Arden Dale and Mary Pilon unveil an unlikely subculture for the Wall Street Journal:
Ben Kemper, 19, plans to wear a frock coat with cuffs to the annual Jane Austen birthday tea in Boise, Idaho, on Saturday.
The outfit will be “the whole shebang,” says Mr. Kemper, who hopes to scare up some yard work so he can pay for the new threads. He says his costume may include riding boots, a cane, gloves and a buttoned vest.
Mr. Kemper is among an unlikely set of fans of the long-dead Ms. Austen—young people. The English novelist best known for “Pride and Prejudice” and “Sense and Sensibility” has been dead since 1817, yet she is drawing a cultish pack of young people, especially young women, known as “Janeites” who are dedicated to celebrating all things Austen.
The appeal? Ms. Austen’s tales of courtship and manners resonate with dating-obsessed and social-media-savvy 21st-century youths, says Nili Olay, regional coordinator for the New York Metro chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America, or JASNA.
Other renowned English authors aren’t so posthumously popular—at least among the Web set. Ms. Austen counts roughly 89,000 fans on Facebook, compared with 45,000 for Charles Dickens, and just 9,000 for the Brontë sisters.
Young women, in particular, find meaning in Ms. Austen’s work, according to Joan Klingel Ray, author of “Jane Austen for Dummies.” They may be “trying to figure out how to find Mr. Right,” says Ms. Ray, an English professor at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. “You can almost vicariously experience this through her heroines.”…
[continues in the Wall Street Journal]