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The Illustrated Biography of Jane Austen

The Illustrated Biography of Jane Austen

Continue reading The Illustrated Biography of Jane Austen

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Jane Austen News – Issue 96

The Jane Austen News hopes Giles is converted!

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

 


To Lop and Crop or Leave Alone?

There has long been a debate around whether the books Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters are a bit of fun or an absolute travesty.

Jane Austen spin-offs are subjected to huge amounts of criticism, both good and bad. Usually these debates as to their merits, or lack of, take place online or in the media. However, now the universities are getting involved and there’s even been an academic essay written on the subject, analysing whether the “lopping and cropping” of Austen is a good or a bad thing.

Sydney Miller, a PhD candidate in English at the University of California, Los Angeles, has published her essay titled “How Not to Improve the Estate: Lopping & Cropping Jane Austen”. The abstract reads thus:

This essay reads Quirk Classics’ monstrous mash-ups, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, asdeliberately excessive and unnatural alterations that speak to a preoccupation with improvement that is both thematized within Austen’s own work and symptomatic of Austenmania’s broader project of renovating the literary landscape that is Jane Austen’s estate. While the mash-up enterprise is, no doubt, an exercise in making Austen’s novels worse, the essay frames the Quirk travesties in terms of Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp,” asking whether it is possible that these imprudent “improvements” might actually be good because they are bad. Insofar as the enhanced editions make manifest the Camp sensibility that has long been latent in Austen’s prose, they tease promising critical insight; however, the increasingly derivative mash-ups ultimately fail in their campiness precisely where Austen succeeds: for hers remains a secret of style.

What do you think? Are spin-offs like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters a good or a bad thing? A good way to get more readers introduced to Austen who might not otherwise try reading her (i.e. read the spin-off and then read the original)? Or are they a destruction of good literature?

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 96

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Jane Austen Online Biography

Jane austen biography

If you’ve ever longed for more information about Jane Austen’s life but haven’t time to visit the library, you are in luck! Many full length biographies of Austen’s life are available to read or download online with little or no cost. Reviews of these works can be found on JASA’s website.
A Memoir of Jane Austen by Her Nephew


The first Jane Austen Biography by James Edward Austen-Leigh (1798-1874, son of James Austen, Jane’s oldest brother) was written in 1870. Austen-Leigh had the benefit of not only knowing his famous Aunt, but also being privy to family memories and stories. Jane’s brother Henry had written a brief biographical forward in Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, but this was the first complete book dedicated to her life. Though not completely unbiased, this work provides much of what we know of Jane’s life, including the infamous “squeaking door” vignette. La Brocca offers it here, for free download or online perusal.
Jane Austen: Her Homes and Her Friends

This biography by Constance Hill was first published in 1901. It’s 23 chapters are available to read online free of charge, courtesy of “In Celebration of Women Writers”, hosted by The University of Pennsylvania.
Jane Austen and her Times

First Published in 1905, this is one of the early biographies of Jane Austen. Many of the Austen biographies available online were written by women and this work, by Geraldine Edith Mitton is no exception. Cathy Dean has provided the complete text (19 chapters and two appendix pages) along with the original 21 illustrations on her Jane Austen E-texts page.

Jane Austen

Another complete biography of Jane Austen, available from Jane Austen E-Texts. This work, by “To Jane Austen” author W. O. Firkins was published in 1920 and is made up of three principle parts: Part I–The Novelist, Part II–The Realist, Part III–The Woman.

The Jane Austen Information Page: Jane Info

The ultimate Jane Austen Website, the Jane Austen Information Page, a part of the Republic of Pemberly and pet project of Henry Churchyard, this site contains a magnificent overview of Austen’s life, complete with known family portraits, family trees, location photos and more.

