Steventon: December 17, 1775.
Jane Austen by Cassandra Chouinard
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.
In 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.
We 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.
AND 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.