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The Rice Portrait

In the gallery there were many family portraits, but they could have little to fix the attention of a stranger. Elizabeth walked on in quest of the only face whose features would be known to her.
-Pride and Prejudice

For years there has been (some say, unnecessary) controversy over a charming portrait of an unnamed girl in white- clearly she is a member of the Austen family…but is she THE Austen we all so want her to be? With few known likenesses of Jane Austen to compare this too, it seems reasonable to accept the word of family members who knew Jane Austen—yet there are those—costume historians, authors, and even the head of the National Portrait Gallery (though his predecessors believed it to be authentic) who refuse to accept the “Rice Portrait” as it is called, as a genuine article.

The current owners of the portrait, the Rice Family, descendants of Jane’s brother Francis, firmly believe the portrait to be genuine and have spent the last several years tracing the history (provenance) of this portrait, discovering, along the way, clues that would surely have sent Sherlock Holmes hard fast on the trail of this mystery. Here, in her own words, is the history of the Rice Portrait, by it’s owner, Anne Rice:

This story, and the portrait of Jane Austen started in the summer of 1788 when George Austen took his wife, and his two young daughters, Cassandra, aged 15, and Jane aged not quite 13 years old to visit their Great Uncle Francis at his him called The Red House in Sevenoaks, Kent. Francis Austen was an enormously rich and successful man, he had been head of Lincoln’s Inn in London, and owned properties in Essex, as well as in Kent. He was an expert in the settling, and safeguarding of large estates by entail, and by inheritance, and counted some of the most important families in England amongst his clients; the Dorsets, the Berkeleys, and Cravens, amongst others.

In 1788, he was 90 years old, having been born in 1698 during the reign of William III. His second wife Jane had been Jane Austen’s godmother, but was now dead, and Francis was indulging himself in his old age as a benevolent family patriarch. Ozais Humphrey, much patronized by Francis’ main employer and patron, the Duke of Dorset, had already painted him twice; once at the Duke’s request, and again at his own request for The Red House.
Francis had always been a kind and generous patron of his nephew George Austen. It is hardly surprising that he was persuaded, or perhaps cajoled, into commissioning portraits of his two great nieces from his friend Ozias, who was rather down on his luck at the time, having returned from India in the spring of 1788, with little success and somewhat short of money. Ozias always demanded half of his fee for his portraits “up front”. His accounts show that he charged about 13 guineas first, and the second half on completion. He made a note of Francis Austen’s death in 1791, which implies money owing to him.

The family has always believe that after the portraits of Jane and Cassandra were commissioned in the summer of 1788, Ozias Humphrey stayed at Godmersham Park that autumn, and there executed sketches and drawings of the backgrounds of the park. On the 7th of October that year, Edward Austen-Knight was 21 years old, and again, family tradition has it that he returned from the first leg of his Grand Tour for his Coming of Age celebrations with his adoptive parents. His own portrait, also signed OH, places him within the Godmersham grounds in front of a large English oak tree, with the old temple ruins in the background, along with graves from the Godmersham churchyard.

Jane’s background includes the river Stour that flows to the left of the big house, and in both pictures the same autumnal colors are used, as well as the depiction of stormy skies. It’s interesting to note the stance in both of the portraits, the angles of the cane and parasol are almost identical. Ozias having been trained as a miniaturist and a very fine one, had difficulty in many of his paintings in the execution of limbs painted in large. Note the elongation of Edward’s arm holding his hat and Jane’s elongated arm holding the parasol.

As with much of the inherited Austen artifacts and documents, over time they were split amongst the family members. The last descendant of the Kippington Austen line may well have owned the portrait of Cassandra. May Harrison lived out her final years in Grasse, France and on November 28, 1952, she wrote to R. W. Chapman saying she owned by descent, a portrait which she believed could be Jane Austen. Mrs. Harrison’s nephew remembers her possessing a painting of a girl dressed in white, but it was not always hung as she rotated her pictures. No one seems to have considered that this could have been the portrait of Cassandra.

As was the usual custom, Ozias would have finished the portraits in his London studio, and kept them until he received payment for the second tranche of the paintings. Thomas Knight is believed to have commissioned Edward’s portrait (Ozias certainly copied the Romney portrait of his wife, Catherine Knight, for him. It is a small, oval miniature that he could carry with him.) Uncle Francis died in 1791, and the two portraits were inherited by his eldest son, Francis Motley Austen, the second owner of the portrait…

The rest of this story can be found at

You can purchase the related book ‘The Rice Portrait of Jane Austen‘ by RJ Wheeler at our online gift shop.

