Dear Jane Austen Fans,

I would like to get in contact with you about Jane Austen's book, Persuasion. I have to do an essay on this book and I am in desperate need of information. I have to get information on all the characters and the themes of the book.

If anyone can please help me it would be greatly appreciated!!

Yours sincerely,

Marie Snyman


I have a posting on the recent filmed version and that contains some information about the novel as well as some interpretations. This will not be adequate for your needs. Also, try the Republic Of Pemberley, the women there have compiled a great deal of useful information. In particular, link to this site at the Republic. Another good site is the Great Books Index for Jane Austen; you will find a number of useful links there.

I hope to enlist you into a community service. Please return here and post those sources, especially web links, that are the most useful to you in your project. In that way, the Bulletin Board can be a place where successful search is recorded and then passed on to other students.


Dear Sir,

JA's heroes are, naturally, idealized forms of man as drawn by a woman. I see similarities between JA's heroes and those of Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Margaret Mitchell(!) and Daphne du Maurier. Of course, JA is a very different kind of writer, but each of these women writes of a tall, strong, handsome and powerful kind of man - and above all of a man who is very attractive to women, and seen to be so in these novels, but a man who has eyes only for the heroine. What might a man feel about this? While greatly admiring JA's novels, I feel her male character development is limited, except in the case of Edmund Bertram, who is really not a sympathetic character. She deals with her older men better - Sir Thomas Bertram, Mr Bennet, and even Sir Walter Elliott. But these men are not 'players'. Comments? By the by, greetings from Australia.


Dear Julie,

Before I get started, let me refer you to some postings of another member of the community. These are the postings of Elizabeth M on 4/4/98, 4/5/98, and 4/16/98. I believe that she shares some of your views--not all of them.

My take on things is a bit different from that expressed by Ms M and yourself, and is identical to that stated by G.K. Chesterton: I believe that Jane Austen is far better than any other woman writer at describing the male character. In part, her insight may derive from those brothers that she lived with--all six of them. The two closest to her in age (Francis and Charles) were sent to the Navel Academy at age twelve, and thence to sea at age sixteen. They fought against Napoleon and rose through the ranks to become Admirals. Not just Admirals but Commanders-In-Chief in two stations (West Indies and North America, and East Indies and China). They staged commando raids in the Mediterranean, hammered at the slave trade in the Atlantic, and conquered cities near your part of the world. These were men who had managed to get in touch with their machismo--the kind of contact that might be described as an embrace. The Brontes had one brother and he was a drug abuser. Of the Austen brothers that stayed home all were older than Jane; one was developmentally handicapped, one was awarded the great fortune of a distant relative, and the other two graduated from Oxford. The latter two were Jane's mentors, protectors, and her two greatest admirers. It is no accident that Darcy was eight years older than Elizabeth, Colonel Brandon was eighteen years older than Marianne, and Knightley was sixteen years older than Emma. And it was no accident that Jane Austen often placed an older and mentoring man near her heroines. Her brothers seem larger than life, so there may be some truth to your suggestion that some of her male characters seem that way as well. I have argued in a another place that the contemporary descriptions of Jane Austen herself make her seem very much like Darcy!

We all have our limitations and one of mine is an inability to appreciate the Brontes. (I will never again raise the issue of the logical problems with their novels.) I find the male characters in their books to be, most often, unrecognizable; when I do recognize something, I am appalled. Why do so many women readers find Mr. Rochester attractive? I need a great deal of help understanding that--much as I often need help understanding the attraction of some real men to women. The Bronte father was a clergyman and, in that way, Jane Austen and the Brontes had a similar background. Also, I believe that the two oldest Bronte sisters died from illness at boarding school. The same thing very nearly happened to Jane and her sister Cassandra. The Brontes were raised in the north of England while the Austens were raised in the south. I believe that the Brontes were Irish in origin and the original spelling of the name was something like "Pronty". The industrial revolution and the expansion of the empire were just getting under way in JA's time but were in full bloom during the Brontes'. The final difference is that the Bronte family was mostly female.


