My Dear Miss Austen,
I must say, you have created quite a stir. I am fairly positive that you merely wrote those stories to get the characters out of your head. What else is an intelligent woman to do who is not allowed to have a profession on her own; one who is not inclined to marry simply for the sake of taking over housekeeping for some boorish man, if one does not love him? However, I must say that I am quite pleased with your stories and am ever so glad that your friends demanded to have their stories told!
I understand that today is an anniversary of sorts for you. How exciting it must be have to sent your ‘child’ out in to the world and then seeing that your creation has touched so many lives! And countless lives it has touched. To know that Elizabeth Bennet is a person upon whom many have felt a deep and abiding friendship. To know that many are shocked at the duplicity of George Wickham, and that few can stand the imperiousness of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. It serves the old woman right that her nephew would rather fall in love with an upstart such as Miss Eliza Bennet instead of her sickly Anne.
But enough of the characters of your story that has now been known to the world for two hundred years. TWO HUNDRED YEARS! Oh, the felicity of knowing that your labour of love has existed for two centuries and delighted readers for all of those minutes and hours! Let us turn to how it has affected this humble reader.
First, I will have you know that I was able to find my own Mr Darcy quite some time before I had discovered your treasured works. It was actually several years after my own blissful union, with three wee lasses running about that I had the opportunity to discover the wonderful worlds you had created. A friend had actually lent to me the lifelike reproductions, a visual story telling of sorts, of your beloved First Impressions (which was much better titled Pride and Prejudice). I was captivated to say the least. It was so pleasant to have the worry of nappies and running a household dissolve as I fell in to the lives of the Bennet girls and their pursuit of happiness, in whatever form it would take. (What a dreadfully silly girl Miss Lydia turned out to be!)
Shortly after my effusive compliments to my mother about this story, she had wisely obtained beautiful renditions of your four most read novels. Once again, I was captivated and enthralled that an author from the early nineteenth century could so capture the true essence of a young lady finding her way about her small world, in hopes of finding love that she can call her own. It was fascinating to see that men and women of our present day were not too different than those walking about this great Earth during the Napoleonic Wars. What was even more diverting was how apropos your words and advice are today! It is still true that a girl likes to be crossed in love once in a while, it helps to hone what is truly desired in a life companion. It is also still true that one cannot know a person simply by looking at them and mis-interpreting their character. I could detail all of the wonderful lessons that we modern ladies have gleaned from your stories, but I am sure that you are quite well aware of what you wrote and what it means to you.
I will say this, though, that your stories, to this day, have meant something to a vast audience of people, from women to men (yes, men quite enjoy your little novels), young and old, and even those that speak different languages. We all read your novels with anticipation, even if it is for the fourth or fortieth time, wondering how the story will advance and if true love will prevail. It is awe-inspiring to me to have an author who still is revered to this day, two centuries later. Many try to emulate your style, but it remains to be seen if any will have the longevity that your novels, your characters, your life lessons have engendered.
Thank you for having created a truly remarkable work that I will turn to often in times when peace and happiness are needed. My Dear Miss Austen, your novels, which you were afraid to publish as you were a woman during a certain age and time, have touched my heart and those of many others, giving us the hope that all will turn out as it should. Strength of character and being true to one’s own heart are lessons that all of us need to learn and practice and your stories have helped with this. Thank you for allowing the stories to flow from your heart, through your pen, and into published works that have been enjoyed for the past two hundred years.
I have, and will always be…
Kate Maxwell will always have a special place in her heart for Pride and Prejudice, as it was the first introduction to Jane Austen. However, truth be told, Persuasion with Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth holds the highest place of honour in her heart and on her bookshelf. She is, however, in the midst of writing a story of Margaret Dashwood, and a new friend of hers, Catherine Kingsley. Kate hopes to one day be brave enough like Miss Austen and put her novel out for general consumption.