Posts Tagged ‘Jane Austen’

Jane's Fame LGIn 1820, three years after her death, Jane Austen’s publisher remaindered all copies of her books. She sunk into obscurity “out of print, out of demand, and almost out of mind.” Today, of course, Austen is a worldwide phenomenon.

Claire Harman offers an engrossing account of the erratic and somewhat inexorable rise of Austen’s popularity in Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World. Harman flavors her narrative with diverting bits of trivia, for example Rudyard Kipling was a fervent Janeite! He considered Austen’s gravesite at Winchester Cathedral to be the second holiest place in England after Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford.

Harman begins with a look at Jane the author. In particular, I was fascinated to learn that Austen devised a proto cut-and-paste approach to revision by pinning small paper cutouts with new wording over sections of a working draft.

Austen struggled, however, to get her works published. Ultimately she sold both Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice at somewhat bargain rates just to see them in print. The success of these books allowed her to get a better deal for Mansfield Park, which financially was her most successful work, earning her £30 a year. Emma, however, sold the most copies on its initial run.

Tragically, it was just as Austen was gaining success and recognition—albeit anonymously as her works were published by “a Lady”—that she died. Her tombstone made no mention of her as an author.


An 1816 first edition of Emma.

An 1816 first edition of Emma.

During the nearly 13 years her books were out of print, copies were treasured and traded by a niche of faithful readers, including several luminaries of the literary world. Sir Walter Scott had the full set and read Pride and Prejudice at least three times. Other admirers included Robert Southey, Maria Edgeworth, Benjamin Disreali, Lord Tennyson, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge—but not William Wordsworth because, according to Coleridge’s daughter, he had no sense of humor.

Both English and pirated translations of Austen’s novels were read in France, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, and even in America. I was gobsmacked to learn that James Fenimore Cooper’s first novel was actually a reworking of Persuasion titled Precaution, which flopped.

In 1833, Austen’s books were reissued as part of low-cost series, Standard Novels, sort of the Penguin Classics of the day. These editions began to sell steadily, gaining steam as the Victorian age took hold. Interest in Austen the author also grew steadily, erupting by the 1870s into the cult of the “Divine Jane.” Noted literary critic Leslie Stephen, father of Virginia Woolf, lampooned this as “Austenolatry”—a riff on “Bardolatry” the cult of Shakespeare. Not long after, another critic named George Saintsbury coined the term “Janeite,” still so popular today. At Winchester Cathedral, so many visitors turned up looking for Austen that her nephew and biographer James Edward Austen-Leigh erected a memorial plaque.

Janes Fame pb

During World War I, Austen’s novels were a favorite among British soldiers and were well stocked in the trenches. They were also prescribed reading material to the wounded for their soothing and “salubrious” effects. By the 1920s, a “Janeite cabal” ran the Royal Society of Literature which would brook no criticism of the author. Beyond these hallowed halls, Austen had also exploded into the mainstream, via magazine articles, compilations, decorative special editions, and Austenalia: sequels and continuations of her novels. There was also a clamor for her letters, juvenilia, portraits, and any other related memorabilia, all of which were unearthed and published.

Jane had her share of detractors, though. Ralph Waldo Emerson had found her to be without genius or wit—a startling and somewhat paradoxical appraisal, but then he was rather severe. Surprisingly, Henry James felt she was overrated. Mark Twain’s derision of Austen has long been celebrated by her detractors, but what I didn’t know is that Twain repeatedly tried to read her works.

Still, Austen continued to gather fans: W.H. Auden, G.K. Chesterton, E.M. Forster, Katherine Mansfield, Rebecca West, and even the crotchety Winston Churchill. Another unlikely candidate, Aldous Huxley, wrote the screenplay for the first film adaption of Pride and Prejudice in 1940.

Memorial plaque honoring Austen at Winchester Cathedral.

Memorial tablet honoring Jane Austen at Winchester Cathedral.

There are so many other delicious tidbits, as Harman takes us through different film adaptations and pop-culture trends to the current online zeitgeist of fansites and blogs. But I don’t want to give away the too much of the book, which I highly recommend. Throughout, Harman manages to keep Jane very much in the present with anecdotes, family memories, quotes, and a clever musings as to how Austen would react to all this. Indeed, we all wonder and that’s part of what drives our Janeite mania.

