Jane’s RBF (Resting Bitch Face)


BookRoit has “a guest post from Juliette Wells. Juliette created the new 200th-anniversary annotated edition of Jane Austen’s Emma for Penguin Classics. The author of Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination, Juliette is associate professor and chair of English at Goucher College in Baltimore.


As a Jane Austen scholar who possesses a fine resting bitch face (as my current passport photo will attest), I am pleased to share with you that I have resolved a longstanding controversy among readers and critics. Austen—one of the most celebrated English novelists, and certainly the most beloved in our own era—was blessed with an RBF.

by Cassandra Austen, pencil and watercolour, circa 1810

My exhibit A is the only authentic portrait of Austen’s face drawn during her lifetime (1775-1817): this watercolor sketch, done by her elder sister Cassandra in approximately 1810, which is now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London.  (Cassandra also left to us a portrait of Jane from the rear, which, while lovely, obviously doesn’t help us with the face question.) Just a year later, in 1811, Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility would be released, the culmination of years of dedicated writing and aspirations to publish. Perhaps Cassandra took Jane’s likeness to commemorate, within their family, Jane’s new sense of herself as an author. We’ll never know for certain.”

The remaining article goes on to describe how and why Jane’s face evolved differently in other portraits. For the complete article, please click on Jane Austen Had a RBF (and I have one, too).

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