Deborah Yaffe

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By Deborah Yaffe, Mar 16 2015 01:00PM

To paraphrase Mr. Darcy, I have been a verbal being all my life – no affinity for music, hopeless at art, allergic to sports. For me, Jane Austen exists on the page, as a tapestry of words.


So I’m continually bemused by efforts to translate Austen into non-verbal media – efforts not to retell her stories or replicate elements of her historical period, but rather to express something ineffably Austen-ish without using words. It’s not that I think these attempts are wrong-headed, necessarily; it’s just that I can’t quite wrap my own head around them.


In Among the Janeites, I wrote about Bingley’s Teas, whose Jane Austen Tea Series features more than a dozen blends meant to evoke Austen characters. On this blog, I’ve puzzled over Jane Austen knitting patterns and Jane Austen toothpaste.


And now comes Pemberley: A Jane Austen Inspired Perfume, from a company whose historically informed scents include perfumes evoking Marie Antoinette and Anne Boleyn. (Dab a drop on your wrists on the day of your own beheading, I guess.)


The Austen perfume is part of the Dead Writers series, which also includes scents tied to Beatrix Potter (“a wonderful green scent”), Jack Kerouac (with notes of opium!) and Edgar Allan Poe (“dried roses, a slowly dying ember of incense, ghostly whispers, and a bittersweet sense of loss”), as well as the eponymous Dead Writers, evoking the smell of old libraries.


As with so many of these Austen-themed projects, the Austen evoked here is more light-hearted and lovely than sharp-tongued and satirical – the plants that supply Pemberley’s ingredients all figure in the gardens of Chatsworth, the palatial English mansion that played Darcy’s estate in the 2005 Keira Knightley film of Pride and Prejudice.


I don’t wear perfume – although I might make an exception on the day of my own beheading – but if you do, let me know if Pemberley: A Jane Austen Inspired Perfume captures the scent of classic literature. Whatever that is.


By Deborah Yaffe, Oct 31 2013 01:00PM

I’m not a knitter, but for years I’ve been intrigued by the “Jane Austen Knits” link that keeps popping up in my Google alert, one in a long line of products claiming a connection to the valuable Jane Austen Brand.


Apparently, this year’s edition of the single-issue magazine contains thirty-one patterns for knitted items of clothing somehow “inspired by the novels of Jane Austen and the Regency era within which she lived”; illustrations show beautiful shawls, spencers and gloves, plus a fetching little reticule and a waistcoat worthy of Mr. Knightley. (I’m skeptical that these items have much to do with the books, beyond resembling things that Austen’s characters might have worn, but never mind.)


The issue is also said to feature historical articles, including one on pincushions and thread-cases in Persuasion. Those are among the items that Nurse Rooke teaches Mrs. Smith to make, to keep her busy and supplement her meager income.


I can’t remember if we know whether Jane Austen herself was a knitter, though it seems quite possible; in his famous 1870 Memoir of Jane Austen, her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh tells us that “her needlework both plain and ornamental was excellent, and might almost have put a sewing machine to shame.”


If you’ve tried these patterns, do tell us whether they’re worthy of Jane Austen.


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