Cocktails with Miss Austen

Frances Duncan

Continue reading “Cocktails with Miss Austen”


Jane Austen at Home

A review of Lucy Worsley’s Jane Austen at Home by Frances Duncan

Jane Austen at HomeThis book could be considered a companion piece to the BBC documentary Jane Austen: Behind Closed Doors.

“Young people reading Jane Austen for the first time think that the stories are about love and romance and finding a partner” (p.2) but Lucy argues that Jane “didn’t really believe that a man, on his own, could bring a happy ending,” (p.175) it’s the home he promises that’s important.

There is detail that the conservative Victorians tried to gloss over – that her family worked to keep a household running; they dug in the garden, they tended cows, they were not idle gentry. More attention is paid to Bath and Southampton, a period in her life that is often ignored perhaps because it’s not idyllic; it was an unsettled time. Cassandra was there when she died, but it’s never mentioned that her sister in law Mary was in attendance too.

Jane’s love life is explored in detail; it’s bigger than you’d think. There’s a doctor, a lawyer, a clergyman and her almost mythical romance at the seaside. Tom Lefroy based on his letters turned out to be a “pompous, Puritanical bore” (p.188). I always wondered if she was teasing about her relationship with him but everyone else takes it so seriously.

I found one mistake and I loved this book so much that I hate to say it. The text refers to Isabella Thorpe always wearing white in Northanger Abbey but this is incorrect, it’s Miss Tilney (p.91).

Jane comes across as a determined woman who recognised that “good fortune was not going to come knocking on her door, either in the form of a husband of a legacy. But she could go out looking for good fortune herself” (p.227). I recognise myself in Jane, like Lucy “I have found her to be simply a far, far better version of myself: clever, kind, funny but also angry at the restrictions of her life, someone tirelessly searching for ways to be free and creative” (p.4), someone “so private that even members of her own family did not know her” (p.26).

In the last poem Jane Austen wrote appears the line:

But behold me immortal!

It’s a loss that she didn’t live longer, that she didn’t write more. It’s been argued that people have children to achieve a form of immortality; for Jane her books are her children. She raised (wrote) them so well that 200 years later they still have an impact.


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Jane Austen The Secret Radical

Book review by Frances Duncan

AustenI read several reviews of Jane Austen The Secret Radical before reading the book itself. Reviewers Abigail Bok and John Mullan agree that there isn’t much new. This is amusing as Mullan’s What Matters In Jane Austen* has even less original material. I agree with him that Edward Ferrars and Catherine Moreland’s behaviour is unlikely to have Freudian undertones. But those who view Austen’s novels as romances may be surprised (“Jane’s novels aren’t romantic. But it’s become increasingly difficult for readers to see this.” p. 31); readers who know about Austen herself won’t be.  Continue reading “Jane Austen The Secret Radical”

Symposium: Have you got your ticket yet?

We wanted to do something special to mark 200 years since Jane Austen’s death and to bring together members from across the country. As I mentioned previously the symposium is different to our normal meetings; there’s a lot more people, logistics and cost involved.

I’ve worked really hard to give you the symposium you wanted* and I do hope that it can go ahead. Please buy your ticket before Saturday (25 March) to make sure we have the numbers to hold the meeting.

There is always a rush to buy tickets a couple of days before the meeting but ticket sales for the symposium will close a week before on 1 April.

*based off your responses to our survey (cost, location, topics and speakers)

Regular posts
I will be posting each week leading up to the symposium.
Next post: meet our venue

Get your ticket now!

Symposium: What are we going to be doing?

Jane Austen Symposium: The Good, The Bad and The Undressed
Saturday, 8 April

9:30 Registration
10:00 First Impressions – Sarah Laing
11:00 Morning tea
11:15 ‘I am now going to murder my sister’: Villains and villainy in Austen – David Norton
12:30 Regency Lunch
13:30 Card games / National Library visit – Anthony Tedeschi
15:00 Afternoon tea
15:15 Apparatus of Happiness: Clothing & Jane Austen – Leimomi Oakes
16:15 Etiquette quiz*
(stay around for more cards and grab a drink)
Please note this is subject to change
*There’s a copy of Folly is Not Always Folly up for grabs and lots of Whittakers chocolate! 


Regular posts
I will be posting each week leading up to the symposium.
Next post: have you got your ticket yet?

Get your ticket now!

Symposium: Who’s going to be speaking?

Sarah Laing

Sarah is an author and Wellingtonian. While our other speakers are academics you confessed to wanting someone a little bit famous. Enter Sarah Laing an, award winning New Zealand author, who has recently been interviewed everywhere about her new book Mansfield and Me.


David Norton
David is a crowd favourite and regularly at our meetings contributing to discussions. His talk last year on hidden relationships in Emma had members begging to have him back. We’ve asked him to talk about the bad boys of Austen, during that discussion he also confessed to having once been a cowboy!

Read more about David

Leimomi Oakes
Historian, dressmaker, lecturer. Leimomi is also known as The Dreamsstress. Not only does she create historical clothing she uses methods and material as close to those available at the time as possible.
Read our interview with Leimomi
Anthony Tedeschi
Anthony’s last talk was such a hit we weren’t able to let everyone in! There were a lot of requests to see the Austen first editions again so Anthony is bringing them out especially for his talk at the symposium – he won’t necessarily be talking about them but you’ll be able to have a good look and ask any questions.
Read our interview with Anthony

Regular posts

I will be posting each week leading up to the symposium.
Next post: timetable of talks

Get your ticket now!