The soundtrack of Jane Austen’s daydreams?


Like those of her characters, Austen’s life was far from quiet.

Though the 2005 film adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” might not be particularly memorable for its historical accuracy or costuming, Dario Marianelli and Jean Yves-Thibaudet’s tracks added nuance and layered emotion, and provided a spectacular sonic backdrop to Lizzie’s narrative. 

Video: Click here to listen to “The Secret Life of Daydreams” composed by Dario Marianelli & performed by Jean Yves-Thibaudet

That film and other adaptations also lead us to wonder: What songs comprised the soundtrack of Austen’s life? Did she spend her days plucking out the strains of somber hymnals, or did she have a rebellious phase of rock and reels?

From her letters, we can suss out that she enjoyed listening to the harp (from a letter to Cassandra, April 18, 1811) and that her soundscape was populated by szuch marvelous tracks as “Poike de Parp pirs praise pof Prapela,” “In peace love tunes,” “Rosabelle,” “The Red Cross Knight” and “Poor Insect” (in a letter to Cassandra, April 25, 1811). Likewise, a brief review of Marian Kimber’s article, “Jane Austen’s Playlist,” reveals that Austen was familiar with such composers as Beethoven and Haydn, and a great admirer of Ignaz Pleyel’s works, but such a search feels rather dissatisfying on the whole.

However, for those looking for a more substantive set of evidence, a trove of time-worn folios, with curling, marbled covers and faded ink might be just the thing. A tour guided by Professor Jeanice Brooks of the University of Southampton explores the music books of the Austen family, while placing them within the geopolitical context of the Regency Era.

Video: Click here to see “Songs of Home: Jane Austen’s sheet music collection” produced by Sydney Living Museums

And for anyone who is still curious— the rabbit-hole doesn’t stop here. Digitized by the University of Southampton, a collection of the Austen family’s music books and sheets — 21 works in total, and approximately 600 songs — brings Austen’s playlist to life. With the turn of each virtual page, musings on the margins, handwritten titles, and carefully drawn notes (some written by Austen herself!) are sure to excite and enchant.

Jane Austen silhouette with a question mark

How well do you know Jane Austen?

Jane Austen silhouette with a question mark

Since we’ll be discussing Jane Austen’s life and letters at this year’s JASP, it may be time to brush up on some of the basic details of her life. Take this quiz to find out whether you’re a pro or need to catch up on some reading — in addition to the Claire Tomalin biography, we have some other recommendations here as well as a list of a few movies and documentaries about our favorite author.

If you are experiencing problems with the above quiz, note your responses on a piece of paper and click here to see the correct replies and calculate your score.




An important message regarding the 2020 Jane Austen Summer Program

Dear JASPers,

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation evolves, we felt it was important to connect with you regarding the Jane Austen Summer Program for 2020.

At this time, we anticipate that JASP will take place as planned, June 18-21 in Carrboro, N.C. We are, however, extending our cancellation deadline. Participants now have until April 15 to cancel their registration to receive a refund, minus a $50 processing fee.

We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you updated as necessary. In the event the program must be cancelled because of COVID-19, registrants will be able to choose whether to receive a refund (minus the processing fee) or apply the full registration fee toward our 2021 program.

Please do not hesitate to reach out should you have any concerns or questions.

Thank you and stay well.

Inger Brodey and James Thompson
Co-founders, Jane Austen Summer Program