Here we have the answers to last week’s game of failed New Year’s resolutions. Thank you all for playing along—your hemming and hawing and theorizing in the comments was delightful! Let’s play again soon.
1. Resolves to practice the power of positive thinking. Is already so thoroughly positive as to succeed just by getting up in the morning. Is impressed by the power of positive thinking. - MR. BINGLEY
2. Resolves to run off, experience the world, and achieve self-actualization, possibly becoming a lady-pirate with much cooler younger sister in the process. Fails to account for the medium-sized drop-off, meant to thwart wandering cows, at the edge of the estate. – FANNY PRICE
3. Resolves to be more in control of her emotions. Is in raptures about how controlled her emotions are going to be, now that she’s resolved. Faints with excitement. – MARIANNE DASHWOOD
4. Resolves to get out of bed. Is seduced by cuteness of pug face. Stays in bed. – LADY BERTRAM
5. Has no resolutions. Life is already perfect: wife supportive of gardening habit; house next to awesomest house in the world. – MR. COLLINS
6. Resolves to be a lady with a grasp on reality. Is pretty sure husband is pushing her towards this resolution in order to lure her into cave of godlessness and drink her blood. But at least she likes her father-in-law. – CATHERINE MORLAND
So… I was planning to post this before the World Series ended, but Detroit just didn’t have any stamina, did they? Let’s go, Giants! (The Beloved Sisters are Oakland A’s fans, but San Francisco is very nearby.)
“Oh, but you write a Jane Austen blog” they say. “That must be about tea and flowers. What does Jane Austen have to do with baseball?”
Ha! Sister and brother Janeites, remember that a Jane Austen book contains the very first reference to baseball in the OED itself!
Cue excerpt from Northanger Abbey, Chapter 1. Jane’s setting up Catherine Morland as someone you would never have picked to be a Gothic heroine, because she’s so ordinary.
…it was not very wonderful* that Catherine, who had by nature nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, base ball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of fourteen, to books—or at least to books of information—for, provided that nothing like useful knowledge could be gained from them, provided they were all story and no reflection, she had never any objection to books at all.
*Wonderful here means “full of wonder,” i.e. surprising.
Here is a Jane Austen heroine to-be not just watching baseball, but actually playing it! (Let’s put her up against the zombies…) Now, Catherine Morland goes on to learn to read Gothic novels and sigh artistically, and famously “curl her hair and long for balls,” the dancing kind, and not cricket or baseballs.
Jane Austen has a lot of affection for Catherine, and though she also likes Gothic novels, Northanger Abbey is a straight-up lesson in the folly of considering them a model for life. It contrasts the simple health and sanity of the Morlands with other peoples’ deceptions, follies, and evils.
So I’m going out on a limb and saying that Jane Austen also loved cricket, horseback-riding, books that are all story and no reflection, and of course baseball!
And I think we can totally see her at work when Miss Osborne bakes cakes for every A’s playoff game, when Miss Ball tweets about Josh Reddick’s hair, and when Mrs. Fitzpatrick calmly eats baseball cake and cheers when she remembers.
I think she would understand and laugh at us, I hope with affection. And I think she’d find the World Series pretty funny too. Pity we’ll never know…
So, I just read a new book that I think might explain a little bit about Jane Austen and Fanny Price—QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. (Here’s a good article summing up the book: The Rise of the New Groupthink.) No surprise that Fanny’s a world-class introvert; I think we can all agree on that. But part of Ms. Cain’s point is that extroversion has become much more important over the past few hundred years, and something called the Culture of Character gave over to the Culture of Personality, in which we live today. Here’s the ideal self the Culture of Character self-help books described:
- Golden Deeds
That doesn’t [hint hint] sound familiar at all, does it?? Anybody we know? Not little Miss Price, sitting in the corner?
And what about the ideal self from the Culture of Personality? Here’s what her self-help books describe:
Hmmmm….. Is there anyone in Mansfield Park who embodies those traits? And might she just coincidentally be Fanny’s rival just a teeny bit? I think Jane Austen actually uses at least half those words to describe Miss Crawford.
Now, the odd part is that Ms. Cain and “influential cultural historian, Warren Susman,” who she gets all this from—they both say that this switch from admiring Character to admiring Personality happened roughly at the end of the 19th century, when people were moving to cities and working with people they didn’t know, and having to sell themselves. And yet, here we have Mansfield Park almost 100 years earlier, and Jane Austen seemingly talking through Character vs. Personality. (That’s not foreshadowing in any way, Miss Ball.)
