At our last Jane Austen gathering, John Turner spoke to us on “Austen’s England.” [This is available online at his website Word and Image of Vermont] You will also find there a lovely tribute to Austen and her works (see under Archives – Fiction), and with John’s permission I quote that for you here:
A friend recently began to read Pride and Prejudice for the first time. He had heard it was one of the greatest novels in English but as he got into it he was disappointed. It was all about shallow, frivolous people, he said. I’ve heard others make the same criticism. How can one care about the affairs of people who are so caught up in their own petty affairs they think about nothing else? It’s a question I’ve heard repeatedly. It strikes me that people don’t know what they’re asking when they put the issue that way. Truth is, if you can’t take an interest in people who are immersed in their own petty affairs, then you can’t take an interest in people, period. Jane Austen’s novels are about how one can deal with people in their ordinary modes and still retain sanity. And no larger question has ever been raised in the history of the world. Compared to it, the conundrums of philosophy and religion are trivia. I have often said, if you wish to know how to treat other people, go first to Jane Austen. If you find yourself doing things you know she would disapprove, then think long and hard about continuing them. I have never found more edifying books than her novels, and that alone makes them magnificent. But edification is only the beginning of their glories.
…the perfect response to those that say that “nothing ever happens in Jane Austen”….!