Dear Ms. Austen,
You have an uncanny skill – a skill not often replicated among authors. You craft words into narrative that speaks volumes about a woman’s heart, no matter what century she lived in. Simple greetings and common gestures become insightful social commentary with help from your quick wit and expert prose.
Even your earlier work, the juvenilia as scholars now call it, is masterful and engaging. Your Lady Susan, a work composed solely of letters, rivals the prowess of Frances Burney in Evelina. Although, I do wish you had finished The Watsons. What was to become of the love triangle between Lady Osborne, Mr. Howard, and Emma? I will forever be hanging on Mr. Watson’s fate.
Emma, however, is my favorite of your novels. It is the perfect example of how you balance social commentary and narrative. To an unsuspecting reader, your novels are a pleasant look into a place or person. For those who look deeper, they are a running appraisal of life. From the surface, Emma seems to revolve around the heroine’s matchmaking skills, but the true meat of your story lies in one person’s preoccupation with the advantages of herself in comparison to others.
I’m particularly drawn to Emma as a character, and a novel, because I share many of the same faults as the heroine. But, through Emma, you give me hope that my pride and propensity to judge others can be tempered.
You pit Emma’s advantages against Mr. Knightley’s superior, albeit wise and kind, social values. Mr. Knightley is able to see Emma in a realistic light, exposing her imperfections and loving her in spite of them. With his consistent love and steady correction, Emma begins to see beyond her own advantages in life.
Mr. Knightley is the perfect foil for Emma’s inherent loftiness. The spirit of what you’ve created in Mr.Knightley’s character, is echoed in my community – community with Christ and community with friends and family. It often takes the patient prodding of others to promote candid appraisal of my Emma-like qualities.
After reading all of your novels, your letters and scripts, your unfinished works, I am all the more intrigued by you, Ms. Austen. Just like I find myself in many of your heroine’s, you must put a bit of yourself in each one as well. Since I can’t meet you in person, I immerse myself into your world, your life, your mind via the written word.
Every revisiting comes with new discovery. I keep reading.
Below are some photos from my trip to Bath – a prominent setting in Jane Austen’s novels and a vacation spot Austen enjoyed frequently.
You can find all my letters here.
For more information about the 31 Day Challenge, visit The Nester.