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.
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*
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.
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
© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose