FTA: Dating, Jane Austen, and the Virtues of Chastity

July 8, 2008 | 49 comments
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Like most rugged and red-blooded American men I have long enjoyed the work of Jane Austen. My mother (a women with excellent literary credentials) once described Austen to me as the Mozart of fiction. What she provides, so says my mother, is perfection. In Mozart you hear each note and think “Ah yes. That is exactly the right note for there.” Mozart does not shock or surprise. Mozart does not produce works of dark brooding genius (no Beethoven he). Rather, he is a master of working within and tweaking conventions to produce wonderful, rational, and elegant pieces that are simply perfect. That is Austen.

I first encountered Austen in my teens. Through a complex series of events, I found myself on a hideously long bus ride from the south-west corner of Turkey up what used to be called the Ionian coast to Istanbul. The bus was filled with noisy, smoking Turks, the road we traveled was long on traffic jams and short on scenery and I had exhausted my reading material. In extremis, I turned to the one book that was available to me: Pride and Prejudice. I threw a jacket over my head to filter out some of the smoke (the windows as a cruel fate would have it, did not open) and read about the Miss Bennetts and Mr. Darcy, Mr. Wickham, and Mr. Bingley. I was entranced. Needless to say, I fell a little in love with Elizabeth Bennett, although even at the end of the book I couldn’t really figure out what she saw in Mr. Darcy. I can’t think it accidental that in the fullness of time, I did in fact end up marrying a Miss Bennett.

Austen, so I am told, has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance in the last ten or fifteen years, although, needless to say, there has always been a solid core of rugged manly fans like myself. The argument I have heard is that in the romantic chaos of the second or third generation after the sexual revolution, there is a powerful nostalgia for a world like Austen’s where sexual interaction proceeded according to well-defined patterns with well-defined goals, and where participants in the game had a rich vocabulary of social custom with which to negotiate. I can’t help but thinking that there is some truth to this.

My wife’s roommates in college expressed shock that she dated. For them a world in which a young man would ask a young woman out seemed almost as foreign as Netherfield Park and worries about scandal and good society. For myself, I observed the same chaotic social dynamic among my non-Mormon friends. There were periods of hanging out which would then lead to hooking up. In the best case scenario, hooking up resulted in “a relationship,” which imposed some duties of loyalty and order. Since “intimacy” has replaced “fornication” as the description of pre-marital sex my friends seem to find themselves in a world that is both too informal and too formal. They have the undifferentiated situation of “hanging out” or the odd proto-marital (or perhaps sub-marital would be a better term) status of “a serious relationship.” What they lack is a clear system for testing and trying out the possibility of being a couple with others. The decline of dating has destroyed the intermediate phase between friendship and acquaintance on one hand and commitment (of some kind) on the other. This portrait is, of course, overdrawn, but I think there is some truth to the caricature.

The Mormon dating culture is not without its own pathologies, and I have the scars to prove it. Still, I can’t help but feeling that I was in some sense well-served by it. It provided me with a set of social templates that had enough independent content to supplement my own meager social resources. I was able to venture into the jungle despite intense romantic insecurities because the date provided a kind of limited liability, and I knew that what ever train wrecks might come, provided that I stayed within the rules of the convention the damage would be limited. Furthermore, I could place some hope in the institution even if I didn’t place much hope in myself. I had some half-articulated faith in the ability of a tried and true process to carry me through. In a sense, I suppose, that my faith was somewhat misplaced, as the wooing of my Miss Bennett ultimately forced me out of the safety of the conventions. Nevertheless, I think that on the whole they served me well.

It seems to me that we tend to think of chastity in crassly biological terms. Our goal is for the unmarried to avoid unauthorized copulation and undue stimulation of the reptilian bits of our brain where the completely inarticulate instinct to do so lurks with a single-minded determination to insure the survival its genes. Yet it seems to me that chastity should be a social as well as a simply hygienic exercise. It is not simply a matter of suppressing certain glandular tendencies but also of providing a social vocabulary in which they are channeled, endowed with meaning, and properly celebrated. At the end of the day, Austen’s England — even in its hearty, unaffected, country-side instantiation — would have driven me nuts. On the other hand, I do think that the Mozart of her stories provides us with an important insight into a certain aspect of what makes chastity a virtue.

