Jane’s House

Well, her final house.

More information on the museum. 

This is a place I must go before I die. I have to do the Jane Austen tour of England.

And yes, this is what is meant by a “cottage” in the Georgian period. Multiple bedrooms, multiple fireplaces…windows, grounds…this isn’t some Grimm Fairy Tale cottage with only one room. So, when you think of Barton Cottage in Sense and Sensibility, think something along these lines.



Jane in the movies

Especially recently, Jane’s works have been subject to many movie versions. Some are very good. Some are not worthy of being touched by a true Jane-ite (ahem, Keira Knightley P&P?!). So, here’s my list of approved Jane films, if you want to start here, instead of the novels

  • Pride and Prejudice, BBC, 1995: THE VERSION. The only version. Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. The Wet Shirt Scene. Perfection. Available on VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray. Must-have. Must-see. This is, essentially, the entire novel, in six hours. If this doesn’t make you want to fall head over heels for Jane, I worry about you.
  • Sense and Sensibility: 1997, Ang Lee directed. Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet. Alan Rickman as a good guy! (DVD, possibly Blu-Ray) A good second is the recent BBC version with Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley! Squee!), Charity Wakefield and Hattie Morihan. Dan Stevens. Wet shirt. Chopping wood. And a duel! DVD (possibly Blu-Ray)
  • Mansfield Park: 1999, Frances O’Connor, Jonny Lee Miller, Victoria Hamilton. Harold Pinter is Sir Thomas! This adaptation also includes quotes from Jane’s juvenalia (her early writings), passed off as Fanny’s writing. This really captures the vitality of the novel–a perfect edition. DVD
  • Emma: 2009, BBC. The only version of Emma where I like Emma! Romola Garai, Michael Gambon (Prof. Dumbledore) as Emma’s father, and Jonny Lee Miller (from MP, above) as Mr. Knightley.
  • Persuasion: Two versions, tied. One, Sony Pictures Classic, 1995, with Amanda Root as Anne. Does the story justice: really fleshes it out, and Anne is so very sympathetic. Also the BBC’s version ( 2007), with Sally Hawkins as Anne. This has a great scene–Anne playing Moonlight Sonata when Wentworth walks in, which I love–but is also a bit hurried. But both versions have their merits. Both available as DVDs, although the 1995 might be hard to find.
  • Northanger Abbey: Yes! There is a version! BBC, 2007, with Felicity Jones as Catherine. DVD.

Jane and her books: A brief overview

(continuing Jane Austen Week  here at TBG…)

So, for the past few days, you’ve read about Jane, her family, and even had some alcoholic punch. That is all well and good.

But why do we care about her, anyway?

Because of the novels she wrote.

Below are quick “capsules” about each novel, with publication date, summary, and any pertinent Jane thoughts about the book. And the plot outlines are outlines–I don’t want to give anything away.

More in-depth posts will follow, especially about Mansfield Park, since that’s the book club selection. But this is enough to get you started.

Sense and Sensibility

  • Begun in 1795 as Elinor and Marianne, and as an epistolary novel–a novel told through letters. In 1797-98 it was changed to Sense and Sensibility, and in the current novel format we know now it as. It was updated in 1809 and offered for publication in 1810, finally being published in October 1811 as a three volume work, “by a lady.”
  • The story revolves around two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, and their pursuits of love. At the death of their father, the girls and their mother and younger sister Margaret are forced to leave their luxurious estate and move to a cottage on a distant cousin’s property. The plot follows Elinor and Marianna as they fall in love: Elinor with Edward Ferrars, her brother-in-law, and Marianne with John Willoughby. Elinor embodies the “sense” of the title, while Marianne is the “sensibility”.
  • Central conflict: Passion vs. reason

Pride and Prejudice

  • Begun in October 1796 as First Imrpessions. During 1811-12, Jane “lop’t and crop’t” the manuscript and sold it for 110 pounds. It was published in January of 1813 in three volumes, and the second printing followed in autumn of that year. In 1817, the third edition was released.
  • It was been translated into 35 languages.
  • The classic story of Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy–can these two opposites overcome their initial impressions of each other and find love? Many wonderfully drawn characters and priceless comic scenes.
  • Much of P&P is based on Jane’s relationship with Tom LeFroy (the story behind the film Becoming Jane). I’ll write more on this later.
  • Jane called P&P her “own darling child,” and it was the fashionable novel of Spring 1813.

Mansfield Park

  • Planning began in 1811, actual writing in 1812. It was published May 9, 1814, with a second edition in 1816.
  • Fanny Price, the heroine, goes to live with her well-off relatives in hopes of gaining some education and social polish that she cannot gain living with her impoverished family. She is constantly reminded that she is “not as good” as her other two female cousins, Maria and Julia, and is somewhat of the family Cinderella. Her worth to the family rises when a wealthy man, Henry Crawford, begins to pay her attentions.
  • Has caused more debate than any other novel.
  • Fanny is probably the most criticized of Austen heroines (one of the reasons I wrote my thesis defending her!).
  • Fanny’s cousin Edmund is one of Jane’s favorite characters.


