It’s January Again, Dear Jane

by Julie, Austening in Somerville

Usually, on January 1, I watch Pride and Prejudice. The 1995 Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth version, of course. That that is the best version is not up for discussion, at least not with me. This year I skipped my ritual, which has thrown me off a bit. Because this year, more than any other in recent memory, I need my Austen fix. Writing this blog post is how I will begin.

Jane Austen died in 1817, and yet she endures. Her stories are of their time, but they are also universal. I find, as time goes by, my relationship to the different characters changes. Though Colin Firth in the lake is one of my favorite sites every year, Darcy would be a challenging partner, don’t you think? Does anyone else think that Eleanor should have married Colonel Brandon? Especially in the 1995 film? But I digress. Besides, these sorts of conversations are best done in person.

I’m so grateful that my writing life came of age with computers. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to type my manuscripts. But even that pales in comparison to writing longhand in the family drawing room with a quill. Or pinning edits to my manuscript. (She wrote her manuscripts with long text, and would write edits and changes on new paper, cut it, and pin it where it belonged.) To have both the imagination and the wherewithal to write a manuscript in the early 1800’s was amazing enough. To also write such wonderful novels? My Januarys are made all the better because of her genius.

Her work has also inspired some other work, and that helps her stay relevant. My nieces love the movie Clueless, a modern Emma. Like dress up like the characters for Halloween love. I recently discovered Lost in Austen, which is about a modern day Pride and Prejudice fan switching places with Elizabeth Bennett, and screwing up the storyline. Stephanie Barron wrote a mystery series, where Jane Austen is the sleuth. P.D. James wrote a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, a mystery. There’s also a Pride and Prejudice musical on Prime. The list goes on and on.

Jane in January renews my spirit, kindles the romantic in me, and inspires my muse. My immediate plans include rereading Persuasion, my favorite of her novels, and then watching a lot of Austen during this Covid winter.

Readers, what are some of the soothing rituals you have? Any other Austen fans out there? Tell me about adaptation you enjoy. And make a plan to watch them soon. We all need a little Jane this January.

29 Thoughts

  1. Such a timely post for me! My 15-year old daughter just last night asked me if we had Pride and Prejudice ( I handed her the book!), but you remind me that the Colin Firth version is the best- we will start watching it together this weekend 🙂

      1. My daughter did comment this morning that the reading was a little slow going for her- not used to that style of writing. I think watching at least the first episode of the mini-series introduce enough of a flavor of Austen to give her momentum with the book!

  2. This might be inappropriate here, but I’m agnostic on Jane Austen. I guess I just haven’t really discovered her! I appreciate others’ enthusiasm, and maybe I’ll dive into a movie or two this month.

    1. As my friend Marg-e always said, that’s why they make different colored refrigerators. If we all agreed, how dull life would be. Have you seen PERSUASION, the 1995 film? Much less of a commitment, and a wonderful movie.

  3. I’ve not read Jane in years, but you brought me up short with the mention of the P.D. James mystery. I thought I had read all of her books. Apparently not. Thank you, P.D. for sending me a gift after your death, and thank you Julie for delivering the knowledge!

    I’m curious, Julie, what is the connection between Austen and January?

    1. I don’t think it’s the best of P.D. James’s work, but I love that she wrote it. There’s also a TV version of it. Why Jane and January? I always find January to be depressing. It’s dark and cold. Jane brightens it up, and the romance warms my heart and makes me smile.

  4. We watch all the Jane Austen movies at various times, but the 1995 Pride and Prejudice is our favorite. My husband likes it so much he often watches his favorite parts of it. I have not read the P.D. James but will have to now that you have mentioned it.

    1. I’m like your husband–I sometimes skip if I need to watch it quickly. That said, one of the reasons I like the 1995 version is that it’s fairly faithful to the book. You may enjoy the TV version of the PD James book.

  5. I adore the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice! We were stationed in Ohio and Bob was traveling a lot. A neighbor loaned her DVDs to me and I watched it three times in a week. Years ago I read Bridget Jones Diary for a book club and was delighted to find it was a modern take on Pride and Prejudice.

  6. I’ve read all of the Austen novels, and Persuasion is my favorite as well, though I have a soft spot for Northanger Abbey (and the movie version that stars Peter Firth – even though it’s not a well-liked version, it appealed to me).

  7. Like Edith I am agnostic on Austen, though I do appreciate the story-telling, the bravery it must have taken to be a female novelist at the time and all the derivative works. I think it may be how you come to her books. My teenage years were Bronte and Alcott, not Austen.

  8. I love that you have a January 1st ritual. I truly believe rituals are an important part of life. They give one comfort in times both good and not so good. My January 1st ritual is to set up the new years calendars. I carefully transfer all the important dates and timelines. As I age, I can’t remember sh*t, so I have to have reminders of how many years old everyone is! I decide what calendars will go where. Yes, I decorate with calendars. I receive so many unsolicited ones in the mail and they are so pretty, plus the ones I can’t resist buying, I always have a large selection to choose from. So there is basically one in every room. Although only the personal one in my bedroom has dates. I reinforce the holes, they are never strong enough. It’s a project I enjoy.
    I’m not much of an Austin fan. I’m more of a Bronte girl. I adore Wuthering Heights. I have just about every film adaptation made. Favorites are hard to pick. The first one I ever saw was with a very young and gorgeous Timothy Dalton. Be still my heart! I’m also very fond of the fairly recent Tom Hardy version.
    Jane Eyre is another big love. Mr Dalton did a miniseries of that one as well. I watched the VHS copy I had of that until it broke. Love DVDs!
    Sorry, I kind of went on a bit. Have a great rest of the month. 😊

  9. If you’d asked me, I would have said she died in the 1860’s or so. I wasn’t picturing her writing so early.

    Yes, I can’t imagine writing without computers. I did it in school, but we are so spoiled. Heck, I’ve corrected a couple of typos in just this comment. (And I’m infamous for the ones I don’t catch.) The idea of writing anything longer, like a novel, without the ability to edit, copy, paste on a whim boggles my mind. We are so spoiled.

    Got to admit, I am not familiar with Jane’s work, although I have had Clueless on my DVD for a few months now. Maybe I should prioritize getting that watched in the next couple of weeks.

    1. I typed my way through college, and it wasn’t pretty. I truly can’t imagine writing a novel by hand, with a quill. My nieces can quote Clueless. I haven’t seen it in years, but it is a charming movie. And it proves that Paul Rudd is Dorien Gray.

  10. I think you’ve inspired me to start Jane in January! I became a fan late in life, in my late 40’s, but I quickly became a super fan. Persuasion us my favorite book, but Pride & Prejudice with Colin Firth is my favorite movie. Love modern retellings in book, movie & TV- Lost in Austen is a favorite, enjoyed Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld & Miss Austen by Gill Hornby among many others.

  11. I just felt a need for an Austen fix, a rare thing for me. But I just read Sanditon, too late for the PBS version. I’m sure it will come back, though, and this time I’ll be ready for it.

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