Barbara Britton Wenner analyses Austen’s use of nature in her novels and Juvenilia. Nature and culture, female and male, and submissive and oppressive elements are juxtaposed in order to show how the heroines’ relation to nature enhances their experience and gradual self-recognition.
Thankfully the author doesn’t attempt to prove that Austen had one and only proper model either of nature, picturesque or estate, but rather moves above the usual discourse, demonstrating instead how freely and confidently Austen used the late 18th century concepts of landscape in order to show danger or refuge, and desirable or dreaded situations and characters. It’ll help you to better understand both the idea of picturesque and Austen’s novels.
The book is expensive, but likely available from your library. However, if you can afford it, it’s well worth having. Check it either at Amazon UK or Amazon US.
The Three Sisters is one of the frankest portrayals of “marriage as prostitution” (as Mary Wollstonecraft described marrying for material reasons) within all of Austen’s writings.
Miss Stanhope takes no pains to conceal her motives while negotiating her price:
“You must build me an elegant Greenhouse and stock it with plants. You must let me spend every Winter in Bath, every Spring in Town, Every Summer in taking some Tour, and every Autumn at a Watering Place, and if we are at home the rest of the year (Sophy and I laughed) You must do nothing but give Balls and Masquerades. You must build a room on purpose and a Theatre to act Plays in. The first Play we have shall be Which is the Man, and I will do Lady Bell Bloomer.”
Which is the Man is a play by Hannah Cowley about a fascinating widow who cannot make up her mind among several admirers.
In 1787 Austen’s family considered performing it at Steventon. Although other plays ended up being performed then, Austen was well familiar with Cowley’s plays, and quoted lines from them in her letters.
Austen chose Easter for the most significant turn in Pride and Prejudice.
Darcy comes to Rosings around Palm Sunday (likely Monday, since Darcy, unlike Mr. Elliot, wouldn’t travel on Sunday), that commemorates the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem in the days before his Passion.
When talking of love it is important to define the word. Is it emotion, feeling, decision or all of the elements? According to some Christians i.e. Anglicans and Catholics four kinds of love must be present for the Holy Matrimony to be valid and complete. I’ll try to explain, on their example, Elizabeth’s growing love for Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.
In Rambler 97 Samuel Richardson argues in favour of the course of courtship of his own youth. It is interesting to see how much the mores had changed between his times and those of Austen.
Austen famously paraphrased his words in Northanger Abbey:
for if it be true, as a celebrated writer has maintained, that no young lady can be justified in falling in love before the gentleman’s love is declared, it must be very improper that a young lady should dream of a gentleman before the gentleman is first known to have dreamt of her.
It is likewise significant to note that no positive hero of Austen’s ever seeks the lady’s family’s approval for courtship or asks for her hand before her own consent is given. Such a kind of behaviour is left to men like Mr. Collins or Henry Crawford.
I uploaded Daniel Defoe’s short essay on The Education of Women. The more of his works I read the more I wonder whether Austen in particular was influenced by Defoe, or just everyone was, and so the ideas present in his writings were generally embraced by the time Austen was born.
In this Defoe argues in defence of female education, bringing arguments, including a great deal of reading, that make one think of Elizabeth Bennet.
I created the Regency Writings Repository for original texts written during and before Austen’s times. It will be a sub-Austenette blog, since I consider the prose, poetry and non-fiction (philosophical essays, conduct books) of her era a key to understanding Austen.
I hope you’ll find it interesting and useful. I’m going to write commentaries as I add to the list.
…I told them my very best tale of the princess who was waited upon by dwarfs. I improve myself by this exercise, and am quite surprised at the impression my stories create. If I sometimes invent an incident which I forget upon the next narration, they remind one directly that the story was different before; so that I now endeavour to relate with exactness the same anecdote in the same monotonous tone, which never changes. I find by this, how much an author injures his works by altering them, even though they be improved in a poetical point of view. The first impression is readily received. We are so constituted that we believe the most incredible things; and, once they are engraved upon the memory, woe to him who would endeavour to efface them.
Pierre Daniel Huet in his Traitté de l’origine des Romans (Treatise on the Origin of Novels) defends the genre in a manner similar to Austen’s:
I don’t, for all this, pretend to condemn the Reading of them. The Best Things in the World are attended with their Inconveniencies; Romances too may have much worse than Ignorance. I know what they are accused for: They exhaust our Devotion, and inspire us with Irregular Passions, and corrupt our Manner. All this may be, and sometimes does happen. But what can’t Evil and Degenerated Minds make an Ill Use of? Weak Souls are contagious to themselves, and make Poyson of every Thing. Histories must be forbidden, which relate so many Pernicious Examples; and the Fable must undergo the same Fate; for there Crimes are authorised by the Practice of the Gods. […] Continue reading →