POST #18

Dear Jane,

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that your books have truly withstood the fickle test of Time.

Some critics like to make stuffy statements, alleging that your imagination was restricted to the tedium of commonplace, ordinary life (I’m looking at you Charlotte Brontë). Yet to me, dear Jane, it is your remarkable ability to find beauty in the simple, everyday going-abouts of universal human experiences, that contributes to the resounding music of your novels through the ages.

Something as simple as visiting a neighbour or going out for a ride in a carriage is, remarkably enough, observed through a positive lens. There is no unnecessary romanticism or flowery language in your writings- you simply speak the plain, unadulterated truth. Combined with your oh-so-hilarious wit, tipped with the slightest touch of sophisticated restraint, you have truly provided me with a means of escape. Yet whilst I may have opened your novels to escape the bore of monotonous routine, miraculously, you somehow subsequently equipped me with the ability to find beauty in the buzzing quietude of my own life.

You also gifted me with a unique window into the mysterious past. I note that we have ingenious writers such as Charles Dickens, who provided insightful social commentary on the class divide. I marvel at the brilliant Brontë sisters, who mingled the dark realities and grim barriers of life with the universal quest for happiness. I read Thomas Hardy’s forward-thinking novels, impressed by how he challenged the restrictive legal and social mores imposed upon women.

Then, I look to your writings, dear Jane. How you stand as an observer, narrating the stories of “OUR heroine(s)”- whether it be the silent yearning of Anne Eliot, the well-intended meddling of Emma Woodhouse, or the witty discourse of Lizzie Bennet. Whilst I observe the human flaws in each of these heroines, you teach me to love them, nonetheless.

Now, the next aspect of this letter pokes at a soft spot with a rather hot iron rod. That is, the belief- as utterly ridiculous as it is- that you, dear Jane, are a culprit of the first class. That you have wilfully allowed the Pygmalion Legend to infiltrate your writings. You are accused by many men worldwide, across the span of 3 different centuries, of creating the Perfect Man. When he’s not secretly saving the reputation of impressionable teens, he tends to go by the name of… Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Scores of men have grown to wince  at the very mention of Mr. Darcy! To such men, Mr. Darcy represents the unattainable, idealised standards that women have glorified, rendering me (and countless others), unfit for the ‘real world’. Yet such men ignore the fact that you, lovely Jane, have on the contrary, provided us with a very flawed and realistic image of a man. A man who was required to undergo his own journey of self-conscious adversity. A man who almost lost the love of his life, thanks to his snotty upbringing and anti-social distance. Still, he perservered, learning to overcome his Pride and, like every other human on this planet should endeavor, he learned from the errors of his ways. For this, he was rewarded with his rightly-deserved happy ending. He, to me, does not seem like an elusive and deified angel- he is the image of a man who knows when he is wrong and learns to improve for the better. That is an expectation of all of us, both men and women alike, whether we may be Proud or Prejudiced or worse.

Ultimately, Jane, you did not simply teach me that we all deserve more than the Mr/Mrs Collins of this world. You taught me to find beauty in the ordinary and that everybody can stumble across their happy ending- even nasty old Wikham.

Yours most faithfully,

Maryam, Australia.

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POST #17

Dear Jane,

I know it sounds corny but I believe I didn’t find your work, your work found me. My passion for you and your stories is in fact quite recent yet I feel like I’ve known you my whole life. My interest towards you as a person and towards your novels was sparked about two years ago at age 16 while on vacation in Bath for a few days with my family. Whilst there, my mom wanted to visit the local Jane Austen Museum. As I toured this beautiful museum I was filled with intrigue. All the employees seemed so passionate regarding both you and your work (and Colin Firth J) that I couldn’t help but wonder why. There was only one way to find out. From the gift shop at the Jane Austen Museum in Bath I purchased my first one of your novels – Pride and Prejudice of course – and that’s where it all began.

I had never enjoyed reading as much as I did when I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time. This novel truly has it all: interesting layered characters as well as complex storylines and interrelationships all expressed in the most entertaining and beautiful language imaginable. My favorite part though, is your intelligent use of irony. In fact, I wrote a 4000 word essay on this topic during my last year of high school. I’ll end my exalting here as I imagine you’re the kind of person who doesn’t much care for flattery J.

