The divine Miss A

I never tire of reading Jane Austen or of reading about Jane Austen. I’ve just bought a new book by John Mullan that I’ve been waiting for with great anticipation. What Matters in Jane Austen? explores 20 critical puzzles about Jane Austen’s life & work. I’ve dipped in already & I know I’m going to love it. The author looks at such questions as why it’s risky to go to the seaside, what the characters call each other, what do the characters say about the heroine when she’s not present & which important characters never speak.

The first chapter is about why age matters in the novels. It opens with the observation that Mrs Bennet is probably only about 40 & Mr Collins 25. The casting of the various movie & television adaptations sometimes colours our impressions of the age of the various characters. I’ve always thought it interesting that Colonel Brandon at 35 never thinks of Mrs Dashwood as a potential partner & she can’t be more than 40. Was her widowhood off-putting? Were men just expected to look for younger brides who could have children? I’m looking forward to John Mullan’s opinion on these vital questions. I’ve read many biographies of Jane Austen & this is just the kind of book I enjoy. Looking at the life & work from a different angle.

I’m a member of the Jane Austen Society of Australia &, although I can’t attend meetings (they’re based in Sydney), I enjoy reading their publications which usually contain the texts of the talks & presentations from the study days & conferences they organize. Sensibilities is published twice a year & the December issue contains all the papers from the 2011 conference on Sense & Sensibility. There are articles on marriage in Sense & Sensibility (by Hazel Jones, whose book Jane Austen & Marriage, is on the tbr shelves), Emma Thompson’s film version of the novel, an assessment of the 1981 mini series version & an exploration of the notorious Dashwood family, one of whom was the founder of the Hell-fire Club for rakes & renegades & what Jane could have known about this scandalous episode.

I’ve also succumbed to a Jane Austen-related impulse buy. Reader’s Niche is a Melbourne-based online business that sells all kinds of objects with literary associations. When I saw this lovely scarf, I couldn’t resist. It’s a gorgeous dusty pink colour & as you can see, has a prettified picture of Jane & a quotation from Pride & Prejudice. The website isn’t terribly easy to find your way around (the scarves are under Home Decor) but there are lots of posters, tea towels, coffee mugs & even T shirts & charm bracelets. Now if I can only work out how to tie the scarf so that the picture & quotation are both visible… I’m not clever with scarves but I just had to have it. Could any true Janeite resist?

6 thoughts on “The divine Miss A

  1. I've just ordered a copy of Jane Austen & Marriage, after reading a review in the JASNA (North America) newsletter – but the Mullan book sounds really interesting as well.


  2. I do like Jane Austen but I wouldn't describe myself as a Janeite in any shape or form and the huge industry that has sprung up around her rather puzzles me (Heaven knows what she would have thought about it!)
    Having said that the John Mullen book does look fascinating and a very useful background read too to help get the most out of a re-read.


  3. Liz, the Mullan book is very good but only if you've read the books & already know the stories. It reminds me of the wonderful John Sutherland books that look at puzzles in classic fiction. As I've read a lot of biographies of JA, this is the kind of book I like. It looks more deeply into the way she wrote & the importance of aspects of the books that may pass us by in the 21st century that her 19th century readers would have picked up on.


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