April 3, 2012

New Site

Come visit me at my new site -- www.writerlorismith.com -- and read about my new book, The Jane Austen Guide to Life.

December 2, 2008

Announcing... Jane Austen 2009 Calendar

Dear readers -- hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I'm beginning to feel well enough to enter the world of blogging again (though it has required a strict fish-and-vegetables diet... more on that soon). I'm thrilled to announce...



Featuring pictures of the places Jane lived, loved and wrote about, including Steventon, Chawton, Box Hill, Bath, Lyme, Winchester -- and more!

Also includes dates from Jane's life -- the writing and publishing of each of the books, dancing with Tom Lefroy, the moves to Bath and Chawton ... and much more!

September 7, 2007


Okay, I've got the NEW address set up at www.followingausten.com, so it's much easier to find (this is the new site on Typepad).

There's lots going on over there -- an endorsement from Karen Joy Fowler and Emma Campbell Webster, more info about Becoming Jane, a new article about Our Year-Long Romance with Austen, and more of the review from Jane Austen's World. I've added categories as well so everything's easier to find.

Bookmark it or subscribe to the feed. See you there!

August 12, 2007

A new place

I have just moved this blog over to Typepad, because I was having trouble keeping up blogs on two different systems.

The new URL is:

http://janeaustenquotes.typepad.com/followingausten (I'm working on making that much simpler -- stay tuned.)

The feed is still:

Come visit me there!

August 2, 2007

An endorsement

I just got this endorsement from author Tamara Leigh, who I had the privilege of hanging out with at CBA in Atlanta. I'm honored!
"With wit, charm, and rare honesty--of which I have to believe Jane Austen would have thoroughly approved--Lori Smith weaves her personal life experiences throughout her journey into the life that was Jane's. Infused with faith, romance, loss, and a search for self, A Walk With Jane Austen makes for that rare book which keeps popping into one's thoughts and beckoning one back."

Tamara Leigh
Author of Perfecting Kate and Splitting Harriet

If you're looking for good chick lit, check out Tamara's books. Mine is available for pre-order and will be released October 16. (Forgive me if I've said that a hundred times!)

Fact and Fiction in Becoming Jane

For Carolyn and her friends -- and anyone else who is wondering -- just wanted to give you a brief roundup of fact vs. fiction in Becoming Jane.

Fact: Jane did fall in love with Tom Lefroy when she was twenty. More info here.
Fiction: Tom was a good guy, not a lout (Jane described him as "gentlemanlike" and others describe him as being quiet and shy), and it's unlikely they saw each other after he left Hampshire the first time.

Fact: Henry, one of Jane's six brothers, and her favorite, was handsome and charming and full of energy (and tall). He flirted with their cousin Eliza (who was ten years older) and eventually married her. After she died, he became a clergyman and took over the parish at Steventon where Jane grew up.
Fiction: Henry was not a lout either -- adventurous, yes; drunken partying with women of ill repute, no.

Fact: Jane's cousin Eliza spent a number of years in France, married a Frenchman who was guillotined, and enjoyed her ability to flirt.
Fiction: She was first and foremost English, though she could speak French like a native, and if she liked to flirt, well, that's different than how she's portrayed in the movie. She would have been compelling and lively, but her actions here stretch credibility.

Fact: Anne Lefroy was Tom's aunt and Jane's dear friend.
Fiction: In the movie Anne barely says two words. She was incredibly intelligent and kind and a mentor to Jane. She is the one who stepped in and sent Tom home when she saw they were getting too attached, which was to say the least a bit difficult, but she and Jane had an incredibly close relationship.

Fact: The gentlemen pursuers are not entirely fictional here -- there was an awkward clergyman (Samuel Blackall) who liked Jane and may have been a model for Mr. Collins. And there was a wonderful kind (and rich) if somewhat awkward young man in the neighborhood -- Harris Bigg-Wither -- who proposed one night. Jane accepted then changed her mind overnight and left the house in disgrace. There was also a John Warren, a former pupil of Mr. Austen's, that some thought was in love with Jane, but it seems they were just good friends.
Fiction: So, Mr. Wisley in the movie -- and his aunt Lady Gresham -- are fictional.