Jane Austen


An in-depth biography of Jane Austen by Elizabeth Jenkins, published in 1949, is available online from Questia. Its 22 chapters can be previewed in part for free and read in whole with the purchase of a membership. Membership also allows access to other Austenesque works on their site such as Jane Austen’s Letters
by Jane Austen, edited by Deirdre Le Faye, Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Work, Her Family, and Her Critics, by R. Brimley Johnson, Jane Austen: Facts and Problems by R. W. Chapman, Jane Austen and Her Art by Mary Lascelles and many othe works. You can listen to a free sample of Jenkin’s book and the opportunity to download it in full, visit Audible.com.

The Jane Austen Biography

Ebookmall is offering not only a Jane Austen biography downloadable in many different formats, but also a plethora of other Austen works. A small fee applies to each purchase.
Biographical Excerpts

The New York Times and the Washington Post offer free chapters and reviews of both Jane Austen: A Life by David Nokes and Jane Austen: A Biography by Claire Tomalin. You can preview the books here by signing in for a complimentary account.
Listen, Download, Preview, Purchase


You can always find numerous Jane Austen related books on Amazon. Many of these books allow you to preview their chapters online and some, like Carol Shield’s Jane Austen, are available to purchase in audio format. This Pulitzer Prize winning biography, part of the Penguin Lives series, is small, but quite effective, touching on the known facts of Austen’s life without reading too much into her works.

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Martha Lloyd: Jane Austen’s “Second” Sister

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With what true sympathy our feelings are shared by Martha you need not be told; she is the friend and sister under every circumstance.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
Castle Square October 13, 1808

Martha Lloyd, by kind permission of private owners collection.
Second only to Cassandra, Martha Lloyd (1765-1843) seems to have been Jane Austen’s dearest friend. Not much is known of them though it is supposed that Mrs. Lloyd, daughter of the Royal Governor of South Carolina, the Hon. Charles Craven, met her future husband in Newbury, when she and her sister lived there with an aunt, who took them in after they had fled from a mother who, by some accounts treated them badly and by others was insane. Regardless of the situation, both sisters married obscure country parsons. The Lloyds settled down and had four children. Martha, the oldest daughter, was born in 1765 and her sister Mary in 1771. A few years later, a smallpox epidemic took the life of their brother and left the two older sisters scarred for life, though the youngest, Eliza, seems to have escaped relatively unharmed.

The Lloyd family had much in common with the Austens and from an early time, visits between the two families were frequent. Though no one knows quite how they met, the Austens and Lloyds shared many mutual friends and when the Rev. Lloyd died in 1789, his widow and her two oldest, single daughters were happy to move into the unused Deane parsonage offered by Rev. Austen. Their time there, only a mile and a half from Steventon, must have been a delight for young Jane, for though she was ten years younger than the oldest Lloyd daughter, Martha, they were, as Janes’ cousin Eliza de Feuillide remarked, “very sensible and good-humored.”

Three years later, when Jane Austen’s brother, James, married and assumed the parish of Deane, it was necessary for the Lloyds to move, this time to a home in Hurstbourne, called Ibthorpe. Though only 15 miles from Steventon, this separation must have seemed cruel to Jane, who had few friends nearby and no mode of transportation. It is clear from Jane Austen’s correspondence that her friend Martha was privy to her great secret– her writing. An early piece of Juvenilia, Frederick and Elfrida, is dedicated to her

As a small testimony of the gratitude I feel for your late generosity to me in finishing my muslin Cloak, I beg leave to offer you this little production of your sincere Freind and later writings prove that she had been allowed to see the manuscript for Love and Freindship, an early edition of Pride and Prejudice and an honor accorded to few.

In 1805 changes abounded for the Austen and Lloyd Ladies. Many years had now passed since James Austen’s first wife had died and he had remarried again, choosing the younger Miss Mary Lloyd to be his second wife. With the Austen’s removal to Bath in 1801, James had taken over both the Deane and Steventon holding and his growing family now lived in the Steventon parsonage.

