Sunday, December 16, 2012

How I Met Jane Austen: The Complete Story

Happy Jane Austen Day! Don't you think it should be an international holiday? What fun it would be!

But us Janeites always have fun with it in our own right. In honour of the day and as a part of the Jane Austen Birthday Assembly, today I am going to talk about my acquaintance with Jane Austen, from A to Z, as it were. I've told it in bits and pieces before, you see, but here is the whole story.

The first time I actually remember hearing the name Jane Austen was when I was twelve or thirteen. I was at church on a Wednesday night, with the Jr. High group. I was sitting next to a girl I didn't know very well (still don't, in point of fact), but to make conversation I brought up the subject of books. She said she was reading Pride and Prejudice. Okay, that sounded sort of familiar... there was some tape in the video cabinet with that written on it. (By the bye, this girl was not a Janeite, she was just reading P&P. I know this because she made some remark about it being boring... but she sort of liked it... or something like that. :P) Then she said it was written by Jane Austen. That sounded familiar too, sort of...

But I didn't know who Jane Austen was.

In fact, I thought of some other author, and said "Oh yeah, I think my mom likes her."

Silly little girl. The author I was thinking of had nothing to do with Jane Austen (well, if you get down to technicalities JA is one of that author's favorite authors and she's sometimes mentioned in her books, although of course I had no idea of anything of that sort at the time); she's just a current Christian author and her name barely had a similarity. I was just confused. But I had heard the name before, probably because both my older sisters (and my mom occasionally) read and watched Jane Austen. Both my sisters are quite a bit older than me, though, so by the time I was old enough to enjoy Jane Austen, they'd both been out of the house for some time.

I later remembered the name of the author I was thinking of and felt pretty stupid, but that girl wouldn't know the difference so... whatever. It's too bad I hadn't gone and tried to find out who Jane Austen was, but of course I didn't. 

Between this and the time It Happened, I have a couple memories of coming across things about Jane Austen when it was no more than a name of some old author. Like the Jane Austen Season in 2007, when the BBC adaptations of all six novels and Miss Austen Regrets were played on TV. I remember my second-oldest sister calling to tell Mom that there was going to be some movie about Jane Austen's life playing on TV, and I furthermore remember Mom watching some of it, but I don't think she watched the whole thing... and I was doing something else, anyway. I also remember her watching some of Northanger Abbey (back during the same time, I think) because I remembered a girl saying perhaps she did not keep a journal, and then shortly afterwards it showed her writing in one and then blowing out the candle with a puff.

I don't know what was wrong with me, not caring about what these movies were... haha.

It wasn't until I was fourteen that It Happened. The sister I was just talking about asked me if I'd ever seen Sense and Sensibility, one of her favorite movies.

No. I had not.

This, apparently, was a very shocking thing. "You haven't? Really? Oh! Well, you should watch it with me, then." That was fine with me. I liked watching things with her and we enjoy a lot of the same movies.

I was well set-up to like it, because I'd loved old-fashioned movies (as well as books) ever since I could remember. Anne of Green Gables was my very favorite movie; I also loved things like A Little Princes, The Secret Garden, Heidi, and others. It was before I was really introduced to the world of period drama, though, and I had no idea what wonderful things were out there.

And I remember my sister telling me that Marianne's
hair looked nothing like that in the movie...
So, before long we got together for a sleepover, I believe, and watched the 1995 version of S&S. And I loved it. (Thank you for pointing that out, my dear.) I liked it so much that either the next day or the next time I saw her (it's all fuzzy in my memory) I asked if I could borrow it so I could watch it again. Well, she had the VHS from years gone by and the DVD from more recent years, and was planning to give me the VHS for my birthday, but that was a while off so instead of lending me the DVD she just gave me the VHS. (Which I still have and use.) I take it I must have watched it again and loved it even more... like I said, I can't quite remember.

