Tag Archives: Austen

Climate Change and Social Dislocation,

Blossoming Bougainvillea in a garden

Blossoming Bougainvillea in a garden

What can we do about climate change and social dislocation?  The simple answer is we do not change it. We simply change us. We live the emotionally intelligent way and through that we effect change on a larger scale. We ‘act local but think global’, the brilliant slogan that encapsulated the way to change lives and communities. Why is it that we have problems like the third world shortage of food and the increase in obesity at the same time? Continue reading

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Nasty-Aunt Norris

English: Illustration for ch.18 of Mansfield P...

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

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Jane and the ‘f’ word

English: One of the symbols of German Women's ...

English: One of the symbols of German Women’s movement (from the 1970s) Deutsch: Ein Logo der deutschen Frauenbewegung (aus den 70er Jahren) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is timely with the passing of International Women’s Day for another year that we consider Jane and the f word: can we use feminism in regard to Austen?  As a woman who grew up in the seventies and seemed to inhale feminist values, I never thought of Jane Austen as someone who help feminist values. Emily or Charlotte Bronte – yes. Mary Wollstonecraft -yes.  Her daughter Mary Shelley– yes. But Austen no. Can we use the f word when we are talking about the Austen Six? Previously I had assumed that my search for feminism would be fruitless; that somehow Austen is about old fashioned values and archaic ways that are an anathema to modern women and feminism. It must have been the fairytale weddings at the end of the books that made me hesitant. And for very good reason; women today want to be more than just the woman who gets married at the end of the novel; they want to be more than someone’s mother, wife or daughter. But when I obsessively re-read and search for the feminism in Austen to my surprise I do find it. What is good news for Austen fans is that if you look deeply into the Austen Six there is ample evidence that Austen wanted women to be equal; she was disdainful about the sexist double standards in her society and that the heroines that she created were indeed feisty and independent women.

What sort of women do we want our girls to become? Continue reading

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Was Austen’s life sheltered?

English: Back View of Jane Austen, Watercolor

English: Back View of Jane Austen, Watercolor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Often when reading excerpts about Austen’s life, there is a sense that Austen lived a sheltered life; that somehow she was immune to the difficulties of life. In reading about her life it is insightful to learn just how tricky Continue reading

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Jane would recommend just one true attachment forever and ever wouldn’t she?

English: "To enquire after Marianne was a...

English: “To enquire after Marianne was at first his excuse” – Willoughby comments on his visits to the Dashwood cottage. Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility. London: George Allen, 1899, page 50. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just in case you might be ready to throw up after last week’s post, here is another facet to the Austen Six that  shows the grittiness of life even it is not central stage. It is true that the Austen Six end with the happy couplings of a series of characters. And of course we expect that these characters will be soul-mates forever. Yet, life was precarious in the 18th century for an innumerable  number of reasons (death by childbirth is just one example); and there were many relationships that did not last the distance. The Austen universe is peopled with characters that have second attachments. And there are many instances where characters must learn to move on. They may have found that the love they had put their faith in has found a better offer.  But Austen shows the value of moving on. The past is a different set of circumstances but there are similarities to today.

 Pining after a lost love can be romantic but Jane often recommends a new attachment. Fed on a diet of Hollywood romances we can place too much emphasis Continue reading

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Jane’s mother’s little helper at Jane’s birth – Philadelphia Austen Hancock

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Jane’s birthday was yesterday and in her honour I ask: who was with Jane’s mother, when Jane was born? Interestingly it was her sister-in-law Philadelphia Austen Hancock, George Austen’s sister. From this we can assume that Phila, as she was called, was a well liked and trusted sister-in-law. George, Phila and Leonora were left orphaned and penniless but with family connections – their mother had been a baronet’s daughter. George used education as an avenue for advancement but this was not an option for Phila.  Denied an education as a path to advancement she initially stayed living in London with an aunt. She had no dowry and so had to work for a living, hence she was apprenticed to a milliner in Covent Garden. It must have been a big step down for this baronet’s granddaughter. At that time, many milliner shops around Covent Garden were actually Continue reading

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