Inquiring readers,

When Sanditon Season 1 first aired, I reviewed every episode in such detail that I now realize I can no longer reclaim the hours I lost watching and rewatching the program, researching the actors and locations, and writing down my thoughts, albeit tongue in cheek. 

By Season 2, I had learned my lesson. I bundled the episodes together for fewer reviews  (tongue still firmly planted in cheek).

My tongue and cheek begged me not to use them for Season 3. Alas and alack, I could not make such a promise. Spoiler alert (and trigger warning for those who are still developing an appreciation for comedy, irony and sarcasm): I am giving my full-blown and personal opinion based on how many times Jane Austen rolled in her grave when her spirit realized how her unfinished novel was given the 21st century commercial, rom-com, Regency treatment. As I watched the 6 episodes back to back, with power naps inbetween, my essential question was: “Where’s Jane in all of this?” 

The season opens with Sir Eddy Denham suffering a Regency-style water rehabilitation (torture) treatment to unlearn his shifty and criminal ways. Jack Fox, who plays Lady Denham’s nephew, looks thin and wan, as if he’s been forced to fast every other day. Lady Denham (Anne Reid) sits on her silk sofa like a corseted spider who has woven a web so tight that Sir Eddy cannot escape his destiny – that of a loser. While his self-abasement is fueled by avarice and greed, this viewer wonders why his tired old storyline has been hauled out for the 3rd time. 

Charlotte Heywood arrives in style to Sanditon in the same carriage that spirited her bereaved self away at the end of Season 2. She’s still engaged to the young farmer her father thought would become a suitable husband. Cai Brigden plays Ralph Starling, a handsome enough fiancé, who’s besotted with his betrothed. Ah, but has she forgotten Mr Colbourne? Or Sydney Parker for that matter? At this point I decided to use my Before-During-After critical thinking teacher strategies to examine Season 3’s plot. 

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Season 1: Charlotte fell passionately in love with the incomparable Sydney Parker. Alas, the actor, Theo James, saw richer beach resorts on his horizon, and left poor Char forlorn, for she would never see such a beautifully sculpted naked man rising from the sea again. (Neither will we, for that matter.) In that season, Sanditon was just a mishmash of old cottages, new buildings, and muddy roads. Its story line more or less followed Austen’s script for 15-20 minutes. Then the deviation from her plot had me laughing so hard, that the wine I was drinking snorted out of my nose. I must say that Rose Williams as Charlotte is lovely and likable, and a realistically feisty miss. But I wondered after the end of Season 1 – what now?


Season 2: Of course the script writers had to kill Sydney off (Still, I asked: What if Theo changed his mind and wanted to come back? And what has become of young Stringer?) Oh, well. Charlotte’s journey without Sydney leads her to cold stiff Alexander Colbourne (Ben Lloyd-Hughes). He’s rich, I’ll give him that, but no amount of bronzer will make his body shine in glittering sunset-lit waters like Sydney’s. Sigh. 

In her grief, Char seeks work as a governess. She lands at the doorstep of Alexander Colbourne, a widower with a child, Leonora, and his charge, Augusta. From the moment they meet, Char and Alex dislike-hate each other. He’s too opinionated and stubborn. She’s too opinionated and stubborn. When she’s finally had enough of his strict ways, she stomps out of his mansion, nearly slamming the door in his self-important face. He follows her on his splendid steed and basically says, “Hey, come back. See ya tomorrow.” As for the girls, one is unruly, the other repellent, but Char’s no quitter. In no time, Alex begins to desire her, and her knowledge of horses seals the deal. Did everyone see this coming? Of course. I must confess being so bored by their predictable storyline that I fell asleep. I did have one question, for my nap prevented me from following the plot closely: “Why, gentle readers, did she leave him to go home to her family at the end of S2 and get engaged to a mere farmer?”

Season 3: (We’re still in the During phase of this 3-part tale.) At the beginning of season 3 Char is still engaged to her daddy’s choice of a fine working husband. While I’m sure Ralph is a nice guy, he’s out of his comfort zone and her league, and all but disappears. He shows his discomfort and  jealousy of the fine friends she’s made. Char’s only returned to Sanditon to celebrate Georgiana Lambe’s (Crystal Clarke) birthday. It is an auspicious occasion, for Georgiana will come into her substantial inheritance. Impoverished fortune hunters are waiting to crawl out of their expensive, unaffordable Sanditon boarding rooms to woo her.

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But let’s leave the ho-humness of these stale plots and examine the sidebar romances, which added some spice and much excitement this season.

Sidebar Romance #1

The torturer in charge of Sir Eddy’s rehab is Dr Fuchs, who was practically invisible in Season 2. Rev Hankins, the second person employed by Lady D to change Sir Eddy into a nicer person, is working on our villain’s soul. The reverend’s long suffering sister, Beatrice, abides by his edicts, for as a spinster with no home of her own she must suffer his insufferability. She has no choice unless she wants to make baubles like Mrs Smith of Persuasion fame. When Rev Hankins and Beatrice leave church, Dr Fuchs (rhymes with mucks) chances upon the pair. He makes goo goo eyes at her and she simpers in return. Rev Hankins will have none of that! Well, you know how that will go. This romance weaves many comedic moments throughout the season. More importantly, their awkward flirting kept me semi-awake.

Sidebar Romance #2 (A Triple Romance with a Twist)

Ah, who would have guessed that Arthur Parker (Turlough Convery) and Edward Lord Harry Montrose (Edward Davis) would provide the truest sidebar romance in this overlong adaptation of Austen’s unfinished novel? To ward off pesky fortune hunters, Georgiana Lambe agrees to a pretend engagement to the Duke, whose family is penniless (unbeknownst to her.) She knows, though, that the Duke is attracted to his own sex. And that’s alright with her. (This means mitts off her nubile body.) Harry wants Arthur. Arthur wants Harry, but cannot hurt Georgiana. Georgiana just wants to keep up the pretense until she’s in full control of her fortune. Edward’s momma is ecstatic at the thought of her son’s union with an heiress and the replenishment of the family fortune. Lord Harry’s spinster sister, Lydia’s, situation reminds me of Beatrice’s, but Lydia has more status and has kept a secret meant to keep us on the edge of our seats. The red herring in her plot is with Alex Colbourne, but we savvy viewers know better. Both have better chemistry with their horses than each other.

Sidebar Romance #3 Lady Denham (Anne Reid) and Rowleigh Pryce (James Bolam)

I won’t spend much time on this “romance.” Two aged, irascible and unlikable characters duke it out with each other. He left her at the altar when she was still nubile; she leaves him at the altar when he can still father a child and she can’t bear one. Lady Denham is based on Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mrs Norris, and Mrs Ferrars (mother of that odious Fanny Dashwood) – all rolled into one. The “romance” ends with an agreement that they will still see each other regularly, but as little as possible. 

Sidebar Romance #4 Augusta Markham (Eloise Webb) and Sir Eddy (Jack Fox)

Would anyone like to shout Lydia and Wickham and Georgiana Darcy and Wickham in Pride and Prejudice when following the trajectory of this unlikable couple? Yes, Sir Eddy at first only pretends to redeem himself to Lady D, but then he meets the attractive and intriguing Augusta Markham. He learns/knows of her fortune, woos her, twirls her susceptible cookies, AND absconds with her. Augusta is older than the very young Georgiana Darcy, and she can’t wait for Sir Eddy to hop in the sack with her. But seeing her eagerness, he suffers a sudden crisis of conscience. (Those water torture baths are finally working!) And so he rejects her. Ouch. Augusta languishes. He languishes but manages to keep a heroic stiff upper lip. Oh, dear, I think, as I awaken from my power nap, what will next happen to this hapless couple?

Romance #5  The Prince Regent Changes His Mind, and So Does his Mistress

Mature love in the form of Sophie Winkleman as Lady Susan and Liam Garrigan as Samuel Colbourne has been given an unroyal treatment. Lady Susan, taken out of mothballs from Season 1, has really no role other than to walk arm in arm with Char, look elegant and beautiful, and meet Samuel, Alexander’s brother. I must admit I was nodding off during his introduction, so I still have no idea why/how his presence was introduced into the plot. I believe, and please correct me if I am wrong (yes, this happens often) that he’s a lawyer or accountant of sorts. Lady Susan and Samuel banter in friendly exchanges at first and then experience such irresistible hots for each other that they kiss on a public beach! What if someone, like a fisherman or bather, saw them? Qu’elle horreur! After Samuel decides he’s finally found the woman of his dreams, the Prince Regent requests his former mistress’s return to London. Lady Susan, supposedly a sensible woman, plans to hie it back to her fat princely hedonist and leave the love of her life. Whaaaa?!! Samuel is bereft. She’s sad. As devotees of rom-com plots, let’s all together guess the ending! Hint: We are all correct.

Non Romantic Plot Developments:

Tom and Mary: Tom Parker (Kris Marshall) and Rowleigh Pryce unite in a common vision to build a luxury hotel in Sanditon, bulldozing anything standing in their way. 

Achieving their goal means demolishing fishermen cottages that sit on a stretch of beach with a splendid view. Meanwhile, Tom’s wife Mary (Kate Ashfield) has been tending to the poor, including a fisherman’s widow who has little income for herself or her children. Much like Emma Woodhouse, Mary visits the widow frequently with baskets of food and clothes, often accompanied by Char. Mary is horrified by Tom’s plans and they engage in a major row. Tom is adamant, as is Mary.

Then (shades of Marianne Dashwood lying on her deathbed), Mary falls mysteriously ill and, you guessed it, lies on her deathbed. A grieving Tom can only recall his last harsh words towards his beloved. After much hand wringing, Dr Fuchs tells the assembled family members and friends to prepare for the worst. Then, miracle of miracles – as if Mary’s mother hastened to her bedside à la Mrs Dashwood – Mary awakens. Tom turns into a precursor of Ebenezer Scrooge after the three visits from the spirits. Chastened, he follows Mary’s advice. In short order, Tom ditches his plans for the hotel, as well as Rowleigh Pryce, and promises Mary he’ll improve the fishermen’s cottages (and his sex life, no doubt) and the cottagers’ lives.Trifecta! Mary is now hale, hearty, and happy to have her dutiful Tom under her sensible thumb again.

The last is a story line I’ve entitled: “She Loves Me, I trust Her. She Loves Me Not, I’ll Ditch Her, She Still Loves Me.” This plot involves Georgiana’s momma, her sudden appearance, and the shell necklace that proves her motherhood.

We are so lucky in this century, for DNA tests proves irrefutably to whom we are related. But during the Regency one had to rely on one’s instincts. Georgiana, one smart cookie when it comes to defending herself from fortune hunters, practically melts into the arms of a woman who appears out of the Caribbean Blue to claim the closest kinship any orphaned child could want – a mother. The proof? A shell necklace that brings Georgina to tears and conjures memories of Antigua so ancient they might not be true. (I’ve made a number of shell necklaces that look remarkably like Momma’s proof.) After a few conversations and memory prompts, Georgiana cries “Momma!” and throws herself into her arms. Lord Harry’s avaricious Momma, hellbent on making sure her son marries rich Georgiana and wanting to keep her entire fortune, finagles to bribe Georgiana’s mother with enough money to make her disappear. Ah, but love is blind and conquers all. Georgiana’s momma ditches the money and tells her daughter she is more priceless than all the gold on earth. Oh, happy reunion. 

(If I’ve not mentioned that creep artist, Charles Lockhart, it was on purpose.)


Major Sugar Overload

Diabetics should be warned to take their metformin or insulin before watching the treacly epilogue. The cynic in me guffawed my way through those last 10 minutes. Every major plot and most subplots were tied up neatly with pastel colored ribbons and rose colored glasses. I’m sure Jane A. rolled over in her grave once again. While we had indications that some couples in her novels reached marital nirvana (Lizzy and Darcy and Anne and her Captain, for example), most of her stories ended at the wedding. Jane hinted at some unhappy consequences. Well, hint is a weak word when we think about the character arcs she introduced in her novels. I could write an entire post about them, starting with Wickham and Lydia and Charlotte Lucas’s compromise marriage to Mr Collins to oversee her own household. (Me? I’d rather roll naked in hot tar than tolerate that man.) 

At the end:

  • Char marries Alex, becomes a school teacher, and has a baby.
  • Georgiana, through the machinations of her mama, marries her true love, Otis Molineux.
  • Lady Susan and her Samuel sit in bliss at Char’s wedding.
  • Lady Denham keeps her title and fortune, and relishes bossing Mr Pryce around every other month or so.
  • Augusta becomes a governess. Hahahahahah.

On and on. 

  • Unhappy is Char’s ex fiance, Ralph. And I still have one question – whatever happened to young Stringer?

More about Sanditon on this blog: Jane Austen’s World reviews, Seasons 1-2: https://janeaustensworld.com/category/sanditon/

by Brenda S. Cox

A few years ago, on a trip to England, I discovered a wonderful summer Jane Austen event: Regency Week in Alton. Yes, the Jane Austen Festival in Bath in September is great. But for many people, it’s easier to travel in the summer.

And, Austen arguably had closer ties to Alton and Chawton than she did to Bath or Winchester. She spent her last years in the village of Chawton, writing or rewriting all of her novels for publication. Alton is the nearest large town, where her family shopped and visited.

This year’s Regency Week is June 17-25, 2023. I’m excited that I’ll get to speak at this one for the first time! My talk will be “Why Mr. Collins? The Church and Clergy in Jane Austen’s England.” And I will get to do it at Alton’s lovely, historic church, St. Lawrence’s. (When we visited there, the churchwarden showed us bullet holes from the English Civil War in the 1600s.)

The church will also host a Sunday evening choral evensong service, with a Regency theme, and an organ recital. The Friends (Quaker) Meeting House will host a teatime discussion of Sense and Sensibility, which I’m also looking forward to.  

The week kicks off with Regency Day, when you can wander around the town in Regency costume, if you wish. You can visit booths, watch military reenactments, musical entertainment, and dancing, and take a carriage ride. When I went before, I met a number of Austenesque writers, and enjoyed connecting with them. 

On a previous Regency Day, fencing was a highlight of the street events.

Of course a dance workshop, a ball (sold out for this year), and a country dance will be highlights of the week. Guided walks of Alton, Chawton, and the vicinity are offered, focusing on Austen’s connections with the area. Jane Hurst, an expert on the history of the area, leads those. I have met her and she was very helpful to me in my own research for my book.

At the Jane Austen House, tours of the house focusing on Sense and Sensibility and on Pride and Prejudice sound fascinating.  Nearby Chawton House offers a Curators tour of the Quills and Characters exhibit, about Austen-era letter-writing and “women’s experiences of travel, science, reading, and scandal.” A talk about botanical women and tours of the Chawton House Gardens will also be packed with interesting insights. I’m also looking forward to a tour of Gilbert White‘s house in Selborne and his gardens.

Alton Regency Day (promo photo)

Picnics, parades, cocktails, tours, Regency pastimes, craft workshops, talks, and much more fill out this year’s program. Check out the full schedule at their website.

At the 2015 Regency Week, I got to meet some wonderful Austen Variations authors (from left): Abigail Reynolds, Maria Grace, L. L. Diamond, Jane Odiwe, Cassandra Grafton, and Monica Fairview. Since then I have enjoyed many of their books. Booths this year will no doubt focus on other interesting items.

Why a Regency Week in Alton?

I asked the organizers to tell me more about Regency Week and its background. Marie Kelle said:

Jane Austen Regency Week is a 9-day festival held in Alton and Chawton in Hampshire (UK) each year to celebrate both our local internationally-acclaimed writer, and a very interesting period of history, encouraging people to explore their cultural heritage.  It started as just a weekend of events and grew into the 9 day festival we now have.

We have a varied programme covering walks, dancing, tours, talks and much more. The ball is already sold out, but the very enjoyable and less formal Country Dance event still has tickets available.  The week begins with Alton Regency Day which includes a craft and gifts market, Regency and Napoleonic War era re-enactors, Mill Cottage Farm Experience and entertainment from The Kings Pond Shantymen and Alton Morris Dancers.

If you have never been to Regency Week before some highlights for this year are of course Regency Day where, if you wish, you can stroll around dressed in your Regency era outfits, and a Horse and Carriage ride is a must!  Other highlights are Garden Cocktails at Chawton House,  and lunch at the Allen Gallery followed by a tour of the ceramics exhibits. You can also view the Hampshire Libraries Jane Austen Collection at Alton Library. Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility themed tours at Jane Austen’s House, and House Tour and Cream Teas at Wyards Farmhouse are more of the week’s highlights.  

We have some sewing workshops on offer this year: you can make your own flower pot broach at Gilbert White’s House in Selborne and you can make a Regency Era Reticule. Another workshop will show you how to finish and embellish your own bonnet (this workshop includes a ‘posh tea’).  All this along with three guided historical walks, circular countryside walks of the beautiful scenery around Chawton, and much more!


I’d love to see you there! Or, if you can’t come this summer, I hope you’ll put it on your wish list for a future summer. :-)

Schedule, Tickets, and Accommodations

The schedule can be found at www.janeaustenregencyweek.co.uk

Tickets for the 2023 Jane Austen Regency Week are now on sale, both on Eventbrite and also from our office by calling Marie on 01420 85057. Contact marie@altoncommunitycentre.org.uk

Regency Week 2023 eventbrite tickets can be found by clicking this link (please note there is a booking fee per ticket at eventbrite, but if you buy direct from Alton Community Centre there is a £3.00 booking fee per transaction no matter how many tickets are booked.

For options for local accommodation see Places to stay. There are also some local rooms/homes etc on AirBnB.

Jane Austen Regency Week is run by a group of volunteers and participating organizations under the auspices of the charity, Alton Community Association CIO. It is funded through ticket sales, sponsorship and advertising.  Jane Austen Regency Week is a fundraising activity for Alton Community Association CIO (reg charity 1173885).

St. Lawrence’s Church in Alton, by the way, was the model for the cover art of my book, Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England

With the Coronation of Charles III and Camilla kicking off on Saturday, May 6, we Janeites have much to look forward to! Whether you enjoy following along with the Royal Family, can’t wait to see the grandiose pomp and pageantry, or want to know more about England and the many historic traditions surrounding the Crown, the Coronation provides a historic moment we won’t soon forget.

Watch Live or Later:

Whether you’re planning to set your alarm and watch it live (for those of us who don’t live in England), watch the recorded proceedings later in the day, or attend a watch party or live event, there is something for everyone. For a schedule of events for this 3-day affair, you can read “The Full Schedule of Events for Coronation Weekend” (Town & Country).

Worldwide Celebration:

People from around the world will tune in for this incredible event. In England, this is a 3-day weekend with plenty of celebrations to enjoy, including an extra Bank Holiday on Monday! If you live in England, you probably have a plan in place to either watch live with friends or perhaps you’ve traveled to London to participate in the city-wide celebrations. If so, please take photos and send them to us here at Jane Austen’s World!

If you don’t live in England, there are two major options: Either get up early and watch it live or watch a recording later in the day. If you’re a true, die-hard fan, you’ll be up early, dressed to the nines, with your tea service ready and fresh scones in the oven. If you’re like me, you’ll get up early to watch some of it live, but also plan something later in the day so that your family members can participate as well!

Ways to Celebrate at Home:

I’m planning to make a weekend of it, so that I can enjoy the Coronation itself and some of my favorite documentaries about the Royal family. While I’ll always remain loyal to Queen Elizabeth II, and though I do have quite a soft spot for William and Kate, I’m looking forward to seeing my very first coronation!

To make the weekend special (and to lure my family into watching with me), I’m planning plenty of special food and drink! If you’d like to create your own British tea party at home, you can keep it simple with tea and cookies, cakes, or biscuits or you can create a fancier spread!

To read about the difference between afternoon tea, high tea, and cream tea, check this out: “Afternoon Tea vs. High Tea vs. Cream Tea: A Brief Tutorial” (The Spice & Tea Shoppe).

Delicious Magazine: Coronation Recipes

Cream Tea:

I’m planning on making cream tea, which is tea and scones with clotted cream and jam. The best cream tea I ever had was in Lyme Regis on a JASNA Pathfinders tour. It was rainy and cold that day, and my friend and I tucked into a tiny hole-in-the-wall bakery for a bite to eat. We ordered a cream tea and I will never forget how good it tasted!

If you’re curious about the English tradition of Cream Tea, you can read more HERE. Cream Tea is “most often associated with the West Country, i.e. Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset. It usually consists of scones, clotted cream or butter, strawberry jam, and of course, tea” (The Spice & Tea Shoppe).

To create your own cream tea at home, you’ll need tea, scones, clotted cream (or butter), and jam! I prefer making my own scones, but you can also find scones at many bakeries or a mix at the grocery store.

Culinary Ginger, “Clotted Cream for Afternoon Tea”

A Cuppa:

You can drink any type of tea you like, but if you want to truly enjoy a “cuppa” the way the British people drink it, you’ll want to try something traditional. In “How do British tea drinking habits compare with other Europeans?”, you can see some of the top favorites:

Many British people enjoy milk in their tea, but usually without any sweetener. I personally enjoy honey and milk in my tea. I drink a delightful herbal tea that is everyone’s favorite in my house. I buy Bourbon Street Vanilla Rooibos from the English Tea Store.

If you don’t like tea (otherwise known as “hot brown water,” according to Ted Lasso), you might try it with milk and honey. I’ve turned quite a few people into tea-lovers with that special combo!


True British scones are more like an American biscuit in shape and texture than the type of scones you find at Starbucks. I’ve never met a scone I didn’t like, but if you’d like to make a more traditional British scone, you won’t be disappointed.

This scone recipe receives high marks from BBCGoodFood.com: Classic scones with jam & clotted cream.

Clotted Cream:

But how does one find clotted cream if one does not live in England? Many specialty food stores and gourmet supermarkets now carry clotted cream. You can usually find it in the dairy section, the deli area, or the artisan cheese section. Pictured here is Devon clotted cream, which I can usually find at Whole Foods:

But you can also make it at home! The trick is finding heavy whipping cream that isn’t ultra-pasteurized (which is sadly much harder to find in the U.S. in the past few years). Here’s a recipe if you’d like to try it by the Curious Cuisiniere: Homemade Clotted Cream.

Jam or Cream-Which comes first?

You can choose whichever jam you like. I love strawberry jam on my scones! But here’s the real debate about jam and clotted cream: Which goes on the scone first? Do you put the cream on first and then the jam? Or is it the other way around?

For most Americans, I think we’d automatically say it’s cream first and then jam, since we usually butter our biscuits and toast first and then add jam second. But in England, there’s a big debate about which one goes first: “While those in Devon typically spread the clotted cream first followed by jam, the Cornish tradition is to spread jam first followed by cream” (The Independent).

The Sun reports that the Queen herself prefers jam first. Thus, if you want to eat your scones like the Queen, you know what to do. You can read all about it HERE.

Tea with Biscuits:

If you prefer biscuits with your tea, there are many to choose from. I’m personally obsessed with chocolate Digestives and chocolate Hob Nobs. British people love their biscuits and are quite opinionated about which are the best, particularly for dunking.

Apparently, the most “dunkable” biscuits are Jaffa Cakes, according to a recent study: “The best biscuits for dunking, according to science – so is YOUR favourite on the list?” (The Daily Mail)

But if you’re interested in knowing the most popular biscuits in England, The Sun has all the answers. If you’d like to try some of the top biscuits yourself, you can read more here: “CHOCCY WOCCY DOO DAH Britain’s top 20 favourite biscuits revealed – but do YOU agree?”

Victoria Sponge:

If you really want to take it to another level and pretend you’re under the tent at The Great British Baking Show, you can try Mary Berry’s famous Victoria Sandwich Cake for your Coronation dessert! This is next-level baking, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to try. I like this recipe from The English Kitchen because it lists ingredients in British grams and American measurements: “Mary Berry’s Victoria Sandwich Cake.”

