Megan sent me a link to 13 Reasons You Wouldn’t Want to Live in Jane Austen’s England. It’s hard to refute the horror of most of these things, although I find some of them (for example forced marriage) a tad spurious. But, regardless of the dangers of 18th-19th century England, we still live there in in our imaginations. Many of the 13 reasons apply to the lower classes and, whether it’s right or not, these are not the people with whom we commune in our reading and writing. We’re living with the gentry and the aristocracy as was Jane Austen when she wrote.
When we live in Jane Austen’s England, we’re living upstairs, where the air is fresh and someone irons our newspapers and brings us tea. We walk in the country and stroll through Hyde Park. We take in an exhibit at Somerset House. If want to do manual labor, we’ll go out in the garden and cut some flowers. If we’re worried about what’s for dinner, we’ll meet with cook. If our sheets need to be changed, we’ll consult the housekeeper.
Our gentlemen are sitting in Parliament (no doubt solving the problem of child labor), riding in the park, hunting, shooting, hanging out with friends at their club. If we’re at our country estate, they’re meeting with their steward and caring for their land and their tenants. They’re helping us host a house party. Or they’re beside us, making sure we are supremely happy.
Yes. This is fiction, where we rarely catch fire by standing too near to the hearth, we aren’t subject to poor medical attention and even worse dentistry, and we’d do anything rather than force a poor child to climb our chimney to clean it. But, as we now have a choice about which Jane Austen’s England we’d prefer to live in, why ever would we choose the one in the Huffington Post?