Monday, May 3, 2010

The Lusty Month of May

May has always been one of my favorite months. In recent years, my husband and I have developed a consistent routine for its commemoration: each May begins with our annual Kentucky Derby party (my husband's family is from Louisville, Kentucky, where Derby is a month long celebration, on par with Christmas in its completely penetrating atmosphere - Congratulations Super Saver!), and ends with our anniversary, when we always travel. Until this year, that is, for this is the years of the house - the great move is finally about to commence, which means no Derby party and no vacation. But I will not mourn this loss of events I look forward to all year, for I am about to move into a fabulous house I absolutely adore with my best friend in the world, who is soon to be my husband of six years. Consequently, this May is going to be insanely busy. I am sorry to predict that my blogs post are likely to be less frequent in the coming weeks. I will do my best to stay on top of Janeicillin and reviews, but their appearances are likely to be a bit irregular. Bear with me through the move and June should see this blog return to normalcy.

So between our first house, the approaching anniversary, and the effects of the season, my mind is much on love and romance. Of course, regular Austen consumption leads a reader to frequently dwell on such topics - her novels are like manna to the romantic sensibility - but, as in everything, the great authoress preaches moderation: perfect happiness must be countered by doses of reality, examples must be made of unhappy marriages, and pragmatic (or even mercenary) perspectives must be indulged. I can think of only two Austen ladies who actually voice the last, and while they are wildly different creatures, the sentiment is expressed remarkably similar (and cynical). The first is Charlotte Lucas ...
I wish Jane success with all my heart; and if she were married to him to-morrow, I should think she had as good a chance of happiness as if she were to be studying his character for a twelvemonth. Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar before-hand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always contrive to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.
... and the second, Mary Crawford ...
With all due respect to such of the present company as chance to be married, my dear Mrs. Grant, there is not one in a hundred of either sex who is not taken in when they marry. Look where I will, I see that it is so; and I feel that it must be so, when I consider that it is, of all transactions, the one in which people expect most from others, and are least honest themselves.
I have been quite focused on Mansfield Park lately, and when I came across this quote again it struck me, for the first time, how similar it is to Charlotte's views on marriage. Both ladies recognize how liable people are to misrepresentation: in a society where conversation and social interaction are so rigid, and marriage is of such vital importance to a woman's happiness, how many people weren't "taken in" they married? My husband and I dated for six years before we married. Being the child of parents who married three months after they met and were divorced not long thereafter, I didn't want to leave "happiness in marriage ... entirely to chance"; I wanted to be sure I was marrying the right person. This is not a liberty typically allowed the Regency lady - not everyone has a Mr. Darcy to send running across the country on a quest to restore the familial honor as proof of character. This serves as a very useful reminder to myself that, while I might dream of elaborately tied cravats, carriage rides, and ballroom banter, it is wonderfully liberating to be a modern woman and free to form my own path to happiness rather than have that of someone else (be it a Mrs. Bennet, a Sir Thomas, a Lady Catherine, or a General Tilney) imposed upon me. I am in a mood to be thankful right now, recent events having reminded me how remarkably fortunate I am, both for the blessings of modern life in a liberated society and to Austen, for teaching me to appreciate them.

Images borrowed:  
Lucy Scott as Charlotte Lucas - Jewellery etc 
Embeth Davidtz as Mary Crawford - Jane Austen Today


  1. So many exciting things to look forward to!! I hope the move goes nice and smooth. It must be wonderful to have a house of your own, we are renting the one we live in.

    I agree with you that one advantage of being in the modern world is finding the right person to marry and not being forced to decide after knowing them for a few weeks. (Didn't Mr. Collins propose after two weeks?)

    My husband and I dated three years. We knew after two months that we wanted to spend our lives together but we were only 20, going through college, and without full time jobs. Even though we were ready, our lives weren't!

    I wish you and your husband a Happy Move and a Happy Anniversary.

  2. Thanks Meredith! My husband and I met in college too, but it took us about a year to discover our feelings for each other, and then there was no turning back! It is so hard to believe that was almost fourteen years ago! Time sure does fly...

  3. I know what you mean!! My husband just teased me about something that happened while we were dating (I accidently bought spoiled milk for him!) We then realized the incident happened 5 years ago, yet felt like it was not too long ago!

    It so nice to hear how you are so happy together!!

  4. I think Austen teaches us how to pick a good guy, what do you think?