “become my complexion”.

    Sorry, I really don’t hate you. You know that.

  32. Liz says:

    You are hilarious. END OF STORY.

  33. Ooh, thanks for the heads-up on the medieval manuscript show. I adore 15th-c. illuminations – they’re indescribably gorgeous. I’ll have to make it down to the city before May!

    I always thought Miss Austen would be terribly fun to have tea and people-watch with. I’m sorry I missed that exhibit!

  34. Love this one Miss Wendy, the notion of vintage bitchery is one with merit! And you in purple is like fashion in a can, perfect.

  35. Rosie says:

    You are brilliant! Also, too nice is a bad thing now? Someone obviously forgot to inform us Canadians 🙂

  36. If a girl can’t bitch in a letter to her sister, where can she get her bitchiness out?! These days we burn up the email lines.

  37. Tina says:

    SUCH a mean girl! Think I might have to check out the Demons & Devotion show tomorrow during lunch.

  38. Alice Roosevelt Longworth said it best. “If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.”

    Speaking of which…my anti spam word was pooch. Isn’t that kind of bitchy for you to be reminding me about my tummy?!

  39. Tam says:

    i love me some jane austen!

    my anti-spam word is “beyotch” LOL!!!

  40. *giggle*

    love your punctuation on “di’int”

  41. hiyaluv says:

    you crack me up! I would love to see the Catherine of Cleves exhibit. Wowza-thanks for letting me know!