Jane Austen Program at Free Library of Springfield Township

springfield_programIf you are or will be in the Philadelphia area this weekend, I’ll be speaking at the Free Library of Springfield Township in Wyndmoor, PA (Montgomery County) on Saturday, June 23. Doors open at 1:00 p.m. The talk is titled “From Handmade to Digital: Jane Austen’s Publication History” and, as you might have guessed, is about the history of the publication of Jane Austen’s novels from her lifetime to the present.

During Jane Austen’s lifetime, the publication of her books was a completely manual operation: the manuscript was handwritten, the type was set by hand, inked by hand, and printed on handmade paper, and then bound by hand. Two centuries later, we can carry Jane Austen’s novels everywhere we go on our smartphones. Margaret C. Sullivan will explain the evolution of publication between the 19th and 21st centuries, illustrated with examples of editions of Austen’s novels and images of the publishing process in Jane Austen’s time.

I’ve illustrated the presentation with lots of images of the covers of Austen novels over the years from Jane Austen Cover to Cover (yes, including some of the funny ones). I’ll talk about the process of publication in Jane Austen’s time, including both how writers got published, how they were paid, and how the books were made.

You don’t really have to know a lot about her novels to enjoy this talk, I think. If you like books and history, you’ll enjoy the program.

This event is sponsored by the Jane Austen Society of North America, Eastern Pennsylvania Region. You don’t have to be a JASNA member to attend, however; this event is free and open to the public. We will have some snacks (including my semi-famous homemade hummus) and there will also be a Book Swap table for Jane Austen-related books; bring along any books you would like to rehome, and see if anyone else has left something interesting and new-to-you!

The Free Library of Springfield Township is my home library and brand spanking new–a completely new building and it’s just beautiful! I’m so grateful to the library for letting us have our program there, and I’m excited about it, too. I hope to see my fellow Janeites there on Saturday.

Thank You, Jane

Today has been a rather melancholy and solemn day for me. When the anniversary of Jane Austen’s death comes up every year, I rarely mark it on AustenBlog or anywhere else (though I did this year). To me, it’s not something to be celebrated. If Austen had lived her full threescore and ten or more, had written a couple dozen books, had lived a life long and full and successful, I think I would feel differently.  But her early death makes me angry. It’s so unfair: to Jane herself, of course, who died just short of real success in her chosen career; to Cassandra and her family, who loved her so; and yes, for myself and her fans, who were cheated out of perhaps a dozen or more Jane Austen novels. Who knows what heights of artistry she might have attained? Or how many darn good stories she would have told?

I want to share something that I wrote for Jane Austen Cover to Cover as a personal note at the end of the book. I included the cover of my first copy of Emma, which was my introduction to Jane Austen’s work, and the story not only of that first Austen but how she has changed my life, because she did, literally, change my life. 

bantam_emmaSometimes the most insignificant things lead to the most unexpected and glorious places. Like Mr. Darcy’s love for Elizabeth Bennet, “I cannot fix on the hour” more precisely than sometime in the early 1990s, but I found myself in a mall drugstore, facing the mass market paperbacks rack, looking for something to read. Nothing appealed, until a paperback caught my eye with an image of a smiling lady in a white gown and a big green bonnet: Emma by Jane Austen. I had recently been reading and re-reading some Victorian novels, particularly those by the Brontë sisters, and I was drawn to this book by the pretty painting. Various people had been telling me for years that I should read Jane Austen, and the decision was made. The sticker on the cover for $2.00—the book was marked down for clearance—might have been persuasive, as well.

I took the book home and read it, and liked it. A little while later, I was in another bookstore and purchased a copy of Pride and Prejudice, which I also liked. A little while after that, I was in yet another bookstore and purchased a copy of Persuasion, and then I fell in love. I read Austen’s other three novels, and biographies of her life, and works of criticism. Not long after, the mid-1990s spate of Austen film adaptations fed my new obsession. I started writing about Austen on the Internet. I joined the Jane Austen Society of North America. I started a blog. I wrote some books. These things were all a direct consequence of my purchase of that two-dollar paperback. I can say with some confidence that it changed my life. Jane Austen is powerful, and she can do that; she has done it for others beside me. Thank you, Jane, for everything.

And now on to the 250th anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth, which will truly be a celebration. I promise I will be more cheerful on December 16, 2025.

Emma in America Exhibition and Website at Goucher College Library

emma_in_americaI was thrilled to take a drive down to Baltimore recently for the opening reception for Goucher College Library’s Emma in America exhibit, celebrating 200 years of Jane Austen’s novel (which actually was published in late 1815, though the title page says 1816) as well as the 200th anniversary of the first publication of one of Austen’s novels in the U.S., also Emma, by Mathew Carey of Philadelphia. 
Continue reading

All the Pretty Emmas

Emma 200th Anniversary Penguin Classics Edition

“Oh! you would rather talk of her person than her mind, would you? Very well; I shall not attempt to deny Emma’s being pretty.”

