Deborah Yaffe

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A Dear Jane letter

By Deborah Yaffe, Jul 18 2016 01:00PM

Every Janeite has probably fantasized about meeting the woman herself. What would we say? What would we ask her? Would we babble inarticulately like overwhelmed fangirls and -boys, or impress her with our perceptive and cogent analyses of her work?


Now Canadian college student Gabrielle Lesage is inviting the worldwide Janeite fandom to prep our lines for this momentous meeting – you know, just in case. She’s launched a blog, the Dear Jane Project, where Janeites can post letters to Austen telling her what she’s meant to them.


Lesage envisions the project as a way of commemorating Jane Austen in the run-up to next year’s bicentennial of her death. It could be an interesting group self-portrait.


As of early July, Lesage had posted three submissions, the first of which seems to be from her boyfriend (and very sweet it is, too). None is in the form of a letter to Austen – they’re more like mini-essays on the Importance of Jane – but they do reflect the international nature of the fandom: one is from a Canadian, one from an American and one from a Colombian. (Submissions via email to dearjaneproject@gmail.com.)


Austen “is more than a writer who has left us with her novels. Rather, she is a friend and confidant,” Lesage wrote last month on the web site of the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England. “I cannot help but feel that I have a personal connection with her, and I am sure many people feel that way.”


Indeed they do. Perhaps because Austen wrote about the everyday lives of ordinary people, or perhaps because her own life sounds unintimidatingly ordinary, many readers feel close to her in a way that seems less common with other great writers.


Still, I’m pretty sure I’d babble.


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