New Guest Post & Giveaway: Hazel Mills

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Now that all the excitement of the release of The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen is behind us, we are happy to resume our series of guest posts and giveaways today! Please welcome Hazel Mills to our Blog!

Hazel is a founding member of the Cambridge Group of the Jane Austen Society, and a dedicated book collector (including finding different copies of Pride & Prejudice, her current tally being 246!)

Over to you, Hazel!

I must first say think you for inviting me to be part of this series amongst such august Austen people celebrating this exciting new venture and book. I feel highly honoured!

My Austen journey began many years ago, in the late 1960s, thanks to Thomas Hardy. I was brought up in the beautiful county of Dorset and as such was required to read, in my first years at school, the celebrated local author, Mr Hardy. The books we were forced to read were The Trumpet Major and Jude the Obscure, the latter being an incredibly depressing book for any twelve year old girl to read with children being murdered. However, the next class reader was…Pride and Prejudice! Suddenly death and destruction was replaced with sparkling wit and Mr Darcy. I was hooked. Pride and Prejudice became the first class reader I completed before it was necessary and I soon followed up reading Jane Austen’s other books as quickly as I could.

Hazel pp coverThe books, Pride and Prejudice particularly, continued to give me pleasure throughout my school life and my set of Penguins followed me to college when I left home to learn to be a science teacher. My relationship with Mr Darcy was very strong, (even though Captain Wentworth and Colonel Brandon were making claims on my heart too) and I found that I went back to the book many times when I felt in need of a bit of comfort. At that time I did not realise that, as much as I loved Jane Austen and her works, that she would in fact change my life and what I would do with it!

Living in Cambridge certainly had its benefits; there were often days dedicated to different writers. I was so glad that I chose to attend a literary day dedicated to Jane Austen at Newnham College. I picked up a flyer asking if there were any people interested in starting a Cambridge Jane Austen Society. Did I need asking twice? Of course not! Then I saw the date, my husband’s birthday! To say I have an understanding husband is an understatement!

Hazel Keith 2Duly, on the 11th November 1997 I became a founding member of The Jane Austen Cambridge Group for which I am the social secretary and editor of the newsletter, so a great deal of my time is taken up thinking of all things Austen for the group. Thanks to them I began giving illustrated talks, some of which have become very popular, particularly a talk on travel in Jane Austen’s time which I have been lucky enough to give in many places including Dunfermline, Exeter, London, York, Bath and even, most satisfyingly, Chawton Cottage.

I am also thrilled to have worked for the Jane Austen Society of the United Kingdom as a regional speaker giving Society talks on Jane Austen and her works to groups, societies and schools who contact the society for talks in the eastern region of the UK. One week I could be helping a group of schoolgirls understand what it was like to be a woman in the early nineteenth century and the next telling a Rotary Club group about Jane Austen’s life!

Dinner Table at QueensThe Cambridge group meets five times a year for a variety of events. We have talks by a range of speakers, discussions, a Strawberry Tea every July when the sun always shines, and a wonderful Birthday Reception and Lunch in December at Queens’ College, Cambridge in rooms which were built in the mid fifteenth century so would have been known to Harry Austen, cousin to Jane’s father and rector of Steventon before her father George; Sackville Austen, son of her Godmother Jane Chadwick Austen and Old Uncle Francis; Samuel Egerton Brydges, brother of Jane’s particular friend Anne Lefroy and John Papillon, rector of Chawton in Jane’s time, as all were Queens’ men.

Anyone interested in more information on the Cambridge Group can find it here.

One of the most momentous moments of my life was a group visit to Kings College Library where I was able to hold the manuscript of Sanditon in my own hands, without gloves! A very precious experience indeed!

Hazel KeithI was asked how my life would be different if something had prevented Jane Austen from publishing any novels. The short answer would be, I would be a lot richer financially! I mentioned my set of Penguins that followed me everywhere earlier. The Pride and Prejudice had become so tatty that, in about 1984, my lovely husband replaced it with a beautiful copy from Purnell. It was so lovely that I almost didn’t want to read it. About the same time I found a very old biography of Jane and bought that too.

Peacock editionThat was the slippery slope. I then began buying other copies of Pride and Prejudice and biographies. Then came the purchase of the other novels and literacy criticism, swiftly followed by historical books, books Jane may have known, influences on her writing, the Juvenilia etc. At the last count I have about 246 copies of Pride and Prejudice including the much desired Peacock Edition and 14 audio books, and about 2,500 books in my collection altogether. My Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Walter Scott collections and modern novels were all relegated to the attic as my collection grew. However they are now all boxed for our move where I will have a library!

