Jane Austen News - Issue 61 | Jenni Waugh Posted on

Jane Austen News – Issue 61

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What’s the Jane Austen News this week?   

 Lucy Worsley on Jane Austen  

In the lead up to the publication of her new book about Jane Austen, Jane Austen at Home, published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 18th May 2017, Lucy Worsley has been writing various articles and giving interviews for websites and newspapers exploring aspects of Jane’s life.

Within the latest article, written for The Sunday Times by Sian Griffiths, Lucy Worsley has highlighted come of the suitors which Jane apparently spurned in order to keep writing.

“She turned down four or five proposals of marriage and financial security to have a go at living by her pen. And because it wasn’t socially appropriate for her to be a writer, she had to write in secret, and go on pretending to be a good daughter, aunt and housekeeper.”

“The list of potential suitors included Charles Powlett, who wanted to kiss Austen when he was 20; Tom Lefroy; the Reverend Samuel Blackall; Harris Bigg-Wither, who proposed only to be turned down by the writer within 24 hours; the Reverend Edward Bridges; Robert Holt Leigh, an MP who flirted with Austen; and William Seymour, a lawyer.”

However, Deirdre Le Faye, editor of Austen’s letters, said that while she accepted that there were several men in Austen’s life, she did not believe the author spurned them so that she could be a writer, or that she made feminist choices.

“Lucy Worsley enjoys mak­ing history fun,” said Le Faye, “but I do not agree with her argument. There were eligible young men in Jane Austen’s orbit but I do not know of evidence she turned them down so she could carry on writing, but we will never know.”

The full article can be found here.


 Joanna Trollope on Jane Austen and The Austen Project 

Best-selling author Joanna Trollope was one of six authors picked to take part in the Austen project; an initiative begun in 2013 by publisher Harper Collins, which saw top contemporary authors reworking Jane’s six completed novels for a modern audience.

This week Joanna was answering questions via The Guardian website and one of the questions she was asked was:

What is the case for the rewrites of Jane Austen’s books? You have redone Sense and Sensibility while others of the Austen canon have been reworked by others. How would you react if a publisher proposed that your books be rewritten by others?“.

Here’s what she had to say:

The Austen Project was dreamt up by a very clever editor at Harper Collins who is now at Faber. Her idea was to emphasise the timelessness of Jane Austen’s characterisation by taking stories that had been written before 1815 and transposing them to 2013. So the aim was not so much to showcase modern writers, as to display the eternal genius of Jane Austen.

I not only think my novels would be very honoured to be rewritten in 200 years time, I think they would benefit! There is, after all, nothing new to say about the human condition that Sophocles or Shakespeare haven’t brilliantly said already. All writers do is reinterpret or translate those eternal truths about humanity for their own times. I am not of the school of writers who believes that we are inventors, as you will gather! And that explains why, when it came to updating Sense and Sensibility, I not only stuck to Jane’s narrative and characterisation like paint, I also stuck to her treatment of her characters. In Sense and Sensibility there are only two characters she does not tease – one is Elinor Dashwood and the other is Colonel Brandon – and I have treated them in the same way Jane does herself.

I started the project thinking she was a brilliant novelist. I ended the project believing she was a complete genius and nothing that has happened since has caused me to revise that opinion.

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 61

Jane Austen News - Issue 61 | Jenni Waugh Posted on

Jane Austen News – Issue 60

The Jane Austen News is arsenic poisoning!

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Jane’s Death Caused By Arsenic?   
The Jane Austen News is arsenic poisoning!The cause of Jane Austen’s mysterious death at the age of 41 has been the subject of much debate over the years. Theories put forward have included cancer, Addison’s disease, and complications from drinking unpasteurised milk. However, new research conducted by researchers at the British Library, undertaken in conjunction with London optometrist Simon Barnard, has brought forward new evidence that Jane may have died as a result of arsenic poisoning.

Simon examined three pairs of glasses believed to have belonged to Austen, and said that they show evidence that her vision severely deteriorated in her final years. That kind of deterioration further suggests cataracts, and cataracts may indicate arsenic poisoning, Sandra Tuppen, a curator of archives and manuscripts at the library, wrote in a blog post on the library’s website. Arsenic was frequently found in water, medication and even wallpaper in Austen’s time, Dr. Tuppen emphasised. Unintentional arsenic poisoning was, she said, “quite common” and that “arsenic was often put into medication for other types of illness, potentially for rheumatism, which we know Jane Austen suffered from.”

