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Tuesday, June 26

Janeites on the James

Our group of five Austen admirers met tonight in Richmond amongst much merriment and drinking of wine as we discussed the mature ladies in Jane's novels - Lady Russell, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mrs. Jennings, and Mrs. Norris. Mrs. Croft never quite entered the discussion because she was deemed too young. (Sorry, Eric). We ended the evening with a reading from the recent Newsweek article about Jane, which one of the Janeites read.

I won't duplicate the excellent post on Austen.blog, where you can find a link to the article. But I will quote one passage we all responded to with deep feeling:

But it's time to rescue Austen from her fans, lest the most adventurous and discerning readers pass her by. If you look at her books closely, you find them more bleak than charming: her characters are isolated within their own minds, trapped in tight spaces, forced to socialize daily with a small group of people they can never fully trust, including their own families. Not a one of her heroines ever shares everything with a true confidant—that is, up until the marriage we never see—and everybody has secrets and conflicting agendas.

This passage resulted in a prolonged and lively discussion. We do see the weddings in a few novels, but author David Gates is right, we do not see the marriages of our heroes and heroines. But "rescue Jane from her fans and save her for a more discerning reader?" What on earth is the man talking about?

To form your own opinion, go to Austen.blog and click on the link to read the rest of the article.

7 comments:

Stephanie J. said...

Not a one of her heroines ever shares everything with a true confidant

I don't know if that's really true. Lizzie confides in Jane and in Charlotte many times. She may be slow to go about it--but eventually spills everything to her sister.

Am I wrong?

Miss Paula said...

I am reading Mansfield Park right now and my opinion of Mrs. Norris is Nil!

Ms. Place said...

I agree with you, Miss Paula, we thought Mrs. Norris was a mean spirited person whose treatment of Fanny was unfair.

Stephanie, you hit the nail on the head. Our spirited discussion centered around the ways in which Jane's characters concealed their true feelings, but unlike the Newsweek reporter, I think that those feelings were eventually revealed. Lizzie told Jane about her change of feelings towards Mr. Darcy, and Eleanor eventually revealed her deep affection for Mr. Dashwood to Marianne. They were pivotal moments in the plot.

james said...

Interesting....near Barak, Jesus, Osama, and soup.
One story of Janeites oft repeated around these corners of Bath is a bus load of Americans unloaded onto Gay Street who made their way into the centre. There, they preceded to--en masse--inhale expectantly the air of the house where Jane once lived. There was a lot of heavy breathing as they went up the staircase that Jane might have once tread...and not just because they were advanced in years... (even tho, it's not original, i believe)
Anyway, it freaked out the staff--who are actual Janeites since it is a sought after job to work there...
but that's just a story here....

Ms. Place said...

Oh, James, that is a fun anecdote.

Icha said...

I couldn't read the entire article, Ms Place, the link from Austenblog to Newsweek is not working. But anyway... I'd really like to read what David Gates thought of Jane... and I also have this nagging feeling that this person (I deliberately avoid the word 'man') is misunderstanding Austen a bit...

Oh well. Gtg to the newsagent tomorrow to buy the Newsweek then!

eric3000 said...

Ah, yes, I worried about Mrs. Croft being too young to be considered an older woman. Not quite a generation older than Anne (though I think she's at least ten years older). She's also not really a major character.