The iconic image of Divine Jane has been the go-to portarit for Janeites all over the world for two hundered years; the engraved bookplate commissioned by Jane’s family when it was decided that Cassandra’s rather unfalttering scratchy drawing of her sister was just not good enough to present the readers with. The watercolour version of this picture makes Jane look rather bovine and gormless, hardly the sme woman who could have penned six of the world’s greatest loved novels. Thus the engraved version was born, showing a not unattractive, though intelligent looking woman, whose eyes were slightly enlargeed as ‘a gift’ to the great lady.
Recently, a new portrait has emerged and its buyers, after extensive research into Austen family features including the aristocratic nose, claim it to be Jane Austen herself. The portait is a far cry for the scratchy image drawn by her sister, and even further from the watercolour doe-eyed authoress in a cloud of stupidity. No, this image, though putting Jane in a rather more facially striking light, somehow seems to suit her more.
The face is intelligent and interested, rather than the detatched, feminine look some if her other portraits depict. It is easy to believe that this enquiring, middle aged woman with a witty glint in her eye could be our beloved authoress.
However it will take even more detailed research and substantial proof before this becomes an accepted portrait of Jane Austen, and even longer before it becomes an accepted image amongst janeites.
So is this the lost portrait of Jane Austen? Or is Divine Jane the closest we can ever get to knowing what she really looked like? Which do you prefer?
Jane wasn’t murdered. Put the smelling salts down and stop swooning. We’re not saying that there was any evidence of foul play surrounding Miss Austen’s death, which is why it’s kind of irritating us that people think there was, and have made a book about it.
Apparently, Jane Austen could have died from Arsenic Poisoning, a theory not too implausiable, as it was a popular medicine at the time. So did Jane die of natural causes? Or could her untimely death have been avoided…?
She is very lucky indeed to have a birthday so close to Sense and Sensibility’s, and I wanted everyone to share in her birthday treat from me…
Since the first publication in 1811, there have been possibly hundreds of versions of Sense and Sensibility on sale; however, I think that this is possibly the most exquisite yet. This leather binding, marble edged hardback is a perfect gift to mark Austen’s 200 year- old romance, and will make a perfect addition to your book collection. I’m sure that myself and Miss Smith will be purchasing a copy very soon.
So, if you are like us and have a crazy obsession for beautiful books, then get yourself onto the Jane Austen Centre website now! For only £15.00, this could be one of your darling children. www.janeaustengiftshop.co.uk
Happy Birthday Sense and Sensibility! x
With it being the great bicentennial of Sense and Sensibility this month, Miss Wareham and I decided to do a special post on the different TV and film adaptations of Miss Austen’s first published work. By this we mean adaptations close to the book, so we’re not including from Prada to Nada or similar in this…
We looked at three adaptations in particular:
1) 1980s BBC starring Irene Richards and Tracey Childs.
2) 1995 Film version starring Emma Thompson
3) 2008 TV adaptation starring David Morrisey
We had seen the latter two several times of course, but as for the first, we were rather ignorant, before we spotted it for three quid in HMV. So, anticipating a hilariously old fashioned version, we settled down for a superior mocking session over the bonnets. However, we assumed that due to it being Miss Austen’s Great Work, we would be easily able to watch it. This proved to be quite a hasty assumption. From the opening titles, we were worried. Ten minutes in, we were horrified, and twenty minutes in, bored rigid, but neither of us wanted to admit it. After all, it was Sense and Sensibility. It was bound to pick up eventually. Yet somehow… even Miss Austen’s words couldn’t make it right.
Perhaps, if we persevered, things would get better, but by the time we got to the end of the first episode, which seemed to drag on forever, we couldn’t face the X amount of episodes left. One of the finest comic moments in the novel – Fanny Dashwood persuading her husband not to give his sisters a penny – was rendered dry and lifeless!
