Jane Austen December 16, 1775 – June 18, 1817

By Victoria Hinshaw

My dearest Jane,

Here I am in the snowy midwest of the United States (that country born just after you), 242 years after your birth, expressing my thanks to you for all your talents and achievements.  I can only hope that somehow you are aware of the esteem in which you are held by millions of people.  Are you surprised that your novels are still adored 200 years after their publication? And that you are celebrated as one of English Literature’s most famous authors?

Jane Austen, sketch by sister Cassandra

How do you account for the fact that many of us call ourselves Janeites? That we gather yearly in several countries to discuss your work, from the earliest of juvenilia to the final letters, prayers and poems you wrote just before your demise? That we scour your words, the accounts of relatives and friends, the objects you touched, your travels, your acquaintances, and every scrap we can uncover that might relate to your life? That universities devote entire courses of you? And that your work has provided the backbone for a whole industry of films, television series, sequels, continuations, contemporary interpretations, and scholarly treatises?

Jane Austen, as revised 1871

I wonder how you would like to visit Chawton Cottage and see how it has become a shrine to you and your books?  Or Chawton House, where the mansion has been restored to its late 18th century appearance and is now a library of women’s writings before 1900? I would not recommend that you travel the streets of London to see the blue plaques on the buildings where you stayed with Henry — it’s far too dangerous unless you have a blue badge guide and skillful driver.  Of a car, not a chaise.

Would you believe that among the most popular reasons that people visit Stoneleigh Abbey, Netley Abbey, The Vyne or the Wheatsheaf Inn is that you were there?  Or that one of the highlights of my life was to eat an apple in the garden of Chawton House when the gardener told me it was from a tree which you probably knew and from which you sampled the fruit.  I wasn’t alone either.

And were you lingering high in the lofts of Winchester Cathedral when JASNA held a service dedicated to your memory, and that was only one of many so held in that great place? I hope you died in the knowledge that your family loved you and that someday you would be commemorated worldwide.

Perhaps some of us have overdone things a bit and owe you an apology. Zombies, vampires, sea monsters, as well as highly fantasized so-called bio-pics have played fast and loose with the facts of your stories and your life. But through it all, we know, if we love Jane Austen (and we do!), all we have to do is pick up a copy of one of your books and immerse ourselves once more.

Most of all, I want to express my gratitude for the brilliant way you have enriched my life and that of many of my friends.  You are one of a kind, Jane Austen, and we are so lucky to have “known” you.  Thank you, Jane.

Yrs very affecly,
V. Hinshaw


After watching the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, Diane and I 
skirted St. James’s Park and noted all the glorious gardens in full bloom, above and below. 
Crossing the Mall, we then walked up the path that runs along Green Park up to Piccadilly, but instead we turned in at Milkmaid’s Passage as short cut through to St. James’s Street. 
I wanted to introduce Diane to Boulestin, a favourite restaurant of Victoria’s and 
mine in St. James’s Street. In fact, I like it so well that I’ve included it on the itineraries for several upcoming tours as a dinner venue. 
The restuarant is a revival of Marcel Boulestin’s pre-war venue in Covent Garden and has achieved the perfect blend of modern chic, French flair and historic touches. Click here to read about the original restaurant, the most expensive in London, and about chef Marcel Boulestin. 
In the photo above, you can see the outdoor seating area which is in Pickering Place, which is also adjacent to Berry Brothers and which was also the site of the last public duel in England. 
Diane and I each had a bowl of homemade soup and shared a cheese plate afterwards. Delicious!
Afterwards, we detoured through Jermyn Street in order to pay a visit to an old and dear friend. 
Then it was on to meet another old friend, antique dealer Mark Sullivan, 
whose shop is in Cecil Court. 
After pouring Diane and I a glass of wine each, it was at least a half hour of catch up before we got to the business at hand – Artie-facts, the true reason for our visit. As usual, Mark had found me another Wellington for my collection, and what a corker!
As you can see, he’s right at home now and fits beautifully into the collection. 
We decided to end the afternoon seeing even more of our pals, so Diane and I headed over to the Regency section at the National Portrait Gallery.
Part Three Coming Soon!


Victoria here, catching up with the owner/publisher/editor of JARW.

Jan-Feb 2016 issue out now!

The magazine’s website is here. To Subscribe, click here.

Tim Bullamore, the publisher of Jane Austen’s Regency World, is a charming friend and entrepreneur in journalism.  I had the good fortune to interview him at the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting held recently in Louisville, Kentucky.

Tim’s recent Telegraph obituary of composer/conductor Pierre Boulez is here.
 Nov. Dec. 2015 issue
Tim must have to consult his calendar every day to see where he has to be, for his schedule sounds amazingly complicated to a person like me who just sits in front of a computer most of the day.  He is a busy journalist, spending several days a week in London as the copy editor for the London Times.  He write obituaries for the Daily Telegraph about classical musicians. And, in addition to various teaching assignments, he is the editor and publisher of Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine, which comes out six times a year. And just to provide more variety, his wife holds a university teaching position in Scotland.
Are you surprised this is my favorite of all Tim’s excellent cover images?

We chatted in the busy emporium at the Louisville AGM where Tim manned a table covered with back issues and subscription forms. He told me how his friends were running the Jane Austen Centre in Bath a few years ago. They confided that their magazine, then part of the Centre’s program, was becoming difficult for them to manage. Being a lifelong admirer of Jane Austen, Tim looked into the financial aspects of running the operation and bought it.  In the eight years of his leadership, the magazine has excelled in providing interesting and entertaining articles about all aspects of the English Regency and new insights into our favorite author.  Not to forget the colorful illustrations — and news of JA-related events.  He is proud of the quality of the printing and binding as well, indeed every aspect of the magazine’s production.

The Sept. Oct. 2015 issue, with a cover caricature from James Gillray in 1801:
 using science to treat disease; Article by Penelope Friday.
The content of the magazine ranges among academic and historical subjects, Jane Austen’s life and times, the mania for Regency dancing, Jane Austen in popular culture, including fan fiction, thus appealing to a variety of audiences.
Tim gets a few moments of relaxation in between interviews and courting prospective subscribers.
He spends about a day and a half each week on JARW, working with a small sales staff and editorial consultants. including the renowned Maggie Lane who has written many articles and books on myriad Jane Austen topics.  Time says that as a niche produce JARW has reasonable advertising rates, providing about 20% of income. The rest relies upon subscriptions.

Tim has attended Jane Austen Society events in England, Australia, around Europe, and across the U.S. and Canada.  His first JASNA AGM was in Chicago where he was delighted to receive a warm and enthusiastic welcome from North American Austen fans. He has spoken at several events, including a talk on obituaries in the time of Austen, and a thoroughly tongue-in-cheek “Defense of Mr. Wickham,” (in Minneapolis, 2013) which to his surprise, several listeners took quite seriously. I found it hilarious, casting Mr. Wickham as the victim of Georgiana Darcy’s unsuccessful seductions.
Tim summed up his description of the magazine with an ‘elevator’ pitch: “It has everything you need to know about Jane Austen, the Georgian period and Regency times, full of news, views, and information, an indispensable guide.” 
Who could say it better than that?  Thanks for an engaging chat, Tim.  I look forward to another year of reading pleasure.

Pride & Prejudice Anniversary Merchandise

Commemorative stamps issued by the Royal Mail will be available starting February 21st.

Pride and Prejudice anniversary Journal and Mug from BBC America.

