Monday, 15 December 2014

Remembering Jane on her Birthday...

In the  early hours of Saturday December 16th 1775 Jane Austen was born, in the Rectory at Steventon,  Hampshire. At the time, the village of Steventon was little more than a row of cottages , while the important families of the neighbourhood lived at some distance on their various estates.  On one side of a lane stood a spacious barn, and on the other, surrounded by meadows sprinkled with elm and chestnut trees, was the Rectory. The house had a narrow roof, square sashed windows and a trellised porch. 

At the back, a bow window, belonging to Rev. George Austen's study, looked out on to a garden. There was a home farm also, where Mrs. Austen's dairy was supplied by five Alderney cows. Mrs. Austen supervised the walled gardens on the south side of the rectory and was a "surrogate mother" to the young boys who stayed in the Rectory while Rev. Austen  prepared them for entry to Oxford colleges.

Life in the Rectory , though certainly  busy, was pleasant for a large party of children. The Austens , though very lively, were unusually good tempered. When the weather was good, the walks about Steventon were very beautiful; the lanes were full of primroses and violets in Spring and the neighbourhood had the beauty of Hampshire woodland.It is not surprising that Jane Austen wrote, many years afterwards, that she thought beauty of landscape must be one of the joys of Heaven. Jane was happiest living in the  countryside of Hampshire. The fact that there are no completed novels from her time in Bath has often been regarded as proof that she was not happy there. While this will  remain a matter of speculation, there is no doubt that she was happiest in her beloved Hampshire- in her birthplace of Steventon or in her last home in Chawton.

What a tragedy that her life in Hampshire should have been so very short.

by Eileen Collins

Friday, 3 October 2014

The World of Jane Austen - November JASI Event


It is that time of year again fellow Janeites - time for our big, annual event, and what a fine time we have in store for you.  Our theme this year is 'The World of Jane Austen'.
*  2:30 - 3:00 pm We will begin with a short AGM (agenda to follow) for those who wish to attend, followed by the day's main events: 
*  3:00 - 3:45 pm  A lecture on Georgian Dublin, given by Dr Mark Hennessy, from Trinity College, Dublin.
3:45 - 4:15 pm Afternoon tea.     
*  4:15 - 5:00 pm  Presentation and talk from the Irish Historical Costumers on Regency Fashion (With live models).
*  5:00 - 5:30 pm How to dance a quadrille  demonstration - and a chance to participate for the less bashful amongst us.
*  5:30 - 6:00 pm  Conversations in the bar - A chance to compare notes with your fellow JASI members and become properly acquainted.  
There will also be performances by talented musicians from the Royal Academy of Music along the way. Silhouette artist, Woodcock and Griffin will be available to make portraits of attendees. There is a bar open all day and there will be many opportunities to chat with fellow Janeites, in elegant comfort, about what makes our favourite author so special. All this and in the beautiful surrounds of the Law Society, Blackhall Place, Dublin 7, built just two years before Austen was born.
 Tickets are €10 for members, €12.50 for guests.
Please email us, or use the contact form on the side, if you wish to attend.  Tickets are limited and priority is given to JASI members

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Austen's Women - An Evening of Austen Drama and Delight

Directed by Olivier Award winner, Guy Masterson, 'Austen's Women' is a show not to be missed this September at the Draoicht Theatre, in Blanchardstown, Dublin.  It stars Rebecca Vaughan, whose celebrated dramatic interpretation of some of Austen's finest female characters has  received rave reviews all round. We know that it is a 'must see' event for all Austen fans.

Tickets are selling fast, and if you want to avoid disappointment, you must book soon.  There is a special concession for members of The Jane Austen Society of Ireland, so don't delay and book your tickets for this sell-out show today!

Thirteen of Jane Austen’s heroines come to life in this bold revisiting of some of literature’s most celebrated works. In this much-loved Edinburgh sell-out hit, using only Austen’s words, Rebecca Vaughan  becomes Emma Woodhouse, Lizzy Bennet, Mrs Norris, Miss Bates and nine other beautifully observed women in critical moments from Austen’s major novels (including Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma) and lesser known or unfinished works.

There will also be a after show talk with Rebecca Vaughan, so you will have a chance to ask all those interesting questions that I know JASI members are famous for.
Remember the date - Wednesday 24th September.  See you there!
Phone: DraĆ­ocht’s Box Office is Open Monday to Saturday 10am-6pm  Tel: 01-8852622:

Friday, 15 August 2014

Jane Austen at Covent Garden

Here is something that some of you living in or visiting London this weekend might be interested in:  an afternoon concert celebrating Jane Austen.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The Austen Project - Book Two

Here's a taste of something old / something new to entertain you this summer. Bestselling crime author, Val McDermid ('Fever on the Bone' and 'The Vanishing Point') has published the second book in The Austen Project - modern re-imagining of the Gothic Classic 'Northanger Abbey'. If you enjoyed reading Joanna Trollope's version of 'Sense and Sensibility' last year, you might like to give this book a try. Here's what the publishers have to say about it:

'Seventeen-year-old Catherine ‘Cat’ Morland has led a sheltered existence in rural Dorset, a life entirely bereft of the romance and excitement for which she yearns. So when Cat’s wealthy neighbours, the Allens, invite her to the Edinburgh Festival, she is sure adventure beckons.