Not everyone is convinced though. Deirdre Le Faye, an independent Austen scholar believes that Austen died of Addison’s disease. She said that while Austen could have ingested arsenic through medication, other elements of the British Library’s biographical analysis seemed less persuasive. One of the main arguments the library puts forward for arsenic poisoning is the claim that “she must have been almost blind by the end of her life”, but Deirdre Le Faye said, Austen was writing letters “perfectly ably” up to about six weeks before her death. Rapid deterioration of her eyesight would have had to be very sudden to fit the library’s analysis.

The mystery goes on!


Mr Darcy Nowhere In Sight In New BBC Drama  

The BBC’s next period drama is a real-life love story set in post-Regency England. BBC One and HBO have commissioned Shibden Hall, a brand new eight-part drama series created and written by Bafta-winning Sally Wainwright (To Walk Invisible, Last Tango In Halifax, Happy Valley). However, unlike in most period dramas, Shibden Hall’s heroine has no intention of marrying a man.

Set in West Yorkshire in 1832, Shibden Hall is the epic story of the remarkable landowner, Anne Lister. Returning after years of exotic travel and social climbing, Anne determines to transform the fate of her faded ancestral home.

To do this she must re-open her coal mines and marry well. But Anne Lister – who walked like a man, dressed head-to-foot in black, and charmed her way into high society – has no intention of marrying a man. True to her own nature, she plans to marry a woman. And not just any woman: the woman Anne Lister marries must be seriously wealthy.

Every part of Anne’s story is based in historical fact, recorded in the four million words of her diaries that contain the most intimate details of her life, once hidden in a secret code that is now broken.

It will rework the romantic genre epitomised by the smouldering appeal of Poldark and Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, to tell the remarkable tale of the quest by a lesbian landowner to find a wife.

It’s a beautifully rich, complicated, surprising love story. To bring Anne Lister to life on screen is the fulfillment of an ambition I’ve had for 20 years.

Sally Wainwright

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 60

Jane Austen News - Issue 61 | Jenni Waugh Posted on

Jane Austen News – Issue 59

The Jane Austen News is: Martin Salter

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What’s the Jane Austen News this week?   

Mr Bennet With Us For Ten Years!!!    
Our Mr Bennet (A.K.A. Martin, our meeter-greeter who welcomes all our visitors to the Jane Austen Centre) has been with us for ten years! So to celebrate we arranged a little surprise for him…


10 Must-See Locations for Literature Lovers 

The Telegraph recently published their top ten literary tours that literature lovers ought to take this year. Happily, a tour of Jane Austen’s England was on the list…but only at number five! Even though this year is Jane Austen 200 and events are taking place all over the country to celebrate!

So who beat her in the top ten?

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 59

Jane Austen News - Issue 61 | Jenni Waugh Posted on

A Letter to Jane Austen – Part Three

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This is the third and final instalment of a most interesting letter written by Hans van Leeuwen, a lovely Jane Austen fan from the Netherlands. (Part one can be found here, and part two can be read here.)

Hans is hoping to receive remarks and tips for improvements from native speakers of English, preferably Jane Austen devotees, and the purpose of sharing the letter with us is so that some valuable feedback might be gained. 

We hope you might enjoy reading it as much as we did, and that you might share your thoughts in our comments section below.   

Jane austen biography

Being obliged to speak when not wanting to, is just the sort of thing one would give one’s right arm for to be relieved of, but there was no escaping. I dared not look at either of my parents, fixing my eyes instead on the fire or one of the dogs, whichever afforded most comfort. The first words came out hesitantly, but as I progressed my confidence grew and eloquence improved:

” Dear father, dear mother, it is with great sorrow that the books by Jane Austen, one of which you see here in my hands, prove to be a source of such discord between my dear mother and myself. On several occasions I have talked to her about them, extolled their virtues to her, but the mere fact of my always reading them seems to have made her immune to their charms. I do try to bring variety in what I read but will not be bludgeoned into valuing anything against my taste and will not subject myself to the torture of reading recommended books when I can be certain to be entertained by Miss Austen’s. To destroy one’s mind, moreover, with books firmly established in the canon of English literature, I struggle to deem possible. ”

Having finished and looking up to see what my words had occasioned, I found both my parents looking at me in such a way as seemed to invite me to continue if I had anything left to say, which I had not. My father’s reaction to my speech was as predictable as my mother’s was not. If he had not suddenly changed his mind, he could not but agree with me, but there was no knowing what, if anything, my mother would say or do. She had not given any hint as to her state of mind for a while, neither in word nor otherwise, and although the severity about her seemed less than before, I could not be certain of a fresh attack not being in preparation.

