Deborah Yaffe

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By Deborah Yaffe, Jun 1 2015 01:00PM

We Janeites hail our beloved author as a witty social critic, a source of romantic escapism, a harbinger of a more civilized age, a master of ironic and elegant English prose, and a spur to historical re-enactment. But a dieting inspiration? That one is new on me.


Yet that’s more or less what Austen was for 36-year-old Claire-Violet Hanley of Southampton, England, according to a recent profile in the Southern Daily Echo, which covers Austen’s home county of Hampshire.


Hanley fits the Janeite profile pretty closely: always loved old-fashioned clothes, adored both Pride and Prejudice and the BBC’s 1995 adaptation of it, was drawn to Regency dancing. Alas, health problems had left her obese, and she feared she’d never fit into period fashions.


Inspired by a local Regency dance group, however, she made it her goal to lose enough weight to join. She dropped an impressive 112 pounds and now, judging from the photos with the article, looks perfectly lovely in spencer, bonnet and Empire-line gown. Which she and her slightly obsessive (but who isn’t?) Janeite friends apparently like to wear A LOT.


"We talk to each other and write letters in Regency-style language, bake traditional Regency food for our picnics by the river,” Hanley told the newspaper. “We went to Brighton once and were called freaks by some Goths and a guy with a plastic thing on his head, rings everywhere and tattoos on his face.”


Alas, not everyone gets the irony thing. Rock on, Claire-Violet.


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