A Modest Proposal: Might the Spinster Have Married?

As reported in last month’s blog about Jane Austen’s romantic attachments, biographers dutifully recount the story of Jane’s acceptance/rejection of a proposal by Harris Bigg-Wither, a young, brash man six years her junior, on Thursday-Friday, 2-3 December 1802. The story goes that Jane and Cassandra journeyed to Manydown, the Bigg-Wither…
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Brotherly Love?

In a recent blog, I wrote about the general but oft ignored belief that cousins should not marry. Cousin marriage was fashionable in Jane Austen’s time among the wealthy, but it also happened more than once in Jane’s immediate family. Her brother Henry (top, by headline) married their cousin Eliza, and the…
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Engaging Stories About Miss Austen and Her Beaus

How many times was Jane Austen engaged—or married (!)? Thoughts about her short life—and her emotional life, whatever it may have been—bubble up in this year of 2017, the 200th anniversary of her death. Officially, Austen was engaged once, for less than a day, to a young, callow Harris Bigg-Wither,…
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Austen and the Cathedral: Was Interment a Signal Honor?

This week marks the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen, who died on July 18, 1817 of an unknown disease (Addison’s leads the speculation). Tributes have been flowing through any number of activities, readings, evensongs, and events, leading to July 24, the date of her…
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Marrying a Cousin

There’s a whole lot of marrying going on in Jane Austen’s novels. Among the major characters of her six major novels, at least nineteen couples tie the knot. One wedding was so singular that it could have been halted in certain quarters, then and now. The marriage in Mansfield Park…
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Miss Austen—No Politician, She

In this, the 200th anniversary year of Jane Austen’s death, we learn that white supremacists are co-opting the English author in support of a racial dictatorship, shocked opponents are claiming that true readers are “rational, compassionate, liberal-minded people,” and conservatives are chiding Janeites for assuming that great literature can be…
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Austen in Australia

I spent the week in Australia, giving presentations on the history and work of Jane Austen. The lectures took me to Sydney, where I spoke at the Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of Australia, and at a local library; and at the Austen societies in Newcastle and…
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Do Austen’s Novels Reveal Her Views on Slavery?

My last blog explored the effort in England to abolish the slave trade—the buying and selling of human flesh—which was accomplished in 1807—as well as the effort to eliminate slavery itself throughout all British possessions, which was not accomplished until 1840. Slave owners were helped through their “difficult” six-year period…
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Fight Against Slavery Carried on Beyond Austen’s Life

a Slavery was one of the most contentious issues of Jane Austen’s time. Some scholars claim that she ignored the issue or even accepted the legitimacy of the practice. Others claim that her novel Mansfield Park serves as an anti-slavery tract. For certain, Austen would have tackled the complex issue in…
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Strolling in the Pleasure Gardens of Jane Austen’s Bath

Whereas the first day of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath was as dreary as anyone could wish to avoid—enlivened only by the gaily dressed ladies and gentlemen who braved the rain for the Promenade—the next day broke off as sunny and pleasant as anyone in England would wish to enjoy….
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Did Austen Speak Posh?

In our last blog, we heard how Shakespeare’s English much more resembled the accents of the provinces than the “proper” English favored today by actors and newscasters, the latter being an accent called “Received Pronunciation” or “RP.” Jane Austen had knowledge of and appreciation for Shakespeare. There are parallels between her social…
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‘To Bay or Not to Bay’: Did Shakespeare Talk Country?

When I was in college, the drama department at the University of Arkansas wanted to do a bang-up job on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Over the summer, they sent the actor playing the lead role off to study proper enunciation. He returned with an impeccable rendition, but no one anticipated the disconnect…
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UK Winner of Sweepstakes Announced for Bath Festival

Drum roll, please! It’s time to announce our Grand Prize Winner from Great Britain in “The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen” Sweepstakes 2016. Vicki Smith of Manea in Cambridgeshire, England, is our lucky Grand Prize Winner! She has won an exciting Grand Prize trip for two to the beautiful UNESCO…
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A Taxing Subject for Americans–and for Austen and her Peers

April 15 being tax day in the U.S., I thought it appropriate to celebrate the many ways the tax man visited Jane Austen and her fellow citizens during Regency times. The tax philosophy of the day echoed the views of the famous tax philosopher, George Harrison of the “Beatles”: “If…
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Sexism in Film, Part II: What’s the Solution for Hollywood?

Recently, I wrote about sexism in films today and the general lack of strong roles for women. The blog noted that Jane Austen has been the source for at least ninety TV or movie productions, nearly half of all female films in the last twenty years. Though the quiet perseverance…
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Austen Sweepstakes Offers Grand Prize of Trips to Bath

Trips to Bath, England, are the grand prizes of The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen Sweepstakes 2016, to coincide with the city’s annual Jane Austen Festival in September 2016. The sweepstakes, which honors Jane Austen, her work, and the many readers around the world who have made her a literary…
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Reader Thoughts on ‘Marriage,’ Austen’s Journey of the Soul

’Tis better to give than receive, but in this holiday season I would like to take a moment to thank readers for what I have received—their very generous thoughts and comments on my novel, The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen. What touched me most was the number of times “beautiful”…
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Reflections on JASNA AGM

As one of 150-plus first-time attendees to the 2015 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), I found the event to be as educational as I had hoped and more charming than I expected. Here are a few of my JASNA reflections. The AGM…
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Clarkson, Anning, Austen Ring

  Of Jane Austen’s known jewelry, her topaz cross came from her younger brother, Charles, who bought one each for his sisters with his first navy prize in 1801. Her turquoise bracelet probably came from another brother, Edward, as a memento relating to the death of his beloved wife Elizabeth…
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Strong Female Film Characters

Strong female film characters: Will they ever consistently appear? Movies with strong female leads have proven exceedingly popular. Consider only the success and variety of The Hunger Games, Wild, Kill Bill, Gravity, and Frozen. Yet the entertainment industry has had to be dragged—if not kicking and screaming, at least whining—into making…
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‘Slow Love’ for Darcy

John Tierney’s recent article on “mate value” confirms a long-held notion that people tend to marry others like themselves in terms of looks, wealth, and education. He holds out hope for mismatched couples, however, through a process called “slow love.” Studies show that the longer someone spends with a potential…
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Why the Book

Whenever we travel, and happen to have a female pilot, I joke to my wife about my horror that they’re letting a “girl” fly the airliner. Knowing that my own flight instructor was a woman, my wife usually responds with nothing worse than a sharp elbow to the ribs. (I…
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Tough World for Austen

I knew I had my Jane Austen novel when I read a seemingly unrelated work: Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder. This history of scientific and industrial developments during the period spanning Austen’s life went far beyond “three or four families in a country village” to show a panorama of…
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From High Tech to Jane Austen

Blame it on Dr. Eaves. He’s the answer to the question, why would a 21st Century man, who has spent most of his career in computers, business, and aviation, explore the “what ifs” in the life of a literary woman from two hundred years earlier? Dr. Duncan Eaves was my…
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