R E B E C C A S M I T HAnswers To Your Most Burning QuestionsAbout Life, Love, Happiness (and What To Wear)from the Great Novelist HerselfMiss JAne AustEn’s Guideto Modern life’s Dilemmasj e r e m y p .t a r c h e r / p e n g u i na member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.New York
10 11Howwouldyousumupyourboyfriend?WhenJaneAustenfallsforTomLefroyshewritestohersisterCassandrathatheisa“verygentleman-like,good-looking,pleasant young man.”* Could you say that of your boyfriend? Jane says thatTom“hasbutonefault,whichtimewill,Itrust,entirelyremove—itisthathismorningcoat is a great deal too light.”She may not like his choice of coat,but he,like her,is a great reader and dancer.It could be love.Perhaps the most touching lines of any of Jane’s surviving lettersare these, written the day before a ball, when she thinks thatTomwillpropose:“Ilookforwardwithgreatimpatiencetoit,asIratherexpect to receive an offer from my friend in the course of theevening. I shall refuse him, however, unless he promises togive away his white coat.”†One suspects that even the light-color coat couldhave been livable if finances had made the matchacceptable to their families, but the couple had nomoney and the proposal was never made.Janewouldadviseyoutoaskyourselfsomequestionsand listen to your good sense and your heart.Why are youwith your boyfriend? Is it because you just want a boyfriend,anyboyfriend?Coulditbehismoney? ThisisthecatastrophicmistakethatMariaBertrammakesinMansfieldPark.Mariarealizesthat Mr.Rushwood is stupid and annoying,but she is tempted by his money andshedoesn’twanttobeleftontheshelf.Sheavoidshimandisembarrassedbyhim.Sound familiar? If you notice the noise a man makes when he’s eating,you are notin love.Are you bothered by a coat in the wrong color or something morefundamental?Act accordingly.* Letter to Cassandra,Steventon,January 9th,1796.† Letter to Cassandra,Steventon,January 14th,1796l ov e & r e l at i o n s h i p sCAN A MAN REALLY CHANGE?QYou know that no one is perfecT and that anyman, no matter how wonderful, could do withsome improvement. You wouldn’t mind so much ifthe flaws remained hidden from view, but the sad fact is,your boyfriend embarrasses you in public. The obnoxiousway he shovels food into his mouth, the rude comments,and the slightly inappropriate public displays of affectionmean you cringe when he utters the words “Let’s eat outtonight.” Is he a lost cause or could he learn to behave?Mr. Rushworth was an inferioryoung man, as ignorant inbusiness as in books, withopinions in general unfixed, andwithout seeming much aware of ithimself … indifference was themost favorable state they could bein. Her behavior to Mr. Rushworthwas careless and cold. She couldnot, did not like him.MANSFIELD PARKAYour boyfriend isn’t alost cause, but yourrelationship might be.There will be somebody out there toappreciate him for what he is, but thatpersonisn’tyou.Ifhemakesyoucringenow, how will you react in a fewmonths or years? Of course nobody’sperfect, and even Mr. Darcy neededimprovement before Lizzy Bennetcould marry him,but if your boyfriendmakesyoucringe,heshouldn’tbeyourboyfriend. If it were just one littlething,you could ask him to alter it,butyour troubles are clearly more serious.l ov e & r e l at i o n s h i p s
12 13Catherine becomes slightly less plain as she gets older,and eventually can bedescribedas“almostpretty.” WhenshegoestostayinBath,herlifetakesoff.Shehasplentytolearn,butbecausesheisopenandfriendly,peoplewanttobewithher.LizzyBennetisn’tanobviousheroineeither.WhenMr.Darcyfirstseesher,hedoesn’t think she’s pretty:“But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and hisfriends that she had hardly a good feature in her face,than he began to find it wasrendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes.”*Jane loved Elizabeth. In January 1813, the year of the novel’s publication, shewrote:“I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appearedin print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at leastI do not know.”†Millionsofreadersdoloveher.Itdoesn’tmatterifyoustartoutasratherplain,but if you consume trash you will feel trashy.Throw away the magazines, stopwatching pop videos,and read more novels.You’ll soon feel much better.l ov e & r e l at i o n s h i p s* P&P,Ch6.