I have been working on a contemporary Mansfield Park retelling, but as is custom when I am writing, I was looking for opportunities to procrastinate heavily, and nothing justifies procrastination like research.
While delving into Mansfield Park, I came upon several articles debating whether Jane Austen was in support of or against the slave trade. The defense of Jane Austen, in that she absolutely must have been someone who was against slavery, is passionate and vehement.
Pontifications over her private opinions do not stop with the slave trade. Every so often an article asks whether Austen would have supported feminism, capitalism, conservatism, liberalism, and any number of causes.
200 years later, Jane Austen is still the cool girl we all want to be our friend. The shiny new toy (to take a phrase from Twilight) that we’re not into sharing.
Again, I am not here to argue her beliefs, but rather, that the minutiae of her beliefs may be irrelevant.
It’s worrisome because there is an expectation than Jane Austen was not only a talented writer, not only a great wit, not only a wonderful sister, not only ahead of her time on women’s issues, but that she almost must have been ahead of her time on everything, or else it may invalidate her as a woman, and as an author.
Perhaps Jane, like her characters, especially her heroines, had flaws, as we all do. And everything’s going to be okay.