January 29, 2012

Does Miss Austen Truly Regret?

January 29, 2012

Tell me I have done the right thing.  Tell me I was right to change my mind.  Dear God, let me never regret this day.

An outwardly confident but unmarried woman on the verge of her 40th birthday, reflects on her past suitors and the choices she once made while attempting to help her marriage minded niece choose between a number of potential suitors in this tale inspired by the life and letters of Jane Austen. Jane Austen is about to turn 40, but she still hasn't found her ideal man. When Jane is approached by her niece, Fanny and asked to help select the perfect husband for the young girl, the aging spinster begins to wonder why it is that she never found a man to share her own life with. Perhaps if Jane had accepted the proposal of a wealthy landowner she could have saved her family from financial ruin, and what of the handsome young physician who once warmed to Jane after tending to her ailing family members? In this speculative tale, we ponder the potential reasons why the real Jane Austen never found her own Mr. Darcy.

My dearest Fanny,

Nothing could be more intriguing than your latest letter.  Such a description of your queer little heart.  This new young man you adore, is he the one?  If we could only see into the future and know in advance if our choices will turn out to be wise.  Alas, you face the most momentous decision of your life with only your Aunt Jane to advice you.  Come to your  cousin's wedding, prepared to discuss every delicious detail! 

Aunt Jane.

Mme. Bigeon:  (Late at night, both in nightgowns; strong French accent) My friend in Paris has read a wonderful new book called 'Raison and Sensibilite'.
Jane Austen:   Sense and Sensibility?
Mme. Bigeon:   My friend says, whoever the woman is who wrote this book, she knows more about love than anyone else in the world.
Jane:  Like someone who can't cook writing a recipe book!
(She has a good sense of humor)
Mme. Bigeon:  Passion is for the young.  It fades so quickly.
Jane:  (Wistfully)  Not in our dreams!
Mme. Bigeon:  Comfort remains, friendship remains, if you are lucky as I was.
Jane:  Happiness in marriage remains a matter of chance.
(She knows so much for a woman who's never been married before!)
Mme. Bigeon:  But the fuss we make about who to choose.  And love still dies and money still vanishes. And, spinster, lover, wife, every woman has regrets.  So we read about your heroines and feel young again.  And in love.  And full of hope.  As if we can make that choice again.
Jane:   And do it right this time.
Mme. Bigeon:  This is the gift which God has given you.
(Jane Austen looks up sharply)
Mme. Bigeon:   It is enough, I think.

Fanny Austen-Knight:  You like Mr. Haden!
Jane:  He has very good teeth.
(Most Brits have bad teeth.  Orthodontics aren't really that important to them)

Jane: (Reads to Cassandra from the first draft of Persuasion)  More than seven years were gone since this little history of sorrowful interest had reached its close.
Jane:  She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older.   The natural sequel of an unnatural beginning.  She had used him ill, deserted and disappointed him, and worse, she had shown a feebleness of character in doing so, which his own decided, confident temper could not endure. She had given him up to oblige others.
Jane:   She hoped to be wise and reasonable in time,  but alas! alas! she must confess to herself that she was not wise yet.
Cassandra Austen:  I don't know how you say it without tears!
Jane: I don't cry at anything that pays me money!
(I love her sense of humor)

Fanny:  Were you really never in love?
Jane:   The truth is Fanny, and this must be our secret.  You must not tell anyone.  The truth is....... I am she that loved and lost!
Fanny:  Who is he?  Tell me!
Jane:   I loved and lost, and pined and yearned, and then swore myself to solitude and consolations of writing about it instead.
Fanny:   Did you really?
Jane:   You read far too many novels!

Oh, I'll just die on the spot if you were in love with Mr. Plumtree!   I'm weak with adoration already!   Please don't expect a Mr. Darcy!  My darling girl, this is the real world!  The only way to get a man like Mr. Darcy is to make him up!

Girls of twenty are so desperate to be in love.  It's hard to tell if it's real.  Everyone should have the chance to marry once for love, if they can.

My dearest Cassandra,

Do not have imagine I have any real objection to Mr. Plumtree.  I have rather taken a fancy to him that not.  Now, however, I am all alone.  What happiness!  At this present time, I have five tables, eight and twenty chairs and two fires all to myself.  I am mistress of all I survery!  So where should I begin?  Which of my important nothings shall I tell you first?

Aunt Jane.

Jane:    If that's what you think they say, my dear.  Perhaps you should read them again.
Fanny:  What's worse, do you think?  To marry the wrong man or die a lonely old maid?

Jane's answer, as we all know would be marry the wrong man, since she died an old maid.  Lonely?  I don't think so!

All of Jane Austen's novels end in a wedding.

Pride and Prejudice



Sense and Sensibility


Mansfield Park

Northanger Abbey

Of all the love stories filling the rich imagination of Jame Austen, one in particular did not end with wedding bells.  Her own.  Why did the author who embodied the brilliant wit and high spirits of her heroines not take the plunge into matrimony herself?  Therein lies a very poignant tale, as presented by Masterpiece in its bittersweet period drama, Miss Austen Regrets.


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