My life has been all about Jane Austen these last few weeks. I won tickets to the production of Pride and Prejudice at the IU Theatre. It was an exceptional performance, and it rekindled my interest in All Things Jane.
I discovered a few movie adaptations that I had somehow missed in recent years; I had to go back and read the corresponding novels so that I could grouse about how much they deviated from the books. I’ve decided that anyone wanting to make a film of any of Jane’s works should be required to gain the blessing of the Jane Austen Society or maybe a majority vote from the netizens of The Republic of Pemberly website.
(Lest you think Janites are lacking in sense of humor, I should mention that the Jane Austen Festival of Louisville wanted to break the Guinness World Record for “Largest gathering of people dressed in Regency costumes.” The fact that this even exists as a category makes me so happy. And I will also direct you to search YouTube for the “Jane Austen Fight Club.”)
Next, I had opera tickets and had to issue 30 invites before finding someone to accompany me. I was discouraged by this, but in talking it over with someone who has a “glass is half full” mentality, she expressed her admiration that I knew 30 people to ask in the first place.
I ended up going with a friend of a friend whom I didn’t really know; he had asked me to go see Pride and Prejudice with him. I said I wouldn’t mind seeing it again but the only day he was available, I was not. I thought asking him to the opera would be a nice consolation prize for the play not working out, not to mention that I really needed someone to go.
I was pleasantly surprised. The whole evening reminded me of something out of one of Jane’s novels. There was a nice exchange of conversation, with each of us making an effort to be agreeable. The fact that he is a man who reads—and likes—Jane Austen was a bonus. (The opera itself was a little too strange and modern though.)
There’s more. The following Saturday I went to an evening of 19th century contra dances. Contra dance is the modern evolution of the English country dances that were done in the Regency period and before. This group doesn’t often do historic dances as they are not as lively as the modern versions so some dancers complain that they are boring.
Today we sit in front of computers all day so when we go to a dance we want to move. But back in the day, a dance was the only opportunity to interact with the opposite sex, so they didn’t mind some standing around. (It could be argued that young people today also don’t socialize with the opposite sex, as a result of being glued to electronic devices.)
I noticed that throughout the course of the evening I focused more on people than on dancing. I had delightful conversations, and discussed opportunities for reenactments with historical costumes and dancing. I had dressed up a bit more than usual since I knew I wasn’t coming for a workout, and I found this led to a more genteel and graceful style of dancing. Having a couple of guys in tailcoats added to the effect.
I’ve decided our world would be a better place, and we would be better people, if we incorporated a little more Jane into our daily lives. I’m not suggesting that we recreate Regency society as there were plenty of things that need to be left in the past. But we have the benefit of hindsight to pick and choose what is beneficial and helpful.
I think I’m going to start peppering my speech with Janeisms. Instead of “whatever” I could respond with “It does not signify.” Rather than being “totally annoyed” I would be “greatly vexed,” and in place of a smiley face emoticon, I could respond with “I am excessively diverted.”
I wonder if Jane were alive today, if she would like me. I sure hope so. I think we’d have a lot in common to talk about and many activities we could share. But she would probably be confused by my penchant for yoga pants and flip flops
I think the reason her novels are still so popular today is the timelessness of her characters. We all know people like the ones she has created. She describes them so well, and the things they say are so believable that we can relate them to our family, neighbors, colleagues, and friends.
What would Jane say if asked about her current popularity—the vast number of movies, sequel novels, mysteries, biographies, and parodies? I think you’d get a text stating simply: LOL! 🙂