Praise of Jane Austen
Male Voices Newsletter
|Volume 1, Number 2||October 1, 2002|
Edited by Linda Fern
We have now made it up to Issue II—October 1, 2002.
Getting the spousal unit tuxedoed up
I'm afraid it hasn't been a very productive month for me other than getting the spousal unit tuxedoed up so he can walk his niece down the aisle on the 5th of October and trying to decide what we want to do for our 20th anniversary vacation. Marlin fishing in Panama came in a bare first ahead of marlin fishing in Cairns. We just sent off the deposit to book our six days of fishing, snorkeling, exploring the rainforest, etc. I'm so beside my self with anticipation I can't think about much else, though I hope it gets better as we have to wait until March of next year. Right now we'll have to console ourselves with a visit to the Museum of the Rockies on the way to Colorado (where the wedding is) and a couple of nights at the Yellowstone Lodge on the way back. If I can find it, I'll try to take the Halperin bio of JA with me again and see if I can make better headway than on our last vacation. We leave tomorrow and expect to get back the 12th (can't miss the opening of deer season, you know.)
Reply to Cheryl
One thing, if Cheryl is interested in the Sepoy rebellion of 1856 in India, there is a wonderful book by M.M. Kaye called "Shadow of the Moon" which tells about this in novel form. It's gory. A review is here: Shadow of the Moon. The novel is great, and she was one of the best writers about India and that area. She combines a lot of information and cultural insights with a fast moving novel
"... The secret source of Humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven."
That is a line from Twain's Following the Equator (FtE), on line HERE that I have just begun. I am reading it because he made some of his anti-Janite remarks there. I haven't reached that part so I haven't anything to report as yet. However I am finding a lot of wisdom and I would like to discuss some of that with you. The situation was this: the time was about 1890 and Twain needed money again. He wasn't a wastrel nor was he dissipated; he merely made bad investments—all his life. (Actually, he invested in the right things but he had a knack for betting on the wrong horse.) So, he was on a world-wide lecture tour to scare up some cash. He literally sailed around the world. All that time on shipboard gave him time to reflect and FtE was the result. He did reflect on humor and among the things he said was the heading to this paragraph. I agree most whole heartily. I have always been the funniest person in my school, in my family, at work, or at play; and I have been angry all my life. Still, it is a surprise to learn that line was written by a man who is considered to be primarily a humorist. But that makes me think about Jane Austen; I hate to admit this but the woman was very funny (I prefer to reflect on other aspects of her writing.) My point is that I wonder what our Lady was pissed about. Bree recently pointed out that, at the web site, I make the Austens appear very happy—quite true. That means that the Austens were very happy OR that they were excellent at covering up. I once found an itsy-bitsy chink in their armor, you can find that HERE. There must be more that can be said on this matter. What are your thoughts?
"In all countries the laws throw light on the past ... they are confessions"
That is still more Twain wisdom from FtE. I have always believed that too (of course, I never expressed the thought so well). I mean the Ten Commandments don't mean that the ancient Hebrews never committed murder or adultery or that they never bore false witness. On the contrary, the Commandments are a confession that they did do those things and they did them often enough to make the top-ten list. Notice that there is no Commandment to advise us, "Thou shalt not hold thy breath for five minutes!" Twain had a better example; he made a long discussion of the Kanaka labor laws of New South Wales, Australia. (He was writing as his ship was approaching Australia where he would give a series of lectures.) The "Kanakas" were the peoples of a neighboring archipelago that were a source of Labor for the Australians. Twain documents the abuses and he used the New South Wales labor laws to help in that effort. He also refers to the literature of the period including the accounts of Australian missionaries who were appalled at the practices of their countrymen. There is a long series of chapters on Australia that are—this is no exaggeration—absolutely, 1000% riveting. Give the book a try. I bought the Dover edition but I would have preferred the Oxford University Press edition because those folks included his "Anti-Imperialist Essays."
Jane Austen's time
In the first Newsletter, Linda wrote, "I have been looking at Jane's novels as isolated writings coming out of nowhere, but what I have discovered is—the world was in a violent turmoil at that time and people were busy doing things. I never 'connected' all those events in history." I certainly agree and would even suggest that Janites MUST learn about these events to better appreciate our Lady's works. That is why I posted on her contemporaries HERE; the world events of her time HERE; and contemporary trends in political philosophy HERE. Here are a few details not mentioned. It was a great era for exploration and discovery. Cook's three voyages bracketed Jane Austen's birth; For example, he made the European discovery of Australia in 1770 (our Lady was born in 1775). JA was about ten years old when the first prisoners were transported to Australia. The Lewis and Clark expedition was made as our Lady neared her 30th birthday. It was also a great period for scientific discovery. The events that Linda mentioned led to many theories of evolution of which Charles Darwin's was the LAST. In fact, Darwin wasn't even the first member of his own family to publish a theory of evolution. His grandfather, Erasmus, published just such a theory in Jane Austen's time; he was from Jane Austen's father's generation and his book was there for our Lady to read if she had ever cared to. Charles Darwin published the first completely plausible theory and recited a mountain of physical and experimental evidence to reinforce his claim—that is why "evolution" is associated with his name to this day.
Bad Girls of the Regency
Linda's mention of Wilberforce triggered several memories that I thought to share with you. First of all, The reign of George III completely bracketed Jane Austen's life. He was King the day she was born and he was King the day she died. Well, that is true technically; but, when she died, he had been declared mentally incapacitated and his son, the future George IV, had been made Regent (whence, the "Regency Period".) Jane Austen knew him as the "Prince of Wales" and "The Prince Regent". I am not absolutely sure, but I think that Wilberforce was of the Prince of Wales's entourage. That made me think of Princess Caroline. The Prince had secretly married a divorced woman (a divorced and CATHOLIC woman!!). His dad forced him to divorce and put his mistress aside so that he could marry a goot German girl. That would be the Princess Caroline. (One of Jane Austen's sailor brothers captained a ship in the ceremonial fleet sent to Germany to fetch the bride.)