Within a year from discovering your work I had devoured all six of your novels and not one of them disappointed. They all had characters that I could relate to and learn important lessons from. I particularly see myself reflected in Mr. Darcy, Elinor Dashwood and Fanny Price. From these valuable characters I learned, among other things, that it’s good for me to step out of my introverted comfort zone every once in a while, that it’s okay for me to express my feelings more openly sometimes and that it isn’t a sign of weakness but rather of strength to stand by my beliefs even when it seems everyone else thinks differently. In Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse and Henry Tilney on the other hand, I see characteristics that I aspire to achieve: primarily, a sort of unshaken self-confidence in spite of making mistakes. All these characters are unquestionably flawed but they don’t let that hinder their self-esteem and zest for life.

I suppose, long story short, what I’m trying to say is thank you. Thank you for being you. Thank you for coming up with these incredible timeless stories. Thank you, above all, for writing them down so that countless generations of people, myself included, can enjoy them, learn from them and cherish them as a part of their identity.

 

With love,

Henna Oinas-Kukkonen

Age 18

Finland

POST #16

I read my first Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice, at age 13 when I received it in a white elephant gift exchange. I was already a lover of history and classics, but that was really the start of a life long love affair.

I was instantly hooked on Austen’s writing style and fell in love with the characters. I felt that I really related to Lizzie. We both were clever, sensible girls who loved to read and would only settle for true love in a relationship. I read Northanger Abbey next and kept on reading and reading until I had finished all six novels. Of course, then I had to watch every film adaptation, starting with the 2005 Pride and Prejudice and 1995 Pride and Prejudice. All Austen books and films are near and dear to my heart.

So thank you, Miss Austen. Thanks for creating some classy female leads who are strong but not rebellious or brash. Thanks for showing us that not all novels need have plot lines revolving around espionage, infidelity and murder. Thanks for showing how everyday life can be just as entertaining. Your wit, satire and talent lives on.

Also, thanks for Mr. Darcy.

-Faith

POST #15

Dear Jane,

One year ago, I went with my school to a Pride and Prejudice play at theatre. My schoolmates found it boring, but I was absolutely fascinated. So, I started reading all your books, and you changed my life: I discovered that I wanted to be different from the others. At first my friends were  surprised, but then they appreciated me also because of my spontaneous and funny diversity. At school I was known as “the strange girl”, but I didn’t mind that at all.. My real friends still wanted to stay with me, and that was enough. I also began dreaming about a handsome, intelligent and romantic guy, who would love me despite of my awkwardness. I thought that my personality and my passions could work like magnets for people like me, and for people who truly liked me . I’m still convinced about that. I started attending high school, and there I made new friends: they were enthusiastic about my great passion for your masterpieces. When our Italian teacher gave us “Pride and Prejudice” to read, my friends asked me questions and advice. I was very shy, but suddenly I felt important. You became popular among us, and a lot of girls fell in love with mr. Darcy.

So, thanks to you, I discovered myself, my passions, my interests. Now I know what I want to be in the future: an independent, intelligent, selfconfident and unafraid woman.

Thank You!!

Giulia Costa

Italy

POST #14

Dear Jane,

Where do I begin? There are so many things I want to say to you, and yet I’m not quite sure how to say them. Perhaps, if I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more (see what I did there?).

The first time I heard of you was when I was standing in my local Blockbuster (yes it was that long ago) with my parents. My mom told me about an author, whose works were turned into movies. Of course, at that time, I did not realize this author was from the 1800s, but I would soon learn. We rented the 2005 Pride and Prejudice and the 1995 Sense and Sensibility that night, and it would change my life forever. Over the next few years I would watch and re-watch those movies, especially Pride and Prejudice, as well as more adaptations of you other novels. I started out obsessing over these movies, but eventually I wanted more. Reading Pride and Prejudice really opened my eyes to your genius.

One of the things that I think is so special about your stories and the way you write, is how you craft your characters. You give them such unapologetic flaws, and yet manage to get your readers to look past those flaws, and love them anyway. These flaws make your characters seem real, and to a lot of us, they are real. You gave the world Mr. Darcy, Captain Wentworth, Mr. Knightley, and so many others, who, like other Janites have already mentioned, have given us unrealistic expectations about men. Thanks for that! When I think about it though, we fell in love with these heroes, but in truth we fell in love with you (seriously though, only a woman could think of such poetic lines, as I am half agony, half hope. . . I have loved none but you).  

