Post #8

I find it amazing that people have now loved Jane Austen’s books for over two hundred years.  This is because her characters are so human. Lizzie Bennet is the main character that comes to mind. In a world where women were expected to marry for financial security and not love, to display the utmost propriety at all times, Lizzie is the complete opposite of that. She speaks her mind. She doesn’t care that her dress is covered in mud when she rushes to see an ill Jane at Netherfield. She rejects Mr. Collins’s proposal because she doesn’t love him. She is a strong, independent woman who has shown me that I need to not only be independent, but I also need to make decisions for myself without worrying about what others will think of me.

I was first introduced to Miss Bennet when I was about fifteen years old. It was spring break, and I was going with my parents and my best friend Lindsay to the Biltmore Estate, the largest private residence in the United States. This event reminded me of Elizabeth’s visiting Pemberley with her aunt and uncle. We left around 5:00 AM to make the four hour journey to Asheville, North Carolina from our house in Georgia. My dad was driving the minivan, my mom was sleeping, and Lindsay and I were wide awake. We were both so excited to see this estate, to see the art collections, to go into the gift shops and restaurant, and to see the beautiful landscaping.

Lindsay has been my best friend since we met in Girl Scouts when we were six. She has basically become my sister, and she comes with my family everywhere. Lindsay was obsessed with Jane Austen, particularly Pride and Prejudice. We were going to be in the car for several hours, so we brought a few movies to watch on our portable DVD player. One of the movies that Lindsay had brought was the 2005 film adaptation starring Keira Knightley as Lizzie. I had a hard time getting into the movie, probably because of the mixture of the terrible volume on the portable DVD player as well as how early in the morning we had attempted to watch it.

When we arrived at the Biltmore Estate, it was breathtaking. The front lawn was freshly mowed, and the many tourists were grabbing their digital cameras and flip phones to take pictures of their families in front of the main house. We decided to go on the self-guided tour of the house. Because the main house is so large, the girl at the front desk handed us our maps of the house as well as a guide book with details about each room of the house. Viewing this immense opulence was a little overwhelming. I couldn’t imagine a couple with only one child living in a mega-mansion with dozens of bedrooms and over forty bathrooms. I think that Lizzie must have felt just as overwhelmed by the opulence of Pemberley as I did when I visited the Biltmore.

We left the estate later that afternoon to return home. Lindsay spent the night at our house that night, and we watched the movie then. I was instantly hooked. I couldn’t get enough of the witty banter between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. After this, I knew that I needed to buy the book. I went to Barnes and Noble pretty soon after this and purchased not only a copy of Pride and Prejudice but also Austen’s entire canon of novels.

Even though I had purchased all six of Austen’s novels, I never read them. I read lots of spin-off novels as well as watched other movie adaptations, but I didn’t read the books. I felt that I wasn’t a true Austenite. I thought that I was being such a poseur and that I had no business referring to myself as a true fan until I read the novels. I tried starting with Sense and Sensibility, but I just couldn’t bring myself to continue reading it. It wasn’t until I reached my senior year of high school that I could finally allow myself the title of Austenite.

I was taking Honors British Literature, and I knew that Emma was going to be the Austen novel we were assigned. However, about a week before we were supposed to start, my teacher, Mrs. Pepper, changed her mind. We were going to read Pride and Prejudice instead.

“To be honest, I don’t really like Emma. I think she’s really annoying. Pride and Prejudice is her perfect novel,” she said.

I don’t think I have ever been more excited for a homework assignment as I was the day I found out that we were reading Austen’s most beloved novel. I used my own copy instead of the one provided in class, and I flew through it. I couldn’t get over how funny it was. The Bennets were not portrayed as a stuffy, prim and proper family in an eighteenth century world. They were real. They fought with each other, got annoyed with each other. They laughed and joked.  They were so relatable, and they seemed like people I would want to know personally. The character I connected with most was, of course, Elizabeth Bennet.

Lizzie taught me to be independent. For a long time, I was so dependent on my parents for everything. I went to a small, private college very close to home; in fact, I went home practically every weekend. I didn’t know how to function without being close to my family at all times. I then decided to move to Florida after graduating college. I made so many friends living in Florida, and I have enjoyed myself, but it has been so hard not seeing my family every day. Pushing myself to live so far away from my family is something I never could have done without the inspiration of Lizzie.