” Very well put, “ said my father with pride. ” Such a defence cannot be listened to without exciting the tenderest feelings in a parent’s heart, and even those not agreeing with you, to whom I do not belong, cannot deny its merits. Some books stand the test of re-perusal with flying colours; indeed, only gain in attraction rather than increase disgust when read a second or third time, or even oftener. Change for change’s sake is a modern disease. And to be expected to read what one’s taste would never induce one even to pick up, to have another’s taste forced upon one is a situation too embarrassing to contemplate. Only in exceptional circumstances, where a little incivility might have disastrous consequences, should one allow a book to be recommended to oneself. It is many years since I last made the mistake. The book was claimed to change my life! Nothing of the kind had ever flowed from a pen!, etc. etc. Ha! If I had been so unwise as to continue listening, I am sure I would have heard it being described as capable of ending all conflict and taking away all illness, but it proved to be one of the dullest I ever opened. Not one line in it deserving a moment’s reflection, and not one remark witty enough to be worth attempting to cheer up friends with. And so many commonplaces on every page as one would not believe possible. The experience quite cured me of feeling guilty about disappointing expectations of the kind. “

Continue reading A Letter to Jane Austen – Part Three

Jane Austen News - Issue 61 | Jenni Waugh Posted on

Jane Austen News – Issue 58

The Jane Austen News is Darcy in Italy

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What’s the Jane Austen News this week?   

Pride and Prejudice is the Bishops’ Pick     

A television channel owned by Italy’s conference of bishops and endorsed by the Pope is to broadcast BBC shows for the first time. Among the nine period dramas it has chosen to show are the BBC’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice adaptation, which considering the fact that it has that wet shirt scene in it, which has left women weak at the knees for years, it might not be quite the safe and genteel choice they think it is.

Usually TV2000, the name of the Roman Catholic station which is also known as “the Italian Church’s TV”, shows in a typical day’s schedule broadcasts of Holy Mass and the Holy Rosary from Lourdes, with occasional showings of Doris Day films.

Other programmes the channel has signed up for are adaptations of Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, The Paradise, and Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals.

They’ve also asked for the 2008 version of Sense and Sensibility. However this adaptation was criticised after its original airing by the Jane Austen Society for “sexing up the story” by opening with a scene in which John Willoughby seduces a 15-year-old girl. Hopefully this won’t take away the bishops’ seal of approval from Jane Austen adaptations, which was also given to (through their purchase of) a 2009 version of Emma, starring Romola Garai, and a BBC feature film, Miss Austen Regrets, which charts the author’s later years.


Winning Illustrator Chosen 

Darya Shnykina has been selected as the winner of The Folio Society’s 2017 competition to see who will illustrate The Folio Society edition of Mansfield Park. Darya, who is a student of the Moscow State University of Printing Arts, was one of 23 illustrators who were selected for the longlist of finalists. This year the entrants were asked to submit three illustrations and a binding design for Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. The new edition, featuring illustrations by the winner, will be published by The Folio Society in October 2017.

Darya was presented with the prestigious commission, worth £5,000, by eminent historian Lucy Worsley during a ceremony at House of Illustration on Thursday 23 February. The rest of the shortlist, who each receive a £500 prize, are; Natasa Ilincic (Italy), Katie Ponder (UK), Meizhen Xu (Germany), Alexandru Savescu (Romania) and Pedro Silmon (UK). The winner of the first ever Visitors’ Choice Award, which saw over 1,500 people voting, was Katie Ponder.

Darya did the perfect cover: fitting in beautifully with the rest of the series, charming to look at, clever with the layering, and bold. But we were equally charmed by her illustrations for inside which managed to suggest character and some of the powerful feelings in the novel, like anger and disappointment.

