I previously had a poll asking my readers if they were ‘Sex and the city’ women or ‘Jane Austen’ women and the result for being a lady of Austen times was 0%. Is this because Austen woman seem boring? They sat around their parents’ house playing the piano and sewing till the old age of 23 and then married. Boring? I beg to differ. Austen’s stories combine delicate insinuations of lust, prolonged eye contact and both the ladies and gents ooze sensuality. Jane Austen was a phenomenal observer and her stories are full of relationship moments that us 21st century girls can relate to…and maybe even learn from. Let me break it down.
Pride and Prejudice is the story of Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage in the society in early 19th-century England. Lizzie Bennet, the protagonist of Pride and Prejudice is 25 and single and she has always been my favourite literacy heroine. Perhaps ahead of her time as she is smart, witty, has an aura of independence and a feisty spirit but she has a tendency to judge on first impressions-the “Prejudice” of the title. “Pride” comes from the male protagonist Mr Darcy. Darcy is 28 years old, unmarried and the wealthy owner of the renowned family estate of Pemberley in Derbyshire. He is rumoured to worth around £10,000 a year-todays equivalent of £8,000,000. Ka-Ching! Today, women are not financially dependent on a man and research shows that the more money us ladies earn ourselves, the less bothered we are about Mr Right’s earnings. However, this was not the case in Austen times and a wealthy man was tremendously desirable:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
Or so the Austen women hoped.
Lizzie and Darcy’s romantic quest is not the controversial “Love at first sight” scenario that most romance writers opt for. In fact, Darcy’s excessive pride causes him to make a poor first impression of Lizzie and he claims’ “She is tolerable but she is not handsome enough to temp me”. Prick. However, those close to Darcy think very highly of him and throughout the novel he is dark and mysterious. As the stories prevails, we find Darcy is a total gentleman and basically lovely. Lizzie has to bite the bullet and admit her opinion has perhaps been too selective. The course of Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship is ultimately decided when Darcy overcomes his pride, and Elizabeth overcomes her prejudice, leading them both to surrender to the love they have for each other.
Lesson Learned= Love is not at first sight. First impressions can be wrong. Love takes time.
Jaded Dating: We have all been there. In fact, looking back (and presently) the guys I always end up liking the most are not the ones that made me purr the moment I met them. I have never really fallen for “my type”. The butterflies in the tummy, blushing cheeks and weak knees happen once I get to know someone. For me, the attributes that do this are intelligence, ambition, wit, kindness, modesty and the ability to really make me laugh. Once these are established, I become more attracted to them. This man suddenly becomes a charming force of nature and irresistible. The best relationships I know started like this. She got to know him then they became friends and are now so ridiculously loved up. The happiest couples-you know who you are, I idolise you all.
Back to Austen. There are other courtship lessons from the brilliant ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Ladies, I introduce Mr Wickham. An acquaintance of Darcy’s since childhood. Wickham is extremely charming and alluring. He often remarks on the wrong that Darcy has done in the past. Lizzie fancies him as he is perfect. With the other characters being socially prejudice, they sub come to his charm and there is very much a good cop/bad cop thing with Wickham and Darcy. However, Wickham elopes with Lydia Bennet, although he has absolutely no intention of marrying her. Tosser. We soon discover that Darcy is responsible for negotiating with Wickham and convincing him to marry Lydia. Basically, Wickham lied to make himself look better and his life long friend look bad. Elizabeth is shocked and flattered as “her heart did whisper that he had done it for her”. Did Darcy have Lydia’s best intentions at heart to impress Lizzie? Either way, he did the right, gentlemanly thing.
Lesson learned- Get to know the guy before eloping with him. If he seems too good to be true-he probably is.
Jaded Dating: We have all had an encounter with a Mr Wickham. He pulls you in with his good looks, comfortable job and charms the pants off you with kind words and makes claims about himself thatyou assume to be true. Once you get to know Mr Wickham he is incredibly insecure and a little dull. Although, have hope ladies, there is actually good looking guys with comfortable jobs that mean the kind words they say and do actually have interesting things about them out there-Like Mr Darcy!
I highly recommend that every one of you ladies read this novel. Or at least watch the BBC drama-for Colin Firth in a wet, white shirt if anything. Swoon.
Austen gives us more relatable dating lessons in her novel ‘Emma’. Austen wanted to write a heroine that would be unlikable but this creates a great comedy of errors within the story. Emma is young and beautiful and from a privileged family. Emma prides herself in being a matchmaker and likes to get in about others business. Her friend and only critic is George Knightley. Emma attempts to set her friend Harriet up with Mr Elton. Mr Elton proposes to Emma but she refuses. Emma feels bad for leading a heart broken Harriet on. The handsome and charming Frank Churchill soon moves to the neighbourhood. Emma and Churchill flirt undeniably and she almost forces herself to love him as it is expected of her. Harriet then confesses she has feelings for Knightly and believes he has feelings for her in return. Overcome with jealously, Emma realizes that she has always been very much in love with Knightly. She soon finds out he loves her too. He proposes and she blissfully accepts. And the live happily-ever-after. The End.
Lesson Learned: Sometimes you are looking too hard. You can be too close to the puzzle to see the missing piece. Don’t force yourself to love somebody.
Jaded dating: How many times have you thought a guy was in the “friend zone”. Then he kisses you and it’s AMAZING. Or the guy mate that’s gives you a hug and smells amazing and you close your eyes for a minute and shock yourself by going “mmmm” to yourself. Or the ‘he touched my hand…did he mean to touch me hand’ thoughts? Or he gets a girlfriend that is lovely but your jealousy causes you to really dislike her? Take a lesson from Emma.
Today we have learned:
1) Love is not at first sight.
2) If he seems too good to be true, he probably is.
3) He might be more than a friend.
I will do a part two of this article and we can see how much our friendships can affect our search for Mr Darcy. There is a fantastic book which covers this in more depth called “Jane Austen’s Guide to Romance” by Lauren Henderson. I will report back once I have read it! In the meantime, enjoy reading ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and good luck to all those in search of Mr Darcy.