The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen

by Syrie James


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Many rumors abound about a mysterious gentleman said to be the love of Jane's life—finally, the truth may have been found. . . .

What if, hidden in an old attic chest, Jane Austen's memoirs were discovered after hundreds of years? What if those pages revealed the untold story of a life-changing love affair? That's the premise behind this spellbinding novel, which delves into the secrets of Jane Austen's life, giving us untold insights into her mind and heart.

Jane Austen has given up her writing when, on a fateful trip to Lyme, she meets the well-read and charming Mr. Ashford, a man who is her equal in intellect and temperament. Inspired by the people and places around her, and encouraged by his faith in her, Jane begins revising Sense and Sensibility, a book she began years earlier, hoping to be published at last.

Deft and witty, written in a style that echoes Austen's own, this unforgettable novel offers a delightfully possible scenario for the inspiration behind this beloved author's romantic tales. It's a remarkable book, irresistible to anyone who loves Jane Austen—and to anyone who loves a great story.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061341427
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/06/2007
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 323,774
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.79(d)

About the Author

Syrie James is the USA Today bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Runaway HeiressNocturneDracula, My Love; The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë; The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen; Jane Austen's First Love; Forbidden; The Harrison Duet; and the international bestseller The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. An admitted Anglophile, Syrie loves all things British and 19th century. Her novels have hit many Best of the Year lists, won the Audie Romance Award, and been designated as Library Journal Editor’s Picks and the Women's National Book Association’s Great Group Read. Syrie lives in Los Angeles and is a member of RWA, JASNA, and the Writer's Guild of America. Visit Syrie at

Read an Excerpt

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen

By Syrie James

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Syrie James
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061341427

Chapter One

Why I feel the sudden urge to relate, in pen and ink, a relationship of the most personal nature, which I have never before acknowledged, I cannot say. Perhaps it is this maddening illness which has been troubling me now and again of late—this cunning reminder of my own mortality—that compels me to make some record of what happened, to prevent that memory from vanishing into the recesses of my mind, and from there to disappear for ever from history, as fleeting as a ghost in the mist.

Whatever the reason, I find that I must write it all down; for there may, I think, be speculation when I am gone. People may read what I have written, and wonder: how could this spinster, this woman who, to all appearances, never even courted—who never felt that wondrous connection of mind and spirit between a man and woman, which, inspired by friendship and affection, blooms into something deeper—how could she have had the temerity to write about the revered institutions of love and courtship, having never experienced them herself?

To those few friends and relations who, upon learning of my authorship, have dared to pose a similar question (although, I must admit, in a rather more genteel turn ofphrase), I have given the self-same reply: "Is it not conceivable that an active mind and an observant eye and ear, combined with a vivid imagination, might produce a literary work of some merit and amusement, which may, in turn, evoke sentiments and feelings which resemble life itself?"

There is much truth in this observation.

But there are many levels of veracity, are there not, between that truth which we reveal publicly and that which we silently acknowledge, in the privacy of our own thoughts, and perhaps to one or two of our most intimate acquaintances?

I did attempt to write of love—first, in jest, as a girl; then in a more serious vein, in my early twenties, though I had known only young love then;1 in consequence, those early works were of only passing merit. It was only years later that I met the man who would come to inspire the true depth of that emotion, and who would reawaken my voice, which had long lain dormant.

Of this gentleman—the one, true, great love in my life—I have, for good reason, vowed never to speak; indeed, it was agreed amongst the few close members of my family who knew him, that it was best for all concerned to keep the facts of that affair strictly to ourselves. In consequence, I have relegated my thoughts of him to the farthest reaches of my heart; banished for ever—but not forgotten.

No, never forgotten. For how can one forget that which has become a part of one's very soul? Every word, every thought, every look and feeling that passed between us, is as fresh in my mind now, years later, as if it had occurred only yesterday.

The tale must be told; a tale which will explain all the others.

But I get ahead of myself.

It is a truth (I believe, universally acknowledged) that, with few exceptions, the introduction of the hero in a love-story should never take place in the first chapter, but should, ideally, be deferred to the third; that a brief foundation should initially be laid, acquainting the reader with the principal persons, places, circumstances and emotional content of the story, so as to allow a greater appreciation for the proceedings as they unfold.

