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Jane Austen News – Issue 40

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 

The Jane Austen Centre Wins Award  

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-20-55-25The Jane Austen News are very pleased to announce that on Wednesday (19th October 2016), the Jane Austen Centre was awarded bronze in the Small Attraction of the Year category at the Bristol, Bath and Somerset Tourism Awards 2016/17. Our guide ‘Lizzy Bennet’ (the lady in burgundy in the photo opposite) attended the awards as one of an audience of 288 guests who witnessed 66 trophies being presented to tourism businesses at the first ever Bristol, Bath and Somerset Tourism Awards ceremony held at the hotel DoubleTree by Hilton.

To get to this stage each the Jane Austen Centre had gone through a rigorous three-stage judging process, taking into account websites, reviews, social media, visits by industry ‘mystery visitors’ and finally a judging panel. Now all at the centre will be entered into the South West Tourism Excellence Awards in February 2017, with eligible finalists also considered for the national Visit England Awards later in 2017. Fingers crossed!

The Challenges of Making a Jane Austen Video Game 

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-13-42-15Judy L. Tyrer, founder of 3 Turn Productions, has just released a beta (trial version) for Ever, Jane, which is her massively multiplayer online game (MMO) set in Austen’s own setting, Regency Period England. There have been a few things that needed tweaking however in order to blend modern games with Austen’s novels, and Tyrer has been recently speaking about the challenges she’s faced in marrying the two very different worlds up.

Usual stats like “strength” have been adjusted for the setting to include status, kindness, duty, and happiness. Also the guild systems, where players create alliances with one another, are being worked on. In Ever, Jane you can adopt, marry, divorce, and disown to gain loyalty or frustrate your enemies.

Dancing needs some attention too, but they are developing “automatic dancing shoes” that will automate the process of dancing so players will be free to type to each other while dancing. At the moment dancing and intimacy is a difficult match to make as you have to concentrate on the steps.

So it’s got some elements that need ironing out, but do we really mind when the beta version is free to play?

Why Did Jane Never Marry?        

Expert David Lassman writing for History Extra magazine has nicely summarised Jane’s various lost and almost-loves, and has explained why her feels it was that Jane Austen never married. After all, Jane was not without her share of suitors and she did have a few potential husbands throughout her lifetime. One of these was Harris Bigg-Wither. Lassman has this to say about the gentleman:

I believe it was with a pragmatic mind that Jane accepted Bigg-Wither’s proposal. And then throughout the night, either within her solitary thoughts or in discussion with her sister, she pondered on what she might be losing herself, and changed her mind. It might have been the dutiful daughter who accepted the proposal, but it was the aspiring writer (and true artist) who descended the stairs the following morning, took Harris to one side, and declared she had made a mistake and the marriage was off.

He’s also nicely addressed what caused the “Was Jane Austen Gay?” media storm, and what it was that stopped the storm in its tracks. The full article can be read here.

In With The New and In With The Old   

New Jane Austen portraitWe’ve recently updated our free weekly Jane Austen quiz and we’ve been loving the positive feedback our new style of quizzes are getting. We at the Jane Austen News really appreciates the feedback and all of your kind comments. All of this talk of quizzes got us thinking more about our quiz and we thought, what if one quiz isn’t enough? After all, who doesn’t like a good quiz? So with this in mind we thought we should share some of our previous old-style quizzes with you as well.

We’ll be adding new-old quizzes to our quiz archive page each week, so make sure to check back each week to have a look at them. To have a look at this week’s quizzes from weeks gone by click here 

Jane Costumes for Halloween?    
Halloween is just around the corner, so of course talk about Halloween costumes is increasing; what are the best costumes, what are the funniest, the scariest, the most original? One idea we were expecting to see for Halloween costumes were any based on Jane Austen. However, Bustle have surprised us with their new article 5 Jane Austen Inspired Costumes for the Perfect Literary Halloween.

We have to say having looked at them we’re not sure how a; Regency or Georgian they are, or, b; how much like Halloween costumes some of them are…

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Photo credit to sadieltrombetta.

Jane Austen Costumes on Display in Yorkshire  
screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-12-57-14Now from one costume story to another. Stunning costumes worn by the stars in screen portrayals of Jane Austen’s and Charlotte Bronte’s best loved novels went on show in Harrogate, North Yorkshire on Monday 17th October. The exhibition includes

  • the wedding dresses worn by Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet in the 1995 film of Sense and Sensibility
  • the bridegroom outfits worn by Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman in Sense and Sensibility
  • the patterned gold and cream dress worn by Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet in the ever popular BBC TV 1995 Pride and Prejudice
  • the classic Mr Rochester outfit worn by Michael Fassbender in the 2011 film Jane Eyre

As well as a selection of beautiful wedding dresses from the Harrogate costume collection.

