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…)

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.
(more…)

The Formative Years of George Austen, Jane’s father

A look at James Cawthorn, George Austen and “The Curious Case of the Schoolboy Who Was Killed” by Martin J. Cawthorne

by Matthew Coniam of The Jane Austen Centre

Jane Austen’s father, George Austen has many connections to the city of Bath.

On the 26th April 1764 he married, by special licence, Cassandra Leigh in St Swithin’s, Walcot. The Austen family were regular visitors to Bath and in December 1800, after 35 years ministering in Steventon, George Austen announced his retirement and moved to Bath, where he spent his final years. He died in the city on the 21st January 1805 and is buried at St Swithin’s Church where a memorial to him has been erected.

Jane Austen lived at home with her parents all her life and the Rev George Austen played a significant part in her life. Apart from a brief period at boarding school, Jane was largely educated at home; George also provided writing equipment for her to develop her literary talent. The Rev Austen features in Jane’s correspondence and as a result much is known about his adult life. Very little, however, has been written about George Austen’s early life, before he met and married Cassandra Leigh. It is known that he was orphaned at the age of six before going to school in his home town of Tonbridge, Kent, from where he won a scholarship to study at St John’s College, Oxford. However, very little has been written about these formative early years of his life – until now.

(more…)

Are Jane Austen’s Heroines Ideal Women?

A wonderfully insightful piece on Austen’s heroines and whether they would measure up to what constituted an “ideal woman” in Regency England, 

by Jenni Waugh of The Jane Austen Centre:

I recently replied to an email enquiry from a student who was looking for an opinion on the question “To what extent does Jane Austen present her heroines as ideal women within their social contexts?” My reply ended up being fairly lengthy and is below. Let me know what you think!

Are Jane Austen's Heroine's Ideal Women?
Personally, I’d say that very few, if any, of her heroines are presented as ideal women within their social contexts. They all have their own unique flaws.

Elizabeth Bennet is outspoken and opinionated; just think of her responses to Lady Catherine’s enquires about her age, and her dismissal of Mr Collins, and then later of Mr Darcy. Were Lizzy an ideal woman in society she would have accepted Collins in order to secure her family’s home as per her mother’s wishes, or Darcy when he asked her in order to secure an even better future for herself and her family.
(more…)