Lizzie has also shown me how to make decisions without caring what others think. One of the biggest examples of this was the decision to change my major in college. I initially started my undergraduate career as a Musical Theatre major. I thought that I was destined to be an actor. However, English was always my true passion. I loved reading, and I wasn’t getting nearly as much enjoyment out of my acting classes as I was in my English classes. Lizzie helped me stay true to myself. She wouldn’t do anything that she didn’t feel happy with. Her rejection of Mr. Collins is a perfect example of that. Despite her mother’s objections, she told Mr. Collins no. To think that a woman didn’t have the freedom really to do such a thing as reject a proposal from a man whose feelings she didn’t reciprocate was astonishing. But Lizzie did it. I thought to myself, “If Lizzie has the courage to change the course of her life, then so can I.” I finally walked into the registrar’s office a week into my sophomore year and officially changed my major. I felt as if a giant weight had been lifted off my shoulders, probably the way Lizzie felt when her family ended up supporting her decision to reject Mr. Collins.

I don’t think I will ever stop reading Jane Austen novels. By now, my copy of Pride and Prejudice is worn and probably should be replaced. I think I keep returning to it because Jane Austen created a character who showed me how to better myself. I used to be such a timid person, afraid to do anything without approval from family or friends. Now I can enjoy life on my terms. So, thank you, Miss Austen, for showing me how to grow up to be the woman I always aspired to be, one who has “a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in any thing ridiculous” (Austen 9).

E.R., USA

 

 

Quote from:

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Ed. Donald Gray and Mary A. Favret. Fourth ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2016. Print.

 

Post #7

Dear Jane,

 

I live in a world very different to yours, nevertheless, your writing has helped me to navigate it. Your observance of human character, of an individual’s internal struggles, and the highs and lows of navigating friendships, family, and romantic relationships – all these ring with truth from your age to mine.

Upon first reading Pride and Prejudice, I could hardly fathom how you had based the character of Lady Catherine de Bourgh upon one of my own relations! Such is your observation of real characters and human nature that of course we see them repeated down the ages, society may change, but human nature, it appears, does not. A romanticised hero or heroine written by one of your contemporaries appears unrealistic to us now, for they have written an ideal of their time, not a real person at all. But you wrote true – you observed thoughts and actions, and so I am sure there are many others out there who also know a Lady Catherine. But I digress.

I want to let you and others know why your novels mean so much to me, why I do not subscribe to the view that novels will fill people’s heads with silly fantasies. Why I do not believe that a love story in print produces turns its reader into a Catherine Morland or Marianne Dashwood. I do not believe that the romance of a love story only makes girls pine for Prince Charming to come and sweep them off their feet – ruining us for the real world. Of course there is some truth in empty, fluffy stories producing such empty fantasies. But these are not the stories to be found in your novels dear Jane. You prepared your pupils for the real world, with all of its attendant heartache and uncertainty. Your work has been sadly misjudged by those who do not understand it. From the outside they see only boy-meets-girl, and (spoiler alert) happily ever after. If this were truly the substance of your novels, then perhaps your devotees would come to resemble the young Catherine or Marianne. But this is not the case. You, dear Jane, filled your novels with truth. You filled them with lessons. Worthy lessons in life and living. Not a prescriptive formula, not a reductive Ten Steps to Happiness and Marrying Mr Right. Yes, the heroine will always end up living happily ever after, no matter how many mistakes she, or Mr Right, make along the way. However it is the background characters (who make up the majority of the novels’ population) whom you show to end up in a variety of situations. Some characters are shown suffering the consequences of their own choices and some are shown to suffer because of a lack of choice and chance of self-determination. Often characters, their situations and their choices are contrasted. Elizabeth Bennet and Charlotte Lucas, Anne Elliot and her friend Mrs Smith. Your novels do not give us a visitor’s pass to just one character’s life – you populated your works with rounded characters. They are not flat and lifeless, and so there is much to be learned from them. Through your varied cast of characters you showed us the outcome of the path not taken. Whilst Elizabeth Bennet rejects Mr Collins proposal, Charlotte Lucas accepts it. And just when the reader is left feeling that Anne Elliot should have accepted Captain Wentworth’s proposal all those years ago, we are introduced to Mrs Smith, who, young and in love, married against the advice of her family, only to become a ‘poor, infirm, helpless widow’. Through these contrasting choices and actions we see that there is no formula – do this and you too can be happy. Yes, Anne’s story ended happily, but it may not have been so. Anne very nearly ended up unmarried – a great failure in her day and situation. As Emma Woodhouse confides to her friend Harriet, ‘a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable’, however, ‘a single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable, old maid!’

