Boys & Jane Austen
Among Other Sundries
“Oh, have you really read that book, too?” This was the exclamation of a circle of bright-eyed young ladies standing in the narthex of a church. They were looking incredulously, yet with good humor, at the young man - a visitor to the church who had been invited into the circle. He was doing his best to join in their conversation. All it took was one concisely phrased comment to reveal his knowledge of Mr. Collins. The opinion he shared probably would never have passed the lips of a female - even if it were true. “Mr. Collins was pompous, yes, but he wasn’t all that bad.” (A true story.)
Here is a list of some of the fiction my son, Nigel, read in high school and after. I took a recent photograph of him for this post on a day when he was dressed smartly for church. Notice the book title at the end of the list. It was his choice to read Pride and Prejudice after the British film series and book drew so much of his sisters’ and his sisters’ girlfriends’ attentions. He was curious to understand life from the puzzling female point of view.
Ben Hur - Lew Wallace
The Prisoner of Zenda – Anthony Hope
Animal Farm - George Orwell
The Doomsday Book - Connie Willis
Frankenstein Mary Shelley
Doctor Jekylle and Mr. Hyde - R. L. Stevenson
The Screwtape Letters - C. S. Lewis
Fareinheit 451 - by Ray Bradbury
David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Enders Game - Orson Scott Card
Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hound of the Baskervilles - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Potter’s Field – a Brother Cadfael – Ellis Peters
Tarzan (some of series) - Edgar Rice Burroughs
John Carter of Mars - a collection - Edgar Rice Burroughs
A Pocketful of Rye - Agatha Christie
The City and the Stars - Arthur C. Clark
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
When I opened Peter Leithart’s book, Miniatures and Morals – the Christian novels of Jane Austen, I was tickled to find his first chapter to be “Real Men Read Austen.” Mr. Leithart believes that Miss Austen’s novels are highly instructive for men. The value of her novels is not just for the opportunity is seeing love through her perceptive feminine eyes. Her stories uphold a man’s responsibility for “the course the courtship takes.” Toying with the affections of a woman, encouraging her to fall in love without a commitment in view, makes a man into an egotistical scoundrel. These men add to the antagonism in her stories. Miss Austen thankfully provides us with examples of honorable men – protagonists - that our sons can esteem and emulate.
Reading Miniatures and Morals has been contributing to my Mother Culture. A friend using it with her four daughters, recommended it to me. A close look at several of Jane Austen’s novels would certainly compliment a beautiful girlhood and help a young lady wisely distinguish between a Frank Churchill and a George Knightly.
A maiden may dream of wearing a Regency gown and meeting a Mr. Knightly but Miss Austen’s stories are far too witty to be equated with a shallow or overly sentimental romance novel. What she conveys through her characters is sometimes profound and at other times comical. Peter J. Leithart’s insights on all six novels light a candle to Miss Austen’s Christian ethics. She writes about her world close up, in miniature and “recognizes that the greatest ethical challenges come in the midst of daily life.” This is precisely when Christian morals, manners and discernment are needed – and how we love our neighbor properly – in a variety of settings.
“She taught me to knit, which has been a great amusement.” – Mrs. Smith in Persuasion.
During our road travel in December I spotted “Jane Austen Knits” while browsing a magazine rack at one of our stops. Fond of knitting and fond of Jane Austen its cover caught my eye with the utmost swiftness. Back on the highway I read the interview of Jennie Chancey of the Sense & Sensibility pattern company as a first treat. Another interesting article gives some history of domestic life in Georgian England when “everyone but the very wealthy spun wool yarn and knitted.” All the articles have an intelligent and friendly touch to them.
I can’t imagine what I would wear with the purple “short stay” or on what occasion I would wear it. This vest has been the source this knitter’s daydreaming of late. I remind myself that anything pretty - though out-of-fashion it may be - can be worn at home. Perhaps it could be worn while gardening, under a protective apron, on a cool spring morning. It is a small enough project to be completed by spring, surely. And purple yarn would match the lilac buds in our back yard in spring . . . Do you ever day-dream while washing dishes, contemplating a project for weeks, a sort of warm-up to attempting it?
The “Lydia Military Spencer” is a jacket with decidedly out-of-fashion puff sleeves. But it is charming – and I like puff sleeves. It is in the majority of challenging patterns.
The projects are pretty. The word “pretty” says much. It means that the projects are a refreshingly feminine upgrade from today’s gender-neutral garments. They range from simple to startlingly complicated. You’ll find lacey shawls, fingerless mitts, capes, drawstring bags and stockings. I’ve knit an Aran sweater for a male member of my family but none near as complicated as the handsome one given. The Celtic cable on my soft-as-a-cloud angora rabbit scarf is the most complicated I’ve yet to attempt - from a different pattern book. A beginner would find inspiration inside “Jane Austen Knits” while she kept most of the 35 projects on hand for a time when her skill was developed. (janeautstenknits.com)
Over the holidays I began filling in the maiden on the chair pad while sitting in the parlor. I like the tweedy wool strips provided for the sheep. My loops are not aligned in neat rows as those shown in the kit. Mine are hooked higgly-piggly. I also tend to fill in the burlap a too snugly. But I’m enjoying this beginner’s project and am pleased with it regardless of how higgly-piggly the loops are turning out to be.
The reproduction friendship sampler is framed. It hangs on a narrow piece of wall in the front parlor - not as crookedly as my photograph. It fits nicely in this narrow corner.
As it is often viewed through the open French doors I might move it upstairs. We’ll see. Domestic decisions are perplexing on those days when a homemaker takes domesticity rather seriously. But there is also something thrilling about the outcome of the details that make homemade touches worth the effort. Do you find this to be true?
Have you received a January seed catalog in the mail yet? To plant seeds in a raised bed of rich soil using your mouse, click the image of Nigel’s Magic Garden. Water them and watch them grow. Then rearrange your flowers and vegetables as you like. The latest flash plug-in is required.
Comments are cordially invited on any of the "sundries."