Fact: Jane's second oldest brother, George, was mentally disabled in some way and had fits. It's possible he was deaf and dumb.
Fiction: He lived with the Austen family for a while, but was eventually sent away to another village to be cared for by a family who also took care of Mrs. Austen's brother, who had similar difficulties. There is a reference to Jane talking with her fingers, so perhaps she did communicate with him that way.

Fact: Cassandra's fiance, Tom Fowle, did die in the West Indies. All of that was unfortunately true. They had been engaged almost five years, and were only waiting to have enough money to marry. Long engagements were very common when money was an issue.

Fact: Jane and Tom did banter about Tom Jones. A bit risque, perhaps, but Jane would have enjoyed the joke. And she never liked Fielding as much as Richardson, precisely because of the way they handled questions of morality.

Fact: Finances were tight in the Austen household.
Fiction: By the time Jane was grown up, while things were always stretched a bit it seems, the family was not in dire straights, and Jane's brother Edward had been adopted by a wealthy family (a long story) which gave them all some sense of security.

Fiction: George and Cassandra Austen, Jane's parents, seem to have married for love and loved each other deeply. So, the movie's portrayal is a bit harsh. Once, when the boys were small, Cassandra went to help her sister in childbirth, and George wrote to his sister-in-law, “I don’t much like this lonely kind of Life,” and when he talked about the family possibly paying a visit, he said, “I say we, for I certainly shall not let my Wife come alone, & I dare say she will not leave her children behind her.” You can just see the country rector, who did not marry until he was almost thirty-three, in his rather plain small house, missing his dear wife. George had a wonderful disposition, described as “bright and hopeful.” Cassandra, who loved to write small, witty poems, seems to have been full of life.

More info on Becoming Jane here, including reviews and quotes from Jane's letters about Tom.

Carolyn McCulley

Fellow writer Carolyn McCulley and I have emailed back and forth over the years, but we've never met in person, so it was a gift to walk into a huge crowded theater and just happen to sit next to her and her group of friends. Check out her blog and her thoughts on Becoming Jane.

First Impressions

I got to see a screening of Becoming Jane last night, and came home with very mixed emotions about it. I started out hopeful, thinking it might be a good, fun movie even if it wasn't quite Jane's life. And by the end, it had nearly won me over. But for most of the intervening hour and ten minutes, I was just uncomfortable. There was so much that didn't seem right either for Jane or for that era.

The movie feels to me like a blatant marketing attempt to get all those Jane Austen fans back into the theatre. They've taken elements of her stories--Mrs. Austen was more Mrs. Bennet than anything else, and Tom Lefroy is part Darcy (the bad part) and part Willoughby, and they've taken lines from the movies -- movies! -- which were not ever in the books to begin with. And they took much of the feel of the movie from the 2005 Focus Features Pride & Prejudice -- the one with Keira Knightley -- so there are plenty of barn animals.

Most of it just simply didn't ring true. Jane would never, ever have fallen for a guy like that. She valued character too much. She would never have run off with anyone. And as smart as they tried to make her, she was smarter than that. And was surrounded by a loving, intelligent family. Her father is one of my favorite characters in her life, but I really didn't like the portrayal of him. I liked Anna Maxwell Martin's Cassandra and I thought Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy did a good job with the script they were given ... I just really didn't like the script. (sigh.)

I would love to see a movie that more accurately tried to capture Jane's life. Perhaps the Miss Austen Regrets biopic that's coming from Masterpiece Theatre will be better. There are so many interesting stories in her life, it's a shame to make things up. But it takes an eye that can focus on the small things Jane wrote about, and make them compelling the way she did.

July 30, 2007

Part 1 review

Ms. Place at Jane Austen's World has posted more of her review. Made me giddy!
"A Walk With Jane Austen is a lovely book, full of unexpected insights and revelations. Lori Smith's revealing and personal account is a pure joy to read. As a single, independent and talented woman she is in want of a man, but will not compromise her principles or her quest to experience romantic love in order to simply be with one. Sound familiar?"
Read more here.

July 27, 2007

50: The truth about Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy

Anne Hathaway will be on David Letterman tonight talking about Becoming Jane. And according to my Tivo, she will be on Good Morning America and Live with Regis and Kelly on Wednesday Aug. 1, and on Late Night with Conan O'Brien on Friday Aug. 3. The movie opens nationwide on the 10th. I have a pass to a screening next week, so I'll let you know what my thoughts are when I see it. It looks lovely, just not exactly Jane's story.