In a way, this makes Fanny more believable to me; that Our Jane would write a heroine like her makes sense if those qualities were more important. And yet, everyone in the book clearly finds Fanny awfully trying—they don’t hold her up as an ideal, no, they’re all over Miss Personality Crawford. So… maybe what Jane Austen is doing is looking at books that idealize the Fanny Price type and saying, “You pretend you like this girl, but in real life you think she’s a drip. See, I’ll prove it.”
When you think about it, that’s what Jane Austen does. Take stereotypes and look at them in real life: Catherine Morland vs. the Gothic novel. Marianne Dashwood vs. Ro-mance. Elizabeth Bennet vs. Prejudice . . . Wow, looking at it like that, Mansfield Park actually makes sense to me. And are we surprised that Jane Austen picked up on how people really thought of each other years before the self-help books did? No. No, we are not.
Send us your questions! Mrs. Fitzpatrick knows a lot of stuff, useful and useless alike. “Ask Mrs. Fitzpatrick” will answer anything related to the world of the books, the books themselves, P.G. Wodehouse, math, or Star Trek. Jane Austen (deceased) will comment on your personal problems in “What Would Jane Do?” Write to us using the contact form on the About page. We’d love to hear from you!
Ms. Parvate asks: How early can I read Austen with my daughter? She turns 10 next month! And which book do you suggest as the first one?
Mrs. Fitzpatrick answers: Way to go, Ms. Parvate! We like your spirit! The young ones, female and male alike, should be introduced to the great Miss Austen as soon as possible. Still, I have to say I think 10 is probably a little young, even for Miss A, who I know is precocious. (All daughters of Austenite mothers are precocious—well-known fact.)
Anecdotal evidence indicates that 11 is probably a good time to start, and that you and Miss A can’t go wrong with Pride and Prejudice. This is a good general theory, but we can refine it with a little insight into your daughter’s character.
- Is she contrary as all heck, like me? If so, not letting her read the book, while showing her that you enjoy it, may ultimately make her more of a Jane Austen fan.
- Jane’s language is a bit of a tall order for a 10-year-old. Does Miss A eat long sentences for breakfast? If not, it will help if she has some idea of the story first. So you could show her some adaptations this year. (Cue furious debate on which ones!)
- However, watching the movie first does take away some suspense. Do we want to deprive her of the true full satisfaction of the ending? I mean, to adults it may seem obvious how Pride and Prejudice will turn out, but I devoured that ending as a girl. It was touch and go there, when they come back and Bingley is trying to propose! I mean, I was worried Darcy wouldn’t make it!
- If Miss A does read at a very high level, then I’d say you can go ahead. How is she on P.G. Wodehouse? If she reads Bertie Wooster stories after school every day, she’s probably ready for Jane. If she doesn’t, well, why doesn’t she??
- I’m going to throw in a good word for Northanger Abbey here. This might have been my first Jane Austen book, and look where it’s gotten me . . . . The heroine is a bit younger, the satire is a bit broader, and the nuances are a bit less nuanced. Especially if Miss A has any sort of gothic background (as which tween girl in these vampire-ridden days does not?), she might relate more to gawky geeky Catherine Morland than cool poised Elizabeth Bennet. Just a thought.
So there you have it, Ms. Parvate. Let us know how it turns out. It’s exciting to think of reading Jane Austen for the very first time! Kinda makes me want to get out my book right now!
P.S. Even though Miss Ball is hosting an Austenacious read-a-thon of Mansfield Park right now, I do not recommend that until Miss A is much older.
Well, this is sweet: Lev Raphael fell in love with Northanger Abbey.
I find this charming. When Austen n00bs ask me where to begin, I always point them to Pride and Prejudice, with a chaser of either Sense and Sensibility or Emma—best to start with the big guns, I figure, and follow up with something of approximately equal sparkle, if not quite equal stature. I recommend that they leave Persuasion for later—not because it’s worse, but, paradoxically, because it’s better. Persuasion strikes me as requiring a certain maturity, from standpoints of emotion, reading, and specifically the reading of Austen. Nobody, I figure, recommends Mansfield Park.
But then there’s Northanger Abbey. I love Northanger Abbey. It’s a weird, funny book with weird, funny characters. I like it because it’s full of straight-up jokes instead of the sly humor of her later works, and I suspect it’s what Jane wrote probably because she lived before the age of epic fanfiction novels (or maybe it’s her ageless response to the future spectre of epic fanfiction novels?). In my mind, she’s both mocking and identifying with Catherine. Surely Jane herself read a Gothic novel or two? Regardless, I assume nobody wants to start with Catherine Morland and her overactive imagination. Don’t we all want to read the good stuff? Elizabeth and Darcy and their union of hard-won mutual respect and affection? Elinor losing it, after all that stoic endurance, at the end of Sense and Sensibility? Emma just being Emma? And yet, I get that there’s something about growing into Austen by growing with Austen—about seeing the world through her eyes as she grows up, personally and professionally. And there’s nothing wrong with a good joke now and again, even if it isn’t the model of subtlety.
