01 02 03 400 Things: A Letter to Jane Austen 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

A Letter to Jane Austen


Dear Jane,

It is with great pleasure that I write to express my sincere thanks for the works on which you so tirelessly labored. The characters and plots are so infinitely superior to the majority of novels with which I am acquainted, and have provided untold hours of enjoyment to myself.

After repeatedly indulging in all of your works (and having finally declared Pride and Prejudice to be my absolute favorite) I have determined that there remain multiple unanswered questions. Would you be so kind as to indulge my curiosity?

Since I am less educated in the ways of 19th century England than I am with 21st century America (and I wonder if you are surprised to find that we endured), I find it intriguing that people were so educated on the wealth and worth of their associates. How did this knowledge come to be so public? We do not discuss our worth today, unless we have obtained the honor of being noticed by a man called Forbes and subsequently named in his illustrious lists. According to the etiquette of today, of which I am sure Americans are in possession of a superior form, this information would be considered gossip.

Another issue that has greatly puzzled me is the calling of the clergy in your time. I am only accustomed to the idea of a true conviction to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, and following that conviction into the ministry of the church. It seems apparent that in your time, the office of the clergy was a position of rank, the attainment of which was to be desired most eagerly. I wonder how a man could truly share the love of God and the message of Grace if he was not intimately familiar with these subjects.

From my reading of other works, I am aware that the Church of England operates quite differently from the smaller denominations in America, which might explain this phenomenon. However, it is with strong conviction that I question the ability of a rogue such as Mr. Wickham to shepherd a flock, and I doubt Mr. Collins’ ability to worship anyone other than Lady Catherine DeBourgh.

One aspect of your books that I desire to observe more of today is a true race of gentlemen. The examples provided by Mr. Knightly and Colonel Brandon are truly of a sort that must be held as the goal of every young lady today. I believe myself to be most truthful in stating that the most sought after men of our time would be greatly abhorrent to you. Do you think, perhaps, that attire affects manners? My observance would convince me that there is a possible relation.

Mr. Knightly in Emma

Alas! I grieve for the young ladies today who have so lowered their standards of what is desirable in a young man.

Concerning gentlemen, I cannot thank you enough for the examples of Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightly, and Colonel Brandon. Even Edmund Bertram is a good sort, although he seemed somewhat slow in his realization of where his destiny was to lie. Mr. Darcy grew on me as he did Elizabeth, and upon conclusion of Pride and Prejudice I found myself ecstatically expressing my best wishes for his and Elizabeth’s every happiness. He most graciously redeemed himself. Could you have imagined with what perfect representation our modern movie industry could portray him? Your Mr. Darcy has become the standard to which so many men today must attain, as a hopeless romantic and a sincere gentleman.

Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice
 Who else could, immediately following the most violent refusal of a marriage proposal, still wish his intended the "best wishes for her health and happiness?" 

Ah, but my favorite of all your works is the last chapter of Mansfield Park. The manner in which Fanny Price is justified in her consistency, her morals, and her unwavering loyalty is so pleasing! The admission of Sir Thomas’ shortcomings as a father, the unintentional vindication of Fanny’s sufferings on the part of Mrs. Norris, the consequences of Maria Bertram’s and Henry Crawford’s unseemly behavior, and the salvation of Tom Bertram’s character are such a complete and pleasing conclusion to a wonderful tale.

Let me close by saying how grateful I am for your ability to provide such remarkable entertainment. The books you have written have increased in popularity over the last 200 years and show no signs of abatement. It is the mark of a true writer that she leaves her readers desiring more. Oh! if only you had retained good health and lived to supply us with more outstanding novels!

I have determined that your characters are not in vain. May I be a mother who is the opposite of Mrs. Bennett, raise daughters as desirable as Jane Bennett, raise sons as kind as Edmund Bertram, and never have the haughtiness of Catherine Bingley or Mrs. Norris. 

Please accept my best wishes on your eternal rest.

Yours, etc. 

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