We had a hand in its creation. We loved this “Shakespeare Spoilers” cartoon so much when we saw it on Facebook recently. It made us laugh out loud. But wait. The Bard is just as clever, witty and engaging as our favorite English author Jane Austen. Shouldn’t she get equal billing?
We contacted the cartoonist John Atkinson and pitched another famous English author for his artistic consideration. He was game—and we are delighted with the results.
These cigarette cards are further testament that Jane Austen is everywhere – popping up in the most unlikely places. These examples are from the Carreras Tobacco Company’s issue of 27 ‘Famous Women’ (1929) and fifty ‘Celebrities of British History’ (1935). Jane was indeed in good company. Some of the other notables included the full gambit of British historical celebs: Georgina Duchess of Devonshire, Charlotte Bronte, Lord Byron, Frances Burney, Sir Francis Drake, Lady Hamilton, Sir Walter Raleigh, William Shakespeare, Prince Rupert, Sir Christopher Wren, Samuel Pepys, Lord Nelson, Duke of Wellington, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Florence Nightingale &C.
Cigarette and tobacco cards were invented by their manufacturers in the late 1870’s to stiffen cigarette packaging and advertise cigarette brands, enticing buyers to continue purchasing in order to collect the entire series. They were discontinued during World War II because of paper rationing, after which they faded from favor, evolving into the baseball cards that we see today.
The fact that Jane Austen was included as one of the top 50 British celebrities for the Carreras series in 1935 is impressive. The House of Carreras (Carreras Tobacco) was a British manufacturer with a distinguished history of Royal appointments and warrants, established in London in the early nineteenth-century by Spanish nobleman Don Jose Carreras Ferrer, who had relocated to London after fighting in the Peninsular War under the Duke of Wellington (1808-1814). Even before the Hollywoodization of Jane Austen with the MGM movie of Pride and Prejudice in 1940, her image had been printed on thousands of cards and sent around the world under the guise of harmlessly addictive amusement! ;-) This should enlighten anyone who thought she was a recent sensation!
In 1816 Jane Austen wrote to her nephew James Edward Austen describing her writing as “the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush, as produces little effect after much labour.” Two inches of ivory would be a reference to the art of miniature portraiture painted on ivory that was so popular in her lifetime. Interestingly, Austen described her talent so well and for nearly two hundred years this perception of her meticulously crafted miniatures of Regency era country families has prevailed.
Illustrations from Pride and Prejudice, The Folio Society (2006)
In illustrating Austen’s works, I have found that the artists who succeed in translating her exquisitely drawn characters and scenes are those who also apply the same fine brush to their work. Over the years, we have seen varied degrees of success at this attempt by prominent artists of their time; however Hugh Thomson, Charles E. Brock and Chris Hammond are prime examples of those who I feel have excelled. Recently, I have come to include illustrator Niroot Puttapipat in this group. His illustrations for The Folio Societies new editions of Pride and Prejudice (2006), Emma (2007), and Persuasion (2007), reveal a delicate and exacting touch that Austen would have appreciated. The finey bound and slip cased editions contain seven intimate and finely detailed pen & ink and watercolor drawings of important scenes from the novels and one cameo of each of the heroines on the front cover. Each piece is a masterwork at characterization, period detail and artistic craftsmanship.
Illustration from Emma, The Folio Society (2007)
Puttapipat’s attention to detail is remarkable, as each characters clothing and fabric match their appropriate station in life. The example above is one of my favorites from Emma and represents the scene where Emma Woodhouse is walking with Harriet Smith and Mr. Elton and contrives a broken shoe lace to lag behind to allow them to walk on together and advance her desire to cultivate their romance. The distinction between Emma’s fine attire in her pelisse, fur muff and elegant bonnet and her little friend Harriet’s more humble muslins shows great perception of class distinction during Austen’s times. This is an important theme in understanding the novel Emma, and Puttapipat has relayed it beautifully.
