Saturday, January 31, 2009

Jane Austen

About twenty years ago, on the advice of a friend, I read the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I've mentioned Pride and Prejudice in this blog before because it became of of my favourite books. Indeed, having finished Pride and Prejudice I went on to read all Jane Austen's other novels in quick succession. She only wrote six novels, and on one level they're very simple because they all just boil down to the story of how the heroine finds her husband. But underneath that simple story they're incredibly complex, and beautifully written too, so that a romantic guy like me finds it impossible not to fall in love with them!

It's interesting to ask how modern gay life maps onto a typical Jane Austen novel like Pride and Prejudice. A lot of gay guys might see themselves as the novel's heroine Elizabeth Bennet, constantly looking for Mr Right and finding that most guys fall short of their ideal. I'd certainly put ex-boyfriend P in that category! I'd hoped to be his Mr Darcy, but I know now that it wasn't to be :-(.

Although all her heroines always found their husband, Jane Austen herself did not marry. I find it easy to believe that like many gay guys, she didn't realise that the perfect husband only exists in the kind of books that she wrote. None the less, that doesn't detract from the fact that her novels were masterpieces.

However, I've always had a problem with her most famous line, which I reckon must be the opening sentence to Pride and Prejudice:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
I guess it speaks for the time in which it was written. Back in 19th century England, saying:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife or a nice boyfriend.
wouldn't have gone down very well!


Ky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'd say that not only the BF would not have gone down well in those days.

Equally so, the very insular notion of it all being a matter of getting married just a tiny bit 'above your class' while centering your life on the next summer party in your or your neighbor's 'park' at the times of the universal upheaval around you; mostly does not go down too well with our present times either.

It is rarely mentioned that not even a single word out of the tens of thousands of words she must have written in her novels, ever mentions the Napoleonic age, England's involvement in it and the consequences thereof.

If she lived today, she would probably neglected to let us know that people use computers, fly in commercial airliners and that China exists as an economic factor.

Anonymous said...

what an unimaginative post. better use of timet o read something like this

Anonymous said...

Or a good boyfriend', wouldn't have gone down well!!! but was most definately true though as homosexuality was rife even in those days...think master and stable boy!!! and soho was full of 'Molly houses'.
Maybe your last emailer should read it and see how the gorgeous Mr.Darcy conducted himself...aloof was an understatement! but eventually he did manage to be broken down by love...even if it was below him..ahem..i mean in class....stop thinking of the stable boy readers.............
i am sure GB you are someones Mr. Darcy and there's a Bennet out there for you and everyone....just don't make looking for that person your sole goal in life...back to much earlier posts..desperation is not a good trait.........
nice to have abit of culture in a post other than sexual exploits or conquests..take care GB

Sir Wobin said...

I saw The Jane Austen Book Club movie just last week. It's exactly about interpretting Austen's work in a modern setting. This Hollywood film is true to Victorian entertainment in that gay people don't exist. I thought it was a lovely movie even so. Watch it when you get a chance.

Really first Anon! Going to jail is a very extreme way of finding a boyfriend! It's just far more kinky than GB is comfortable with I'm sure. ;-)

GB said...

Intersting Ky, I've only read each novel once. As such, a lot of them are a bit confused in my memory, given that the stories are somewhat similar!

But silverrrcloud, don't you think it can be nice to rise above the politics of the day and just write a nice love story? Not everything has to be edgy, or relate to current events!

I can't help wondering first Anonymous commenter, whoever you are, are you jealous of bankers?

Don't worry second Anomymous commenter (a.k.a S), I'm not at all desperate. Perhaps I should do a posting about the different possibilities I have to find a new boyfriend at the moment :-). Anyway, it's certainly not my only goal in life! Also, please get a blogger login so you don't have to comment using the Anonymous option, it doesn't mean that you have to start a blog.

I hadn't heard of that movie LWW, thanks for the recommendation :-).

GB xxx

badman said...

You do realise, don't you, that the line you quote is not meant to be serious - it is poking fun at the idiotic matchmakers who pretend that the rich man NEEDS a wife when they really mean that their daughters NEED a rich husband. It's got nothing to do with what the man really needs or wants. As you say, his interests might be elsewhere altogether!

GB said...

The thing which makes great literature great, badman, is that it is liable to many interpretations :-). No doubt it was written with tongue very firmly in cheek, because claiming that the entire world agrees on something is clearly asking to be contradicted by a pedant. Although one could dream up many counterexamples, I naturally find the idea that a gentleman prefers men the most appealing!

GB xxx

GB said...

A shy reader sent me the following outline for an alternative Pride and Prejudice novel, which I just had to share with everyone:

Mr Bingley decides to introduce a distant cousin of the Bennett's ... a Mr George Bennett (known as GB to his close circle of friends) to his dear friend Mr Darcy... Mr Darcy is cold and aloof. However, GB is pleased to spy a rather impressive physical presence has arisen in Mr Darcys breeches! Thus betraying Mr Darcy's true feelings towards Mr George Bennett.

What a nice story! GB xxx

fran said...

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the line is supposed to be funny but as GB says there is more than one joke here. Part of the joke is that the universal truth takes no account of what the woman wants. Jane Austen coud have married she chose not - with the evidence suggesting it was because she was not willing to submit to being a good little wife. In person she was funnier and cleverer than most around her as well as pretty(indeed she could be caustic and intimidating). One of the best things about her books are the social satire and her mockery of social conventions - practically every character of consequence is described in terms of their income and fortune as though this were the measure of a person and she then shows how shallow and restrictive a way of thinking this is. The beayty of her novels is that she does not wnat to throw away rules she recognises than any social animal needs them but she is a social realist in terms of looking at how they can bind as wlel as liberate even if she doesn't talk about the Napoleonic wars!