Dear Sir,

I know all that. Incidentally, the handicapped brother, George, never lived with the family, after the age of five or so. I agree that JA does delineate male character well, but within specific boundaries. Her male characters are on their drawing-room behavior at all times. One wonders just how much her sailor brothers told JA of the realities of naval life, but, as a clergyman's daughter, the realities of rural peasant life must have been plain enough to see. If, in that very large family, sexual and power problems never arose, I would be surprised. Indeed, in one of her letters to Cassandra, she recommends that a local lass be rather brutally discouraged from showing too great an interest in Edward's sons, though the letter makes it clear that the sons were the ones who initiated the interest. What I mean by all this is that JA is a great delineator of character within very strict bounds. Charlotte Bronte made much the same comment when JA's novels were recommended to her - though I think CB would have benefited from them. Incidentally, re the Brontes and probability, I have a first-class essay, from a collection of same on Wuthering Heights, in which the writer tracks the legal workings of the novel, and the accuracy is astounding. If I can dig up the book, I shall give you the reference. Re women delineating men - I presume you meant of that period (roughly) what about George Eliot? She does a damn fine job with Adam Bede.


Dear Julie,

I see now that my reply to your first posting was not to the point and that is a shame because it is a good point: You raise some questions that I have never considered explicitly. The short answer to your questions are that I do not think that Jane Austen's scope is limited to the drawing room and I do not restrict my judgement about any of her abilities to only her period of time. I find her characterizations of men superior to nearly all writers of our era. Of course, there is a long answer to your questions as well.

Let me begin with two seemingly disconnected references and ask you to hope, along with me, that I am able to bring them together in a coherent response to your postings. I understand now that you are likely already familiar with both. First there is that letter that Jane wrote to her niece, Anna, about the manuscript of a novel that the niece was preparing. Apparently some characters were to travel to Ireland and Jane cautioned Anna that it was alright for the characters to go to Ireland but "you must not go there yourself, because you are not familiar with the customs there". Her point being that an author should only write about things with which she was familiar first hand. For example, Jane herself sent characters to sea, but she "never went there herself"--meaning she never took her readers there. Even if her brothers had informed her about life aboard ship, she was too rigorous to try to depict the customs at sea that she had never witnessed first hand. The other reference is a quote from E.M. Forster about Jane Austen. He was praising her development of characters and said this "They function all round, and even if her plot made greater demands on them than it does they would still be adequate. ... All the Jane Austen characters are ready for an extended life which the scheme of her books seldom requires them to lead, and that is why they lead their actual lives so satisfactorily. ... How Jane Austen can write!". Yes, even an extension to a sex life--surely you have no difficulty imagining passionate moments at Pemberley.

We all have our "Irelands", even great writers "are not familiar with the customs" everywhere. Although, the mediocre ones will think that they know everything do they not? Perhaps sex was within the borders of Jane Austen's "Ireland" and perhaps not: It doesn't matter, her characters are fully rounded and, in this way, she helps us understand everything else about them. Of course, an inferior writer is compelled to be explicit. I suspect that the trick is for an author to avoid entering her "Ireland" while creating fully rounded characters so the reader can then imagine them in "Ireland" or anywhere else--Jane Austen wrote like that.

Finally, I have some random replies. George was not allowed a place in the home but I don't think he was sent away from the neighborhood. Cassandra destroyed a number of Jane's letters and it may be that she edited some of Jane's observations about George--we will never know. It is becoming clear that many members of the community would very much like to read any posting about the Brontes that you might care to make--please do so. If you become familiar with this web site, you will learn that I share your view about George Eliot, although you and I are opposed by G.K. Chesterton. I can't speak for you, but I am intimidated.


I absolutely agree with you. I don't know if I appear to have been playing devil's advocate, but JA is in my view without doubt the best author in the English language - as one reviewer said, she came without forebears and she left without progeny. Her style reminds me more of the metaphysical poets than anything else, though of course, her style was strictly prose. Forgive me for not sourcing, but I am writing these letters in snatched moments, and have not as yet had time to drag out my books and research replies properly. George did live fairly close to Steventon, and he lived with another afflicted relative - I believe it was a relative of Mrs Austen - a man - and they were both cared for by a couple who specialized in that kind of thing. I think he was between thirty and forty when he died. He is believed to have been deaf, and to have suffered from fits, and if memory serves, JA is remarked on as being able to sign with her hands, which is a speculation that arose from her communications with her brothers.