† Letter to Cassandra,Chawton,January 29th,1813Jane describes the best sort of reading matter:“And what are you reading, Miss—?”“Oh! It is only a novel!” replies the young lady, while she lays down herbook with affected indifference, or momentary shame. “It is only Cecilia,or Camilla, or Belinda; or, in short, only some work in which the greatestpowers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge ofhuman nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusionsof wit and humor, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.”NORTHANGER ABBEYl ov e & r e l at i o n s h i p sWHY AM I STILL so INTIMIDATEDBY the BARBIEs of the world?QIt seems that you’re surrounded by images ofunrealistically beautiful women—glossy magazinesfull of photoshopped stars and music videosparading supertoned bods are doing their part to sapyour confidence. You know that kind of perfectionis impossible, but deep down you can’t help but measureyourself against it … and you’re afraid that everybody elsejudges you that way, too. How can you stop worrying andlearn to love yourself for who you are?AStopconsumingsomuchtrashandstartreadingbooksandwatchingshows that will make you happier.These perfect women don’texist—they really don’t.You must stop thinking of yourself asinferiorandstartlivingastheheroineofyourownlife. Youdon’tneedtostartoutlookinglikeBarbietohaveahappyending.ConsiderCatherineMorland:“Noonewho had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed herborn to be an heroine … the Morlands […] were in general very plain, andCatherine, for many years of her life, as plain as any. She had a thin awkwardfigure,a sallow skin without color,dark lank hair,and strong features …”*Catherine will never become a particularly accomplished young lady:indeedshe doesn’t care much for “improving” herself:“The day which dismissed themusic-master was one of the happiest of Catherine’s life”and she“loved nothingso well in the world as rolling down the green slope at the back of the house.”†* NA,Ch1.† Ibid.
22 23Fanny,when I heard the door open behind me.“Mr.Bertram,”said she.I lookedback.“Mr. Bertram,” said she, with a smile; but it was a smile ill-suited to theconversation that had passed, a saucy playful smile, seeming toinvite in order to subdue me; at least it appeared soto me.I resisted;it was the impulse of the moment toresist,and still walked on.’”*Try to place yourself on the mousy/chatty/flirtyscale.At one end, we have Fanny Price, and at theother,thoseincorrigibleflirts,HenryCrawfordandLydia Bennet. Balanced in the middle but well onthe side of fun is Elizabeth Bennet. She should beyour model, so chat away, but don’t go too far.Elizabeth carries on being her delightful self, buteveryone will know to whom her heart belongs.In Lydia’s imagination, a visit to Brighton comprised every possibility ofearthly happiness. She saw, with the creative eye of fancy, the streets of thatgay bathing place covered with officers. She saw herself the object ofattention to tens and to scores of them at present unknown. She saw allthe glories of the camp—its tents stretched forth in beauteous uniformityof lines, crowded with the young and the gay, and dazzling with scarlet;and, to complete the view, she saw herself seated beneath a tent, tenderlyflirting with at least six officers at once.PRIDE AND PREJUDICE* MP,Ch47l ov e & r e l at i o n s h i p sWHAT COUNTS AS CHEATING ON YOUR BOYFRIEND?QYou’re two months into a new relationshipand it’s the longest you’ve ever had. You’rea naturally chatty and flirty woman—youenjoy getting to know new people—but you’re wonderingif your usual flirty behavior might be a step too far. Thisis new territory for you and you’d rather not screw upyour budding romance. So, is flirting the same as cheating,or is it okay as long as you don’t take it any further?AYourboyfriendhasfallenforyou,sohemustappreciateyourvivacity,and unless he has a personality disorder,he won’t want to stop youfrom talking to people,but you must start to tread more carefully.Jane Austen loved to chat and dance and flirt.There is an oft-quotedcontemporarydescriptionofJane,thatshewasthe“prettiest,silliest,mostaffectedhusband-hunting butterfly ever”; * but this opinion was formed by somebodywho