A Belated Visit with Miss Jane Austen

When I am reading magazines, I love to make note of websites you and I might find interesting. I highlight them, or draw a crazy array of arrows pointing at them, or mark them in some way, dog-ear the corner of whatever magazine I found them on, and eventually cut them out of the magazine and place them in a file. The file is filling up!

So, the other evening, I decided it was time I pull one of those website notations out of the file and check it out. I spent a delightful hour with Jane Austen, or perhaps, more appropriately with her papers and others’ thoughts and feelings about her.

New York’s Morgan Museum held an exhibition of artifacts and her papers last winter that contained an online component, A Woman’s Wit: Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy. There is a short film about the position Austen and her work holds in the hearts of scholars and the world in general, facsimiles of manuscript pages you can look at, an audio reading accompanying the manuscript facsimile of Lady Susan, and technical information on papers and inks of her time.

Novelists Siri Hustvedt and Colm Toibin are two of the six people who pay tribute to Austen in the file. I found their awe at looking at and examining the letters and manuscripts, and their thoughts on writing quite moving.