Therefore, before we meet the gentleman in question, I must go further back to relate two events which occurred some years earlier—both of which altered my life, suddenly and irrevocably, in a most dreadful and painful way.

In December 1800, shortly before the twenty-fifth anniversary of my birth, I had been away, visiting my dear friend Martha Lloyd. Upon returning home, my mother startled me by announcing, "Well, Jane, it is all settled! We have decided to leave Steventon behind us for good, and go to Bath."

"Leave Steventon?" I stared at her in disbelief. "You cannot mean it."

"Oh, but I do," said my mother as she bustled happily about the small parlour, pausing to study the pictures on the wall with a look of fond farewell, as if making peace with the thought of leaving them all behind. "Your father and I talked it over while you were gone. He will be seventy in May. It is high time he retired, after nearly forty years as the rector of this parish, not to mention Deane.2 Giving up the post, you know, means giving up the house, but your brother James will benefit by it, as it will go to him; and as your father has always longed to travel, we thought, what better time than the present? Let us go, while we still have our health! But where we should go, that was a matter of great debate, and we have at last come to conclusion that it should be Bath!"

My head began to swim; my legs crumpled under me, and I sank heavily into the nearest chair, wishing that my beloved sister was there to share the burden of this distressing news. Cassandra, who is three years older than I, and far more beautiful, is possessed of a calm and gentle disposition; I can always depend on her to rally my spirits in even the worst of situations. But she was away at the time, visiting our brother Edward and his family in Kent.

"Jane!" I heard my mother cry. "Why, I believe the poor girl has fainted. Mr. Austen! Do come help! Where are the smelling-salts?"

I had been born at Steventon, and had passed all the happy days of my life there. I could no more imagine leaving that beloved place than I could sprout wings and fly. I loved the trellised front porch of the parsonage house, the perfectly balanced arrangement of sash windows in its flat front façade, and the unadorned, white-washed walls and open-beam ceilings within. I had grown to cherish every elm, chestnut and fir which towered above its roof, and every plant and shrub in the back garden, where I strolled almost daily along the turf walk, bordered by strawberry beds.


