Congratulations, Team Emma Read-Along! You’ve made it halfway, and you haven’t even thrown your copy of the novel into the fire in disgust. (At least, I assume you haven’t, or at least that you bought a new copy and continued. We’re not quitters here.) In this section, things are starting to get REAL around Highbury, like so:
“Oh, Miss Woodhouse,” says Frank Churchill, “Why are you always so right?” Aaaaand here we are at the crux of the issue, man-wise. No wonder Emma likes him! And no wonder Mr. Knightley wants to throttle him 100% of the time! Seriously, though: Churchill, you are not helping. As much as I complain about Mr. Knightley, I think it’s refreshing that Emma’s choice is less about the manly attributes of her suitors and more about who she is around them. (I suppose this halfway answers my earlier question about whether Mr. Knightley changes at all over the course of the novel—maybe he doesn’t, but since the novel isn’t called Mr. Knightley, maybe he doesn’t need to. I find this slightly unsatisfying, but I get it.)
In other news, I hope that I am supposed to be enjoying Mrs. Elton, because she is the worst, and I love her. (I have a long history of liking detestable characters—Pete Campbell on Mad Men, I’m looking at you—but Mrs. Elton isn’t even bad for a reason. She’s just terrible for the sake of being terrible, and it is GREAT.) Just an endless stream of awful from Mrs. August Elton, and I never get tired of it, either.
So, do we think Maple Grove is next door to Rosings Park, or just around the block? (But also, oh gosh, Mrs. Elton and Lady Catherine! I would pay some body parts to see THAT dinner party.)
Sooo, here’s the part where Mrs. Elton & Jane Fairfax compare being a governess to being a slave—an actual, literal slave—which sounds tremendously tone-deaf (at best) to modern ears. However! Emma takes place right in the middle of the British abolitionist movement—and so this strikes me as a small but fascinating insight into the social environment of Jane’s time, and a rare glance outside the immediate situation of the novel.
I loved the part at the ball where Emma realizes how hot Knightley is. (Can I call him “Knightley,” or does that make me the worst?) His “tall, firm, upright figure”! His “gentlemanlike manner” and “natural grace”! Because here’s the thing: it takes something for a man to impress Emma Woodhouse, and here we see the once-over of realization, pretty much in real time and pretty much for the first time.
And then he dances with Harriet, and I die. This is what does it for me and Knightley: the kindness of his dancing with Harriet, who’s already in an awkward situation and probably steaming in her own embarrassment at being partnerless, well, FINE, JANE, THE JUDGMENTAL GUY IS AWESOME. (Never mind that it causes Harriet strife later. She gets her happy ending! IT’S A GESTURE.)
Readers? What do you think? Lay it on me.
North and South: check!
It was pretty great, you guys.
I maintain what I said before: the comparisons between North and South and Austen’s work, especially Pride and Prejudice, are inevitable, but Gaskell remains a handy and entertaining shorthand for the progression of the novel in the approximate first half of the nineteenth century. (I love that this novel was published by Charles Dickens. Elizabeth Gaskell: Bringing generations together since 1837. Awww!)
Warning: SPOILERS, SWEETIE.
The most obvious parallel between Austen’s work and North and South is the relationship between Margaret and Mr. Thornton: it’s decidedly Bennet/Darcy-ish, from the initial distaste to the first botched proposal to Margaret’s growing desire to regain his respect to the passionate final proposal. This happens all the time, of course; somebody tells a good story and suddenly it’s everywhere, slightly tweaked. Nobody seems to know whether Gaskell was familiar with Austen’s work, and far be it from me to accuse Gaskell of being the Sugar and Spice to Austen’s Bring it On, but ultimately it doesn’t matter that much—the similarities are striking, but Margaret and Mr. Thornton’s relationship stands on its own merits. It’s fabulously romantic, for one thing; I’d also point out that Margaret’s saving of Marlborough Mills creates a nice contrast to Darcy’s saving of the Bennet family honor. And do we really need fewer stories about people respecting each other and then falling in love?
