Today, around the world, there is a large number of people, primarily women who identify themselves as “Janeites.” They are the disciples of an English author who died more than 200 years ago. Her name was Jane Austen.
Austen was the daughter of an English Victor and she lived adjacent to the society of gentry. The gentry were the wealthy landowners of massive estates and they relied upon the tenant farmers for income. An extensive and well-trained domestic staff provided for every need or want a member of this class could desire. Many times, the staff outnumbered the family members. It was known as the Regency era and it was the sunset of the gentile English life style. In just a few years, world events and technology would usher in World War 1. It was a blessing, Austen and her companions did not know of the future waiting just a generation away.
Six novels was all she was able to finish in her short lifetime. She died when she was but forty-one. Those six novels set the standards and expectations for the Janeites.
It would be and could be easy to make fun of and tease this dedicated group. Many people do. However, like many who read Miss Austen, they miss the point and ignore the depth of the stories. They are more than just “boy meets girl” romances. They talk of personal expectations and social obligations. If we will but allow them, the books can serve as examples of how we can live fuller lives.
Truthfully, comparing Austen’s works to some of the fifty shades of crap written today and packaged as art can be more than a little nauseating.
However, it is more than just stories. During the closing years of the First World War, droves of soldiers had given up and quit fighting. They suffered from what was called; “Shell Shock” and they had seen too much carnage and destruction. They had forgotten why the war was being fought. Part of their treatment was the reading of Jane Austen novels.
Most people today do not know this, but thanks to the writer Rudyard Kipling, most of the first generation of Janeites were not only men, but soldiers as well.
I find it comforting that a writer, who is known for her dedication to the gentile life of the English gentry, answered the call when her country needed her.
Yeah, I know, she was long dead and it was her novels that served, but its more romantic to think otherwise and isn’t romance what it is all about?