On this day, 195 years ago, Jane Austen died. She was 41.
I don’t know how old I was the first time I read Pride and Prejudice, maybe twelve, thirteen at the most. Too young, I , gulped the book skimming for dialogue. When I tackled Emma I actually heard Jane Austen’s voice. I think it was a comment about Mrs. Elton and it made me sit up literally and literarily. Austen’s ability to say so much with such an economy of words and in direct contradiction to what her character was speaking astonished me and I’ve never fully recovered.
I do not call her Jane.
I consider all books which are sequels of sorts, abominations but enjoyed both Bridget Jones and Clueless which were loosely based on Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Emma, respectively.
Ironically, reading Jane Austen’s novels nearly cost me my husband. Short story: Paul and I started dating when we were children and no man should be compared to Mr. Darcy, let alone a sixteen year old boy.
I almost didn’t name our older daughter, Lydia, for obvious reasons, but Lydia Hodgson is no Lydia Bennett. If you had to peg her for a Bennett sister, she’s probably a mashup of Elizabeth and Jane.
Mansfield Park is the only title I don’t read habitually, though I’ve read it several times.
My friend, Jamie Chavez recently blogged about the “controversy” over the extent of editing Austen received. She is a fine editor herself and considers it a tempest in a teapot. I agree.
I’ve known since I first read Pride and Prejudice and the introduction by her nephew that she died young. Although 41 sounded pretty old to me then.
Last week I turned 42 and I remembered her age at death, not realizing the anniversary was so close to that of my birth.
There is no point in comparing oneself to Jane Austen although she could have made good work of my love story.
I’m so thankful she “let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” In the early days after someone burned my house down I turned to the Bible, P.G. Wodehouse and her.
I am glad she sat in her little chair and wrote and wrote until the very end of her days.