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A Very Special Visit to The Jane Austen Centre

An engagement at the Jane Austen Centre

Visitors come to the Jane Austen Centre in Bath for many reasons. Some come as part of a tour they are doing of Jane Austen locations across the UK, some stumble upon us while visiting Bath, some visit us on specific family outings, or on school trips. The list of reasons goes on. However, we were recently visited by a gentleman who had a more unusual reason for coming to see us.

Last week one of our visitors came to the Jane Austen Centre to propose to his girlfriend. And we’re delighted to say that she said yes!

It was a very special moment for the couple, and we wish them many years of happiness.

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Jane Austen News – Issue 61

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?   

 Lucy Worsley on Jane Austen  

In the lead up to the publication of her new book about Jane Austen, Jane Austen at Home, published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 18th May 2017, Lucy Worsley has been writing various articles and giving interviews for websites and newspapers exploring aspects of Jane’s life.

Within the latest article, written for The Sunday Times by Sian Griffiths, Lucy Worsley has highlighted come of the suitors which Jane apparently spurned in order to keep writing.

“She turned down four or five proposals of marriage and financial security to have a go at living by her pen. And because it wasn’t socially appropriate for her to be a writer, she had to write in secret, and go on pretending to be a good daughter, aunt and housekeeper.”

“The list of potential suitors included Charles Powlett, who wanted to kiss Austen when he was 20; Tom Lefroy; the Reverend Samuel Blackall; Harris Bigg-Wither, who proposed only to be turned down by the writer within 24 hours; the Reverend Edward Bridges; Robert Holt Leigh, an MP who flirted with Austen; and William Seymour, a lawyer.”

However, Deirdre Le Faye, editor of Austen’s letters, said that while she accepted that there were several men in Austen’s life, she did not believe the author spurned them so that she could be a writer, or that she made feminist choices.

“Lucy Worsley enjoys mak­ing history fun,” said Le Faye, “but I do not agree with her argument. There were eligible young men in Jane Austen’s orbit but I do not know of evidence she turned them down so she could carry on writing, but we will never know.”

The full article can be found here.

 Joanna Trollope on Jane Austen and The Austen Project 

Best-selling author Joanna Trollope was one of six authors picked to take part in the Austen project; an initiative begun in 2013 by publisher Harper Collins, which saw top contemporary authors reworking Jane’s six completed novels for a modern audience.

This week Joanna was answering questions via The Guardian website and one of the questions she was asked was:

What is the case for the rewrites of Jane Austen’s books? You have redone Sense and Sensibility while others of the Austen canon have been reworked by others. How would you react if a publisher proposed that your books be rewritten by others?“.

Here’s what she had to say:

The Austen Project was dreamt up by a very clever editor at Harper Collins who is now at Faber. Her idea was to emphasise the timelessness of Jane Austen’s characterisation by taking stories that had been written before 1815 and transposing them to 2013. So the aim was not so much to showcase modern writers, as to display the eternal genius of Jane Austen.

I not only think my novels would be very honoured to be rewritten in 200 years time, I think they would benefit! There is, after all, nothing new to say about the human condition that Sophocles or Shakespeare haven’t brilliantly said already. All writers do is reinterpret or translate those eternal truths about humanity for their own times. I am not of the school of writers who believes that we are inventors, as you will gather! And that explains why, when it came to updating Sense and Sensibility, I not only stuck to Jane’s narrative and characterisation like paint, I also stuck to her treatment of her characters. In Sense and Sensibility there are only two characters she does not tease – one is Elinor Dashwood and the other is Colonel Brandon – and I have treated them in the same way Jane does herself.

I started the project thinking she was a brilliant novelist. I ended the project believing she was a complete genius and nothing that has happened since has caused me to revise that opinion.

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 61

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Jane Austen News – Issue 41

Jane Austen 200

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 

Romance At The Centre 

There was excitement in the Jane Austen Centre this week when one visitor was asked an unexpected question by her boyfriend, Jamie Scott. Charlotte, one of our centre guides, described what happened.

“I only saw a little bit because I wanted to give them some private time. But by some luck, they were the only two in their talk. When they got to the writing desks, they were alone in the room with only me! While she was reading some of the information boards he wrote ‘Will you marry me?’ on one of the cards.