It was while they were living in Bath that Mr. Austen finally succumbed to his long illness and not too many months later that Mrs. Lloyd also died. The women, being in a delicate financial state decided to combine housekeeping and all four (Mrs. Austen, Cassandra, Jane and Martha Lloyd) moved to Southampton to be with Jane’s younger brother Frank and his wife, Mary. As an officer in the Navy, Frank was often away from home and this joining of households not only helped him look after his widowed mother, but provided constant companionship for his soon pregnant wife. It seems to have been, by all accounts, an excellent arrangement.

On July 7th 1809, Jane Austen moved to a cottage in Chawton, together with her mother, her sister Cassandra, and their friend Martha Lloyd, at the invitation of her brother Edward Knight, on whose estate it lay. Their new house was a late 17th Century brick building with two sitting rooms, five bedrooms, kitchens, garrets, outbuildings, and about two acres of grounds. It had once been an inn, and stood at the junction where the Gosport and Winchester roads met and became the main road to London.

The family remained at Chawton Cottage, even after Jane Austen’s death in 1817. Martha Lloyd took on many duties as housekeeper for the family, though the work was divided among the three surviving women. Unfortunately for Frank, by now Sir Francis Austen, his happy home was broken up upon the death of his wife in 1823 after the birth of their 11th child. In 1828 he remarried, completing the family circle by this time, wedding Martha Lloyd. At sixty two, Martha was at last a bride, and more than that, Lady Austen.

Her role as Jane Austen’s friend and confidant cannot be undervalued and her contribution to what we know of Jane Austen’s life is significant. We have, not only letters written by Jane to Martha, but her collection of recipes used at Chawton were later were compiled into The Jane Austen Household Book and more lately, The Jane Austen Cookbook.

Martha Lloyd died in 1843.

*****

About the author of this article:

Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She runs Austentation: Regency Accessories, creating custom made hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe.

Sources for this article included:
Jane Austen: A Companion by Josephine Ross; Rutgers University Press; 2003
Jane Austen: Her Life by Park Honan; A Thomas Dunn Book; 1987

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A Jane Austen Daydream: A Review

A Jane Austen Daydream: A Review

“It is only a novel… or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.”
-Northanger Abbey

A sneak preview of the cover for A Jane Austen Daydream

When Scott Southard set out to write a novel about Jane Austen, he purposefully avoided reading any of the recent spate of biographical fiction. This was to be an un-biography—the life he wished Jane might have led—a Jane Austen daydream. His goal, as stated in the dedication, was to make his wife laugh.

As a male writer, writing fiction featuring perhaps the most famous female writer of all time, Southard was in a class, if not by himself, then with very few to compete with. Certainly, he brings a new spin to the Austen oeuvre. His Jane is unlike any I’ve ever read—“a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice” if you will. A sharply tongued Marianne to Cassandra’s Elinor. Indeed, the world he has created for Jane, beginning with her life in Steventon, is full of characters that would later appear in one form or another in her works. Her dear friend Harriet, for instance, is a duplicate of Harriet Smith, in Emma.

Some may find this to lack creativity, they might assume that the author is indicating that Jane was unable to create realistic characters on her own, for the Jane in this novel is a writer, and does, over the course of the book, complete several of her now famous works. Others might look on it with the delight of discovering an old friend in an unexpected place. I prefer to think of it as the latter. After all, this is not a biography (as those familiar with the life of Jane Austen will quickly note) and it was written to make his wife laugh. How better to do that, you might ask, than to create a Lady Catherine De Bourgh imbued with the spirit of Mrs. Jennings? This is only one of the “sightings” which fill the book, adding to a diverse cast of characters, both real and imagined.

While shielding himself from recent publications, Southard saturated himself, instead, in Jane Austen’s own writings, reading through her works several times throughout the development of this novel. This familiarity with the entire Austen canon shines through, with much of the dialogue taken directly from her novels and letters (but with a twist). Lines are spoken “out of context”, combined with conversations from other works, and placed back into the mouths of Austen’s own friends and family.

Continue reading A Jane Austen Daydream: A Review

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Josiah Spode & Sons: Founders of the Spode Dynasty

Josiah Spode

Who were Josiah Spode & Sons?

