Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!


“By the bye, as I must leave off being young, I find many Douceurs in being a sort of Chaperon for I am put on a Sofa near the Fire & can drink as much wine as I like.” – Letter from Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra, November 6, 1813

Today is Jane Austen’s 246th birthday, and we are delighted as always to celebrate Jane Austen Day with our Gentle Readers. We didn’t bake a cake, and frankly we are not the world’s greatest baker to begin with, but assure you that, if we had ever learnt, we should have been a great proficient. We found the above photo on the World Wide Web, and as Jane Austen, by her own admission above and in some other quotations from her letters, enjoyed a glass of wine, we would have been delighted to use that proficiency to produce such a cake for Herself.

We were privileged to give the toast for our JASNA region’s virtual birthday party this past weekend. As we are a firm believer in Reusing #Content (which the stricter moralists might refer to as Plagiarizing Oneself), we thought we would share it with our Gentle Readers. (And no, we do not use the Royal We in everyday life, most of the time.)

(This giving toasts business is stressful. One fears one will blurt out one thing very clever, two things moderately clever, or three things very dull indeed.) Today we gather to celebrate the 246th anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth. Do you imagine that Jane ever thought her fans would be celebrating her birthday, nearly two and a half centuries later? The uninitiated tend to ask Janeites, “Why Jane Austen?” There is no one answer to that. As Karen Joy Fowler wrote in The Jane Austen Book Club, each of us has a private Austen. My Jane Austen is a writer who is witty, clever, occasionally sarcastic, has tremendous prose style and the ability to sneak up on the reader, catch them unaware, and then lower the boom. Other readers like the excellent plotting, the romance, the historical aspect, or that she inspired the idea of putting Mr. Darcy in a white shirt and wetting him down. So for whatever reason you are here, please raise a glass of whatever you are drinking today and join me in a toast, in the words of Rudyard Kipling: Glory, love and honor unto England’s Jane!

To unpack that a little bit, our toast was inspired by a tweet last week of a quotation from Sense and Sensibility.

We retweeted this, noting that it is also a favorite quotation of ours. Perhaps we shall do a longer post on it for a future Sunday Austen Meditation, so we won’t repost all of the text, but the reader is sort of lulled to sleep by several paragraphs of nonsense from Robert Ferrars, and then Austen just slays, as the Young Persons say, with a single sentence that leaves one slack-jawed in the presence of genius. Speaking for ourself, that’s why we are still hanging around this particular tea party: because Jane Austen was a genius and that genius deserves to still be celebrated, on December 16 and every day.

How are you celebrating Jane Austen Day, Gentle Readers?