What’s the Jane Austen News this week?
Jane Austen’s Mother Not a Fan of All Her Work…
Mansfield Park is probably Jane’s least popular novel, and it appears that readers of today are not the only ones to hold that opinion. From January 2017 the British Library will put on display Austen’s handwritten notes of what friends, family and correspondents thought of the novel. They’re not all complimentary.
Of the documents on display is one which shows that Jane Austen’s mother Cassandra, thought that Mansfield Park was not as good as Pride & Prejudice and found the heroine, Fanny Price, “insipid”. On the upside, Jane’s sister Cassandra was “fond of Fanny” and “delighted much in Mr Rushworth’s stupidity”.
That’s not the worst review of Mansfield Park on display though. Other writings of Austen’s show that she recorded the thoughts of a lady called Augusta Bramstone, who thought Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice “nonsense … but [she] expected to like M.P. better, & having finished the 1st vol. – flattered herself she had got through the worst”.
Poor Jane! We can’t help but feel at the Jane Austen News that it’s a little ironic, given these reviews, that Mansfield Park was the novel which made her the most money within her lifetime!
Jane Austen Could Make You £20,000
There was a lot of buzz around the first batch of the Winston Churchill £5 notes which were released back in September, but they’re out now so it would make sense that the next batch of notes to be released wouldn’t have the same level of excitement surrounding them. However, we at the Jane Austen News are looking forward to the new release of notes more than the last one, because four of the new plastic £5 notes which have just been released into circulation carry a tiny engraving which could make the note worth as much as £20,000. That engraving is of Jane Austen.
World famous “micro engraver” Graham Short, from Birmingham, was commissioned to etch a microscopic image onto four of the polymer notes, and he has carved tiny portraits of Jane Austen onto the special notes, next to the images of Sir Winston Churchill and Big Ben. On some of the notes will also be classic quotes from Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park. We hope we’ll get to see one or two at least; so if you happen to find one do take a photo and show us!
A Kind of Jane Austen Panto
It’s definitely panto season, and the production from LipService which is currently touring sounds like a great Jane Austen version of a panto. A good one to watch over the next month or two if the opportunity arises.
Mr Darcy Loses the Plot has been reviewed to be a “quirky, side-splitting comedy”, which tells the (alternative) story of Jane writing Pride and Prejudice. Jane is writing but then she hears someone approaching, so she hides her work and goes to see who has come. Now Mr Darcy sees his chance and rewrites his storyline….and it’s rather different from the one Jane had in mind.
Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding of LipService have gained a number of plaudits over the years since their first performance together in 1985. They are now one of the most firmly established touring companies in the UK, and will be visiting Manchester, Lancaster, Leeds and Keswick with Mr Darcy Loses the Plot over the coming weeks.
Persuasion Minus Bonnets
However, another Jane Austen stage production for those who prefer their Austen to be more true to the original is the upcoming production of Persuasion, which will be adapted and directed by renowned dramatist Jeff James, and staged at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre from the 25th of May 2017 to the 24th of June 2017.
The theatre had this to say of the production so far; “In 2017, the bicentenary of Persuasion’s publication and of Jane Austen’s death, this bold new adaptation brings all the sharp observation and quick wit of Austen’s novel to the stage, without a bonnet in sight.”
There’s not much information on the production currently available, but the “without a bonnet in sight” statement has certainly got us intrigued…
When Dating Gets You Down…Turn to Austen
The Jane Austen News found a good reminder this week for why Jane Austen is such an excellent author to read when real life is getting you down. Amy Smith writing for the online magazine Verily told readers why, around Christmas, she as a single girl finds reading the novels of Jane a comfort;
1. Change can come – Just think of Mr Darcy overcoming his pride. “Who among us single gals doesn’t need a reminder that our mistakes don’t define us and that change can often lead to love?”
2. Second chances happen – As shown with Anne and Captain Wentworth in Persuasion.
3. No two are the same – All of Jane’s heroines are distinctly different, but they all get a happy ending that’s right for them.
4. Good trumps games – When doing the wrong thing looks tempting we’re shown that bad guys like Willoughby and John Thorpe get their comeuppance.
5. Hope wins out – Jane’s prayers are especially full of hope and thankfulness.
So if the holiday season gets you down, it’s time to open one of Jane’s novels.
A Visit From Ricky Gervais and Jane Fallon
When celebrities come to the city to perform at Bath’s Theatre Royal, they sometimes use some of their time in Bath to come and visit us at the Jane Austen Centre. This week we had the pleasure of welcoming the comedian and TV personality Ricky Gervais, and his partner, writer and producer Jane Fallon, to the centre. Ricky was in Bath for a one-night only performance of Ricky Gervais and Guests – Work in Progress.
Here’s Jane meeting our Lizzy Bennet:
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