Images of Jane Austen - Maybe

May, 2000

Dear Friends,

I want to share these controversial images with you.

The Rice Portrait

The Rice Portrait

The Rice Portrait (c. 1788-1792)
The Adolescent Jane Austen?

The members of the Rice family are descendents of Jane Austen's brother Edward. They came into possession of this portrait in 1883. It had been passed down through several branches of the family and was originally the possession of Francis Austen, the wealthy uncle and benefactor of Jane's father. The family tradition is that it is a portrait of Jane Austen, the author, but some academics cannot agree. It is generally agreed that this a portrait of a Jane Austen but not the Jane Austen. That it portrays a Jane Austen from our Lady's family is also thought to be the case. The problem is that some experts believe that the gown would not have been worn before 1805 when Jane Austen was about 30 and the portrait is obviously of an adolescent girl. Thus, a special committee of the Jane Austen Society, along with the Jane-Austen scholar R. W. Chapman recommended that the family traditions be set aside.

Recently, R. J. Wheeler has expended much energy and brought forth evidence that this judgment about the gown is an error. He also has other compelling reasons that the portrait is authentic.

You can read about the controversy in

The Clarke Drawing

There is another controversial likeness.

James Stanier Clarke was the Librarian of the Prince of Wales. It was he who corresponded with our Lady in order to bring her to Carlton House and to convince her to dedicate Emma to the Prince. He was also an artist and this portraiture was found among his belongings and was identified as the likeness of the authoress, Jane Austen. Again scholars are not able to verify the claim.

Clarke's drawing

J. S. Clarke's Drawing (1815)
The Adult Jane Austen?

The scholars can't resolve this issue for you so let me tell you the truth: these are the true likenesses of Jane Austen. Now, don't you feel better.

"Ashton Dennis"


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