So: it’s nice to meet you. Can I introduce you to Catherine Morland?
WANTED: Country home, not too Gothic and not too far from town, in a nice neighborhood of at least five-and-twenty families and the possibility of balls at least monthly. Good library space, land to wander in search of romantic adventure, and probably a letter-writing desk required. Slightly hysterical neighbors preferred.
In other words, it’s moving season here at Austenacious! Mrs. Fitzpatrick has moved to the sea–basically to the California equivalent of Lyme, so that’s nice as long as she doesn’t fall off the seawall–and is probably a) without the internets and b) buried in boxes as we speak. (It’s rather far from her Beloved Sisters, actually, but what is fifty miles of good road?) I, Miss Ball, have agreed to take new quarters after spending the season in the country with Mr. and Mrs. Ball, but have not yet taken possession of the place. One hopes the neighbors are all atwitter (if not <a href=”http://twitter.com/#!/austenacious”>aTwitter</a>), especially those with single gentleman children. And by “children,” I do not exactly mean “children.”
I feel like Jane gets the experience of moving house–perhaps the upsides, but definitely the stress of it. After all, she moved a number of times: to Bath, within Bath, and eventually to Chawton, plus ferrying back and forth to school as a child. And she certainly internalized the experience: people move all the time in Austen! Both Fanny Price and Catherine Morland move (permanently or temporarily) away from home; Charlotte Collins moves to Rosings, while Lydia Wickham (nee Bennet) only comes to visit and rub her sisters’ noses in…uh, whatever it is she’s got going. Sense and Sensibility is, in the beginning, basically a novel about downgrading houses. I think it’s safe to say, taking her body of work into consideration, that Jane considered moving traumatic. Maybe it’s because she never experienced the thrill of the Craigslist hunt and the joy of her own parking space, but it’s nice to carry a little bit of Jane (not to mention a Little Jane) as we go from place to place.
In the mean time, may you all have spacious living rooms and exactly the kind of flooring you prefer!
England is a lovely country. Everyone’s so polite and so friendly. Which I guess is why they need sarcastic outlets like Time Out London‘s Lies to Tell Tourists column. My personal favorite:
When on the tube it’s customary to introduce yourself to the people sitting next to and opposite you. (@magiczebras)
I never need a sarcastic outlet, which is why I immediately started thinking of Lies to Tell Jane Austen Tourists.
When at a party it’s customary to introduce yourself to all those present, particularly superior nephews of your noble patroness.
Respectable, marriageable gentlemen will flock instantly to your side should you fall down a hill. Important: It must be raining at the time.
When conversing with a new acquaintance, you should comment on their father’s ill health and be surprised they were raised by a lady.
Lockets of hair possessed by significant others always represent true love.
The quickest way to a man’s heart is through his ha-ha. OK, the quickest way to a man’s aunt is through her ha-ha.
If you’re a guest in someone’s house, your first duty is to suspect your host of nefarious activities and scour the place to find the truth.
One’s first impressions of people are invariably right.
And, the best way to get a girl to break up with your son/nephew is to insult her.
My efforts just scratch the surface. Come on, readers, show us your stuff! I’m sure you can lie to Jane Austen tourists like anything. Bring it on!
Action Jane and I have a confession to make: We did not go to Bath. Jane, you know, never wanted to go there at all, and she convinced me that a fine spring day would be better spent in the countryside than in the glare of a town. I’ve been to Bath before, so my regret is all for you. But there you have it. A fine estate (formerly an abbey!) appealed to us more. For Miss Morland’s sake, we also looked at many real ruined abbeys, and a ruined castle or two.
Lacock Abbey was indeed bought from Henry VIII after the Dissolution and converted into a private home.
Catherine was pleased that, even though most of the building looks like an ordinary manor house, the cloisters and some abbey rooms still remain.
Only the ghosts of Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Snape walk here, though. (At least they did in the first two movies.) Being good guests, we did not search for mad Mrs. Tilney’s bedroom.
To cheer Catherine up, we took her to Tintern Abbey in south Wales. Catherine declared Tintern a little too clean for pure Romantic atmosphere, but at least better than Glastonbury Abbey, which was in the middle of a bustling market town!
However, we all acknowledged Conwy Castle to be a fine, manly pile of a ruin.
Jane and I then returned Catherine to her village to await Mr. Tilney, and headed north on a mission of our own . . .
