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Jane Austen News – Issue 30

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?


Are Retellings A Good Idea? Austen & Shakespeare     

LS3016_54_GI_51246881You have probably heard that in 2013 HarperCollins launched the Austen Project, commissioning contemporary updates of Jane’s six completed novels. Well, less well publicised has been the Hogarth Shakespeare initiative, which, in a similar vein to the Austen Project, is giving eight of Shakespeare’s plays to a selection of today’s best-selling novelists for some modern retellings.

Shylock is My Name is Howard Jacobson’s take on The Merchant of Venice. Jeanette Winterson has written The Gap of Time based on The Winter’s Tale. Then came Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler which is a remake of The Taming of the Shrew.

The Austen Project has had a few criticisms from reviewers, but the Hogarth Shakespeare initiative has a couple of problems that the Austen Project did not, which has left some critics cold to the idea. For example, how to deal in a modern society with a plot hinging on misogyny in The Taming of the Shrew, and one based on anti-Semitism in The Merchant of Venice. Also, changing the format from a play that happened over the space of a few hours, to a form that takes much longer, usually a few days at least, takes some thought and much deeper access to characters’ psychology.

The next in the Shakespeare series is due out this October; Hagseed by Margaret Atwood, based on The Tempest. We at the Jane Austen News thought that fans of the Austen Project might like to know and compare the relative successes of the books from the two initiatives.      

Musical Jane At The Fringe

promise-and-promiscuity-jane-austen-musical-ed-fringeGiven the size of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and the number of performers taking part and shows on offer, it would have been somewhat incredible if there wasn’t at least one Jane Austen themed piece of theatre to see.

This year Penny Ashton fulfils that requirement with Promise and Promiscuity. She presents a rather down-to-earth/tongue-in-cheek view of Jane’s world in an hour-long comedic romp through material based on Jane’s famous novels. Ashton’s one woman show gives the audience an insight into the lives of Miss Elspeth Slowtree and her family and general acquaintance. They navigate through a complex social world and dance the ‘wriggly maggot’, deal with marriage proposals, explore the role of the woman in society, and get mixed up with Horatio Nelson’s bodily functions.

Within the play are 33 direct Jane Austen quotes, as well as references to plenty of modern pop songs. Ballads, arias, and jaunty tunes are another feature; written to the tune of well-known classical pieces.

So now to wait and see if it will prove to be a successful blend of modern and old, or if it will be too much for more purist fans.

New Bridget Jones Novel On The Way 

_90685639_012723674Fans of Pride and Prejudice will know that Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones is based on Austen’s Lizzy Bennet. The Bridget Jones books became hugely popular with established Austen fans as well as those who’d never read any of Jane’s work before. So, assuming that the overlap between Pride and Prejudice fans and Bridget Jones fans still exists, we at the Jane Austen News thought you might like to know that a new Bridget Jones novel is on its way.

On September the 16th this year (2016), the film Bridget Jones ‘s Baby will be released in UK cinemas. A month after this the book Bridget Jones’s Baby: The Diaries written by Helen Fielding will also be released. Both the film and the book follow Bridget’s not so smooth journey into motherhood after she gets pregnant, along with the awkward question of who the father of the baby is.

The new book will be set after the events in The Edge of Reason but before those of Fielding’s last Bridget Jones book, Mad About The Boy, so rest assured, Mark Darcy will feature heavily.

Perception The Perfect Sequel Name?      

515QiMbLJ7LThere have been plenty of sequels, and prequels for that matter, written about Pride and Prejudice. Lots of sequel, with lots of things in common; the same characters, the same tone of voice, some have the same basic plot lines, but they don’t usually have  the same name…

In September 2015 Dennis R. Fortier released a sequel to Pride and Prejudice titled Perception, in which “Jayne, the beautiful, charming, intelligent daughter of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy falls in love with young Jeffery Richards. Unfortunately, Richards is the son of parents in service and the irregular romance causes plenty of concern and scandal that echoes far beyond the hallowed halls of Pemberley.” Now a second book called Perception is to be released. Due out next year the new Perception is written by Terri Fleming and it’s going to include Elizabeth and Darcy (of course) but will follow primarily Kitty and Mary Bennet.

It would be interesting to know if the respective authors find it to be an advantage or a disadvantage to have another Pride and Prejudice based book on the market with their book’s name.

Examining Jane Austen’s Fashion 

Jane Austen NewsOn Saturday 5 November 2016 and on Saturday 12 November 2016, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry, UK, will be hosting the two-part event Pride, Prejudice and Petticoats: Regency Fashion from Jane Austen to Cranford.

In the course attendees will explore women’s clothing from 1800 to the mid-1830s, examining details of surviving garments in museum collections and comparing them with contemporary images and descriptions.

