The Voices of Men in Praise
Of Jane Austen
Messages c. March 14, 2002


Dear Cheryl,

You said:

A single woman like Jane Austen with an excellent understanding and the leisure to indulge her curiosity could hardly have had a better chance to learn all about human nature.

I agree.  Jane had one other "tool" in her belt to help her understand human nature - the Bible.  What came to mind along these lines was the book of Proverbs.  I turned to that book to find a random quote and this is where the book opened -
Proverbs 23:27"For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit."
Well, I can't make a point on that verse, so I read on down to
Chapter 24, verses 1-4, to-wit: "Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them.  For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief.  Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established:  And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches."

In those last two sentences, can't you see Darcy and Lizzie's home?

I don't know so much as to actually "understanding human nature", as to the specific "why", but there is so much in the Bible as to "what" it is without saying "why" - it just is that way.  Like I told my children when they asked "Why?"; my best reply was 'because I said so' or 'God made it that way'.  We don't understand 'why'; it just 'is'.

Let me give you my favorite example.  The Bible says 'spare the rod and spoil the child'.  It works, but I will never understand why.  I have gently spanked all my children, and to me I would think that they would 'hate' me for doing so.  But, not so.  They all loved me the more for it. It makes no sense to me.  I actually witnessed one naughty boy beg his Mother to hit him.  She was one of those who just 'talked' to her children and/or took away priviledges.  I wonder how he will turn out.  Well, I am rambling now so I will hush.  Hope that muddies up the water some.

Reference: 3/13/02

Dear Folks,

I believe that there is a context for this discussion at this site; I suppose that must be obvious given my pages on the "storm" gathering in Jane Austen's time and then raging shortly after. (Those pages might give us a contrast and a context for our main focus, Jane Austen's intent.) However, the present discussion leads us clearly into what Jane Austen was not - things our Lady could never have known, thought about, or intended to write about. That makes the conversation a bit tenuous but we are a community as well as a group of Janites, and that decides the matter: let us begin the discussion.

It seems to me that Cheryl and I agreed that the Jane-Austen contemporary, Thomas Malthus was no "Malthusian" in the sense that the word is used now-a-days. Certainly he was not a "Malthusian" when it comes to a discussion of the environment or environmentalists. I am an environmentalist. I will content myself today with some comments on the use of the term "Malthusian" because it has been hurled my way a number of times, and because I have been thinking about many of these things for more than forty years.

First of all the term is a pejorative; one tends to panic when called that and begins to look for intellectual exits - for excuses and other verbal defenses. That goes back to the mid-nineteenth century when Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles made Malthus their favorite target. They abused him, ridiculed him, ridiculed his ability to think, and defamed his motives and impacts. (Sadly, I must tell you that Malthus was not innocent of all charges.) Since that time, the ghost of the great man has been a pariah and anyone to whom his name sticks is a pariah as well. Because of this history, many think that Malthusians are right wing - we wish we had a wing! The idea is that the environmental movement is a covert effort by the developed, capitalist nations to suppress any competition for resources from the underrepresented and undeveloped economies. That is to say, if those tools of capitalist imperialism, the environmentalists, have their way, third world industry and population (neo-Marxists say "labor force") would be suppressed.

Let me stall out here a minute and talk about "environment". Whenever a Republican talks about "environment" or "environmentalists", they are invariably talking about human environment - about the qualities of the land, air, and water used by humans. They seem constitutionally incapable of understanding that something else or that something more might be of importance. To be sure, such people do understand that there are such things as "tree-huggers" out there; but, to the Republican mind, those are mere kooks, crackpots, and the politically marginalized. And, to that kind of mind, tree-huggers are, yes, "Malthusian" - as are the human-environment advocates. Republicans are predictable and funny in this way. A great example of this curious mindset is, unfortunately, on display in Washington at the present time. However, when I speak of the environment, I am talking about the living, breathing biosphere and rarely intend a reference to merely the human environmental-support system. I am a vegetarian, tree-hugging, bleeding-heart kook - and politically marginalized. And, I would be anything else if I possibly could be because it is no fun being like this. I would dearly love to be something - anything else but I cannot.

