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Jane Austen News – Issue 106

The Jane Austen News is the Watsons and curling

What’s the Jane Austen News from Bath this week? 

The Latest Olympic Sport – Jane Austen Curling

Well here’s one we at the Jane Austen News never thought we’d see!

A theatre company who are currently performing a stage adaptation of Sense and Sensibility at the Arvada Center in Colarado have gone viral with their latest video. Without breaking character, the cast pushes each other in rolling chairs trying to be the one ‘closest to the eligible bachelor’…

The video has been shared over 3,500 times!


Controversy Over Church Commemoration

A church in Adlestrop in Gloucestershire, England (Adlestrop being a village which is thought to have inspired features of some of Jane Austen’s works), is currently being met with controversy. Plans are afoot to introduce a new plaque into the church, dedicated to a woman who is not a member of the Leigh family, and who is a “relative newcomer” in the area.

Since the 16th century, the Leigh family, Austen’s wealthy relatives on her mother’s side, had owned Adlestrop Park, the great house which is thought to have inspired Sotherton Court, an estate owned by the character James Rushworth in her novel Mansfield Park. Now it is owned by the Collins family – the relative newcomers.

It has to be said that “relative” is the appropriate term, as the Collins family, whose coat of arms it is that is being proposed as the new addition, have lived in the area since at least 1974. Dominic Collins and his late wife had been in residence at Adlestrop Park itself since the late 1990s. In that time the house has been restored and the family were generous donors to local projects including the refurbishment of the church’s five bells.

The idea to let Dominic Collins install a hatchment (a coat of arms display) in the church in memory of his late wife is opposed by local historian and Austen expert, Victoria Huxley, who has said it is inappropriate to install a memorial to a family who were not the Leighs.

I was very surprised that someone with a relatively short link to the village (compared to the age of the church) should seek to place their coat of arms in the church, and I do not think that most people in the village have been alerted to this request. I feel that only a family which has strong ties over several generations should have such a display.

June Rogers, Chancellor of the diocese of Gloucester, ruled that the plan could go ahead.

The Jane Austen connection does not preserve in aspic this Church. As the Leighs succeeded Evesham Abbey, so the Collins family is now in residence. Another layer has been added to the life and continuity of this village.

A Modern Update – A Mistake?

We mentioned in the Jane Austen news last week that Pride and Prejudice was one of the three classic love stories which the TV channel Drama had taken and rewritten. The idea was to give the novels ‘digital makeovers’ to show the effect that digital devices are having on romance. Researchers from University College London and esteemed Professor John Sutherland were credited as having worked on the project. However, it seems that Professor Sutherland wasn’t as involved in the clever PR initiative as was first suggested.

The Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English has admitted that he hasn’t actually had much to do with the project… and that he didn’t much like the results. “I was glad to be involved with it and pick up a useful penny or two,” he told The Times on 8 February. “Don’t be too harsh on me.”

What Does Jane Austen Have to do with Nuclear Deterrence?

Well according to Freakonomics and Professor Michael Chwe, associate professor of political science at UCLA, more than we might think…

Game theory is the study of strategic interactions between a small number of adversaries, usually two or three competitors. Professor Chwe studies game theory and, as he puts it, “its applications to social movements and macroeconomics and violence”, and more lately, literature. Jane Austen specifically.

Chwe discovered that Austen’s novels are full of strategic thinking, decision analysis, and other tools that would later come to be prized by game theorists. You might have come across his book, published in 2013, called Jane Austen, Game Theorist. In it, Chwe details the excellent examples of game theory used by Austen’s characters, and how these techniques advance the plot. It looks at the similarities between the interplay in Austen’s novels and the same game theory interplay which is used in the modern world. Game theory applies to all sorts of situations — poker, the game Rock/Paper/Scissors, or even two countries on the brink of nuclear armageddon (hence the nuclear deterrence).

So why do we bring this up?

This week saw the popular podcast series Freakonomics re-upload their podcast episode: Jane Austen, Game Theorist. It originally came out in 2013, but we’d forgotten just what an interesting listen it is and thought that you might also appreciate revisiting it. Both for its analysis of Jane’s novels, and also for its pertinent thoughts on game theory in our modern lives.

