How I Came to Love Jane Austen
by Virginia C. McCoy
It was the mid-1990’s and I was incapacitated because of back problems and my husband was very graciously borrowing books from the local library for me. Somehow, he came to bring me the book “Pride and Prejudice”. I had heard of it and, perhaps, I had even asked for it. I don’t remember. But, here it was and I dived right in. I was expecting great things. I had heard that it was a classic loved by many generations of voracious readers. I licked my lips and prepared for something delicious.
I was overwhelmed by the silliness and the ridiculousness of this horrifyingly stupid book! I could not believe it. I threw it down and huffed and puffed with indignation. They call this a classic? What a waste of paper! What a piece of trash! I can’t believe that people like this. Intelligent people have praised the works of this author. Why? I never made it through the first couple of chapters before I gave it up as impossible. I talked trash about it for many years afterward.
I don’t remember when I picked it up, again, but I did. Why? Well, because people kept saying how wonderful it was. I thought I would give it another chance. It didn’t work. It was just as silly and stupid as before. I shook my head and vowed to turn my back on Jane Austen for good.
Some years later, I came across “Sense and Sensibility” and gave it a try. I don’t know why, I just did. I have my own brand and variety of silliness, you know. So, I started this book and it seemed to be a little on the ridiculous side, also, but I kept going and it grew on me. Soon, I was deep into it and loving it. After I finished the book, I took some time to savor it and meditate on it. I decided that Jane Austen was not as bad as she seemed.
Some time later I tried “Pride and Prejudice” one more time. Suddenly the light came on and I got it! I got it! Oh, so wonderful! Jane Austen is so good! Her wit and wisdom was overwhelming and so entertaining. Oh, those silly people in her books are such nitwits and I just love to look down my nose at them. What fun! How could I have not liked this book so many years ago?
Even later, as I have aged and, hopefully, grown a little bit wiser, I have come to see myself in those silly people. So convicting!
Recently, I read a book written by a man who encountered Jane Austen out of necessity because it was assigned reading in a college class. He had almost the same experience, being in hate with her and growing to love her. He shares all that he learned from her, also, which was considerable. The book is called, “A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter”. I recommend the book, but must give this caveat: he uses the Lord’s name in vain once close to the end of the book. I do not agree with all of his applications of Jane’s wisdom. I don’t even agree with all of Jane’s wisdom. But, as always, harvest the good, leave the rest.
I had the same experience with “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte. I tried to read the book many times over the years. It was certainly not silly and ridiculous, but it was dark and heavy and difficult for me to enjoy. I just could not make it very far into the book before giving up. One day, I came across the BBC miniseries starring Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke from 1983. It was a little difficult, but I watched the whole thing. Oh! Oh, Oh! I get it! Now, I understood the story and the whole point of the thing! Oh, so good! I love it! Jane Eyre is one of my many favorite books, now. I always cheer her on and come away encouraged and uplifted. My beloved husband, who does not get it, yet, just recently sat through it with me for three days of watching Jane Eyre. He is a good man.
Now, for a confession. I am in the time of my life, and have been for many, many years, of hating “Wuthering Heights”. I think it is a ridiculous waste of paper and time. No plot, nothing good about it, stupid characters, I don’t get it. I am hoping that I am wrong and come to that turning point, soon. However, I have vowed never to open that book, again. I even got rid of my copy. But, I can get it for free on my kindle…
How I Came to Love Jane Austen
by Larry L. McFall, Jr.
In 2006, we took a chance at a junk store, when living in Virginia, and bought a cheap, used copy of the 1995 BBC mini-series. I don’t think we had even read it (or any Jane Austen) at that point. Anyway, it sat on the shelf for quite a long time until, after a particularly long day, Monica and I put the kids down one night and crawled down to the basement, flopped on the sofa, and cranked up episode one. I figured, “Hey this is about 45 minutes long. I can stay awake THAT long before dragging my tired carcass upstairs to bed!” Well, we slid the VHS tape in and our lives have never been the same. After the first two episodes that night we took a short break, scrambled upstairs to grab some snackies, and then right back down to meet Mr. Collins. We kept saying, “Let’s go to bed after the next one.” It didn’t happen. We stayed up that night all the way until Darcy came clean and claimed his prize. We’ve been enjoying “P&P Weekends” in our family ever since. I’ll admit, I’m the driving force behind those. I love it. My family loves it, too (although maybe a little less than I do) and we laugh out loud, still, at all the insanity of Mrs. Bennett and cringe at the improprieties and impetuosities of so many wonderfully colorful and convicting characters. I hope I never grow tired of it.
I (Ginny) have been in a poetry writing mood, recently. Here are some verses from this past week:
Things may look bleak, dark, distressing,
All beyond our control,
But my delight in Your Law and Your Word
Lights the expanse of my soul.
Your Holy Word is eternal and sure,
Make me to know it and live.
I ask You, I beg You, I cry to You, Help
Me take of the hope that You give.
The world twists and tumbles around me,
Enmeshed in all wickedness.
But, with You, O Lord of hosts, my God
There is surely peace and rest.
Confession & Thanksgiving -- A Haiku
I am one who walks
In counsel of the wicked.
I do not wish it.
Please forgive me, Lord,
Out of your loving-kindness.
Thank you, my Father.
To Love You
O Lord, would you that I meditate with delight upon your word?
Aid me in the accomplishment thereof.
For I am in need, the greatest need, of your wisdom and your truth.
Dispose me, enable me, you to love.
Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me: yet thy commandments are my delights. — Psalm 119:143