Before all the hubbub starts, here's a primer on what happened between Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy. Forgive the long post -- wanted to get this all in one. (You can also see excerpts from Jane's letters to her sister about Tom here.)

50: Jane and Tom

Jane Austen essentially created the chick lit genre. We all know the formula—girl meets guy, girl falls in love with guy, guy breaks her heart, girl meets nicer, better-looking guy with more money and they live happily ever after. Obstacles abound in Austen’s stories—lack of money on the part of the otherwise lovely heroine, meddling family members who pull lovers apart because they disapprove the match—but these things are always overcome by the abundant worth of two good people who truly love each other.

The love stories in Austen’s own life echo these themes, but without the “happily ever after” ending.

Jane’s first love, at twenty, was Tom Lefroy. He was a law student from Ireland, the nephew of her dear friend Anne’s husband, and Anne may have introduced them. We know little about the relationship, really. Much of what we know of Jane’s life is from her letters, but her sister Cassandra burned many and mutilated more before passing them on to nieces and nephews late in her life. Perhaps Cassandra cut out the juiciest bits, or, as Austen expert Deirdre Le Faye suggests, the parts that could have offended one family member or other. Either way, there are gaps.

Jane and Tom spent some time together over the course of a few weeks, over Christmas and New Year's. He was fairly serious, quiet and very good—maybe a balance for Jane’s energetic humor. They bantered over Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, and after a ball, Jane wrote jokingly to Cassandra of “everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together.” She writes about how Tom is given a hard time in the Lefroy household for the attachment, so that when she pays a visit he manages to hide. But he would pay her another visit, as was the custom, to thank her for partnering him at the ball, and the only fault she could really find with him was that his morning coat was “a great deal too light.”

There is much debate these days about just how in love Jane was with Tom, and how much this relationship influenced her writing. Some say it was just a flirtation—clearly, in Jane’s letters, she is being sarcastic, they say. To me she writes like there is some depth to her feelings, in spite of trying to laugh them off. “I rather expect to receive an offer from my friend in the course of the evening,” she writes of their last meeting. “I shall refuse him, however, unless he promises to give away his white coat.” She sounds a little bit like my friends and I as well, telling stories of a romance that fell into the middle of a life that was largely without romantic interest, making much of a little thing. Yet, it’s easy to imagine her being teasing and sharp with Tom.

Tom was from a good family but not wealthy. His father had been in the army. He was the oldest son, but it was a large family, eleven children with five daughters ahead of him, and he was made to feel that the future of the family was on his shoulders. He was expected to do well, to do much. Though the attachment seems to have been mutual, Anne and her husband stepped in and quickly sent Tom home. The family history is that Anne Lefroy was forever frustrated with Tom over this, his leading Jane on when he knew there was no chance he could propose.

Tom eventually married someone with an appropriately large fortune, had seven children, and went on to become Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. He was no Darcy—not heir to great estates or wealth—but clearly his family had expectations Jane did not meet. If Jane wrote about family interference, she learned it firsthand. Tom may have adored her and she him but she hadn’t enough money to qualify. Most likely Jane never saw him again.

When it ended, Jane wrote to Cassandra: “At length the day is come on which I am to flirt my last with Tom Lefroy, & when you receive this it will be over—My tears flow as I write, at the melancholy idea.” She was joking, of course. How deeply she felt the joke we will never really know. But her heart had been engaged for likely the first time.

No doubt this relationship and her repartee with Tom fueled her writing. Whether it was "her greatest inspiration" as the trailers for Becoming Jane claim, well, that's debatable. But I'm sure it provided as spark.

Excerpted from my book, A Walk with Jane Austen. Read more at www.followingausten.com or read the first chapter online.

Check out the new Jane Austen's England Calendar for 2009! Featuring pictures of the places Jane lived, loved and wrote about, including Steventon, Chawton, Box Hill, Bath, Lyme, Winchester.

Also includes dates from Jane's life -- the writing and publishing of each of the books, dancing with Tom Lefroy, the moves to Bath and Chawton ... and much more!

Jane Austen's Letters (ed. Deirdre Le Faye)
Jane Austen: A Family Record (Deirdre Le Faye)
Jane Austen: A Life (Claire Tomalin)

Picture is of Ashe House, Anne Lefroy's home.