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Archive for the ‘Jane Austen’ Category

I’m very excited to announce that Project Darcy is now available on Kindle, here in the UK, the US, CanadaFrance, GermanyItaly  Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Japan, and India! The official launch is on November 5th and I’ve a blog tour coming up – so I hope you’ll join me for some fun blogs and prizes!

I’ve been having a lovely time on Pinterest putting together a mood board for Project Darcy. The book is a timeslip adventure for my heroine, Ellie, and she and her friends are lucky enough to stay in a very special house. I’ve had a wonderful time imagining what the house would look like inside, and Pinterest, I’ve discovered, is almost as good as having your own dolls’ house!

The house they’re staying in is Ashe House where Jane Austen’s friend Madame Lefroy lived. It’s a beautiful Georgian house and I had the excitement of imagining it in the past, 200 years ago, as well as the present.

I had a lovely time dreaming up bedrooms for the five girls – Ellie, Jess, Martha, Cara and Liberty. Ellie’s best friend is Jess, and she, of the five friends, is a Jane Austen fan.

So, I just pictured my idea of a bedroom I thought Jess would like – here’s a description – Jess’s bedroom with chalk pink walls boasted a French bed with buttoned silk upholstery and a chaise longue in one corner. On the walls was a collection of silhouettes of people from past times. The profiles of soldiers and debutantes looked across at one another from ebony frames ranged around the marble mantelpiece. It looked as if it had been designed with Jess in mind with its Regency furniture and vast portraits of ladies dressed in white muslin. 

Apart from the Georgian and Regency eras, I love Art Deco and so it was fun to imagine Ellie’s bedroom. Ellie is the main heroine of my novel – she is a painter and illustrator and I thought she’d like lots of paintings and visual stimuli:

Ellie’s room was perfection to her way of thinking; she loved anything vintage. In muted tones of Naples yellow in the patterned wallpaper and silvery grey satin falling to the floor in a cascade at the windows, the room was flooded in light. Sunbeams danced through the ancient embroidered lace like a bridal veil at a summer wedding, parted to give a stunning view over the beautiful garden. Touches of duck egg blue in the embroideries on the walls and in the milk glass vases on the mantelshelf were echoed in a shot of deeper blue silk in the dressing gown dangling from a padded hanger of cream silk. It looked like a film set left over from the 1930s and in contrast to Jess’s room, which was a Regency haven, Ellie couldn’t have wished for

anything more glamorous. A deco dressing table complete with a mirrored surface and a triptych looking glass was topped with a selection of exquisite objects – a porcelain tray and boxes for jewels, a Japanese fan, a silver hairbrush enamelled with blue as vivid as a butterfly’s wing, and a cloisonné vase filled with old-fashioned roses. The bed draped with grey satin and ivory lace was flanked either side with paintings typical of the era, watercolours of primroses or lilac in turquoise bowls, and a still life, of paper lanterns suspended from branches of white blossom, hung above the fireplace. She almost couldn’t wait to go to bed when she’d be able to sink into the pile of satin covered cushions on her bed, pull the quilted eiderdown up to her throat and admire all the treats before her.

If you haven’t tried Pinterest, I highly recommend it – though it is addictive!


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I’ve just been to Lyme Regis – the weather was wonderful last week – no stormy seas as in the picture shown. I love this print which shows the old assembly rooms at Lyme Regis. Sadly, they were knocked down some years ago to make way for a car park, but we do have a description of them that was written by Constance Hill in her book, Jane Austen, Her Homes and Her Friends.

Her writing inspired my own for a chapter in Searching for Captain Wentworth. My heroine Sophie has travelled back in time to be with her ancestors, the Elliot family who live next door to Jane Austen in Bath. Sophie and her family are in Bath when the unexpected arrival of Jane’s brother, Lieutenant Charles Austen, leaves Sophie feeling both excited and nervous. She knows she is falling in love with him and yet knows that it must be a hopeless case … 

I dressed with great care, choosing a fine, Indian muslin, embroidered with flowers and French knots along the hem and down the sleeves. A string of coral beads at my throat gleamed in the dying light and two bright spots on my cheeks gave the impression that I was permanently blushing, the work of the sun and sea breezes combined, which had turned my skin to a pale bronze. I felt nervous at the thought of seeing Charles again and for a moment wished I could stay at home and hide away. Seeing him in Lyme had been a shock, I’d felt a certain consciousness between us when we’d met or I’d wanted to believe that I had at the time.
Charles Austen

