Home Page—The Voices of Men
In Praise of Jane Austen
Welcome to a site dedicated to the illumination and preservation of Jane Austen's vision. It is also a place where men are encouraged and women are welcomed. This is the home page and, as such, it contains an introduction and a short description of the other features of the web site. (If you have been here before, you might prefer to link directly to the Table of Contents, the Index and Archive, the What's New? or to our newsletter The Loiterer.) Crime-scene investigators might prefer to examine The Last MV Bulletin Board.
How do you do, I am pleased to meet you here, my name is Ashton Dennis. I maintain this web site for those who might wish to explore Jane Austen's novels from a masculine point of view. My hope is that Jane Austen's vision will be continually restored, illuminated, and preserved and that this site might contribute in some small way to that effort. It is my view that the male voice is too little represented in these endeavors and that is a shame.
Two women, Sue Birtwistle and Deirdre Le Faye, have done much to preserve Jane Austen's vision and can serve as our models. And, who could hope to inspire new readers to the same extent as have Doran Godwin, Jennifer Ehle, or Amanda Root. However, a few men also have contributed recently to the illumination of Jane Austen's novels, men like Denis Constanduros, Nick Dear, and—above all—Andrew Davies. As you will see, men always have been among Jane Austen's chief supporters—one might even say that, in her day, men were her chief supporters.
There are other points of view at work; Jane Murfin, Emma Thompson, and Patricia Rozema have made egregious errors and that must be confronted and undone. There are failing marks against some of our sex as well; Lawrence Olivier and Aldus Huxley have something to answer for I think.
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Jane Austen and the Voices of Men
" 'Principles' or 'seriousness' are essential to Jane Austen's art. Where there is no norm, nothing can be ridiculous. ... Jane Austen's 'principles' might be described as the grammar of conduct. Now grammar is something that anyone can learn; it is also something that everyone must learn. ... "
A Water Color By Sister Cassandra
" ... she describes men and women exactly as men and women really are, and tells her tale of ordinary, everyday life ... with such purity of style and language, as have rarely been equaled, and perhaps never surpassed. ..."
It is said that every male reader of Pride and Prejudice falls in love with Elizabeth Bennet. I believe that must be true. It is also said that Elizabeth Bennet is Jane Austen. I like to think that, but Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Austen do differ in at least one important respect. Elizabeth was raised in a household filled mostly with women—four sisters and no brothers. She was a daddy's girl to be sure, but the atmosphere in Elizabeth's home was decidedly female. And the Bennet household was dominated by a woman; mama ruled by badgering and by applying moral pressure and papa was left to his library or to his largely indelicate remarks as a last refuge. Jane Austen, on the other hand, was raised in a house full of young, vital males. She had six brothers, only one sister, and there were a number of resident, male students being tutored by her father. For the first three and a half years of her life, she was the baby in the family with six older siblings. This experience, combined with her highly and uniquely talented mind, made her one of the most accurate describers of the male character with which I am familiar. Her novels were very popular with the men of her own generation and we can hope for the same type of popularity in our generation as well.
Jane Austen could also approve of the male race, and her male characters (the good ones) are much like her brothers, I think. Those same brothers who supported the Austen women after the death of the father, so that neither Jane nor her sister would ever have to work a single day in her entire life. The brothers supplied homes, and protection, and entrées into society. They augmented the income of the women sufficiently to allow them to keep servants and to entertain visitors. Miss Jane Austen was no Miss Bates. In this way, the brothers supplied the independence and leisure that Jane Austen would exploit to write her novels. More importantly, the brothers and the father mightily encouraged Jane, first in her education and then in her writing. They read and applauded her manuscripts, and brother Henry took care of the negotiations with publishers and printers. She would stay with Henry in London when she was correcting galley proofs. It is said that he even invented the titles for Persuasion and Northanger Abbey when Jane died before she could perform that task for herself.
The Strong, Beautiful, Austen-Family
Features in a Silhouette
of Jane's Sister, Cassandra
Jane was seventh in the birth order of her family but she would be the first to die. Her reverend brothers participated in her last rites with her and that is a heart-cracking thought, because those were the two brothers who may have understood and loved her best. Her "sailor" brothers were daring warriors in the protracted fight against Napoleon. Both performed deeds that would bring each fame and an Admiral's rank (and a fortune), and their exploits would cause Jane great concern, excitement, and pride. She was no less proud of their manly beauty. So it is that you must not be surprised when you learn that at the same time she was inventing some of the best novels ever written, she was also sewing and sending shirts "by the half dozen" to her baby brother, Charles. That very same Captain Charles Austen, who was at sea where he was—well— helping to cause the War of 1812: Jane wrote to a friend "Charles is in the North Atlantic exercising Britain's right to search". (JANE!)
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The Web Site
It would have been foolish to organize a forum to celebrate one woman's vision while excluding the views and opinions of all others. I selected the title for the web site merely to indicate its affirmative-action nature—an affirmative action for the maligned and under-represented. Like all places that adopt an affirmative action, it is intended as a venue for conciliation. So, while this forum is organized primarily to encourage men, women are most welcome. If you peruse the archive to this site, you will find that women have participated here as full and equal partners. Most women will find the male perspective quite a bit different than that displayed at the other Jane-Austen forums on the web; however, most women feel quite comfortable at our place. Indeed, some women have seemed more comfortable here.
It would have been very un-Jane-like of us if we had been completely serious—about anything. But, for the same reason, we have been somewhat serious about everything. My own tendency has been to be too serious. I depended upon others to help me strike the proper balance. I mean, I always think of Jane Austen as a basically serious person who just happened to have a superior and irrepressible sense of humor. To me, she wrote only one "comedy" and that was Northanger Abbey. I also think of her as a teacher who has much to say to us.
This is not a university or a coffee house—nothing so orderly or so conventional as those places. The credentials and the acceptable opinions demanded at those places were never required here. Instead, as you will see, a bit of a locker-room atmosphere prevailed at this site—raucous and incautious at times if always gentlemanly.
I regret that I am no longer accepting input from the public, that phase of the web site is now completed.
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Let me begin your journey here by directing your attention to a few of the highlights of the site. After that, I will link you to more comprehensive tables and listings of the contents. Start by considering these pages.
Be clear, you will find these pages provocative at certain places—others have done so. I suggest you start with Brass, Winter Thunder, and a Polar Bear and then We Neither of Us Perform to Strangers. If the films are of interest to you, you might look at The Best Country Dancer. My more controversial postings are my film reviews of Patricia Rozema's Mansfield Park, Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility, and the posting on Mary Wollstonecraft—are you sure you are ready for those?
Let me call your attention to some new pages at the web site.
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Guides to the Web Site
For more comprehensive guides to your visit here, use these links. Link to the Table of Contents or the Archive and Index. Here is a link to our References and Bibliography. You will find a few reviews of the references in that same place. Finally, here is a link to the The Loiterer—A Newsletter.
In any case, thanks for stopping by. Oh—before you go—I am obligated to say one last thing about brother Charles Austen. In 1823, he was ordered back on station in the West Indies where he was to serve a new King with new policies. His specific assignment was to direct his forces toward the suppression of the slave trade. Knowing of the family as I do, I imagine that he performed admirably and with courage, ingenuity, and enthusiasm.
Good night to you Miss Sophia Sentiment—wherever you are. God bless you, dearest, loveliest Sophia.
The Male Voices web site is maintained by Sophia Sentiment.