(Originally posted August 10, 2005)

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49 Responses to FTA: Dating, Jane Austen, and the Virtues of Chastity

  1. bbell on July 8, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    I tend to agree strongly with your last paragraph. The LOC as I understand it is about a lot more then not having sex. Here is the “money quote” “It is not simply a matter of suppressing certain glandular tendencies but also of providing a social vocabulary in which they are channeled, endowed with meaning, and properly celebrated.”

    It also provides a framework to work out dating relationships and a way to avoid making bad relationship decisions while under the influence of being sexually active.

  2. StillConfused on July 8, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    “It also provides a framework to work out dating relationships and a way to avoid making bad relationship decisions while under the influence of being sexually active.” I think this is extremely important. Sex definitely changes the dynamics of a relationship.

  3. Kevin Barney on July 8, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    I too am a lover of Austen. She’s my favorite. And as I wrote on the original thread, I fall in love with all the heroines.

  4. bbell on July 8, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    I need to confess something. I am a JA fan. There I feel better.

  5. Phillip C. Smith, Ph.D. on July 8, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Dear Nate:

    I am Liesl Buskirk”s father. Your description of Jane Austen”s writing is accurate. It is wonderful to have love conducted with such eloquent description.

    Best regards,

    Phillip Smith

  6. Ray on July 8, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    I rarely whip out the dictionary on a thread like this, but I agree completely that we need to view chastity as more than just virginal. Consider the following:

    chaste = “decent (respectable; worthy); modest (free from vanity, egotism, boastfulness, or great pretensions); “Pure or simple” (free from inappropriate elements, unaffected); “austere” (rigorously self-disciplined); “unadorned” (without decoration); “unsullied” (clean and fresh)

    The root seems to be much more of a comprehensive condition wherein one is “in the world but not of the world” – a state of “naturalness” (in the sense of not being “made up” or “false”) – a comfortability with one’s self that does require outward trappings to present a “look” – etc. It is much more empowering to define chastity based on what it includes (the development of all these characteristics) than what it lacks (sexual activity), especially since we still can be “chaste” even while married and sexually active. That is important to teach and understand, imho.

  7. John Mansfield on July 8, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    On the crassly biological side, the National Center for Health Statistics reported in Sexual Behavior and Selected Health Measures: Men and Women 15-44 Years of Age, United States, 2002 that “Males 30-44 years of age reported an average (median) of 6-8 female sexual partners in their lifetimes. Among women 30-44 years of age, the median number of male sexual partners in their lifetimes was about four.”

    “Pre-marital” isn’t really a valid adjective for describing this pattern.

  8. Adam Greenwood on July 8, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    Like most rugged and red-blooded American men I have long enjoyed the work of Jane Austen.

    Yep. If any of you curs disagree, send your second to talk to mine.

  9. snow white on July 8, 2008 at 6:08 pm

    I think you should show us these scars. Are they cool?
    And, great post. Is it any wonder women all love Jane Austen?

  10. Starfoxy on July 8, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    And, great post. Is it any wonder women all love Jane Austen?
    I take exception to this, I am a woman and I do not love Jane Austen. While I can certainly see why many people love her writing I, personally, can barely stand it. One should keep in mind that I am also the sort of person who thinks a bouquet of flowers is a waste of money.

  11. James on July 8, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    ok. Best film adaptation- A&E Networks Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. All others pale.

  12. Ben S on July 8, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    “Like most rugged and red-blooded American men I have long enjoyed the work of Jane Austen.”

    I am surprised no one else has challenged this statement. I respectfully submit most “red-blooded” men forego Austen in favor of Patrick O’Brian. Great post, thanks.

  13. Researcher on July 8, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    “I couldn’t really figure out what she saw in Mr. Darcy”

    Well, after finding out that my husband is the same Myers-Briggs personality type as Mr Darcy, there are a number of things that could be mentioned.

    * They’re the strong, silent type.

    * Self-confident, which can come across as arrogance to someone who doesn’t know them well.

    * Ambitious long-range planner.

    * Tops in their profession.

    * Devoted to family.

    * Willing to work at a relationship although it may not come naturally.

    Even though I’m nothing like Elizabeth Bennett, some of these traits are attractive to some females. Back in the days when I was attending Young Womens, the teacher had us list some qualities we wanted in a spouse. The girls were all listing things like “handsome.” I listed “ambitious” and I still remember the blank stares.

    Mr Darcy and my husband may not be to everyone’s taste, which made things nicer for me, since it lessened some of the competition in the dating game.