Now, I was not so sure and scolded myself for imagining that Charles had come to Lyme especially to see me. I needed to separate what I wanted to believe from the truth and the facts were that Charles had come to find suitable lodgings for his parents in the surrounding area. That was all, I was determined that I would suppress any other thoughts including those shadowy memories of some other matter that tried to find their way to the surface. He wasn’t going to stay in Lyme and even if he did stay for one night, he was soon to leave so that he could organize his family’s accommodation. They weren’t even going to be in the area, choosing to go to Dawlish instead. His interest in me stemmed from our friendship in Bath and I told myself not to think that there was anything else. If I was not careful, I could so easily betray my feelings, not only to those around me, but to Charles himself.

However much I longed to tell Charles about the place he was securing in my heart, I could not reveal my feelings. I knew that now. It wouldn’t be fair to him, I decided. He’d made it perfectly clear that he was not about to fall in love with anyone, nor did it fit in with his plans. His career and advancement in his chosen profession were paramount. Besides, a little voice somewhere in my head said it was never meant to be. I could not, and should not attempt to change fate.

The Assembly Rooms set on the edge of the sea gave the impression of being afloat, as if on a great galleon sailing out on the water, for nothing but sea and sky could be seen through the windows. The walls rippled with light and reflections in tones of lapis lazuli, which as the evening progressed bobbed and dipped like the ocean itself, bathing the interior with a rosy glow from the sun setting on the horizon and from the warmth of the candles glimmering in sconces and glass chandeliers alike. What could be more thrilling than dancing with the sea all around us?
The Rooms were very full and even though I searched the place looking for a glimpse of Lieutenant Austen, I knew he was not there yet. I seemed to possess a sixth sense when Charles was around; the air seemed to vibrate differently when he was in the room. I would have to be patient and pull myself together for fear of betraying my emotions to everyone. Conscious that word had got around about our arrival in Lyme, it was evident that our party was the object of much interest as knowing expressions and cognizant looks were exchanged amongst the local gentry and it wasn’t long before those acquainted with our host made their presence known. We were introduced to the Barnwells, the Crawfords and the Suttons, all deemed as families of quality by Mr Elliot and Mr Glanville. After their stiff formality, it was lovely to see Miss Rockingham appear with her bright smile and easy chatter. She was with her brother who was immediately introduced and proved to be as welcoming as his sister.
BBC Persuasion 1995
‘I believe we have a mutual acquaintance, Miss Elliot,’ Doctor Rockingham remarked. ‘It is such a pleasure to meet you at last and to know that our friend Miss Austen is well. We were hoping to see her this summer. Have you received any word that she is to come to Lyme again?’
‘Her brother is here, Doctor Rockingham, and is hoping to secure accommodation for his family in Dawlish, I understand. I know Jane is keen to come to Lyme once more; her memories of the place are all happy ones.’
‘My sister and I will be more than delighted to see her, Miss Elliot, but whether or not we shall have that pleasure, I hope you will honour us with a visit again soon.’
I assured them that I would. It was impossible not to warm to the doctor and his sister who were friendly and kind, quite unlike any of the other people I had met so far in Lyme. When Doctor Rockingham smiled, his eyes lit up his handsome face. If only he had someone to make him happy, I thought, he’d be a changed man.
Before we had been there a quarter of an hour, I had invitations to dance from two or three young men who were introduced. I was relieved that our host would be forced to open the ball with Emma as a consequence, but disappointed that Lieutenant Austen was not there to ask me to dance. Just as I was beginning to give up hope of him ever making an appearance and as the little orchestra were tuning up their violins, the door opened. Charles Austen entered the room, along with two other people who looked very familiar.
The Cobb at Lyme Regis
‘That’s the gentleman and lady we saw that time on the Cobb,’ exclaimed Marianne, as everyone stopped to stare at the people who had just walked in. ‘I can quite easily see why you were taken aback. There is such a similarity between them, that I confess, Sophia; I am not at all surprised you were in shock. He could be none other than Lieutenant Austen’s brother, do you see?’
I could see very easily. Different in looks and manner, yet, there was no doubt that they came from the same family. Both had the same wavy, chestnut hair that framed their handsome faces in dark curls and the same hazel eyes, though perhaps in Mr Austen’s brother they reminded me more of Jane in their clarity. There was a look about him that reminded me very much of his sister. He had the same sensitive appearance; the same intelligent look.

