Jane was born in Steventon in Hampshire in 1775 and died in Winchester in 1817. The words 'uneventful life' might have been invented to describe her life. And yet she wrote books that still touch millions of people today, and she reaches millions more through TV and film adaptations of her work. Other people, other WOMEN, were writing when Jane was and yet hers is the voice that has emerged to speak to posterity. I've got a few theories of why this is but I'd love to hear your thoughts on why this poor, plain woman, who in terms of her own society was unfulfilled because she never married and had children, is still a superstar 190 years after her death. In fact, probably more a superstar today than ever.
Why do you think the books still move us? Why do we still think they're sexy? And undoubtedly we do. I remember the swooning sighs when I watched the wet shirt scene from the BBC adaptation with a couple of girlfriends. And a similar reaction to Matthew McFadyen striding through the mists in his long coat to claim his Lizzie in the recent film adaptation. Just in case you've forgotten either of those adaptations, I'm attaching a photo or two. Purely for research purposes, you understand. Yeah, right!
A really poignant memory from my 2004 trip to Britain is when I visited Jane's grave in Winchester Cathedral, not far from Steventon where she was born. The grave marker was set up by her brother and it extols her Christian virtues of charity and kindness and meekness and sweetness. You know the ones I'm talking about! There's not a word mentioning Jane's writing. This could be the grave of any respectable, obscure, country spinster.
There's such an irony in this (although there's now a brass plaque above the gravestone and a stained glass window above that extolling Jane's literary achievement). But perhaps that, in its way, is fitting. Irony is the essence of Jane's style - and I think one of the secrets of her longevity in readers' hearts. That probing, perceptive, unflinching gaze upon human frailty exposes characters for what they are. But she's not cruel either - there's heart with the honesty.
Jane wrote five books and a handful of scraps before she died far too young. Another irony is the legion of sequels to her stories and books about her life and times that have emerged since. One of the most recent is The Lost Memoirs Of Jane Austen by Syrie James which has been receiving excellent reviews (it isn't officially released for another couple of days). Courtesy of Avon A, I'd love to give one lucky commenter an advanced reader copy of this book. I'll throw in a few signed coverflats as well, including one for my current release Untouched.
And to keep the Bandita Christmas recipes exchange going, here's a receipt for ratafia, a drink served at Regency receptions. My advice if you're intending to make this (and it actually sounds pretty poisonous!) is buy some headache pills with the rest of the ingredients. Those Regency bucks and diamonds of the first water must have had pretty hard heads!
An 1828 recipe for Ratafia:
Into one quart of brandy, pour half a pint of cherry juice, half a pint of currant juice, half a pint of raspberry juice, add a few cloves, some white pepper in grains, two grains of green coriander, and two sticks of cinnamon. Then pound the stones of cherries, and put them in, wood and all. Add 25 or 30 apricot kernels. Cork your demijohn and let it infuse for one month in the shade, shaking it five or six times. After the liquid has infused, strain it through a flannel bag, then through a filtering paper, then bottle and cork it.