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”.
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.
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”).