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Jane Austen News – Issue 60

The Jane Austen News is arsenic poisoning!

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?   

Jane’s Death Caused By Arsenic?   
The Jane Austen News is arsenic poisoning!The cause of Jane Austen’s mysterious death at the age of 41 has been the subject of much debate over the years. Theories put forward have included cancer, Addison’s disease, and complications from drinking unpasteurised milk. However, new research conducted by researchers at the British Library, undertaken in conjunction with London optometrist Simon Barnard, has brought forward new evidence that Jane may have died as a result of arsenic poisoning.

Simon examined three pairs of glasses believed to have belonged to Austen, and said that they show evidence that her vision severely deteriorated in her final years. That kind of deterioration further suggests cataracts, and cataracts may indicate arsenic poisoning, Sandra Tuppen, a curator of archives and manuscripts at the library, wrote in a blog post on the library’s website. Arsenic was frequently found in water, medication and even wallpaper in Austen’s time, Dr. Tuppen emphasised. Unintentional arsenic poisoning was, she said, “quite common” and that “arsenic was often put into medication for other types of illness, potentially for rheumatism, which we know Jane Austen suffered from.”

Not everyone is convinced though. Deirdre Le Faye, an independent Austen scholar believes that Austen died of Addison’s disease. She said that while Austen could have ingested arsenic through medication, other elements of the British Library’s biographical analysis seemed less persuasive. One of the main arguments the library puts forward for arsenic poisoning is the claim that “she must have been almost blind by the end of her life”, but Deirdre Le Faye said, Austen was writing letters “perfectly ably” up to about six weeks before her death. Rapid deterioration of her eyesight would have had to be very sudden to fit the library’s analysis.

The mystery goes on!

Mr Darcy Nowhere In Sight In New BBC Drama  

The BBC’s next period drama is a real-life love story set in post-Regency England. BBC One and HBO have commissioned Shibden Hall, a brand new eight-part drama series created and written by Bafta-winning Sally Wainwright (To Walk Invisible, Last Tango In Halifax, Happy Valley). However, unlike in most period dramas, Shibden Hall’s heroine has no intention of marrying a man.

Set in West Yorkshire in 1832, Shibden Hall is the epic story of the remarkable landowner, Anne Lister. Returning after years of exotic travel and social climbing, Anne determines to transform the fate of her faded ancestral home.

To do this she must re-open her coal mines and marry well. But Anne Lister – who walked like a man, dressed head-to-foot in black, and charmed her way into high society – has no intention of marrying a man. True to her own nature, she plans to marry a woman. And not just any woman: the woman Anne Lister marries must be seriously wealthy.

Every part of Anne’s story is based in historical fact, recorded in the four million words of her diaries that contain the most intimate details of her life, once hidden in a secret code that is now broken.

It will rework the romantic genre epitomised by the smouldering appeal of Poldark and Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, to tell the remarkable tale of the quest by a lesbian landowner to find a wife.

It’s a beautifully rich, complicated, surprising love story. To bring Anne Lister to life on screen is the fulfillment of an ambition I’ve had for 20 years.

Sally Wainwright

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 60

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Jane Austen News – Issue 44

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 

Waiting for Sanditon!  

sanditon-bookNext year Sanditon, one of Austen’s two unfinished novels, will be be released as a film for the first time! It was announced a  while ago, but not very widely reported on, so we’ve been looking for as many details on it as we can. Here’s what we’ve found out so far:

  • The unfinished novel was completed by author Marie Dobbs, who was living in Moscow as a diplomat’s wife when she began work on Sanditon. The completed novel was published in 1975.
  • The screenplay is written by Simon Reade who has adapted other classic books for the screen such as Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful and RC Sherriff’s Journey’s End (which is currently being filmed).
  • The new costume drama has been described as half comedic satire, half romantic comedy.
  • It will be directed by Jim O’Hanlon (he also directed the BBC series of Jane Austen’s Emma in 2009).
  • This is a summary of the story according to Goldcrest Films who are producing it: “When Charlotte Heywood is invited to spend the summer season at Sanditon she accepts immediately, intrigued to see (not-so) polite society at play in the newly fashionable sea bathing resort. Here she meets a host of classic Austen characters from the imperious nouveau-riche Lady Denham to her impoverished ward Clara, and from the lecherous Sir Edward, to the dashing, feckless Sidney Parker and his hypochondriac sisters.”
  • Holliday Grainger (Cinderella) and Max Irons (Woman In Gold) are to join Charlotte Rampling in the Jane Austen adaptation.   
  • It’s due out next year (2017) and we can’t wait!

The Rise of the Essay Cheat   
lead_960-3While having a browse for new Jane Austen news this week, we looked forward with interest to reading an essay titled “Decisions Made by Women in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.” However, clicking on the link led to a custom essay writing site which advertised that it would write your essay for you, and that it was “100% anonymous. No plagiarism. Any topic. Any difficulty.”

