Quote Jane

“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

vrijdag 28 juni 2013

Georgian society in Jane Austen's novels Part II

The reign of George III—if one includes in it the Regency period that took place during his final illness — encompasses all of Jane Austen's life, and even beyond, as it started in 1760, just before her parents married in 1764, and ended up in 1820, after the death of Austen in 1817 and the posthumous publication of her two novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey in 1818.[10]

French Revolution

It is through her cousin Eliza de Feuillide, married to a French aristocrat, that Jane Austen first heard of the French Revolution and of its violence. Eliza stayed in England in 1786 and 1787, and made several trips between France and England from 1788 to 1792. In January 1791, Eliza was in Margate, and was hoping that her husband, who had just joined a royalist group in Turin, could come back to her in June. After a brief stay in England during the winter of 1791, he then returned to France, as he wanted to come to the assistance of a friend, the Marquise de Marbeuf, accused of conspiring against the Republic. Unfortunately, he was unmasked while trying to suborn a witness, and duly arrested and guillotined.[11]
The memory of Eliza de Feuillide can be seen in several of Austen's Juvenilia, such as Love and Freindship (sic)—dedicated, as it was, to "Madame la Comtesse de Feuillide"—or Henry and Eliza.
As the same time, the French Revolution led in England to the Revolution Controversy, involving such thinkers as Mary Wollstonecraft and her groundbreaking book A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, William Godwin, Thomas Paine and Joseph Priestley. Austen, as the staunch Tory supporter she had always been, was herself in favour of the family as bringing stability in the midst of the turmoils of the times.[11]

Napoleonic Wars

The Napoleonic Wars are the series of wars that took place in Europe while Napoleon was France’s head of state. They are the continuation of the wars that arose as a result of the French Revolution in 1789, saw France briefly dominate most of Europe, and continued until the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815. These were wars on a formerly unprecedented scale, largely as a result of mass conscription, and Britain remained at war with France throughout the period of 1803 to 1815, only two years before Austen died. Two Jane Austen’s brothers, Frank and Charles, made their careers in the Royal Navy.

This period of warfare accounts for the importance of the military in the novels, where some of the protagonists are officers, and the presence of officers at social functions is frequently a factor in the social life of a neighbourhood. Hence in Sense and Sensibility Marianne’s suitor is Colonel Brandon, the dastardly Wickham in Pride and Prejudice is an officer in the militia, and the youngest Bennet girls are obsessed with the officers at the nearby training camp in Meryton. In Mansfield Park, Fanny Price’s brother is a midshipman in the Royal Navy, and in Northanger Abbey, Frederick Tilney is an army officer and his father a retired general. Persuasion’s Frederick Wentworth is a naval officer whose career takes him from poverty to success and wealth.

Income spread

The income spread seen in Jane Austen’s novels allows us to better determine the social status of her different characters. Except in the case of heiresses, where we talk about the total fortune, these revenues are always annual.
In any case, it is easy to calculate the income corresponding to a given fortune, since money invested in government funds pays 5% a year (or only 4% in the case of a small investment). Thus Caroline Bingley’s fortune of 20 000 pounds (Pride and Prejudice) guarantees her an income of 1000 pounds a year, already a large sum which guarantees her a competence, that is, everything that can be considered necessary to lead a pleasant life, including a carriage.[12]
Jane Austen’s novels depict a whole income hierarchy which implies very different lifestyles.
One hundred pounds a year: in Jane Austen’s novels, this is a very low income, that of a poor curate, for example, or of a civil servant working in a government office, or again of a small shopkeeper. However, it is rather satisfactory compared with that of a farm labourer which can be as little as twenty-five pounds a year[N 3] including extra work at harvest time.[13] With 100 pounds a year, the best one can expect is to have a maid of all work, as Mrs. Jennings points out to Edward Ferrars and Lucy Steele (Sense and Sensibility) when they seem to be about to get married with only this level of income.[14]
Two hundred pounds: this is the income of Jane Austen’s parents four years after their marriage in 1764; even though it is double what they had at the beginning of their married life, it is barely adequate due to the birth of their children. Three hundred pounds would better meet their needs, even though that is the income of which Colonel Brandon says to Edward Ferrars that it is a nice sum for a single man, but “insufficient to permit him to marry”.[14]
Four, or better, five hundred pounds: this is the level above which one can lead the life befitting a member of the gentry. It is the income enjoyed by Mrs. Dashwood, which permits her to give her daughters a decent existence, with two maids and a serving man, but neither carriage nor horses.
Seven hundred to a thousand pounds a year make a carriage possible: when George Austen, Jane’s father, reaches an income of 700 pounds he buys himself one, even though he realises that it is a pleasure that is slightly too expensive.[15]
Two thousand pounds a year might seem a very comfortable sum, even for a gentleman. It is, for example, Colonel Brandon’s income in Sense and Sensibility. But it is also the income of Mr. Bennet, who, with a wife and five daughters, has difficulty living well on this sum. It is, however, true that his abilities in household management are very poor.[15]
Four thousand pounds and above are the level above which even a gentleman ceases to need to do too much counting.[15] It is the income enjoyed by Henry Crawford, Mr. Rushworth (Mansfield Park), Bingley, and Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice) who actually has 10,000 pounds a year.[15] At this level of income, one has a manor house or even a country estate, a carriage and everything that goes with it, and also no doubt a house in London in order to be able to make a comfortable stay in the capital.
But these incomes, large as they are, are exceeded by the real-life 100,000 pounds a year at the disposal of the owner of Chatsworth House, the Duke of Devonshire.[16][N 4]
The fact remains, however, that Jane Austen’s universe is a privileged world which conceals the harshness of the living conditions of the vast majority of the rural population, a population which is impoverished, uneducated and brutal. wiki/Georgian_society_in_Jane_Austen's_novels

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Austen werd geboren in Hampshire. Haar vader was een geestelijke. Het grootste deel van haar leven bleef zij in haar geboortestreek. Austen had zes broers en een oudere zuster, Cassandra, met wie zij zeer hecht was. Het enige onbetwiste portret van Jane Austen is een gekleurde schets die door Cassandra werd gemaakt en nu in de National Portrait Gallery in Londen hangt. In 1801 verhuisde de familie naar Bath. In 1802 werd Austen ten huwelijk gevraagd door de rijke Harris Bigg-Wither en zij stemde toe; de volgende dag deelde ze echter mee dat zij haar woord niet kon houden en trok haar instemming in. De reden hiervoor is niet bekend, maar Austen is nooit getrouwd. Na de dood van haar vader in 1805 woonden Jane, haar zuster en haar moeder daar nog verscheidene jaren tot zij in 1809 naar Chawton verhuisden. Hier had haar rijke broer Edward een landgoed met een plattelandshuisje, dat hij aan zijn moeder en zusters schonk (dit huis is tegenwoordig open voor het publiek). Zelfs nadat zij naam gemaakt had als romanschrijfster bleef zij in relatieve stilte leven, maar haar gezondheid ging sterk achteruit. Er wordt nu aangenomen dat zij de ziekte van Addison had, waarvan toen de oorzaak nog onbekend was. Ze reisde naar Winchester om behandeling te zoeken, maar stierf daar en werd begraven in de kathedraal.
Tot Austens beroemdste werk behoort de roman Emma. Het boek wordt vaak aangehaald vanwege de perfectie van vorm. Moderne critici blijven ook nieuwe perspectieven ontdekken op het scherpe commentaar van Austen betreffende de klasse van jonge, ongehuwde, aristocratische Engelse vrouwen in de vroege 19e eeuw.


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