Deborah Yaffe

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By Deborah Yaffe, Jul 11 2016 01:00PM

Yesterday marked the fourth anniversary of a Janeite teapot tempest – the purchase at auction, by American singer Kelly Clarkson, of a turquoise ring that once belonged to Jane Austen.


As you will recall, Clarkson paid £152,000 -- pre-Brexit, the equivalent of about $236,000 -- for the rare Austen relic, only to be legally barred from taking a national treasure out of Great Britain. A year later, Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton raised enough money to buy the ring back from her, and it’s now on permanent display. Clarkson had to make do with a replica, a gift from her fiance, which she wore when she sang at President Obama’s 2013 inauguration.


For a mere fraction of what Clarkson paid, it’s possible for any Janeite to fairly drip with Austen-ish turquoise jewelry: Through the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England, you can now buy a replica of the ring, plus matching pendant and earrings, for $332. (What, no bracelet? No nose ring?)


Jane Austen and I share the same December birth month, and thus the same turquoise birthstone, so you’d think I would be lining up for these items. But – shh! Don’t tell! – I think the ring is kind of ugly. I’ve never much liked turquoise. Sorry, Kelly. And Jane.


By Deborah Yaffe, Mar 24 2016 01:00PM

When I was ten years old, or thereabouts, I won a coloring contest sponsored by the local bus company. Since my artistic ability was – and remains – exactly nil, this was very exciting. (I got a clock radio!)


Then as now, coloring contests played to my strengths, rewarding neatness, thoroughness and conscientious rule-following (stay inside those lines!) rather than the anarchic creativity that I so conspicuously lacked. So imagine my delight at discovering that the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England, is running its own coloring contest (or rather, since this is Britain, its own “colouring competition”) to celebrate Easter.


The contest actually requires a bit more of the anarchic-creativity thing than I would prefer, since contestants are asked to “decorate,” rather than simply color, a version of the famous Jane Austen (or somebody) silhouette. Entry forms can be picked up at the Jane Austen Centre’s gift shop, but luckily for those of us who won’t be in Bath before the April 9 deadline, they can also be downloaded and submitted by email.


No clock radios this time around: the prize is an unspecified collection of “Jane Austen goodies” from the aforementioned gift shop. Which could definitely be worth winning, as long as the package doesn’t include the problematic quote mugs.


By Deborah Yaffe, Oct 1 2015 01:00PM

Sometimes a headline seems to speak directly to you, as if written not by an anonymous stranger but by a friend with intimate knowledge of your every thought and desire. Like a headline that reads, “Got an insatiable desire to read Jane Austen every day?”


Thus did the Los Angeles Times announce the release (nearly two weeks after the fact, but who’s counting) of the Jane Austen Quote of the Day app, a free download that delivers daily nuggets of Austenian wisdom to your Apple or Android smartphone, at whatever time you prefer.


The app is the creation of the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England, and it includes some extra goodies, among them news and articles from the Centre and its magazine and “access to the Online Giftshop.” The Jane Austen Centre did not get to be a leading Austen tourist destination through a lack of marketing savvy.


As regular blog readers may remember, I remain the last person on the eastern seaboard without a smartphone – am I perhaps in want of a smartphone? – so I will have to find low-tech ways to get a daily Austen fix. (Books, maybe?) But you digitally savvy kids have fun with your app.


By Deborah Yaffe, May 25 2015 01:00PM

Was Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy always seen as the quintessential romantic icon, even in that misty prehistoric time known as B.C. (Before Colin)? By now, the question is moot: Darcy = Swoonworthy Hero, and that’s all there is to it.


Thus it is that the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, England, is now offering a delightful prize to any Janeite with an eloquent pen: a one-night, mid-September stay at an elegant Bath hotel, a cream tea at the Jane Austen Centre, and a pair of tickets to the festival’s costume promenade.


All it takes to win is a 250-word essay on “What makes him Mr. Darcy” – the “him” being “a hero in your life.” No reason this couldn’t be grandpa, Uncle Joe or your favorite high school teacher, I suppose, but somehow I doubt that’s whom most of the entrants will have in mind. To quote Mr. Knightley, “Brother and sister! no, indeed!” (The contest rules also state that the Darcy nominee "must be personally known" to the contest entrant, so no choosing George Clooney.)


As far as I can tell from the web site, you have to provide your own transportation to Bath, not to mention your own Regency costume for the promenade, so for American Janeites, this may end up being one of those prizes that’s cheaper not to win. But if you have a Mr. Darcy in your life, here’s your chance to pay him tribute.


By Deborah Yaffe, Jan 1 2015 02:00PM

Jane Austen isn't just everywhere; she's all the time.


After a busy year celebrating Mansfield Park's two hundredth anniversary, Janeites from Copenhagen to Canberra are gearing up for what some consider to be the bicentennial of Emma, which hit the streets in December 1815 but bears a title page announcing it as an 1816 publication.


It would be daunting, if not impossible, to list every Jane Austen ball, conference, summer course, festival and tea party scheduled worldwide for 2015. So herewith just a smattering--one for each month, to give you a taste of the riches this year will bring. Would that I could attend them all. . .

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