The Prince spent a week with Caroline—long enough to conceive a child—and then went back to his mistress. He never slept with Caroline again. She was a given a remote estate where she gave birth to several other children (I will let you do the math.) She was disenfranchised—never allowed to become Queen. There is an account of her pathetic, failed attempt to enter her husband's coronation ceremony from which she had been barred.
This story is perhaps impossible for us to understand nowadays: Let me see; this was a Prince who was in love with a forbidden, older, previously married woman and who married a younger woman to meet royal needs; a Prince who returned to his mistress after fathering an heir; and, a Princess who sought consolation in the arms of other men. Yes, it is all quite incomprehensible nowadays!
A group read is ongoing at RoP of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones which I started and managed to get as far as Book I. I love that book and got goose bumps on every page. Someday I may get around to finishing it. As the Meister said "the books of Fielding and Richardson should be read in the order of publication." Let me hasten to add that it is very nice to have the Male Voices archives for reference. [If you must know the truth, I browse there and get all 'tore up' ('emotional' to you non-Southerners) at all the good stuff found there.]
The Four Feathers
A new movie is out The Four Feathers directed by Shekhar Kapur—that's the fellow who directed Elizabeth in 1998 with Cate Blanchett. I am trying desperately to go see it. Well, never mind that I kinda like Heath Ledger anyway. I wouldn't be caught going to see a movie just to watch the leading man.
I didn't get much done this past month because I was on a book-buying spree (some are still in transit). Here are a few titles, author's name in brackets:
Reminiscences of Caroline Austen [Caroline Austen], Jane Austen [Joan Rees], Criticism of Henry Fielding [Ioan Williams, Ed.], Henry Fielding, A Life [Martin Battestin], Amelia [Henry Fielding]. I just missed a reasonably priced copy of Jane Austen's Sailor Brothers. Then there's Susy and Mark Twain: Family Dialog which I will be closely scrutinizing for references to Jane Austen.
REGENCY BOOKS: The Prince of Pleasure and His Regency [J.B. Priestley], The World of Jane Austen: Her Houses in Fact and Fiction [Nigel Nicolson], Our Tempestuous Day: A History of Regency England [Carolly Erickson], What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew [Daniel Pool], Jane Austen and the French Revolution [Warren Roberts], and Character in English Literature. [Chris Gillie]
Priestley was quite a prolific writer (I recognized his name) but upon seeing a list of his works I thought that he was no Jane Austen because I did not recognize a single title. However the book I purchased seems quite readable.
Though Jonathan Edwards was before Jane Austen's time (she may have heard of him because his writings were published in England), I bought Jonathan Edwards: Basic Writings and Marriage to a Difficult Man: Jonathan and Sarah Edwards [Elizabeth Dodds]. The reason being that there is an 'Edwards' in my family tree which makes it more personal and interesting. The second title discusses their wonderful family life and their progeny who are among the elite of U.S. history (present company—meaning me—excepted!)
Finally, I snagged a real treasure—a first edition by my favorite author as a teenager, Frances Parkinson Keyes' Came a Cavalier, a 1934 hard back with dust jacket and autographed to boot! Now if only I could find a Jane Austen&.sigh!
New author discovered
I purchased two by Fanny Fern (how's that for a name?): Ruth Hall and Other Writing is on line HERE, and Folly as it Flies. She is a Mark Twain contemporary, as is Marietta Holley, and all three wrote social commentary IMHO. She has quite a story found HERE and is credited as being the first woman columnist in the U.S. A sample of her writing can be found HERE about the NYC working girls.
Reply to Ashton
I have some theories re Ash's interesting statement "My point is that I wonder what our Lady was pissed about." First, I think that her family was as 'normal' as any other—they had their problems too. Secondly, I think that the Tom Lefroy affair colored the rest of her life. It was not just disappointment; it was deeper than that. How on earth can I express it? She recognized a 'soul mate' but was thwarted before it even got off the ground. She did not "prefer" anyone else. Without stopping and doing a critical analysis of all her books at the moment, the things I do remember point in that direction, especially in Persuasion. Thirdly, I don't want to limit one's feeling to just 'anger' that makes one ...er, sour on the world. Mark Twain says the secret source of joy is 'sorrow', so that 'sorrow' could be caused by any number of things. This reminded me of the phrase "sunshine comes after rain" and led me to this poem that expresses the sentiment quite well. It is found HERE:
When you embrace life with passion,
You experience both its joys and its sorrows
With an intensity unknown to those who
Protect themselves behind a
To be open to life's pleasure is to be
vulnerable to its pain.
But as springtime follows winter,
So sunshine follows rain.
Those "laws that are confessions" is an interesting point of view. I never thought of it that way but then I don't have the wit of a Mark Twain either. Now you are beginning to understand why I want to read a lot of MT.
Re 'Bad Girls of the Regency' that was quite an eye opener! The first thing that popped into my mind was "if we do not know history, we are doomed to repeat it!" There is a lot of the carrying on that occurred in those Regency Books listed above.
Our heartiest Congratulations to Roy and Cheryl on reaching the 20th milestone! :-) And may you have many more!
That's all Folks, see you next month, Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise! After writing that I realized that my Sister near Baton Rouge said just this morning (Monday—the 30th) that another hurricane is coming! Now, where did I put those wading boots?
Love from Linda
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