Also explored will be the social background to fashion. This includes how it was bought and made, and what can be learnt about this from the books and letters of writers such as Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell. By the end of the course “you will come to historical fiction and costume drama with a new understanding of the clothing of this period.”

So for Austen fans in the Coventry area, this might be an event to add to the calendar. Tickets are limited and priced at £46 when booked via eventbrite.

Jane’s Chawton Raises School Funds 

AH-Chawton-Ball2Guests attending this year’s Chawton Hamper Ball enjoyed a wonderful evening of music, magic, food and drink, while simultaneously raising funds to buy new IT equipment for the village primary school. The event was hosted by Chawton House Library on July 9, under a marquee provided by the Jane Austen Society, and it attracted more than 130 people.

A raffle was also held as part of the Ball to raise funds for St Michael’s Hospice in Basingstoke. Prizes included a private aircraft flight over Chawton, private tours of Chawton House Library and Jane Austen’s House in Chawton, flatscreen televisions, beauty treatments, and Country Market vouchers.

The total amount raised for the hospice was over £400, and the total raised for the primary school over £2,000!

Jane keenly encouraged her nieces to write, so it seems only appropriate that Chawton, her home after she left Bath, is helping to raise funds to inspire and educate the next generation. Perhaps a few may even go on to be authors like Jane. Who knows.

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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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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Steventon Roast Potatoes Recipe

Jane Austen News

Potatoes were grown at Steventon as early as 1773. In this, Mrs. Austen was decades ahead of her time, and the wonder of her neighbours who supposed them to be a dish fit only for gentry. Puddings had served as the main source of starch in English diets, but a wheat shortage in 1794 led the Board of Agriculture to advise all clergy “to encourage, as much as they can, the farmers and cottagers to plant potatoes this spring, in order that the kingdom may experience no scarcity…”

A silhouette of Mrs. Austen.

Though nearly seventy when the family moved to Chawton Cottage, Mrs. Austen “found plenty of occupation for herself, in gardening and needlework. The former was, with her, no idle pastime, no mere cutting of roses and tying up of flowers. She dug up her own potatoes, and I have no doubt she planted them, for the kitchen garden was as much her delight as the flower borders, and I have heard my mother say that when at work, she wore a green round frock like a day-labourer’s.” (Fanny Caroline Lefroy, great-granddaughter of Mrs. Austen)

There was, at the time, some difference of opinion about the preparation of potatoes, as voiced by Susannah Carter: “Some pare potatoes before they are put into the pot; others think it the best way, both for saving time and preventing waste, to peel off the skin as soon as they are boiled.” I chose the former manner for this roast potatoes recipe as an easier alternative to handling boiling hot potatoes.


To Dress Potatoes
You must boil them in as little water as you can, without burning the sauce-pan. Cover the sauce-pan close, and when the skin begins to crack, they are enough. Drain the water out, and let them stand covered for a minute or two; then peel them, lay them in your plate, and pour some melted butter over them. The best way to do them is, when they are peeled to lay them on a gridiron till they are of a fine brown, and send them to table.
Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, 1747

  • 900 g / 32 oz / 2 lbs All Purpose potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters
  • 3 Tablespoons Melted Butter
  • 1-2 teaspoons Flour (see recipe)

In a large sauce pan, place the potatoes in enough water to cover them and bring them to a boil. Allow them to boil furiously over a medium to high heat for 20 minutes or until they are fork tender.

Melted butter was perhaps the most common sauce to be served with any number of dishes. To make your own, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over a medium heat. Quickly whisk in 2-3 tsp of flour and remove the butter from the heat. Do not allow the mixture to boil or the sauce will separate, thus becoming “oiled”.

Preheat your oven to 218° C / 425° F. Drain the potatoes and place them on a foil lined baking sheet. Pour the melted butter over them and bake them until they are brown and crispy, about 10-15 minutes.

Serves 4-6

This roast potatoes recipe is an excerpt from Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends by Laura Boyle.




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Create a Jane Austen’s Room Box: Dollhouse Style

One of our readers recently shared a project that he has been working on. Author and art historian, Alexander Chefalas also happens to be a 1/12 scale miniature enthusiast. On his blog,, he shares numerous Regency themed projects, and has offered to here detail, in English, the step by step process he undertakes in creating his windows into Jane Austen’s world.

The completed Austen inspired room box.
The completed Austen inspired room box.

As a true & loyal fan of Miss Austen I decided to make a roombox inspired by her last and beloved home at Chawton cottage.

A view of Jane Austen's pianoforte at Chawton Cottage.
A view of Jane Austen’s pianoforte at Chawton Cottage.
Jane Austen's writing desk inspired this room box.
Jane Austen’s writing desk inspired this room box.

I found a small wall-case display in my store room and I decided to create a small roombox in order to put it next to her novels in my bookcase. Continue reading Create a Jane Austen’s Room Box: Dollhouse Style