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Jane Austen News – Issue 151

The Jane Austen News and a new note

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 


Note Discovery Proves Jane Austen Portrait Authentic? 

The portrait opposite has to be one of the most controversial images of Jane Austen that there is.

It’s known as the Rice Portrait, and for years the Rice family who own the portrait have been fighting to prove that it is in fact a portrait of a young Jane Austen. Now, an overlooked note has come to light which may help to prove once and for all in the Rice family’s favour that the portrait is a genuine original portrait of Jane.

Of the Rice Portrait, the Rices have always explained that it was commissioned from the portrait painter Ozias Humphry in 1788, when 12-year-old Jane and her sister Cassandra were taken to visit their great-uncle Francis in Kent. According to the Rice family, Humphry’s 1788 accounts (held at the British Library) show a bill to Francis Austen for 13 guineas. However, experts in the art world, especially some of those at the National Portrait Gallery, say that it could not be of Austen. They have said that the style of the dress dates it to later than 1800.

The unsigned note which has recently be rediscovered, and which helps to support the Rice family’s claim of authenticity, is believed to have been written by Jane Austen’s great-niece Fanny Caroline Lefroy. Kept in Austen’s writing desk, it had been overlooked, said John Nettlefold, son of the painting’s owner Anne Rice, until its current owner noticed the small brown envelope containing it was marked “history of the portrait of Jane Austen”.

The note reads as follows:

“The history of the portrait of Jane Austen now in the possession of Morland Rice her Gt nephew. Old Dr Newman, fellow of Magdalen years ago told him that he had a portrait of Jane Austen the novelist, that had been in his family many years. He stated that it was done at Bath when she was about 15 & he promised to leave him (Morland Rice) the picture.

A few months before Dr Newman died, he wrote to a friend of his (a Dr Bloxam) sending him a picture as a farewell present & added ‘I have another picture that I wish to go to your neighbour Morland Rice. This a portrait of Jane Austen the novelist by Zoffany. Her picture was given to my step-mother by her friend Colonel Austen of Kippendon [sic], Kent because she was a great admirer of her works.’”

The note names the artist of the painting as being Johann Zoffany, to whom the painting has been attributed in the past. The note is unsigned, but after looking at it next to other documents held in the Hampshire Record Office, the Rices and independent scholar Kelly M McDonald (who is researching the letters and diaries of Emma Austen-Leigh, who was the wife of Jane Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh) are sure it is written by Fanny Caroline Lefroy.

John Nettlefold said that the letter “is written before there was any kind of issue. The problems only started in the 1930s … Unfortunately, there was then an institutional enmity towards it and it just got worse and worse.” He says that the letter is enough evidence to officially establish the painting as being an authentic portrait of Jane Austen.

So what next? Going forward, the Rice family wish to sell the portrait once/if it is officially certified as being of Austen. The family hopes that the portrait will come to be loves by Jane Austen fans and scholars worldwide.

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 151

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Pride and Prejudice and “Universally Acknowledged” “Truths”

Pride and Prejudice and “Universally Acknowledged” “Truths”

by Seth Snow

[Note: Throughout this essay, when I refer to specific words from Pride and Prejudice¸ I will put these words in quotation marks.]

Jane Austen’s readers are quite familiar with the opening line of Pride and Prejudice:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

This passage raises several issues.  Firstly, marriage is obviously important to characters in this novel.  Secondly, “universally acknowledged” would mean all members of this particular society are aware, likely even in agreement, of the “truth” concerning wealthy single men who “must be in want” of wives.  Consequently, when a wealthy man comes onto the scene, the socially “acknowledged” expectation is that these men “must be in want” of a wife solely due to their single status and financial status.  Whatever thoughts or feelings on marriage that these wealthy men may have are secondary to the “acknowledged” “truth.”  The same can be said for single women: their thoughts and feelings on marriage must align with this “universally acknowledged” “truth”; while some women privately may object to “universally acknowledged” “truths,” we do not get the “wife’s” point of view in the opening line.  Therefore, a single woman is expected to marry whichever “single man in possession of good fortune” proposes to her. Finally, it is important to note that the narrator does not say “the truth” but rather “a truth.”  “A truth” suggests that other “truths” are not “acknowledged” and that it is not the only “truth” out there.  This particular “truth,” however, has become “universal” because norms of society “acknowledge” it is “true” and the minds of its members have been conditioned by these norms.  Being different or thinking differently initially means remaining single in the world of Pride and Prejudice.

Continue reading Pride and Prejudice and “Universally Acknowledged” “Truths”

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Austen Superpowers: Finding Yours with Lizzy Bennet

Lizzy Bennet

Austen Superpowers: Finding Yours with Lizzy Bennet

Kindly reproduced here with permission from its author, Laurie Viera Rigler, who is also the author of the popular Jane Austen Addict novels.

We dream of them. We want to be them. We wish they were our best friend. Or our partner. And sometimes, we wish we could shake some sense into them.

They are Jane Austen’s heroines and heroes. Each of them has a flawed humanity, but each also has a unique and special quality—an Austen superpower, if you will.

Which is why they are so eminently relatable. Like them, we too are flawed. And like them, we have those same superpowers. They may be hidden away where we cannot see them, but they are there neverthless. All we have to do is believe.

How do we do that? By following the lead of Austen’s leading ladies and men, who dig down deep within themselves to access their own superpowers.

In this first of a series of posts, we turn to the heroine who is perhaps the most beloved of all: Elizabeth aka Lizzy Bennet of Pride and Prejudice.

via GIPHY

 

What are Lizzy Bennet’s superpowers?

1. The ability to have a cheerful attitude and sometimes even laugh in the face of humiliation and disappointment.


via GIPHY

2. The ability to recognize and admit that she has been as proud and judgmental as the person she condemned for those same qualities.

Let’s discuss Superpower 1 first. This is a tricky one, because at first, Lizzy only actually affects cheer on the surface. We first see her trying it out at that assembly ball where she overhears Darcy saying she isn’t pretty enough to dance with.

Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she tells her friends about it as if it’s the most amusing bit of absurdity in the world. Which would be fabulous, if she were truly unruffled. But the fact is, Darcy’s rejection forms the basis of Lizzy’s longstanding dislike of him. And her longstanding prejudice against him.

She is a little more sincere in her cheerfulness after Wickham dumps her for the newly rich Miss King, approaching the situation with a philosophical attitude that “handsome young men must have something to live on, as well as the plain.”

Superpower 2, however, is straight-up legit. After hating Darcy for his prideful attitude and his ruining her beloved sister’s romantic prospects, Lizzy comes to realize that she had pretty much misjudged Darcy the whole time. And that she, in fact, was as proud as she had judged Darcy to be.


via GIPHY

She was blind to Wickham’s true character because he flattered her vanity, while hating Darcy because he didn’t want to dance with her. Thus she had failed to see that Wickham was the true villain while Darcy was a good-hearted man of high moral principles. Who also happened to be a snob with less than stellar social skills.

Once she realized this, admitted it, and was humbled by it, she found the biggest superpower of all: true love. Because in Austen, super-honest self-examination always leads to lasting happiness.

So how can we cultivate Lizzy’s superpowers? For starters, we can contemplate a a few pithy quotes from Pride and Prejudice and see what we can relate to:

Volume 1, Chapter 11, in which Lizzy’s talking to Mr Darcy about the possibility of her finding something in him to laugh at (saucy wench that she is):

“I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can.”

Volume II, Chapter 25, in which Lizzy’s Aunt Gardiner is talking to Lizzy about Jane’s romantic disappointment:

“Poor Jane! I am sorry for her, because, with her disposition, she may not get over it immediately. It had better have happened to you, Lizzy; you would have laughed yourself out of it sooner.”

Volume II, Chapter 36, after Lizzy reads Darcy’s letter and has a very rude awakening:

“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! — Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly. — Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment, I never knew myself.”


via GIPHY

Volume III, Chapter 57, in which the whole laughing at people thing comes back to haunt Lizzy. Here’s Lizzy’s dad telling her of a rumor that she and Mr. Darcy are engaged, and how absurd he thinks that rumor is. Which Lizzy definitely does not find amusing:

“Mr. Darcy, who never looks at any woman but to see a blemish, and who probably never looked at you in his life!”

There’s a ton of Austen wisdom embedded in Lizzy’s metamorphosis. And with all that contemplation and self-examination we’re doing just by contemplating those quotes, we deserve a reward, don’t you think? Because we don’t need to settle for quotes alone. Why not treat ourselves right and read the whole book?

Oh, you haven’t read it yet? My goodness, are you in for a treat.

Ah, you’ve read it before? Well why not read it again? Come on, you know you want to as much as I do. No matter how many times I’ve read it.

Because in Jane Austen, there’s always something new to be revealed. Which is her superpower.


via GIPHY

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Austen Superpowers: Finding Yours with Lizzy Bennet was written by Laurie Viera Rigler – the author of the Jane Austen Addict series.

Visit her at her website www.janeaustenaddict.com

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Jane Austen News – Issue 100

Austen's books

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? Austen’s Books! 

 


Austen’s Books Banned Behind Bars

This week we were surprised to learn that a new program in New York is severely restricting the books which will be available in prisons. This new program, amazingly, has effectively banned, among other classic authors, Jane Austen’s books.

