GWtW, P&P, and Other Obsessions

Hello All,

Enjoy this lovely, lovely guest post by Elissa McKinney–known to the Instagram world as the beloved @janeaustenhumor! I am excessively excited to have her as a guest here at Pen to Paper Collections!

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My name is Eliunnamedssa McKinney, a Janeite and Iced coffee lover. I’m an introvert by nature and love spending my free time reading, cooking, taking long walks, and (#duh) watching period dramas.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that this has to be the most predictable way for me to start this post. Let’s just roll with it. 

Hey, hi, hello! My name’s Elissa, but most people call me Lue. I was born and raised in the wild spaces of the west; a farm girl with a reading addiction. 

Gone With the Wind was the book that started my affinity for Period Dramas. Rhett Butler was (and still is) my dream man. As a 19-year-old looking back at my 11-year-old self, it probably wasn’t the best story to be fantasizing about… But once I watched the movie, Clark Gable wrapped me up in his handsome mustache and there was no turning back. The summer of 2006 was spent on a make believe plantation in Georgia. A stack of hay bales was Tara. My cousin and sister were forced into being Civil War reenactors daily. They might still resent me for it, but we all got really good grades in history the next school year. You’re welcome, guys.

Now apparently, there is a limit to the number of times a “sane person” can watch Scarlett O’Hara throw a temper tantrum. For my mom, that limit had been exceeded. 

She loves the book, but if I’d quoted “Lawzy, we got to have a doctor. I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies,” one more time, I think she may have sent me to off to live on an actual plantation. 

*Enter Pride and Prejudice*

It was a typical Thursday night “girls night” at our house. Manicures, face masks, and Italian sodas were happening. I started to pull out GWtW, but my mom said that she had a new period drama for us to try… I think you can probably figure out what happened next.

English Period Drama became my thing. I couldn’t get enough. Still can’t. 

The 2005 Pride and Prejudice laid the foundation for a lifetime of Austen love. 

I read all the novels, watched most of the film adaptions, and started expressing my enthusiasm for the genre by trying out recipes, phraseology and hairstyles from my favorite works. I also began to search for other PD authors and discovered Bronte, Hardy, Gaskell, Dickens and more. To quote Henry Nobley: “…the truth is, I enjoyed stepping into history. The idea of a simpler world where love is straightforward and lasting.” #relatable

Speaking of hashtags, in 2014 I created an Instagram account to connect with other Austen fans on the world wide web (specifically those who enjoy memes). I had no idea that three years later I would have over 16,500 followers. I am so grateful to be part of a community where people can come together and share a giggle about boiled potatoes, bonnets, or Darcy’s painfully awkward proposal. Yep. I adore our little corner of the universe. Jane Austen, “My heart is, and always will be, yours.”

Sincerely, Elissa

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A(nother) Quick Look at Pride and Prejudice

Hello All!

If you haven’t read enough about Jane Austen on this blog, then today is your lucky day, because I’m at it again! I was given a writing assignment in a Theatre Appreciation class that incorporated noting a work (book, movie, or play) in which two major characters were in conflict with each other and briefly describing the characters, their conflict, and the resolution. My first thought was, obviously, Pride and Prejudice! I mean, what greater, more classic example could there possibly be? It was a no-brainer. Or maybe it’s just me? Either way, I chose to write about something I love, and this was my submission:

 

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a perfect example of a story in which two major characters are at odds. Many adaptions and knock-offs have been created from this story over the years, but one thing remains constant: the bitter tension between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Despite the opinion of many pessimistic minds, the story is not a petty representation of hate turning to love overnight, but rather the story of gradual transformation; specifically, of learning to let go of first impressions, or even second impressions, and coming to terms with the fact that they might have been drastically distorted.

Elizabeth is a woman whose “lively, playful disposition” leads her to witty conversation and a generally good-natured aversion to those think too highly of themselves to be in good humor. Mr. Darcy, on the other hand, is too serious to enjoy himself much of the time and far too self-important to find the company of a witty girl from a middle class family the least bit pleasant, much less find her handsome. At least, that is how he seemed to be on first observation. Behind his proud façade, however, is a protective, dutiful man, whose standards in place for himself are far higher than those he holds for the people around him.