The elegance of the breakfast set forced itself on Catherine’s notice when they were seated at table… He was enchanted by her approbation of his taste, confessed it to be neat and simple, thought it right to encourage the manufacture of his country; and for his part, to his uncritical palate, the tea was as well flavoured from the clay of Staffordshire, as from that of Dresden  or Save.
Northanger Abbey

Josiah Spode (23 March 1733 – 1797) was an English potter and the founder of the English Spode pottery works which became very famous for the quality of its wares. He is often credited with the establishment of blue underglaze transfer printing in Staffordshire in 1781–84, and with the definition and introduction in c. 1789–91 of the improved formula for bone china (a form of soft-paste porcelain) which thereafter remained the standard for all English wares of this kind.

Josiah Spode was born in a village that is now part of Stoke-on-Trent. Spode was a pauper’s son and also a pauper’s orphan at the age of six. He was apprenticed to potter Thomas Whieldon in November (Martinmas) 1749, and remained with him until at least 1754, the year in which Josiah Wedgwood became Whieldon’s business partner. Wedgwood stayed with Whieldon until 1759. Spode worked alongside Wedgwood and with the celebrated potter Aaron Wood (father of Enoch Wood) under Whieldon’s tuition, and was with Whieldon at the high point of production there.

After John Turner left Stoke for Lane End in 1762, Spode is said to have carried on the factory of William Banks, Turner’s partner, at Stoke for him for some time. There he began to make creamware (blue painted as well as white stoneware) in the manner of John Turner, and continued to perfect his excellent potting technique. He was powerfully influenced by Turner’s work. He also made black ware and maintained a printing press for black transfer printing. He was engaged as master potter, but it is not known if his work there was consecutive or sporadic.

The Spode factory as it appeared in the 1700’s and now; examples of Spode transferware, and the Spode trademark stamp.

Spode rented a factory in Church Street, Stoke-on-Trent in 1767. There he was in financial partnership with William Tomlinson (a solicitor), and in 1772 he took on a pottery at Shelton with Thomas Mountford as his backer. In 1776, he bought the old pottery works at Stoke which had formerly been the property of William Banks (in partnership with Turner), on the same site as the later Spode factory which continued operating into modern times. His business in creamware (a fine cream-coloured earthenware) and in pearlware (a fine white-glazed earthenware), was very successful.

Josiah Spode I is credited with the introduction of underglaze blue transfer printing into Staffordshire in 1781–84. More precisely he was the first to introduce a perfected method to Stoke, (with the help of engraver Thomas Lucas and printer James Richards, formerly of Caughley, Shropshire), using improvements recently developed at nearby Shelton by or for Ralph Baddeley.

Without Spode’s work, we might never have see these famous words…

Spode the elder also, between 1788 and 1793, established and finalized the formula for English bone china, for whereas bone ash had previously been added in other factories to the fabric in proportions of roughly 40%, Spode simplified and greatly improved the recipe.

Spode had various commercial premises in London, originally in Fore Street, Cripplegate. However, the warehouse was finally settled in the former Theatre Royal, no 5 Portugal Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which his firm occupied from 1795 to 1848 when the building was pulled down. (This had been the venue of the first performance of the Beggar’s Opera in 1727.)

Josiah I was an accomplished violin player. He became a Freeman of the City of London in 1778 and was a Liveryman of the Spectacle Makers’ Company. Josiah was married to Ellen, who died in 1802 aged 76. They had two sons, Josiah and Samuel, and daughters Anne, Sarah and Ellen. Josiah and Ellen Spode (senior) are buried in Stoke-on-Trent churchyard.

The grave of Josiah Spode and his wife, Ellen.

 

 

Josiah Spode II (1755–1827) succeeded to the business in 1797. He was magnificently prepared for the role, an experienced salesman as well as a potter, having gained an invaluable knowledge of marketing in fashionable London. He was also a flautist, and was father of Josiah III, and grandfather of Josiah IV, a convert to Roman Catholicism, who founded Hawkesyard Priory near Rugeley.

