Category Archives: Living the Simple Life

Ode to Jane on her Death

picture of Jane Austen

Cassandra’s portrait of Jane

In early 1817, while writing a new novel, Sanditon, (a fragment was all that she managed) she started to feel unwell. All the family were worried about her. Her thoughts at this time, garnered by her letters are that she ‘will become well’; that it is just time and she will be recovered. She certainly had a positive attitude and given the good quality organic food she was eating and the meditation in the form of prayer, we could hope for a recovery. She even had a special donkey saddle fashioned so that she Continue reading

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Dressing Ms Austen

Lise Rodgers

Lise Rodgers

Lise Rodgers cleverly recreated the Regency clothes and Fiona Baverstock curated the fabulous costume exhibition, Be Persuaded at Watsonia LibraryWhat would Jane Austen have made of it all? The library, a little suburban library in a northern suburb of Melbourne Australia,  was full as the audience hung on every word. Given the two hundred year anniversary  of her death on the 18th July, this coming Tuesday, this scene is being replicated the world over as Janites meet to remember and celebrate this ground breaking and inspiring author. But why does she inspire still?

 

Romance was an interest of hers but her books are so much more than the sum total of the various successful couplings. Her books are of a philosophical bent. Originally I thought that this work was not the serious philosophy of the intellectual white male variety but the everyday domestic philosophy of the home; an environment that women tend to inhabit. Yet over recent years as the ancient philosophers have gained more modern currency with their re investigation by the likes of Alain de Botton, we see that hers was always a universal message; not just a women’s message.

From Epicurus to Aristotle, from Carnegie to Seligman, the messages are similar. To lead a good life, we need to face up to our ethical struggles, not just in the big things but in the small things too: treat others, as you would like to be treated; show compassion for those less fortunate; surround yourself with true friends instead of hankering after the hollow. Jane Austen managed to reveal all this in her six glorious novels. And that is why, she has endured and inspires still. And that is why on a cold winter’s afternoon so many came and enjoyed Lise Rodgers and Fiona Baverstock give further insight into the world Jane Austen inhabited. If you are looking for a favourite line that  sums up her wit and interest in clothes, here is a favourite from May 12 1801: “I cannot help thinking that it is more natural to have flowers grow out of the head than fruit.”

jne's dress

a gown that Jane might have worn

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Pork pies and rhubarb chutney: Slow Food – Austen Style

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Pork pies and rhubarb chutney

Why do others sometimes judge us  based on our so called sophistication? What does this tell us about them? Those that judge others are not the characters we love. Elizabeth has dinner with the socially sophisticated Bitchy-Bingley-sisters, Mr Bingley, Mr Darcy and Mr Hurst, an equally loathsome husband of one of the Bingley girls. Indolent Mr Hurst finds out that Flawed-But-Fabulous-Elizabeth Bennet would “prefer a plain dish to a ragout” and hence Continue reading

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Slow Travel

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“What are men to rocks and mountains?”

Sometimes taking the slow road can bring enormous pleasure. That’s not to say we don’t appreciate a fast jet on an overseas holiday. But there are compensations in the slowness of some things. Jane Austen appreciated the beauty around her on walks and rides and so it is always with pleasure when I think on the beauty of my countryside. In the southern corner of Victoria Australia, is  The Great Southern Rail Trail. It is a bike path made from the old railway line and meanders Continue reading

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Are We Resposible for our Children’s Happiness?

https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRDx-8vaTe_17jykRpEFD1ko0ZWTEScXUzbr-SYcMnJCcYhLcPWWhat a great question and thanks to Sarah Macdonald for her opinion piece on this issue. (See below for a link to the original article.)

But the question I want to ask is, are we confusing happiness with ambition? And has Austen got something to say here? (Sorry dear reader but you knew I would find something!)

Nightmare-Wife-Mrs Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice is unashamedly ambitious for her girls. If she can only have her girls married, she will have nothing to wish for. Here our sympathy is understandable. Women had few choices and as daughters were

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What about religion?

English: "Protested that he never read no...

English: “Protested that he never read novels” – Mr. Collins claims that he never reads novels. Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. London: George Allen, 1894, page 87. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Was Austen a snob?

picture of Jane Austen

a typical Jane Austen image, painted by her sister Cassandra, not very flattering!

Jane Austen has at times been accused of snobbery as she makes her clearly imperfect characters say snobby things. Emma is perhaps our best example. Egotistical-Emma likes the position she commands in society and she likes to be in control. When she finds out that her new best friend Harriet has begun a love affair with a local farmer, she is none too happy. Continue reading

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