His lady smiled, as her eyes darted at anyone who glanced her way. She was an elfin beauty. Delicate, yet exotic in style, like a jewelled bird stolen from a foreign land, she was swathed in a silken gown that flattered her tiny figure complimenting her pale complexion. As I stared, quite entranced with the pleasure of looking at her, I knew I was being watched. I only had to move my head very slightly to see Charles and to be aware of his beautiful, dark eyes. He bowed, his expression giving away little emotion. I felt the intensity of his gaze. So much so, that the spell was broken only by my own reticence to return the expression that I knew I had not misread.

‘Who are those people? ’I heard Mr Sutton ask Mr Barnwell who were standing a little apart from us.
‘Irish, I daresay, by their manners, ’answered Mr Barnwell, ‘just fit to be quality in Lyme.’
Mr Glanville butted in. ‘On the contrary, they’re nobody worth knowing. I recognize the taller gentleman from Bath, but I believe he is a sailor, no one of any rank worth our consideration.’
‘But the other gentleman,’ added Mr Sutton, ‘and more particularly his lady have quite an air about them.’
‘Now, she is somebody worth our attention,’ declared Mr Crawford, turning at their words and joining in, ‘for not only is she very easy on the eye, gentlemen, but Mrs Crawford’s been telling me she is a French countess! Or, at least she was before her first husband had his head chopped off. Her new husband is a banker, I believe. They are passing through, staying at the Three Cups Inn, I understand, before heading back to their London home.’
Lyme Regis
I hated the way they talked about Charles, his brother and his wife. I wanted to tell them to stop being so rude. I would have liked to tell them everything about these truly worthy brothers who had not been handed money and riches on a plate, and of how they had more daring, wit, and intelligence than the lot of them put together, but, of course, I couldn’t. I wasn’t even sure if Charles and I would have a chance to speak on our own. I didn’t know anyone that would make it possible for us to meet and talk, let alone dance with one another. We would have to be introduced all over again and I couldn’t see any of the gentlemen in my party making that a possibility.

I hope you enjoyed the extract!

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I was very excited to read about some of the discoveries made during the dig at Jane Austen’s childhood home in the village of Steventon, Hampshire, which took place in November 2011. The rectory was pulled down in the 1820s and what is known of its appearance is only recorded on old maps and drawings or writings made from the memories of Austen descendants. It seems that the actual foundations of the rectory have now been located as a result of the dig – formerly, the only clue to its situation was the presence of an iron pump.

Jane was born in Steventon Rectory and lived happily for the first twenty five years of her life until her father decided to retire and move the family to Bath. It was here that she drafted her first three novels, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, all between the ages of 19 and 23.

Anna Lefroy, niece of Jane, wrote about her memories of the house:
“The dining room or common sitting-room looked to the front and was lighted by two casement windows. On the same side the front door opened into a smaller parlour, and visitors, who were few and rare, were not a bit less welcome to my grandmother because they found her sitting there busily engaged with her needle, making and mending.

In later times … a sitting room was made upstairs: ‘the dressing room’, as they were pleased to call it, perhaps because it opened into a smaller chamber in which my two aunts slept. I remember the common looking carpet with its chocolate ground, and painted press with shelves above for books, and Jane’s piano, and an oval looking-glass that hung between the windows; but the charm of the room with its scanty furniture and cheaply painted walls must have been, for those old enough to understand it, the flow of native wit with all the fun and nonsense of a large and clever family.”
In Nigel Nicolson’s book, The World of Jane Austen, he notes that there were two parlours and a kitchen, a private study for the vicar and ten bedrooms above, three of them in the attics.
It seems quite a large house, but the Austen’s had six boys plus the two girls and Mr Austen tutored boys who also came to live with them. The Austen boys were not always at home as they were sent away to study and even Jane and Cassandra went to school for a short while, but even so, along with servants, it must have seemed a busy household.

