Jane Austen’s England Virtual Book Launch Party with Authors Lesley and Roy Adkins & Giveaway

Jane Austen's England, by Lesley and Roy Adkins (2013)Let’s face it. Life in a Jane Austen novel is a fantasy to us two-hundred years after they were originally set. Who wouldn’t want to wear a pretty silk frock, dance with Mr. Darcy at the Netherfield ball or ride in Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s barouche? But life in Jane Austen’s England was not all elegant country houses and fine carriages. It took an army of servants and working class people to make life comfortable for the landed gentry and aristocrats.

Authors and historians Lesley and Roy Adkins have taken us behind the green baize curtain in their new book Jane Austen’s England. Here we discover what life was really like for a gentleman’s daughter like Elizabeth Bennet or the Bertram’s of Mansfield Park and all of their servants.

In celebration of the launch of Jane Austen’s England, Lesley and Roy Adkins are visiting us today to share their inspiration to write their new snapshot of the Georgian-era. Leave a comment to qualify for a chance to win one of three copies available of their intriguing new book. Contest details are listed at the end of this blog. Good luck to all.

Welcome Lesley and Roy:

Thank you, Laurel Ann, for inviting us to an online Austenprose launch party of Jane Austen’s England. We raise our glasses to you all (filled with smuggled wine and port, of course, because Jane Austen’s England is at war with the French and such liquor from Europe is hard to obtain).

This is not the occasion to inflict on you a history of our writing careers, but we have always been restless, moving between topics and trying to piece together fragments of history to create fascinating stories. Our last three books (Nelson’s Trafalgar, The War for All the Oceans and Jack Tar) concentrate on Georgian Britain’s naval history – Jack Tar describes the daily lives of seamen during the period 1771–1815, from when Nelson joined the Royal Navy to ten years after his death, at the end of hostilities with France and America.

After all that, we were yearning for some shore leave and had also re-discovered Jane Austen. We blame her brothers. It had been so exciting to find that Frank and Charles were naval officers, and we wish we could have stopped Nelson sending Frank for supplies, which kept him from Trafalgar. Suddenly we were drawn back to her after years of neglect. Geographically, we already felt a bond, because Lesley was brought up in Jane Austen’s home county of Hampshire, while much of Roy’s childhood was spent in visits to north Hampshire, with forays in Frank’s footsteps to Nelson’s flagship Victory at Portsmouth.

There was, though, something that always bothered us about Jane Austen’s fiction, and approaching her sideways through her naval brothers, we realised that little attention was given to everyday events and the mass of people. Because she was writing modern fiction, not historical novels, her readers did not need explanations of the things they experienced daily. Instead, she could concentrate on characters and plots. With our research into the period, we began to see these stories as Jane Austen’s earliest readers saw them, and it was a revelation!

Little phrases that we passed over without proper attention took on a new significance. To take a small example, in Persuasion Lady Russell enters Bath amidst “the ceaseless clink of pattens”. Readers of the time knew that pattens were an overshoe, a kind of wooden-soled sandal, to the bottom of which was fastened an iron ring. When women slipped their flimsy shoes into pattens, they gained several inches in height and so raised the hems of their gowns above the worst of the wet and mud. Pattens were an essential fashion item so familiar that they are rarely mentioned. The phrase “ceaseless clink of pattens” does not just evoke a unique sound that Jane Austen knew well, but it meant the streets were full of women walking, despite the wet weather. The main street surface would have been mud and manure, churned up by horses and carriage wheels, and so the clink of pattens also shows that Bath is a civilised place with paved sidewalks.

We realised we were missing so much that we decided to explore the England in which Jane Austen lived, to see how ordinary people fitted into the period when she was alive, and how her world and her fiction connected with the England around her. We were soon overwhelmed by the sheer volume of fascinating things that we unearthed – from horrific dental treatment to how quill pens were made – so we had to be selective, with endless discussions about what to include in the book. In the end, the picture we were left with was an England deeply divided. Although going to one of the balls that Jane Austen wrote about in her novels and letters is an irresistible idea, in reality most people were not one of the glittering company on the dance floor, but lowly servants, toiling endless hours.

Having finished our book and seen it through to publication, we are left with a sense of being very privileged. We now have a greater understanding and enjoyment of the novels, and living in southern England we can travel the same roads as Jane Austen and visit the places she knew so well – from the church at Steventon, her birthplace, to the house at Chawton where she did much of her best work. We hope that when people have read our book, they will go back to the novels and see them in much the same way that the very first readers did when they were published two centuries ago.

Authors Lesley and Roy Adkins (2013)Author Bios: Roy and Lesley Adkins are husband-and-wife historians and archaeologists who live near Exeter in south-west England. They are bestselling authors of books on history and archaeology, including Nelson’s Trafalgar, The War for All the Oceans, Jack Tar and The Keys of Egypt. Their work has been translated into sixteen languages. They are Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries of London and Members of the Institute for Archaeologists. Jane Austen’s England is published as Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England in the UK, where their 2013 schedule of talks includes: Theatre Royal, Bath, September 20, during the Jane Austen Festival; Henley Literary Festival, October 5; Appledore Book Festival, October 6; Ilkley Literature Festival, October 10; Off the Shelf festival, Sheffield, October 23; and Bridport Literary Festival, November 13. Visit Lesley and Roy at their website.

Many thanks to Lesley and Roy for sharing their new darling child with us. Best wishes for its success.