Pride and Prejudice T-shirt, BBC America

T-shirt – I’m not single, I’m just waiting for Mr. Darcy

Pemberley Christmas ornament

iPhone 5 case

iPhone 4 case

Tall, Dark and Darcy tote

Darcy quote vinyl wall decal

Elizabeth and Darcy bookends/shelf pillows

Set of 3 Pride and Prejudice votive candles

Handcut paper silhouettes

Jane Austen Silhouette

Book purse

Valentine Cards

Jane Austen reproduction ring

Jane Austen gypsum plaster bust

Jane Austen in London

Jane Austen arrived at her brother Henry’s new London residence in Hans Place on August 22, 1814.  Henry had moved from his previous house in Henrietta Street near Covent Garden to this recently developed area off Sloane Street.

The house now occupying the spot at #23 Hans Place is a Victorian reconstruction, very unlike the house in which Austen stayed.  Below, the blue plaque on the house, commemorating her stay on the premises.

Around the crescent from #23 Hans Place there is a Regency-era house which is probably what Henry’s house looked like in 1814.  Of course, any vehicle that might have been in the road in those days would not have resembled the one here.

The neighborhood around Hans Place was relatively new, developed just off Sloane Street as part of the Cadogan estate and opened out onto uninhabited fields to the west.  The Hans in the name honors to Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), president of the Royal Society and benefactor of the British Museum, for whom Sloane Square is named.

The general neighborhood has been much in the news lately because the Ecuadoran Embassy is located nearby, the place Julian Assange sought asylum.

A quick check of property values in the area shows that these tall Victorian houses, now mostly institutions or condominiums, are extremely pricey. 

Jane Austen described Henry’s house in a letter to Cassandra dated Tuesday 23-Wednesday 24 August, 1814. After sharing a few details of her journey to London, she wrote:  “It is a delightful place—more than answers my expectation. Having got rid of my unreasonable ideas, I find more space and comfort in the rooms than I had supposed and the Garden is quite a Love. I am in the front Attic, which is the Bedchamber to be preferred.  Henry wants you to see it all…”

From Ackermann’s Repository, April 1814

In early September, Jane Austen wrote from London to Martha Lloyd, who was staying in Pulteney Street, Bath.  She shares her impressions of London fashions: “I am amused by the present style of female dress; — the coloured petticoats with braces over the white Spencers and enormous Bonnets upon the full Stretch are quite entertaining…”

From Ackermann’s Repository, 1814

Miss Austen went on to make observations on a recent art exhibit:  “I have seen West’s famous painting and prefer it to anything of the kind I ever saw before. I do not know that it is reckoned superior to his Healing in the Temple, but it has gratified me much more and indeed is the first representation of our Saviour which ever at all contented me. ‘His Rejection by the Elders’, is the subject.–I want to have You and Cassandra see it.”

Benjamin West, Christ Rejected, 1814,
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia

Jane Austen wrote further of  her brother’s house (his wife, Eliza de Feuillide Austen had died in April 1813): “I am extremely pleased with this new House of Henry’s, it is everything that could be wished for him and I have only to hope he will continue to like it as well as he does now, and not be looking out for anything better.–He is in very comfortable health; — he has not been so well, he says for a twelvemonth.”

Henry Austen was his sister’s favorite brother, for his talents and charm.  He had several careers, first at Oxford, then in the military, and in various business ventures.  His bank failed in 1816 and he went into the church, as curate in the Chawton parish and later as rector in Steventon.  Henry assisted Jane in her publishing ventures, making deals for the sa
le and repurchase of her books.  He oversaw posthumous publication of   Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

Today: Garden in Hans Place, London

Miss Benn Dines with Jane Austen

The Jane Austen House Museum, Chawton

On May 25, 1811, Miss Mary Benn dined at Chawton Cottage with Jane Austen, and — one assumes — her mother Mrs. Cassandra Austen and their co-resident, Martha Lloyd. 

We learn this in Jane Austen’s letter of Wednesday, 29 May 1811, to her sister Cassandra who was staying at Godmersham, the Kent home of their brother Edward Austen and his children.  This letter is filled with rambling accounts of family and friends — from seedlings to disinheritances. 

