Deborah Yaffe


By Deborah Yaffe, Jun 23 2014 01:00PM

From time to time, it’s useful to recall that not everyone knows as much about Jane Austen as we Janeites do.

Last week’s salutary reminder came in the form of a post on Slate’s history blog, The Vault, wherein writer Rebecca Onion shared with the masses a fascinating document in Jane Austen’s hand: Austen’s compilation of friends’ and relatives’ opinions about Emma and Mansfield Park.

“The British Library recently made the manuscripts available online,” Onion wrote. “Below, I’ve transcribed Austen’s collection of feedback on Mansfield Park.”

The piece left me befuddled. Was Onion under the impression that the BL’s digitization was making a little-known document widely available for the first time? ‘Cause Janeites know that’s just not so.

In fact, excerpts from the “Opinions” were first published in 1870, in James Edward Austen-Leigh’s famous Memoir of Jane Austen, and the legendary Austen editor R.W. Chapman followed up with a 1926 printing. (That history is reported here.) My 1996 Knopf edition of Austen’s minor works – the fourth printing of that edition, by the way – includes the full text of the “Opinions,” and the long-out-of-copyright minor works have been published in other editions, too.

Online, the text has been available at the Republic of Pemberley for I’m-not-sure-how-long (Pemberley was founded in 1997, and judging from the primitive interface, this item goes back quite a few years). Both a facsimile of the BL’s manuscript and a transcription of the text can also be found on the wonderful Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts website, which launched four years ago.

I hope Onion didn't strain her wrist with all that unnecessarily duplicative transcription. No news here, folks! Move along!

But still: the "Opinions" are well worth another look, if only to confirm that Austen readers have been puzzling over Fanny, Edmund and the Crawfords for as long as there have been Austen readers. And of course it’s always lovely when the rest of the world catches up to Our Jane.

By Deborah Yaffe, Sep 23 2013 01:00PM

I spent this past week participating in a most enjoyable Group Read of Among the Janeites at the Republic of Pemberley (it's now concluded, but you can read the archived version here). In the course of that conversation, several people asked to see a picture of the Regency gown whose pursuit is a narrative thread in the book.

Pictures of me in the gown are never going to see the light of day as long as I have breath in my body to prevent it. But the gown itself, created by the talented Maureen O'Connor of the New York City chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America, is quite lovely, as the pictures below will attest.

Here's the dress from top to bottom:

And here's a detail of the very pretty sleeves:

If only I could have done it justice. . .

By Deborah Yaffe, Sep 13 2013 01:00PM

I'm very excited about the week-long Group Read of Among the Janeites, which starts this Sunday, September 15, at the Republic of Pemberley, the web's largest Jane Austen fan community. I stumbled upon the Janeites of Pemberley about eight years ago, and it was that encounter that eventually inspired me to write the book. I'll be answering questions (dodging brickbats?) during the Group Read.

A Group Read is nothing more complicated than an online book discussion, paced according to a preset schedule (the schedule for Among the Janeites can be found here). Anyone can participate; you don't have to sign up in advance, although once you comment, Pemberley will ask you to register the name you're using (and it has to be some version of your real name -- this is one of the site's few hard-and-fast rules, and it's a good one, tending to promote a civility and kindness that are all too rare in cyberspace).

Please drop by and chime in!

By Deborah Yaffe, Aug 8 2013 10:59PM

I'm very excited to report that the Republic of Pemberley, the largest on-line Jane Austen fan community, has scheduled a Group Read of Among the Janeites for September 15-21. (A Group Read is an organized on-line discussion of a book -- details about how it works, as well as a discussion schedule, can be found here.)

This event will be an especially big thrill for me because it was my experiences at the RoP that first got me thinking about Janeite community and, eventually, about writing a book like Among the Janeites. My first-ever post on Pemberley, back in October 2005, was during a Group Read of Persuasion, so I guess these past eight years have brought me full circle.

Please plan on dropping in at the Group Read -- I'll be participating in the conversation throughout the week, and I'm looking forward to discussing the Janeite phenomenon with other Janeites.

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