Inspirational Stories of Love, Faith & Family Set in 19th Century America

Tag: Jane Austen

5 Best Elizabeth Bennet Zingers

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I love a good zinger, don’t you?

Not too long ago, my husband’s theater group, Goose Creek Players, rehearsed their upcoming performance of Pride and Prejudice in our home. I giggled along with the cast at the witty retorts of Jane Austen’s heroine, Elizabeth Bennet. I can really relate to Elizabeth and her “sass” as my children say of my own temperment.

In fact, Jane herself held a fond affection for her heroine. In a 1813 letter to her sister Cassandra, Austen wrote: “I must confess that I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know”.

So in honor of my favorite Jane Austen character, here are my top five Elizabeth Bennet quips:

5 . Lizzy Bennet to Mr. Darcy on discussion of his weaknesses:

D: “But it has been the study of my life to avoid those weaknesses which often expose a strong understanding to ridicule.”

E: “Such as vanity and pride.”

In the 80’s we’d have said, “BURN!”

4. Lizzy to Lady Catherine on whether or not she’ll marry Mr. Darcy.

LC: “You are then resolved to have him?”

E: “I have said no such thing. I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.”

Yep, Lizzy calls ’em as she sees ’em.

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Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Barbara Leigh-Hunt) confronts Elizabeth Bennet (Jennifer Ehle) in the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice

3. Lizzy and Darcy on Lady Catherine’s influence on their love:

D: “I knew enough of your disposition to be certain that, had you been absolutely, irrevocably decided against me, you would have acknowledged it to Lady Catherine, frankly and openly.”

E: “Yes, you know enough of my frankness to believe me capable of that. After abusing you so abominably to your face, I could have no scruple in abusing you to all your relations.”

Makes me giggle every time.

2. Lizzy to her trampy little sister Lydia on finding a spouse:

L: “And then when you go away, you may leave one or two of my sisters behind you; and I dare say I shall get husbands for them before the winter is over.”

E: “I thank you for my share of the favour,” said Elizabeth; “but I do not particularly like your way of getting husbands.”

Oh, snap! I just love, Lizzy!

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Darcy’s (Colin Firth) misguided proposal to Elizabeth Bennet (Jennifer Ehle) in the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice

And my favorite of all Elizabeth Bennett’s zingers (I think I actually knew the first time I heard this line that I was Lizzy and she was me)!

1.Lizzy on Darcy’s horrific proposal:

D: “Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections?—to congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?”

E: “You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner.”

Dang! You got game, girl!

Do you have a favorite Jane Austen zinger you’d like to share?

5 Things You May Not Know About Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice has been on my mind a great deal lately. I received this great sweatshirt for Christmas this year. AND, my husband has started a local theater company, and without any nudging from me (honestly), Goose Creek Players will perform Pride and Prejudice this spring. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a HUGE Jane Austen fan and well Pride and Prejudice is the crown jewel of her achievements.

Today, over 200 years later, Pride and Prejudice remains Jane Austen’s most beloved novel.

Here’s 5 facts you may or may not know about the novel.

1. Mr. Darcy was the Rockefeller or Vanderbilt of his day

The characters in Pride and Prejudice constantly exclaim over Mr. Darcy’s $10,000 pounds a year, but what does that mean in today’s market? In 2013, The Telegraph calculated that adjusting for financial changes, a decent estimate might be 12 million pounds, or $18.7 million U.S. dollars a year. And that’s just interest on top of a much larger fortune. It’s no wonder Mrs. Bennet gushed about Elizabeth’s engagement—”How rich and how great you will be! What pin-money, what jewels, what carriages you will have!” Marrying Darcy would be like marrying a Rockefeller or a Vanderbilt.

2. Lydia elopes to the Las Vegas of the Regency era

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In Pride and Prejudice, the Bennet family is almost ruined when Lydia elopes to Scotland with that scoundrel George Wickham. “I am going to Gretna Green,” Lydia writes her sister, “and if you cannot guess with who, I shall think you a simpleton.” Unlike England, Scotland allowed people under 21 to get married without parental consent. Gretna Green was the first town over the Scottish border. There, a young couple could be wed via a “marriage by declaration.” The photo above is that of the famous blacksmith shop in Gretna Green that also had a marriage parlor to capitalize on the profits a young newlywed couple such as Lydia and Wickham could bestow.

3. A publisher rejected the novel without even reading it

Austen finished the book, then titled First Impressions, when she was 21 years old. In 1797, her father sent it to the publisher Thomas Cadell, writing that he had “a Manuscript Novel comprised in three Vols., about the length of Miss [Fanny] Burney’s Evelina.” He asked how much it would cost him to publish the book and what Cadell would pay for copyright. In response, Cadell scrawled “Declined by Return of Post” on the letter and sent it back with insulting speed. It wasn’t until the success of Sense and Sensibility, 14 years later, that Austen revised the manuscript. It was published in 1813 when she was 37 years old.

4. Pride and Prejudice was published anonymously

Related imageAusten didn’t put her name on her novels, and would only say they were “By a Lady.” The title page of Pride and Prejudice said, “by the author of Sense and Sensibility.” It wasn’t until after her death that her brother revealed her name to the public.

