Deborah Yaffe

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By Deborah Yaffe, Jun 11 2018 01:00PM

Thirty-fourth in an occasional series of excerpts from Jane Austen's letters.


The story of Jane Austen fandom has been told more than once, in books by Claire Harman, Claudia L. Johnson, Devoney Looser, Deidre Lynch (as editor), and (ahem!) myself. Austen devotees have been located among those who read her novels soon after their publication in 1813-17, among those who first devoured her nephew’s hagiographic 1869 memoir, and among those who swooned over Colin-Firth-in-a-wet-shirt in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.


Arguably, however, the first mention of a Jane Austen fan outside Austen’s own family – a Janeite Patient Zero, as it were -- comes in the letter Austen wrote to her sister, Cassandra, exactly 219 years ago today (#21 in Deirdre Le Faye’s standard edition of Austen’s correspondence).


The twenty-three-year-old Austen is staying with relatives in Bath while Cassandra remains behind in Steventon. Amid a bubbly account of what she’s done, who she’s met, and what she’s bought, Jane mentions the Austen sisters’ great friend Martha Lloyd, who has apparently asked Cassandra if she can see the manuscript of First Impressions, the early Austen work that we believe eventually became Pride and Prejudice.


“I would not let Martha read First Impressions again upon any account, & am very glad that I did not leave it in your power,” Jane writes jokingly to Cassandra. “She is very cunning, but I see through her design;—she means to publish it from Memory, & one more perusal must enable her to do it.”


And there you have it: Martha Lloyd, the friend who a decade later set up housekeeping with the Austen sisters and their mother at Chawton cottage, is the first obsessive Austen re-reader for whom we have documentary evidence – the prototype of those people who read all the novels every year, recite dialogue by heart, and mentally file everyone they meet under headings like “Lady Catherine” and “Mr. Collins.”


Welcome to the club, Martha.


By Deborah Yaffe, Nov 9 2017 02:00PM

As this Jane Austen bicentenary year nears its close, I’m happy to report that I’ll get to play a small part in the local commemoration: I’ll be speaking on Among the Janeites and Austen fandom at the Monmouth County Library this Sunday, November 12. The library is located at 125 Symmes Drive in Manalapan, New Jersey.


The library is planning a full afternoon of Austen-bicentenary commemoration: My talk and book-signing will run from 2 to 3 pm and will be followed by a radio play of Pride and Prejudice, which sounds like a lot of fun.


Hope you can stop by!


By Deborah Yaffe, Sep 17 2015 01:00PM

My next book talk will take place this coming Sunday, September 20, from 2-4 pm in Jackson, MS: I’ll be speaking to the Mississippi branch of the Jane Austen Society of North America. A reception will follow the talk, and of course I’m always thrilled to sign Among the Janeites for anyone kind enough to buy a copy.


The talk will be held at the Eudora Welty Library, 300 North State Street in Jackson. Let us just contemplate for a moment the delightfulness of a library named after a writer, rather than after someone who gave a bunch of money to build it. (Although I hasten to add that I’m all in favor of people who have a bunch of money using it to build libraries.)


All the details are on the Events page of my website. The local paper in Jackson also ran a story about the event and its host, the Mississippi JASNA chapter. If you plan to be in Jackson on Sunday, please drop by!


By Deborah Yaffe, Oct 21 2013 01:00PM

I’ve been taking my vitamins faithfully, and I trust I’ll be healthy enough tonight to deliver the talk at the Princeton Public Library that I had to cancel last month because of illness.


I’ll be speaking about and signing Among the Janeites, starting at 7 pm in the Community Room of the library, 65 Witherspoon Street in Princeton, NJ. The talk is free and open to the public -- no tickets required. And the library is a beautiful and inspiring public space, well worth seeing for its own sake.


I hope to see you tonight!


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