Jane Austen Birthday Celebration

Jane Austen party girlToday is the 233rd anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth on the 16th of December 1775 at Steventon Rectory, Hampshire England. Break out the port wine and sponge cake. 

Many regional JASNA chapters will be celebrating with gatherings & parties in her honor during the month of December. My local Puget Sound chapter was all set for the annual soirée on Sunday in Seattle until the cold weather prompted a postponement. I was greatly disappointed to have to suspend my pleasure, but glad that I did not have to drive so far in dangerous conditions. The small irony is that Jane Austen herself came into this world during a bitterly cold winter in Hampshire. Her family delayed her christening for four months until the 5th of April 1776 because of the freezing weather, so we can wait a month to celebrate in January.   

In honor of her birthday I have over the past few years read one of the many excellent (sometimes creative) biographies of her life. I have just completed Jane Austen: A Life by David Nokes and thoroughly enjoyed it. Here is a short expert regarding her birth from a letter written by her father George Austen to his sister-in-law Susannah Walter. 

You have doubtless been for some times in expectation of hearing from Hampshire, and perhaps wondered a little we were on our old age grown such bad reckoners but so it was for Cassy certainly expected to have been brought to bed a month ago. However, last night the time came, and without a great deal of warning, everything was soon happily over. We have now another girl, a present plaything for her sister Cassy and a future companion. She is to be Jenny

Pride and Prejudice Audio, Naxos AudioBooksThe party continues at my co-blog Jane Austen Today as Vic (Ms. Place) and I  celebrate Jane Austen’s Birthday with seven great presents to our readers – seven unabridged editions of her major novels from Naxos AudioBooks. Join in the festivities between now and December 31st by leaving a comment stating why you like reading or viewing Jane Austen and you might just be one of the seven lucky winners on January 1st. Start the New Year right with Jane Austen. There is certainly no irony in it, but I am sure we can find one in her honor. 

Cheers to the incomparable Jane,

Laurel Ann

Other birthday celebrations around the blog-o-sphere

JASNA has just published Winter 2008 issue of Persuasions On-Line

AustenBlog
Jane Austen Today

Jane Austen’s World
Jane Austen in Vermont

Risky Regencies
Lydia Bennet’s Journal
Book Club Girl
Becoming Jane Fansite
Let Them Eat Copy
Etiquette with Miss Janice
The Duchess of Devonshire’s Gossip Guide

Image of Jane Austen from JASNA website 

Jane Austen and The Battle of Waterloo

Illustration of the Allies entering Paris after Napoleons defeat at Waterloo, October 1815

Allied troops entering Paris after the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte

the little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces so little effect after so much labour” Letter to Edward Austen, 16 December 1816, The Letters of Jane Austen

Today marks the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, which is generally credited as Napoleon Bonaparte’s final defeat; – a significant event in European history that deeply affected the lives of every Englishman and the World. Bonaparte would soon surrender his troops and abdicate the throne, ending a seventeen year conflict between Britain and France, and other European nations. You can read a complete account of the battle here.  

Jane Austen had very little to say about the Battle of Waterloo or any aspect of the Napoleonic War, and that really irritated some of her critics. For some reason, the fact that she did not discuss politics or war in her novels makes her somehow negligent and narrow as an authoress. Her surviving personal correspondence is a bit better, with dribs and drabs of comment to her sister Cassandra about their two brothers Frank and Charles who served as sailors in his Majesties Navy, and were deep into the thick of the fighting. 

She lived almost her entire life in the shadow of the Napoleon’s tyranny. To criticize her because she chose not to include mention of it or other external political events in her novels is a misunderstanding of her intensions. Author David Nokes in his biography Jane Austen: A Life, touches upon this point and offers a logical explanation. 

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