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Jane Austen News – Issue 53

The Jane Austen News is Dan and Lisa's Wedding

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?   

Pride and Prejudice Comes to Bath 

photo09This week in Bath we had the cast of Regent’s Park Theatre’s touring production of Pride and Prejudice on stage at the Theatre Royal, and we were lucky enough to be able to ask Ben Dilloway who plays Mr Darcy a few questions about performing in the city.

 

JAC: What has been the highlight of embarking on this tour during the 200th Anniversary year so far?

Ben: Bath has to be a highlight. The words of the play flow so easily in such a place and it feels great to have the Jane Austen Centre just around the corner, especially on such an important anniversary year.

JAC: Have you had to fight off many Mr Darcy fans?

Ben: Not as yet! Luckily the Austen crowds are utterly distinguished and keep all extremities of emotion firmly under their bonnets.

JAC:  How does it feel to be performing in Bath, considering its connection to Jane Austen? Has the cast felt a greater sense of connection with her while staying here?

Ben: I would say so, with such a city, steeped in history, its almost second nature to speak these words and adhere to the otherwise seemingly dated social norms.

JAC: How does adapting Pride and Prejudice for the stage add to the story and its themes?

Ben: It’s a real challenge to fit such a huge amount of information from the book into a mere two hours and thirty minutes. It’s certainly added to the energy of everyone’s desires.

JAC: Why do you feel Jane’s work is still important and relevant today?

Ben: If anything it is more modern than old. It talks of timeless things such as love, and debunks the trivial social expectations of the time. 

JAC: Well said. Thanks Ben!

 


New Jane Austen Statue Planned 

_93667520_mediaitem93667519A maquette (a wax or clay model from which a work is elaborated) for a new statue of Jane Austen has been unveiled. The maquette is about two thirds the size of the £100,000 life-sized bronze sculpture which is to be placed in Basingstoke town centre in July to mark the bicentenary of the author’s death.

the team We’re looking forward to seeing the final work and having a look at what similarities the statue has with our own Jane Austen – a waxwork completed by an FBI-trained forensic artist and her award-winning, internationally renowned team in 2014.

The maquette has been made by sculptor Adam Roud who said that he wanted his vision of Jane to have “poise and dynamism”.

She is walking in the square and someone has just said ‘good morning Jane’. She was a real person with her own character and hopefully I can get across she was a headstrong woman of her time, but is relevant to us today because of her novels.


Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 53

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Who is Sandy Lerner?

A woman, especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.

Northanger Abbey

With the publication of Second Impressions, many people are again wondering just who Sandy Lerner (aka Ava Farmer) is and why English women’s literature is so indebted to an American millionaire.

Sandy Lerner is the kind of woman whom Jane Austen would have appreciated. Unwilling to sit by and let her mind rust while be provided for by relatives, Sandy graduated high school and college at an early age and by the time she was 31, had co-founded Cisco Systems with her then-husband, Leonard Bostock. Originally working out of their own home, the company gained financial backers in 1987 and today Cisco Systems remains a cutting edge multimillion dollar networking and development company.

After leaving Cisco under the management of a new board of directors, the Bostock’s found themselves, again, in need of new intellectual challenges, this time, however, with millions of dollars to spend. This was a remarkable change for Sandy, who had grown up under the care of two aunts—one who worked a farm in the hills of California, and the other who lived a glamorous Hollywood style life. It was her time on the farm, that gave Sandy her lifelong passion for animals and her first taste of financial security (her registered herd of 200 cattle paid her way to college) and it was her life in the city which inspired her next venture.

With Cisco being managed by others (the Bostocks had been practically forced out by the new board by this point) Sandy took her passion for cosmetics to the next level by starting Urban Decay Cosmetics in the early 1990’s. Tired of the monochromatic pink and red hues offered by most retailers, she and a few friends patented gritty, city inspired colors, with names like Smog, Rust, Oil Slick and Acid Rain.

Ayrshire Farm gives Lerner and outlet for her agricultural interests.

Much like Dolly  Levi, in Hello Dolly, however, Ms. Lerner was never one to simply let her money rest. She preferred to spread it around, philanthropically, for the benefit not a few. The purchase of her Ayrshire Farm in Virginia allowed her to once again practice full time farming, but her passion for Jane Austen has led to ventures across the sea.

In 1987, she purchased a 125 year lease on Chawton Great House and the surrounding lands. Chawton Great House was the home of Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Knight, and it was his residence there, that made it possible for Jane, her mother and her sister Cassandra to settle at Chawton Cottage during the last years of Jane’s life. All of Jane Austen’s novels were either written or edited for publication from this home, just a short walk down the lane from the Great House.

Chawton House LIbrary

In July 2003, after a ten year renovation and restoration project, the Great House was finally able to open it’s doors as the Chawton House Library. Today the library boasts an outstanding collection of over 9,000 books, highlighting English women writers from 1600 to 1830. Most of these were gathered and donated by Sandy prior to the library’s opening. In reading these old manuscripts, Lerne says, “All of a sudden, Jane Austen made a whole lot more sense. It wasn’t like she’d dropped in from outer space with six of the best novels in the English language and left. You could see her in the context of things she’d read.”

