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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).

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Jane Austen News – Issue 29

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?   Austen and Shakespeare – Pop Culture Throughout Time The 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 (more…)
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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 (more…)
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