And the costumes! Don’t get us started on the costumes… We know it was the eighties, don’t get us wrong, but there are some things than cannot be pardoned by the times. Our disappointment in the costumes can be summed up by one, HIDEOUS dress:
I mean…OUCH. Doily pain. These provided some much needed comedy value. The main actors themselves were fairly good. Marianne (pictured left) was suitably dramatic and dreamy, and Elinor was sensible and measured. However, we were disappointed by Edward Ferrars. He was not only sporting an odd choice of costume (long pants verging on flares – where were the britches?) but an ill-advised hair-do. Edward is a much disputed Austen man, often overlooked and brushed off as a little unworthy of the good Elinor’s heart. Emma Thompson described him as ‘rice puddingy’ and you can nod in agreement sometimes with that depiction, but this was NOT a good portrayal of Mr Ferrars. See Below.
We do realise however, that there may be some fans of this version out there, and we want to apologise and pledge our promise to persevere and watch the whole adapatation. Perhaps once we’ve got a dash of Willoughby and a sprinkling of Colonel Brandon, the series will pick up and feel more like Austen. Once we do accomplish thnis whole viewing, we’ll let you know how it went.
Wish us luck.
Keep a look out for parts two and three of our Sense and Sensibility adaptation reviews. Next time we’ll be looking at the award winning 1995 film version starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Greg Wise and Alan Rickman. if you have seen this 1980 version, and liked it better than we did, please let us know!
How are they working fantasy novel author Terry Pratchett into a Jane Austen blog, I hear you cry.
Just read it and see. You may be pleasantly surprised, gentle reader, as it is a truth universally acknowledged that an author in need will always turn to Miss Austen for help, aphorism and then some.
Well it was only a matter of time before the Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine made the connection between our favourite Duchess and our favourite author. They are related, after all. Although in many respects, Miss Wareham and I love and worship K-Mid, we’re questioning the headwear. Perhaps a bonnet would be more suitable…
Pick up the latest issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World here.
Finally…JaneiteJournal’s review of Jennifer Ziegler’s Sense and Sensibility inspired novel for S&S month!
When I heard about Sass and Serendipity, I must admit, I was sceptical. I am sick of our beloved Sense and Sensibility being used as a framework for cheesy adaptations- like the recent film ‘From Prada to Nada’, which basically nicked Austen’s storyline but ruined her characters and her overall point.
However, I was happy to find that Sass and Serendipity, from the first chapter, was true enough to Austen, for me to read on.
And I am pleased that I did, because for all it is indeed a teen novel, it has an age transcendent storyline, which is, of course, one of the great appeals of the original S&S.
In Sass and Serendipity, the Dashwoods become the Riveras: Gabby and Daphne Rivera to be precise. However the fixtures and fittings of Austen’s well loved novel is all there- the girls and their mother are forced to find a new home in the aftermath of an upsetting divorce – a modern spin on Mr Dashwood’s death, leaving his daughters and widow virtually penniless.
So the setting may be new, and the time may be now, but you can’t really go wrong with the basic, bare bones of Sense and Sensibility for a successful plot. On this skeleton, Ziegler builds up a story of her own which can appeal to a modern audience; especially to a teenage girl. The plot follows both sisters’ struggles to cope with their parents’ divorce whilst pursuing their respective love lives and happiness. Whilst practical Gabby works every hour God sends to help her mother pay the rent at the same time as studying to get into college, Daphne is more concerned with who she is going to fall in love with next, and what she’s going to wear for prom.
The characters do not however, as I initially feared, fall into the American-teen-movie stereotypes. These girls are deep. Though they were based on Elinor and Marianne, I found that the sisters were the Dashwoods at their extremes. Gabby is far more stern, bitter and almost heartlessly pragmatic than Elinor ever was, but similarly internalises most of her feelings for reasons not dissimilar to the elder Miss Dashwood’s. Daphne was closer to Marianne in character, though I fear, even more foolish. She is too romantic for her own good, wilful and a bit ditzy. These new extremes to the characters are what makes them fit in the twenty first century though. You can’t take Austen and replicate her characters now without tweaking them to fit the times, and Ziegler did this skilfully, adding new dimensions to the well known characters under the influence of modern culture. Gabby is Elinor turned against the world because of mistrust of men she got from her parents’ divorce. Daphne is Marianne subjected to a Disney Princess upbringing, countless teen magazines and the terrifying hierarchy of American high school. And surprisingly, it works.
