Posted on

Jane Austen News – Issue 72

The Jane Austen News is keen to get gardening!

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

  The Mother of the Modern Novel

Professor Kathryn Sutherland is keen to see Jane Austen praised, not as the queen of romance novels, but rather “as a pioneer — the inventor of the modern novel, the first English novelist to explore the effect of contemporary war on the home front, and a businesswoman prepared to stake all on fame and fortune.”

“Austen’s novels broke new ground in subject matter and style. She saw that everyday events in ordinary places could be the stuff of fiction. But she saw far more. One of her greatest contributions to literature was a way of writing, centred on the heroine, that recognises the longing in each one of us to grow, to change, to become other. Her heroines have inner lives, represented on the page as a kind of conversation with the self.”

Those who say that Jane is just a romance novelist couldn’t be more wrong. It’s easy to forget, this many years down the line, and with so many new genres and novel formats on the shelves, how revolutionary Jane’s novels were; how unique they were in style. Happily Professor Sutherland is hoping to change that with….

A New Book From Kathryn Sutherland

To accompany the new exhibition which Professor Sutherland is curating in Oxford at Weston Library from June 22nd – October 29th  (called Which Jane Austen?) she has released a new book.

Jane Austen: Writer in the World: Novelist in the World is a collection of essays which offer an intimate history of Austen’s art and life – told through objects associated with her personally and with the era in which she lived.

Further on in the book, the exploration of yet more objects – the Regency novel, newspaper articles, naval logbooks, and contemporary political cartoons – reveals Austen’s filiations with wider social and political worlds. These ‘things’ map the threads connecting her (from India to Bath and from North America to Chawton) to those on the international stage during the wars with France that raged through much of her short life.


Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 72

Posted on

Finding Happiness, Austen Style: Lift Yourself Up with Persuasion

Welcome to the second of a multi-part series of posts on how to lift yourself out of the blues, Austen style.

Kindly reproduced here with permission from its author, Laurie Viera Rigler, who is also the author of the popular Jane Austen Addict novels.  


Welcome to the Persuasion Happiness Program. Persuasion, like all of Jane Austen’s novels, is more than a book: it’s a roadmap to happiness.  Here are lots of ways to lift yourself up with Persuasion!

1. Read Persuasion, and discover that there is always a second chance at happiness. 

Heroine Anne Elliot goes from lonely resignation to triumphant empowerment. It’s impossible to turn the last page without feeling a little spark inside that says, “that could be me.” Yes, it could, and it will!

Continue reading Finding Happiness, Austen Style: Lift Yourself Up with Persuasion

Posted on

Jane Austen News – Issue 71

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

  A Writer With Friends? Heaven Forbid! 

Authors Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney have recently seen their new book A Secret Sisterhood: The hidden friendships of Austen, Brontë, Eliot and Woolf published, and to go alongside the book they wrote an article for the Times newspaper which threw a little more light on why female authors so often have their female friends ‘airbrushed’ out of their lives by their family and society. When it came to Jane, they focused on her dear friend and fellow writer Anne Sharp, whom Jane, when in ailing health in 1817, proclaimed herself forever “attached” to.

So why do we hear so little about Anne who Emily and Emma say Jane had such a strong bond with?

Such a friendship flouted the social norms of the time. By keeping it out of official versions of Austen’s life, the family could create a false image of the famous author as a conservative maiden aunt, devoted above all else to kith and kin. As a result, the close bond she shared with Anne, who wrote plays in between teaching lessons, has become one of literature’s most enduring secrets.

Even today, as in Jane Austen’s time, it can be difficult to overcome the notion that a close, platonic female bond somehow threatens the allegiance a woman owes to her family. And while the opening up of professional roles during the 20th century has brought new opportunities for collaboration between women, the stereotype of the ambitious woman who jealously guards her place at the top continues to pervade.

This goes some way to explaining why the important friendships of female writers have failed to make it into literary lore.

At the Jane Austen News we found this to be a most interesting idea, and not one we’d really thought about before.

 Mr Bennet Gets Brewing!

A team from the Jane Austen Centre, including our Mr Bennet (Martin) and Jane Austen Festival director Jackie Herring, had a lovely day out this week at the Bath Brew House, where they helped to create a special Jane Austen beer.

The new beer is being created to celebrate Jane’s bicentenary year and will be an “Earl Grey, Red Ale”. It’s rather an appropriate tribute to Jane, given that she was a master brewer of Spruce beer herself.

