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)!
We know that some of you are not a fan of Keira Knightley’s portrayal of Lizzy Bennet in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, or of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Emma from 1996. If this is you then you’re not alone. Paula Byrne, author of The Genius Of Jane Austen: Her Love Of Theatre And Why She Is A Hit In Hollywood, while speaking at the Hay Literary Festival, has said that actresses Keira Knightley and Gwyneth Paltrow were too ‘nasal’ and ‘unlovable’ to play heroines like Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse.
I didn’t like Keira Knightley at all. I thought she was completely wrong for Elizabeth Bennet. Jane Austen made it clear she was not writing heroines who were drop dead beautiful, she was writing about a new kind of heroine. Keira Knightley was not just right for the role.
Strong words indeed. And Gwyneth?
You don’t really want to feel like strangling Emma – you get annoyed with her, the character, because she’s such a horrible snob and gets things wrong. But we find her lovable as well and Gwyneth Paltrow was not lovable enough for me.
A new stage adaptation of Persuasion, which has been playing at Manchester’s Royal Exchange, has taken the story of Persuasion from its 18th Century setting and planted it firmly in 2017, and it’s had rave reviews from it’s Guardian newspaper reviewer, despite being initially dubious. At the Jane Austen News we can see why Lyn Gardner wasn’t sure.
“A visit to Lyme Regis features a bikini foam party, those devoted to crinoline may take fright.”
She was soon won over though.
“Do not fear. I took about 25 minutes to be persuaded, and then I was hooked. A small sign of how unexpectedly invested the audience became in the production – which in less capable hands might simply have replaced 19th-century trappings for those of 2017 – is that when Anne and Wentworth eventually kiss there was spontaneous applause.”
If you’d like to see the production it’s playing in Manchester until June 24th.
Miranda Logan in Australia sent us this video link earlier this week in case it might be of interest. We agree, it certainly is. Especially so if you have a teen or ‘reluctant homeboy’ who needs to know about Jane Austen for school, college…or just because everyone ought to know about Pride and Prejudice!
Old Money = New Fertiliser
We’re due for a new £10 note in September – the special one with Jane Austen as the featured great British figure. We’re very much looking forward to it, but have you, like us, wondered what will happen to the old £10 notes when Jane’s ones come into circulation this September? There are approximately 723,000,000 paper ten pound notes in circulation, so it makes sense that the Bank of England already has a plan for what to do with them?
Until 1990 old notes were incinerated and the energy was used to heat the Bank of England building. However when the building got a heating system upgrade this wasn’t possible any longer, and now it turns out that the Bank of England has a new way of getting rid of its old notes – by recycling them with a composting treatment. This recycling method was put into place for all paper-note waste in 2011, using them as a soil improver for agriculture.
Not the answer we were expecting, we have to say!
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