Don’t we all have something that we are very enthusiastic about? I hope so. Enthusiasm is a great thing. For some people it is steam trains; for others its chocolate or wine; I know people who enthuse about football. For me it’s the books of Jane Austen and even Jane Austen herself.
I own copies of all her novels, even those she did not complete. Some in duplicate. And the collection of her letters. And several biographies. And a lovely book called Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 300 years of classic covers by Margaret Sullivan.
I have visited her house at Chawton, looked at her legendary writing table and the patchwork bed quilt she made with her female relatives. I own and use a Penguin Pride and Prejudice mug
I am not a fan of tv or cinema adaptations of the novels. For one thing they focus on the story and must occasionally take liberties by showing details where the text would explain all. For example, some people may be surprised to learn that Mr Darcy did not dive into his pond wearing a loose shirt just before he met Elizabeth Bennett at Pemberley. And adaptations can limit the imagination. It is hard not to see Colin Firth at Mr Darcy, and it even made a jolly good joke when filming Brigit Jones. And the adaptations focus on story, story, story, leaving out so much.
And I’m not a fan of sequels or finishings off of the unfinished. However much we want to write fan fiction I think it is better left unpublished. Nor am I a fan of some covers. What scene in Pride and Prejudice does this cover depict?
And is this your view of Captain Wentworth of the red face?
Jane Austen Society
But I do love to talk about her novels. And I like to read them. And I like to hear other people talking about them and about Jane Austen herself. And so I joined the South West branch of the Jane Austen Society. There are more than 80 of us. We meet four times a year, and we listen to two people talking to us about some Jane Austen-related things.
There are lots of things I enjoy about this group. There are some very well read people, scholars and experts in the group. And the officers arrange for experts from other parts of the country or even from abroad to address us. We learn about such things as dress and its social implications in Bath, her schoolteachers, the seaside, members of Jane Austen’s family, and her interest in music. We enjoy close textual appreciation, or hearing about the fate of the many editions of her books since they came out of copyright.
It was with 27 other members of the society that I went to Kent in search of Jane Austen and wrote about it on a post, wondering why we undertake cultural tourism. I’m going on another trip next year.
The friendliness of the group, mostly women, mostly of my age, all sharing an enthusiasm, is another reason to enjoy this group.
And it’s a wonderful place to overhear remarks:
I didn’t even know there was a Jane Austen Society until I was having lunch with a friend.
I have a friend who’s very keen on Jane Austen.
I need to belong to the Migraine Society.
And to pick up useful bookish phrases:
… read to bits …
Cheap books lead hard lives.
Smoocher (meaning a borrower but not returner of small things, C19th)
And to gather reading suggestions.
And following our most recent meeting I have started to reread Northanger Abbey.
Does anyone share my enthusiasm for a writer in the same way?
Related Posts on Bookword
Lady Susan by Jane Austen (April 2015)
Pursuing Jane Austen (June 2019)