Deborah Yaffe

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Unbelievable Austen truths

By Deborah Yaffe, Jan 15 2015 02:00PM

You may think that Jane Austen’s father was George Austen, a clergyman who headed a parish in rural England. But apparently you would be wrong. Jane Austen’s father was actually “Richard Austen, a motor manufacturer who’d gone bust waiting for the internal combustion engine to be invented.”


Or so we learn during the exceedingly silly, very funny Jane Austen-themed segment of a comic BBC radio game show called “The Unbelievable Truth,” to which I was alerted this week by a generous reader who goes by the (pseudonymous?) name of Nora Pitchfork.


The program features four comedians who take turns giving mini-lectures on assorted topics, while their colleagues try to identify the few needles of fact hidden inside haystacks of error. Graeme Garden, whose earlier media ventures my British husband remembers with fondness, gives the Jane Austen lecture (starting at 22:00 on the recording – available online for about four more weeks).


The true Austen facts are not all that obvious – to my shame, I missed one of them! I may have to turn in my Janeite card! – and the faux facts are highly entertaining in their utter loopiness.


While you’re at it, check out Ms. Pitchfork’s own blog, Her Reputation for Accomplishment, which chronicles her efforts to acquire the skills required of a marriageable woman in Austen’s era (e.g., drawing, handwriting, quillwork). It’s a fascinating project, which may make it even clearer why Mr. Darcy knew no more than six “really accomplished” women.




2 comments
Jan 15 2015 05:43PM by Nora P.

I'm glad you enjoyed my tip! Thanks also for the kind words about my blog project. I took some unplanned time off from it, but I'm itching to get back to my accomplishments so there will be new posts soon.

Jan 15 2015 06:10PM by dyaffe

That's good to hear, Nora -- as we know, every moment not devoted to acquiring more accomplishments is a step on the dread road to spinsterhood. :-)
Good luck, and thanks for getting in touch.

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