Sunday, October 28, 2012

Keep Calm and Love Jane Austen: A Guest Post by Miss Dashwood

It is with great joy that I now present the first ever guest post on this blog, written by none other than our dear Miss Amy Dashwood!
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"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."  So said the first paragraph on the first page of my paperback copy of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

"Snicker-snort."  So said I.  Er, snicker-snorted I.  Highly unladylike, I know.  But you must remember that this exchange took place when I was but the tender age of fourteen, and not half as grown-up and sophisticated as I am now.  (snicker-snort)

In other words, I was hooked.  Hilariously hooked.  From the very first page--nay, the first sentence.  The hilarity of the narrative, the fascinating characters, the funny and suspenseful situations... I had to pace myself to make the book last and not gobble it all down too quickly.  I carried it around the house and read bits and pieces out loud to the family, cracking up over Mr. Collins and Mr. Bennet.  Who'd-a-thunk early-nineteenth-century literature could be so funny?

I'd picked up Pride and Prejudice at my mom's suggestion.  I think she was tired of hearing me complain about the lack of good books to read (having just finished eighth grade, I was feeling too old for the Juvenile Fiction section at the library but uninterested in the vampires and werewolves roaming the shelves in Young Adult), so at last she said, "Why don't you try Jane Austen?" and the very next day she took me and the gift card left over from my birthday to our nearest Borders.  Whereupon I purchased this volume and took it home to devour.

Mom and I watched the movie soon thereafter, at my begging, and I spoke P&P, breathed P&P and dreamed P&P for weeks.  (It was the 1995 version, of course.  Like that even needs to be said.)

Pride and Prejudice, I was convinced, was the best book in the whole world.  That is, until ninth grade rolled around and Mom assigned me to read Sense and Sensibility and write an essay on it.  So I struck into the first chapter with "The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex," and again I was even more hooked.  This time the slow-moving beginning of the story drew me in and fascinated me.  Call me a nerd, but I love books like that.  Elinor and Marianne touched me in a way that Elizabeth and Jane had not, and I wanted so badly for them to have a happy ending.  (This isn't going to turn into a post about why S&S is my favorite Jane Austen novel, I promise...)  When, of course, they did, I was on cloud nine.  And naturally I followed up S&S-the-book with S&S-the-1995-movie.

And that, I think, was when the obsession began.  I was no longer just a teenaged bookworm who enjoyed old-fashioned stories.  I was a rabid, diehard Janeite.  A family friend introduced me to the Republic of Pemberley, and it was like a light bulb had come on.  There were other fans of Jane Austen out there?  The books weren't simply English assignments that I had happened to love?  Talking about my fondness for Martin Chuzzlewit and The Scarlet Pimpernel had earned me blank looks from friends and acquaintances in the past, so the revelation that there were other people who loved the books I loved was a big deal.  

S&S was followed by Persuasion, then Emma, Mansfield Park and finally Northanger Abbey, the last major novel, in May 2011.  (I firmly believe that Northanger Abbey should be one of the later-read Jane Austen books-- you can truly appreciate her ironic humor therein once you've gotten accustomed to the lighter doses of it in the other novels.)  I watched the 2009 Emma adaptation with my mom and the 1983 version of Mansfield Park with my sister Anne-girl, and though MP 1983 wasn't exactly my cup of tea, Emma got added to the ever-growing list of Favoritest Movies Ever.  (Does anyone else think that someone should have made a Mansfield Park movie in 2003? Then we could abbreviate it as MP3.  Uh... never mind.  'Twasn't that funny.)

It was in April or May of 2010 that I discovered another facet of the Jane Austen-loving world, and that was... drumroll please... the blogging scene.  One day I was innocently searching Google Images for a still from Little Dorrit to use as a computer screensaver, and I came across Elise's blog, Ribbons of Light.  Why, what delight was this?  I knew what a blog was, of course-- a few of my friends had them and even I had a private one (open only to family and close friends) on which I wrote about day-to-day events.  But here was one that seemed mainly devoted to Jane Austen and other period dramas.  How delicious, how delightful!  I became a follower straightaway.

But it was not until October 3rd, 2011 that I acted on a whim and set up a period-drama-related blog for myself.  Jane Austen was the focus, of course--I even chose a pseudonym from my favorite of her books (and for several months, most people reading my blog knew me only as Miss Dashwood).  On that day in 2011, a girl whose blog I had just begun following decided to return the favor and become my very first follower (and leave the very first comment).  In the year that followed, we became the very best of friends, and today it is my honor and privilege to guest post on her blog.  Melody and I are what is commonly known among Anne of Green Gables fans as kindred spirits, and one of the strongest ties that binds us (besides our common bond of sisterhood in Jesus Christ) is our love for the best and most brilliant author ever to grace the English-speaking world.

Jane Austen, I owe you a lot.
You introduced a new world of literature to me.
You inspired me to start a blog of my own.
You inspired me to write a novel.
You brought me a wealth of new friends that I could never have imagined.  
You indirectly introduced me to the best and dearest Nonsensical Girl that ever was, and it's because of you that she and I are such good (nay, swellissimus) friends. 

Thank you, Jane Austen.  If you are a wild Beast, it is not your own fault, and I cannot say I blame you in the least.  If to be a wild Beast is to be delightful and romantical and practically perfect in every way, then I say, let us all be wild Beasts whenever possible.  

And that is the long and rambling story of How I Met Jane Austen.

The End.
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Many thanks for the delightful post, dear Miss Dashwood! I enjoyed reading the full version of how you found Jane Austen. It's always a subject that interests me--if anybody else would like to share theirs in a comment, I'd absolutely love to hear it! (Or if you might like to do a guest post about it as well, do let me know!)

Amy's delightful blog is already linked to up there, but it can't hurt to stick in a blog button, can it? ;-) Thank you again, my dearest dear! 

Yet Another Period Drama Blog

3 comments:

Miss Dashwood said...

Thanks so much for posting this, dearest dear! I had a great deal of fun writing it. :D

Lily of the Valley said...

Why Melody, m'dear, surely you remember that YOU introduced me to Jane Austen! With every book I read of hers, I fall more in love with her and her writing. While the interest was slow in coming, you undoubtedly have cultivated it, such as the case with Emma '09. Haha, to think that I was sure Harriet and Mr. Knightley would marry... the very idea! : )
Amy, thanks for your post. What fun to hear about your first days with Jane Austen! She is indubitably a swellacious authoress. ; )

Emily Coleman said...

I laughed hysterically at the MP3 comment and told my roommate. She didn't think it was very funny...

Thanks for your post, I enjoyed it wholeheartedly.

[Emily: classicsandbeyond.blogspot.com]

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