Because after that everything is a blur. I remember fishing that old video of P&P out of the video cabinet, but unfortunately it was not the Real one. It was the one from 1940 which we'd taped from TV long ago. I watched it anyway, and though I liked it... ha, well, if you've seen it you know what I mean. It isn't Jane Austen. My sister, however, said I should watch the better one, so I put a hold on some random copy from the library.

By some magic, it was the right one. Actually, after I'd started watching it I called my sister to make sure it was the right one, and the one she liked was the... *tries to breathe* 2005 one. Yes. My own sister. Who INTRODUCED me to JANE AUSTEN likes the 2005 version better! It is the most shocking, horrifying--okay, shutting up. She says it's probably just because she's seen the 1995 one so many times... for my own part, it can't be seen too many times. End of story. (My oldest sister, by the way, later told me that that was the good version and that she didn't like the other one. Yay.)

But anyway, I think the reason I called to make sure it was the right one was because before...  well, it's a long story, but that reminds me that I saw Emma first. At this point the 2009 version hadn't come out yet, so my sister showed me the A&E one with Kate Beckinsale. I liked it, but I couldn't hear half of it because her children were making too much noise. So unfortunately I found out the ending without being involved in the story first, which is a shame, but I'm not here to gripe about that... 

Back to P&P. My sister at least said that that version was fine to watch (we're careful about movies around here, and as it isn't rated or anything...) so I did watch it. And I ADORED it. I remember having to go to bed when I wanted to be watching more... I remember going on a short excursion to pick something up with my mom right after the part about Lydia's elopement... and I remember the ending. And the blissfully happy feeling it gave me. That, I think, may very well be when I became a real Jane Austen fan. There was no getting out of it now. I was, as they say, hooked. 

Somehow the 1940 version hadn't spoiled the story for me, but I was curious to know whether Lady Catherine was really mean, or not? (Heh, heh, yes. Very limited knowledge.) Because in the 1940 version they make her Nicer, and when she comes to Confront Lizzy it is only to try to ascertain how she feels about Mr. Darcy. :P Well, well, it was all cleared up soon enough. I got some of the books from the library and started reading them, although unfortunately I just ended up poking through them... just the three I'd been introduced to so far, I think. I started discussing Jane Austen movies and books with family and friends and acquaintances... I remember originally thinking that P&P was 2 and a half hours long, if you can imagine that! But it was because the thing I got from the library used the insert for just one disc when both of them were inside, and when you get the DVD set there are two cases and each one says it's 150 minutes. I'm not as stupid as it seems. :P 

Meanwhile I was exploring other adaptations; I remember seeing the other 1996 Emma... later in the year we went to visit my oldest sister when she was having a baby. I re-watched several of the ones I'd already seen; also saw a bit of the 1981 version of S&S (hahaha...) and was introduced to Persuasion for the first time, because she got the 2007 version from the library, and we (along with a few other people who were over) watched that. I don't know why I hadn't seen a Persuasion before... I think it was because I was trying to save the other movies for after I read the books.  Ha! That didn't happen. 

Shortly after that, I became acquainted with a young lady who knew a lot more about Jane Austen than I did. (She doesn't anymore, though. Muwahahaha.) She lent me Jane Austen-themed books and we discussed the topic a lot. I found out at the beginning that she preferred the 1995 version of P&P, so I knew I liked her. She was like a fount of knowledge and resources there for a while. She'd even been to England and visited Chawton Cottage and all that!

When Emma (2009) aired for the first time in early 2010, my mom and I watched it. She'd read the book and said it was a lot like it, and I did like it but--ha!--I still wasn't sure I preferred Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller to Kate Beckinsale and Jeremy Northam. (I mixed the two as being the best in each role, you see.) Don't worry, I became fully convinced in time. I seemed to progressively like the 2009 version better the more I saw it and now I almost think it's as good as P&P95... which is saying a lot. 