  • Started January 1814 and finished March 29, 1815. Published December 1815 (but dated 1816), with a run of 2,000 copies.
  • Jane wrote that Emma is “A heroine whom no one but myself will much like.”
  • Emma Woodhouse– “handsome, clever and rich”–is an independently wealthy young woman who is, for lack of a better term, a busybody. Having had some limited success in matchmaking, she now attempts to set up her friend, Harriet, with the local cleric. Emma is a bit spoiled, and the only person who really tries to correct her is her neighbor and brother-in-law, Mr. Knightley.
  • Jane was far from confident that Emma would be well-received, although many current critics call it her finest example of ironic writing.


  • Her last completed novel. Shorter, and a more thoughtful reflection of love among “older” people.
  • Finished August, 1816, and published with Northanger Abbey after her death.
  • “At once the warmest and coldest of Austen’s works, the softest and the hardest.”
  • The story of Anne Elliot, a woman in her late 20s who fell in love when she was younger, but was persuaded not to marry the man because he was poor. Now, her family has lost their fortune and he is a Naval captain with wealth and position. Can their feelings for each other survive the opinions of others?

Northanger Abbey and Other Works

  • NA written first, but published last.
  • A send-up of  the Gothic novel.
  • Catherine Moreland, her heroine, has a very overactive imagination, which she puts to unpleasant use when she visits a well-off family at their Abbey (of the title).

Meet the Austens

Jane was the seventh of eight children born to Rev. George Austen and his wife, Cassandra Leigh. Her father had two siblings, Philadelphia, and Leonora. The Austens were married on April 26, 1764.

Cassandra and Jane were the only girls amidst a clan of brothers who became clergymen, navy men, or both. In order of their birth:

  • Rev. James Austen (born 1765): He married twice; once to Anne Matthews, with whom he had a daughter, Anna; and again to Mary Lloyd, with whom he gave birth to the future Rev. James Edward Austen. The Steventon Rectory, where Jane and all her siblings were born, passed through her family as such: Her father; James (when George died in 1801), and then to her nephew William.
  • George Austen (1766-83): Not much is known about George. He was disabled in some way–the records don’t agree, but there are suggestions of epilepsy and cerebral palsy–and lived with another family during his life time. He was cared for, but “unmentionable” by the family. In the film Becoming Jane, Jane is seen to have a close relationship with him.
  • Edward Austen (b. 1767): Edward’s life is a bit complicated. He was adopted as the heir to the Knight fortune as a child, so he was called Edward Austen-Knight, legally. He married Elizabeth Bridge, who bore him 11 children, which probably hastened her death in 1808. The oldest daughter, Fanny, was very close to her Aunt Jane, and often sent her writings to Jane for critique. Jane married Sir Edward Knactchbull (a widowed MP) , and was almost 80 when she died, having given birth to six children.
  • Edward lived in great style at Godersham estate in Kent,  and also owned Chawton Cottage, which was eventually lent to Jane, Cassandra, and Mrs. Austen following Rev. Austen’s death, and where Jane died.
  • Henry Austen (1771-1850): Jane’s favorite brother, he was instrumental in helping Jane’s works get published. He was a “jack of all trades”: during his life, he was a captain in the militia, a banker, and a clergyman. He was ambitious, optimistic, and agreeable, an also had a way with women. He married twice: first to Eliza de Feuillede, who was his cousin (through their Aunt Philadelphia), and then to Eleanor Jackson. His marriage to Eliza was fraught with intrigue: first, they were first cousins; second, her first husband, the Comte de Feuillde, was guillotined during the French Revolution. Eliza had a son, Hastings, from that marriage. Hastings died in 1801, and Henry had no other children.
  •  Henry was also instrumental in having Emma dedicated to the Prince of Wales. While Jane preferred to keep her identity a secret, Henry constantly bragged about her.
  • Cassandra Austen(1773-1845): Jane’s only sister and dearest friend. Like her sister, she was crossed in love, having been engaged to the Rev. Thomas Fowle, who died of yellow fever during an expedition to the West Indies. Fowle left Cassandra a legacy of 1000 pounds. Cassandra, Jane and Mrs. Austen lived together for their entire lives. She was also something of an artist, and the famous sketch we have of Jane is Cassandra’s work.
  • Francis “Frank” Austen (1774-1865): Frank became a Vice-Admiral in the Royal Navy (1838) and grew closer to Jane as they matured. He married twice: first to Mary Gibson, who died in childbirth in 1806, and then to Martha Lloyd, who was a great friend of Jane’s. Francis had 9 children with his first wife, and Jane, Cassandra, and Mrs. Austen lived with him and Mary for a time after moving from Bath following Rev. Austen’s death.
  • Jane, herself, seventh in the family, born December 16, 1775, and died at Chawton Cottage July 18, 1817.
  • Charles Austen (1779): Like Frank, an officer in the Royal Navy (you can see where Jane gets so many of her seafaring men, especially in Mansfield Park and Persuasion). He, like his brothers, married twice: first to Fanny Palmer, who died in childbirth at age 24, leaving two daughters Cassandra (“Cass”) and Harriet. (When she died, she also lost her newborn son.) In a fit of convenience, Charles took Fanny’s sister as his second wife, who died in Burma of cholera.

