What’s the Jane Austen News this week?
Wentworth Woodhouse to be Restored
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond has come under fire recently after he announced in his autumn statement that he is going to give £7.6m of the budget towards repairing a huge Grade I-listed building called Wentworth Woodhouse. He claims that he will be saving a stately home that inspired Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but these claims have been rubbished by the Jane Austen Society.
Hammond told MPs that the grand house in Rotherham: “is said to be the inspiration for Pemberley in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.” Chatsworth House in Derbyshire has a similar claim and is one house which there is evidence of Jane Austen visiting (two years before Pride and Prejudice was published, though after she wrote what is thought to be the first draft in the form of First Impressions).
In a statement to the Guardian, the Jane Austen Society said there is no evidence Austen ever went to the Wentworth Woodhouse, or that Fitzwilliam Darcy could have afforded to live there. It is Europe’s largest private home, sits on 82 acres of land and has over 350 rooms. It took 25 years to build in the 1700s and at one time employed 1,000 staff, including a bear keeper and a “state bed maker”! It would have been costly to own and run indeed!
It is thought that once restored over the course of the next fifteen years, and with a total cost of around £42m, it may become a National Trust property.
Whether it has a Jane Austen connection or not (its name certainly provides surnames for two of Jane’s main characters and was owned by an Earl Fitzwilliam at the time Jane knew of it), it is an incredible building!
Jane at Sothebys
For those with deep pockets and a love of Jane Austen, Sotheby’s upcoming auction; English Literature, History, Children’s
Books and Illustrations might be worth having a look at. Scheduled to take place on Tuesday December the 13th, the auction sees not only items such as one of the six handwritten manuscript copies of J.K. Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard going up for sale, but a significant number of items from Jane’s life as well.
Included in the sale are;
– A vividly descriptive letter to her sister Cassandra, describing the details of her daily life, and estimated to fetch between £40,000-£60,000!
– To mark 200 years since its first publication, a first edition copy of Emma. (Estimated at £8000-£12,000).
– Jane Austen’s bibliocatch (cup-and-ball game). She has been said to have been able to successfully catch the ball 200 times in a row!
– And Anna Lefroy’s manuscript continuation of her aunt’s final unfinished novel, Sanditon.
Dementia Friendly Classics
The Jane Austen News came across a new publishing company this week called Dovetale press, who have started to publish some of the world’s best-loved classics but in a dementia-friendly format. The books released so far have included adaptations of one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, and a selection of poetry called Poetry for the Restless Heart.
Dr Rimkeit, a psycho-geriatrician and co-founder of Dovetale Press explained that;
It’s about helping people re-discover the joy of doing something they once loved, especially those who have been avid readers. People living with dementia, even severe dementia, maintain a sophisticated command and appreciation of language… Readers enjoyed the original style and rhythm, and didn’t want the text oversimplified like a children’s book, which can be demeaning
The Jane Austen News hopes that maybe soon the New Zealand based publisher might do a dementia friendly version of one or two Austen classics…
Unusual Adaptations and Spin Offs
There’s never a shortage of new Jane Austen adaptations and spin-offs, but this week the Jane Austen News came across a
couple with some of the most unusual titles we’ve ever seen.
Mr Darcy’s Mail Order Bride by J. Dawn King sees a Pride and Prejudice variation set in 1869 in the Wild West:
When lonely Charles Bingley convinces his good friend, Will Darcy, to write a letter offering marriage to Miss Jane Bennet, she likewise convinces her sister, Elizabeth, to pen the reply. Elizabeth is struck by the beauty of the letter and responds by opening her heart to the Oregon wordsmith, who she believes to be Mr. Bingley. It’s love at first letter—for both the couples. Misunderstandings and bad impressions abound as the true identities of the authors are discovered.
The other title released this week is Darcy Swipes Left by Jane Austen and Courtney Carbone, which places Pride and Prejudice alongside smartphones and dating apps:
Imagine: What if Lizzy Bennet and Mr. Darcy had smartphones and dated IRL (in real life)? A classic is reborn in this clever adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice!
Don’t miss: Lydia taking selfies with soldiers, Mrs. Bennet’s humble-brag status updates, Lizzy texting from her long walks, and Darcy swiping left on a dance card app.
Certainly Pride and Prejudice in texting speech is not one variation we thought we’d see…
Celebrating Jane Austen Day
On December 16th, Jane Austen’s birthday, we will be celebrating Jane Austen Day once more. In the past we’ve gone out and asked members of the public what Jane Austen means to them, and spread the word that it is Jane Austen Day, and perhaps it might be a good day to pick up one of her novels and rediscover her. It’s the perfect opportunity to celebrate her novels, her life, and to promote her in the hope that more people will pick up a copy of Persuasion
, or Pride and Prejudice
, or, maybe, just maybe, her entire collection!
This year though we’re asking you what you’d like to see. Would you like us to show you some of the places in Bath which feature in her novels? Would our costumed guides sharing their favourite quotes with you be a nice way to celebrate? What would be a nice way for us to mark her birthday? Also, if you’re doing something special to celebrate we’d love to hear about it. Let us know!
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