Jane Austen and the Music of the French Revolution

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Among the music Jane Austen copied into one of her manuscript books dating from the 1790s is a song titled ‘Chanson Béarnoise’. This is by no means the only French song in Austen’s vast music collection, but it is of particular interest: the words of this song also appear as an Appendix to the 'Justification de M. de Favras' (Paris, 1791) because they had been adduced in evidence against the royalist Thomas Marquis de Favras Mahy, executed by the revolutionary government in February 1790 for high treason.
The Austen family’s links to France via her cousin, Eliza Comtesse de Feuillide, whose royalist husband was also executed in 1794 and who later married her brother Henry, are well known. However, the music in her collection provides an interesting new angle on her cultural and personal sympathies with France. Within a few pages of the Chanson Béarnoise, we find not only Stephen Storace’s ‘Captivity’, a song lamenting the suffering and dread of Marie Antoinette as she awaits her fate, but also the music and five verses of words of ‘The Marseilles March’, an early version of the Marseillaise. In this paper, using her music collection as a starting point, I will consider the evidence for Austen’s knowledge of French politics and culture, and her attitude to the turbulent events taking place across the Channel during her teens and early twenties.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-166
Number of pages16
JournalEFLAC: Essays in French Literature and Culture
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • Jane Austen
  • French Revolution
  • France
  • music


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