Maggie Alderson in her recent column in Melbourne’s The Age channels Mrs Bennet in wondering who is the ‘best possible choice’ for her daughter. And what does Austen suggest? Sure, Mr Darcy is a man of consequence and with a fortune to match. But there are a myriad of heroes who always have enough money – let’s face it one always needs enough in the 18th Century – but are distinguishable by their values rather than their bank balances. Honourable Edward Ferrars is case in point.
Edward’s sister, who I like to call, Supercilious-Superior-Sister-in-law-Fanny Dashwood, Continue reading
English: “That is, I mean to say—your friends are all truly anxious to see you well settled” – John Dashwood expressing his wishes to Elinor. Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility. London: George Allen, 1899, frontispiece. Français : Frontispice de l’édition de 1899 illustrée par Chris Hammond de Sense and Sensibility de Jane Austen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
John Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility is a masterfully crafted character. He is manipulated by his wife to be ungenerous towards his sisters. Despite a deathbed promise to his father to look after his sisters, he easily acquiesced to his wife’s wish to do little more than be neighbourly. Rather than be generous he chooses to be mean. To add insult to injury, John Dashwood Continue reading
Do you let children play with all comers or do you select carefully based on dubious criteria? Katie Hopkins likes to select her children’s Continue reading
A money box, probably from last century. Without money and without the the means to make money, women were in a very precarious position.
Dear reader, as you may have noticed I find it annoying when I read in some sources that Jane Austen lived a sheltered life. It is as if we believe that women somehow were immune to the troubles that were going on around them. Surely it is more accurate to say that as women had no economic or political power they were in a much more precarious position; they had to learn to suffer in silence as their needs and wants were mostly unconsidered when the important decisions were being made. When we acquiesce and label women like Jane Austen as “sheltered”, it is as if we are buying into the propaganda of the times that by treating them as inconsequential we are really protecting and sheltering them. Continue reading
A seafarer’s cottage near the windswept dunes in Pt Fairy, Victoria, Australia
Invariably when someone waxes lyrical about how unimportant they think money is, how he’d/she’d be happy to live anywhere and that money doesn’t matter, you can be pretty sure they may profess too much or have never faced a shortage of it. Anyone who has struggled with insufficient money to pay their bills or rent knows that money does matter. Accumulating wealth may not, but paying for necessities does. In the Austen world of the Austen Six it certainly seems to hold true.
In the Austen Six there are a variety of characters who are mercenary to the extreme but profess the opposite. My favourite, New-Best-Friend-Isabella Thorpe, from Northanger Abbey Continue reading
English: Illustration for ch.18 of Mansfield Park, in the Series of English Idylls, published by J.M Dent & Co. (London) and E.P. Dutton & Co. (New York) : She worked very diligently under her aunt’s directions. Français : Illustration pour le ch. 18 de Mansfield Park, de Jane Austen. Fanny travaillait avec beaucoup d’application sous la direction de sa tante Norris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The most masterfully crafted miser in the Austen universe is of course Nasty-Aunt Norris from Mansfield Park. Not only does she love to save her own money but she is happy to spend that of others. And such miserly attributes were also accompanied with a capacity for bossiness that made her see herself as the director of most things. “Her love of money was equal to her love of directing”. Mrs Norris didn’t start out this way, but once she had married on a lower income than she had been used to, she had to economise and once having “begun as a matter of prudence, soon grew into a matter of choice”. I shudder when I read of Mrs Norris as I know too well the satisfaction of having spent less than anticipated and the addictive qualities of wanting every purchase to be a bargain.
Nasty-Aunt Norris likes to involve herself in everything. It is her idea that the little Fanny Price should come and live with her rich relatives. And she was to congratulate herself for her benevolence at no cost to herself. Continue reading
English: in ch. 2 of Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen Novel) Mrs Dashwood asks why was he to ruin himself and their poor little Harry? Français : Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen), ch 2 Mrs Dashwood craint que John prive leur fils d’une part de son héritage en aidant financièrement ses soeurs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Those that think too much of ‘pewter’ miss out on the warmth that real relationships can bring; the satisfaction that your partner won’t flee when the chips are down and when the real trials of life begin. Those with superficial values can be bought and seduced by the trappings of position: the overseas post, the expensive dinners and the holidays in exotic locations. Those that can enjoy the fruits but still act ethically towards their families and the people they work with are heroes indeed.
Recall in Sense and Sensibility, the deathbed promise is elicited from Manipulated-and-Mean-Husband-Mr John Dashwood to help his step mother and two half sisters. His father has no power to leave his second wife and three daughters any money. Continue reading
antique-metalware-pewter-springhill-tennessee (Photo credit: vintagejunkystyle)
Jane Austen said in one of her letters – “I like what Edward calls pewter too”. She was not sentimental or romantic about money: a mercenary attitude to life was not appropriate but one had to be pragmatic. This attitude can be evocative of this earlier time where there was not access to easy credit. And an earlier time when there was not the safety net of the welfare state. My late mother embodied this time too. One of the many memories I have of her is the citing of the proverb, “It is not money that is the root of all evil, it is the love of money”. Such phrases are gleaned from a generation who had a much tougher time and could spout a proverb in the time it took us to switch a TV channel.
Every Charles Dickens fan would remember Macawber in David Copperfield saying, “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Continue reading