The new tipple is due to be ready on July the 1st (just in time for the Jane Austen Summer Ball in Bath), and all of us at the Jane Austen News are very keen for a sample (or two)!

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 71

Posted on

Jane Austen News – Issue 70

The Jane Austen News has garden envy!

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

  Words for A Wedding To Be Auctioned

After seeing an announcement in a newspaper announcing the marriage of of Mr Gell of Eastbourne to Miss Gill, Jane Austen The Jane Austen News is Mr Gell and Miss Gilldecided to play on the similarity of their names and write a simple rhyme for the amusement of her family. The poem survives to this day; handwritten, dashed off in a matter of minutes, and is to go on sale for £120,000! That works out at £15,000 a line!

Of Eastbourne, Mr Gell

Feeling perfectly well

Became dreadfully ill

For the Love of Miss Gill.

So he said with some sighs

I’m the Slave of your i.s

Ah! Restore if you please

By accepting my e.s.

Austen wrote the short poem, which previously sold for just £520 in 1979, in 1811. It is being sold by Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers at the ABA International Antiquarian Book Fair at London’s Olympia this week. She may not have made much money from her writing during her lifetime, but her words are certainly worth a huge amount now!

 Can The Words Of Lizzy Bennet Get You A Date?  

A couple of the editors over at had fun this week finding out how recognisable the words of Lizzy Bennet are. They decided to (virtually) approach users of the online dating app Bumble (deemed the ‘feminist’ dating app) and hold a conversation with them using only quotes from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and mostly those of Lizzy Bennet.

A couple of the men they spoke to recognised the quotes and found them out, but this wasn’t always the case. Here are a couple of the resulting conversations which we rather enjoyed reading:

At the Jane Austen News we wonder what the result might be if men tried doing this using quotes from Mr Darcy… If anyone’s tried it/does try it, do let us know.

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 70

Posted on

Jane Austen News – Issue 69

The Jane Austen News is our new hare!

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

  You Could Live In Longbourn

 The Jane Austen News is that Longbourn is for sale! 
If you happen to have a spare £9 million lying around then Longbourn, home of the Bennet family, could be yours!

Luckington Court, which was the location used in the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice (you know the one – it had Colin Firth and that wet shirt scene in it) to portray the home of the Bennets, is up for sale for the first time in 70 years.

The estate sits beautifully on 156 acres in the small village of Luckington, in Wiltshire, England. The house itself has seven bedrooms, six bathrooms, as well as paddocks and some wonderfully maintained gardens. Though naturally its biggest selling point is probably going to be its filming credentials!  If only we had the money!


 Jane? Is That You?   

There’s been something of a backlash recently against the image of Jane Austen which is set to appear on the new £10 bank note, which will go into general circulation in the UK this September.

The image which will be used on the note was based upon the unfinished portrait of Jane as painted by her sister Cassandra, but never completed as the Austen family said it did not look like her. However complaints have been made that the portrait of Jane which appears on the note has been “given a Disney style touch up”. Paula Byrne, one of Jane’s biographers, said that “they presumably said to the artist, ‘make it look prettier’. It is like doctoring a selfie by a celebrity.”

Three years ago the Jane Austen Centre contacted the Bank of England to offer their own specially-commissioned image of Jane for use on the note. Bath MP Don Foster wrote to the Bank of England on behalf of the Centre and Victoria Cleland, the Bank’s Chief Cashier, wrote back:

We noted with interest the unveiling of the new Jane Austen waxwork: an exciting feature for the… Jane Austen Centre.

However, I am afraid it would be incredibly difficult at this stage to change the image that will be on the £10 banknote.

The Bank gave very careful thought to this selection, considering the available portraits of Jane Austen and consulting a number of experts.

 In a recent statement, Centre spokesman David Lassman added that:

Although we had to accept the Bank of England’s decision, we feel it was a missed opportunity, given the level of criticism their final choice is currently receiving from Austen experts.

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 69

Posted on

Jane Austen News – Issue 68

The Jane Austen News was in shock!

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

  Mind the Ha-Ha! – Mansfield Park is Deciphered

David M. Shapard is an American historian with a longstanding interest in Austen and her world. He graduated with a Ph.D. in European History from the University of California at Berkeley (his specialty was the eighteenth century), and he has gone on to devote many years of his life to painstakingly annotating each of Jane’s novels. Now, his sixth and final work, The Annotated Mansfield Park has just published, and is a whopper! It’s 932 pages long and has over 2,300 annotations. Although it does have to be said that as Mansfield Park is the longest of Jane’s novels, adding 372 to the original 560 page novel (Penguin Classics version) is still quite impressive!

