My husband, an aspiring rock god, owns a T-shirt reading, “How many guitars do I really need? Just one more.”
Many Janeites harbor similar feelings about copies of Jane Austen’s novels: No Austen library is too crowded to make room for a new edition with, say, an unusual provenance, or notable illustrations, or a striking cover.
I have good (bad?) news for such Janeites: Tomorrow, three months after the UK release, Macmillan Publishers will give American readers access to new paperback editions of three Austen novels, and . . . well, let’s just say that you may really need three more this time around.
The covers of these new editions of Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility mimic the patterns of wallpaper known to have hung in Chawton cottage in Hampshire, England, while Austen lived and worked there during the last eight years of her life. Starting in 2016, historic wallpaper specialists Hamilton Weston recreated wallpapers featuring all three patterns and installed them at the cottage, now a museum known as Jane Austen’s House.
The green leaves on the new Emma cover reproduce the “Chawton Leaf” pattern in the cottage dining room; the cover of Pride and Prejudice features the red-and-yellow “Chawton Vine” pattern that hangs in the drawing room; and the Sense and Sensibility cover sports the blue-and-white “Apprentice Trellis”/“Chawton Rosebud Moire” design, which hangs in a bedroom.
To be frank, I don’t share the Austen family’s taste in home decor; I wouldn’t want any of these designs splayed across my walls for daily viewing. But as a cool life-meets-art link to Austen’s beloved home, safely confined to a slender volume wedged inconspicuously into a semi-available spot on an already groaning shelf? Always room for one more . . .