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Jane Austen Online Biography

Jane austen biography

If you’ve ever longed for more information about Jane Austen’s life but haven’t time to visit the library, you are in luck! Many full length biographies of Austen’s life are available to read or download online with little or no cost. Reviews of these works can be found on JASA’s website.
A Memoir of Jane Austen by Her Nephew

The first Jane Austen Biography by James Edward Austen-Leigh (1798-1874, son of James Austen, Jane’s oldest brother) was written in 1870. Austen-Leigh had the benefit of not only knowing his famous Aunt, but also being privy to family memories and stories. Jane’s brother Henry had written a brief biographical forward in Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, but this was the first complete book dedicated to her life. Though not completely unbiased, this work provides much of what we know of Jane’s life, including the infamous “squeaking door” vignette. La Brocca offers it here, for free download or online perusal.
Jane Austen: Her Homes and Her Friends

This biography by Constance Hill was first published in 1901. It’s 23 chapters are available to read online free of charge, courtesy of “In Celebration of Women Writers”, hosted by The University of Pennsylvania.
Jane Austen and her Times

First Published in 1905, this is one of the early biographies of Jane Austen. Many of the Austen biographies available online were written by women and this work, by Geraldine Edith Mitton is no exception. Cathy Dean has provided the complete text (19 chapters and two appendix pages) along with the original 21 illustrations on her Jane Austen E-texts page.

Jane Austen

Another complete biography of Jane Austen, available from Jane Austen E-Texts. This work, by “To Jane Austen” author W. O. Firkins was published in 1920 and is made up of three principle parts: Part I–The Novelist, Part II–The Realist, Part III–The Woman.

The Jane Austen Information Page: Jane Info

The ultimate Jane Austen Website, the Jane Austen Information Page, a part of the Republic of Pemberly and pet project of Henry Churchyard, this site contains a magnificent overview of Austen’s life, complete with known family portraits, family trees, location photos and more.

Jane Austen

An in-depth biography of Jane Austen by Elizabeth Jenkins, published in 1949, is available online from Questia. Its 22 chapters can be previewed in part for free and read in whole with the purchase of a membership. Membership also allows access to other Austenesque works on their site such as Jane Austen’s Letters
by Jane Austen, edited by Deirdre Le Faye, Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Work, Her Family, and Her Critics, by R. Brimley Johnson, Jane Austen: Facts and Problems by R. W. Chapman, Jane Austen and Her Art by Mary Lascelles and many othe works. You can listen to a free sample of Jenkin’s book and the opportunity to download it in full, visit

The Jane Austen Biography

Ebookmall is offering not only a Jane Austen biography downloadable in many different formats, but also a plethora of other Austen works. A small fee applies to each purchase.
Biographical Excerpts

The New York Times and the Washington Post offer free chapters and reviews of both Jane Austen: A Life by David Nokes and Jane Austen: A Biography by Claire Tomalin. You can preview the books here by signing in for a complimentary account.
Listen, Download, Preview, Purchase

You can always find numerous Jane Austen related books on Amazon. Many of these books allow you to preview their chapters online and some, like Carol Shield’s Jane Austen, are available to purchase in audio format. This Pulitzer Prize winning biography, part of the Penguin Lives series, is small, but quite effective, touching on the known facts of Austen’s life without reading too much into her works.

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What Jane Austen Means to Me by Becca Hemmings

me-2Why I love Jane
 I love Jane Austen for two contradictory reasons:
  1. Picking up a Jane Austen novel acts as an escape from the modern lifestyle for me.
  2. She is wonderful satirising and celebrating human nature. Her characters and their emotions are timeless and we can recognise and relate to them today.

How Jane has influenced my life
I was first introduced to Jane Austen aged 10 back in 1995 when Andrew Davies’s Pride & Prejudice was on TV. I remember it being on a Sunday, late in the afternoon, and I would watch it with my mam whilst she was ironing. I loved it: the characters, the costumes, the scenery, the humour, the drama and the romance.

From that moment on I was hooked and read all her books. I decided to study English Literature at University, even choosing Bath because it was largely unchanged since the Regency period.

Continue reading What Jane Austen Means to Me by Becca Hemmings

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Chat with Jane Austen Fans Around the World

e who’s ever searched for Jane Austen on the internet has, at some point, come across the The Republic of Pemberley. As the oldest and largest Austen Forum, they are known far and wide for the variety of topics they cover and the number of posters they attract. But what if you are looking for a different type of discussion, information or simply a place to meet like minded people? Whether you have a question about the Regency and Georgian England or simply wish to discuss some small piece of Austenia, there are a wealth of other boards out there, happy to receive visitors.

Austenblog, the newest board on the scene is a compendium of news about Jane Austen in popular culture. This site has links to upcoming film and book information and hot off the press news and photos. It is updated daily and the editors welcome comments and questions.

