I am in an unofficial club that I don’t think has too many members. It’s the “I’m A Man Who Has Read Pride and Prejudice and Liked It” Club. Perhaps there are more members of this club than I realize. It’s been a number of years since I have read Pride and Prejudice and I haven’t read anything else by Jane Austen since, until now.
I found Austen’s short story, The Watsons, on my shelf and decided to give it a try. The story was forty pages of Dances, Card Games, Gossip, Carriage Rides, and Dinners of which “a great deal of goodhumoured pleasantry” always seemed to follow. All of this centered around the youngest Watson daughter, Emma. The Watson family seemed to be fairly low on the society ladder that exists as a backdrop in both this story and Pride and Prejudice. The Edwards (or the Edwardses, rather) were a few steps up on the ladder and the Osbournes were even higher.
Emma has a number of sisters, none of whom seem to have any matrimonial prospects, another huge “issue” in Austen’s stories from what I understand. Details are not really given as to the problem these sisters have, but money, or lack thereof, seems to be a part of it. Emma had been raised by an Aunt but has now come to live with her father.
As she is presented at her first Ball, much discussion takes place about her dark complexion from both men and women. Several men at least take a slight interest in her including Lord Osbourne, one of the wealthier men at the Ball. At one rather memorable moment, Emma dances with the ten-year 0ld, Charles Blake, a friend of the Osbournes. By the end of the story and after several glances from other men, Emma is still alone. Conversations revolved around who danced with whom and how often and in what order, who had relationships with whom and which ones didn’t work out. Emma’s sister-in-law and brother pay her a visit and her sister-in-law makes a big deal out of Emma not having any marital prospects while her brother makes a big deal out of the fact that Emma’s Aunt doesn’t have any money. Apparently it’s simply a given that their father, who is ill, doesn’t have money.
Making up for the general lack of plot, Jane Austen’s wit and wisdom seems to flow through every conversation, every dance, every meal and every card game. I believe all of Jane Austen’s other novels are on my book shelf unread (by me). I think I’ll have to read at least one more sometime this year.