Syringa (Lilac)

Jane tells her sister that the Pinks and Sweet Williams are blooming and the Syringas coming out.  She relates family news, upcoming journeys  and that very day a second encounter with Miss Benn  over their tea table.

Miss Benn is a poor spinster who lives in reduced circumstances in Chawton; though we know little about her, she is mentioned in Jane Austen’s letters more than a dozen times in the few years between the Austen’s arrival in Chawton and Miss Benn’s death at age 46 in early January, 1816.  Some biographers have speculated that her extreme poverty caused the Austens to invite her for meals frequently.  In her 1997 biography Jane Austen: A Life, Claire Tomalin  writes, “‘Poor Miss Benn’ appears very much oftener in Jane’s letters than their few better-off neighbours; she was not very interesting, but then nor were they” (p.210)

In January 1813, Jane Austen reported from Chawton to her sister in Steventon that “I have got my own darling Child from London…” meaning a copy of the three-volume first edition of Pride and Prejudice, Austen’s second published novel.  In the letter of Friday, 29 January 1813, Jane tells Cassandra that she had read half of the first volume to Miss Benn, who was “amused, poor soul.” Miss Benn “seemed to admire Elizabeth.”

In her next letter, Austen writes that her mother had read further in the novel to Miss Benn.  Austen did not care for “my Mother’s too rapid way of getting on…Upon the whole however I am quite vain enough and well satisfied enough.–The work is rather too light and bright and sparkling…” — an opinion that generations of readers would deny, finding precisely the correct light, bright and sparkling qualities in the novel.

Mary Benn was the sister of Reverend John Benn (1766-1875) who presided over the parish of Farringdon, nearby Chawton in rural Hampshire.  Mr. Benn and his wife had as dozen children, which probably meant they could not do much to help Miss Benn.

Nevertheless, Miss Benn has found her place in the eternal pantheon of Jane Austen fans.  I am sure she would be surprised even to be mentioned in the year 2012, two hundred years after that dinner in Chawton.

I was alerted to this less-than-earth-shattering meal in my weekly perusal of  A Year with Jane Austen: A Calendar for 2012, the production of JASNA-WI.  Events from Jane Austen’s life and/or events in her novels fill almost every day of this wonderful calendar, accompanied by appealing color reproductions of the 1898 illustrations for editions of Austen’s novels by artist C. E. Brock.

These calendars are still available — and you have half of 2012 left to enjoy one.  Go to the JASNA-WI website  here and click on Merchandise.

A Day with JASNA-GCR

On May 5, in the Crystal Ballroom of Chicago’s Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel, JASNA-GCR (Jane Austen Society of North America, Greater Chicago Chapter) held its Spring Gala, Chawton Comes to Chicago, a day of excellent presentations, good food, shopping, meeting and greeting old friends and new.

Jeff Nigro, JASNA-GCR’s regional coordinator, welcomed everyone and enumerated the events of the day.

Elizabeth Garvie, long a favorite of Janeites as the “real” Elizabeth Bennett for her role in the 1980 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, gave a charming performance of selections from Jane Austen’s life and works, “Jane Austen Delights.”