Even after reading her novels, her letters, various biographies, and, yes, many of the Austenalia takeoffs—we still thirst for more of Jane Austen.

As Harman quotes Katherine Mansfield:

“The truth is that every true admirer of the novels cherishes the happy thought that he alone—reading between the lines—has become the secret friend of their author.”

I read this book as part of the Austen in August annual reading event hosted by Roof Beam Reader. #AusteninAugustRBR

Worn Out With Civility at Mansfield Park

Jane Austen, Genius of Economic Game Theory?

How Did I Not Know About Marvel’s Pride & Prejudice?

Kate Middleton Decried as Jane Austen Character

When Pride and Prejudice Clicks, from Boring to Brilliant

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Today I am writing about Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park over at Sarah Emsley’s blog. Mine is the twenty-seventh in a series of guest posts celebrating 200 years of Mansfield Park. For more details, open Your Invitation to Mansfield Park.

Practicing the art of Regency Era manners.

One of the great pleasures of reading Jane Austen is that while you are lured along by her refined and carefully measured prose, suddenly off the page jumps one of her distinctive zingers: “I am worn out with civility,” says Edmund Bertram in Mansfield Park. Read more …

Read Mansfield Park with us!

Sarah Emsley on Jane Austen, L.M. Montgomery, and Edith Wharton


Word Hits posts on Jane Austen

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ccreadathon2 The 2nd Annual Classics Club Readathon takes place Sat. Jan 4th.

What better way to start the New Year than by reading classic literature?! Indeed, a cosy day of tea and classics will be most therapeutic before we all get back to reality on Monday.

Read my Intro Post and Readathon Progress Updates.

The 24-hour readathon kicks off at 8 am EST.  Sign up and join us!!

I have four books at the ready in my readathon pile, although I most certainly won’t get through all of them. I do not like to rush when I’m reading, especially not when I am reading classics. Classic literature is to be savored.

I’ve selected two novels and two collections of shorter writings. Check out my readathon progress.

classics readathon 1

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen is top of my hit list. This year marks the 200th anniversary of MP, so I am very excited to get into the celebratory spirit. This will be the fifth or sixth time I have read “my least favorite” Jane Austen novel. Still, it’s by Jane Austen, so it is of course a standout among books.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson— I think adventure on the high seas will be a nice offset to Fanny’s quiet world, though I suppose it would pair better with Persuasion and Captain Wentworth. Both Treasure Island and Mansfield Park are bildungsroman (coming-of-age) novels, so they work well together in that sense.

The New York Stories of Edith Wharton—I love Edith Wharton’s writing, and I was happy to discover this collection of her stories about Old New York society. I always find it fascinating to read her descriptions of the city, as many of her landmarks are still there.

What is Art by Leo Tolstoy—The Russian master theorizes on “the role of the artist,” in this collection of essays on art, culture, and society. Tolstoy also details his visits to the opera and other contemporary happenings. I made sure to secure Penguin Classic edition, translated by the award-winning duo: Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

WordHits: Classics Club Readathon Intro Post and Progress Update

Classics Club Readathon Official Starting Post #ccreadathon

The 2nd Annual Classics Club Readathon

Readathon Sign-Up

#ccreadathon hosted by @ourclassicsclub on Twitter

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Jane Austen Game TheoristWe all know that reading Jane Austen is good for you. Scientists at Stanford proved this last fall with MRI scans that showed reading Austen’s work boosted neural activity and even increased blood flow to the brain. Now, it turns out, we Janeites have also been unwittingly indulging in sophisticated Game Theory Economics.

Yes, Game Theory—the very discipline which garnered John Nash (of A Beautiful Mind fame) the Nobel Prize in Ecnomics.

UCLA professor Michael Suk-Young Chwe argues this in his new book, Jane Austen Game Theorist.

Instead of bothering with chalk boards and lengthy variable-laden formulas, Austen imparts economic wisdom via the subtext of Marianne Dashwood’s swoons—indeed, Chwe cites this as an example. Who knew that while I was reading about Fanny Price deciding which necklace to wear, I was actually engaging in “the study of mathematical models of conflict and cooperation.”

As I reread Pride and Prejudice for the 200th Anniversary, I will be subconsciously learning the mathematical analysis of strategic thinking. Just like when moms puree broccoli to hide in brownies. And all this time I thought I hated math.

