Jane and I first became acquainted at Secondary School (11-16 years old), when doing my ‘O’ levels, we were forced to study “Pride and Prejudice“. I was not looking forward to it as I had heard of an older acquaintance whose Mum had to read it onto tape so he could listen to it to get through it! It fell upon Mrs Seymour, a grey haired matron of the school with an unfavourable countenance, to drag us oiks through this novel. Mrs. Seymour commended Jane to us so well, although she was so scary that I suspected one girl in the class of inducing nose bleeds so she could forego the lesson, that we ended up loving it. The thing is once you get past the language and the hype (as we would term it now) it is funny, touching and a satirical social commentary with enough story and real emotion that it stands up as more than a farce.
I’ve been listening to Radio 4’s Book of the Week – The Real Jane Austen – Paula Byrne, which is an account of Jane structured around items that Jane owned. Jane did not keep journals and most of her letters are lost so this is a good way into Jane’s life. It really conveys a sense of a living person, far removed from the starchy images that may occur when you think of Jane Austen. Some of the things that surprised me from the book were that Jane wrote herself three marriage certificates (her father was a vicar so she had access to the necessary registers) and that her Aunt Phila had an illegitimate daughter by the First Governor-General of Bengal. Jane lived at the time of the French Revolution and was aware of riots in London and uprisings in the Militia that were put down with great force to prevent a similar revolution occurring here. This all put Jane in a very different light for me.
Over the past thirty years I’ve come across many connections to Jane Austen geographically. I live not far from her childhood home where she spent much of her life in Steventon. Nearer still is Chawton, where she also lived. I lived in the city of Bath for many years, where Jane lived too and have holidayed and visited Lyme Regis and Charmouth where Jane often went to sea bathe. In Alton I have passed the site of her brother’s bank and regularly go to Winchester where Jane died at 42 and have seen her grave in the Cathedral there. I have often thought of Jane and wondered whether and how often our paths have crossed, did she sit on this part of the beach at Charmouth? Did she window shop in this street in Bath? I’ve visited The Vyne where Jane attended balls too.
If you are a Jane Austen or Pride and Prejudice fan you must watch Lost in Austen
I found a fantastic list of 50 Words from Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice” (what an interesting looking site and what a great list of very usable words)
An online Austen Thesaurus (go on you know you want to just type rude words into it!)
And apparently 30th October this year is “Talk Like Jane Austen Day” which of course will be most agreeable for the denizens of England as we would regard speaking in any other fashion with disdain.
The Collaborator – getting better, taking a bit of surprising turn.