Virtuous and Undervalued Anne Elliot does regret her family’s lack of feeling when she is to marry Captain Wentworth. She had “the consciousness of having no relations to bestow on him which a man of sense could value.” An extended family that is supportive and fun is an attractive part of any partner’s dowry:
“The disproportion in their fortune was nothing; it did not give her a moment’s regret; but to have no family to receive and estimate him properly; nothing of respectability, of harmony, of good-will to offer in return for all the worth and all the prompt welcome which met her in his brothers and sisters, was a source of as lively pain as her mind could be well sensible of, under circumstances of otherwise strong felicity”. Continue reading
English: Snowy Steventon Taken from a passing train, the snow that covered much of south-east of England overnight reached Steventon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On this day, Jane Austen‘s birthday, it is interesting to reflect upon Jane’s birth. She was born in the December cold of 1775, sixteenth of December in the little village of Steventon, in Hampshire in England. She was her mother’s seventh child and she was born at home, without a doctor but with the help of a sister-in-law. Perhaps surprisingly for us, and our assumptions of the past, and to the delight of today’s breast feeding adherents, she was Continue reading
English: Henry Austen (1771-1850), brother of Jane Austen ? However, see David Cecil : A Portrait of Jane Austen, where it shows as James, not Henry Austen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What is remarkable about the Austen family is that they could maintain such good relationships throughout their life despite the disparity in income and lifestyle, achievements and abilities. The naval officers, Charles and Frank were often away for years at a time. Keeping in touch must have been a priority. There is also Henry’s bankruptcy which must have caused friction as various brothers lost money. And if this wasn’t enough, James and Henry were rivals for their cousin, the sophisticated Eliza! It might just be that Jane Austen changed the genders with her love trysts in Mansfield Park and Persuasion. She must have seen first hand the emotionally charged atmosphere Continue reading
CassandraAusten-FannyKnight (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Jane was close to her siblings and her siblings’ children. Her first nieces, Fanny and Anna, held a special place. Fanny was “almost another sister”.
Jane Austen took being an aunt seriously. When writing to a younger niece Caroline, in her later life she says, Continue reading
Today we are bombarded in the news by research findings that tell us how to help our children reach their potential. We can apparently grow our children’s IQ a number of notches by playing Mozart to them in and out of the womb, breastfeeding them and reading to them as babies. We can begin them on Gymberoo and Little Maestros at a very young age and start them using a mouse on the computer before four. Now this is not undesirable, indeed it is to be admired. But does this make them happy?
The simple answer is we don’t know. But beware of geniuses. They are often spoon fed on their own importance and become prima donnas before you can get them into a school uniform. What on earth would Jane have to say about such modern little tykes? Continue reading
Jane Austen nephews and nieces (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Some biographers, taking a few letters out of context have assumed she didn’t. Rubbish! Jane Austen was a revered Aunt; she was a loved Aunt; she was a sought-after aunt. You don’t get to be such an aunt if you do not like children. It is just that she didn’t idealise children. In one of her letters to her brother James she says, we saw “a countless number of Postchaises full of Boys pass by yesterday morng – full of Heroes, legislators, Fools & Villains.” In the privileged world in which Jane was an observer, children were often put on pedestals by their affluent parents. It was not so very different from today Continue reading
This is a long shot but being good to your family and being seen to be good to your family is attractive; those that care for others and treat their own with respect win the prize in the love stakes in the Austen world. (Maybe this sentiment lies behind the fact that men with babies appear attractive.) Beware of anyone who denigrates their own family. It is a warning bell loud and clear. This is not to say that one should be loyal to your family under any circumstances. One wouldn’t want to be like the Mafia! But it is a basic test when looking for friends or partners that Continue reading
I often feel for poor Harriet in Emma. Without family, or the knowledge of who her family were, she was left adrift, especially painful in the 18th Century when family connections conferred status and security. Harriet is Emma’s new friend; Emma has discovered Harriet once her old friend, Miss Taylor, now Mrs Weston, originally her governess, then her mentor and friend, has married. Initially Egotistical-Emma, who needs a new project, Continue reading
Wendy Squires in The Age wrote an opinion piece, “Get a grip, girl, the reality is it’s time to stop sulking” (1/12/12). It amazes me that such an issue was relevant pre -feminism in Austen’s time as well. Are children essential for a happy life? Obviously not, as Jane Austen can attest, for she neither married nor had children. She was able to carve a life for herself that was rich in terms of family and children but did not involve herself as a mother or a wife. (And let’s not forget the literary genius role. ) The Austen Six always end with all Continue reading
Jane’s early childhood
What of Jane Austen herself? What sort of a childhood did she have? Can there be some interesting insight into this woman’s childhood that led her to be such a genius? My search seemed to be finding more truths as I began reading the very many biographies on Jane Austen. Obviously Jane’s life had held interest for many and since her death there have been an abundance of chronicles. Despite many suggesting not much is known about Austen, I was amazed just how much material there actually is about this one woman who lived over two hundred years ago and at the time of her death was anything but a celebrity.
Her first biographer, her nephew drew upon his and his family’s first-hand knowledge. I still remember the excitement I felt as I scanned Continue reading