Excerpted from The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James Copyright © 2007 by Syrie James. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 67 reviews.
Jenafyre21 More than 1 year ago
Wonderful story.  Anyone that loves Jane Austen will love this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed this book from start to finish
Danny_R22 More than 1 year ago
I very much enjoyed this book! The cover is fantastic and is what drew me to it. It was the first book that I cried at the end. I found that I had to remind myself to stop reading so that I could eat and sleep. lol. I thought that it would be like Becoming Jane, the movie, but found that it wasn't at all. Definitely a great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Congrats to James for weaving a wonderfully entertaining and thoroughly researched historical fiction! The author makes Austen and her world come alive! I passed the book to several of my fellow Jane Austen fans and we all loved this novel! We are looking forward to James' next release, on Bronte!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Kudos to Syrie James for reincarnating Jane Austen. It was a delicious feeling to read the back story, to be transported to the romance and manners of Jane¿s world. The author¿s thorough research shows in the detailed descriptions of places and people. The author perfectly captures Jane¿s style of writing--her thoughts, her feelings, her values. I loved the book and recommend it most highly.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Author Syrie James's personal & professional accomplishments serve her well in her reverent presentation of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. Her website brims with such a diversity of talents that one does not question why she is qualified to write about such a sensitive subject, but rather why she waited so long! Even Jane Austen's discerning character Mr. Darcy might consider her one of the 12 most accomplished women of his acquaintance. Breaching the hollowed halls of Jane Austen para-literature is a daunting task for none but the stout-of-heart and thick-of-skin writer. Mrs. James wears her Austen-armor well and delivers a sincere and honest love story that will engage and delight most Jane Austen devotees, and raise an inquisitive eyebrow of the Austen purists. Her Jane is real and approachable, flesh and bone, human and fallible -- not the stour judgemental old maid envisioned in the 19th-century portraits. We feel her troubles, her joy, her pain, understand her life decisions, and appreciate her all the more for it. It is not often that this discerning reader can offer unqualified praise, so I will not break my streak. Five Austen stars!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Truly, this is one of the most heartfelt stories I've had the pleasure to read in a really long, long time. This is not only the story of a secret romance, but of a writer who overcomes her doubts and her daily concerns for financial security to fully embrace the need to put pen to paper and write the stories from her heart and head. I happened to finish to the book on a plane and was in tears, which may have concerned my fellow flight-mates! But the story was over too soon and I look forward to many more stories from Ms. James.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Historians and romance readers have always wondered whether Jane Austen, author of six novels and many letters, kept a dairy as none were found yet that was popular in early nineteenth century England. None were found until now. In Chawton Manor House, one of the homes owned by Ms. Austen¿s brother, a worker repairing a roof found a seaman¿s chest inside are manuscripts of the previously LOST MEMOIRS OF JANE AUSTEN. The chest was probably left there and forgotten by Jane¿s beloved sister Cassandra who admitted to having destroyed much of the letters written by Jane to her. This particular publication is one manuscript whose condition is excellent but written when the great author was ill and dying sometime in 1815-1817, but relates to events from an earlier time. --- With the death of her father Reverend George Austen in 1805, his suddenly impoverished daughter Jane gave up writing, a pastime she enjoyed since she had already expected to be a spinster having never met a man she considered her intellectual equal. That is until the summer of 1810 in Lime when she meets witty and intelligent Mr. Ashford she is excited by this handsome charmer who inspires her to return to writing by revising a novel she had drafted years ago but never finished (Sense and Sensibility). --- Every time this reviewer assumes there is no new way to dissect Jane Austen, I am proven clueless by an author with a new spin. Syrie James is the latest to pay homage (some might say chutzpah) as she uses the device of finding a long forgotten hidden journal written by the author to tell the tale of Ms. Austen¿s inspirational romance that led to her completing her great novels. Readers will believe Syrie James captures the voice of Ms. Austen with this fictionalized entertaining account by romantic literature¿s first author ¿in her words¿. --- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
From the opening pages of this novel, I was so deeply engrossed that I couldn't put it down. It is so beautifully written that you truly believe you are reading the memoirs of Jane Austen herself, and being offered a privileged glimpse into her heart and mind. The novel explores many of the experiences that shaped Jane Austen's life and evolution as a writer. At the same time, it is a wonderful love story. Readers will fall as madly in love with Mr. Ashford as Jane does. He is, in my opinion, even more dashing, likeable and charming than Austen's Mr. Darcy! The joy is in watching these two soul mates, who are believably drawn to each other at first sight, discover the many interests and tastes they have in common as 'despite plot complications' they fall deeply in love over time. You don't have to be a Jane Austen fan, or even be familiar with her books or movies, to enjoy this novel. It is so well done! I loved the lively and witty dialog 'very much in Jane Austen's voice', the moments of heartfelt emotion and humor, and the beautifully-drawn characters. Many are Jane Austen's real life friends and relatives, and others are inspired by several of her most beloved fictitious characters. The