Conflict arises first when Elizabeth feels that Mr. Darcy slights her by refusing to dance with her, but this is something she can look over by simply labeling him a pompous jerk and moving on. It continues to increase, however, when she hears the false tale of a man who has been robbed of his hopes and dreams by this arrogant, selfish Mr. Darcy. It comes to a peak when she discovers that he encouraged his best friend to abandon the relationship he might have had with her dear sister. She soon becomes aware that none of his errors were without explanation; most of which encompassed his loyalty to those he cared about, she being one of them. She believes it to be too late for reconciliation but is fortunately proven wrong. A casual reader and/or watcher would quickly assign the pride to Mr. Darcy and the prejudice to Miss Elizabeth, but I believe Jane Austen intended us to look further and discover that both characters were plagued by both pride and prejudice, and had to overcome the faults in themselves before they were able to see the good in each other.

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Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

Hello All!

Today, December 16th, 2015, is Jane Austen’s 240th birthday! I’d like to take a moment to thank her for the masterpieces she gave to the world, and everything that she has taught me through them. Including this: The best guys aren’t always the ones with the most charisma, family is the most important thing (next to finding a husband 😉 ); there is “no enjoyment like reading” and “nothing like staying at home for real comfort”; love isn’t easy, but it’s worth it; the best remedy for anything is a little witticism; you can change the world with a pen and ink; don’t shy away from having an opinion just because you’re not expected to; and “It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.” These are few of many. Thank you, Jane! I want to be just like you when I grow up… maybe by the time I’m 240 I’ll be half the writer you were. 🙂

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Jane Austen and Happily Ever Afters

Happy Monday!

Have you ever heard a phrase similar to this, “Jane Austen ruined my life. She gave me an unrealistic expectation of men and love”? I have. More than once. To be perfectly honest, I’m sick of it. Why? Because it’s false.

Recently I read a book entitled Jane Austen Ruined My Life.

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http://www.bethpattillo.com/books/jane-austen-books

In this book, the protagonist had the same mindset spoken of above. She had bad luck in love and was angry with Jane Austen, to say the least. She had stopped believing in happy ever afters entirely. Aside from a couple of things here and there, it was very well written, and I enjoyed it very much… until the end. At the very end of the book, Emma, the main character, has the opportunity to get the happy ending that she had stopped believing in… and she threw it away. In other words, the author does very little to refute the lie that the protagonist had began to believe: that they didn’t exist. More than that, she uses Jane Austen as a basis for her point. For example: In the plot, Emma has access to some of Jane Austen’s letters that she thought did not exist (and don’t, in reality). In one of these fictional letters, Jane Austen had told Cassandra that not finding love was her happy ending. The Author, Beth Pattillo, uses this to make her point that Emma didn’t need a happy ending, thus the reason she didn’t take it in the end. While Pattillo has every right to do this, I find it a bit unfair. In how it comes across, she uses Jane Austen’s influence as a classic author to prove her own point, rather than the one Jane would have wished to prove, and, If I may go so far as to say, put words in her mouth. Allow me to explain: By giving all of her heroines love and marriage, Jane Austen insinuates that this is what she would wish for anyone she cares for… including herself. Had she felt that it was not desirable, she would have made at least one of her heroines single in the end. And yet, she didn’t. Maybe it’s just me, but I find this to imply that she would rather have had that happy ending.  My opinions in regard to Jane Austen Ruined My Life are strictly my own, and I said all that simply because Jane can no longer defend herself, so I feel I must. Please, don’t think me resentful toward the book or its talented author. She may not have intended it that way.

Swaying from that topic, let’s discuss the “unrealistic expectations” people are always referring to. Again, I feel I must take a stand in Jane’s defense. Yes, all of Jane Austen’s heroines get a marriage for love. Yes, they all find “ideal” men. Yes, both of these can be hard to come by. But, unrealistic? No. In each and every one of the novels, both hero and heroine are far from perfect. They have many flaws. Mr. Darcy and his pride, Catherine Morland and her naivety, Marianne and her immaturity. What if your Mr. Tilney’s father disinherited him because he didn’t approve of you? Edmund Bertram was in love with another woman for most of the book, and poor Fanny was “sister-zoned”! Colonel Brandon was rather boring in Marianne’s eyes, but then her ideal man wasn’t what she thought he was. If anything, I believe with all my heart that Jane Austen gives us one of the most accurate and realistic portrayals of love. Sometime’s what we may think is our “ideal man” is just a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Sometimes, it takes us a ridiculous amount of time to see that that one person, whoever it may be, is someone we would want to spend forever with. Sometimes, Mr. Darcy may be flawed and Emma Woodhouse may have to learn to get over herself. There are always going to be things we have to work through, and the other person isn’t going to be perfect, but we can help them become the best version of themselves, and we can work through those things together. Love is more than a feeling or inclination. As Marianne learns, it’s more than flirting and a kiss. As Elizabeth learns, it’s changing our point of view, and moving past our first impression. As Elinor and Anne learn, it’s patience. As Emma learns, it’s friendship and realizing that we’re not always right. As Catherine learns, it’s growing up and putting childish things behind us. As Fanny learns, it’s being supportive, and knowing when to speak up and when to stay silent. It’s putting others needs before our own… it’s a compromise every now and then… it’s being able to admit when we’re wrong… it’s forgiveness… it’s acceptance… it’s being the other half of someone else. These and so many others, are the things that I’ve learned from Jane. This is why Jane Austen gives me a truly realistic expectation of love… and while she may never have had that for herself, she had a marvelous understanding of such things.

