There is really nothing we can say about Jane Austen that hasn’t already been said. But as fans we couldn’t really meet and not discuss the fact that this year is the 200th anniversary of her death. Around the globe the last one month has had Janeites coming together and organising events to pay homage. These functions have been attended with a good mix of enthusiasm and Regency costumes. So, with a dearth of Austenmania happening locally, we felt the least we could do was raise a cheer and write a blog post.
After numerous movies and television adaptations in various languages, biographies, inspired books, references to her characters and even her face now featuring on bank notes, Jane Austen remains relevant despite the passage of so many years. The fan fiction based on her books probably outstrips any other author’s. Even established authors like PD James (Death comes to Pemberley) and the ones roped in for the Austen project (Joanna Trollop, Val McDiarmid, Alexander McCall Smith and Curtis Sittenfeld) have been at some point or the other, seduced into fan fiction.
People talk about cutting wit and tongue in cheek aspects of Austen’s writing but in fact what it boils down to is the bitchiness of her characters comments, which feel real even today. Many of her characters are people who have transcended time, different cultures and social attitudes. Which just goes to prove that human beings are basically the same no matter which part of the world or which time they come from. Our lives are littered with versions of the opinionated Mr. Collins, the air headed Mrs. Bennetts, the full of themselves Wickhams and Mr. Eltons, the naive Harriets, the resigned Anne Elliots, the know it all Emmas and the numerous social butterflies and climbers that Austen’s books are littered with.
But of course everyone is still searching for ‘dear’ Mr. Darcy! He is still unreal. The best part of it is that when we come across these people in our lives who would ordinarily really irritate us, we find ourselves applying the appropriate Jane Austen quote and laughing them off. Perhaps therein lies the true appeal of Austen in that she helps us to better deal with others’ foibles by helping us to caricaturise them.
More than anything we can say to explain Jane Austen’s popularity, we feel her writing speaks for itself:
“Better be without sense than misapply it as you do.” (Emma)
“I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible” (Northanger Abbey)
“Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure” (Mansfield Park)
“Eleanor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition” (Sense and Sensibility)
“A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.” (Mansfield Park)
“You have no respect for my poor nerves.” “You mistake me my dear, I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these last twenty years at least.” (Pride and Prejudice)
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. (Pride and Prejudice) – This is quite possibly one of the most quoted first lines of a book.
“It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.” (Sense and Sensibility) – A quote made famous for being paraphrased in the Batman Begins movie. But Jane Austen said it first.
One can go on and on with the quotes but they are, as is to be expected, much better read within the books.