Posted on

Jane Austen’s Royal Readers

George IV was one royal reader of Jane Austen

A brief exploration of Jane Austen’s level of popularity with different members of the Royal family.

Jane came to Winchester from her Hampshire cottage at Chawton, accompanied by her beloved sister Cassandra, to seek medical help because of her failing health. Jane had already begun to become ill in 1816, yet still she continued to write, beginning her new novel The Brothers later published as Sanditon, in January 1817 which – poignantly – was to remain unfinished.

On her death, Jane was buried at Winchester Cathedral, although her original tombstone makes no express reference to the fact that she wrote.

Whilst this might initially surprise, it is important to remember that the works published by Jane in her lifetime appeared anonymously, something which the tombstone inscription continues to support. However, it is notable that a third memorial in Winchester Cathedral – a stained glass window erected in her memory in 1900 – was paid for by public subscription, something which alone speaks for how her literary recognition had grown since her death.

That Jane’s works were enjoyed in her lifetime however, meant that her readers admired the unidentified writing of “the author of Sense and Sensibility” – as she appeared listed in the three volumes of “Pride and Prejudice,” “Sense and Sensibility” listing the work as simply being written “By a Lady.

Jane had not been without her royal readers, either. With the publication of Emma, the Prince Regent, later King George IV – who admired Jane Austen’s work – received his own copy, sent to him by the publisher John Murray. The Prince Regent’s only (legitimate) daughter, Princess Charlotte, died as the result of childbirth at Claremont in 1817, the same year of Jane’s death.

The main staircase, from Pyne’s Royal Residences (1819)

The Prince Regent’s librarian James Stanier Clarke, invited Jane to view the Library at the Prince’s lavish mansion residence of Carlton House, which she did on 13 November 1815. It seems to have been hinted as part of this visit that the Prince Regent wished her new book, Emma to be personally dedicated to him, something which – despite being personally unsympathetic to the Prince Regent – Jane could hardly ignore and which was more or less, after all, a royal command by way of a request, she being “at liberty to dedicate any future work to the Prince.

The Prince Regent duly received his three-volume copy, and the one that was sent to him is today surviving in the Royal Library at Windsor. Jane tactfully dedicated the work to the Prince Regent by his permission and respectfully signed it as “THE AUTHOR.” Clarke’s suggestions on Jane’s authorial prerogative found later expression in her manuscript, Plan of a Novel, according to Hints from Various Quarters, which remained unpublished during her lifetime. Clearly, Jane’s unquestionable gifts were recognised and highly valued by the Prince Regent, who had engaged Clarke not only as his librarian but also his domestic chaplain.

The first royal purchase of a Jane Austen novel in the Royal Collection was discovered by chance during the programme of research for the Georgian Papers project in 2018. As part of this project, the researcher Nicholas Foretek of the University of Pennsylvania found recorded in the Royal Archives, the first documented purchase of a novel by Jane Austen, something unknown to academic Austen studies until 2018 and therefore, a remarkably significant discovery. I have drawn on Foretek’s report of his findings.

The documentary evidence suggests that Sense and Sensibility was bought by the Prince Regent, some two days before Jane’s maiden novel was first publicly announced in The Star. The Prince bought this copy for 15 shillings on 28 October 1811, the year of the Regency Bill. The purchase of Sense and Sensibility occurs first in this page of the ledger for the Prince’s booksellers Becket & Porter of Pall Mall, headed and underlined: ‘Books’.

George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence, c. 1814

The Georgian Papers show that the Prince Regent bought two copies of Pride and Prejudice in 1813, after which time his bookseller had changed to Budd & Calkins on the demise of Becket of Pall Mall. He additionally purchased a further copy of Sense and Sensibility, buying Mansfield Park in 1814 and Northanger Abbey in 1819, which he ordered to be bound. Pride and Predjudice was also bound for him in calfskin for the price of 13s. 6d “with gilt edges”, whilst the pages of Sense and Sensibility were gilded for 3s. 6d. Perhaps, there is something touching in this detail for the Prince Regent and King whose taste craved the gorgeous, as well as a sure proof of how he prized what he owned. In this case, it is fitting that Jane was invited to Carlton House, the opulent mansion of the Prince Regent who would have her own works gilded.

According to suggestions made in the Memoirs of Jane Austen (1869) by James Edward Austen-Leigh, the Prince Regent’s high regard for Jane’s work resulted in him keeping copies of her published works in each of his own residences.