Also, let’s be honest: Margaret is, by Austenian standards, practically the Angel of Death. A LOT of people die in North and South, which just doesn’t happen in Austen; she tends to kill people before the action starts and go from there. In a sense, though, that’s appropriate: this novel is so much more about the wide world than any of Austen’s work that it doesn’t seem out of place. In fact, before the grim and unsympathetic backdrop of Milton, where people live cheek-by-jowl and are forced to be so up-front about their poverty, to ignore the high mortality rate would be almost disingenuous—which I suppose is how you know the Victorians have arrived. (Mr. Boucher’s suicide especially surprised me. Can you imagine, in Austen?)
I was also intrigued by Gaskell’s treatment of parents, who of course tend (with a few notable exceptions) to get less-than-sympathetic treatment from Austen. Mrs. Hale is by far the most Austenian—her “I married below my station and can’t stop telling you about it” shtick places her squarely in Austen Mom Land—but she isn’t that ripe for mocking, because…well, she’s about to die a slow and painful death. (But then, Gaskell doesn’t enjoy making fun of her characters as much as Austen does—she was, after all, pals with the Brontes.) I also see a place for Mr. Hale in Austen, not because he’s silly, but because he’s so un-forceful in his many conflicts. Mrs. Thornton, though, strikes me as decidedly un-Austenian, mostly by virtue of being a strong and somewhat imperious mother figure who isn’t necessarily a villain—I suppose the closest analog would be some kind of semi-reasonable nouveau-riche Lady Catherine (which, of course, wouldn’t be Lady Catherine at all).
All this to say, if you haven’t read North and South, you have something good awaiting you. It’s entertaining, it’s romantic, it’s oddly suspenseful, and there’s a pirate mutiny. And if that doesn’t sell you on it, I’m not sure we can really be friends. So go.
For immediate release: Austenacious requests proposals for a JANE AUSTEN THEME PARK!
Goals: To have a fun place irl to hang out with our peeps, being sarcastical, laughing at our neighbors, and trying not to be sport for them in return. Why? Why not, she said!
Rules for theme park proposals:
Note, we are not talking about some kind of holodeck adventures where we roleplay with low-rent actors dressed up as Mr. Darcy, ala Austenland. That is not a theme park. Nor is it, as AustenBlog pointed out, ironic enough for the Austen fans. We are as ironic as all hell, damn it. That is why we are Austen fans!
Nor, actually, do we want some kind of honest attempt to immerse tourists in Jane Austen’s Bath, or her villages, or even her country houses, with actors waylaying you and attempting to interact or something. How pathetically embarrassing! (OK, I am scared of those people. I admit it.) That sort of thing may be fine for Dickens’ World, but honest, vulgar sentimentality is not for us.
And we have no desire to sully Chawton, Bath, or even Lyme Regis with our water slides. You are talking to someone who almost cried when she saw the Anne of Green Gables theme park, Rainbow Valley.
But Austen is not Brontë. (I guess you knew that.) We can have some ironical, Austen-spirited fun, right? Sure, Bath is practically a Regency theme park, but the essence of Austen isn’t the world—it’s the snark. So we need a theme park with some snark, some fun, a Louisa Musgrove Drop ride, OK, yes, a Colin Firth splashing into the water roller coaster, and maybe Lady Catherine vs. Elizabeth Bennet paintball. The rest is up to you.
That’s the goal. Now hit us!
Come one, come all, to the Jane Austen Fight Club, where the very best from Jane’s world and the very best from everywhere else match wits and fists for all to see! The prizes: pride, honor, and the adoration of Jane fans everywhere, or a “The first rule of fight club is, we don’t talk about Mr. Darcy” t-shirt and possibly some Regency medical care for all your combat-induced wound-care needs!
