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
Jane lived a quiet life but the wicked ways of the world touched her and informed her writing. And when I refer to wicked ways I am not suggesting the 18th Century relaxed attitudes to sexuality, where one in three women were pregnant as they walked up the marriage aisle in the 18th century. 1. I mean the wickedness of inequality, hypocrisy and double standards. Women without dowries (or women’s shares), women in lowly social classes, women in loveless marriages and women who were courted for their fortune were in unhappy positions that Austen explored many times in her novels. Continue reading
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)
Emma, our spoilt princess, lives a quiet life with her father, her mother having died when she was but a young child. Her sister has married and moved to London. When Emma was twelve, she had become the mistress of the house. “The real evils indeed of Emma’s situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself.” And so a friend close by and malleable was naturally attractive, to our spoilt princess, socially superior but with time on her hands, adopts the attractive, pleasant and Malleable-Harriet. Continue reading
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
On this St Valentine’s Eve let’s ponder on what sort of a partner Austen might recommend. Are we all looking for the perfect partner? And is there a danger in this? It is interesting that in the Austen Six the seemingly perfect partner is often introduced early but inevitably found wanting.
In Emma, Jane seems to be suggesting that the seemingly perfect partner has issues. Once Frank Churchill has been found to have been playing a duplicitous game Emma says:
“It has sunk him, I cannot say how it has sunk him in my opinion. So unlike what a man should be! – None of that upright integrity, that strict adherence to truth and principle, that disdain of trick and littleness, which a man should display in every transaction of his life.”
It is as if Jane Austen is telling us exactly what we want in a partner, or at the very least, should want: Integrity and honour rather than succumbing to the romantic idealism often inside the Hallmark card.
English: Snowy Steventon Taken from a passing train, the snow that covered much of south-east of England overnight reached Steventon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
On this day, Jane Austen‘s birthday, it is interesting to reflect upon Jane’s birth. She was born in the December cold of 1775, sixteenth of December in the little village of Steventon, in Hampshire in England. She was her mother’s seventh child and she was born at home, without a doctor but with the help of a sister-in-law. Perhaps surprisingly for us, and our assumptions of the past, and to the delight of today’s breast feeding adherents, she was Continue reading
English: Henry Austen (1771-1850), brother of Jane Austen ? However, see David Cecil : A Portrait of Jane Austen, where it shows as James, not Henry Austen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What is remarkable about the Austen family is that they could maintain such good relationships throughout their life despite the disparity in income and lifestyle, achievements and abilities. The naval officers, Charles and Frank were often away for years at a time. Keeping in touch must have been a priority. There is also Henry’s bankruptcy which must have caused friction as various brothers lost money. And if this wasn’t enough, James and Henry were rivals for their cousin, the sophisticated Eliza! It might just be that Jane Austen changed the genders with her love trysts in Mansfield Park and Persuasion. She must have seen first hand the emotionally charged atmosphere Continue reading
CassandraAusten-FannyKnight (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Jane was close to her siblings and her siblings’ children. Her first nieces, Fanny and Anna, held a special place. Fanny was “almost another sister”.
Jane Austen took being an aunt seriously. When writing to a younger niece Caroline, in her later life she says, Continue reading