So, to the right wing, environmentalists are left-wingers (we wish we had a wing), and a left-wing threat where the human environment is the subject. The thinking there is that environmentalists are trying to sabotage the development of our great industrial system by playing on the fears or sympathies of the ignorant masses with scare tactics about air/water pollution or misguided concerns over redwood trees and spawning salmons. Incidentally, the right wing survives the attack by manipulating labor and small farmers into outright verbal and physical attacks on environmentalists.

I am not familiar with the Lomborg or his book mentioned by Cheryl. I am not sure I will ever need to become familiar because the description of his book sounds like so many other right-wing attacks of the last four decades. For example, consider the very first point in Cheryl's outline. All that is true, to some extent, but only if you are thinking about human environment as the only meaningful perspective from which to think about "environment". But, what about our fellow creatures? Do you even care? I wish I didn't. Do you see what I mean? I am taking bets that Lomborg is coming from the right. But stay alert! watch out for others coming from your left.

I am fully prepared to discuss all the other points to the limits of your forbearance. Surely, I have given clear evidence of that today.

Dear Ash,

Why do you say:

"However, the present discussion leads us clearly into what Jane Austen was not - things our Lady could never have known, thought about, or intended to write about."

How do you know that?  Are we still in an 'isolationist' mode?  Can you prove that?  Why should that be?  I do not see that.

I can prove otherwise!  Quoting from Deirdre Le Faye's Jane Austen's Letters - Letter No. 37 (May, 1801). There is a postscript to the letter which says:

"The Pickfords are in Bath & have called here.—She is the most elegant looking Woman I have seen since I left Martha—He is as raffish in his appearance as I would wish every Disciple of Godwin to be.—We drink tea tonight with Mrs Busby.—I scandalized her Nephew cruelly; he has but three Children instead of Ten. ..."

Le Faye added a footnote, re Godwin, to say:  "Disciple of Godwin.  William Godwin (1756-1836); JA was probably acquainted with his Caleb Williams (1794) and St Leon (1799)."

So, I have every reason to believe that she did know Godwin, and that he was probably discussed at home.  Her use of the word "raffish" sounds rather derogatory to me. Does that quote suffice to make a connection?

Dear Linda,

I am very glad to see that excerpt from a Jane Austen letter; I am currently reading Godwin's Caleb Williams, am surprised at what I am reading and discovering, and will make use of your finding when I finally post on the matter. I will have a bit more to say about that after I reply to your conclusion.

The quote does suffice to make a connection as you suggest, but only if we go back to your post that begun this thread. However, we had moved far from that original thread when I suggested that we were discussing matters not yet apparent in our Lady's time. Cheryl had turned the discussion to the modern uses of the terms "Malthusian" and "environmentalist". There were no environmentalists in Jane Austen's day for the same reason that there were no communists - there was no need for labor organizers were there was no widespread exploitation of industrial workers. Perhaps the Luddites gave some indication that such needs were imminent to our Lady's time, a need to resist widespread, cruel replacement of labor by machines. However, they made their statement only during the last decade of Jane Austen's life, and only gave a hint of what was to come. Similarly, it was not until the novels of Dickens that the grime and pollution of industrialization comes through to us - give the first hint of the need for an environmental movement.

Incidentally, does not the poem you posted by Anne Bronte show a new concern for social conditions not found in a Jane Austen novel? More to point is William Godwin's Caleb Williams mentioned in the Le Faye footnote you reproduced. This was a social commentary thinly disguised as a gothic-like novel and considered the most radical thing imaginable. And yet, there is no hint of industrial pollution or the need for an environmentalist political movement. Rather, the theme was a fairly old one of the evils and abuses of arbitrary and hereditary power. (Although, one can see there the stereotype that would prove useful later for characterizing the capitalist much as one can detect proto-communist imagery in Godwin's philosophical works.) We cannot expect Jane Austen to be aware of things that a Godwin seemed not aware of himself.

Dear Ashton,

I wasn't referring to you in my title line.  I consider you to be a rational human being which a Malthusian, by definition is not. Malthusians are only capable of emotional response and emotion without reason, as any true Janeite knows, is a dangerous thing. Malthusians react to any change or potential change by seeing TEOTWAWKI.  The rest of us at least try to overcome our natural reaction and react to the individual situation, not merely the threat of change itself.