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Willoughby’s Return: A Tale of Almost Irresistible Temptation By Jane Odiwe

Set four years after the close of Sense and Sensibility, Willoughby’s Return starts off apace with a surprise visitor (no, not that one…) plans for a ball and mounting tension in the Brandon household. Marianne Brandon wonders if she has lost that part of herself that used to be so wildly impetuous and romantic. Has marriage and motherhood irrevocably changed the girl that her husband fell in love with… or was he ever in love with her at all? It is possible that he only married her because of her resemblance to his lost love? While their marriage seems outwardly happy, Colonel Brandon’s many extended visits to Eliza Williams and her daughter cause Marianne to wonder if he might find her, so very like her mother, to be his true heart’s home.

Meanwhile, at Barton Cottage, Margaret Dashwood prepares for her first grand ball—and an introduction to one on whom all her hopes of future happiness depend. Mrs. Jennings, ever a convenient source of gossip is full of the news of Mrs. Smith’s imminent demise and the return of the Willoughbys to claim Allenham as their own.

It is impossible that all should not meet, that relationships and passions once lost should not be rekindled, for Willoughby, too, has not been unaffected by the passing years. Realizing the mistakes of his youth, how he had valued the demands of his pocketbook above those of his heart. Is it too late for true love? Can the past be undone? Are future generations doomed to repeat his mistakes?

Fans of Sense and Sensibility will rejoice to find all their old familiar friends (Middletons, Steels, Ferrars and more) once more in “all the old familiar places”. From cozy scenes at Delaford and Barton Cottage to the hectic rush of a Season in London, author Jane Odiwe constructs a compelling tale of love in all its forms. Appealing to all ages, fans of happy endings will be delighted with how the author spins her story, weaving suspense and intrigue into a well-crafted tale that manages to answer the many questions left by the original.

True love does conquer all!

You can buy your copy at our – click here.

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (30 April 2010)
ISBN-10: 140222267X
ISBN-13: 978-1402222672
RRP: £7.99

Jane Odiwe is an artist and author. She is an avid fan of all things Austen and is the author and illustrator of Effusions of Fancy, annotated sketches from the life of Jane Austen, as well as Lydia Bennet’s Story. She lives with her husband and three children in North London.

While not yet released in the UK, this title can be preordered from or ordered online from, where it is available in print in the US.

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Lydia Bennet’s Story By Jane Odiwe

“I decided that as no one else had written Lydia Bennet’s story, I must.” So writes author Jane Odiwe in her latest book, Lydia Bennet’s Story. Presented as a novel interspersed with diary entries, Part one of Lydia’s story retells the now familiar events of Pride and Prejudice through a new heroine’s eyes, adding details which help explain some of her actions, shedding light on the motive behind others. As readers, we are wont to think of Lydia only as one of “the silliest girls in the country.” Ms. Odiwe undertakes to teach us better.

A young teenager in love cannot be anything but thoughtless, but it does not stand that once the first bloom of romance has passed that she may not turn her mind towards the improvement of herself and her situation. It is not impossible to learn from one’s mistakes. The moral of Pride and Prejudice is that first impressions are not the stuff of lasting relationships. Personalities can improve or disappoint on further acquaintance- from knowing one better, their disposition is better understood. This theme is carried further in Lydia Bennet’s Story.

We accompany Lydia to Brighton with the Regiment and there experience firsthand her flirtation with Wickham. Unaware of his past indiscretions, she fancies herself in love with him. A midnight flight is planned and we follow the couple to London, stand with them at their wedding and from there travel with them to their new life in the north.

“As for Wickham and Lydia, their characters suffered no revolution from the marriage of her sisters. He bore with philosophy the conviction that Elizabeth must now become acquainted with whatever of his ingratitude and falsehood had before been unknown to her; and in spite of every thing, was not wholly without hope that Darcy might yet be prevailed on to make his fortune. The congratulatory letter which Elizabeth received from Lydia on her marriage, explained to her that, by his wife at least, if not by himself, such a hope was cherished…Such relief, however, as it was in her power to afford, by the practice of what might be called economy in her own private expences, she frequently sent them. It had always been evident to her that such an income as theirs, under the direction of two persons so extravagant in their wants, and heedless of the future, must be very insufficient to their support; and whenever they changed their quarters, either Jane or herself were sure of being applied to for some little assistance towards discharging their bills. Their manner of living, even when the restoration of peace dismissed them to a home, was unsettled in the extreme. They were always moving from place to place in quest of a cheap situation, and always spending more than they ought. His affection for her soon sunk into indifference; her’s lasted a little longer; and in spite of her youth and her manners, she retained all the claims to reputation which her marriage had given her.”
Pride and Prejudice

Part two begins where Pride and Prejudice leaves off, with the Wickhams in Newcastle and Jane and Elizabeth happily settled at their respective estates. Life has not been kind to the young couple, though it is perhaps what they deserve for beginning so badly. How they find their way towards a better understanding of each other, how the past is brought forward to determine their future…well—it is riveting reading.

