It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Jane Austen fan in possession of a good opportunity to honor the author must be in want of an authentic Regency gown. So it should be no surprise that on July 18, the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death, Janeites from around the world are paying homage to their heroine with a variety of tributes and ceremonies — many attending in costume, of course:
Jane Austen statue unveiling in Basingstoke: On Tuesday, a life-size bronze statue, costing 100,000 pounds, was unveiled at a ceremony in Basingstoke, England, near Austen’s childhood home in Steventon. Local artist Adam Roud designed the statue, which will be placed in the town’s Market Place — where Austen regularly attended social gatherings thought to have inspired scenes in her novels. Though only one confirmed portrait was made of the author during her lifetime, Roud told the BBC that he wanted the statue to portray Austen as a “headstrong woman.”
Release of the Jane Austen 10-pound note: The Bank of England unveiled a 10-pound note featuring Austen’s likeness on Tuesday. When the note goes into circulation in September, Austen will join Adam Smith, Winston Churchill, James Watt and others who have been featured on bank notes for their contribution to British culture. But the bank note has already been criticized by Oxford Austen scholar Paula Byrne, who told the BBC that the author’s image has received an “airbrushed makeover.” Byrne also claims that the image, which will replace Darwin’s, anachronistically styles Austen for the Victorian Era. Austen looks “like a pretty doll with big doe eyes,” Byrne told the BBC.
Anniversary service at Winchester Cathedral: The Winchester Cathedral, where Austen was laid to rest in 1817, was expected to hold an anniversary evensong service commemorating the author on Tuesday. Tickets for the event had been available since March. On Monday, participants are invited to retrace Austen’s funeral procession, from her home on Jane Austen street to the cathedral. Along the way, the cathedral’s bells will ring 41 times, once for each year of the author’s short life.
Jane Austen Festival in Bath: Hardcore Janeites will gather this September for an annual 10-day festival in Bath, where Austen lived between 1801 and 1806. The festival features more than 80 events, including a costumed promenade through the streets of the town. (In 2014, the festival set the Guinness World Record for “the largest gathering of people dressed in Regency costumes.”) An official town crier will direct the procession. Workshops will teach how to write letters like Austen, dine like Austen, and of course, dance like Austen: The festival also includes a masked ball at the city’s historic Roman Baths and Pump Rooms. Women wear gowns; men wear breeches and buckled shoes.
Jane Austen Society of North America Annual Meeting: Each year, almost 1,000 members of JASNA meet to honor Austen with exhibitions, workshops and a costumed ball. This October, the theme of the conference is “Jane Austen in Paradise: Intimations of Immortality,” focusing on Austen’s influence on contemporary popular culture. Talks and exhibitions at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa in California will examine authors, filmmakers and others inspired by Austen’s themes and characters in the 200 years since her death. And, of course, there will be plenty of opportunities to learn about Austen while sipping tea and sampling pastries, or stargazing on the beach.
Staying at home with Jane: “There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort,” says Mrs. Elton in Jane Austen’s “Emma.” So Austen fans who can’t make it across country or the pond may commemorate the bicentennial simply by curling up on the couch with the Austen novel of their choice. Or they can watch one of the numerous adaptations of Austen’s novels: Austen’s characters become Bollywood heroines in “Bride and Prejudice,” vloggers in “The Lizzie Bennett Diaries,” and undead monsters in “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” Jane Austen’s bicentennial has also been marked by the publication of myriad new books on the author’s life and afterlife, including Helena Kelly’s “Jane Austen, the Secret Radical” (on Austen’s engagement with contemporary political issues), Lucy Worsley’s “Jane Austen at Home” (a portrait of the author’s residences and social context) and Devoney Looser’s “The Making of Jane Austen” (which traces the author’s legacy).