Hi. My name is Mrs. Fitzpatrick. I am a co-founder of Austenacious, and I have trouble reading Emma.
There! I said it!
I’ve read Pride and Prejudice roughly 42 times, and I read all Austen’s novels about once a year. I can read Persuasion in one sitting. But Emma . . . I keep putting it down and not picking it back up. I originally tried to read it three times before I got to the end—this is unprecedented.
Why do I stop? Well, I think it’s mainly because it’s too good. (“Gah! So brilliant! So true to life! Ooh, I just want to shake that girl . . . Am I like her? Hmm . . .”) I have to share, and going into rants about the Eltons leaves most people just befuddled.
So! Join us for our Emma Read-along! Starting next week (January 21–25) we’ll be reading 10 chapters a week. Grab a copy and read with us, and you too can complain about barouche-landaus like a boss.
Austenacious readers, today’s post is not for you. Today’s post is for your loved ones—those wishing/required to give you a gift this holiday season. Specifically, those hoping not to find themselves in a picked-over Walgreens on Christmas Eve (or, you know, Hanukkah and/or Kwanzaa Eve), weighing the costs and benefits of a pair of LED-lighted Babylon 5 socks. So just hand this on over to them, and you’re welcome.
To the friends and family of the reader at hand, it’s nice to meet you. We’re here to help—we’ve scouted the coolest, funniest, prettiest, and Jane-iest stuff at our beloved Etsy and laid it out here for all your gift-giving needs. We recommend shopping early, as shipping time is of the essence, but we hope you’ll find what you’re looking for and give the Austen fan in your life something a little special to get excited about this season.
Students of modern typography and/or fictional geography, take heart! Brooke and Justin made you a shirt. From Longbourn all the way to Pemberley, this top is stylish and modern, and also offers endless chances to say to yourself, “IN CHEAPSIDE!” (Austenites, you know what I mean. Confused non-Austenites, nothing to see here. Except a really cool shirt that your loved one will wear all the time.)
Are you looking for a way to show your lady friend how much you care? Has it been more than half a decade? Are you handsome, and basically a friendly pirate? This print commemorating the proposal of Captain Frederick Wentworth to his once and future intended, Anne Elliot, should do the trick. Also comes in black on white.
Wrap your favorite Austenite in romantic angst this holiday season. Like, literally. Around the neck. But not like a psychopath! More like a Naval captain who’s been pining for his ex-girlfriend, who has, thankfully, been pining right back. Does that sound good? Then give someone this scarf. Also comes in Darcy’s proposal.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single lady in possession of a sense of adventure (so, not Fanny Price) must be in want of a nine-hundred-year-old anthropomorphic alien to whisk her around time and space in a blue police box and then probably be separated from her in some amazingly poetic and heartbreaking manner. At least, we THINK that’s how the saying goes. Anyway, anybody who loves Elizabeth Bennet AND Doctor Who cannot go wrong with this set of prints commemorating their theoretical meeting.
For all the essentials: pragmatic elder sister, romantic younger sister, handsome tool, guy who regrets promising himself to someone else, older gentleman who doesn’t mind an age difference. Also keys, phone, wallet, lip gloss, mints, emergency earrings, tiny notebook of mostly to-do lists and brunch menus, The New Yorker, half-empty tub of hummus. (Just me, then?) Also comes in Persuasion and, for the heavy packer in your life, Seven Novels.
The great ebook wars started innocently enough in June, 2012. A single alert blogger, Philip Howard, noticed that the Barnes & Noble version of War and Peace had erased all instances of the word Kindle—an competitor at the time—with their own brand-name, Nook. (“It was as if a light had been Nookd in a carved and painted lantern….”) One or two blogs picked it up, the people lol’ed, case closed.
An simple mistake with search-and-replace, but it started people thinking. . . hackers had already inserted zombies into Pride and Prejudice in the careless spirit of the 2000s, so why not make some money by selling product placement in the books? Anyone can publish e-versions of books no longer in copyright. Starbucks was first on the bandwagon in late 2012, with their special Frappuccino Editions of the classics (Frappuccino was a curious coffee-like drink). These editions merely replaced all coffee and tea, coffeehouses and tea shops in the classics, with Starbucks. The changes to the coffee shop scene in Persuasion did cause some comment on the primitive “social networks” of the time, but marketers and companies eagerly lined up to have their products inserted in some edition, any edition of a classic, and by 2015 generic ebooks were becoming rare and collectible.
The sudden rebirth of the bowdlerizers, and their tireless campaign to find and replace smut where ordinary dirty-minded citizens couldn’t even see it, spun off into its own crusade. Of course, the main target in Austen was “intercourse.” The mere thought of Emma and Miss Bates having “a regular and steady intercourse” caused President Sarah Palin to mandate bowdlerized versions of all classics in 2020.