An annotated classic may not sound like big news, after all, most classic novels now have annotated versions, but this one we at the Jane Austen News feel is newsworthy because of how thorough it is in its explanations. Also because the annotations themselves are rather fun to read, at the same time as, of course, being informative. For example:

Until the late 18th century brought cups with handles, tea was served in bowllike dishes. The term “dish of tea” lingered, “especially among those, like Mrs. Price, who were less affluent and thus slower to purchase items in the newer style.”


A “ha-ha” is a sunken fence, developed in the 18th century for the landscaped grounds of grand houses, designed to keep livestock away from the grass while not interfering with the view. The name may have arisen “because people could see the trench only when they were almost on top of it, leading to surprised exclamations of ‘ha-ha!’”

 A Discussion on Jane’s Teenage Work   

In honour of the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, Oxford University Press has published Teenage Writings; the combined content of the three notebooks of Jane Austen’s teenage writings which still survive to this day. The earliest pieces probably date from 1786 or 1787, around the time that Jane was aged 11 or 12, and show a more tongue-in-cheek side of Jane than that which we’re used to today. The stories include the likes of plays in which we never learn what’s going on, and heroines who leave home only to return again, dissatisfied with the world, by the same evening. Drunkenness, brawling, sexual misbehavior, theft, and even murder prevail.

To accompany the release, Professor Kathryn Sutherland and Doctor Freya Johnston (editors of the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Teenage Writings) discuss in this video Jane’s early writings, and how they reflect the novelist she would become.

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 68

Posted on

Jane Austen News – Issue 67

The Jane Austen News is - move to Bath!

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

  Jane Austen Avoids Clichés

New Jane Austen portraitAmong many others, one of the statistics writer Ben Blatt has included in his new book, Nabokov’s Favourite Word is Mauve: The Literary Quirks and Oddities Of Our Most Loved Authors, is the number of clichés famous authors use in every 100,000 words.

Using modern technology to complete lots of complicated statistical calculations he has discovered that Jane Austen used 45 clichés per 100,000 words, Virginia Woolf 62, and Khaled Hussaini 71. This is relatively few when compared with the likes of James Patterson (160 per 100,000 words), Tom Wolfe (142 per 100,000 words), and Salman Rushdie (131 per 100,000 words).

An interesting statistic from a fun book, but at the Jane Austen News it did make us wonder – is part of the reason that Jane has so few because clichés simply weren’t as prevalent at the time when she was writing? After all, there weren’t nearly as many books being published then as there are now. Then again, perhaps Jane was just too filled with inspiration to need them!

Five Reasons to Follow Jane to Bath!

In the Financial Times Property Listings this week was an article promoting Bath as an incredible place to live, and advising readers to follow in Jane’s footsteps and become a resident of the city. The five reasons to live in Bath were:

  1. Wonderful views (Bath skyline and the rooftop pool of the Thermae Spa got special references)
  2. It’s commutable to London (90 minute train journey from Bath Spa to London Paddington)
  3. It’s a stable investment (In the past five years, prime property prices in Bath have increased 24.4 per cent)
  4. It has a thriving arts scene (Festivals, theatres, museums, Jane Austen….)
  5. Country get-aways close by (The exclusive Babington House to name only one)

The Financial Times kept to just the five reasons, but we can think of plenty more!

 Rarely Seen Jane Austen Portrait on Show  

In 1869, Rev James Edward Austen-Leigh (Jane Austen’s nephew) commissioned a portrait of her from the artist James Andrews to accompany his Memoir Of Jane Austen, the influential, first full-length biography of Jane to be written. The portrait was snapped up by a private collector for £164,500 at an auction in London in 2013. However as part of an exhibition to mark the bicentenary of Jane’s death, the portrait will be returning to the UK and will form part of an exhibition running at at The Gallery in Winchester Discovery Centre, from May 13th to July 24th. The exhibition will also feature manuscripts of some of her early writings, including a spoof History Of England, Austen’s silk pelisse coat (featuring a pattern of oak leaves), her purse and her sewing materials case.

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 67

Posted on

Happiness, Austen Style: Read It Out, Act It Out, Dance It Out

Welcome to the first of a multi-part series of posts on how to lift yourself out of the blues, Austen style.

Kindly reproduced here with permission from its author, Laurie Viera Rigler, who is also the author of the popular Jane Austen Addict novels.


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. 

Northanger Abbey Graphic NovelWhat? 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:

Continue reading Happiness, Austen Style: Read It Out, Act It Out, Dance It Out