Around the Austen Web

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We have been struggling a bit with the whole blogging thing lately, but others have fortunately taking up the slack! (And there will be a announcement about AustenBlog coming very soon. Nothing bad, we promise!)

among_the_janeites_coverWe are on record as having very much enjoyed Deborah Yaffe’s book Among the Janeites, and her blog is very good reading as well. In particular we enjoyed Deborah’s recent post about the Austen Project, which brought up a point that we had been wondering about but was too lazy to blog: why haven’t the last two authors been announced yet? That is, the authors who will write updated versions of Persuasion and Mansfield Park? Being the cynical tar-hearted spinster &c. that we are, we have suspected that the project has been so unsuccessful that The Powers That Be have decided to discontinue the project. However, Deborah makes a very good alternative point: perhaps no author has been willing to take on the job. Deborah also reviews Alexander McCall Smith’s recent release of an updated Emma and looks forward to Curtis Sittenfeld’s Pride and Prejudice–which has been titled Eligible, rather than simply copying the title of the original! One hopes the publishers have responded to the general hostility with which the unchanged titles have been received by Greater Janeiteland, and retitled the novel. Or perhaps Ms. Sittenfeld simply insisted. More power to her, we say. In any event, do check out the post, as well as the rest of Deborah’s excellent blog.

young_jane_austen_coverLisa Pliscou, author of the new Austen biography Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer, also has a blog with some interesting entries about Jane Austen. This post, about the books read and loved by famous authors, mentions several authors who love Jane Austen’s work, which is all perfectly delightful. (We are currently reading Bring Up the Bodies, the second in Hilary Mantel’s series about Thomas Cromwell, and were startled and amused to find “Tilney Abbey” mentioned–we’re pretty sure such an abbey never actually existed but you KNOW where she got it from.) Emma Thompson is quoted, mentioning whom she would invite to a dinner party, as saying, “I’d have gone for Jane Austen if I weren’t convinced she’d just have a soft-boiled egg and leave early.” Lisa protests against this, as did several Janeites (including the Editrix) on Twitter.

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

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theletterI’m a little late in the day with my remembrances, but they are nonetheless heartfelt.

For these birthday posts, I usually post a quotation that has directly to do with Jane herself. This year, I had a hard time thinking of something that felt satisfactory. I’ve long felt (and perhaps this is projection) that Jane, as an author, would consider her work her best remembrance. Thus, I’m sharing the passage that turned me from a casual Jane Austen reader to a lifelong fan. It’s not hyperbole to say that it changed my life. From Persuasion, Vol. II, Ch. XI:

Mrs. Croft left them, and Captain Wentworth, having sealed his letter with great rapidity, was indeed ready, and had even a hurried, agitated air, which shewed impatience to be gone. Anne know not how to understand it. She had the kindest “Good morning, God bless you!” from Captain Harville, but from him not a word, nor a look! He had passed out of the room without a look!

She had only time, however, to move closer to the table where he had been writing, when footsteps were heard returning; the door opened, it was himself. He begged their pardon, but he had forgotten his gloves, and instantly crossing the room to the writing table, he drew out a letter from under the scattered paper, placed it before Anne with eyes of glowing entreaty fixed on her for a time, and hastily collecting his gloves, was again out of the room, almost before Mrs. Musgrove was aware of his being in it: the work of an instant!

The revolution which one instant had made in Anne, was almost beyond expression. The letter, with a direction hardly legible, to “Miss A. E.–,” was evidently the one which he had been folding so hastily. While supposed to be writing only to Captain Benwick, he had been also addressing her! On the contents of that letter depended all which this world could do for her. Anything was possible, anything might be defied rather than suspense. Mrs. Musgrove had little arrangements of her own at her own table; to their protection she must trust, and sinking into the chair which he had occupied, succeeding to the very spot where he had leaned and written, her eyes devoured the following words:

“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in

F. W.

“I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.”

Such a letter was not to be soon recovered from.

It’s been some twenty years since I read it, and I haven’t recovered from it yet. Thanks, Jane. I hope all the love from Janeites all over the world today reached you beyond the ether.

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

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Jane Austen by Cassandra Chouinard

Jane Austen by Cassandra Chouinard

From a letter from Admiral Sir Francis Austen to an American fan of his sister:

I can have no hesitation in assuring you that it was most gratifying to me to receive such a testimonial to the merits of my late sister’s works, and thereby to learn that their celebrity had reached across the Atlantic.

[. . .]