didn’t know her very well, and whose family was involved in a hugelysignificant lawsuit against Jane’s brother,Edward.Many people think that Mary Crawford is the real heroine of Mansfield Park;she’switty,pretty,andfuntobewith,shelooksbeautifulwhensheplaystheharp,butshemakesshockinglyrudejokes.Sadly,herinabilitytoreinherselfincostsherdearly.IfshehadtakenhercuesfromEdmundBertramandchangedherbehavior,shemighthavefoundhappinesswithhim.Shecutsasadfigurethelasttimeweseeher,drapedaroundadoorframe,tryingtolurehimback:“‘Ihadgoneafewsteps,l ov e & r e l at i o n s h i p s*The author,Mary Russell Mitford,wrote in a letter to SirWilliam Elford in 1815 that this was how hermother remembered the young JaneAusten.Mary was actually a fan of Jane’s work.These letters are quotedin Austen-Leigh,W.andAusten-Leigh,R.,JaneAusten –A Family Record,revised by Le Faye,D. (1989).
F R I E N D S & FA M I LY52F R I E N D S & FA M I LY53Mr. Knightley steps in after Emma’s insensitive blunder. He upbraids herfor what she has done, but also tries to reassure Miss Bates that Emma didn’tmean the cruel thing she said. Is there somebody you could trust to do thesame—tell your victim that you were speaking thoughtlessly and didn’t mean it?I’VE SAID SOMETHING RUDE.HOW CAN I MAKE IT BETTER?QYou’ve done it now—you’ve put your footsquarely in your mouth and offended someone.You didn’t mean to do it; It wasn’t malicious,but you were trying to impress a group of people and,in so doing, you just said something a bit unflatteringabout one of their friends. Now that person is cross withyou. You feel terrible, so how can you make it better?AYou should feel terrible.And you must expect to be treated terribly,for a little while at least.This is just what happens in Emma on thefateful picnic to Box Hill,when the eponymous heroine says a cruelthing (only meaning it as a joke) to poor Miss Bates.It’s easy to understand whyEmmadoesit—she’syoungandinexperiencedandshegetscarriedawaybyFrankChurchill’s flirting and wit:“Frank Churchill grew talkative and gay,making herhis first object.Every distinguishing attention that could be paid,was paid to her.To amuse her,and be agreeable in her eyes,seemed all that he cared for …”*BeingrudetopoorMissBatesisprettyhardtoforgive.Thereisaheavyhelpingofl’esprit de l’escalierin many writers’work,but I suspectthatweseetheoppositeof that here. Perhaps JaneAusten recalled saying something so sharp that it wascruel, and put her feelings of shame and regret to use in the Box Hill incident.When Emma tries to make amends for her bad behavior,she gets a taste of whatbeing the unwanted one must be like,and you are likely to get some of that,too.You’ll have to be like Emma and take it on the chin.She was vexed beyond what could have been expressed—almost beyondwhat she could conceal. Never had she felt so agitated, mortified, grieved,at any circumstance in her life. She was most forcibly struck. The truthof his representation there was no denying. She felt it at her heart.How could she have been so brutal, so cruel to Miss Bates! … Time didnot compose her. As she reflected more, she seemed but to feel it more.She never had been so depressed.EMMABe careful who you mix with and make jokes in front of in the future andlet small acts of kindness and soft words on other subjects soothe the pain youhave caused. Some good does come out of Emma’s experience—she’s nicerto people afterward, and it teaches her how desperately she cares aboutMr. Knightley’s good opinion of her. Just as Emma later realizes that sheshouldn’thavetrustedFrankChurchill,youshouldn’ttrustthese“acquaintances”—at least one of them is somebody who enjoys playing with people’s emotions andstirring up trouble by whispering in others’ears.Emmaimmediatelystartstryingtomakeamends,butluckilyforhertherearesoon other more important talking points in the busy world of Highbury.Eventswill move on in your world,too.* E,Ch43