“She then sat down at the other desk and he went and gave her his card. I had left at this point to give them a moment, but was just outside with Serena (another of our guides) when she said yes. He gave her the ring he had kept hidden until that moment, and then we came around the corner and congratulated them. She seemed overwhelmed. It was lovely!”

Help Design Jane Austen Benches 

the-house-that-jane-built-2-700x515Basingstoke and Deane is going to honour the 200 year anniversary of Jane Austen’s death by placing 25 specially decorated ‘BookBenches’ in and around the town during Summer 2017.

Local artists are being invited to come up with their own Jane Austen related designs which will be put onto benches that look like open books. Eventually the benches will be available as street furniture for the public of Basingstoke and Deane.

Director of the Sitting With Jane project, Sally Ann Wilkinson, said: “We look forward to a wide range of designs and different interpretations of all aspects of Jane Austen’s important contribution to literature be brought to life and celebrated by artists.

“The BookBench sculpture offers artists the opportunity to visually tell Jane Austen’s stories; the characters as well as her life, and bring enjoyment to thousands of people from around the world.”

Those who want to be involved have until December 1st 2016 to get involved through

If You Love Jane Austen, You Might Also Love….        

x500Jane Austen and the Brontës endure as British literature’s leading ladies (and for good reason)—but were these reclusive parsons’ daughters really the only writing women of their day?

This is the question which Shelley DeWees addresses in her new book Not Just Jane – Rediscovering Seven Women Writers Who Transformed British Literature.

Within her book DeWees aims to throw light on some of the female writers from the late 18th and the 19th century. Most people have heard of George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen and Jane Eyre; but there have to be more great female authors from history than that. DeWees introduces us to seven amazing but forgotten female authors as she weaves history, biography, and critical analysis into a narrative which tells the evolution of female life and the changing literary scene.

The Jane Austen News is looking forward to having a look at the book and discovering who some of Jane Austen’s contemporaries were.

Jane Austen – The Secret Radical
9781785781162-293x450On November 3rd Helena Kelly will be in Bath at Waterstones launching her new book Jane Austen The Secret Radical.  

Helena argues that Jane’s novels don’t confine themselves to grand houses and they were not written for readers’ enjoyment. Helena puts forward that Jane writes about serious subjects and her books are deeply subversive, we just don’t read her properly – and we haven’t been reading her properly for 200 years.

Within Jane’s novels are arguments on the subjects of feminism, slavery, abuse, the treatment of the poor, the power of the Church, and even evolution – at a time, and in a place, when to write about such things directly was akin to treason.

Reviewers have said ‘However well you think you know the novels, you’ll be raring to read them again once you’ve read this.’ We have to say; we’re intrigued…


What to Expect From The Jane Austen Writers’ Club     

jausfinalFrom one new Jane Austen book to another.

Rebecca Smith has just published her how-to novel which explains how to write a novel using examples from Jane Austen’s novels and letters of advice which she wrote to her own aspiring-author niece.

Smith starts with advice on how to plan your story, and create believable, well-rounded characters and their environs. Then she moves onto how Jane uses irony, and picks out details and speech mannerisms, which has to be one of her most honed skills. Smith herself writes: “This whole book could be devoted to Jane Austen’s use of dialogue.”

Some of the other key pieces of advice Smith offers are:

  • Be a people-watcher (and listener)
  • Find somebody you trust to edit your work
  • In the face of rejection, keep writing
  • Suspense, suspense, suspense!

This month the Jane Austen News will have a lot of reading to do!

For Austen Fans Near Reading  

reading-abbey357-correctionThis past weekend (28th-30th October), Jane Austen fans living near Reading got a treat when Helena Kelly (the author of Jane Austen The Secret Radical which we mentioned earlier) was in conversation with fellow “Janeite” Gill Hornby discussing Jane Austen’s political and social views and how she weaved her thoughts into her supposedly “safe” novels.

The talk was part of Reading Book Festival, and was a particularly good city to discuss Jane Austen in because it was in Reading at Reading Ladies’ Boarding School that Jane and Cassandra attended boarding school for a time. The boarding school was located by the Abbey Gateway and that fact is commemorated by a plaque on a nearby wall.

