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.

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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.
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Make this summer an Austen summer

After all, this summer will mark the 200th anniversary of the great author’s death, and thus the perfect time to celebrate her life. Here’s an idea that sounds to us like Jane Austen heaven: 200 Years of Persuasion: The Jane Austen Summer Program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, from June 15-18, 2017. You don’t have to be a scholar or even a student in order to attend; all are welcome. According to the program’s site, it is open to “anyone with a passion for all things Austen.” 

Every year, The Jane Austen Summer Program at UNC Chapel Hill focuses on one of the author’s works. This year, it explores Austen’s last finished novel, Persuasion (which happens to be my personal favorite, though I can discuss the various merits of each of the author’s precious novels with fellow enthusiasts for hours, months, and years and never get bored).

Here is one of my favorite testimonials from past participants of The Jane Austen Summer Program“All the professors I met were so friendly and welcoming, so I never felt intimidated talking with such impressive scholars.  It was a totally comfortable environment for all!” Read some more of the glowing testimonials yourself, and you’ll be filling out that registration form before you can say “You pierce my soul.” 

The Cate Morland Chronicles: a web series

Just watched the first episode of The Cate Morland Chronicles, and looking forward to more. It’s a reimagining of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey with a Catherine Morland as the ultimate fangirl. Sweet.

Contribute your story: The Dear Jane Project

Calling all Austen Addicts: Gabrielle of a new blog called the Dear Jane Project wants to publish your personal stories of what Austen means to you and how her works have touched your life. Simply submit your story in the form of a letter to Jane Austen at dearjaneproject@gmail.com, and Gabrielle will post them on the blog.

Photo by Cathryn Lavery

Here’s what Gabrielle says about her vision for the Dear Jane Project: “Hopefully, this project will allow fans from around the world to share their stories, and create a community…Each one of us has a story, and my goal is for us all to be able to share them. I think it is a great way to commemorate the life of Jane Austen as we approach the 200th anniversary of her death. What would you write to Jane?”

Summer fun with Jane Austen

If you can’t get enough of Jane Austen on your own, at home, re-reading her novels and watching all those film and TV adaptations, help is just around the corner. It’s the Jane Austen Summer Program! Here are the deets, straight from the official press release:

“Mansfield Park & Its Afterlives”
June 16 to 19, 2016
Hosted by the University of North Carolina, CH and JASNA-NC img_8241-0

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — This summer, more than 100 people, including Austen fans, established scholars, graduate students, K-12 teachers, and aspiring authors, will have the opportunity to hear expert speakers and participate in discussion groups on Austen’s most controversial novel, Mansfield Park. Attendees will also partake in an English tea, dance at a Regency-style ball, join in a Regency-themed pub crawl, and visit special exhibits tailored to the conference.  (more…)

Shapewear Nightmare

It may be the third millennium, but not much has changed*  since the days of getting laced into a corset so stiff that one could barely lean over, let alone breathe. It’s no wonder ladies had to carry around smelling salts, or “vinaigrettes,” as they were called in Jane Austen’s day. Those Mr. Darcy types may have been swoon-worthy, but it was likely more a lack of oxygen than romantic flutterings that caused ladies to faint.

It wasn’t only ladies who were wearing corsets or “stays.” The Prince Regent was a favorite target of cartoonists for trying to mask his size with a corset. 1812-regency-a-la-mode

Today, we call these instruments of torture “shapewear.” Sounds friendly and appealing, doesn’t it? After all, who doesn’t want to have a shape?

The promise and the reality of shapewear, however, can be two very different things. If you’ve ever had a shapewear nightmare of your own, you will love Melissa McCarthy’s story. Click here to read more…

EMMA 200th Anniversary Edition

This luxurious new edition of EMMA features a series of pieces by Austen scholar and professor Juliette Wells, who informs us in her introduction that this is “a reader’s edition, not a scholarly one.” With the needs and wishes of her students in mind, Dr. Wells has included in this edition an abundance of extras that make EMMA’s world and its language as accessible as possible. There are tips for first-time readers of Austen, a series of short pieces that illuminate aspects of everyday life that Austen’s contemporaries would have taken for granted but which often elude today’s readers, a glossary of words that are now either obsolete or have evolved in meaning, plus maps, illustrations, and more.

EMMA is a novel that, like all of Jane Austen’s major works, I have read at least twenty times. A great part of Austen’s genius is that there is always something new to be discovered in her novels, no matter how many times one reads them. Now, thanks to this lovely new edition, there is even more. For there is enough substance in this annotated edition to enlighten and entertain not only novice readers, but Austen devotees.

As an object of beauty, this book deserves high marks as well, with its eye-catching graphics that express both contemporary relevance and period authenticity, its textured, matte apricot-colored background, and its deckle-edged pages that remind us of the days when books had uncut pages to be opened by their first readers.

A conversation with JULIETTE WELLS, Editor and Introducer of EMMA: 200th-Anniversary Annotated Edition

Click here to read more…