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Jane Austen News – Issue 48

What’s the Jane Austen News this week?  

One Austen £5 Note Has Been Found
The Jane Austen News is on the Hunt for Jane fiversOne of the four £5 notes which carry a mini 5mm engraving of Jane Austen has been found.

The note was first paid to staff at the Square Cafe in Blackwood, South Wales, by the engraver Graham Short. Unfortunately no one recognised who he was at the time and staff unwittingly gave the note away in change. When it was announced in the national news that the £5 had been spent at the cafe customers flocked to the cafe and staff checked all to the notes in the till but it was already gone.

The note turned up later in the purse of an elderly art fan who wishes to remain anonymous. She said she is going to give the note to her granddaughter as an investment rather than reaping the reward. The note is said to be worth £50,000. She is one generous grandmother!

Jane Austen Letter Massively Exceeds Estimate  

lot-124-austen-letter-to-cassandraThe recent auction at Sotheby’s, in which a letter written by Jane Austen and early copies of her novels went up for sale, has had some astounding final sale prices. The letter written by Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra at the age of 25 sold for £150,000 – almost four times the lower estimate that was predicted for its sale (£40,000 – 60,000)!

The letter was a window into the daily life of Jane Austen, and is one of a series of letters written by Jane to Cassandra when Cassandra was away visiting their brother Edward at Godmersham Park House in Kent from October 1800 through to February 1801.

The letter includes an important reference to Harris Bigg-Wither.

Harris seems still in a poor way, from his bad habit of body; his hand bled again a little the other day, & Dr Littlehales has been with him lately.

Jane accepted and then rejected Harris’ offer of marriage two years after this letter was written.

Jane’s bibliocatch (cup and ball) game, estimated at between £20,000-£30,000, went unsold.

Jane Austen Class so Popular it’s on Pause  

hm_jf17_lynch-portrait_0Deidre Lynch, Bernbaum professor of literature since 2014, has found that her class Jane Austen’s Fiction and Fans, is now so popular that she’s had to temporarily stop offering it.

Lynch has been offering the class since 2014, and in the two years since it first began it’s become almost to big to handle anymore. The other issue, apart from its sheer size she says, is that “the materials we use in Houghton Library are getting worn away by the wear and tear.” She asks her students to examine primary evidence—the scrapbooks, commonplace books, and custom-illustrated texts of everyday nineteenth-century readers—to analyze the reading lives of people in Austen’s time: their habits, tastes, quirks, interactions. She also asks her students to create their own “fan art”. One student re-composed the music to a film adaptation; other people have written songs; one person, (with totally charming results says Lynch) made Harriet Smith’s box of favourite treasures.

At the Jane Austen News we’re sad that the class has had to be put on hold, pleased that it was so popular, and jealous that we can’t go and take part ourselves! It sounds like an amazing class!

The Mysteries of Udolpho on the Radio  
If you’ve ever wanted to read The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, one of the books which Jane Austen was satirising The Jane Austen News is looking forward to the Mysteries of Uldolphowhen she wrote Northanger Abbey, but haven’t found the time to open the cover on the 704 page novel (give or take depending on print size), then this might be of interest.
On New Year’s Eve at 2:30pm on Radio 4, the BBC will be broadcasting Hattie Naylor’s one hour adaptation of Ann Radcliffe’s gothic masterpiece. It will also be available online on the BBC’s radio iplayer shortly afterwards. They’re broadcasting it to accompany the episodes of Northanger Abbey which Hattie Naylor has also adapted, and which are being broadcast on weekdays at 10:45am on Radio 4 from December 19th to December 30th (also available online afterwards).
If you want to understand some of the in-jokes that Austen was referencing when she wrote Northanger Abbey, then this adaptation of Udolpho is a good opportunity.
Emily St Aubert is forced to leave France and go and live with her Aunt and her new husband, Count Montoni, in his isolated castle in Italy. Before long Emily discovers that the castle is a place of nightmares and Montoni a desperate man who will stop at nothing to terrorise both his wife and his niece. 
In this dramatisation Hattie Naylor has taken the core of the four volumes of the novel to explore those edicts most at the heart of the Gothic Novel.

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley    
image-6A number of Jane Austen fans in the US have been enjoying a festive Jane Austen based production called Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley.

In this charmingly imagined sequel to Pride and Prejudice, the ever-dependable Mary Bennet is growing tired of her role as dutiful middle sister in the face of her siblings’ romantic escapades. When the family gathers for Christmas at Pemberley, an unexpected guest sparks Mary’s hopes for independence, an intellectual match, and possibly even love.

In brief: Lady Catherine De Bourgh has died, and her estate, Rosings, has passed into the hands of a distant cousin, Arthur de Bourgh. As Arthur was an old school chum of Mr. Darcy’s, he has taken it upon himself to invite him over for Christmas. When he arrives, it becomes obvious almost immediately that he and Elizabeth’s book-loving sister Mary are a perfect match. Period-appropriate high jinks ensue.

