Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Goodbye Dear Jane...

Two hundred years ago on 18 July 1817 at about 4.30 am the wonderful Jane Austen died in the arms of her beloved sister Cassandra at No. 8 College Street Winchester. Jane and Cassandra had moved here from Chawton, about 17 miles away, in the hope of better medical treatment for Jane who was quite unwell.

The cause of Jane’s tragically early death at the age of 41 has been the subject of much speculation. She may have died from Addison’s disease, from some form of cancer or from tuberculosis. Earlier this year a new theory emerged. Jane may have died from arsenic poisoning!

The British Library arranged testing for some spectacles found in Jane Austen’s Writing Slope / Desk. This portable desk had been donated to the library in 1999 by Joan Austen-Leigh a great-great-great niece of Jane Austen. Tests of the spectacles suggested that Jane Austen was long-sighted but may have needed reading glasses as she could have developed cataracts. From the results of these tests it was further suggested that Jane Austen may have died from accidental arsenic poisoning as arsenic was commonly found in medicines in 19th century England. The truth is that we will never really know what caused Jane Austen’s early death two hundred years ago..

Eileen Collins

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Jane's Journey to Winchester

On Saturday 24 May Jane and Cassandra set off on the sixteen-mile journey to Winchester, in James's carriage,sent over from Steventon for the purpose,and attended by Henry and their nephew William Knight;it distressed Jane to see them 'riding in rain almost all the way.' Mrs Heathcote had arranged accommodation for them near the Close,at Mrs David's small house,No 8 College Street,where they occupied rooms on the first floor. 'Our lodgings are very comfortable.We have a neat little Drawg.room with a Bow-window overlooking Dr Gabell's Garden' Jane told James-Edward in her letter to him of 27 May. She wrote in a resolutely optimistic tone and with her usual note of wry humour
'I will not boast of my handwriting;neither that nor my face have yet recovered their proper beauty, but in other respects I am gaining strength very fast'
(Deirdre Le Faye:JANE AUSTEN A Family Record)

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Jane's Austen's Will - On This Day 200 Years Ago

By March 1817 Jane Austen was unable to continue writing "The Brothers", later renamed "Sanditon", as she was quite unwell. On  April 27th, probably aware of the serious nature of her illness, Jane Austen wrote her will at her home in Chawton. The beneficiary of almost everything Jane had was her dear sister Cassandra. She specified a payment of £50 to her brother Henry who had helped so much in getting her books published, and another £50 to Henry's French housekeeper Madame Bigeon who had lost all her savings when Henry's bank failed. Allowing for the payment  of funeral expenses and the two legacies mentioned, everything else she possessed was willed by Jane to her beloved sister Cassandra.It is estimated that this amounted to just under £800.
As Jane's will had not been witnessed two of her friends had to sign sworn statements that they recognised Jane's handwriting as they had known her for many years.
Thankfully the legacy of her wonderful writing has been left to all of us her readers.

Less than three months after writing her will Jane Austen died in Winchester at the early age of 41.
Eileen Collins

Friday, 16 December 2016

Happy Birthday Jane

Jane Austen was born on Saturday night December 16th 1775. “At 36, Mrs. Austen had carried her baby a month past the expected time. To save the baby from cold wet weather Rev. George Austen postponed Jane’s reception at church until April 5th 1776, but baptised her privately at home on Dec 17th. Jane was probably nursed at home before she was sent to a cottager’s wife. After weaning and when living with a ‘good woman at Deane’ Jane would wear loose and light clothing and have access to fresh air and exercise. She was trained to love the out-of-doors and by April, when ready for a bonnet and petticoats, she was a fine little person.
Her father wrote in the family bible:
“Jane Austen. Born 16 Dec 1775. Privately baptised 17 Dec 1775. Recd. Into the Church 5 April 1776.
Sponsors Rev. Mr. Cooke, Rector of Bookham Surrey; Mrs. Jane Austen of Sevenoaks Kent, Father’s Uncle’s Wife;
Mrs. Musgrave of Chinnor Oxon.”

Sunday, 2 October 2016

John Mullan Comes to Dublin


The Jane Austen Society of Ireland is very happy to announce that the stupendously entertaining John Mullan, English Professor, and author, critic and all round Austen expert, is coming to The Law Society, Dublin for an afternoon lecture and book signing.  John is a regular at Jane Austen Society gatherings around the globe, and at literary festivals all over the UK. At last we have enticed him to visit us. So mark Saturday 26 November in tour diary - this event is not to be missed!

Click image below to see just what lies in store for us.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Emma and Knightley's Irish Wedding

Earlier in the year, one of our members, an English teacher in Waterford, re-enacted Emma's wedding to Mr Knightley with her 5th Year pupils. Here is an account of that very special day.

On Wednesday the 3 February 2016 I (playing) Robert Martin attended the wedding of Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley. To begin the celebrations we viewed the film " Emma " in the theatre. It was a very enjoyable and humorous film and I thought it a lovely way to spend the morning.
When the film was over we proceeded upstairs to the dining room where we enjoyed a tasty luncheon of vegetable soup and chicken and salad sandwiches. The food was delightful. While we digested our food, we made a toast to Emma and George with champagne ( elderflower cordial and sparkling water). Then we heard some quite funny speeches from the bride, groom and guests. Miss Bates was not short of things to say when it came to her turn to make a speech.  Some tension was evident between Emma and Jane Fairfax but everything else ran rather smoothly. After the speeches, Emma and George cut their magnificent wedding cake. It was both a beautiful looking and tasting cake which I truly enjoyed. Mr. Woodhouse, as expected, fussed about the cake being too heavy and 'unwholesome' but we all managed to eat a piece without harm coming to anyone.

We then sat and talked for a while and moved around the tables, socialising with all the guests.I sat at a table with my wife Harriet, and John and Isabella Knightley. Jane Fairfax, Frank Churchill, Emma Woodhouse, George Knightley, Harriet and I then had the pleasure of beginning the dancing for the evening. Everyone was on their best behaviour, displaying impeccable manners and their finest clothes. Mrs. Elton sought compliments on her outfit which looked like a lace curtain with a pearl dog collar around her neck.
Some prizes were by Mrs. Goddard (Ms. Fennelly), to people who were looking well, in their finest clothes, and I won a prize. I was wrapped in brown paper with string tying the ends.
It was a most delightful wedding. the bride and groom looked and behaved impeccably and there were no tears shed or sad faces to be seen. I truly enjoyed the day.
By Róisín Stephenson.