Mollands, an extension of Tilneys and Trapdoors, offers yet another choice for the Janeite who wishes, if not tea, at least conversation. The nine continuous topics are not all Austen related, but include “The Chawton Round Table” (conversations about Jane), “Inkstaind Wretches” (for posting fan fiction, poetry and other scribblings), “The Stacks” (to talk about books, books, and more books) and range from sports to movies to space simply to sound off. Truly not only good company, but the best.

The International Movie Database offers message boards for each film, so if you have comments, scoops, questions or just want to see what’s being said, you can head over there for what’s sure to be stimulating conversation. Just type in the title of the movie you want to discuss and scroll to the bottom of that page to read the posts.

Jane Austen Fan Fiction is rampant on the internet. If that’s what you are looking for (a place to read, a place to post, a place to recommend) try a Google search of “Jane Austen Fan Fiction” the results are too many to list here.

Have fun enjoying Austen on the internet with new friends from around the world.

Laura Boyle runs Austentation: Regency Accessories, creators of custom made Regency Hats, Bonnets and Accessories. Click the link above to visit her site.

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Make an Heirloom Style Regency Baby Bonnet

Make your own Regency baby bonnet

Heirloom BonnetMake your own Regency Baby Bonnet

These easy instructions will help you create an heirloom style Regency baby bonnet in no time. Read The Regency Layette: The Well-Dressed Infant on the Eve of the 19th Century for a complete look at a Georgian child’s first wardrobe.

This pattern requires a sewing machine and white thread, a 10×10″square of cloth, a yard and a quarter of lace, and about two yards of medium (1/2″) width ribbon.

  1. Cut a 10×10″ square of fabric.
  2. Sew lace all around the edges on the right side of the material. Turn over.
  3. Fold the square in half so that the right side is facing up, Iron or finger press the fold flat.
  4. Sew a line of stitching 1/2″ from the fold all the way across, leaving a casing.
  5. You should have an opening at the bottom of the fold, thread a 12″ piece of ribbon through it.
  6. Cut the remaining ribbon in half. Place one piece between the layers of fabric and lace on the one of the short sides of the fabric. Sew a seam over the entire end to keep the layers together and secure the ribbon in place. Repeat on the other end.
  7. Gather the ribbon on the opposite side, knotting it and then tying it into a bow to make the back of the bonnet.

This pattern for a Regency Baby Bonnet by was adapted from one created by Jo, from Maryland.

You can purchase more children’s patterns at our online giftshop. Click here.

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Create A Knitted Shawl

A Knitted Shawl

During the late 18th century, there was a mania for anything vaguely Oriental. This lead to the popularity of turbans, shawls and exotic jewelry. Few of these creations lasted more than a few seasons, with the exception of shawls which served a practical purpose (The Empress Josephine had between 300-400 shawls in her wardrobe!*). Imported from India or the East, the best shawls were made of such luxurious materials as cashmere or silk, but the English manufacturers soon produced cheap copies in serge, wool, cotton, lace, and even rabbit fur. Popular shapes included the rectangle, square (folded in half) and the triangle.

A perfect first shawl, and it uses less than one skein of luxurious Handmaiden Sea Silk yarn! Quick to knit with an easy-to-memorize lace pattern. Finish with knotted fringe for a truly elegant look.

Difficulty level



68 x 25″ [170 x 62 cm], after blocking


Handmaiden Sea Silk (70% silk/30% Seacell, 438 yd [400 m] per 100 g), color Rose Garden, 1 skein

US 9 [5.5 mm] circular needle, 32″ [80 cm] long

4 stitch markers
Yarn needle


1 pattern repeat = 2.5″ [6.25 cm] wide x 2″ [5 cm] long, after blocking


Note: Pattern is mirrored on either side of the center stitch. Chart should be read right to left on right half of shawl, and left to right on left half of shawl on every row. The leftmost stitch of each row on the chart is the shawl’s center stitch.

