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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

A little bit of pasteboard

Not sure about these new Jane Austen stamps (designed by Angela Barrett) recently issued by Britain's Royal Mail, to commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice. I find them rather too pretty-pretty: my Jane Austen is spikier. On the whole, I prefer Barbara Brown's slightly more eccentric 1975 stamps, issued to mark the bicentenary of Austen's birth.

The earlier stamps portray only four of the six novels (Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion get dissed), and two of the four stamps don't show the book's heroine: Mansfield Park is represented by a rather dissipated-looking Mary and Henry Crawford (he's lounging around in a flowered dressing gown!), and P&P by a Darcy with an alarmingly aristocratic nose.

By contrast, the new stamps all feature the heroine(s) of their respective books, and three of the six show her with her hero. I think this reflects the post-1995 (i.e., post-Colin-Firth-and-other-popular-adaptations) tendency to see JA's books as, essentially, female-centered love stories -- rather than, say, satires, social comedies or works of moral instruction. Not that there's anything wrong with that. . .


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