I’m fascinated by history and historical costume anyway and have a good idea of (in this case) Regency/Empire clothing, but research is always important especially when illustrating something in a ‘real’ context. With period pieces such as these, it’s not only important to understand the clothes they wore, but the customs, manners, mores etc.
Raised in Thailand, Puttapipat is the grandson of a Lan Na a Thai princess. His interest in art and literature was cultivated as a young child spending time drawing and acting out stories. A graduate of Kingston University, he now lives in London. You can visit him at Deviant Art and view many more images of his incredibly beautiful illustrations in his online gallery and catch up on his upcoming projects in his journal. Best of luck Niroot. We look forward to your future editions of Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park when you complete your commissions for The Folio Society.
Illustrations from Persuasion, The Folio Society (2007)
Purchase The Folio Society editions of Jane Austen’s novels.
A few years back, a publisher decided Jane Austen’s portrait by a Victorian era artist was too ugly to put on a book cover and decided to give her a make-over adding a new hair do and makeup.
“She was not much of a looker,” said Helen Trayler, managing director of publisher Wordsworth Editions.
It is debatable if the results could be classified as an improvement. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder one hears, so I will have to dish this new and improved Jane as clownish failure. Above is the before and after for your consideration.
We do not know unequivocally what Jane Austen looked like. Her sister Cassandra was an artist and did compose the one signed and dated sketch of her in 1804 sitting out of doors, her face gazing away from view and concealed by a large blue bonnet. Not much help. The second unfinished and unsigned pencil sketch and water color painting thought to also have been composed by her sister circa 1810 is the earliest portrait that we associate with her. The two sketches were entrusted to Cassandra Esten ‘Cassie’ Austen (1808-1897) Jane Austen’s niece (daughter of her brother Charles) by Cassandra to whom she had been close in her later years. The front view portrait remained in the family until around 1920, and then was purchased from a private party in 1948 by the National Portrait Gallery in London where it resides today. Renowned Austen scholar R.W. Chapman flatly did not like the portrait. Others thought it an ‘unflattering picture of a real person’  or that it relayed the ‘testy skepticism, the tough personality‘  of the sitter by Cassandra. I like it. My impression of her severe expression is that she did not want her likeness taken and preferred to remain anonymous like her novels; — by a Lady.
Cassandra Austen’s artist impression of her sister Jane
1.) Right, Cassandra Austen’s watercolor sketch ca 1810. The begining.
Even thought there is no documentation that this little sketch is of Jane, her niece Cassie Austen believed it to be so and offered it to her first cousin James Edward Austen-Leigh in 1869 when he needed a portrait for the frontispiece of his book A Memoir of Jane Austen published the following year. He and the publisher found Cassandra’s sketch to be unsatisfactory for their needs and commissioned a new portrait from James Andrews of Maidenhead who produced a watercolor sketch which was engraved by Lizzars. Upon seeing the new artist rendering, Cassie Austen remarked, ‘It is a very pleasing sweet face – tho, I confess, to not thinking it much like the original‘ . The new interpretation was thought to make Austen more presentable to the Victorian readers by softening her features with larger eyes, fuller lips and a more gentle expression – her first official make-over. It would not be the last. What has evolved over the years is quite amusing, presenting readers with the good, the bad and the downright ugly images of our beloved author. Here are a few that I have collected over the years. You may be your own judge as to which you prefer and have your say by voting in our poll at the end of the post.
2.) Left, Lizzars engraving after James Andrews new portrait was the frontis of A Memoir of Jane Austen, by James Edward Austen-Leigh (1870). Jane is Victorianized.
3.) Right, the ‘Wedding Ring Portrait’ engraved for Everet A. Duyckink’s Portrait Gallery of Eminent Men and Women of Europe and America (1873). This image above all others is the most often seen.
4.) The ‘Rice Portrait’ now attributed to Ozias Humphrey. This famous oil painting was first used as the frontis in The Letters of Jane Austen, edited by Lord Brabourne in 1883. Controversially, it is still owned by the Rice family who recently unsuccessfully tried to sell it by auction at Christies for a bundle.
