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Jane Austen News – Issue 52

The Jane Austen News visits Derbyshire

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?   

Austen Escapism in Visual Novel 

EYP7zvIn The Lady’s Choice, a text-heavy visual novel that takes its inspiration from Regency-era novels, you play as a woman returning to society after a long absence, and although you’re not necessarily seeking a marriage, you’re quickly introduced to a group of eligible bachelors.

It’s not based only on the work of Jane Austen, but it’s inspired by the Regency novel genre in general, and the result is a novel of charm, intrigue and one with a keen sense of fun and humour.

If you like reading, enjoy role-playing games, and are a Jane Austen fan, this might be a read you’ll rather enjoy (and potentially a good way to get any kids who are obsessed with screens doing some more reading?) then you can find it at for £5.

As the daughter of a Viscount, and heiress to a small fortune, you are invited back into society even after years of seclusion at your family’s estate.
The upcoming Season is to be spent in Bath, your childhood friend having finally convinced you into it, and only the cream of society will be there. But the fickle and difficult dance that is weaving through society can be a tricky thing to remember, especially when they thrive on any small misstep you may make.

Jane At Home At The British Library

To mark the 200th anniversary since Jane’s death, the British Library and Bodliean Library have combined resources and 0199073fbbf90f38eb0e97e5cd7a8ed1brought together writings from Austen’s formative teenage years for the first time in 40 years, all as part of an exhibition being held at the British Library called Jane Austen Among Friends and Family which is on from 10th January 2017 – 19th February 2017. As well as family letters and memorabilia, shown as part of a temporary display will be one of the Library’s finest treasures – Austen’s writing desk.

The exhibition seeks to illuminate the personal family life of Austen and the exhibits reveal family joys and sorrows which shaped the writer: one letter tells of Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 52

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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.

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Who Wrote Robert Martin’s Proposal?

Why Robert Martin's proposal matters

Who Wrote Robert Martin’s Proposal? (And Why It Matters!)

The style of the letter was much above her expectation. There were not merely no grammatical errors, but as a composition it would not have disgraced a gentleman; the language, though plain, was strong and unaffected, and the sentiments it conveyed very much to the credit of the writer.

It was short, but expressed good sense, warm attachment, liberality, propriety, even delicacy of feeling. She paused over it, while Harriet stood anxiously watching for her opinion, with a “Well, well,” and was at last forced to add, “Is it a good letter? or is it too short?”

“Yes, indeed, a very good letter,” replied Emma rather slowly — “so good a letter, Harriet, that every thing considered, I think one of his sisters must have helped him. I can hardly imagine the young man whom I saw talking with you the other day could express himself so well, if left quite to his own powers, and yet it is not the style of a woman; no, certainly, it is too strong and concise; not diffuse enough for a woman. No doubt he is a sensible man, and I suppose may have a natural talent for — thinks strongly and clearly — and when he takes a pen in hand, his thoughts naturally find proper words. It is so with some men.”

Everyone knows that Emma wrote Harriet’s response to Robert Martin’s proposal letter – but what if someone else wrote Robert’s letter, as well? A great deal of literary criticism has been written about Emma’s authoring of Harriet Smith’s response to Mr Martin’s proposal, but very little has been written about Robert’s letter itself, and the possibility that it also was written by another character.

Robert Martin is a sensible and literate man, but as a tenant farmer in the Regency era it is very unlikely that he would be the author of a letter impressive enough to surprise Emma, as his proposal does. Austen writes that he reads Almanacs and other practical publications important to the profession of farming, but it is unlikely as a member of the working class that he has much time or inclination to read much else, as is supported by his seeming disinclination to purchase the book that Harriet recommends.

The Case Against Robert as Author of the Letter

Emma’s reaction to the letter provides us our most important clues to who the real author of the letter is. She makes two claims — first that it is unlikely that Robert Martin wrote the letter on his own and secondly that the style is not that of a woman’s, making it unlikely that his sisters helped him. All of this tells the reader that if the letter was written by someone other than Robert Martin, it was a man and someone whose writing would surpass even Emma’s high standards. The solution to this mystery lies in one of two directions – the first being that the author is someone Jane Austen does not introduce to readers during the course of the novel. This is an unsatisfying but very possible conclusion – Jane Austen frequently writes endings that leave the reader unsatisfied in one sense or another.

The second, and much more interesting and satisfying solution to the mystery of Robert Martin’s letter is that Mr. Knightly wrote it. Knightly fulfils both qualifications created by Emma concerning the author’s identity– he is an educated man, and genteel enough to impress her. It is also clear from the text that Robert Martin consulted Knightly just as Harriet consulted Emma. Emma ended up writing Harriet’s response, so the possibility of Knightly having written the letter to begin with fits rather nicely into their dichotomy of attitudes about the marriage. Knightley’s interference in the match also help to make his character more imperfect and human, and a more suitable match for Emma.

Why Knightley’s Authorship of Robert Martin’s Proposal is Important

More than simply making the storyline more interesting, the possibility of Knightley’s authorship of Martin’s letter adds depth and a more critical slant to both the novel and the films. Jane Austen is famous, not just for writing love stories, but also for questioning and critiquing the society in which she lived.


Throughout the novel Austen presents Emma as someone who interferes in the affairs of others – bringing Knightley into that same critical light transports that shortcoming from a personal level to a class and societal level. If indeed Knightley wrote Martin’s letter, then we have two very wealthy upper-middle socialites not only interfering in the affairs of those who are socially beneath them, but indeed robbing these two working class individuals of their own voice. As we see later on, Robert Martin and Harriet Smith do well enough courting each other without the interference of their friends that they do eventually marry.

Jane Austen’s Critique of Society

Knowing Jane Austen, one cannot believe that the criticism she lays upon Knightley and Emma’s interference is directed only at two fictional characters. It is very likely that Austen’s criticism is really directed at the wealthy classes of England directly – those literate people who through wealth and influence control the way the very history and story of a nation, even its working class, is written and remembered. At the time Jane Austen wrote Emma, pastoral stories that presented a sugarcoated and romanticized version of country life were very common. Jane Austen’s satirical advice to another novelist at the time she was writing Emma – that “3 or 4 families in a Country Village [was] the very thing to work on]” shows an a rather critical awareness to this trend.

Austen, a writer very much concerned with themes of authorship and voice, as well as ideas of material inequality, very likely would want us to look on Knightley and Emma’s interference as indicative of a larger societal problem.


Michaela Spangenburg has always been a Janeite but didn’t fully appreciate Miss Austen’s brilliance until taking a course in literary criticism from Robert Coleman-Senghor. Michaela aspires to be a literary theorist, writer, artist and one day clinical psychologist and anthropologist. She will soon graduate with three B.A.s before moving onto graduate school.

Reprinted with permission from Suite 101: Authorship of Letters in Jane Austen’s Emma: An Exploration and Critical Analysis of Voice and Letter Writing


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