This makes me reflect upon my great good fortune to have a choice at all.

There is a regular customer at my store who often repeats that he wishes he could have lived in the days of Jane Austen. Lately though he has amended that he would only like to live in those days if he ‘had money. It wouldn’t be much fun to live in those days if you were poor.’ I agree with him, though, to myself I add, ‘And only if you were a man.’ For in those days the women of the middle and upper classes were dependent upon their male relatives or husbands, for men were the ones who controlled the wealth.

In part, your stories are so poignant because they are stories of lives magnified. Love stories have their own drama, but that drama is added to when the course of true love is not allowed to run smooth – when the two lovers are from warring families (Romeo and Juliet), different cultures (West Side Story), different species (Twilight). The magnification of your stories is that your heroines have little to no choice. Marriage is their career and sole means of support. The mate they choose must provide for them, for women generally are not the ones who control how money is made, invested, or spent, as the tale of Anne Elliot’s friend Mrs Smith illustrates. This magnification of story, this all-or-nothing importance placed upon every encounter and every choice mirrors the feeling of our own internal struggles. Each person’s choices and circumstances, the things that befall them, always take on larger than life significance, because they are their own. The dilemmas of life may seem small and dull when viewed from the outside, but to the individual facing them, they are everything. That is the comfort of sharing the internal world of your heroines in the same way we experience our own. We find fellowship with these kindred spirits, and our hearts break with Lizzy, Jane, Fanny, Eleanor, Marianne, Catherine and Anne, when they think that all is lost. I am so thankful that I found my Mr Right. But I am also so very glad that I did not have to find him. I could have ‘failed’ to make a good match, and yet still lived a happy and fulfilled life, because unlike your heroines I am blessed with choice, and singleness would not doom me to life as a penniless old maid.

When I first read Persuasion, I found comfort and companionship in the story of Anne Elliot – Anne who was supposedly old and destined to become a spinster. I felt an equivalent failure – 23 and single. My friends couldn’t understand – they were all in happy relationships. Who could understand? Your heroines of course. Stuck in a strange position on the edges of society – all of us failing to live the lives of our peers. And so in the pages of a novel about love and marriage, I found the guidance I needed to learn to live single. When Anne Elliot and Elizabeth Bennet turned down marriage proposals, they had no reason to believe there would come a second chance. In the middle of their stories Jane Bennet and Fanny Price had no reason to expect a happy ending. And so, whilst I was learning to live and enjoy my solitary existence, Mr Right came along. Not because I had followed the correct formula of waiting and pining. Not because I had faithfully clung to unrequited love or believed that no-one could ever love or choose me. I could have easily ended up alone – happily or unhappily. But the fortitude of your heroines in their own relationship turmoils encouraged strength and self-dependence. Not the condescending self-importance of Lady Catherine, but the quiet confidence of Anne; the determination of Lizzy and Jane to find companionship amongst family and friends, instead of endlessly questing after romantic love. Dear Jane, your heroines did not need romantic love to fulfil them, but you wrote it into their stories anyway. It is with the same generous spirit that you gave your readers the gifts of friendship, good conversation, and sound life lessons.

 

With warm regards and many thanks,

 

E.W., Australia

Post #6

Dear Aunt Jane,

I hope I may call you Aunt Jane, for since the earliest moments of our acquaintance I have regarded you as such. For as long as I can remember, whenever I’ve found myself in need of advice, or a soothing cup of tea with a lump of sugar and a generous slice of wit, I’ve curled up with you as you regaled me with stories of love and friendship, passion and pride that have shaped the lens through which I view the world.

