I hope my Fellow Janeites are getting into the festive spirit now that the Silly Season is upon us. Apologies to my Fellow Perth Janeites that I will not be with you this weekend for our gathering as I am off to Melbourne tomorrow. However, before I hop on the plane, I wanted to share this article with you, which was tweeted to followers of Chawton House (@ChawtonHouse) 46 minutes ago. The following is the article copied from the UK’s Daily Mail website.
Is this what Jane Austen really looked like? Newly discovered sketch could be lost portrait of 19th century novelist
Last updated at 2:06 AM on 5th December 2011
The author of a forthcoming biography on Jane Austen believes she has unearthed a previously undiscovered portrait of the novelist.
Dr Paula Byrne was midway through her new book when her husband surprised her with a portrait of a female writer bought at auction, according to the Christmas Radio Times.
She spotted the long, straight ‘Austen nose’ seen in images of the writer’s father and brothers, and enlisted the help of a team of experts and the BBC to test her as yet unproven thesis that the woman is the famous author, who died in 1817 aged 41.
The only known images with proven provenance of the author of Sense And Sensibility, Pride And Prejudice and Emma to date are an 1810 sketch by Austen’s sister Cassandra – in which the writer is said to look a little cross – and an ‘idealised’ portrait used as the frontispiece to the Austen memoir written by her nephew in 1870.
‘The memoir portrait has always rather annoyed me. It makes her look pretty and dim,’ she said.
‘It feeds this whole notion of “Aunt Jane”, the demure spinster who was very good at spillikins and enjoyed scribbling on the side, but was content with her life in the shadows.
‘Scholars know there was so much more to her and for me this new picture encapsulates – almost too perfectly – that other side.
‘She’s a professional woman presenting herself to the world with the tools of her trade. It’s the image of Jane Austen so many of us have been waiting for.’
Dr Byrne, whose previous work includes Jane Austen And The Theatre, and Perdita: The Life of Mary Robinson, said she had a jolt of recognition as soon as she saw the image.
‘My immediate reaction was, “My God, it’s Jane Austen!”. It was the nose that did it,’ she added.