4.) Left, the ‘Fine eyed Jane’ version by M. Lamont Brown, was engraved for the frontis of In the Footsteps of Jane Austen, by Oscar Fay Adams, The New England Magazine, vol. 14, issue 5 (July 1893). My favorite image with Lizzy eyes, it is used in my header banner above.
5.) Right, signed by Y.H., this portrait was used as the frontis in Jane Austen and her Country House Comedy, by W.H. Helm (1909). I rather like it.
6.) Left, ‘Jane the debutant’ frontis by Lily Harmon, Pride and Prejudice, Books, INC. (1945). You can see the Hollywood influence of diaphanous frock a la P&P movie of 1940.
7.) Right, ‘Frightening Jane’ by Edward Price, frontis for Presenting Miss Jane Austen, by Mary Lamberton Becker (1952). A cross between the witches of Eastwick and Anne Boleyn. Could this be more unattractive or scary?
8.) Left, ‘Charming Jane’ by Jane Odiwe, artist and author of Lydia Bennet’s Story (2008). A modern interpretation that is both pleasing and true to Cassandra’s painting.
9.) Right, ‘Big nosed Jane’ by Mike Caplanis of Literary Luminaries is fun and not too offensive, though she does look a bit like actor W.C. Fields.
10.) Left, ‘Doe eyed Jane’ by Rocco Fazzari makes her looks harmless. We know better!
11.) Right, ‘Literary Jane’ by J. Bone appears all business. We happily agree.
There are numerous other images of our Jane floating around out there; — some surprising, some shocking, all interesting. We are continually amused at how her public persona has evolved, and am all anticipation of the next one to appear.
Helen Denman, ‘The Portraits’, in The Jane Austen Companion, Macmillan (1986)
Margaret Ann Doody and Douglas Murray, A Portrait of Jane Austen, (private printing) 1995
Cassie Austen p. 280, Austen-Leigh, William and Richard, Jane Austen: A Family Record (1913)
“And by my treatment of the pictures I have tried to attune myself to an art which never stresses, records only the essential, draws rather than paints: an art which aims at grace and rhythm rather than at intensity of expression.” Maximilien Vox on Jane Austen
Many book illustrators have attempted to interpret Jane Austen’s characters over the years. Some have succeeded, though it is a challenge for any artist to transform the essence of Austen’s intension visually since so little description was forthcoming in her novels, leaving the reader to apply their own interpretation. Even though I admire this artistic choice by Austen, her illustrators have had a less than clear picture and have taken free rein. One artist that added his own unique view was Maximilien Vox (1894-1974), a distinguished French illustrator, painter and art critic best known as a typographer, historian and teacher. In the 1933-34 editions of The Works of Jane Austen, illustrated by Maximilien Vox, published by J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., London, Vox adds his distinctive style to the seven volume set which includes the six major novels, and one volume of Sandition and other miscellanea.
Each book contains eight sepia line drawings enhanced with delicate pastel watercolours representing significant scenes from the novels chosen by the artist. As you can see by the several images from each of the novels and miscellanea, they are much different in style than his famous Victorian predecessors the brothers C. E. & H. M. Brock, or Hugh Thomson. By 1933, the Art Deco movement that had originated in Paris was in full swing, inspiring Monsieur Vox who resided in the Mecca of progressive art. You can see the Deco influence in his approach, with simplistic forms, characters expressionlessly gazing away from the viewer, and a stylistic choice of the pale pallet of sepia for the lines and pastels for the forms.
