Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch-hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Barontage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one – Persuasion
Gentle reader, it is hard to name my favorite books about Jane Austen and her era. Thankfully, Laurel Ann at Austenprose has already compiled her list to wrap up Jane Austen Sibling Week, so I only need to add in my two cents worth. Where Laurel Ann concentrated on pure biographies, I shall mention the picture books that resemble the intent of this blog in both content and form:
Jane Austen’s World, Maggie Lane. When I named this blog I had no idea this book existed. Maggie, who knows the period so well, writes about Jane’s life and what daily life looked like for her and her family. The illustrations are lush, and the content is presented on two pages, so that one moves from Courtship to Travel to The Royal Navy and The Picturesque seamlessly. The information is just enough for a casual reader to learn more about the era and to steer a more determined Janeite on a world of Regency era discovery.
Jane Austen’s Town and Country Style, Susan Watkins. I purchased this now well-thumbed book in England when it was first published. The cover is a lush photo of a bedroom in Stoneleigh Abbey, the ancestral seat of Cassandra Austen nee Leigh’s family. Themes covered include etiquette, the country house, architectural themes, fashion, and entertainment. The theme of this novel is the architectural settings and interior environments of the Regency era, and its pages linger over images and information about embroidery, gardens, furniture, wallpaper, architectural styles, fashion, etc.
My Dear Cassandra, The Illustrated Letters of Jane Austen, Selected and introduced by Penelope Hughes-Hallet. Not only do Jane’s own observations come alive, but the letters are arranged in context of her life and images of the era. The format is excellent and very well done. Not all of Jane’s letters are included in this selection, but I would say that for those who have never read Jane’s letters before, this is a great introduction.
Jane Austen, The World of Her Novels by Deirdre Le Faye. I find it remarkable that each of these authors have a different perspective of Jane and her life. Yes, there is an overlap of information, but each author brings her own take on Jane to their book. Deirdre spends little time with Jane and her family, and devotes more pages to the novels, their settings, and images that evoke the era and region in which the books were set. Deirdre’s book contains more text and fewer images than the other books, but it is well organized and the illustrations help the reader to understand the unique places in which the novels are set and how they contribute to the story and characters.
Jane Austen: An Illustrated Treasury by Rebecca Dickson. At first glance this seems like a coffee table book that is filled with illustrations. The book also features removable memorabilia, including handwritten letter, drafts, paintings, and more. It looks like a fluff piece, because it is so beautifully designed, but the author discusses all of Jane’s novels in context of the age and with images that take your breath away. I found the font in the body of the main text annoying to read, but that is a minor quibble. This is a great gift for a budding Janeite fan in your family.
Obviously, there are many other excellent biographies about Jane Austen that Laurel Ann and I have not mentioned. These are just a few in my collection that the new Jane Austen fan will love. Jane Austen scholars have access to more scholarly works, and there are many new biographies that have been published in recent years. This post ends our Jane Austen Sibling week. Thank you for coming to our blogs to participate in this event. Vic
Our posts in honor of Jane Austen Sibling Week:
- Cassandra Austen: Jane’s Supporter, Confidante, and Helpmate
- Jane Austen’s Siblings – Rev. James Austen 1765-1819 – comprehensive information about James Austen on Austenprose
- Jane Austen’s Siblings – Rev. Henry Austen – 1771 -1850 – Henry was Jane Austen’s favorite brother
- Edward Austen Knight: A tightwad or a man with heavy responsibilities?
- Jane Austen’s Siblings – Charles John Austen -1779-1852
- Sir Francis William Austen: Glimpses of Jane Austen’s brother in letters
- George Austen: Jane Austen’s almost forgotten, invisible brother