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Jane Austen News – Issue 154

The Jane Austen News looks at the cast of Sanditon

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Jane Austen Letter Remnants  

When a private US collector paid £16,000 in September 2017 for a book of historical autographs (including those from such prominent figures as George Washington and Queen Victoria) they probably weren’t expecting to come across something which Jane Austen fans worldwide are always longing for – a lost extract from one of her letters. That is just what they found however.

Although the text of the extract had been known for many years as it was featured in Letters of Jane Austen, edited by Edward Lord Brabourne and published in 1884, the letter itself had been missing for years. Part of the reason for this being that as Jane Austen’s popularity grew in the 19th century her relative Lord Brabourne sold off a lot of her notes, since the desire to possess some of her hand written work was one felt keenly by many. This is part of the reason that there are scraps from letters found rather than whole letters. In the case of this letter scrap, the autograph is missing – so that was probably sold separately at some point previously.

The contents of the six handwritten lines in the autograph book come from letter 87 – a letter Jane wrote in September 1813 to her sister Cassandra, detailing advice to her brother Henry’s French housekeeper:

By the time you get this, I hope George & his party will have finished their Journey.

God bless you all. I have given Mde. B. my Inventory of the linen, & added 2 round towels to it by her desire.

She has shewn me all her storeplaces, & will shew you & tell you all the same. Perhaps I may write again by Henry.

Although it’s not a juicy new insight into Jane Austen’s literary plans for future novels, or an extract of a love letter long forgotten, it’s still wonderful to discover that another small piece of her epistolary past still survives to this day.
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Jane Austen News – Issue 153

The Jane Austen News is enjoying Pride and Prejudice and Passports

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 


A Surprise Newcomer Beats Pride and Prejudice 

To mark Valentine’s Day, Goodreads have announced their top romance novels of all time, based on the ratings of their 80 million members.

But it wasn’t one of the well-known and much loved romantic tales that came out as number one. Even though Pride and Prejudice regularly tops lists of the best books of all time! The book which took first place as the top romantic novel of all time in this latest poll is Coleen Hoover’s It End With Us, which is a relative newcomer given its release in 2016.

The New York Times bestseller It Ends With Us is all about successful business owner Lily, who meets a neurosurgeon called Ryle. And although the pair are clearly attracted to one another, she’s left flummoxed by his aversion to relationships. Later, thoughts of an old love only confuse Lily more.

It does sound like a good read, but we were amazed to find that Pride and Prejudice only reached number four on the list! Second was Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, and in third place was Jojo Moyes bestseller, Me Before You. Having said that, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre fared far worse, only making it to number 13 on the list…

Well, Pride and Prejudice will always be the winner in the eyes of the Jane Austen News!

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Jane Austen News – Issue 152

The Jane Austen News has some new reading material

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An Upcoming Recommended Read…Or Maybe Not? 

The British Library’s collection of ‘obscene writing’ will shortly be available to view online.

The ‘Private Case’ of sexually explicit books dating back to 1658 ranges from the hijinks of Roger Pheuquewell to pioneering gay porn in the 19th century, and will shortly be uploaded so that they will be available to be read by a wider audience, and not just those who request to look at them at the library (the collection has been available to the public through the British Library’s rare books collection since the 1960s).

Among the books going online are an 18th-century directory of sex workers in the Covent Garden area of London, copies of John Cleland’s 18th-century novel Fanny Hill (or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure), and Teleny (or The Reverse of the Medal). Teleny, for those who may be curious, tells of the tragic relationship between a young Frenchman and a Hungarian pianist, and authorship of the novel has been attributed to Oscar Wilde and members of his circle in the late 19th century.

In total there are over 2,500 volumes in the British Library’s Private Case collection, dating back as far as 1658! These volumes have now been digitised, and are being made available online by the publisher Gale as part of its Archives of Sexuality and Gender academic research resource.

There was essentially a series of cupboards in the keeper’s room from the 1850s, where material that was deemed to be unsuitable was kept locked away – usually because of its obscene nature, so pretty much anything to do with sex. It was added to throughout the 19th century, and this carried on until around 1960, when attitudes to sexuality were changing.

