Ode to Jane on her Death

picture of Jane Austen

Cassandra’s portrait of Jane

In early 1817, while writing a new novel, Sanditon, (a fragment was all that she managed) she started to feel unwell. All the family were worried about her. Her thoughts at this time, garnered by her letters are that she ‘will become well’; that it is just time and she will be recovered. She certainly had a positive attitude and given the good quality organic food she was eating and the meditation in the form of prayer, we could hope for a recovery. She even had a special donkey saddle fashioned so that she Continue reading

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Dressing Ms Austen

Lise Rodgers

Lise Rodgers

Lise Rodgers cleverly recreated the Regency clothes and Fiona Baverstock curated the fabulous costume exhibition, Be Persuaded at Watsonia LibraryWhat would Jane Austen have made of it all? The library, a little suburban library in a northern suburb of Melbourne Australia,  was full as the audience hung on every word. Given the two hundred year anniversary  of her death on the 18th July, this coming Tuesday, this scene is being replicated the world over as Janites meet to remember and celebrate this ground breaking and inspiring author. But why does she inspire still?


Romance was an interest of hers but her books are so much more than the sum total of the various successful couplings. Her books are of a philosophical bent. Originally I thought that this work was not the serious philosophy of the intellectual white male variety but the everyday domestic philosophy of the home; an environment that women tend to inhabit. Yet over recent years as the ancient philosophers have gained more modern currency with their re investigation by the likes of Alain de Botton, we see that hers was always a universal message; not just a women’s message.

From Epicurus to Aristotle, from Carnegie to Seligman, the messages are similar. To lead a good life, we need to face up to our ethical struggles, not just in the big things but in the small things too: treat others, as you would like to be treated; show compassion for those less fortunate; surround yourself with true friends instead of hankering after the hollow. Jane Austen managed to reveal all this in her six glorious novels. And that is why, she has endured and inspires still. And that is why on a cold winter’s afternoon so many came and enjoyed Lise Rodgers and Fiona Baverstock give further insight into the world Jane Austen inhabited. If you are looking for a favourite line that  sums up her wit and interest in clothes, here is a favourite from May 12 1801: “I cannot help thinking that it is more natural to have flowers grow out of the head than fruit.”

jne's dress

a gown that Jane might have worn

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Jane Caro: We got the Power

Jane caro

Thanks Jane Caro, National Treasure and great role model for women. In The Age, “Sunday Life ” you explore the role of the older woman: “older women are not just a force of nature but a force business needs to  reckon with”. It is great news that older women in their later lives can enjoy the benefits of the spoils of their working life.

And of course Jane Austen had a thing or two to say about older women.  In Sense and Sensibility, we meet the widow Mrs Jennings. She is first introduced as a comic character and readers may not feel much for her, however, by the end of the novel we have witnessed her kindness towards our heroine, Marianne. We see a happy and contented single (widowed) woman contributing to her community. Often the older widowed women in society are forgotten; their desires and interests do not figure in the great literature of any civilisation. It is as if Jane Austen is being subversive again Continue reading

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Pork pies and rhubarb chutney: Slow Food – Austen Style

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Pork pies and rhubarb chutney

Why do others sometimes judge us  based on our so called sophistication? What does this tell us about them? Those that judge others are not the characters we love. Elizabeth has dinner with the socially sophisticated Bitchy-Bingley-sisters, Mr Bingley, Mr Darcy and Mr Hurst, an equally loathsome husband of one of the Bingley girls. Indolent Mr Hurst finds out that Flawed-But-Fabulous-Elizabeth Bennet would “prefer a plain dish to a ragout” and hence Continue reading


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The Beast and Mr Darcy

What does the beast from Beauty and the Beast and Mr Darcy have in common? Well they are both unreconstructed males until love brings them to self knowledge and a better version of themselves. What I like about Austen’s prose though is that she is often even handed in doling out the imperfection in her Continue reading

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Slow Travel


“What are men to rocks and mountains?”

Sometimes taking the slow road can bring enormous pleasure. That’s not to say we don’t appreciate a fast jet on an overseas holiday. But there are compensations in the slowness of some things. Jane Austen appreciated the beauty around her on walks and rides and so it is always with pleasure when I think on the beauty of my countryside. In the southern corner of Victoria Australia, is  The Great Southern Rail Trail. It is a bike path made from the old railway line and meanders Continue reading


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