The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England, by Margaret C. Sullivan – A Review

The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England, by Margaret C. Sullivan (2011)Everyone loves a new frock to brighten their day, and authors are as equally excitable when it comes to re-issues of their works. We were very happy for Margaret C. Sullivan of AustenBlog fame when we learned that her excellent The Jane Austen Handbook (2007) hardcover edition was getting a second go round from its publisher Quirk Books in a new and more accessible paperback format. Not only does the pretty new cover catch the eye, the price leaves a bit more pewter in ones pocket without any changes to the original text and illustrations.

Filled with pertinent facts that every Regency Miss should be aware of to become truly accomplished, it is easy for us to recommend this great little how-to book to our readers because we have used it personally over the past four years whenever we had a question regarding deportment, dancing, playing an instrument, frock shopping and making love (in the Regency context mind you) – the top five most critical social aspects to any young Regency ladies life. One can also throw in letter writing, entertaining house guests and managing a household and just about anything else our dear Austen heroines Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse or Anne Elliot already know that might qualify them as a truly accomplished young lady in Mr. Darcy’s eyes. We shall not add Catherine Morland and Fanny Price into the mix. They are exceptions to the rule and shall be forgiven their lack of education, and might well benefit from this slim volume.

Illustration by Kathryn Rathke from The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England, by Margaret C. Sullivan (2011) pg 17

Besides being wise, this volume is also very witty, and that is where we take full enjoyment of its tongue-in-cheek manner. Who would not want to know how to choose a prospective husband (What? They do not choose us? Is that not the unspoken belief among all beaux?), how to decline an unwanted marriage proposal (Lizzy Bennet might offer some advice to Fanny Price on this too!), carry off a secret engagement (Lucy Steele and Jane Fairfax would benefit from modern Prozac no doubt), or elope to Gretna Green (Lydia Bennet FAIL). There are also other tidbits that really made us laugh too. Each page turn brought more delightful and humorous illustrations by Kathryn Rathke and informative vignettes of examples from Jane Austen’s novels like: Who Died and Made Mr. Collins the Heir of Longbourn? or the  Worst (and Funniest) Proposals in Jane Austen’s Novels. *snort*

Illustration by Kathryn Rathke from The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England, by Margaret C. Sullivan (2011) pg 165

Informative, impertinent and indispensable, The Jane Austen Handbook is a must have for anyone eager to understand anything from the obvious to the nuanced differences of society in Regency England. Lest we think this frivolous fare, it also contains a brief, but well-written bio of Jane Austen, summaries of the major novels and minor works, a glossary, a list of modern film adaptions through 2007, resources online: websites and blogs (we are forgotten, *sniff*), Austen societies, Austen places to visit, libraries and archives, and a select bibliography. Lastly, we know that Mary Bennet would happily offer her pedantic stamp of approval of this volume because it contains a full index for ease of access to Janeites on the fast track to becoming truly accomplished.

Illustration by Kathryn Rathke from The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England, by Margaret C. Sullivan (2011) pg 120

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England, by Margaret C. Sullivan
Quirk Publishing (2011)
Trade paperback (224) pages
ISBN: 978-1594745058

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

14 thoughts on “The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England, by Margaret C. Sullivan – A Review

  1. Great review! I’m looking forward to reading the book.

    note: If anyone else wants to search for The Jane Austen Handbook on their nooks, you can find it under Margaret Sullivan but not Margaret C. Sullivan.

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    • Thanks Wendy. Do you have a color Nook or the classic Nook? Those lucky enough to have a color Nook will find cool features in this edition. There are live links to notes, figures and Internet sites. Totally cool. Since the author is an advocate for eBooks from way back, I am sure she will be thrilled with this added feature. I was! The color illustrations are beautiful too.

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      • That sounds fantastic! What a great idea.

        Unfortunately, I have Classic Nook, but even in Classic Nook the illustrations for The Jane Austen Handbook are crisp and it’s exceptionally well formatted.

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        • Hi there! I’m so glad to hear that the formatting is good on the ebook. As Laurel Ann said, I’m a real ebook enthusiast so it’s great to hear.

          I am so tempted to get a Nook Color I can’t see straight.

          *slinks back into lurk where she belongs on this thread*

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          • I am trying to rationalize buying a color Nook too and I think I have found my excuse. Since it has a full web browser, I can connect to the Internet while I am sitting at the Jane Austen conference next Fall in Fort Worth and Tweet and Facebook to everyone about the conference. YES. Now that I have given myself permission, now I must find the funds. Oh, and of course I will use the beautifully formatted Jane Austen Handbook for research and enlightenment. ;-)

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          • I really am impressed with the formatting. Many nook books have words that run together. And I’m referring to books supposedly formatted for the nook by publishers. You expect to (and do!) find crazy random characters from the scanned out-of-copyright books in Google’s archive.

            In the Handbook, not only are the words clear and typeset a nicely sized, readable type, the “asides” are highlighted and the bullets & bolds are as they should be as well!

            Enjoy your color nooks, Ladies (when you get them)

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  2. Thanks for posting about this reissue! I had not heard of this book before (don’t know how I missed it), but it looks great and hilarious! Looking forward to checking it out! :)

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  3. Pingback: Guest Blog with the Amiable Margaret C. Sullivan, Author of The Jane Austen Handbook, & a Giveaway! « Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog

  4. I bought this when I found it in hardback at my local B & N, thinking that I hadn’t seen it before. After getting home and tossing the receipt, I looked at my pile of books I brought back from England last summer. Sure enough, there was the UK edition of this book. I’m definitely keeping it and will probably find a Janeite friend to gift the US copy to. I loved reading it!

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  5. Pingback: Review of The Jane Austen Handbook or Proper Life Skills from Regency England, by Margaret C. Sullivan « Jane Austen's World

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