The year rolls round to its end once again, and once again we are celebrating the birthday of Jane Austen. It is our tradition to write about what we would give Jane Austen for her birthday, but we don’t think we could top two pretty amazing things given to her by the world.
It’s been twelve years. We suppose it’s time for something new for everyone to fight over. Also, none of those pesky royalties to pay. PROFIT!
The producer, which also makes ITV smash hit Victoria starring Jenna Coleman, has commissioned acclaimed playwright Nina Raine – author of 2017 hit National Theatre play Consent – to adapt the classic novel, in a version that will aim to tease out the story’s “darker tones” according to Mammoth Screen. This will be Raine’s first TV adaptation.
“Pride and Prejudice is actually a very adult book, much less bonnet-y than people assume,” Raine said of the project. “I hope I do justice to Austen’s dark intelligence – sparkling, yes, but sparkling like granite.”
Meanwhile, at the fabulous high-tech AustenBlog World Headquarters…
Dorothy goes into the Editrix’s writing lair. She looks up reverently at the Cluebat of Janeite Righteousness on its shelf. She takes down the Cluebat carefully and blows off the dust.
She always knew its time would come again.
In the Robing Room, the Editrix puts on her war paint.
(Something we didn’t have in 2005…GIFs!)
On this melancholy day, we remember Jane Austen and present the heartrending letter from her sister, Cassandra Austen, to their niece, Fanny Knight, about Jane’s death.
My dearest Fanny,
Doubly dear to me now for her dear sake whom we have lost. She did love you most sincerely, and never shall I forget the proofs of love you gave her during her illness in writing those kind, amusing letters at a time when I know your feelings would have dictated so different a style. Take the only reward I can give you in the assurance that your benevolent purpose was answered; you did contribute to her enjoyment.
Even your last letter afforded pleasure. I merely cut the seal and gave it to her; she opened it and read it herself, afterwards she gave it me to read, and then talked to me a little and not uncheerfully of its contents, but there was then a languor about her which prevented her taking the same interest in anything she had been used to do.
Since Tuesday evening, when her complaint returned, there was a visible change, she slept more and much more comfortably; indeed, during the last eight-and-forty hours she was more asleep than awake. Her looks altered and she fell away, but I perceived no material diminution of strength, and, though I was then hopeless of a recovery, I had no suspicion how rapidly my loss was approaching.
I have lost a treasure, such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed. She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow; I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself. I loved her only too well—not better than she deserved, but I am conscious that my affection for her made me sometimes unjust to and negligent of others; and I can acknowledge, more than as a general principle, the justice of the Hand which has struck this blow.
You know me too well to be at all afraid that I should suffer materially from my feelings; I am perfectly conscious of the extent of my irreparable loss, but I am not at all overpowered and very little indisposed, nothing but what a short time, with rest and change of air, will remove. I thank God that I was enabled to attend her to the last, and amongst my many causes of self-reproach I have not to add any wilful neglect of her comfort.
She felt herself to be dying about half-an-hour before she became tranquil and apparently unconscious. During that half-hour was her struggle, poor soul! She said she could not tell us what she suffered, though she complained of little fixed pain. When I asked her if there was anything she wanted, her answer was she wanted nothing but death, and some of her words were: ‘O God grant me patience, pray for me, oh, pray for me!’ Her voice was affected, but as long as she spoke she was intelligible.
I hope I do not break your heart, my dearest Fanny, by these particulars; I mean to afford you gratification whilst I am relieving my own feelings. I could not write so to anybody else; indeed you are the only person I have written to at all, excepting your grandmamma—it was to her, not your Uncle Charles, I wrote on Friday.
Immediately after dinner on Thursday I went into the town to do an errand which your dear aunt was anxious about. I returned about a quarter before six and found her recovering from faintness and oppression; she got so well as to be able to give me a minute account of her seizure, and when the clock struck six she was talking quietly to me.
I cannot say how soon afterwards she was seized again with the same faintness, which was followed by the sufferings she could not describe; but Mr. Lyford had been sent for, had applied something to give her ease, and she was in a state of quiet insensibility by seven o’clock at the latest. From that time till half-past four, when she ceased to breathe, she scarcely moved a limb, so that we have every reason to think, with gratitude to the Almighty, that her sufferings were over. A slight motion of the head with every breath remained till almost the last. I sat close to her with a pillow in my lap to assist in supporting her head, which was almost off the bed, for six hours; fatigue made me then resign my place to Mrs. J. A. for two hours and a-half, when I took it again, and in about an hour more she breathed her last.