Lucy Worsley

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 58

Jane Austen News - Issue 61 | Jenni Waugh Posted on

A Letter to Jane Austen – Part Two

Jane austen biography

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This is part two of a most interesting letter written by Hans van Leeuwen, a lovely Jane Austen fan from the Netherlands. (Part one can be found here)

Hans is hoping to receive remarks and tips for improvements from native speakers of English, preferably Jane Austen devotees, and the purpose of sharing the letter with us is so that some valuable feedback might be gained. 

We hope you might enjoy reading it as much as we did, and that you might share your thoughts in our comments section below.   

Jane austen biography

The half hour that succeeded this scene brought calm and tranquillity to the room and saw my father and myself settling down to reading and my mother to knitting. The faint sounds naturally attending these activities, the song of the fire and the occasional whining of the dogs when they were dreaming, produced an atmosphere no evilness could find fertile ground in. Since opening your book and immersing myself in it, I had been holding it flat in my lap, for a reason not needing to be explained, but the unnaturalness of having it this way could not fail to create such discomfort as was no longer to be borne. Relief came in a change quickly made, and while the cover was at risk of being seen as a consequence, my eyesight was out of danger of being destroyed. After convincing myself of my parents’ being as perfectly engrossed in their respective employments as before, I felt safe enough to direct my eyes down again, and within the space of two paragraphs your book had me transported back to Northanger Abbey again and the exciting events within its walls.

The next half hour was spent in equal harmony. It was disturbed, however, by my father, who had stirred on perceiving that the fire was dying and needed attending to. This must have caused my mother to look up and about her, to try and discover what or who had had the nerve to rouse her from the delicious reverie the rhythm of her work had helped her slip into, and her eye must have met the cover of the book in the process, for what else could explain what happened next.

” My word! ”, cried she, ” Can it be true? It is almost past belief. Northanger Abbey it says again! Good heaven! What little common sense she had left completely gone! ”

Looking up in fright, I noticed that my father had likewise started at the outburst, but his whole attention being with the fire, only sounds and no purport seemed to have reached him, for he retorted that had the fire been left to her care, some limbs would have grown black from frostbite by now. My mother’s countenance stiffened with indignation, and provoked into retaliation, in an apparent attempt not to allow him to escape his fair share of ill-treatment, she cried:

” As deaf as a doorknob! The head of the house on a certain path to deafness, I was never so sure of anything! The disgrace that will befall us! Suspicions from all quarters will be growing into certainty within a fortnight, probably sooner, and where we once walked through the door amidst bows and civilities we will no longer be admitted entrance to. ” She continued in the same style for while until she seemed to have vented enough of her ire to be tolerably comfortable again in silence.

Continue reading A Letter to Jane Austen – Part Two

Jane Austen News - Issue 61 | Jenni Waugh Posted on

Jane Austen News – Issue 57

The Jane Austen News looks for Darcy

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What’s the Jane Austen News this week?   

Third Jane Austen Fiver Found

The third of the four specially engraved £5 notes which feature a tiny portrait of Jane Austen has been found, leaving only one of the £5 notes still in circulation and yet to be claimed.

The latest note was found in a small bar called ‘Charlie’s Bar’ in Northern Ireland, which incidentally is where the engraver responsible for the notes, Graham Short, said he originally spent it.

It was found by an elderly lady who wishes to remain anonymous. She also isn’t looking to profit from her find. In fact she sent the £5 note back to Mr Short with a note asking him to use it to help young people – “if it sells for a lot of money it will be better if young children could benefit from it.”

Mr Short’s friend and fellow artist, Tony Huggins-Haig, who launched the project, said around 5,000 people have called up falsely claiming to have found it. We can see why it’s so highly sought after, even by those who aren’t Austen fans, as each of the notes is insured for at least £50,000, but Mr Huggins-Haig believes the notes could actually sell for up to £100,000.


Jane’s Men – Attractive in Anonymity     


John Sutherland, author of numerous books on Literature and Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London, has proposed that one of the reasons Austen’s heroes resonate so well with her readers is because they are so anonymous in their appearance, and therefore, open to personal preference and interpretation. 