Apparently, they excavated thousands of metal, glass and ceramic objects during the dig, and I was

interested to see from the photographs on the website that there were pieces of Willow pattern china discovered amongst the findings. Blue Willow was a very popular pattern during the eighteenth century. The pattern was inspired by the designs imported from China and were produced from the 1780s and 90s by Thomas Minton and Thomas Turner of Caughley. It was produced by transfer printing – the design was printed onto a sheet of thin tissue paper and then applied to earthenware or porcelain – a technique in use from 1750 in Birmingham. Spode, Royal Worcester, Adams, Wedgwood, Davenport, Clews, Leeds and Swansea followed.
Burleigh is one of the only companies left producing transferware in the traditional method – a favourite website of mine. Another favourite is Lovers of Blue and White where you can find examples of old and new blue and white transfer ware. And there are always bargains to be had for Willow pattern on ebay!

We know from a letter that Jane wrote on the 6th June 1811 that the family also owned someWedgwood – “On Monday I had the pleasure of receiving, unpacking and approving our Wedgwood ware. It all came very safely and upon the whole is a good match, tho’ I think they might have  allowed us rather larger leaves, especially in such a year of fine foliage as this…” Her brother Edward, who was adopted by wealthy relatives, owned a set of very fine Wedgwood china. On 16th September, 1813, Jane Austen wrote a letter to her sister Cassandra, in which she noted a visit with her brother and a niece to Wedgwood’s in London: “We then went to Wedgwoods where my brother and Fanny chose a Dinner Set, I believe the pattern is a small Lozenge in purple, between Lines of narrow Gold; – and it is to have the Crest.”

Finally, there is to be a book by Deborah Charlton about the findings of the dig, and you can watch a short film about it here. I must say I’ve found it all a great inspiration for my own writing – my next novel is inspired by Pride and Prejudice and another Steventon dig provides the setting for some time travel, and, of course, some hidden secrets! 

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Spring has finally sprung here in England! I was beginning to think winter would never end; we’ve been experiencing very cold weather and lots of snow.
Jane Austen refers often to the seasons in her writing and with spring, it seems, the season often heralds a change or action of some sort. In this first example, Mrs Dashwood is thinking about Barton Cottage and the changes she might make to the building when the weather improves.


From Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility:

With the size and furniture of the house Mrs. Dashwood was upon the whole well satisfied; for though her former style of life rendered many additions to the latter indispensable, yet to add and improve was a delight to her; and she had at this time ready money enough to supply all that was wanted of greater elegance to the apartments. “As for the house itself, to be sure,” said she, “it is too small for our family, but we will make ourselves tolerably comfortable for the present, as it is too late in the year for improvements. Perhaps in the spring, if I have plenty of money, as I dare say I shall, we may think about building. These parlours are both too small for such parties of our friends as I hope to see often collected here; and I have some thoughts of throwing the passage into one of them with perhaps a part of the other, and so leave the remainder of that other for an entrance; this, with a new drawing-room which may be easily added, and a bed-chamber and garret above, will make it a very snug little cottage. I could wish the stairs were handsome. But one must not expect everything; though I suppose it would be no difficult matter to widen them. I shall see how much I am before-hand with the world in the spring, and we will plan our improvements accordingly.”

The next extract is from Northanger Abbey. Isabella Thorpe writes to Catherine Morland from Bath. Jane Austen uses the season to illustrate Isabella’s silly and shallow character. Although she professes one minute to be missing Catherine and expressing her love for Catherine’s brother, in the next second she is talking about fashion and hats. 

Bath, April
My dearest Catherine, I received your two kind letters with the greatest delight, and have a thousand apologies to make for not answering them sooner. I really am quite ashamed of my idleness; but in this horrid place one can find time for nothing. I have had my pen in my hand to begin a letter to you almost every day since you left Bath, but have always been prevented by some silly trifler or other. Pray write to me soon, and direct to my own home. Thank God, we leave this vile place tomorrow. Since you went away, I have had no pleasure in it — the dust is beyond anything; and everybody one cares for is gone. I believe if I could see you I should not mind the rest, for you are dearer to me than anybody can conceive. I am quite uneasy about your dear brother, not having heard from him since he went to Oxford; and am fearful of some misunderstanding. Your kind offices will set all right: he is the only man I ever did or could love, and I trust you will convince him of it. The spring fashions are partly down; and the hats the most frightful you can imagine. I hope you spend your time pleasantly, but am afraid you never think of me.
 