Tea Sandwiches:

If you’re planning to spend the day or weekend watching Coronation events, it’s best to plan on sandwiches as well. Otherwise, tea with scones, biscuits, and/or cake might be a bit too sweet! You can make a tray or a tiered tower of your own favorite sandwiches or prepare several classic tea sandwiches.

According to BBCGoodFood.com, here are the “15 best afternoon tea sandwich ideas.” I personally love anything with cream cheese and cucumbers, but my family likes something with a bit more protein involved!

Make it a Celebration:

If you want to decorate your table, get out your fine china tea cups, dress up, or even invite people over, the sky’s the limit. You can decorate a sun hat with real or faux flowers, cut out paper crowns, or print your own invitations.

Whether you’re planning to make a weekend of it or if you’re just going to watch the highlights, this is an event to remember.

If you’re planning something special, which I’m sure many of you are, please comment below. We’d love to hear from you over the next few days as we all enjoy the beauty of this historic moment in time!

RACHEL DODGE teaches college English classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and book clubs, and writes for Jane Austen’s World blog. She is the bestselling author of The Little Women DevotionalThe Anne of Green Gables Devotional and Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. Now Available: The Secret Garden Devotional! You can visit Rachel online at www.RachelDodge.com.

Growing Older with Jane Austen by Maggie Lane: Review and Highlights by Brenda S. Cox

“Me! a poor, helpless, forlorn widow, unfit for anything, my spirits quite broke down . . .”—Mrs. Norris, Mansfield Park, chapter 3

“That Lady Russell, of steady age and character, and extremely well provided for, should have no thought of a second marriage, needs no apology to the public, which is rather apt to be unreasonably discontented when a woman does marry again, than when she does not; but Sir Walter’s continuing in singleness requires explanation.”—Persuasion, chapter 1

Last month we began looking at older characters in Jane Austen’s novels, drawing from Maggie Lane’s fascinating book, Growing Older with Jane Austen. We saw the importance of beauty in making matches, and the position of women as wives and mothers, or as single “old maids.” 

Next, Lane turns to older men, in the chapter:

Still a Very Fine Man (chapter 6)

With the exception of Sir Walter Elliot, the older men in Austen are less concerned about their appearances. But they are more likely to want to remarry than the older women. This is because men generally contribute financially to the marriage. If women are lucky, money may pass into their hands when they are widowed and they can be independent.

For the men, though, they depend on women for housekeeping, and they are uncomfortable without a female relative caring for them and their households. Younger men like Henry Tilney or Colonel Brandon, expecting to marry, may be happy with a paid housekeeper for the time being. But older men like the Dashwoods’ great-uncle want a female relative to care for them. So those young enough to remarry, like Mr. Weston and Mr. Dashwood (Elinor’s father), are likely to find a second wife, and in Austen’s novels they find happiness.

Sir Walter Elliot wanted to remarry, but failed. He probably proposed to women much younger than himself, with his eye for beauty. They were not interested in a “foolish, spendthrift baronet.” Instead, he depends on his daughter Elizabeth, who is very much like himself. Unfortunately she does not balance him, “promot[ing] his real respectability,” as his wife had.

Vain and foolish, Sir Walter Elliot failed to find a second wife who would accept him.
C.E. Brock, public domain

Mr. Woodhouse, of course, also depends on his daughter Emma, and she carefully fulfills her duty to him. He is at least loving, though selfish. In contrast, General Tilney bosses his daughter around harshly and keeps control of his household in his own hands.

Austen presents some happy marriages of older men. “Older men have usually settled down to an accommodation with their wives, and Austen presents many portraits of ageing couples who seem well-knit together: the Shirleys, the senior Musgroves, and the Morlands, for example” (Lane, 109). Even Sir Thomas Bertram and Mr. Allen are always courteous to their rather foolish wives.

Merry Widows (chapter 7)

The next three chapters explore the varying possibilities for widows. Lane says, “The conventional ‘merry widow’ of literature is an unprincipled predator with a voracious sexual appetite and a carefree disregard of conventional morals” (122). The only widow like that in Austen is, of course, Lady Susan Vernon (of Lady Susan), whom Lane discusses at length.

Another widow in Austen who follows a different contemporary stereotype is Mrs. Turner of The Watsons. She is taken in by a fortune-hunting Irish officer; she marries him and leaves her niece penniless.

Other widows in Austen’s novels, like Mrs. Jennings and Lady Russell, have a comfortable income and seem content to remain unmarried. Austen makes an interesting remark about double standards when she says of Lady Russell that “the public . . . is rather apt to be unreasonably discontented when a woman does marry again, than when she does not.” Lane explains that if a woman doesn’t need to remarry for money or a home (as Lady Susan does), she is “giving proof of continuing sexual desires.” A man, though, was expected to have continuing sexual desires, and “if he lost one wife, he was thought to be doing a good thing in seeking another—and in giving another single woman the chance to be wed” (Lane, 132).

In her letters, though, Austen commended a woman, Lady Sondes, who was being criticized for marrying again (and apparently had not married for love the first time). Jane writes, “I consider everybody as having a right to marry once in their Lives for Love, if they can” (Letters, Dec. 27, 1808).

Mrs. Ferrars of Sense and Sensibility is a despot over her family. She controls the money and wants to control their lives.
C. E. Brock, public domain

Four Dowager Despots (chapter 8)

Not all of Jane Austen’s widows are as loving as Mrs. Jennings and Lady Russell. While power was usually held by men in Austen’s world, Austen gives us four rich widows who tyrannize others. (Think for a minute; who are they?) Mrs. Ferrars of S&S, Lady Catherine de Bourgh of P&P, Lady Denham of Sanditon, and Mrs. Norris of Mansfield Park. (Mrs. Norris doesn’t have a lot of her own money, but exercises authority on behalf of her “supine sister and absent brother-in-law.”)

Lane writes, “Only Lady Denham is a true dowager, the strict definition of which is a woman whose income derives by legal pre-arrangement from her late husband’s estate, the estate [and title, if there is one] having passed on his death to his heir” (136). Lady Catherine and Mrs. Ferrars appear to completely control their late husbands’ fortunes. But all of them show “a mixture of self-importance and interference in others’ lives” (Lane, 137). Lady Catherine, in particular, controls her whole parish, and it appears that Lady Denham also has great influence in Sanditon.

Lane contrasts two older women in Sense and Sensibility: the manipulative Mrs. Ferrars, who uses money to control her sons, and Mrs. Smith, who controls Willoughby financially. “The telling difference between Mrs. Ferrars and Mrs. Smith is that the latter only wants her young relation to be good, not rich or distinguished” (Lane, 142). Mrs. Smith was likely an elderly maiden lady, of “uncompromising propriety,” who was given the honorary title of “Mrs.” Her motivations are better than Mrs. Ferrars’s selfishness.

Not the Only Widow in Bath (chapter 9)

Another dowager, Mrs. Rushworth, is not a despot as far as we know. When her son marries, she retires, “with true dowager propriety,” to Bath, ready to boast of Sotherton during her evening parties. While Mrs. Elton tries to convince Emma to go to Bath to find a husband, many older people went for other reasons. People like Austen’s parents moved to Bath for “freedom from the cares of a country property and housekeeping; company on tap; and easy access to medical attention as well as to shops, libraries, concerts, and plays” (Lane, 157). (Sounds good to me; I wish I could afford to retire to Bath!)

No longer a place of high fashion, Bath now appealed to “the kind of people Jane Austen knew and wrote about: the minor gentry with a taste for social life and the means to indulge their real or imagined illnesses; the less well-off, especially single women, desperately clinging to their shreds of gentility in a place where living was comparatively cheap; well-funded widows and retired professional men with their families . . . and . . . a motley assortment of hangers-on and would-be social climbers” (Lane, 157-8).

Sir Walter Elliot, a widower, goes there to “be important at comparatively little expense.” Lady Russell, a widow, spends every winter there, “finding mental refreshment in meeting up with old friends and getting all the new publications.” Widowed Mrs. Thorpe of Northanger Abbey goes to find husbands for her daughters. Impoverished invalids like Mrs. Smith of Persuasion go for medical care, while a similar widow, Mrs. Clay, is looking to marry again.

Widowed Mrs. Smith of Persuasion goes to Bath for her health.
C.E. Brock, public domain

Because of changes in Bath, in Austen’s later novels, “Bath appears not as the place of fun and frivolity it is in Northanger Abbey, but increasingly the choice of the old and dreary. . . . Austen’s Bath is not without its young people but it is an appropriate stage for so many of her older ones” (Lane, 170).

Age and Money (chapter 10)

How they live in Bath or elsewhere depends on their income. Some of Austen’s characters got richer as they aged. These include Mr. Weston, Mr. Cole, John Knightley, Robert Martin, Mr. Jennings (now deceased), Mr. Gardiner, Captain Wentworth, and Charles Bingley’s father. They all prospered in their work.

Others, though, like Austen’s naval brothers and Henry, got poorer as they aged. They suffered reverses from “the vagaries of their profession[s].” Captain Harville has been wounded, causing him to fall on hard times, and Mrs. Smith of Persuasion has lost a fortune due to her husband’s extravagance. Mrs. Bates, a clergyman’s widow, lost her income when her husband died.

Those in the lower classes might be miserable in old age, like “old John Abdy” of Emma. Well-off families, though, were expected to care for their household servants in old age. For example, three servants of Edward Ferrars’s father receive yearly annuities from his estate.

Wills and inheritance, of course, played an important part in Austen’s novels and her life. Most famously, the entail on the Bennets’ estate, and the Dashwoods’ uncle’s will, cause the girls in the story to be urgently in need of husbands.

The Dangerous Indulgence of Illness (chapter 11)

Mrs. Bennet is constantly fearing her husband’s death, which will leave the family penniless. Illness and death were constant threats in Austen’s world (as they are today, of course). This chapter discusses Austen’s final illness. Surprisingly, she wrote Sanditon during that time, which includes absurd hypochondriacs exaggerating their own illnesses.

Sea-bathing was considered a cure-all, and the Knightleys, Dr. Shirley, and Mary Musgrove try it at seaside resorts like the fictional Sanditon. Others go to Bath to take the waters for their “gout and decrepitude.” Mr. Allen, General Tilney, Admiral Croft, and Mrs. Smith of Persuasion go to Bath for their health, as did some of Austen’s friends and relations.

For Dr. Shirley of Persuasion,  “coming to Lyme for a month did him more good than all the medicine he took; . . . being by the sea always makes him feel young again.”
C. E. Brock, public domain

Illness is also a way to control others in Austen’s novels. Dr. Grant, Mary Musgrove, Fanny Dashwood, Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Woodhouse, and Mrs. Churchill all use illness or pretended illness to get their own way.

Once Mrs. Churchill actually dies, though, her illnesses are taken seriously. Austen uses several deaths as plot devices, including this one which frees Frank to marry. Dr. Grant’s death similarly frees Edmund and Fanny to take the living of Mansfield Park.

Lane says, “Mansfield Park is the only novel in which ideas of the hereafter find a place” (206). Fanny worries about Tom, during his illness, considering “how little useful, how little self-denying his life had (apparently) been”—she’s worried about him not going to heaven. And Austen indicates that, while society does not punish a man for adultery as it does a woman, the penalties “hereafter” will be more equal.

The chapter includes a fascinating list of the funeral expenses for Elizabeth Austen’s elaborate burial (Edward Austen Knight’s wife). For example, 22 mourning cloaks were hired for the day, and 60 pairs of black gloves bought for family, servants, and others, including the carpenter and bricklayer.

“Jane Austen’s attitude to the death of others ranged between the insouciant, the pragmatic, and the heartfelt” (Lane, 216). She of course approached her own death very seriously. She took Holy Communion one last time, while she could still understand it, about a month before her death.

For more on this topic, see my article, “Preparation for Death and Second Chances in Austen’s Novels,” which draws partly from Lane’s ideas.


The author explores how Austen might have fared in old age. She would probably have become more famous. Her sister Cassandra, Jane’s heir, prospered financially as the years went on, and Jane would have prospered with her.

The book ends, “Apart from the sad loss of Jane, Cassandra’s old age was in fact a secure and comfortable one. If only she had been able to share it with her sister” (Lane, 225).

I’ve only been able to give you a small taste of the riches in Growing Older with Jane Austen, but I hope you’ve found some ideas you can pursue on your own. If you can get a copy of the book (perhaps through your library), I highly recommend it. It’s well worth exploring the lives of older men and women in Austen’s novels and in Jane Austen’s world.

What do you think would have been most difficult about growing older in Jane Austen’s England? What might have been better about it than growing older in our society today?

For more on the topic of aging women in Jane Austen’s novels, see:

“Growing Older with Jane Austen, Part 1”

“’My Poor Nerves’: Women of a Certain Age on the Page,” about perimenopausal women in Austen

Past the Bloom: Aging and Beauty in the Novels of Jane Austen,” by Stephanie M. Eddleman, a fascinating article

Three Stages of Aging with Pride and Prejudice,” by Emily Willingham, a light look at how we identify with different characters as we have more life experience 

Age and Money in Austenland”: Susan Allen Ford’s review of Growing Older with Jane Austen

And, of course, the source for most of these two posts:

Growing Older with Jane Austen, by Maggie Lane

Brenda S. Cox writes about Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen. Her recent book is Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England.

This June she will be speaking about Mr. Collins at Jane Austen Regency Week in Alton, England, and would love to see some of you there!

Portrait of an Artist

(Portrait of an Artist by Unknown Artist) is part of the collection of the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield., MA. Image courtesy of theMichele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts.

Inquiring readers,

In 2012, I included this fascinating portrait in a post entitled Men’s Hairstyles at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century. That post has been one of our most popular articles over the years. This image depicts the natural, romanticized and popular look of men living during the height of the regency era. In fact, when I look at this unknown man, I see Jane Austen’s most famous hero, Mr Darcy; the romantic poet, Byron; or a suffering Mr Rochester. The fact that both sitter and painter are unknown heightens the mystery of this painting. My sense is that it is a self portrait, for the man looks at us as if he was studying his image for posterity. The painting’s sitter reflects the same strong studied gazes in the self-portraits described in this Artmajeur article, Top 8 Most Famous Self-Portraits in the History of Art.

While the Men’s Hairstyles post has been up for 11 years, I just received a correction from the Springfield Museums. Mr Stephen Sullivan, the museum’s registrar, kindly sent the correct information, and also offered a higher resolution image. Ms Maggie North, the curator of the Springfield Museums, sent the following description of the painting:

The Springfield Museums’ striking portrait has intrigued and puzzled scholars for decades. Shortly after it was purchased by the Springfield Museums in 1954, Walter Pach (translator of the journals of Eugène Delacroix) attributed the painting to the Famous French romantic artist Delacroix and likened it to a portrait of Baron Louis-Auguste Schwiter at the National Gallery of Art. That attribution was accepted until the 1970s, when Robert Henning, a curator here in Springfield, determined that the piece could not be confidently attributed to Delacroix and suggested that the title of the work be changed from Portrait of Baron Schwiter to the more general Portrait of an Artist. Since then, several suggestions about the attribution, including artists Richard Parkes Bonington, Sir Thomas Lawrence, and even Baron Schwiter himself, have been made. However, none of these suggestions have been confirmed. Most recently, a scholar proposed that the painting could possibly be a self-portrait of the artist Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (an interesting idea when we compare the painting to Robert Lefèvre’s portrait of Guérin at the Musee des Beaux-Arts d’Orleans). Still, more research is needed!

As the title of the work indicates, we believe that the work is likely a portrait of an artist due to presence of a form presumed to be a palette which is visible in the foreground. Certainly, it may be a self-portrait, but of whom we cannot be certain. Even without attribution, this painting of a brooding, handsome young man is a wonderful example of the Romantic period in art, in which individual experience and was valued. The work is a visitor favorite here at the Springfield Museums, and as Stephen can attest, images of the work have been used in publications that range from fictional to scholarly. I think that the incredible magnetism of the sitter’s gaze, his effortlessly stylish sensibility, and the mystery of his identity make our artist a very compelling character!

The Springfield Museums in Massachusetts remind me of the various buildings that comprise the Walters Art Museum (WAM), in Baltimore, where I am a docent. Both museums were formed from private 19th century collections donated by wealthy families to their communities. The close connections that Americans felt towards their European ancestors are represented in these excellent collections.

This short history from the the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts website states:

The Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, established in 1933 and housed in an Art Deco style building, includes a comprehensive collection of Americanand European paintings, prints, watercolors, and sculpture as well as a large collection of Japanese prints and representative examples of drawing, furniture, metalwork, textiles, glass and ceramics. The Museum houses a comprehensive collection of European Art (French, Dutch, and Italian) and the Currier & Ives (active 1834-1907) collection, one of the largest holdings of lithographs in the nation.”

Screen Shot 2023-04-13 at 3.33.11 PM

Blake Court, D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield

Compare this history with WAM’s description:

The Walters Art Museum was established in 1934 “for the benefit of the public.” Originally called the Walters Art Gallery, the museum started when Henry Walters (1848–1931) bequeathed to the City of Baltimore an extensive art collection begun by his father, William T. Walters (1819–1894)..Henry built upon his father’s collection of European sculpture and Asian decorative arts, acquiring archaeological works from the ancient Mediterranean world—Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome—followed by medieval European and Islamic art and manuscripts, and European paintings and sculptures from the Renaissance through the 19th century.

palazzo interior wam

View of the palazzo’s sculpture court, Walters Art Museum. Notice how the courtyards in both museums echo each other – WAM’s is based on an Italian palazzo and D’Amour’s follows the Art Deco style popular during the 1930’s. Wikimedia image –palazzo building 

These two museums are small and intimate compared to their much larger counterparts, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Boston Museum of Fine Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Comparable “small” museums would be the Isabella Gardner Museum, Frick Gallery, and the Morgan Library & Museum, which held a memorable exhibit in 2009-2010 entitled A Woman’s Wit: Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy.

Both the D’Amour and Walters Art museums involve their local communities by featuring exhibits with contemporary artists and artisans:

  • Just recently the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts hosted a local fashion designer, Justin Haynes (Jus10H) presented his collection on February 15, 2023, during a New York Fashion Week CFDA Runway 360 Showcase.
  • Around the same time, WAM concluded an exhibit entitled ‘Activating the Renaissance’ that featured 6 contemporary artists, most of whom lived in and around Baltimore. Class groups and adult visitors were able to compare and contrast the iconography of today’s paintings with centuries old masterpieces. This exhibit was among the most popular at WAM in a 12-month period. See this comparison of images of two mothers with child. Although separated by centuries, both are compelling.  WAM’s facebook page (see image below.)

Screen Shot 2023-04-18 at 1.51.19 PM

(1) Tawny, Chatmon, Covered/Vienna, 2017-19. Courtesy of the artist. (2) Pontormo (Jacopo Carucci), Portrait of Maria Salviati de’ Medici and Giulia de’ Medici, ca. 1539. Bequest of Henry Walters, 1931.

Private Collections:

Jane Austen was no stranger to viewing private collections in opulent houses. Her mother’s family lived in Stoneleigh Abbey, an ancient and impressive pile of stone. And her brother Edward Austen Knight inherited Godmersham ParkChawton House, and Chawton Cottage, in which Austen, her sister Cassandra, and mother lived.  One can imagine the grand rooms and salons she experienced as a visitor, especially in her brother’s dwellings. All of these houses are open to the public today for a fee.


Watercolor of Jane Austen (?) 1816, by librarian, James Stanier Clarke

On the cusp of publishing Emma and at the invitation of the Prince Regent’s librarian, Austen visited Carlton House‘s impressive library. Although she felt disdain for the prince himself, she must have felt some awe walking through the legendary sumptuous hallways and public rooms. This house no longer exists, but many images and descriptions survive that attest to its magnificence.

As in Pride & Prejudice, owners who were often absent from their houses for weeks or months at a time, allowed their housekeepers (who expected a generous tip) to escort a party around the public rooms to view paintings, sculptures, and furniture.  When Lizzy Bennet moved through Pemberley with the Gardiners and heard the housekeeper’s effusive compliments about Mr Darcy, and as she strolled around Pemberley’s extensive grounds, Lizzy realized that she could have been mistress “of all this.” At this juncture in the novel, she had begun to realize that her first impression of Mr Darcy might have been wrong: Mrs Reynolds provided even more information for her contemplation.

Private collections were not new. As trade and travel expanded  around the world during the 16th, 17th, & 18th centuries, merchants, seafarers, and tourists, who embarked on lengthy grand tours, brought back artifacts, paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and the like. In many instances, historic artifacts were stolen from countries and churches, but that is a topic for another post

Seventeenth century Flemish merchants filled their houses with artifacts that were brought from their trade routes, and showed them to their friends. The Chamber of Wonders, WAM includes objects from the natural world (shells, butterflies, sea creatures) in each continent, as well as paintings, sculptures, and artifacts. This painting by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Hieronymus Francken II, title ‘The Archdukes Albert and Isabella Visiting a Collector’s Cabinet’ shows a room filled with one merchant’s collection. The archduke and his wife are at the center of the room. Other visitors are visible as well.


The Archdukes Albert and Isabella Visiting a Collector’s Cabinet, 1621-1623, public domain, Walters Art Museum

Jane Austen’s Visits to Public Exhibitions

Austen’s frequent travels around England – Brighton, Lyme Regis, Bath, London, Winchester, and the environs around Steventon and Basingstoke – belie her reputation as a spinster who lived a narrow, rural life. In her visits to London she attended public exhibits. Two were especially notable:

“the Sir Joshua Reynolds retrospective in 1813 or the Shakespeare Gallery as it looked in 1796. These two Georgian blockbusters took place, years apart, in the same London exhibition space at 52 Pall Mall (it no longer exists). When Austen visited in 1813, the building housed the British Institution, an organization promoting native artists. On her earlier London visit in 1796, it was the first-ever museum dedicated to William Shakespeare. – What Jane Austen Saw.

Interestingly, the exhibits Austen viewed also featured contemporary artists.  Seeing Art the Way Jane Austen Saw It.


Before institutional museums became a major way for the general public to view collections of past objects, paintings, sculptures and other artifacts (scientific or those from the natural world), private collections and homes were the means for the populace to view these precious objects.  Who would have thought that a portrait shared by the Springfield Museums would prompt my imagination to wander down so many paths? This trip was delightful.

Find: More information about the Springfield Museums and the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts can be found in the links. The Walters Art Museum provides images of the museum’s objects at this link. Type ‘online collections’ in the search bar. Entry to the museum is free; on street parking is free on Sundays.

In this series, we’re exploring Jane Austen’s novels and identifying the romantic themes used in each one – with the goal of proving that Jane Austen not only used romantic themes ingeniously but also played an important role in developing several key plot devices that are still used in modern filmmaking today.

Last month, I wrote about the “Enemies-to-Lovers” theme in Pride and Prejudice. This month, I’m delving into Emma and looking at the romantic themes it continues to inspire in modern romantic movies and shows.

Emma 1996

Enemies to Lovers in Emma

In “The Rom Com Explained” on TheTake.com, we read this humorous definition of the popular enemies-to-lovers trope that I discussed last month in regard to Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy:

“The two love interests probably start out at odds. They may come from different worlds, have competing goals, or simply get off on the wrong foot. But as the rom-com wisdom goes, there’s a very thin line between love and hate, and the story frames all this friction as kindling for sparks to fly.”

What about Emma and Mr. Knightley? In Emma, some have said that Mr. Knightley and Emma fit the rivals description as well because of their witty banter and playful digs, but their delayed love interest seems to be much more about their age gap, their family history, and their comfort level with one another that comes from being brother- and sister-in-law.

Emma 2009

Defining the Relationship

But if they aren’t rivals-to-lovers, what makes the romance between Emma and Mr. Knightley so irresistible? What techniques does Austen use to cleverly draw us into their world? What causes the slow burn that builds between them?

Are they boy/girl next door lovers? Possibly.

Friends-turned-lovers? Probably.