We may have a hard time finding a 19th century British gentleman that wears cravats and kisses our hand in greeting, but if you’re patient and looking in the right places, you can find a gentleman in today’s world… The question may be: are you being the lady that they’re looking for? The same can be asked of men: Are you being the gentleman that the best of the ladies are looking for?

Shall we return to happily ever after? You can’t tell me that it doesn’t exist. It may not be Cinderella style, but then, happiness isn’t the absence of hardship. It’s the ability to charge right through it, side by side, with smiles on your faces, and joy in your hearts; even in the midst of the struggle, when it doesn’t make sense. It’s Jane Austen style.

Book Review: Persuasion

Happy Monday!

Last night I indulged myself in the 1995 version of Persuasion… I had never seen this one before, and I must say that I enjoyed it immensely! It was positively lovely, and more accurate than the 2007 version, to be sure. It most definitely has my recommendation to you all. It did, however, put me in a “Persuasion” mood, so today’s post will be my review of the book. I apologize in advance for the poor writing… When I wrote this several months ago, I struggled with it and I still can’t figure out why! I did pique it a bit today, so I hope it is satisfactory. I suppose I found difficult to simplify Persuasion, due to the bustle of its plot. Please understand that in saying that, I am in no way demeaning Jane’s beautiful story. I wouldn’t- I couldn’t- do that. 🙂

Without further ado:

Persuasion, by Jane Austen tells the story of Anne Elliot after her family is forced to give up their home in the English countryside. Who would become a guest of the new tenants but her former lover, Captain Wentworth? Persuasion portrays Anne’s struggles as she deals with seeing Wentworth again following an eight year separation, becoming reacquainted with him in the midst of society, and finally, rekindling the flame of love that once burned between them.

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Flashing back eight years, we picture a young, beautiful Anne Elliot entering an engagement with a young man, Frederick Wentworth. Unfortunately, Anne was persuaded by her family and a dear friend, in spite of her own feelings, to break off the engagement because he lacked fortune, thus breaking Wentworth’s heart. The result was eight years of separation. This separation, however, was soon to come to an end. The Elliots were to move to Bath and remove from the home they had always known, due to financial strain. Rather than go to Bath at once, Anne was to stay for a time with her younger sister, who had settled near their former home. The new inhabitants of Kellynch Hall were to be Admiral and Mrs. Croft; none other than the sister and brother-in-law of the now Captain Frederick Wentworth, a wealthy and eligible bachelor. The dilemma, you see, was that Anne and Frederick could avoid each other no longer, for he was to come at once as a guest of his relatives. He instantly became a favorite in the neighborhood, bringing them together sooner than expected. As you can imagine, seeing, for the first time in years, the face of someone you once loved, brought a surge of memories that could not be restrained upon both. Therefore, they spoke to each other as little as possible throughout the first several gatherings, leaving their acquaintances to wonder why.

As the weeks continued on, Miss Elliot gradually became more accustomed to the sight of Captain Wentworth’s face. In the beginning conversation was rare, but the occasional “How do you do?” was passed between them, and they treated each other with graceful civility. As time progressed, words and gestures, one to the other, became more comfortable, and although they were not entirely at ease they were at least seemingly indifferent. They could not be considered friends, and yet they were far from hostile. Both secretly sought to make out the character of the other and compare it to that of the past, however, in the midst of eves-dropping peers is not the most convenient of places to re-acquaint yourself with an old friend…. Much less an old lover. Still, they watched and listened eagerly, and familiarized themselves with each other once more.

After our Miss Elliot removed to Bath to be with her father and sister, she was instantly swept into the social chaos of life there, but it held no joy for her. Her thoughts were far from evening parties and morning visits, but constantly strayed to the memories of a certain Captain. While walking down the streets of Bath one afternoon, accompanied by two ladies and a gentlemen, something caught her eye. While one part of her was skeptical, another had no doubt; she had seen Captain Wentworth. This surprise appearance changed her situation drastically, for now she must again often be in his company. Whatever the circumstances, they had been brought together, and neither could deny it any longer. Their love had never faltered; their hearts had never wavered. Even a separation of 8 years could not break the chord that bound one heart to the other. A single letter slipped into her reach by the man she adored brought all to the surface. The separation was over; the agony was ended, and they would never part again.

