by Julie, Austening in Somerville
Usually, on January 1, I watch Pride and Prejudice. The 1995 Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth version, of course. That that is the best version is not up for discussion, at least not with me. This year I skipped my ritual, which has thrown me off a bit. Because this year, more than any other in recent memory, I need my Austen fix. Writing this blog post is how I will begin.
Jane Austen died in 1817, and yet she endures. Her stories are of their time, but they are also universal. I find, as time goes by, my relationship to the different characters changes. Though Colin Firth in the lake is one of my favorite sites every year, Darcy would be a challenging partner, don’t you think? Does anyone else think that Eleanor should have married Colonel Brandon? Especially in the 1995 film? But I digress. Besides, these sorts of conversations are best done in person.
I’m so grateful that my writing life came of age with computers. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to type my manuscripts. But even that pales in comparison to writing longhand in the family drawing room with a quill. Or pinning edits to my manuscript. (She wrote her manuscripts with long text, and would write edits and changes on new paper, cut it, and pin it where it belonged.) To have both the imagination and the wherewithal to write a manuscript in the early 1800’s was amazing enough. To also write such wonderful novels? My Januarys are made all the better because of her genius.
Her work has also inspired some other work, and that helps her stay relevant. My nieces love the movie Clueless, a modern Emma. Like dress up like the characters for Halloween love. I recently discovered Lost in Austen, which is about a modern day Pride and Prejudice fan switching places with Elizabeth Bennett, and screwing up the storyline. Stephanie Barron wrote a mystery series, where Jane Austen is the sleuth. P.D. James wrote a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, a mystery. There’s also a Pride and Prejudice musical on Prime. The list goes on and on.
Jane in January renews my spirit, kindles the romantic in me, and inspires my muse. My immediate plans include rereading Persuasion, my favorite of her novels, and then watching a lot of Austen during this Covid winter.
Readers, what are some of the soothing rituals you have? Any other Austen fans out there? Tell me about adaptation you enjoy. And make a plan to watch them soon. We all need a little Jane this January.