It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.—Jane Austen
I owe so much to Jane Austen. When I read Pride And Prejudice for the first time, I accepted the opening line as truth, not irony. Not a scathing commentary on Society, or people’s expectations, or any of that. I thought it was universally acknowledged, and it wasn’t after several re-readings that I got the humor; for me, at first, it was all about the love story.
On subsequent reads, I figured out some of what she was saying. I don’t think I’ll ever get all the subtlety and nuance, but Austen was my introduction to understated irony, something that is my stock-in-trade now, both in everyday speech and in my writing.
When I read Austen, I was transported to a land where the smart chick gets the hot guy, families are full of foibles and people spend time at balls in gowns that hide their legs.
I haven’t read Austen in years, perhaps because I read her SO MUCH when I was in young. I think I found her in my parents’ library when I was around 12, the perfect age for love and romance and a happy ending. Her dry wit, ability to distill the world into a small village and her characterization has informed me, imprinted me, in ways I cannot overstate.
In recent years, trying to find time to write, I continue to be impressed with her, writing in secret and actually finishing a book. I have my family’s support to write, and still find it hard. Plus, she didn’t have a computer and files to write into and easily change, which is astonishing. Her barrier to entry was so difficult, and yet she did it, which is an inspiration.
I have a card on my bureau I bought when in Portland, OR many years ago. “Success supposes endeavor,” it says, a quote from Austen’s Emma. I look at it regularly, every time things seem too hard for me to do, every time I wish things were easier. They’re not. Success supposes–and requires–endeavor.
And so I have to thank Austen for inspiring me to endeavor, as well as giving me a platform–writing romance–to endeavor in.
Thanks, Jane. Happy Birthday.