F R I E N D S & FA M I LY78F R I E N D S & FA M I LY79How can I delete a contact on Facebookwithout causing offense?QIn these days of social networking, can youdecide not to be friends with people withoutupsetting them? one friend in particular isgetting on your nerves. It’s not that you dislike thisfriend exactly; it’s just that you’ve grown tired of herconstant updates bemoaning the world and shared linksto nonsense websites. Is it possible to “unfriend” her onFacebook without hurting her feelings?Mr. Elton … not only sat at her elbow, but was continuallyobtruding his happy countenance on her notice, and solicitouslyaddressing her upon every occasion … and made it some effortwith her to preserve her good manners. For her own sake she couldnot be rude … Mr. Elton’s civilities were dreadfully ill-timed; but shehad the comfort of appearing very polite, while feeling very cross.EMMAAThe continual obtruding of your friend’s countenance may beannoying, but you must, like Emma, make sure that you preserveyour good manners and the comfort of appearing polite, whilefinding a way out of the situation.Although some of the mechanics of managingfriendshipshavechanged,theprinciplesofpolitenessanditsimportancehavenot.When JaneAusten was advising her niece,Anna, on a novel in progress, shewas eager to point out some of the etiquette mistakes she had made:“I have alsoscratched out the introduction between Lord Portman and his brother andMr.Griffin.A country surgeon … would not be introduced to men of their rank,andwhenMr.P.isfirstbroughtin,hewouldnotbeintroducedastheHonourable.”and“We think you had better not leave England.Let the Portmans go to Ireland;but as you know nothing of the manners there,you had better not go with them.Youwillbeindangerofgivingfalserepresentations.SticktoBathandtheForesters.There you will be quite at home.”*What Jane was saying is that seemingly small matters of politeness can have ahugeimpactinlifeandinwritingconvincingfiction.ShewasalsotellingAnnahowimportantitistosticktotherulesofsociety,becausetheyaretheretoavoidpeoplegetting hurt or offended.The astonishingly rude Lady Catherine de Bourgh would delete or“unfriend”somebody without a second thought—she wouldn’t care about the hurt it mightcause or the repercussions,but it does her no good in the long run.Her rudeness,in this case to Elizabeth Bennet,knows no bounds:“‘I take noleave of you,Miss Bennet;I send no compliments to your mother …’”†Elizabeth is smarter and proves to be better at navigating society’s choppywaters.Sheknowsthatit’sbesttobepolitewhilesubtlymaintainingone’sprivacysettings. Lydia is desperate to share some news when they meet for lunch at acoaching inn, but Jane and Elizabeth first tell the waiter he need not stay at thetable—they’re trying to stop their younger sisters from gossiping in public.Janewouldn’tadviseyoutomakeabigrudegesturetogetthisperson’stediousmusings out of your life—she would tell you to stick to the basic rules of goodmanners,and then to quietly and discreetly block the incessant updates.* Letters toAnnaAusten,Chawton,August 17th & 18th,1814. † P&P,Ch56
WO R K & C A R E E R124WO R K & C A R E E R125i have an interview for the job of my dreams.how can i be sure to put my best foot forward?QTo build the career you want, you really needto stand out from the crowd, particularlywhen it comes to applying for jobs. However,it’s difficult to anticipate what special qualities anemployer prefers. For instance, do they want to knowabout your interests or just your work history? Is itmore attractive to outline your activities outside work,such as volunteering and relevant hobbies, or shouldyou stick to the basics? Is there some kind of magic mixtureof information that guarantees you’ll get the job?ASometimes it seems that whatever we do,we’ll be judged wanting,and that whatever job we apply for, there are bound to be otherpeoplewithfarmoreexperienceandbetterqualifications,includinganMAinPlayingTennisWithTheBoss.It’seasytofeelthatwe’llneverbenoticed,or that we’ll always be the unsuccessful candidate.The fact that proper education and fulfilling employment were just notpossibilities for women of JaneAusten’s era makes her achievements as a novelisteven more impressive.Jane and Cassandra had a few years at school,but most oftheir education came from their clever and well-read parents.TheAustens alwayshad plenty to read, owned plenty of books, and joined libraries wherever theywere living or staying.For women,a secure future often depended on marryingwell, and this required an impressive résumé of accomplishments along with afinancial settlement from one’s family.When Elizabeth Bennet hearsMr.DarcyandCarolineBingleydetailingwhatcomprisesaproperlyaccomplishedyoung woman,she says:“I am no longersurprised at your knowing only sixaccomplished women.I rather wondernowatyourknowingany.”