Perhaps it’s just that kind of day. Or year. Bottom line: you’re feeling none too great. Friends, there is a cure to what ails you, and
her name is Austen. Her magic comes in many forms, and this series of posts will illuminate, in no particular order, what you can do, with almost no effort, to feel light and bright and fabulous!
Today we’re feeling the fairy dust from Northanger Abbey.
What? You’ve heard it’s frivolous? Not as polished as Austen’s later works? Balderdash. But wait—didn’t its original publisher accept it and then couldn’t be bothered to publish it? Just means he was a fool. And anyhow, you’re too wise to waste time caring about what other people think. Because if you did care, you wouldn’t be dressing in Regency-era costumes (or wondering what it would be like to do it). You wouldn’t be going to (or imagining) fun things like the Jane Austen Festival in Bath or your local ECD get-togethers (not OCD, ECD, and that stands for English Country Dance). And you definitely wouldn’t be saving up for (or wondering what it would be like to go to) ComicCon. I could do a whole series of posts on the cross-pollination between Austen fans and sci-fi fans, but I digress…
Anyhow, here’s the Northanger Abbey Happiness Program:
Pride and Prejudice has been performed many many times on stage by various companies in plenty of different styles. However, on April 21st it enjoyed its premiere as a ballet. Performed by the American Repertory Ballet at McCarter Theatre Centre in Princeton, New Jersey, Pride and Prejudice has been choreographed by the ARB’s Artistic Director Douglas Martin, and the production features ARB dancers performing to live accompaniment by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of conductor John Devlin.
Douglas Martin, an Austen fan, spent years on this adaptation and it shows in its level of attention to detail. For example, the dancing is set to music by Ignaz Pleyel, a popular composer during Austen’s lifetime who is largely unknown today, and it takes pains to look at the detailed relationship of four of the Bennet sisters, as well as that between Darcy and Lizzy.
According to Martin it’s not a typical ballet either. The choreography echoes that of some of the popular dances of the time, including the minuet, though Martin has adapted a few moves and made them “more balletic.” It also includes quick set and costume changes (some costume changes have to be completed in 20 seconds!) and the action is driven by acting and not just by dances.
At the Jane Austen News we can see how the romance of Pride and Prejudice would recommend itself to becoming a ballet. We just wish we could have been there to see it!
Unveiling Jane’s £10 Note
Although it won’t enter general circulation until September this year (just in time for Bath’s Jane Austen Festival!), the official unveiling of the new Jane Austen ten pound note has been announced. It’s due to take place on July the 18th on the anniversary of the date of her death in Winchester Cathedral, where Jane is buried.
Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, said in a statement that “Jane Austen certainly merits a place in the select group of historical figures to appear on our banknotes. Her novels have an enduring and universal appeal and she is recognised as one of the greatest writers in English literature. As Austen joins Adam Smith, Boulton and Watt, and Winston Churchill, our notes will celebrate a diverse range of individuals who have contributed in a wide range of fields.”
Below is a video released by the Bank of England which goes into a bit more detail about their decision to put Jane on the banknote.
Since his incognito visit to the Jane Austen Centre in March, speculation has been high that micro-engraver Graham Short spent a fifth Jane Austen five pound note (despite the original news that only four had been made and spent last year). Rumours that a fifth note had been spent and was now ‘on the loose’ were fuelled further by the confirmation from Graham’s team that a fifth note had indeed been made.
As Mr Short was not recognised until the end of his visit to the Centre and Regency tearooms, it had been thought that he had spent the five pound note and the Centre had unknowingly given it to a customer in change. However, it has now been revealed that the fifth five pound note is not somewhere in general circulation, but is in fact going to be gifted to the Centre by Mr Short!!
Mr Short told BBC Radio Bristol he would presenting the note to the Jane Austen Centre as a framed gift to mark the 200th anniversary of the author’s death. He will be returning to Bath on the 18th of July with the note, which he has said “will be framed with glass on the back and the front so you can see through it.”
The note, like the other four, has a small portrait of Jane on it, along with a quote from one of her famous novels. The one to be presented to the Centre is from Persuasion and reads: ‘You pierce my soul, I am half agony, half hope.’
At the Jane Austen News we’re delighted and honoured, and greatly looking forward to welcoming Graham back to Bath this July! Plus, in addition to this visit, Mr Short will be back in Bath this September in order to talk about his work at the annual International Jane Austen Festival in Bath (8th – 17th September).
