Last year I visited the National Portrait Gallery to see Cassandra Austen's drawing of her sister. When I finally located the miniature I was struck by the defensive arms across the chest attitude of the sitter who appeared reluctant to be drawn. Claire Harman gives a fascinating account of the history of this drawing in Jane's Fame.
The original was deemed 'too unattractive' to appear in a family memoir so a professional artist touched up the photo, enlarging the eyes, softening the face and adding a few frills. This wholly unrepresentative image has become 'beloved Jane' of the Austen industry. I must admit to a certain unease about the whole 'tote bags and T-shirts' thing yet I drink my tea from an Austen mug.
Harman is particularly good on cliched Austen film and TV adaptions and provides a wickedly amusing aside, worthy of Jane herself, on an American TV reality show based on Pride and Prejudice where young women compete to marry a wealthy bachelor. It later emerged that the wealthy bachelor was a dodgy penniless fraud.
It makes one wonder which part of Pride and Prejudice the producers had been thinking of - the Darcy-Elizabeth plot or Wickham and Lydia's.As always, books about Austen make me want to return to the texts themselves. I'm supposed to be reading Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Played With Fire for book group but I'm going to squeeze in a re-read of Mansfield Park first.