Jane Austen & the Wars

by R. Jason Everett


From 1792 to 1815 England was, with two brief interruptions, in an almost continual state of war. In addition, the nation faced food shortages, civil unrest, and other disturbances. Jane Austen lived through, and wrote during, it all. Yet, as is often noted, almost no trace of any of these events ever invades her works.

Yet, no writer can be completely immune to her experiences. Austen was no exception. She was well aware of world and local events, had two brothers serving in the Royal Navy, and another in the Militia. Her characters parallel some of the things she and her family and friends underwent. It might be as simple as a passing mention of those ships her brothers served on. (Captain Wentworth’s Asp in Persuasion and William Price’s Thrush in Mansfield Park being the exception, as they do not appear in any record. To put them aboard an existing vessel would have been an untruth.)

I’ve long had an interest in military history, and became interested in the late Georgian period while studying history at university (Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada, 1978). In 1982 I joined an (American) War of 1812 re-enactment group. When I became an officer I picked up Austen, seeking insights into that “class” from which many of my original counterparts would have come. I soon became hooked on her writing. (And later watched the adaptations, quite the reverse of many of her fans who began with the movies and moved to the history.)

About three years ago, I began a series of articles aimed at exploring the influence, if any, the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars had upon Austen’s life and writings. These were posted on the Republic of Pemberley Life & Times Board. I got as far as the fifth instalment (up to July 1806 when the Austens left Bath).. At that time I, frankly speaking, stalled on the sixth, and put it aside. Occasionally I would pick it up a do a bit of work, but by and large left it aside.

In the fall of 2006 while chatting at the Dregston website, I was asked if I’d be willing to post what I had at the ”The Loiterer”. I agreed, provided it was okay with the folks at Pemberley. That has been squared away. At that time I was between jobs and thus found the time, and the motivation, to do the writing.

The keepers of the Pemberley Board did not feel the articles fell entirely within their guidelines. The material deals more with the Napoleonic Wars and the social history of England, with Austen’s life and works being overlaid, rather than the central focus. Thus, they will only appear here on the The Loiterer, but with a Link for those interested.

I trust my readers will find the following both educating and entertaining,

Your Humble and Obedient Servant,
R. Jason Everett


If you are interested in commenting or discussing anything in this series the Dregston Chronicle Board has graciously been made available.

The author may be contacted at: jeverett@sympatico.ca

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