Jane Austen indoors: What to do while you’re at home

By Jennifer Abella, Robin K. Floyd, Brett Harris and Zeina Makky

Chances are, you’re looking for something fun to do right now. We’ve rounded up some Jane Austen-related things to watch, read and do to while away the hours.

WATCH

“Emma” on demand: If, like us, you’ve gotten a little tired of older Austen adaptations and want something with a little more … flair, then we have the solution for you: Autumn de Wilde’s “Emma” has recently been released for streaming on various platforms, including Youtube, ITunes and Amazon Prime. If you aren’t sure about the $20 rental fee and want more convincing, here’s our review of the film.

“Lovers’ Vows”: We Happy Few, a theater company in Washington, D.C., has made available its production of “Lovers’ Vows.” Does that title sound familiar? It’s best known as the play the Bertrams and company stage in “Mansfield Park.” This version, written in 1798 by Elizabeth Inchbald, was controversial back in its day, but it’s mostly obscure now. The Washington Post said of the production: “Dear Jane Austen fans: Run, don’t perambulate, to see “Lovers’ Vows.” This show will suit your sense and sensibility.”  Stream it here. (Donations encouraged.)

JASP theatricals: Each year at JASP, our graduate students stage a theatrical based on Austen’s juvenilia. Find videos of past productions — as well as presentations from past JASPs — HERE.

More Austen adaptations: If you’ve already seen the latest version of “Emma” and feel like streaming other adaptations, here are a few and where they’re available (unless specified, the movies and shows come with your subscription to these streaming services). If you have trouble viewing the list below, click here.

Want to watch Jane Austen herself come to life? Check out some of the biopics.

If you’re more interested in exploring the Georgian and Regency eras on your small screen, then we have a pretty long list of movies and series to choose from here

READ

Any of the books we’re highlighting in “Jane Austen’s World”: 

“Jane Austen’s Letters, Fourth Edition,” edited Deirdre Le Faye

“Jane Austen: A Life,” by Claire Tomalin

“The Lost Books of Jane Austen,” by Janine Barchas 

“The Regency Years: During Which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love, and Britain Becomes Modern,” by Robert Morrison 

“Glamourist Histories Series,” by Mary Robinette Kowal

“Miss Austen”: Scheduled for release April 7, this novel by Gill Hornby centers on Mary, the oft-overlooked middle child of the Bennet clan in “Pride and Prejudice.” Horby’s book tells Austen’s story from Mary’s point of view and then expands her story beyond the end of “P&P.” If you have a soft spot for Mary, this book might be for you. 

And if you can wait just a bit longer: Two books of note will be out May 26: “Recipe for Persuasion,” by Sonali Dev: A follow-up to her “Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors,” Dev’s latest reunites a chef with her old flame, now a soccer star, in a retelling of Austen’s “Persuasion.” “The Jane Austen Society,” by Natalie Jenner: Set just after World War II, this novel centers on a group of residents who team up to save Austen’s cottage.

LISTEN

Austen audiobook classics: Rosamund Pike has narrated not one but TWO Austen novels: “P&P” and “Sense & Sensibility.” Plus check out Juliet Stevenson’s amazing catalogue of Austen’s novels, and Olivia Williams’ wonderful “Persuasion.”

New audiobooks: Speaking of Stevenson (you may remember her as Mrs. Elton in the 1996 “Emma” with Gwyneth Paltrow), she narrates the Gill Hornby novel “Miss Austen.” And it was recently announced that Richard Armitage (from the 2005 TV adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s “North and South”) will narrate Natalie Jenner’s forthcoming “The Jane Austen Society.”

Podcasts: In 2018, we offered a list of podcasts and audio programs centered on Austen and Mary Shelley, plus JASP was featured on a podcast too!

Spotify playlists: We compiled a few playlists for past JASPs, based on Austen’s books and characters. Rock out to modern pop songs or stage your own ball with the film scores. Check out the playlists here. Jane Austen film soundtracks, “Pride & Prejudice,” “Lydia + Wickham,” “Captain Wentworth,” “Anne Elliot,” “Catherine Morland” and “Frankenstein.”

DO

Host a virtual tea party: Decorate your table, put on a pretty dress and invite your friends to while you pour the tea. There are several easy recipes for scones and the like that will call for your basic ingredients, like flour and eggs. Little moments such as these will lift your spirits. (Check out video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, WebEx and Skype.)

Byron’s challenge: In 1816, when his party was forced to stay indoors during the “Year Without a Summer,” Lord Byron challenged his friends to a contest to see who could write the best scary story. He may have lost interest in the competition, but Mary Shelley kept working on her idea and wrote her master work, “Frankenstein.” Today, we can pretend Lord Byron gave us that same challenge: Write a story or a poem and share it with your friends and family to entertain them. 

Jane Austen Knits: If you’re an avid knitter, you probably already have a stash of yarn waiting to be used. If you are looking for a project with a Jane Austen theme, check out a few patterns here

Check out our embroidery tutorial here. (Photo: Courtesy of Robin K. Floyd)

Embroidery: If you’ve aspired to try a new craft, now’s the time. Earlier this year, we offered a tutorial on embroidery. And with a little practice and patience, you can try a pattern from the book “Jane Austen Embroidery,” by Jennie Batchelor and Alison Larkin.

Write a letter: Making connections with our loved ones will sustain them as well as ourselves. Consider putting your thoughts into words and writing to your friends. It can be a simple email or even a letter in the mail. (Use proper precautions when sending and receiving postal mail.) You can also send a digital copy of the letter to be enjoyed now and send the hard copy later.

Paint a picture: Elinor Dashwood and Emma Woodhouse both enjoy painting in their respective novels and you can, too. If you share your home with family or roommates, perhaps now would be a great time to draw their portraits. If you live alone, you can paint a still life portrait of the objects you see (perhaps a TV remote, a roll of toilet paper and some packs of ramen?) If you make several, you can decorate your walls with them and have your own private gallery to enjoy while all the museums are closed to the public. (Many museums have made their collections available online, however, if you need some more inspiration!) 

Play the piano: Thanks to the marvels of digitization, you can now leaf through every page of the Austen family’s music collection. On the virtual shelves of the Internet Archive, images of folios held by Jane Austen’s House and other museums are waiting to be explored. Crack open the time-worn tomes, dust off the pianoforte (maybe it’s from your secret admirer?), and learn to play like Austen herself. Learn more about her music here.

Manuscript of Keyboard Music linked from the Internet Archive (Credit: Images reproduced courtesy of Jane Austen’s House, Chawton)

About Jennifer Abella

Jennifer Abella is a TV/movie/pop culture/knitting/sewing/Jane Austen geek. Oh, and a total Anglophile. Follow her on Twitter: @nextjen.

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