Performing An Unfinished Austen

Jane Austen wrote six completed novels, but she also wrote two incomplete novels. One is Sanditon, the other, begun while Jane Austen was living in Bath but never completed, is called The Watsons. Austen wrote just under 18,000 words of the story before she stopped. In those 18,000 words the beginnings of a complex story are laid down. However, after the five brief chapters which encompass the whole of the text the novel comes to an abrupt halt. That hasn’t stopped playwright Laura Wade from creating a stage adaptation of The Watsons though.

The play follows nineteen-year-old Emma Watson as she searches for a suitor. She’s been cut off by her rich aunt and has had to return to the family home. Emma and her sisters must marry, fast. If not, they face poverty, spinsterhood, or worse; an eternity with their boorish brother and his awful wife. (Sound familiar? It’s quite close to circumstances which Jane and Cassandra Austen were facing in their own lives after the death of their father).

Luckily for Emma, there are plenty of potential suitors to dance with, from flirtatious Tom Musgrave to castle-owning Lord Osborne, who’s as awkward as he is rich.

But there’s a problem: Jane Austen didn’t finish the story. So who, asks Laura, will write Emma’s happy ending now?

Based on the incomplete novel, this adaptation of The Watsons looks under the bonnet of Jane Austen and asks: what can characters do when their author abandons them?

It is being performed at the Minerva Theatre in Chichester from the 3rd of November to the 1st of December, and it sounds like it will be a most interesting performance.


Jane Austen Day with Charlotte

Jane Austen News is our weekly compilation of stories about or related to 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 Austen News – Issue 57

The Jane Austen News looks for Darcy

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?   

Third Jane Austen Fiver Found

The third of the four specially engraved £5 notes which feature a tiny portrait of Jane Austen has been found, leaving only one of the £5 notes still in circulation and yet to be claimed.

The latest note was found in a small bar called ‘Charlie’s Bar’ in Northern Ireland, which incidentally is where the engraver responsible for the notes, Graham Short, said he originally spent it.

It was found by an elderly lady who wishes to remain anonymous. She also isn’t looking to profit from her find. In fact she sent the £5 note back to Mr Short with a note asking him to use it to help young people – “if it sells for a lot of money it will be better if young children could benefit from it.”

Mr Short’s friend and fellow artist, Tony Huggins-Haig, who launched the project, said around 5,000 people have called up falsely claiming to have found it. We can see why it’s so highly sought after, even by those who aren’t Austen fans, as each of the notes is insured for at least £50,000, but Mr Huggins-Haig believes the notes could actually sell for up to £100,000.

Jane’s Men – Attractive in Anonymity     

John Sutherland, author of numerous books on Literature and Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London, has proposed that one of the reasons Austen’s heroes resonate so well with her readers is because they are so anonymous in their appearance, and therefore, open to personal preference and interpretation. 

Recently John Sutherland and Amanda Vickery were commissioned by UKTV to come up with a convincing illustration of what Darcy might have looked like when Austen first created him. They found it a challenge as all we are told about Darcy is that he is 28, “handsome”, has a good “mien” and £10,000 a year. “What we came up with was more the Justin Bieber end of the hunk spectrum than Dolph Lundgren. Or Firth. ” said John.

He suggests that there are a couple of possible explanations for Austen’s lack of detail.

The first is that Austen wants us to fill in the blanks ourselves. The second is that Austen was what is called “aphantasiac” — she didn’t think pictorially, whether it was places, locations or people. Some creative people are like that. They think, principally, of design. Look for portraiture in Mondrian.

What do you think? Does Darcy’s unclear face help him? Or does Colin Firth’s portrayal of him do his popularity more favours?

Come and Stay in Jane’s Old Home!

Bath is by no means lacking when it comes to lovely places to stay. However, thanks to Airbnb, now you can stay in the house in which Jane Austen first lived in when she came to live in Bath in 1801 – that of 4 Sydney Place.

Admittedly the apartment in Sydney Place is decorated in a modern style, but it is beautifully presented and offering one gorgeous bedroom as well as two sofa beds, making it suitable for four people to stay in. There are nods to Austen inside – as you enter the flat there’s a Pride & Prejudice quote on the wall, and heading upstairs will bring you to the main accommodation and the master bedroom, which offers the best of Georgian architecture with hardwood flooring and a period fireplace. One reviewer describes the apartment as ‘historically enchanting’.

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 57

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