Monday, December 12, 2011

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

Yet Another Period Drama Blog

And... Jane Austen's weeklong birthday party begins!

Let's begin with a little confetti, some virtual cake and ice cream, and a tribute to my most favoritest author ever. (Okay, so she's not my only most favoritest author, but she's one of them.)

Jane Austen's stories have, as the cheesy saying goes, stood the test of time.  Two hundred years have passed since her first publication (Sense and Sensibility was first printed in autumn of 1811), and she is now one of the most popular authors in the history of western civilization.

But why? What is it about this quiet woman's writing that has touched so many people?  Why is she still so wildly popular?  Why have her books been standard fare in English literature classrooms, the subject of innumerable films, the tie that binds us Janeites together?  (Stupid spell-check wouldn't accept "Janeites".  I remedied this by adding it to the dictionary immediately.)

I'm no scholar.  I'm not an expert.  I'm not Dr. Dashwood, Professor of Jane Austen's Literature and Highly Knowledgeable About Everything.  I'm just a high school student who respects, admires and aspires to be like  the Austen writer.  So take what I say with a grain of salt, and if you disagree with me, that's what my comment box is for.

Jane Austen's books were written in a contemporary setting.  Her stories take place at the end of the Georgian and beginning of the Regency eras.  Etiquette, clothing, food, transportation and language have all changed drastically since Miss Austen's era, but her works are still relevant to us in the 21st century... and this is why.  I believe that Jane Austen has remained relevant to us today because she wrote about people.

Politics change.  Lifestyles change.  Language changes.  Fashions change.  But people do not change.  Human nature has remained exactly the same as it was in Jane Austen's time (in fact, it's remained the same since Adam and Eve!) and the way people interact with each other will never change.

The first Austen book I ever read was Pride and Prejudice, when I was fourteen.  Summer 2009 was a busy and somewhat stressful season for me, yet I always felt relaxed when I curled up in a chair with P&P. I was captivated from the first page, laughing at Mr. Bennet's sparring with his wife and liking Elizabeth immediately.   I'm a very fast reader, but I stretched out P&P as long as I could. When I finally finished it, I didn't want it to end.  Something in me had connected with the characters in a way that doesn't happen often.  There are few books that touch me the way Pride and Prejudice did (among them are Anne of Green Gables, Johnny Tremain, Little Dorrit, if you're curious).  When I finished the book, my mom and I watched the 1995 A&E miniseries together, and I fell in love with the story all over again.

That was the beginning.  Over my ninth grade year, I devoured Sense and Sensibility and Emma, then read Mansfield Park and Persuasion in summer 2010.  On the ride home from our family vacation in May of this year, I laughed myself silly over Northanger Abbey. I was hooked.  The language was different from what I was accustomed to speaking, the manners and customs a bit unfamiliar.  But the people, the characters--they leapt off the page.

Elizabeth Bennet inspired and amused me.  Elinor Dashwood was a kindred spirit.  Marianne gave me opportunity to laugh and to cry.  Catherine Morland made me giggle and Anne Elliot made me think.  Fanny Price set an example for me, while Emma Woodhouse made me groan and shake my head--but I loved her anyway.  I choked with laughter over Mr. Collins and Mrs. Jennings, shook my fist at Mrs. Norris, huffed in exasperation at Sir Walter Elliot, shot imaginary arrows at Willoughby and Henry Crawford, adored Colonel Brandon and fell in love with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightley.  (See Abby's post for more on the subject.)

Jane Austen's characters aren't just words on a page, you see.  They are people--they are friends.

I'm forever grateful to the modest, unpretentious lady who didn't see fit to acknowledge herself as author in the first editions of her works.  She gave me a collection of volumes that are displayed with pride on my bookshelf.  She opened my eyes (albeit indirectly) to the world of period drama.  She inspired me to write.

She gave me the beginnings of yet another period drama blog... and with it, a multitude of new friends.  Without Jane Austen, I never would have cyber-met any of you.

Thank you, Jane Austen.  Happy birthday.


Miss Laurie of Old-Fashioned Charm said...

What a very lovely tribute to our dear Authoress!
These last two weeks I've been mulling over exactly such thoughts about Miss Austen in my head. She really did write the truth of human nature. Perhaps her characters are only caricatures of different personalities and that's why so many people can identify similar personalities in their own lives. But Jane Austen's characters are written in such a way that she gives them life and breath, they are real people in my mind as they must have become in their author's mind as well. They have a life before and after their stories.

Loved the "I laughed myself silly over Northanger Abbey"! No matter which Jane Austen I read I always come back to NA as my favorite because of it's great humor, sweet story and lovable hero & heroine! I love all of the characters in NA, even quizzes like John & Isabella Thorpe and mysterious General Tilney and his son Captain Frederick Tilney. I have a hard time hating any of Miss Austen's characters because they are all part of this well-written world she creates.

I might have to add "Janeite" as a word to my dictionary too. But it would be just my luck to misspell it when I entered the word! ha! :)

Looking forward to this Jane Austen Birthday Week! :)

Anne-girl said...

Um ditto everything Miss Laurie said and Happy Birthday Jane!

Melody said...

Aaaahhhhh! What an extremely refreshing post, my dear Miss Dashwood! Of course, I agreed with everything you said (except for, I wouldn't call the time setting at all Georgian; Regency my dear, strictly Regency. JK- that didn't really bug me. I just felt like saying it. ;-) )

It amazes me how Jane Austen is unlike any other author, her books unlike any other books! A lot of stories I love for a while, but they sort of fade away; these ones never do. They stay with me forever and I only grow to love them more! It's not a phase at all! It's a devotion.
(Says all that in a very dramatic voice.)

How nice that you and I became Janeites in the very same year! =) I read Northanger Abbey on a trip as well, earlier this year, actually. It was my last JA book to complete, and I had all kinds of fun with it. I'd go hide away in the tent at the campsite with my music and my Jane Austen. =D It was rather sad to finish it because it was the last of the 6 novels. I comforted myself that at least I had the minor works left, all sorts of fanfiction, and then of course, re-reading. ;-)

Again, lovely post! I applaud it very loudly! "Lovely, lovely, lovely!" (In a Miss Bates [Emma, Miramax 1996] voice)

Alexandra said...

I love Jane Austen because her stories are so realistic. Granted, she's not my favorite author on the planet, but she's more often than not what I'd turn to when I want to see a really good film (yes, someone hit me, I just started reading the books. :-)).

Girls get a bad rap for wanting "an Austen romance" or "a Mr. Darcy/Knightley/Tilney/fill-in-the-blank", when of all the stories I've seen/read, Austen's stories and characters are so realistic that any girl can hold up those heroes as a model for prospective suitors in her life. After all, honor, chivalry, selflessness...isn't that the basics of a godly Christian gentleman? :-)

Sorry...this is kind of a "big issue" with me at present. Enough of that or I'll ruin an upcoming post. :-)

Anyway! Enjoyed this post immensely!!!!

Eva-Joy said...

I can't watch J.A. films very often so I couldn't do that challenge. I recently read all of J.A.'s novels (including Lady Susan) so I couldn't do THAT challenge. But what I did do is read a good thick bio on Jane's life called Jane's Fame. Thanks for the awesome b-d week!

Scullery Maid said...

Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightley are all very well, but what about HENRY TILNEY? Northanger Abbey is too often overlooked(sigh).