A.A. Milne’s Darcy – More Eeyore Than Phwoar?
In a new book about Austen’s influence on cinema, details have been given of how Pride and Prejudice came within a whisker of being adapted for the screen by A.A. Milne. Milne hoped his script would become the text for the first film production of the classic novel. However, it was pipped to the post by an American production that Milne did not find out about until the day he finished his own script.
Paula Byrne, the author of the new book called The Genius of Jane Austen, said that Milne’s adaptation, while not so heavily centred on the love story between Darcy and Elizabeth, had a “better understanding of Austen as social satirist, verbal ironist and daughter of the muse of comedy as opposed to sentiment”. The 1940s production (starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier) which was made instead of Milne’s vision, was much more focused on the heartthrob than on the harsh truths of the era. Byrne said that Milne had made his story “not quite so romantic”. In fact, in the final scene of his play Milne had opted for a “touching one between father and daughter, not a romantic union between Elizabeth and Darcy”.
Just imagine how different things might have been for Mr Darcy today had he first been more of a sombre Eeyore than a smouldering Olivier!
A wonderful article on the (im)practicalities of underwear, from the Regency period through to the modern day likes of the Wonderbra. Kindly reproduced here with permission from its author, Laurie Viera Rigler, who is also the author of the popular Jane Austen Addict novels. *** It may be the third millennium, but not much has changed* since the days of getting laced into a corset so stiff that one could barely lean over, let alone breathe. It’s no wonder ladies had to carry around smelling salts, or “vinaigrettes,” as they were called in Jane Austen’s day. Those Mr. Darcy types may have been swoon-worthy, but it was likely more a lack of oxygen than romantic flutterings that caused ladies to faint. It wasn’t only ladies who were wearing corsets or “stays.” The Prince Regent was a favorite target of cartoonists for trying to mask his size with a corset. Today, we call these instruments of torture “shapewear.” Sounds friendly and appealing, doesn’t it? After all, who doesn’t want to have a shape? The promise and the reality of shapewear, however, can be two very different things. If you’ve ever had a shapewear nightmare of your own, you will love Melissa McCarthy’s story. But here’s where we can really explore the WHY of shapewear–and ROFL in the process. This is about three guys who decide to test out a girlfriend’s Spanx just for a laugh, and get more than they bargained for. Brilliant. If sheer discomfort isn’t enough to inspire you to choose jiggles (more…)
Helena Kelly’s book, Jane Austen the Secret Radical, began an interesting debate around the beloved Regency author when it was released in November 2016. Kelly’s book explored Jane Austen as a radical, spirited and politically engaged writer, and this was a shock for those people who’d only thought of Jane as a tranquil, smiling woman who spent her time penning purely romantic novels. After receiving a review copy of this brilliant work, and after reading its original analysis, Jane Austen blogger Maria Grazia ended up with a few questions she wanted to ask Helena Kelly. So she wrote them down and was graciously granted the answers. Here’s the interview that resulted. *** Hello Helena and welcome to our online Jane Austen book club! My first question is … I’ve always thought Jane Austen was rather revolutionary, but now you’ve taken a step ahead of me: a radical? Hello, and thank you for inviting me! The title Jane Austen the Secret Radical isn’t actually mine, but it is a good choice for the book. I don’t know that Austen wanted to overturn things, but she did want to dig down and examine them, to show people how they actually worked, and that’s what radicalism is about, isn’t it, getting down to the ‘radix’, the root of things. I totally agree with you, of course. But when and how exactly did you come to realize her novels are not simply grand houses, balls and dashing heroes? Much as I loved – and still love – (more…)
Recently we had a nice surprise in the post: a collection of handmade letters from students of a language school in Greece, who made them as part of an anti-bullying campaign and as their way of honouring the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death.
The overall campaign is called ‘Keep Smiling: from children to children’ and the project was done for Valentine’s Day (they arrived late).
The children named their card and letter collection ‘Jane Austen v Bullies’. All the students range in age from juniors to teenagers, and they participated whilst being inspired by Jane’s quotes and becoming familiar with her life and works.
They want us to keep the cards “as a token of appreciation for the work we do in honour of a literary giant”, which we thought was such an incredibly kind gesture, and we loved reading them all so we thought you might too!
Win A Free Dinner With Darcy and Lizzy in Woking
The Lightbox, a charity-run cultural space, gallery and museum in Woking, Surrey in England, has its tenth anniversary this year, and so to celebrate this milestone The Lightbox are holding their first Lightbox Literary Festival (from Thursday 20th April – Sunday 23rd April). We mention this as, since this year is not only the tenth anniversary of the opening of The Lightbox but also the bicentenary of Jane’s death, The Lightbox is holding a specifically Austen-themed event.
