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
Category Archives: Living the Simple Life
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 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
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
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
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
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.