I just visited the Jane Austen exhibition in Winchester. As most of you will know this year marks the 200th anniversary of her death (18th July 1817).
Having watched the Lucy Worsley documentary on the great lady, and having lived in the south of England my whole life I felt I should pay my respects.
The picture (above) was on display, and was painted by her sister Cassandra.
Many don't think of Jane like this, but I do. She's pretty, but not overly so. She's serious and yet mischievous and wistful, just as any good writer should be.
There is so much more to Jane than meets the eye.
She basically self published at one point, much like my good self.
She also loved the countryside, and tried to inject love and positivity into dark times, also like myself.
Of course, I can't even hope to truly compare. She had a far greater talent than I shall ever have.
But it is thanks to people like Jane Austen that I am a writer.
I read Evelina by Fanny Burney last year, which is one of the very first romance novels.
And again Lucy Worsley prompted me to read this thanks to her documentary on the history of romance novels.
I learned that one Miss J Austen effectively crowd funded that book before she'd written hers.
I absolutely loved Evelina. If you've not read it yet please do.
It must have taken so much courage and determination to have written as they did.
Publishing and indeed writing were an awful lot harder then.
Me? I just write my drivel on a laptop and send it through the internet and unleash it into the world.
They had to write by hand and send large packets of paper to publishers and hope that they would send their work out through bookshops. And there were fewer readers.
Romance books were virtually unheard of and quite scandalous.
The very subject matter was extremely daring.
But can you imagine a world without romance books now? How dull would it be?
Or (*shock, gasp*) a world without Mr Darcy?
I shudder to think what her readers would think of my books.
If they thought holding hands and flirtations were bad? Well, if you've read any of my work you'll know I don't exactly hold back in the bedroom scenes.
Jane didn't ever make much money from her books in her lifetime.
Like most great artists of her time, it wasn't until after her death she found notoriety.
This makes me feel sad. She deserved so much more than the hard life she led.
She is thought to have had arthritis, possibly due to the amount of writing she had undertaken.
And this may have led to her untimely demise. She was only 41 when she passed into spirit.
One thought is that she saw a doctor in London who prescribed something for her pain, but this contained arsenic.
In one letter she complains of skin discolouration "black and white and every wrong colour". One crime novelist (Lindsay Ashford) has attributed this to arsenic poisoning.
She truly may have suffered for her art!
Although she was by no means rich, as soon as she came into an inheritance she gave money away. She could little afford to do this, but one of her accounts still in existence shows tips for servants, monies to charity and presents.
I must conclude she was a kind hearted soul.
So, I just wanted to share my utmost respect and love for these brave women.
The founders of our wonderful romantic worlds.
The pioneers of writing from the heart.
I thank you Jane, and all those brave women. Thank you.
Without them I would most certainly not be able to write as I do now.
Om mani padme hum
(I purchased the notebook at the exhibition; it echoes the oak leaf design on Jane's silk pelisse on display.
I hope writing my future book notes in this brings me good luck).
Psst...please don't let me be like Jane. Please buy and review my books. 😉