The Prince Regent – later George IV – died in 1830. His niece, Princess and later Queen Victoria, was born two years after Jane Austen’s death in 1819. As Queen, Victoria particularly enjoyed Pride and Prejudice. Prince Albert read aloud to her from Pride and Prejudice. We know this because she recorded it in her journal in 1853, when the Royal Family was at Osborne. Again at Osborne, he read Northanger Abbey aloud to her in the summer of 1857. Curiously, Queen Victoria refers to ‘Miss Austin’ [sic] in her journal, although these admittedly are entries in the Queen’s edited journals, copied by her daughter, Princess Beatrice.

Various editions of Jane’s works are today kept in The Royal Collection, including a set of her novels and an edited collection of her letters to her sister Cassandra. There is also among these books, a four-volume set of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

George V and Queen Mary visited Winchester Cathedral on St Swithun’s Day in 1912, for a thanksgiving service; Jane Austen wrote her a poem from her sickbed for St Swithun’s Day in 1817, just three days before she died. George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Winchester in 1939 and were presented with the keys to the city at the Guildhall. They returned in 1945.

Queen Elizabeth II visited Winchester in 1955 for the 800th anniversary of the city’s charter. The Queen was welcomed in Winchester College’s quadrangle by the boys of the college and escorted by the School Master. There followed a traditional greeting in Latin, after which The Queen presented medals to outstanding pupils of the school. The Queen said during her visit: “We must be careful that the new does not obscure the old. That in times of change, traditions which have been tested by long experience, should not be discarded.

Winchester College stands adjacent to the house on College Street where Jane Austen died in 1817. A celebration was held in Winchester’s Guildhall to mark the 90th birthday of The Queen – entitled “This Royal Throne; A Celebration to mark H.M The Queen’s 90th Birthday” – it was centred around words to describe the history of the Crown, through the words of English (and British) monarchs themselves but also, through the words of English writers to the present age – from William Shakespeare to William Makepeace Thackeray and from Horace Walpole to – Jane Austen.

©Elizabeth Jane Timms, 2019.

Elizabeth Jane Timms is a royal historian and writer, as well as a historical consultant and independent scholar. She writes for academic journals, magazines and newsletters as well as the web. She contributed to Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine (2013-2017).

Posted on

Jane Austen: Why do Millennials Love her so Much?

Jane Austen News

Why do Millennials Love Jane Austen?

A guest blog by the wonderful people at Country House Library.

A long dead 19th century author who wrote about the rather limited lives of women, in a time when success was defined by who you married, might seem a strange crush for the modern millennial, yet on Instagram the hashtag ‘#janeausten’ brings up over half a million hits and counting.

Part of this is surely down to her abilities as a writer – powerful observations, smart and witty dialogue, and the kind of independent and intelligent female leads that Hollywood still hasn’t quite caught up with. However, that only explains her general appeal, whereas on my own book website, she continuously tops the bestseller lists amongst 18-30 year olds in particular.

So what is it about her that appeals so much to young women today?

She was a Woman Ahead of her Time

“I was so intrigued and inspired by Jane’s life.” Sarah, 23

From many of the comments we receive it seems the attraction might well be Jane herself. As an author who generated her own income she was considered unconventional, to say the least, and simply outrageous to many. As was the fact she never married; in fact, Jane turned down a marriage proposal – an experience she drew on when writing Pride and Prejudice, where Lizzie Bennett turns down two of her own, even if she does end up marrying in the end.

Jane would have been a Social Media Influencer Today

“I find Jane Austen so inspiring as a young writer.” Vikki, 26

By becoming a writer, Jane gave herself a voice and the ability to express herself to women of her age and class – something that was especially powerful at a time when there were no female politicians, and few women in public life whatsoever, and conventional wisdom suggested that the only way to have any real power was to share a pillow with a successful man.

She was also a great letter writer, keen to share news, gossip and ideas on a daily basis, although tragically few survive as her sister burnt most of them at Jane’s request. Something else that might chime with a generation facing being worse off than their parent’s one, is that Jane’s life was far from secure. She struggled with money all her life, and often had to rely on her parents. Sound familiar?

 Click the image above for the perfect gift idea!

She Invented the Reality TV Genre

“She can make everyday life and situations sound so interesting. Also, her humour is perfect!” Emma, 30

Prior to Jane Austen, most published novels were either vast historical epics or moody, gothic affairs, which, had they been made into films, would surely have needed a cast of thousands and a special effects budget running into the millions. Jane’s novels, meanwhile, placed the reader as a fly on the wall in the fashionable drawing room of the day, meaning that Sense and Sensibility and Made in Chelsea actually have a surprising amount in common.

 Click the image above for Country House Library’s editor’s picks!

A Drawing Room or a Coffee Shop – What’s the Difference?