You will, I trust, forgive me for waxing nostalgic as I share with you our first of many memorable encounters, on a Saturday morning in mid-February of my 13th year. I woke early, and while the rest of the house still slept, wrote in my diary of the Valentine’s Day dance I’d attended at school the previous night—my first ever. Pausing to swipe at an occasional tear, I recorded, with the flourishes of typical teenage angst, the agony of standing with my back to the wall for the entire evening as no one, not a single boy, asked me to dance. I hugged my chubby knees and gazed sadly out my window, wondering what made me so flawed that no boy could endure the indignity of standing up with me.

Eventually I wandered over to my bookshelf, reaching for one of the many friends that never turned their backs on me. I don’t know what made me pick up the intriguing, grown-up sounding title that I’d previously overlooked, but how great was my delight when I met another girl in its pages with whom I could sympathize. She too had been forced to sit down without a partner at a dance because the gentlemen—or rather one in particular—was “in no humor to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.” I’m speaking, of course, of Elizabeth and Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Your words, Aunt Jane, whispered across nearly two centuries to keep me company, assuring me that I wasn’t the first, nor would I likely be the last girl to endure such humiliation. Elizabeth Bennet, with her quick wit, strong convictions, and determination to settle for nothing less than what she deserved, became one of my truest and most dependable friends.

Not long after, when I found myself gushing about my discovery of Pride and Prejudice to a family friend, she exclaimed that she had another novel I might enjoy, and I met, and instantly bonded with Emma Woodhouse. She would eventually be joined by Anne Eliot, Fanny Price, Katherine Morland, and the Dashwood sisters, each of whom became invaluable friends and guides through the growing pains of becoming a woman. From these passionate, persevering women, I learned that I could, and in fact should, expect strong-minded heroines in fiction. I learned that feminism, in as much as it is a political and social movement, is more importantly, at its most fundamental level, about taking charge over one’s own life and decisions. Given that the women of my generation have comparatively more freedom than those who frequented the drawing-rooms of your novels, you nonetheless drew heroines with remarkable self-possession and forward-thinking who always stood their ground. Fanny Price, for instance, knows her refusal of Henry Crawford flies in the face of convention and what she owes to the Bertrams; Lizzie Bennet knows that the future comfort of her mother and sisters, as well as her own, hangs in the balance when Mr. Collins’s marriage proposal. Yet they stand by their convictions and follow their own minds and hearts. These heroines taught me at a tender age to value the power of choice and the knowledge that I was in control of my own destiny.

You, Aunt Jane, have been my constant companion—on rainy afternoons and road trips, summer days and sleepless nights. When I entered my first semester of graduate school, armed with nothing but my enthusiasm and insecurity about my ability to compete, there you were on my first schedule of classes, an entire semester of you and your contemporaries culminating in my 25 page research paper on Pride and Prejudice that was little more than a glorified excuse to wax rhapsodic about Colin Firth but that was nonetheless the single thread of sanity to which I clung on the nights when I thought about quitting and joining a traveling circus. When I stood in front of a class of students for the first time, entrusted with the task of shepherding them through the worlds within the pages of a book, it was your world, one I’d traversed in my imagination as often as my hometown, through which I chose to take them. Now my home (which I may or may not have christened Little Pemberley) is nothing short of a shrine to your memory; throw blankets, magnets, coffee mugs and coasters remind me daily of the stories and characters you so generously shared with us—sources of inspiration and amusement that have been indelibly engraved on my mind and heart. I can never thank you enough.

Your Affectionate Reader,

F.M, USA

Post #5

As a youngster growing up in and near San Francisco, when I wasn’t goofing around outdoors, my earliest memories of reading were of an old used set of the massive encyclopedia called The Book of Knowledge. I remember it encompassing about a dozen intimidating volumes but this kid read EVERY page. This imprinted into my psyche a life-long habit of reading non-fiction and my overt disregard for practically everything fictional.