The fall of America into chaos, the rise of the underground movement for Pure Classics, and the petty in-fighting of the various Jane factions (Austen, Eyre, Bennet, and Cobb), need not be gone into. Every schoolchild knows that in 2072, the Pure Classics broke away from the Altered Versions, and the two empires have been fighting ever since. It has been a long and terrible history. But on this, the 1,000th anniversary of the first shot of this massive war, let us stop and remember that it need never have happened.
. . .
Ok, so this could also be called Leo Tolstoy Hates Your Search-and-Replace. But, you know, once you start down the Dark Side, forever will it guide your destiny! So, beware!
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?
Where early young women take walks by West Cliff Drive before breakfast (with their dogs). Where there are many many coffee shops to shelter from the rain, see, and be seen in. Where Admiral Croft’s arm really would be helpful in fending off undesirable acquaintances-to-be. And where sensible young women are indeed fine for their own pleasure alone.
I recently got a note on Facebook from a friend of the family. “You’ll be so proud!” it said. “I just read my first Pride and Prejudice!”
We get a lot of this sort of thing, we Austen bloggers.
And the thing is, mostly, that we are proud. But then, proud is also a misnomer. What we are is pleased—for ourselves, and for the first-timers. For our part, we get new Austen pals with whom to discuss and enjoy! And—not that we’d ever bring this up, being of fine breeding and proper training—we’ve been proven right! People like what we like, and that’s always nice, not to mention a sign of excellent judgment on their parts. OBVIOUSLY.
But we’re even more excited for them. What could be better than seeing Lizzy and Darcy (or Emma and Knightley, or Elinor and Edward, or Anne and her Captain) with fresh eyes? It’s an accomplishment, yes, but it’s also a kind of engagement; especially in a literary and pop-culture landscape that embraces primarily the very new, there’s a sense that discovering the Austen universe is a bit like discovering that old things can be funny, and sharp, and hit romantic notes that we somehow expect them not to know about. (Jane’s humor is, I think, the most surprising thing to new readers. They just seem so shocked! Wry humor: not invented by Mark Twain, or so we hear.) From that first page, there’s so much to enjoy, and I, for one, just want to hear about it.
And so, if you’re just reading your first Pride and Prejudice—or Emma, or Sense and Sensibility, or (let’s be brave) Northanger Abbey—do an Austenite near you. (Or not near you. We’re on Facebook! HINT HINT.) You just might make her day, as long as you’re also making your own.
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-era medical care for all your combat-induced wound-care needs!
Today’s contestants: Captain Frederick “Kindly Pirate” Wentworth, professional piner and warrior in the name of handsomeness, and The Doctor, time-traveling alien and occasional heartbreaker. Both have loved ‘em and left ‘em; which one’s worth chasing after?
In their corners:
Wentworth is a clear winner in the world of Austenian good guys: anyone worth pining after for eight perfectly good man-catching years (and by the generally sensible Anne Elliot, no less!) must be, ahem, spongeworthy. We’re told he’s handsome and adventurous, yet gentle and willing to wear his heart on his sleeve when it comes to his lady love; after all, he’s been waiting, too.
The Doctor is good, and wise, and full of adventure and a particular brand of romance; he’s been rather handsome lately, and he wears a variety of vintage suits with great skill and aplomb—and if you don’t like the Doctor you’ve got, you can just wait for the next one. He’s charming, and kind, and I think it’s safe to say that he’s a dude who’s capable of loving deeply. And…look. He DRIVES A SPACESHIP. THAT IS BIGGER ON THE INSIDE! And he travels through time and space, because why wouldn’t he? So…there’s that.
Is it possible for a man to be too patient? Because Wentworth waited an awfully long time (admittedly at sea) before getting back on the horse, love-declaring-wise. We’re not saying it’s insensitive, just that a man’s gotta stake his claim, you know?
The Doctor…well. He is all of the things we said, and more—which is why such stellar young ladies continue to steal away with him—but he always leaves eventually, and he doesn’t come back. Even if by “leaves” I mean “gets caught on the wrong side of a closing dimensional portal and makes Miss Ball cry and cry and cry.” He keeps his beloved in his heart(s), but he doesn’t keep them in his sights, and that’s going to be a problem. Plus, you know, alien.
It’s gotta be Wentworth. It’s hard out there for a guy without a phone-box spaceship, but Wentworth’s general faithfulness and ability to commit long-term without great emotional harm puts him over the edge. However, if he would like to try on a fancy pair of suspenders and a nice tweed-or-TARDIS blue suit, and perhaps a well-loved pair of Chuck Taylors, I believe the ladies of Austenacious would not object. Ahem.
