Jane Austen

Brunel, bananas, and an apology

First, in the interests of encouraging others to waste time online, you can now find me on Twitter, not that I have anything particularly interesting to say there.

Today is the birthday of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, born 1806, possibly England’s greatest engineer, whose masterpieces like the Great Western Railway, the Thames Tunnel and the Clifton Suspension Bridge are still in use today. He was the inventor of the first propellor-driven ocean going iron ship, the SS Great Britain.

It is also–and I hope Megan wasn’t planning to blog about this exceptionally important date–almost the anniversary of another important date, April 10, when, in 1633, bananas first went on sale in London.

You can imagine–or at least, I can–the bemused discussions that took place regarding the fruit. I think we should throw the squishy part away, it’s probably gone bad…Too bloody expensive–quick, they’re not looking, put one in your codpiece…

The banana was first introduced to North American in the 1870s and an early, helpful publication, A Domestic Cyclopaedia of Practical Information stated: Bananas are eaten raw, either alone or cut in slices with sugar and cream, or wine and orange juice. They are also roasted, fried or boiled, and are made into fritters, preserves, and marmalades.

Banana marmalade? Jam? And it still doesn’t explain if you’re meant to consume the whole thing, the inside, or the outside, which I’d think would be the most helpful hint of all.

And now, I have decided to do an about face. I was wrong, I admit it. Jane Austen is a romance writer. I’ve been thinking about this for some time, and here are the points which made me change my mind:

Secret babies. Willoughby (Sense & Sensibility) has a secret baby.

Cowboys. There are many rural settings. Harriet Smith, in Emma, has a beau who owns at least one cow, (we know because it’s Harriet’s favorite). Therefore, Robert Martin is a cowboy. Yeehah. And Knightley himself, a powerful alpha male landowner, has to be a ranch owner. Pam Rosenthal blogged persuasively over at the History Hoydens that most of Knightley’s land has to be enclosed and is therefore grazing land.

Navy Seals. Close and almost a cigar–Persuasion is rife with manly men in uniforms, the cream of the Royal Navy, muscles rippling beneath their skin tight uniforms.

Sex. Who can forget the torrid sex on page 47 of Mansfield Park?

Alpha males. Yes… the glowering simmer of Mr. Darcy (Pride & Prejudice), the sinuous grace of Edward Ferrars (S&S), the riveting description of Mr. Collins as he masterfully handles the English Book of Common Prayer (P&P), Captain Wentworth’s mainmast, and Knightley, see above.

TSTL Heroines. Catherine Morland (Northanger Abbey, with the added bonus of being a TSTL heroine in her nightgown).

Can you think of any other examples? Let us know!

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Jane George
13 years ago

Wow. Brunel looks like quite the intense character!

Megan Frampton
13 years ago

Ha! I was NOT going to blog about bananas, Janet, thanks very much.

And glad you acknowledge Jane as one of us (us meaning, likely as not, not you).

13 years ago

I don’t have any interesting facts to add but I really enjoyed reading these ones.

Have Fun

Jane George
13 years ago

*Ha! I was NOT going to blog about bananas, Janet, thanks very much.*


And here I was hoping for Risky Banana Week!

13 years ago

Well, I would have loved bananas too. . . but as for JA, in the end, it just shows the age old adage, that customs, technology, times, morality, style, *fill in your own here* change, people stay the same. That’s why I think fundamentally, if she were to time travel here or we there, it might be hard to get adjusted to the window dressings, but there are things that just always stay the same. 🙂


Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Janet! You should write up that bit for some magazine. Jane Austen’s world or something.
Not that banana bit; the Jane Austen is a Romance Writer bit.

It’s priceless!

Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

LOL, Janet! I agree with Diane, you should write up an article with all the ways JA is a romance author. But maybe there could be a banana connection, too? 🙂

And, ugh–banana marmalade???

Louisa Cornell
13 years ago

I’m still trying to get past the banana stashed in the codpiece. Wait! That didn’t come out right. Never mind.

And I agree with Amanda and the Divine One – Janet that is a wonderfully funny and witty take on Jane Austen as a romance writer. You really need to submit it to Jane Austen World or another similarly enlightened periodical.

Michelle Styles
13 years ago

I prefer Brunel’s father Marc — he was truly a fantastic engineer and what a love story set against the backdrop of the French Revolution! Sophia Kingdom was a fiesty lady.

I am currently reading a very interesting book about the Prometheans which includes the Brunels as well as John Martin — The Firebringers by Max Adams. It was just published in the UK, so probably has not reached the shores of NA yet.

I would say that not only is Jane Austen a romance writer, she is a contemporary romance author.

Janet Mullany
13 years ago

Austen’s letters have frequent references to bananas:

By the bye, as I must leave off being young, I find many Douceurs in being a sort of chaperon [at dances], for I am put on the Sofa near the Fire & can eat as many bananas as I like.

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