“I just love her writing, it’s so eloquent.” Zara, 19

Considering that previous generations had a dependence on a well-oiled night in a night club for dating opportunities, it’s hardly surprising that millennials drink less, with nearly a quarter now abstaining completely. As such, they are far more likely to choose a digitally arranged and predominately sober meeting in a coffee shop – which if you think about it, is not that different from a pen-and-paper arranged meeting in a Regency drawing room. Plus, Jane’s characters, like Pride and Prejudice’s unstoppable Elizabeth Bennet, are independent, fun, witty, clever and usually two steps ahead of any man in the book, which makes for a pretty good dating model for us all.

***

We hope you enjoyed this article “Why do Millennials love Jane Austen?”. For more information and to browse the beautiful books at Country House Library visit www.countryhouselibrary.co.uk

Country House Library is a community of people who can’t get enough of reading, discussing and looking at books. They have hundreds of vintage books for sale (including a huge range of Jane Austen titles to choose from). 

Posted on

Don’t Insult Your Children, Give Them Jane Austen by Allison Burr

Give Them Jane Austen by Allison Burr

Don’t Insult Your Children, Give Them Jane Austen by Allison Burr

My kids saw that scoundrel Willoughby at Chic-Fil-A last night.

Or so they thought.

Willoughby - a cad by Jane Austen

We had just finished our chicken sandwiches and waffle fries and were headed off to Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God concert, but all four kids stopped dead in their tracks when they saw the unsuspecting dark-haired, large-eyed teenage boy behind the counter. I could read their body language; if this was indeed Willoughby, as they frantically whispered in my ear, he would surely do something reprehensible at any moment.  And they weren’t going to miss it.

Much to their chagrin, we ushered them out the door, and the Willoughby look-a-like was left to finish his work without further danger of besiegement.

In their overactive 10-, 8-, 7-, and 3-year-old minds, they had seen a villain behind the counter. The details of this poor boy’s true identity are of no consequence. The more important reality is that Jane Austen had captured their hearts and imaginations, and my children have not yet entered adolescence.

This surely qualifies as a parental milestone.

Now, I know the purists contend that the consumption of the screen portrayal should never precede the consumption of the written. I don’t hold to that particular standard (but undoubtedly have my own purist standards in other areas). As such, when we began the several-hour long 2008 BBC version of Sense and Sensibility, my kids were immediately enthralled and the questions came with great rapidity.

With my finger perpetually on the pause button in order to field the inquiries, I responded to these (and more) from both my daughters and my son:

How could John Dashwood be so weak? And Fanny be so evil?

Why don’t Elinor and Edward marry each other?

Why exactly is Marianne so foolish?

What does Elinor mean when she says she doesn’t disapprove of Marianne, but only her conduct?

Why doesn’t Willoughby act like a gentleman?

Colonel Brandon is the hero; right? Why can’t Marianne see that?

Why is Lucy Steele engaged to Edward when Edward is clearly meant for Elinor and Lucy seems so sneaky and unkind?

How can Mrs. Ferrars be so utterly vicious and yet everyone is falling down to worship her?

Can we please, please, live in a cottage by the seaside and string up seashells in the garden?

Other than the last one (which breaks my heart to say probably not), I delighted in pausing the visually stunning jewel to help my young children frame the story, discern wisdom from folly, and mourn over the broken hearts of Colonel Brandon and Elinor.

The sumptuous period dress, the breathtaking landscape, the awe-inspiring country manors, and the rapid-fire colloquy amongst some of Austen’s most remarkable characters were exactly the type of feast my kids deserved. Not a culinary feast, mind you; but a literary, moral, and visual one.

Go-to books for a JaneiteWhy settle for one-dimensional twaddle that insults the Imago Dei status of your children, when you can bring them before the work of a master craftsman from another era?

No, my children did not understand every aspect of the witty repartee.  Nor could they grasp the magnitude of the moral and social norms under Miss Austen’s microscope.  But every morning, I read my children the Bible, and they also read it for themselves.  We require this in our family, even while knowing that they cannot possibly understand the depth of the riches contained therein.  But their current ages and developmental limitations should not preclude them from partaking in the banquet table in whatever ways they are able.

In the same way, when I first began reading Austen’s works 16 years ago, in a Brit Lit college course, I am quite certain I appreciated only a minuscule percentage of what Jane Austen was doing.  Two years later, I spent a semester researching and writing an honors thesis on the French Revolution’s impact on Austen’s body of work.  Clearly, I was smitten with her literature and desired to dig deeper.  And yet, every time I revisit Emma or Pride and Prejudice, I surely continue to miss nuances and connections, all these years later.  But I keep savoring the feast, both by book and by screen – and it is altogether better to do so alongside the inquiring, hungry minds of my children.

