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Thoughts beyond the ‘Austenland’ movie

August 13, 2013

As the ‘Austenland’ movie release approaches, I’ve been thinking about what a true-blue bluestocking ‘Jane Austen theme park’ might be like and how, at my age, I could ever truly fit into it in any shape. Being a devoted wife, mother and grandma, I certainly wouldn’t be looking for love with any Darcy, Bingley, Knightly, Brandon, Edward or otherwise. As if such as they would even really be there, right?

Anyway, I’d more likely be serving up ‘English High Tea’ yummy-nums to everyone around me for the jolly fun of it, practicing some benevolent chitter-chatter (old-fashioned busy-body gossip, in a fun female kindly style – as in S&S’s Mrs. Jennings and her daughter Charlotte, perchance), or trying my hand at casual matchmaking for all the young ladies around me – if there truly were any men to be had. Would eligible good men really go to something like that, without being hired to do so? Young ladies in single blessedness can always hope, right?

What a possible plus for all single women there on the matrimonial hunt to have an older and hopefully wiser matchmaker beneficially attending them and their wedded bliss dreams, yes? I’m no P&P’s Mrs. Bennet (not that she was a great matchmaker to her daughters – except in her own mind), but, I grew up a Miss Bennett. I like to think I was more the elder Miss Bennets. I hope so. Nevertheless, I’ve always loved match-making. I do it in my novels all the time. Every novel of the nine thus far. Real or fictional, I love to see nice people find true love and marriage, and then with a budding family of darling babies etcetera following. I wish joy for everyone, in twos plus. I’m such a romantic at heart, my favorite number has long been two.

Being an ardent Janeite and Anglophile, I am sorely tempted by the idea of going ‘back in time’ to a Regency vacation. Not that I would want to wear a corset. Heavens no, not me. Not nowadays. Fainting spells would surely follow. Or at least some major discomfort, I should think. Maybe even some rib-crushing damage. Wait, was that just the Victorians?

Yes, years ago, when I was young, slim, single and trim, I would have been keen to go all in at an ‘Austenland’ of a kind, with the corset, frills, dancing and everything. And I likely would have been interested in considering a Brandon or a Bingley – if either should happen to show up. But, having long-since married a Bingley-Knightly mix myself, of course I have no interest in anyone, or anything anywhere near a new romance. Those days are way behind me. So, I would be thinking of everyone else. I would want to play cupid if I could.

Beyond any conceivable romantic machinations, something like ‘Austenland’ would greatly intrigue me. It’s the Olde-English eye-candy. The Gothic, Victorian or Colonial architecture and decor, the horse-drawn carriages, the old age furnishings and fabrics, the pretty tea things, the long skirts, and the sense and sensibility of going back in time. To that time. And yes, across the pond to England on an old estate there, that would be some kind of perfection. I would surely think so. Sigh. The spirit of ‘back then’ and the spirits who might attend us. Would Jane Austen show up in spirit?

In British Commonwealth Canada, singing God Save the Queen under the Union Jack every school day morning, I grew up always wishing I was born at least a hundred years earlier. It was summertime vacations on farms and ranches of relatives that set my mind back in time to life pretty much under pure horse power. I rode horses before I could walk. I absolutely adore horses. Always have.

In many and varied ways, I was a Victorian thrown into in a modern age. Victorian or Regency, it’s all good. A hundred or two hundred years ago or so: either seem wonderfully fine to me, in so many ways. The horses, the carriages, the saddles and such. The mores, the manners, the ladies and gentlemen. The modesty. The care in dress and address. Leaving cards. Little visits. Certain expectations. Marriages were a serious affair. And matchmaking was generally welcome, I would imagine. A ‘simpler’ time I like to think of as a golden age. At least a good deal of it was quite the ideal. An era where women were ladies, and men were gentle, or, as my husband oft reminds, ‘when women were women, and men were men, and it was a darn good arrangement’.

Of course it goes without saying that a Jane Austen sights and museums tour must be included aside or as a part of an ‘Austenland’ kind of theme park experience. You couldn’t possibly experience the one without the other. You would absolutely need to go to a few places where the spirit of Jane Austen had resided. You’d want to try to feel her presence there. You would want to walk where she walked. And if she ever showed up to see what all the fuss was about, would she smile, or simply say something witty? Wisdom, or sarcasm, I’m sure she would love to communicate something very clever. Very clever indeed.

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