What’s the Jane Austen News this week?
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.
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)!