Many people ask me if I’m a Jane Austen super fan. They say, “Do you dress up in those old-timey costumes, wear bonnets, and drink tea?”
There are truly only three possible reactions to this question:
One: Look down at the floor and try to disappear into the wallpaper like Fanny Price.
Two: Flash your fine eyes and declare, “Why, yes. I do! I dearly love a laugh!”
Three: Collect your bonnet, reticule, and pelisse and calmly walk away, head held high, as if you didn’t hear them, Lady Catherine-style.
You see, I don’t think I’m a Jane Austen super fan just because I love her novels and have spent the last two decades studying and writing about her work. But perhaps I am. Supposedly, denial is one of the classic signs of super-fandom.
So what exactly makes one a Jane Austen super fan? Let’s check together . . .
In 2013, the Huff Post published this article: “10 Signs of Jane Austen Addiction” by Deborah Yaffe. In it, Yaffe outlines some of the major signs that you could suffer from JAA (Jane Austen Addiction). Let’s check her list together, shall we?
#1 Your DVD of “Pride and Prejudice”  skips automatically to the wet-shirt scene.
Okay, maybe. However, I don’t watch that scene over and over to ogle Colin Firth. I actually play that scene for legitimate scholarly reasons. I show it to people to prove that even though Jane Austen didn’t actually write that scene in Pride and Prejudice, she might have considered it if she’d ever met Colin Firth in person. (Food for thought.)
#2 You own all the books, but you’re still buying copies.
I asked my husband to answer for me. He chose to use his favorite Mr. Bennet quote from the 1995 Pride and Prejudice about lace in reference to my buying more Jane Austen books: “No more books. No more books, Mrs. Dodge, I beg you!”
#3 You cry when you visit Chawton.
Well, who wouldn’t? I’ve been there three times now, and every time I go I get misty-eyed. I love seeing where she lived, walked, prayed, and wrote. I went there with JASNA in 2007. Then, I took some of my family to visit in 2017. Last summer, I had the pleasure of taking my children. I was emotional all over again! And, this fall, when I found out that my first book – a book devoted to Jane’s three prayers – was going to be in the gift shop at the Jane Austen House Museum, I stood in my kitchen and cried. I can’t believe that a book I wrote about the prayers she wrote is going to be shelved at the very place where she probably wrote them. Ahh!!
#4 You have mixed feelings about Cassandra Austen.
No, I actually don’t have mixed feelings about Cassandra. I adore her. In fact, I’d like to write a book about her and Jane one day. Do I wish she hadn’t destroyed Jane’s papers? Of course. But I assume she had her reasons.
#5 The Republic of Pemberley is your home page.
I don’t have it set as my home page, but I do have it saved as a favorite. However, I do have exactly six tabs saved at the top of my web browser that I use constantly while writing and researching: Austen’s six complete novels on Project Gutenberg.
#6 Someone gave you a Jane Austen Action Figure.
Well, sure. When someone is in denial, it’s usually a friend or family member who is able to diagnose JAA most easily. I would have never bought it for myself, but my husband and children got one for me for Mother’s Day two years ago. Jane moves around, from my bookshelf to my desk and to tea parties. (Mine is missing the quill pen. A small child may or may not have been playing with Jane when it went missing.)
#7 You bought an Empire-waist ball gown, even though it’s not your look.
I did buy my second gown this fall, but my first gown was designed by me and made by my mother (see photo). I was pregnant when she sewed it for me, and it hid my belly beautifully. Regency dresses can expand and contract as needed. What could be better? This doesn’t prove anything. It’s just good fashion sense to have one in the closet.
#8 You compare people you know to Jane Austen characters.
Never. Only a Frank Churchill would do something like that.
#9 You skipped lunch to watch Episode 98 of “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.”
I’ve actually never seen this show. But just knowing that there’s an Episode 98 that’s worth skipping lunch for makes me want to start on it right away!
#10 You give Jane Austen board books as baby presents.
Again, this is just good sense. Every baby needs practice with counting, colors, and shapes. Why not practice with carriages, bonnets, and drawing rooms?
So there you have it. Perhaps I am a Jane Austen super fan after all.
Jane Austen: Author and Role Model
Here’s why I think it’s a great thing to be a Jane Austen fan: Jane Austen was an incredible woman during her lifetime, before she ever became famous, because of the way she lived. She was a loving (and beloved) daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. She wrote stories to entertain and engage her own family – from the time she was young and writing for her parents and siblings to when she was an aunty making up fairy stories for her nieces and nephews to when she authored her novels for all the world to read.
Austen was also a woman of deep, abiding faith in Christ. She modeled how to live and serve as a Christian woman in her everyday life. Jane prayed morning and evening, attended church, cared for her family and friends, and participated in family devotions. She wrote beautiful books filled with moral truths, spiritual themes, and character growth.
Her novels are so incredibly witty, intelligent, and relevant that people around the world still read them today. Her work has inspired film adaptions, spin-offs, television shows, fan fiction, and an entire genre of Regency fiction.
Why am I unashamed to say I’m a Jane Austen super fan? Because she’s someone I admire and look up to as a writer and as a woman. She is a wonderful role model. Jane made an impact at home, long before she made an impact as an author. She used her talent to bless her own family first, and then, without her ever even knowing the extent of it, she blessed the entire world.
[Read the “10 Signs of Jane Austen Addiction” article here.]
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