Today, being Jane Austen’s birthday, 16 December, I would like to pay tribute to a very special woman in the world of literature. I first discovered Jane Austen when I was but a teenager. My mother was a lover of old movies and introduced me and my sister to the 1940 version of Pride and Prejudice movie starring Greer Garson and Lawrence Oliver. What could be better than this old black and white with lively music and lighthearted banter between our beloved characters, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy?
Little did I know that this old film was just a sneak preview into the world of Jane Austen and the literary works that I would soon come to love and cherish. Following this introduction, I quickly sought out our local used book store to see if I might purchase the original. To my delight, I found a fat anthology containing not only Pride and Prejudice, but all six of Jane Austen’s completed novels.
Our dear Jane was born on 16 December 1775. She was one of eight children (six boys and two girls) born to George and Cassandra Austen during the course of their marriage. Like Elizabeth and Jane from Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen was very close to her elder sister Cassandra.
Coming from a family of modest means, Jane did not have the privileges that would have been given to her in a more affluent household such as that of Georgiana Darcy or even Caroline Bingley. Her father was a simple clergyman who not only performed his duties in the ministry, but farmed and often boarded several boys that he tutored for extra income. While Jane and Cassandra did have some schooling outside of the home, from what I can tell, the majority of Jane’s education came from the independent reading she did, guided by her father and brothers, James and Henry.
Jane had long been interested in the written word, and some of her earliest writings can be traced back as far as age eleven. She often wrote stories, poems, and short plays for her family’s amusement, and engaged in family theatricals on a regular basis. We can easily imagine how some of these experiences in Jane’s early life must have stimulated her imagination as well as forming the foundation for much of her writing that we enjoy today.
In this current day and age it is fascinating to be a part of the Jane Austen Fan Fiction culture that hungers for sequels, prequels and adaptations of almost every type based on Jane’s works. While writing my current Work In Progress, Darcy’s Melody, I have taken Austen’s main characters and written them into a new tale which takes place in London, during 1811. Although I could never hope to emulate Jane Austen’s masterful writing, I have thoroughly enjoyed trying to capture the essence of her characters within a genre that is so familiar to me, music. If you have not already done so, I would like to take this opportunity to invite you over to the storyboard to read along as I bring my tale to a close. Enjoy! Jennifer Redlarczyk ♫
PS I would love to know what first drew you to Jane Austen. What is your favorite Austen Book and what is is about JAFF that keeps you hungering for more?