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Jane Austen News – Issue 153

The Jane Austen News is enjoying Pride and Prejudice and Passports

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 

A Surprise Newcomer Beats Pride and Prejudice 

To mark Valentine’s Day, Goodreads have announced their top romance novels of all time, based on the ratings of their 80 million members.

But it wasn’t one of the well-known and much loved romantic tales that came out as number one. Even though Pride and Prejudice regularly tops lists of the best books of all time! The book which took first place as the top romantic novel of all time in this latest poll is Coleen Hoover’s It End With Us, which is a relative newcomer given its release in 2016.

The New York Times bestseller It Ends With Us is all about successful business owner Lily, who meets a neurosurgeon called Ryle. And although the pair are clearly attracted to one another, she’s left flummoxed by his aversion to relationships. Later, thoughts of an old love only confuse Lily more.

It does sound like a good read, but we were amazed to find that Pride and Prejudice only reached number four on the list! Second was Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, and in third place was Jojo Moyes bestseller, Me Before You. Having said that, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre fared far worse, only making it to number 13 on the list…

Well, Pride and Prejudice will always be the winner in the eyes of the Jane Austen News!

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Jane Austen News – Issue 151

The Jane Austen News and a new note

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 

Note Discovery Proves Jane Austen Portrait Authentic? 

The portrait opposite has to be one of the most controversial images of Jane Austen that there is.

It’s known as the Rice Portrait, and for years the Rice family who own the portrait have been fighting to prove that it is in fact a portrait of a young Jane Austen. Now, an overlooked note has come to light which may help to prove once and for all in the Rice family’s favour that the portrait is a genuine original portrait of Jane.

Of the Rice Portrait, the Rices have always explained that it was commissioned from the portrait painter Ozias Humphry in 1788, when 12-year-old Jane and her sister Cassandra were taken to visit their great-uncle Francis in Kent. According to the Rice family, Humphry’s 1788 accounts (held at the British Library) show a bill to Francis Austen for 13 guineas. However, experts in the art world, especially some of those at the National Portrait Gallery, say that it could not be of Austen. They have said that the style of the dress dates it to later than 1800.

The unsigned note which has recently be rediscovered, and which helps to support the Rice family’s claim of authenticity, is believed to have been written by Jane Austen’s great-niece Fanny Caroline Lefroy. Kept in Austen’s writing desk, it had been overlooked, said John Nettlefold, son of the painting’s owner Anne Rice, until its current owner noticed the small brown envelope containing it was marked “history of the portrait of Jane Austen”.

The note reads as follows:

“The history of the portrait of Jane Austen now in the possession of Morland Rice her Gt nephew. Old Dr Newman, fellow of Magdalen years ago told him that he had a portrait of Jane Austen the novelist, that had been in his family many years. He stated that it was done at Bath when she was about 15 & he promised to leave him (Morland Rice) the picture.

A few months before Dr Newman died, he wrote to a friend of his (a Dr Bloxam) sending him a picture as a farewell present & added ‘I have another picture that I wish to go to your neighbour Morland Rice. This a portrait of Jane Austen the novelist by Zoffany. Her picture was given to my step-mother by her friend Colonel Austen of Kippendon [sic], Kent because she was a great admirer of her works.’”

The note names the artist of the painting as being Johann Zoffany, to whom the painting has been attributed in the past. The note is unsigned, but after looking at it next to other documents held in the Hampshire Record Office, the Rices and independent scholar Kelly M McDonald (who is researching the letters and diaries of Emma Austen-Leigh, who was the wife of Jane Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh) are sure it is written by Fanny Caroline Lefroy.

John Nettlefold said that the letter “is written before there was any kind of issue. The problems only started in the 1930s … Unfortunately, there was then an institutional enmity towards it and it just got worse and worse.” He says that the letter is enough evidence to officially establish the painting as being an authentic portrait of Jane Austen.

So what next? Going forward, the Rice family wish to sell the portrait once/if it is officially certified as being of Austen. The family hopes that the portrait will come to be loves by Jane Austen fans and scholars worldwide.

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Jane Austen News – Issue 102

Next he should read Northanger Abbey

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? Bestsellers and Northanger Abbey! 


Female Authors Dominate the Bestseller List

Female authors were very definitely in the minority when Jane Austen was writing, but certainly not in 2017! The Bookseller‘s analysis of literary fiction book sales from last year found that there was only one male author on the list of top ten bestselling authors in the UK in 2017.

Topping the list last year was Margaret Atwood, who saw TV adaptations of The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace released last year. Sales of her books last year reached almost £2.8m.

Next on the list was Sarah Perry, the author of the incredible hit The Essex Serpent, with sales of approximately £1.6m. Third was the lately departed Helen Dunmore, whose novel The Birdcage Walk and her poetry collection Inside The Wave were released in 2017.

Also making the list were Italian author Elena Ferrante, and the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, Naomi Alderman, whose apocalyptic novel The Power comes highly recommended by us at the Jane Austen News (though it’s nothing like an Austen novel, we have to warn you).

