Virtuous and Undervalued Anne Elliot does regret her family’s lack of feeling when she is to marry Captain Wentworth. She had “the consciousness of having no relations to bestow on him which a man of sense could value.” An extended family that is supportive and fun is an attractive part of any partner’s dowry:
“The disproportion in their fortune was nothing; it did not give her a moment’s regret; but to have no family to receive and estimate him properly; nothing of respectability, of harmony, of good-will to offer in return for all the worth and all the prompt welcome which met her in his brothers and sisters, was a source of as lively pain as her mind could be well sensible of, under circumstances of otherwise strong felicity”. Continue reading
How could Charlotte Lucas, best friend to Lizzie Bennet choose such an odious partner? Surely this choice, the choice made by our pragmatic Charlotte for Clawing Mr Collins, has been gasped at through the centuries by countless readers of Pride and Prejudice.
Recall Charlotte says, “I am not romantic, you know. I never was. I only ask for a comfortable home”. Surely Jane Austen is making a comment on the choices that women must make in such an unfair and patriarchal world. Highlighting such limited and odious choices suggests Austen’s feminist credentials.
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
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
English: Silhouette of Cassandra Austen (1773-1845), sister of Jane Austen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
More successful than Jane’s first love but with a tragic outcome was Jane’s sister Cassandra‘s love affair with Tom Fowle. Tom was a friend of the family having spent time as a pupil in Mr George Austen’s school. In some ways these young adults grew up together. The school was part of the house and George Austen’s pupils joined the Austen family, both the brothers and the sisters in family life.
Cassandra became engaged to Tom in 1792, but there was no money and so rather than a marriage, Continue reading
sally hawkins and rupert penry-jones filming persuasion (Photo credit: Owen Benson Visuals)
Why is it that when we really like someone we can hardly speak, let alone tell the target of our fantasies of our feelings? Yet this can be crucial. It is humbling to put yourself out there and it is one big risk. But courage is necessary and the results can be revolutionary. Continue reading
Alison Steadman plays Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (Photo credit: Canadian Pacific)
The contentment gene should be patented. But if not born with it, is there other ways to acquire it? Some have called it the happiness set point. Looking at our expectations might be a good place to start. Sometimes we need to be vigilant to ensure that our expectations are not fueling our unhappiness. Expecting little can ironically lead to a happier life as one doesn’t suffer constant disappointment. In our Western world we often grow up with a sense of entitlement. We expect to do better than the last generation. We expect to own a fashionable home, we expect 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
I often feel for poor Harriet in Emma. Without family, or the knowledge of who her family were, she was left adrift, especially painful in the 18th Century when family connections conferred status and security. Harriet is Emma’s new friend; Emma has discovered Harriet once her old friend, Miss Taylor, now Mrs Weston, originally her governess, then her mentor and friend, has married. Initially Egotistical-Emma, who needs a new project, Continue reading