My musings about her men's sex lives were just that. I can certainly see them having such, and the sexual tension in all her novels is powerful, even in S&S and N A, which are the least mature. What brought it all on was my current book, James Woodforde's diaries. He is a contemporary of JA's father, and lives a similar kind of life, but, as his diaries were for private purposes only, he reveals a lot that would perhaps surprise those only familiar with mannered 'drawing room' writings. He is very respectable himself, but writes about some very entertaining goings-on in his household and in the district where he is vicar. Have you read them?

I shall dig up the Emily Bronte essay, but just briefly, this clever writer, from the only date mentioned in the book, is able to deduce the date of every event in W H, and is able to construct the legal framework of the novel - both of which exercises show that EB must have been much more structurally disciplined than many would guess - but then, her sister always said that Emily would only be seen at her greatest when seen as an essayist.

Cheers!


I have been thinking about the sexual tension in JA's novels for months; and yet, you are the first to post on this matter. I begin to sense that you could scoop me on many matters; so, I will get a head start and begin to post on the sensuality in Jane Austen's novels. I already have one on the board: I posted the description of events just after Darcy's second proposal. Here is another passage, this one is from Persuasion. Anne is trying to tend to an injured nephew but his brother is clamoring for attention and, at one point, climbs upon her back as she kneels to tend her patient. She felt the boy being lifted off her and assumed that the service was rendered by the boy's father. She turned to discover that, instead, the rescue was made by Wentworth.

I am not familiar with James Woodforde's diaries and it sounds interesting. You may know that I attempt a posting on Jane Austen's times, but that is done with a very broad brush indeed. I hope you will be inspired to compose a posting for us on the book. I have seen other suggestions of JA's ability to sign, but have never found the particular letter referenced in this regard--can you point to it?


The Bleecker Street Writers' Workshop is offering summer courses in screenwriting and playwriting. Study in the heart of Greenwich Village with award winning, professional screenwriters and playwrights in a 4 week, intensive course designed to help the writer/student develop scripts and plays suitable for professional submission.

Sessions: 1) June 1st to July 2nd, and 2) July 6th to July 30th

For registration information, please call: 212-274-1886


Dear Whoever,

I have a report on Jane Austen due 5/15/98. I am having trouble finding information on her for my report and I only have 2 out of 5 sources! Please send any information that you feel might be helpful to my report!

Thank you.

Mary


I love this exchange so much because this is where Jane skewers Darcy's (and Miss Bingley's) notion of accomplishment. In a nutshell, Miss Bingley and Darcy are both snobs: Miss B. being crude and vain in her snobbery and F.W.D. espousing merely a refined and strained version of Miss B.'s vain values. The conversation is hilarious and brilliant precisely because Eliza is smart enough to pierce right through Darcy's superficial difference and recognize and laugh at the essential similarity: vanity. Both Miss B. and FWD confuse prestige with accomplishment. Neither of them know or care about modern languages or music at all. They are only interested in those things because languages and music equal prestige. If walking and dancing were considered "accomplished", Darcy and Miss B. would discourse on the merits and demerits of it with equal gravity. And Eliza strips away the differences and tosses it back to them laughing. Brilliant, brilliant Eliza! -- F. Arul


I believe your intent is to contradict my reply to the posting that you have cited. Animated discussion and lively debate will always be welcome here, so I thank you for entering the community in this way. In future, you need not be so oblique.

Sometime after the events you describe, Elizabeth would say this about Darcy. "...I think Mr. Darcy improves on acquaintance.'...'In essentials, I believe, he is very much what he ever was. When I said that he improved on acquaintance, I did not mean that either his mind or manners were in a state of improvement, but that from knowing him better, his disposition was better understood'" [Chapter XLI]. I encourage you to think more about Darcy and become better acquainted with him so that his disposition becomes better known to you--you may come to like him, as did Elizabeth.