Edinburgh initially offers no such thrills: Susie Allen is obsessed by shopping, Andrew Allen by the Fringe. A Highland Dance class, though, brings Cat a new acquaintance: Henry Tilney, a pale, dark-eyed gentleman whose family home, Northanger Abbey, sounds perfectly thrilling. And an introduction to Bella Thorpe, who shares her passion for supernatural novels, provides Cat with a like-minded friend. But with Bella comes her brother John, an obnoxious banker whose vulgar behaviour seems designed to thwart Cat’s growing fondness for Henry.

Happily, rescue is at hand. The rigidly formal General Tilney invites her to stay at Northanger with son Henry and daughter Eleanor. Cat’s imagination runs riot: an ancient abbey, crumbling turrets, secret chambers, ghosts…and Henry! What could be more deliciously romantic?

But Cat gets far more than she bargained for in this isolated corner of the Scottish Borders. The real world outside the pages of a novel proves to be altogether more disturbing than the imagined world within…'

With such an excellent plot to follow - how can McDermid go wrong?  If you have read it, let us know what you think.  
The book costs €14.87 on the book depository (free postage) and $10.82 on Kindle

Monday, 21 July 2014

Gone Too Soon - Jane's last day.

At the dawn of Friday July 18th 1817  the wonderful Jane Austen departed this life. She had moved ,with her beloved sister Cassandra, from Chawton to Winchester in May of that year. The family hoped that Mr. Giles King Lyford, the much respected Surgeon-in- Ordinary at the County Hospital there,  would manage to cure Jane of what might have been Addison's Disease or possibly some form of cancer. The two Austen ladies stayed at 8 College Street, Winchester, where they occupied rooms on the first floor.
Though Jane appeared cheerful and comfortable on the morning of Tuesday July 15th - as shown in the amusing verses she composed about St. Swithin  and Winchester Races - her illness became more severe  that evening.
The last few hours of Jane's life and of her death are recorded in a letter Cassandra sent to her niece Fanny Knight
"Since Tuesday evening, when her complaint returned, there was a visible change, she slept more & much more comfortably... Her looks altered &she fell away... tho' I was then hopeless of a recovery I had no suspicion how rapidly my loss was approaching..She felt herself to be dying about half an hour before she became tranquil and apparently unconscious... When I asked her if there was any thing she wanted, her answer was she wanted nothing but death & some of her words were 'God grant me patience, Pray for me'....  even now in her coffin, there is such a sweet serene air over her countenance as is quite pleasant to contemplate"
'Jane Austen was happy in her family and in her home and the exercise of her great talent must have been a source of happiness. She was learning to feel confidence in her own success... She had no cause to be weary of life and there was much to make it very pleasant to her' (quoted in Fanny Knight's Diaries)
How many more wonderful stories might have come from the pen of Jane Austen but for her tragically early death.

Monday, 7 July 2014

A House for Jane

On July 7th 1809 Jane Austen, her mother, her sister Cassandra and their friend Martha Lloyd moved from Southampton to Chawton in Hampshire. Their new home, known as Chawton Cottage, was offered to his widowed mother and sisters by Edward Austen Knight.  
What a gift - it must have meant everything to the women who, like so many of Austen's heroines, were so reliant on the kindness and goodwill of male relatives. 

It was here that Jane Austen prepared "Sense and Sensibility", " Pride and Prejudice" and "Northanger Abbey" for publication and where she wrote "Mansfield Park", " Emma" and "Persuasion".  As Virginia Woolf would write one hundred years later, having a room of her own, a place to write in, made all the difference to Jane.  Freed from the mundane daily chores, taken care of now by her sister Cassandra, Jane Austen found the space and time to focus on her writing and perfect her art.  

Jane Austen was very happy to return to her beloved Hampshire. Writing  to her brother Frank on July 26th 1809 Jane says:

"Our Chawton home how much we find
Already in it to our mind
And how convinced that when complete
It will all other houses beat
That ever have been made or mended
With rooms concise or rooms distended"

In 1949 the house was donated to the Jane Austen Society (founded by Dorothy Darnell of Alton) by T. Edward  Carpenter , who had bought the house in memory of his son who was killed in World War Two. 

The house was opened as Jane Austen's House Museum in 1949. In it can be seen, among many items of Austen memorabilia, the little mahogany writing table where Jane sat while writing her wonderful works of literature.

A great place for any Austen fan to visit!

By Eileen Collins