Inspiration From The Distant Past

Inspiration From The Distant Past
Found note in an old book... warms the cockles of my bookish heart...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Oh Jane, Jane....

C.E. Brock circa 1898
The rest of the watercolors from Emma

Not to hog the blog, so to speak, but I’m almost beside myself about Jane Austen’s Emma and am more surprised about that than anyone. In fact, this has been so pleasurable that I read the first four chapters, felt like I was being rushed, so I started over from the beginning.

The long forgotten pleasure of slowly savoring each delicious sentence of a book is gift from Miss Austen. She's already given me others, and I’ve only really Read (capital R) two chapters.

Until this slow read, I couldn’t have told you why women in particular seem to love Austen. Now I know. I read this enlightening passage of Emma out loud to my husband last night as he watched football, and though we aren’t one of "those" couples, he did have the good sense to nod and grunt affirmatively in all the right places.

Austen was forty when she wrote Emma, if Wiki is to be believed and the wisdom of years comes through in her evaluation of what constitutes happiness within a mature relationship or in the case of the above passage, the lack of said same. It should be laminated and stuck into every bridal magazine ever published. In fact, (spoiler alert *waves at DeLynne) I might take this up as my personal mission, which tells you I have yet to learn the pitfalls of meddling in other people’s lives and should keep reading.

The other thing that has surprised me is that Austen is a mistress of devastatingly subtle humor. I don’t know if humor was her intention, but funny is funny. I cannot tell you how very much I truly want to “throw” some offensive someone “off with due decorum” and to disapprove of their “sort of spirit” with Austen's level of understatement. No one in particular, yet, but that is a social art worth cultivation, to my mind. The beauty of it is that they wouldn’t know they’d been insulted until they were far enough away to discourage retaliation. What’s not to like??

Here I invite, encourage, prod and meddle. Read Emma with me if you haven’t already. Read it again if you have. If nothing else, you’ll find you can call someone a whining hypochondriac without them taking offense. Just use the word valetudinarian and leave off the whining part.


  1. I'm just beside myself reading your update-- and I love those sketches!

    I know what you mean about reading slow-- but I read the first 5 chapters already. Since you are going to savor, I will try not to gobble-- even though the prose is quite delicious! (may even read some over)

    I paused in thought over several passages and the one about Captain Weston's and Miss Churchhill's marriage was one of them. Considering she never married, Jane was definitely 'spot on' about what constitutes matrimonial happiness. It is easier to 'see the truth' as an outsider looking in though. Don't you think Jane would make a great pre-marital counselor in todays world? Bet she could nip prospective bad marriages in the bud quicker than Dr. Phil!

    Did Jane intend humor? I've always thought so-- especially in P&P. Seems like I read that she was quite witty in person, too.

    I've only read Emma once and didn't appreciate it fully--- Reading it 'slowly' in my 40s is going to be so rewarding-- so excited for this impromtu readalong!

    Isn't valetudinarian a great word-- what a mouthful! We may need a few Emma inspired Dinner Dictionary posts!

  2. So glad (though not surprised) to hear you're finding it delightful!

  3. Lesa re: Austen's marital wisdom, I could not agree more and I think a great deal of that came to her as it does to us all, with age. I also suspect I'd enjoy her accent much more than Dr. Phil's.
    Kathy: I am. I just am!

  4. I laughed out loud at Mr Woodhouse's hosting supper. How he wants to be hospitable but doesn't want anyone to actually eat anything that he thinks is bad for them.

    I've recently learned that anxious people often think in the negative, such as,'a boiled egg is not unwholesome.' or 'I do not think a small half glass of wine would disagree with you.'

    Dr Phil eat your heart out, indeed!

  5. BTW told me how to pronounce valetudinarian, and defines it as someone who is an invalid or excessively concerned with his own health.

  6. Emma has been on my To Read list for far too long. I don't know why I've resisted it for so long - everything of Austen's I've read, I've loved. This post is definitely spurring me to pick it up!

  7. We would love for you to read along with us, Lisa!!!

  8. Well, you know how it goes - so many books, so little time... Hopefully end of Sept, early October I'll get to it. Might not be reading along with you, but I'll definitely check back for sharing thoughts!


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