I particularly enjoyed her reading from Lesley Castle (from the Juvenilia), in which the writer of a letter pleads with her correspondent for pity over her disappointment at having prepared a wedding feast which could not now be eaten as intended because the groom had been stuck down, completely ignoring the real tragedy. She thinks only of her own wasted expense and effort — and how they will ever consume the victuals she has prepared.  The ironic humor of the passage has never before struck me with such vivid force.
Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul as Lizzy and Darcy
Clearly the audience’s favorite part of the performance was Ms. Garvie’s portrayal of Emma‘s Miss Bates. Every nuance of the lady’s overwrought arrival at the ball (Ch. 38) was perfectly articulated and left us all laughing and applauding.  We could have listened all day!  Despite the fact that Ms. Garvie has played innumerable characters by a wide variety of authors since her turn as Lizzy Bennet, we were all convinced of her special affinity for the works of Jane Austen.
Elizabeth Garvie
Author Lindsay Ashford told the story of how she moved to Chawton and became immersed in the life and times of Jane Austen.  As she learned more and more about the writer, reading in the very rooms in which Jane herself might have read, eating where she would have frequently dined, Ashford was more and more obsessed with Austen and her early death at a mere age 41.
Victoria Hinshaw and Lindsay Ashford
When she learned arsenic had been detected in an analysis of a lock of Jane’s golden hair, her imagination took flight.  Could the author — – also beloved daughter, sister and aunt — have been murdered with arsenic?  And by whom?  Now Ashford has published The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen, a novel in which this is exactly what happens.  Written from the point of view of Jane’s dear friend Miss Anne Sharp, once the governess to Edward Austen’s children, the novel has enjoyed considerable attention around the world.
Ashford is the partner of Steve Lawrence, CEO of the Chawton House Library.  Below they are pictured in the costume promenade at last October’s Fort Worth, TX, JASNA AGM.
Following Ashford’s talk, Steve Lawrence brought us up to date on activities at Chawton House Library, showing pictures of the latest projects, such as the “new” 18th C. barn discovered nearby and rebuilt on the edge of the property. 

It seems impossible that
the library is already about to celebrate it’s tenth anniversary.  Where have all these years gone?  On the other hand, it his hard to imagine the world in the village of Chawton, of Austen studies, or of on-line availability of many heretofore impossible-to-find novels without the library and its holdings.  For more information, here is the website.

JASNA-GCR Program Chair Elisabeth Lenckos and Steve Lawrence
The luncheon was enjoyed by all, and featured short readings from works by four members of the organization —  whose writings are “inspired” by Jane Austen.

Victoria Hinshaw read from her novel The Fontainebleau Fan; Holly Bern read from her story “People of the Book” in Wooing Mr. Wickham,” a collection of prize-winning stories chosen in a Chawton House Libary contest and edited by Lindsay Ashford; Elisabeth Lenckos read from her story, “Jane Austen 1945,” also a winner in the Wooing Mr. Wickham collection; and Karen Doornebos read a selection from her novel Definitely Not Mr. Darcy.  Karen’s website is here.

Karen and Victoria with a Chawton House Library poster
Sandy Lerner, seated, and Diane Capitani, JASNA-GCR education outreach coordinator
Dr. Sandy Lerner, aka Ava Farmer, author of Second Impressions, related her experience fulfilling her long-held ambition of writing a sequel to her favorite novel, Pride and Prejudice.  One of her motivations for assembling the collection of books which form the nucleus of the Chawton collection today was to immerse herself in the world and sensibilities of Jane Austen’s times, aimed at finishing that novel.  It was published recently, and is available everywhere.
Dr. Lerner is the founder and benefactor of the Chawton House Library; all proceeds from the sale of Second Impressions are donated to the library.  She told us of her many acquisitions of novels by early women writers whose work, while popular at the time, was never catalogued in libraries or preserved in any organized fashion.  She particularly was interested in works such as letters and diaries which might never have been published but had been saved among family papers.  Of particular note, she said, were accounts of travels in the 18th and early 19th centuries, often recorded for the enjoyment of family members.
Sandy Lerner; Marsha Huff, past president of JASNA; Elizabeth Garvie
Gail Murphy, Laura Whitlock, Debra Miller and William Phillips enjoy the program.

Tempting our pocketbooks were lovely items from Vintage Pine (http://www.vintagepine.com/), Figaro Interiors, and Jane Austen Books (http://www.janeaustenbooks.net/).

The lively and active JASNA-GCR group has recently updated its website, here.  Please visit soon. 

Catching Up on 2011

Victoria, here. In the early days of 2012, I find myself sorting some books I acquired in the last year and some I still have to find, many of them concerned with Jane Austen.  Gee, isn’t that a shock!

Two are short story collections.

I enjoyed many of the stories in these two collections and admired the creative ways in which Jane
Austen inspired these writers.  I recommend both.