While Emma falls into both of these categories, if we want to narrow it down even further, the romance between Emma and Mr. Knightley best fits the “It Was Right In Front Of You All Along” theme.

In Emma, the relationship between Emma and Mr. Knightley sizzles because it’s so unexpected—at least for the two main characters. We, the readers, watch it slowly build (and hope that it will happen), but the characters themselves don’t recognize their own feelings for quite some time. It takes Emma the longest to realize, which adds to the charm of the story.

Emma 2020

The Red Herring

In a red herring love story, there is usually at least one misleading love interest or storyline to keep readers off the trail. Jane Austen obviously sets the bar high for the red herring theme in Emma, but here’s a definition from “The Rom Com Explained” article:

“Rom-com leads often start out with a red herring love interest who seems very appealing but turns out to be all wrong. Meanwhile, as the protagonist spends time with someone they aren’t actively trying to impress, they can be their unfiltered self and get to know the other person in a real way.”

Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility all have at least one red herring love interest. In each, there’s a man who seems charming and agreeable at first but turns out to be quite the opposite. In PP and SS, the red herrings turn out to be villains (yes, I’m looking at you Mr. Wickham and Mr. Willoughby), but in Emma, Frank Churchill, an immature and obnoxious man who think it’s funny to play with other people’s emotions, acts as the red herring. These red herring lovers keep audiences busy trying to figure them out so that they don’t notice the real love story brewing beneath the surface.

Emma 2020
Emma 2009

Reading Emma like a Detective

Unlike most modern romantic comedies, Jane Austen’s plot in Emma is anything but obvious. She outdoes herself with several misleading storylines. She keeps us so busy figuring out what’s happening between Emma and Frank Churchill, Emma or Harriet and Mr. Elton, Harriet and Frank Churchill, and even Harriet and Mr. Knightley that the majority of first-time readers never even notice the Frank and Jane Fairfax storyline until later in the novel.

In fact, Emma is so cleverly written that many scholars believe it reads more like a detective story than a romance. If you’d like to delve into this fascinating topic, click to read David H. Bell’s brilliant article, “Fun with Frank and Jane: Austen on Detective Fiction” in JASNA’s Persuasions.

Emma 1997 (Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill)

Hidden in Plain Sight

The other side of the coin with a red herring love story is that the false-love interest helps hide the true love interest—the one the heroine’s known for a long time and has never thought about “in that way.”

In the red herring plot line, this “real” love interest hides in plain sight. Sometimes, like in the situation with Mr. Darcy, he’s cloaked in some kind of mystery, misunderstanding, or perceived arrogance. Other times, as with Mr. Knightley, the hidden male lead is considered “off limits” because he’s a cousin, a step brother, a friend, or a co-worker. Most of the time, we (the audience) know he’s the real love interest rather quickly, but it takes most of the movie for the heroine to figure it out.

This is where Mr. Knightley really shines. He’s “the one,” hiding in plain sight. From the start, Austen casts him as the “big brother-type.” As a neighbor and friend, and the brother of Emma’s sister’s husband, Mr. Knightley is the perfect “off limits” hidden love interest. Emma has never looked at him in “that way.” It has never crossed her mind that he could see her as anything other than an annoying little sister.

The Aha Moment

“This long-developing chemistry leads to a moment of epiphany, where the character suddenly realizes the feelings that have been crystal-clear to the viewer all along” (“The Rom Com Explained”).

In this type of plot, usually one lead character realizes his/her feelings first, while the other takes longer to wake up to what’s going on between them. In Emma, Mr. Knightley sees Emma as much more than a neighbor and friend early on, but Emma is busy chasing other love stories and doesn’t see her own true love story blossoming right in front of her nose.

It’s only later in the film that Emma finally realizes that she loves Mr. Knightley. It’s always been him. This realization comes when she finds out that Harriet has feelings for Mr. Knightley (and that her feelings might possibly be returned). Startled by the powerful feelings of jealousy that come over her, she finally awakens to the deep love she’s felt for Mr. Knightley for quite some time.

Emma 1996

Modern rom-coms patterned after Emma:

Ever since Emma, there have been countless stories of friends-turned-lovers and lovers-hidden-in-plain-sight.

Modern films that fit this category are 13 Going on 30, Always Be My Maybe, Love and Basketball, Just Friends, Made of Honor, When Harry Met Sally, and Yesterday. In television, there are several couples in The Big Bang Theory, Monica and Chandler on Friends, and Jim and Pam from The Office. While these romances also fall into the friends-turned-lovers category, they fit the themes in Emma because most include a love interest that is hiding in plain sight but also “off limits” for one reason or another.

The most obvious modern film to follow in Emma’s footsteps is Clueless. It’s worth discussing because it is considered by many as one of the best modern remakes of a Jane Austen novel. Though some say it’s just a silly teen romance, it’s also incredibly clever in its own right. I truly believe it belongs in the “It was Right in Front of You All Along” category.

Clueless 1995
Clueless 1995

Finally, while Bridget Jones’s Diary is most often connected with Pride and Prejudice, there are also plenty of similarities between it and Emma. Mark Darcy has many attributes that closely align with Mr. Knightley. He’s an older, wiser family friend who seems (and probably is) far too good for Bridget but actually finds her quite adorable and captivating. It takes Bridget a long time to realize that Daniel Cleaver is a jerk and Mark is the better, more mature man.

If you love Emma and Mr. Knightley as much as I do, what do you think makes their romance so charming? At what point do you think Mr. Knightley realized his romantic feelings for Emma?

RACHEL DODGE teaches college English classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and book clubs, and writes for Jane Austen’s World blog. She is the bestselling author of The Little Women DevotionalThe Anne of Green Gables Devotional and Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. Now Available: The Secret Garden Devotional! You can visit Rachel online at www.RachelDodge.com.

Jane Austen in the News

Inquiring Readers, 

Several news items about Jane Austen have piqued my interest! My friend Deborah Barnum, who oversees the excellent Jane Austen in Vermont blog, referred me to an article written in February by Catherine Bennet entitled Who’s going to be triggered by Northanger Abbey? It’s hardly Game of Thrones. 

Greenwich University’s Trigger Warnings Towards Northanger Abbey

Question: Does catering to students’ sensitive sensibilities and possible antipathy towards a gently humorous and ironic novel prepare them for a successful adulthood and working life? Northanger Abbey, originally titled Susan, was written by a 23-year-old author around 230 years ago. Inquiring minds want to know.

Catherine Bennet sums up the article in one sentence, “Greenwich University is warning students to prepare themselves for the ‘toxic friendships’ Jane Austen satirises in her novel.”

TOXIC?  I gasped as I read the reasoning this university gave for protecting students from gender stereotypes and toxic relationships so they won’t be upset. Do universities no longer teach classic literature in context of the historical times in which it was written? Do literature professors no longer supervise robust debates and healthy discussions? Or help their classes to understand how, over the course of her short life, Austen’s novels and her personal viewpoint changed and transformed her own understanding of the human condition?

Must our childrens’ tender sensibilities be given a safe space from a brilliant spinster writer who helped to revolutionize the novel? I’ll tell you what triggered me, Greenwich University, and forced my bosom to heave:  It was your pandering where none was needed.

To quiet my suffering nerves, I must now reach for my smelling salts, drink some elderberry wine, and rest. A handsome companion holding my hand would not be amiss. Hint: humor and irony here. (My friend and editor would have merely added a wink emoji, but yours truly desires to dramatize her feelings à la Marianne Dashwood!)

Steventon House for Sale

Screen Shot 2023-04-05 at 12.45.12 PMJust as this article surfaced, another one popped up! While Jane Austen is more popular than ever, which has me chuffed, this account does not quite describe the before and after differences of the Steventon House. Here’s the description of the sale of Steventon House today.

The Austen family’s house was actually demolished in the early 19th century, soon after the George Austen family moved to Bath. All that remains to this day of the old Rectory is a pump surrounded by a tiny fence. The rest of the house is gone. The current sale article describes today’s site/situation as such:

“Steventon House was the birthplace of the iconic author Jane Austen,” said Ed Sugden, director of Savills, the estate’s listing agency, along with Knight Frank. “Although the original structure has since disappeared, the Georgian masterpiece that currently stands, envisioned by her older brother Edward, perfectly befits the milieu that Austen captured in her writing.”

Well, no. Take a look at the link to these images. Can you see anything that resembles late 18th C./early Regency furnishings? One must applaud the mystery that our spinster Jane still holds over her admirers today. The new owners would not be living in her family’s historic house, but they could still  imagine trodding the same lanes that she and her family walked towards  Steventon Church, to friends’ houses, and to purchase goods in nearby towns. They can still experience the landscape that nurtured her childhood and budding writing career. These imaginings alone should be worth the cost of their purchase.

Here’s a link to Remains of Jane Austen’s Steventon House Unearthed by the BBC

My previous thoughts are a perfect segue to:

Jane Austen’s Little Book of Wisdom: Words on Love, Life, Society, and Literature, Compiled by Andrea Kirk Assaf. (Click on link.)

Jane Austen's Little Book of WisdomThis book provides the reader with a quote a day or the opportunity to devour swaths of her genius at a time. Be that as it may, let’s gauge how many of Austen’s sayings are as inspiring and witty as ever:

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” – Pride & Prejudice, back cover

“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our  lives” – Persuasion, p140

“I think it ought not to set down as certain that a man must be acceptable to every woman he may like himself” – Mansfield Park, p 49

For a lady who was never married, she sounds modern and reasonable. This lovely book will provide a daily diet of Austen sensibility every day of the year. My vote: 4 out of 4 teacups.

A friend Discovers Jane Austen

A fellow board member who serves with me on a local board asked me out of the blue about the two BBC Jane Austen films he had watched. They were Emma, 2009 (he stood up and applauded the film at the end) and Sense and Sensibility, 2007, which he also applauded. When I asked him why he began watching the films, he confessed to reading this blog and being intrigued by my devotion to Jane.

He then asked if Pride and Prejudice was worth watching. After a short conversation, I realized he had never read Jane’s novels. I told him that P&P was regarded as one of the top novels in literature, and asked him which version he had borrowed from the library. It was the splendid 1995 A&E/BBC Firth/Ehle mini series.

He viewed P&P and within two days told me that this tale/movie version was his favorite. He then asked for more suggestions. I gave him a few, but he made it clear that he wanted to see the movies based on her other novels. What say you, fair readers? Which Austen film adaptations should he watch next in your opinion? And why.

Growing Older with Jane Austen by Maggie Lane: Review and Highlights by Brenda S. Cox

“A woman of seven and twenty,” said Marianne, after pausing a moment, “can never hope to feel or inspire affection again”—Sense and Sensibility, chapter 8.

“Without thinking highly either of men or matrimony, marriage had always been her [Charlotte Lucas’s] object; it was the only provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want. This preservative she had now obtained; and at the age of twenty-seven, without having ever been handsome, she felt all the good luck of it”—Pride and Prejudice, chapter 22.

“Anne, at seven-and-twenty, thought very differently from what she had been made to think at nineteen”—Persuasion, chapter 4.

Marianne Dashwood expresses the views of popular literature of the time when she says that a 27-year-old woman is too old for love. In Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte Lucas is desperate at age 27, and accepts Mr. Collins. But in Persuasion, Austen overturns the conventions by showing us a mature, 27-year-old woman who does find love, though her society would say she’s over the hill.

All Jane Austen’s other heroines are younger, between 16 (Marianne Dashwood) and 22 (Jane Bennet, and Charlotte Heywood of Sanditon). The heroes are somewhat older, from their early twenties to mid-thirties, with Mr. Knightley the oldest at 37 or 38.  These ages are probably standard fare for books including a marriage plot (though Austen of course offers other themes as well).

However, many older characters in Austen’s novels influence those young people’s lives. We can learn a lot about aging in Austen’s world from her novels.

I’m glad that some years ago I got a copy of Maggie Lane’s Growing Older with Jane Austen. I learn new things from it each time I re-read it. I’ll tell you up front, though, that currently there are only some overpriced used copies available online, though I hope you might be able to borrow a copy through your library. (I’d love to see this classic reissued, at least as an ebook!)

So, I want to share with you just a few of Maggie Lane’s insights into aging in Jane Austen. It’s hard to choose from such riches; I wish I could cover the whole book. Lane explores the topic of aging through Austen’s novels, other writings, and letters, as well as Austen’s own life and her family’s lives. I’ll give you some tastes of the first half of the book this month, and the second half next month.


Jane Austen was aware of the challenges of growing older. Lane starts with several of Austen’s comments that show compassion for older people and awareness that she herself was aging. For example, Austen wrote of her elderly acquaintance, “poor Mrs. Stent”: “we must be merciful, for perhaps in time we may come to be Mrs. Stents ourselves, unequal to anything & unwelcome to everybody” (Letters, April 21, 1805).

Austen herself, Lane says, “was more contented, busy and fulfilled at thirty-eight than at twenty-nine. . . . She had less than four years left to live, but what she accomplished in her brief lifespan would bring pleasure to readers across continents and for centuries to come . . .” (9).

The Loss of Youth and Beauty (chapter 1)

Beauty was crucially important to young women of Austen’s time because it enabled them to find husbands, along with security and income.

Two Austen heroines, Marianne Dashwood and Anne Elliot, lose their “bloom.” Lane defines that as “a healthy, glowing skin free from blemishes and wrinkles.” Health was fragile in this day of “little medical undertanding or treatment.” A woman’s “bloom” could be lost through suffering or sickness, as happened to Marianne and Anne (as well as to Eliza Williams, offstage in Sense and Sensibility). The loss of bloom and beauty materially damaged a woman’s chances of getting a husband and a home of her own. However, both Marianne and Anne are restored by the love of those around them (Lane, 14-17).

Anne Elliot recovers her “bloom” at the seaside.
C. E. Brock, public domain.

One conduct book of the time, The Mirror of Graces, suggests that at age 30, a woman lays aside youthfulness, and “arrays herself in the majesty of sobriety, or in the grandeur of simple magnificence.” By the time she is 50, she should “gracefully” throw aside ornamentation and descend into old age (Lane, 20). Elizabeth Elliot is approaching the “dangerous” age of 30. Mrs. Weston of Emma must be in her late thirties, though Frank Churchill describes her as a “pretty young woman.”

Several role models in the novel are older women like Mrs. Weston, whose “sense of self-worth is not dependent on her appearance, or on male reaction to it” (Lane, 25). Mrs. Croft and Lady Russell are likewise secure in their age and appearance. It is a man, Sir Walter Elliott, age 54, who is most concerned about age and most vain of his looks!

My Time of Life (chapter 2)

“Age plays a large part in how we perceive ourselves and others, even today,” Lane says (38). Austen gives us full pictures of her characters, appropriate for the “time of life” of each one. “With the lightest of touches, Jane Austen grounds her characters in the age range they inhabit. Small details of clothes, hair or deportment, or more frequently and consistently of speech, outlook and habit, help us perceive her old characters to be middle-aged or elderly” (Lane, 41). Mr. Woodhouse, though, shows himself to be “older in ways than in years.” His fears, hatred of change, love of youthful habits and furnishings, and his speech all show him as a unique but elderly person. Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Bates also speak and reminisce in ways that show their age.

For Austen, youth is not enough. Mrs. Bennet, for instance, had “youth and beauty” enough to capture a husband, but not the depth of character needed for aging well. Austen uses the phrases “the evening of life,” in Emma, and “November of life,” in Persuasion. “In both instances, what is shown is an awareness of passing time, and acknowledgment that to live a satisfying full lifespan, the charm and freshness of youth need to be supplemented and then succeeded by something deeper” (Lane, 39).

Mrs. Bennet was probably in her early 40s, though we often imagine her as older.
C. E. Brock, public domain

Parent Against Child (chapter 3)

Most of the older people in Austen’s novels are parents. The parents of marriageable daughters would likely have been in their early forties, though the movies often show them much older.

Lane explores the tensions between the generations in Austen’s novels: Edward Ferrars against his mother, Tom Bertram against his father, William Elliot against the head of his family, Henry Tilney against his father, even Colonel Brandon against his own father before S&S starts.

Parents were no longer arranging marriages for their children. “In the eighteenth century, it was increasingly believed that the way to promote fidelity in marriage was to allow couples to follow their hearts, rather than forcing them into the dynastic arranements of the past.” Couples, however, still had to get parental approval, as we see in Austen’s novels. The Morlands, for example, will not countenance Catherine’s marriage to Henry until General Tilney gives his “appearance of consent” (Lane, 57).

Propriety dictated that the younger generation defer to the older generation, and Austen criticizes those who are disrespectful. Anne Elliot, despite her father’s selfishness and foolishness, always treats him respectfully. (I would add, this was a religious duty, to honor one’s parents.) Emma is rebuked most strongly, and repents most deeply, when she makes fun of an older woman, Miss Bates.

Lane goes on to explore “the joy of grandchildren” and “the importance of aunts” in the novels. Elizabeth Bennet’s aunt, Mrs. Gardiner, provides “a model of how an aunt/niece relationship, or indeed any relationship between the generations, should be” (Lane, 71).

Old Wives (chapter 4)

Along with other family relationships, Austen illustrates a whole range of marriages. From the ill-matched Bennets to the well-matched Gardiners and Crofts, Austen “shows us every kind of marriage” so her heroines can learn what to imitate and what to avoid.

Lane discusses “old wives,” meaning women “who had been married long enough to come to some accommodation with the choices they had made in youth and to live with whatever idiosyncrasies they may have discovered in their husbands” (Lane, 72). Some are happy, some are not, mostly depending on their own attitudes.

One of Mrs. Bennet’s worst characteristics is self-pity, “a severe failing in Austen’s estimation, because it is something that could and should be remedied” (Lane, 73). In contrast, Charlotte Collins and Mrs. Grant make the best of their situations with less-than-ideal husbands, and enjoy their lives. Mrs. Price (Fanny’s mother) and Mary Musgrove, however, complain and grumble about the choices they have made.

Clergymen’s wives had an important place in the community, as we see with Mrs. Elton. But their positions were also precarious. The husband’s death meant a loss of home and income, as happened to poor Mrs. Bates. Jane herself, with her mother and sister, suffered the loss of most of their income when Jane’s clergyman father died.

Miss Bates is Jane Austen’s quintessential “old maid,” “poor and laughed at,” but deserving respect.
C.E. Brock, public domain

Old Maids (chapter 5)

The alternative to marriage, a single life, involved being a potentially despised “old maid.” In Austen’s own family, there were several late marriages which rescued an older woman from that fate. Austen also had some friends who were older, impoverished, single women.

In Emma, Emma discusses old maids. Harriet is shocked that Emma does not plan to marry, because being “an old maid at last” is “so dreadful.” Emma disagrees, saying, “a single woman of good fortune is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as anybody else!” But, she adds, “a single woman with a very narrow income must be a ridiculous, disagreeable old maid! The proper sport of boys and girls” (Lane, 96). This, of course, reflects Emma’s prejudices. Miss Bates, poor and foolish, is the quintessential example of an old maid in Austen’s novels. In contrast, Emma also includes three respectable single teachers and two governesses. (Though Jane Fairfax is only expected to be a governess, which she compares to slavery.) These were the alternatives for women who did not marry.


In later chapters, which we’ll look at next month, Lane discusses aging men, widows and dowagers, age and money, and illness and death. In the meantime, I’ve listed some online sources you might want to explore.


Let’s discuss in the comments section:

Who is your favorite older character (let’s say over 35; lifetimes were shorter then) in Austen’s novels? Who is your least favorite older character? Why? Do they show you anything particular about aging in Austen’s England?


Here are some to choose from (age estimates with a ? are my own guesses):

P&P: Mrs. Bennet (probably between 41-48?), Mr. Bennet (?), Mrs. Gardiner (“several years younger than Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Phillips”), Mr. Gardiner (?), Lady Catherine de Bourgh (perhaps in her late 40s or early 50s?, as she has a daughter around Darcy’s age of 28)

Persuasion: Mrs. Croft (38), Admiral Croft (40s or 50s?), Sir Walter Elliot (54), Lady Russell (50s?)

S&S: Mrs. Dashwood (40), Mrs. Jennings (late 40s, probably?; her eldest daughter Lady Middleton is 26 or 27), Sir John Middleton (about 40)

Mansfield Park: Dr. Grant (45), Mrs. Grant (?), Mrs. Rushworth (40s?), Sir Thomas Bertram (50s?), Lady Bertram (about 50?; married 30 years ago)

Emma: Mr. Weston (40s), Mrs. Weston (late 30s?), Mr. Woodhouse (50s or 60s, perhaps? He “had not married early,” but has a 20-year-old daughter), Mrs. Bates (“very old”), Miss Bates (“middle of life”)

Northanger Abbey: General Tilney (“past the bloom, but not past the vigour of life”), Mr. Allen (older, has gout), Mrs. Allen (was at school with Isabella’s mother, Isabella is 22, perhaps the mothers are in their 40s)

Lady Denham of Sanditon (70), Lady Osborne of The Watsons (49)

You can no doubt add others!


For more on the topic of aging women in Jane Austen’s novels, see:

Growing Older with Jane Austen, Part 2

“’My Poor Nerves’: Women of a Certain Age on the Page,” about perimenopausal women in Austen

Past the Bloom: Aging and Beauty in the Novels of Jane Austen,” by Stephanie M. Eddleman, a fascinating article

Three Stages of Aging with Pride and Prejudice,” by Emily Willingham, a light look at how we identify with different characters as we have more life experience 

And, of course, the source for most of the above:

Growing Older with Jane Austen, by Maggie Lane

Brenda S. Cox writes about Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen. Her recent book is Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England.

This June she will be speaking at Regency Week in Alton, England, and would love to see some of you there!

In the world of romantic comedies, there are certain tropes (common or overused themes) that come up again and again. In this series, starting with Pride and Prejudice, I’ll analyze Jane Austen’s novels and identify the best romantic tropes used in each one – with the goal of proving that Jane Austen not only used romantic themes ingeniously but also played an important role in developing several key plot devices that are regularly used in modern filmmaking today.

Defining the Relationship

When you look down the list of common themes used in modern romantic movies, there are many to choose from. There’s “Best Friends Turned Lovers,” “The Girl/Boy Next Door,” “Stuck on an Island/In a Car/On a Plane,” “The Makeover,” and of course the “Love Triangle.”

When it comes to Pride and Prejudice, we can all agree it definitely does not utilize a “Cute Meet-Cute” to kick off the romance between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. It does seem to fit the “Opposites Attract” theme rather well. However, the theme that Pride and Prejudice models most perfectly is the “Enemies-to-Lovers” trope.

The “Enemies-to-Lovers” plot is one of the most popular themes used in romantic books and movies today. Austen modeled it so well that many romantic movies have borrowed (whether knowingly or unknowingly) from Pride and Prejudice. Though Austen didn’t invent the idea of rivals falling in love, the chemistry she created between Elizabeth and Darcy is unmatched. Modern era movie-makers continue to utilize the heat-factor Austen tapped into with her “Fitz-Lizzy” combo.

Enemies at First Sight

We see this theme play out in many popular romantic comedy movies. A huge majority of Hallmark (and Hallmark-like) movies start with a misunderstanding, a bad first impression, or enemies / rivals who fall in love.

However, it’s not just the made-for-tv rom coms that utilize this popular theme. Some of the highest grossing “date movies” have used some variation or other of the enemies-to-lovers plot. One IMDB list, “Enemies-to-lovers Movies,” includes over 80 titles!

Here are a few popular movies that caught my eye from that list:

When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, New in Town, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Runaway Bride, What Women Want, The Breakfast Club, The Cutting Edge, Sweet Home Alabama, A Walk to Remember, Someone Like You, Silver Linings Playbook, Leap Year, Life as We Know It, Letters to Juliet, 27 Dresses, As Good as It Gets, Picture Perfect, French Kiss, and Bridget Jones’s Diary.