When Josiah II married the niece of John Barker, a manufacturing potter of Fenton, in 1775 at Stoke on Trent, his father, Josiah the elder took this opportunity to establish the regular London business. Between 1775 and 1782, when his wife died in London, Josiah the younger moved between Longton and Cripplegate, London, where he was doubtless manager of the Fore Street warehouse under the guidance of William Copeland, his father’s friend and London partner. He came into power as head of the business after his father’s sudden death in 1797. He was active in the North Staffordshire Pitt Club and entered politics. He became Captain of the ‘Pottery Troop’ Cavalry Division affiliated to the Staffordshire Yeomanry, at its foundation in 1798 until its disbandment in 1805. He was granted arms in 1804. In 1811, with James Caldwell of Linley Wood, he successfully opposed a move by government to impose taxation on the work of the Potteries.

Spode’s famous Blue Italian pattern, which is still in production.

Josiah Spode’s (I) second son, Samuel Spode, for whom Josiah I erected the Foley factory at Lane End, produced salt-glazed wares up to the end of the eighteenth century. There were also daughters, including Elizabeth, who is mentioned in her parents’ wills. Samuel’s son Samuel emigrated to Tasmania and afterwards to Queensland, where his descendants held positions in government.

The Spode name is now owned by the Portmeirion pottery company, which produces many of the former Spode patterns.


If you love the elegance of the Georgian’s blue and white chinaware, you might like to have a look at our Netherfield Collection. The Netherfield Collection teacup, saucer and plate set can be seen here.  

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Hannah More: Expert Abolitionist

Hannah More (February 2, 1745 – September 7, 1833) was an English religious writer, and philanthropist. She can be said to have made three reputations in the course of her long life: as a poet and playwright in the circle of Johnson, Reynolds and Garrick, as a writer on moral and religious subjects, and as a practical philanthropist.

Born in 1745 at Fishponds in the parish of Stapleton, near Bristol, Hannah More was the fourth of five daughters of Jacob More, a schoolmaster originally from Harleston, Norfolk. He was from a strong Presbyterian family in Norfolk, but had become a member of the Church of England, and originally intended to pursue a career in the Church, but after the disappointment of losing a lawsuit over an estate he had hoped to inherit, he moved to Bristol, where he became an excise officer and was later appointed teacher at the Fishponds free school.

They were a close family and the sisters were first educated by their father, learning Latin and mathematics: Hannah was also taught by her elder sisters, through whom she learned French. She was keen to learn, and possessed a sharp intellect – she was assiduous in studying and, according to family tradition, began writing at an early age.

In 1758 Jacob established his own girls’ boarding school at Trinity Street in Bristol for the elder sisters, Mary and Elizabeth to run, while he and his wife moved to Stony Hill in the city to open a school for boys. More became a pupil when she was twelve years old, and taught at the school in her early adulthood.

Hannah More’s first literary efforts were pastoral plays, written while she was teaching at the school and suitable for young ladies to act, the first being written in 1762 under the title of The Search after Happiness; by the mid-1780s over 10,000 copies had been sold. Metastasio was one of her literary models; on his opera of Attilio Regulo she based a drama, The Inflexible Captive.

 

More (standing, left, as a personification of Melpomene, muse of tragedy), in the company of other "bluestockings" (1778).

In 1767 More gave up her share in the school after becoming engaged to William Turner of Tyntesfield, Wraxall, Somerset. After six years the wedding had not taken place and Turner seemed reluctant to name a date, and in 1773 the engagement was broken off; it seems that, as a consequence, More suffered a nervous breakdown and spent some time in Uphill, near Weston-super-Mare, recuperating. As compensation, Hannah More was induced to accept a £200 annuity from Turner. This set her free for literary pursuits, and in the winter of 1773–74 she went to London in the company of her sisters, Sarah and Martha – the first of many such trips she made at yearly intervals. Some verses that she had written on David Garrick’s version of King Lear led to an acquaintance with the celebrated actor and playwright.