5. Austen underestimated the popularity of her novel

Austen sold the copyright for Pride and Prejudice to her publishers for 110 pounds, even though she said in a letter that she wanted 150 pounds. She chose this one-time payment, forfeiting any risk or reward connected to the future of the book. It was a bad gamble. The book was a best seller, and was on its third printing by 1817. It has been in print ever since.

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In the 200+ years since Pride and Prejudice was published, there have been at least 11 film and TV adaptations of Austen’s novel. My personal favorite is the 1995 BBC version with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy … sigh … but I digress.

What is your favorite adaptation? The Colin Firth version or the one with Keira Knightley? Or perhaps something different altogether?

Three Myths About Jane Austen’s England

George IV from Huish's Memoirs of her late royal highness Charlotte Augusta (1818)

George IV

Historically, the Regency Period in England lasted for only nine years, beginning when King George III was declared mentally unfit to rule in 1810. The Prince Regent took over for his father until his death in 1820, when George IV became King of England in his own right.

This is the time period when Jane Austen wrote her novels. However, many novels and period dramas have Regency Era characteristics but are set outside the timeline above. Culturally speaking, the Regency Era began in the later years of George III’s reign and denoted the architecture, fashion, literature and music of the period until the death of King William and the ascension of Queen Victoria in 1837.

As a lover of all things Jane Austen, I was curious about some of the social customs of the time and was surprised by some of what I learned.

Belton House in Lincolnshire (south front, above) was built in the late 17th century for Sir John Brownlow.

Belton House in Lincolnshire (south front, above) was built in the late 17th century for Sir John Brownlow.

Women Could Own Property  I’d always wondered about this one. I never understood why in Pride and Prejudice Lizzy and her sisters could not own property but the powerful Lady Catherine de Bourgh could. In the Regency Era a marriage was very much a business contract. Once an offer had been made and accepted, both families would reveal their circumstances to the other and the negotiations ensued. While it is true that once married a woman’s property became entirely under her husband’s control, an astute and wealthy family would want to negotiate a settlement for their daughter. This was land and/or money set aside for her and her children should she become a widow. Of course, a kind husband could also provide a jointure in his will which designated a pre-determined amount of land and/or money to his dependents upon his death. Mr. Bennet, however, could not leave a jointure for his widow because his land had been entailed away. An entail put limits or restrictions on the inheritance of land, usually requiring the property be inherited by the closest male heir. An entail remained with the land for several generations. It was designed to protect the property from being broken up or sold off. Power and social status were derived by land ownership. Preventing the property from being divided and sold to pay a squanderer’s debts was seen as a way to protect one’s descendants and the family name. However, if no male heirs were conceived the property would be inherited by nephews or distant cousins leaving wives and daughter’s dependent on the generosity of those they barely knew.

The first quadrille at Almack's c1815 from The Reminiscences and Recollections of Captain Gronow (1889)

The first quadrille at Almack’s c1815
from The Reminiscences and Recollections of Captain Gronow (1889)

When Dancing, Women Led the Way  One of my favorite parts of any British period drama are what my sister and I call the “tippy-toe” dance scenes. But did you know that in Regency dances the women led and the gentlemen followed? The paces of the dance were designed to put the genteel young lady on exhibit. She always moved first. The gentleman’s responsibility was to steer her through the intricate steps with the hopes of avoiding any Mr. Collins’ style disasters. Many of the most popular dances of the era were a blend of both town and country culture. Following the French Revolution, many English aristocrats abandon their stately Georgian movements for steps resembling traditional country dances they were acquainted with from their summer holidays. The hops and stomps of the livelier jigs were replaced with dainty steps and baroque music and the closer proximity allowed for quiet conversation, smiles and flirtation.

“Oh, ah, let em ring again.” George Cruikshank (Servants ignoring the bell)

“Oh, ah, let em ring again.” George Cruikshank (Servants ignoring the bell)

Rank Wasn’t Just for the Upper Class  During the Regency era, anyone who wanted to portray themselves as having an ounce of middle-class respectability employed domestic help. Maintaining even a modest home (keeping it lit, heated and clean) could be a full-time job. So it shouldn’t be surprising that keeping a grand home functioning in elegant style might require up to fifty servants. Just as the members of the ton were classified by rank and precedence, so were the servants hired to maintain, clean and run their homes.  The greater the servant’s responsibilities, the closer the servant worked with the master or mistress of the estate, the higher their standing. The master’s steward stood at the top of this pecking order. Functioning much like a personal assistant, he managed all staff and household affairs. In the master’s absence, he often performed day to day tasks and made decisions in his place. Under him, the butler and the housekeeper supervised male and female staff, respectively. The lower one’s rank, the more physically demanding the work. It was not uncommon for scullery maids, lowest of the female servants, to clean and scour the kitchen for 18 hours a day.  Servants of equal job title under the same roof would be ranked by the standing, in the family line as well as society, of whom they served. The prominence of the person served was far more important than length of service to the family.

What Regency Era custom do you find most interesting?

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