I was able to close her eyes myself, and it was a great gratification to me to render her those last services. There was nothing convulsed which gave the idea of pain in her look; on the contrary, but for the continual motion of the head she gave one the idea of a beautiful statue, and even now, in her coffin, there is such a sweet, serene air over her countenance as is quite pleasant to contemplate.
This day, my dearest Fanny, you have had the melancholy intelligence, and I know you suffer severely, but I likewise know that you will apply to the fountain-head for consolation, and that our merciful God is never deaf to such prayers as you will offer.
The last sad ceremony is to take place on Thursday morning ; her dear remains are to be deposited in the cathedral. It is a satisfaction to me to think that they are to lie in a building she admired so- much; her precious soul, I presume to hope, reposes in a far superior mansion. May mine one day be re-united to it!
Your dear papa, your Uncle Henry, and Frank and Edwd. Austen, instead of his father, will attend. I hope they will none of them suffer lastingly from their pious exertions. The ceremony must be over before ten o’clock, as the cathedral service begins at that hour, so that we shall be at home early in the day, for there will be nothing to keep us here afterwards.
Your Uncle James came to us yesterday, and is gone home to-day. Uncle H. goes to Chawton tomorrow morning ; he has given every necessary direction here, and I think his company there will do good. He returns to us again on Tuesday evening.
I did not think to have written a long letter when I began, but I have found the employment draw me on, and I hope I shall have been giving you more pleasure than pain. Remember me kindly to Mrs. J. Bridges (I am so glad she is with you now), and give my best love to Lizzie and all the others.
I am, my dearest Fanny,
Most affectionately yours,
Cass. Eliz. Austen.
I have said nothing about those at Chawton, because I am sure you hear from your papa.
This year we commemorate Jane Austen’s death. We certainly do not celebrate it. We feel a sense of unfairness about it, not only for our selfish sake–for being cheated out of, based on the lifespan of her parents and most of her siblings, thirty or forty years’ worth of Jane Austen novels–but naturally for Jane’s own sake. She died just before she would have reached real success–the success enjoyed by her contemporaries such as Burney, Radcliffe, and Edgeworth, all of whom she has utterly eclipsed in the intervening centuries. It is just horribly unfair. Jane gave the world such joy and never really had the opportunity to enjoy real fruits from her labor (by which we mean money. From what we can tell, Austen was never big on the whole adulation thing).
We also have great affection for time-travel stories, but within certain parameters. The method of time travel must make some kind of logical sense, and those who travel must acknowledge the butterfly effect: that even a small action in the past can change the future. Our favorite time travel novel is Time and Again by Jack Finney, which fulfills both requirements.
Thus we were naturally excited to hear about The Jane Austen Project, which not only used our beloved time-travel trope, but also included Jane Austen. Because what Janeite wouldn’t want to meet Jane Austen? That being said, this delightful premise could go horribly wrong, too; though in the able hands of Kathleen A. Flynn, we have nothing to fear. The Jane Austen Project fulfills the Editrix’s requirements: the method of time travel is not minutely described, but has rules and follows them, and isn’t completely silly; and the possibility of changing history is an important consideration to the plot.
By Jeff Kubina (Maryland Renaissance Festival) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
A couple of weeks ago we were having lunch, and had brought the book we were reading, Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. A co-worker joined us, and asked what we were reading.
Editrix: It’s a modern-set retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Co-worker: Pride and Prejudice…which one is that?
Editrix, at a bit of a loss, not knowing how well she knew the novel: Er, well, it’s about Elizabeth, and Mr. Darcy, and, er, he’s proud, and she’s prejudiced…
Co-worker: Keira Knightley or Gwyneth Paltrow?
Editrix: Oh. Keira.
It’s good to get out of the Janeite bubble sometimes. Things become so simple.
P.S. Hey Internet! What’s up?
It’s Jane Austen’s 241st birthday today.
Please be upstanding and lift your beverage of choice in a toast to an authoress whose work has endured for two centuries after her death. That is an accomplishment indeed.
It is our custom for birthday posts to imagine a gift that we would like to give Jane for her birthday. It’s cold tonight at AustenBlog World Headquarters (though rather warmer in Winchester) so maybe we’ll crochet her some fuzzy slippers to keep off the chill. Our other gift is more ephemeral, and we hope it will work out. We’re going to promise to write more. More for AustenBlog, more for our personal blog, and more in general. It is rather a selfish gift, as we are doing it for ourself as well as for Jane, but somehow we don’t think she’ll mind. We have a couple of projects in the fire and hope to share them in the New Year with our Gentle Readers.
And speaking of stuff we’ve written, see the post below this one for a giveaway in honor of Herself’s natal day!