October 9, 2006

Ostensible Austen

I’m not sure what happened to me this weekend. I got completely sucked into 18th century England, Jane Austen-style. And I have yet to escape its white-knuckled grasp! I had barely begun reading Persuasion, which I’ve never picked up since I bought it years ago, when by happen chance, I discovered a friend owned A&E’s six hour Pride and Prejudice—Heaven! She had never even watched it (for shame!), and I begged her to let me borrow it while she and her husband went to Hawaii on vacation. She willingly obliged, and I’ve now watched it one and a half times already.

Although I usually prefer books to film adaptations when it comes to such masterpieces as Pride and Prejudice, I can’t get over this movie. They did such a fabulous job with costumes and sets; it’s just too much food for the imagination, at least for me! I feel as though I'm a partaker of the story, instead of just a spectator, when I watch the drama unfold—it’s absolutely lovely. So much so, that I have to start it right over as soon as I get to the end. Then, when I must peel myself away in order to somehow fall back down to earth where real people live, all I want to do is run out and buy simple sideboards, delicate tea sets, and empire waist dresses with little satin flats. I find myself getting “vexed” or “diverted” and describing people as “amicable” or “agreeable.” I don’t think there’s another film adaptation of any book, Austen or otherwise, as pleasing as this one.

However, reading Austen is still preferable, by a large margin in most cases. And Persuasion is finally starting to take off. It takes awhile to get her motor running, I’ve noticed, with Austen . . . she seems to drag sometimes. And her lengthy prose can seem somewhat daunting when a whole paragraph is only sprinkled with semicolons, colons, dashes, and commas for punctuation. Instead of the most appreciated periods between thoughts! (whew! What the heck did she just say? . . . read it again.) But, then she is the master of character development; her stories are always lively if the reader can hang on. The promise of which keeps me reading every time, and I am always glad. And soon I am completely engulfed in her British country world, and I can’t bear to leave when I have to! She’s become quite a favorite.

But, after further research, I have come to the conclusion that I would not have liked to live in Regency England for several reasons: scare indoor plumbing, infrequent bathing, rampant and incurable diseases, limited female opportunity, slow and uncomfortable transportation, lack of air conditioning, the law of primogeniture, and the “little known” fact that most were not fortunate enough to live as comfortably as the Bennets, the Elliots, the Dashwoods, or the Woodhouses.

“Little known” because it was and is known—but novels were created, seemingly, as a little retreat from reality. In real life, Lizzie would have been made to marry Mr. Collins and Maryanne would have died of consumption. But who cares? Can’t a girl dream!

5 comments:

Michael J said...

I'm sure you are writing this entry with a British accent in your head, imagining yourself writing with a quill and ink in a large English Manor (Man-uh.) Long live Queen Jane!

Anonymous said...
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LAuren said...

ok, what does primogeniture mean?:-)

Mrs. Thomas said...
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Cam said...

LOL! Means only men can own land and property.