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Posts Tagged ‘Persuasion’

Kate MiddletonIn an attempt to criticize Kate Middleton, British radio host Sandi Toksvig has dismissed her as being ‘very Jane Austen.’ Now I cannot even begin to fathom how that could be construed as negative, but it gets worse. Toksvig complains of Kate, “I cannot think of a single opinion she holds—it’s very Jane Austen.”

Clearly Toksvig has never actually read any Jane Austen, because her books are almost entirely composed of characters giving their opinions.

In fact, Austen’s novels were actually rather progressive in her day because her heroines were so expressive. Spirited Elizabeth Bennet readily speaks her mind, much to the discomfiture of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who remarks “upon my word, you give your opinion most decidedly.” Mr Darcy notices this also, and it’s one of the things that draws him to Lizzy.

Emma Woodhouse also shares her opinions eagerly, even when, as noted by Mr. Knightley, they are completely off-base. “Mr Knightly loves to find fault with me,” she tells her father. “We always say what we like to one another.” Indeed, Emma dislikes Jane Fairfax precisely because “there was no getting at her real opinion. Wrapt up in a cloak of politeness, [Jane] seemed determined to hazard nothing She was disgustingly, was suspiciously reserved.”

Marianne dashwoodMarianne Dashwood, aka ‘sensibility,’ is most demonstrative about her romantic ideals. Her sister Elinor, who has more ‘sense,’ is equally ready to counter with arguments for reason. To Colonel Brandon she worries that Marianne’s openness is “setting propriety at nought.”

Also in this novel, the respectable and educated Edward Ferrars realizes that he cannot love Lucy Steele when her letters contain flattery but no substance.

While Persuasion’s Anne Elliot may be reserved, her opinion is well-regarded (except by her unkind father and sister). After Louisa Musgrove’s accident, both her brother Charles and war hero Captain Wentworth turn to Anne for advice and leadership. “‘Anne,’ cried Charles. ‘What is to be done next?’”

Even Fanny Price, the ‘Most Likely to be Voted a Pushover,’ takes a stand when her cousins plan to perform a risqué play. She also, despite enormous pressure, refuses to marry the disingenuous Henry Crawford, which gets her banished from Mansfield Park. Both Fanny and Lizzy Bennet decline financially advantageous proposals from foppish men, despite the very real threat of indigence and homelessness.

If Kate Middleton is like a Jane Austen character, it is because she exhibits a similar tempered resolve as well as much grace under challenging circumstances. Why all this Kate bashing? Ahem, Hilary Mantel.

P and P sistersIn addition to strong heroines, Austen liked to poke fun with a variety of foolish, ill-informed, and opinionated characters. Lady Catherine de Bourgh, though she has never studied piano, determinedly criticizes the finger work, style, and execution of anyone who plays for her. From the tiresome Mr. Collins, to the know-it-all Mrs. Elton, to the pompous Sir Walter Elliot, these caricatures opine confidently, and often nonsensically, on topics they know nothing about. Does this not seem rather like Sandi Toksvig in her disparaging of Jane Austen (and of Kate)? Perhaps it is Toksvig who is the Jane Austen character after all.

British Radio Host Hits Out at Duchess of Cambridge as ‘Very Jane Austen’

Author Hilary Mantel Calls Kate Middleton ‘Plastic’ and ‘Designed to Breed’

Hilary Mantel Defends Kate Middleton Comments

Royal Bodies — A Lecture by Hilary Mantel

Jane Austen Bio and Links via JaneAusten.org

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ImageAs it’s Jane Austen’s birthday, December 16th, and also the season of giving, I wanted to spotlight an absolutely delightful collection of Austen-inspired short stories, Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress.

I should preface by saying that I am usually very skeptical about all the Jane Austen riffs. I avoid them as they can be painful, excruciating, to read. Mr. Darcy has been reimagined as everything from a hillbilly to a rock star to a (groan) vampire. (Thanks a lot Twilight!) All of this pop-culture running roughshod over Austen is simply “not to be bourne.” (Disclaimer here: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is pure genius, but that’s for another post.)

Part of the problem is that these knock-offs only make me pine for authentic Jane even more. But now, Janeites take note—the drought is over! A wonderful collection of short stories has done the unimaginable, the unthinkable. Austen’s beloved characters have come to life again in an enchanting series of vignettes, many of which are backstories or codas to our favorite novels. Well before Persuasion, Captain Wentworth earns his stripes as a Midshipman in the Royal Navy. We learn how Mr. Bennett landed himself his “very silly wife.” The now married Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy prepare for Georgiana’s ‘Coming Out’ ball. And, things get complicated when Mr. Knightley moves in with Emma and her father. Teensy spoiler alert: this story also offers happy news for poor Miss Bates. I loved getting another glimpse at these characters. It’s almost like the bonus deleted scenes you get with a dvd.

Jane Austen herself makes a few cameos, finishing up her Mansfield Park manuscript, and also acting as a sort of deus ex machina for star-crossed lovers in a very Austenesque Christmas tale. A few of the stories take place in modern times, including a clever ghost-busting romp in Northanger Abbey. The only glitch is that current owner, Mr. Tilney-Tilney, comes off sounding a bit more like Thurston Howell the Third than a British gentleman. Still, it’s a fun little parody, much in the vein of the original and complete with papers appearing and disappearing in the very chest that so vexed Catherine Morland. Indeed, most of the stories have similar sly ‘easter egg’ allusions for Janeites to uncover.

While, no one else can write like Jane Austen, these stories come close and they certainly capture her spirit. The collection reads almost like the literary equivalent to a tribute album.

Janeites will certainly delight in and savor Jane Austen Made Me Do It. A perfect Christmas gift. I usually pass books along, but this one is a keeper.

Jane Austen Made Me Do It–official link

A Joyous Season for Janeites

Jane Austen Unfinished Fragment Sold for $1.6 Million

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