Today I made my comeback at work with something that sounded more like me. I started to the day at work by handing in my sign off slip of my GP. The face of our lovely secretary was priceless when she saw my full name on there. 'Really? That is your full name?', she asked me. 'Yes, it is.', and I did show my nicest bug free smile that my face could produce. Her face told me that she had kind of a different idea what my second name had to be. The thing is that I am quite proud and happy with that name. Especially today. Why?
Well, today many people commemorate something very special, something that perhaps many other people will never fully understand. Do not worry I will never judge you by a book but please bear with me for an entry. Today Stallie is in a very celebrating mood due to the fact that a woman wrote a lovely book. In 1813 did the daughter of an English clergy man do something courgageous. Something that was quite daring at the time. 200 year ago there was a Regency girl with an inkwell who decided that the time was there to go public with her fruit of labor. A lady who in a world where only men were considered well enough to get printed without getting gossiped about. 200 years ago did Jane Austen grant Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy all the breathing space they were after to scream out to the world their first impressions.
I still remember very vividly when I did meet up with Mr Darcy for the first time. I was in my senior year in college and had decided to write my final disertation about this timeless classic. Like many English Literature students I loved my classics and did I want to do something with a good old story that did have something timeless. When Colin Firth decided that he needed to dive into water in order to get his point across about Mr Darcy I decided I found my ultimate source.
The day that I dived into the book itself I was on the train heading back for Leuven city where my students diggs and classes were awaiting me. During that 1 hour drive I got a pencil and my 'Pride and Prejudice'-copy out (Pinguin version one) and dived into it. Opposite me there was an university student sitting. I knew the girl, she and I had taken ballet classes together. This girl was amazingly graceful and smart. In a way I even did dare to call her rather snobby. Yes, she got many solos during recitals and I do have to admit that I was envious of the way she was able to keep up that ballet posture in most things she did.
She had already smiled a few times at me but because she was what I considered a rather very smart person studying law I did not know what we had in common to talk about. The girl had already her course book of Roman law out and kept herself also busy. But then suddenly she asked me kind of seriously:'What are you reading?' I looked up and wondered why she in the world would be interested in what I was reading. She was tackling ancient laws writen by some smart ass civilised people, nothing in the world could win that book battle. 'Must be quite boring that course book of yours if you wonder what I am reading.', I did think at that time. Next I showed her my book and then I will never forget that face of hers.
'Oh my God, MR DARCY! MR DARCY!', she even covered her red cheeks with her white but gracious and perfectly taken care of hands. Her eyes were sparkling and it seemed like she had vanished from this globe. This girl was starring at my book cover and I wondered what I had done.
'Well, I am sorry but I still do not have met Mr Darcy?', I did then admit to her. Looking back at that part of the conversation makes me even giggle a bit. If she would then have decided to cut the conversation short I would have not felt awkward but she then showed me a mysterious smile. 'Oh, you are going to have so much fun with Lizzie and Mr Darcy! He is so... I don't even have a right word for what he exactly is but you will understand me quite soon.'
By the time we arrived in Leuven I was lost in Austen..... because I have to be honest what I had read so far had not impressed me so much. Okay, her language and writing style are quite a challenge. But now I was standing there with my carry on suitcase in front of a train station while the sun was setting and in my hands I had a book that already had created some strong emotions. It was at that exact moment that I wanted to find out what all the Mr Darcy fuss was about. And was I in for a treat.
Yes, I had fun with Lizzie while she tried to figure out who all these men were who tried to get their personal love message across. Yes, I ended up hating Darcy for being the snob and trying to interfer with Bingley his love life. I went through all the emotions that many readers go through when they fall in love with a book for a life time. But it did so much more then this. I dare to say that it was at time that I did fall in love with English Literature because of its power, one that had taken me by surprise.
Many wonder why that story still goes strong after such a long time. Well, there many theories about this but while researching Jane Austen it was an other very stong English lady whose words will always echo in my mind when mentioning Jane Austen. Emma Thompson has got her own personal reasons to like Jane Austen books. Besides winning an Oscar for the screenplay she wrote for 'Sense&Sensebility' she found so much more. In one interview she even admits that it is thanks to that book that she was able to fight back depression. She even ended up marrying the bad boy Greg Wise who played Willoughby in that movie. Emma Thompson for sure was able to look further then first impressions when it came down to an Austen bad boy.
"I can remember the only thing I could do was write," she tells Kirsty Young on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. "Ken had an old black cashmere dressing gown I'd given him one Christmas, and he was gone – he wasn't living at home – and I used to put it on and crawl from the bedroom to the computer and sit and write. Then I was all right because I was not present. And Sense and Sensibility really saved me from going under."
I also remember reading in an other interview that she also thinks that not so much has changed in the 21st century on the dating frontier and when it comes down to relationships between men and women in general. Okay, the setting of a Jane Austen novel is for sure not the one of a Quentin Tarantino movie. But if you to take a very close look at many relationships around you then for sure you do meet daily up with a few Jane Austen characters: opportunistic Lucy Steele, snoby Caroline Bingely, lovely Jane Bennet, down to earth Charlotte Lucas, slimeball Mr Collins, shy but sincere Edward Ferris or wicked Whickham, the heartthrob but bad boy Willoughby and do not forget about your mother in law who might resemble a bit Mrs Bennet with very fragile nerves... they are all around us and add some color to our dull and grey existence.
Jane Austen is for sure alive and kicking and I am so happy that during that train ride that one girl did scream out her full admiration for one of the darkest and most mysterious men that I ever met on paper. It was an unforgetable train ride, one that I will never forget. So thank you, Jane Austen for dipping your feather in that inkwell and daring to write down one of the most timeless love stories. The effect you had and still have on me has brought me only happiness in reality. Courageous woman that you were, Jane in a time that only men dare to write what they did consider fit for print. I will never be able to repay my debt to you but my full name is in a way a constant reminder of how far my love goes on a daily basis. My full name is the dark and light side of Jane Austen in one go and I could not be more grateful to my parents for picking this winning combination. It was already in the stars the day I was born that Jane and I would go along just fine...