Cast on 7 sts.
Row 1 (RS): Knit.
Row 2: K2, purl to last 2 sts, k2.
Row 3: K2, (yo, k1) 3 times, yo, k2—11 sts.
Row 4: Rep Row 2.
Row 5: K2, yo, k3, yo, k1, yo, k3, yo, k2—15 sts.
Row 6: Rep Row 2.
Row 7: K2, yo, k5, yo, k1, yo, k5, yo, k2—19 sts.
Row 8: Rep Row 2.
Row 9: K2, yo, k7, yo, k1, yo, k7, yo, k2—23 sts.
Row 10: Rep Row 2.
Row 11: K2, yo, k1, place marker, *(k2tog, yo twice, k2tog) twice*, place marker, yo, k1 (center stitch of shawl), yo, place marker, work from * to * once more, place marker, k1, yo, k2.
Row 12: K2, p2, sl marker, *k2, p1, k3, p1, k1*, slip marker, purl to next marker, slip marker, *k1, p1, k3, p1, k2*, slip marker, p2, k2.
Row 13: K2, yo, k2, sl marker, *k2, k2tog, yo twice, k2tog, k2*, sl marker, k1, (yo, k1) twice, sl marker, work from * to * once more, sl marker, k2, yo, k2.
Row 14: K2, p3, sl marker, *k4, p1, k3*, sl marker, purl to next marker, sl marker, *k3, p1, k4*, sl marker, p3, k2.
Row 15: K2, yo, k3, sl marker, *(k2tog, yo twice, k2tog) twice*, sl marker, k2, yo, k1, yo, k2, sl marker, work from * to * once more, sl marker, k3, yo, k2.
Row 16: K2, p4, sl marker, *k2, p1, k3, p1, k1*, sl marker, purl to next marker, sl marker, *k1, p1, k3, p1, k2*, sl marker, p4, k2.
Row 17: K2, yo, k4, sl marker, *k2, k2tog, yo twice, k2tog, k2*, sl marker, k3, yo, k1, yo, k3, sl marker, work from * to * once more, sl marker, k4, yo, k2.
Row 18: K2, p5, sl marker, *k4, p1, k3*, sl marker, purl to next marker, sl marker, *k3, p1, k4*, sl marker, p5, k2.

After row 18, the first repeat of the lace pattern is complete. Move the stitch markers at the ends to 3 sts from edge and the markers in the middle to either side of the center stitch. This adds 8 sts to each side of the shawl. Repeat rows 11-18, working 2 repeats of the pattern (highlighted in pink on the chart, between asterisks in the text) on each side of the center stitch. Once that repeat is complete, move the stitch markers as before and continue (working 3 repeats of the pattern on each side of the center stitch). Continue as established until there are 14 repeats of the pattern on each side of the center stitch, or 122 rows.

Edging: Work loosely 4 rows garter st.

Bind off VERY loosely.


Weave in ends. Block to specified measurements. Allow to dry completely.

Reprinted with permission from Magknits: Your Friendly Online Knitting Magazine. Amy Polcyn is a knitwear designer whose work has appeared in Knitter’s, Knit n’ Style, Creative Knitting, Cast On, several yarn company collections, knitting books, and online.

We have beautiful shalls, pashminas and scarves at our online store. Visit today!


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How to Make Soap

Well, and so the good news is confirmed, and Martha triumphs. My uncle and aunt seemed quite surprised that you and my father were not coming sooner.
I have given the soap and the basket, and each have been kindly received. One thing only among all our concerns has not arrived in safety: when I got into the chaise at Devizes I discovered that your drawing ruler was broke in two; it is just at the top where the cross-piece is fastened on. I beg pardon.
Jane Austen to Cassandra Paragon, Bath, May 5, 1801

Until the Industrial Revolution soap-making was done on a small scale and the product was rough. Andrew Pears started making a high-quality, transparent soap in 1789 in London. With his grandson, Francis Pears, they opened a factory in Isleworth in 1862. William Gossage produced low-price good quality soap from the 1850s. Robert Spear Hudson began manufacturing a soap powder in 1837, initially by grinding the soap with a mortar and pestle. William Hesketh Lever and his brother James bought a small soap works in Warrington in 1885 and founded what is still one of the largest soap businesses, now called Unilever. These soap businesses were among the first to employ large scale advertising campaigns to sell the output of their factories.

How to Make Your Own Soap
Whether you choose to make soap for your own personal use or for gift giving, you will no doubt be hooked after your first batch. The following instructions are designed for soap making from scratch.
Things You’ll Need

  • Oils:-24 ounces olive oil (not extra virgin)-24 ounces coconut oil-38 ounces vegetable shortening
  • Alkaline Solution:- 12 ounces sodium hydroxide (lye). No longer readily available; can be purchased online. Do not use drain opener; the formulas have changed and are no longer suitable for soap. Or make your own lye solution.-32 ounces spring or distilled water
  • Fragrance or Essential Oil-4 ounces of your favorite fragrance-dried ground herbs (optional)
  • Equipment:-Safety Goggles- Rubber Gloves- Scale to weigh the ingredients-A one gallon stainless steel or enamel kettle, not aluminum – Glass or plastic wide mouth pitcher to hold water and lye -A two cup plastic or glass measuring cup – Plastic or wooden spoons – Stainless steel wire whisk or a hand blender – One accurate glass thermometer that registers between 80-100 degrees F. – Plastic shoe box for your soap mold. Spray with vegetable spray so soap will release easily. – 2 towels to cover your soap
  • A source of running water, in case of a spill. If you get the lye or liquid soap on you, run under lots of water.
  • You will need several hours of time to make your soap.