Award-winning author Haruki Murakami, who released his short story collection Men Without Women last year, was the only man to make the top ten. The rest of the top ten were Ali Smith, Zadie Smith (no relation), Maggie O’Farrell and Arundhati Roy.

Sadly, women writers still take up less than half of the slots in the Bookseller’s overall UK top 50 bestselling author of 2017, but nevertheless we can’t help but feel that Jane would be delighted to know just how far the recognition of female authors’ talent has come. Also, how pleased Mary Wollstonecraft might be that there has been such a vindication on the “writes” of woman (sorry, we just couldn’t help ourselves).

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 102

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Jane Austen News – Issue 29

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?


Austen and Shakespeare – Pop Culture Throughout Time
05WILLJANEJP4-master675The new exhibition at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington called Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity includes some of the more goofy material objects that have been made to celebrate Shakespeare or Austen in recent years. Some are more corporate than others – empty shoe boxes with Jane’s name on them, sticking plasters, etc etc, but all show what an amazing influence the two writers still have on the world. What really caught the eye of the Jane Austen News though, were the antique pieces of memorabilia; some of them over 100 years old.

Some antique memorabilia included in the exhibition are; a series of 18th-century porcelains showing famous actors as Richard III, a signboard for the Shakespeare’s Head tavern from the late-17th or early-18th century, and antique bellows carved with Shakespeare’s face. We are by no means lacking items celebrating Austen and Shakespeare today, and not all of them are received with open arms; some may be considered tacky or overly commercial. So it’s interesting to see what passed for commemorative merchandise in the past, and to consider what of today’s memorabilia may end up in a similar Austen/Shakespeare exhibition a couple of hundred years in the future.

Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity is on show at the Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol Street S.E., Washington until the 6th of November 2016.

JASNA Announces Essay Competition Winners  
writing-a-letterTo foster the study and appreciation of Jane Austen, JASNA conducts an annual student Essay Contest. The 2016 Essay Contest Topic (which was in line with the JASNA Annual General Meeting theme, “Emma at 200: “No One But Herself””) was education.

The complete essay brief was:

Education is a running theme in Emma. For instance, there are teacher/pupil relationships, a school, and former and aspiring governesses.  Discuss how this emphasis shapes the plot, develops characters or reflects the views of the period.

Essay writers were asked to submit their essays in the hopes of winning; a $1000 scholarship, free registration and two nights’ lodging for JASNA’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Washington DC, recognition at the AGM and on the JASNA web site, publication of the essay on JASNA’s web site, one year’s membership in JASNA for both the winner and his or her mentor, and a set of Norton Critical Editions of Jane Austen’s novels. Second and third place were awarded similar smaller prizes.

The submissions were divided into three age groups: high school, college/university, and graduate, and the winners of the first, second and third place in each age group have now been announced. Their essays can be found on the JASNA website here.

Cast Announced For Pride and Prejudice Tour     
Tafline-SteenIn a previous edition of the Jane Austen News we announced that Matthew Kelly is set to star as Mr Bennet in the 2016/2017 UK tour of Pride and Prejudice. Well now we’re pleased to say that the full cast has been announced.

In addition to Mr Kelly, the cast will also include:

What a cast!

Are You Bromley’s Mr Darcy?      
mr-darcy-coverGood news for any Jane Austen fans living in or near Bromley in London! To celebrate the national tour of Pride and Prejudice coming to Bromley’s Churchill Theatre in September,  a competition is being held to find Bromley’s very own Mr Darcy.

The competition asks for nominations to be made of husbands, boyfriends, sons, brothers, or just friends who are as dashing as Darcy. To nominate someone you need to email a picture and short reason for your nomination to by August 19, 2016.

The finalists are decided by public vote, which opens on the News Shopper website from August 22nd.

The finalists will then be announced on August 31, 2016 and they will take part in “a fun regency themed competition” (intriguing) on the afternoon of Saturday 10th September.

The winning Mr Darcy will receive a prize of:

  • A pair of tickets to Pride and Prejudice at the Churchill Theatre Bromley Friday, September 23, 7.30pm
  • Pre-show meal and bottle of prosecco at the Churchill Theatre Bromley Friday, September 23, 6pm
  • Overnight stay for two including breakfast at Bromley Court Hotel Friday, September 23.
  • Return taxis from Bromley Court Hotel to the Churchill Theatre Friday, September 23, provided by Cannon Cars.
  • £50 Intu Bromley shopping voucher

Stephanie Barron On Her New Book and Why Jane Is So Popular 

"Jane and the Waterloo Map" book cover

While speaking in a recent interview to promote her latest book, Jane and the Waterloo Map, Stephanie Barron (author of thirteen  Jane Austen mystery novels) explained why she thinks that Austen is still so popular today.

When asked by Jane Ammeson, who was reporting for, what the key to Jane Austen’s continuing popularity might be, she had this to say:

Part of Jane’s enduring appeal is that she understood how women think, and just as importantly, that women like to be appreciated and valued for their intelligence as much as their physical appeal. Austen had an acute understanding of the human heart and human motivation; this allowed her to fashion complex and compelling characters, both male and female. Her perceptions remain true to human lives today—we’re still learning from her acute understanding.

