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Miss Austen Regrets: An “Imagined” Biography

Miss Austen RegretsI am greatly pleased with your account of Fanny; I found her in the summer just what you describe, almost another sister; and could not have supposed that a niece would ever have been so much to me. She is quite after one’s own heart; give her my best love, and tell her that I always think of her with pleasure. Jane Austen to Cassandra October 7, 1808 The problem with biopics about Jane Austen is that there is so much that isn’t known for sure that at least part of the story will have to be fiction. In itself, that is not a problem, unless either the fiction is presented as truth or if the fiction is the kind of adolescent romantic twaddle that Jane Austen herself would have abhorred. Becoming Jane failed on both of those counts, and while Miss Austen Regrets does not succeed spectacularly, it is almost the Jane Austen biopic that many Janeites have hoped for. Olivia Williams is excellent as Jane Austen approaching her fortieth birthday. Sharply intelligent, sarcastic and funny but still warm-hearted: yes, this is the woman who could have created Mary Crawford and Lucy Steele and Augusta Elton. What a joy to see Jane Austen not a pathetic lonely-heart spinster but a woman who had opportunities to marry but clear-sightedly chose to remain single and pursue a career. We see her take a shrewd interest in the business of authorship, switching publishers to one that will get her more exposure and

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