  14. Russell Arben Fox on July 8, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    Best film adaptation- A&E Networks Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. All others pale.

    True, the BBC/A&E adaptation is, without doubt, the definitive version of Pride and Prejudice. But let’s not compare apples and oranges here: the Ehle-Firth production is a six-hour miniseries, whereas other adaptations have had to content themselves with two-hour films. What’s the best adaptation there? (Answer: the 1995 Persuasion, of course.)

    Since Nate’s post is all about his rugged, red-bloodedness, let’s ask a manly question: who is a greatest Austen hero? My wife says Mr. Knightley. I say Colonel Brandon. This is not quite a significant enough disagreement for us to divorce, but as any true fan of the stories must recognize, this is by no means an Insignificant Matter.

  15. S.P. Bailey on July 8, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    As a semi-secret, macho Jane Austin fan, I also prefer traditional, dignified courting rituals to the infantalizing, depressing substitutes (“hanging out” and “hooking up”). Also, I am nostalgic for the type of social dancing (every good Austin film adaptation has at least one lavish ball scene) that was long dead before I was born. Finally, I did not quite understand Austin until I realized that true love is not fully manifest in her oeuvre until the hero shows the heroine his enormous house.

  16. S.P. Bailey on July 8, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    No. 13: How does one administer the MBTI to a fictional character? Do you know if any Austinian heroes are INTJ’s?

  17. Ardis Parshall on July 8, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    14 — Colonel Brandon wins for pure nobility and all the romantic reasons we like Austen. Mr. Knightley, however, could be his noble self in 2008 by changing nothing but his wardrobe, which makes him very, very attractive as a contender in your contest.

  18. C Jones on July 8, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    #14The 1995 Persuasion is not only the best Austen adaptation, but her finest novel as well. And so it follows that the greatest Austen hero is the romantic, dashing, constant Captain Frederick Wentworth .

  19. Jim Donaldson on July 8, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    I am not sure, but the long promoted ideal of ‘group dating’ so beloved of youth leaders may be indistinguishable from ‘hanging out.’ Be careful what you wish for.

    One other point: Any sentence written by JA is a clinic on how to write an English sentence.

    Sign me another rugged and red blooded American guy who has long crushed on Jane.

  20. Jim Donaldson on July 8, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    I am not sure, but the long promoted ideal of ‘group dating’ so beloved of youth leaders may be indistinguishable from ‘hanging out.’ Be careful what you wish for.

    One other point: Any sentence written by JA is a clinic on how to write an English sentence.

    Sign me another rugged and red blooded American guy who has long crushed on Jane.

  21. Tatiana on July 8, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    By far the best Jane Austen boyfriend is Henry Tilney. He’s funny and loyal and not affected. I totally think Mr. Darcy is a stuffed-shirt who’s going to be looking down his nose at Elizabeth and rolling his eyes at her jokes before their first anniversary. Mr. Knightley is quite patronizing, too, as others have noted. Colonel Brandon is just sad. Marianne doesn’t even love him! He’s her gentler alternative to jumping off a bridge, I think.

    I love this post because I do love Jane Austen, as you can tell, but her best novel is the first-written, last-published, and rarely-read Northanger Abbey. P&P is a close second, it’s true, because it’s so funny.

    I don’t like the way courtship was carried on in Jane Austen’s day. I’m not at all crazy about how it’s done now. There I agree. But the rituals then were problematic from a women’s rights perspective. The thing I like the least about JA’s heroines is how very fixated they are on nabbing a good husband. It’s unseemly and rather sad. The only acceptable outlet for all their brilliance and creativity was to capture a man and hold onto him.

  22. cheryl on July 8, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    14-
    In some ways, I would say Mr. Tilney is the best hero of Austen. He has the kindest heart of any of the men; his motives are pure from the get-go, and the gentle, gentle way in which he handles Miss Morland is love at its finest. I adore Mr. Tilney.
    However, I married Mr. Knightley, and it’s a good thing, since I’m nothing but an Emma/Elizabeth Bennett combo.

    Nate-
    Fabulous post. I have spoken with many people who have wondered at Society’s recent (a few decades is recent, eh?) obsession with Jane Austen, and I’ve always felt it was because of the very things you said. Mormons are, as you mentioned, especially attuned to the ways of Regency England (the best parts of Regency England) because “back then”, society wasn’t ashamed of being chaste as they are now. So sad, really.
    Great post. Great, great post!