Consequently, I’ve been a life-long fact-finding trivia geek; however, by Jane Austen’s standards, I was still “intolerably stupid.” This stubborn habit continued throughout high school, the military, and university. After two decades and some 330+ semester hours of credits in every possible discipline, this career student finally received a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from the University of Washington. My lop-sided education was a mile wide and an inch deep.I worked in the airline industry where my non-fiction reading continued unabated and most prominently featured history, biographies, current events, technical articles and industry-related topics. My fiction- loving wife, family, and friends, continually asked me if I had read this novel or that novel to which I replied haughtily “Reading that stuff is a waste of time.” So, my contempt for fiction continued shamefully for about 55 years!

My fiction epiphany began a scant five years ago in an almost mystical manner. One evening, I had exhausted my current stash of non-fiction and was having a “nothing to read” anxiety attack. In an effort to stave off withdrawal symptoms, I wandered into our home office and perused our largest book case. At first, I saw nothing but my familiar non-fiction. But what was THIS and how did it get here? My eyes locked on to Emma by Jane Austen. I thought “Oh well, why not?” So, I pried out the volume, blew some dust off the top and returned to my bedside. Little did I know that in my smug non-fictional pride I was just about to be struck off my mount on my own personal road to Damascus by an irresistible force which was poised to draw me inexorably into the sublime realm of fiction.

Still, it almost didn’t happen. Totally unfamiliar as I was with Miss Austen’s style, I struggled through the first 100 pages of Emma, trying to make sense of her bewildering cast of characters and how she so ingeniously “set the table.” At around 100 pages, the “scales” fell from my eyes and I hungrily devoured Emma, starved from a lifetime of depriving myself of a great story! When I got to the resolution of Emma’s and Mr. Knightley’s second turn in the bushes, I was totally overcome with emotion. I jumped up, wept openly, howled with glee, and pranced around the room with exultation! What was happening to me? Here was something I had seldom experienced in my drab, sterile non-fiction existence: Being baptized into the warmth of human affection, irony, desire, longing, sorrow, comedy and suspense.

Dear God, I was an incurable romantic and it took Jane Austen to finally pry open my long-suppressed heart to release this latent gift! With a wink and nod to Laurel Ann, Jane Austen Made Me do It. I later learned that Emma was left in our book case and forgotten by our daughter following her graduation from college. I’m convinced that this was no coincidence but a divine appointment! I’ve since read all of Jane Austen’s novels multiple times; this from a guy who hardly ever read a book more than once. Our divine Miss Austen has been critically referred to by some as the greatest writer of English literature since William Shakespeare. Her unique and distinctive writing style has been imitated but never equaled. Her unforgettable characters fairly leap off the pages as if fully alive. Her humor is a hammer covered in velvet. Her gradual crescendos of emotional suspense are palpable. Her ironic twists and turns are astonishing. Her dialogues are so captivating that I find myself vocally entering into her conversations as I read!

It is appropriate that Jane Austen was the gateway through which this stone-cold empirical naysayer would finally enter into the promised land of fiction. Here at Austenprose, I’m now expanding my horizons by enjoying the works of many talented contemporary authors who ply the rich legacy left to us by Miss Austen.

As I post, review, and opine throughout the blogosphere, I hope my love, enthusiasm, and gratitude for all things Austen shines forth.

J. W., USA.

Post#4

Dear Jane,
I know I should by rights address you as “Miss Austen”, since you do not know me. However, through your writing I consider you one of my closest friends, as do many other men and women I know who have read and admire your writing. How can it be that so many people of so many different ages on so many different continents feel this way about you, you ask? After all, you lived and wrote within the narrow scope of southern England two hundred years ago. I cannot speak for everyone, but let me begin with the story of our meeting.
We first met when I was five, though I didn’t register it as a significant meeting then. I watched the program Wishbone, and as they reenacted an abridged version Pride and Prejudice, I was captivated. At the outset, the dancing certainly pulled me in, but it was more than that. It was the people that truly intrigued me. My young mind tried desperately to figure out why your characters acted the way that they did, rode every wave of Lizzie and Darcy’s verbal sparring, and wondered how jokes that old could still be so funny. This program began my path to becoming an English major, and your work formed a significant part of that path.
My first formal introduction to your work was Sense and Sensibility at age 12. Again, your complex characters and your incredible wit drew me in. I was fascinated by this new, mature language I was learning and could not get enough. I loved not only your word choice, but I also loved discovering how the characters navigated their world, how similar and yet more complicated it was to my own. By age 13, I had added Pride and Prejudice to my bookshelf and thrilled at every twist and turn. I even read Kitty’s coughing scene aloud to my seatmate on the school bus, marvelling that a novel so old could be so funny. Though my seatmate did not think the scene was nearly as funny as I did, I became determined to discover more about your work.

