While I am not a scholar or expert on Jane Austen, I am an appreciative reader. It’s remarkable to think that the novels she wrote 200 years ago are still relevant today. The human condition hasn’t changed; jealousy, spitefulness, gossip, hypocrisy, and rumor mongering are the traits still prevalent in today’s society.
How was she able to capture all these characteristics while living in a vicarage within an isolated village? She had no formal education, but with the encouragement of her brilliant father she started to read at an early age. She devoured books, and as a young woman she became a master of the English language.
This branch of the Austen family was poor. However, they were upper class; many of their relatives were gentry and aristocrats.
When Jane and her sister Cassandra visited these relatives at their large estates and grand houses, they were exposed to a wide variety of people in these social settings. Balls, dinners, card parties, and picnics were the settings for many of her novels.
With her satirical eye and sharp wit, Jane observed and made mental notes. When she returned to the vicarage, she used this knowledge in her novels.
The family also visited Bath, the beautiful town with its exquisite architecture, its squares and crescents. Here was another opportunity to study the foibles and peculiarities of the gentry and leisured classes. Balls and concerts in the great assembly halls, the constant parade of elegantly dressed men and women–all were grist to her mill. Everything she wrote about is still pertinent in today’s society.
And the mothers–oh, those mothers! Vying with each other, scheming to ensure that their daughters would capture the most eligible (and rich) bachelor.
The famous first sentence in Pride and Prejudice says it all: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
A hundred years from now, when all the bestsellers of today are long forgotten, Jane Austen’s novels will still be read and enjoyed.
Do you have a favorite Jane Austen novel? Who is the classic author that continues to inspire your work today? Share your thoughts in the comments below!