This collection of essays offers an intimate history of Austen’s art and life told through objects associated with her personally and with the era in which she lived. Her teenage notebooks, music albums, pelisse-coat, letters, the homemade booklets in which she composed her novels and the portraits made of her during her life all feature in this lavishly illustrated collection.
By interpreting the outrageous literary jokes in her early notebooks we can glimpse the shared reading activities of Jane and her family, together with the love of satire and home entertainment which can be traced in the subtler humour of her mature work. It is well known that Austen played the piano but her music books reveal how music was used to create networks far more intricate than the simple pleasures of home recital. Examination of Austen’s pelisse-coat tells us something about her physique and, with the lively letters to her sister Cassandra, gives an insight into her views on fashion.
The exploration of yet more objects – the Regency novel, newspaper articles, naval logbooks, and contemporary political cartoons – reveals Austen’s filiations with wider social and political worlds. These ‘things’ map the threads connecting her (from India to Bath and from North America to Chawton) to those on the international stage during the wars with France that raged through much of her short life. Finally, this book charts her reputation over the two hundred years since her death, offering fresh interpretations of Jane Austen’s changing place in the world.
Kathryn Sutherland is Professor of Bibliography and Textual Criticism at the University of Oxford.
224 pages, 259 x 237mm
90 colour illustrations
Publication June 2017
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