  23. Russell Arben Fox on July 8, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    Captain Frederick Wentworth

    Two great things about Captain Wentworth: 1) he wrote the single finest love letter in the whole history of the English language; 2) his is the only primary male hero in the Austen books that one can be fairly certain could, if needs be and Anne was threatened, truly name names and whup some ass. He’d take Edward Ferrars–the Austen hero I am probably actually most like–and eat him for breakfast.

  24. Researcher on July 8, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    #16 “How does one administer the MBTI to a fictional character?”

    It’s all a parlor game, I’m sure, but some characters are pretty obvious, including Mr Darcy. If someone wants to debate whether or not he is actually an INTJ (assuming you give any weight to personality typing, which would be a threadjack), I would be happy to play along.

    You can google “famous INTJs” and see a list including Mr Darcy, Gandalf, and Professor Moriarty. I see that they also have Jane Austen herself typed as an INTJ. I just clicked through all the other types and don’t see any other Austen characters listed.

  25. Ray on July 8, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    What Russell said in #23.

  26. aloysiusmiller on July 8, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Excellent blog! You have tapped a mother lode of themes on the interaction of the sexes.

    My wife introduced me to Jane Austen. I have watched the version with Colin Firth as Darcy several times. It is always fresh.

    Yes and 15 (S. P. Bailey) I rue the lack of real dancing. I too missed real dancing. The dancing that required any skill died in the 50s’ with death throes extending into the 60s. Teaching real dancing and the skillful and varied response to one’s partner seems to have more intimate implications.

  27. S.P. Bailey on July 8, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    No. 24: Sweet. I am an INTJ! I have been trying to convince my wife for ten years that I am a 20C Mr. Darcey. Now I have proof. Sort of.

  28. Marianne on July 9, 2008 at 12:03 am

    Colonel Brandon is a little too needy and “romantic” and I think I could take down Edward Ferrars or Tilney in a fight. And I’ve never heard anyone say Mr. Bingley was their secret desire. Mr. Darcy becomes a good man; Frederick Wentworth overcomes the hurt and gives into the love (and, indeed writes a good letter); but Mr. Knightly is perfect from the start. Yes, he’s patronizing, but his Emma is silly and vain and heedless of others and he’s nearly twice her age. He’s good and honest and kind and an excellent judge of others.

    With Mr. Darcy, I’d always be worried about family friction. Frederick, ditto, unless I really was ready to go to sea with him (and if I were Anne Elliot, I probably would). But, with Mr. Knightly I would know I could let down my guard. I wouldn’t have to be responsible and steady and good all the time, because, although he’d call me on all my crap, I’d know for sure he loves me anyway.

  29. cheryl on July 9, 2008 at 12:07 am

    #28-
    That’s why I married myself a Mr. Knightley!

    I love it that nobody has said a good thing about Edmund Bertram. Although Mansfield Park was one of my favorite novels, I couldn’t stand any of the characters. Strange, eh?

  30. Paul B on July 9, 2008 at 12:46 am

    To those who are lamenting the loss of social dancing: It’s plenty alive and well where I live, which is the DC area. Big Band Swing? There’s a dance somewhere every night of the week, usually with optional lessons beforehand. Salsa? Same story. Tango? Maybe not every night, but pretty close. Waltz? Cha-cha? Foxtrot? Contra dance? Western swing? All alive and well. And I don’t think DC is entirely unique, though it may have more opportunities than some places. (For those who want specifics, try the Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo, the Chevy Chase Ballroom, the Clarendon Ballroom, the Jam Cellar, Nick’s Night Club, The Dance Factory, The Carlyle Club, McGinty’s… and there are plenty more.) The nice thing is that people go to dance. They’re not meat markets. They’re places to dance, with partners, with real dance steps.

    How many Mormons do I see when I go out to dance? None, except on rare occasions. It’s not a problem of a lack of opportunities. It’s that so many Mormons seem to prefer activities planned by Mormons. Maybe there’s some sort of uneasiness about dancing with people who aren’t “in the running” for eternal mates because they’re not members of the church. Oh, and married people go to these things too.

    The dancing is there, if you’re willing to step out of the Mormon social corral.

