The Illustrated Biography of Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice and the Risque Rewrite
“Dear Emma” – Jane’s Heroine Goes To College
Jane Austen and the Waterloo Map
In Praying with Jane, Rachel Dodge has managed to present Jane Austen’s life “in a style entirely new”, taking a closer look at the heart behind the one of the most beloved authors of all time. Much of what is known of Jane’s life comes in the form of her (censored) letters and the reminiscences of family members. While these details paint a cheerful and amusing picture, that which made Jane, Jane, lies at the heart of the three existing prayers we have that she wrote for use during evening prayers. We do not know why she wrote them- whether out of an overflow of devotion or at the bequest of some family member, but the serious, heartfelt tone, when examined, adds a deeper shade to our understanding of the writer. These are no “vain repetitions”, but rather intimate, whole life lessons, summing up the core values of a woman once noted for her desire for anonymity.
In this book, Rachel Dodge closely examines each line of each prayer, in a day by day format, allowing for a 31 day devotional, to be used either in succession, or occasionally. Using Jane’s own historical background as well as Ms. Dodge’s extensive knowledge of Austen’s fictional works, the prayers are placed into context in Jane’s life, along with insightful ways to apply them to our own, often busy, lives. Each day includes related scripture as well as a call to prayer and worship as the reader seeks to apply Jane’s prayers to her own life. This breaking down works amazingly well to draw out the depth of Austen’s own writing and brings the reader a greater appreciation of Austen’s already acknowledged genius with language and the human heart.
By Sara-Mae Tuson
Exactly one year ago this week my friend Beth and I were having tea and cake in the Victoria and Albert Museum, when I asked her if she fancied joining me in setting up a boutique podcast company. So ‘Fable Gazers’ was born – a podcast company which aims to produce narrative podcasts with our own special twist.
With literary-themed podcasts in their infancy, there’s still room for new voices. Our ambitions are vast: we want to produce the next podcast obsession. With audio content (according to Oliver Deane, Director of Commercial Digital at DAX) set to make up 30% of advertising revenue it looked like a promising proposition. But it wasn’t the prospect of making money that inspired us to create Fable Gazers. It was two passion projects, one started by a friend’s shocking revelation to me, and the other created because of a need to find a podcast about two of my favourite writers.
I thought it might be possible to keep creating beautiful audio stories, not as a one-off, but as a proper company. With books being a passion of mine, particularly those of a certain famous author who died far too young, after shaping my young mind with such classics as Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility and more, I wanted to do something that covered an area of Austen’s world which hasn’t been done to death – and it hit me, what about the intersection between her work and the Regency romance novels of Georgette Heyer?
So, I began work on Heyer Today. Like The West Wing Weekly, in which Hrishikesh Hirway and Josh Malina discuss every episode of The West Wing with celebrity guests, our second season, Heyer Today, will have us discussing fourteen of Georgette Heyer’s books with someone who has never read one, attempting to ‘convert’ them to her work, as well as comparing them to Austen’s six classic novels as we go along. For many of us who adore Jane Austen’s work, Heyer is the closest thing we can find to our favourite literary heroine.
There were several revelations for me in the course of researching Heyer Today, and I’ve come to admire her even more than I did before beginning the process. For instance, she wrote almost two books a year throughout her career, supported her family with her work, and has never been out of print!
Lately, Laura had taken to flights of fancy that took her far beyond the confines of the coffee shop. The monotony of her time at ‘The Daily Grind’, coupled with the limited society that her working environment offered, meant that an hour seldom passed when she wasn’t engaged in the sort of boundless reverie that could quite simply transport one anywhere. Thus for every gentleman who crossed the threshold, Laura entertained a particular notion; that they all came looking for love, never just coffee beans.
Even in the beverages Laura made, she deduced the very essence and shape of a gentleman’s character. The choice of Cappuccino showed a classical taste and even temperament. A Latte presented a kind hearted, most feeling man. But it was the ordering of a Double Espresso that captured Laura’s imagination above all else, for it revealed a cosmopolitan, urbane type, possessed of a passion that she was quite powerless to resist.
