Bits of Ivory
Austen’s Regency World
magazine; 50+ pages/issue.
Ltd. $39/year (6 issues).
articles and subscriptions: www.janeausten.co.uk, or contact the Jane
Austen Centre, 40 Gay Street, Queens Square, Bath, BA1 2NT, United
Kingdom; tel. 44 (0) 1225 443000.
by Carrie Bebris.
From the Jane Austen
Centre in Bath, England, comes Jane
Austen’s Regency World, the first
bimonthly glossy magazine for Austen enthusiasts.
introductory letter in the first issue, editor Sue LeBlond invites
readers to “come on in,” as if welcoming them to a salon. It is a
fitting representation of the magazine’s tone and content: the reader
feels as if she’s entered a drawing room full of fellow Austen admirers
eager to discuss any and all things Regency. One never knows who might
drop in or what subject might next fuel conversation.
Through a mix
of news, feature articles, and reviews, the magazine seeks “to inform
and entertain everyone from the scholar to the starstruck.” This is an
ambitious goal. Yet Jane Austen’s
Regency World does a good job of achieving middle ground. Its
self-described “light, bright and sparkling” approach delivers
substantive content that appeals to readers who want to learn more
about Austen and her world but who also don’t object to the sight of
Colin Firth in a wet shirt.
content includes a broad range of literary, historical, and
entertainment topics. If it pertains to Austen’s life, work, or times,
if it influenced Austen or was influenced by her, or if it appeals to
the same interests and sensibilities that Austen does, one can read
about it here. A single issue includes articles as diverse as an
account of the process used by a forensic portrait artist to recreate
Jane Austen’s face; an examination of Austen’s character names; actor
Benjamin Whitrow’s thoughts on playing Mr. Bennet; a Regency recipe
(original and modern versions); and a tour of Cheltenham (where Austen
went in 1816 to rest and recover). While the table of contents lists no
“departments” per se, most issues offer at least one discussion of Jane
Austen’s writing or an introduction to another author with Regency
connections (from Mary Wollstonecraft to Georgette Heyer); an article
on social or cultural history (fashion, modes of travel, dancing,
“taking the baths”); an introduction to Austen communities throughout
the world (the Jane Austen Society of Australia, the Internet’s
Republic of Pemberley, the Jane Austen Dancers); a tour of an
Austen-related location; a celebrity piece; and a look at print,
broadcast, or stage adaptations and continuations. Reviews cover
various media and genres, from books about Austen, her writing, and its
context, to Austen sequels and films and television productions.
Multi-part series provide continuity between issues and an opportunity
to explore subjects in greater depth than the usual three- to five-page
are generally thoughtful, written in an engaging style, and well
researched, often including sidebars that direct readers to sources of
additional information. Many are written by authorities on their
topics. Maggie Lane, for example, writes about character names and
Austen’s favorite seaside resorts. President Joan Klingel Ray
introduces the rest of the world to JASNA. An antiquarian bookseller
reveals how to find rare editions. Novelist Juliet Shapiro examines the
popularity of sequels. First-person accounts from people as diverse as
Chawton Cottage staff members sharing anecdotes, a graphologist
commissioned to analyze Jane Austen’s handwriting, and actors
reflecting on their roles lend immediacy to their subjects and unique
voices to the mix.
magazine exhibits high production values. It is full-color throughout
on quality paper, with a heavy cover that stands up to repeated
reference. Its reader-friendly design offers a visually inviting
balance of text and graphics on each spread; informative captions make
efficient use of marginal space without crowding the page. Running
headers indicate article titles on each page to orient the reader.
Advertising is minimal and unobtrusive; in fact, anglophiles might
consider the ads for Georgian hotels and Sally Lunn buns part of the
Jane Austen’s Regency World
launched in January 2003; this review is based upon examination of the
first five issues. Periodicals, by their very nature, are ever
changing. What can be said of one issue may not hold true for the next.
New publications, especially, evolve as they find their audience and
revise their editorial concept to meet reader interests and
expectations. Issue 5 already incorporates design changes: a tighter
typeface for body text has a more old-fashioned feel but is slightly
harder on the eye; colored bars at the top and bottom of each page
create a boxy layout that distracts from the articles rather than
enhances their presentation. One hopes the graphic design will continue
to evolve. The content, meanwhile, reflects experimentation (such as
including a short story for the first time) as the magazine refines its
focus, but remains solid overall.
embraces all aspects of Austen fandom, her most serious readers might
Jane Austen’s Regency World too lightweight.
But the magazine holds something for just about everyone, and most
Janeites will be excessively diverted.
(www.carriebebris.com) is a JASNA member and a novelist and freelance
magazine writer. Her new mystery, Pride
and Prescience (Forge Books, Feb.
2004), embroils the newlywed Darcys in an intrigue at Netherfield.
v.20, no. 1, Spring 2004, p. 18
See more book reviews
Return to Home Page