December 16th Birthdays

December 16, 2011 at 6:15 pm (jane austen, people) (, , , , , , , , )


Listening to the radio this morning, there were announcements for the birthday of Noel Coward (in 1899). The interesting comment attached to this was that at one point he had to “reinvent” himself. Ah, aren’t we all having to do, just to keep treading water, sometimes.

The radio station’s next comment on Coward’s birthday also included Beethoven’s birthday (1770). More a Mozart fan, I must admit to forgetting the birth dates of other composers. Discussion of him, and a piece played by composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel, just transported me back to Vienna. Oh, gosh! to be able to travel! I’ve not seen Vienna in fifteen years… And my German was almost “decent” back then.

When I reached work, after having been out a couple days, I was greeted with “Happy Jane Austen’s birthday”. I hope Jane did have some happy birthdays. But no one can ever know the ups and downs she may have experienced over her lot in life. Yet her writings show that for those who need to express themselves in words, they will always find a way to do so. Austen was among the lucky: she saw her works printed. Even if she didn’t have a long life, even if she didn’t make a lot of money, she saw her works go out beyond her family.

Imagine Beethoven, who in the end couldn’t hear his own compositions. Coward was probably the luckiest of them all: he saw his works give him riches and fame. Though most artists might be happy just to have to the ability to perform the art they love doing — a livable wage and a responsive, encouraging audience.

A lot can be said about the thoughts behind the word ENCOURAGEMENT. Home, sick, the last few days, I’ve had a LOT of time to think. Wish there had been some one person, in a position to help, who took the time to encourage me. Those of you out there who feel the guiding hand of a mentor are perhaps the luckiest of everyone.

In my own research there is no December 16th birthday, but there is a December 16th wedding: Emma Smith and James Edward Austen. I know that in the early days of their engagement (a few months before their wedding), they were reading Emma together. What might have suggested that book? I have no definitive clues that the Smith girls read much Austen until after 1817 — although they had known James Edward quite some years, running into him at The Vyne, the estate of their Aunt and Uncle Chute. In the 1820s, one letter mentions a left-behind volume of Pride and Prejudice and some slim comments about characters the letter-writer found particularly worthy of comment (the usual suspects being singled out: Mr Collins and Mary Bennet!).

When Edward brought Emma around Winchester — and they visited the Cathedral — they must have stopped at Aunt Jane’s graveside; but, again, they have left no concrete clue.

But: Was December 16th just a convenient date, or was there some significance for bride or groom in marrying on that date?

It’s funny little questions like that which keep the attention slowly burning, for who doesn’t like a puzzle in need of solving?

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