Laura was snapped from her thoughts by the intruding vision of a gentleman who was a regular presence in ‘The Daily Grind’. Tall, handsome, with tousled black locks, he was a great favourite of Laura’s for a more dashing, daring figure she could scarcely imagine.
“Sir, may I… what, what would you like, your usual?” She smoothed her regulation apron, colour rising in her cheeks.
“A large black. Extra shot, extra hot. And quickly.”
What was more, he always, always, had his coffee just as described, which, for Laura, made it a very dangerous choice indeed. She blew a little air between her lips and concentrated hard on giving him the right change. She prepared his coffee, her heart quickening, her head bent to fasten the lid of the take-away cup, struggling a little as it refused to sit happily.
“Don’t take all day, I’ve a meeting at nine sharp, hurry can’t you?” He snapped, snatching the coffee from her, a little of it spilling from under the lid in his haste.
“And still I admire you” Laura whispered to his impatient, swishing coat tails, as he turned on his heel and slammed the door behind him, “for I am a fool indeed”.
Thus engaged, she scarcely noticed the other gentleman before her, that is until she heard a gentle clearing of the throat.
“Oh indeed, forgive me! I had not seen you!”
It was evident that the stranger did not belong in the morning rush of the business crowd, for he wore casual clothes that gave no suggestion of him earning nearly enough thousands a year. His charming countenance and easy manner were not yet enough to convince of his comparable merit.
“That’s quite all right”. He paused. “Pray, what do you recommend?”
“Recommend?” she puzzled, “ Why, sir, this is a coffee shop. People come in every day, and tell me exactly what they want in no uncertain terms.”
“Perhaps so” continued the young gentleman, “But I should appreciate it very much if you would make a suggestion. What is it that you would like to make for me?” He smiled, and Laura rather thought that he was making fun of her.
“Do you tease me, sir? If you wish your coffee black, then tell it to me so. If you wish for milk, then say if it is to be soya or skimmed or whole. Acknowledge to me the size of the cup and I shall oblige. I need not continue sir, for you mock me, I am certain”.
“You mistake me. I would simply rather bow to your good judgement. I have no preconceptions of what drink I should like, only that I should like you to serve it to me.”
“Oh, it is too much. Reprehensible behaviour indeed!”
“I assure you, I speak only the truth. I watch you through the window every day as I pass, but I have never dared ventured in. You see, I do not… care for coffee.”
“Do not care for coffee…?”
“No! Ever since I was the smallest of boys and I tasted it – it was so awfully bitter I thought that I should never clear the taste from my mouth. So… what should I do coming in here, a coffee shop, and looking nothing but a fool? In the end however, I was powerless to resist. For your charms, I laid my prejudices aside.”
Laura waved a hand, “we sell muffins…” she croaked, quite uncertain of a suitable response. For it was true, they did sell muffins. “Or…” she paused a moment, collecting herself, “or, perhaps I could make you a drink that may change your mind altogether.”
“Pray continue” levelled the stranger, whose relaxed attire had now become so much more pleasing than any suit.
“For you” said Laura, boldly looking into his eyes which were suddenly all the more appealing for their bright colour and fair brow, “I could make a lovely, hot, frothy, sweet cup of coffee with a drizzle of the finest hazelnut syrup. It is my favourite sir, and I promise it will tempt you, despite what you say.”
“Then I should be very pleased if you would,” said the gentleman, who had now become altogether very handsome indeed, “for I can see already that it will be very much to my liking. Pray, at what time do you finish today?”
And thus, with much care and more than a little admiration, Laura made for him the sweetest, warmest, most comely drink she could, giving no further thought to the black moods and dark looks that had formerly filled her mind. In this blissful state, it was all she could do to resist dropping a kiss into the cup, as she ducked behind the counter to froth the milk.
For it is a truth universally acknowledged, that if a gentleman shows first a weakness then a little sweetness, a lady will melt quickly, like syrup into hot coffee.