Category Archives: Sense and Sensibility

Austen Men in My Life

Edward Ferrars

Jane Austen’s father, George Austen, was the rector of the Anglican parishes at Steventon and Deane. Though Mr. Austen came from a wealthy family of wool merchants, his branch eventually fell into poverty. He supplemented his family’s income by farming and taking in three or four boys at a time to teach.

By the accounts I’ve read, George Austen was an educated, hardworking man who enjoyed family discussions about politics and societal norms. He and his family debated amicably, and the atmosphere of his home was intellectually open and amusing.

Edward

Thinking of the clerics Jane wrote, I was struck by the negative portrayals of several of them. Mr. Collins and Mr. Elton leap to mind.

However, she wrote two clerics sympathetically: Edward Ferrars (Sense and Sensibility) and Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey).

I grew up in church, I went to a religious college, and my husband, brother-in-law, and a nephew are all ministers, so I have known many “men of the cloth” very well.

One of them is a wonderful example of an Edward Ferrars.

Mr. Ferrars made a poor decision as a boy, but he was an honorable man. He committed himself to Lucy Steele. Though he fell in love with Elinor as a man and did not love Lucy, he stood by his original commitment. He tried to tell Elinor, but his sister thwarted him.

Edward Ferrars did not chase material wealth or self-importance. He was the heir of a fortune and could have served in Parliament, but he wanted a small country parish where he could make sermons and raise chickens.

He was gentle, thoughtful, and kind. He did not resent Lucy Steele or his brother when Miss Steele transferred her affections to Robert. He was happy for them, though Robert was free to marry the woman he chose, and he received Edward’s inheritance.

Edward chose to be happy in less than wonderful circumstances. “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11. I’m sure everyone has problems, but the important thing is how a person deals with the problems.

No one is perfect, but when I look at my nephew, I see a happy man who loves his life. He’s an excellent husband and father. He works hard in his ministry. He earned his doctorate in theology. He’s intelligent, fun to be around, inquisitive, and forward thinking. He isn’t stuck on himself. He loves people. He’s quite handsome, too, which a man should be if he possibly can manage it.

I enjoy following him on social media, for he’s always upbeat, encouraging everyone around him. At family gatherings I try to make time to talk with him, because he uplifts me without even knowing it.

I taught my nephew when he was in the sixth grade. Now he’s teaching me.

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No Darcy, No Way

Darcy is Best Left to Others

Someone said to me that I should write some Pride and Prejudice fan fiction. In the past, it’s been suggested I write Colonel Brandon. My first response to both suggestions was a simple, “no way.”

While that response is harsh but accurate, I have thought about why I don’t want to even try my hand at writing Darcy or the Colonel. It comes down to having nothing new or interesting to say about the characters or their stories.

Refrain_from_writingThere are days I look at what I’m writing about Anne and Frederick and think the same thing, but at least I have a sort of visceral desire to work with them. About the casts of P&P and S&S, not so much.

Every month in the Austen fandom, there are scads of books published. The vast majority of them are using P&P as their base. I’m sure most are retelling the girl-meets-boy-boy-disdains-girl-boy-proposes-marriage-girl-rejects-boy-boy-saves-girl’s-family-and-reputation-girl-and-boy-admit-to-loving-one-another plot.

Unique stories, like Laura Hile’s Darcy by any Other Name, and Robin Helm’s various series have covered a lot of new ground that doesn’t need to be plowed again by me. There are other fine writers who absolutely love the characters and the story. That affection shows in every aspect of their writing.

At the very best, I would be day laborer working for paycheck. Not that writing for pay is bad. I firmly believe that some of the best writing (and music, visual art, etc) has been done by people putting food on the table, not looking to leave a legacy of amazing prose. The difference is that in fandom, the love of characters is baked into the foundation of the work. Without it, the foundation is wonky at best. And let’s face it, there have been times you’ve read a book that is merely a word count with a cover and a dedication. Did you think well of the author? Race to Amazon to see if they had more of the same? My point exactly.

Darcy is an icon and I have no desire to mess with him. Brandon is an interesting character I prefer to read rather than write. Long story shortened, I won’t be writing any P&P, or S&S fics anytime soon. No heart for the subjects, and no desire to bore you all to tears.