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Jane Austen Fan News – Issue 111

a feathered Jane Austen fan

What’s the Jane Austen Fan News this week? 


Jane Austen and the Stash of the Raven

Ask a Jane Austen fan and they’ll soon be able to tell you the many advantages of having the entire works of Jane Austen in your home library. Her novels are a must-have, go-to resource for times of trouble when you are in need of comfort, for times of boredom when you need entertainment, and, we learnt this week thanks to The Spectator, an excellent hiding place!

In an article by Joe Shute, journalist and author of A Shadow Above: The Fall and Rise of the Raven, which explored the role of ravens within the natural and literary world, we this week read the charming tale of Truman Capote and his pet raven:

Truman Capote had a pet raven, Lola, which he suspected of hiding a guest’s false teeth. He placed his gold signet ring on a table and spied developments. When the raven thought the way was clear it grabbed the ring and hid it in the library behind The Complete Jane Austen. Capote listed the cache revealed: among other things, his best cufflinks, long-lost car keys, the first page of a short story, and the teeth.

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Jane Austen News – Issue 74

The Jane Austen News couldn't agree more!

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

  Austen Holy Grail Worth Half A Million  

““Although there are attractive editions of her novels published in the later 19th and early 20th centuries, the greatest value is, of course, in the first editions,” says Mark Wiltshire, a specialist in valuable books and manuscripts at Christie’s.” 

A new article published by The Times this week has extolled the benefits of investing in books, and in early editions of Jane Austen’s books in particular. It’s easy to see why considering the fact that rare bookseller Peter Harrington is in the process of selling a first edition of Mansfield Park— of which there are only 1,250 — and the price it is expected to go for is around £17,500! This is a hefty sum, but not when compared to the auction record for a Jane Austen; in 2008 a first edition of Emma was sold by Bonhams auction house for £180,000. It was a presentation copy to Austen’s friend and governess, Anne Sharp, which was inscribed “from the author” by a publisher or clerk on Austen’s behalf.

However, the best price would, the article says, go to a signed edition.

“It is hard to say what a copy inscribed by Austen would fetch [the holy grail in terms of Austen — such a thing may not exist], but I am pretty sure it would be a record for a 19th-century book, and it could easily fetch as much as half a million pounds.”

It may not exist…but we can dream!


The Bank of England in Literature  

To coincide with its release of the new Jane Austen £10 note, the Bank of England is launching a new exhibition exploring its literary connections.

Stories from the City will feature various artefacts on display which highlight over 300 years of literary connections to the Bank. These include a Charles Dickens £10 note – with the original hand-drawn artwork that goes with it, and a One Thousand Pound Note signed by George Eliot.

Some of the other authors referenced in the exhibition include Jules Verne and John Brophy, who are just some of the authors who have mentioned the Bank of England in their work. (Others, including P.G. Wodehouse, T.S. Eliot and Charles Lamb, worked nearby and drew inspiration from it.)

The exhibition is on at the Bank of England Museum from July 19th 2017 until summer 2018.

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Jane Austen News – Issue 71

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

  A Writer With Friends? Heaven Forbid! 

Authors Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney have recently seen their new book A Secret Sisterhood: The hidden friendships of Austen, Brontë, Eliot and Woolf published, and to go alongside the book they wrote an article for the Times newspaper which threw a little more light on why female authors so often have their female friends ‘airbrushed’ out of their lives by their family and society. When it came to Jane, they focused on her dear friend and fellow writer Anne Sharp, whom Jane, when in ailing health in 1817, proclaimed herself forever “attached” to.

So why do we hear so little about Anne who Emily and Emma say Jane had such a strong bond with?

Such a friendship flouted the social norms of the time. By keeping it out of official versions of Austen’s life, the family could create a false image of the famous author as a conservative maiden aunt, devoted above all else to kith and kin. As a result, the close bond she shared with Anne, who wrote plays in between teaching lessons, has become one of literature’s most enduring secrets.

Even today, as in Jane Austen’s time, it can be difficult to overcome the notion that a close, platonic female bond somehow threatens the allegiance a woman owes to her family. And while the opening up of professional roles during the 20th century has brought new opportunities for collaboration between women, the stereotype of the ambitious woman who jealously guards her place at the top continues to pervade.

This goes some way to explaining why the important friendships of female writers have failed to make it into literary lore.

At the Jane Austen News we found this to be a most interesting idea, and not one we’d really thought about before.


 Mr Bennet Gets Brewing!

A team from the Jane Austen Centre, including our Mr Bennet (Martin) and Jane Austen Festival director Jackie Herring, had a lovely day out this week at the Bath Brew House, where they helped to create a special Jane Austen beer.

The new beer is being created to celebrate Jane’s bicentenary year and will be an “Earl Grey, Red Ale”. It’s rather an appropriate tribute to Jane, given that she was a master brewer of Spruce beer herself.

The new tipple is due to be ready on July the 1st (just in time for the Jane Austen Summer Ball in Bath), and all of us at the Jane Austen News are very keen for a sample (or two)!

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Jane Austen News – Issue 65

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

 A Fifth Jane Austen Note Is Coming To The Centre!  

Since his incognito visit to the Jane Austen Centre in March, speculation has been high that micro-engraver Graham Short spent a fifth Jane Austen five pound note (despite the original news that only four had been made and spent last year). Rumours that a fifth note had been spent and was now ‘on the loose’ were fuelled further by the confirmation from Graham’s team that a fifth note had indeed been made.

As Mr Short was not recognised until the end of his visit to the Centre and Regency tearooms, it had been thought that he had spent the five pound note and the Centre had unknowingly given it to a customer in change. However, it has now been revealed that the fifth five pound note is not somewhere in general circulation, but is in fact going to be gifted to the Centre by Mr Short!!