Maddy Smith, curator of printed collections.

At the Jane Austen News we thought that this digitisation news would be of interest to some of our readers due to its historic value as a glimpse into the past. It may not be for everyone though!

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Jane Austen News – Issue 151

The Jane Austen News and a new note

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Note Discovery Proves Jane Austen Portrait Authentic? 

The portrait opposite has to be one of the most controversial images of Jane Austen that there is.

It’s known as the Rice Portrait, and for years the Rice family who own the portrait have been fighting to prove that it is in fact a portrait of a young Jane Austen. Now, an overlooked note has come to light which may help to prove once and for all in the Rice family’s favour that the portrait is a genuine original portrait of Jane.

Of the Rice Portrait, the Rices have always explained that it was commissioned from the portrait painter Ozias Humphry in 1788, when 12-year-old Jane and her sister Cassandra were taken to visit their great-uncle Francis in Kent. According to the Rice family, Humphry’s 1788 accounts (held at the British Library) show a bill to Francis Austen for 13 guineas. However, experts in the art world, especially some of those at the National Portrait Gallery, say that it could not be of Austen. They have said that the style of the dress dates it to later than 1800.

The unsigned note which has recently be rediscovered, and which helps to support the Rice family’s claim of authenticity, is believed to have been written by Jane Austen’s great-niece Fanny Caroline Lefroy. Kept in Austen’s writing desk, it had been overlooked, said John Nettlefold, son of the painting’s owner Anne Rice, until its current owner noticed the small brown envelope containing it was marked “history of the portrait of Jane Austen”.

The note reads as follows:

“The history of the portrait of Jane Austen now in the possession of Morland Rice her Gt nephew. Old Dr Newman, fellow of Magdalen years ago told him that he had a portrait of Jane Austen the novelist, that had been in his family many years. He stated that it was done at Bath when she was about 15 & he promised to leave him (Morland Rice) the picture.

A few months before Dr Newman died, he wrote to a friend of his (a Dr Bloxam) sending him a picture as a farewell present & added ‘I have another picture that I wish to go to your neighbour Morland Rice. This a portrait of Jane Austen the novelist by Zoffany. Her picture was given to my step-mother by her friend Colonel Austen of Kippendon [sic], Kent because she was a great admirer of her works.’”

The note names the artist of the painting as being Johann Zoffany, to whom the painting has been attributed in the past. The note is unsigned, but after looking at it next to other documents held in the Hampshire Record Office, the Rices and independent scholar Kelly M McDonald (who is researching the letters and diaries of Emma Austen-Leigh, who was the wife of Jane Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh) are sure it is written by Fanny Caroline Lefroy.

John Nettlefold said that the letter “is written before there was any kind of issue. The problems only started in the 1930s … Unfortunately, there was then an institutional enmity towards it and it just got worse and worse.” He says that the letter is enough evidence to officially establish the painting as being an authentic portrait of Jane Austen.

So what next? Going forward, the Rice family wish to sell the portrait once/if it is officially certified as being of Austen. The family hopes that the portrait will come to be loves by Jane Austen fans and scholars worldwide.

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Jane Austen News – Issue 150

The Jane Austen News looks to Huntington

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A Call to Date Like Jane Austen Would Have 

This week the Jane Austen News came across a lovely article published on Bustle. The article is a call to take a leaf out of the dating playbook (as it were) which was used in Jane Austen’s era. It details some of the old-fashioned ways in which couples used to court one another and grow closer as a partnership.

These were our favourites:

  • Take a long romantic walk together 

“Taking a long romantic walk was all the rage back in Jane Austen’s heyday, and it’s an underrated way to strengthen a bond with someone”

  • Go out dancing

In whatever style you like best!

  • Eat dinner together

It doesn’t have to be a candlelit meal with five courses. Just spending time together in a shared activity is the important thing.

  • Writing love letters

“Texts and emails are fine, too. But throwing in the occasional hand-written note is something that can be a great way to express how you really feel about someone.”

  • Create weekly rituals

“If you don’t already have them, it may be time to create a few daily or weekly rituals that are all your own, just like couples did before life got so busy.”