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Through these struggles, Anne Elliot not only discovers who she was meant to be with, but also, who she was capable of being. Eight years before, she allowed the opinions of other to affect her to such an extent that she was convinced to do something she would constantly regret: give up the man that she loved. Family and friends insisted that it was the right choice, and though her heart told her otherwise, she allowed them to persuade her, believing that it had been her only option. In the words of Jane Austen herself, “How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation!” Fortunately, Anne was given a second chance, and fate worked in her favor. She was blessed with happiness, as well as a new-found confidence.”

Did you find my review helpful and/or accurate? Please let me know by commenting. Thanks bunches! 🙂

Etiquette in Early 19th Century Britain

Hello All!

I have something very special for you all today! A paper that I wrote on social standards in the Regency Era. Enjoy!

Etiquette in Early 19th Century Britain

Have you ever read or watched Pride and Prejudice or something similar, and been left boggled by their odd behavior in comparison to modern times? If you are like me, you are wondering how they remember every rule of etiquette or how they can be so polite to someone they secretly detest. No doubt it was a constant struggle, however it was one at which they must succeed if they wished to retain a good reputation. Rules of propriety among the members of British high society in the early 19th century affected their gatherings, their relationships, and their everyday life.

High Society gatherings were rigorously held up to the social standards of the day. For example, if one were to hold a dinner party, seating arrangements and order of entrance were carefully devised by the hostess according to rank and situation in life. The host would escort the highest ranking lady, who would sit to his right at the table, while the hostess was escorted by the highest ranking male guest and was seated next to him. Others were arranged accordingly into couples and seated in a male female pattern, again, according to rank. If this dinner party was formal, one could only speak to those on their immediate right and left at the table. Aside from these few, several other rules of etiquette must be strictly observed. Another sort of gathering, the ball, was considered the most important of all. These dances were held in the late evenings and could last until well past midnight. As you can imagine, there were specific rules for dancing as well. A lady should never dance more than three dances with the same partner, and after the conclusion of one, the gentleman should walk at least halfway around the room with the lady on his right arm. He should also ask if she desired refreshments, and if she answered affirmatively, escort her to the refreshment room (which was a necessary addition). Failing to serve supper at a ball was unaccountable, a cloakroom was never unavailable, and if older people were invited, a card room was set up for their enjoyment.

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Whether an engagement or simply a friendship, relationships were monitored very closely by those who moved in higher circles of society. One could not choose with whom they associate due to their excellent personality or taste in style, but rather, their family status, reputation, and wealth. To marry for love was a rarity, as we see in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, unless you fortunately fell in love with someone of 5 or 10 thousand pounds a year. What a stroke of luck! A marriage, sadly, was often more of a business move then an act of true love. For example, if a gentleman were the second son in his family, he was not the heir; therefore, he was forced to carve his own path to fortune; the easiest road being to marry into wealth. After the marriage virtually all the lady’s fortune transferred to the man. Even the wealthiest of men were hardly tempted to marry beneath them, though they had enough for two, because this could be scorned by their family, as we see when Mr. Darcy’s aunt declares, “Are the shades of Pemberly to be thus polluted?” (Austen, 445)  On the other hand, a lady of little fortune must do her best to impress a man of at least some wealth. The bold among them all may marry for love despite the pressure to marry only someone the same as or above their rank, as long as their family name was respectable, if not important. Friendships were similar in many ways. Your respectability was often determined by the acquaintances you held. You should by no means attach yourself to a family of bad name; however, if you were even distantly related to someone of noble blood or importance, you were blessed and far more likely to be accepted in London’s social hubbub.

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Gatherings and Relationships were not the only things affected by strict social standards, but everyday life as well. Because it was not proper for ladies to have jobs, much of their time was spent at home. Their pastimes must, of course, be genteel, and included much reading and sewing, card games and gossip. Gentlemen of significance were not expected to have a vocation, but rather protect and manage their inheritance to pass down to their eldest son one day. Aside from matters of business, the men must also have proper pastimes for their comparatively large amounts of free time. Activities such as fox hunting and games such as whist were favorites among them.  Conversation took up a large portion of their time, as you can imagine. There were, however, guidelines for this as well. If a man meets a lady friend in passing, for example, and wishes to speak to her, it would be considered rude to make her stand in the street; therefore, he must walk with her to hold a conversation. As for friendly “morning” calls, these were usually done in what we would consider the afternoon, and generally lasted for 15 minutes or so. This saved one from having to stay to long at the house of a friend they weren’t particularly fond of. A lady was never to call on a gentleman alone unless it was a business matter, and if a gentleman called at a house with a young lady present, he was wise not to stay for over half an hour, unless he wished to insinuate an interest in said young lady. A gentleman did not call a lady by her first name alone unless they were engaged, at least. Rather, the Lady was Miss “last name” if she were the eldest or Miss “first name” if she were not. If they were married, the lady would call her husband Mr. “last name” in public and vice-versa. This was a sign of good breeding. Lastly, the gentleman was always introduced to the lady, and not the other way around, because the gentleman should consider it an honor to meet her.