We at the Jane Austen News completely agree.

Airing Jane’s Early Work 

history-englandjpgv1376562490.jpegPride and Prejudice has to be the novel which comes up most often when talking about Jane Austen. However, while it is undoubtedly a fantastic work, many Austen fans feel that more ought to be done to promote Jane’s other writing. For this reason we were delighted to read that at the recent Holt Festival (Norwich, UK), when The Archers actress Emerald O’Hanrahan performed readings of Jane’s work in a white gown and mob cap, she dramatised not only passages from most of Austen’s novels, but also performed readings from Austen letters and several humorous snippets from her juvenilia, including her History of England.

It’s wonderful to hear that Jane’s early writing is getting some of the publicity it deserves.

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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In the Kitchen with Jane Austen

It’s the hottest day of the year. Outside the August air is heavy —humid— as Jane Austen wrote, “keeping one in a constant state of inelegance”. At my sink, I feel like the embodiment of a cliché. Pregnant, barefoot and in the kitchen, I peel peaches, preparing them for homemade jam. My two daughters, 2 and 4, picked these earlier today, their little arms, struggling to hold their heavy pails, begging for another branch to be pulled down so they could pick one last peach before we had to go inside and escape the heat once again. I wonder how many times this scene has been repeated, year after year, mothers and daughters since Eve, gathering fruit in summer, preparing it for winter, cherishing the fast fleeting moments of childhood. I feel a connection to these women; to my grandmothers and great grandmothers—to women throughout history who’ve planned for and nurtured their families.

Bella struggles to keep her peaches in her pail…

As I work, I picture Mrs. Austen, with a young Cassandra and Jane holding her skirts, preparing food in the Steventon kitchen. She might not have been responsible for the day to day meals, but the kitchen, gardens and dairy were her province and she gloried in them. When summer fruit was brought in, no doubt she took her place overseeing their preservation for her ever increasing family. Here, Jane would have learned the secrets to jam and wine making that she would later employ at Chawton—I wonder what summer days in that kitchen were like; of the camaraderie between Cassandra and Jane and now Martha Lloyd.

Earlier this year, I was commissioned by the Jane Austen Centre to compile a cookbook with recipes used by the Austens and “extended” Austen family, i.e. characters in Jane’s novels. The research for this was fascinating—while Austen’s books may hold back on the details of preparing and consuming food, her letters are rife with menus and recipes and descriptions of meals and their organization. She was certainly no stranger to the kitchen. To begin, I turned to Martha Lloyd’s own household book- a little notebook she kept with many of the family’s favorite recipes. I also searched period cookbooks, like Hannah Glasse’s “Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy.” This could very well have been a staple in Mrs. Austen’s kitchen, as it is written not to “professed cooks, but … to instruct the ignorant and unlearned (which will likewise be of great use in all private families), and in so plain and full a manner, that the most illiterate and ignorant person, who can but read, will know how to do everything in Cookery well.”

Lucky me, for in knowing nothing of 19th century cookery, I was, indeed, a most ignorant and unlearned cook. A study of practices of the time, including baking, hearth cooking and roasting soon convinced me that the fabulous spreads of Regency fame, with 20 or more dishes per course, were nothing short of a miracle on the part of the cook. Translating these recipes to modern stoves and other appliances felt a bit like cheating (though thankfully, one no longer has to “beat the whites of five eggs with a fork on a plate for one hour” to achieve a fluffy meringue.) Meals that were once the result of a year’s worth of preparation and several days worth of cooking, could be created in hours, with fresh ingredients purchased at a local supermarket, no matter what the season.

What I did gain, in addition to a new repertoire of dinner recipes (most were surprisingly good!) was a peek into Jane’s life that I would have been unable to fathom by simply reading her novels or a biography. Creating the foods she made with her own hands, enjoying recipes she relished, even tasting foods mentioned in the novels, brought her life and works to life for me. I felt a kinship with her, as if I was joining a sort of sisterhood where everything was harvested locally and made by hand and not a frozen pizza or refrigerated pie crust in sight…though this does sound suspiciously like the creed of the modern “grown local” movement very much alive at farmer’s markets around the country. Perhaps it’s not such a new idea after all.

I hope those who read the resulting book, Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, will find the same joy in experimenting with these recipes and trying new, old dishes. In the meantime, it’s hot and I’m tired. I am going to take a short cut, here in my air conditioned house, that Jane could never have imagined. Hours of stirring a pot of boiling preserves over a hot stove, magically evaporate as I contemplate two life saving words, “Freezer Jam”.

Come this winter, however, we will remember these last days of summer with the taste of fresh juicy peaches. I will think of the tiny hands and sticky fingers that picked them, and hope that someday, my granddaughters will be standing at a sink somewhere (if kitchens have not, by then, been replaced by food replicators) peeling peaches, picked fresh, on the hottest day of summer, preserving a bit of sunshine for the long cold months ahead.

Buy Cooking with Jane Austen and Freinds online at our Jane Austen Centre Gift Shop! Click here.



Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 3 adorable children and a very strange dog.)

This article originally appeared in the JASNA newsletter.

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