. . . as the sign for Hampshire County proclaimed! Action Jane and I have been having a jolly time here, with her showing me all the sights. In London, we stopped at the British Library. My dear friends, I cannot even describe to you the treasures in their little gallery. Even the sight of one of Jane Austen’s handwritten volumes of juvenalia was overwhelmed by the sheer physical presence of so many manuscripts handwritten by her, by Wordsworth, by Chaucer, and, yes, by Charlotte Brontë (and that was just part of one display case). In the spirit of Brontë/Austen relations, I’ll admit that seeing “Reader, I married him.” in Charlotte’s own hand was simply stunning. And that her writing was more legible than Miss Austen’s. We’ve talked before about how indescribable it is to see handwritten copies of Jane’s work. I think, more than anything, the proof that she and these other were all real people, is overwhelming.
Jane frowned on my friend Mr. Coles’ suggestion that I sit on her tomb and sing New Age chants, so we headed on to her last house, where she lived from 1809 to 1817.
Chawton is a lovely little village, and Jane Austen’s House Museum quite worthy of pilgrimage. Really ridiculously so, given the number of things that were hers and that clearly inspired something in one of the books. I found the lock of her hair another shocking proof that she really lived. Some other highlights:
The sacred writing table. It is, as mentioned, very small! In fact, I can’t see how Jane’s writing desk, which was at the British Library, actually fit on it. I’ve heard people say that everything in Austen’s life was small: her paper, her table, the rooms in her house. Paper and table, yes, but to this apartment dweller, the rooms in her house seemed plenty commodious! Not huge, but nothing I’d turn my nose up at.
The actual dress worn by Kate Winslet as she fell down the hill in Sense and Sensibility! Really! Squee!!
Miss Osborne and other aspiring Regency chefs: Here is the recipe book Jane’s friend Martha Lloyd kept when she lived with them. I couldn’t read it, unfortunately, but I have no doubt it’s for jugged hare or some other delight.
And here is Action Jane in the kitchen. To the left of the fireplace is the safe that Miss Austen had the keys of, where the sugar and tea were kept.
In reward for our pilgrimage, we had an amazing cream tea at Cassandra’s Cup across the street. Cream tea consists of tea, plus one or two scones with jam and clotted cream to spread on. Clotted cream! Heavenly. Then, because I am a thorough pilgrimess, we headed down to Lyme Regis.
Lyme is the seaside resort on the south coast where Louisa Musgrove falls down the Cobb steps in Persuasion. (Falling down things is a favorite among Austen girls, isn’t it?)
We arrived in Lyme at sunset, and went to the sea first, as Jane says “lingering, as all must linger and gaze on a first return to the sea, who ever deserve to look on it at all.” Believe it or not, we actually stayed at the Cobb Arms, and next morning, we walked along the lower Cobb.
Jane wanted to walk along the upper Cobb, but I wouldn’t let her. Indeed, considering that it’s a sloping stone walkway, with no handrails, 8 feet above the lower Cobb and probably 20 feet above the harbor, and very windy, I’m surprised the ladies were walking there at all.
I liked Lyme Regis, but then I do have a weakness for seaside resort towns. And Lyme has some commercialism, but not too much. I don’t think Jane would be displeased, were she to return. However, as far as I know, I didn’t see any unknown cousins who will later be charmed by my beauty. One can always hope.
Next up: Bath!
Photo credits: ©2011 by 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.
How is it, do you think, that Jane Austen hit on so many lessons that we need to hear, not just once, but over and over again? From Persuasion:
Mr. Musgrove made a point of paying his respects to Lady Russell, and sat down close to her for ten minutes, talking with a very raised voice, but from the clamour of the children on her knees, generally in vain. It was a fine family-piece.
Anne, judging from her own temperament, would have deemed such a domestic hurricane a bad restorative of the nerves . . .. But Mrs. Musgrove . . . concluded a short recapitulation of what she had suffered herself, by observing, with a happy glance round the room, that after all she had gone through, nothing was so likely to do her good as a little quiet cheerfulness at home.
Everybody has their taste in noises as well as in other matters; and sounds are quite innoxious, or most distressing, by their sort rather than their quantity. When Lady Russell, not long afterwards, was entering Bath on a wet afternoon . . . amidst the dash of other carriages, the heavy rumble of carts and drays, the bawling of newsmen, muffin-men, and milk-men, and the ceaseless clink of pattens, she made no complaint. No, these were noises which belonged to the winter pleasures: her spirits rose under their influence; and like Mrs. Musgrove, she was feeling, though not saying, that after being long in the country, nothing could be so good for her as a little quiet cheerfulness.
Anne did not share these feelings.
Other people are not like ourselves; they like other things, and that’s OK. You’d think we’d have figured that out after 200 years, (and I’m sure she was not the first with this message), but it seems that everyone has to discover this for themselves, if they ever do discover it. But I think this is one truth that good fiction helps us discover. What do you think?
I hope you are enjoying a little quiet cheerfulness of your own, whatever it might be.