This year we commemorate the two-hundred-year anniversary of your death. But in truth, you never really died, did you? You live on through your stories, through your characters, and through us, your fans. And in turn, we live through you. You take us back to simpler time, where ladies went to balls in pretty dresses, and gentlemen treated them with respect. A time of romance, humor, and happiness, even if your life wasn’t always like that. In a time of war and hardship, you, a simple clergyman’s daughter, inspired the world, and gave all of us hope for a happy ending, even two-hundred years later.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today without you. You and your work have shaped me into myself, and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. Period dramas are my everything—and you were the start of that. When I was younger, I even dressed as Elizabeth Bennet for Halloween. Although, everyone thought I was either a Quaker or a Pilgrim (my outfit was black and white), but oh well. I knew.

You inspire me to write and you have inspired so many others, with your enticing characters and lively stories. There are so many multimedia adaptations and modern twists on your stories, that there’s literally a book that lists some of them. And entire book listing, a fraction of all that you’ve inspired! You! With your words, your spirit, and your mind.

I feel like I’m rambling, so I’ll come to a close: We may be parted across centuries, yet I feel as though we are family, and your characters are my friends. Your words will never die—they will continue to pass thorough each generation, and touch them, as they have touched me.

Thank you, Jane.

Kylee (U.S.A)

POST #13

Dear Miss Austen,

I first noticed your novels when I was only 14 years old. Of course, it was your most known one: “Pride and Prejudice”. You have to know, that I am a girl, who isn’t very interested in girly things. In this time of my life, when I first saw your books, I had the bad habit of thinking, every girly- thing is just dump and I should only like things, which mostly are made for boys. So, even when I liked something, which was a little bit more emotional or girly, I tried to ignor my liking of it. Well, that was until your books…

Maybe it sounds strange, but your books, your style of writing and your really sharpe eye on looking at people and situations where so amazing, that I wasn’t able to just ignore your stories. You kinda showed me a new world. A world, made of honey- like words, which all seemd so mature, but also sarcastic and intellegent. And then, all of these words, wanted to tell me a story about love and romance from a different time. I started to realize that I actually like this kind of thing. Those romances with hidden lies and soft hearts. I dreamed about my version of a Mr. Darcy and how wonderful it could be, if I was able to meet him. Eventually, I began to realize, that this thinking is natural and hasn’t to do with girly or boyish. You can’t do something about your feelings and you shouldn’t be so shy to deny all your hobbies and likings. It is more brave to live with yourself and are proud of yourselfe.
After that, I began to like myselfe a little more. My realationship with my friends, who I tried to judge for their girly attitude turned out to get better than befor and I enjoied it.

Jane (I hope, I don’t seem unpolite, because I’m calling you by your first name) , I just want to tell you, even if I will never see you in person, I believe, that you must have been a great person. Else you wouldn’t have been able to touch my heart so deeply just by some phrases of beautiful literature. I wished, you would have found your own Mr. Darcy. Of all people, you’re the only one who deserves this person in your life. You mean so much to me and to such an amount of people.

Your devoted,

Charlotte, Germany

POST #12

Dear Jane,

I’ve always turned to books for comfort and sometimes healing.

As a child I was always on a conquest to find another great book to read. Classics such as The Secret Garden, Oliver Twist, Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, and A Little Princess always enchanted me.

When I was 13 I was being bullied.
My Aunt saw my hurt and as a gift she gave me my first Jane Austen novel. That novel was Sense and Sensibility. I was enraptured by the tale that you brought to life.
I felt like I was in the story.

Later that year my family made a big move. A gift from my Aunt (the same Aunt that gave me Sense and Sensibility) was Pride and prejudice. Two chapters in and I was hooked.
I finished that novel in a week.

The next two years pass by and I was 15. I had finished ALL of your beautiful books. That year my family moved again. That summer I turned 16.  I felt as if I was my childhood hero, Elinor Dashwood, on her way to her new home. Your books have brought me through so much.

The year I turned 17, I fell for a boy.
A boy who seemed like a Mr. Bingley. I was in love. He led me to believe that he loved me as well.
Spring came along and he broke my heart. I was devastated.
I cried for days but then something beautiful happened. I fell in love with your books all over again and I knew that one day I would find my Edward Ferrars. I thank you for bringing me hope and love. You will never know how much your stories have meant to me, but know that you will forevermore have my affection and admiration.