“Pretty! say beautiful rather. Can you imagine any thing nearer perfect beauty than Emma altogether— face and figure?”

“I do not know what I could imagine, but I confess that I have seldom seen a face or figure more pleasing to me than hers. But I am a partial old friend.” – Emma, Volume I, Chapter V (5)

I recently received a copy of the new 200th Anniversary Penguin Classics edition of Emma, and thought, “Why didn’t they send this to me two years ago!” Because two years ago, I was in the initial stages of putting together Jane Austen Cover to Cover, and I certainly would have loved to include this beautiful cover design by Dadu Shin.

But this is way more than just a pretty cover; this new edition was edited by Juliette Wells of Goucher College (who will be one of the plenary speakers at the 2016 JASNA AGM in Washington, D.C.). From the publisher:

This new edition was prepared with both Austen enthusiasts and first-time readers in mind by Goucher professor and Austen scholar Juliette Wells, and includes an introduction that focuses on the importance of EMMA to Austen’s career and the reception of the novel by its first readers, as well as original contextual essays, a glossary of eighteenth-century usage, maps of Austen’s England, suggestions for further reading, and illustrations from early editions of EMMA (drawn from the Jane Austen Collection at Goucher).

My JASNA book group will be reading Emma together soon, and I’ll be using this lovely new edition to enhance my reading experience, and maybe learn some stuff.

We’re giving away a copy of the book over on AustenBlog. Head over there and leave a comment to enter. (Sorry, this is just for readers in the U.S.)

While I was putting together the books for JAC2C, I noticed how many really lovely editions of Emma were out there (and so many of them from Penguin!). Perhaps the publishers are inspired by the beautiful Miss Woodhouse, Miss Smith, and Miss Fairfax? I thought it would be fun to put together a gallery of some of the really beautiful editions for my Gentle Readers. Enjoy!

Click on any image for a gallery with information about the covers.

Will Jane Austen’s Real Inspiration Please Stand Up?

Castle Ashby, Northamptonshire

Castle Ashby

When I saw this article in the Telegraph linked on Twitter, I rolled my eyes a bit and prepared myself for silliness. We’ve had so much of this sort of thing: the Real Mr. Darcy, the Real Pemberley, etc., and it’s becoming tiresome, because so often it’s a bunch of hooey. Continue reading

Plotting Lady Susan

kate_beckinsale_lady_susanWith Love and Friendship currently filming, I’ve been thinking a lot about the plot of Lady Susan, upon which, of course, the film is based, and how it would work in the film medium. I stress I have no idea how Whit Stillman, who I believe has written the adaptation, has decided to adapt the original; I am working completely with the original as Austen wrote it.

In case you haven’t read this novella yet (and why not? It’s quite short and enjoyable, and free to read if you have an e-reader, tablet, or smartphone), be aware I will be discussing the entire plot, so if a spoiler alert is needed, then: spoiler alert! Someone more or less familiar with the story will have an easier time following along. Continue reading

The Shades of Mirkwood

Editorial Note: When the latest trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was released, I was quite taken with the hero shot of Thorin, especially since the first trailer had (in my opinion) not nearly enough Thorin. I posted a link to the trailer on my personal Facebook page, and my friend Karen commented that she was taking a liking to Thranduil, king of Mirkwood and Legolas’ father. I replied that he was being rather Lady Catherine de Bourghish, as he was advising Evangeline Lilly’s character Tauriel to guard against raising expectations in Legolas that could not be fulfilled. All of a sudden we’re in a Jane Austen novel! Karen demanded a parody. I demanded payment, to wit, one screencap of Thorin’s hero shot. Heather delivered it within moments, and I was stuck writing obliged to write the parody. Not that I minded very much. It’s worth the payment, plus being a lot of fun.

Heroic Thorin

I don’t know about you, Gentle Readers, but I’d write just about anything for that.

Since Tauriel is not in the book, but an original character created for the movie by Peter Jackson and company, I went looking online for information about her character, and found this.

“Tauriel is the head of the Elven Guard,” Lilly explains. “She’s a Sylvan Elf, which means she’s of a much lower order than the elves we all became acquainted with in The Lord of the Rings. She doesn’t hold the same kind of status that Arwen or Galadriel or Elrond or Legolas do — she’s much more lowly. She sort of goes against the social order of the elves a little bit.”

Seriously, we are in a Jane Austen novel, y’all.

Thus, in fulfillment of a debt and for the lawls, herewith we present a little bit of silliness, where Jane Austen meets J.R.R. Tolkien and tells him he needs some more chicks in his little stories. Continue reading