“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.
- Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (1814)
This month the members of Kristy Eléna’s FTFCommunity (an extension of her Full Time Fabulous readership) are focusing on inspirations. August represents a transition from summer to autumn – or, if you happen to be in another part of the world, possibly a transition from winter into spring – and it’s the perfect time to reacquaint ourselves with our goals by seeking new inspiration, or perhaps revisiting the old. For this event, I’m taking the latter avenue.
I’ve been inspired by the world of Jane Austen since I first turned the pages of Persuasion so many years ago, and my love for her Regency writings has only continued to grow. There’s a cozy familiarity to revisiting her novels and their countless adaptations; getting lost in Austen, as it were. I love Jane’s works for many reasons, it sometimes feels impossible to pinpoint just one. People are apt to say that her stories are like fairy tales, for the way good always triumphs over evil and nothing but the happiest endings exist. But the greatest source of my inspiration is simply in the characters themselves and the world they live in. I admire Jane’s heroines, all perfect in their imperfections, especially Anne Elliot, Elinor Dashwood and Fanny Price. Their triumphs and their determination inspired me from the first, and they’ve stayed with me since. Fanny spoke what is one of my favorite lines from any of Jane’s novels – and about the weather, yet! – when “all that was solemn, and soothing, and lovely, appeared in the brilliancy of an unclouded night”:
“Here’s harmony!” said she; “here’s repose! Here’s what may leave all painting and all music behind, and what poetry only can attempt to describe! Here’s what may tranquillise every care, and lift the heart to rapture! When I look out on such a night as this, I feel as if there could be neither wickedness nor sorrow in the world; and there certainly would be less of both if the sublimity of Nature were more attended to, and people were carried more out of themselves by contemplating such a scene.”
- Mansfield Park, Chapter XI
It means so much to me that Jane’s women were women of substance, intelligence and manners; they’ve proven all of those qualities to be the definition of timeless elegance. Their gentle propriety and that of the era, so wittily captured by Jane, inspires me with the importance and appreciation of simple etiquette. As to how Jane herself inspires me, well, there likely couldn’t be two personalities much farther apart, but in a way I think that’s the beauty of it all. It’s a special thing that a woman so different from me could understand the vast scope of human character enough to create heroines that I, all these years later, still feel utterly akin to. And that is one of the many ways she inspires me as a writer, while her Anne and Fanny and Elinor – and maybe even her Lizzy and Emma and Catherine – inspire me as a lady.
A peak at my little Jane Austen corner.