My friend and consummate author, Carrie Bebris, published Deception at Lyme, or The Peril of Persuasion, the sixth in her Mr and Mrs. Darcy mystery series.   See her website here.  Elizabeth and Darcy have solved a number of puzzles since their first outing in  2004’s Pride and Prescience (or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged).  And more are in the works.

Here is a book I haven’t read yet, and have receive conflicting reports about: P.D. James version of Carrie’s idea of having the Darcys investigate murder: Death Comes to Pemberley.

Of course, Baroness James gets a great deal of attention from the media, and no one can say she has not had a distinguished career.  I have had many hours of delight from her books. But this one? Somehow, it smacks of jumping on the Austen bandwagon unnecessarily, but that could be unfair. I would love to hear from readers who have tried it out.  I have a copy waiting for me next month, I think, when I get to the sunny south of Florida.  I’ll report back. (Note from Kristine: Yes, it’s here waiting for you. I love James and so gave it a shot when Jo sent it to me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it past Chapter Two).

Another book I will read soon is The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen by Lindsay Ashford. I met Ms. Ashford at the JASNA-AGM in Fort Worth TX in October 2011, but I must have been extremely distracted since her authorship of this book, talked of widely at the AGM, escaped me when we met.

This book reportedly attributes the death of Jane Austen to arsenic poisoning.  In one of those coincidences that seem to happen every so often, shortly after meeting Ms. Ashford,  I attended a talk on poisons by Deborah Blum, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning science reporter who teaches journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of The Poisoner’s Handbook, actually a catchy title for a history of forensic science in crime investigation.

Ms. Blum commented on reviews of the Ashford book and the report that a lock of Jane Austen’s hair showed evidence of arsenic when tested.  Arsenic, in Austen’s day, was a common ingredient of many lotions and potions used to whiten complexion and for dozens of other uses. It did not surprise Blum to learn of the possibility of Austen having arsenic in her system as she probably used arsenic-laced skin  products.

I have heard several people say they enjoyed Mysterious Death, so I will read it soon.  (Note from Kristine – this, too, is here waiting for you. Haven’t read it yet – too distracted by Thirkell).

I haven’t kept track of all the Austen sequels and continuations that came out recently — and there are lots of them.  I know some of the authors and they are all hard-working, devoted people — success to all of you!  For more information, take a look at the website of Austen Authors

Two quite different but related genres to the sequels are the modern restructures of the novels and the JA-experience novels.  I read two of those this year, perhaps not quite on top of their publication dates.

 The Three Weissmanns of Westport came out in paperback, and I found it an engaging read, based loosely on the plot of Sense & Sensibility.  It is well done.

Beth Pattillo’s Jane Austen Ruined My Life is also worth your time and energy.  I resisted, because JA has done ANYTHING but ruined my life!  She has provided great pleasure and stimulation, great companionship and friends, and a lifetime of interesting research topics related to her life and times.  But a very well-respected friend loved it, and so did I. (Note from Kristine – I loved it, too!)

Finally, Stella Tillyard, author of The Aristocrats, Caroline, Emily, Louisa and Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832, published a novel of the Peninsular War this year, another entry on my TBR list.

This is anything but an exhaustive list, but it looks like I’d better stop blogging and get reading if I am ever to catch up.  Here’s to a 2012 filled with wonderful books!

Jane Austen's 236th Birthday December 16, 2011

On Saturday, December 10, the Wisconsin region of JASNA celebrated Jane Austen’s birthday with a gala luncheon. 

Marylee Richmond and Susan Flaherty at the registration table.
Suan and Diane Judd made individual souvenirs for all participants, a series of stunning silhouettes (as below).  What an acomplishment!

We dined on individual Beef Wellingtons or Quiches, followed by delicious desserts not to be believed. (Remember, desserts is stressed spelled backwards.) 

Below, Sara Bowen and Jane Glaser have a chat before the luncheon.

