Given that this is a truth universally acknowledged…
1. We good Christian girls are obsessed with marriage. Ok, maybe that’s a little harsh but we are far more preoccupied with marriage than our unbelieving sisters and we do feel the genuine alarm of being (gasp!) unbetrothed at (gasp!) one-and-twenty. After all,
“A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”
– Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
2. We are not surprised that, in Jane Austen novels, there are clergymen everywhere: Mr Ferrars, Mr Bertram, Mr Tilney, Mr Collins, Mr Norris, Mr Elton, Mr Hayter, Dr Perry, Mr Morland. (Think you’re pretty good with Austen and her clergymen? Try the quiz.)
3. We love that, finally, here is a romance where getting swept over your feet by a totally inappropriate (but deliciously handsome, rugged and brooding) man is not A Good Thing. Miss Austen reminds us,
“I may have lost my heart, but not my self-control.”
– Jane Austen, Emma
4. We are comforted that there is no religious wrangling or argy-bargy. In fact, there are no other religions, no atheism and no nonconformists. God is in His Heaven, everyone is in one church (the Established Church thankyouverymuch) and all is right in the world. Contented Sigh.
5. We are not surprised that everyone seems to know everyone else. Of course Mr Darcy’s is Lizzy Bennet’s first cousin’s benefactress’ nephew; of course Captain Wentworth is Anne Eliot’s father’s new tenant’s wife’s brother; of course Edward Ferrars is Elinor Dashwood’s new neighbour’s daughter’s close friend’s secret fiance. If anything, we find it remarkable that it often takes our heroine’s at least halfway through the books to realise this.
6. We are relieved to find that neither sex nor sexual attraction is never described, spoken of or even alluded to. (Unless you’re a postmodern literary theorist or a BBC watcher… then it’s everywhere. Anyone keen for some wet shirts in ponds?)
7. We get the foreshadowing so much quicker. When Mrs Dashwood tells Marianne she can stay home from church to speak to a boy (admittedly about marriage but we’ll ignore that), we just know that’s going to end badly. Poor Marianne. Take note ladies: skipping church for a boy is the surest way to get your heart broken.
8. We love that Jane Austen wrote prayers as well. Isn’t that lovely?
Give us grace Almighty Father, so to pray as to deserve to be heard, to address Thee with our hearts as with our lips. Thou art everywhere present, from Thee no secret can be hid. May the knowledge of this teach us to fix our thoughts on Thee, with reverence and devotion that we pray no in vain.
9. We wish that, like in Austen novels, purity wasn’t just a spiritual virtue but a socially recognised accomplishment. It would make it so much easier. And we wish that being able to make conversation with the dull, shy, verbose, smelly and irritating was as treated as the hard-won skill it is. (You know Christian girls are good at this; we’ve had so practice at church suppers.)
10. Finally, we are used to reading long, complicated books with very small print, somewhat archaic language and often dusty covers. Though I can’t think why…
“But for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short.”
– Jane Austen