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<---More Recent 127. Wickham and Lydia 126. Jane and Elizabeth 125. Dresses in Austen's style 124. Austen's Elegy Earlier Answers-->

Name:T Ahmad
Question 128 Why has Jane Austen been called a ""Marxist before Marx"?
Reply Dear T Ahmad,

One must be honest and confess that this idea has had some currency, but it might be more intellectually virtuous to emphasise how this could involve you in uproarious absurdity. One basis for the claim was in lines in a comic poem by W.H. Auden, 'Letter to Lord Byron' (1937), in which he claimed that Austen, myself i.e., was more 'shocking' than modernist writers like Joyce, who lay bare the inner workings of the mind, however silly or distasteful, as I show 'the economic basis of society', not just individual sins or proclivities. This is seen most clearly in the way in which the price tag on ladies conferred by their personal fortunes seems to act like an aphrodisiac, as in Wickham's pursuit of Mary King in P&P and the Ferrars family's headlong pursuit of Lord Morton's daughter for either of their sons, no matter which, in S&S. Research confirms that ladies were advertised in magazines as matrimonial plusses with reference to the money they had inherited. Of course I was the daughter of an eighteenth-century Anglican Rectory, while Karl was a refugee from the 1848 Revolution manque in a rapidly industrialising Europe. Formally my beliefs and attitudes were much more conservatives, but my satire on such things as sleazy or chumpish clergyman or the unprincipled pursuit of wealth, or the idiocies snobbery can lead one to, or the idea that women should be treated as rational creatures rather than just admired sex-objects, make my work more suggestive for radicals than my formally held beliefs and traditional attiudes would at first suggest. Now read me for yourself and have an idea or two of your own.

With best wishes

Jane Austen.

June 20, 2007 07:14:51 (GMT Time)

Name:Carole                     Top
Question 127 For what purpose did Wickham chose Lydia to marry in Pride and Prejudice? There was no money -or was this just a way to run away from the military and all of his debts?
Reply Dear Carole,

It’s true Wickham didn’t seem like a likely husband for Lydia . I kept him fairly obscure and functional and he may finally be ‘all Mr Darcy is not, and vice versa’. Although he gets a reputation as an all-round rake in the Longbourn-Meryton area, with ‘his intrigues all honoured with the title of seduction’, etc., his concerns and problems seem overwhelmingly financial (e.g. his pursuit of Mary King the heiress is financially rather than sexually motivated). In flight thanks to his debts contracted while with the regiment in Brighton, as creditors swarm, the infatuated Lydia comes along for the ride (sorry, the idiom is irresistible, even to me), and Wickham seems to repeat the mistakes of his extravagant mother as mentioned en passant by Darcy in his letter to Elizabeth after his rejection (as a possible ‘gambling addict’ in our time he would be pronounced in need of ‘counselling’). After Darcy catches up with the young couple in London, he finds Lydia too besotted and silly to speak to, and he bribes Wickham to marry her and make her respectable (her living with Wickham openly without thoughts of marriage is generally known, as Mr Collins gleefully revealed, and involves the family in what seems irremediable disgrace). So Darcy, thanks to his deep love for Elizabeth, saved the day (but wasn’t Wickham himself ruined by his all-but-shotgun-style wedding to the silly flirt?)

With best wishes

Jane Austen.

June 16, 2007 06:19:23 (GMT Time)

Name:M-J B                     Top
Question 126 Are there any snippets of conversation expressing the affectionate bond between Jane and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice? If so could you please outline them for me as they are for a drama assignment piece.
Reply Dear MJ,

Probably the best way to find the most suitable examples is if you go through the novel for yourself, enjoying it, you will soon acquire your own repertoire of moments at which Elizabeth’s admiration for her sister are presented. Also perhaps searching the text with Pemberley's searcher might help.

