Saturday, January 21, 2012

A thank you note to Miss Jane Austen

I often wonder what life might be like would I have lived in the time of the lovely and most insightful author, Jane Austen.

I frequently claim to have a mindset most amenable to the Regency era. I wistfully fantasize on a life among the upper middle classes of Hampshire or Sussex, making the acquaintance of the Bertrams or the Dashwoods, becoming eager friends with Charlotte Lucas or spending an evening pining after Mr. Darcy. Yet as often as I dream of a life inside an Austen novel, I spend an equal amount of time wondering how constructive such a fascination might actually be to my heart and mind.

For this reason, I write to you directly, Miss Austen. My reason may selfishly be in part to aid myself in an understanding of the effect of your writing, but in a manner more pressing - I wish to express my admiration, my love, my thanks.

Dear Miss Austen,

It has not been more than five months since I last paid you a visit. I must share my gratitude at your inviting me into your home in Chawton whilst you were away. Though I had hoped to see you there, I am quite aware of our respective places in history and therefore did not expect you to arrive post-mortem.

Yet as I wandered through your home, now outfitted for a century far beyond your own and likely very foreign to you, I considered myself a guest of yours. Walking up creaking floorboards, I became a spectator to the world in which you lived, a companion invited to spend an afternoon exploring that world.

Though I appreciated the hospitality of your home, I am regretful at having left with not a word of thanks behind me, save for a simple note left to you in the gardens outside your lovely dwelling (see photo to the left).

Which is why I send you this letter today, with a bit of gratitude and an infinite level of admiration.

Firstly, Miss Austen, I wish to convey to you how greatly you have widened my view of humanity. Were you have not to put pen to page so many years ago, I would be so bold as to say that neither I nor many young women like me would have half the wealth of understanding we now possess on the subject of human character.

Your thoughts, expressed by the manners and actions of your characters, make readers privy to the many facets of the social environment you lived in as well as that which has developed since. Though the country dance is an event exceedingly antiquated and remembered only in Hollywood interpretations, the socialization of your time continues to exist, thrive and confuse many such as myself. And excepting the significant change in decorum of this age, the reticence of certain individuals and the alternative loquaciousness of these same people in the presence of their more intimate comrades is a concept that lives on.

The relative difficulty in interpreting the actions of acquaintances is therefore of equal nature, and with your aid I have come to interpret the manners of friends, enemies and those in-between in such a way as could not be found in works prior to or after yours. Through your work, more than that of any man or woman of this age or earlier, the lesson of looking beyond first impressions has gained all the more clarity. That is a feat that is yours alone.

Secondly, I offer you my heartfelt thanks for equipping me with the expectations of a woman deserving of a certain kind of affection. Though your time may have been without the damages of modern liberalism, your shrewdness in the face of the society from which you came is in direct correlation to my current circumstances.

You, Miss Austen, were never one to admit fault in yourself in your search for love. As you experienced several intimate relationships, the proposal of marriage and the perils of potential ruin, you never winced but once at the prospect of living a life fully measured by your design. Where other women may have accepted an offer of matrimony without a thought to the character of the man, you cared too much for the place of passion and near-perfection.

Your characters all met wonderful romantic ends, an achievement you did not make yourself, however happy your life may have been. But your strength, despite the troubles of dishonest men and unworthy suitors, made you all the more able to inspire a similar fortitude in your audience.

Through the spoils of passion, love and heartbreak, you have stood with me every moment. You have served as a reminder of the greatness that the heart can give and the deceit that it might accept as truth in the pursuit of fulfillment. With your constant corner in my consciousness, I have withstood many a terrible evening, battling the demons of loss and embracing the potential that manifests when the past becomes ineffectual history.

Thirdly and finally, I thank you, Jane, for giving me a refuge. With your words you have given me much more than mere entertainment. You have awarded me the conviction to compose my own critiques of the toils of the human mind, the stability of familial love, the wonders and snares of passionate love.

The beauty of the world, despite our shared cynicism, is all the more certain for you have ascertained and revealed it to centuries worth of boys, girls, men and women. It is a truth I wish to acknowledge throughout my own life.

So I offer you myself, Jane, as an example of what good literature, stalwart principles and a combined strength and sentimentality can do for one girl living years beyond your own understanding.

Without you Jane, I would be not half what I am now.

With all the respect that I possess,

No comments:

Post a Comment