Persuasion (2007) also played, so I recorded it... so did Northanger Abbey (2007), which I recorded and watched with Mom later, fast-forwarding some scenes. I wasn't going to learn to love that story until I read the book.  Then, because Mansfield Park was the only story left I didn't know about... I gave in. I wanted to read P&P and other stories before that one, so if I waited then I wouldn't know about the story for ages and ages and it was just horrible. Heehee. So I inquired around and watched the 1983 version, since it was reputedly the only one that follows the book. (I agree.) 

I finally completed my first Jane Austen novel in the summer of 2010, which was Pride and Prejudice. I'd read about 2/3 of it before, and finally finished it. I DID like it, a very great deal. And I was always wanting the movies to be like the books, even though I hadn't read them all the way through. What really got me settled down into reading the novels was... duh-duhn-duhhhhn... blogging.

My original header
My oldest sister was here for Christmas in 2010, and sometime before that I'd discovered Jane Austen Today, which I greatly enjoyed reading. It's what inspired me to begin my blog. Originally Regency Delight was going to be a "magazine"  I would write just for fun, and maybe give to a few people, so I had ideas of what to write about... then somehow this morphed into wanting to make a blog. My sister was good with convincing my mom that I could have a blog about Jane Austen without a bunch of creepy people finding me.

I thought I knew SO much about Jane Austen at that point. And I did know quite a bit... but not nearly as much as I do now. For one thing, I still said "Knightly". UGH. I can't believe I ever did that, but if you look at very early comments I made, I did. And also I see it, and things like it, in some of my old writings in notebooks and whatnot. (And every time I do I seize a pencil and squeeze an E in there.) Well, I found out soon enough about that. ;) But anyways, what I did at the beginning of blogging was take a story, talk about the book, watch all the movies, write about them, and do a few other posts in connection with that story. (You can see a list of those here.) I'd already read P&P, so I started with that. Then S&S, which I'd finished by the time my P&P posts were over. Then Emma, and then Mansfield Park, because that was the story I felt I knew the least about. Then Persuasion, and finally Northanger Abbey. I was glad I read it last, because by that time I could truly grasp the irony in it. I knew somewhat about the stories it was a parody of, and was accustomed to Jane Austen's wit. 

All six novels were now read, and I could finally call myself a Janeite without feeling guilty. 

Speaking of Janeites, I knew there were a lot out there, but when I started blogging I was amazed by how many girls there were who were like... me. In so many ways. It was very delightful. It was finally a place to talk on and on and on about Jane Austen without feeling like I'm annoying people... I also learned a lot more about classic literature and period drama. Now, during all the Jane Austen Craze, Sister 2 also introduced me to several other period dramas, and blogging cultivated that, too. Nowadays I'm always on the lookout for a period drama I haven't seen that doesn't have objectionable content. 

Anyways. Though I can't quite be in the same Crazy Find Out More About This Wonderful Thing Called Jane Austen mode that I was in for some time, I've never wavered from my devotion. I daresay it's stronger now. Some of my friends even consider me to be the biggest fan you could ever meet. Well, I know there are bigger fans than me... but I don't really mind being thought of that way. I sort of have a reputation for it. People to whom I've never talked about it just know that I'm a Jane Austen fan, and say something about it. (One girl I met didn't even have to say anything-- she had a Kindle, which I was for some reason curious to see even though I wouldn't even want to own one, and she merely went to her list of Jane Austen books before handing it to me. I was quite amused.)

Jane Austen opened up a whole new world to me. I believe her stories somehow helped me to not clutch at the past so much... see, I've always been a nostalgic sort of person... I wanted to stay a little girl for longer, I didn't want anything to chaaaaaaaange.

I'm sort of still the same way about the change, but a lot less than I used to be. Now, it's not like I consider myself to be all grown-up and mature exactly, but Jane Austen made me... well, not mind so much having to be a young lady instead of a little girl. Which I randomly realized one day when I was on a walk. ;)  I really have no idea what I would be like today if I'd never met Jane Austen who, quite literally, changed my life. And all for the better, I believe. For one thing, life is just so much more interesting!