  31. norm on July 9, 2008 at 1:07 am

    [disclaimer: I'll try to avoid being snarky, but I should be clear and upfront that I'm not a fan of Austen; in fact, I have described her writing as achieving nearly all of the ills that we so often attribute to, um, more graphic pRon--right up to stunting spiritual growth and destroying families. But that's another subject . . . ]

    I tend to think several factors cause us to exaggerate the importance of the sexual/physical ideals of chastity: they include, in part, (a) the desire to avoid unwanted and socially unacceptable pregnancy, (b) vanity, in two respects, (i) like early Christians, we are fond of pointing to our (exaggerated) sexual purity as a sign that we have cornered the market on virtue and godliness, and (ii) we are fond of patting ourselves on the back for obeying easy commandments–thus old, stodgy married types harangue about sexual evils of temptations that aren’t so much a problem for them anymore to separate themselves from the generation of sinful youth, of which they were too once part (this has also been around since early Christians, think of St Augustine), and (c) a convenient means to dismiss or disengage from stale romantic relationships or unwanted advances (e.g. much disparaging of virtue and accusation of sinfulness (or guilt/mourning over mutual sinfulness) go along with breakups and divorces–it’s much more convenient than blaming failure on other flaws)–an ultimate trump card that no one will second-guess as readily as other ways of falling out of love.

    As to the social aspect, (“chastity should be a social as well as a simply hygienic exercise. It is not simply a matter of suppressing certain glandular tendencies but also of providing a social vocabulary in which they are channeled, endowed with meaning, and properly celebrated”), especially in context, this just makes me think that of the upper crust in the Titanic ballroom calling their wealth and status virtue while denigrating the low classes who drink beer, sing folk songs and don’t wear corsets.

  32. Kevin Christensen on July 9, 2008 at 10:25 am

    The one problem that I have with Jane Austin is that she only completed a half dozen major books, which keep getting made, and remade, and remade again. We can get brilliant variations on Pride and Prejudice like Bridget Jones Diary, followed by a much less brilliant LDS variation, followed by an odd Bollywood musical version, and then another round of PBS remakes. I think that at some point, someone ought to admit that we know the story by now.

    There there is Georgette Heyer, who invented the Regency Romance as a historical novel, and became one of the few women to create a genre. Heyer wrote over 40 charming and inventive books, and has yet to attract serious attention from Hollywood or TV. Rather than yet another Pride and Prejudice, how about just one Friday’s Child or Frederica or The Masqueraders or Sprig of Muslin?

    My wife likes to cycle through reading all of these (Jane and Georgette) every year or so, and viewing all the best Janes every year or so as well.

    Kevin Christensen
    Pittsburgh, PA

  33. Kathie C on July 9, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Amen to Georgette Heyer. She’s a master at writing dialogue in the best Austin tradition.

  34. aloysiusmiller on July 9, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    One of my favorite moments in PaP is when Elizabeth’s sister asks her when she knew she was in love with Darcy. She replies that it happened when she saw his big house at Pemberly.

    My wife claims that it is just a joke. I say not or at least not totally. We all make assessments of our potential mate’s capacity but we’re in the habit of calling it love. Of course the whole story is how to merry a daughter off so that she is at least secure if not comfortable and have an ounce of love at the same time. Can’t say it isn’t on my mind for my progeny.

  35. Raymond Takashi Swenson on July 9, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    I can’t say I have ever read ANY of the books, though the movies are usually pleasant dates for me and my wife. Among the Austen films of the last two decades, I would like to offer the view that the Pride and Prejudice theatrical film that starred Keira Knightly uses cinematography with great skill in sustaining the emotional import of the story. The ball scene is a single continuous shot that wanders, in reverse, through the labyrinth of the great house, telling a complete story as it goes.

    I guess Pride and Prejudice has acquired the status of the story that has been remade many times but still enjoyed, like Dickens’ Christmas Carol (a new version is in production that will have Gary Oldman and Jim Carrey each playing multiple characters).

  36. Cicero on July 9, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    It reminds me of a conversation I once had n which a young woman stated that the reason people (meaning Mormons) got married was because they wanted to have sex.

    I have come to realize that this is actually a quite common belief among members- and I suppose it’s an improvement over secular society thinking that marriage is not necessary before sex.

    However, it confuses me as the way I have always thought about it was that you want to have sex because you are married.

    That seems to me to be a much healthier way of treating sex and marriage.

  37. Mark B. on July 9, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    I’ll cast another vote for Patrick O’Brien. Besides, if it weren’t for the Royal Navy, all those Austen heroines would have been marrying French aristocrats–or, what’s worse, French Republicans.