Hopefully there will be more events for Reading-based Jane Austen fans soon!

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.

Don’t miss our latest news – become a Jane Austen Member and receive a digest of stories, articles and news every week. You will also be able to access our online Magazine with over 1000 articles, test your knowledge with our weekly quiz and get offers on our Online Giftshop. Plus new members get an exclusive 10% off voucher to use in the Online Giftshop.

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Elizabeth Bennet information from the Jane Austen Centre

Jennifer Ehle

Elizabeth Bennet

Jennifer EhleElizabeth Bennet, or Lizzy Bennet, or Eliza, is the main character of the Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice (1813). She is a witty young girl of twenty with dark eyes and hair. Elizabeth Bennet is the second of five sisters and resides in a small house called Longbourn outside the town of Meryton. Her closest companions are her eldest sister Jane Bennet and her friend Charlotte Lucas. ElizabethBennet is closest to her father, she is his favourite daughter and he tries to look out for her as best he can. Her other sisters are Mary, Lydia and Kitty. She has no fortune of her own and her welfare depends on the wealth of her marriage. Pride and Prejudice is the story of how Elizabeth Bennet meets and falls in love with Mr. Darcy, a wealthy man who could solve all her problems of fortune. Elizabeth loves to laugh at the folly of others and is a bright energetic girl. She also has in her character a tendency to judge others on first appearance. This is how she establishes Mr. Darcy as a proud, hateful man and what guides her in her trust of the charming and handsome militiaman, Mr. Wickham.
Elizabeth Bennet receives three a proposals of marriage in the course of the novel. The first is from her distant cousin Mr. Collins, who is to inherit her family’s estate. He is a very foolish, ridiculous man and she flatly refuses him. The second two are from Mr. Darcy who first applies for her hand in a way that asks for her favour while at the same time insulting her family and low social status. She refuses him too after pointing out the flaws in his offer of marriage. In this way Elizabeth Bennet is thought of as a modern girl. Women in the eighteenth century were not supposed to have opinions. They were supposed to be pleasant to look at and conduct pleasant conversations. Elizabeth Bennet is headstrong, lively, and never holds back to defend herself or her relations. This is the character of a modern heroine who stands up to injustice and fights for what she wants.
There have been five direct film adaptations of Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennet has been portrayed by Kiera Knightly, Jennifer Ehle, Greer Garson and Elizabeth Garvie. The modern takes of the story include a Bollywood version called Bride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones’s Diary where Renee Zellweger is the modern Lizzie Bennet.
Useful Sources:
2005 Adaptation of Pride and Prejudice
BBC version of Pride and Prejudice 1995

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Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, by Quinçon

“She possessed the pure Grecian contour; her head was exquisitely formed, her forehead fair and shapely, her eyes large and dark, with an expression of tenderness that did not belong to her character; and the delicate loveliness of her mouth and chin, the soft bloom of her complexion, together with her beautifully rounded shoulders and tapering arms, combined to form one of the loveliest of women.”
-quote about Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, by an unknown admirer

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte was born Baltimore, Maryland,  February 6 1785, the eldest of 13 children .  Known as “Betsy”,  she was the daughter of a Baltimore, Maryland merchant, the first wife of Jérôme Bonaparte, and sister-in-law of Emperor Napoleon I of France.

Elizabeth’s father, William Patterson, had been born in Ireland and came to North America prior to the American Revolutionary War. He was a Catholic, and the wealthiest man in Maryland after Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence. Elizabeth’s brother, Robert, married Carroll’s granddaughter, Marianne Caton (but more on her later…)

How they met is a mystery,  but Elizabeth and Jérôme Bonaparte (at the time 18 and 20, respectively) were married on December 24, 1803, at a ceremony presided over by John Carroll, the Archbishop of Baltimore. Betsy quickly became known for her “risqué” taste in fashion, starting with her wedding dress.