Lastly, from Pride and Prejudice, Jane has become engaged to Mr Bingley and finds out that his sister Caroline had done everything to keep them apart last spring:


Mr Bingley and Jane Bennet

“He has made me so happy,” said she one evening, “by telling me, that he was totally ignorant of my being in town last spring! I had not believed it possible.”


   “I suspected as much,” replied Elizabeth. “But how did he account for it?”
   “It must have been his sister’s doing. They were certainly no friends to his acquaintance with me, which I cannot wonder at, since he might have chosen so much more advantageously in many respects. But when they see, as I trust they will, that their brother is happy with me, they will learn to be contented, and we shall be on good terms again; though we can never be what we once were to each other.”
   “That is the most unforgiving speech,” said Elizabeth, “that I ever heard you utter. Good girl! It would vex me, indeed, to see you again the dupe of Miss Bingley’s pretended regard.”
   “Would you believe it, Lizzy, that when he went to town last November, he really loved me, and nothing but a persuasion of my being indifferent would have prevented his coming down again?”
   “He made a little mistake, to be sure; but it is to the credit of his modesty.”
   This naturally introduced a panegyric from Jane on his diffidence, and the little value he put on his own good qualities.
   Elizabeth was pleased to find that he had not betrayed the interference of his friend; for, though Jane had the most generous and forgiving heart in the world, she knew it was a circumstance which must prejudice her against him.
   “I am certainly the most fortunate creature that ever existed!” cried Jane. “Oh! Lizzy, why am I thus singled from my family, and blessed above them all! If I could but see you as happy! If there were but such another man for you!”
   “If you were to give me forty such men, I never could be so happy as you. Till I have your disposition, your goodness, I never can have your happiness. No, no, let me shift for myself; and perhaps, if I have very good luck, I may meet with another Mr. Collins in time.”

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 I hope you’re all having a lovely Easter! I am absolutely delighted to welcome Shannon Winslow, a fellow Austen Author, to my blog – she’s celebrating the release of her new novel, Return to Longbourn, and she is sharing an exclusive, never-before-seen extract with us today! Over to you, Shannon.
Shannon Winslow
I was delighted when Jane invited me to stop here on my blog tour for my new novel Return to Longbourn. Writing this book was an absolute joy! It was such a treat to have an excuse to spend time with Darcy, Elizabeth, and the rest of the Pride and Prejudice cast again, and to revisit Longbourn, Netherfield, and Pemberley.
I pick up the story again about five years later (after the end of The Darcys of Pemberley), when Mr. Bennet sadly passes away. With Mr. Tristan Collins (the new heir to the Longbourn estate) on his way from America to claim his property, Mrs. Bennet hatches her plan. The man simply must marry one of her daughters. Nothing else will do. But will it be Mary or Kitty singled out for this dubious honor?
Neither of them is too eager at first. Kitty cannot imagine how being married to anybody by the name of Collins could be even tolerably agreeable. And, by this time, Mary is comfortably settled in her chosen life as governess to the family at Netherfield. Well, perhaps I shouldn’t have used the word “comfortably,” for her employer, Mr. Harrison Farnsworth, is not an easy man to get along with. That was apparent from the first moment Mary met him, four years past:

