TIME to own up. I have never read a word of a Jane Austen novel - and while not being one of those audience members Dr Worsley referred to as having been "dragged along" to this event, it would not normally be my midweek entertainment of choice.

However, the good doctor has a track record of hooking me and countless others into watching her invariably well-presented history documentaries on television, on subjects we might not usually put off the washing-up for. True to form, within minutes I was hooked.

Dr Worsley acknowledged that the elusive Miss Austen is not the easiest subject to get to know.

Her approach was to tell Miss Austen's life story through the houses, apartments and lodgings she and her family lived in, and how these domestic arrangements and the social conditions of the times may have shaped that life, her outlook on life, and her novels in an - outwardly, at least - genteel Georgian England.

Dr Worsley is a huge fan, but her enthusiasm for Jane Austen does not blind her to her subject's imperfections.

Rather, they endear Miss Austen to her and, by gentle persuasion, to the believers and unbelievers in the audience.

So, what to make of a woman who Dr Worsley described, in alcoholic spirits terms, as "a bracing Martini of a woman", a "social chameleon" who seemingly chafed against the formalities and unspoken restrictions of her times?

Even after this, I may never read a Jane Austen novel but by the end of the evening I had grown to like her, and I might just read a book about her.

And that is due wholly to the infectious enthusiasm and presentation of Dr Worsley.