In defense of Lomborg, I believe he's a Dane, though admittedly an economist I somehow doubt he comes down politically anywhere near the right.  He is also a lifelong member of various environmentalists groups including Greenpeace.  In his introduction he says that when trying to write peer-reviewed articles about the environment and the economy he found that much of the "environmentalists" economic data was mis-represented or even simply made up.  This got him looking farther into matters and resulted in his The Skeptical Environmentalist.

As for only "republicans" talking about the human environment, I refer you to the WWI's press release this year that listed the biggest environmental concerns as: 1.2 billion without access to clean drinking water, 3rd world debt load, and poverty/ethnic and religous strife. Apparently they couldn't find anything scary enough in the environmental news to make good copy.

I have some more to say, but no time to say it in.

Dear Voices,

Ash, you said:  "... when I suggested that we were discussing matters not yet apparent in our Lady's time."  On that previous post I was merely making the Godwin-Austen connection. Now I will look at the environment issue.

Let us get back to basics.  What is the underlying cause of all this disgruntlement through the ages?  Never mind the various names it goes by or whose side you are on.

I say, that "sin" in the form of greed, abuse, misuse, neglect, or whatever is the problem. Only the people and what they are fighting over changes over time.  Whoever invented the wheelbarrow probably hired someone to use it for him and underpaid the poor guy.  Or he rented it out for some exorbitant fee.  The problem is always 'us'.

The ____ (people who saw a problem or had a problem) fought ______ (people who caused the problem without proper consideration of others) while the _______ (national/state/local guv'ment) looked on, or passed stupid laws.  Fill in the blanks as you please down through the ages.  The blanks could be filled in with words like "Malthusians", "environmentalists", "Republicans" (I see that there was no mention of Democrats, and it is just as well, I guess), etc. etc.

Jane would have been aware of the fact that a problem existed because so much of this stuff is in the Bible, that is, man's inhumanity to man.  As you stated, it came in like a flood in the early 1800s making it more noticeable.  I am also noticing in my study of Jane's Life and Times that there were a lot more newspapers, magazines, and books in existence than I thought.

You said:  "Incidentally, does not the poem you posted by Anne Bronte show a new concern for social conditions not found in a Jane Austen novel?"

Interesting question.  I have not yet finished my research to which I shall now add that topic. It may be that the concern is not "new", but more prominent.  Just as you found surprising things in Godwin's novel, I will not be surprised to find something in Jane's.  I just won't be looking for words like "environment", etc.

You also mentioned the Luddites, which I had only recently heard of.  Now I will shill for the book that brought them to my attention - The Lady and the Luddite by Linden Salter (who just happens to be a RoP friend of mine and very kindly sent me an autographed copy).  She does her research and tells a very good tale to boot.  I do recommend it.

Dear Lotsacashton,

You see?  You see?  Here I have been lumping along with my nose in Jane Austen books for all these years, so how can I know about the who's who in French filmmaking?  To tell the truth, I haven't had any time lately even for JA noseburying, and envy those VOICES who have (or make) time to delve into related links, materials, histories, and so on.

If this woman, AND her mouth, are not handsome enough to tempt Darcy, then he is no more than a "dead man walking"! I think she might be a little young for Lady Susan.  Unless she had her daughter at age 15 or 16, she must be in her later thirties at the least.

I have been looking for "Tess" with Justine W., cannot find.  Only one available is Natasha Kinski version.

Totally beside the point—John Carson would have made a perfect Mr. Rochester, n'est pas?

Dear Cheese,

Heh, heh - so, I am to be given an opportunity to cast a Bronte film am I? I can't express how delighted I feel - hee, hee.

Actually, I thought that Orson Wells was perfect in that role, but he is too preoccupied at present to repeat the performance, so I am going to cast Malkovitch as Rochester. For Jane Eyre, I give the contract to Nadia Chambers (she played Lady Catherine's daughter, Miss Anne de Bourgh, in P&P-95).