  • Bond over a board game 

Or a game of bridge with your neighbours. Or perhaps a game of badminton a la Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram.

*

We thought they sounded marvellous, and we’ll definitely be doing our best to remember to take a few more romantic strolls and write more love letters. Sometimes the old ones and the best ones.

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 150

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Jane Austen News – Issue 149

The Jane Austen News marvels at old photographs

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Lost Photographs of Jane Austen’s Nieces


Lost photographs of Jane Austen’s nieces and nephews have been discovered in an old photo album which was purchased on eBay. Karen Levers, 51, bought the book of Victorian photographs for $1,000 (£780) from eBay, expecting it to be full of pictures of 19th century aristocrats. Instead she found it to be filled with photographs of Jane Austen’s nieces and nephews.

The album was compiled by Lord George Augusta Hill, an aristocrat who married two of Jane Austen’s nieces, Cassandra and Louisa, both of whom were daughters of her older brother Edward.

 

Austen’s great-niece Norah Mary Elizabeth Ward shortly after her wedding in April 1859.

 

The lady in this photograph is Austen’s niece, Marianne.

 

Jane Austen’s niece Fanny Knight, who later became Lady Knatchbull.

 

This picture shows Jane Austen’s nephew, Edward Knight, who scandalously eloped to marry his sister’s stepdaughter.

 

What a find! Historians are currently examining the album and it is hoped there will be an exhibition of the photos in the future.

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Jane Austen News – Issue 148

The Jane Austen News is that James McAvoy came to visit!

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Feminist Library Saved from Closure

London’s Feminist Library has been saved from closure thanks to its supporters raising £35,000 towards its survival. Redevelopment plans had threatened it, but an influx of donations from hundreds of people mean that the volunteer-run archive in London can afford to move to new premises. The library was founded in 1975 during the second wave of the women’s liberation movement.

It’s archive brings together an extensive collection of feminist literature and “herstories” and is one of only three such facilities in the UK, but the building the library is housed in is now set to be redeveloped, meaning that the library needs to leave by spring this year.

An alternative space in Peckham was found by Southwark council, but the library needed to raise at least £30,000 to fund the move. Nearly 800 supporters helped to raise the funds to do this. However, library staff are still looking for a further £12,000. to cover additional costs which includes archival storage, blackout curtains and painting and decorating. Staff are also looking for volunteers to help sort through a backlog of 4,000 uncatalogued book donations ahead of the move.

[The library is] important today more than ever because it has one of the most unique collections of feminist materials … It is also one of the very few spaces on a mission to save feminist herstories. Over the last couple of years, [it] has saved thousands of items – books, periodicals and archives – in donations from individuals and organisations, including some who were having real difficulties finding a willing repository for their collections, which might have otherwise been lost to future generations of feminists.

Magda Oldziejewska, fundraising coordinator

At the Jane Austen News, we love stories of libraries being saved, and this is one story of a library being saved that we think Jane would have loved since it’s a story of women’s writing winning against the odds.

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Jane Austen News – Issue 147

The Jane Austen News looks forward to Sanditon

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Happy Public Domain Day! 


On January the 1st 2019, hundreds of works of art entered the U.S. public domain following a delay of two decades!

Thanks to a bill which extended copyright terms in 1998, one which was urged in by the Walt Disney Company (in a bid to protect Mickey Mouse) this huge release of early twentieth century works into the public domain hasn’t happened for 21 years. This created a “bizarre 20-year hiatus between the release of works from 1922 and 1923.”

At the Jane Austen News, we really enjoy seeing how out-of-copyright works (such as Pride and Prejudice) can be used to be the basis of, and the inspiration for, new works of art – both literary and visual. Thanks to public domain laws we’ve been able to see stage productions of Jane’s books, new films, and new fiction (What Kitty Did Next and Death Comes to Pemberley for example). We’re therefore highly keen to see what the new release of work may lead to.

Some of the works which are now in the public domain include:

  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  • Two of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and The Murder on the Links
  • A Son At The Front by Edith Wharton
  • Poetry by Robert Frost
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