Austen, in her Austen Six, reveals that in times of turbulence nature can give solace. So too Attenborough, 93 years old and a life dedicated to celebrating the natural wonders has stated:
“In times of crisis, the natural world is a source of both joy and solace.”
Appreciating the seasons is one of the joys of life that has been with humans since time immemorial.
Today the weather has distinctly changed, the rain has arrived and it appears the previous day’s sun has gone to warm another clime. Autumn has a bitter-sweetness: the intermittent sun reminds us of what we are losing and the rain gives us a sense of what is to come.
I am obviously not on the front line working in the coalface of this disease, nor cleaning so others do not suffer the contagion. Neither am I fighting for a business desperately trying to stay open nor do I live in a nation where social distancing is well nigh impossible for most of its people. I realise I have the luxury of slowing down and appreciating the small moments. Continue reading
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
Lise Rodgers cleverly recreated the Regency clothes and Fiona Baverstock curated the fabulous costume exhibition, Be Persuaded at Watsonia Library. What 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.”
a gown that Jane might have worn
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
“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
What 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
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)
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
Random Thoughts of Kindness Barnstar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As the happy recipient of a random act of kindness yesterday, I’m pondering on such acts in the Austen Six. The winner has to be Decent-and-Dependable-Colonel Brandon, who presents a living (in today’s speak a job) to Honourable-Edward Ferrars. Edward was disinherited by his aspirational mother, Ambitious-Matriarch-Mrs Ferrars, after acting honourably by Lucy Steele.
Colonel Brandon wasn’t friends with Edward; he had just met him a few times and had heard his heartfelt story second hand but wanted to help. In the Austen Six those who act well by their fellow man Continue reading
The promise of the fruit to come
The Austen household (Jane, Cassanandra, her mother and her friend Martha Lloyd) relied heavily on what was in season and the kitchen garden was crucial to a healthy life. Like many of the middling people of the time who were neither rich, nor the working poor, they were able to live comfortably on very good home produced food with only the staples of tea, coffee, chocolate, sugar, spices and citrus fruits that had to be bought. Cassandra kept bees while Mrs Austen kept a poultry yard. Often presents of game would be sent from their brothers, Edward and James.
Growing and cooking your own food was like breathing and is so different from the world of today where many of us have lost the art of cooking let alone growing and catching our own food. Continue reading