Recently John Sutherland and Amanda Vickery were commissioned by UKTV to come up with a convincing illustration of what Darcy might have looked like when Austen first created him. They found it a challenge as all we are told about Darcy is that he is 28, “handsome”, has a good “mien” and £10,000 a year. “What we came up with was more the Justin Bieber end of the hunk spectrum than Dolph Lundgren. Or Firth. ” said John.

He suggests that there are a couple of possible explanations for Austen’s lack of detail.

The first is that Austen wants us to fill in the blanks ourselves. The second is that Austen was what is called “aphantasiac” — she didn’t think pictorially, whether it was places, locations or people. Some creative people are like that. They think, principally, of design. Look for portraiture in Mondrian.

What do you think? Does Darcy’s unclear face help him? Or does Colin Firth’s portrayal of him do his popularity more favours?


Come and Stay in Jane’s Old Home!

Bath is by no means lacking when it comes to lovely places to stay. However, thanks to Airbnb, now you can stay in the house in which Jane Austen first lived in when she came to live in Bath in 1801 – that of 4 Sydney Place.

Admittedly the apartment in Sydney Place is decorated in a modern style, but it is beautifully presented and offering one gorgeous bedroom as well as two sofa beds, making it suitable for four people to stay in. There are nods to Austen inside – as you enter the flat there’s a Pride & Prejudice quote on the wall, and heading upstairs will bring you to the main accommodation and the master bedroom, which offers the best of Georgian architecture with hardwood flooring and a period fireplace. One reviewer describes the apartment as ‘historically enchanting’.

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 57

Jane Austen News - Issue 61 | Jenni Waugh Posted on

A Letter to Jane Austen – Part One

Jane austen biography

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This is part one of a most interesting letter written by Hans van Leeuwen, a lovely Jane Austen fan from the Netherlands.

Hans is hoping to receive remarks and tips for improvements from native speakers of English, preferably Jane Austen devotees, and the purpose of sharing the letter with us is so that some valuable feedback might be gained. 

We hope you might enjoy reading it as much as we did, and that you might share your thoughts in our comments section below.   

 

Jane austen biography

 

Nijmegen, Gelderlandshire

13th of November 1816 2016

Dear Jane

It is no uncommon occurrence for me to be seen opening a book not written by yourself for the sake of propriety, but hardly have I progressed to chapter two of such a book when I find myself growing increasingly uncomfortable from an anxiousness to replace it by one of your works. How exasperating that I should think it wrong sometimes to be always seen reading the same book or a book by the same authoress! I do, in the end, follow my own inclinations rather than bend to the wishes of others, but only after caring too much about other people’s opinions and patiently putting up with their suggestions to read what they themselves probably have not read. Yet even then I feel the shackles of conventionality, as testified by my continually looking about me when, at length, I have mustered courage enough to go to our library upstairs and choose one of your books again, on which, to your credit, dust never has time to settle.

I had gone thither for that very purpose a couple of days ago, and after hurriedly descending the stairs in excited spirits tinged with apprehension, while holding the cover of your book towards me so as to conceal it from view, joined my father and mother in the drawing room, whither they had repaired after dinner. A genial fire in the grate, lit earlier than usual by the housemaid on account of its being a remarkably cool evening for the season, made this the room all living creatures in the house were drawn towards, and when Maria came in with tea, Max and Joe, our two cocker spaniels, who had eagerly but obediently been waiting in the chilly hall for an opportunity to get in, sped past her to lay themselves to rest at our feet and, like ourselves, bask in the warm glow of the flames. After serving us, Maria was about to leave the room when my father addressed her thus:

“ The exemplary foresight shown in lighting the fire as early as has been done, is to be unequivocally commended, and I have been told that the idea proceeded from you, Maria. To have been thus saved from an evening spoilt by a fire lit too late, is a blessing indeed. ”

“ Thank you, Sir, ” was Maria’s humble reply.

Unsure whether she was meant to stay or leave the room, Maria felt all the discomfort of those finding themselves the recipients of commendation when it is neither expected nor felt to be deserved, and a hunching of the shoulders and restlessness of the hands were the surest symptoms of her agony. My father mercilessly continued his tribute, and although he now generously bestowed it on all those employed in his house, she still felt as awkward as if it had been exclusively intended for her.

Continue reading A Letter to Jane Austen – Part One