Friday, March 23, 2007

Jane Austen Gets a Makeover

According to the TimesOnline, the next volume of Austen's work published by Wordsworth Editions will feature the "new" Jane Austen on the cover.
According to Wordsworth Editions, which sells millions of cut-price classic novels, the only authentic portrait of Jane Austen is too unattractive.

Helen Trayler, its managing director, said: “The poor old thing didn’t have anything going for her in the way of looks. Her original portrait is very, very dowdy. It wouldn’t be appealing to readers, so I took it upon myself to commission a new picture of her.

“We’ve given her a bit of a makeover, with make-up and some hair extensions and removed her nightcap. Now she looks great — as if she’s just walked out of a salon.”
Some will see this as a positive thing and some will recognize the hidden message in the decision to market an icon like Jane Austen on her looks rather than on the content of her books.
Patrick Stokes, of the Jane Austen Society, said: “She’s not a goddess. She has no copyright. It’s just what happens when someone is so popular, and if it brings her to a different readership then that’s good news.”

Patrick Janson-Smith, a leading literary agent, said: “Portraits of modern authors are airbrushed the whole time, especially American lady authors of a certain age. It’s a shock to meet a writer when the reality falls a little short. We live in a shallow world where authors are increasingly sold on their appearance.”
I find this bit of silliness to be disturbing because it reminds me of how today's culture has managed to make stars out of people like Anna Nicole Smith, Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, etc. more based on their looks than on their very limited talent. The entertainment industry dumbed itself down long ago but thankfully I've developed an ability to tune out the noise. Do we really need to sell classic literature based on the looks of the authors now? Good grief.


  1. I agree with you. Although book covers do influence me, this attempt to glamorize the AUTHOR disturbs me. If they find the authentic portrait unattractive, they could use a scene from the book and forget the portrait altogether.

  2. Oh, good, it's about time they do something - the poor girl hasn't been able to catch a break in the last 200 years. Maybe she'll finally sell a book or two now.

    Good grief, are these people insane, stupid, or both? Who cares what Jane Austen looks like? She's certainly proven that her books can stand the test of time whether she was "dowdy" or not. Her talent is the only thing anyone should be concerned with when choosing to buy her (or any author's) books. You like the topic, writing style, characters? Then buy the book. You don't like them? Well, it must be because she's wearing a nightcap!

    I'm trying not to go crazy on our blog, Sam, but I can't tell you how annoyed this makes me.

  3. If it ain't broke don't fix it!!

  4. Glad to see that I'm not the only one who finds this whole idea a bit disgusting. Thanks for the comments y'all.

  5. I say they should go even further. Give her a an oversized handbag with a chihuahua sticking out of it. Maybe then we'll end up educating those that so badly need it.

    Seriously though, it isn't surprising. It's not the first time I've thought that publishers have absolutely no idea how to market a good book.

  6. :) That's a great suggestion, John.

    I think you're right about publishers. They seem to underestimate the taste of their customers on a regular basis.

  7. Rolling in her grave yet again, poor dear...

  8. Most likely so, Sylvia. I can well imagine that she would find something like this to be an embarrassment.