*Young women on the marriagemarket had constant opportunities todisplay their talents and the qualitiesthatmighthelpthemtoattracttherighthusband. Mary Bennet, the plainestand prissiest of Elizabeth’s sisters, isdelighted to hear herself described toMissBingleyas“themostaccomplishedgirl in the neighborhood,” † but thereality is that nobody really wants to spend much time with her.She can play thepiano and sing,but it sounds dreadful.The equivalent today would be to have allA’s in her report card but no social skills,and when Mary gets a chance to showeverybody just how accomplished she is by “exhibiting” during a party atNetherfield, it ends with the hateful Bingley sisters sniggering and her fatheruttering the immortal words:“You have delighted us long enough.”‡I’vealwaysfeltsorryforMary—ifonlyshecouldhavehadapropereducation,aninterestingjob,andsomefriends…Makesurethatyourrésumédoesn’tmakeyou seem like Mary Bennet;you must list your qualifications and achievements,but employers will want to know that you can get on with people,too.“… no one can be reallyesteemed accomplished who doesnot greatly surpass what isusually met with. A woman musthave a thorough knowledge ofmusic, singing, drawing, dancing,and the modern languages, todeserve the word; and besides allthis, she must possess a certainsomething in her air and mannerof walking, the tone of her voice,her address and expressions, or theword will be but half deserved.”PRIDE AND PREJUDICE* P&P,Ch8.† P&P,Ch3.‡ P&P,Ch18
WO R K & C A R E E R126WO R K & C A R E E R127JaneFairfaxiswelleducated,beautiful,elegant,andtalented.Emmahatesherfor it:“Why she did not like Jane Fairfax might be a difficult question to answer;Mr. Knightley had once told her it was because she saw in her the reallyaccomplished young woman,which she wanted to be thought herself …”* JaneFairfax is the sort of person you wouldn’t want to be competing against at aninterview,but not even she would be guaranteed to get the job.If it was betweenEmmaWoodhouseandJaneFairfax,Emmawouldhavetheadvantageiftheywerelooking for somebody animated and good at talking to people. useful tips on how to ensure that social occasions run smoothly,organizing partygames,andmeetingthedietaryrequirementsofthemostparticularandpernicketyofguests.IftheyarelookingforsomeonetojointheCollegeBoardforSATs,MaryBennet fits the bill. Elizabeth Bennet would make a good lawyer, perhapsspecializing in standing up for the oppressed or protecting the local woods.You can’t be better than Jane Fairfax at being like Jane Fairfax,so concentrateon what you love doing and excel at, and make the most of that. MarianneDashwood might pursue a musical career,while Elinor would make an excellentprincipal. I can see her at the helm of a large and very successful school, quitepossibly all girls. She would be wise and firm, but fair. Her students might wellremain unaware of the success she enjoyed as a painter. She would exhibit at aprestigious summer show every year.Fanny Price was able to find the perfect position for herself;being the wife ofacountryvicarwouldsuitherinthe21stcentury,too.Iwonderifshe’dbeabletoovercome her shyness and be ordained as well.It’s all about making the most ofyour particular talents.You can give yourself the edge by doing what Mr. Darcy says even the mostaccomplished woman should do—read. Read up on all aspects of the companyandwhattheymightbelookingfor,andkeeponlearninganddeveloping.Doyourhomework.They won’t always want Jane Fairfax—sometimes they’ll want you.Mr. Darcy knows what will set you apart:“… she must yet add something more substantial, inthe improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”PRIDE AND PREJUDICEEmma thinks that Jane is“… so cold,so cautious!There was no getting at herreal opinion.Wrapt up in a cloak of politeness,she seemed determined to hazardnothing.She was disgustingly,was suspiciously reserved.”†Whogetsthejobwilldependonthecompanyandpositionavailable;ifit’sfora trainee wedding planner,they’ll probably want Emma.She can also offer some* E,Ch20.† Ibid.