Yours sincerely,
Molly Elizabeth Huebner
Age 19

POST #11

Dear Jane,

Words cannot express my gratitude for you and your work.  You have inspired millions of people all over the world yet you wrote because you loved it.  You gave your characters happy endings in a time when some did not received the same endings. Though we are centuries apart, I feel as if we are kindred spirits.
Reading your work over the years has inspired me to write more as well as in my theatre life.  You wrote characters that were real.  It’s an author’s job and an actor’s job to portray real life.  You grounded your characters and allowed them to live.  Oh, what would I would give to pick your brain for hours upon end!  I would love to sit with you as you discuss characters and plots, watching your genius at work.  You inspired me to be an English major and a writer.
Pride and Prejudice was the first novel of yours that I read and it’s also my favorite.  From the moment I enter the Bennet house, I felt at home.  Having no sibling of my own, I quickly inserted myself into Lizzy’s life. I felt her closeness with Jane, her irritation with Lydia, and her distain and love for Darcy.  At first, she was who I aspired to be with her confidence, wit, and humor.  She was an elder sister whom I could look up to.  As I grew, the book transitioned with me.  It taught me how to deal with relationships.  It taught me that I would have to lower my pride in order to gain vulnerability. I quickly learned that even though I thought I knew everything, there would always be things that I wouldn’t know. Lizzy grew to become a dear friend and someone that I could relate to.  This book gave me hope, even when I didn’t believe in it, that love is out there and it prevails against all odds.
My friends often joke that I wish I lived in one of your novels and while I agree with them, I also know that this is my time.  It’s my time to be a storyteller for my era just as you were for yours.  Times may have changed, but people haven’t.  There are still stories to be told and I thank you for the wisdom that you’ve imparted on me.  Thank you for teaching me to enjoy life and nature.  Thank you for teaching me that you cannot change your family that you have to accept them. Most importantly, thank you for teaching me how important it is to love and be loved in return.
Thank you, Jane.
Sincerely,
Cody
U.S.A
@codyapproved

POST #10

Dear Jane,

 

I am often asked what it is I love so much about your novels. This is a very difficult question to answer, but I usually respond with something about the strength and realism of your characters. I consider it a remarkable accomplishments that you were able to write characters who have transcended time and setting for more than two hundred years, and who continue to appear recognizable and relatable to readers around the world. No two of your heroines are alike, nor are two villains. Your characters stand staunchly on their own and ignite some sort of reaction from all kinds of readers. Though your characters’ pursuits and manners of speech may be dated, most people can still claim to have a neighbor who is exactly like Miss Bates, or to have known a charming yet disingenuous suitor like Mr. Wickham. By creating rich and entertaining characters who inspire visceral reactions, you drew me deeply into the world of your novels at a young age. I have never looked back.

When I was in college I spent a semester studying at the university in Canterbury, and towards the end of my time there I took a day trip to Chawton. That is the first time I can remember spending an entire day by myself during which I felt that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing, and felt entirely fulfilled. Six years later I returned to England to spend three weeks traveling to your former homes and places mentioned in your novels. This was a more challenging adventure in self-sufficiency, but a much more fulfilling one. It turned out that your novels were all the familiar company I needed as I discovered your world in a whole new way. I know I am not the only Janeite who can’t help but feel intimately acquainted with your characters. When I was younger I looked to them as role models; now I think of them as friends.

Sometimes people argue over whether you were a feminist, but I think your characters speak for themselves. In portraying your heroines living out a typical, day-to-day Regency existence, you implied that it is normal for young women to be smart, discerning, spirited, stubborn, and witty. Your heroines do not faint and they do not need to be rescued by a hero. One of the most traditional “rescue” tropes in your novels—Willoughby carrying home the injured Marianne and her subsequent infatuation with him—leads to disaster and heartbreak. In fact, another dramatic scene—one that ends better for all parties—defers the credit of rescue to a female character. It is Anne Elliot’s calm, sensible behavior following Louisa Musgrove’s fall from the Cobb that convinces Captain Wentworth of her superior character and abilities. It is modest moments like this; or Fanny Price’s quiet awareness and abhorrence of Henry Crawford’s true, selfish nature; or Elizabeth Bennet thanking Mr. Darcy for the kindness he has done her family that they will never otherwise repay, that make these characters worthy role models for other young women. I believe that the subtle, relatable brilliance of your novels and the admirable qualities of your heroines will continue to inspire future generations of feminist-minded readers. For this, and for the countless blissful hours I have spent, and will continue to spend, inside your novels, I am forever grateful to you.