Jane had, as you can see, many nieces and nephews, and she often traveled to visit them during her lifetime, either with Cassandra and her mother, or by herself.

The major disruption in Jane’s life came from her brother James’ taking of the Steventon rectory in May of 1801. Her father’s health had been declining, and, since James was married, he needed his own living for his wife and family. The family moved to Bath, a place Jane hated (which is reflected in her writing). The sea air was supposed to be better for her father. Jane hated the society and the living conditions, but it became worse after her father’s death in January of 1805.

In Georgian England, the wife and unmarried sisters in a family were the responsibility of the other men–in this case, Jane’s brothers. Most of them were cordial and took their mother and sisters’ needs into account, but the women had no means of having their own living. So, they moved; first to Southhampton to share a house with Frank and Mary Austen, and then to Chawton Cottage, which was owned by Edward. Jane remained at Chawton for the rest of her life, and the majority of her novels were written there, while Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice were substantially revised. The women did travel to see their relatives, but mostly, their lives after 1809 were spent at Chawton. Jane’s writing did bring in some income, but not enough for them to live independently. Henry  tried to help them, but he was often in precarious financial straits himself.

Her mother’s family is not quite as well-documented as her father’s, but they do play a role in Mansfield Park. Jane got the idea for the novel’s three sisters from the Wards, relatives of her mothers on the Leigh side. The three sisters clearly have counterparts in Mansfield: Sarah Ward married well (like Lady Bertram), Anne Ward married respectfully (like Mrs. Norris) and Martha Ward married “a man of no specified position”, via elopement (seen as Mrs. Price in the novel).

Jane began to read early, and had a wide taste in books: “If a book is well-written, I always find it too short.” Rev. Austen educated his children, including his daughters (he even took in parish boarders to supplement his income), and encouraged the reading habit in Jane. He would buy her paper and notebooks, and gave her access to his 500+ volume library. He even attempted to have Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice published.

*Information in this entry culled from Claire Tomalin’s Jane Austen: A Life and John Spence’s Becoming Jane Austen

Jane Austen Week begins, with a recipe!

You knew it was coming.

You knew we’d read a Jane novel eventually, and then Emily would get all excited and do Jane Austen Week the week before we read it.

Yeah, you were right.

And here it is!

Normally, we meet the second Tuesday of the month. But since that’s Valentine’s Day, and two of the BGs have standing dates, we’re bumping it back a week.

The book we chose is Mansfield Park. I think it’s one of her more neglected titles, and I am going to attempt to rectify that! This week we’ll talk a bit about Jane’s family, her books, the movies, and food…all sorts of Jane goodness. 🙂

Today, we’re starting with a recipe. And not just any recipe, but one for alcoholic punch; how appropriate for Monday?

We’re bringing on the Negus. 🙂

Now, this recipe is noted in The Book Club Cookbook as belonging to Jane Eyre, but it was a popular 19th c. drink all round. It’s a “mulled wine made with sugar, nutmeg and often brandy…created by Col. Francis Negus in the early 18th century, it was popular at balls and social events of the era.” In Mansfield Park, Negus is served at the ball Sir Thomas throws for Fanny:

Shortly afterwards, Sir Thomas was again interfering a little with her inclination, by advising her to go immediately to bed…and then, creeping slowly up the principal staircase, pursued by the ceaseless country-dance, feverish with hopes and fears, soup and negus, sore-footed and fatigued, restless and agitated, yet feeling, in spite of everything, that a ball was indeed delightful. (254, 255 in the Oxford World’s Classic edition)

So, I give you: Negus

1 c. water

1 cinnamon stick

1 c. port wine

1 c. dry red wine, such as claret, Burgundy, Merlot, or Zinfandel

4 tsp. brandy

2 tbsp. sugar

1 lemon, sliced into thin rings

Grated or ground nutmeg, to taste (a large pinch)

Heat the water and cinnamon stick in a nonreactive saucepan. Boil gently for a few minutes. Reduce heat and add the remaining ingredients. When heated through, strain into heatproof serving goblets.

Serves 4

(From The Book Club Cookbook, by Judy GElman and Vicki Levy Krupp, page 211)