  1. Put on your rubber gloves and goggles.
  2. Weigh out 12 ounces of lye (sodium hydroxide) into the two-cup measuring cup.
  3. Weigh 32 ounces (2 pounds) of cold water in glass container.
  4. Slowly add lye to water (best done outside), stirring gently. It is very important to add the Lye to the water and not the other way around, otherwise the reaction is too quick and it is dangerous! The lye will heat the water and release fumes. The fumes dissipate quickly, but turn your face away so as not to inhale the fumes.
  5. Set aside and allow the lye to cool.
  6. Weigh out 24 ounces of coconut oil and 38 ounces of vegetable shortening into the metal kettle. Melt these oils over low heat and stir frequently. Remove from heat after the oils have melted and add the 24 ounces of olive oil.
  7. When your lye has reached a range of 95-98 degrees Fahrenheit (35-36 degrees Celsius) and your oils are at the same temperature, add the lye in a slow steady stream to the oils. Use the metal whisk to stir the mixture. After about ten minutes you will notice a change in your mixture. This is called saponification.
  8. Add your fragrance when tracing occurs. The mixture will appear like thin cream, and droplets of soap will stand up on the surface. Stir well. Be ready to pour natural soap in your mold.
  9. Cover your shoe box with the two towels and set aside undisturbed for eighteen hours. The soap will go through a gel stage and a heat process. At the end of this period uncover the soap and allow to sit for another 12 hours. If you measured accurately and followed the directions, there should be no problems. But if your soap has a deep oily film on top the natural soap cannot be used because it has separated. It is disappointing if this happens. This will occur if your measurements were not accurate.
  10. Unmold your natural soap. Turn the box over and allow the soap to fall on a towel or clean surface. Cut your soap into bars. Allow the natural soap to cure in a cool dry place for approximately four to six weeks before using.


  • Temperature is crucial when mixing the oils with the lye. If too hot, it will separate; too cool and it won’t turn into soap. If you have a thick layer of oily stuff after the 18 hour covered period, the soap will be unusable. If it has a layer of white stuff, don’t worry about it, that’s normal. If there are small white lumps in the soap, they are lye and it will burn if used.
  • Adding any chemical to water significantly reduces the risk of the chemical splashing back to your face. Remember, “Do what you oughtta, add acid to water”. It works with base as well.


  • Lye (Sodium Hydroxide)is a harsh base and can be extremely dangerous. Avoid skin and eye contact. If you get skin contact, flush with a diluted acid (water and vinegar would do fine) and seek medical attention. If you get eye contact flush with cool water for 15 – 20 minutes. Use eye wash center or eye flush bottles if available, seek medical attention immediately. If swallowed, contact poison control center.
  • Don’t use the same tools for food preparation as you do for soapmaking. Wooden spoons are porous and will suffer splintering when used repeatedly for soaping. Similarly, whisks have too many little nooks and crannies in which caustic substance can hide.
  • Caution! Put on your rubber gloves and goggles when working with lye. Do not leave lye in reach of children and animals. Always add lye to water, not water to lye!
  • In case of a spill, run under lots of water! (Vinegar is a weak acid, lye is a strong base….the vinegar is not enough to neutralize the lye, and the burn may worsen while you’re looking for vinegar. Use water.)

For more recipes have a look at our cookbook “Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends“, available from our giftshop! Historical information from, the online encyclopedia. Soap making instructions from

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Create Your Own Regency Ensemble

This film was created for the 2007 Regency Exhibition Ball.

Although historic accuracy is highly prized and sewing a wardrobe from a period pattern is the very best one can do to create a Regency period look, it is possible to take modern clothing and adapt it to give a historic feel—perfect for a Regency Ball. The Regency Exhibition Ball in Lansing, MI is an annual event. Visit their site for further information.

Buy costume and patterns at our online giftshop! Click here.

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Polyvore Art

Polyvore ? Jane Austen? Just what do these two have in common? Well– actually it’s a new way to enjoy your Jane Austen addiction (come on, you know you have one! You are reading this, right??!) as well as shop for fabulous Austen related or inspired clothing and accessories.

Check out these great pages made by some of our own Jane Austen Centre Staff:


Jane Austen

By now you are probably wondering, “So what is this, anyway (and how can *I* get started!)” Well– a quick trip to the Polyvore site offers all you need to know. “Polyvore is redefining how people around the world experience, create and shop for fashion on the Internet.Polyvore’s easy-to-use virtual styling tool lets people mix and match products from any online store to create their own fashion collections called “sets”…With over 6 million unique visitors and 140 million pageviews per month, Polyvore is the largest fashion community site in the world.”

Still not sure how to start? Follow these 6 easy steps How to Make a Collage on Soon you too will be immersed in your own Polyvore Addiction.

And while you are online, why don’t you become a fan of the Jane Austen centre on Facebook

Explore our giftshop for items featured on polyvore! Feel free to use them for your own collages.