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.