Of the liveliness of her imagination and playfulness of her fancy, as also of the truthfulness of her description of character and deep knowledge of the human mind, there are sufficient evidence in her works; and it has been a matter of surprise to those who knew her best, how she could at a very early age and with apparently limited means of observation, have been capable of nicely discriminating and pourtraying such varieties of the human character as are introduced in her works.—In her temper she was chearful and not easily irritated, and tho’ rather reserved to strangers so as to have been by some accused of haughtiness and manner, yet in the company of those she loved the native benevolence of her heart and kindliness of her disposition were forcibly displayed. On such occasions she was a most agreable companion and by the lively sallies of her wit and good-humoured drollery seldom failed of exciting the mirth and hilarity of the party. She was fond of children and a favorite with them. Her Nephews and Nieces of whom there were many could not have a greater treat than crouding around and listening to Aunt Jane’s stories.

I think for this year’s gift, I will tat Jane some pretty snowflakes. Not especially useful, perhaps, but pretty! What gift do you have for Jane Austen, Gentle Reader?

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

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Jane Austen by Cassandra Chouinard

Jane Austen by Cassandra Chouinard

Steventon: December 17, 1775.

DEAR SISTER,–You have doubtless been for some time in expectation of hearing from Hampshire, and perhaps wondered a little we were in our old age grown such bad reckoners, but so it was, for Cassy certainly expected to have been brought to bed a month ago; however, last night the time came, and without a great deal of warning, everything was soon happily over. We have now another girl, a present plaything for her sister Cassy, and a future companion. She is to be Jenny, and seems to me as if she would be as like Harry as Cassy is to Neddy. Your sister, thank God, is pure well after it.

That is an excerpt from the letter the Rev. George Austen wrote to his sister-in-law on the occasion of Jane Austen’s birth. It is a day we all, as Jane Austen fans, have occasion to celebrate, and there is a lot of celebration going on around the Internets. Last year, we had some fun speculating what we might give Jane Austen for her birthday. We’re sure Jane took good care of those gloves, and doesn’t need a new pair, though we might tat her some pretty earrings. But this year we think we would give Jane a year free of speculation about her personal life. No more media campaigns about what caused her death, with whom she had romances, what she realllllllly looked like; just a year in which people read and enjoyed her books and did not set out to make a show with them. Just read the books; have fun with them, but celebrate the books, and their author, without all this unseemly speculation. We know this is just wishful thinking; there is too much at stake for some people in making a show with our Jane; but that is our wish for her on this day, and certainly in the coming year.

JASNA Wisconsin Region 2012 CalendarIn honor of Jane Austen’s birthday, we are giving away some goodies to our Gentle Readers. First, we have a copy of the JASNA Wisconsin Region’s lovely 2012 calendar, courtesy of the Region, to give away to one Janeite in the U.S. or Canada. The calendar contains incidents occurring in the novels and in Jane’s life for specific dates and is decorated with quotations from the novels and full-color images from the 1898 Brock-illustrated editions of the novels. If you are not fortunate enough to win the calendar, but would like to have a copy, you may purchase a calendar from the region.

In the spirit of our speculative birthday gift for Jane, another lucky reader will win a bookmark designed and tatted by the Editrix, inspired by the lace design that Jane drew in one of her letters.

Sense and Sensibility IllustratedWe also have four copies of the Jane Austen Bicentenary Library Edition of Sense and Sensibility, illustrated by Cassandra Chouinard (the artist who drew the portrait of Jane Austen that decorates this post; her first name being the same as Jane’s sister means it really looks like her–hey, that’s as good speculation as any we’ve seen of late) and with annotations and some “extras” by the Editrix. We have two copies each of the paperback (signed by the Editrix) and the ebook (DRM-free and available in all platforms, and we can also send a signed postcard if the recipient likes) to give away.

There Must Be Murder - A Novella Sequel to Northanger AbbeyAND we also are giving away four copies of There Must Be Murder, our own production and a celebration of our affection for Jane’s novel Northanger Abbey and her delightful hero and heroine. This book is also delightfully illustrated by Cassandra Chouinard (we are particularly fond of her drawings of children and dogs). We also have two copies each of the paperback (signed by the author) and the ebook (we don’t have any cards, but we’re sure we can find something to sign if the recipient likes) to give away.

To be entered in the giveaway, respond to this post, leaving a valid e-mail address (no one but the Editrix will see it, and if you win, we will need it to contact you to find out where to send your prize). Please wish Jane Austen a happy birthday, and let us know what you will do today and in the coming year to celebrate Jane Austen and her work. Also please indicate if you would prefer paperback or ebooks, or if you just want to say Happy Birthday to Jane and do not wish to be entered in the giveaway at all. ETA: Probably should mention that you can enter until midnight U.S. Eastern time on December 20.