Above, our Chicago colleague, William Phillips, gave the annual toast to our favorite author’s birthday.
Below, Jeff Nigro, Regional Coordinator for the neighboring Chicago group,  as he presented his talk on “Austen and the Beauty of Place.”

Jane Austen did not write a great many long descriptions of locations in her fiction.  Sometimes, Nigro said, when characters spoke rhapsodically, their fawning images illustrated the superficial nature of the speaker, such as Mr. Collins talking of Rosings (Lady Catherine’s estate) or Mrs. Elton in Emma with her inflated images of Maple Grove.
Above, Chawton House and Church, by an unknown artist

Austen favors descriptions, such as that Edward gives in Sense & Sensibility, of a landscape that unites beauty and utility.  An excellent example would be the view of Wivenhoe Park by John Constable,  1816, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C., below.

Among the best known of Austen’s landscape descriptions comes from Emma:    “It was a sweet view — sweet to the eye and the mind. English verdure, English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright, without being oppressive.” 

Nigro went on to compare such images from Austen to sets and locations used in various movie and television series based on the novels, sometimes finding the film version less than accurate.

Instead of trying to define a universal standard of beauty, he concluded, Austen raises queries about what constitutes true  beauty;  more than just a nice view, she finds perfection is based on a complex web of emotions that we bring to our personal images  — of home.  Thank you, Jeff, for your stimulating talk!

Above, Sue Zimmerman and Victoria Hinshaw

bsp;          Liz Cooper with Beverly Levin

The Wisconsin Region invites you to its website, here.
The renowned calendar prepared by Liz Philosophos Cooper and Kim Wilson has even more entries on the activities of Jane Austen, her family, and her characters to fill almost every day.  This year’s pictures are all on color, some of everyone’s favorites from the Brock Brothers. To order, contact Liz Cooper at
or click Merchandise on the website.

Below, a sample page (October 2012)

The Bicentenary of Sense and Sensibility

Here we are, exactly two hundred years from the day that Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, was published. Wheeeee!!!  Hurrah for you, Jane.

Last April, the 25th to be exact, I blogged here about Miss Austen’s work in April, 1811, correcting proofs for her first novel, the work she could no more forget “than a mother can forget her sucking child.” In that letter from London to Cassandra at brother Edward’s estate of Godmersham in Kent, she hoped to see the published book, if not in June, then soon thereafter. But it was delayed until the very end of October.

If you are a published author, or if you know of one, then you are well aware of the excitement with which Jane Austen must have viewed the first advertisements for her novel, then to see it for sale and hold it in her hands.  Speaking for myself (Victoria here), such experiences were among the highlights of my life. And every author I have known felt the same way, so the sucking child analogy resonates, as so many people say these days (when did all these resonances become so widespread?) 

Jane Austen was back in Chawton by June 811 and we have no more of her letters until October 1812, so we cannot say what her reaction to seeing — holding — clasping her first novel was specifically. We have to use our imaginations. I see her holding the volumes high and spinning around the room in high excitement — but not in front of anyone.  All by herself. Perhaps only to Cassandra did she confide her delight.  Or perhaps went into the garden and just stared at that title page.  Sense and Sensibility, A Novel in three volumes, By A Lady.

Or perhaps, if the day it arrived in her hands was sunny, she skipped over to the walled garden of Chawton House and found a ripened apple to eat while she turned the pages of the finished product.  Once when I was at Chawton (it was 2003), the gardener gave some of us a tour and he pulled some apples from the old gnarled trees, assuring us that these were the exact trees from which Jane would have picked.  I felt like I was eating something VERY special.  I forgot to ask the last time I was there in 2009 whether they had successfully grafted shoots from these ancient apple trees onto younger stock as the Head Gardener was planning.

This anniversary has been celebrated all over the world and I am delighted to add my tuppence to the cheers I can hear all the way from your computer to mine.  Congratulations, my dear Jane. I feel a personal camaraderie with you today. Three cheers!!! Or, rather, several hundred.