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

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.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Which Door Will it Be?

Source:  Here

Announcing a Jane Austen Society of Ireland lecture: 'Mansfield Park After 200 Years', to be given by Professor Darryl Jones, from Trinity College, Dublin.

This is an invite-only event, for members of the JASI, taking place this week, at a secret location in the heart of Georgian Dublin.

If you are a fan of our esteemed Jane, then there is no better time to join our Society and participate in our bespoke Austen events. To attend this wonderful evening's entertainment, you must join the Society in the next day or two. (Membership numbers must be quoted on entry).  Please note that seating is limited, so become a member now to avoid disappointment.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Lizzy Bennet's Diary ~ by Marcia Williams

This is a sweet little book, full of witty references to Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice'.  As with every proper diary, it is crammed full of detailed observations and private comments about those around her.  As such, the book reads like a summary of Austen's novel, with additions relating to every day life - such as favourite fabrics and  ribbons; mementos and  souvenirs.  This works particularly well, because we experience so much of the novel from Elizabeth's point of view.  

However, there are times that the Lizzy in William's book says some things that Austen's Lizzy would never say, such as 'Although Charlotte does not like me to
mention it, she is already twenty-seven years old - nearly ten years my senior!'  Of course, the real Elizabeth Bennet would never say such a thing, and certainly would not refer to her dearest friend as an 'old maid' as Williams's Lizzy does.  I suppose that is the draw-back of condensing a long novel into such a concise format: much character development is omitted.  The brevity of the text is a little unsettling and at times the book is overly-simplistic, with Lizzy occasionally sounding too much like Lydia and Kitty - obsessing about ribbons and balls - than our beloved heroine.

There are over twenty letters in Austen's novel, and some of them feature here.  They are handwritten in beautiful fold out pages, and, as in the original text, they allow us to hear directly from the other characters in the novel, such as Mr Collins, Mrs Gardiner and Fitzwiliam Darcy. Some letters are copied verbatim from the mother text, while others are fabricated entirely from Williams's imagination.

We catch glimpses of Mr and Mrs Darcy, at home, at Christmas, preparing for dinner with Georgiana and the Gardiners.  Such delicious flights of fancy are what make this book worth having.

But let us not forget the wonderful illustrations that accompany the book - Marcia Williams is clearly an
illustrator first and a writer second.  They are full of detail and will draw you to the book again and again.  They may lead you to believe that the book is more suitable for a younger audience, but I think that readers who are very familiar with Austen's novel, probably older book-lovers, will get a great kick out of the many in-jokes and references.

That said, there is much to enjoy in this book, for readers of every age.  Well, how could it fail? It is inspired by the great Austen herself!
(c) Michelle Burrowes 

First published on  February 2014

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Jane Austen and The Real Princess

Letter of February 16th, 1813 to Martha Lloyd

"I suppose all the World is sitting in Judgement upon the Princess of Wales's Letter. Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman, & because I hate her Husband -- but I can hardly forgive her for calling herself ``attached & affectionate'' to a Man whom she must detest -- & the intimacy said to subsist between her & Lady Oxford is bad -- I do not know what to do about it; but if I must give up the Princess, I am resolved at least always to think that she would have been respectable, if the Prince had behaved only tolerably by her at first. --" 
 Today, some 201 years ago, this was what preoccupied Jane Austen's thoughts.  While the behaviour of The Prince Regent, George Augustus Frederick, Prince of Wales, causes little concern to modern readers, it is Austen's strong reaction to his attempt at divorcing his wife, Princess Caroline of Brunswick, that is indeed very interesting.

Such a passionate, open expression of dislike for the future King of England, is extremely surprising in Austen, and is testament to her modern-thinking and strong sense of justice; or is it?   Brought into the spotlight earlier than expected by the undeniable madness of his father, King George III, The Prince Regent was an unpopular royal; despised for his extravagance and gluttony, and often lampooned in the popular press by cartoonists and journalists alike.  So perhaps Austen's readiness to chide the future king was not so unexpected after all; it was socially acceptable.

However, her declaration, in this private letter to her friend, that she supports Caroline, 'because she is a
woman', surely tells us something of Austen's outlook on gender.  She rebukes the princess mildly who, in a letter to her husband, that was later made public, addresses him as 'His Royal Highness'.  Austen says,  'I can hardly forgive her for calling herself  `attached & affectionate'' to a Man whom she must detest.'  Here Austen seems to feel a natural affinity to the put-upon Princess because they are of the same gender.

As a daughter of a clergyman, with no rights or entitlement to property or land, the Austen women knew something of being short-changed in a male-dominated society.  Jane and her sister Cassandra had been left homeless on their father's death because they had never married, and here was Princess Caroline, a married woman, having her rights and entitlements undermined by the highest in the land.  It  is not difficult to see why Jane Austen supported the Princess's claim for legal entitlement.

Of course, the irony is that Austen herself would use the very same phrase, 'His Royal Highness',  three times when she came, albeit reluctantly, to dedicate her novel 'Emma' to the prince, at his request, in December of the following year. Knowing Austen and her sense of humour though, she was no doubt enjoying her own little joke at his expense, and showing her clear support, once again, and this time in public, for a mistreated wife, and woman.

And as for Caroline - despite being supported by the British people, she was refused admittance, as Queen, to the King's coronation, three years after Austen's own death, in 1821.  She arrived at Westminster Abbey, only to be turned from the door by armed guards and forced to go home.  She took ill, later that night, and died three weeks later.  (The cause of her timely death has never been proven and some think she may have been poisoned.)  While she was ill, she had time to write a new will, requesting that she be buried in her native Germany, with an inscription on her tomb reading:  'Here lies Caroline, the Injured Queen of England'.  The new King George IV remained as unpopular as Jane Austen had known him to be, for the rest of his reign.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Spring Cleaning, Austen Style

Spring is officially here and what better time to dust off your old copy of Mansfield Park, and get reading. We at The Jane Austen Society of Ireland are preparing for a get together next month, with Trinity College professor, Darryl Jones.

As luck would have it, Mansfield Park is one of his favourite books, and Jane Austen one of his favourite authors.  He has offered to give the JASI a special 'bicentenary birthday lecture' on the novel, that is bound to entertain and inspire, but we will let you know the specific details at a later date.   

In the meantime, you have just enough time to read (or re-read) the book that is arguably Austen's most political work.  With so many editions of this great book out there - it may well be the year to buy yourself a nice hardback, commemorative edition, so what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Welcome 2014 ~ The Year of 'Mansfield Park'

2014 promises to be another important anniversary year for Austen fans, for it was two hundred years ago that Jane Austen published her fine novel, Mansfield Park. Some critics, including biographer Paula Byrne, list this as their favourite Austen novel, it being the text most favored by Cambridge scholars, such as F.R. Levis, who hailed it as one of the greatest English novels ever written.

The novel itself was penned at Chawton Cottage between February 1811 and 1813 but was published in May 1814 by Thomas Egerton, who published Jane Austen's two earlier novels, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.  The image on the left comes from a beautiful illustrated edition from 1957, showing Fanny at the window, astonished to see William Crawford coming to call on her.  It is a book about making choices, mistakes and finding love right under one's nose.  In this way, Mansfield Park is not very different from Austen's two previous novels, yet this book gives us a real insight into what it was to be a woman without any financial means, completely at the mercy of rich relations, who deserve little respect or admiration.  It is certainly a book to brush away those winter cobwebs and get you thinking.   
So, if you have never read Fanny Price's story, now is the time. There will be no better way to celebrate Austen in 2014.  Happy New Year everyone!