****

Note: I recommend, without reservation, this series of 12 audio lectures by Professor Jerram Barrs of the Francis Schaeffer Institute on the life and works of Jane Austen.  The series is free for download, after a quick registration process, courtesy of Covenant Seminary.

Parental disclaimer:  Because my children are so young, I skipped the (brief) opening scene of the 2008 BBC version of Sense and Sensibility, and instead gave a brief synopsis to my children of an immoral man victimizing a young girl. 

 

*****

About the author Allison Burr:

Allison Burr resides in Franklin, TN, with her husband and four children. Allison Burr is primarily a homeschooling mama, but also an adjunct professor at New College Franklin, co-founder of Sword & Trowel, and resident domestic theologian at TruthBeautyGoodness.

Posted on

Jane Austen News – Issue 142

The Jane Austen News looks at The Watsons

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 


Willoughby on Sense and Sensibility

In an article published in The Telegraph, this week we were surprised to find out that in his youth, Greg Wise (aka John Willoughby from the 1995 film of Sense and Sensibility) came close to giving up acting, which would have meant that he would never have met the love of his life, Dame Emma Thompson (who played Elinor Dashwood in the 1995 film, as well as writing the screenplay for it)!

The work I’m paid to do as an actor is really play. An awful lot of people who work in any form of arts have to have a childlike quality. A lot of us are quite childish as well.  

 

My parents wanted me to get a degree, so I studied architecture in Edinburgh for three years first. Although I never really wanted to be an architect, I’m thrilled I did it. I think everyone should do a year of architecture; it opens your eyes up to what is mainly really shoddy design.

 

Early in my final year I auditioned for drama school and ended up moving to Glasgow. I didn’t start earning until I was 25 – then after 18 months I decided to retire from acting. My closest friend, Simon, had drowned. I remember sitting opposite my agent, who was in tears, as I said I was giving up. I took myself off to Australia for six months and got my head together. I came back and I’ve loved working since.

 

I’ve never worked a great deal. It’s not been a career so much as a series of choices that you make for the best reasons at the time. Although if I don’t say Sense and Sensibility [written by and starring Emma Thompson, Wise’s wife] stands out in my career, I’ll get divorced. That was an amazing piece of work and I met the love of my life. I wasn’t paid very much, though.

We enjoyed reading a little bit more about Greg Wise and his changing relationship with acting, so we hope you did too.

Posted on

Jane Austen News – Issue 125

The Jane Austen News' collection of writers

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 


Austen Exception to the Rule?

In new research, Cornell University psychologists found that study participants were more than twice as likely on average to call male professionals – even fictional ones – by their last name only, compared to equivalent female professionals. This example of gender bias, the researchers said, may be contributing to gender inequality.

The Jane Austen News' collection of writersThe eight studies, which included male and female participants, showed the difference which came from the first name distinction. When men were referred to by only their surname that were perceived as more famous and more important than the women who were referred to by their first and last names. Researchers say that the implications for political campaigns could be important as “it’s possible that referring to a candidate by their full name instead of just their surname could have implications for fame and eminence.”

It’s true that we usually say “Shakespeare” but “Virginia Woolf”, and “Hardy” but “Mary Shelley”, however, we like to think that Austen might be the exception to the two-name rule. Jane Austen is certainly the only really famous Austen who we think of when we hear the name Austen!

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 125

Posted on

Jane Austen News – Issue 119

Jane Austen is at number 24

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 


If At First You Don’t Enjoy… Give Up?

The UK charity The Reading Agency recently commissioned a poll to discover the nation’s reading habits, as one way of marking World Book Night which took place on Monday April 23rd. One of the things which the poll found out was that more than a fifth of British readers refuse to give up on a book, no matter how much they are struggling, while some will wait weeks or months before calling time on the unsatisfying book. In school the general message was to read on and get to the end of the book, but The Reading Agency is going against the trend and advising readers to give up on books they do not enjoy.

The poll, of 2,000 people, found that 15% would give up if struggling with a book after 1-3 weeks, 11% saying they’d stop after 4-6 days of struggles, 13%  after 2-3 days, and 6% would stop the day after. On the other hand, 22% thought that readers should always finish books they’ve started.

However, Sue Wilkinson, chief executive of The Reading Agency, said that;

At a time when one in five of us will experience anxiety or depression, and world events can leave people feeling confused or scared, reading has never been more important.

At a time when so many brilliant books are being written and published, you should never force yourself to read something you’re not enjoying. World Book Night is the chance to find a book that works for you.

