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Jane Austen News – Issue 83

The Jane Austen News Takes a Turn About Bath

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

The Guardian Visits Bath!

We had a lovely surprise this week when we discovered that The Guardian newspaper has just published a piece about why visiting Bath is such a wonderful thing to do.

Included in their two and a half mile round-trip walking tour of Bath (beginning and ending at Bath Spa train station, so a good choice for any London day-trippers) is a stop at our very own Jane Austen Centre!

Alan Franks, the journalist who came to visit Bath and wrote the piece, had this short summary of Jane’s two partially Bath-based novels:

Two of her six novels – Northanger Abbey and Persuasion – are set in the town. In the course of their narration Bath changes from being a backdrop to a virtual character, full of airs that are not of the healthiest kind. What for Catherine in the first book was elevating has become, for Anne in the second, enervating. Perhaps, given the hot springs that gave the city its name, the best word is immersive.

If you fancy following in Mr Franks’ footsteps yourself, then you might like to read the whole of his article here.

A Well-Dressed Well of Austen!

This week the Jane Austen News was treated to a marvelous sight thanks to Jessica from Derbyshire, who shared pictures of a well dressing which had been created in her local village.

In case you’ve not come across it before, well dressing is a tradition found in the Peak District and Derbyshire area. It involves creating nature-based works of art from flowers, leaves, feathers, twigs and the like, which are then put on display next to wells and water features. Mystery surrounds the exact source of this ancient tradition – but it’s believed to have been brought to the area by the Romans or the Celts, to give thanks for the county’s fresh water springs.

This year the village of Holymoorside, in Chesterfield made a Pride and Prejudice themed display…

Seeing The Funny Side of Pride and Prejudice

A reason that people often give for not liking Austen is that reading romantic love stories just isn’t their thing. Given the emphasis which most film and TV adaptations of Austen put onto the romantic storylines, and given that it’s hard to convey the narrator’s sarcasm in a film adaptation without a narrator, it’s easy to see why so many people might think that Austen’s novels are “just love stories”.

It was a breath of fresh air, then, to read that one famous face, comedienne Sara Pascoe, has since been won over by Austen’s wit and humour.

She began her recent Jane Austen article with a headline stating that “Austen’s women have the same rights as children; her ‘romantic’ match-making smacks of desperation”, but then she goes on to explain that after many years of avoiding all 19th century novels she finally discovered how funny Austen is:

Austen is so easy to read, she makes sense (and sensib … shut up Sara). There is no unnecessary verboseness, fields are for trampling across, not spending pages going on about. The characters are lively and charming and the woman cracks great gags. “Austen is so funny,” I began to say during literary conversations and anyone who had read her would agree.

Sara wrote her article as the stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice which she was commissioned to write is soon to be showing at Nottingham Playhouse and then at the York Theatre Royal this autumn, and she is keen to show the funny side of Austen in her script.

I have been as truthful to Austen’s comedy and language as possible, but with intermittent modern commentary.

We at the Jane Austen News look forward to reading the reviews! Hopefully the focus on the funny side of Austen will convince a few more reluctant readers to give her a go!

 Austen Studies In Wisconsin

If you’re in the nearby vicinity and enjoy literary lectures, then you might like to know that the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Continuing Studies department is joining in with the many celebrations taking place in this, Austen’s bicentenary year, with a series of short courses aiming to shed new light on the world and works of the amazing novelist.

The series, titled Jane Austen: Remembered and Revisited, invites community members to explore her work and her world, drawing on UW-Madison expertise in literature, dance, music, film, and visual arts.

Two particularly intriguing Austen-themed courses include;

Pride and Prejudice: An Abundance of Adaptations, for which students will read the novel before delving into the book’s many adaptations, from films to plays to novels. (“How did the original 1813 Pride and Prejudice lead to 2009’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? This is the place to find out.”)


A Lady’s Education: Women’s Arts During the Era of Jane Austen, which examines the milieu that inspired Austen’s novels. (Expect to hear lots on the need for singing, dancing, poetry, and drawing as part of the courtship ritual.)

A Science Student Meets Sense And Sensibility 

Chemistry student Manpreet Kaur makes a most salient point in a blog post we came across the week. She reminded us of just how important it is to read widely, and she explained too how reading Jane’s novels has helped her to become a better student of science! Not an effect of reading Jane’s novels which you’d naturally think of but it’s true:

Slowly, I became more familiar with the prose in these novels. Not only has it helped me with my own style of writing and vocabulary, but it has also taught me to become more evaluative, and to question everything.

I’ve developed my skills as a reader by analysing the characters and putting my own perspective forward, engaging with their lives. Whereas evaluation is a key part of the science sector, evaluation in literature involves putting forward a perspective, or rather a qualitative argument, based on instincts rather than evidence. It is not about proving you are right, but being able to convince others that you are right.   

So next time someone tries to tell you that reading for pleasure is a waste of time, point them in the direction of Manpreet’s article!

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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Jane Austen News – Issue 76

The Jane Austen News celebrates the bicentenary!

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

  Austen’s Letter Makes A Fortune!   

We mentioned in last week’s Jane Austen News that a letter written by Jane to her niece Anna Lefroy in 1812 was going to auction for the first time. In the letter Jane writes disparagingly of Rachel Hunter’s gothic novel Lady Maclairn, the Victim of Villainy, calling it “most tiresome and prosy” (although both Jane and Anna took great pleasure in reading the melodramatic, sensationalist, clichéd text; it seemed to be a case of the novel being so bad that it was good).

Well the sale took place on July the 11th, and despite the estimation being between £80,000 and £100,000, the price which the letter eventually fetched was £162,000!

Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s specialist in books and manuscripts, had a theory about why the letter did so well. “The vast majority of her surviving letters talk about her day-to-day life, so to have a letter like we do here, that talks specifically about writing and shows her engaging with the popular literature of the day, is hugely significant.”

Celebrating July the 18th in Style! 

Fans all around the world spent July 18th celebrating Jane’s bicentenary, and the Jane Austen Centre was no exception. We hadThe Jane Austen News celebrates the bicentenary! lots of visitors come to celebrate with us on the day, but for those fans who couldn’t be with us, here’s a little bit of what we got up to:
  • Two of the Centre guides, Alice and James, donned their best Regency costumes and headed out with photographer Owen Benson to take some shots around some of Bath’s most iconic backdrops which Jane would have enjoyed (pictures soon!).
  • Martin, one of our experienced costumed guides, conducted free walking tours through the Georgian streets of Bath. These took in the places where Jane walked, shopped and visited, and the places made famous in her novels. The walk also passed the exciting new Jane Austen Floral Display in Bath’s Parade Gardens.
  • At 11a.m. BST we held a minute’s silence to officially mark the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death and to reflect on Jane’s life and works.
  • Just after our minute’s silence, micro-artist Graham Short presented us with a fifth Jane Austen £5 note, which he had engraved especially for the Centre. Graham caused a media storm last year, when he put into circulation four £5 notes which he had engraved with miniature portraits of Jane Austen, each valued at £50,000. His special fifth £5 note is now on display in the Centre.
  • After the presentation, Graham Short and some of the Jane Austen Centre guides popped upstairs to the Regency Tearooms for media interviews. (We’ll share some of our best bits with you in next week’s Jane Austen News).

Continue reading Jane Austen News – Issue 76

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