I haven’t read Austen for a while…
Emma and Mansfield Park sit in their box alongside their companions, unread. That must be fixed. I haven’t acknowledged my love for Jane Austen for a while, and so this post is wholly dedicated to her.
Jane Austen inspired so much fanfiction (so much of it published! :)) and has gathered a large following, with the term Janeitism coined to define this idolatry. Her work includes the six famed novels, a piece of short fiction, two unfinished books and an array of less famous collections of poems, stories, plays. She led a fairly short and, as I am led to believe, not very happy life. I love that Jane Austen is widely celebrated to this day because she deserves it all.
Besides reading her own work, I’d like to read about her. Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin is an old resident of my Goodreads TBR list. I read Tomalin’s biography of Charles Dickens and found it to be an excellently composed work. I have high hopes for Austen’s bio.
Short term solutions for getting to know the real Jane come in the form of cinematic adaptations. Becoming Jane (2007) explores Austen’s relationship with a student of the law and later judge, Thomas Lefroy. Jane is played by my beloved Anne Hathaway and Lefroy — by the ever-charming James McAvoy. Other honourable cast includes Julie Walters, Maggie Smith, and James Cromwell (you may not know him by name, but I assure you, you’ve seen him). Another film I haven’t seen is Miss Austen Regrets (2008). I’ve heard positive reviews. In this one Olivia Williams becomes Jane Austen (with a bonus of Tom Hiddleston, as IMDB faithfully informs me). While the Hathaway version presents a younger Jane, this version focuses on her later life as the title somewhat suggests. I have to get my hands on it.
I should also mention my favourite movie adaptations of her novels. Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice (2005) beats them all. Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen are the best on-screen Lizzy/Darcy duo (in my humble opinion)! I also love the film version of Sense and Sensibility, featuring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet as the Dashwood sisters. I do like the 2007 Masterpiece movie of Northanger Abbey, as well. This one casts Felicity Jones as Catherine and JJ Feild as Mr. Tilney. I know the other three novels have several adaptations, but I haven’t found any I enjoyed. Recommendations?
Continuing in the cinematic sphere, there are a couple of movies which are by-products of Janeitism. Lost in Austen (2008) and Austenland (2013). I haven’t seen the latter, but the former is a fun and lighthearted time-waster movie, as I like to call them.
I am a moderate Janeite, not yet reaching the point of blind fanaticism. I do not participate in Austen-themed tea parties, Regency-costumed readings, or reenactments. Would I like to? Maybe, just a little…
While browsing the infinite Internet, I found this and fell in love with it:
Further browsing discovered this for me. I want it! The quote it from Persuasion, which goes “I am half agony, half hope.” I adore it.
I even found evidence of a Jane Austen action figure, at which point I became concerned about the cult-like state of the fandom. “Trekkies collect action figures!” I breathed in indignation. But a tiny part of me really wanted that figurine clad in plastic muslin and accompanied by a writing desk. A writing desk!
A plain Google-search brings up pages and pages of Austen paraphernalia. Pillows embroidered with quotations, gorgeous cameos, Janeite cakes crafted by some awesome hands, fanart, t-shirts, memes, and whatever else. It reminded me of a little book I saw at Indigo, called Jane-a-Day. The front cover claims to be a “5-year journal with 365 witticisms by Jane Austen”. I don’t really know how that works…
All of this is evidence of how much people love Jane Austen. And I love that.