We Janeites like to think of ourselves as a community whose shared enthusiasm transcends the artificiality of mere lines on a map, uniting us in reverence for our beloved author, whose works belong not to a single country but to all of humankind.
Well, forget all that. National honor is at stake.
This summer, the seven-year-old Jane Austen Festival of Louisville, Kentucky, will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people in Regency costume – a record set five years ago by the Jane Austen Festival of Bath. In England. Need I remind my fellow American Janeites that we fought a war with these people – in Jane Austen’s lifetime, no less?
Bath, whose ten-day festival is sponsored by the city’s Jane Austen Centre, managed to assemble 409 people in corsets, bonnets, breeches and waistcoats to capture the title in 2009.
But Louisville, which holds a three-day festival under the auspices of the local branch of the Jane Austen Society of North America, will try to take the title on July 19. Even if the attempt succeeds, Bath will have a chance to snatch the record back when its fourteenth annual festival convenes two months later.
No word on who, if anyone, held the title before Bath. Perhaps the previous record was set during the Regency.