Deborah Yaffe


By Deborah Yaffe, Jan 2 2017 02:00PM

Happy new year, Janeites! For us fans of Jane Austen, 2017 is a big year, the biggest since – well, since 2013, when we celebrated the bicentenary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, still Austen’s most popular work.

This year, we have an altogether more melancholy occasion to mark – the two hundredth anniversary of Austen’s death, on July 18, 1817, at the all-too-young age of forty-one. (Depending how you count, it may also be the bicentenary of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, published together in a three-volume set that appeared in December 1817 with a title-page publication date of 1818.)

Across the planet, and especially in Austen’s home country of England, Austen fans will celebrate her life and mourn her death at balls, exhibits, lectures, conferences and festivals. Our shelves will creak under the weight of Austen-related books published to coincide with the anniversary. And in Britain, wallets will fill up with Austen-embellished currency. We may even get to see a new Austen movie.

An unscientific, and undoubtedly incomplete, sampling of what’s ahead:

By Deborah Yaffe, Sep 15 2016 01:00PM

I subscribe to the weekly newsletter of the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England, so imagine my excitement when this week’s edition included. . . me – or, rather, a link to an excerpt from Among the Janeites posted recently on a website that covers my home state of New Jersey.

NJ Spotlight is not your typical Janeite venue, specializing as it does in “news and analysis about politics and public policy in New Jersey.” As far as I’m aware, Jane Austen never expressed any opinion about New Jersey or anything to do with it. But for the past few years NJ Spotlight has been running a “Summer Reading” series featuring excerpts from books by Jersey authors, and my turn rolled around in late August.

Through the magic of this new-fangled Internet that all the kids are talking about these days, the Bath Jane Austen Centre seems to have run across the NJ Spotlight excerpt. Now if only the Jane Austen Centre's newsletter could come to the attention of folks looking for the perfect gift for the Janeites in their lives. . .

By Deborah Yaffe, Jul 11 2016 01:00PM

Yesterday marked the fourth anniversary of a Janeite teapot tempest – the purchase at auction, by American singer Kelly Clarkson, of a turquoise ring that once belonged to Jane Austen.

As you will recall, Clarkson paid £152,000 -- pre-Brexit, the equivalent of about $236,000 -- for the rare Austen relic, only to be legally barred from taking a national treasure out of Great Britain. A year later, Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton raised enough money to buy the ring back from her, and it’s now on permanent display. Clarkson had to make do with a replica, a gift from her fiance, which she wore when she sang at President Obama’s 2013 inauguration.

For a mere fraction of what Clarkson paid, it’s possible for any Janeite to fairly drip with Austen-ish turquoise jewelry: Through the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England, you can now buy a replica of the ring, plus matching pendant and earrings, for $332. (What, no bracelet? No nose ring?)

Jane Austen and I share the same December birth month, and thus the same turquoise birthstone, so you’d think I would be lining up for these items. But – shh! Don’t tell! – I think the ring is kind of ugly. I’ve never much liked turquoise. Sorry, Kelly. And Jane.

By Deborah Yaffe, Mar 24 2016 01:00PM

When I was ten years old, or thereabouts, I won a coloring contest sponsored by the local bus company. Since my artistic ability was – and remains – exactly nil, this was very exciting. (I got a clock radio!)

Then as now, coloring contests played to my strengths, rewarding neatness, thoroughness and conscientious rule-following (stay inside those lines!) rather than the anarchic creativity that I so conspicuously lacked. So imagine my delight at discovering that the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England, is running its own coloring contest (or rather, since this is Britain, its own “colouring competition”) to celebrate Easter.

The contest actually requires a bit more of the anarchic-creativity thing than I would prefer, since contestants are asked to “decorate,” rather than simply color, a version of the famous Jane Austen (or somebody) silhouette. Entry forms can be picked up at the Jane Austen Centre’s gift shop, but luckily for those of us who won’t be in Bath before the April 9 deadline, they can also be downloaded and submitted by email.

No clock radios this time around: the prize is an unspecified collection of “Jane Austen goodies” from the aforementioned gift shop. Which could definitely be worth winning, as long as the package doesn’t include the problematic quote mugs.

By Deborah Yaffe, Oct 1 2015 01:00PM

Sometimes a headline seems to speak directly to you, as if written not by an anonymous stranger but by a friend with intimate knowledge of your every thought and desire. Like a headline that reads, “Got an insatiable desire to read Jane Austen every day?”

Thus did the Los Angeles Times announce the release (nearly two weeks after the fact, but who’s counting) of the Jane Austen Quote of the Day app, a free download that delivers daily nuggets of Austenian wisdom to your Apple or Android smartphone, at whatever time you prefer.

The app is the creation of the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England, and it includes some extra goodies, among them news and articles from the Centre and its magazine and “access to the Online Giftshop.” The Jane Austen Centre did not get to be a leading Austen tourist destination through a lack of marketing savvy.

As regular blog readers may remember, I remain the last person on the eastern seaboard without a smartphone – am I perhaps in want of a smartphone? – so I will have to find low-tech ways to get a daily Austen fix. (Books, maybe?) But you digitally savvy kids have fun with your app.

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