l e i s u r e & t r av e lHOW CAN WE vacation WITH A FUSSY FRIEND?QSince the day you met, you and your friendshave been talking about going away somewheretogether for a luxurious break. That was nearlyfifteen years ago, but you’ve finally agreed the time is now.unfortunately, over the years, one MEMBER of your grouphas become a fusspot. SHE does nothing but FRET aboutfood and her (seemingly imaginary) ailments. Not onlythis, but she trIEs to persuade you all to follow whichevercrazy diet she’s on. You don’t want to exclude her, buthow can you stop her moaning and fussing from ruiningit for everybody?AJaneAusten’sseasideSanditonmightbetheperfectplaceforyouandyourfriendstogo.It’satragedythatJanediedbeforeshecouldfinishthis novel, and it was typical of her to be working on a novel abouthypochondriacs when her own health was so bad.Jane spent about three monthson it,but then had to abandon it because she was too ill to carry on.During thisperiod, she was at home in Chawton, deep in the Hampshire countryside; I’veoften wondered if she was longing for the sea while she was writing it.Jane was a vigorous person—as well as walking,she loved bathing in the sea:“TheBathingwassodelightfulthismorning&Mollysopressingwithmetoenjoymyself that I believe I staid in rather too long …”*Swimmingintheseawashugelypopular,andpeoplebelievedthatthebracingcold water during the winter months would give the greatest health benefits.206“Theseaairandseabathingtogetherwerenearlyinfallible,oneortheotherofthembeingamatchforeverydisorderofthestomach,thelungsortheblood.Theywere antispasmodic,antipulmonary,antiseptic,antibillious,and antirheumatic.Nobody could catch cold by the sea;nobody wanted appetite by the sea;nobodywanted spirits;nobody wanted strength.”*l e i s u r e & t r av e l207Diana Parker complains:“We have consulted physician after physician in vain, till we are quiteconvinced that they can do nothing for us and that we must trust to ourown knowledge of our own wretched constitutions for any relief.”SANDITON* S,Ch2* Letter to Cassandra,Lyme,September 14th,1804
l e i s u r e & t r av e lYour friend would have felt at home in Sanditon,set on the Sussex coast.ShecouldhavemadefriendswithSusanandDianaParkerandcomparedailmentswiththem.AnAusten vacation would have been to Bath, a spa resort, or the seaside.Choosing somewhere like that should meet everybody’s needs,and your friendwill be in heaven.If other people are being paid to be nice to her and listen to hermoaning,therestofyouwon’thaveto.Thespatreatmentscanfillhertimesothatshe doesn’t drive the rest of you crazy.208butwhereshewon’tbeabletoimposeherstricturesonyou.Ifyoudon’t,itmightbe a bit like dining with the Parker sisters,who worry about the strength of otherpeople’s cocoa,or Mr.Woodhouse,who warns against eating cake.His excessiveconcern for everybody meant that Emma often had to quietly intervene to makesure that people had enough to eat and enough that was nice.BelikeCharlotteandEmma,anddon’tlettheParkersistersorMr.Woodhousetake over.Here is Mr.Woodhouse,looking after his guests:“‘Mrs.Bates,let mepropose your venturing on one of these eggs.An egg boiled very soft is notunwholesome.Serle understands boiling an egg better than anybody.I would notrecommend an egg boiled by anybody else;but you need not be afraid,they arevery small … let Emma help you to a little bit of tart—a very little bit … I do notadvise the custard. Mrs. Goddard, what say you to half a glass of wine?A smallhalf-glass,putintoatumblerofwater?Idonotthinkitcoulddisagreewithyou.’”