Elizabeth Patterson's Wedding Dress, described as a dress so small that it “would fit easily into a gentleman’s pocket.” Image courtesy of MET

Jérôme’s brother Napoleon ordered him back to France and demanded that the marriage be annulled. Jérôme ignored Napoleon’s initial demand that he return to France without his wife. When Napoleon threatened to imprison him, Elizabeth’s brother rushed to France to intervene, but nothing would change the mind of the French dictator who had far grander plans for his brother than some American socialite.

When James Madison and even Tallyrand could do nothing about the situation, Jérôme and a pregnant Betsy attempted to travel to France. It was the fall of 1804 and they hoped to arrive in time for Napoleon’s coronation, but a number of false starts delayed them. When they finally arrived, Elizabeth was denied permission to set foot in continental Europe by order of Napoleon. Jérôme traveled to Italy in an attempt to reason with his brother, writing to his wife,

“My good wife, have faith in your husband. The worst that could happen now would be for us to have to live quietly in some foreing country….My dearest Elisa, I will do everything that must be done.”

After remaining in limbo, unable to disembark in either France or the Netherlands, Betsy made her way to England, where she gave birth to a son on July 7, 1805, at 95 Camberwell Grove, Camberwell, London.

She would never see her husband again. Jérôme, threatened with loss of rank and title, and being forced to account for his staggering debt, gave in to his brother, returned to the French Navy, and was created 1st Prince of Montfort and King of Westphalia, which he ruled from 1807 until 1813. The Pope had refused to allow a divorce or annul his marriage to Elizabeth, but that did not stop Napoleon– the man who crowned himself emperor–from dissolving it himself, and forcing his young brother to marry a German princess Catharina of Württemberg.

Jérôme Bonaparte, King of Westphalia and Queen Catharina

Once king of Westphalia, his lavish lifestyle and constant philandering brought censure and as Napoleon’s hold on the empire fragmented, Jérôme’s fortunes fell as well. Eventually, he had two more children with his German wife, before marrying an Italian widow. His final placement came as governor of Les Invalides, Paris, the burial place of his lauded brother.

As King of Westphalia, Jérôme offered Elizabeth a home within his dominions, with the title of Princess of Smalcalden and a pension of two hundred thousand francs per year. In regard to the former, she replied that Westphalia was a large kingdom, but not quite large enough for two queens, and with regard to the pension, having already accepted Napoleon’s annuity of sixty thousand francs, she made the oft-quoted response that she preferred “being sheltered under the wing of an eagle to being suspended from the bill of a goose.” Famous American Belles of the Nineteenth Century, Virginia Tatnall Peacock, K. B. Lippincott Company, 1901

Betsy returned to Baltimore with her son, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, called “Bo” by his mother, and lived with her father while she continued to flaunt her royal connection and skimpy attire. After the Battle of Waterloo, she returned to Europe, She styled herself “Madame Bonaparte”. Here, she was well received in the most exclusive circles and much admired for her beauty and wit.

In 1815, by special Act of the Legislature of Maryland, she at last secured a divorce. Her last years were spent in Baltimore in the management of her estate, the value of which she increased to $1.5 million. Betsy died in the midst of a court battle over whether the state of Maryland could tax her out of state bonds. The case reached the Supreme Court (Bonaparte v. Tax Court, 104 U.S. 592) where the Court decided in favor of Maryland.  She is buried in the Greenmount Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland.

Her grandson, Charles Joseph Bonaparte, served as United States Secretary of the Navy and United States Attorney General. He founded the precursor of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1908.

Marianne Caton and Richard Wellesley, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, at Dublin Castle, 1826.

Ironically, Betsy’s brother’s widow, Marianne (Caton) Patterson, married Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, older brother of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. The Caton sisters, born to the wealthiest man in Maryland (and the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, who built what he claimed was “the most English house in America” ) were social climbers in the extreme. Of this six marriages made by the four sisters (Marianne, Bess, Louisa and Emily) three of them were to titled English nobility. Like the Irish Lennox sisters, a generation before, these heiresses, to quote a Carroll cousin, had the privilege ,  “[Had] the liberty of refusing those we don’t like, but not of selecting those we do.” Obviously, they, like so many American heiresses to come, liked titles and land, however entailed the estate might be.

