This year we commemorate Jane Austen’s death. We certainly do not celebrate it. We feel a sense of unfairness about it, not only for our selfish sake–for being cheated out of, based on the lifespan of her parents and most of her siblings, thirty or forty years’ worth of Jane Austen novels–but naturally for Jane’s own sake. She died just before she would have reached real success–the success enjoyed by her contemporaries such as Burney, Radcliffe, and Edgeworth, all of whom she has utterly eclipsed in the intervening centuries. It is just horribly unfair. Jane gave the world such joy and never really had the opportunity to enjoy real fruits from her labor (by which we mean money. From what we can tell, Austen was never big on the whole adulation thing).
A couple of weeks ago we were having lunch, and had brought the book we were reading, Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. A co-worker joined us, and asked what we were reading.
Dutch Janeite, journalist, and photographer Karin Quint has put up a Kickstarter to have her travel guide, Jane Austen’s England, translated to English. If you pledge at least €20, you will receive a copy of the book (with an additional charge for shipping).
Doubly dear to me now for her dear sake whom we have lost. She did love you most sincerely, and never shall I forget the proofs of love you gave her during her illness in writing those kind, amusing letters at a time when I know your feelings would have dictated so different a style. Take the only reward I can give you in the assurance that your benevolent purpose was answered; you did contribute to her enjoyment.
The Editrix is fond of saying that everything is known and has been written about Jane Austen, which explains why there so often is Austen-related nonsense in the media. When “they” have run out of facts, it stands to reason that “they” resort to making stuff up.
Once again the calendar approaches its end, and with the last month comes Jane Austen’s birthday. The birth of this girl-baby brought some light into her family’s life in the darkest part of the year, and this woman and her work continue to bring light into the lives of her fans around the world, 243 years later. (She doesn’t look a day over 41, though.)
There was a flutter lately on social media about an article in the Guardian about exciting news regarding the Rice portrait.
For those unfamiliar with the Rice portrait, it is a painting that for many years was considered a portrait of Jane Austen as a tween, painted by Johan Zoffany. Eventually some nasty critical suspicious people began making inquiries as to the provenance of the portrait. Upon examination, it was found to not have been painted by Zoffany but by Ozias Humphry. It was further suggested that the portrait, judging by the subject’s clothing, was painted when Jane Austen was about 30 years old–much older than the sweet tween in the portrait.
Today’s lesson is from the book of Northanger Abbey, Vol. I, Chapter I.
Her mother was a woman of useful plain sense, with a good temper, and, what is more remarkable, with a good constitution. She had three sons before Catherine was born; and instead of dying in bringing the latter into the world, as any body might expect, she still lived on — lived to have six children more — to see them growing up around her, and to enjoy excellent health herself. A family of ten children will be always called a fine family, where there are heads and arms and legs enough for the number…
It has been observed that Jane Austen’s mother characters are often absent or ineffectual (or in the case of Mrs. Norris, who is not a mother but certainly a maternal figure, downright horrible). We don’t think Mrs. Morland falls into the “ineffectual” category, though some have placed her there.
She is probably not the sympathetic maternal confidante that many heroines enjoy, or even that modern audiences expect or desire, but as Austen herself wrote, she is “a women of useful plain sense” and rarely does wrong in guiding her daughter. She is not a “smother” either, overwhelming her children with sometimes misplaced affection, but is busy doing her best to launch ten children into the world. We’ll take her. Here endeth the lesson.
Wishing a happy Mother’s Day to all those celebrating today (and an extra virtual hug to all those who are especially missing someone today).
The biggest virtual party this side of the Janeiverse may have ended, but there is still plenty of fun to be had. Read our guest post on EMMA (it’s the 200th anniversary of its publication), and see if there’s a little bit of Emma in you. There are lots more guest posts and hilarious roundtable discussions, and much more.
If you’re feeling stuck or just craving inspiration, or if you’d love to get a peek at the creative process of a favorite author, these are for you, thanks to 1st Books* and Boing Boing:
8 Writing tips from F. Scott Fitzgerald (courtesy of 1st Books*) GreatGatsby
My favorite of Fitzgerald’s: “I think it’s a pretty good rule not to tell what a thing is about until it’s finished. If you do you always seem to lose some of it. It never quite belongs to you so much again.” Read the rest of his tips here.
6 Writing tips from Kazuo Ishiguro (also courtesy of 1st Books*)
RemainsofthedayMy favorite of Ishiguro’s: “Focus on the relationship, and the characters will take care of themselves.” Read the rest of his tips here.
8 Writing tips from Kurt Vonnegut (courtesy of Boing Boing)
My favorite of Vonnegut’s: “Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them–in order that the reader may see what they are made of.” Read (or hear; they have the audio!) the rest of his tips here. Breakfastofchampions
*I recently discovered 1st Books, and I LOVE this blog. It’s all about writing, and it’s filled with inspiring pieces about the creative process. 1st Books is hosted by New York Times best-selling author Meg Waite Clayton.