10 Years of Bringing Jane Austen’s World To You

Have you ever been to The Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England? It is a must for the dedicated Austen fan. The following is a piece about the Centre’s gift shop by Matthew Coniam of The Jane Austen Centre. It is reprinted here with their kind permission.

As well as the bicentenary of Jane’s death, 2017 marks another anniversary on the Austen calendar, albeit of a more modest nature. Because it was ten years ago that the Jane Austen Gift Shop first began sending products to Jane’s fans the world over.

In those days it was a much more humble affair. (more…)

Austen: Keeping it real for 200 years

On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, what better way is there to honor this extraordinary author than to give thanks for what she has left us? For me, her work is a timeless guide to living life in the no-BS zone, wrapped in an infinitely re-readable set of six novels. 

If I could assign a motto, a credo to the the Austen canon, I would say it could be summed up in this one line from Pride and Prejudice: “Disguise of every sort is my abhorrence.” The fact that Mr. Darcy delivers this line while in the midst of a serious marriage-proposal fail makes it even more resonant: Darcy may be honest, but the brutality of his honesty indicates that he’s hiding behind his angry pride. He’s yet to unmask that part of his own disguise, but being an Austen hero, we know that he will.

That’s the genius of Austen, who calls out her characters on their disguises and their dishonesty. Which leads them to their moment of revelation, their grand character arc, and their ultimate reward–love and happiness.

via GIPHY

Along the way, Austen makes us laugh, which makes the hard truths easier to bear. And thus we can begin to see ourselves in it all. 

That’s Austen: keeping us real and calling us out. She’s been doing it for 200 years. And that’s no small feat for someone who lived in a society in which polite demurrals, refusals, and denials were a socially mandated matter of form. 

Here are 10 gems of Austen wisdom to help you reach your own character arc.

1. A real friend is the one with the guts to tell you the ugly truth. 

In Emma, Mr. Knightley was the only person with the courage to tell Emma that her treatment of Mrs. Bates was cruel. Emma was shocked and chastened. And set about making amends. Which also put her on the road to realizing that Knightley’s bossiness was maybe just a little bit attractive; no scratch that, super hot.
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The Mirror of Graces: the Final Blush of Accomplishment

“A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word [accomplished]; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”
Pride and Prejudice

The following is an excerpt from  The Mirror of the Graces, by a Lady of Distinction, 1811, reprinted here with kind permission from The Jane Austen Centre.

Title page of The Mirror of the Graces; British Library

When so much has been said of the body and its accoutrements, I cannot but subjoin a few words on the intelligence which animates the frame, and of the organ which imparts its meaning. 

Connected speech is granted to mankind alone. Parrots may prate and monkeys chatter, but it is only to the reasonable being that power of combining ideas, expressing their import, and uttering, in audible sounds, all its various gradations, the language of sense and judgment, of love and resentment is awarded as a gift, that gives us a proud and undeniable superiority above all the rest of the creation.

To employ this faculty well and gracefully, is one grand object of education. The mere organ itself, as to sound, is like a musical instrument, to be modulated with elegance, or struck with the disorderly nerve of coarsene vulgarity.
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Finding Happiness, Austen Style: Lift Yourself Up with Persuasion

Welcome to the Persuasion Happiness Program. Persuasion, like all of Jane Austen’s novels, is more than a book: it’s a roadmap to happiness.  Here are lots of ways to lift yourself up with Persuasion!

1.Read Persuasion, and discover that there is always a second chance at happiness. Heroine Anne Elliot goes from lonely resignation to triumphant empowerment. It’s impossible to turn the last page without feeling a little spark inside that says, “that could be me.” Yes, it could, and it will! 

2.Read Persuasion, and renew (or form) your faith in men.  If you’ve ever wished and hoped that men could be as loyal and as romantic as women, Persuasion will grant your wish. Persuasion has what is perhaps the most romantic declaration of love in all of English literature. But don’t just wish and hope: Believe. Which leads us to:

3. Read Persuasion, and learn that faith in the good is rewarded. Always. As the heroine, Anne Elliot, says to a male friend, “I should deserve utter contempt if I dared to suppose that true attachment and constancy were known only by woman.” 

4. Read Persuasion, and develop discernment. Anne Elliot was persuaded at the tender age of 19 to give up her engagement to the man she truly loved; she spent the next eight years regretting it. Not only did she learn to trust her intuition about love, she also learned to rely on her own inner voice at other critical moments. Observe her closely, and follow her example. 

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Finding Happiness, Austen Style: Read It Out, Act It Out, Dance It Out

Welcome to the first of a multi-part series of posts on how to lift yourself out of the blues, Austen style.

Perhaps it’s just that kind of day. Or year. Bottom line: you feel like crap. Friends, there is a cure to what ails you, and her name is Austen. Her magic comes in many forms, and this series of posts will illuminate, in no particular order, what you can do, with almost no effort, to feel light and bright and fabulous!

Today we’re feeling the fairy dust from Northanger Abbey.

via GIPHY

What? You’ve heard it’s frivolous? Not as polished as Austen’s later works? Balderdash. But wait—didn’t its original publisher accept it and then couldn’t be bothered to publish it? Just means that dude was an idiot. And anyhow, you’re too wise to waste time caring about what other people think. Because if you did care, you wouldn’t be dressing in Regency-era costumes (or wondering what it would be like to do it). You wouldn’t be going to (or imagining) fun things like the Jane Austen Festival in Bath or your local ECD get-togethers (not OCD, ECD, and that stands for English Country Dance). And you definitely wouldn’t be saving up for (or wondering what it would be like to go to) ComicCon. I could do a whole series of posts on the cross-pollination between Austen fans and sci-fi fans, but I digress…
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