I’m sure there are many other movies (and books) you might add to the list! BuzzFeed nailed it with this funny graphic about Parks and Recreation:

Recipe for Love

The enemies-to-lovers recipe is pretty potent stuff; in order to understand it better, we need to analyze the ingredients that make it possible to change a rivalry into a romance.

The following steps are used in many enemies-to-lovers plot lines. I’ve included modern movie examples for each, plus the clever building blocks Austen used in Pride and Prejudice to create the sizzling chemistry between Elizabeth and Darcy.

It’s the friction between the two characters that provides the spark for romance!

Step 1: A Bad First Impression

In the enemies-to-lovers trope, rather than a meet-cute, there’s a bad first impression (or a “Bad Meet-Cute”) that starts the action. This is where the soon-to-be-lovers first meet and get off on the wrong foot. The fall-out from this first meeting sets the stage for the rest of the story.

You can find the heroine’s “enemy” in a modern rom-com because he’s the one who makes the main character bristle at first sight. He’s the guy that made fun of her growing up, the one who took her spot on the debate team, the business man who stole her cab, or the flower shop owner across the street who’s putting her out of business. (Side note: The “enemy” is usually infuriatingly good looking.)

Bottom line: There is always an initial misunderstanding that causes the two leads to get off on the wrong foot.

Modern Example:
In Runaway Bride, Ike writes an erroneous newspaper article about Maggie, so Maggie gets him fired. From that moment forward, she sees him as the jerk journalist from the big city who made her a laughing stock. Meanwhile, he sees her as the “man eater” who cost him his job. As with most rom coms, their anger-to-attraction ratio sets off some serious fireworks.

P&P Example:
There’s a reason Jane Austen’s first draft was titled “First Impressions.” In Pride and Prejudice, the bad first impression occurs when Mr. Darcy snubs Elizabeth at the ball when they first meet. She overhears Darcy when Bingley says he should dance: “You are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room.”

Worse yet, she hears his response when Mr. Bingley suggests he dance with her: “She is tolerable: but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.”

The end result: “Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings towards him.” She makes light of it it later, but it affects her more than she lets on. In the history of bad first impressions, Mr. Darcy’s is one of the worst!

Step 2: Confirmation

After the initial meeting or bad impression, there is a series of events in which the main character continues to see the other only through the lens of their first impression.

In this scenario, every next move the characters make only continues to confirm their bad first impressions. When one character tries to make amends or tries for a “do-over,” it usually doesn’t go well. As the characters continually bump into each other, they rub each other wrong. Often, there are further infractions and snubs that add to the initial impression.

Modern Example:
In When Harry Met Sally, Sally’s first impression of Harry, when they drive together on a long road trip, is that he’s arrogant and insensitive. Sally’s bad first impression of Harry is confirmed when they meet several years later. At first, he doesn’t recognize her. Later, he remembers who she is and offends Sally by asking if they slept together in college. Because of their initial interactions, Sally sees Harry as purely guy-friend material until much later in the movie.

P&P Example:

While Darcy finds himself more attracted to Elizabeth at each of their subsequent meetings, Elizabeth’s view of Darcy is unchanged: “to her he was only the man who made himself agreeable nowhere, and who had not thought her handsome enough to dance with.

Austen builds on this negative first impression by adding further complications. From that first meeting, everything Darcy says or does is interpreted by Elizabeth through the lens of his bad first impression: When Mr. Darcy interferes with Jane and Mr. Bingley, it can only be because he’s arrogant and looks down on the Bennet family. When Mr. Wickham tells his tale about Darcy, Elizabeth quickly believes Wickham must be telling the truth (because Wickham is handsome and charming and Darcy is proud and rude). It takes several meetings, a lot of lively banter, a (bad) first marriage proposal, a lengthy explanatory letter, a visit to Pemberley, and a grand gesture to change Elizabeth’s mind.

Step 3: Attraction

During this step in a rom com, at least one character begins to see something unexpected in the other that makes them reconsider their first opinion. Beneath the initial animosity, anger, or annoyance, attraction begins to build and the characters find themselves (inexplicably) drawn to one another.

Arguments heat up (in more than one way) and turn into exasperated banter that one or the other finds enjoyable instead of infuriating. The characters begin to soften toward one another. Either one or both find that they can’t stop thinking about the other person.

Modern Example: In How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Andie and Ben are in a fierce competition–but neither of them knows what the other is doing. While Andie does everything she can to prove she can lose Ben in 10 days, Ben tries to prove that he can make a girl fall in love with him in 10 days. As they face off, instead of pushing each other away, they both find the competition exhilarating.

P&P Example:

In Pride and Prejudice, while it takes longer for Elizabeth to realize her attraction to Mr. Darcy, this stage happens almost immediately for Darcy:

“…he began to find [her face] was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes . . . he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; he was caught by their easy playfulness.”

When Elizabeth refuses to dance with Darcy, he isn’t offended: “Her resistance had not injured her with the gentleman.” In fact, he stands in pleasant reverie, thinking about her: “I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.”

While it takes longer for Elizabeth to realize her attraction to Darcy, there’s no arguing the fact that she dearly loves to tease him, verbally spar with him, and toy with him right from the start. She flirts and makes fun of him because she thinks he’s always brooding and judging and looking down on her; meanwhile, he finds her absolutely bewitching.

Step 4: Making Amends

In this step of the typical enemies-to-lovers romantic movie plot, one character tries to make amends, smooth over ruffled feelings, explain a misunderstanding, or admit fault.

In this phase, there may be more misunderstandings and more complications, but it’s an important step toward the two main characters seeing each other as they really are and not as they first appeared. Often, the characters *just happen* to bump into each other on many occasions by chance. In this phase, one character tries to win over the other. Both begin to try to put their best foot forward.

Modern Example:
In You’ve Got Mail, Joe tries to show Kathleen that he’s not a heartless business man but is actually the secret pen pal she’s fallen in love with. He meets up with her, takes an interest in her world, tries to give her business advice, and asks her to be his friend. When she’s sick, he brings her daisies—her favorite flower—and take cares of her. Kathleen finds herself wishing Joe was her secret pen pal.

P&P Example:

In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth’s demeaner toward Darcy begins to soften over time as she gets to know him. First, she’s surprised and touched by his fondness for his sister. Later, when she reads Darcy’s letter, the narrative she’s believed about him is shattered. Next, when she visits Pemberley and he’s kind to her and her aunt and uncle Gardiner, her heart melts even further. (And it doesn’t hurt that Pemberley is quite something to behold!)

In each instance, as Darcy tries to put his best foot forward, Elizabeth notices something further about him that she didn’t realize before. She finds out that he’s more reserved than arrogant, that he keeps a close circle of family and friends, and that he isn’t naturally at ease in social situations. She notices that he cares for his sister Georgiana, for her aunt and uncle, and finally for her entire family’s reputation. When she visits Pemberley and realizes that he wants to make a good impression on her and on her relatives – and that he wants her to meet and get along with his sister – she is thrown off balance in the most delightful way.

Step 5: The Grand Gesture

In these types of romantic storylines, there is usually a moment where the “enemy / rival” often does something to save or help the other character. There is a great sacrifice or grand gesture that seals the deal.

Often in this phase, one characters needs help (or convincing) and the other swoops in to save the day in order to prove their love for the other character. This phase may also include apologies, gifts, or messages.

Modern Example:
In New in Town, Lucy gives up her high-profile job in Miami and moves to Minnesota permanently. She negotiates a deal to save the local factory, makes it into an employee-owned company, and saves everyone’s jobs. She proves to Ted that she’s more than just a suit and that the people she loves are more important to her than any job.

P&P Example:

Austen sets the bar pretty high for grand gestures when Mr. Darcy personally hunts down Wickham and Lydia, forces Wickham to marry her, and pays off his enormous debts. He even tries to do it quietly, so that everyone will believe it was Mr. Gardiner who made all the arrangements. When Elizabeth later thanks him, he tells her that he did it for her:

“If you will thank me,” he replied, “let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.”

You Be the Judge

Do you think Pride and Prejudice has had a lasting affect on modern storytelling? Why are we drawn to the enemies-to-lovers theme? Are there other books or movies that fit this theme that I didn’t mention?

I’ll continue this series next month by looking at other common themes in modern romantic comedies that share similarities with Jane Austen’s great works. Next time you watch a favorite movie, start tracking how many plot devices hark back to our Jane!

RACHEL DODGE teaches college English classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and book clubs, and writes for Jane Austen’s World blog. She is the bestselling author of The Little Women DevotionalThe Anne of Green Gables Devotional and Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. Now Available: The Secret Garden Devotional! You can visit Rachel online at www.RachelDodge.com.

By Brenda S. Cox

“What are young men to rocks and mountains?”—Pride and Prejudice

Rocks and mountains recur in the story of Lady Hester Stanhope, though the mountains she climbed were much farther away than Derbyshire. We all know that women of Jane Austen’s England faced many restrictions. Austen herself published her books as “a lady” rather than under her own name, to avoid any stigma for stepping outside of the box that society prescribed for her.

Yet some women did step out of that box, some of them very far outside the box! Those in the upper classes with enough money could afford to be “eccentric” and go their own ways. (Some in the middle and lower classes did the same, especially if they were widows, but that’s another story.)

Lady Hester Stanhope

One of the most famous, or infamous, of these trailblazing women was Lady Hester Stanhope, Middle Eastern traveler and pioneer archaeologist. Chawton House hosted a talk entitled “Lady Hester Stanhope: Trowelblazer or Iconoclast?” on Feb. 16. 

Lady Hester was born only a few months after Jane Austen, in March of 1776. She was the oldest child of an earl. In 1803 she moved into the home of her uncle, William Pitt the Younger, prime minister of England. She acted as his hostess and private secretary. When he died in 1806, the British government granted Hester a pension of £1200 a year, at Pitt’s request. After several romantic disappointments, she became disillusioned with England. She went overseas in 1810 and never returned to England. She was almost 34.

Shipwrecked on Rhodes

Starting out on a Grand Tour of Europe, she was shipwrecked on the island of Rhodes, losing all her possessions and money. She wrote,

Unable to make the land, I got ashore, not on an island, but a bare rock which stuck up in the sea, and remained thirty hours without food or water. It becoming calmer the second night, I once more put to sea, and fortunately landed upon the island of Rhodes, but above three days’ journey from the town, travelling at the rate of eight hours a day over mountains and dreadful rocks. Could the fashionables I once associated with believe that I could have sufficient composure of mind to have given my orders as distinctly and as positively as if I had been sitting in the midst of them, and that I slept for many hours very sound on the bare rock, covered with a pelisse, and was in a sweet sleep the second night, when I was awoke by the men, who seemed to dread that, as it was becoming calmer, and the wind changing (which would bring the sea in another direction), that we might be washed off the rock before morning. So away I went, putting my faith in that God who has never quite forsaken me in all my various misfortunes. The next place I slept in was a mill, upon sacks of corn; after that, in a hut, where I turned out a poor ass to make more room, and congratulated myself on having a bed of straw. When I arrived (after a day of tremendous fatigue) at a tolerable village, I found myself too ill to proceed the next day, and was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of a kind-hearted, hospitable Greek gentleman, whom misfortune had sent into obscurity, and he insisted upon keeping me in his house till I was recovered. 

At this point she adopted the Turkish dress of the Ottoman Empire. She explains why she chose men’s clothing:

. . . Everything I possessed I have lost; had I attempted to have saved anything, others would have done the same, and the boat would have been sunk. To collect clothes in this part of the world to dress as an Englishwoman would be next to impossible; at least, it would cost me two years’ income. To dress as a Turkish woman would not do, because I must not be seen to speak to a man; therefore I have nothing left for it but to dress as a Turk — not like the Turks you are in the habit of seeing in England, but as an Asiatic Turk in a travelling dress — just a sort of silk and cotton shirt; next a striped silk and cotton waistcoat; over that another with sleeves, and over that a cloth short jacket without sleeves or half-sleeves, beautifully worked in coloured twist, a large pair of breeches, and Turkish boots, a sash into which goes a brace of pistols, a knife, and a sort of short sword, a belt for powder and shot made of variegated leather, which goes over the shoulder, the pouches the same, and a turban of several colours, put on in a particular way with a large bunch of natural flowers on one side. This is the dress of the common Asiatic; the great men are covered with gold and embroidery, and nothing can be more splendid and becoming than their dress. (Life and Letters of Lady Hester Stanhope, 116-117)

The clothes sound quite sumptuous, and she seems to have enjoyed them! As a foreign woman, and a woman in men’s clothing, Lady Hester occupied an unusual place in Ottoman society. She could be treated as more or less an “honorary man,” relating to local men in ways that local women could not.

Lady Hester Stanhope wearing Turkish men’s clothing. Frontispiece, Memoirs of the Lady Hester Stanhope, Vol. 1 (London: Henry Colburn, 1846).

Egypt to Palmyra

Lady Hester traveled deeper into the Middle East. She wasn’t much impressed with the wonders of Egypt. She refused to enter the Great Pyramid and complained of “an inconceivable number of fleas.” Many English tourists visited Egypt, and she wanted to do something more impressive.

Because of her background with Pitt in politics, and her connections, she was able to get permission from the Ottoman Pasha to go to Palmyra, an ancient city in the Syrian desert. When she reached it with her Beduin caravan after six days of travel, they “crowned” her “Queen of the Desert,” after the ancient Queen Zenobia.

During her travels, Lady Hester constantly racked up debts, and wrote back to the English government asking for money. They sometimes ended up paying because of her high connections.

Lady Hester Stanhope smoking a Turkish pipe. Frontispiece, Memoirs of the Lady Hester Stanhope, Vol. 2 (London: Henry Colburn, 1845).

Archaeologist; Searching for Treasure

Emma Yandle, curator of the Chawton House exhibition on “Trailblazers: Women Travel Writers,” went on to discuss Lady Hester Stanhope’s somewhat questionable contributions to archaeology. Lady Hester was arguably the first Westerner given official permission to excavate an ancient site; certainly she was the first woman to do so.

Lady Hester somehow obtained a manuscript, purportedly written by a monk, describing the location of immense hoards of buried treasure (three million gold coins!) in the ancient cities of Ashkelon, Awgy (near Jaffa), and Sidon. She got permission and safe conduct letters from the Ottoman government to excavate at Ashkelon. She promised the Ottoman government all the treasure she would find. She asked the British government to pay for the excavations, simply for the honor it would bring to England and to herself.

Excavations began in April of 1815. Lady Hester was the visionary, nominally in charge. Actually, though, her personal physician, Dr. Charles Meryon, directed the excavations and kept the records. They found no gold coins.

They did, however, find one archaeological treasure. It appeared to be a Roman statue, somewhat mutilated. According to a later biography, this made Lady Hester Stanhope “the first person who ever intentionally excavated an ancient artifact in the ‘Holy Land.’”

However, Lady Hester feared that if the Ottoman ruler heard about this, he would believe that she was excavating treasures to send back to her native England. She had promised she would not do that. (Many others of the time were plundering the various countries they colonized.) So—she destroyed the statue! She had it smashed and thrown into the sea. A very strange decision.

We still have drawings and a description of the statue, but that’s all. A much later archaeological expedition, in 1921, found what were apparently the missing pieces of that statue.

The records of the expedition, however, gave a lot of historical information. The layers of history that were uncovered were recorded: a Roman temple at the lowest layer, above it a church, and over that a mosque. (This was confirmed by the later expedition.) They also recorded the locations of any artifacts found. This was a new procedure. Other diggings at the time simply took whatever they could find and shipped it off to museums or private collections, with no details of location or depth. So Lady Hester’s excavation did blaze new trails for archaeology.

End of Life

Lady Hester Stanhope later settled on a mountaintop among the Druze people of Lebanon, near Sidon. She became disastrously involved in Middle Eastern conflicts, and went deeper and deeper into debt. She died, penniless and alone, in 1839.

The Residence of Lady Hester Stanhope at Djoun. Frontispiece, The Life and Letters of Lady Hester Stanhope, by her niece the Duchess of Cleveland (London: John Murray, 1914).

Dr. Meryon, who had accompanied her on many of her travels, wrote her memoirs in 1845-6, romanticizing her story.

Paul Pattison, at English Heritage, summarizes Lady Hester Stanhope’s life: 

She was always a wilful aristocrat, who wanted to govern her life and the lives of others – indeed believed it was her position in life to do so – and on occasions she was overbearing and unkind. But she was also vivacious, daring, sharp-witted, charismatic, benevolent, and brave to the point of recklessness. 

Above all, she rejected society conventions and the restrictions of life for a woman in Europe, embracing the unexpected opportunity to be her own mistress within an Eastern culture that excluded women from public life. That alone sets her apart as a pioneer and an extraordinary human being.

As far as I’ve been able to discover, Jane Austen never mentioned Hester Stanhope in her letters. She may have known of some of her exploits, however. Both were trailblazers: Jane, quietly, from her home; and Hester, flamboyantly, in exotic places.


Resources about Lady Hester Stanhope

Memoirs of the Lady Hester Stanhope; the sequel, Travels of Lady Hester Stanhope; and Life and Letters of Lady Hester Stanhope, are available on archive.org

Lady Hester, Queen of the East, by Lorna Gibb

Star of the Morning: The Extraordinary Life of Lady Hester Stanhope, by Kirsten Ellis


Brenda S. Cox is the author of Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England. She also writes for Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen.


Happy Valentine’s Day, JAW friends! Are you sending cards this year or planning something special? I found it interesting to read about Valentine’s Day during the Regency Era and found several histories of the holiday online. A short overview from The Jane Austen Centre proved intriguing.

As I thought about the kinds of Valentine’s Day cards and letters Jane Austen’s characters might have sent to one another, I had a few creative ideas. The following is the fruit of an hour spent laughing over what some of Austen’s most famous (and silly) characters might say if they sent out Valentine’s Day cards.


True Romantics

And finally, a few Jane Austen-themed Valentine’s Day graphics that you might like to share with a loved one! After all, she did write some of the most romantic lines in the English language!

A very Happy Valentine’s Day to you, from all of us here at Jane Austen’s World! May your day be filled with love, laughter, friends, sweet treats, and good books. Feel free to share this post with your friends and loved ones!

RACHEL DODGE teaches college English classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and book clubs, and writes for Jane Austen’s World blog. She is the bestselling author of The Little Women DevotionalThe Anne of Green Gables Devotional and Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. Now Available: The Secret Garden Devotional! You can visit Rachel online at www.RachelDodge.com.

Winter, Regency Style

Gentle readers,

I am in the throes of moving – packing, mover transportation, closings, mortgage payments and the like – all within the next 3 weeks. And so I am unable to complete the themes I’ve researched. Still, I’d like to offer a post during this wintery time of year, which, in my area, has been changing from cold to warm-ish in unpredictable ways and confusing the wildlife.

This week the weather has been cold, and I thought of early posts on this blog that featured Regency winters and ways to keep warm. Many new readers might not have read these articles before. Enjoy!

…what did our Regency ancestors do when there was a heavy snowfall? They did not, like many of us today, rush out to shovel it from the walkways and roadways in their vicinity. Many of them simply ignored it, stayed in their homes and waited for it to melt. Particularly in rural areas, people had already laid in most of the supplies they would need for the winter. – Snow in the Regency, Regency Redingote, Kathryn Kane, 25th November, 2011 (Blog was – sadly – retired.)

While rural communities in Great Britain waited for the snow to recede, many took the opportunity to amuse  themselves on icy ponds, as in this image from Wikipedia.

Julius_Caesar_Ibbetson_-_Winter_Amusement,_A_View_in_Hyde_Park_from_the_Moated_House_-_B1985.36.608_-_Yale_Center_for_British_Art (1)

Julius Caesar Ibbetson: Winter Amusement: A View in Hyde Park from the Moated House, 1787, Wikimedia Commons

As the men played outdoors during these cold dark months, I imagine the women sitting by a cozy fireside preparing vegetables for thick stews and soups, sewing and knitting for the poor baskets, mending shirts and clothing for the family, and enjoying local gossip. 

Please click on these four posts to address those winter moments in times past. You will find methods still used today when storms and events cut off our electrical grids.

Reviewed by Brenda S. Cox

At the 2022 JASNA AGM, Renata Dennis (head of JASNA’s Diversity Committee*) virtually interviewed author Uzma Jalaluddin. Uzma came across as friendly, passionate, and joyful. As I left the room, I overheard one participant saying, “Uzma seems like someone I could be friends with,” and I felt the same. That session encouraged me to go back and reread Uzma’s novel Ayesha at Last (a variation on Pride and Prejudice), and also to read her newest book, Hana Khan Carries On (a variation on You’ve Got Mail).

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin gives a modern Canadian Muslim twist to Pride and Prejudice.

In Ayesha at Last, Ayesha is a modern-day Elizabeth Bennet, while Khalid is her Mr. Darcy. Both are from Indian-background Muslim families in Canada, and both have experienced loss and tragedy. Their Muslim community faces challenges, and they try to help, though their ideas don’t always match.

Uzma told us that she wanted to show an “observant” Muslim as a character we could understand and relate to, so she introduced Khalid. (“Observant” here means that he strictly observes the practices of his faith.) Khalid finds his identity in wearing a long white robe, a white skullcap, and a bushy beard. He doesn’t shake women’s hands (sign of a strict Muslim), and tends to judge others, though he treats them with respect. He works hard and does well in his company. But a new boss arrives who is prejudiced against him for his religion and appearance. She looks for excuses to fire him.

Ayesha is a poet, working as a substitute teacher but unhappy with teaching. She wears a purple hijab—traditional, but not. She is also a committed Muslim, but not as strict as Khalid. Sparks fly when they meet. A villain, of course, tries to come between them.

The story is compelling and I found it hard to put down.  The characters are well-drawn and interesting. Uzma Jalaluddin gives us insight into a Muslim community in Toronto, Canada, their mosque and community center, and the challenges they face. The novel is a clean read (although there is some discussion of pornography).

In an illuminating online article, Uzma Jalaluddin says, 

“I write romance novels.

“That’s not what I set out to do when I first put fingers to keyboard. I wasn’t thinking about genre at all. All I knew was that I wanted to write funny, joyful books about characters I had rarely seen represented on the page; characters who looked like me, and who would bring a different perspective to the traditional love story.

“I write romantic comedies so that I can see my stories represented in the world.”

Hana Khan Carries On is another entertaining story set in the same community.

In Uzma Jaluluddin’s second excellent novel, Hana Khan Carries On, her heroine focuses on the need for “more entertaining stories that represent all of our experiences, not just our pain.” Hana Khan is a budding broadcaster who insists on stories that reflect many dimensions of her Toronto Muslim community, not just tragedies and stereotypes. She asks “The Big Questions: ‘What do you want out of life? What do we owe the people we love? How do our histories and stories influence who we become?” Uzma Jalaluddin says those questions “form the backbone” of all her stories.

Like Jane Austen and all good writers, Uzma Jalauddin gives us three-dimensional characters. We can relate to them on many levels, while also seeing their uniqueness. She entangles them in plots that are fun and compelling to read.

I recommend both Ayesha at Last and Hana Khan Carries On.

Note: Previously I reviewed another excellent Austen variation set in a Muslim community: Soniah Kamal’s Unmarriageable, a Pride and Prejudice retelling set in Pakistan. 

*The JEDI Committee: JASNA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee

Brenda S. Cox, author of Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England, also writes at Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen.

Inquiring readers, 

Ronald Dunning has written a number of articles for this blog. He is a dedicated genealogist and pursues his work with the enthusiasm and commitment to his field of study that I, alas, lack. Thankfully, Mr Dunning has filled the gap for this blog.

I have occasionally been asked whether Jane Austen’s parents were descended from royalty. I knew this to be the case with Mrs Austen, having traced the pedigree of her grandmother the Honourable Mary Brydges, who was the daughter of the 8th Lord Chandos of Sudeley, back to the Plantagenet king, Edward III. Prof. John McAleer had written on the subject too, in an article on the topic in Persuasions 11, entitled The Comedy of Social Distinction in Pride and Prejudice, by JOHN McALEER.

