Jane in the Headlines

Jane Austen & Co., Slavery & Anti-Slavery, TLS, and a little Shoephoria

Dear Jane-Friends:

I can’t think of the month of May without imagining a line from Frog and Toad Are Friends, by Arnold Lobel, a brilliant children’s book that was a favorite of my husband’s, and so became a favorite of mine. It was on regular read-aloud rotation in our home, when our teen sons were little. The book had its 50th anniversary some months back. (It was even made into a musical.)

One of my favorite parts of that story is when the soon-to-be hibernating Toad asks his friend Frog to wake him up at half-past May. Instead, Frog lies to Toad about what month it is so that he can continue to enjoy his friend’s company. But, hey, no lie, it’s really half-past May! I have felt so much more like Toad than Frog this year. Here’s hoping more of us have reason to rediscover our former Frog-ness in the coming weeks.


One of the places where I hope I’ll see you this week is on Tuesday, May 18th—just past half-past May—at the Jane Austen & Co. Zoom webinar at 5 p.m. EST. I’ll be speaking on “Slavery, Anti-Slavery, and the Austen Family.” The lecture is free, but registration is required.

I’ll be sharing some new discoveries on this serious and truly important subject. These discoveries will also be appearing in print next week, in an essay in the TLS (Times Literary Supplement), May 21st issue. I’ll keep you posted on my Twitter and Facebook accounts about exactly when the piece is out. If you come to the lecture, you’ll get a sneak preview.

As you may know, Austen-family connections to slavery and the slave trade made international news in late April. I recommend this terrific op-ed by Vanessa Riley in the Washington Post, if you want to be brought up to speed on the subject, as it’s been in the headlines.

Jane Austen & Co. lectures on “Race & the Regency” have been drawing in hundreds of viewers over the past months. Previously delivered lectures are available for anytime-watching. Don’t forget, too, that last month’s Virtual Jane Con videos are now organized into a 2021 YouTube playlist. Plenty of great things to watch.


If you’re looking for more things to watch, I have another suggestion. Forgive me for once again putting in a plug for my own set of 24 30-minute lessons for the Great Courses on The Life and Works of Jane Austen. I’m always happy to hear what you think of them—or to have you tell the world in a review—as well as to learn about what video and audio content you might like to see more of. My fledgling YouTube channel is now up and running, with thanks to all of you who helped me get my subscriber numbers up, to qualify for that easier-to-remember-link.


As I get close to crossing the finish line with my revisions on the biography Sister Novelists: Jane and Anna Maria in the age of Jane Austen, I’ve been revisiting the section on the cholera epidemic in England in 1832. Let’s just say that it’s a subject that’s plenty illuminating right now. I’ve been especially struck by the idea that some diseased people then, isolated from healthy family members through hospitalization, feared that that they were going to be murdered by doctors who secretly wanted to steal their corpses for medical experiments. It’s all a reminder that the Bill Gates microchip COVID conspiracy theory isn’t as new as it feels.


But on to what may be a happier and is definitely a healthier subject: If you, like me, regularly wish you could transport yourself to Bath, England, then you might enjoy this: It’s a new special exhibit at the amazing, newly reopening Bath Fashion Museum, called Shoephoria! Here’s a review in The Guardian. You’re welcome, or I’m sorry for giving you an even worse case of FOMO, as the case may be.


I haven’t worn an interesting pair of shoes in ages, although I’m still strapping on my roller skates each week, as I try to learn how to skate the banked track. Here’s our latest League Team Selfie. Learning how to do transitions (moving from forward to backward to forward, while in motion, at an angle) is currently kicking my ass.

Thanks for staying connected, and please send me your news, hints, and suggestions about what you’re enjoying or what you think I ought to be reading or thinking about. As Jane Austen’s narrator said of heroines and novelists in Northanger Abbey, “Let us not desert one another.” Until soon . . .

Your humble and obedient servant,


18 May 2021 (Tuesday) at 5 p.m. ET: “Slavery, Anti-Slavery, & The Austen Family” part of Race and the Regency, from Jane Austen & Co. (Free, registration required.)

24 September 2021, TBA, Speaker at “Celebrating Hester Thrale Piozzi (1741–1821),” William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, Los Angeles, CA.

15-17 October 2021, TBA, Plenary speaker at "Jane Austen and the Arts," Jane Austen Society of North America Annual General Meeting, Chicago, IL. (Registration required.)

P.S. If you like to follow and review things, the links below include places where you could offer up an atta-girl or a shout-out. It would be so much appreciated, and I do like to return favors where I can. Let me know how I might help you get the word out on something you’re passionate about?


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