***

The Top Five Unfinished Books

1. Fifty Shades Of Grey by EL James
2. The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring by JRR Tolkien
3. Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix by JK Rowling
4. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 119

Posted on

Jane Austen News – Issue 103

Jane in Jane Austen the Musical

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 

 


Jane In The West End

Some of our readers might remember that the UK was treated to a touring, musical-adaptation of Persuasion last year. Well now, rather than one of her novels, Jane’s life has been adapted into a musical.

Jane Austen the Musical is receiving great reviews as it continues its UK tour, which runs until March this year.

The tour began in October last year and has visited the likes of York, Norwich, and Birmingham. It is currently playing in London and, as London is a theatre hub, the theatre critics have been going to see the show and making their verdicts.

Rob Winlow has fashioned a diverting, grown-up, pleasant (but not without its bite) chamber musical that captures some of the dilemmas faced by the quiet girl who scribbled immortal novels in a Hampshire rectory.

Rob Winlow’s songs are pleasing, especially when the cast sing in harmony, with more than a hint of Gilbert & Sullivan in the patter numbers.

The audience amongst whom I sat were mostly women, though (as both the male director and male writer prove) Austen’s work is universal in its appeal, as all great art must be. See it if you’re a fan and, if you’re not, see it anyway

The highlight of the production is Edith Kirkwood’s assured performance as Jane. She has a charming voice and vivacious presence. Jenni Lea-Jones is enjoyable as Mrs Austen and Thomas Hewitt and Adam Grayson provide game support as the suitors and Rev Austen.

Of course it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and some critics have said that it is too flimsy (“frustratingly thin portrait of an author”), but we thought that if you like musicals and you like Jane, this is a production you might like to know about.

Tour dates for the show are available here.

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 103

Posted on

Meeting the Pride & Prejudice Cast

 

Today was the day that every girl dreams of… meeting Mr Darcy.  Matthew Macfadyen set the bar pretty high, not to mention Colin Firth coming out of the lake with a soaking wet shirt on…  and then of course my favourite line of all ‘My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.’ Just perfection. So it was with no surprise that I was a little, well shocked, to meet my already-happens-to-be-married-with-two-kids-Mr Darcy. That’s not how the story’s meant to go?

Hello again! Yes, as you’ve probably figured out, today was the ‘Meet ‘n’ Greet’ for the cast of the Athenaeum Limelight Players’ Pride and Prejudice (https://www.janeausten.co.uk/austen-mania/ – read my first entry here). A great day was had by all and it was a fantastic opportunity to meet the other members of the cast, discuss plans for the rehearsal process …and eat Pride and Prejudice cake!

Here’s how I got on…

The whole group started with an ice breaker/warm up technique, ‘Zip, Zap, Boing’; a very fun game in which you have to pass the clap or the ‘zip’ around the circle and then various rules get added to make it a simple (although it was quite tough!) but effective method to not only break the ice between new people, but to challenge our reaction times and cues. (This will in time help our reactions and cues on the stage.)

Heather and Adela made the rules more competitive, if anyone hesitated or made a mistake – you were out. We were dropping like flies and unfortunately I didn’t make it to the final 8.

 

Mr Bingley on the edge of his game…

After the boundless laughs we had with this, it was time to cut the Pride and Prejudice cake (cue the excitement!) and then we had the chance to properly meet and talk to one another.

Yum!

Once the very wonderful ‘Meet n Greet’, which directors Heather and Adela organised, had finished, I got the chance to ask them a few questions …

“WHY PRIDE AND PREJUDICE?”

H: “For me the choice was easy. It is the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death and P&P was always my favourite story. The rags to riches story with a twist. A feisty heroine who in a time of little choice for women, knew her own mind. This story is a reflection on Jane’s own life. A woman who broke from the mould of society”

A: “It’s my favourite of all Jane’s novels with Emma and Persuasion close behind. I have read and re-read everything she has written, and my favourite Darcy is Laurence Olivier whom I saw aged 16 when I did P&P for O level English Lit.”

“WHAT CHALLENGES LIE AHEAD?”

H: “I can’t wait to start this production we have the perfect cast but with a large cast there will also be challenges. Not to mention my first time directing anything!”

A:”My biggest challenge is having Heather say at the end that I was a colleague she enjoyed working with, who gave her every opportunity to learn directing, and a cast that has loved every moment of the process”

A Cast photo! Sort of…
This is our very own scaled down model of the stage, set design and cast!

That’s all from me, find out next time what went on in our first proper rehearsal!

Zoe May B

Join Waitlist We will inform you when the product arrives in stock. Just leave your valid email address below.
Email Quantity We won't share your address with anybody else.
MENU