Thursday, October 22, 2009

How about those beloved Austen endings...

If anyone out there is actually paying attention, they know I reread Lady Susan last weekend. Twice actually. It was then brought to my notice that there was a "completion" (I have serious issues with that word) of the story entitled Lady Vernon and Her Daughter by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway. I haven't finished it yet but what I can say is that the characters in this story, while sharing the same names and life experiences of Jane Austen's, are entirely new creations. That being said, in the spirit of my last post I thought I'd share the Rubinos' opening line:

A woman with neither property nor fortune must ward off affliction by cultivating the beauty, brilliance, and accomplishment that will blind a promising suitor to the want of a dowry.

Quite cute, I thought, and much more in keeping with the spirit of Austen's text than the rest of the book has so far proven to be.

So what about last lines? Lady Susan's is classic:

For myself, I confess that I can pity only Miss Manwaring, who, coming to Town & putting herself to an expense in Cloathes which impoverished her for two years, on purpose to secure him, was defrauded of her due by a Woman ten years older than herself.

It has the same catty bite to it as the end of Persuasion:

It would be well for the eldest sister if she were equally satisfied with her situation, for a change is not very probable there. She had soon the mortification of seeing Mr Elliot withdraw, and no one of proper condition has since presented himself to raise even the unfounded hopes which sunk with him.

Austen is similarly sarcastic at the end of Northanger Abbey:

To begin perfect happiness at the respective ages of twenty–six and eighteen is to do pretty well; and professing myself moreover convinced that the general’s unjust interference, so far from being really injurious to their felicity, was perhaps rather conducive to it, by improving their knowledge of each other, and adding strength to their attachment, I leave it to be settled, by whomsoever it may concern, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny, or reward filial disobedience.

Jane Austen's other endings are rather more "happily ever after" in style than school girl cheek, though she still demonstrates an unwillingness to let her characters go in peace. For example, in Pride & Prejudice she must remind us of our heroine's unpleasant relations:

Elizabeth did all she could to shield him from the frequent notice of either, and was ever anxious to keep him to herself, and to those of her family with whom he might converse without mortification; and though the uncomfortable feelings arising from all this took from the season of courtship much of its pleasure, it added to the hope of the future; and she looked forward with delight to the time when they should be removed from society so little pleasing to either, to all the comfort and elegance of their family party at Pemberley.

In Emma we are not allowed to forget that the Knightlys will still have to endure the Eltons:

The wedding was very much like other weddings, where the parties have no taste for finery or parade; and Mrs. Elton, from the particulars detailed by her husband, thought it all extremely shabby, and very inferior to her own. "Very little white satin, very few lace veils; a most pitiful business! Selina would stare when she heard of it." But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union.

And the end of Sense & Sensibility undermines the entire premise of perfect happiness:

Between Barton and Delaford there was that constant communication which strong family affection would naturally dictate; and among the merits and the happiness of Elinor and Marianne, let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that, though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands.

Only in the case of Fanny Price, of all Austen's heroines, does the authoress leave us with a prospect of complete contentment and that is gained only in juxtaposition to her previous suffering:

On that event they removed to Mansfield; and the Parsonage there, which, under each of its two former owners, Fanny had never been able to approach but with some painful sensation of restraint or alarm, soon grew as dear to her heart, and as thoroughly perfect in her eyes, as everything else within the view and patronage of Mansfield Park had long been.

Perhaps Fanny is the only one capable of such quiet complacency? As Elizabeth freely admits to Jane, "Till I have your disposition, your goodness, I never can have your happiness."