Once again, the calendar turns to the end of the year and we gather to celebrate the anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth. Here in Anno Domini Two Thousand and Twenty, well, it’s a little different from usual. To say the least, this year has been deeply weird, and not just because of the pandemic.
Once again the calendar rolls to December 16, also known as Jane Austen Day. We celebrate every year with our fellow Janeites, remembering the author who has given us so much joy.
Once again the calendar approaches its end, and with the last month comes Jane Austen’s birthday. The birth of this girl-baby brought some light into her family’s life in the darkest part of the year, and this woman and her work continue to bring light into the lives of her fans around the world, 243 years later. (She doesn’t look a day over 41, though.)
Lift your beverage of choice (we’re currently enjoying some vanilla chai ourselves) and join us in a toast to the baby Jenny, her family’s ray of December light; to the girl, Jane, who danced at balls and flirted with young men and gossiped with her sister and girlfriends and read books and wrote hilarious stories; and the woman, Jane Austen, author of books that have stood the test of two centuries and are still being copied and reinterpreted and celebrated today. Yes, let us celebrate Jane Austen, and her beloved books and characters, and the community that has grown around them, that has existed around them from even before their publication, when friends and family begged to read yet again the handwritten manuscript of First Impressions. Janeites, let us celebrate Jane Austen.
Let us know how you are celebrating Jane Austen today and every day!
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 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!
“You know how interesting the purchase of a sponge-cake is to me.” – Letter to Cassandra Austen, June 15, 1808
Once again, we take pen in hand–er, place fingers to keyboard to wish Jane Austen a very happy 240th birthday. She doesn’t look a day over 35, does she? We’ve got a cake, and no doubt Dorothy will bring around a beverage to everyone’s taste, whether tea or lemonade or maybe a nice mulled wine (heavy on the cinnamon, light on the cloves). It’s a day for Jane Austen fans to celebrate: the birth of our favorite author.
It’s our habit on this day to think of birthday gifts we would give Jane were she here. As the temperatures both at AustenBlog World Headquarters and, we are told, in the UK right now are on the temperate side (seriously, we were out in short sleeves and no coat this past weekend), we don’t think Jane needs anything warm, but we’d love to crochet a light, ethereal shawl using laceweight yarn, perhaps LilyGo’s “Remember Me” shawl; something light, just enough to keep off the evening chill. Needlework as a hobby is something we share with Jane Austen, and, oh yeah, that writing thing as well–though of course we can only aspire to her genius.
Please take up your beverage of choice and join us in a toast to the immortal Jane Austen.
(Also, scroll down for three, count ’em, three giveaway posts in honor of the day!)
“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 the sofa near the fire, and can drink as much wine as I like.” – Letter from Jane Austen to Cassandra, November 6, 1813
Dearest Jane, may you be enjoying a warm fire, good wine, and the collective love of your readers worldwide on this day.
There’s lots of cool stuff going on all over the Internets today to celebrate Herself’s birthday. We’ve been retweeting like crazy!
The Jane Austen Centre in Bath has declared December 16 Jane Austen Day. (Every day around AustenBlog World Headquarters is Jane Austen Day, but it’s nice to make it official.) They are also offering a discount today in the gift shop.
The Jane Austen Society of North America has published the latest edition of Persuasions On-line, as it does every December 16.
In celebration of the 200th anniversary of Mansfield Park, Sarah Emsley has been hosting a year-long series of posts about the novel written by Janeite scholars, authors, bloggers, and fans on her blog, and this week she’s putting up a new post each day.
Austen in Boston has collected Herself’s birthday greetings and fun from around Facebook.
Quirk Books is hosting a big giveaway in honor of Jane Austen’s Day–win a copy Jane Austen Cover to Cover, The Jane Austen Handbook, and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters! C’mon, you can’t beat that combination.
There’s still time to get in on the giveaway of two copies of JAC2C on Robin Kall’s site (and check out the podcast interview with the Editrix!)
And we think we overhear Thorin and Jane having a little convo… 😉 Happy Jane Austen Day, Gentle Readers!
I’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
“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.
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?
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.