Every year afterwards, all throughout high school, I read at least one of your novels. I began to read every spin-off book I could get my hands on, listened to every film soundtrack, watched every new television and film adaptation. I even went so far as to impersonate you for my Author Project at the end of AP English Literature. I could not name it then, but your work and its culture gave me something that I longed for in my own world.
Since then, my hunger for that je-ne-sais-quoi has not diminished. I majored in English Literature, many of my classes centered around your work or that of your contemporaries. I spent a semester living in Bath, studying your work and being an intern at the Centre that bears your name. I am now a lifetime member of JASNA, attending conferences and book discussions with other people who love your work as much as I do. Your work has become part of the fabric of my life, and I cannot imagine myself any other way.

What is it that draws me in, that draws in everyone who will write to you here? To me, it was your incredible ability to paint everyday life and human nature exactly as it is, analyze it, and hand essential truths out to your readers through your writing. Other authors have wondered why your characters can be so easily linked to our own friends and family as opposed to those of any other author. How is it that I was able to see Lady Catherine de Bourgh in my grandmother, or Willoughby in my roommate’s ex-boyfriend, or Elinor and Lizzie in myself? It is because you paint on “little [bits]…of ivory”; you capture how we all act in everyday situations and why we do, then present it to us so effortlessly that we don’t even notice. That is why I keep turning to your work for comfort and advice: you ask your readers to study their own lives, and therein lie our answers, a “better guide…than any other person can be”.
I suppose this letter is to thank you. Thank you for bringing me to a fulfilling academic and career path. Thank you for connecting me to incredible people all over the world. Thank you for confirming that there is validation in quiet morality and observation. Thank you for helping me to understand how everyone around me works, especially during my teenage years when that is most difficult thing to work out. Most of all, thank you for helping me to understand myself. I am a far better person for having known you.

H.S., USA

Post #3

How the work of Jane Austen affected my life:

First of all, I want to explain how I identify with one of the most famous characters of Jane Austen, Lizzie Bennet. Only the deepest lover will persuade me into matrimony, which is why I will end up and old maid …

That is my rule of life, and yes, I am single, and actually happily single, I have a lot of friends ( women and men) that are married and unhappy, and they don’t know why they married. When I ask to them the answer is: because it was the next logical step, because I am not making me younger, because I don´t want to be alone .. and that is sad, because you stay in a relationship because you felt sad or empty.

I don’t want that, I don’t want to be the woman who are married because it was the obvious thing to do. I want to marry because I am in love, and because the other person love me, because he see in me a partner, a lover, a travel friend, a support and vice versa.

I should not settle, and that’s how Jane Austen change my life. With Lizzie, of course, I met Mr Darcy, but Lizzie teach me that you don’t have to settle, if a man loves you, he will do everything for you, Lizzie reject a marry proposal, but Mr Darcy loved her so much, that he takes care of her with some distance, because she was the kind of woman who knows what she deserves, and there is no proposal, money, or charming that make her compromise her integrity.

Lizzie Bennet teach me that you will only permit what you deserve, you should not settle.

-S.G., Colombia

Post #2

There are many reasons why, after two hundred years, Jane Austen and her novels are still so loved, but I think the most important is that we can all see ourselves in her, and in her characters.

During a time when women were not expected to do or be anything, she dared to become something more. She possessed one particular trait women–proper ladylike women–were not to dare exhibit…a sense of humor. Her wit transcends time and cultures, making her stories and her characters relatable and real. Because she created such vivid and memorable characters, people from all time periods and backgrounds can find a kindred spirit amongst her heroines and heroes. And for that reason, reading her novels becomes more like checking in with friends, becoming a part of their world, rather than simply reading a story.