Return to Longbourn – Shannon Winslow

In those former days especially, the atmosphere at Netherfield altered perceptibly with the master’s presence. An air of apprehension crept over the place from top to bottom, as if the house itself held its breath in anticipation of some unknown outburst or accident. Thus, it required nothing more than Mr. Farnsworth’s suddenly coming into a room to start his wife and servants fidgeting and his children forgetting how to behave.
Mary had observed the phenomenon from her earliest days on the premises, and she could not help but feel fiercely sympathetic on Mrs. Farnsworth’s account.
 “So, this is the new governess,” declared the lord and master at his first setting eyes on Mary those years ago.
Mr. Farnsworth was not an especially imposing man to look at, being of no more than average height and build, yet his autocratic tone made even this simple statement of fact sound like a challenge – daring her to deny the charge.
Rising to face him, Mary had only nodded curtly in response.
“Yes, my dear,” his wife, who looked more frayed about the edges than usual, hastened to say. “This is Miss Bennet, Miss Mary Bennet from Longbourn. You will recall that I told you about her. She is a most accomplished and genteel young woman, and I am sure she will do very well by the children.”
I will be the judge of that, if you please, Madam.”
“Naturally,” Mrs. Farnsworth murmured, dropping her eyes to her lap, where her hands were tightly clasped.
A maid, who had come in with the tea tray, cringed as she set it down with more clatter than she intended.
“Must you make such an infernal racket?” Mr. Farnsworth barked, darting an eye in the direction of the offender.
“Sorry, sir,” said the maid as she shrank from the room.
“The rest of you, out as well,” he said, pointing to the door. “Mrs. Farnsworth, kindly take your children and go. I wish to speak to Miss Bennet.”
Mr. Farnsworth had once been a captain in the Navy, so his military bearing did not surprise Mary. Whilst the others scrambled to obey, she studied her new employer, taking his features apart one by one – the bristling dark hair, the deliberately narrowed cobalt eyes, the hard set of his mouth, and the prematurely graying beard. The beard, she told herself with devilish satisfaction, had probably been grown by way of disguising what would ultimately prove to be a weak chin. Yes, that must be the case.
It was a trick she sometimes used to steady herself when confronted with an ominous problem, mentally dissecting it into a collection of smaller, more manageable bits. In the brutish case before her, she perceived one part tyrant and one part diffident boy, both covered over with a quantity of practiced intimidation. The gentleman did not appear so alarming under this analysis. He was formidable, not by true essence, she concluded. It was rather by considerable effort, as if he could only bolster his own confidence by cowering others. Judging from the prodigious scowl he wore, Mr. Farnsworth had next set himself the task of cowering her.
“Well, Miss Bennet,” he commenced, slowly striding across the room with hands clasped behind his back and a cool, sideways gaze leveled at her. “Let us come to a right understanding at once. My wife may have engaged your services, but you shall stay or go according to my verdict. Is that clear?”
I’m proud to report that Mary stood her ground, earning a degree of respect and a wary truce with her employer. Then, when his wife died, much of the fight seemed to drain out of Mr. Farnsworth. The effects of a tormented conscience, perhaps, for treating the woman badly while she lived? These days, his moods are so changeable that Mary never knows what to expect when they meet – the old tyrant or the new man of enlightenment. The only truly safe course is to stay out of his way completely.
So maybe Mary should consider making a play for Mr. Tristan Collins after all. Then she might end by being mistress of Longbourn instead of a governess forever. On the face of things, it shouldn’t be a difficult choice, especially when her returning cousin proves to be surprisingly handsome and excellent company. Still, it wouldn’t be easy to leave Netherfield and the three children she’s become attached to. And now Kitty has taken an interest in Mr. Collins as well, setting herself up as Mary’s rival.
What do youthink? Should Mary open herself up – to the possibility of romance, but also to the risk of emotional ruin? Does she stand a chance with Tristan Collins against her younger, prettier sister? Or is she fated to find her future at Netherfield?
I didn’t know the answers myself when I began, but I’ll tell you this much. The story started pure Jane Austen, and somewhere along the way it took a turn for Jane Eyre.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Shannon Winslow, her two sons now grown, devotes much of her time to her diverse interests in music, literature, and the visual arts – writing claiming the lion’s share of her creative energies in recent years.
Ms. Winslow has published three novels to date. In 2011, she debuted with The Darcys of Pemberley, a popular sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and PrejudiceFor Myself Alone a stand-alone Austenesque story, followed in 2012. And now comes Return to Longbourn, the next chapter of her Pride and Prejudice series.
Shannon lives with her husband in the log home they built in the countryside south of Seattle, where she writes and paints in her studio facing Mt. Rainier.
Learn more at Shannon’s website/blog (www.shannonwinslow.com), and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Austen Authors.
Thank you for joining me today, Shannon, on your blog tour and for sharing such a fantastic excerpt! What will happen next for Mary Bennet, I wonder?!!! 

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This is the interview I had with David Sillito, the Arts Correspondent from the BBC. It was aired on the 200th Anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I only wish that all my author friends here and overseas could have shared it with me. That would have been a fantastic party!