loving and close relationship between Jane and her sister Cassandra is particularly well- depicted. The novel simply brims with original plot and action, as well as depictions of true events from Jane Austen's life. There are also a few clever scenes or brief moments that are reminiscent of moments from Jane Austen's novels, and that is a great part of the fun. Not only is the source for these moments always acknowledged, but they always have a completely different spin or twist or ending, and it's clear that they are there for a specific reason: to imply that these personal experiences inspired Jane to later write about them. In this respect, part of the plot of this novel is a bit like the Oscar-winning movie 'Shakespeare in Love,' which was all about Shakespeare creating 'Romeo and Juliet' while experiencing certain elements of that love story first-hand. In every way, 'The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen' is brilliantly conceived, cleverly executed, and a pure delight. It's as if the missing seventh Jane Austen novel was just discovered, and it's her own personal love story. I can't wait to read it again!
CathyB More than 1 year ago
Imagine if you found the Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. Would reading them be any different than reading Ms. James novel? Probably, but I think only a true Jane Austen scholar would be able to discern the difference. Ms. James offers us a glimpse into the soul of Jane Austen. If you close your eyes, the events that shaped her life and ultimately her writing would unfold before your eyes. Many of the events and characters are reminiscent of those from Ms. Austen's own fictional writing. Ms. James always gives credit where credit is due and these scenes/characters are commented upon and their fictional reference identified. If you want something 'lite' to read, this is a book for you. I recommend it whether or not you are Jane Austen fan.
richardderus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Book Report: Every Austenian knows Jane went quiet for 10 years, then produced what is arguably the finest body of novelistic work to come out of nineteenth-century England, then died. Nobody knows poo-diddly about Miss Jane's romantic life, or even if there ever was one, in large part because Jane's sister Cassandra went wild with the scissors and made like a Nazi with a Torah (burn, baby, burn) to make sure none of Jane's letters or diaries (if any) survived unexpurgated. Cassandra doubtless felt she was doing the pathologically shy Jane a service by making sure The Ages never got hold of her innermost secrets. The Ages, however, feel most hard-done-by, and to redress the disgruntlement that our own nosy day and time feels, screenwriter and novelist Syrie James has stepped in to provide us with a startlingly plausible and well-executed "recovered memoir" plugging up the egregious gaps in our knowledge of Miss Austen's private life.My Reivew: Depending on what one is expecting when reading the book, it will either be a genuine pleasure to immerse one's self into, or an annoying pastiche of Austen's crystalline, ringing prose. I fall into Camp A.No one else is Jane Austen, so drop that ax at the door, no grinding allowed. Yes, the authoress has the *gall* to present her story as Austen's own voice telling her own tale; get over it. No one can remotely pretend to be deceived by the narrative frame, so no one can reasonably judge the book by the prose yardstick of Austen herself. Stop it! Quit bellyaching about the pretenders, the laborers in the pasticherie of Austenland. They exist because Austen is a nonpareil, a monadnock of literary talent. That they are not up to her standard of talent is simply *irrelevant* and those who snort derisively that only *true* Austen prose will satisfy them should carry this thought about with them: "So? Who asked you? Go point your nose into some *real* Austen, then."The rest of us can now get about enjoying Syrie James's full-bodied claret-jug of a book. The memoir tells the tale of Jane Austen's one great love, invented by James out of a one-line reference to some passion of Jane's by Cassandra, many years after the fact; and some clever literary sleuthing in Austen's work. Brava, Miss James! How nicely done!And also to be praised is James's fidelity to the known facts of Austen's life. At no point does Miss James deviate from the historical record *where one exists.* This by itself would win my praise for the effort. But combine that with a truly Austenian imagination, and a pleasant facility with the language, and one has a rare thing: A novel that *should* be true.Why not spend a leisurely spring-shading-into-summer afternoon with Jane, Cassandra, Mother, and the miscellany that make up Regency England's finest writer's world? This is, I declare, a most worthy enterprise in which to engage yourself.
Rigfield on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Absolutely delightful tale that deftly weaves real moments of Jane Austen's life, along with moments of her novels, with a "what might have been" love story for the author herself. Syrie James' writing style captures the light, yet meaningful, tone of Austen, making it a joy for Jane Austen fans.
tjsjohanna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The fun of this novel is the speculation of what "might have been" in the life of the beloved Jane Austen. Ms. James makes a compelling story - using events of Ms. Austen's life and weaving them with a plausible romantic life. I also enjoyed the way she intertwined that story line with some of the plot points in Ms. Austen's novels - showing how real life events could have influenced writing story lines. The writing is good and this should please Jane Austen fans.
Ames3473 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am loving this book so far! It is a fictional story of how Jane Austen came up with some of her ideas for her novels based upon some letters of hers that were discovered. I am enjoying it immensely so far! :)Just finished it..loved it! It does make you feel as if it is true, even though it is a work of fiction. The dates & places are accurate, though. Great read..if you love Jane Austen read this book!