I also encourage you to think more about Elizabeth; if you know her better, you may even love her more. Elizabeth was flawed--that was the usual circumstance in a Jane Austen novel. Catherine Moreland was too impressionable, Marianne Dashwood was too impulsive, Emma Woodhouse was too full of herself, and Anne Elliot was too reliant. (Oddly enough, the least popular of JA's heroines was Fanny Price whom Jane did not endow with a consistent flaw.) And what is Elizabeth Bennet's flaw? Miss Elizabeth places an over-reliance on first impressions. This is an over-reliance that degenerates into "prejudice". (In fact, JA's original title for the book was First Impressions.) Tell me, do you think it brilliant to rely on first impressions?

About the same time in the novel that you claim that Elizabeth was acting so brilliantly, she came to believe Wickham's story and was spreading it throughout her family and neighborhood. She had some difficulty as her friends and sister could see that she was acting prematurely and naively. The most revealing conversation of this sort occurs between her and her sister Jane. Jane is skeptical and continually tries to encourage Elizabeth to a more reasonable state of mind. She wonders how Bingley could have been deceived and Elizabeth replies in this way: "I can more easily believe Mr Bingley's being imposed on, than that Mr Wickham should invent a history of himself as he gave me last night; names, facts, every thing mentioned without ceremony. If it not be so, let Mr Darcy contradict it. Besides there was truth in all his looks" [Chapter XVII]. This is not a brilliant statement. With this statement, Jane Austen demonstrates just how far Elizabeth can carry her reliance on the impression Wickham has made upon her. With this statement, we see the depth and the uncritical nature of Elizabeth's prejudice against Darcy. Elizabeth does have the intelligence and spirit required for brilliance but she does not yet have the experience and maturity. The novel is the story of how she begins to acquire those other prerequisites.

Alongside this, Jane Austen shows another person reacting quite differently to a first impression: Darcy's first impression of Elizabeth is that she "is not handsome enough to tempt me". Darcy almost immediately begins to reevaluate and has come to a very different conclusion after only a few meetings. We need not be surprised, after all Jane Austen has Darcy win those verbal jousts with Elizabeth does she not? We should expect that JA imagined him to be more mature in other ways; after all, she did make Darcy eight years older than Elizabeth and more experienced in the world.

You have said nothing, as yet, to encourage me to reconsider my previous interpretation of Jane Austen's intent in this passage. Perhaps you have more to say--I hope so. I would ask you to explain your use of the word "vanity" in your posting, I am not sure I know what you mean. Also, your suppositions about Darcy and the Bingley sister's disdain for music and modern languages can be directly refuted by passages from the novel; at least, I think so. However, perhaps you can prove me wrong there.

Finally, allow me to say one other thing that may cast some light on Jane Austen's intent. I want to refer to the "blue stockings", a term applied to certain women beginning about two decades before Jane Austen's birth. I found this in the Oxford Companion to English Literature: "...The origin of the term is to be found in the evening parties held about 1750 in the houses of Mrs. Vesey, Mrs. Montagu, and Mrs. Ord, who endeavored to substitute for card-playing, which then formed the principle recreation, more intellectual modes of spending time, including conversations on literary subjects..." (emphasis mine). The term "blue stocking" is a reference to the casual dress adopted by such groups. By Jane's own time, the Blue Stocking Societies were the principle intellectual women's groups and had become a bit radical. They were considered an oddity in some quarters and an object of derision in others. I think that in the passage you point to, Darcy and his inventor cast their lot with the Blue Stockings.


Dear Creator of web page on Regency Women,

I agree that the corsetless look is more comfortable, but to go so far as to say it is flattering (to anyone over 18 or size 8) is a little optimistic I think.


I guess that is the reason that the Regency fashions were never repeated. I like that look and am saddened by your posting. I don't know much about the architecture of women's undergarments, so I am only guessing when I suggest that one of the main purposes of the corset was support. (Jane Austen once wrote a very funny letter on this matter--I will it post if you wish.) This was before the invention of the brassier--right? If I am right about those two things, then I might observe that there was a lot of cheating going on in that 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice, that production that we all found so uplifting. (It seems to me that I once saw a waggish newspaper article about that very matter.) Although, if you look around, not all the extras cheated and it may be those women that give an authentic picture of the times. In the Paltrow version of Emma they made an effort to show some older and heavier women dancing in those fashions and they seemed presentable to me.