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Elizabeth and Darcy – Jane Odiwe

 We are celebrating 200 years of the publication of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”!
I can imagine how excited Jane must have been when she finally received her copies of her “own darling child” as she referred to it in a letter to her sister Cassandra in January 1813. Her book, which has become one of the most popular novels of all time, had taken 17 years to achieve publication.
“First Impressions”, as it was initially entitled, was started some time in 1796 when Jane would have been coming up to her 21st birthday. Jane had recently fallen in love with a young Irishman, Tom Lefroy, a nephew of a neighbouring friend in the village of Ashe. Unlike Elizabeth Bennet who took her time to fall in love with Mr Darcy, it seems that Jane and her new friend behaved outrageously, flirting and dancing together in a way that caused a certain amount of gossip. Tom was packed off home before any more damage could be done – neither of them were in a position to marry though Jane joked that she expected an offer of marriage from him! In later life, Tom admitted he had been in love with her. I always wonder if he was the model for so many of her heroes, though looking at his miniature Mr Darcy doesn’t spring to mind. Tom looks sweet, not proud and aloof, but perhaps some of Elizabeth’s thoughts echoed Jane’s own feelings about Tom in this sentence. “She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man who, in disposition and talentswould most suit her.”
Jane had already penned a novel in letters, “Elinor and Marianne”, which later became “Sense and Sensibility” but it seems she was particularly pleased with her new novel. Her family also enjoyed her readings and her father was so impressed that he sent it off to a publisher in London. However, Thomas Cadell was unimpressed and declined it by return of post.

The Meryton Assembly, Pride and Prejudice – Jane Odiwe

Having experienced a few rejections myself, I can imagine how Jane must have felt. Her novel was put away though it seems she did tinker with it from time to time. Jane’s family moved to Bath when her father retired and later to Southampton. During this time, Jane’s beloved father died and she, her mother and sister became increasingly dependent on her brothers. Finally, in 1809, her brother Edward gave them a cottage on his Chawton estate and Jane returned to her writing, revising and editing the works she’d started in her youth. “Sense and Sensibility” was first published – Jane paid for its publication and on its success, Thomas Egerton paid £110 for the copyright of “Pride and Prejudice”. Jane had hoped for £150 – she said, “I would rather have had £150, but we could not both be pleased“.
The only reference to Jane on the frontispiece was the declaration that it had been written by the author of “Sense and Sensibility”. Writing was not considered a profession for a lady and so no one knew who had written it. Jane had a bit of fun with a neighbour, Miss Benn, reading it aloud to her but not revealing that she was the author! The novel was a success and talked about, so much so, that her brother Henry who had become her negotiator, could not help boasting about the fact that “Pride and Prejudice” had been written by his sister. Soon, everyone was talking about the Hampshire lady who was the daughter of a clergyman.

Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy – Jane Odiwe

Jane was always thinking about her characters. In May of that year when she stayed in Sloane Street with her brother Henry she went to a painting exhibition in Spring Gardens. She wrote to Cassandra describing the event.

It is not thought a good collection, but I was very well pleased, particularly (pray tell Fanny) with a small portrait of Mrs Bingley, excessively like her.
I went in hopes of seeing one of her sister, but there was no Mrs Darcy. Perhaps, however, I may find her in the great exhibition, which we shall go to if we have time. I have no chance of her in the collection of Sir Joshua Reynolds’s paintings, which is now showing in Pall Mall, and which we are also to visit.

Mrs Bingley’s is exactly herself – size, shaped face, features, and sweetness; there never was a greater likeness. She is dressed in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I had always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her. I dare say Mrs D. will be in yellow. 

Charles Bingley with his sisters, Mrs Hurst and Caroline Bingley – Jane Odiwe

Although Pride and Prejudice was well-received, it is a fact that after her death in 1817, copies were remaindered. It wasn’t until the publisher Bentley brought out a collector’s edition in the 1860s that the book gained in popularity once more.

There are lots of events going on to celebrate and I’m so excited to be involved in some.
This week the BBC visited me to do a little interview – if I escape the cutting room floor it will be shown on BBC Breakfast, Monday, 28th January.
Later on Monday, I will be participating in the Jane Austen Centre’s Live Readathon, which is taking place in Bath from 11.00. You can watch the day’s event here – it’s being streamed on the internet and I will be on at 17.10.

I’m sure Jane had no idea what she was starting when she wrote her wonderful novel that has given so many millions of people such pleasure!

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