One of the many things that made me love Becoming Jane was the interactions between Jane Austen and her brothers in the movie. Granted, the movie only included Henry Austen and George Austen there, and left Jane’s other brothers in the conversations only. But it was very important to me that George Austen, of all people, was included. People who have read JA biographies would learn that George was a forgotten son in the Austen family due to his mental incapability. After reading more info about George, I was glad that Julian Jarrold &c decided to include George in the movie, paying homage to Jane’s abandoned brother. So, this is a short article and a tribute to George Austen.
George Austen (1766 –
Tomalin noted that George, who possibly suffered cerebral palsy, still lived in Steventon as a child. On
George Austen was rarely mentioned in the Austen family letters, except for several occasions, e.g. in letter
Not unlike the way Jane silently paid homage to his Irish friend Tom Lefroy in her novels, the English authoress also paid her tribute to her forgotten brother George. Nokes noticed that in Persuasion, the Musgroves had an ill-fated son named Richard (Volume I Chapter VI). ‘Poor Richard’ was a ‘troublesome’, ‘thick-headed’, ‘unfeeling’, ‘unprofitable’ and ‘hopeless’ son, hence ‘had been sent to sea, because he was stupid and unmanageable on shore; that he had been very little cared for at any time by his family, though quite as much as he deserved; seldom heard of, and scarcely at all regretted…’
To me, it is interesting that Richard was once a crew of Captain Wentworth’s ship, and it was Wentworth who encouraged Richard to write to his family. The interesting part for me is that Wentworth was the embodiment of Tom Lefroy, and Richard was Jane’s way of paying homage to his brother. And in Becoming Jane, George Austen was there when Tom Lefroy interacted with Jane Austen…
In 1827, Edward Knight (the third son of the Austens) gave his entire inheritance from his mother (£ 437) to George (Tomalin 2000). Much later on
In Becoming Jane, George Austen was played by Philip Culhane, a partially deaf
I understand that the inclusion of George Austen in Becoming Jane might be inaccurate, although it is very likely that George was still in Steventon in 1796/97. But I love that historical inaccuracy, for it gave the movie more depth of a brother-sister bond between George and Jane, something that the real Jane Austen could not enjoy during her lifetime. And perhaps, although the real Jane might stand up and say ‘Pardon me, that scene is not correct for what truly happened was this and that’, I am confident that she would also thank the filmmaker and wished that George indeed was so much involved in her life.
Faye, D. L. 1997, Jane Austen's Letters, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Nokes, D. 1997, Jane Austen: A Life, Fourth Estate, London.
Tomalin, C. 2000, Jane Austen: A Life, Penguin Books, London.
Pic 1: George Austen (Philip Culhane) and Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) walking from the field, from annie-hathaway.com
Pic 2: Mrs. Cassandra Austen, from University of Pennsylvania website
Pic 3: Cover to Persuasion, Wordsworth Edition