Within a short time More had associated herself with London’s literary elite, including Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds and Edmund Burke. She also became one of the foremost members of the so-called bluestocking group of women engaged in polite conversation and literary and intellectual pursuits, attending the salon of Elizabeth Montagu, where she also met and became acquainted with Frances Boscawen, Elizabeth Carter, Elizabeth Vesey and Hester Chapone, some of whom were to become lifelong friends. She later wrote a witty celebration of her friends and the circle to which they belonged in her 1782 poem The Bas Bleu, or, Conversation, published in 1784.

Garrick wrote the prologue and epilogue for Hannah More’s tragedy Percy, which was acted with great success at Covent Garden in December 1777. Another drama, The Fatal Falsehood, produced in 1779 after Garrick’s death, was less successful and, as a consequence of its failure, she never wrote for the stage again. In 1781 she first met Horace Walpole, man of letters and art historian, and corresponded with him from that time. At Bristol she discovered the poet Ann Yearsley and, when she became destitute, raised a considerable sum of money for her benefit. Lactilia, as Yearsley was called, published Poems, on Several Occasions in 1785, earning about £600. More and Montagu held the profits in trust to protect them from Yearsley’s husband: Anne Yearsley wished to receive the capital, and made insinuations of stealing against More, forcing her to release the money. These literary and social failures caused More’s withdrawal from London’s intellectual circles.

Hannah More published Sacred Dramas in 1782 and it rapidly ran through nineteen editions. These and the poems Bas-Bleu and Florio (1786) mark her gradual transition to more serious views of life, which were fully expressed in prose, in her Thoughts on the Importance of the Manners of the Great to General Society (1788), and An Estimate of the Religion of the Fashionable World (1790). By this point she was intimate with William Wilberforce and Zachary Macaulay, with whose evangelical views she was in sympathy. She published a poem on Slavery in 1788, and was for many years a friend of Beilby Porteus, Bishop of London and a leading abolitionist, who drew her into the group of prominent campaigners against the slave trade such as Wilberforce, Charles Middleton and James Ramsay, based at Teston, Kent.

In 1785 she bought a house, at Cowslip Green, near Wrington, in northern Somerset, where she settled down to country life with her sister Martha, and wrote many ethical books and tracts: Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education (1799), Hints towards Forming the Character of a Young Princess (1805), Coelebs in Search of a Wife (only nominally a story, 1809), Practical Piety (1811), Christian Morals (1813), Character of St Paul (1815), Moral Sketches (1819). She was a rapid writer, and her work is consequently discursive, animated and formless. The originality and force of More’s writings perhaps explains her extraordinary popularity. At the behest of Porteus, she wrote many spirited rhymes and prose tales, the earliest of which was Village Politics, by Will Chip (1792), intended to counteract the doctrines of Thomas Paine and the influence of the French Revolution. More became a prominent opponent of the slave trade in the late 18th century.

The success of Village Politics induced More and Porteus to begin the series of Cheap Repository Tracts, which from 1795 to 1797 were produced at the rate of three a month. Perhaps the most famous of these is The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain, describing a family of phenomenal frugality and contentment. This was translated into several languages. Two million copies of these rapid and telling sketches were circulated, in one year, teaching the poor in rhetoric of most ingenious homeliness to rely upon the virtues of content, sobriety, humility, industry, reverence for the British Constitution, hatred of the French, trust in God and in the kindness of the gentry.

Jane Austen was no doubt familiar with Hannah More’s writings, and her sentiments are alluded to in her writing: in Mansfield Park and specifically in Emma, when Jane Fairfax compares governessing to slavery, decrying it to be “the sale—not quite of human flesh—but of human intellect”.

