On this day—the 16th of December—Jane Austen was born in Steventon, Hampshire, in 1775. She was the sixth child and second daughter of the Reverend George Austen and his wife, Cassandra.

Watercolor of Jane Austen by Cassandra, c. 1804

Watercolor of Jane Austen by her sister, Cassandra, c. 1804 (From Wikimedia Commons.)

Not many drawings of Jane’s likeness exist. One of the most famous is this watercolor of Jane painted by her sister, Cassandra, in about 1804. Looking at this image I can almost imagine Jane contemplating a thorny plot point or struggling to understand one of her characters. Or perhaps she was merely admiring some English village nestled among the trees, its cottages’ tall chimneys punching through the leafy canopy.

The most familiar sketch of Jane, also drawn by Cassandra, is the one shown below. I have been lucky enough to see the original in London’s National Portrait Gallery. In fact, I only discovered it by accident. I had been admiring a painting on the wall and stepped back for a better view, only to bump into a tall but narrow case containing a single drawing. Oh, I nearly knocked over Jane Austen! Fortunately, all was well and I held my breath on seeing this simple, sweet drawing.

Rough sketch of Jane by Cassandra, c. 1810

Sketch of Jane by Cassandra, c. 1810 (From Wikimedia Commons.)

Now, for an entirely different view, consider the following images I took of my Jane Austen finger puppet, a gift from my dear friend Nancy. The puppet is sold by the Unemployed Philosophers Guild in Brooklyn, NY. This version of Jane stands on my desk and inspires me every day. Her pink dress, snazzy belt and lace collar are charming, and her mop cap is perfect for the time period. But that face . . . that face. What would Jane Austen say if she saw this little piece of merchandizing? Would Mr. Darcy laugh to look on this silliness? Probably not, but Lizzie would howl and so do I. Jane’s Frankenweenie face tickles my funny bone.



Thanks for silly folks everywhere!

So, happy birthday, dear Jane. And I hope all of you Jane Austen and Jane Eyre fans have a lovely holiday season.

Best wishes,