Kasthu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It¿s tempting to create a story about Jane¿s romantic life, considering that she was so private about her personal life, and in The Lost Memoirs¿, Syrie James creates a lively, likeable, and realistic heroine.Set in the time period in which Jane Austen was revising Sense and Sensibility, Jane introduces us to Frederick Ashford, a charming gentleman she meets one day at Lyme. They instantly form an attachment, but nothing comes of it until one day two years later, when they encounter one another quite unexpectedly. Syrie James acquaints the reader with many real and imagined characters, who may or may not have served as inspiration for characters in her novels (particularly delightful in his foolishness is Mr. Morton, who ¿becomes¿ Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice).The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen is a cute, charming tale of ¿what if¿¿ What was the source of Jane¿s inspiration? What really happened that gave Jane cause to revise Sense and Sensibility and First Impressions (later re-named Pride and Prejudice)? What if Jane had actually married her mysterious gentleman? It¿s a quick read, but if you have ¿Austen-mania¿ as I have, you¿ll certainly enjoy this book. It's hard to believe that The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen isn't a real memoir!
emperatrix on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Lost Memoirs was a truly engrossing read and made me yearn to re-read Sense and Sensibility after reading about Jane's struggle to edit what would be her first published novel. I was eager to read this book after reading The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë and I was just as pleased with James's treatment of Austen's memoirs as I was with Brontë's diaries. Overall, a great tribute to the life of Jane Austen and a worthy addition to any collection of Austenesque works.Gricel @
ursa_diana on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A LOT of research went into this book - and it shows. Syrie James took real events and people and places from Jane Austen's life, as well as scenes from her novels to create a secret love affair that rings true and plausible.
Anyone who loves Austen will love this book.
pam.furney on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Delightful read in the manner of Jane Austen. Bookclub members enjoyed threads of Austen's books woven into the story. A light read.
dawnlovesbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
this book is sure to delight all the jane austen fans out there!
bookworm12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Written by a Jane Austen scholar, this fictional work begins with the premise that Austen's lost memoirs have been found. The book is written from Austen's point-of-view and covers her late 20s and early 30s. It feels more like a novel than a memoir, but in a good way. James did an excellent job researching this work and much of it is based in fact, merging real people, places and events of her life with a fictional love affair. She does an impressive job of capturing Austen's writing style and it truly feels like reading another novel from the author. I loved reading about everything she had to go through to publish her books. It's easy to forget that during her lifetime, turning down a marriage proposal was almost unheard of, especially if you had no money or other prospects. Her true life is more fascinating than any fictional love, but that aspect makes it a fun read. The plot pulls heavily from Sense & Sensibility and also from Pride & Prejudice, but not without reason. In James' book Austen is inspired to write those things because she experienced them. It was a delightful, quick read and I can't wait to get my hands on her book, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë. "I have found that there is never a perfect time or place for anything. We can always find a reason to put off that which we aspire to do, or fear to do, until tomorrow, next week, next month, next year ¿ until, the end, we never accomplish anything at all."
readingraven on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked this up on impulse at Target as I left town for a camping trip. Syrie James did a great job with recreating the world of Jane Austen in a way that feels real to the times but also to the Jane Austen whose words I've read. More personal than a novel but written in that style, this book is quick and easy to read. The biggest issue I have with it is that it felt so real and possible that I will have to keep reminding myself that it didn't really happen. I highly recommend it.
stephaniechase on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Some Austen devotees just can't stomach that Jane Austen might have had a whole life we modern readers don't know about; still others are certain that Jane simply must have personally experienced some of the emotions and situations that she writes so stunningly about. I'm in the latter camp, and admit to being a hopeless romantic in Austen's case.This light and fun book is a fun look into a love that Jane Austen may or may not have had, and is a pleasure to read. Folks who loved AS Byatt's "Possession" would likely enjoy James' novelized memoir as a nice beach read, or perfect for the bus. James did her research, and came out with something that echoes Austen in spirit.
jfslone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book as a bit of quick reading that I didn't have to think too hard about. I am a devotee of Jane Austen, and even the fictional things written about her usually grab my interest. I think that, on the whole, James' story is a good concept, and the fictional blends with the factual with seamless effort. However, I think the book is a bit on the predictable side, and therefore not something that I would find myself reading over and over again. I did pull a lot of quotes out of it while I was reading, and jot them down in my journal. It's great for one liners of inspiration, just as Austen's works were themselves. I enjoyed it as a quick, springtime, lazy read, but I wouldn't recommend it as anything more than that.
kaitlinanna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was very excited to read this book and I am sorry to say that I ended up terribly disappointed. One of my biggest complaints is that there was a focus on Sense and Sensibility, though I prefer Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. It was a slow read in the beginning. I kept reading waiting for it to get better, but it never really did. People who really like historical fiction may enjoy this book.