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Jane Austen News – Issue 61

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.


Jane Austen Loses Her Head  

The Jane Austen Detectives, an organisation which aims to promote the work of Jane Austen, is searching for a missing bust of Jane which once was displayed in Lyme Regis.

The bust once stood as the centrepiece of the Jane Austen Garden in Lyme Regis but has now completely disappeared. The bust was first removed in 2006 when coastal protection works in the gardens started. However, the works being completed, the bust should have gone back on display. Sadly, even though it was put into storage with the rest of the things from the Jane Austen Garden during the development works, the head vanished without trace.

The Jane Austen Detectives discussed the missing bust with Merry Bolton, chairman of the Lyme Regis Environment Group, which was involved in the landscaping of the new gardens, but she explained that; “We can’t find it in the store where all the things from the Jane Austen Garden were kept when all the works were going on. I have been on to Lyme Regis Town Council and West Dorset District Council about it and they can’t find it – does anybody know what happened to it?”

In a recent statement The Jane Austen Detectives said that:

With the bust vanishing as long ago as 2006, some might think that it is time to accept that Jane is not coming back. However, with the story never making big news, it is possible that people who have information about the statue might not know who to contact – or even that it is missing at all. So perhaps it is not quite time to give up hope and with a bit of luck she may appear just in time for her bicentenary.

The Jane Austen Detectives ask that anyone who can help solve the mystery contact Merry Bolton on 01297 443334.


The Real Face of Jane Austen 

We at the Jane Austen News are delighted to announce that the Jane Austen Centre has had a recent mention on the renowned History Extra website, in an article written by David Lassman, who is a former director of the International Jane Austen Festival and used to be PR and media consultant for the Jane Austen Centre. The article focuses on what Jane might have really looked like, and explores the many pictures that have contributed to our knowledge of the author’s likeness.

“The most recent attempt is by the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, which has unveiled a portrait based on a waxwork figure that resides at the centre…The life-size figure itself is based on an earlier attempt, also commissioned by the centre, which was created by Melissa Dring in 2002. It was her work on Vivaldi which first alerted David Baldock, Jane Austen Centre director, to this forensically trained artist (Dring trained at the Royal Academy School in London as a portrait painter and then as a police forensic artist with the FBI in Washington). The 1810 watercolour was used by the forensic artist as a starting point, along with more detailed contemporary eye-witness accounts of Jane’s features.”

You can read the full article here.


The History of England – Now On Audible

Fans of Jane might be interested to know that Jane’s early work, The History of England, is now available on Audible as an audiobook, and comes with Jane’s first novel, Northanger Abbey.

The Publisher’s Summary:

Award-winning narrator and internationally acclaimed writer/comedienne, Alison Larkin brings her signature wit to this hugely entertaining audio production of Jane Austen’s first novel, Northanger Abbey, followed by The History of England, a short, delightfully satirical piece that Austen wrote when she was just 15 years old.

In Northanger Abbey, Catherine Morland, a clergyman’s daughter, longs for the kind of romantic adventures she has read about in her favorite Gothic novels. After spending a season mingling with fashionable high society in Bath, she is invited to stay at Northanger Abbey where nothing is what it seems.

In The History of England, the teenage Jane Austen pokes fun at the historians of the day who pretended to be objective when they clearly were not, and wrote about the kings and queens of England with less respect (and more wit) than a British newspaper.

For anyone, who for whatever reason, finds reading Jane’s novels a challenge or prefers to listen rather than read books, this might be a good alternative way of discovering the joy of Jane’s early prose.


  A Wedding Speech With Added Jane 

We recently had a gentleman come to visit us at the Jane Austen Centre who would shortly be attending his son’s wedding at the Roman Baths. He was looking for inspiration for the speech he would be making in his role as the Groom’s father. Delighted to help, our guides spoke to him about Jane and about her views and limited personal experience of matters of marriage. He assured us that he would be very happy to share his speech with us after the event, and at the Jane Austen News we thought you might also enjoy reading it. We definitely did.

Excerpt from speech at Roman Baths on 4 March 2017, at Alan and Diluki’s Wedding:

“Do any of us really  know what the recepe is for a happy marriage? I referred to a former resident of Bath, Jane Austen, who might be able to enlighten us. What did she have to say on this subject?

Jane Austen was engaged for one night and changed her mind the next day when she was 27. She described him as being comfortably off, but complacently stupid. One of her father’s reasons for moving to Bath was to take her husband hunting when she was 25. She did not have a lot to say on relationships, but did make the following observations on marriage:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

Now I am not sure that is really our Alan.

As regards the single woman, I found the following Jane Austen observation:

“A lady’s imagination is very rapid, it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”

For a lasting marriage I suggest some reconciliation has to be made on these two observations.

At its simplest we could probably say the following about marriage – it will not be me any longer; but you will always have to think in terms of we. Respect, companionship and friendship are the essential ingredients for a happy marriage and I think Alan and Diluki will have that in abundance.”


Jane Austen Day with Charlotte

Jane Austen News is our weekly compilation of stories about or related to Jane Austen. Here we will feature a variety of items, including craft tutorials, reviews, news stories, articles and photos from around the world. If you’d like to include your story, please contact us with a press release or summary, along with a link. You can also submit unique articles for publication in our Jane Austen Online Magazine.

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