Jane Austen

Jane Austen

A Lasting Love Affair

Since her first novel was published in 1811, Jane Austen has delighted readers with her beautifully crafted, satirical tales of Regency romance. Her elegant world of courtly balls, carriage rides and country houses offers an escape from modern worries, while her heroines’ quests for love and happiness continue to strike a chord with readers around the world.

Over the centuries, translations of her books into more than 40 different languages, and dozens of popular film and TV adaptations, have created a lasting love affair with Jane Austen and her works that we still celebrate today.

A Literary Life

‘The person … who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.’

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Unlucky in Love

‘The more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love’.

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Jane’s Fame

‘A woman, especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.’

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A Revolutionary Romantic

‘I could not sit down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life.'

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Join the Celebration

Hampshire was Austen’s birthplace and its landscape and society provided inspiration for many of her novels.

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Sit Back and Relax

Sitting With Jane is a unique public art trail celebrating Jane Austen’s connections with Basingstoke.

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The Design and the Designer

"I imagined the framed silhouette in one of the houses featured in Jane Austen’s books."

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Professor John Mullan

Professor John Mullan talks about his favourite Jane Austen novel, Emma.

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A Literary Life

‘The person … who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.’

Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 in the village of Steventon in Hampshire, one of eight children and the daughter of a clergyman. Fascinated by stories and the world of literature, she began to test out her own ideas in notebooks when she was still a teenager. These journals, which include many short stories and poems, are now referred to as her Juvenilia.

Initially, as a provincial outsider to the literary world, Austen had trouble finding a publisher willing to accept her work. After two failed attempts her first novel Sense and Sensibility was published in 1811, with her brother Henry acting as her literary agent. Austen was 35 years old and the book was issued anonymously, its title page bearing the credit ‘by a Lady’. Encouraged by its success, she published Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma over the next five years.

Unlucky in Love

‘The more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love’.

Although her novels often focus on love and courtship, Austen never married, though she is believed to have had at least two opportunities. Aged 20, she met a charming young Irishman called Tom Lefroy but, apparently believing they were on the verge of an engagement, his family sent him home to prevent his attachment to a poor clergyman’s daughter. When she was 27 a wealthy family friend, Harris Bigg-Wither, also proposed. After first accepting him she changed her mind the next day, sacrificing affluence and security, probably because she did not love him.

In 1816, aged just 41, Austen became ill with what might have been Addison’s disease. She died on July 18, 1817, in Winchester, Hampshire. Before her death her career in print spanned only six years; Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were published posthumously. Much later, her Juvenilia and her unfinished novel ‘Sanditon’ also appeared in print.

Jane’s Fame

‘A woman, especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.’

Though they initially sold quite well, it may surprise fans to learn that Austen’s novels were not widely appreciated or discussed during her lifetime. Her books were published anonymously and when she died her name was largely unknown. In the 1820s, her novels went out of print altogether. Through the nineteenth century a few admirers kept her reputation alive. Then, in 1870, her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh published A Memoir of Jane Austen and the cult of Austen adoration was born. By the 1890s, the literary scholar George Saintsbury had coined the word ‘Janeites’ for her most devoted admirers. Over the years, appreciation of Jane Austen’s works has grown into a cultural phenomenon. There have been almost 100 film and television adaptions, in different languages, taking her works to new heights of fame across the globe.

 
 

A Revolutionary Romantic

‘I could not sit down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life.’

Though often seen as simple romances, Austen’s novels are witty, narratively complex and full of humour and irony. In many ways she was a revolutionary in the way she treated subjects such as love and marriage and the position of women in Georgian society. Perhaps the best-loved of her books, Pride and Prejudice, set the standard for a new kind of modern romance. It shows the pairing of two equals who hide their initial attraction to each other but cannot stop their antagonism slowly developing into love.

Join the Celebration

‘The event had every promise of happiness’

Hampshire was Austen’s birthplace and its landscape and society provided inspiration for many of her novels. In 2017 the Hampshire Cultural Trust is coordinating a year-long series of events to celebrate her creativity and talent.

A highlight of the celebrations is The Mysterious Miss Austen exhibition, which opened on 13 May 2017 in Winchester Discovery Centre. The exhibition, held in partnership with Jane Austen’s House Museum, includes five portraits and likenesses believed to be of Jane, brought together for the very first time – including two works from the National Portrait Gallery, London, and three from private collections.

Sit Back and Relax

‘The event had every promise of happiness’

Sitting With Jane is a unique public art trail celebrating Jane Austen’s connections with Basingstoke and her birthplace, Steventon. The trail is made up of 24 ‘book benches’, each designed and painted by a professional artist and featuring their personal interpretation of a Jane Austen theme. The Royal Mint is sponsoring a book bench featuring Royal Mint graphic designer Dominque Evans’s initial coin sketches and storyboard designs.

 
 

The Design and the Designer

Dominique Evans is one of The Royal Mint’s team of graphic designers. After studying Graphic Design at the University of Brighton she has had a diverse career, fostering her love for fashion and interior design while working across a variety of fields.

For 12 years she has brought her talents to her role at The Royal Mint, bringing to life the rich and interesting stories behind coins and medals. Her first design for The Royal Mint was for a bullion coin commemorating the Gold Standard. This is her first circulating coin design.

"A silhouette of Jane is central to the design. She is such a fundamental part of literary history, even more so now that she will be in the hands and minds of the nation on a coin. I felt it appropriate to have the writer at the heart of the design, maintaining the air of simplicity and grace she deserves.

I thought it fitting to place a frame around her silhouette, and, as this coin is bicolour, it effortlessly lends itself to this feature. To complete the design, stripes have been placed underneath the text to set the frame, as though on a Regency-era wall."

Dominique Evans

 

‘The most ingenious novel that I know.’

John Mullan is a specialist in eighteenth-century literature and Professor of English at University College London. He tells us why Emma is his favourite Jane Austen novel.

"How brilliant it is to have a heroine who is wrong most of the time, and to let her preconceptions warp almost everything we are told! Such is the delight of Emma, the most ingenious novel that I know. Emma Woodhouse’s main error is thinking that she knows what is going on in other people’s heads (though she is right about Mrs. Elton, the most gloriously funny monster in all fiction). She has plenty of detective work to do.

On the surface nothing much happens in the Surrey village where she lives but, in fact, the place is full of schemes, romances and duplicity and every kind of concealed passion. You have to work out Emma’s mistakes yourself, seeing the world mostly from her point of view and sharing in both her cleverness and her folly. When I was young I found her irritating; nowadays I think, ‘Emma Woodhouse, c’est moi’."

Professor John Mullan

 
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