But, what about the screenwriter? Hm-mm, this is a puzzle. Oh - what am I thinking! - Yes, of course, that would be a perfect assignment for Patrica Rozema! Ms. Rozema has the same appreciation of men, nature, and probability as Charlotte Bronte herself. So, our screenwriter could justify not actually reading the novel this time; just give the woman the general idea and she is bound to get it right.

And now for some unfinished business. What do you think about Catherine Deneuve as Lady Susan? I seem to be stuck on French actresses for the role - maybe not, maybe the role has nothing to do with it.


Yes, Catherine Deneuve is beautiful, mean, intelligent, and dangerous-looking enough. A good fit I think.

For commercial data on Tess, link to this web site.

cover to Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Dear Ash and Bree,

I have seen that version of Tess!  I think!  When I saw your picture of the cover of the video, I thought that the faces of the two men looked awfully familiar.  Sorry, but I could not remember the face of the actress - Justine, pitiable, isn't it?  Well, what you expect, I am a woman? I had to do some dredging through my half-mind to remember bits and pieces of the movie and the story.  But the question was where did I see it?  I looked on my shelf and had not taped it from the TV.  Finally it hit me that I had gotten it from the Library.  I quick checked the board to see if I had posted on it and found nothing. Since it had been awhile, it must have happened during my illness in December or the birth of the baby in January.  That is my excuse.  Now I suppose I will have to see it again to get it etched into my failing memory brain cells.  Who know, I may find out that I am thinking of a totally different movie.  I have probably let you down dreadfully.

You are better at keeping track of what we posted, so did I post on that?  If so, where?  think I shall leave you now, especially since my daughter has chastized me about setting my goals instead of ramdomly watching everything.

Linda who needs to keep a working list of movie titles just a she keeps a book inventory.

P.S. - I did like the movie, but it is not something I would repeat many times.  I don't know about the book.  I still need to read it.

P.P.S. - I like Catherine Deneuve and John Malkovitch!  Excellent choices!
From the Meister: You have not posted on Tess; that is something I would have remembered. Please do when you get a chance. It is amusing that you would have remembered the men - who were those guys anyway? Justine Waddell tore me up with that performance. The film was excellent also in that it followed the book very closely. I watch it frequently and find there a good deal to talk about. I strongly recommend the book as well, but proceed with caution.

... for not mentioning Justine Waddel's turn in Dracula 2000.  Missed that one, did you?  Actually, it's not half-bad in the vampire "B-Movie" category.   Explains Dracula's hatred of Christianity and dislike of silver in a rather orginal way: by positing Dracula as Judas Iscariot, doomed to eternal life by his betrayal of Christ.  Christopher Plummer as Van Helsing, who has kept himself alive using Dracula's blood filtered through leeches.  Ewan McGregor as the hero, and Justine as Van Helsing's daughter; and Dracula's as well, if you count the blood.  As free screeners go, much better than K-Pax which was an insult to one's intelligence from start to finish.

I think we have something there with Ms. Rozema directing Jane Eyre.  Just think of how much mileage she'd be able to get out of Jane and what's-her-name sharing a bed at the orphanage, or Jane's relationship with Leah.  And of course you could use an attractive actress because we all know that Jane's self image was manipulated by male advertising.  No doubt she's bulimic too.  Casting Mr. Rochester would be difficult since not all that many actors would be willing to be as emasculated the way Edmund was in Rozema's Mansfield Park.

I'd have to say that Catherine Deneuve is too old to play Lady S. who I imagine is still this side of 40.  Do you think Cate Blanchett would die her hair and get her nose fixed?

Dear Cheryl,

I was hoping that no one would notice that Justine appeared in that film. Wasn't it a Roger Corman film? (Actually, you make it seem kind of interesting; maybe I will watch after all.) I hope that Ms. Waddell got a lot of money for that role because I want her to have a lot of money.

I love your embellishment of Rozema working on Jane Eyre.

