04 December 2010
A surfeit of Austen
Is there such a thing as too much Jane Austen? Not so long ago I would have said definitely not, but I have recently been on a Jane Austen marathon and I think it has sent me crazy. In my head I am speaking in 'Austen'. If someone says something which I don't understand, the response in my head is "La - what can you mean?" Fortunately, this has not yet manifested itself in spoken words.
I have been imagining that as I go about my day-to-day activities, I am being watched and judged by a gaggle of beautifully dressed men and women and I fear that, by their standards, I am being judged very harshly indeed.
Carrying their reticules and parasols, wearing their tippets and warming their hands in their muffs they follow me around in amazement.
I dress myself in the morning, make the bed and do the washing. Fans are brought to mouths to conceal snide remarks. She has not even one maid to assist her.
I turned on the dustbuster this morning to remove some crumbs and enjoyed seeing them cover their ears to block out the noise - the likes of which would never have been heard in their genteel Georgian rooms.
They recoil in horror as I get into my car. What sort of infernal machine is that - she keeps no horses or carriages.
They came with me to my yoga class. Men and women in a state of undress and in the same room together - they quite swooned away and had to revive each other with lavender water.
As I walk with baby C in his perambulator - I hear 'what, no nurserymaid and where is her sprigged muslin and bonnet?'.
As we walk along by the river, lycra-clad bikers and joggers fly past us - there is a collective intake of breath as they almost fall into the bushes in horror.
However, when I bring out my workbasket and begin to knit or sew, I feel that I have slightly redeemed myself when I hear them whisper - she sews a fine seam.
But I wish they would all go away and leave me in peace. Let them try living in my world with no servants to do the dirty work, cooks to prepare the meals, nurserymaids, gardeners and footmen ready to perform all life's chores.
And I think the above-mentioned might have just a tinge of envy when they see some of my labour saving devices - the washing machine, oven and dishwasher must be things of wonder. And surely Jane's ladies would regard my sewing machine as a sight to behold as they laboriously stitch their household linens by hand.
Wait, do I hear some murmurs of approval. What freedom she has. She does not have to rely on finding a man with a great fortune in order to survive. She does not have to wear confining clothes and tight corsets. She can travel unaccompanied and have a profession without being scorned. However, I doubt that there is any real envy in their observations and they won't be wanting to change places with me any time soon. However, if Elizabeth Bennett makes an offer I would have to consider it very seriously. Being mistress of Pemberley would suit me just fine.