In the late-1780s Hannah and Martha More conducted philanthropic work in the Mendip area, following encouragement by Wilberforce, who saw the poor conditions of the locals when he visited Cheddar in 1789. She was instrumental in setting up twelve schools by 1800 where reading, the Bible and the catechism — but not writing — were taught to local children. More also donated money to Bishop Philander Chase for the founding of Kenyon College. The More sisters met with a good deal of opposition in their works: the farmers thought that education, even to the limited extent of learning to read, would be fatal to agriculture, and the clergy, whose neglect she was making good, accused her of Methodist tendencies. In her old age, philanthropists from all parts made pilgrimages to see the bright and amiable old lady, and she retained all her faculties until within two years of her death. She spent the last five years of her life in Clifton, and died on 7 September 1833. She is buried at Church of All Saints, Wrington.

From Wikipedia

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Effusions of Fancy Consisting of Annotated Sketches from the Life of Jane Austen in a Style Entirely New

Effusions of Fancy

Consisting of Annotated Sketches from the Life of Jane Austen in a Style Entirely New

by Jane Odiwe

I have lost a treasure, such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed. She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow, I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself.

These words, penned by Cassandra Austen on the death of her sister, attest to the great affection that she held for Jane, and yet, who was this woman? We know so little of her. While scholars are content to unravel the mysteries of Jane’s life and loves, her dearest companion remains somewhat of a mystery. Most of Jane’s letters that survive today were written to this sister and it is clear that they shared a perspicacity and wit far beyond that of other women of the time. While we may accuse Cassandra of destroying what may have been the most interesting of these missives, we must also thank her for preserving the ones that survive.

But where survive Cassandra’s letters? Who but Jane held her correspondence so dear? In her recent book, Jane Odiwe attempts to answer some of the lingering questions we might have, by filling in some of these gaps with letters written, as if by Cassandra, in response to known letters of Jane’s. Added to this are sumptuous watercolors depicting daily life for the Austen girls from their early childhood through Jane’s residence in Bath.

Of her book, the author writes,

Effusions of Fancy came about as a result of my frustration at the lack of images of Jane Austen and in January 2001 I started to research and draw for the book. As an artist, Cassandra’s little sketch, now housed in the National Portrait Gallery, fascinated me. For those of you who have not seen the real thing, it really is a very beautiful little drawing and sadly does not seem to reproduce well in books etc. In reality, it is a very delicate watercolour painting, executed in pale washes with very fine detail. Cassandra, the novelist’s sister, who painted it must have had wonderful eyesight and a very steady hand! The reproductions we see in books are often over large and heavily printed and have, I believe, contributed to the myth that Jane was a cross looking spinster who lived a quiet life in a rectory. I wondered if by examining Cassandra’s sketch and by studying the faces, portraits and silhouettes of other family members I could find the Jane I could see in my head, the personality that leaps from the pages of her novels and letters, the pretty girl who laughed at life and loved to dance.

While Jane Austen excelled in writing, Cassandra was the artist of the family. While we may thank her for the only authenticated portraits of Jane as well as other family members, there is, to the true devotee, always a desire for more. With this in mind, Jane Odiwe has expanded this collection with paintings of the Austen Family, a “younger” portrait of Jane, and what is perhaps her most excellent work, a completion of the “Jane in a Blue Dress” sketch done by Cassandra, in which Jane turns her head to the painter, finally allowing us to see her face. She rounds out the collection with a love letter to Jane from her mysterious Sidmouth admirer. At last we have the opportunity to see, at least for a moment, the happiness she wished for all her heroines, visited on Jane. Everywhere full of facts, details and minutiae from the Austen’s lives, this book is sure to be treasured, along side of Austen’s own novels and letters. Nowhere is liberty taken too greatly to be believable. We are not presented with more that is already known and verified. Instead, we see a more complete picture of this sister who was more than all to Jane and are given a delightful hour’s read, which is, like its subject’s own, “Light, Bright, and Sparkling.”

Price: £9.99
ISBN: 0954572203
Publisher: PaintBox Publishing

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