For our own part, we are kicking things off with an audiobook relisten to Mansfield Park, which our book group is reading together; in the coming year, we plan to be reading and writing (and blogging!) more about Jane Austen; in the nearer future, we are going to be tatting that bookmark. ;-)

Thanks to Liz Philosophos Cooper and JASNA’s Wisconsin Region for donating the calendar, and to Girlebooks for donating the ebooks for our giveaway.

Fan Art of Jane Austen to Be Auctioned

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Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s not fan art.

A drawing of Jane Austen by an unknown artist–presumably an “imaginary portrait” by someone who did not know her–will be auctioned by Bonhams on March 29. From the website:

THIS IS THE EARLIEST OF THE SO-CALLED ‘IMAGINARY’ PORTRAITS OF JANE AUSTEN, thus listed by Deirdre Le Faye in her article ‘Imaginary Portraits of Jane Austen’ in Jane Austen Society Report, 2007, pp. 42-52 (a copy of which is included with the lot).

Le Faye suggests that the portrait ‘could be as early as 1818’, one year after Austen’s death. Le Faye comments: ‘This might well be a creation by the Revd William Jones (1777-1821), curate and vicar of Broxbourne and Hoddesdon – or if not him, someone with very similar interests. On 17th April 1818 Mr Jones confided to his diary: “Whenever I am much ‘taken with’ an author, I generally draw his or her likeness in my own fancy…”

The estimate is £1,000-2,000. Have fun if you want to bid! Feel free to come here and gloat if you win!

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

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Jane Austen

I tried very hard to come up with one thing very clever, be it prose or verse, original or repeated–or two things moderately clever–or three things very dull indeed to say about Jane Austen on her birthday, but all I could think about was all the things she has given me. Not only her wonderful stories, which have impacted my life significantly in many ways, but Jane’s writing has really shaped my worldview. I truly do think, as I go through life: What Would Jane Austen Do? I want her to approve of me. :-)

So then I thought, “What would I give Jane Austen for her birthday?” Well, what wouldn’t I give her? But I am just a poor blogger, and have just set up my own carriage, and after all Jane wouldn’t approve of unwonted extravagance, would she? Of course not. So applying my Janeite thinking cap, and using my skills and existing yarn stash, I would crochet her some fingerless mitts out of soft, warm (but washable!) wool to help keep off the chill in those non-central-heated houses. She can wear them and still write, but the mitts would, one hopes, stave off the arthritic chill and the repetitive stress issues for a bit. Definitely superwash wool, so that the ink can be rinsed out.

I wouldn’t give Jane fame, as she didn’t want it; but I would give her a long life and career as what would today be called a midlist author, quietly producing a new book every eighteen months or so–rather as some women in her day produced babies–to be rapturously received by her wide, quiet, cultish readership. Her backlist would continue to be reprinted and keep selling, year after year, and she might collect a weirdo stalker fan or two *cough*, but in general she would be left alone in Hampshire to write and make lots and lots of money from it. That’s what I would give her. And, you know, the mitts.

Gentle Readers, what would you give Jane Austen for her birthday?

P.S. Jane got the Google Doodle today in the UK: http://www.google.co.uk/

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

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Happy Birthday Jane Austen In the first place I hope you will live twenty-three years longer. Letter from Jane to Cassandra, January 9, 1796

The new infant, however, did not appear quite so soon as was expected, and the last letter of the series is written by George Austen on December 17, 1775.

Steventon: December 17, 1775.

DEAR SISTER,–You have doubtless been for some time in expectation of hearing from Hampshire, and perhaps wondered a little we were in our old age grown such bad reckoners, but so it was, for Cassy certainly expected to have been brought to bed a month ago; however, last night the time came, and without a great deal of warning, everything was soon happily over. We have now another girl, a present plaything for her sister Cassy, and a future companion. She is to be Jenny, and seems to me as if she would be as like Harry as Cassy is to Neddy. Your sister, thank God, is pure well after it.

George Austen’s prediction was fully justified. Never were sisters more to each other than Cassandra and Jane; while in a particularly affectionate family there seems to have been a special link between Cassandra and Edward on the one hand, and between Jane and Henry on the other.

Jane’s godparents were Mrs. Musgrave (a connexion of her mother’s), Mrs. Francis Austen (another Jane), wife of George’s kind uncle, and Samuel Cooke, Rector of Little Bookham.

From Jane Austen, Her Life and Letters: A Family Record, by William Austen-Leigh and Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh, Chapter II

Happy birthday, Jane! May birthday cake and French wine flow long today out in the ether.

Gentle Readers, your party hat is hereby provided; Dorothy is serving vanilla rooibos and cake in the conservatory. Please feel free to leave your birthday greetings in this thread!

ETA: As on Jane’s birthday every year, JASNA has published the Winter 2009 issue of Persuasions On-line for your reading pleasure.