However, to get you started: Elizabeth praises Jane in Ch 4 after the Assembly ball in Meryton (you are a great deal too apt to like people in general, etc.). Again, a sense of Jane’s ‘rectitude and delicacy’ is played off against Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte’s marrying someone for money and a comfortable home. She travels to Netherfield to look after and reassure herself with respect to her sick sister (c. Ch. 6), walking through three miles of mud to Netherfield to look after her sister after silly Mrs Bennet arranged for her to get wet. ‘Your sweetness and disinterestedness are really angelic’, Elizabeth thinks, after exonerating /forgiving Bingley after Darcy and his sisters separated her and Bingley. In Ch. 47 she admiringly says to her Uncle and Aunt ‘of whom does Jane ever think ill?’ in making the best of Lydia ’s mad elopement (while thinking her naïve). She thinks of Jane as being ‘all loveliness and goodness’ in her indignation over Colonel Fitzwilliam’s disclosures at Rosings with respect to Darcy’s actions (Ch 33). She laughs admiringly in Ch. 40 at Jane’s shocked attempts to exonerate both Darcy and Wickham after Darcy exposes the latter in his famous letter after his rejection in Hunsford. There must be more, I agree. But now it’s your turn! I’ve made a good start, don’t you think?

With good wishes,

Jane Austen

June 3, 2007 03:01:01 (GMT Time)

Name:                     Top
Question 125 I was wondering if you know where I could find your style of dresses. I would love to have the bridesmaids in my wedding wear them. I would need ones that would be under $300 american dollors.
Reply Hello,

This is not something the website handles quite so comfortably. It seems quite a visual as well as sartorial question, and a few points and pointers, which I do hope will help, may have to suffice here. I died fairly young in 1817 and what we call the Industrial Revolution was not far advanced, especially in mass production of such things as clothing. Dresses, pelisses and petticoats (tut tut—see Emma) were often made in the home, painstakingly, and a dress or two expected to last for much longer than we would consider reasonable. In clothes-making, then, domestic toil by ladies, or labour-intensive slow-producing sweatshops, were of the order of the day. Even fairly affluent people had nothing like the clothing repertoires we take for granted, and even refined ladies like myself and Cassandra were artists of the needle as well as the pen. It’s probably worth investing in a book or two if you want to know more, and a wonderful recent example of a kind you might like is Deirdre Le Faye’s Jane Austen: the World of Her Novels (London: Frances Lincoln, 2002), with excellent illustrations of characters in Regency dress, who might be auditioning as my characters (the captions are specific about this); or again, Penelope Byrde, Jane Austen Fashion (Ludlow: Excellent Press, 1999), and other entries in the Le Faye bibliography are to consider. Good Luck!

With best wishes,

Jane Austen.

April 5, 2007 05:29:19 (GMT Time)

Name:The Kellers                     Top
Question 124 Where can I find Jane Austen's Elegy written by her sister Cassandra?
Reply Dear Kellers,

There is no formal elegy in poetry or prose for me penned by Cassandra; she was not a trained or of course university-educated writer, like my elder brother James, a poet of some distinction, or my favourite brother Henry, an author after his fashion. Of course they had had much more formal education than we were allowed, as ladies of our time. But my sister committed herself fervently in letters (which I was able to peruse after my passing), in which she describes me as ‘A treasure . . . such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed . . . She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow. I had not a thought concealed from her and it is as if I had lost a part of myself’. There are hints to the effect that she had almost loved me too much; as she put it to her niece Fanny Knight: ‘I am conscious that my affection for her may have made me sometimes unjust to and negligent of others’. She also seems to have recognised herself in my portrait of Anne Elliot, the heroine of Persuasion who (temporarily) loses her fiancé but whose fate partly resembles Cassandra’s in her (permanent) loss of the naval chaplain Tom Fowle, . On the passage in which I talk about the heroine learning to value romance over prudence as she grows older, with the nice irony of its being the natural sequence of an unnatural beginning, Cassandra has the marginal comment ‘Dear, dear Jane . . . this deserves to be written in letters of gold’. Actually to remind myself of this I looked in biographies by Park Honan and Claire Tomalin, both very good!

With best wishes,

Jane Austen.

February 8, 2007 20:52:38 (GMT Time)