Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Jane Austen Advice Column

Yesterday for Jane Austen Week at Elegance of Fashion, Miss Bennet presented a new way we can all have part of the fun – by writing advice column letters from a non-Jane Austen character, and have one of the JA characters answer it. I’m actually having two Jane Austen characters answer it; you will see why when you come to it.

(From Esther Summerson of Bleak House by Charles Dickens)
Dear Jane Austen Advise Column,
          Some time ago I met a man whom I came to care very much about; and I believe that he returned my feelings. Although we are unequal in station and – most importantly to his family – birth, we are perfectly equal, and very well matched it seems, in understanding and principle.
          His profession required him to leave and he was not sure when he would return. During his absence I suffered a severe illness which altered my appearance significantly. I never had thought my face would be my fortune, but then I was quite sure of it.
          I have since received an offer of marriage from my guardian, who is perhaps three times my age. Although I could not help acknowledging myself to be in love with the other gentleman in question, the match was impossible; and my guardian is a man I admire and respect very much: he is a true gentleman, and everything that is kind, good, and selfless. I am sincerely attached to him, and I believe that I could come to feel for him as a wife should for her husband.
          Now I come to the point: the other gentleman has returned recently. My altered looks has done nothing to alter his opinion of me, and I fear that he may be deeply attached to me; and although I cannot help desiring his company, I am afraid of a declaration, perhaps a proposal—my heart tells me so, although my rationality insists that I should not expect it.
          What should I do if it were to happen? Any way I turn I will be hurting somebody I love – and either way might regret my decision – but I am determined that I should not go back on my promise. Please do advise me as to the best course of action.
                                                                                  Thank you,
                                                                                   Esther


(The answers are from the two oldest Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility. I meant them to have been written before Marianne finds out about Willoughby, but after Elinor finds out about Edward.)

Dear Esther,
          It is impossible for me to advise you without first admonishing you. What can you have been thinking of, accepting the proposal of a man you do not love, and one who is more than old enough to be your father? It is too ridiculous! At such a time of life, I should think it impossible for him to really be in love with you; he must have outlived every sensation of the kind. The marriage would be only a compact of convenience, and in my eyes that is no marriage at all.
          Now, as to what you should do. Leave rationality behind in matters of romance, and let your heart guide you! You must not make the choice of a marriage that will make you unhappy for the rest of your life, as it will without question. If the old gentleman is as selfless as you say, he will understand when you tell him you have thought the better of the engagement. If he does care about you, he will not wish to bring you into an unhappy marriage.
          The man you love has shewn true constancy, and I honour him for it. If he proposes to you, as I am convinced he will, you must accept; there is nothing else to be done, if you really love him!
                                                                             Yours &c.,
                                                                                Marianne

Dear Esther,
          Let me first say how sorry I am that you find yourself in such a painful situation, and that I understand it better than I would like to. Such unexpected things happen in life, and we can do nothing to prevent them; we can only respond to them with prudence.
          I think you are right to keep your promise to your guardian. Although it will cause pain to both you and the other gentleman, keeping one’s word is always the right thing to do. It seems to me that you and I would think alike on many matters; you are probably already trying to gently discourage his interest in you.
          I am sure this gentleman will honour you for doing the right thing and keeping your promise, even when your heart is trying to lead you otherwise.
         Such gentlemen as your guardian are not common, and since you do respect and care for him, I think that you will by no means be unhappy.                                            
          I hope everything will end as well for you all as it possibly can.
                                                                  Sincerely,
                                                                      Elinor

9 comments:

Charity U said...

Ah, love it! Though I'm not familiar with the story of Esther's situation, I did find the responses very fun. :) I was expecting Elinor to reply first, but it didn't take me long to be sure that she would never say "I should think it impossible for him to really be in love with you; he must of outlived every sensation of the kind." Oh Marianne. lol!

Jessica said...

Very good. I enjoyed that. ;-) Nice selection of pictures, too.

Melody said...

Charity,
I'm glad you liked it. You should watch Bleak House! ;-) When I wrote Esther's letter I kept in mind that quite a few people wouldn't have seen/read BH.
Marianne is funny...I actually took most of the things she said in the first paragraph from the book. ;-)

Jessica,
Why thank you my dear!

OldFashionedCharm said...

Melody these letter are wonderful! I really like that you chose Esther, she's such a wonderful character! Marianne's letter made me laugh, it's so like her pre-sickness! Poor Elinor, this letter was so like her and yet it had such a melancholic tone that it almost made me want to cry for her! You did such a wonderful job!

~Miss Laurie :)

Melody said...

Miss Laurie,
You always know how to make people smile! =) Me, at least. Thank you very much.

Miss Elizabeth Bennet said...

Would you mind if I linked to this post for the conclusion of Jane Austen Week?

Mel said...

I love that you answered it from both the sisters. It was so like them, I loved it!
Elinor's response was so touching and alike Miss Laurie it made me almost want to cry for her!

Mel

Melody said...

Miss Lizzy,
That would be fine. Sorry I wasn't able to answer sooner!

Missie,
Thank you!! :)

Miss Dashwood said...

These are excellent letters, m'dear, but my inane comment is about just one line--

"Leave rationality behind in matters of romance, and let your heart guide you!" Bwahahahahaha. Marianne sounds just like a Disney princess. :P

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