Matthew Richardson

A hatful of facts about…Jane Austen

1) Last week, a Jane Austen manuscript sold for £993,250 at Sotheby’s. The manuscript contains the writing of an unfinished Austen novel, The Watsons, complete with numerous revisions and amendments. It has been bought by the Bodleian library in Oxford. Speaking to the BBC, Dr Chris Fletcher claimed: ‘It’s worth every single penny. This was the last…fiction manuscript in private ownership. We felt…very strongly that we needed to step in, bring it into public ownership for the enjoyment of scholars, but also the nation.’ Austen memorabilia commands famously high prices. In 2008, a lock of the author’s hair was flogged off for £4,800.  

2) Austen’s work has spawned innumerable adaptations over the years. The novels have found silver-screen treatment most notably in Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility (1995) and Pride and Prejudice (2005) with Keira Knightley, as well as the infamous TV series of the same novel (with a suitably be-drenched Colin Firth). Recent take-offs have focused more on the writer: Becoming Jane (2007) starred Anne Hathaway as the love-struck authoress while the BBC drama Miss Austen Regrets (2008) documented her final years. Recently, the Beeb has returned to more conventional fare with their productions of Emma (2009) and Sense and Sensibility (2008) with ITV branching out to the less well-known Persuasion (2007) as part of their Jane Austen season.

3) Mannered gentility has collided with sci-fi monsters in recent rewritings of the Austen canon. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith describes itself as ‘an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem.’ The pitch-perfect opening sentence is duly transformed (fans might want to look away now): ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.’

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