Later we clicked on a link which promised an essay which looked at the essay title: “comment on the characters and behaviour of Edward Ferrars and John Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.” We clicked. It led us to the same essay writing site.

This happened a couple of weeks ago as well, with a different Jane Austen essay subject, and we thought it was just a one off. Sadly it looks as though more and more essays are coming onto the market which will do student’s work for them and it’s not a one off; it’s a trend. The really sad thing is, aside from grades being awarded that aren’t deserved, that it means that new students aren’t really reading Jane and so they’re missing out on the fantastic work she has to offer.

Jane Austen Book Benches Need Sponsors        

dsc_0106-1Companies from across the borough of Basingstoke are now able to sign up to sponsor one of the 25 “book benches” which are being created for the Sitting With Jane campaign. The benches will be specially decorated and shaped like an open book, and are due to go on display in different places around Basingstoke and Deane next year to mark 200 years since Jane Austen’s death. The sponsors are needed to help fund the cost of each bench and its decoration, and in return for their sponsorship, sponsors get free exposure in the project’s free app, and on plaques, and they can choose which selected design to use on their bench.

“Sitting With Jane is an exciting cultural, educational and legacy initiative that will ultimately benefit charities through the proceeds that are raised when the Bookbenches are auctioned.”

The book benches will be uniquely designed and painted by a professional artist, and will then be displayed for 12 weeks in the Basingstoke area in the summer of 2017.

A Jane Austen Kickstarter

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-14-20-10You might have seen on our Facebook page this week that a Jane Austen Kickstarter campaign is heading into its final days.

The project, launched by author Karin Quint, is asking for €14,000 by December 7th so that her book, Jane Austen’s England, “the first (and only!) travel guide devoted to exploring locations in England that have a unique connection with either Austen herself, her work, and/or the film and tv adaptations of her books” can be published in English. At present it’s only available in Dutch.

Many Janeites from countries around the world have expressed great interest in a guidebook like this – but it is now only available in Dutch! We would really like to have it translated into English to make it accessible to them. Unfortunately, a translation is a costly thing – and the book is more than 300 pages long!

In order to write her book, in 2013 Karin travelled through England and visited each location. Het Engeland van Jane Austen, as it’s known in Dutch, was published in the spring of 2014 by the renowned Dutch publisher Gottmer. So far, it’s doing very well in the Netherlands – and a second edition was just published in July 2016. Now it’s just a case of fingers crossed that she will reach her funding goal by the deadline so the book can be translated. You can click here for more information on the book and the campaign.

 An Examination of Jane and Dorothy   

dorothy-wordsworth_2652421bIn June 2017, to coincide with the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death in July 2017, Sandstone Press will publish Jane and Dorothy: A True Tale of Sense and Sensibility by Marian Veevers.

There have been plenty of books examining the life and writing of Jane Austen, but Jane and Dorothy brings together the lives of two literary women – Jane Austen and Dorothy Wordsworth (William Wordsworth’s sister, who was also a writer, though not one which many know about) in order to examine what it meant to be a female writer in Jane’s time, and the similarities of the two women’s lives. They were born just four years apart, both lived in Georgian England, and although they never met each other, Jane and Dorothy had friends, family and many interests in common. This is the first time their two lives have been compared in this way, offering new insights into each woman and their age, the publisher has said.

 Precious Tea!        

jane-austen-blend-24-03-2015_grande1_5eccc320-8b73-435a-bafb-cd0d9add416713We love tea! But following recent events between the UK and Europe, and the falling value of the pound, our tea is becoming threatened, or at least more costly (for the tea companies certainly). The cost of tea has skyrocketed and gone up by 50%; the price of an 80 kilogram bag of tea has increased from £100 to £150 according to Typhoo Tea. We mention this in the Jane Austen News because it reminded us of Jane’s time when tea was such an expensive and precious commodity.

The British East India Company had exclusive rights on importing tea until 1834, and this kept prices high for decades! The government also kept increasing taxes on tea to finance the wars it undertook. This meant that smuggling tea on the black market in order to avoid taxes became big business!

Not that we think that that this black market trade in tea will reemerge, but we did start to appreciate more this week our much loved tea breaks!

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.

Don’t miss our latest news – become a Jane Austen Member and receive a digest of stories, articles and news every week. You will also be able to access our online Magazine with over 1000 articles, test your knowledge with our weekly quiz and get offers on our Online Giftshop. Plus new members get an exclusive 10% off voucher to use in the Online Giftshop.

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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.

Don’t miss our latest news – become a Jane Austen Member and receive a digest of stories, articles and news every week. You will also be able to access our online Magazine with over 1000 articles, test your knowledge with our weekly quiz and get offers on our Online Giftshop. Plus new members get an exclusive 10% off voucher to use in the Online Giftshop.

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