Happy P&P Anniversary, Jane Austen!
As a girl growing up under the Union Jack in a very British part of Canada singing ‘God Save the Queen’ in school daily, I would have thought that a teacher or somebody would have introduced me to Jane Austen along the way, but no. Not at all. Well, to be fair, I did come under the Maple Leaf rule and French Canadian expansion while still in school, but regardless of that fact, why didn’t I get introduced to Jane Austen? All my English Lit teachers were women, and they each loved, lived and breathed English Literature. I still can’t comprehend why I was never told about Jane Austen. Shakespeare and I got to know each other quite well. Dickens, very well. Why not Austen and me? I’ve known British girls who grew up in England who were required to read Jane Austen in their classic schooling, and that was well before their University years. Why were they so lucky, while I was so very tragically literally literature-ly deprived? My Austen, the literary injustice of it all!
Now, I do recall reading plenty of classics in school written by men, and then a few by women, but I think those latter lovely particular ‘lady fare’ like the very Canadian ‘Anne of Green Gables’ were presented to me by my Mum/Mom. If not for her sharing personal favorites, I would have thought all the more, like I was generally told, that women never wrote books or novels ‘in those golden olden days’, except under a man’s name in order to get published.
To add insult to injury, I wasn’t introduced to Jane Austen at all, in the least, all those years (and dare I say, decades?), until the brilliant lovely Emma Thompson stood up and received her Golden Globe for her screenplay of ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and also mentioned somebody named: Jane Austen. In her acceptance speech, it was clear that Emma T. had wanted to make Jane A. proud. ‘Who was this Jane’ I asked myself? Yes, I was curious who and what Emma T. might be talking about. I had to check out that S&S movie. I went to Block Buster or Hollywood or one of those other big video stores back in the day and I rented the ‘obscure to me’ movie. Can you believe nobody I knew had ever told me about it? No, they had told me about every other movie but not this one!
Upon first viewing, I quite liked the S&S movie. Not long later, I decided I wanted to see it again, so I bought it with the screenplay book and enjoyed that as well. After multiple viewings, it wasn’t long before S&S was pretty much my fave movie, well, at least a top fave. You see, it was like a really good caviar. Or Seattle area moss. It grows on you if you stop to enjoy it a wee while.
Uh huh, once introduced to Jane Austen by that other British female genius, Emma Thompson, through her still fabulous overarching screen-writing efforts and wonderful performance in playing the part of Elinor in the ‘Sense and Sensibility’ movie, I quickly came to adore that genius Jane by watching the ‘Sense and Sensibility’ movie repeatedly, finding and reading the original S&S book again and again, and then hunting down every Austen work possible.
Because I loved S&S more every time I read it, I looked into what other books the brilliant Miss Austen wrote, and soon discovered and began reading ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Part way into P&P, because of my gushing aloud about Miss Jane A. at a family reunion kind of cousins party, more than one female cousin told me about the BBC miniseries, and it just so happened that one of my brothers (definitely a handsome Darcy type, and swimmingly rich to boot) was nuts about it, owned it on DVD and had a big home theater with a huge screen. Well, he turned the affair into an extended family P&P party and I saw the quintessential Elizabeth and Darcy P&P 5-hour masterpiece for the first time – basically all in one sitting – with plenty of popcorn and expected accoutrements. That was sometime after the year 2000. Sad, huh? I was excessively late coming into this amazing romantic JA game!
Since that somewhat life-altering event, I read Jane Austen lit and letters until I had gone through everything that I could get my little old hands on – at least twice or many times more (and watched every available movie and miniseries that I could find, usually far more than once); it seems difficult for me to believe that I only met Miss Austen and her genius works little more than a decade and a half ago. Well, I suppose it is nearing twenty years now. Wow, time flies when you are steeped in Austen-ville.
Once introduced to Jane Austen’s world, though, I was hungry for more. In point of fact, I was starving for that kind of literature. I craved those kinds of movies. It went far beyond the romance elements for me: all the other rich details gave Austen’s work the greatly added depth. I definitely understand the birth of Austen inspired-bys, sequels, spin-offs and sea of related works nowadays. S&S, P&P, Emma, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey. And the cornucopia of all about Jane stuff. A good bunch of the female world wants Jane, Jane, and more Jane Austen. It’s no wonder why to me.
Now, without making this ‘little note’ much longer, a smidge more about Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’, and Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. My assumptions are, that the officially two hundred year old P&P story is the mother of all romance novels, and EB&FD are the quintessential ‘first hate and then love’ romance couple. I don’t know of an earlier example of this now classic formula. Am I wrong? Did Jane Austen invent this romantic formula that has spun into a major force in the fictional market, or was she inspired from something prior? Wait, I am seeing Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ in my mind’s eye. Hmm. Perchance a romance formula inspiration right there? Didn’t Benedick and Beatrice detest each other at first but end up perfect for each other by the happy ending? Regardless, Jane Austen’s novels are so much more to me than the romance threads and I wouldn’t be the least interested if they were simply pure romance formula. I love the sarcasm, wit, all the interrelationships, the hidden treasures and truths, and the fun. My oh my, Jane, you make me smile and laugh. Austen, you are a heart-warmer and a soul-cheerer!