This fresh and unique artist was the choice of Hugh Dent, the son of the famous London book publisher Joseph Malaby Dent (1849-1926) who founded J. M. Dent & Sons in 1888. J. M. Dent was a self made man and visionary who created the Everyman’s Library series bringing the classics to the masses at reasonable prices. In 1892, J. M. Dent published a ten volume set (sold separately) of The Novels of Jane Austen presenting new illustrations by William C. Cooke and edited by R. Brimley Johnson. This edition is considered ‘the first really independent issue of novels – Bentley’s edition having previously held the field.’  J.M. Dent also began publishing high quality limited editions of classic literature under the Temple Library imprint in 1894 which included another ten set edition of The Novels of Jane Austen featuring colored illustrations by C. E. and H. M. Brock.  This is the edition that has been heavily reproduced over the years making the Brock brothers the most published illustrator connected to Jane Austen.
Included in the first volume, Sense and Sensibility, is an unusual addition following the introduction by Emile Legouis; a letter to the editor Hugh Dent by the illustrator himself and written in French (and translated into English) . This revealing missive gives us a look into the illustrator’s inspiration and creative process for his artwork. Of note is his admiration and esteem for Austen’s work, and the inclusion of a quote from Sense and Sensibility to conclude his letter relaying his complete understanding and reverence for his subject and her characters. His aim in emulating Jane Austen’s genuis as “an art which never stresses, records only the essential, draws rather than paints: an art which aims at grace and rhythm rather than at intensity of expression.”, is achieved with his own delicately nuanced interpretations.
Prefatory Letter by Maximilien Vox
Dear Mr. Dent,
Now that I have finished the illustrations of Jane Austen’s novels I have, I assure you, much for which to thank you. Firstly for the pleasure of our personal relationship; secondly for the perfection of the coloured reproductions, in which the character of the line and freshness of tone of the originals have been so faithfully followed; and finally because it is a privilege for a French artist, who is partly British by descent and culture, to offer his work under your patronage to the judgment of the English public.
But above all I am grateful to you for the opportunity you have given me of steeping myself in a work so charged, not only with genius, but with hidden meaning and delicate nuances. I have attempted, in each book, by my drawings, to differentiate the individuality and original psychology underlying the superficial similarity of character and plot, and to show how this world, apparently composed entirely f well brought-up young ladies, eligible young gentlemen, and sententious middle-aged ones, really comprises a complete universe by virtue of its variety and dramatic resource, And by my treatment of the pictures I have tried to attune myself to an art which never stresses, records only the essential, draws rather than paints: an art which aims at grace and rhythm rather than at intensity of expression.
As for costume and fashion, I have only indicated them, emphasizing simply the changes from the eighteenth century to early nineteenth. And this, perhaps for a Frenchman, is the most striking evidence of the nationality of Jane Austen’s work – that she portrays as a period of slow, almost imperceptible social transition that very period which in our history stands for violent revolution. For in all respects, in her picture of manners and ideas, Jane Austen belongs to the century in which she is born, and which has given her so international an outlook that she might well belong to us; she would have caused us no surprise by signing herself ‘Mademoiselle Jeanne Austain’.
Such at any rate, dear Mr. Dent, are the various ideas which have governed the play of my pencil on the paper; you will forgive me if, to use our author’s words, ‘I have brought no Restraint to the Expression of Sentiments in themselves not Illaudable’. 
Pairs, 15 January 1933
Gilson, David – A Bibliography of Jane Austen, St. Paul’s Bibliographies, Winchester (1997) E181, pp308
Gilson, David – A Bibliography of Jane Austen, St. Paul’s Bibliographies, Winchester (1997) E76, pp263
Gilson, David – A Bibliography of Jane Austen, St. Paul’s Bibliographies, Winchester (1997) E90, pp272
Austen, Jane – Sense and Sensibility, chapter 11 “Elinor could not be surprised at their attachment. She only wished that it were less openly shewn; and once or twice did venture to suggest the propriety of some self-command to Marianne. But Marianne abhorred all concealment where no real disgrace could attend unreserve; and to aim at the restraint of sentiments which were not in themselves illaudable, appeared to her not merely an unnecessary effort, but a disgraceful subjection of reason to common-place and mistaken notions. Willoughby thought the same; and their behaviour at all times, was an illustration of their opinions.”