Jane Austen, 16th December 1775

16 December 2010

If Jane Austen had discovered the elixir of eternal life and was consequently still alive, she’d be 235 years old today. I wonder what she’d make of her popularity in the 21st century? I like to think that she would have taken it in her stride and actually found the whole thing amusing.

After all, Austen seems to have had a keen appreciation for good looking, charming men so I think she would have enjoyed all those red carpet opportunities with Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman and Matthew Macfadyen. Oh and the very very lovely JJ Feild and Rupert Penry Jones of course. Oh and Jeremy Northam. Sigh.

Moving swiftly on before I get all torrid! What is your favourite Austen book?

I can never decide between Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. I love the light hearted gaiety and humour of Northanger Abbey with its swipes at dreadfully horrid gothic literature and sharp insights into the characters and their motivation. Plus I think Henry Tilney is quite possibly one of the most charming heroes of all time (on a par with Freddie from Heyer’s Cotillion) and who couldn’t fall for the delightful Catherine Morland?

On the other hand, my taste has always veered towards the bitter sweet, which means that I rather love Persuasion too. I like romance in my books, but have always been drawn to the difficult and the angsty, which there is in abundance in Persuasion with its central relationship between poor forgotten Anne and the love of her life, Frederick Wentworth.

One of Austen’s characters, I forget which one but have a feeling it was Mr Bennet, commented that young ladies like to have romantic difficulties cast in their way and indeed the romances in Austen’s novels are full of awkwardness, obstacles and downright misery. The one in Persuasion though is actively and bleakly hopeless in places, in a way that is often quite difficult to read because you really do feel Anne’s pain as she assumes that Frederick first does not recall her and then no longer cares for her.

I mean, you always know that, SPOILERS!, Elinor and Edward, Fanny and Edmund, Emma and Knightley and Elizabeth and Darcy will get together but there is some doubt there with Anne and Frederick isn’t there? As an aside, I do find myself appreciating Mansfield Park more as I get older, mainly because of the character of Mrs Norris, however, what a pair Fanny and Edmund must have made once they were married. I know I wouldn’t be rushing to have them over for dinner.

Anyway, I know that none of you have been paying attention through this as I made the mistake of mentioning Rupert Penry Jones and your minds are wandering as you imagine him being all romantic and dignified in tight breeches.

Sigh.

Oh sigh.

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