Without doubt, a life without Austen would not be as full as my life is now. I cannot imagine a world without my books but as importantly, it is the wonderful people I have found in the online Austen world that have now become ‘real’ friends whom I meet regularly, maybe in Regency Costume, maybe not. Previously my love of Austen was shared with those people in my Cambridge group. Now I can share my passion with fellow lovers of Austen from all around the world!

Thank you ladies, for allowing me to share my Jane Austen story with you all.

Hazel, thank you so much for visiting Tabby Cow and for such a delightful post! It’s been lovely to learn all about how you discovered Jane Austen and about the impact she has made on your life! Thank you also for supporting us last week by coming along with your husband to the launch party for our book in the beautiful city of Bath!

The Giveaway!

PrintOnce again, we’re offering one lucky commenter the chance to win a copy of our new release, The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen (find the blurb here), along with the following:

  • A ‘Peacock’ tote bag
  • A Jane Austen silhouette pin
  • A miniature version of both Persuasion and Sense  & Sensibility, from the Jane Austen House Museum
  • A build your own Chawton Cottage

How to Enter

It’s simple! Just leave a comment below about anything in Hazel’s post above, or simply share how your life would be affected if Jane Austen had never published her novels.

All those who comment will be entered into a draw to select the prize winner, which will be announced the following week.

48 thoughts on “New Guest Post & Giveaway: Hazel Mills

  1. My goodness, Hazel! That is a powerful big collection. I wish I could see all your books together on your new library shelves. Holding Sanditon sounds surreal. Neat that you could be a founding member of your local society. Loved hearing how you came to be a lover of Austen.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Sophia, I really enjoyed sharing my story and holding Sanditon really is one of the most memorable moments of my life. Of course marrying my Mr Darcy tops it (I think he’s reading over my shoulder!)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh wow! That’s a lot of Pride and Prejudice! I would love to bear witness to such an immense collection! And what an interesting story about how you became “hooked!” I saw the 1996 adaptation first. Then came the books!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is rather a lot and I don’t seem able to stop! I love all the different ways people find Jane Austen, then we find each other. It’s a wonderful world! Thank you Leah.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh my goodness, Hazel, what a collection! You simply MUST post photos of your library on FB once you get it organised. Of course, I’m not a bit jealous (says she, tripping over her nose!) I also hate to think what my husband would say if I had that many copies of one book! A copy of the Peacock edition would be my dream purchase if I had the money.

    Thanks for such an interesting and informative post. The thought of holding a Jane Austen manuscript just sends shivers down my spine AND gives me goosebumps just like I had when I first saw her writing table at Chawton, but probably more so. As it happens, I’m just rereading Sanditon (listening to the audiobook, actually) on my commutes.

    Ladies, please don’t put my name in the hat for the giveaway as I already have a copy of the book.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s an amazing collection, isn’t it? I am quite in awe!

      I genuinely can’t imagine how id feel holding a Jane Austen manuscript!!! Hmm, one for Rose in the possible sequel perhaps! 😏

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks Anji! I certainly will be posting pictures when the library is up and running but it will be a while, we don’t get the keys until Oct 1st. Me and my books feel bereft at the moment as they are all in boxes!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I just wanted to stop by and say what a fascinating post-lovely to learn more about Hazel who I’ve known online and a little offline – though not nearly enough! I knew you had a book collection, but I’m thrilled to hear you’re going to have a library-I hope you’ll post some pictures when it’s all finished. No need to enter me, I have Cass and Ada’s fab book, which I’m hoping to read on my hols.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for commenting. Perhaps you will see the library in person one day! I am glad you have the book, it is right up your street and I loved it!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. What an absolutely delightful post. Thank you so much for sharing your Jane Austen journey, Hazel. In a little over a year it will be your 20th anniversary as a founding member. Well done! Your collection is eye-catching and jaw-dropping. Like Anji, I’m not at all jealous. (Pardon me while I mop up the drool.)

    Lovely guest, Cass and Ada.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comments! We are very much looking forward to our 20th anniversary in what will a very auspicious year for us all I the Jane Austen world. I am really pleased that so many find my collection interesting as it is obviously very special to me. Thank you again.

      Liked by 4 people

  6. I had a chance 20 years ago to buy a 1st edition of the famous Peacock P&P for just under $100 and I didn’t do it. I’ve been kicking myself ever since. They say it’s always the things you DON’T do that haunt you, In this case, it is definitely true!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What a shame you didn’t buy the Peacock Bonnie. I bought mine so long ago I only paid £20! You never know, one might pop up at the right time again for you! Thanks for reading my post!