The exhibition in on until 31st December 2016.

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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Jane-O-Lantern: Picture Your Pumpkin Two Ways

The celebration now known as Halloween has its roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain, one of the four Druid “Bonfire” festivals. Celebrated on November 1, midway between the Autumn and Winter Solstices, some scholars believe that it marked the end of the old year and start of the new. Samhain (pronounced sów-en) was not a god to be worshipped, but rather a term meaning “The End of Summer”. It was at this time that the harvest was brought in, preparations for winter completed, debts were settled and the dead buried before the coming winter. In the highly superstitious Celtic culture, it was also believed that at this time when “a new year was being stitched to the old” the veil between the present world and the next was especially thin, allowing the spirits of the departed, both good and evil to roam.

Because of this belief, October 31 became a highly superstitious night. Some used the opportunity to entreat the dead for guidance in the coming year. Others carried on traditions involving the revelation of one’s sweetheart or good fortune for the coming year. Towards the close of the evening priests and townsfolk, dressed as spirits would parade through the village in order to lead the wandering ghosts back to their resting places. Far from being a burning Hell, the Celtic “underworld” was a place of light and feasting, much more akin to the Christian ideal of Heaven.

As it was also the close of the year, the bonfire, kindled by the priests served an extra purpose. Each villager would let their hearth fire die out that night to be lit afresh by embers from the bonfire, symbolizing a new year and hope for prosperity. During the night of spooks and ghosts, homes would be lit by rustic lanterns carved from turnips (known early on as neeps) beets and rutabagas. Pumpkins would be used later, as they were brought to Europe from the New World in the 17th century. These flickering lights were set out in hopes of welcoming home friendly souls and chasing away the evil spirits who wandered that night.

Continue reading Jane-O-Lantern: Picture Your Pumpkin Two Ways

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Barmbrack (sometimes called Bairin Brack), a rich Irish fruit bread, is the food most associated with ancient Halloween customs. The “charms” baked into each loaf would fortell the future of the recipiant. Placed in the barmbrack were: a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth and a ring. Whovever received in their slice the pea, would be unmarried; the stick, would be a fighter (or wife beater!); the cloth or rag, would be poor; and the ring, would be wed within the year.

Barmbrack is similar in style, though denser, to the Italian Pannettone.

The word barm comes from an old English word, beorma, meaning yeasty fermented liquor. Brack comes from the Irish word brac, meaning speckled – which, of course, it is, with dried fruit and candied peel.

Barmbrack is usually baked in a round (20 cm or 8″) cake tin with a loose base, but this recipe works just as well with a rectangular loaf tin. The quantities given here will make one large loaf.

  • 2 tea bags, or 3 tsp. loose tea (a strong black blend works best)
  • 3½ cups (12 oz, 350 g) mixed dried fruit (raisins, golden raisins/sultanas, currants, candied peel)
  • 1 cup (8 fl oz, 240 ml) milk
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. dried active yeast (not instant yeast)
  • 3 cups (1 lb, 450 g) strong bread flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup (1 oz, 25 g) brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (3 oz, 75 g) butter or margarine
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 tsp. mixed spice

Oven: Pre-heat to 350F (180C).

Start by making two cups (16 fl oz, 480 ml) of strong black tea. Remove the tea bags, or strain the tea to remove the leaves. Soak the dried fruit in the tea. Ideally, the fruit should soak for several hours or even overnight, but if this is not possible, don’t worry – just leave it soaking for as long as you can.

Warm the milk until it is hand-hot (you can do this in the microwave). Stir in the teaspoon of sugar and the yeast, and leave in a warm place for about 15 minutes or until it becomes frothy.

Mix the flour, salt and brown sugar in a large bowl. Rub in the butter or margarine. Add the frothy yeast, the beaten egg and the spice. Drain any remaining liquid from the fruit, then add the fruit to the mixture. Mix well to make a smooth dough (add extra flour if the mixture is too wet).

Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead it thoroughly. Place it in an oiled tin, cover with a cloth, and leave in a warm place to rise for 45 – 60 minutes; the dough should have doubled in size.

Place the tin in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the loaf from the tin, turn it upside down and put it back in the tin or directly on the oven shelf. Bake for another 20 minutes or so. The loaf will be ready when it sounds hollow when you tap on each of the sides. Cool the loaf on a wire rack before serving.

Recipe written by Mike Lewis, courtesy of

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