Deborah Yaffe

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Who's in?

By Deborah Yaffe, Aug 20 2020 01:00PM

Three years ago, blog readers will recall, a branch of the UK’s Society of Young Publishers sponsored a Jane Austen pub quiz – i.e., a trivia contest, like those held in neighborhood watering-holes across the land – in Oxford, England. At the time, one of my commenters suggested that US participants should petition to attend via Skype.


Be careful what you wish for.


Thanks to COVID-19, a UK-based Jane Austen trivia competition will now be open to participants located anywhere in the world. Chawton House, the Elizabethan mansion in Hampshire once owned by Austen’s brother Edward, is hosting a Jane Austen Quiz next Monday. The live-on-Zoom event will run from 7-9:30 pm British time – 2-4:30 pm on the US east coast.


“How much do you really know about Jane Austen’s life, works and times?” asks the Chawton House website. “Can you tell your Mrs. Clays from your Miss Carterets, your Colonel Forsters from your Mr. Dennys?”


Teams of one to four members can sign up for a nominal £5 fee (about $6.50), and UK winners will get a one-year visitor's pass to Chawton House and a cream tea in its tearoom. (International winners must settle for a subscription to the Chawton House literary magazine and free admission to a digital workshop.)


Ticket holders will receive instructions and a link closer to the day; meanwhile, it’s not clear from the event announcement how this whole thing is going to work. Do team members have to be located in the same room—a challenge for those of us still suffering through lockdown? Will answers be submitted and checked in writing, as in a traditional pub quiz, or will participants have to beat competitors to a buzzer, as in a Jeopardy!-style trivia bowl? And how will the organizers prevent illicit online research by out-of-camera-range cheaters?


I’m sure I speak for all US Janeites when I say: who cares. We must win this thing. I know it’s the middle of a work day, but national honor is at stake.


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