New friends are introduced and old ones are revisited with grace and charm. Romances are concocted, and hearts are won and lost against a vivid background of Regency England. Brighton is brought forth in all its gaudy splendor; a whole camp full of soldiers with balls and parties every night. Newcastle becomes a real place, far more than just a northern banishment; a seaside city full of full of merchants and warehouses, shops and gossips. In Bath, all the familiar haunts from Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are revisited; the Pump Room, the Upper Rooms, Queen’s Square and even the Gravel Walk, so often the trysting place of young couples.

With an unexpected plot twist the story of young Lydia rapidly comes to its satisfying conclusion. Readers will not be disappointed by the creative way the author brings justice to all. Lydia’s story is thoroughly entertaining. Despite the illicit nature of the Wickham’s relationship at first, readers will find the matter delicately handled with no reason to blush. Lydia’s voice is sweet and lively. Hers is not a nature to be weighed down by care or sorrow. A greater understanding of her nature and situation brings the reader a new compassion for her and an admiration for her overcoming spirit. It is a mature Lydia who writes at the end of the book, “If only I could have shown some control over my actions and curbed my obsession with George, perhaps my own great folly could have been avoided. Well, we have both come to a better understanding of life as a result… though first attachments, it would seem are not always the best”.

Lydia Bennet was, indeed, born to an extraordinary fate, and I, for one, am grateful to Ms. Odiwe for sharing her story.

You can buy your own copy at our Jane Austen giftshop. Click here.

Jane Odiwe lives in North London, with her husband and three children. She is an avid fan of all things Austen and talented artist. Her first book, Effusions of Fancy is an illustrated collection of “letters” by Jane Austen. Notecards featuring scenes from Austen’s life and books can be purchased from her website, Austen Effusions.

Paperback: 308 pages
Publisher: Paintbox Publishing (December 1, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0954572211
RRP: £9.99

Laura Boyle creates custom made hats, bonnets, reticules and other Regency Accessories for Austentation a Regency Fashion History site and Boutique.

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Mr. Darcy’s Secret by Jane Odiwe


“With little exception, the anticipation of a long awaited and desirous event will always give as much, if not more pleasure, than the diversion itself. Morever, it is a certain truth that no matter how gratifying such an occasion may prove to be, it will not necessarily unite prospect and satisfaction in equal accord.”

Once again Jane Odiwe (Lydia Bennet’s Story, Willoughby’s Return) delves deep into the Regency to bring to life scenes from Austen’s novels. Her third book, Mr. Darcy’s Secret follows the fortunes of the Darcys and Bingleys as they embark on their new lives as husbands and wives.

The book begins with Mr. and Mrs. Darcy traveling to Pemberley to begin their new life. As Mr. Darcy’s wife, Lizzy is confidant that “knowing him better, his disposition was better understood.” But does she truly understand his disposition? Has he undergone so material a change? Does he indeed posess no improper pride? Will she be able to rise to the demands of being ‘Mistress of Pemberley’. As she becomes “familiarly aquainted with the rooms, rejoicing in them as her home, welcoming to them visitors such as her aunt and uncle”, a cloud hovers over her happiness.

Having resolved to “act in that manner, which will constitute her own happiness, without reference to any person so wholly unconnected with her”, Lizzy must face fallout from Lady Catherine DeBourgh and her cronies; village gossips threaten to mar her serenity and Georgiana, so desirous of pleasing her brother, struggles with a wayward, loving heart, which refuses to bend to her self-command.

From the sitting rooms of Hertforshire, to the delights of a Christmas Ball in Derbyshire and a jaunt to the Lake District, the stage is set for another foray into Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, continuing to play with the ‘what ifs’ and ‘why nots’, that linger on after “the day on which Mrs Bennet got rid of her two most deserving daughters.” A dream come true for all those wishing there were just a few more pages, one more glimpse into the lives of Austen’s most beloved power couple.

The title is Mr. Darcy’s Secret, and mystery and drama abound— after all, who is Master Tissington? Local tittle-tattle suggests he is an heir to Pemberley, but by whom? Someone is determined not to let the past die. Long forgotten letters, the remnants of a love gone by, may hold the answer, but it is not until a blackmailer threatens to tell all that the key to Mr. Darcy’s Secret is discovered, the truth arising from the most unexpected source.

