So today is the birthday of Jane Austen. I didn’t know this until I heard it mentioned on the classical radio station I sometimes listen to on my commute. As an English teacher and a serious Janeite, I felt a bit sheepish that such an anniversary almost passed unnoticed on this blog. I resolved, as I turned my car into the school parking lot, that I would celebrate Jane in a little blog post.
I also started to think about what the world would be like now if Mrs. Austen had not given birth to that baby girl in December of 1775. (How very “It’s a A Wonderful Life” of me, no?) And I have to say, I was as displeased with the thought as George Bailey was when he discovered his wife as a sad, lonely librarian and met with surly, mean old Nick behind the bar. A world without Jane? What would it be like?
For one thing, there would be no beloved characters like Emma or Elizabeth Bennet. And a world without Mr. Darcy? Can you imagine? Who would legions of young women swoon over?
We’d also lack some fabulous plots, twisty and turny and full of surprises. Every time I read an Austen book, even though I know how it turns out in the end, I’m always amazed by the delightfully labyrinthian route that Jane takes to get us there.
Without Jane, the world would lack some fabulous whip-smart dialogue. I love how the people in Austen novels express themselves with such delicacy, grace, and pithiness. It makes me feel like some big ungainly verbal bear in comparison.
But most of all, we wouldn’t have six fabulous novels to affirm that intelligent, authentic, kind women really do win in the end. I can’t tell you how much comfort that thought has given me over the years, particularly when I was single.
And so I wish a very happy birthday to Miss Jane Austen. Thank you for making life just that much more wonderful.