Sniff - cough - um-mm - sob! - Did you have to mention Deneuve's age? Although she still looks very beautiful to me - and still as mean as hell. Not mean in the hard, masculine way that so many American actresses seem these days; rather, mean in an irresistible way. Cate Blanchett is one of my favorite actresses, so I hope she gets any part she wants; but, in my opinion, she is way too sweet for the role of Lady Susan. However, your mention of her made me think of two other candidates. I thought of Julianne Moore, and then another actress that looks like a dangerous version of Blanchett. What is her name? I think she is an Australian too. She appeared in The Beach with DiCaprio and in Orlando. Do you know who I mean? Either of those women would be an excellent choice.

By the way, what is it with all these Africans appearing in films these days? There is Colin Firth, Justine Waddell, Embeth Davidtz, etc. I guess it is about time that the Australians got some competition.

I like a strong nose on a woman; I don't insist on it. In fact, I am not much of a "type"-man in that I am transfixed by women from all cultures and continents. It takes some maturing, but a man comes to understand that it is the femininity - the grace and delicacy that shines through and makes a woman beautiful - beauty is not only skin deep. There are other things - more important things that I can't find the words to describe. Well, it is hard to explain and that doesn't bother me because I just enjoy beauty and don't need to communicate what I am seeing. Incidentally, I am one of those guys who married the best-looking woman I ever knew. The best-looking human being I have ever seen is our grandson who is 3½ at present. He has the character, intelligence, grace, wisdom, and machismo to go along with it. He is going to rock more than just a few worlds in his time. - I would love to be around to see some of that.

Dear Ashton,

I think it was Wes Craven. As I said, a solid "B" and a girl's gotta eat, right?

To be honest, Cate Blanchett isn't right physically for Lady Susan, but she does cold as nails very well. A man could "dash himself to pieces on her" (to quote Samwise) as Galadriel and QE1 as well.

Juliane Moore, definitely not.  There are some less attractive actresses who can carry off the femme fatale; Angelica Huston being the prime example, but Juliane isn't one of them.  About the only thing I've liked her in so far is Evolution. Not because she isn't a good actress, but because she's been so completely miscast.  At any rate, I think of Lady Susan as being the short, petite type.  Actually, Holly Hunter is about  right physically, though I'm not suggesting for a moment she could carry off the role.  Don't forget William Hurt as Mr. Rochester: a case in which good physical casting couldn't overcome absolutely awful casting as an actor.

We've been playing our own "who to cast" game, trying to figure out who's going to be playing Theoden, Denethor, Eowyn, Eomer, and Faramir in The Two Towers.  I wonder if they'll be brave enough to re-cast the actor who plays Boromir as his brother ... It'll be interesting to see. Maybe Brian Blessed as Theoden and Max Von Sydow as Denethor.  And surely there must have been a role in there somewhere for Nigel Hawthorne.

From the Meister: Moore played a Lady-Susan type in An Ideal Husband. I think her a good actress; have you seen her in Uncle Vanya on 42nd Street? You are right about Hurt's effort in Jane Eyre. Is it not true that they shot the two sequels to Lord of the Rings at the same time as LOR? I mean those roles are already in the can - right? I think your quotation, "a man could dash himself to pieces on her" to be the equivalent of my "dangerous" but I like your quote better. Can you identify the lead actress in Orlando?

Dear Ashton,

Yes, LOTR was filmed all at once.  Another down check for the Oscars as I understand the entire production came in at "only" about 240 million, including post production.  New Zealand is out Hollywood-ing Hollywood, and doing it much cheaper too. So, yes, all the casting has already been decided.  That doesn't mean we can't figure out our "ideal" cast, though The Fellowship was so successful with it though, I'd hate to second guess Peter Jackson.  Denethor's supposed to be about Aragorn's age, I think (about 80 -- he lives to be about 200 I think) but worn down by care.  Theoden is about 70 and being a lesser man, looks his age. I'm hoping that we'll get to see Sir Nigel in a decent role to remember him by...he hadn't been in anything good since he played the Duke of Clarence in Richard III.

I've seen An Ideal Husband and enjoyed it, but it was so slight that I don't remember much about it.  Didn't get to see Orlando, though it might be in a bag somewhere around the house

I'm off to the "big city" to try and find the last few items I need for my spring projects, and maybe finally to see A Beautiful Mind. (Although I've said that at least the last six times I've gone to town.)


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