Today’s contestants: Lady Catherine “You’re in MY House Now” de Bourgh, patroness to Mr. Collins and owner of many a fine staircase, and Violet “We Can’t Have Him Assassinated…I Suppose,” the Dowager Countess of Grantham, matriarch of matriarchs and subject of many a Youtube mashup. Both get whatever they want! Both enjoy lording it over their inferiors—i.e., everybody! When they put up their dukes, whose pride will prevail?
In their corners:
The Dowager Countess of Grantham has a big-ass house, a large and accommodating family, and a stare that would melt steel. She’s Maggie Smith. She wears excellent hats and says whatever she wants, and the Internet loves her for it. She always wins the flower show…if you know what we mean.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh also has a big-ass house, plus a dreamy nephew. She hosts a mean dinner party. She says whatever she wants, and nobody says otherwise. She does whatever it takes to get what she wants.
The Dowager Countess has a granddaughter who killed a Turk with her lady parts, the constant glare of electricity burning her delicate eyes, and a bunch of random, sick commoners sleeping on cots in her parlor. It’s rather too much to bear, one thinks!
Lady Catherine? Two words: MR. COLLINS.
This is bound to be a down-and-dirty brawl, but the Dowager Countess takes it all: the crazy but compelling family, the edgy sense of humor, and the Internet obsession. This, of course, indicates an inevitable rematch, because Lady Catherine does NOT take this business lying down. (She might, however, settle for marrying her sad, sickly daughter off to Matthew. Because THAT’s going to go over well.)
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!
This Thursday it will be a year since my beloved Mr. Fitzpatrick died. I am finding myself in much the same position Austen was when her family moved to Bath and her father died: just not in the mood to write. So, I give you instead Mr. Fitzpatrick’s favorite Austenacious post, originally published last May.
You are in a car going @#&%$* mph on Interstate 5 towards Los Angeles. An officer pulls you over and asks, “What’s the reason for your speed today, miss?” What do you say?
Mrs. Bennet: Mr. Bingley is come! He is indeed! Officer, hurry up, can’t you?
Mr. Bingley: My ideas flow so rapidly that they make me drive very very fast.
Mr. Bennet: I thought I saw Mr. Collins in my rear-view mirror. And don’t call me “miss.”
Mr. Collins: Lady Catherine de Bourgh, my eminent patroness, most urgently desired me to find a wife, and I have heard there are many fine young ladies in Los Angeles.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh: Sir! How dare you question me! I shall make sure you NEVER find a wife!
Mr. Darcy: I saw Mr. Wickham tailgating a young lady, and was about to perform a citizen’s arrest. Or make him marry her, if necessary.
Mr. Wickham: I thought I saw Mr. Darcy in my rear-view mirror.
Lydia and Kitty Bennet: We were in search of officers! And it looks like we found one!
Elizabeth Bennet: I do apologize, officer. My sisters just don’t stop making trouble. I have to run after them all the time.
Photo credit: ©2009 Heather Dever. All rights reserved.
It sounds like another academic slapfight coming on, but no—Alison Owen, the producer of yet another Jane Eyre adaptation, explains:
As period costume dramas go, Jane [Eyre] is relatively cheap to make. It’s set in a house in the middle of a moor. Jane Austen can be quite expensive. You need horses, carriages, houses, gowns. But on the whole Jane Eyre is much more starkly peopled than most period movies. You don’t need swaths of costumes. And scenery costs nothing.
Is it just me that finds this hilarious? Lady Catherine and Mrs. Elton would be so pleased! And Marianne Dashwood, in estimating her income, certainly agreed that one needs a house, a carriage, some horses, and of course some gowns! (We are not making a porno here.) Surely a fire costs something, though I hear supernatural voices in the bushes come very cheap. Poor Jane Eyre! She never gets any fun.
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?
Photo credit: Magic wand image ©amanky. Used under Creative Commons licensing.
The book describes the dress as something that “stepped out of an [Jane] Austen movie,” meaning very Victorian; lots of lace, mounds of tulle and slightly overworked.
NO, IT BLOODY WELL DOES NOT MEAN THAT! Could you go learn some effing history, already? Jane Austen was NOT NOT NOT a Victorian! How many times do I have to tell you?! I may be slightly overworked at this time, but Austen’s clothes were not.
