Left at the Church Door

November 20, 2015 at 12:18 pm (books, jane austen, jasna) (, , , )

One point made in my October JASNA AGM paper at Louisville was the propensity for Jane Austen to close after the relevant couples departed the church. We are told little of Wedding Breakfasts, Honeymoons, or burgeoning of “twigs” on “family trees”.

elizabeth and darcy

BUT: In amongst the “happily ever after” intentions of the closing chapters is also the recent history of Mrs Weston (Emma’s former governess). Hers is a narrative arc that encompasses Spinster – Wife – Mother all in one novel. Mrs. Weston (or Mister Weston, for there are men in JASNA audiences!) was someone to keep in mind, as I went on to speak about Mothers-to-be preparing for confinements.

Let me mention here that anyone able to visit Montpelier, Vermont in March 2016 will be welcome to attend the same talk, “Who could be more prepared than she was? True Tales of Life, Death, and Confinement: Childbirth in Early 19th Century England”, thanks to JASNA-Vermont.

KM at agm_Steve(click pic for Steve’s photos from the Louisville 2016 AGM)

Just visible in the photo above is an image (lower corner) showing Emma and Mr Knightley, during a discussion of “due dates”. (You might just recall Mr. Austen’s comment that he and his wife had “in old age grown such bad reckoners” when Jane Austen failed to appear as predicted, in November.)

I can’t say I ever think of Austen’s characters as other than relatively happy couples and families – much like what I’ve seen played out over the course of fifty years (1790 to 1840) of family letters for Emma and her siblings. So, it was with great interest that I read Deborah Yaffe’s recent blog post HOW DARE YOU?, a refutation of the “long-term chances” of Austen couples like Emma & Mr. Knightly (deemed to have “So-So” chances) and Anne Elliot & Captain Wentworth (whose chances were assessed as “Dodgy”).




  1. rearadmiral said,

    I so agree with you about Austen couples. In an unpublished blog post(it might not see the light of day), I quote a bit of Deborah Yaffe’s post about Emma and Mr. K. Alas, even scholars like Susan Wolfson get into the questioning Emma/Mr K future act. In the middle of her interesting JASNA-VT Northanger Abbey talk, she actually launched into Emma/Mr K unhappy future comments….totally out of place etc grrr…lol did I mention that Mr. K is my favorite Austen hero although Emma is my 4th favorite big 6 novel? Here’s a great rant about fan fiction and Emma Knightley…..http://madeleinestjust.livejournal.com/23381.html


    • Janeite Kelly said,

      “UNhappy future”?! Oh fie! I adore Emma, so can see more in store for them as a couple than some readers…

      Only your FOURTH favorite? P&P, Persuasion, and…?? Do tell!

      Here’s hoping that your blog post DOES see the light of day. And ‘thanks’, for writing and the link.


      • rearadmiral said,

        :)…..P&P, S&S, and then Persuasion, Emma…NA, and MP….upon rereadings the gap between the 1st 5 of them has closed to a very small amount. While I love being in, and reading about, Highbury(I grew up in a Highbury….with many Emmas(Emmai?), it doesn’t quite tug on my Marianne heart as much as P&P, S&S(forever Team Marianne, but rereadings and Hattie Morahan’s portrayal in ’08 have caused to love Elinor highly….I should I say I loved Emma Thompson too but ’95 was really about Marianne, whereas I think ’08 was about Elinor), and Persuasion.

        Speaking of Team Marianne, the JASNA-VT Marianne Dashwood seminar in Dec ’11(maybe ’10?) was such fun….would have traveled to the moon for that one!

        I, of course, hope to make it up there in March…although I fear the topic is a little difficult for me. :)


  2. Janeite Kelly said,

    Hi, again, Rear Admiral!

    I can say that I got a new love for MP last year, after reading it before the AGM in Montreal. (Though a decidedly difficult “internal” narrative to make into a film, unlike the others.) So I can see myself the “closing ranks” of her novels. It’s like Mozart operas for me: love them all, but sometimes one speaks a little more loudly and it does CHANGE depending on mood.

    Yes, the Thompson/Winslet pairing provided for an infectious Marianne story, didn’t it? VERY hard not to get swept up in their romance. (As Thompson herself might be able to attest to…)

    Must admit, I find it hard to pick between the two sisters of S&S; love them both!

    How INTERESTING to hear of your Highbury and all the “Emmai”! places still exist as Austen “knew” them, then!

    I do hope you’ll come and say hello in March — must say that my talk centers on “preparation” and the month of one’s “confinement” with an idea of talking about what Emma’s Mrs. Weston would have done and experienced. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised! (weather barring a cancellation… No Mr. Elton required, though). Afraid that “Miss Marianne,” being an unmarried lady for most of the novel, is not touched upon (though two others from S&S come in for a quick mention; you will guess whom I mean).

    Thanks for visiting and commenting! You make me want to pull S&S off my shelf… or at least the old movie!


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