In reality, however, this is not so much Mr. Darcy’s Secret, as Miss Darcy’s Secret, for it is truly Georgiana’s story. Lizzy may be our heroine, but with an artist’s delicate skill for revealing detail, one brush stroke at a time, Ms. Odiwe crafts a compelling tale of love and betrayal. New characters are introduced, including the bold landowner, Mr. Calladine and the young Thomas Butler, a brash young landscape designer, son of Mrs. Gardiner’s old school friend. Who will win the hand of Georgiana, a young woman determined not to let her heart lead her astray a second time?

Old friends are not forgotten, either. Mr. Collins and Charlotte appear frequently, along with their olive branch, young Catherine (a bonny babe, and as unlike her noble namesake as December is to May) Mr. Bingley’s sisters play pivitol roles as do Elizabeth’s sister and brother in law, Lydia and George Wickham. The Gardiners appear several times to steady the Darcy’s in their new life and bring common sense and counsel to the young couple. Perhaps the most delightful character I found, however, was Mrs. Bennet, for here, Ms. Odiwe’s ear for Jane Austen’s writing is impeccable. One can simply hear Mrs. Bennet (and her longsuffering husband) speak her lines as she comes alive on the pages. It is fitting therefore, that she is given both the first and last word in this novel. Despite her humors, nerves and prattling about, she rests secure, knowing she has done all a mother can for her children:

“My fussing has been very productive. If I had been content to let my daughters follow their hearts willy nilly, they would not have made the matches they have. Jane and Mr Bingley, Lizzy and Mr Darcy, Lydia and Mr Wickham, Kitty and Mr Lloyd…”

Ms Odiwe shines in her ability to write truly of the intricacies of family relationships. As she did in Willoughby’s Return, she details the struggles of a young couple’s first few years of married life with delicacy and insight. The frustrations and fascinations of discovering that at times you hardly know the person you have married must be almost universal. The solidarity of the Darcys in facing each trial with a united front, of Lizzy’s determination to trust her husband and Fitzwilliam’s admission of his own too hasty decisions must be a model for each young couple starting out. The road is not smooth, nor the way plain, but true love must and will win the day.

A scholar of the Regency period, as well as an artist herself, Ms Odiwe is able to paint a picture of Jane Austen’s era with deft strokes that bring the customs and manners of the day to life. Her descriptions of the Lake District are conveyed with an enthusiasm and familiarity that make you feel as though you were there in the midst of the wild crags and misty peaks.

As with her past books, I tore through this novel (to the detriment of not a few household projects!) and eagerly look forward to the day when I can share her works with my own small daughters. It is a delight to find an author whose work is not only well crafted but tastefully executed, modest enough for even the youngest reader.

Jane Odiwe is an author and an artist. She is completely obsessed with all things Austen and is the author of Lydia Bennet’s Story and Willoughby’s Return, and author and illustrator of Effusions of Fancy, consisting of several annotated sketches from the life of Jane Austen. She lives with her husband and three children in North London and Bath, England.

You can buy your own copy at our Jane Austen Giftshop – click here.

RRP: £9.99
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc (25 Feb 2011)
ISBN-10: 1402245270

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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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Ginger Tea

And then the tea and sugar!
-Jane Austen

An herbal tea, tisane, or ptisan is an herbal infusion made from anything other than the leaves of the tea
bush (Camellia sinensis). Typically, herbal tea is simply the combination of boiling water and dried fruits,
flowers or herbs. Herbal tea has been imbibed for nearly as long as written history extends. Documents have
been recovered dating back to as early as Ancient Egypt and Ancient China that discuss the enjoyment and uses
of herbal tea.

Ginger, long been used to soothe upset stomachs and ward off colds, makes a wonderfully spicy and
invigorating tea. With its restorative properties, it would have been a natural choice for women battling
morning sickness at the start of their confinement. Lady Catherine suggests just such a “Ginger Tisane” in Jane
Odiwe’s latest novel, Mr. Darcy’s Secret.

Ginger Tea
Pour one half pint of boiling water on a teaspoonful of ginger; add sugar and milk to taste.
From How to Cook (1810)

To make your own ginger tea, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Peel a 2″ piece of ginger root and cut it into
slices. Add the ginger to the water and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes. Strain and enjoy! Many people like
to add lemon juice or honey to their tea to enhance the flavor.

As with any natural remedy, expectant mothers should check with their health care provider before consuming
quantities of any herbal tisane.


Factual information from Wikipedia.

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