Whew. OK, calming down now. But clothes are important, my friends, really they are. Jane Austen and her beautifully warm and rational heroines wore simple, rational clothes. Victorian thought and Victorian clothes were lots more about emotion and repressions. It’s just a totally different world. Maybe we don’t think Regency clothes were simple and rational, but they did. We think a) They look good wet; and/or b) Boobs! but then so did they. No really. At least these days filmmakers can get the look of the clothes right, even if they miss on when those clothes would come off. (The pond scene . . . not so much. Sorry, everyone!)
Jane Austen said a lot about her characters through their clothes. Think of Lady Catherine, who “will not think less of you for being simply dressed. She likes to see the distinction of rank preserved.” Or think of Mrs. Elton, going on about her fancy new gown, but, oh, she has such a horror of being “fine!” (OK, maybe Bella will wear Mrs. Elton’s wedding dress. Poor girl.) We don’t think Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney are silly for talking about muslin, though maybe Henry talking about it is meant to show that Catherine and Mrs. Allen are silly. And I entirely sympathize with Catherine for thinking Henry looks so handsome in his greatcoat! But Isabella Thorpe reveals her scheming mind by plotting what she and Catherine will wear, and dear Mrs. Bennet shows her silliness when she’s crying to Mrs. Gardiner about all their troubles one minute and being cheered up by the news of “long sleeves” the next. And let’s not even get started about Miss Bingley’s rants about certain people’s muddy petticoats!
The moral of all these stories seems to be: you should look good, but not look like you thought about it much. Not like you tried too hard. And is that not the very essence of cool?
Image credit: Dolley Madison, c. 1804, by Gilbert Stuart.
Come one, come all, to the Jane Austen Fight Club, where the very best from Jane’s world and the very best from…well, everywhere else…duke it out for all to see! The prizes: pride, honor, and the adoration of Jane fans everywhere, or a “The first rule of fight club is, we don’t talk about Mr. Darcy” t-shirt and some quality Regency-era medical care!
Caroline “Look at her mother” Bingley of Pride and Prejudice takes on Nellie “Doll-Snatcher” Oleson, villainess extraordinaire of the Little House books! Will Caroline’s sugar-coated machinations be any match for Nellie’s direct-violence methods? Yes, the Mean Girls’ Match is on!
In their corners:
Caroline lists her favorite hobbies as taking turns about the room, crafting subtle barbs to wound her dear friends, and, oh yes, completely ruining their lives. All with a smile, you know. She won’t let you live anything down, from your dirty socks to your mistaken moments of honesty (“fine eyes” indeed, Mr. Darcy!), and she’ll stab you in the back every time.
Nellie likes to pull your hair, snatch her dolls out of your hands, and make fun of your mother. In round 2, she tries everything she can to get you kicked out of school and to catch and keep all the available men, especially ones called Almanzo.
Caroline actually acted out of kindness once. Yes, she did—she tried to tell Lizzie that Mr. Wickham wasn’t quite the golden boy Lizzie thought he was. However, she did it so offensively that no harm was done, and Lizzie liked Mr. Wickham better than ever!
Nellie let Laura back her into a pond and get leeches all over her. She even cried about it, seriously losing face. How can you take a villainess seriously after that?
Ding ding ding! It’s Miss Bingley, without a fight! She runs rings around Nellie Oleson, all while keeping her pants dry and her wit intact. Nellie tries, but none of her schemes work for long—Laura sees through her every time, and scares her silly with leeches, horses, or whatever’s there. It takes almost the whole book for Caroline’s plot to unravel. She’s got Jane, her brother, and Mr. Darcy sown up so tight that only the blundering of Lady Catherine can set them free. And, mind you, that happens when Lizzie and Mr. Darcy are at Rosings, where the Mistress of Manipulation can’t keep an eye on them. Nope, in the Mean Girl Stakes, it’s Miss Bingley for the win!