I just saw the recent P&P a second time. This time I heartily enjoyed it, having gotten over some of the surprises in this new adaptation. I was also with several people who had not read the book who thoroughly enjoyed the movie. It really made me think about some of the vehement debates that have gone on over the various artistic choices made in this movie re the costuming, adapted dialogue, changed settings, etc… It also made me think of how upset some people are when Jane Austen is said to be the first chick-lit author, or over broader reinterpretations of her work like Bridget Jones’s Diary and Clueless.

I have to admit part of me sympathizes. It can be fun to have special, esoteric interests that not everyone else understands. But more and more, I’m open to sharing Jane with the world, and happy that her stories are reaching broader audiences through all these new incarnations. This is why they’re classics.

Let’s not put Jane in a box, please. She was a woman of many interests, from the serious to the frivolous, and able to laugh at herself as well as at others. Here are some favorite Jane anecdotes and quotes.

Jane the Literary Diva

“I remember that when Aunt Jane came to us at Godmersham she used to bring the manuscript of whatever novel she was writing with her, and would shut herself up with my elder sisters in one of the bedrooms to read them aloud. I and the younger ones used to hear peals of laughter through the door, and thought it very hard that we should be shut out from what was so delightful…I also remember how Aunt Jane would sit quietly working (at needlework) beside the fire in the library, saying nothing for a good while, and then would suddenly burst out laughing, jump up and run across the room to a table where pens and paper were lying, write something down, and then come back across to the fire and go on quietly working as before.” (recollections of Marianne Knight, Jane’s niece)

Jane the Fashionista

“My black cap was openly admired by Mrs. Lefroy, and secretly I imagine by everybody else in the room.” (letter to Cassandra December 1798)

“I am amused by the present style of female dress;–the coloured petticoats with braces over the white spencers and enormous Bonnets upon the full stretch, are quite entertaining.” (letter to a friend in September 1814)

“I learnt from Mrs Tickars’s young lady, to my high amusement, that the stays now are not made to force the Bosom up at all; — that was a very unbecoming, unnatural fashion. I was really glad to hear that they are not to be worn so much off the shoulders as they were.” (September 1813)

Jane the Domestic Goddess

“My mother desires me to tell you that I am a very good housekeeper, which I have no reluctance in doing, because I really think it my particular excellence, and for this reason—I always take care to provide such things as please my own appetite, which I consider as the chief merit in housekeeping. I have had some ragout veal, and I mean to have some haricot mutton to-morrow. We are to kill a pig soon.” (letter to her sister Cassandra Austen, Saturday 17 Nov. 1798)

Jane, Queen of Snark

“Mrs. Hall, of Sherborne, was brought to bed yesterday of a dead child, some weeks before she expected, owing to a fright. I supposed she happened unawares to look at her husband.” (letter to Cassandra, October 1798)

“…I am very proud to say that I have a very good eye at an Adultress, for tho’ repeatedly assured that another in the same party was the She, I fixed upon the right one from the first… She is not so pretty as I expected; her face has the same defect of baldness as her sister’s, & her features not so handsome; she was highly rouged, & looked rather quietly and contentedly silly than anything else.” ( letter to Cassandra, May 1801)

“Miss Blachford is agreeable enough. I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal” (letter to Cassandra, Dec. 1798)

I don’t see Jane spinning in her grave about the screen adaptations of her stories. So undignified, don’t you think? Instead she might have some witty snark about changes she doesn’t agree with. Overall, though, I think she’d be flattered by all the attention. And poke a little fun at herself for being flattered.

Happy birthday, Jane!