      Like

  7. The Peacock edition is so lovely. I saw one at a Used Book Store in Las Vegas last year, it was quite a bit more than I could spend. Perhaps one day I shall find one again.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I also hope you get to own one too Kristine! The Peacock edition really is so beautiful. Thank you for reading my post.

      Like

  8. Wow, Hazel! You are a very busy lady, I can see! Jane Austen has certainly affected your life in wonderful ways. 🙂

    I’m totally jealous of your book collection, btw!

    Thanks for the lovely giveaway!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Pam. Yes Jane Austen has certainly been a big influence on my life and I have been very happy to share it with her. I have been quite astonished at the interest there has been in my books but also very delighted.

      Like

  9. That was Such a fun interview. Hazel has me on the road to collecting different editions of Pride and Prejudice. I cannot boast to having as many as she does, but I have 10. On occasion, when I have found an edition on ebay, I have contacted her to ask her opinion on the copies. I hope to meet her one day or another in costume or not and other Austen friends. Thank you for this lovely interview Hazel, Cass and, Ada.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Glad you enjoyed Hazel’s post, Debbie! We’ve had such fun having guests on the Blog, and so many fascinating stories of how Jane Austen has touched lives! I think she would be very touched if she knew!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Debbie, I love our chats about books and life in general! We must meet sometime as you say, in costume or not, but a ball would be lovely! I am so pleased you enjoyed the interview.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there! I know – I’m serious, there’s got to be an art display of them all. Denmark or no Denmark, we can’t wait to see them set up!

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  10. Impressive collection! So it is very fortunate for you and for the books to move to a new place with a library:) How I wish one day to own a house with a separate room for a library too! I think that it is very nice that you became a founding member of JA Cambridge Group and that by dedicating your time to group activities you definitely spread awareness about Jane Austen and her times. And please allow me to observe that IMHO your understanding husband really enjoys wearing regency costume:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, I have really enjoyed all of my Austen activities over the years. I didn’t think I would be dancing at a ball at the Bath Assembly Rooms but my husband agreed and I think you are correct, he does enjoy his Regency costume. I am quite proud that I made it myself! I really enjoyed your comments.

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  11. It was again great to read the story of how JA changed a life! To have your huge book collection in a library soon sounds really good (I’m jealous I confess 😉 )

    Please don’t include me in the draw either as I’ve already won 🙂 I received the giveaway last week and not only was it so beautifully wrapped I almost couldn’t persuade myself to open it, but the contents showed to be the more beautiful! I’ve worn the necklace which is amazing (love it ❤ ) and am currently reading your lovely book! 🙂 I like it very much and wish you a great success!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So pleased everything arrived safely, Kathrin! We hope you enjoy reading the book as much as we enjoyed writing it!

      I’m loving reading about the impact of Jane Austen on people’s lives too! Hazel’s book collection sounds amazing!

      Like

    2. Thank you so much for your comments and I can’t wait to get my collection sorted in it’s new home. Enjoy the rest of the book. I absolutely loved it!

      Like

  12. Wow, what a lovely site. I’m very interested in your book, and loved the guest post. 246 copies of P&P… I am tingling all over at the thought. I’d be thrilled just to have the Peacock version. What a fun life you have, Hazel, with so much immersion in Jane… she is my happy place, so I am quite envious. I must bookmark this site, though I thought I already spent too much time on Jane sites. Guess NOT!!!! Thank you for the opportunity to win. I’d be thrilled!! Karylee

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Karylee! Welcome to Tabby Cow!

      Thank you for commenting on Hazel’s post! I’m afraid your comment and our giveaway winner post this morning must have crossed in cyberspace!

      You just missed out on being entered in the draw BUT this coming Wednesday we have our final guest post for this series of giveaways and it’s a big giveaway, so do come back and comment on Sophie Andrews’ post and have a proper chance at winning!

      Best wishes

      Cass

      Like

      1. Thank you, Cass and Hazel! 247!!!!!!!!!! WOW. I must immediately seek access to your timeline!!! K

        Like

    2. Hi Karylee, I’m so pleased you have found Cass and Ada’s site and their book is wonderful. You must try again with the new post! However, you can be the first to know that it is now 247 as I bought a beautiful Estonian copy yesterday! I will be posting a picture of it later on my timeline!

      Like

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