Directive 4911A, as it is known, is currently being applied to three prisons in the state, but it could soon be expanded to every facility in New York. The plan limits packages that incarcerated people in New York state prisons can receive to items purchased from six vendors (with two more expected to be added). The idea is that this will “enhance the safety and security of correctional facilities through a more controlled inmate package program.”

This in itself isn’t a problem, but the range of books on offer is shockingly limited.  The first five vendors combined offered just five romance novels, 14 religious texts, 24 drawing or coloring books, 21 puzzle books, 11 how-to books, one dictionary, and one thesaurus. (A sixth vendor has added some additional books to the list, but the full list will not be available to all prisoners.)

One group, the Books Through Bars collective, has been working to raise red flags about the directive’s unintended consequences (for more than 20 years, Books Through Bars has been sending books to people in prison in 40 states at no charge).

A spokesperson from Books Through Bars has stated the the new directive will mean “no Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, Maya Angelou, or other literature that helps people connect with what it means to be human. No texts that help provide skills essential to finding and maintaining work after release from prison. No books about health, about history, about almost anything inside or outside the prison walls. This draconian restriction closes off so much of the world to thousands of people.”

We agree. Surely allowing prisoners to read Jane Austen’s books can only result in good things?

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 100

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Jane Austen News – Issue 96

The Jane Austen News hopes Giles is converted!

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

 


To Lop and Crop or Leave Alone?

There has long been a debate around whether the books Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters are a bit of fun or an absolute travesty.

Jane Austen spin-offs are subjected to huge amounts of criticism, both good and bad. Usually these debates as to their merits, or lack of, take place online or in the media. However, now the universities are getting involved and there’s even been an academic essay written on the subject, analysing whether the “lopping and cropping” of Austen is a good or a bad thing.

Sydney Miller, a PhD candidate in English at the University of California, Los Angeles, has published her essay titled “How Not to Improve the Estate: Lopping & Cropping Jane Austen”. The abstract reads thus:

This essay reads Quirk Classics’ monstrous mash-ups, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, asdeliberately excessive and unnatural alterations that speak to a preoccupation with improvement that is both thematized within Austen’s own work and symptomatic of Austenmania’s broader project of renovating the literary landscape that is Jane Austen’s estate. While the mash-up enterprise is, no doubt, an exercise in making Austen’s novels worse, the essay frames the Quirk travesties in terms of Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp,” asking whether it is possible that these imprudent “improvements” might actually be good because they are bad. Insofar as the enhanced editions make manifest the Camp sensibility that has long been latent in Austen’s prose, they tease promising critical insight; however, the increasingly derivative mash-ups ultimately fail in their campiness precisely where Austen succeeds: for hers remains a secret of style.

What do you think? Are spin-offs like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters a good or a bad thing? A good way to get more readers introduced to Austen who might not otherwise try reading her (i.e. read the spin-off and then read the original)? Or are they a destruction of good literature?

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 96

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Pride and Prejudice, one week to go!

 

That’s right, one week to go and Mrs Bennet isn’t the only one struggling with her ‘nerves’! The rest of the cast and I have been working VERY hard over the past few weeks to bring this Austen classic to life and now we are at the final stages. The set is up, the props are being gathered and scripts are being left behind.

Last week we focused on the epilogue; the letters. This scene has been specifically added to our adaptation by our directors after they were inspired by a performance at the Theatre Royal Bath.

 

Elizabeth ‘ My dear Charlotte, give loose to your fancy, indulge your imagination[…] I am engaged to Mr Darcy! [ …]’ 

Continue reading Pride and Prejudice, one week to go!

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Meet the Author of Pride and Prejudice Inspired Novel, Devotion

Pride and Prejudice Inspired Novel - Devotion

Every author is different, and so it only makes sense that each author finds that they have a writing process that’s different from anyone else’s that suits them best.

In this post from Savvy Verse & Wit, Meg Kerr talks about what it is about Jane Austen that inspires her most, her latest Pride and Prejudice inspired novel, and what her pen-to-paper process involves:

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Georgiana Darcy at the age of fifteen had no equal for beauty, elegance and accomplishments, practised her music very constantly, and created beautiful little designs for tables. She also made secret plans to elope with the handsome, charming and immoral George Wickham. Will the real Georgiana Darcy please stand up?

In Devotion, Georgiana, now twenty years of age and completely lovely, does just that. Taking centre stage in this sequel to Experience that sweeps the reader back into the world of Pride and Prejudice, she is prepared to shape her own destiny in a manner that perplexes and horrifies not only the Darcy-de Bourgh connexion but the whole of fashionable London.