For me, her impact was most meaningful during my divorce, when I found myself turning to the comforting world of Pride & Prejudice in order to escape the disillusionment I felt in the real world, for the happy ending I knew was within reach for Elizabeth and Darcy. Losing myself in the story that has inspired the ultimate romantic archetype, I realized that a love that made you sad could not be true love after all. I think I learned from Elizabeth and Darcy what a strong and healthy relationship was like, one that brought out the best in both parties, one that was of mutual benefit to both. From them I learned what unconditional love truly meant, and from Jane I learned how to spot a narcissist and how to avoid being taken in by one in the future. After all, it is “a truth universally acknowledged” that the sweet talkers that seem to good to be true–usually are. Mostly I just learned about human nature from her, and the nature of the relationships between people. That’s what is the most stirring, I think, about the great Ms. Austen’s work; the reflections the relationships between her characters yield that have the ability to illuminate the relationships the reader is a part of.

Jane herself has always been a source of inspiration to me, for I have dreamt of being a writer since I was a kid, and I greatly admire her tenacity to do what she loved despite the countless people telling her she was foolish for trying. Like many out there, I see a bit of myself in her, and knowing she had the strength to prove all her naysayers wrong drives me to keep pushing, as well.

-E.R, USA

Post #1

My girlfriend adores Jane Austen. From head to toe she is a pure Janeite. I mean this in a rather literal sense, as Austen’s signature handwriting decorates her left wrist and shoulder. Around the time I was lucky enough to meet her, I was studying Austen’s “Emma” in a university literary theory course. I still remember some of our first conversations, and seeing her eyes light up when we talked about Mr. Knightley’s witty remarks and Emma’s general nastiness towards Harriet. Together, after a busy academic schedule, we would find a comfy spot to sit on campus; I would sip a black coffee and she would drink a French vanilla. Conversations would drift from Austen to other authors. Those conversations would then drift to us talking about our lives. We laughed, we conversed, we bonded, and I grew closer to her than I’ve ever felt I could with anyone. Deciding that she would make me a Janeite too, we went on a date to the Black Cat used bookstore. She gave me a copy of “Pride and Prejudice”, carefully noting all her favourite scenes. The copy stayed with me, resting on my bedside table, with me promising to read it when the school year was complete. Faster than I would have liked, our days of sitting in the campus library during snowstorms ended. Unfortunately, the two of us were forced into a long distance relationship – but there was no way we could stop talking and seeing each other.

Our first long distance phone call consisted of her telling me about new Austen fan books she purchased, and me trying to recite the first names of the Bennett sisters. I can still only name four of the five, but she’s the super fan not me! (Elizabeth, Jane, Lydia, and Kitty – not too bad, right, Gaby?).  She wrote me letters and folded them in regency style, desperately tried to explain Mr. Darcy’s appeal through Skype calls, and shared her passion with me. When we were able to meet, we lied in bed through the late hours of the night, flipping through my taped, highlighted, and ink marked book, reciting our favourite parts. Each trip back home, the book came back with me, and so did new memories that we had formed together.

As I write this now, she is preparing to go to England to study Austen on a university loan. Our long distance relationship will be even farther, but I’m still happy for her because I know she’s pursuing one of her dreams. As much as I want to be with her, I would never want to drag her away from her passions, because they are what make her so unique. And so if I was asked how Jane Austen has impacted my life, I would say this:

Jane Austen has allowed me spend truly quality time with my girlfriend. The moments we’ve shared talking about her books will never fade from memory. No matter the distance between the two of us, those conversations stay etched in my mind just like my girlfriend’s tattoos. Every time I feel a bit sad, I think of all those days spent in the library with her and all the good times we had. Austen was – and still is – something that we talk about often. If I could meet her, I would personally thank her for discussions she’s given my girlfriend and I. While I enjoyed reading “Emma” and “Pride and Prejudice”, but it’s the moments I’ve spent sharing those stories with my girlfriend that make Jane Austen’s name unforgettable. I know that my girlfriend adores Jane Austen, but I know that no matter how much she adores her, she could never love Austen more than I love her.

-H.J, Canada