No, Jane Austen is MY best friend!

No, Jane Austen is MY best friend!

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.


I’m not here to argue her position (plenty of authors do a far better job than I ever could), but rather, to explore the sense of ownership that readers feel over Austen.

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.

14 Responses to No, Jane Austen is MY best friend!

  1. Jane couldn’t possibly live up to all our expectations. She couldn’t be pro and anti Europe, pro and anti immigration, pro and anti second amendment right, pro and anti gay marriage. She will have to disappoint someone. Thank goodness she was a good writer.

  2. No one is perfect but we embellish and exaggerate the individual’s good points and try to forget the faults. That is human nature.

  3. I smile whenever I read where someone says Jane would have done this or that. I suppose we all do come to think we know her well enough to ‘think’ she would have liked or disliked something. Very interesting post. 🙂

  4. Oh to be able to go back in time and have tea with Jane. Or even better, bring Jane into our world, allow her some time to catch up on all the changes, and then have tea and a chat. I wonder how long it would take her to understand all that has occurred? Technology. World Wars, and the relationships between men and women.

  5. I think the majority of people only remember others as they fit into their own lives. That sounds hyper critical but that’s not my intention. I remember my grandmother as the person who defended me against other (closer) relatives, the woman who taught me to cook and who taught me that it’s really okay to be who I want to be and not whom I’m “supposed” to be. I tend to forget that she was a staunch Democrat who would just as soon argue with you than admit a Republican or Independent could be right on anything political. She was raised in a racist generation and had those tendencies and other things. Those never applied to me so I forget them. I think the same can be said of Jane. We think of her as the witty, observant author who makes our lives better 200 years after she left earth. Because she has such an impact on people, I think they will “remember” reading that she was feminist or anti-slavery when in reality it’s what they see in her as she applies to them. It really is an incredible people study. *Stephanie is done rambling on*

  6. Can’t help but agree with the other two comments. The quote Deborah used came to mind immediately for me also. I know we all wish we could have met her, as she was such a gifted individual. And, I would have liked to have been able to talk to Cassandra, her best friend. I am sure she had many an insight into Jane’s character, likes, dislikes, etc.

  7. I’m with Deborah and like to remember the good in a person and what they did to inspire me. We certainly don’t know all about JA but look what wonderful inspiration she has given to the JAFF community through her works. For my part… I love it! ~Jen Red~

  8. Everyone has flaws, but when we remember people, be it family or others, we seldom remember their flaws. We remember mostly what was good, looking at the ‘good old days’ through ‘rose colored glasses’. As Elizabeth said, “Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.” We will probably never know exactly what Jane felt or thought about some issues, but we still love her works.

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