Austen’s Letters, Rooms, TV, and Library …

This month’s mailbag brings a bundle of news related to Jane Austen. Autumn is a busy season for our favorite author!

First is that Jane Austen’s House Museum has been able to purchase a section of one of Jane’s letters, thanks to a generous outpouring of public support. The letter, from Jane to her niece Anna, was written in November 1814, when Jane was in London negotiating a second edition of Mansfield Park with her publisher Thomas Egerton. (The talks were unsuccessful.) The letter becomes one of the museum’s centerpieces in its celebration of seventy years in operation.

Speaking of her letters, the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford have put the text of all of Austen’s known surviving letters online. Here’s the story, with some excerpts and background, and here’s the link to the letters. The text of the letters is from R. W. Chapman’s second edition. Oxford has also published Deirdre Le Faye’s more current fourth edition of the letters; the assumption is that the text is identical.

Austen lovers also have the opportunity to see where Jane lived with her brother Henry when she was in London. In fact, the apartment may still be available to lease, at the bargain London price of only £1,395 per week.

Austen’s unfinished work Sanditon has been developed into an eight-part TV series. It’s premiered in England and is destined for U.S. shores, probably next year. First, what is Sanditon itself—Jane’s written piece? Next, what should viewers expect—not a traditional sitting room comedy! The producer, Andrew Davies, tells viewers not to watch the production on a smartphone—they’ll miss too much of the period detail. (See Rose Williams above in the ITV production for an example of period detail.)

Davies also lets it drop that still another Sanditon might be on the way.

In another kind of visual art, a photographer cut her teeth working with women in the army and in rugby. Only then did she feel capable of taking on the challenge of 21st century women dressed in Regency gowns. She came upon the Jane Austen Festival in Bath …

Last but not least, McGill University in Montreal has created a digital version of the library of Jane’s brother Edward at his home in Godmersham, Kent. The virtual library collection is called “Reading with Austen.” The digital books are lined up where they were on the original shelves. Users can click on each book to gather additional data and inspect the digital copy. (Note: to see all of the collection, viewers must check the “East Wall” on the left and the “West Wall” on the right of the display of the main bookshelves.)

The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen, which traces love from a charming courtship through the richness and complexity of marriage and concludes with a test of the heroine’s courage and moral convictions, is now complete and available from Amazon and Jane Austen Books.

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