Thursday, May 14, 2015

Chasing the Janes

Looking over our itinerary, I think I've bitten off more that I can chew, so to speak. I've always known that England is much smaller than the USA and thus, it's easier and quicker to move from point A to point B.

Well, it's a bit larger than I thought.

It's my custom to name our trips, and this one is "spot on". We will truly be chasing Jane Austen and Eyre all over the English countryside. Which will be lovely. Really.

Although driving on the left side of the road will be daunting (to say nothing of the round-a-bouts strewn about England), at least for the northern portion of our trip, I will hire an automatic vehicle. Just one challenge at a time, please!

So why this fascination with the Janes? What power does Austen and Brontë have over us?

Well, I admit that I am a romantic. It's the artist in me. But that is not wholly why Olivia and I drink in their novels. It's all about CHARACTER.

Losing his wife and two daughters within two years, Patrick Brontë, a curate, cloistered his three remaining girls and son safely at home. Charlotte (Jane Eyre), Emily (Wuthering Heights) and Anne (Tenant of Wildfell Hall) never married (except Charlotte, who did so only a year before her death). Yet they had amazing insight into relationships and human nature.

Jane Eyre is a woman with inner strength and purpose. She has an incredibly unfortunate start to life, but manages to make do in all situations she finds herself thrown into, until she meets Mr. Rochester, a seemingly dark-spirited and hardened man with troubles of his own. Finally learning to trust, Jane slowly, almost unawares, falls in love (and he with her). But, he has a devastating secret, which,  causes Jane to flee, influenced by her moral courage.

Trials either make or break a person, and they are both broken, but not without repair, and thus enters the theme of REDEMPTION. The story reveals depth of character, meaningful (and sometimes anguishing) conversation, and spell-binding intrigue.

Which is why I love Jane Eyre.

So, we will travel north to the Yorkshire Moors, and to Haworth, where the Brontë sisters lived and wrote. The area featured so heavily in their works. We hope to immerse ourselves into Jane (and Charlotte's) world.

And step onto Stanage Edge, overlooking the moors, where Jane threw herself in utter despair.

The Brontës are not the only ones who focus on character in their books. Charles Dickens is a master, too. Talk about unique characters! You either like them, hate them, or, they are so ornery that you end up liking them after all. We will enter his world in London at the close of our journey.

No, the next choice in line for stellar character development is, of course, Jane Austen. But, unlike the Brontës, she gets up close and personal with a bit of wit and humor. Her stories are more light hearted, especially in Pride and Prejudice. You've got to love Mr. Bennett, the father of five girls; two of which he pronounces "the silliest girls in all of England". Their eldest, Jane, is known for her beauty, and Elizabeth or Lizzie, who carries the storyline, is clever and independent.

Then of course, there is the dashing but prideful "Mr. Darcy" who causes all young women's hearts to flutter.

Personally, my Austen hero is Mr. Knightly, who has been a friend to Emma all his life, and loves her the best. In honor of "Emma" we will visit Box Hill, outside London for a day. Hopefully, no one will have cause to say "Badly done, Vicki. Badly done!"

C. S. Lewis said of Jane Austen in a 1949 letter to R. W. Chapman: "Her books have only two faults and both are damnable.  They are too few and too short." Quite an honor coming from a literary and theological genius. And I heartily agree!

Now I have a confession to make: I love to people watch. Their expressions, mannerisms and responses fascinate me. Airports, train stations, doctor's offices and the like, always provide me with enough entertainment to keep my little grey cells active. But I'm rarely critical of what I see. I'm just taking it all in, dissecting and studying human nature just like the Brontës, Austen and Dickens. Someday, I hope my writing will reflect it.

But for now, I will observe and record the days events via this blogpost as often as our itinerary and WiFi allows. With only carryons to fit us for our journey, we can't squeeze in another thing, as much as we'd love to.  So, consider yourself an armchair traveller. Join Olivia and me as we meander through the 19th century. And watch out for unusual characters. . .


  1. What a fun trip you have planned with your daughter. Unfortunately, I've never read these books or seen the movies. (I have heard of them though.)

    1. Thanks, Tina! Really, Pride and Prejudice is an easy read. Jane Eyre I enjoyed via audiobooks. And you must see the BBC version of both of these novels (1996, 2006), as well as Emma (2009 mini-series). Eyre is dark and deep, but nothing like Wuthering Heights, which I don't recommend. Let me know what you think after you read/watch one. ;-)


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Journey into the Promised Land

Journey into the Promised Land
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