Alas, Prof. McAleer was led astray by some misinformation that appears to have had its origins in the later 19th century: Jane Atkins was categorically not the daughter of Sir Jonathan Atkins, but of John Atkins of Brightling, in Sussex, so George Austen was not a descendant of Sir Jonathan. Nevertheless I could still trace him back to royalty through his previously unexplored maternal line, that of Rebecca Hampson. The most recent of the kings in her pedigree was Edward I. This story remains to be told, and I promise that I will do it; but the first of the charts attached to this article trace the lineage via George Austen: Austen Royal Descent 1 – George.docx (1).


Image designed by Vic Sanborn

The second to the eighth charts show different ways in which Cassandra Leigh’s pedigree could be traced back to Edward III, the grandson of Edward I. It’s interesting that all of these resolve into two lineages. In charts 2, 3, 4, and 6, the lines descend through various people to the Hon. Charles Brydges of Wilton Castle, and his wife Jane Carne. From then, the next six generations to Mrs Austen are identical. The descent in the second group, charts 5, 7, and 8, reaches Katherine Neville and her husband Clement Throckmorton of Haseley and Claverdon, Warwickshire; and in those, the next six generations to Mrs Austen are also identical (though different from the first group).

Study Charts 2-8 at this link.

Conventionally, the husband’s name is listed first, followed by his wife’s. In these charts I have placed each couple’s direct offspring first, whether female or male. The spouses, in the earlier generations, were almost all descended from earlier kings; these charts record only the most recent royal ancestors – though still from a log way back.

Someone, possibly a genealogically-minded statistician, worked out that everyone of English descent had Plantagenet royal ancestry. Taking this a step further, everyone of European ancestry is descended from Charlemagne. There is an interesting article on the subject in the Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/humans-are-all-more-closely-related-than-we-commonly-think/. Most people have lost the linkage; it’s only because Jane Austen’s parents both had prominent ancestors that we know.

Prof. McAleer listed a few historically notable royal ancestors, and these belonged to both Austen parents. I’ll add a few: Alfred the Great. Aethelred II – “Ethelred the Unready” – and his first son Edmund “Ironside.” The historical King Duncan I of Scotland, who met his death at the hands of his cousin Macbeth!

I did my best to discover all of the ancestral lines, back to the King Edwards, though it’s possible that I’ve missed one, or that others remain to be discovered. But I hope that there are enough here to satisfy everyone!

About the author:

Ronald Dunning

Ronald Dunning, Author

Ronald Dunning is the creator of Ancestry.com: The Jane Austen Page ” which is undergoing an update as his research continues. He learned through his grandmother that her family was in some way related to Jane Austen. After moving from Canada to England in 1972, he pursued this intriguing information and discovered that Frank Austen [Jane’s brother] was her great-great-grandfather. Find more information in Deb Barnum’s 2012 interview with Mr. Dunning for Jane Austen in Vermont, An Interview with Ron Dunning on his Jane Austen Genealogy ~ The New and Improved Jane Austen Family Tree!

Also, click on this link to Sir Thomas More and Jane Austen  on this blog by Ronald Dunning.

On January 9, 1773, Jane Austen’s older sister Cassandra Austen was born – 250 years ago – and we Austen fans are celebrating her life worldwide!

The two Austen sisters were nearly inseparable, from the time Jane was born until she passed away. She was the yin to Austen’s yang . . . or to put it in Regency terms, she was the darning needle to Jane’s stockings, the saucer to her tea cup. If you love Jane, then you would have undoubtedly loved Cassandra!

A Friend and Companion

When Jane was born, her father famously wrote: “We have now another girl, a present plaything for her sister Cassy, and a future companion.”

Reverend Austen was right on both counts. When the girls were young, Jane was extremely attached to Cassandra. So much so that when Cassandra went away to school, Jane was allowed to go as well. Not because she was necessarily ready for school, but because, as their mother said, “if Cassandra’s head had been going to be cut off, Jane would have hers cut off too.”

As they grew up, the sisters became the closest of companions and the dearest of friends. Of particular note, Cassandra is known for her sketches and watercolor paintings, particularly those believed to be of Jane and those that accompany Jane’s History of England.

Excerpt from the History of England by Jane Austen, illustrated by Cassandra Austen, the British Library.

Cassandra and Jane

Much of what we know about Austen’s personal life is largely due to the letters Jane wrote to her sister. Though Cassandra destroyed many of Jane’s letters after her death, there is still much we can find out about the two sisters through reading Jane Austen’s letters. Cassandra’s own letters about Jane’s illness and death provide a tender glimpse into the love and closeness of the Austen sisters.

I have lost a treasure, such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed. She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow; I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself… I thank God that I was enabled to attend her to the last…

Cassandra Austen to Fanny Knight, July 18, 1817
Jane Austen by Cassandra

A Year of Cassandra

To honor Cassandra’s life and legacy, Jane Austen’s House Museum launched its “Year of Cassandra,” during which the museum will feature special events and exhibitions to celebrate her life.

If you’re like me and you want to be part of this special celebration but don’t live close enough to participate in person, the Museum is planning a “Cassandra-themed” Virtual Tour of the museum in March. The tour description is as follows: “Find out about Cassandra’s life at Chawton Cottage and discover objects related to her on a lively, fact-filled tour that you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home.” You can find the details HERE.

Cassandra’s Orchard

Of special note is the commemorative orchard being planted in Cassandra Austen’s honor, which has been named “Cassandra’s Orchard.” The name itself certainly makes me want to visit Chawton Cottage again one day soon, but the descriptions are even more intriguing:

Jane’s letters to her are filled with references to plants, flowers and fruits from the orchard, now sadly lost from the grounds of the House.

We will recreate this lost orchard, using dwarf varieties suitable for growing in containers. There will be a tree for every novel, and donors’ names will be recorded on plaques for each tree. The orchard will provide blossom in the spring, delicious shade in the summer, and fruits in the autumn. We will underplant the trees with plants for pollinators, turning this empty space into a haven for people and wildlife alike.

Jane Austen’s House Museum
Cassandra’s Orchard, Photo courtesy of Jane Austen’s House Museum.

More About Cassandra

I’ve been following along with the progress of the Cassandra’s Orchard project, and I was delighted when the museum announced in December (on Jane’s birthday) that it had reached its fundraising goal. I can just imagine what a wonderful addition this little orchard will make to Jane Austen’s house.

I’m thankful for Cassandra Austen because I know that having someone who believes in you, supports you, and challenges you intellectually is important in every person’s life – but especially in the lives of writers, artists, and creatives. The very fact that she was so loved by Jane means that Cassandra must have been quite a remarkable person.

If you’d like to know more about Cassandra Austen’s life, Vic here at Jane Austen’s World has built quite the catalog of articles over the years. You can access those articles HERE. Of particular note is the article entitled, “Cassandra Austen: Jane’s confidante, supporter and helpmate” that is well worth your time.

More links about this topic:

RACHEL DODGE teaches college English classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and book clubs, and writes for Jane Austen’s World blog. She is the bestselling author of The Little Women DevotionalThe Anne of Green Gables Devotional and Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. Her newest release is The Secret Garden Devotional! You can visit Rachel online at www.RachelDodge.com.

“[They] thrive by sleep, not long but deep”
– Welsh saying*

Recent research shows that until 200 years ago our sleep patterns followed two cycles every night. “Each block of sleep would be around four hours, with most people staying awake for two to four hours in between.” (Sleep in the 1800’s…, 2014).

In many societies interrupted sleep was so common that it was considered normal. The first awakening occurred around midnight, three to four hours after nightfall, when people in Western cultures generally went to bed due to lack of light, for most of the populace did not have the means to afford expensive candles. 

Two decades ago Roger Ekirch, a university distinguished professor in the department of history at Virginia Tech, researched sleep habits in Europe and America. He discovered many references to biphasic sleep in over 500 original sources from centuries past, such as diaries, medical texts, literature, prayer books, and even a crime report: He found descriptions written in English, Italian, French, and Latin. Sleep documentation also existed in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Latin America, with some referring back to Ancient Greece. Ekirch would uncover over 2,000 preindustrial sleep documents in his searches.

According to sources, some individuals took the quiet time of first wakefulness to complete tasks, such as those of housewives or servants, or to write letters, or record their dreams. Others ate a small snack, chatted with a guest or spouse, read, prayed, attended to necessary bathroom needs, or made love. Individuals followed their own nightly rituals, be it alone or with someone else. 

“…it was suggested that fertility among laborers was increased due to the midnight wakefulness; men who came home physically exhausted were more likely to have enjoyment, and successful intercourse, if there was a rest period after the day’s troubles.” – The History of Sleep Before the Industrial Revolution (historycooperative.org)

Although there were many references to segmented sleep in the past, knowledge of this once common phenomenon was largely lost to the modern world. Interrupted or biphasic sleep was not practiced everywhere. The diaries of Samuel Pepys and James Boswell indicate that both men slept uninterrupted. Studies the world over mentioned a variation of sleep patterns and practices. While hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, Namibia, and Bolivia slept through the night, a rural society in Madagascar practiced segmented sleep. – (The Atlantic)

The Industrial Revolution changed sleeping patterns for Western Europeans. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, lamps filled with whale oil, kerosene, or coal gas lit streets, factories, and homes many hours beyond sunset. This increase in light both outside and inside homes and establishments affected daily habits. 

“Following experiments with coal-gas for lighting in the 1790s, gas lights now illuminate streets, house, factories and commercial properties.” –  P. 42, A Visitor’s Guide to Jane Austen’s England. 

Sue Wilkes, author of the Visitor’s Guide, discussed an 1817 article in Ackermann’s Repository that mentions improved lights in a variety of city settings, including factories. The new brilliantly lit lamps were used

“for lighting Halls, Staircases, Dining-Rooms, Drawing-Rooms, Counting-Houses, Banking-Houses, Public-Offices, Churches, Chapels, Ball-Rooms, Public Places, etc.” – Wilkes, A Visitor’s Guide,  p 42

Lamp-lit city streets (by 1807 in London and 1820 in Paris) promoted increased travel and crowd participation in nightly entertainments, including operas and gambling clubs. 

Not everyone was so affected. People living in the rural countryside and small villages still scheduled nightly events to coincide with the full moon to guide their way along unlit lanes. When visiting friends in an adjoining village, the gentry and pseudo gentry (like the Austens) would remain as overnight guests after a long event like an assembly ball, rather than to return home in the dark of the night. Thus, sleeping habits changed more slowly in areas with far flung villages – but even the people in these regions would change their bedtime behavior by the mid 19th century. 

For many, sleep transformation was sadly a result of economic necessity. Poor country folk, who were displaced from their common lands and denied access to growing their own food and feeding their animals, flocked to cities where factory owners recruited cheap labor. Their employers found no profit in 8 hour work days, and so laborers returned home after working from 10-14 hours a day, 6 days per week. They stumbled into beds for a few hours of sleep before waking and returning to work. The laborers (which included men, women and children) had no choice but to change their sleep habits. 

Yet was one long, uninterrupted sleep period possible in a factory city? The cheaply built houses (tenements) for the poor, described in excruciating detail by Ian Mortimer in his book, The Time Traveller’s Guide to Regency Britain, were located in narrow streets and had thin walls that let in the incessant noise of clattering wagons, loud conversations, and barking dogs. The squalid, overcrowded conditions, overpowering stench of rotting food, putrid effluence of backed up privies, and the constant infestation of lice and bed bugs in uncomfortable beds prevented sound sleep. Most likely these poor factory ‘slaves’ stumbled out of beds still tired. 

Sleep patterns for aristocrats and the very rich varied vastly, for these groups had the luxury of choice. For them, the cost of candles did not factor as a deterrence against staying up at all hours. They could choose to go to bed early or to stay up until dawn and sleep uninterrupted into the afternoon. Their comfortable and very expensive beds and beddings contributed to a sound night’s sleep. Unfortunately, the servants suffered. They remained at their stations to prepare their employers for bed at a moment’s notice, and arose early to anticipate their every need when they awakened. 

According to Ekirch, by the mid-1800s, prolonged uninterrupted sleep and early rising was practiced in England and America. The second leisurely sleep was now reduced to stealing a few extra minutes of shut eye before getting ready for the day. 

Jane Austen fans and scholars know that she and her sister Cassandra were practically inseparable. Anna Lefroy wrote that the two sisters shared a small sitting room that

“Opened into a smaller chamber in which my two aunts slept. I remember a common-looking carpet with its chocolate ground, and painted press with shelves above for books, and Jane’s piano…but the charm of the room…must have been…the flow of native wit, with all the fun and nonsense of a large and clever family.” (W.& R.A. Austen-Leigh, Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters, 1913.

I wonder if in rural Steventon, Jane and Cassandra experienced biphasic sleep. If so, I imagine them awakening at midnight, chatting and giggling, or discussing Jane’s progress in writing, before falling asleep again. In Chawton Cottage, where the Austen women finally settled down after years of moving from house to house after Rev. Austen’s death, the two women shared a cramped bedroom. They must have been happy, for Jane’s writing blossomed. 

There’s something magical about that first awakening in the stillness of the night. At times, when this happens to me, I go to the computer and write a few lines for this blog, or read before dropping off to sleep again. Perhaps our ancestors knew something that we’ve lost over time.


*(‘They’ substituted for ‘men’)


“If I,” said Mr. Collins, “were so fortunate as to be able to sing, I should have great pleasure, I am sure, in obliging the company with an air; for I consider music as a very innocent diversion, and perfectly compatible with the profession of a clergyman.”–Pride and Prejudice

“In the evening we had the Psalms and Lessons, and a sermon at home”–Jane Austen, Letters, Oct. 24-25, 1808 [“Lessons” were the Bible readings for the day, from the Book of Common Prayer, which also prescribed the Psalms to read or sing for that day.]

When I asked some Facebook friends what gave them joy, the most popular response was “Singing!” There’s nothing like singing to raise your spirits. Even “singing the blues” can be cathartic, getting sadness out and making room for joy. (Of course, in Sense and Sensibility, Marianne Dashwood uses music and singing to increase her sadness, rather than relieve it.)

Early Carols

For centuries people have sung Christmas carols to express their joy at Christmastime. I’ve come across three books of Christmas carols published in the years following Austen’s death (1822, 1833, 1861; details in sources below). Almost all the carols in them were known and sung during Austen’s lifetime. Many are secular, about the holly and ivy used to decorate homes for Christmas or the boar’s head that began ancient Christmas feasts. Some are specifically for wassailing. Wassailing was similar to modern caroling, but wassailers carried with them a large bowl of “wassail,” a mixture of apple cider, spices, sugar, and alcoholic beverages. Wassailers sang to each house they visited, wished them prosperity, and drank to their health; the hosts might give them money, Christmas food, or drinks.

Joy is mentioned repeatedly in these songs. A fourteenth century carol, “The Seven Joys,” describes seven joys that Mary experienced; the last one is “To see her own Son Jesus To wear the crown of heaven.” An early seventeenth-century carol begins, “So now is come our joyful’st [most joyful] feast; Let every man be jolly.”

Many tell the Christmas story, or parts of it. Some also tell the story of Adam and Eve, their creation and their fall into sin. Others include the death and resurrection of Christ. Some older carols narrate legends. In “The Cherry-Tree Carol” a cherry tree bows down to Mary, proving her innocence to the doubting Joseph.

Early carols we still sing include “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “The First Noel” (which in some versions was sung “Oh well” rather than “Noel”!), and “I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In.”

Carols at Home and Charity for Carolers

Would Jane Austen and her family have heard and sung Christmas carols? Many were available as published broadsheets (single pages) or known orally. Since the Austen family loved music and singing, it’s quite possible that they sang carols at home during Christmas celebrations. Jane mentions Christmas gatherings in her novels and letters, and singing was probably part of those celebrations.

Would she have heard carolers going door to door? Also likely. Two country parsons of the time, one in eastern England and the other in the West, kept journals that have survived. Since Austen’s father was also a country parson, her family’s experiences may have been similar to theirs.

Parson James Woodforde of Norfolk mentions, on Christmas Eve of 1764, that the church’s Singers came to him and sang “a Christmas Carol and an Anthem”; he gives them “cyder as usual” and a gift of money. They also sang to him in 1768 and 1769; it seems to have been a regular practice. In 1781 (when Austen would have been six years old), Woodforde gave money to “Spragg’s lame son for a Christmas carol.” Peter Parley, in his 1838 description of Christmas customs, says groups of ragged children went from door to door singing for alms. Giving money to carolers was part of Woodforde’s extensive Christmas charities; he gave money to more than fifty poor people every St. Thomas’ Day (Dec. 21), and fed Christmas dinner to a number of “poor old men” every Christmas Day.

Poor Children Caroling for Alms

Some years later, Parson William Holland of Somerset also gave charity at Christmastime, including dinners for the Sunday School children (poor children learning reading and religion at the church each Sunday). In 1800 Holland says the poor came “AChristmassing,” which he translates as begging. It seems likely their house to house visits included singing carols. His church Singers came and serenaded his family at the parsonage every Christmas morning, sometimes as early as 5 AM (in 1799) or even 3 AM (in 1809)! Parley calls groups of church musicians, who wandered about playing and singing during the night on Christmas Eve, “the waits.” He says the custom came from earlier times when groups of watchmen wandered the streets at night.

Austen’s family also probably heard and entertained Christmas singers, and gave alms to them and other poor people at Christmas.

Annunciation to the Shepherds, fourteenth century English stained glass. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks”

In 1792 and 1793, Woodforde says the church Singers sang a Christmas Anthem during the service. In other years he also mentions singing in Christmas services. What would have been sung in Austen’s country churches at Christmas? Most likely, the carol, “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night.”

In the 1700s in Anglican worship, most congregations only sang Psalms from the Bible, not hymns. In fact, in many small churches there was no singing at all; the Psalms were just read. However, some had groups of “Singers,” like those in Woodforde and Holland’s churches, sometimes with musical instruments. (Holland’s congregation took up money to buy their Singers instruments.) The congregation might sing along with the Singers, but more often just listened.

The Singers generally sang from Tate and Brady’s New Version of the Psalms of David, which was a book of “metrical Psalms.” These are Psalms rewritten in a regular poetic form so they could be sung with standard tunes. In 1700, a Supplement was added which included a few hymns. The only Christmas hymn was “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night,” which is paraphrased from Luke 2:8-14. It was the only officially approved Christmas carol for churches in the eighteenth century. The words were as we sing them today. It could be sung to any tune in “common meter” (churches had books of tunes with certain meters, patterns of syllables, stress, and rhyme). But it likely was commonly sung to the tune still used in Britain today. (The tune popularly used in the U.S. now is from 1821.)

“Joy to the World”

Anglican country churches in the 1700s were mainly singing Psalms. However, the Dissenters (those outside the Church of England) and the Methodists wrote and sang many hymns during this time, including some Christmas favorites. Isaac Watts, a Dissenter, is considered the Father of English Hymnody. He believed that singing Psalms was not enough, because the Psalms did not express the New Testament experience and the gospel of Christ, or the congregation’s thoughts and feelings as Christians. He rewrote many of the Psalms to express those ideas.

“Joy to the World,” published by Watts in The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament in 1719, was a rewrite of Psalm 98, but it also includes phrases from other Bible verses. Psalm 98:4 (King James Version) says, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” Watts wrote this as “Joy to the World.” Psalm 98:9 says the Lord is coming to judge the earth, which Watts adapted to “The Lord is come; let earth receive her king!” The line “Heaven and nature sing” is from Psalm 96:11, “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad.” The third verse of the carol says, “No more let Sins and Sorrows grow, Nor Thorns infest the Ground: He comes to make his Blessings flow Far as the Curse is found.” This is adapted from Genesis 3:17-18, in which God tells Adam that the ground is cursed because of his sin, so Adam will eat from it in sorrow, and it will bring forth thorns and thistles.

As Watts’ songs had been spreading for some years, the Austens may well have sung this one in their home, if not at church. The tune we sing today had not yet been created; it was adapted from Handel in the 1830s.

Charles Wesley’s 1739 “Hark how all the Welkin rings” became “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” when George Whitefield modified it in 1753.

“Hark the Herald Angels Sing”

“Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is a Methodist hymn that might also have been sung by the Austens, at home or possibly at church. The Methodists attempted to revive the Church of England, but eventually, on John Wesley’s death, separated and became Dissenters. However Charles Wesley, John’s brother, who wrote thousands of hymns, was strongly committed to the Church of England. His “Hymn for Christmas-Day” was published in Hymns and Sacred Poems in 1739.

It began, “Hark how all the welkin rings!” “Welkin” was an archaic word for the heavens. George Whitefield, another famous Methodist preacher, changed this line and other parts of the song in a collection of hymns he published in 1753. It became “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” The music we sing it to now was added in the mid-1800s. At that time, Wesley’s four-line stanzas were combined to make our eight-line verses and the chorus was added.

All of these Christmas carols express joy:

“Glad tidings of great joy I bring To you and all mankind.” (“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks”)

“Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her king!” (“Joy to the World”)

“Joyful all ye nations rise; Join the triumph of the skies!” (“Hark the Herald Angels Sing”)


Wishing you all much joy, whatever holidays you celebrate!

What is your favorite Christmas carol, or other song, that brings you joy?


Brenda S. Cox writes for Jane Austen’s World and for Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen, where this post first appeared. Her recent book, Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England, includes a chapter on “Psalms and Hymns: Singing in Church, Or Not.”



A Jane Austen Christmas: Regency Christmas Traditions, by Maria Grace

The Diary of a Country Parson 1758-1802, James Woodforde, edited by John Beresford

Paupers & Pig Killers: The Diary of William Holland, A Somerset Parson, 1799-1818, edited by Jack Ayres

Tales About Christmas, by Peter Parley, 1838

“Joy to the World”

Hark the Herald Angels Sing”

“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks”

Eighteenth-Century Books introducing new Christmas Carols

The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, Isaac Watts, 1719

Hymns and Sacred Poems by John and Charles Wesley, 4th edition, 1743

A New Version of the Psalms of David, Tate and Brady, 1733. “While Shepherds Watched” on p. 58-59 in the supplement at end.

Nineteenth-Century Christmas Carol Collections

Some Ancient Christmas Carols, with the Tunes to which They Were Formerly Sung in the West of England, 1822

Christmas Carols, 1833

A Garland of Christmas Carols, 1861 and Review

You can check out the history of your favorite carols at The Hymns and Carols of Christmas; scroll down to the alphabetical index.

By Brenda S. Cox

“I have this moment received £5 from kind, beautiful Edward. Fanny has a similar Gift.”—Jane Austen, Letters, Sept. 15-16, 1813

Gifts are a way of showing how much we love and appreciate the special people in our lives. Of course, our tradition of giving gifts at Christmastime goes back to the story of the “wise men from the East” who brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the baby Jesus. Most of us can’t afford to give such precious gifts today, but we can give gifts that fit the interests, joys, and passions of our friends and relations.

Austen mentions gifts multiple times. She, of course, received a gift of a topaz cross and gold chain from her seafaring brother Charles. In Mansfield Park, Fanny Price’s brother William similarly gives his sister “a very pretty amber cross,” a perfect gift for a woman of deep faith. Her cousin Edmund then gives her another gift suited to her style and personality, “a plain gold chain, perfectly simple and neat.” Fanny responds, “This is the only ornament I have ever had a desire to possess. It will exactly suit my cross. They must and shall be worn together.”

Mary Crawford’s gift, an underhanded way of giving Fanny a gift from Henry, does not fit Fanny’s cross. Symbolically, Austen shows, through these gifts, that soon-to-be-clergyman Edmund is the right husband for Fanny, not immoral Henry Crawford.

Whether for Christmas, a birthday, or another holiday or occasion, it’s easy to find gifts for anyone in your life who loves Jane Austen. Or who you think might love Jane Austen, given the chance. (Or perhaps you want a gift for yourself since, as Vic pointed out to me, you might receive a gift card!) Consider what other interests the person has, and choose something specifically for her or him! I’ll just list a few favorites in each category, and give you links to search for more options.