*YourfriendmaywellbelikeFrankChurchill’saunt,whoseillnessesandfanciesgoverned her family.But if you manage everything in advance,you’ll still be ableto have a lovely time.Who knows,your friend may decide at the last minute thatshe is too ill to come.Be nice to her,however,just in case it turns out there reallyis something wrong …l e i s u r e & t r av e l209* Letter to Cassandra,Bath,June 19th,1799.† S,Ch10 * E,Ch3WhenJanewasinBathandbytheseasideitwasnotprimarilyforherownhealth.HerbrotherEdward’smoreoftengaveconcern:“Edwardhasnotbeenwelltheselasttwodays;hisappetitehasfailedhim,andhehascomplainedofsickanduncomfortablefeelings,which,with other symptoms,make us think of the gout … He made animportantpurchaseyesterday:nolesssothanapairofcoach-horses…”*Janewouldhavelookedonanyimaginaryailmentsinthesamewayasthelevel-headed heroine of Sanditon, Charlotte Heywood. She probably put some of thewords that she wanted to say into Charlotte’s mouth:“As far as I can understandwhat nervous complaints are,I have a great idea of the efficacy of air and exercisefor them—daily, regular exercise—and I should recommend rather more ofit to you than I suspect you are in the habit of taking.”†EmmaWoodhousealsohastofindwaystonavigateotherpeople’shypochondriaandfussiness.Youwillhavetodothesamesothatyourannoyingfriendcan’tdictatewhat you all eat and drink.Make sure you stay somewhere that can cater for her,
l e i s u r e & t r av e lWHAT SHOULD my BOOK CLUB read?QOne thing you never seem to find the time forthese days is reading. As you were a bookwormwhen you were younger, you have decided tostart a club in order to get back to basics and take sometime to improve your mind. But your group is made upof some very different people with very different tastes.So how do you choose which kind of books to read?210sevenparts:—TheCivilandMilitary:Religion:Constitution:LearningandLearnedMen:ArtsandSciences:Commerce,Coins,andShipping:andManners.Sothatforeveryeveningintheweektherewillbeadifferentsubject…”*She suggests that Martha does her part by “repeating the French Grammar.”Sothat’swhatnottodo.Avoidanythingboringandavoidthingsthatwillencouragepeople to be boring.Book clubs are meant to be amusing.l e i s u r e & t r av e l211“I have received a very civil note from Mrs. Martin, requesting my name asa subscriber to her library … As an inducement to subscribe, Mrs. Martintells me that her collection is not to consist only of novels, but of every kindof literature, &c. She might have spared this pretension to our family, whoare great novel-readers and not ashamed of being so …”LETTER TO CASSANDRA, STEVENTON, DECEMBER 18TH, 1798* Letter to Martha Lloyd,Steventon,November 12th,1800.† NA,Ch6AJaneAusten would advise you to steer clear of any dull nonfiction.When she was going to stay with her best friend,Martha,she joked:“You distress me cruelly by your request about books.I cannot thinkofanytobringwithme…Icometoyoutobetalkedto,nottoreadorhearreading;I can do that at home;and indeed I am now laying in a stock of intelligence to pourout on you as my share of the conversation.I am reading Henry’s History of England,whichIwillrepeattoyouinanymanneryoumayprefer,eitherinaloose,desultory,unconnected stream,or dividing my recital,as the historian divides it himself,intoYou should definitely be favoring novels. Catherine Morland and IsabellaThorpe in Northanger Abbey have a love of novels in common. Isabella givesCatherine a list for her delectation—they are all truly“horrid”—they’d be readfor the thrill of being scared:“‘I will read you their names directly;here they are,in my pocketbook.Castle ofWolfenbach,Clermont,MysteriousWarnings,NecromanceroftheBlackForest,MidnightBell,OrphanoftheRhine,andHorridMysteries.Thosewilllast us some time.’”†
