updated: 09/07/2008

C19th makeups: Jane Austen

Jane Austen (1775–1817) was an English novelist who is now one of the most widely read and most well-loved writers in English literature. She lived her entire life as part of a small and close-knit family located on the lower fringes of English gentry. She became ill in 1815 and her condition gradually deteriorated until her death the following year. Jane Austen achieved success as a published writer with the release of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816); she also completed two other novels – Northanger Abbey and Persuasion – which were published posthumously in 1818. As the novels were published anonymously, their success – steady sellers rather than bestsellers – brought her little personal fame and only a few positive reviews: critics and audiences generally preferred the works of Charles Dickens and George Eliot. It was only the publication of her nephew’s A Memoir of Jane Austen in 1869 which introduced her to a wider public as an appealing personality and thus kindled popular interest in her works. ‘Serious academic approach to Jane Austen’ only began with the publication of an essay by the Oxford Shakespearean scholar AC Bradley in 1911; by the 1940s she was widely accepted as a great writer. Biographical information concerning Jane Austen is ‘famously scarce’ – her sister Cassandra and other relatives destroyed or censored most of Jane’s letters and most of biographical material produced for fifty years after her death was written by her relatives and reflects the family's biases in favour of a ‘good quiet Aunt Jane’. Scholars have unearthed little information since.

Miss Austen Regrets (2008): In the later years of her life, as she’s approaching the age of forty, the Jane Austen (Olivia Williams) helps her niece find a husband. Christine Walmesley-Cotham was the hair & makeup designer; Mary-Anne Waite was the makeup supervisor.

Becoming Jane (2007): In 1795 the young Jane Austen is a feisty twenty-year-old who dreams of marrying for love rather than social position. But her parents are searching for a wealthy, well-appointed husband to assure their daughter's future social standing. She loves a poor Irish trainee lawyer dependent upon a small allowance from his uncle; her parents favour the nephew of a rich aristocrat. Jane ends up a single novellist. Veronica Brebner was the hair & makeup designer; Neill Gorton (MillenniumFX) was responsible for creating the prosthetic old-age makeup.