Let’s shop!

Where To Buy Jane Austen-related Gifts

In the US, you might start by searching Jane Austen Books for whatever type of gift you want.

In the UK, start with the Jane Austen Centre and Jane Austen’s House.

They all have wonderful gifts, and will also ship internationally (though it’s a little too late to do that for this Christmas, probably!). Due to UK postal strikes, anything shipped from the UK may be delayed this month.

Of course, you can also find many, many Jane Austen items on Amazon and Etsy.

Books and Movies

Let’s start with the obvious. Perhaps the person already has all of Austen’s novels, which are freely available in digital formats. But they might like a quality copy of their favorite, with a beautiful cover and illustrations. My favorite is the “Peacock” Pride and Prejudice, with Hugh Thomson’s delightful illustrations. Your local bookstore may have other beautiful versions.

I love my “Peacock” Pride and Prejudice, with Hugh Thomson’s hilarious illustrations! A great gift.

Or, they might enjoy a well annotated version, giving lots of new insights. The Cambridge editions like this one are a great scholarly resource. Copies of the Juvenilia, the Letters, or the Later Manuscripts might also be welcomed by series Austen enthusiasts.

DVDs of Austen adaptations might be a good gift, if you’re sure they don’t already have the one you’re giving.

There are so many books about Austen and her novels that I won’t even try to list them. However, Jane Austen Books lists them by subject, with 42 topics to choose from, each including an impressive list of books!

You can find versions of Jane Austen for all ages, including this board book parody, Goodnight Mr. Darcy!


Are you looking for gifts for children? You can find lovely books introducing Jane Austen to teens, children, even babies! Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Pride and Prejudice: A BabyLit Storybook, and other BabyLit board books; my grandchildren loved this one.
  • Goodnight, Mr. Darcy, also from BabyLit, is a “parody board book,” based on Goodnight, Moon and Pride and Prejudice. I think it’s delightful, though I’m not sure toddlers would understand it! So maybe for an Austen-loving mom who has small children.
  • Cozy Classics board books Pride and Prejudice and Emma tell the stories for very young readers, in only twelve words, with felt figures. (They do other classics, too, if you think the child would prefer, perhaps, Huckleberry Finn or Moby Dick.)
  • For ages 8-12, Gil Tavner’s series of adaptations is fun. Northanger Abbey, for example, is a delight.
  • For more reluctant older readers, including boys, this graphic version of Pride and Prejudice is beautifully illustrated and sticks fairly close to the novel. Search on Amazon for other Pride and Prejudice graphic novels. (There’s even one of Pride and Prejudice with Zombies, which wouldn’t appeal to me, but some might love it!)
  • For teenage girls, you can easily find new or used copies of Austen’s novels. Northanger Abbey is a good one to start with, since the heroine is a teenager figuring out her place in the world.
  • Austen-themed puzzles, find-it books, paper dolls, craft books, sewing books, and coloring books are other great choices; see below and read my post on  Jane Austen Gifts for Children and Teens for man options.


Does the person you want to give a gift to love puzzles?

I’m looking forward to doing this 1000 piece puzzle with Austen quotes (I usually prefer 500 piece puzzles, but this looks like so much fun!). My friend owns it and she and her daughters work it repeatedly.  Or you might try this 1000 piece puzzle with Austen book covers. Or this one with Austen scenes and characters to find. Or others; search Amazon or Etsy for Jane Austen puzzles.

For those who prefer word puzzles, PuzzleBook for Readers of Emma, including the alphabet game, looks entertaning. The series includes PuzzleBooks for the other novels, also. An Amazon search for Jane Austen word puzzles gives many more options.

In this puzzle, you can find Jane Austen and characters from all of her novels!


My granddaughters (ages 10 and 14) and I keep playing Marrying Mr. Darcy, a fun card game for girls and ladies. You choose which female character you want to be (ranging from Lydia Bennet to Georgiana Darcy), then take cards that give you points for things like character, wit, and cunning. Cards might also take you to parties or on elopements. At the end you see which suitors you have qualified for (ranging from Mr. Wickham to Mr. Darcy), then roll to see who proposes to you and decide who to accept! Add up your character points and marriage points to see who wins.

There are plenty more games to choose from. Or you might want to try some games Austen herself played, with Jane Austen’s Card Games.


I’m sure you know that coloring is not just for kids. It’s a relaxing pastime for adults as well. I have several Jane Austen coloring books, and sometimes I color them while listening to music, and sometimes my grandchildren color them while I read to them (from Jane Austen, of course!).


For the lover of music and dance, what about CDs of Austen music? You can get music from her collections, from her church, and from Regency dances, as well as soundtracks of the movies.

Sewing and Embroidery

I love cross-stitching Jane Austen projects. I’ve done a project or two from the wonderful book, Jane Austen Embroidery. My granddaughter is now working on one from Embroider the World of Jane Austen. I’ve given more ideas here. Jane Austen Books lists titles on Needlework and Quilting, and a few on Knit and Crochet.

I have a Pride and Prejudice needle minder, a magnet that holds my needle to my sewing project when I’m not sewing. I love it! Etsy offers a variety of them. This book stack is a cute one.

Jane Austen Embroidery offers lovely projects for beginning stitchers to advanced.

Clothing and Costumes

This site gives sources and ideas for inexpensive ways to dress in Regency costumes. Recommended items could be valued gifts for the Janeite who likes to dress up for festivals and meetings.

Jane Austen t-shirts and sweatshirts are fun for everyday wear. You can even get Austen socks and scarves. (I have a pair of these socks, but when I wear them under pants or a Regency dress, who sees them??)


The Jane Austen Centre in Bath carries a lovely line of Austen-themed jewelry, if you’re looking for something classy.


The gardening Janeite might enjoy Kim Wilson’s In the Garden with Jane Austen, which includes ideas for creating Austen-style gardens, or other books on gardening in Austen’s time.


For the Janeite who loves to cook, a book about food in Austen’s England, or an Austen cookbook, might bring them joy.


A devotional based on Jane Austen’s prayers, such as our own Rachel Dodge’s Praying With Jane, or Shannon Winslow’s Prayer and Praise, would be a precious gift to a person of faith. Rachel’s other devotionals would also be good gifts for those who love The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, or Little Women.

Or you could give my new book, Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England, to anyone who wants to see more about how the church of Austen’s day affected her life, novels, and world.

For more books related to faith and Austen, or for books related to science and Austen, see the post on my blog

Praying with Jane is a book of devotionals based on Jane Austen’s own prayers.


Many Janeites love Austen variations, and a subscription to Kindle Unlimited would be a good way to give them the opportunity to read many. Here are a very few of my personal favorites:


Journals and Notebooks can be good gifts for those who like to write. I’ve used a Jane Austen Daybook year after year, writing down things I’m thankful for every night, since it has a space for each date.


Every year JASNA Wisconsin creates a Jane Austen calendar with lovely pictures (this year’s are from C. E. Brock’s Pride and Prejudice illustrations). Each date gives one or more events from Austen’s life, letters, or novels. I love these!

Mugs, phone covers, etc.

You can, of course, find many other choices: mugs (I confess I own several, which I use for pens and pencils since I’m afraid if they’re used daily they’ll break!), phone cases, Kindle covers, magnetic poetry, even Christmas tree ornaments.

Subscriptions, Donations, and Gift Cards

Sometimes it’s easiest to give money, but of course you want to give it in a way that will bless that specific person, and possibly others.

You can give a membership to their national Jane Austen Society (North America, UK, Australia, or others.)

You can give a donation in their name to an Austen-related institution, such as Jane Austen’s House in Chawton, Chawton House, or Austen family churches.

Or you can let them pick out their own special Austen gifts by sending a gift card for Jane Austen Books or the Jane Austen Centre (UK only).   

By now your wish list is probably a mile long! Mine, too. But rejoice in what you have. Think about your Austen-loving friends’ interests and joys, and give gifts they’ll love, to show your love for them!

What is your favorite Jane Austen gift that you have received or given?

.Brenda S. Cox writes on Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen. Her new book, Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England is available on amazon and at Jane Austen Books. :-)

by Brenda S. Cox

Happy Jane Austen’s Birthday! 247 years and still going strong (at least through her books)!

Born Dec. 16, 1775, Jane was a month later than expected. Her father joked that he and his wife had become “bad reckoners” in their “old age”–he was 44 and Jane’s mother was 36. Jane was their seventh child, but only the second girl. The delivery went quickly and safely.

It was a very cold winter, so Jane was baptized privately at home the next day, and not presented in church (St. Nicholas’ at Steventon, where her father was rector) until April 5, 1776.

Image of Jane Austen holding balloons
Jane Austen doesn’t look very happy in this birthday picture, but her parents were delighted at her arrival! Her father said they would call her Jenny, and she would be a playmate for her older sister Cassy (Cassandra) who ended up being her lifelong friend.

Jane Austen Society groups around the world are celebrating today and tomorrow, so see what your local group is doing! Here are a couple of online events that look fun:

Jane Austen’s House, Chawton, Hampshire, England (virtual)

What is it about Jane? at the New York Public Library (virtual)

Also, a brand-new volume of Persuasions On-Line is now available, with articles from this year’s AGM, and other delights! Easily accessed by everyone, thanks to JASNA’s generosity! You’ll find articles on gender and the decorative arts, the education of daughters, information and privacy in S&S and P&P, “Kitty, a Fair but Frozen Maid” in Emma, costume design in Austen films, my own article on faith words in S&S, and many more fascinating topics. 

Happy Birthday, Jane!


Brenda S. Cox writes on Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen. Her new book, Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England is available on amazon and at Jane Austen Books, and would make a great birthday or Christmas present! :-)

When I hosted a read-along of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett earlier this fall, we spent time discussing the wonderful personality, character, and symbolism of the robin “who showed the way” to the secret garden. After hearing many intriguing tales that members of the group had heard about robins at Christmas time, I decided to read more for myself. I especially wanted to know why the robin features so often on British Christmas cards, tins, and decorations – especially those that have a more vintage feel.

And, of course, I wanted to know if Robin Redbreast was part of the Christmas season during Jane Austen’s lifetime or if that came about later. What I found was fascinating!

Robins as Symbols of Good Will

If you’ve ever seen a robin, you’ll notice that the friendly brown bird’s breast is more of an orange color than a reddish hue. Apparently, the color orange didn’t originally have a name in the UK. Thus, according to tradition, the robin was named for its “red” breast and it stuck.

Robins in art and literature are always associated with good will and friendliness. They are known to be the gardener’s friend. They are intelligent, happy birds who almost seem as though they are communicating. Robins also symbolize spring, good fortune, new beginnings, and rebirth.

Robins are so generally known as happy, cheerful birds that many field guides even say that the robin’s call sounds like this: “Cheer up! Cheerily! Cheer up! Cheerily!”

Wikipedia Commons, European Robin.

Robins as Guides in Literature

Robins feature throughout British folklore, stories, and classic literature. They are usually bright, friendly, happy, cheerful birds. They are often depicted as clever and intelligent birds.

The robin features in The Secret Garden as Mary Lennox’s first friend in England and the one who shows the way to the door of the mysterious garden and to the key to the locked door:

“You showed me where the key was yesterday,” Mary said. “You ought to show me the door today; but I don’t believe you know!”

The robin flew from his swinging spray of ivy on to the top of the wall and he opened his beak and sang a loud, lovely trill, merely to show off. Nothing in the world is quite as adorably lovely as a robin when he shows off—and they are nearly always doing it.

One of the nice little gusts of wind rushed down the walk, and it was a stronger one than the rest. It was strong enough to wave the branches of the trees, and it was more than strong enough to sway the trailing sprays of untrimmed ivy hanging from the wall. Mary had stepped close to the robin, and suddenly the gust of wind swung aside some loose ivy trails, and more suddenly still she jumped toward it and caught it in her hand. This she did because she had seen something under it—a round knob which had been covered by the leaves hanging over it. It was the knob of a door.

The Secret Garden

In C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, a robin is a guide once again, helping the Pevensies find their way:

They were all still, wondering what to do next, when Lucy said, “Look! There’s a robin, with such a red breast. It’s the first bird I’ve seen here. I say!—I wonder can birds talk in Narnia? It almost looks as if it wanted to say something to us.” Then she turned to the Robin and said, “Please, can you tell us where Tumnus the Faun has been taken to?” As she said this she took a step towards the bird. It at once hopped away but only as far as to the next tree. There it perched and looked at them very hard as if it understood all they had been saying. Almost without noticing that they had done so, the four children went a step or two nearer to it. At this the Robin flew away again to the next tree and once more looked at them very hard. (You couldn’t have found a robin with a redder chest or a brighter eye.)

“Do you know,” said Lucy, “I really believe he means us to follow him.”

“I’ve an idea he does,” said Susan, “what do you think, Peter?”

“Well, we might as well try it,” answered Peter.

The Robin appeared to understand the matter thoroughly. It kept going from tree to tree, always a few yards ahead of them but always so near that they could easily follow it. In this way it led them on . . .

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

In fact, robins are so well known as symbols of goodness, when Edmund asks Peter, “How do we know which side that bird is on? Why shouldn’t it be leading us into a trap?” Peter replies, “That’s a nasty idea. Still—a robin you know. They’re good birds in all the stories I’ve ever read. I’m sure a robin wouldn’t be on the wrong side.

Robins and December

Robins in the UK (European Robins) don’t migrate; they stay in England year-round. They are territorial birds and they do not often leave their homes or nesting areas. It’s common to see them out and about during the winter because that is when they begin to look for mates. This is another reason robins have become synonymous with December and winter time.

In The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady (1905) by Edith Holden, a journal of watercolor paintings of flowers, plants, birds and butterflies, along with poems and anecdotes, the author has a section devoted to each month of the year. For December, she includes this watercolor of several birds, including a robin. She also includes a poem about robins.

Robins and Christianity

Several old English fables and folk tales link the robin to Christianity. There are many versions of the tales told, but there are two that are quite popular. The first one explains that the robin used to be a plain, brown bird with no red breast, but it went to sing to Jesus when he was dying on the cross. The blood from Jesus’ wounds are said to have stained the bird’s breast, thereby giving it a red breast.

In another tale, the robin was present at the birth of Jesus. It was a cold night in Bethlehem, and the story goes that a brown bird came near and fanned the flames of a small fire to help keep the baby Jesus warm. His breast was scorched by the flames and turned red thereafter.

There are other similar old fables and tales that link robins with Christmas in the Christian tradition. Perhaps you’ve heard one. (If so, please share it in the comments.) There have been many stories told and written since that feature the robin or other friendly birds at Christmas.

Photo by Rachel Dodge, 2022

Robins and Victorian Christmas Cards

If you’ve seen Christmas cards and decorations featuring a robin redbreast, it most likely came about during the Victorian era.

During the mid-1800s in England, Christmas cards became popular. People even began to send Christmas greetings by post. At the time, Victorian postmen wore red coats. Tradition has it that these “red breasted robins” went from house to house and from street to street, delivering season’s greetings and well-wishes.

Moses James Nobbs: (Last of the Mail Coach Guards), Watercolour by H E Brown. C 1890. Courtesy of The Postal Museum.

Ever since the days of these red-breasted mail carriers, robins have been featured on Christmas cards. Many vintage Christmas cards from that era even have drawings of a robin with a letter in its mouth. Robins delivering the mail – even sometimes dressed as mail carriers – has been part of traditional Christmas culture ever since!

Victorian Christmas Card, Ebay.

Robins and Jane Austen

Would Jane Austen have sent Christmas cards or been familiar with the robin red-breast at Christmas time? No, she would not. She definitely would not have sent cards at Christmas. However, she may have been familiar with some of the old tales about the robin. And of course, I’m sure she met many robins on her rambles through the country lanes of Hampshire.

Yet again, the Victorians introduced another beloved Christian tradition and symbol that we’ve all come to enjoy and recognize.

If you’re feeling blue this Christmas or winter, try some bird-watching. It’s such fun and you just might hear a friendly, “Cheer up! Cheerily! Cheer up! Cheerily!”

RACHEL DODGE teaches college English classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and book clubs, and writes for Jane Austen’s World blog. She is the bestselling author of The Little Women DevotionalThe Anne of Green Gables Devotional and Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. Now Available: The Secret Garden Devotional! You can visit Rachel online at www.RachelDodge.com.

By Brenda S. Cox

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a book can change a life.”—The Jane Austen Remedy, by Ruth Wilson

I’ve certainly found this true in my life; haven’t you? This statement opens Ruth Wilson’s memoir of how a “careful re-reading of Jane Austen’s six novels” enabled her to “re-examine [her] lived life in the context of [her] reading life.”

In The Jane Austen Remedy, by Ruth Wilson, the author explores her life through the lens of Jane Austen’s novels.

When Wilson turned sixty, she realized she was “out of love with the world and . . . not happy.” She says, “my body was telling me that my soul, however such an entity is conceptualised, was ailing.” She grieved for herself, for what she had not achieved, and for “the years that lay ahead.” She identified with Elizabeth Bennet who says, “The more I see of the world, the more I am dissatisfied with it.”

So, Wilson bought a small cottage two hours from her home in Sydney, Australia. Her goal was to have “a room of one’s own,” as Virginia Woolf puts it in her book with that title (which I highly recommend, by the way). Woolf is talking about women writers, but Wilson says, “All women need their own space to inhabit, their own air to breathe.” She hoped, in that place “to find a happier way of being.”

Wilson left her husband and family for a time and determined to re-read Austen’s novels. She says,

I was making Austen’s novels a starting point for exploring the satisfactions and dissatisfactions of my own life, framed and illuminated by her fictional universe.

The Jane Austen Remedy takes readers along with Ruth Wilson on this journey through her life. She discusses many books that impacted her, some of which were familiar to me and some not. But the Austen novels were at the heart of her journey.

Wilson begins with her own discovery of literature and how it impacted her life. Her “reading life truly began with Pride and Prejudice,” which made reading into “a source of nourishment and imaginative expansion” for her. She says from that point on, Austen’s novels

shaped the course of my future: because of them, I became a lover of language, a teacher of literature, a parent-reader, and, in a broader sense, an educator. My inner life has been nourished, illuminated and comforted by the empathetic voices, the complex characters and the challenging ideas in Austen’s novels – and they have changed, as I have done, over a lifetime.

As Ruth Wilson was growing up, Austen filled personal needs that her family and the people around her could not fill. She says, “I think of Jane Austen as a writer whose novels never stop helping readers to grow up.”


Northanger Abbey covers, like this one from Barnes and Noble Classics, tend to emphasize the Gothic connection. But Wilson suggests a different emphasis for teenage readers.

Northanger Abbey

When she set out to re-read Austen, she began with Northanger Abbey, since it was the one she remembered the least. She discussed it with an English teacher, who taught it with a focus on the Gothic novel. (I have taught it that way myself, I confess.)

However, Wilson says we should teach literature by helping students look for ways the story relates to their own lives. I love this idea! She says, “The nature and authenticity of friendship and romantic intimacy are central ideas that shape the events of Catherine’s holiday in Bath.” Friendship and romantic relationships are likely to be the most relevant issues for young people reading the novel.

Re-reading Northanger Abbey led Wilson to consider her own friendships throughout her life. She identifies herself as being, like her father, “both Jewish and Australian.” She meditates on how those parts of her identity affected her relationships.

Pride and Prejudice

In Pride and Prejudice, Wilson found “an exploration of what it means to be human, of the consequences of daring to make bold choices about how to live.” She repeatedly finds new insights and new connections to her own life as she re-reads it. Elizabeth became her heroine as soon as Elizabeth laughed when telling Charlotte about Darcy refusing to dance with her. When you think about that, what an amazing and joyful response it was!

Sense and Sensibility

The Dashwood family’s displacement in Sense and Sensibility led Ruth Wilson to consider her own family’s displacement when they moved to Israel for some years. This move had repercussions for her children, her marriage, and her extended family. She considered her expectations, losses, and gains as she read about Elinor and Marianne’s experiences. This chapter also delves into the implications of Austen’s grammar and use of free indirect discourse to share the Dashwoods’ experiences.

Fanny Price shows her “strength of character” in refusing Henry Crawford.

Mansfield Park

Wilson looks at the moral dilemmas raised in Mansfield Park. She points out that many readers are drawn to the Crawfords, “despite continuing evidence that pursuit of their own happiness inflicts pain on those they call their friends.” Fanny’s “strength of character” shows up in strong contrast. Wilson appreciates Fanny’s “bold” claim that:

“it ought not to be set down as certain, that a man must be acceptable to every woman he might happen to like himself”!

Wilson also considers times of displacement in her own childhood as she sees young Fanny’s homesickness and adjustments.  


Wilson’s reading of Emma is subtitled “A Critique of Love.” She found that each time she re-read one of Austen’s novels, she connected with “a different stage of [her] life” and found “a different significance in each novel.” She thought about Emma’s early loss of her mother, and how her indulgent governess might have encouraged Emma toward self-love and slowed her emotional progress toward loving others. Emma investigates “filial love, neighbourly love, romantic love, love of others, self-love, and love of self.” Since Emma treats her self-centered father with love and respect, her story led Wilson to examine her relationship with her own father.

In thinking about film adaptations of Emma, Wilson makes a telling comment:

The point of making a film about a novel, surely [is] to illuminate or enrich or comment intelligently on the novel that is being glossed.

I suppose this is why we react strongly to some Austen adaptations; they may not fit our own understanding or interpretation of the novel, or they may give us new ideas about it which we love or don’t.


Wilson reads Persuasion with an old friend. They examine choices they have made and what second chances might look like. A theme of feminism runs through this book, and her friend Tamar has chosen a more independent course than Wilson has, but both have struggles and regrets. Wilson concludes that the people who love us can help us change. They can teach us how to love ourselves.


Wilson rebuilt her life in new ways. She began her PhD at age 84 and completed it at age 88. She researched “how and why Jane Austen’s novels were read and studied at school.” She says,

Fiction shows us possibilities; in real life we make our own choices and learn to live with them, one way or another.

She ends with a series of “Jane Austen remedies” for various maladies. For example, she prescribes Pride and Prejudice for “heartache” and Mansfield Park for “anxiety.” You’ll need to read the book to find the relevant symptoms, treatments, dosage, side effects, and benefits!

I found this book enjoyable and interesting. It does ramble, as the author takes us with her on her personal journey. Occasionally, she went off on tangents related to books and ideas I didn’t connect with, and I was lost for a bit. However, she soon returned to Austen, her own life, and how those intersected. The idea that Jane Austen can help us grow personally, at different stages in our lives, appeals to me and will probably appeal to most of our “gentle readers.” So, I recommend The Jane Austen Remedy to you all. 

Please tell us in the comments:

What is something new you’ve learned this year from Jane Austen?

Or, for what situations or feelings would you recommend a particular Jane Austen novel as a remedy?


From the press release:

An uplifting memoir of love, self-acceptance and the curative power of reading, The Jane Austen Remedy raises big questions about truth and memory, personal loyalty and betrayal, prudence and risk, reason and passion. It is an inspirational account of recovery and self-discovery. Ruth travels through nine decades of living, loving and learning, unravelling memories of relationships and lived experiences, looking for small truths that help explain the arc of a life that has been both ordinary and extraordinary.


Ruth Wilson, author of The Jane Austen Remedy

Ruth Wilson read her first Jane Austen novel in 1947 and in 2021 completed her PhD on reading and teaching Austen fiction. In between, she taught English and worked on oral history projects including one with Holocaust survivors. She encourages her four children, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren to read widely, wisely and well. She and her husband are a married couple who live apart together.



Brenda S. Cox writes for Jane Austen’s World and for her own blog, Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen. Her book, Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England is now available.