Seriously though, tremendous kudos to Chwe for giving us yet another way to examine Austen’s work. If more economists read Austen, perhaps we could finally settle the debate over the Laffer Curve.

Chwe’s emphasis, however, is more on the political ramifications of Austen’s strategic thinking, and I must say I am fascinated by his approach. According to Chwe, Jane’s observations and theories can be applied to the Cold War stalemate, as well as to military mistakes made in both Vietnam and Iraq. And that’s just what I have gleaned from reviews and excerpts … I cannot wait to actually get my hands on this book!

Janeites, this would be a perfect pick for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013.

All this does make me feel better about myself, mathematically speaking. Even though I struggled with trigonometry in high school, I made it through each of Austen’s books twice so I must have actually been a math prodigy. I’m also feeling rather smug about opting out of ‘Intro to Economics’ in college for a course that compared Northanger Abbey to the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (No joke—great class!)

One can’t help but feel bad for those poor souls who actually studied economics. Why bother with the Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times when you can just read Emma? Or Jane Austen, Game Theorist?

Given that prominent economists like Thomas Schelling (Nobel 2005) endorse this book, I do wonder if the all-knowing Jane also offers clues as to how I should invest my IRA? I will have to keep this in mind as I dig into Jane Austen, Game Theorist, and when I reread Persuasion.

Economics, Game Theory, and Jane Austen via PBS NewsHour

Game Theory: Jane Austen Had it First via The New York Times

More Austen on WordHits…

The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge

When Pride and Prejudice Clicks: Boring to Brilliant

How Did I Not Know about Marvel’s Pride & Prejudice

Kate Middleton Decried as Jane Austen Character

So Glad Jane Austen Made Me Do It

A Joyous Season for Janeites

Spoiler Alert: This Book Has No Ending

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pride-prejudice-bicentenary-challenge-2013-x-200I just signed up for the Pride and Prejudice Challenge! I have actually been celebrating the novel’s 200th Anniversary on my own, but now I am making it official. (Also, despite my daydreamy browsing of Janeite blogs … I’ve only just discovered the challenge.)

I always love rereading P&P, but this year I am trying to be more mindful of its ongoing influence on our culture.

The Bicentenary Challenge does just that, by prompting us to look at the different books, films, and updates that this beloved novel continues to inspire 200 years later.

Like Potterheads and Trekkies, we Janeites just can’t get enough of Pride and Prejudice!

You can sign up for the challenge until July 1:

Neophyte: 1 – 4 selections
Disciple: 5 – 8 selections
Aficionada: 9 – 12 selections.

If you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice … now is the time! No just watching the movie doesn’t count, especially not the somewhat improvised 2005 Kiera Knightley version.

I’m shooting for Aficionada. Here’s what I’ve read, watched, mulled so far:

1. Pride and Prejudice 200th Anniversary post

2. Pride and Prejudice (reread)

3. Sense and Sensibility (reread)

4.  Pride & Prejudice graphic novel by Marvel Comics (amazing discovery!)

5. Pride and Prejudice 1995 BBC Miniseries

6.  Pride and Prejudice 2005 film

7. Spotlighting Jane Austen in the News:

Jane Austen, Genius of Economic Game Theory

Kate Middleton Decried as Jane Austen Character

8. Perusing Austen blogs and #JaneAusten via twitter for even more Austenalia


More Jane Austen on Word Hits…

The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013

Jane Austen, Genius of Economic Game Theory

When Pride and Prejudice Clicks: Boring to Brilliant

How Did I Not Know about Marvel’s Pride & Prejudice

Kate Middleton Decried as Jane Austen Character

So Glad Jane Austen Made Me Do It

A Joyous Season for Janeites

Spoiler Alert: This Book Has No Ending

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triple covers

How, HOW did I not know that Marvel published a comic book, er graphic novel, of Pride & Prejudice?! It came out three years ago. I am hugely, abominably embarrassed. I wouldn’t even share this mortifying tale, except for the hope that others might benefit.

Let me say up front that this Marvel P&P is a gem. Regency romance meets comic book—pure genius!

p and p danceAs a kid, I loved Betty and Veronica and all the superheroes comics. I don’t read them much anymore. (I go to all the movies!) When I see the Marvel or DC logo, warm memories of childhood summers flush to the surface. For Christmas, I got my 10-year-old godson the DC Comics Encyclopedia. He already had the Marvel one (the boy is very advanced).