How does Jane Austen have such an influence... how are her stories and her world so captivated, so addicting? (I'm wearing a necklace today that says "Austen Addict"... my oldest sister gave it to me for my birthday. :) ) It's not something that can be described... but it's something that I know is felt by a lot of people, and I love it that there ARE people who understand and feel the way I do. Unlike some people, who think you're a nut. Well, let them think I'm a nut. I'd rather be a Nutty Janeite than no Janeite! 

One thing sure hasn't changed ever since my indoctrination: once I get started talking about Jane Austen, I just can't stop. You see this from the length of the post. If you've actually read all this... haha. Here is a hug for you. :D But I shall quit talking now. Besides, I need to go do the dishes. 

Happy Jane Austen Day again! ;) Don't forget about all the great events going on for JABA--and don't forget to enter the fanfiction contest!


Miss Dashwood said...

Why the Clemens did I tear up at this post??? It's not sad. It's HAPPY! It's about JA!

Oh, wait, right. This is the girl who cries at anything happy. Right. So the tears make sense. :P

Anyways. LOVED this story, dearling! There were some details even I hadn't heard... how shocking! I'm so, so glad JA brought us togethah... tootuz you know without her you proberly never would have begun blogging, and without her I would have been much less likely to have started my blog, &c. and so forth. :D :D :D :D


Alexandra said...

Haha! I was introduced (at eight) to S&S95 - which stil remains one of my favorite films - and P&P40 too! Actually I *did* see P&P95 when I was five or so and fell asleep through it...give me mercy, I was only five! ;) All I remember was thinking how weird it was that the guy jumped in the pond. ;)
(And...cough, cough...I still love P&P40. It's not the best, but it was my first and I still love it. I happen to love Olivier's Darcy. :))

Really enjoyed reading this! I may not be as...enthusiastic ;)...about JA as most, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy reading about how others got to know her. :)

Miss Laurie of Old-Fashioned Charm said...

Dearie, thank you so much for posting your story!

S&S'95 was my introduction to JA too! P&P'95 was next. I do still like P&P 1940 even though it's not very much like the book, it's a great old movie just the same and quite humorous!
So B prefers P&P'05?!?! What!?!? Of course J prefers P&P'95, somehow I just knew she would! :-D

Mouse, it made me tear up a bit too, especially the bit at the end where our sweet girl says "I really have no idea what I would be like today if I'd never met Jane Austen who, quite literally, changed my life. And all for the better, I believe." *sniff*
I know what you mean Melody! Dear Jane has influenced my opinions on almost everything (especially friendship and love) and her good sense is invaluable in most situations!

"Well, let them think I'm a nut. I'd rather be a Nutty Janeite than no Janeite!" - Exactly! They don't know what they're missing! ;)

I loved this rambling post so much m'dear! I'm so glad we have JA otherwise I wouldn't have met you and you've been such a wonderful friend to me over the past two years (well, almost two)! *hugs*

P.S. Oh no! I totally forgot to wear my "Austen Addict" necklace today! :(

Marie said...

Thanks for telling your story! I am ashamed to say I did not tear up...oh well. You know I liked it anyways, right? I saw Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice (I'm not abbreviating because I don't want to take the trouble to find the little "and" thingy) before I read the books (actually I haven't read the books yet, exactly...*moans and covers face in shame* but I DID manage to read Northanger Abbey first :). I am currently in Mansfield Park and finding that the more I read Jane Austen the more I love her!

The Well Dressed Doll said...

I think your oldest sister sounds like an amazing person! ;-)
Thanks for the hug....

Anonymous said...

I Liked your Story very much Mel. Thank you for sharing it. My mum always encouraged us to read, and prior to her untimely death, held Jane Austin in very high regard. I’m sure she was her favourite author. I came from Dickens, to Austin, but I too now have become enamoured with Jane Austin. I agreed with your quotes from P&P they are excellent. Thank you again for your excellent Blog. Regards Lyle

Would you rather hear the story...

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