Rachel Dodge’s Book Debut November 1st

Our very own author and contributor to this blog, Rachel Dodge, debuts yet another devotional on November 1st. Entitled The Secret Garden Devotional, the book offers inspiration that explores the themes of faith, family, contentment, wisdom, and joy based on the classic Frances Hodgson Burnett novel, cherished by generations. Purchase this book at stores near you or online in a variety of formats. Read the outstanding reviews on Goodreads. Average stars: Five!

Learn more about Rachel’s books in this link.

Student Contribution To Our Blog

Several weeks ago Mr Philip Turner, who volunteers with a children’s history club, described independently researched projects and presentations on topics of the children’s choosing. One group chose 19th century England. Their presentation was so successful and interesting that Mr Turner reports he learned a great deal of new information!

Screen Shot 2022-10-30 at 6.37.05 PMThe students used our links page (https://janeaustensworld.com/links/) for their research. One of the kids, Alice, suggested that our blog add a link to an article they found about the History of Big Ben

They thought that our readers would find this site interesting. I love that they wanted to share  their find!

Mr Turner, and a number of other teachers and students over the years, have regularly sent their appreciation of our links. We are more than happy to include Alice’s suggestion! Thank you for contacting us, Mr. Turner, and please let your class know we’ve included the link in our list!

Pride & Prejudice 1995 China Pattern

Inquiring readers, Krissy, who enjoys our blog’s posts, alerted us to yet another china pattern used in the 1995 film that featured Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth and Colin Firth as Mr Darcy. She writes: “I‘ve especially enjoyed reading the articles about the china patterns in the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, so when I came across the breakfast set used by the newly minted Mrs. Charlotte Collins at Hunsford Parsonage I thought I’d send it in!


This Mandalay Blue Multicolor set by Mason’s was, no doubt, suggested by Lady Catherine herself as we all know that nothing is too small to be beneath her notice. (The photo is from Replacements.com.)

Where’s Jane? Find Jane Austen Hidden in Her Novels

Where's Jane bookThis book, published in 2018, and written by Rebecca Smith and illustrated by Katy Dockrill, is still available. I purchased mine at the Walters Art Museum gift shop recently. Amazon still sells it (although with postage added, it is the same cost as the museum’s). The reading age is for 6-9 year olds. What a perfect time to introduce Austen to children!

Images below show how the main plot of Pride and Prejudice (one of six novel examples) is introduced in comic book form, as are the characters in oval vignettes. Part One introduces the first half of the book, then provides two pages of wonderful images. Readers are asked to find the characters, as well as Jane Austen, whose image sits on the ‘About this Book’ page. 

The solutions sit at the very end.

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Images from Amazon.com from a preview of the book.

Part Two introduces the last half of the novel and more characters. As a tutor of adults, adult literacy, and children, I found this book not only a delightful introduction to Austen’s novels, but also a perfect way for a child to interact with texts and images, and provide them to answer question and ask questions of customs 200 years ago.

Our very own Brenda S. Cox has just published her new book Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England. It’s already receiving a wonderful reception, and I know it will continue. For those of us who are always expanding our understanding of Jane Austen’s life, and particularly her personal life and faith, this new book is an essential resource.

When I was writing my book Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen, I read every article and book I could find on the topic of religion and faith as it related to Austen and her family. I scoured every available resource on Austen’s personal faith, her family’s daily and weekly religious habits, and the Anglican church at large. I discovered many wonderful details about her religious life, but as I worked, I always felt as though I was putting together a giant puzzle. And when it came to understanding more fully the implications of her religious beliefs and background in her novels, I felt as though the puzzle was missing many important pieces.

In Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England, Brenda has finally put the puzzle pieces in their rightful places and collected all of the information one might want to know about Jane Austen’s religious life in one handy place. This book covers a broad range of topics that any Jane Austen lover can benefit from knowing, especially for those of us who enjoy looking into the varied layers and greater context of her writing.

Of particular interest is the clever manner in which Brenda has organized the information in this book. Each chapter is easy to find, plus she has included many helpful resources at the end of the book, including handy tables with income information, terminology, ranks within the church, and denominations; several appendices; detailed chapter notes; a hefty bibliography; a glossary of terms; and a topical index. You can read this book cover-to-cover or you can pick and choose the topics that interest you most.

I highly recommend this book for any Austen fan or scholar. Without this book, you can only know part of what makes Jane Austen’s characters and plots so intriguing. Thank you Brenda for creating this invaluable resource!

(See below for giveaway details.)

St. Nicholas Church, Steventon
Photo: Rachel Dodge

About the Book:

“Brenda Cox’s Fashionable Goodness is an indispensable guide to all things religious in Jane Austen’s world. . . . a proper understanding of 18th century Christianity is necessary for a full appreciation of Austen’s works. Cox provides this understanding. . . . This work will appeal to novice readers of Austen as well as scholars and specialists.”

Roger E. Moore, Vanderbilt University, Jane Austen and the Reformation

The Church of England was at the heart of Jane Austen’s world of elegance and upheaval. Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England explores the church’s role in her life and novels, the challenges that church faced, and how it changed the world. In one volume, this book brings together resources from many sources to show the church at a pivotal time in history, when English Christians were freeing enslaved people, empowering the poor and oppressed, and challenging society’s moral values and immoral behavior.

Readers will meet Anglicans, Dissenters, Evangelicals, women leaders, poets, social reformers, hymn writers, country parsons, authors, and more. Lovers of Jane Austen or of church history and the long eighteenth century will enjoy discovering all this and much more:

  • Why could Mr. Collins, a rector, afford to marry a poor woman, while Mr. Elton, a vicar, and Charles Hayter, a curate, could not?
  • Why did Mansfield Park‘s early readers (unlike most today) love Fanny Price?
  • What part did people of color, like Miss Lambe of Sanditon, play in English society?
  • Why did Elizabeth Bennet compliment her kind sister Jane on her “candour”?
  • What shirked religious duties caused Anne Elliot to question the integrity of her cousin William Elliot?
  • Which Austen characters exhibited “true honor,” “false honor,” or “no honor”?
  • How did William Wilberforce, Hannah More, and William Cowper (beloved poet of Marianne Dashwood and Jane Austen) bring “goodness” into fashion?
  • How did the French Revolution challenge England’s complacency and draw the upper classes back to church?
  • How did Christians campaigning to abolish the slave trade pioneer modern methods of working for social causes?
Interior of St. Nicholas Church, Steventon
Photo: Rachel Dodge

About the Author, Brenda S. Cox:

Brenda S. Cox has loved Jane Austen since she came across a copy of Emma as a young adult; she went out and bought a whole set of the novels as soon as she finished it! She has spent years researching the church in Austen’s England, visiting English churches and reading hundreds of books and articles, including many written by Austen’s contemporaries. She speaks at Jane Austen Society of North America meetings (including three AGMs) and writes for Persuasions On-Line (JASNA journal) and the websites Jane Austen’s World and her own Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen.

Buy the Book:

You can purchase Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England here:

Amazon and Jane Austen Books
International: Amazon

Book Giveaway:

To enter for a chance to win a copy of Brenda’s book Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England, please leave a comment below with an answer to this question:

What is one question you’ve always had about Jane Austen’s faith or the role religion plays in her novels?

Giveaway Details: This giveaway is for ONE (1) print copy and ONE (1) ebook (Kindle) edition for readers of this blog. The winners will be drawn by random number generator on November 18, 2022.

Note: This giveaway is limited to addresses in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain, France, or Italy for a print copy of the book. The author can only send a giveaway ebook (Kindle) to a U.S. address. (However, both the ebook and paperback are available for sale to customers from any of these countries, and some others that have Amazon.)

Blog Tour Schedule

RACHEL DODGE teaches college English classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and book clubs, and writes for Jane Austen’s World blog. She is the bestselling author of The Little Women DevotionalThe Anne of Green Gables Devotional and Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. Coming soon: The Secret Garden Devotional! You can visit Rachel online at www.RachelDodge.com.

by Brenda S. Cox

“I am never too busy to think of S&S. I can no more forget it, than a mother can forget her sucking child; & I am much obliged to you for your enquiries.”—Jane Austen, letter to Cassandra Austen, April 25, 1811, quoted in AGM brochure.

On this day, Oct. 30, 211 years ago (1811), Jane Austen’s first novel was published, Sense and Sensibility! A few weeks ago, the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) met to discuss and celebrate “Sense and Sensibility in the City of Gardens.” The garden city of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, hosted this 2022 AGM.

Lovely logo for the 2022 JASNA AGM, Sense and Sensibility in the City of Gardens (Victoria, Canada)

Getting to Victoria was challenging for those of us on the east coast, but it was rewarding. The city is on an enchanting island on the west coast of Canada. Those who came early or stayed late were able to visit famous Butchart Gardens, a nearby castle, or other local sights. Personally, I chose to go whale watching, which was a delight. We watched a pod of orcas and saw a humpback whale waving his front flippers back and forth at us!

During the conference itself I got to choose between many great options. The schedule overflowed with fascinating talks, fun workshops, and great events. Of course an Emporium offered great books from Jane Austen Books as well as other goodies from Jane Austen’s Regency World and regional JASNA chapters. And I found many wonderful “kindred spirits” to talk with between events.

Plenaries: Cowper, Sin, and Duels

Each speaker showed us Sense and Sensibility through a unique lens. The first plenary speaker,  Dr. Emma Clery, spoke on “‘Our Garden is Putting in Order’: The Place of William Cowper in Jane Austen’s Thought-World.” Having studied Cowper extensively for my own book, I was intrigued by Clery’s ideas on Cowper’s influences in Sense and Sensibility. She said the Dashwoods were expelled from the “garden” of Norland, as Jane Austen was expelled from her “garden” at Steventon. This “paradise” is regained at Delaford, which is described in terms of garden walls and fruit trees. People in Austen’s works are like plants, needing the right conditions to grow. I want to explore the many references to trees, timber, and woods that Clery said are found in S&S.

The most controversial talk of the weekend was Robert Morrison’s “‘Deeper in a Life of Sin’: The Regency Romance of Sense and Sensibility.Dr. Morrison, author of The Regency Years, showed the bad sides of all the men in S&S, claiming that none were real heroes. He also suggested that the first Eliza’s baby might have been Brandon’s, and that Marianne might have been losing Willoughby’s baby when she was so ill at Cleveland. He got a lot of pushback on these ideas; we can find potential evidence both for and against his suggestions. But his talk did start some great discussions through the rest of the weekend!

Finally, during Sunday brunch, we heard all about “The Many Duels of Sense and Sensibility” from Susannah Fullerton, author of Jane Austen & Crime. Fullerton told us that dueling at this time was not legal, but was rarely prosecuted. In this “Age of Politeness,” looking too closely at a man or brushing against him could result in a duel. She went on to describe the duels in S&S which were fought with words. She sees duels between John and Fanny Dashwood (Fanny wins), Fanny and Elinor’s mother (Fanny wins), Elinor and Lucy (goes back and forth), and more. From this perspective, as a novel of cutting and thrusting, Fullerton challenged us to look at the references to needles, pins, scissors, and knives in S&S, as well as “cut” and “sharp.”

Activities and Options

Outside of the plenaries, we had many great activities to choose from: workshops (including, as always, lots of dancing), special interest sessions, an improvised play, and great breakout sessions. Breakouts focused on a wide range of topics, including the arts, Austen in Spanish, specific characters in S&S, military service in the East India Company, information literacy, landscapes, a “playlet” dramatizing Lucy Steele’s tactics, and much more. Articles based on many of these are likely to appear in the next editions of Persuasions and Persuasions On-Line, so be on the lookout!

Breakout Sessions on Religious Themes

Besides religious echoes in the three main talks, three of the breakout sessions focused on one of my interests, the religious aspects of the novel. Laura Dabundo, author of Jane Austen: A Companion, shared about “Jane Austen’s Ode to Duty: Morality and Conscience in Sense and Sensibility.” Comparing S&S to Wordsworth’s “Ode to Duty,” Dabundo showed that “duty is manifest in one’s principled obligations to family, friends, church, and nation, personally and in community.” 

Roger E. Moore, author of Jane Austen and the Reformation, asked whether S&S might be “Jane Austen’s Most Religious Novel.” He examined the idea of religious enthusiasm, overly emotional reactions to religion, feared in Austen’s day. Many of Marianne’s thoughts, feelings, and actions fit with this religious enthusiasm. So it is possible Austen was showing the pitfalls of that contemporary concern.

I (Brenda S. Cox) also had the privilege of sharing my thoughts about “Faith Words in Sense and Sensibility: A Story of Selfishness and Self-Denial.”  I explored themes of vices and virtues in the novel. Austen, rather than preaching like many of her contemporaries, chose instead to use examples to encourage moral behavior. Elinor’s selfless behavior throughout, and Marianne’s repentance late in the novel, give strong examples to follow. Austen used “faith words” that had strong religious connotations in her time to reinforce her messages.

A Few of My AGM Highlights, in Pictures

Bookbinding workshop: Richelle Funk taught us some basic bookbinding skills, and we made lovely little notebooks; I used mine to take notes during the conference. Here, Baronda Bradley, in one of her gorgeous outfits, prepares her booklet for binding.
Beading with Jane Austen Workshop: Kim Wilson displays a replica of Jane Austen’s bracelet, along with other variations that can be made with her instructions and supplies, soon to be available online; sign up for her newsletter list to be notified. With her instructions and materials, I was able to start a lovely single-strand bracelet, and finish it as soon as I got home.

In a special interest session, Kristen Miller Zohn told us about “Gender and Decorative Arts in Austen’s Novels.” She explored how decorative arts, interiors, and clothing presented in Austen’s novels, particularly Northanger Abbey, speak to the unique roles of women and men in Austen’s era.
Cecily Van Cleave, a historical fiction writer, led another special interest session on “Beyond the Garden Wall: Priscilla Wakefield, Women in Botany, and the Intersection of Art and Science during the Austen Era.” We learned that women wrote science guides in this time, intended to help young ladies replace frivolous pursuits with more serious, intellectual hobbies.
Donna Fletcher Crow, dressed in a replica of Austen’s costume in the Byrne portrait, showed us maps and scenes of “Jane Austen in London with the Dashwoods.” She also explained the significance of Austen’s choices for locations. Listeners, though, seemed to be most fascinated by her mention of pencils as cutting-edge technology of the time, with graphite as a precious English product.
The Banquet and Promenade were a lovely time for many to dress up and show off their outfits. Kristen Miller Zohn and Jennifer Swenson, coordinators of the 2021 Chicago AGM, at the banquet.

For many of us, the Ball is always a joy and delight. Most people dressed in lovely costumes, like those in the above photos of Renata Dennis (head of the diversity committee) and myself, Jeanne Talbot, and Baronda Bradley (whose bustle held a bouquet of fresh flowers) with her husband Eric Fladager. We all danced the night away.

Next year, I hope you will join us at the 2023 AGM in Denver for “Pride & Prejudice: A Rocky Romance.”


Brenda S. Cox, author of the new book, Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England, writes for Jane Austen’s World and for Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen. You can also visit her on Facebook.




Fashionable GoodnessGentle Readers:

One of our blog’s writers, Brenda Cox, is introducing her book Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England this week to the Jane Austen community. I am not only excited about its publication, but honored to be the first person on this tour to interview her. 

Prior Praise: 

“Finally! Fashionable Goodness is the Jane Austen reference book that’s been missing from the bookshelves of every Austen fan and scholar.”

— Rachel Dodge, bestselling author of Praying with Jane

You will look at Mr. Collins, the Crawfords, the Dashwoods, the Tilneys, the Wickhams, and Willoughbys–and especially Fanny Price!–with new and surprising insights. Bravo to Brenda Cox for giving us this very accessible, illuminating take on the ‘fashionable goodness’ of Austen’s era!”

— Deborah Barnum, Jane Austen in Vermont

Vic: What prompted you to write Fashionable Goodness? Was your decision a quick one, or was your journey long and thoughtful?

Brenda: It was a long journey. I first intended, about ten years ago, to write a novel based on Sense and Sensibility. But I always want to get things “right,” so I began to research. I wanted to include the church and faith in the story, since those things are important to me and I knew they were important to Austen. I discovered some fascinating churches, with their own stories, on a visit to Bath. I got hold of all the relevant books and sources I could. As I learned more and more about the church in Austen’s England, my notes multiplied. 

Finally, I realized that I needed a book about this topic, and it might benefit other readers as well. Therefore, I decided to put together a book that would bring together a wide range of information in one place. I wanted it to be accurate, affordable, and accessible for any reader. The book grew, I cut it back, grew, and I cut it back, multiple times. The text is easy for anyone to read, plus I have included resource lists and notes for scholars.

Eventually I shared it with friends, writers, and my wonderful editor, who all told me I needed to publish it. It’s been a  journey of several years even from then. I am such a perfectionist that it’s hard for me to let go of the book and release it into the world, but I’m excited to see it become “real” at last!

Vic: How did researching and writing Fashionable Goodness give you insights about Jane Austen as a person and a writer?

I can see now how deeply Austen’s faith affected her life and novels. I can also now understand her references to the church and clergy. That gives even more depth to the stories and characters.

Vic: How did your research change your personal feelings towards Jane?

Brenda: I feel closer to her now, since I’ve spent so much time in her letters and books. I looked at many small details to gain a clearer picture of her values. I can understand and appreciate her views, even when they are not quite the same as mine.

Vic: Do you have any advice for authors who are thinking about self-publishing? What tools do they need? What support system would help them along?

Brenda: For myself, I spoke to a number of agents and publishers during my journey, and their input was helpful. Some really liked the book and wanted to read it when it came out. However, it didn’t fit into their “categories,” since it’s about literature, history, and religion, and the intersection of all three. Also the book is fairly long, but my editor and beta readers kept wanting me to add more rather than take things out! So finally I went with self-publishing, which gives me the freedom to publish something “outside of the box” and charge what I think is a reasonable price.

But, I made sure to do it right. I have been writing for publications for many years. I know the craft well, from books, courses, and workshops about writing. I attended writers’ conferences to learn and to network. I hired a professional editor: a Janeite I providentially met at an AGM, who has edited for major publishers. I got extensive feedback from other writers and from beta readers. I got very involved in JASNA and gave JASNA talks, which honed my information and showed me what Janeites wanted to know. And, in the book, I show extensive documentation (with many pages of endnotes and a long bibliography) for those who might wonder about a self-published work.

The mechanics of self-publishing are much easier than in the past; Amazon keeps honing the process. A friend recommended Vellum as a formatting program, which I found excellent and reasonably priced. Once you have a good, professionally written and edited book, getting it online is not difficult, if you are at all technically inclined. (If you are not, you can hire people to do that part.) 

I am thankful that self-publishing has allowed me to get this book out into the world without the long lead time and higher prices of more traditional publishers. But I do encourage anyone considering self-publishing to get good help and make sure your work is done well.

Thank you, Brenda, for your thoughtful answers. You are the fourth writer I know who is self-published. While the journey is not easy, all feel such satisfaction in finding their hard work in print. I wish you all the luck in the world with this book!–Vic

Brenda CoxAbout the author, Brenda S. Cox:

Brenda S. Cox has loved Jane Austen since she came across a copy of Emma as a young adult; she went out and bought a whole set of the novels as soon as she finished it! She has spent years researching the church in Austen’s England, visiting English churches and reading hundreds of books and articles, including many written by Austen’s contemporaries. She speaks at Jane Austen Society of North America meetings (incuding three AGMs) and writes for Persuasions On-Line (JASNA journal) and the websites Jane Austen’s World and her own Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen.

Where to Buy:

Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England is now available from Amazon and Jane Austen Books. International link: Amazon

Blog Tour Schedule

Austen in the News

R.I.P. Marsha Hunt: Mary Bennet Actress in 1940’s Cinematic Treatment of Pride and Prejudice


Marsha Hunt as Mary Bennet

Marsha Hunt, Pride and Prejudice’s Mary Bennet in the classic 1940 film, died a few weeks ago at 104 years of age. Those of us of a certain age recall this first full feature film of Pride and Prejudice well (view a description on IMBD). This flawed (yes, FLAWED classic in my opinion – the comments in this post, including mine, are quite heated. Many readers and classic film aficionados have disagreed with my opinions) introduced the Bennets and Mr Darcy in full black and white glory in a Mr Dickens wonderland. Still, Marsha’s Miss Mary left an indelible memory in my mind – the middle child, striving to compete awkwardly but in her own way with her more noticed and beautiful sisters – struck much empathy in my heart. 

The female costumes in this film were awful, for they were NOT vintage 1813, when P&P was published, but were repurposed from another studio film that dated in the Victorian era. Greer Garson’s advanced age (36) in playing Elizabeth had me snort wine out of my nose. Laurence Olivier as Mr Darcy (and the same age as his character) looked as if he fought a burr in his pants throughout the entire production. (He was unhappy with Greer, wanted Vivien Leigh to play the part, but the studios nixed this because of their scandalous love affair, which would be no more than rubbish today.)  

In addition, the film’s ending was changed in a manner that defied Jane’s intentions: Lady Catherine de Bourgh was the Deux et Machina who reunited Darcy and Elizabeth in marriage. When I saw that scene, I could no longer hold in my popcorn. (This JASNA article from 1986 holds a different view from mine. It was written years before subsequent adaptations when 1800’s Regency empire fashions were accepted as romantic and accurate by contemporary audiences.)

marsha hunt glamorous

Marsha Hunt

This P&P adaptation IMO was not a Jane Austen adaptation – it was a fantasy Hollywood re-creation. I don’t care how much Aldous Huxley was/is admired – he messed with my Jane.  Marsha Hunt is still my most memorable Mary (She acted in over 60 films in her career). Whose Mary is your favorite in subsequent P&P film adaptations? Informed minds want to know!

IMBD Obituary of Marsha Hunt.

Now Available: Jane Austen: Connecting the Dots (Her Letters Explained), Edited by Harvey T. Dearden

Jane Austen Connecting the Dots - Her letters explainedHow could any book compete with Deirdre Le Fay’s 4th edition of the Jane Austen’s Letters, I wondered? None in my opinion, for her last edition provides all the information I needed when reading Austen’s letters. YET. Harvey T. Dearden assembled a resource of her letters for people new to Austen who wanted an annotated edition that was easy to use and follow.

Let’s be honest. Le Faye’s excellent book is hard to use. While her content includes the letters, abbreviations and citations, notes, general notes, select bibliography, biographical index, topographical index, subject index, and general index – the size and arrangement of the book is awkward. I experienced a lot of back and forthing, and needed to tag the pages when reviewing the history and details of the letters. Le Faye’s research is definitive and the best in the business, but the hard book is difficult to use because its size is small (8 ¾” x 5 ½”  x 2 ½ “) and incredibly thick (667 pages). One cannot keep the book open without breaking its spine and placing heavy weights on it to read it while taking notes.

Mr Dearden’s new edition introduces the letters to a newer reading audience. His annotations are simpler, his book’s contents are more straightforward, and the size of his paperback allows the book to lay flatter, while the font size s larger.  In short order, Jane Austen: Connecting the Dots (Her Letters Explained) target an audience of Austen fans who are curious to know more about Austen’s personal life, thoughts, and family and friend connections in a relaxed manner.

Mr Dearden’s book is designed for Austen fans. Ms LeFaye’s book is the definitive scholarly edition of Austen’s letters. Her book is rich with scholarly information; Mr Dearden’s book is easy to handle and use.

Find Jane Austen: Connecting the Dots book by Harvey T. Dearden at Amazon UK.

For US citizens, enter the title of the book and author in Amazon US. This works best if you already subscribe to Amazon Prime.

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As promised, I’m back with a reminder and announcement about Regency Marketplace’s brand-new seasonal Jane Austen Box! I’m delighted to share that the theme of this new box is “Christmas In Highbury”! If you missed my review of the lovely Autumn in Chawton Box I received, you can read about it and see photos HERE.

Christmas in Highbury

This Christmas, be transported to the little hamlet of Highbury in County Surrey. Here we find Emma and her friends and family preparing for a delightful country holiday, and you’re invited! Regency Christmastide for the aristocracy was often celebrated at the families’ country estates, and in Emma, we see her sister Isabella and Knightley’s brother John bring all their children to Hartfield for the occasion, enlivening the quiet household with their fun and noise. Mr. Woodhouse would have them stay forever!

