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Jane Austen News - Issue 143

What's the Jane Austen News this week? 


Austen Heard It Through The Vyne?

This week The Telegraph newspaper published an online article about a house in Sherborne St John near Basingstoke in Hampshire called The Vyne. The reason it caught the eye of the Jane Austen News is because it has been suggested that Jane Austen may have based her Mansfield Park heroine Fanny Price on Caroline Wiggett, who went to live at The Vyne in 1803 aged three, having been plucked from a pool of poor distant relations and adopted by the childless couple who lived there, William John Chute and his wife Eliza.

It is thought that Jane may have come into contact with the Chutes as her brother James Austen was appointed Rector of Sherborne St.John by William Chute, and so he moved in the same social circles as the Chutes and attend parties thrown at The Vyne. Certainly, Jane would at least have known about the family and the case of Caroline Wiggett's adoption. However, having said that, and just to play devil's advocate, rich relations adopting a child from poor relations was by no means a rare occurrence which Jane could only have thought of by hearing of Caroline Wiggett. For one thing, another of her brothers, Edward Austen, was adopted by rich relations and went on to become a very wealthy landowner. It's an interesting house (following one of his regular visits there, The Vyne is also believed to have inspired Horace Walpole to build his 18th-century gothic castle in Twickenham, Strawberry Hill) and the Caroline Wiggett-Fanny Price connection is a fun speculation to explore at any rate.

 Mary Bennet Onstage At Christmas Those Jane Austen fans in the Milwaukee area of Wisconsin may be interested in an upcoming festive Austen-inspired stage production which is currently playing at the Quadracci Powerhouse until December the 16th. The new play, written by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, is called "Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley" and it focuses on the bookish Bennet sister, Mary Bennet, and how Mary's feminist forthrightness puts her at odds with her married sisters, their traditional husbands and society at large. The play is set at a time which is two years since Elizabeth Bennet married Mr Darcy, and everyone is gathering at the Darcy estate, Pemberley, to celebrate Christmas. This includes Darcy's cousin, also bookish and socially inept, Arthur de Bourgh, who, unsurprisingly rather hits it off with Mary. Although you may be able to tell where the play might be headed, if you like strong women, and plays which champion women in the theatre, then this is a good one to see as the whole production is led by women— from the director to designers to stage manager. (Also, if you appreciate classic mets contemporary, then you'll probably appreciate the little nods to popular culture such as the music of Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Britney Spears played in the background in a classical style.)
A Jane Austen Event in Canada Meanwhile, although no Mary Bennet is guaranteed to be seen here, those living in the Lake Ontario area of Canada might like to know that Battlefield House Museum and Park’s “Austen-tacious” — A Regency Romp event is due to take this Saturday (November 24th) from 7 p.m.-10 p.m.

The event will celebrate the writings of Jane Austen and help bring the charm of the early 19th century to life with costumes, music, dancing and refreshments. Battlefield House Museum was a strong choice for the event's location as the house is a living museum of the early 1800s - having been built in 1796 and been home to the Gage family throughout the years of England's Regency period during which Jane was writing and publishing her novels.

Pre-registration is required. Tickets for "Austen-tacious” — A Regency Romp, are $20 and are available by calling 905-662-8458.
Austen in the Theatre

A pictorial plaque dedicated to the life and work of Jane Austen (Jane lived in Southampton between 1806 and 1809) has been unveiled in Southampton at the Nuffield Southampton Theatres City building. It replaces a previous one that hung in the Old Central Library until it was destroyed during World War Two when the city was bombed.

The original stone plaque was erected in the old Central Library, on the corner of Cumberland Place and London Road, to mark the 100th anniversary of Austen's death. Although the new plaque by artist Chris Cudlip has only just been installed at the theatre, plans for it were made in 2017 to mark the 200th anniversary of her death.

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