To blend Marvel with Jane Austen is such a frothy new twist (well, to me). The illustrations really capture the characters—except Mr. Collins could be more repellent. Also, Pemberley looks a bit like the White House, but overall the settings are spot on. The editors chose the best quotes—the banter between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, the snobbery of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. They even included the moment when Darcy acknowledges that Jane Bingley is very pretty, “though she smiled too much.”

Here’s another great way to celebrate Pride and Prejudice’s 200th Anniversary. Even better news: Marvel has also come out with Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, and Emma. I haven’t been this excited since Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!

fun extra coverAusten Fans Celebrate 200 Years of ‘Pride and Prejudice’

When Pride and Prejudice Clicks: Boring to Brilliant

So Glad Jane Austen Made Me Do It

A Joyous Season for Janeites

Spoiler Alert: This Book Has No Ending

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Kate MiddletonIn an attempt to criticize Kate Middleton, British radio host Sandi Toksvig has dismissed her as being ‘very Jane Austen.’ Now I cannot even begin to fathom how that could be construed as negative, but it gets worse. Toksvig complains of Kate, “I cannot think of a single opinion she holds—it’s very Jane Austen.”

Clearly Toksvig has never actually read any Jane Austen, because her books are almost entirely composed of characters giving their opinions.

In fact, Austen’s novels were actually rather progressive in her day because her heroines were so expressive. Spirited Elizabeth Bennet readily speaks her mind, much to the discomfiture of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who remarks “upon my word, you give your opinion most decidedly.” Mr Darcy notices this also, and it’s one of the things that draws him to Lizzy.

Emma Woodhouse also shares her opinions eagerly, even when, as noted by Mr. Knightley, they are completely off-base. “Mr Knightly loves to find fault with me,” she tells her father. “We always say what we like to one another.” Indeed, Emma dislikes Jane Fairfax precisely because “there was no getting at her real opinion. Wrapt up in a cloak of politeness, [Jane] seemed determined to hazard nothing She was disgustingly, was suspiciously reserved.”

Marianne dashwoodMarianne Dashwood, aka ‘sensibility,’ is most demonstrative about her romantic ideals. Her sister Elinor, who has more ‘sense,’ is equally ready to counter with arguments for reason. To Colonel Brandon she worries that Marianne’s openness is “setting propriety at nought.”

Also in this novel, the respectable and educated Edward Ferrars realizes that he cannot love Lucy Steele when her letters contain flattery but no substance.

While Persuasion’s Anne Elliot may be reserved, her opinion is well-regarded (except by her unkind father and sister). After Louisa Musgrove’s accident, both her brother Charles and war hero Captain Wentworth turn to Anne for advice and leadership. “‘Anne,’ cried Charles. ‘What is to be done next?’”

Even Fanny Price, the ‘Most Likely to be Voted a Pushover,’ takes a stand when her cousins plan to perform a risqué play. She also, despite enormous pressure, refuses to marry the disingenuous Henry Crawford, which gets her banished from Mansfield Park. Both Fanny and Lizzy Bennet decline financially advantageous proposals from foppish men, despite the very real threat of indigence and homelessness.

If Kate Middleton is like a Jane Austen character, it is because she exhibits a similar tempered resolve as well as much grace under challenging circumstances. Why all this Kate bashing? Ahem, Hilary Mantel.

P and P sistersIn addition to strong heroines, Austen liked to poke fun with a variety of foolish, ill-informed, and opinionated characters. Lady Catherine de Bourgh, though she has never studied piano, determinedly criticizes the finger work, style, and execution of anyone who plays for her. From the tiresome Mr. Collins, to the know-it-all Mrs. Elton, to the pompous Sir Walter Elliot, these caricatures opine confidently, and often nonsensically, on topics they know nothing about. Does this not seem rather like Sandi Toksvig in her disparaging of Jane Austen (and of Kate)? Perhaps it is Toksvig who is the Jane Austen character after all.

British Radio Host Hits Out at Duchess of Cambridge as ‘Very Jane Austen’

Author Hilary Mantel Calls Kate Middleton ‘Plastic’ and ‘Designed to Breed’

Hilary Mantel Defends Kate Middleton Comments

Royal Bodies — A Lecture by Hilary Mantel

Jane Austen Bio and Links via JaneAusten.org

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