Poetry (Photo credit: Kimli)
Captain Benwick, from Persuasion, is an interesting character. Austen celebrates him as being different – brave but sensitive. One of the best descriptions of any character comes from General Crofts – “too piano”. His fiancé died while he was at sea. Deeply melancholy, he consumes poetry to nurture his grief. But as Virtuous and Undervalued Anne seems to understand, a steady diet of poetry is fuelling his melancholy feelings, rather than alleviating them. She recommends reading a variety of material to aide in the “struggling against affliction”. (Austen is always in favour of moderation as a tool of mental health.)
Unknown to Benwich, Anne realises that she is able to give such advice as she is in need of it herself! She had been pining for her own lost love for eight years: she “had been eloquent on a point in which her own conduct would ill bear examination”. Continue reading
Mead & Light (Photo credit: Kyral210)
As I sit here thinking I want to imagine what Jane Austen’s everyday life was like. I imagine her writing in a letter, “I am so pleased the mead is brewed”. What was her day like as a teenager, as a young woman and as an author? How did her life change or did the nature of her daily life largely remain the same? Continue reading
English: Persuasion (last Jane Austen Novel) ch 23 : Captain Wentworth is showing his letter to Anne, “with eyes eyes of glowing entreaty fixed on her” Français : Persuasion (Jane Austen) ch 23. Frederick Wentworth montre à Anne une lettre sur le secrétaire, en la regardant avec insistance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Being outside, walking or strolling and being in the elements lifts our spirits. I remember a book once that started out with the premise that GOD actually was an acronym and stood for the Great Out Doors! It made sense; the great outdoors – sunshine, wind, the sky – can bring about a significant increase in wellbeing. Could it just be possible that the reason some of us struggle to find happiness in the modern age is because many of us work at desks? In our world we have so many other things available to make us feel good when we are down but perhaps the simplest and the easiest is Continue reading
a bathroom renovation!
Why are we so keen on renovation? Is it an extension of ourselves as well as our houses? Or is it a way just to consume more and more? (And I do speak here as a seasoned renovator.) Do we really go to dinner parties and talk of bathroom tiles as Hugh Mackay suggested? Following fashions is not new; it can be seen in the Austen universe where the Eighteenth Century trend was to create the picturesque.
Upon taking over Norland, in Sense and Sensibility Fanny and John Dashwood, successful power couple, make it their daily business to be fashionable. On their estate, what looks good is the most important factor in a decision. Running a self-sufficient estate is not as important as impressing your friends and community. They must do improvements to the place and of course the productive “old walnut trees are all come down”. It reminds me of some people who move in to the old suburbs, raze the old garden getting rid of the roses and fruit trees, and replace the whole with shrubs and pebbles in the latest fashion. (Fortunately this is no longer the latest fashion!) And then they congratulate themselves on having destroyed a garden because now they are being water wise! No wonder Eleanor had to keep the “concern and her censure to herself” when she has to listen to her brother’s fashionable plans.
English: The Merri Creek passing through Fairfield and Clifton Hill with the Melbourne city skyline in the distance, Victoria, Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It may seem a strange question in our modern world but it seems to me many are asking it. Now that there are so many opportunities for men and women to find satisfaction in their workplaces and their careers some people are perversely turning their back on such values and reinstating the need for pleasure in our domestic lives. No one would want to be exclusively confined to a domestic sphere but it can be a place where happiness is found for certain periods of our lives.
Egotistical-Emma, in Emma, wants us to believe that the local farmers, the Martins and Mr Martin in particular, are living an inferior lifestyle. Yet when we look more closely at the Martin way of living it is almost idyllic: there are moonlight walks, espaliered apple trees, a pretty gravel walk, walnuts, and even a shepherd boy brought near the fire to sing to the family. Continue reading
Taking delight in our local landscape brings us happiness. Sometimes we think we need the exotic holiday to be happy but I know that within walking distance from my home there are walks of such beauty that can take your breath away. A little bit of water, a creek or a river, some natural vegetation and a pathway through can sometimes be enough to lift the spirits of a despondent person. Nauseatingly-Nice Fanny Price in Mansfield Park appreciates the landscape; she notices “the bearings of the roads, the difference of the soil, the state of the harvest, the cottagers, the cattle”. This is contrasted with Mercenary-Mary who saw “nature inanimate nature, with little observation her attention was all for men and women”.
Nauseatingly-Nice Fanny Price appreciates the natural: She is looking out the window one starlit night and says, Continue reading
Apricots coaxed from the tree early last summer
All of the settings of the Austen Six include a garden as a prerequisite for a happy life. For those who could afford it a full time gardener would do the backbreaking work. However, the various gardens were managed for food and flower production as well as pleasure. Fruit trees and vegetable gardens are often mentioned in the Austen Six; one example was Barton Cottage in Sense and Sensibility. The three women, recently moved from a much larger house but found pleasure in the garden. Also landlord and neighbour, Lord Middleton’s Barton Park was a successful estate and upon arrival he had sent “a large basket full of garden stuff and fruit” which was later followed by a present of game. But the Dashwoods would have to be mindful of making their own garden productive. There were no green grocers down the road and the concept of self sufficiency was a necessity, not a modern eco friendly dream. Any garden needed to be Continue reading
Jane Austen lived here, in Chawton, during her final years. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Jane Austen had much to say in an indirect way about living the local and everyday life – the simple life. To us in a time of environmental damage it may also be worthwhile for us to consider how others in the past lived a sustainable life. That is not to romanticize the past or sentimentalize it but to learn from it and apply it to a modern setting.
Astoundingly in the affluent West we have rates of depression and mental illness that startle us. Why? Continue reading