Maybe you can answer a burning question of mine on a related matter: This is the question that I detailed on the "references" page. Briefly, is it possible that Jane Austen could have had very long hair (as a niece once claimed) and could still wear that cap?


Dear Meister,

I am an English major preparing to read Sense and Sensibility, my first Austen read, although I have seen some of the versions of her novels, including the Thompson 1995. I am amazed at the depth and profundity of what is included in your site! Thank you very much for so much information! I would like to ask, though, what first began this infatuation (might you argue divine appreciation?) with Jane Austen? Also, what character, if indeed any, could Jane herself most be associated with in Sense and Sensibility? Are there themes or commentaries in this particular novel which are unique to it and not Austen's others?


I suspect that I began a web site for the same reasons that others do that sort of thing and this may have nothing to do with any particular subject. Still, your choice of words, "infatuation", is accurate enough; although, "love" might be an even better choice. I don't know why anyone falls in love.

Madame Board-Meister earned a degree in English (U.C. Berkeley), but I have no such credential. Each of us has a blue-collar background, attitude, and presence. And both of us can appreciate what Mary Wollstonecraft went through during her early years. I did earn a degree but not in the humanities; I would not have you imagine that I claim any special preparation to discuss Jane Austen. In short, I am drawn to Jane Austen's vision not because it is familiar, rather because I aspire to it.

I was immediately impressed with Pride and Prejudice and then disappointed a bit with Sense and Sensibility at the first reading. I was greatly surprised at the second reading of S&S--I couldn't believe that I had missed so much the first time around. I now consider the novels comparable. Jane Austen may have been in her late teens when she wrote both manuscripts. We cannot know for sure because they were not actually published until her mid-thirties. Her dad immediately recognized the value of her efforts and tried to get Pride and Prejudice published (it was titled First Impressions then), but couldn't persuade a publisher to even read it. Her brother Henry did manage to sell Northanger Abbey (then called Susan); however, the publisher dropped the ball and that novel did not actually appear until the year after Jane's death.

It seems to me that the relationship between the sisters is the main focus in Sense and Sensibility. In contrast, the main focus in Pride and Prejudice is the growing relationship between a man and a woman. Jane Austen's oldest brother, James, always encouraged Jane: It is now believed that he allowed Jane to publish some letters, under a pseudonym, in a magazine that he and brother Henry had established at Oxford (she was only fourteen years old at the time). If you use this link to the "Austen Men" in the posting on the Polar Bear, you will come to understand that he saw much of both Elinor and Marianne in his baby sister. It is impossible to prove, one way or the other, so I am free to imagine that she was a bit more like Marianne.


I am the only male member of JASA Sydney!


Dear message bored,

I am the only male member of the Jane Austen Society in Sydney, Australia...and loving it!


Dear Dennis,

I need help with my senior term paper about Sense and Sensibility, using the title to define Elinor and Marianne, plus Austen's writing style.
Love,
Mary


Think about this--the board has been in existence for only three months and already we have the opportunity to help Mary graduate. O.K., so start posting some ideas and plan to send electronic congratulations to Ms Rebekah sometime this coming June. My own advice to Mary is to avoid the recent filmed version and concentrate on the novel. Also, the final third of the novel contains some dramatic conversations between Elinor and Marianne and shows Jane Austen writing at her best. I think though, that there is a conversation between Elinor and Marianne in London that best illustrates the meaning of the title. That occurs just after Marianne learns that Elinor has known about Edward's engagement for some time--look for that. Finally, try to obtain a full version of the C.S. Lewis essay--not the just the excerpts that I have posted. He describes Jane Austen's tendency to write about the epiphany and, in particular, describes that of Marianne after the events of her near-death illness. This is good senior-thesis stuff!



Links

Back to the Bulletin Board

Table of Contents

References and Links

Index and Archive

The Male-Voices Home Page