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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

A big anniversary, one year early

This past weekend saw the kickoff of Jane Austen 200, the Hampshire, England, commemoration of the bicentennial of Jane Austen’s death.

Yes, yes, I know – that’s next year. But apparently a measly twelve months is not enough to mark this milestone, so the year-long “series of exhibitions, talks, walks, writing competitions and performances” got started at a Basingstoke museum on Saturday. The British Library is allowing the Willis Museum to display some evocative Austenian artifacts (spectacles, writing desk, original manuscript) for six weeks, as part of a preview of next year’s festivities.

Later this month, the museum will also host “Jane Austen: Writing Workshops” to help aspiring authors think about and experiment with Austen’s technique. I must confess that when I first glanced at the title of this program, I overlooked the colon and briefly entertained myself by imagining what kind of feedback Jane Austen might be expected to give to the writers who showed up. (Quite kind, judging from her treatment of the young writers in her own family.)

But even without Our Jane around to offer advice, it’s nice to see an Austen program that connects to what she’s famous for – not wearing spectacles or trimming quill pens, but putting words on paper.

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