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

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

An Austen Summer Sensation Awaits!

Here is an Austen event you will not want to miss!  The excellent Chapterhouse Theatre Company returns to Ireland this summer, with a fine production of  'Sense and Sensibility'.  The kind people at Malahide Castle have offered our members a special discount on ticket price - adult entry for €15 instead of €17.  I will be emailing you all about the discount code to use when securing tickets over the phone, in the coming days.

As usual, the production involves an outdoor evening performance of Austen's novels, especially adapted into a live theatre performance,
The audience usually enters into the spirit of the evening, bringing their own seating and beverages, sharing picnics and cosy blankets, if last year was anything to go by.  t is advised that you keep an eye on weather forecasts close to the event.  As one of the actors explained at last year's show; 'If it rains, it rains, and we get wet too!'

The tour begins in Limerick on Sunday 20th July, at King John's Castle, then plays at Wells House and Gardens in County Wexford, on Tuesday 22nd July, and ends in Malahide Castle on Sunday 27th July at 7:30.  You can book on the Chapterhouse website at for all shows, except the Malahide performance, for which you have to phone the venue to make a booking. The number there is (01) 8169538. (Don't forget to give the JASI discount code for a reduced ticket price).
Some of us were lucky enough to see this production last year, so we can heartily recommend that you make every effort to come along this year too.

Ticket prices: Adult €17 Child €12 Family €48 (2 adults & 2 Children). Call 01 8169538 to book your tickets

Sunday 20th July - 6:30 pm King John's Castle, Limerick, Phone: 061 711246
Tuesday 22nd July - 7:30 pm Wells House, Gorey, Co. Wexford phone: 0539186737
Sunday 27th July - 7:30 pm Malahide Castle CO Dublin phone: 01 8169538

Saturday, 10 May 2014

A New Austen Oldie ~ Benedict Cumberbatch in 'Mansfield Park'.

Just two days to go to the airing of a BBC 4, radioplay /adaptation of Austen's 'Mansfield Park'.  Originally recorded in 2003, the old tapes have been dusted-off and gotten ready for a new audience, who will surely find the broadcast even more exciting than the first time around, as leading actor, playing the morally incorruptible Edmund Bertram, is none other than the now very popular, Benedict Cumberbatch.  David Tennant is to play profligate gambler and elder brother, Tom Bertram, which guarantees that this is a radio broadcast not to be missed.

So, radios at the ready one and all!

The 2003 adaptation of Mansfield Park was directed by Sally Avens and originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in the Woman's Hour Drama slot

Felicity Jones - Fanny Price
Tim Pigott-Smith - Sir Thomas Bertram
Liza Sadovy - Lady Bertram
David Tennant - Tom
Benedict Cumberbatch - Edmund
Kate Fleetwood - Maria
Julia McKenzie - Mrs. Norris
Toby Jones - Rushworth
James Callis - Henry
Susan Lynch - Mary

The ten episode dramatisation of Mansfield Park can be heard on BBC Radio 4 Extra beginning on Monday 12th May at 2.00pm BST and continuing at the same time every weekday for two weeks.
Click HERE to hear it.   

Sunday, 27 April 2014

On this Day ~ Jane's Will be Done

On this day, April 27th, Jane Austen wrote her last will and testament. She was ill with what is now thought to have been Addison's disease, a rare hormonal disorder. Just days later, she moved to Winchester to be nearer to her doctor. She died on 18th July 1817 and was buried in the cathedral at Winchester.

Her total assets were valued at under £800 and she left everything, to her beloved sister Cassandra, with the exception of two bequests of £50. One was to her brother Henry, who had done so much to help Jane to get her books published. The other was to Henry's French housekeeper, Madame Bigeon, who had lost all her savings when Henry's bank, in which she had invested, failed.

Unfortunately, the will was not signed by witnesses. In order for it to be proved as hers, two friends had to swear in a written statement that they had known Jane Austen for years and recognised her handwriting.Her wonderful legacy of the written word has, thankfully, been made available to all of us to enjoy.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014


Date: Sat May 17 / 6pm

  • Venue: Conference Hall (Dublin Castle)

“Jane Austen’s story and Joanna Trollope’s voice make the perfect marriage.”
Sophie Kinsella
“Baker not only creates a richly imagined story of her own but recasts Austen’s novel in a startlingly fresh light.”
The Guardian
Chairperson: Edel Coffey
In recent years Jane Austen’s work has inspired a host of new novels, from PD James’ Death Comes to Pemberley to Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. But what are the pitfalls of adapting classics for the modern age? Should you expect your readers to know the originals, and what happens when you change the point of view?
Jo Baker certainly does: Longbourn reimagines the story of Pride and Prejudice from the servants’ point of view. Sarah is a housemaid at Longbourn House, where the servants are ruled with an iron fist by Mrs Hill, but the arrival of a new footman turns the Bennet household upside down.
Joanne Trollope is one of the UK’s best-loved and most successful authors. Her Sense & Sensibility is the first novel in the Austen Project: a publishing venture designed to bring Austen’s work to a new generation, and Trollope brings the story of the Dashwood sisters bang up to date, complete with drugs, depression and internet trolls. 
    Tickets €12 or €10 for Members of Jane Austen Society of Ireland (email us for concession code) Text and image above taken from the Dublin Writers' Week Website.  To book click here

Friday, 18 April 2014

Irish Jane Austen Fans Come Together in Dublin's Mansion House

Last night members of The Jane Austen Society of Ireland gathered together in Dublin's Mansion House, for our first, proper meeting (members only) to celebrate the publication of Jane Austen's third novel.  In a lecture entitled, 'Mansfield Park, After 200 Years', Trinity College professor, Darrly Jones, regaled us with insights and fascinating observations about the novel.

 He happily fielded questions from the audience afterwards, which revealed, once again, how au fait our members are with the works of Jane Austen. 

Actress Vanessa Hyde also took to the stage and performed a short extract from the play, 'Ladies of Jane', which received great reviews in its recent  run at The Cork
Theatre.  We were enchanted as 'Emma's' Mrs Elton was brought to life before our eyes.  

Each member introduced themselves to the rest of the group, revealing what it was that first made them fall under Austen's spell.  It was very enlightening to hear similar stories and recurring experiences, best summed up in one member's comment; 'Jane Austen never lets me down!' 

Afterwards, members retired to the beautiful Georgian surroundings of Buswell's Hotel, Molesworth Street, to continue the conversation,  meet fellow Austen fans and share their love of Regency literature.  

There was one controversial comment during the evening, however - much discussed in Buswell's - which was Professor Jones's claim that Mr Darcy does not exist!  The general consensus was that this was indeed an error, summed-up by our Society Secretary, Sinead who said, "Women are searching for men like Mr Darcy and men do not even know that he exists!" - and therein, my friends, lies the rub.  

Thanks is due to The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Mr Oisin Quinn, who gave us use of the beautiful Oak Room, in this historic building.  As one astute member noted, one of the many mayoralty plaques on the wall was for the D'Arcy family, so it was no wonder that we felt so at home there as we did.  
Michelle Burrowes, JASI President.