The arrival of a long-delayed letter, and a clandestine journey, bring Georgiana and her fortune into the arms of an utterly wicked young man whose attentions promise her ruin. At the same time, events in Meryton are creating much-needed occupation for Mrs. Bennet and an amorous quandary for Lydia Bennet’s girlhood companion Pen Harrington; and the former Caroline Bingley is given—perhaps—an opportunity to re-make some of her disastrous romantic choices. Meg Kerr, writing effortlessly and wittily in the style of Jane Austen, gives Pride and Prejudice fans the opportunity to visit the year 1816 to re-unite with favourite characters, and meet some intriguing new ones.

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Can you describe your writing process? Is it difficult to write in the style of Jane Austen?

Jane Austen said in a letter to her nephew J. Edward Austen, “What should I do with your strong, manly, spirited sketches, full of variety and glow? How could I possibly join them on to the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour?”

Writing in the style of Jane Austen is indeed “much labour”! There is nothing slap dash or stream-of- consciousness (or manly and spirited) about it. The overall plot and chapters’ place within it and the characters themselves have to be meticulously considered and planned out before any actual “writing” takes place. Each chapter, each paragraph, each sentence have to be constructed with care. And the result has to look as though no effort was required!

Do you have any writing quirks?

I would love to say that when I work I retire to my drawing room and sit at a mahogany writing desk, with fine linen paper, a quill pen, blotting paper, a pen knife and a pot of India ink. It sounds so elegant! However, I write at my computer, which has a dual screen. I could use three or four screens to keep all the information I need right under my eye! But the room I write in has French doors looking out onto a beautiful garden, so I glance outside every now and then to refresh my soul.

What is it about Jane Austen and her writing that most interests you? Are there any themes you’ve found influence your own writing?

I think the great underlying theme that draws me to Austen is one of “quiet desperation” (to quote Thoreau rather than Austen). Many of Austen’s characters are in genuine danger of penury and/or social degradation (that would be all of the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice; Jane Fairfax and her family in Emma; the Dashwoods in Sense and Sensibility, as well as Colonel Brandon’s ill-fated first love and her ruined daughter; Maria Rushworth (née Bertram)—and Fanny Price’s mother who married “to disoblige her family”—in Mansfield Park; the Watson sisters in The Watsons. (Just a partial list!).

The apparent calm and graciousness of Regency life can be a thin cover atop a terrifying reality for Austen’s women, and even some of her men (such as Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility, who is disowned by his wealthy mother). Austen and Mrs. Bennet’s family in Pride and Prejudice hold Mrs. Bennet in contempt, but really, she is the only person who appears to appreciate the peril she and her daughters are in.

On a livelier note, I am fascinated by Jane Austen’s bad boys. Clearly, she was too. Wickham (Pride and Prejudice), John Willoughby (Sense and Sensibility), Henry Crawford (Mansfield Park) are chief among them—young men with serious problems with their moral compasses … but in the latter two cases, with some hope of redemption. Austen couldn’t quite bring Willoughby or Crawford into the light although she came close.

I decided to try my hand at it: Devotion is the story of a bad boy (John Amaury) who seizes on the idea of marriage to wealthy, lovely Georgiana Darcy to extricate himself from a life of poverty and petty crime. Will he destroy Georgiana or will he be redeemed? As you can imagine, with Austen as my guide, it’s up in the air right until the end of the story.

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About Meg Kerr:
What do you do when you live in the twenty-first century but a piece of your heart lies in the nineteenth? If you are author Meg Kerr you let your head and hand follow your heart. With her love of country life—dogs and horses, long walks in the woods and fields, dining with family and neighbours and dancing with friends, reading and writing and the best conversation—and her familiarity with eighteenth and nineteenth century history and literature, Meg has a natural gift to inhabit, explore and reimagine the world that Jane Austen both dwelt in and created, and to draw readers there with her.

Re-posted with kind permission from Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit – a blog dedicated to literary and poetic works.

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Meeting Mr Bennet

“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”

 

 

Full of wit, humour and lackadaisical nature, Mr Bennet has to be one the most memorable Austen characters of all time.  This week I have been working primarily with Bob (our very own Mr Bennet!) on the last scene between Lizzie and her father. This scene is pretty much the conclusion of the story and moreover it emphasises the close relationship between Mr Bennet and his, lets be honest, favourite daughter.  We blocked the scene several times before adding the smaller, yet significant, details to the section.

With only 5 weeks to go, rehearsals are rapidly progressing. We have successfully run Act 1 and Act 2, with the majority of it being off script. Cate, our costume fairy godmother, has been busily making adjustments to our wonderful regency dresses. Adela and Heather continue to direct, produce and choreograph whilst keeping us all in line (and occasionally leading a huge game of musical chairs to wake us all up). As for me, I have been watching Jennifer Ehle, Keira Knightley and re-reading parts of the novel repeatedly to become very well acquainted with Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

 

 

Until next time, I proudly present Mr Bennet…

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