“Nothing ever fatigues me, but doing what I do not like…”

Unlike Mary Crawford, there are other things that fatigue me besides doing what I don’t like. Then again, when I’m doing what I love, it gives me energy enough for two. And that’s a very good thing, because translating Jane Austen’s England is a lot of work that has to be done in a very short period of time.

Hello from the ‘other’ Karen!

In case you haven’t guessed, this update is coming to you from Karen Holt: the translator who is now tackling the challenge of turning Karin Quint’s wonderful Dutch travel guide – Het England van Jane Austen – into (as William Elliot once described a good translation) ‘clear, comprehensible, elegant English’.

We’re making very good progress. I’m now deep in Devonshire and can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed a project this much. Part of it, of course, comes from my own love for all things Austen. By now, I can almost quote her novels in my sleep, and I’ve read dozens of books about her as well. But working on this guidebook is giving even a fervent ‘Janeite’ like me new information and insights into her life and times.

Spider web of relationships

For instance, I’ve long been familiar with Jane’s famous description of ‘—3 or 4 Families in a Country Village is the very thing to work on,’ as the ideal basis for a delightful story. But I’d never really grasped until now how much this same kind of social structure – defined simply by the geography of where you lived– also strongly shaped the life of Jane and everyone dear to her.

The Digweeds, the Lloyds, the Lefroys, the Bigg-Withers… these and a few others were the families in the nearby country villages with whom the Austens had friendships, flirtations, engagements, marriages and offspring – the relationships creating an interconnected spider web over the generations. It makes me realise as I never have before how people’s lives back then were intertwined with those of their neighbours’ in ways we can’t even begin to imagine today.

Baroness Bates?

And the intense loyalty you then had towards your ‘friends’ and ‘connections’ – which made you all part of one big family – sometimes gave you unexpectedly grand ones too. You would think that the Baroness Saye and Sele (who lived at amazing Broughton Castle, film location for Emma!) would be worlds apart from the Austens living so modestly in Chawton Cottage. But Jane’s mother was second cousin to the baroness, and at least once they were all houseguests at the grand house of a mutual relative (see Stoneleigh Abbey).

Apparently, her Ladyship’s tiresome, non-stop chatter drove everyone crazy, except Jane – who got a good laugh out of her. I wonder if the talkative baroness may have provided literary inspiration …?

A voyage of discovery

Yes, Jane Austen’s England is a guidebook that leads you to lovely and unexpected places around the country – but their connections to Jane is the glue that holds them all together. And as you read about why she was in them and what she did there, you get a clearer understanding of her own place in the world – and why she perhaps wrote about the things she did.

It’s a wonderful voyage of Austen discovery, and I can’t wait until you can take it too. The translation is well on schedule to meet the delivery date listed in the Kickstarter (July 2017). And if all goes really well, we hope to be able to get it to you even a bit sooner. Stay tuned…

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