Enter a chance to win one of three hardcover copies available of Jane Austen’s England by Lesley and Roy Adkins by leaving a comment by 11:59 pm, Wednesday, August 28, 2013. Winners will be announced on Thursday, August 29, 2013. Shipment to US addresses only. Good luck to all!

Jane Austen’s England, by Lesley and Roy Adkins
The Viking Press (2013)
Hardcover (448) pages
ISBN: 978-0670785841

Cover image courtesy of The Viking Press © 2013; text Lesley and Roy Adkins © 2013, Austenprose.com

81 thoughts on “Jane Austen’s England Virtual Book Launch Party with Authors Lesley and Roy Adkins & Giveaway

  1. I love books like this that help the HF reader better understand the wonderful period novels. And I’ve made a note about Jack Tar to share with my brother who loves naval history. Thanks for the giveaway.


  2. This book sounds excellent, I’d be interested to read it. Extra knowledge of things that were commonplace to Jane Austen really add to the experience. Please don’t enter me for the giveaway though as I’m in the UK.


  3. What a wonderful addition to our understanding of Jane Austen’s world and adds a depth to her novels! Love the example and explanation of what the “clink of pattens” was… I had no idea, but remember that instance from Persuasion. Thank you, Lesley and Roy!


  4. This sounds like a must have book for anyone that loves Jane Austen and Regency England. I have it on my TBR list now. Thanks for such an informative post and giveaway! Thanks Laurel Ann, for hosting.


  5. Knowing truly what Jane experienced in her lifetime, and how it shaped her worldview and influenced her novels, sounds fascinating. I would love to have this book on my shelf! Thank you for this giveaway opportunity.


  6. I love these kinds of books. I have an annotated P&P with this kind of information in it, and it really changed my interpretation of some of the dialogue and actions. I would love to have this one!


  7. This sounds like a must-read! I love a book that makes Jane Austen’s world come alive and helps me to appreciate her works in a new way. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!


  8. This book sounds fascinating. I will check for their earlier works as well. I’m interested in British naval history. Have been wanting to learn more since I’ve read two Austen brothers were seafaring types.


  9. Congratulations on a fourth book. This one sounds even more interesting than the others. It is undoubtedly one I would live to win. Please pick me!!!!


  10. Wow! Im not usually a big fan of history (beyond archaeology and ancient civilizations) but this book intrigues me. Im so curious as to what lies beyond the pages of her classic novels amd the depth which can be ascertained from expanded knowledge of the period.


  11. This book sounds like it would give a great new perspective on Jane Austen world and that of her characters.
    Thanks for the giveaway!


  12. Absolutely, positively looking forward to this book! Have read just about everything I can relating to, about, and by Jane Austen. Would love to be entered in the giveaway!

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.


  13. When I read Jane Austen’s books and also when I read many more book of the JAFF, I wondered at the terms, such as ha ha and entail. I slowly built up my dictionary of tems. Now I have a source for all those details.


  14. This book is one I would love to own! Having authors who are historians and citizens of our beloved Jane’s country are fantastic perks. Thank you, Laurel Ann, for informing your readers of this book and for giving us the opportunity to win a copy.


  15. Books like this are essential for our understanding of a world long since gone – to avoid missing a nugget of sarcasm or irony. I keep a copy of “What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew”, by Daniel Pool by my bed and refer to it often.


  16. DON’T enter me in the giveaway — I bought a copy this morning at the book store! It looks completely amazing, and I can’t wait to delve into it. Just wanted to thank the authors for writing what looks to be a delightful and useful book.


  17. Who has not wondered what Jane Austen’s world was like? Just reading the background of their choice to write this book and their discoveriers makes me want so much to win this book by this marvelous couple. I must not only read it but own it. Their interest in archaeology and history has to make for a fascinating book. I loved reading what they had to say about it and can’t wait to gain so much knowledge of the period. It’s always good to learn more about history and discuss it with friends. I’ll certainly know what I’m talking about and I just might appear to be a very interesting person too.


  18. Last month, I spent a week at Washington and Lee University for an alumni college about the art, music, literature, architecture, and dining customs of the Georgian Era. I just finished Jane Austen’s England, and it was great follow-up reading! And how I would love to embroider a version of that wonderful cover!


  19. Fascinating information! I have wondered about the ladies walking in mud wearing their cute dancing shoes and now I know. Looking forward to reading the book. Thank you


  20. Thank you for the giveaway of 3 books! I am so looking forward to reading it and then, as you suggest, rereading our beloved Austen novels. I am like a sponge when it comes to the Georgian Era. Although I would like to be the one dancing at Netherfield, I often wonder where I actually would have been.


  21. I would love a copy and just in case I don’t win one, I’ve put it on my amazon wish list. Thank you so much for the opportunity.


  22. I would love a copy. Being able to “see” England during this time period will add something to her novels, which I listen too all the time when I’m cooking.


  23. I have this book on my wishlist, but it was a bonus to hear the background on how the book came to be. I can’t wait to read it.


  24. In her novel, Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen’s character, Catherine Morland says she is bored by history:The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing and hardly any women at all; it is very tiresome”. Hence this book, with its emphasis on “everyday events and the mass of people” she (and I) would love!


  25. Pingback: Giveaway Winners Announced for Jane Austen’s England! | Austenprose - A Jane Austen Blog

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