The library’s Novels On Line project makes the full text of many of their works freely available to the public. Also housed at the Chawton House Library is the Knight Collection, a private collection of the Knight family’s books. These works were once owned by Jane Austen’s brother, Edward, and it is known that she enjoyed reading through his library.

Most gratifying to Austen lovers and scholars is the ability to not only discover and read previously unknown works, or even to study in the atmosphere of a house Austen intimately knew, it is in the making fresh and new and available to all another facet of “our Jane.”

One testament to Lerner’s love and devotion to Austen is her recent novel, Second Impressions. Part sequel to Pride and Prejudice, part Regency primer, it is a labor of love, 23 years in the writing.

Ever generous with her time and funds, Sandy has designated the proceeds from the sale of Second Impressions to the ongoing work of the Chawton House Library.

 


 

Laura Boyle runs Austentation: Regency Accessories. Her book, Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, is available from the Jane Austen Centre Giftshop. Visit Austentation for a large range of custom made hats, bonnets, reticules and Jane Austen related items.

 

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Second Impressions: A Review

 

Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticise. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness.
-Pride and Prejudice

When I first opened my copy of Second Impressions, I knew little of the story other than the obvious fact that it was a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (which, in its early stages, was titled First Impressions) I knew much more about the author, Ava Farmer, in reality, Sandy Lerner, the Fairy Godmother of women’s Literature.

As many readers may know, in 1987, American business woman and philanthropist Sandy Lerner (co-founder of Cisco Systems and Urban Decay Cosmetics) purchased a 125 year lease on Chawton Great House and the surrounding lands. Chawton Great House was the home of Jane Austen’s brother, Edward Knight, and it was his residence there, that made it possible for Jane, her mother and her sister Cassandra to settle at Chawton Cottage during the last years of Jane’s life. All of Jane Austen’s novels were either written or edited for publication from this home, just a short walk down the lane from the Great House.

In July 2003, after a ten year renovation and restoration project, the Great House was finally able to open it’s doors as the Chawton House Library. Today the library boasts an outstanding collection of over 9,000 books, highlighting English women writers from 1600 to 1830. Most of these were gathered and donated by Sandy Lerner prior to the library’s opening.

The library’s Novels On Line project makes the full text of many of their works freely available to the public. Also housed at the Chawton House Library is the Knight Collection, a private collection of the Knight family’s books. These works were once owned by Jane Austen’s brother, Edward, and it is known that she enjoyed reading through his library.

 

Chawton House Library

Ms. Lerner is a lifelong fan of Jane Austen’s work and during her time working on the Chawton House Library project, she poured that love of Austen into a sequel, an homage really, to not only Pride and Prejudice, but many of Austen’s other works, as well. 23 years in the writing Second Impressions is indeed a commanding volume (two volumes, really, bound as one, in the old style) It arrived beautifully bedecked in a charming dust jacket, also “in the old style” looking much like a gilt embossed leather bound album. The heavy paper and excellent typesetting, fonts and other decoration all give the feel of substantial, vintage work. One that might have come, even from Mr. Darcy’s extensive library.

These were my “first impressions”.

Ms. Lerner, it  appears, is no mean Austen scholar, having lectured and spoken extensively on the author as well as her works (look up “Lerner’s Theory of Austen” for one example, housed in the Epilogue of the book.) With all the resources of Chawton House Library at her disposal, and a passionate love for Austen’s work, her novel comes across, not as a light follow on or quick summer read, but as a labor of love. As much as she desired to give all Austen fans, herself included, another taste of Pemberley, and even of the lives and loves of figures from Emma and Persuasion, among others, she sought, even more so, to create characters and settings that might actually have existed in Austen’s Regency.

To this end, language—from actual spellings to sentence structure—is modeled on the English used in generations past. Paragraphs brim over with descriptions of events, places and feelings. While engrossed in the story, the reader is treated to a veritable primer of Regency life, and though the typesetting, use of correspondence, and even omission of peerage designations make the pages appear, at first glance, as though they could have been taken from an Austen novel, it’s closer to reading an annotated version, where the notes have been incorporated into the text—a novel, if I may say so, approach, that leaves one to resurface, after reading, a bit dizzied, into the frantic pace of 21st Century life.

Make no mistake though, this is not Austen. No longer must the Darcys be confined to “three or four families in a country village”. This “little bit of ivory” has grown up and gone to London. Ms. Lerner writes with engrossing detail of not only Regency country house life, but also town life, and even gives the Darcy’s a long and descriptive “Grand Tour” of the Continent. (Jane Austen’s brother Edward Austen-Knight made a four year “Grand” tour of the Continent in the late 1780s, and his journals have recently been published as Jane Austen’s Brother Abroad.)

Ms. Lerner does take some liberty with Austen’s intended endings for various characters, however, I, for one, cannot complain, for surely some characters were most certainly destined for each other, and everyone deserves some happiness, after all. Other pairings are truly remarkable, and only possible in the fertile imagination of a devoted Austen enthusiast. They are, however, entertaining, and, in the words of the immortal Miss Prism, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.”

Ms. Lerner now resides in Virginia and spends much of her time experimenting with heirloom breeds, agriculture and farming techniques. The proceeds from the sale of Second Impressions are being donated to the ongoing work of the Chawton House Library.