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Friday, February 5, 2010

JANE AUSTEN

By Shirley Kelly


For some people she’s the only author they’ll ever have to read. Not me though. I’ve been reading romance novels since I was a young girl but only discovered JA fairly recently. My introduction to the Regency period came by reading Georgette Heyer. And if I were ever stuck on a desert island I’d be content if I had my favorite Jo Beverley with me. And I’d be even happier if I had my favorite Joan Wolf or Elsie Lee with me too!

I discovered JA through her movies and now enjoy reading her novels. I have my favorites but basically one is as good as the next. And with all the different movie/TV versions (there’s a new BBC version of Emma appearing on your local PBS station this month) adapted from her books, she’s reaching a wider audience than all modern authors put together.

So, if you’re a fan of Jane Austen, or even if you’re not, and you plan to be in NYC between now and March 14th make it a point to include a visit to the Morgan Library which is on Madison between 36th and 37th. Because—to get to the point of all of this—get to the Morgan if you want to see an exhibition of the largest collection of Jane Austen’s writings in the world!!!

I went one very cold afternoon last week (I know, it was cold everywhere!) and thoroughly enjoyed myself. They have over 100 items in the exhibit, including a large number of her beautiful letters (there’s even one written backwards to her niece!), and the only surviving complete manuscript existing today of one of her novels, LADY SUSAN, which was never published. (No one, including her or her publishers, felt it was important to keep original copies of her manuscripts.)

They also have first editions of her novels, including foreign versions. They accompany this all with contemporary drawings of the period, including known portraits of her by her sister Cassandra (the recipient of most of her letters). Plus, they made a short film of current writers, actors and philosophers extolling her writing. Nice if you want to sit down for a bit.

She had only six novels published; a couple of them were published posthumously by her brother. (Having just finished writing my first book, I’d be more than happy with 6!) Her handwriting is beautiful, and even after almost 200 years, is still legible. I’m sure some people still write in long hand today, but not me, I can’t even read my own handwriting.

Every romance novelist owes Jane Austen a debt of gratitude. There were people writing romances before her, but she truly popularized the genre and made all of our careers (or dreams of one) possible.

If you have time, try and see some of the other exhibits. The Morgan has some of the finest collections of various publications in world. They have three Guttenberg Bibles alone! They also have the original copy of Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Dickens wrote the classic tale in six weeks because he needed the money! Kudos to all NaNoWriMo participants. I don’t think I can write a book in a month. Six weeks might just be doable for me, although I suppose aspiring to the popularity of A CHRISTMAS CAROL would probably be too much to ask.

The Morgan has other events related to the Jane Austen exhibit scheduled, so check out their website (www.themorgan.org) for more information. And, if you’re planning to go on either February 6th or March 6th try to include a visit to the RWA/NYC meeting. We’re at 44 E. 32nd at Park - just a few blocks away.♥



After years of reading romance novels, Shirley Kelly has finally realized her dream of writing one. She has recently completed her first Regency romance, TO CATCH THE WIND. Now she's working on getting it published, along with her children's book, WHEN I GROW UP, FROM A TO Z.

2 comments:

  1. I loved the Jane Austen exhibit too. There's so much fascinating information I feel I need to go back... Also the prints that accompany her letters provide wonderful images of that time period.
    Jeanine

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  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed the exhibit as much as I did - I want to see it again too.

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