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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

You really shouldn't have

All across the Net (for instance: here and here and here), you will find long lists of Jane Austen-related holiday gifts for the Janeite on your agenda: books, mugs, scarves, DVDs, tote bags, ornaments, temporary tattoos and, of course, the Jane Austen Action Figure.

I will not add my own list here. I will instead highlight a few of the weirder items of Jane Austen merchandise I have noticed recently. (And this is just the relatively new stuff. I'm not even mentioning the Austen hardback engineered to conceal a flask.) Please do not buy these for me.

1. Jane and the Pearly Whites: Jane Austen toothpaste in Genteel Rose flavor. Why toothpaste? Except for Harriet Smith’s visit to the London dentist near the end of Emma, teeth just don’t figure much in the Austen canon, unless you count the giant choppers of Keira Knightley, who played Elizabeth in the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice. (And what does a rose taste like, anyway?) Next up: Jane Austen underarm deodorant.

2. Jane and the Scent of a Woman: The Jane Austen Library Candle, “with Gardenia, Tuberose and Jasmine fragrance notes.” It probably smells fine, if you like scented candles. (I don’t, but to each her own.) But why should Jane Austen be inevitably associated with sweet-little-girly flower smells? I sense the Jane Austen Wrote Chick Lit Meme at work.

I’m far more diverted by the same company’s Mark Twain candle (the scent of tobacco flower!) and especially its Edgar Allan Poe, which features the fragrance of absinthe. Poe and the odor of artistic nineteenth-century dissipation: perfect together.

3. Jane and the Furry Folk: Just in time for holiday mailings, the Jane Austen Centre of Bath, England, brings us a series of three Woodland Creature Christmas cards, each tied to a different Austen novel. For Emma, a fox (because of the raid on the poultry houses at the end of the novel? But that’s supposed to be the work of human hands. . .) For Mansfield Park, a rabbit (because of Fanny’s timidity?) For Sense and Sensibility, a raccoon (because of that scene when sensibility-laden Marianne Dashwood nurses an injured raccoon back to health. What? Well, I guess your edition must be missing a few pages, then.)

After I finished giggling helplessly over this trio, I began wondering about the mammalian possibilities for the missing three novels. For spooky Northanger Abbey: a bat, obviously. For sparkly Pride and Prejudice: an otter. For autumnal Persuasion: a bear, I think. Preferably one lucky enough to have begun hibernating long before it’s time to buy holiday gifts.


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