Happy freaking birthday, Jane Austen!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that two hundred years after publication, Jane’s words are still held near and dear by readers all over the world. Which is why her birthday, officially declared as Jane Austen Day by the Jane Austen Center in Bath, England, is being celebrated with teas, readings and parties in cities around the country—from Houston to Atlanta, and from New York to Sacramento.
In case you can’t get to one of these celebrations, we’ve put together this list of ways you can celebrate Jane’s birthday, other than the obvious. . . cake. Because 239 is a lot of candles.
1. Learn to speak fan
Before the era of telephones and texting, how would a potential romantic heroine in an Austen novel make her intentions known? Instead of saying it with emojis, she said it with her fan. With a simple flick of her wrist, she could say I love you, Wait for me, I love another or even ask for a kiss. The vocabulary is vast and way more random than anything you’d find on Urban Dictionary. Learn how to speak your mind like a fan-wielding Regency goddess here.
2. Read a love-letter to Austen’s heroines
It’s no secret that women have been pining for Mr. Darcy for centuries. But how often have we heard a man wax poetic about his affection for Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse or Fanny Price? It happened. In 2010, novelist Jay McInerney penned a beautiful essay in which he tells of his love for Austen’s heroines in all of their obstinate, quick-witted glory. McInerney writes, “I have fallen under the spell of beautiful minds. . .” His essay weaves a spell all its own, and you can read a portion of it at The Telegraph.
3. Get virtually dressed, Regency-style
No, I’m not suggesting that you don a bonnet and stash your iPhone in your reticule. At JaneAustenGames you can play Regency dress-up without ever getting out of your PJs. It’s sort of like a virtual, posing, primping paper doll. You can dress your Austen heroine all the way from her hat to her gloves to the trim of her gown. Choose fabric selections and colors, and then, if you’re anything like me, spend a ridiculous amount of time browsing the gallery of designs other super-fans have come up with.
4. Read, read, read
As Jane herself said, “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much soon one tires of anything than of a book!”
If your copy of Pride & Prejudice is so tattered that the pages are falling out, try reading one of the many Austen-inspired sequels or spin-offs. Mr. Darcy is no longer simply a literary hero. He’s inspired an entire genre of literature. There’s a Mr. Darcy out there for everyone—Vampire Darcy, Judge Darcy, Rock Star Darcy, Angsty Teen Darcy, Dog Show Darcy, Zombie Darcy. . .the list goes on. And on.
And let’s not forget Austen’s other novels: Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey and the unfinished, but still glorious, Sanditon. Mr. Darcy isn’t the only dude out there in Austen-land either. There’s also Captain Wentworth, Mr. Knightley and Edmund Bertram.
5. Binge-watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
While there is no end to awesome film adaptions of Austen’s novels (Colin Firth, anyone?), perhaps nothing speaks to the timelessness of Austen’s prose quite like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. It’s Pride & Prejudice in vlog form. And it’s utterly addicting. Get started here.
6. Follow Austen’s lead and put your thoughts on paper
Write something. A poem, an essay, a letter, a diary entry. Anything. That’s the coolest way to honor this special day, because Austen’s greatest legacy is the beauty and timeless quality of her words. Besides, when Captain Wentworth and Mr. Darcy needed to make their feelings known, what did they do? They put it down on paper. You can skip the quill, and just use your laptop to download a super-fancy Austen font. Yes, there are Jane Austen fonts, now. Because of course there are.