That two women, so closely related to an orchestrator of the American Revolution should marry a Bonaparte and a Wellesley– that their respective brothers-in-law should be arch enemies and international heroes, seems beyond believing , but as they say, “truth is stranger than fiction”. The stories of these amazing ladies have been told both in print and on film. Biographies include, Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte: An American Aristocrat in the Early Republic and  Sisters of Fortune: America’s Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad.   The story of Elizabeth and Jérôme’s marriage and annulment is the basis for the 1908 play Glorious Betsy by Rida Johnson Young and the two film adaptations, Glorious Betsy (1928) and Hearts Divided (1936). She was portrayed by Dolores Costello in the former and by Marion Davies in the latter. The episode “Duty” of the Hornblower television series features Elizabeth and Jérôme trying to land in France and the diplomatic difficulties.



Information from:


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The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After: A Review

In her book, The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After, Elizabeth Kantor asks the question, “Just what is it about Jane Austen that has us coming back year after year, decade after decade, making her by far the most famous female writer of her time. Why DO we read Jane Austen?” It’s more than just wanting a good read or to be part of a perfect world, set apart in time. She theorizes that “We wish we could be Jane Austen heroines in our own lives, dealing with everything—especially men—with the sophistication and competence we admire in characters like Elizabeth Bennet. Women see something in Jane Austen  that’s missing from modern relationships, and we can’t help wondering if there might be some way to have what we see there—without going back to empire waistlines, horse-drawn carriages, and the bad old days before the Married Women’s Property Act.”

“I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness”
-Elizabeth Bennet

My mother’s favorite axiom is, “Your attitude is your choice”. After researching all of Jane’s work, using not only her six published novels, but also the fragments, Juvenilia and surviving letters, Kantor has come to a similar conclusion. Your happiness—or lack thereof, is the result of your own choices in life. Sure, we can be dealt situations less than idyllic—not everyone can be born a gentleman’s daughter in Hertfordshire, but the first question she would have us ask of ourselves is whether or not we are acting in the pursuit of long term happiness. Not the “of course I want to be happy” kind of happiness, but the “Will this choice (boyfriend, relationship, marriage) contribute to long term, lasting happiness?” Here, she contrasts the life styles of Lydia Bennet, who lives for the thrill of the moment, and Elizabeth, who weighs her choices in light of the effect they will have on her future. By consciously choosing happiness (over immediate gratification, or even instant security—think Charlotte  Lucas) Kantor proposes that we have made the first step in shedding modern cynicism about happiness in general and in taking control of our future.

This may free you to release a long over relationship, or begin a new one. It will certainly cause you to begin being responsible for your own choices, looking ahead at the consequences of each one and choosing whether or not they are in line with future you want for yourself.

“How despicably have I acted!” she cried. — “I, who have prided myself on my discernment! — I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity, in useless or blameable distrust. — How humiliating is this discovery! — Yet, how just a humiliation! –I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment, I never knew myself.”
-Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

Each one of Austen’s heroines reached a crisis point in which she was unsure of her own actions or behavior, and each one had to evaluate whether or not she would continue the path she was on or choose to turn back and change her way of dealing with life. For some, this meant metamorphical thinking, for others, like Anne Elliot and Elinor Dashwood, it reaffirmed the correctness of their original behavior. By choosing to change or stay the course, each one of us becomes responsible for our own, ultimate happiness in life.

Kantor’s book is divided into sixteen easy to read chapters (I devoured it in one sitting!) with titles including  In Love, Look for Happiness, Work on All your Relationships, Jane Austen’s Skeleton Keys to a Man’s Potential, The Real, Original “Rules”, and Arrange Your Own Marriage—In the Most Pleasant Manner Possible. Each chapter pulls scenarios from not only the Austen canon, but also from pop culture, news headlines and even Kantor’s own relationship history, and ends with three bulleted sections: “Adopt and Austen Attitude” (take a minute for Jane Austen-style “serious reflection”) “What would Jane Do?” and “If We Really Want to Bring Back Jane Austen…” Also sprinkled among the pages are “Tips just for Janeites”; catchy summaries of each section, like “Drama is not the same thing as Love”. Additional essays, such as “Choose Your Entertainment Carefully—And Notice What It’s Doing to You” and “A Jane Austen Heroine in the Twenty-First Century” can be found augmenting select chapters. An impressive Appendix, exhaustive Chapter Notes and Index finish my edition of this book.

Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change, since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced, was such as he had probably never felt before; and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eye, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight, diffused over his face, became him; but, though she could not look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings, which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his affection every moment more valuable.
–Pride and Prejudice

All in all, I didn’t know what to expect when I opened this book, so I was delighted to find it a well-researched, entertaining read that still packed a punch. Kantor’s top advice to women might be summarized by saying, “Grow up! Take responsibility for your own happiness. Work on all your relationships. Don’t sit around waiting for “Mr. Darcy” to sweep you off your feet—be worth sweeping for! Don’t sell yourself cheaply.” This book is aimed at single women desiring long term/marriage relationships. It realizes however, that that may not be the outcome for each reader. Does that mean that you have no chance at “Happily Ever After”? Absolutely not.

Jane Austen, as far as we can tell, lived life by the same code of conduct she instilled in each of her heroines. She may not have been as instantly eloquent as Elizabeth Bennet or as supremely self-controlled as Elinor Dashwood, but neither was she willing to settle for less that complete happiness in marriage. Did she then live an unfulfilled and dull life? Of course not. After all, happiness is a choice.

I think my mother would approve.

Elizabeth Kantor is author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature and an editor for Regnery Publishing. An avid Jane Austen fan, she is happily married and lives with her husband and son in Maryland, USA.

  • RRP: £16.99
  • Hardcover: 304 pages (also available for the Kindle)
  • Publisher: Regnery Publishing (19 April 2012)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 1596987847
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596987845



Laura Boyle runs Austentation: Regency Accessories. Her book, Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, is available from the Jane Austen Centre Giftshop. Visit Austentation for a large range of custom made hats, bonnets, reticules and Jane Austen related items.

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Free Iphone App

Jane Austen App


Jane Austen App
The Free Jane Austen App.

How odd that an 18th century author finds her work being promoted and enjoyed via the medium of 21st century technology.

The Jane Austen Centre in Bath has been busy working on an Iphone app which will deliver a witty or meaningful quote from Jane Austen’s novels or letters to your phone every day.

These quotes, compiled over the past 6 months are as relevant to life today as they were in the C18th! Jane Austen speaks of love, marriage and friendship. Here are some examples that may chime with you;

“Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.” Pride and Prejudice

“I do not like to have people throw themselves away; but everybody should marry as soon as they can do it to advantage.” Mansfield Park

“To flatter and follow others, without being flattered and followed in turn, is but a state of half enjoyment.” Persuasion

“A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment.” Pride and Prejudice

“I think very highly of the understanding of all the women in the world — especially of those — whoever they may be — with whom I happen to be in company.” Northanger Abbey

The app is free and can be found at the appstore by searching for Jane Austen Centre.

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Account of Joseph Paisley: ‘The Celebrated Gretna Green Parson’

Gretna Green

Account of Joseph Paisley: ‘The Celebrated Gretna Green Parson’

You will laugh when you know where I am gone, and I cannot help laughing myself at your surprise to-morrow morning, as soon as I am missed.

I am going to Gretna Green, and if you cannot guess with who, I shall think you a simpleton, for there is but one man in the world I love, and he is an angel.

I should never be happy without him, so think it no harm to be off.

You need not send them word at Longbourn of my going, if you do not like it, for it will make the surprise the greater when I write to them and sign my name Lydia Wickham.
What a good joke it will be!
Pride and Prejudice

This account of the life of Joseph Paisley (with an etched Likeness), styled as ‘The Celebrated Gretna Green Parson’, appeared in the Lady’s Magazine, or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex, Appropriated solely to their Use and Amusement, May, 1811, as a letter to the editor.

To the Editor of the Lady’s Magazine


I inclose you an Account (from the Carlisle Journal) of the Gretna-Green Parson, who died a few days ago, as also an etching, which is an excellent likeness, and was taken some years ago, by a neighbouring country lad, without the knowledge of the Parson; he not being willing to sit for such a purpose. If you think them worth publishing, they are at your service. In addition to the printed account, I can assure you that, about eighteen months ago, in the presence of a friend of mine, who called upon him, (although in the afternoon, and having previously drank a great deal, as usual) he swallowed seventeen glasses of raw brandy.
I am, &c.