The characters are identifiable, as all of Austen’s women are. As an elder sister who has to pick up a lot of my sibling’s slack, I identified most with Gabby, as I do with Elinor, and it was interesting to see a version of my favourite character so much closer to me in terms of time and predicament.
So, I hear you ask, she’s got the Dashwoods right, but what about the men?
This is where the story really took on Ziegler’s own ideas and plot. While there is an identifiable pattern emerging in the form of a Willoughby and a Colonel Brandon (which I won’t spoil – read the book instead!), there are other male interests, none of whom I could really think of as an Edward Ferrars, which was a shame, but made more sense to this modern, very hardened Elinor’s (Gabby) plotline. You get the feeling that she wouldn’t have put up with any of Lucy Steele’s crap. Ziegler also omitted, to my slight disappointment, Austen’s curse of the ‘W’. Willoughby and Wickham are her two most notorious blackguards, but the deceiver in Sass and Serendipity is harder to spot, I’m afraid. He had me going for a moment, actually…
I think what I liked most about this novel though, was the sister-centric focus. Although the two sisters are so dissimilar they can barely speak to each other without starting an argument, and the plot follows two separate stories – when the sisters’ lives intermingle it’s at its most moving and identifiable, especially for those with one or more sister. There was actually a scene in there which I have experienced myself – when trying to be nice to her younger sister, Gabby earnestly tries to take an interest in Daphne’s prom dress, even though she thinks it’s a waste of money, a waste of time and looks absolutely ridiculous. There’s also a lot of tough love from Gabby to Daphne that Daphne just doesn’t appreciate. I found it hard to sympathise with Daphne at times because I couldn’t believe anyone could be so dopey, and I felt frustrated on Gabby’s behalf.
It’s a novel that definitely draws you in, but is an easy read, and ultimately, in my case, makes you take sides. Everyone identifies with one Austen character or another, and bringing them bang up to date in a modern adaptation only made me realise even more how much of an ‘Elinor’ I am at times. Maybe it’s an elder sister thing…
One of the reviews on the cover was that this book would ‘leave you hugging your sister.’ When I turned the final page I did indeed feel a pang that I’d been quite harsh with her lately, and tried to get her to read Sass and Serendipity for herself. She then twisted her face so much though, I felt like hitting her with it, oh so happy that I had a hardback copy. And that is why I think Sass and Serendipity works. Gabby and Daphne are real sisters – at each other’s throats one minute, and best of friends the next. It’s a book about love, family, forgiveness and friendship, and to a certain extent – healing. The girls have to go through a lot of hardship with leaves both of them with sore spots, wounded prides and broken hearts.
The novel managed, most of the time, to remain aloof on the mushy side, and focus more on drama. It did however, feel a little corny at times, but I think that may have just been my British unfamiliarity with some of American phraseology, and I must admit, I did expect a bit off fluff. I don’t think you can have a novel full of bitterness, anger and heartbreak without a bit of a fluffy reward at some point. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?
Sense and Sensibility slid surprisingly seamlessly into the twenty first century, because of Ziegler’s well crafted new dimensions to the characters, variations in storyline and above all, respect for Austen’s original. The characters were genuinely based on Marianne and Elinor, Willoughby and Brandon without changing them beyond recognition. It was an interesting, engaging re-telling which worked well in a modern setting and provided janeites with a new ‘spin-off’ or ‘based-on’ book (whatever you want to call them) that we don’t have to be ashamed of, for once. It managed all this, and there wasn’t a sea monster in sight.
This year marks the epic bicentennial of Austen’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility. To celebrate this, JaneiteJournal will be posting a series of themed reviews, critiques, and general nonsense for your perusing pleasure. S&S fans should therefore expect review of the latest homage to Elinor and Marianne- ‘Sass and Serendipity’, and JaneiteJournal’s baffled commentary on S&S adaptations past and present. And as Miss Wareham and Miss Smith enjoy bonnet gags, sea monsters, barouche rides and jaunts to Bath as much as the next Janeites, expect a whole host of Austenian silliness to be flung this way.
In short, Sense and Sensibility will be getting the attention it so needs and deserves this year, after being horribly insulted by Sea Monsters- Colonel Brandon especially. Would Miss Austen approve of the growing Austen culture? Our favourite cartoonist, Kate Beaton has a few ideas.