Saying it like Jane Austen
The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment
April 25, 2020
“The change was such as might have plunged weak spirits in despondence,” words by Jane Austen that could easily apply to the isolation of the COVID-19 virus. “We were most commodiously disposed of.” Yet, spring has sprung in spite of all disruption.
“Every day is adding to the verdure of the early trees...the season, the scene, the air were all favorable to tenderness and sentiment.” In other words, spring has sprung without us. But we have inside activities, right?
Some people during this quarantine have decided to take time for themselves, try out a new hobby or learn a new language. Did you ever wish you could speak Italian or French fluently? Even American Sign Language has grown in popularity. With all this social distancing and talking through windows to our loved ones, a very practical choice indeed.
When the book “Say It Like Miss Austen,” written by Stefan Scheuermann, found its way into my personal library recently, I decided to go a different direction. To pursue the elegant and expressive language of an earlier era. It’s English, but with lyrical phrasing, the delightful and flowery play on words from Jane Austen.
I began interjecting her very best phrases into everyday conversations as one does when learning any new language. Crazy? Maybe. But what do I have but time to be crazy? Or rather, “I have so much leisure as to make almost any novelty a certain good.”
Jane Austen, who died at age 41 over two centuries ago, created a body of writing that has surpassed the challenge of time and change, and has remained relevant in today’s modern society. Not her language and form of speaking of course, but her message. Born in 1775, life revolved around status and wealth. Her family was not wealthy but respected, which freed her to question the customs and conventions dominant in that era. She had a very definite opinion about the treatment of women in society and their inability to lead independent lives. Men held the wealth and the power and she thought that wrong.
One of eight siblings, seventh in line and second of two girls, Jane’s brothers dominated and her one sister became her most treasured companion. Neither married. Jane spent a good deal of time contemplating and writing about women as second class citizens and how it was a pompous mistake in the construct of humanity. Of course, she said it much more eloquently than I. Jane said, “I am tired of submitting my will to the caprices of others; of resigning my own judgment in deference.”
Jane is remembered foremost by six novels that still resonate today.
“Sense and Sensibility” published in 1811
A father dies and his wife and three daughters are at the mercy of the son who inherits everything and gives them little. Yet, they find their way through diminished social standing.
And the hero?
“He is not a young man with whom one can be intimately acquainted in a short time.”
“Pride and Prejudice” published in 1813
Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy spar with words and then with hearts before giving in to love.
“The respect created by the conviction of his valuable qualities...had for some time ceased to be repugnant to her feelings.”
“Mansfield Park” published in 1814
Fanny Price is sent from her own dysfunctional family to another, relatives residing in Mansfield Park. Though quiet and shy, she becomes indispensable to family members as they rake havoc amongst themselves.
“She was elevated beyond common timidity of her mind by the flow of her love.”
“Emma” published in 1815
Emma Woodhouse has misplaced confidence in herself and the relationship advice she gives to others, which sometimes results in embarrassment.
“She had feelings which had kept her face averted and her tongue motionless.”
“Persuasion” published in 1817
The Elliot family makes an economical move to Bath in order to accommodate their growing financial difficulties. Anne Elliot is considered a spinster, denied marriage with her true love in her youth due to disapproval of the match. Yet, true love can win against societal mores.
“Her feelings were still adverse to any man save one.”
“Northanger Abbey” published in 1817
Catherine Morland deals with a society that has both embraced and rejected her. Within a gothic castle setting people meet, attract and reject each other. Catherine is exceptionally drawn into the dark gothic setting.
“A sound struck on her affrightened ear.”
These novels are not the only works of Jane Austen. Amongst her writings are poetry and children’s stories and her unfinished novel “Sanditon.” Jane did not pursue wealth from her writing as she wrote to a friend in 1796. “I write without any view to pecuniary Emolument.” Jane strove to have women achieve equality through their own merit.
We as a nation have been wrenched away from our monetary life and set to sit alone with ourselves in isolation. Without the world to howl at us to keep the wheel moving in the rat race, who have you discovered yourself to be? What is your true worth? In this unfortunate circumstance of a virus ridden pandemic, have you found lost pieces of self?
“I had ample leisure for reflection on the present state of our affairs...An occasional memento of past folly, however painful, might not be without use.”
I believe Jane would most reverently and sincerely approve of our repose, using the occupation of an idle hour to discourse within one’s personal countenance, to expose the deepest, most secretly held pieces of our wholeness... That was me, Midge Lyn’dee. How am I doing?
A preponderance of reading with great wishes for your good health and happiness.
*Midge Lyn’dee is a most sedulous fictional character with the review quite sincerely and humbly presented, with certain appreciation of her readers.