  38. TrevorM on July 9, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    I don’t really care for Mozart. I like Prokofiev much more… I wonder what that says about me?

  39. Tatiana on July 9, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    I dislike Mozart completely as well, TrevorM. He’s just so obvious and smug bordering on prissy. It’s extremely grating to me. I think Jane is much better, myself. She’s a little smug but always affectionate, and never prissy. =)

    My winner for most perfect British novelist of the 18th and 19th c. is Henry Fielding, the one hit wonder. If you add 20th I’ll choose Nevil Shute. Neither of those is terribly keen on chastity, however.

  40. SusanS on July 9, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    check out my online library of Austen! She’s made for reading out loud. All of that fine dialogue. That’s what makes her such a natural for movies et al.

  41. Richard O. on July 10, 2008 at 6:55 am

    Nice post Nate. I love reading your prose and being expanded by your insights.

  42. Researcher on July 10, 2008 at 8:36 am

    Thinking this morning about Jane Austen in relation to dating nowadays, I also was thinking about Cheryl’s comment (29) about no one mentioning Edmund Bertram.

    I think that the hero of Mansfield Park has several major defects in our culture nowadays:

    a) he’s Fanny’s first cousin. Ick factor.

    b) he has a totally disfunctional family and particularly mother. While many people make this trade-off (marrying someone despite their family), many of us barely get by with a mother-in-law of normal character, let alone a family like the Bertrams.

    c) Edmund’s planning to be a clergyman. No money in that career. And,

    d) he ultimately decides to marry that wimpiest of Austen heroines, Fanny Price.

  43. John David Payne on July 10, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Never read Jane Austen. Never read Patrick O’Brien. But I have seen Big Trouble in Little China about a hundred times.

  44. Russell Arben Fox on July 10, 2008 at 11:59 am

    But I have seen Big Trouble in Little China about a hundred times.

    Dude, no one ever said you can’t do both. (“This is going to take cracker-jack timing!”)

  45. John David Payne on July 10, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    “I’m just happy to be alive!”

  46. SusanS on July 11, 2008 at 12:08 am

    and then there was my “Persuasion” trip in England. The most moving around in a Jane Austen novel. Which is a good part of what makes this novel so interesting. Probably my favoriate. Late. A bit dark. Makes for a lovely trip. Bath. . . . The coast. . . .

  47. Matt Thurston on July 11, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Well done, Nate. Count me in the JA fan club. I was an early adopter, before the craze of the past 20 years, and felt the same proprietary annoyance I used to feel when some indie band I liked suddenly got big. Now JA is the literary equivalent of “comfort food” for me. I can pick up any book in the canon, randomly read a couple of chapters, and a smile spreads across my face… the world is set right again.

    I feel the same way about Patrick O’Brian. Aubrey and Maturin feel as real to me as my immediate family.

  48. Graham Stott on July 12, 2008 at 6:28 am

    1. Was teaching P&P to students here in Jenin (Palestine), most of them Muslim, a few Christian, and their greatest surprise was that none of the Bennet girls discussed their problems with their parents.
    2. The 1985 BBC series was much much much better.
    3. Yes, I am in love with Miss Elizabeth Bennet. As I am ISTJ, I of course hope we met in an alternate universe.

  49. Dawn on July 12, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    I found Jane Austen in my early 20s and, frankly, my life has never been the same. I became an Anglophile because of Jane, and developed a preference for British period movies of the Merchant-Ivory variety. I’ve read most of her novels more than once, but it’s Pride and Prejudice that has my heart. Elizabeth Bennett is a heroine for the ages with her lively intelligence, wit, and independent spirit. She didn’t settle for marriage with any dolt who asked her, no matter how penniless a life of spinsterhood loomed in her future. It was Mr. Darcy who finally stirred her blood—and mine—and kept me turning pages, time and time again. Nate, you can’t imagine why Elizabeth chose Mr. Darcy? Ask your mother, your wife—any woman. It had little to do with the size of his mansion.
    Nate’s chastity thoughts point to one of the secrets to Jane’s appeal: sexual tension. Jane is a master at it. Will they? Won’t they? This tension lies beneath all that polite, articulate verbal jousting between Darcy and Elizabeth. No matter how many times I’ve read that book, I feel unsettled until everything is finally decided. Will they? Won\’t they? What is hidden—and hinted at—is always more intoxicating than what is dramatized in graphic detail.

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