A watercolor portrait of Jane Austen commissioned by her nephew in 1869 sold for $270,000 at Sotheby’s on Tuesday. The anonymous private collector who purchased it called the portrait “the most important likeness of Jane Austen ever to appear on the open market.” The painting by James Andrews was taken from a pencil portrait by Austen’s sister Cassandra and is thought to be the “only confirmed portrait of Austen made before her death in 1817.” The pencil portrait is owned by the National Gallery in London. You can read more in this NYT article.
As many Jane Austen fans prepare to read Pride and Prejudice from the servants’ point of view in Longbourn, they may wonder how they would have fared in the social whirl of the Regency world. Would you have triumphed, like one of Austen’s heroines, or suffered ridicule and fallen into disrepute? Now, you can join the new massive multi-player role-playing game “Ever Jane” online, and find out for yourself! The game is currently in development, but the prototype is free to play. Those who want more can contribute to the game’s Kickstarter fund, so that the developers can add more features.
American pop star and first American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson bought a gold and topaz ring owned by Jane Austen at an auction last year. But British Austen-lovers want the ring, only one of three pieces of jewelry belonging to Jane Austen, to stay in the UK. And thanks to a recent anonymous $155,000 donation, that goal may just be met. Ms. Clarkson, who also owns a first edition of Persuasion, said she’d be willing to sell the ring to a British buyer if he/she can meet the price she paid ($235,700 according to press reports). Louise West, curator of The Austen House Museum is hoping to add the ring to their collection (which already includes the writer’s turquoise bracelet and topaz cross) in time for next year’s bicentennial celebration of the publication of Mansfield Park. So will Clarkson return the ring under friendly “Persuasion” or because she has “Sense and Sensibility“? You can read more of the article here. (Note: some publications describe the ring as gold and turquoise, while others say it’s gold and topaz)
Fans of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries will be excited to hear that creator Bernie Su is launching the next Austen-based web series, and it’s going to be based on Emma.
For Austen fans who haven’t seen the wildly popular webseries, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a modern take on Pride and Prejudice told entirely through social media. In this adaptation, Lizzie is a 24-year-old grad student who hosts a web blog, filmed by her best friend Charlotte Lu, in which she dishes about her crazy mother who wants to marry her daughters off, her older sister Jane’s new boyfriend, Bing Lee, and Bing’s snooty hipster friend, Darcy, that she just can’t stand. But is Darcy really a snob, or is he just socially awkward? Each character has a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a Tumblr, and even a Pinterest page. The biggest surprise of the series is the treatment of younger sister Lydia, who is usually portrayed as an airhead. In this version, she starts off as a party girl, but ends up being a very thought provoking, three-dimensional character. If you don’t like the idea of watching a show on the internet, keep an eye out for the DVD coming out soon.
According to Tubefilter, the new adaptation of Emma features Emma Woodhouse as a “confident and proud female entrepreneur who, like the literary version, will believe she is an excellent matchmaker.” Get ready to start following, because she already has a Twitter account, just waiting for the big launch this fall.
The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, displays the concept design for the new 10-pound banknote featuring author Jane Austen.
…or, rather on the money. And, Charles Darwin is off. The Bank of England announced that starting in 2017, the image of Jane Austen, one of the world’s favorite authors, will grace the 10-pound banknote. This was in response to a huge outcry when one of the few women other than the queen to be portrayed on English notes, Elizabeth Fry, a prison reformer, was replaced with Winston Churchill on the five-pound note. According to an article by Lev Grossman in TIME magazine, the bank is doing it right with an accompanying drawing of Elizabeth Bennet, the heroine of Pride and Prejudice, and an apt quote from Austen’s best-loved work: “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” (albeit an insincere sentiment uttered by the snobby Miss Bingley). What might Darwin think? Maybe something like, “I say, I suppose it’s a natural selection at that!”
Yesterday, January 28th, marked the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice. Why not spend a little time reading it?
As one might expect on such an occasion, attention must paid to this fine author, perhaps one of the best and most loved worldwide. On Monday’s “Fresh Air,” host Terry Gross re-ran critic Maureen Corrigan’s January 24th commentary on Pride and Prejudice at 200. Featured in Corrigan’s homage is a review of one of the latest in a slew of critiques and biographies that have been released as part of the celebration. Paula Bynre’s offering, The Real Jane Austen, caught Corrigan’s attention because it allows the reader into Austen’s 18th century life by taking careful note of the personal possessions and household goods she owned, such as her childhood poetry notebooks, topaz jewelry, and an exotic East Indian shawl.
For many Austen fans, no special anniversary is needed to get them reading. I know a few who keep a copy at their bedside and on sleepless nights, open the book to almost any page and immerse themselves again in the world of Regency England and the family of the Bennet girls.
In her recent article in USA Today, Elizabeth Kantor speculates on what Jane Austen would think about the popularity of today’s online dating services. Delving back a few hundred years to the social conventions of the day, Kantor finds that Austen’s use of the highly popular “assembly ball” as a device for young people such as Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy to meet was a sign that the author approved of these gatherings despite them being criticized by some as too “new fangled.” Folks today who disparage the online services would possibly agree with those who thought assembly balls resembled a crass marketplace of eligible young women and men going on display for each other. They wouldn’t have had much good to say about speed dating either, no doubt.
In the minds and hearts of many 21st century authors, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy is very much alive and has a lot more story to tell. What would Jane think? I posed that question, hypothetically, of course, since Miss Austen is long deceased, when I became of aware of all the novels and at least one made-for-TV film (Lost in Austen) being produced that feature a romantic leading man named Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, that most eligible bachelor from Pride and Prejudice. Most of the stories take us beyond the original story to imagine a life after his happy marriage to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Some offer a back story of his life before even meeting her. Do a simple keyword search on “Darcy” in the library’s online catalog and narrow the topic to ficticious character, and the resulting hit list is five pages long! There are even more choices when you include Elizabeth Bennet in your search, but in my very unscientific tally, Darcy trumps Elizabeth as prime character in these derived stories.
So would our gentle author, Miss Austen, approve? Tough question. With her finely developed sense of irony and her generally sharp sense of humor, I think she’d get a kick out of all the permutations of her male leading character, though a few of the cheesier ones, especially those that portray him as a bodice ripper might elicit a gasp and some eye-rolling. If you disagree, I’d love to hear why.
If your pulse still quickens at the thought of the haughty but oh-so-handsome gentleman in well-fitting breeches, you are not alone. And, lucky you, if your fantasy image needs some bolstering, there are more ways to get to know Darling Darcy.
[Pictured Darcys in descending order: Colin Firth, Matthew MacFayden, Elliot Cowan]
This Book Trailer of the Week is in belated celebration of the great Jane Austen’s 235th birthday on December 16th. Selected as one of 2009′s best book videos, the hilarious clip is for Ben H. Winters’ contribution to Austen mash-up mania, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. So, enjoy the trailer, check out the Quirk classic, and don’t forget about Austen’s original. Happy birthday, Jane!
As painful as it may be for some devotees of Jane Austen to acknowledge, everything did not, as her brother Henry claimed, come finished from her pen. Researcher Kathryn Sutherland at Oxford University has been studying a treasure trove of the original handwritten mansucripts, and has discovered a fair amount of discrepancies between the manuscripts and the printed books. Atrocious spelling errors and grammar goofs abound, and punctuation is practically non-existant, leading Sutherland to the conclusion that a very good editor used a deft hand in whipping things into shape. NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly presents the full story in her interview with Professor Sutherland on today’s broadcast of Morning Edition.
Barbara L., Reader’s Services