Sunday, December 16, 2012

How I Met Jane Austen - JABA

Old-Fashioned Charm
I can't quite place when it was that I first heard the name "Jane Austen". Perhaps it was when I was nine-years-old and my parents first brought home a VHS copy of Sense & Sensibility (1995) - and that's why the name Emma Thompson was was often synonymous in my mind with Jane Austen. Perhaps it was at age ten after watching the BBC's Pride & Prejudice (1980) with my mom late at night or at age twelve while watching Pride & Prejudice (1995) on A&E with my family. Whenever it was that I first heard The Authoress's name it was quite a while before even I picked up one of her books.

Sense & Sensibility (1995)
My Austen Introduction: Yes, I am one of that great number of Janeites who was first introduced to the works of Jane Austen through the film adaptations of her books. It really all started with my parents who went to see Sense & Sensibility (1995) in cinemas for their anniversary and then quickly snatched up a VHS copy when it went to video. I was nine years old when I first watched Emma Thompson's adaptation come to life and though I didn't understand the story (or even all of what the characters were saying) I did love the costumes, houses and carriages and since my parents were laughing and crying over it I knew one day I would to! Not too long after that I remember my parents finding other Jane Austen adaptations such as P&P 1980, P&P 1995 and Emma 1997 (A&E) all of those becoming instant favorites with them and classics to be watched over and over.

Pride & Prejudice (1980)
My Interest Grew: Shortly after seeing some film adaptations, my mom started reading some of the novels. I remember lovely paperback copies of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey lying around the house and me desperately wanting to know what wonders those books contained. But my mom told me then that the style of writing was sometimes as difficult for her to understand as Shakespeare! I tried reading Northanger Abbey once when I was thirteen years old but didn't quite make it past the first chapter.

Emma (1997, A&E)
And Grew...: From age 12-13 I not only watched several Austen adaptations but I also found a cassette tape that was part of a BBC Radio Play of Emma. I listened to that tape over and over again loving every bit of the fragment of that story and pondering how the story might end. I remember how much it was like a mystery solved when I watched Emma 1997 (A&E) for the first time and found out which couples actually end up together! Later I was given the complete set of that Emma Radio Play and I enjoyed listening to the story in it's entirety.

Mansfield Park (1983)
And Grew!: When I was nearing age fourteen my family made friends with a young lady who owned several Jane Austen film adaptations which I begged to borrow from her. My family and I watched the whole of P&P 1995 in almost one day. We also devoured other films such as Mansfield Park 1983, Persuasion 1995, Mansfield Park 1999 and we even endured watching Northanger Abbey 1987, even though our friend had warned that it wasn't very good.

C.E. Brock Illustration
Reading My First Austen Novel: For my fifteenth birthday I had one wish: an unabridged audio book of Northanger Abbey. Those six cassette tapes were my prized possession! To me actress Anna Massey who read the book sounded like the voice of Jane Austen herself reading the tale to me. Catherine Morland was not too much older than me and I loved her sweetness and her adventures. John and Isabella Thorpe were vexing but still entertaining. Eleanor Tilney was the most elegant lady and the kindest friend to Catherine. And at fifteen I fell head-over-heals for Henry Tilney with his lively wit, good sense and gentlemanly manners! As soon as I'd finished listening to it once I would start listening all over again, immersing myself in the language and culture of Regency England.

Persuasion (1995)
Reading More Austen: When I started high school my father was my teacher and his love for English literature inspired me to read. He put Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility on my reading list for my sophomore year and I loved it! My dad read the books before I did and in doing so he discovered his own favorite Austen book is Persuasion (my parents met in the Navy and love the story of constant love, they are also big fans of Persuasion 1995).

From Pinterest
Discovering Other Fans: After reading my first Austen novels I was hooked and wanted to know more about The Authoress behind the books. On an internet search of Jane Austen, to my surprise I found site after site dedicated to information about her life, novels and the film adaptations of her books. One of my favorites of the fans out there was Margaret Sullivan "Mags" who not only penned the amazing Austenblog but also had put together Tilneys and Trap-doors a site dedicated to my beloved Northanger Abbey and The Cult of Da Man about my favorite hero Henry Tilney! Because these folks all know so much more about Jane Austen than I did I spent countless ours eating up tons of information and reading other people's opinions but didn't reach out and comment at all.

Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Beginning To Reach Out To Fellow Janeites: In 2005 my father, a computer programmer, asked me if I'd like to have a webpage of my own dedicated to Persuasion and all things Jane Austen so that is when my website was born. It's been neglected for a while but there is a great deal of information there that I still use myself. When news that Pride & Prejudice (2005) was being made I hung on every piece of news and watched the trailers and clips hundreds of times. Seeing the film in a local cinema was a surprise Christmas gift from my parents and, even though it is one of my least favorite Austen adaptations now, the memory of sitting in a darkened cinema and tears springing to my eyes at the mere sight of "Jane Austen" on the huge screen is one that I will always cherish. The three 2007 ITV adaptations brought even more interest and tons of news which I kept up with on a daily basis at my website Austen Efforts (now converted into a new blog version). By this point I had read Pride and Prejudice, Emma, all of Jane's Juvenilia and short works and called myself a devoted Janeite!

Old-Fashioned Charm

Blogging About Jane: Up to this point I had tried to introduce a few of my friends to Jane Austen but had no one in my real life, besides my parents, who really understood my obsession. September 4, 2008 I began a wild journey by starting up this blog, Old-Fashioned Charm, with the idea in mind that I would post about everything old-fashioned but especially about Jane Austen. I started meeting other Janeites who had similar stories to mine, young ladies who loved Jane's books with a passion and also enjoyed discussing the film adaptations and other period dramas. 

Jane Austen Festival 2012
Recent Jane Austen Adventures: In the last four years of blogging I've had numerous opportunities in recent years to be interviewed, receive a few comments actors in Jane Austen adaptations (or even their parents!), get recognition from some of the Austen expects I admire and learn so much. My cherished memory of this summer is attending the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, KY for my birthday. It was exhilarating just being around so many other Janeites with all the events and conversations having to do with Jane and her Regency era! 
Between last year and this year I've also read Mansfield Park from cover to cover for the first time (I'd listed to abridged audio books before) and had so much fun discussing the book with my dear friend Melody. The greatest thing about OFC for me is getting to me and befriend so many amazing people and hear their stories of how they met Jane. 

How Has Jane Austen Influenced My Life? Reading, listening, watching Jane Austen and writing about her has influenced almost every aspect of my life. Her novels are very entertaining but I believe they have also influenced, for the better, how I think and how I view the world. My ideas of friendship and romance have certainly been influenced by stories. I've learned from the heroine's mistakes and successes, been encouraged to emulate their virtues and avoid their faults.
Thank dearest Jane!

To conclude this rambling post I'd like to echo my favorite words about The Authoress:
"Jane lies in Winchester -- blessed be her shade! 
Praise the Lord for making her, and her for all she made! 
And while the stones of Winchester, or Milsom Street, remain, 
Glory, love, and honor unto England's Jane! " 
- Rudyard Kipling, Epigraph to "The Janeites"

What about you? How did you meet Jane Austen?
Did you start with her books or the films?
How has Jane Austen influenced your life?

1 comment:

Miss Elizabeth Bennet said...

Loved reading this post! I have the same problem of not finding people who didn't understand my Jane Austen obsession (other than my mom). That's one of the reasons I love blogging so much: I get to meet such lovely friends who understand it hehe! I'm very glad I decided to start blogging and "meet" so many people. I'm very glad to count you as one of my friends, Miss Laurie! :-)

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