l e i s u r e & t r av e lThese were actual novels,and Jane’s earliest readers would have been able toread them and know what the list said about Isabella and her somewhat trashytastes. Jane was an omnivorous reader, but I don’t think she would recommendstartingwithoneofthem.InNorthangerAbbey,sheendorsedCeciliaandCamillabyFrances Burney and Belinda by Maria Edgeworth.EventhetitlePrideandPrejudicewastakenfromthefinalchapterofCecilia:“Yetthis,however,remember:iftoPRIDEANDPREJUDICEyouoweyourmiseries,so wonderfully is good and evil balanced, that to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE youwill also owe their termination.” *When Frances Burney’s Camilla came out in 1796,one of the subscribers was“Miss J.Austen,Steventon.”Subscribing here meant committing to buy a copy—it was more than just preordering on Amazon, but shows the same eageranticipation.MariaEdgeworth’sBelinda(anothernovelthatJaneenjoyed)wasfirstpublished in 1801. It predates the publication of Jane’s firstnovels, although not their composition.The heroine is“handsome,graceful,sprightly,andaccomplished”—sound familiar?AlthoughJanemightrecommendnovelsofherowntime and earlier,she’d say that you should also read thingsthat have just been published.One of the joys of a book club isdiscovering new publications.Book groups are not a new phenomenon.There weregrowing numbers of libraries and reading groups during Jane’stime. Books were expensive, so it made sense to borrow andshare. Jane read widely and from her own experience wouldadvise you to keep an open mind about other people’s choices of212books.While Cassandra was away, shekept her up to date about the doings oftheir own Chawton Book Society:“Wequite run over with books … I amreading a Society octavo, an‘Essay onthe Military Police and Institutions ofthe British Empire’ by Capt. Pasley oftheEngineers,abookwhichIprotestedagainst at first, but which upon trialI find delightfully written and highly entertaining …”*Janepreferredanoctavo-sizebooktoamuchlarger,moreold-fashionedquartoone.†This could be another of your guiding principles—nothing too big.However,Jane wasn’t always as tolerant of her fellow readers as perhaps shecould have been. She looked down her nose at the Steventon and ManydownSociety nearby where the ladies read“those enormous great stupid thick quartovolumes … Capt. Pasley’s book is too good for their Society.They will notunderstand a man who condenses his thoughts into an octavo.” ‡ But she wouldurgeyoutotrytomakeallowancesforsomeofyourmembers:“YourAuntC.doesnot like desultory novels …”Jane told her nieceAnna,who was writing a noveland looking for guidance inAugust 1814. §Yourclub’sfirstchoiceisimportant.YoucouldstartwithNorthangerAbbey.Itiscertainlynotdesultory,andisanovelaboutnovels,soshouldgetyoutalkingaboutreading and please everybody you’d like to keep as a member of your book club.l e i s u r e & t r av e l213* Letter to Cassandra, Chawton, January 24th, 1813.† Book sizes were named according to the number of leaves (double-sided pages) created from the originallarge sheets of paper used during the printing and binding process. A “folio” was very big—the sheet had beencut in half to make just two leaves. A “quarto” was made with leaves that were each a quarter of the originalsheet, while the smaller, handier “octavo” was made by printing and cutting the sheet to make eight leaves.‡ Letter to Cassandra, Chawton, February 9th, 1813. § Letter toAnna Austen, Chawton, August 18th, 1814As the lovelyHenry Tilney puts it:“The person, be it gentlemanor lady, who has not pleasurein a good novel, must beintolerably stupid.”NORTHANGER ABBEY* Burney,F.(2008)