Mr Short told BBC Radio Bristol he would presenting the note to the Jane Austen Centre as a framed gift to mark the 200th anniversary of the author’s death. He will be returning to Bath on the 18th of July with the note, which he has said “will be framed with glass on the back and the front so you can see through it.”

The note, like the other four, has a small portrait of Jane on it, along with a quote from one of her famous novels. The one to be presented to the Centre is from Persuasion and reads: ‘You pierce my soul, I am half agony, half hope.’

At the Jane Austen News we’re delighted and honoured, and greatly looking forward to welcoming Graham back to Bath this July! Plus, in addition to this visit, Mr Short will be back in Bath this September in order to talk about his work at the annual International Jane Austen Festival in Bath (8th – 17th September).


A.A. Milne’s Darcy – More Eeyore Than Phwoar?

In a new book about Austen’s influence on cinema, details have been given of how Pride and Prejudice came within a whisker of being adapted for the screen by A.A. Milne. Milne hoped his script would become the text for the first film production of the classic novel. However, it was pipped to the post by an American production that Milne did not find out about until the day he finished his own script.

Paula Byrne, the author of the new book called The Genius of Jane Austen, said that Milne’s adaptation, while not so heavily centred on the love story between Darcy and Elizabeth, had a “better understanding of Austen as social satirist, verbal ironist and daughter of the muse of comedy as opposed to sentiment”. The 1940s production (starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier) which was made instead of Milne’s vision, was much more focused on the heartthrob than on the harsh truths of the era. Byrne said that Milne had made his story “not quite so romantic”. In fact, in the final scene of his play Milne had opted for a “touching one between father and daughter, not a romantic union between Elizabeth and Darcy”.

Just imagine how different things might have been for Mr Darcy today had he first been more of a sombre Eeyore than a smouldering Olivier!

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Jane Austen News – Issue 56

The Jane Austen News gets set to vote

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?   

Jane Austen Fans – Lend Us Your Eyes!     

The Jane Austen News is pleased to announce that over the next few weeks we will be publishing a most interesting letter written by Hans van Leeuwen, a lovely Jane Austen fan from the Netherlands.  

Below is just a taster:

Dear Jane

It is no uncommon occurrence for me to be seen opening a book not written by yourself for the sake of propriety, but hardly have I progressed to chapter two of such a book when I find myself growing increasingly uncomfortable from an anxiousness to replace it by one of your works. How exasperating that I should think it wrong sometimes to be always seen reading the same book or a book by the same authoress! I do, in the end, follow my own inclinations rather than bend to the wishes of others, but only after caring too much about other people’s opinions and patiently putting up with their suggestions to read what they themselves probably have not read. Yet even then I feel the shackles of conventionality, as testified by my continually looking about me when, at length, I have mustered courage enough to go to our library upstairs and choose one of your books again, on which, to your credit, dust never has time to settle.

Hans is hoping to receive remarks and tips for improvements from native speakers of English, preferably Jane Austen devotees, and the purpose of sharing the letter with us is so that some valuable feedback might be gained. 

We hope you might enjoy reading it as much as we did, and that you might share your thoughts in our comments sections as it is published. 


Meeting Young Jane Austen

This week the Jane Austen News heard from Cecily O’Neill; a writer, director and workshop leader based in Winchester. She had exciting news for us that the world premiere of her stage work, Meeting Miss Austen, is going to be performed at the Winchester Discovery Centre as part of the Winchester Festival this year.

In these plays, based on Austen’s Juvenilia, we hear the voice of the teenage Jane, exuberant, saucy and often surreal in tales of love, loss, vice and victuals…

‘The company partook of an elegant entertainment. After which, the bottle being pretty briskly pushed about, the whole party was carried home dead drunk.’ (Jack and Alice)

Cecily also treated us to a sneak peek at one of her most compelling characters – Lady Greville. You can read more about what Cecily had to say about her here.

The performances will be on Saturday 8 July 2017. 8:00pm and again on Sunday 9 July 2017 3:00pm.

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Perdita: The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson by Paula Byrne

Perdita: The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson

Perdita: The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson

For those who enjoy the Regency period and life of George IV, this is one of the most perfect books to introduce you into the famous lives of the period. Mary Robinson’s was a brief, intense and fascinating life which pushed the established mores to their limits.

The Prince of Wales (later to be George IV) became enamoured of Mary during her portrayal of Peridita in Shakespeare’s, A Winter’s Tale. She was a young actress, escaped from a bad marriage and strange father. She took to the stage for some income (as many women of the time did instead of taking up some of the “older” professions available to them).

The Prince of Wales became known as Florizel to Robinson’s Perdita and she was his first ‘major’ mistress. Their lives intertwined for a brief period in his early adulthood – the beginning of what is known as the ‘extended Regency’. Robinson was later mistress to many of the influential peers of the time, and was even friends with Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire;

At a time when Georgian morals were of questionable value (everything in private, nothing in public)- when profligacy, spending, appearance and general splendour were the order of the day – Mary Robinson orbited on at the perimeter of acceptability. An actress, an abandoned wife, a mistress, and more.

I found this book overlong, but worth the effort to read. It is one of a series of books about women on the edge of society in this period, and has been great to build up a picture of life and living in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The author has gone to enormous efforts to track down information on Robinson, and it has paid off. There seems to be a good depth of research to back up the work. Overall Perdita is a good read and well worth making the effort.

Price: £7.99
Publisher: HarperPerennial
ISBN-10: 0007164599
ISBN-13: 978-0007164592

Anne Woodley, the reviewer of Perdita: The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson, is an Amazon top 500 reviewer, the patroness of Janeites – the Internet discussion, and is mistress of the Regency Ring. Her excellent page, The Regency Collection is a treasure trove of information.

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