Jane in Love - Rachel Givney
Описание книги Jane in Love - полная версия
All geniuses born women are lost to the public good.
About the Author
About the Publisher
As Jane climbed over a hedge and landed in a pool of mud, some of which flew upward and came to rest on her boots, gown, and face, she paused for a moment, pondering whether behavior like this might be the reason she struggled to find a husband.
The fact that she was wandering through some farmer’s turnip paddock at eight o’clock in the morning did not alone make Jane consider ineligibility for marriage to be her greatest talent. As she leapt over a stone fence and into another field—less of a field, in fairness, and more of a quagmire (Why did she always end up in the dirtiest fields in England? Did mud seduce her?)—she compiled a list of all the ways in which her character could be considered unmarriageable.
She preferred a good book to an assembly and liked to wander the countryside alone for hours. The neighbors all agreed these were suspicious traits for a woman to possess. Jane also destroyed hairstyles at the same rate she muddied dresses. Her fawn curls, commanded into a Grecian knot on the crown of her head by her mother earlier that morning, now rested below her left ear in a disappointed bundle. These facts alone ruled her from contention for any prospective husband.
But as well as the scandalous affectations of reading, walking, and hairstyle-assassinating, Jane possessed one marriage-deterring peccadillo that put all the others to shame.
She wrote things.
Not letters and poems, though she had talent for both. Novels were Jane’s canvas. A germ of a story would come to her, in the woods or during an assembly, and she’d toil and rage to tease the seed from its pod. She’d walk around in a funk, unable to put her mind to any other task until she wrote it all down: until sisters were reunited, villains dispatched, lovers married. Once finished, she’d drop her quill and fall asleep with an empty head, her voice added to the dream of the world. She’d wake the next morning with a new idea bothering her, and the toil would begin once more, its importance for her on par with breathing.
As an accomplishment, writing did not equal embroidery or watercolor, but at least it displayed neat handwriting. This had once endeared her to her family. She also told crude and diverting stories, of which everyone approved, and which were as pleasant a way to pass the time before dinner as any. But as each year passed and she remained unmarried, the habit went from a harmless folly to the culprit for her failure in life; ladies did not write books.
No one published Jane’s work. When she was nineteen, her papa, filled with fatherly pride, sent one of her novels to the publisher Thomas Cadell in London, even offering to cover the costs of printing himself. The family waited with joyous anticipation at the prospect of seeing the Austen name in print, and after several weeks, the letter was answered by Cadell: “declined by return of post.” The quality of Jane’s writing did not even deserve a written rejection. George Austen never approached a publisher again, and Jane hid the manuscript under the floorboards of her room.
But despite the rebuff and declaration that her talent did not exist, Jane found herself unable to stop writing. Lady writers did exist, but as oddities, outcasts, and degenerates. Ann Radcliffe, Jane’s idol, published five novels, but people knew her more for being barren. With stories such as these the guide to what the future might hold for Jane, her mother declared one Tuesday afternoon that if she ever caught Jane writing anything but a shopping list again, she would set it on fire.
From that day on, Jane wrote in secret. She kept up her hobby, concealing it from the world. She scratched her thoughts onto scraps of paper in the woods, then collated everything later while Mama was out of the house.
JANE HAD WALKED the woods and groves above Bath for the past hour, ruminating on these topics. She did so for a specific reason: Mr. Charles Withers, a young gentleman, and his father would come to the house in less than an hour to call upon Jane.
Jane had never met Mr. Withers before, but she understood the importance of his call. It had once felt as though a new gentleman visited the house every other week to inquire after Jane. That was when she was twenty. She had now reached twenty-eight, and no man had called on her in seven months. She was resigned to the fact that one might never call on her again.
Jane needed a husband for two reasons. First, if she did not acquire one, she would become a spinster and then perish, as her mama informed her daily. Jane held the grand title of the second-oldest unmarried woman in the West Country, besides her own dear sister, and Cassandra only remained single because her fiancé had passed away. Jane had no such excuse. The older she grew, the more piteous looks she collected from friends and family, and pity induced few men into marriage. If she reached thirty years of age, still unwed, all would be lost.
Jane’s second reason for marriage involved her finances. Once her parents exited God’s earth, her father’s meager assets would pass to his eldest son, James, and Jane would fall upon the fiduciary mercy of her brothers: the rich ones who did not care for her and the poor ones