For the event, named Jane Austen 200th Anniversary, The Lightbox’s resident chef will create a Regency inspired menu just for the evening. Three indulgent courses will include Georgian-age gems like Black Butter, Mrs Martin’s mashed turnips and Regency roasted pork & apples. Guests will be invited to sample several dishes from the banquet table.
Then, after dinner, guests will round off the themed evening with a screening of the 2005 film version of Pride & Prejudice, and every guest will leave with a Regency-inspired goody bag filled with a Jane Austen novel, Regency recipes and other literary goodies. The event takes place on Friday the 21st of April at 7:00pm and tickets cost £49.
However – on our Facebook page we’re currently running a competition which is offering one lucky winner two free tickets to the event. You can enter via our competition post here.
Last year, micro-engraver Graham Short made headlines by releasing four unique £5 notes in general circulation for people to find in a Willy-Wonka style treasure hunt. Each was engraved with a miniature portrait of Jane Austen, and an Austen quote, and are thought to be worth around £50,000 each. Three have been found, but one of the notes, the one released in England, is yet to be found. However, recently businesswoman Joy Timmins, 48, had high hopes she had snared one of the notes in her hometown of Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. But, instead of finding classic quotes from Pride and Prejudice, Emma or Mansfield Park, Joy’s fiver had the cryptic engraving: “Look for serial number AL22171910”.
Joy’s unusual find has sparked theories that there may be a copycat engraver offering clues to find other valuable notes– or it might just be someone creating a bit of mischief. Whatever the answer, at the Jane Austen News we’re looking forward to seeing if anyone does find AL22171910, and if they do, if there is something special about it. As are Graham Short and his representatives who had this to say on the subject:
It would seem that somebody has decided to follow in Graham’s footsteps. We’re very interested in this because most of the ‘notes’ we’ve been sent images of have plainly been copies or fraudulently made. But this is certainly a conundrum. Maybe something great lies at the end of this rabbit hole?
Rescuing A Regency Estate to Rival Pemberley
The Grade 1 listed building of Wentworth Woodhouse, said by some to have been the inspiration behind the estate of Pemberley in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, has had its future secured as it has been bought by the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust. Although the Jane Austen Society dismissed the likelihood that Austen had had the house in mind, given the absence of any evidence that she had visited the estate. The building now faces a £42 million restoration bill to return it to its former glory over the next two decades.
Wentworth Woodhouse was the northern seat of the Fitzwilliam family – one of the richest and most powerful aristocratic dynasties in England at its height. The name Fitzwilliam being also the first name of Mr Darcy, is one reason why some make the link being Wentworth Woodhouse and Pemberley. That and its grandeur. Described as “exceptional” in both architecture and scale, the house was built by the Marquesses of Rockingham between 1725 and 1750 and it contains 365 rooms and five miles of corridors!
When the restorations are complete, the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust is hoping to open large parts of the property up to the public, with the help of the National Trust, and convert other sections for residential and business development and an events venue.
Jane never married, but that’s not to say that she didn’t think about it. When she was a young girl she had great fun filling in fictitious entries in the Steventon marriage register, which she had access to because her father, George Austen, was the rector of the parish.
The records which show Jane’s handwritten entries linking her to two separate husbands, will go on display in May as part of the Mysterious Miss Austen exhibition at Winchester’s Discovery Centre.
The little-known document includes a fictitious entry for the publication of banns between Henry Frederic Howard Fitzwilliam of London and Jane Austen of Steventon, while another entry details the marriage of Edmund Arthur William Mortimer of Liverpool and Jane Austen of Steventon.
A Remembrance Service for Jane
On July 22nd at 2pm, the Bath and Bristol group of the Jane Austen Society of the United Kingdom will be holding a
commemoration event to mark 200 years since Jane Austen’s death at St Swithin’s Church, Bath.
This is a special event with a short service in the church, followed by a dancing display and readings. It’s particularly appropriate to hold the service at St. Swithin’s, as this is the church where George Austen and Cassandra Leigh, Jane’s parents, were married in 1764, where the Austen family went to church while in Bath (the Abbey was considered to be too crowded), and where George Austen is buried.
Tickets cost £10 (including tea), and are available from Bath Box Office (01225 463362).