To enter the Brontë Parsonage by stealth! The sisters’ home was indeed interesting, though they forbade photographs.
Our mission accomplished, we moaned supernaturally in the graveyard, and headed for home.
Photo credits: ©2011 Heather Dever. All rights reserved.
Now here‘s a unique marketing strategy: To celebrate and cross-promote the new Marvel Comics Emma, the new Uncanny X-Men (#534) features an alternate cover by Janet K. Lee, the artist behind Emma, featuring Emma Woodhouse as Emma Frost. Get it? Because they’re both named Emma?
Which brings up a point that I kind of hope isn’t as original as I think it is: I’m generally in favor of spreading the Austen universe—ooh la la, genre-speak!—as far and wide as possible, but if we’re going to make graphic novels of Austen novels, why not go all the way? I’m thinking a band of accomplished ladies fighting crime by night, preferably in tall boots and elaborate hairstyles and carrying optional ladylike crime-fighting accessories. They use their powers for the good of proper young ladies everywhere, and have a futuristic lair hidden deep underneath an English country church! There’s a charming, villainous young man with a scandalous past and an insatiable hunger for young girls! Come on: leather and lycra, but with an empire waist? Why hasn’t anybody thought of this before? (Or have they? Readers?)
I call it—wait for it—The A-Team!
…Wait. That can’t be right.
Well, whatever! Behold the power of the ladies of Austen! Insert your own cool 70s artwork as needed.
Elizabeth “Prejudice” Bennet: With a muddy hem and a pair of fine (bionic) eyes, she out-snarks any man!
Fanny “The Faninator” Price: Turns invisible in the presence of basically anybody!
Emma “The Matchmaker” Woodhouse: She always gets what she wants. Always.
Elinor “Dash” Wood: Absorbs the rage and desire of those around her…
Marianne Dash “Wood”: …only to transfer them to her sister!
Anne “The Waiter” Elliot: Will wait you under the table with imperturbable patience!
Catherine “P.I.” Morland: Will ferret out the juicy details…whether they’re accurate or not!
Universe, make it happen.
It’s rainy and muddy in Austenland right now, and the good people there were thinking of passing the time with a little amateur dramatics when, lo and behold, a wormhole opened up and a copy of the Harry Potter series dropped back in time and into our heroes and heroines laps! While Fanny Price looked on in horror, a fantasy casting frenzy commenced.
Hermione Granger and Ginny Weasley: All the heroines wanted to be one of these two. Hermione has the best brains and get the most to do, while Ginny is, of course, the love interest, and feisty in her own right. Emma tried to claim Hermione by pointing out that she read the most, but Lizzie pointed out that making lists of books is not the same as reading them! Also, who sticks up for herself and her friends most in a tight spot? All right, Lizzie, fine, you can be Hermione. Anne Elliot gently reminded the others that Ginny was also a put-upon member of a large family, but Catherine Morland pointed out that she was the only one who played a sport, baseball, so she should be Ginny. . .
Harry Potter: Most of the men made a claim to this, but the ladies agreed that none suited so well as Captain Wentworth. He was dashing, he was a common (not too bright) man who did things, won hearts, stirred up controversy . . .
Ron Weasley: Mr. Darcy disdained being Capt. Wentworth’s sidekick, even for Lizzie’s sake, but Mr. Bingley said he didn’t mind if he did.
Lord Voldemort: Of course, Darcy was attracted by the role. But everyone agreed quietly than it really belonged to his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. And she agreed that it was fitting she should play a noble role.
Professor Albus Dumbledore: Mr. Knightley or Mr. Bennet, for sure, the from-the-side-watching know-it-alls.
Professor Severus Snape: Lizzie laughed, and said surely this role belonged to Mr. Darcy!
Draco Malfoy: Henry Crawford, to be sure. Draco doesn’t get much action, poor boy, but Crawford could identify with his halfhearted redemption.
Professor Gilderoy Lockhart: For sheer daffiness, vanity, and ego, everyone agreed, Sir Walter Elliot should have the honor here. (Mr. Collins would have done, had he been handsome.)
At this point, the ladies’ scuffles over who was to be Ginny Weasley became really quite alarming. Mary Crawford was heard to say that Ginny had always had plenty of boyfriends to choose from, and that therefore she should be Ginny. Then Lydia Bennet proclaimed loudly that she had more, and should be. Mr. Bennet went into one of his rages, and took his whole family back to Longbourn, leaving the others to practice riding their broomsticks in the drawing room and casting spells at the card table.
. . .
Obviously, I have merely scratched the surface here! Readers, what do you think? What obvious character connections have I missed?