Monday, 28 January 2013


28th January 2013 is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice but who was its author?

Jane Austen [16th December 1775 – 18th July 1817] was an English writer of romantic novels set in the world of the land-owning and middle class families of her time.  She is admired for her writing style, gently ironic wit and acute observation of the mores of the period.  For many people, she is the “perfect writer”.

She lived a quiet life with her family and we know little about her because most of her letters were destroyed after her death. She was born in Steventon [Hampshire] and had little formal education.  However, she read a lot and began writing stories for her family at an early age.  She refused her only proposal of marriage.

In 1800 the Austen family moved to Bath, a spa town and important social centre of the period.  Jane didn’t really like Bath but she set many scenes in her novels there, making fun of the manners and intrigues of the city’s rich visitors.

After the death of Jane’s father, the family moved to Chawton [Hampshire].  Jane published four novels while living there and these were well received but did not enjoy sensational success because they did not conform to readers’ expectations;  they wanted exciting romance and pathos.

Jane died at the age of 41, possibly from Addison’s disease or Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  Recent research suggests that she may have died from bovine tubercolosis.

It was not until the twentieth century that Jane Austen was hailed as a genius and Pride and Prejudice [1813] is generally regarded as her masterpiece. There have been many television serialisations and film versions, including a 2005 film starring Keira Knightly.  The novel’s independent Lizzie Bennet is every woman’s heroine!


Sense and Sensibility – 1811
Pride and Prejudice – 1813
Mansfield Park – 1814
Emma – 1815
Northanger Abbey – 1818  [published posthumously]
Persuasion – 1818  [published posthumously]

You can visit the Jane Austen House Museum at Chawton and the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, UK.

Thursday, 24 January 2013


Robert Burns [25th January 1759 – 21st July 1796], also known as Rabbie Burns, is the national poet of Scotland

He wrote in the Scots language and dialect as well as in English.  Some of his poems use a mixture of Scottish dialect and English.  He also collected Scottish folk songs and many of his poems have been set to music.

His poem Auld Lang Syne, in which days gone by and old friends are remembered, is sung at Hogmanay [New Year] celebrations in Scotland and all over the UK.  His best known love poem, My Love is Like a Red Red Rose, has also been set to music.

Burns Night is celebrated on 25th January.  People eat Scottish food, including haggis [a savoury pudding] which is “piped” into the dining room [brought into the room to the sound of bagpipes].  The guests then recite poems by Burns and finally sing Auld Lang Syne.