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The gatherings, relationships, and everyday life of those who moved in prominent social circles were all directly affected by the high social standards of early 19th century Britain. Their lives were often transparent and they were chained by their lifestyle, to put it in few words. Some relished it, some detested it, and others simply found it a small price to pay for fortune and acceptance. As with most things, it all depended on how one perceived it and reacted to it. They could decide in their mind whether it was to be a blessing or a curse. Nonetheless, etiquette must be upheld and manners must be remembered.

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Jane Austen and Birth Order

Happy Monday!

I hope you all aren’t too sick of Jane Austen posts, because I have another one for you today! 🙂

My mom is reading a book entitled The Birth Order Book* by Dr. Kevin Leman, and as she was telling me a bit about it over coffee this morning, I was reminded of Jane Austen (I know it sounds strange). In the book, he discusses the personalities and traits of children based on the order of their birth, and it’s surprisingly accurate. Naturally (for me, at least), I thought of the five Bennet sisters and began to compare. It fit almost perfectly.

1. Jane

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Dr. Leman names these traits for the firstborn: Leadership ability, aggressive, compliant (easy to work with), perfectionist, organized, driver, list maker, logical, and scholarly. While Jane is not all of these things and is more on the quiet side, she leads from behind the scenes. She wants things done right in an organized, orderly fashion. She does nothing spur-of-the-moment, but rather thinks things through thoroughly. Even in the face of a broken heart, she doesn’t break down, but remains strong, and when Mr. Bennet goes to London to search for Lydia and Wickham, she is home caring for her mother, so aside from a couple of things (such as aggressive), she has these firstborn qualities.

2. Elizabeth

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Middle children are said to learn not to be spoiled. They have reasonable expectations (realistic) and are social lions. They are also independent thinkers, compromising (know how to get along), diplomatic (peacemakers), and secretive.

Sound like Elizabeth? Because she is not the eldest or the youngest, she becomes used to not being spoiled, and sometimes even being slighted, but because of this, she is realistic (occasionally even to the point of being negative); however, she values family and friends above all else. She’s confident in her own thinking and opinions, while, at the same time, remaining willing to compromise in order to preserve the peace. She could be called a mediator in the family. For example, when Lydia plans her trip to Brighton, Elizabeth is the one that goes to her father in an attempt to persuade him otherwise and preserve her sisters reputation. She is also good at being discreet, such as in the case of Mr. Darcy’s first proposal.

3. Mary

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Mary is also a middle child. It is harder to read her because she is a lesser character than Elizabeth and Jane; however, we can still detect some of the middle child traits in her. She has her own (rather strange) way of thinking, and when reading the book we can see that she rarely reveals her true feelings.

4. Kitty

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While we read slightly more about Kitty than Mary, it is still rather vague compared to Elizabeth or Jane. Still, we see a few middle child qualities. For example, she lives in the shadow of her lively younger sister Lydia. While she allows herself to be influenced by Lydia, and is therefore more lively than Mary, she still finds it hard to measure up.

5. Lydia

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Lydia is the baby of the family and extremely accurately fulfills Dr. Leman’s description of the last born child: Charming, people oriented, tenacious, affectionate and engaging, uncomplicated, and attention seeking. Because she is spoiled mercilessly by her mother, she is used to having her own way and she wants to keep it that way. She is occasionally manipulative, undisciplined, and unfortunately, easily taken advantage of… But despite all this, she is lovable and entertaining.

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‘”What does this tell us, Alyssa?” Jane didn’t have a birth order book to go by… answers weren’t a click of a button away. This reveals once again to us what an unusual understanding Jane Austen had of human nature and people in general. So much so that she could observe and recreate the personalities of those around her based on their place in a family. Maybe you didn’t find this as interesting as I did, but I hope you still see it the way I do: as proof that Jane’s skill in character creation, development, and description remains unsurpassed.

*Leman, Kevin. The Birth Order Book: Revised and Updated. New York: MJF Books, 2009.