The story of my friendship with Jane Austen began with my parents who went to see Emma Thompson's adaptation of Sense and Sensibility in the cinema (I think it was for their anniversary) in 1995. They came home saying they loved the story and acting and both couldn't help shedding a few tears! As soon as the film came out on VHS they bought it and let me watch it. I remember even the, being nine years of age, I was captivated by the costumes, music and manners (even though I had a hard time following the storyline).
This first glimpse into the world of Jane Austen was closely followed by seeing the Pride & Prejudice miniseries on the A&E channel. More film adaptations were watched: Persuasion 1995, Pride & Prejudice 1980, Northanger Abbey 1987 and Mansfield Park 1983. You see my parents were enjoying Jane Austen's stories and didn't mind sharing these gentle tales of life and love with their pre-teen daughter.
I have always loved listening to radio shows and audio books, so when I found a cassette tape at a second hand shop that was part two of a four part BBC radio drama based on Emma I was quite excited. I listened to that tape over and over again memorized most of the lines and longed to know who Emma would eventually marry poor Harriet Smith off to! Imagine my delight when my mama bought Emma 1996 (the Kate Beckinsale version) and I finally was able to see the whole story played out before my eyes! I remember being so surprised that Mr. Knightley would end up the hero of the story!
I remember when I was about 14 my mother had paperback books of three Jane Austen novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey. How I longed to be able to read such "deep" novels like she could and even tried reading the first chapter of Northanger Abbey but without much success.
For my fifteenth birthday there was only one present I requested: an audio book of Northanger Abbey which I'd seen in a bookstore. My father was out of work at the time and it was rather pricey but I was so excited when my parents bought it for me. I listened to actress Anna Massey pronouncing every line of Jane Austen's delightful novel imagining that the authoress herself was reading to me. I listened to those cassette tapes so many times that I was able to quote great sections of them. I delighted in Catherine's adventures, laughed at John Thorpe, wanted to be friends with Eleanor Tilney and fell in love with Henry Tilney! I'm pretty sure this is why, silly as it may be, Northanger Abbey is still my favorite of Miss Austen's novels!
In high school my dad was my teacher and seeing my love for Jane Austen he included Persuasion and Sense & Sensibility as required reading for my English literature class. In reading the novels before I did, my dad discovered his own favorite Austen novel is Persuasion, and he continues to tell me of it's merits (especially this week as he's watched all 3 film adaptations and decided he really needed to re-read the book!). I'm very blessed to have parents who have cultivated a love of reading in me, especially of the classics, and who enjoy Jane Austen's works almost as much as I do!
As a teenager who much preferred watching a Jane Austen adaptation with my mom than hanging out at a shopping mall with friends I mainly kept my love for Jane to myself. I remember once telling a couple of my friends about Jane and her novels but they certainly didn't "get it" so I didn't mention the subject again. I can still remember when I started searching Jane Austen on the internet and the sheer delight when I found websites such as The Republic of Pemberley, Austenblog, Tilneys and Trap-doors and The Emma Adaptation Pages where I discovered that other people love Jane as much as I do! I beamed as I read that the official title for a Jane Austen fan was "Janeite" and that these groups of online Janeites not only shared my passions but were crazier than I was! They had museums, conventions, Regency balls, wrote biographies and sequels and seemed to dissect every adaptation comparing them against the novels. I definitely felt right at home!
One of my favorite Jane Austen related memories is from December 2005 when the then new Pride & Prejudice adaptation was released. I had eaten up every tidbit of casting & filming news and watched every trailer and clip available online, so I was very disappointed when I found out there were no cinemas in my state that were showing the film! On one snow Saturday my family had set out to do some Christmas shopping. Pride & Prejudice and Jane Austen were the furthest things from my mind as we entered a tiny strip mall and stopped in a couple stores. My parents directed our steps to the very back of the mall where a small independent cinema was housed. I remember very clearly stepping down a few steps to the lower landing and looking up to find a HUGE film poster featuring Lizzie and Darcy hanging on the wall in front of me! Before I knew it, with popcorn in hand, I was in a darkened theater with my family enjoying every moment of P&P goodness! I didn't care that it didn't follow the book very closely or that Keira Knightley is far from my idea of Elizabeth Bennet - it was just me and Jane Austen and tears sprung to my eyes as I saw her name appear up on the screen!
There are so many memories! Darling Jane Austen has become so much a part of my life. I love her world, especially the customs and manners of her day. When I see my girl friends I still have the desire to squeeze their hands in both of mine and give them a peck on both cheeks. Or when I meet a new acquaintance I sometimes have an overwhelming desire to drop a curtsy instead of shaking hands. And I do often enjoy taking my father's or brother's arm as I enter (or exit) a store or church building.
Most importantly Jane's stories have helped form my ideas of true love and friendship and she's even taught me how to spot a rogue a mile away! I am patiently waiting for my very own hero, whose image has been shaped by the Austen heroes.
I long for...A man who is generous and a true gentleman like Mr. Knightley. A man who deals fairly and treats his sister (and other female family members) with respect like Mr. Darcy. A man who is brave, constant and has a way with words like Captain Wentworth. A man who becomes my best friend and sticks to his faith and morals like Edmund Bertram. An honorable man who always does the right thing like Edward Ferrars. A man who is patient, strong and tender like Colonel Brandon. And a man who is handsome, witty and a good judge of character and muslins like dear Henry Tilney! And of course a secret wish that my guy will enjoy Jane Austen as well. I'm asking for a lot but I know my Lord has good plans for those who trust in Him!
Meanwhile this blog is my main way to express my love for everything period and Jane Austen. Thank you, my readers for enduring these rambling memories, celebrating The Authoress's birthday and enjoying everything Jane Austen with me!
Now it's your turn, tell me: how you first were introduced to Jane Austen, which novel you read first, and which film adaptation you like the most. I want to hear your memories of Jane!
Very Truly Your's,