It was all quite funny and touching. The four of us that went all liked it, as did the audience. It was totally sold out for its run, and they even added shows.

Tamara Church, California

A charming idea. We’re somewhat sad at the Jane Austen News that we can’t make it to the show ourselves!

Lizzy and Darcy Do (Rap) Battle    

If you liked Hamilton (the latest Broadway smash-hit musical) you might like this new piece of theatre from a group of actors at New York Public Theater. Now dubbed BARS Medley, the project takes literary classics and puts a contemporary spin on them.

As part of this project, Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice is reworked as a hip-hop rap battle between the two and involves narrators coaching the pair through a boxing ring show down (no punches are thrown). Even if you’re not a fan of rap, you have to admire the work play between the two.

To watch the battle between the two in the video below, skip to 6:33.

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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Gothic Horrors: The Castle of Otranto and The Mysteries of Udolpho

The Castle of Otranto
by Horace Walpole

Otranto is the Gothic that inspired them all, establishing the common denominators of the genre: a greedy, controlling villain; a sweet, innocent heroine (or even two); a brave hero with a mysterious past; exotic medieval European locations; a castle with many secrets; and a plethora of supernatural occurrences guaranteed to keep audiences turning the pages, their hair standing on end the whole time.

The master of Castle of Otranto, Manfred, has a weakling son, Conrad, upon whom he has pinned all his hopes. He neglects his excellent wife and good daughter, and contracts a marriage for Conrad with the beautiful, rich orphan, Isabella. On the day of the marriage, Conrad is found in the courtyard of the castle crushed under a giant helmet. Could this have something to do with the mysterious ancient prophecy about Otranto, which stated that when the current family had grown too large for the position, they would fall from power? A young peasant suggests that the helmet looks like it came from a statue of Alfonso the Great, a former prince of Otranto, that stands in the village church. The helmet proves to be missing from the statue, and in his rage, Manfred accuses the peasant of using sorcery to crush Conrad with the helmet, and locks him up.

In order to secure himself an heir, Manfred determines to put aside his wife, Hippolita, and marry Isabella himself. Unwilling to go along with this plan, Isabella manages to escape the castle via a subterraneous passage to a neighboring church, assisted by a mysterious stranger. The stranger turns out to be the very peasant whom Manfred had locked up, and who had managed to escape. Manfred’s daughter, Matilda, notices that the young man greatly resembles the portrait of Alfonso the Great. Manfred sentences the youth to execution, and when Father Jerome arrives to hear the young man’s confession, he realizes that the young peasant is his long-lost son, Theodore.

Accidental murder, a prince thought to be dead, a love triangle, mysterious sightings of parts of the giant statue of Alfonso, and the true heir of Otranto are all sorted out, though not without the sacrifice of most of the characters.

List Price: £5.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Language English
ISBN: 0140437673
Click here to read the book online


The Mysteries of Udolpho
by Ann Radcliffe

Emily St. Aubert, the heroine of The Mysteries of Udolpho, is the sort of picture of perfection that makes everyone sick and wicked. She always thinks right and does right; scolds her maid for superstitious fears, whilst herself swooning when faced with anything even mildly strange or frightening, like a marriage proposal; plays her lute like an angel; writes sonnets to the glories of nature, such as a mountain climber plunging to his death in an Alpine crevice; and manages the very tricky heroine’s feat of staying true to her man even while spurning him when he shows some human weakness.

After the death of her parents, Emily goes to live with her aunt, who is married to the evil Count Montoni, at Castle Udolpho. Udolpho is a mysterious place full of black veils hiding dreadful things, moving corpses, and other fearsome supernatural phenomena, though Emily manages to find satisfactory non-mysterious explanations for everything (after she is revived from her inevitable swoon, that is).

In the best tradition of Gothic villains, Montoni locks up his wife until she dies. Since Emily inherited her aunt’s property, Montoni then turns his attentions to her. Emily manages to escape Castle Udolpho and meets up with Blanche de Villefort and her amusing and sarcastic brother, Henri. (If this sounds familiar to Janeites, we think it not entirely a coincidence.)

At this point, Emily retires centre stage to Blanche, who is a much more interesting character anyway, and Blanche embarks on her own romance. Radcliffe remembers Emily in time to allow her to inherit a fortune and marry Valancourt tho’ he has managed to gamble away his own fortune. And they all live happily ever after…

List Price: £7.99
Paperback: 728 pages
Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks
Language English
ISBN: 0192825232
Click here to read the book online

Margaret C. Sullivan is the webmistress of Tilneys and Trap-doors and AustenBlog, and shares more with Catherine Morland than an appreciation for horrid novels; namely, an appreciation for Henry Tilney.

Her upcoming novella, There Must Be Murder will be published exclusively on this website beginning in January, 2007.