Kirkandrews, near Carlisle,
January 26th, 1811

In a subsequent letter, Mr. Norman informs us that the young man who took the likeness (Robert Nixon, now some time dead) never published it, but only struck off a few impressions for his own amusement, and that of his friends.—He adds, that the report (noticed in our January Magazine) of the Parson’s having been a blacksmith, is erroneous.)

Joseph Paisley, of coupling celebrity, was born on the borders of England, in the year 1728, or 1729, at the obscure hamlet of Lenoxtown, about a mile distant from Gretna Green; at which place, and at Springfield (its immediate neighbour) the subject of this memoir had, for half a century, continued to weld together the chains of matrimony, and to render happy or miserable great multitudes of anxious lovers,—Early in life, Paisley was bound apprentice to a tobacconist; but, becoming disgusted with this employment, he changed it for that of a fisherman, and was allowed by his brethren to bear the palm on all occasions where strength and agility were required. It was in this humble capacity that he was initiated into the secrets of a profession, which he managed with such address. He had formed a connexion with one Walter Cowtard, who lived very near to Sarkfoot, upon the sea-shore; and who, strange thought it may appear, was both a smuggler and a priest! Old Watty had the misfortune to be but indifferently lodged, having “a reeky house,” and, what is perhaps worse, a scolding wife, so that he was necessitated to perform the marriage ceremony on the open beach, among the furze, or, as it is provincially called, whins. On these occasions, young Paisley officiated as clerk. But our hero had ambition, and he only wanted an opportunity for its exertion. An occasion soon offered itself;—one time Watty went to the Isle of Mann, for the purpose of fetching over a cargo of contraband brandy; whilst his assistant remained at home to perform the necessary rites during the absence of the former. Finding that he could rivet the matrimonial bond equally as well as his master, and being at the same time under some pecuniary embarrassment, he began business on his own account, and, by his ability and address, soon overcame all competition.

About the year 1794, he was served with a subpoena to give evidence at Bristol respecting the validity of a marriage. It was expected by thousands that the event of the trial would put an end to Joe’s matrimonial career; the contrary, however, took place; for, by his dexterous management, he not only succeeded in rendering the match valid, but was enabled to follow his favorite profession with increased security. During this journey, he visited the metropolis, where he was much noticed by the nobility and gentry. Had he been of a covetous disposition, he might speedily have accumulated a considerable fortune; but, since the time to which we allude, he has never been distant a single mile from Springfield.

Of Joseph’s personal strength I have heard many well-authenticated accounts, which I well believe from feats which I myself have seen him perform. His strength of arm was prodigious:—he could have taken a large oaken stick by the end, and continued to shake it to and fro, until it went to pieces in the air!!! The excellence of his constitution was likewise often tried; though it must be allowed that his intemperance was proverbial, yet he reached his 82d year. He was accustomed to relate with great pleasure a celebrated achievement, in which he and a jovial companion, a horse-breaker, were once engaged; when they consumed the amazing quantity of ten gallons of pure brandy in the short space of sixty hours; and, what is more, these two thirsty souls kicked the empty cask in pieces with their feet, for having run dry too soon. It may be conjectured that the conversation of such a character could not be very engaging; juvenile feats of activity, and his beloved brandy, formed the chief topics of his discourse, which, until very lately, never turned upon religious subjects.
But let justice be done to the character of the man. It must be allowed, indeed, that he was too fond of a stoup of liquor, and was of coarse and unpolished manners; but he certainly was not addicted to profane talking, and obscene discourse, as a neighbouring journalist has roundly asserted. Without hazard of contradiction, it may be averred, that he was a very honest and charitable man, and inoffensive neighbour, and that he was generally respected by all who knew him.

Paisley is succeeded in the capacity of coupler by a young man, a friend of his; and there is no fear that the business will fall off, as three weddings have already taken place since the interment of the old man.

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