Jane Austen didn’t have to juggle a job, a company, a blog, several social media accounts, family, friends, church and a dog. However, I’d rather have these things than be cast in the role of an 18th Century writer who had to sneak in writing time around family commitments. She did juggle a fantastic cast of heroines who found their ideal heroes.
The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After (by the aptly named Elizabeth Kantor) applies the thesis that Jane Austen’s novels contain the best advice for a successful marriage. As any good academic thesis does, Kantor backs up her assertions with references. There are pages of notes, mostly excerpts from the novels. Though she does burst my bubble with reference to some research, “people who believe in soul mates are 150% more likely to end up divorced than those who don’t.” p.125
I picked this up purely because I adore Jane Austen and her novels. I will read almost any book referring to either Jane Austen or her novels. The “almost” excludes the romantic spin offs (I draw the line at romance novels, sorry Jane).
I was surprised to find that Kantor had managed to enumerate the best of Mr Darcy, Mr Knightly, Captain Wentworth, Edmund, and Henry Tilney. She suggests these categories for us to measure our prospective heroes against:
Kantor distinguishes the Romantic (capital R) with romantic (Jane). She suggests it is the fault of the Romantics (Shelley, Byron, Wordsworth and the like) that we are carried away with the idea of a passionate, transcendent affair—which is not conducive to future happiness (like Marianne in Sense and Sensibility).
She recommends a rational analysis of prospective heroes using the above categories, before you are too emotionally invested to make a sensible decision. I felt properly ashamed of my adoration for the sublime of the Romantics and for wishing for a soul mate. However, I would very happily take a hero who is respectful (I adore chivalry, the holding of chairs and doors, not necessarily the bowing), admirable, trustworthy, pleasant (Austen language = amiable), intelligent, emotionally savvy, educated, calm and consistent and lives by similar principles to myself.
“What would Jane do? She’d look for the kind of man she could esteem and admire. And for the kind of relationship that promises “rational happiness” because it’s built on a foundation of mutual regard for each other’s real value.” p.90
Though a little spirit dampening for a keen Romantic, her advice appears to be sound. And it’s not like Elizabeth and Mr Darcy’s story was devoid of deep feeling or exquisite tension.
It is well written and I will be adding Kantor’s other books to my “to read” list. A must-read for anyone who will also grin at the familiar passages quoted (or noted).