Yours most affectionately,
Julia O’C
U.S.A.
@jmoc1317

POST #9

Dear Jane,

Though I was born centuries after you, you’ve become a rather large part of my life—much larger than I ever could’ve anticipate when I first watched the 2005 adaptation of your novel Pride & Prejudice. Yes. My first exposure to your work was not between leather bound covers of a book, but on a screen. I know. I’m riddled with shame, and I sincerely apologize. Nevertheless, ever since the first moment I touched your world—a world filled with grandeur, civility, and whirlwind romances—I must admit I felt myself lost in the modern world.

Tell me; where’s a girl supposed to find her Mr. Darcy in a world filled with Wickhams? I’m being entirely serious. You and your gorgeous prose and your carefully structured plot points and your gradual character development have left me disgruntled, discontent, and dissatisfied with most twenty-first-century guys. Your fiction has made it rather difficult to accept the reality of living—and more specifically, dating—in the twenty-first century. Is Mr. Darcy to blame for my high expectation of men, as so many Pinterest posts would have me conjecture? No. It’s you, Jane.

I am an incorrigible romantic, and it’s all your fault.

And, if I’m being completely honest, I love you for it.

I grew up on books, but more often than not, the trashier, beach reads—the kind that most people are ashamed to admit that they’ve read. Nicholas Sparks. Sarah Dessen. Jennifer Weiner. Sure. They’ve given us some great stories over the years (AKA The Notebook), but I can honestly say I don’t really yearn for any of their characters’ lives. Sparks’ books typically end in tragedy—death for the most part. I don’t want to live in a Nicholas Sparks novel the same way I don’t want to live in Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, Romeo and Juliet.

I think many people read for years, looking for that one book that will change their life forever. Dorian Gray of Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray found his forever novel and was, from that moment on, haunted. Don Quixote of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote de la Mancha gradually found himself slipping deeper and deeper into a false sense of reality until he quite literally lost his mind. In Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert’s character of Emma found herself so enraptured with her romance novels and so terribly dissatisfied with the reality of her rather unromantic marriage that she succumbed to adultery and eventually committed suicide. I, too, am haunted, haunted by this wonderful, timeless book; haunted by a delusion forged from fiction; haunted by this very abstract idea of finding my very own Mr. Darcy.

I mean, where does one even begin? Elizabeth Bennet wasn’t looking for Mr. Darcy when he waltzed into her life at the Meryton ball. (Or rather, he didn’t waltz, for as we know, Darcy was not fortunate enough to possess Elizabeth’s ability to converse easily with those he does not know—because no one can be introduced in a ballroom.) Austen wrote perhaps one of the greatest love stories of all time—a novel that has truly stood the test of centuries. And it’s because of this completely unrealistic, but somehow simultaneously realistic love story between Elizabeth and Darcy. In all honesty, we really should be looking at Jane and Bingley’s relationship for inspiration. The two fell from the beginning, so simply, so honest, so charming. But theirs is not the story of a great romance for we are not destined to desire such simplicity. No. Authors know we readers want something more convoluted, something unlike our everyday lives that provide a much-needed escape from the monotony of real life. No. We need the drama, the obstacles crossed, the near miss of marital happiness that we only receive in the very last moments of the book.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we, again and again, choose to emotionally cut ourselves by selecting Pride & Prejudice from our shelves? And why continue to reopen the wound?

Simply? We just can’t help it—or more specifically, I can’t help it. I look around the world and the other 20-somethings that inhabit it, and I’m left unsatisfied by the creeps in the bars, on the bus, and in the grocery store. I’m not completely delusional—I don’t believe I’m going to stumble upon the fictional Mr. Darcy from 1813 in the middle of downtown St. Paul, Minnesota. But still, I find myself searching for someone with his attributes: his honesty, his surprisingly large heart, his intellect, his ambition, his fashion sense, his absolute and ardent admiration for the woman he loves. I don’t believe any of us are out there looking for a fictional character. No. We’re looking for our Mr. Darcy.

So, rather than blame you for my never-endingly single relationship status, Jane, I want to thank you. Thank you for bringing the concept of a man like Mr. Darcy into my life; thank you for raising my expectations of men (perhaps beyond what reality can give me, but that’s for another day); thank you for reminding me with every reread to never settle for anything less than my very own Mr. Darcy. It’s thanks to you, Jane, that I haven’t succumbed to peer pressure and lowered my expectations, as many others have just for the purpose of having somebody. And sure, it does get lonely from time to time. But when I have you to keep me company, the waiting for my Mr. Darcy doesn’t seem quite so lonely.

With love,

Hal, U.S.A.

@lookingformrdarcy