The Perfect Gift

The “Christmas In Highbury” Jane Austen Box will be filled to the brim with a cozy and elegant medley of Emma and Regency-inspired Christmas gifts! A perfect gift box to send or receive this holiday season, it also makes a wonderful hostess gift. December 16th is Jane Austen’s birthday, too, so celebrate in style!

At Christmas every body invites their friends about them, and people think little of even the worst weather.

Jane Austen’s Emma

Place Your Order

The “Christmas In Highbury” Jane Austen Box will be available to reserve from Saturday, October 15th-Tuesday, November 15th, 2022. All boxes will ship out the first week of December! These boxes sell out quickly, so do not delay. Place an order for yourself or as a gift for a friend or relative today.

If you are longing to receive a box for Christmas, send this link to a friend or loved one as a big HINT: https://regencymarketplace.com/collections/jane-austen-box.

If you want to take it up a notch, you can subscribe to the Quarterly Jane Austen Box and receive a box every 3 months, or purchase as a One-Time Gift option (non-recurring). Free Shipping in the USA! International Flat Rate Shipping available.

Coupon Code

Many thanks to Regency Marketplace for providing me with a discount code that I can share with all my friends and readers this Christmas ordering season. If you would like to receive a discount, you can use my special COUPON CODE for 10% off the Winter Box! *While Supplies Last.*

Previous Winter-Themed Jane Austen Box

RACHEL DODGE teaches college English classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and book clubs, and writes for Jane Austen’s World blog. She is the bestselling author of The Little Women DevotionalThe Anne of Green Gables Devotional and Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. Coming soon: The Secret Garden Devotional! You can visit Rachel online at www.RachelDodge.com.

Jane Austen in a Box

I just received my first Jane Austen Box from Regency Marketplace, and the minute I opened it, I knew I had to share it with all of my friends here at Jane Austen’s World. This is a beautiful Jane Austen-themed experience not to be missed–and it comes right to your own front door!

Special thanks to @regency_marketplace for sending me the “Autumn At Chawton Cottage” box this month so I could fully experience it for myself! This delightful box is filled to the brim with cozy Autumn and Jane Austen-themed items! I can’t wait to put on my cute new socks and have a cup of tea!

Box Full of Surprises

Each Jane Austen Box features a range of products from items of historical interest to lovely items you can incorporate in your everyday life, edibles and fine teas to Jane Austen inspired products. All boxes also include some form of book — expand your library!!

Categories include, but are not limited to:

  • Fine Teas
  • Books
  • Candles
  • Edibles
  • Wearables
  • Items of Historical Interest
  • Jane Austen Inspired Products
  • Bath and Body
  • Home Decor
  • Writing Accessories
  • Booklovers Paraphernalia
  • And More!

Subscription boxes are delightful because there are so many surprises held within each box. Regency Marketplace does a lovely job of keeping the mystery alive. They give hints and a theme for each box, but they never show what specific items are coming in each new box. That makes it even more exciting to open when it comes in the mail!


One of the most exciting parts about getting any kind of subscription box is the actual unboxing. When it arrived, I was so impressed with the packaging and the beautiful box. When I opened it and saw the pretty tissue and the sticker, I almost couldn’t bring myself to open it. I snapped a picture because it felt like my birthday and Christmas had arrived all at once.

If you’d like to watch an unboxing video of me opening the box, you can view it HERE. I had a blast (and it was my first time making a video reel like it). Here’s a peek inside:

Stay Tuned

The Winter Jane Austen Box will be available for Pre-Order October 15th – November 15th, and boxes will ship in early December. Regency Marketplace offers free shipping in the US. (International flat rate shipping is also available.) These luxurious boxes sell out quickly, so mark your calendars to reserve one for yourself or for a friend.

Enjoy this box for yourself, or gift one to a friend or family member for the holidays this year! Once the Winter Theme is announced, I will post a reminder to place your orders and a coupon code.

Sample of a previous Jane Austen Box

About Regency Marketplace

Regency Marketplace is run by the lovely Christina Denton. It was envisioned many years ago as a beautiful oasis for all things Regency and Jane Austen: a place where one could escape from the breakneck pace of today’s world, and enter into an era of elegance, charm, and wit.

A lifelong love of Jane Austen and the Regency Era is the guiding influence behind Regency Marketplace. As a family-run company, they work hard to source the best products for their discerning customers and fellow Janeites! They focus on celebrating the grace and beauty of an Era so distinct that it still captivates us two hundred years later.

Is this something you would like to receive as a gift? Would you buy it for yourself or for someone else as a lovely surprise?

RACHEL DODGE teaches college English classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and book clubs, and writes for Jane Austen’s World blog. She is the bestselling author of The Little Women DevotionalThe Anne of Green Gables Devotional and Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. Her new release is The Secret Garden Devotional! You can visit Rachel online at www.RachelDodge.com.

“Jane and her family simply had to put up with the small aches and ailments of life.” – Lucy Worsley, Jane Austen at Home


Cassandra Leigh Austen

When Jane Austen was seven, her mother, Cassandra Leigh Austen, lost several foreteeth, which made her look older. One can tell the absence of those teeth in this profile. 

Healthy teeth and gums are signs of a good constitution. Throughout her adulthood, Mrs Austen was known for her many ailments. One wonders if there was a connection between her poor health and missing teeth. One also wonders if tooth problems were regarded as small aches and ailments of life, or something more.

In fall of 1813, Jane Austen visited her brother Henry in Henrietta Street in London, along with Edward Knight, their older brother and his three daughters, 20 year old Fanny and Lizzy (13) and Marianne (12). In two letters to her sister Cassandra,  Jane described pleasurable family pastimes and shopping purchases, but her most vivid recollections are of two visits to the dentist. Her first account is of an hour-long visit to a dentist named Mr Spence. On September 15, she wrote:

“Going to Mr. Spence’s was a sad business and cost us many tears; unluckily we were obliged to go a second time before he could do more than just look. We went first at half-past twelve and afterwards at three; papa (edward) with us each time; and, alas! we are to go again to-morrow. Lizzy is not finished yet. There have been no teeth taken out, however, nor will be, I believe, but he finds hers in a very bad state, and seems to think particularly ill of their durableness. They have been all cleaned, hers filed, and are to be filed again. There is a very sad hole between two of her front teeth.”

London was apparently filled with a tribe of Mr Spences, all of whom were dentists. Braving the Dentist with Jane Austen conjectures that the individual who treated the Knight girls might be George Spence, dentist to George III. This makes sense, for Edward Austen Leigh was rich enough to afford a dentist whose career and a patented brand of tooth powder made him “wealthy enough to buy a country estate at Cranford and to see his sons well educated.”

The Regency Era was not known for gentle dentistry practices. Jane’s letter on the 16th details a harrowing scenario:

“The poor Girls & their Teeth!—I have not mentioned them yet, but we were a whole hour at Spence’s, & Lizzy’s were filed & lamented over again & poor Marianne had two taken out after all, the two just beyond the Eye teeth, to make room for those in front.When her doom was fixed, Fanny Lizzy & I walked into the next room, where we heard each of the two sharp hasty Screams.”

– Fanny’s teeth were cleaned too–& pretty as they are, Spence found something to do to them, putting in gold & talking gravely–& making a considerable point of seeing her again before winter.–He had before urged the expediency of L. & M.s being brought to Town in the course of a couple of Months to be farther examined, & continued to the last to press for their all coming to him.—My Br[other] would not absolutely promise.

—The little girls teeth I can suppose in a critical state, but I think he must be a Lover of Teeth & Money & Mischeif to parade about Fannys. I would not have had him look at mine for a shilling a tooth & double it.—It was a disagreable hour.”

I’m amazed that Mr Spence’s efforts took only an hour, for in that time he cleaned Fanny’s teeth and put in gold, pulled two of Marianne’s teeth, and filed Lizzy’s. I wonder if he gave laudanum (10% opium powder solution in alcohol) to poor Marianne. Had she taken the tincture it would not have helped her immediately, for she let out two short screams. Relief would come only 15 minutes or so later. (Nitrous oxide was not generally used as a dental anesthetic until 1844.)

As for filing Lizzy’s teeth, this was a common practice at the time (and even today) to smooth out uneven teeth. This practice achieved both good or evil results, for if too much of the tooth was filed (especially in a young person), the enamel could be significantly thinned in subsequent filings and make the teeth more sensitive. Jane used the words mischief and disagreeable to remark on Fanny’s unnecessary treatment, and emphatically wrote she would not subject herself to Mr Spence’s care.

Daily Dental Hygiene

By the late 18th century, people used a variety of means to take care of their teeth: toothpicks made with the quills of goose feathers and toothbrushes created with horsehair or hog’s hair. These implements created as many problems as they solved, for they were unsterile and distributed  germs while “cleaning teeth.”

In Sense & Sensibility, Austen connected toothpicks with privilege. She described Robert Ferrars as he carefully chose a toothpick case at Gray’s jeweler’s in Sackville Street, detaining the Dashwood sisters:

‘At last the affair was decided.  The ivory, the gold, and the pearls, all received their appointment; and the gentleman having named the last day on which his existence could be continued without the possession of the toothpick-case, drew on his gloves with leisurely care and … walked off with a happy air of real conceit and affected indifference’.

The jewellery shop on Sackville Street, near Regent Street, was likely well known to Jane, who frequently visited her brother Henry in central London. This scene is a reminder to Austen’s contemporaries that implements for dental hygiene, although affordable for the upper and middle classes, were unaffordable to the poor, who had to make do with whatever was at hand, such as soda ash (lake brine or naturally occurring mineral deposits) or salt. Both were clean products. 

The toothpaste of that era or tooth powders were also problematic. Ian Mortimer lists a recipe in his book for white tooth powder: 60oz chalk, ½oz of cassia powder and 1oz of orris root.* Other recipes included pulverized charcoal, brick or salt. All could destroy tooth enamel.

Austen described the effects of Harriet Smith’s tooth extractions in Emma:

“Pretty little Harriet Smith was usually the most cheerful, happy natured young lady, but just now she was leaning on the sofa in a despondent, listless posture, and not seeming to even notice Isabella’s five children, who were romping at their feet, in various states of frisk and noise. As Harriet normally loved to play with the children, and made herself the most useful guest possible, Isabella ventured a question.

“Miss Smith – may I ask? Are you in pain – are your teeth hurting still?”

Harriet roused herself to smile and demur. “Oh! no, Mrs. Knightley, I do assure you. The tooth-pulling was hard, I cannot deny; but you know it is better when it is all over, and I have felt no bad sensations now for at least a week.”

Emma had arranged for Harriet to stay with her sister Isabella’s family in London, in order to consult the best dentist, as there were wisdom teeth to remove. If any wry thought, that the extraction of any part of Harriet’s wisdom might be to her detriment came to her mind, Emma did not venture on that bon mot to anybody. She was trying to become a kinder person, and in the first rapture of her engagement with Mr. Knightley she was beginning to feel that it might not be altogether difficult to achieve.”

This scene accurately described the after effects of wisdom tooth extraction, which must have been quite painful. The favored extraction instrument, called a tooth or dental key, often caused gum damage or even a fractured jaw. Jane contrasted Harriet’s sweet acquiescent nature against Emma’s exalted opinion of herself, even while she strove to become a kinder and more compassionate person. The reader senses in this passage that Emma’s improvement took conscious effort and did not come at all naturally. 

It is significant that Emma sent Harriet to her sister’s house in London for the tooth extractions. In town, she would receive the services of a dentist. Barbers also pulled teeth in cities. The rural populace might visit the blacksmith, or, as in this 1823 Rowlandson print below, a village practitioner.  One imagines that to dull the pain, patients imbibed  laudanum or copious amounts of alcohol before submitting themselves to the procedure. The instrument used until the late 19th century was called a dental key. 

Rowlandson, 1823, The Tooth Ache or Torment & Torture

Thomas Rowlandson | The Tooth-Ache, or, Torment & Torture | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A woman, who has called upon a village practitioner for a toothache, sits in a chair at center, while he places his finger in her mouth. His assistant brings him a pair of horse pliers at left. Another woman waits in the background at left, clenching her mouth in agony.


Dental Key Usage, Print, Wikimedia, Delabarre, 1815

By the end of the 19th century dental forceps were developed and replaced the key. The improved instruments were less likely to do major damage to gums or jaws.

Emma’s concern for Harriet is affecting, as is Austen’s description of her three nieces under Mr Spence’s ministrations. Upper and middle class ladies treasured white teeth and fresh breath, which in an age of poor dental hygiene was quite a brash goal. Ladies who belong to the upper strata of society could afford sugar, whose costs were out of reach for the lower classes. Interestingly, they had healthier teeth than their betters. (Queen Elizabeth I’s teeth were black from the sweets she loved to eat. Her teeth rotted. After losing so many, listeners were hard put to understand her speech.) 

In ancient cultures, chew sticks in the form of thin twigs whose ends were frayed were used to clean teeth and gums by rubbing them. Other ways to clean teeth were to use tooth cloths, sponges, and fingers dipped in alcohol. Tongue scrapers, a piece of liquorice, peppermint leaves, cloves, cinnamon, salt water rinses, and apple cider vinegar were natural means for bad breath control.


Unlike George Washington in the United States, Jane’s mother did not wear dentures. During this time artificial teeth were acquired in a number of ways.

Waterloo Teeth

The battle of Waterloo was a watershed moment in more ways than the loss of the French on the battlefield.  Artificial teeth were expensive.  The 47,000 young men who died had healthy teeth and were freshly dead. This sounds awful, but the trove of almost perfect teeth for dentures, pulled out by the men who combed through the bodies to find teeth to sell, was morbid to say the least. 

Resurrection Men

Also known as  grave robbers, resurrection men dug bodies up in cemeteries. Sad to say, the corpses were not fresh or uniformly young, and thus provided teeth that were not of premium quality and could spread disease and infection.

“Donations” from Slaves or  the Poor

Worse than grave robbery was the purchase of healthy teeth and pulling them from the mouths of the desperate and powerless. Slaves in the east and west Indies had no choice, but neither had the hungry poor who needed the money to feed their starving families or themselves. These teeth were the “freshest.” 

The purloined or so called purchased teeth were set into dentures or into the holes left by extracted teeth. Fresh and healthy human teeth were preferred, of course, but cow and horse teeth were also used, as were expensive French porcelain teeth made to order for the rich. Natural materials included tusks. All dentures created from these mediums were for the rich only. They ironically had the worst teeth due to their sugary diets. 

In addition, the dentures were often made with lead, whose slow poisoning presence caused irreversible damage to brains or kidneys. Hygiene was practically nonexistent and dentures were seldom cleaned. Those made of wood rotted inside the mouth and the stench of bacteria forming under them must have been overpowering. Women who valued clean breath must have gone from one embarrassment to another. Perhaps Mrs Austen’s choice to live her life without upper dentures was a wise one.

Improvements in dentistry kept apace with inventions and scientific advances. The need for oral surgery in the general populace attracted dentists, apprentices, oral surgeons, and apothecaries. The possibility of generating a good income in cities, towns, and the countryside on rotting teeth seemed endless.

Tooth brushes improved as well.  They were first mass produced in the 1780s, but did not trickle down to the lower classes until they became affordable. 

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Ancient toothbrushes

Evolution of Toothbrush | Download Scientific Diagram


This toothbrush with a silver gilt handle was made for Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) of France.

File:Napoleon’s toothbrush, c 1795. (9660576547).jpg – Wikimedia Commons

By 1820, advances in tooth powders had reduced their abrasive quality. These tooth powders were homemade or purchased from an apothecary, and placed in jars or boxes. Eventually they became a paste that was more effective in cleaning and protecting teeth and tasted good as well. The collapsible toothpaste tube, invented by Dr Washington Sheffield, appeared in the 1880s.

By the mid-19th century, dental practices were strikingly less painful due to the application of nitrous oxide, which for a time fueled laughing gas parties for the rich. Once that fad faded, the gas turned out to be a wondrous invention for medical applications. Thomas Beddoes, an English Physician conducted experiments on the therapeutic properties of the gas, and James Watts, he of steam engine fame, invented a way to deliver it to patients more efficiently. Humphry Davy used himself as a guinea pig and tested the pleasurable sensation he felt while inhaling the gas. Poet Robert Southey wrote that “Davy has actually invented a new pleasure for which language has no name.”


While this list of resources is extensive, the information is fascinating!

Book Review by Brenda S. Cox

“Trusting providence [God] seemed to lead to trusting people, as well. How differently the world appeared, when one stopped cringing away from it and faced it in the light.”—Fanny Bertram in The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray

Who doesn’t love a cozy mystery? Gather a large group of unconnected people for an English house party at a manor house. There should be one member of the party who is hated by all, though each has his or her own reasons. Snow them in or otherwise disconnect them from civilization, and the nasty one of course gets murdered (in the middle of the night while somehow most people are wandering around the house). Then an incompetent policeman tries to figure it out, and one or two members of the group actually uncover “whodunnit,” at great danger to themselves.

Now in this fun cozy mystery, The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray, the manor house belongs to George and Emma Knightley. Their guests are some of our favorite people—Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy, Marianne and Colonel Brandon, Anne and Frederick Wentworth, and Fanny and Edmund Bertram. Each has a plausible reason for being there. Of course, Wickham also shows up, and he gets himself deservedly killed (the title told you this already).

The Murder of Mr. Wickham, by Claudia Gray, is a fun cozy mystery starring many of our favorite Jane Austen characters.

Frank Churchill, local magistrate, is the incompetent sleuth (with a flirtatious daughter). The Darcys’ oldest son (who we can see is mildly autistic) and the Tilneys’ teenage daughter try to solve the mystery, while not transgressing propriety any more than absolutely necessary–sort of.

Well, all that would have sold me on the book already. It’s also beautifully written and consistent with Austen’s characterizations. Gray has even postulated dates for each novel’s events and given the characters appropriate ages (though she’s made Sense and Sensibility rather late, apparently in order to make Marianne and Brandon newlyweds, which is fine).

Now, the stresses of Wickham’s dastardy toward each family, and then the suspicions aroused by his murder, awaken marital tensions in each couple. (The Darcys are also grieving the death of a loved one, and Fanny is keeping a secret.) So we get to see each pair struggling to communicate better, and growing in their marriage relationship. To me, the most interesting couple is Fanny and Edmund, whose conversations deal with deeper issues of judgment, mercy, and family loyalty.

Of course there is also a delightful budding romance between Jonathan Darcy and Juliet Tilney. After a rocky start, Juliet is very accepting of Jonathan’s quirks. When he tells her that when he gets overwhelmed, he rocks back and forth, she says she would not mind that. She adds, “It is peculiar, of course, . . . but my mother has often told me that most people are really very peculiar, once you get to know them. The only difference is in how well we hide our peculiarities. Your habit seems harmless.”

By the way, Juliet’s mother, Catherine Tilney, is not in this story. But we’re told she has become a successful novelist. A hint to Claudia: I’d like to meet Catherine in another story . . .

In the story, Wickham, the charming rogue, has deceived various characters into investing in a false scheme and stolen their money, which is quite plausible. (It seems less likely that after this has been revealed, he’s still legally able to force them to give the money they promised him.) We’re also not surprised that when he discovers a compromising letter, he steals it and holds it for ransom. (Whether that letter would have been written and mailed around the world through various hands in the first place seems less likely to me.) All this fits Wickham’s character very well. And his final demise is appropriate.

If you enjoy mysteries and sequels to Jane Austen, I highly recommend The Murder of Mr. Wickham to you. I loved being with all these characters again for an extended time. The themes are good, and the ending is satisfying. Great summer reading!

See Claudia Gray’s website for more on her wide range of books.  

Brenda S. Cox blogs at Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen. Her book entitled Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England should be out this fall, Lord willing.

As the entire world mourned the death of HM Queen Elizabeth II this last two weeks, I have spent time honoring her life and reign, learning more about her personality and leadership, and watching countless hours of television coverage.

I was home on September 8, 2022 and watching the news, as I had heard the reports of her health failing. When her death was announced and the national anthem played, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing or seeing; it was so surreal.

Once reality set in, I found myself weeping.

Her Majesty, the Queen

The Queen was a beautiful lady in every respect, a wonderful wife and mother, and an exemplary queen. And though I honor her role as the Queen of England, I most admire her character, her steadfastness, and her strong faith.

The beautiful sight of a double rainbow over Buckingham Palace just before her death was announced, and the sound of the crowd outside the Palace singing “God Save the Queen” right after, brought immense joy to my heart. Her life meant so much to so many people.

Photo: Yahoo!News

Days of Remembrance

Her Majesty’s funeral was quite touching, as were the many other events and processions leading up to it, especially the Vigil held by her grandchildren.

Vigil at Westminster Hall

I watched the funeral processional and funeral service on television and read the Committal program. As I read and listened, I greatly admired the thoughtful prayers, Bible verses, and songs that were selected. Everything was quite fitting for such an honorable woman of such deep conviction.

The Committal Program

Her Life

Like many of you, I enjoy exploring the many biographies, movies, miniseries, and documentaries about the Queen, the history of the House of Windsor, and the Royal Family. I think that we honor people best when we spend time finding out more about their lives, experiences, and history.

Below are a few of my all-time favorites. There are countless others to explore.

The Queen (2006)

The Queen, starring Helen Mirren, is a 2006 British film that depicts the events following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997. Initially, the Queen and Royal Family regarded Diana’s death as a private affair and thus not to be treated as an official royal death, in contrast with the views of then Prime Ministry Tony Blair and Diana’s ex-husband, Prince Charles (now King Charles III), who both favored an official, public expression of grief.


The Crown (2015)

As most of you probably know, The Crown is a fascinating and resplendent Netflix television series that follows the political rivalries and romance of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and the events that shaped the second half of the twentieth century.

IMDB Trivia: “The series is one of the most expensive television series ever made. Each episode is budgeted at £5 million and it had already been commissioned for two seasons, with the intention of four more, before the first episode had even been completed, or any episode broadcast.”


The Royal House of Windsor (2017)

Drawing on newly available evidence, The Royal House of Windsor, an epic Netflix series, explores the Windsor dynasty’s gripping family saga, providing fresh insights into how our royal family have survived four generations of crisis.

I have watched this series twice, as so much of it was absolutely fascinating to me and my family. There was so much that we did not know about the Windsor family that helped connect many dots for us.


Listed below are several lists of other documentaries, films, and television series you might be interested in watching:

Biographies on Queen Elizabeth II

There are, of course, dozens of books you can read about the Queen, her life, her family, and her reign. I love reading biographies, but I have yet to read one about Queen Elizabeth II. I’ve been perusing these lists, in order to select 1-2 biographies I’d like to read:

The biography I’ve had in my Amazon cart for quite some time is The Faith of Queen Elizabeth: The Poise, Grace, and Quiet Strength Behind the Crown by Dudley Delffs because I have always admired and been curious about the Queen’s personal faith.

Book Description: “Discover the inspiring spiritual legacy of Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British history. Sharing a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the life of this notoriously private monarch, The Faith of Queen Elizabeth features intimate stories and inspiring reflections on the personal faith behind the Crown.”

Life and Legacy

If, like me, you enjoy learning more about Britain’s current Royal family and British history as a whole, I hope that this commemoration of HM Queen Elizabeth II’s life has been meaningful. Please comment below with your favorite shows, biographies, and resources so we can all learn more about her life and legacy. Finally, please share what Queen Elizabeth’s life and reign have meant to you.

RACHEL DODGE teaches college English classes, gives talks at libraries, teas, and book clubs, and writes for Jane Austen’s World blog. She is the bestselling author of The Little Women DevotionalThe Anne of Green Gables Devotional and Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen. Her new book The Secret Garden Devotional releases October 31. You can visit Rachel online at www.RachelDodge.com.

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