Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Truths Universally Acknowledged?...Jane Austen on Love

“I can comprehend your going on charmingly once you had made a beginning; but what could set you off in the first place?”
“I cannot fix the hour, the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation.  It is too long ago.  I was in the middle before I knew I had begun.”
“My beauty you had early withstood, and as for my manners—my behavior to you was at least always bordering on uncivil, and I never spoke to you without rather wishing to give you pain than not.  Now be sincere; Did you admire me for my impertinence?”
“For the liveliness of your mind, I did.”
(Pride and Prejudice)



If I must choose one literary mentor in the school of romance it is without a doubt the inimitable Miss Austen.

Jane Austen's romances are lively, full of wit.  Fitzwilliam Darcy in fact falls in love with Elizabeth because of her "liveliness of mind."

Benedick in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, says of his romance with Beatrice, "Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably."

My romance with my husband did (and does) contain a great deal of wit.  I love the fact that Austen's characters fall deeply in love yet it is often with eyes wide open. 

Jane sets the pattern here for the independent woman and she is appealing to those of us less fortunate in the appearance department.

We must learn to love is another truth seen in the romance between Henry Tilney and Catherine Moreland in Northanger Abbey:

"What beautiful hyacinths!-I have just learnt to love a hyacinth.".....

"But now you love a hyacinth.  So much the better.  You have gained a new source of enjoyment, and it is well to have as many holds upon happiness as possible.  Besides, a taste for flowers is always desirable in your sex, as a means of getting you out of doors, and tempting you to take more frequent exercise than you would otherwise take: and though the love of a hyacinth may be rather domestic, who can tell the sentiment once raised, but you may in time come to love a rose?....I am pleased that you have learned to love a hyacinth.  The mere habit of learning to love is the thing; and a teachableness of disposition in a young lady is a great blessing." (Northanger Abbey)

Emma shows the reader the romance present in the small moments.  The picnic scene on Box Hill is lavishly beautiful as portrayed in the film versions and is also a pivotal scene for the character formation of Emma. When Mr. Knightley confronts Emma about her rude comments towards Miss Bates, Emma realizes not only how much she cares for his opinion of her but is also determined to change her character.  Love is willing to change, often at great cost to self. 

Edmund is a frustratingly slow learner in the school of romance as shown in Mansfield Park.  The ending wraps up their story perhaps a bit too quickly and neatly, however, brings the reader satisfaction nonethless. Fanny has a strong respect for Edmund and the two have a beautiful friendship beginning in the childhood years.

"With such a regard for her, indeed, as his had long been, a regard founded on the most endearing claims of innocence and helplessness, and completed by every recommendation of growing worth, what could be more natural than the change? Loving, guiding, protecting her, as he had been doing ever since her being ten years old, her mind in so great a degree formed by his care, and her comfort depending on his kindness, an object to him of such close and peculiar interest, dearer by all his own importance with her than any one else at Mansfield, what was there now to add, but that he should learn to prefer soft light eyes to sparkling dark ones. And being always with her, and always talking confidentially, and his feelings exactly in that favourable state which a recent disappointment gives, those soft light eyes could not be very long in obtaining the pre-eminence."

Jane Austen is sometimes accused of failing to describe her character's most passionate moments yet the scene preceding Emma's proposal is romantic with Emma's hand pressed to Mr. Knightley's heart, Mr. Knightley comforting Emma is perhaps one of Jane Austen's most beautiful romantic scenes:

For a moment or two nothing was said, and she was unsuspicious of having excited any particular interest, till she found her arm drawn within his, and pressed against his heart, and heard him thus saying, in a tone of great sensibility, speaking low, "Time, my dearest Emma, time will heal the wound. -- Your own excellent sense -- your exertions for your father's sake -- I know you will not allow yourself. --" Her arm was pressed again, as he added, in a more broken and subdued accent, "The feelings of the warmest friendship -- Indignation -- Abominable scoundrel!" -- And in a louder, steadier tone, he concluded with, "He will soon be gone. They will soon be in Yorkshire. I am sorry for her. She deserves a better fate."
Emma understood him; and as soon as she could recover from the flutter of pleasure excited by such tender consideration, replied, "You are very kind -- but you are mistaken -- and I must set you right. -- I am not in want of that sort of compassion." ...

Are you a "Jane-ite"?  What is your favorite scene from a Jane Austen movie or book?

10 comments:

Saumya said...

I love that scene from Emma as well!

Mary Vee said...

Julia,
The scenes you posted form Jane's work flowed as a symphony.
Thank you

Debra E. Marvin said...

sigh.
thanks for a little Jane on such a cold day. I have to admit I get most of my Jane from movie versions but I also love to listen to them on Audio.

Thanks Julia! I don't think I can pick a favorite piece of any of them, especially when my mind is full of the scriptwriter's take.

I do love the latest Emma the best, though.

Angie said...

Isn't it wonderful how romance crosses the oceans of time?
I am more of a Bronte gal, and admit that I haven't read an Austen novel all the way through! YIKES!! The language throws me off...which is strange, because I LOVE Shakespeare. I love the movie, Sense and Sensibility though, and my fave scene is of course when he shows up unmarried and she weeps!

Pepper said...

I AM! I AM!!! And Proudly so!
I've even written a modern day version of P & P.
(and a sequel to Frankenstien, but we won't go there) ;-)

The romance is wonderful, but I'm a sucker for the charming WIT! Love British humor, especially Austen.
(Btw, Angie, my first British novel was Jane Eyre, so I'm forever addicted to that novel as well. And I'm an Alcott fan - as far as American lit goes)

BUT with Austen heroes, I will tell you my top 3 - in this order:
1. Mr. Knightley
2. Mr. Tinney
3. Mr. Darcy

I know it's different than most people's, but I'm charmed by the top two because of their senses of humor. Their funny AND sincere.

I wrote a short story based on P & P too. I'm thinking of trying to get it published. It was so much fun.

Okay - sorry Julia. You opened up a can of worms and I gladly dove right in among those wriggling things :-)

Julia M. Reffner said...

@ Saumya,
Doesn't Emma have so many great scenes? Thanks for sharing your favorite with us.

@ Mary,
Yes, and since your recent post I've been thinking more often of my work and others in musical terms. Thanks!

Julia M. Reffner said...

@ Debra,

I love the movie versions, too. Haven't listened to the audio books but I love a good British accent.

I have seen neither the BBC recent production nor the Kate Beckinsale version. Must remedy that soon. Thanks for the recommend.

Julia M. Reffner said...

@ Angie,

I wonder what the latest version of Jane Eyre will be like? I'm very skeptical as to what they can do with Jane in 2 hours!

I am currently reading Agnes Grey. I haven't read anything by Anne before and would not say it is on the level of Charlotte & Emily's books (IMHO) but I'm enjoying looking into the life of a governess.

Julia M. Reffner said...

@ Pepper,

Wow, I am always impressed by the assortment of what you write. I look forward to seeing more Regencies in the CBA, hopefully yours being one of them soon :)

I love the wit, too, but I must admit I prefer my romances to be humorous.

Don't apologize for sharing, I love hearing about your work.

Joy Tamsin David said...

I love Jane Austen, mostly the movies, but the books too. My favorites are Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.

You all have seen the Youtube video, Jane Austen Fight Club, right? If not google it, hysterical!