Imagining life without Austen

A few weeks ago I was invited to imagine my life without Jane Austen for a new blog by Cass Grafton and Ada Bright called the Tabby Cow. They are launching a  new book – The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen.  The question they posed was:

How would your life be different or affected if something had prevented Jane Austen from ever publishing her novels?

This is what I came up with.

Dear Tabby Cow readers,

My name is Rita Watts, and I have a page on Facebook called All Things Jane Austen which has, at this moment, more than 21,000 followers. Crazy, right?

No, you are actually wrong. This is just one thing that can happen when people enter the world of Jane Austen. She has the power. She is the ultimate superhero. Why? She travels across time and space and just gets bigger and bigger. There is no limit to the things she can make happen to you even though she no longer lives amongst us with an earthly body. It is because of her that I met a person who is now one of my best friends ever and one of the authors of this blog – Cass Grafton.

She asked me to tell you about my page on Facebook, but I think it is better if you just go there and snoop around whenever you feel like it here. There are albums for all tastes and inclinations. It has been a wonderful ride since I started it in 2012. However, my love for Jane is way older than that.

I first read Pride & Prejudice when I was around 12 and thought it was the best story ever. Skip many years, a college degree, a foreign husband, several different jobs, many different Austen adaptations and a new obsession: Facebook. It became quite important to me. I am a Brazilian girl living in the USA, very far from my family, because of my American husband. You will find me quite happy but also quite lonely. It’s 2011 and Facebook is finally a hit in Brazil and I am able to connect to my old friends and family. From there to connecting to other Jane Austen fans was just serendipity. Not only I found Janeites in Brazil but everywhere in the world, including close to me – within driving distance! It is the miracle that is JASNA – The Jane Austen Society of North America with has chapters everywhere where they love Jane Austen so much they dress up in Regency to sip tea and read her books over and over, among other wonderful events.

That was when Jane took over my life. I couldn’t have enough. She saved me from a sure depression and a life lacking a bigger purpose – writing and sharing my love for All things Jane. I always dreamed about being a writer but only after getting immersed in her world I could foresee a real possibility to become an author one day. So when Cass Grafton asked me to imagine my life without Jane I just stopped in my tracks. A world without Jane Austen? Unthinkable! Preposterous! What was she thinking? How dare she even imagine such a thing. Well, apparently she really did and now it is a book I cannot wait to read just because how would that be? What a nightmare! I must find out what she (and Ada) are up to. Meanwhile, I must imagine a world without Austen. There are so many horrible possibilities I can make a list.

  1. It would be like turning off the power in the middle of a movie.
  2. Like watching the colors fade from your favorite painting.
  3. Going back to watching motion pictures without sound.
  4. Forgetting the words and notes of your favorite song.

Gentle readers. I do have a life. I do have a family that I love dearly but Jane is my beacon. I love her characters (mostly Mr. Darcy, of course – I’m only human) but to me she is the best character of all. A woman of little means defying the status quo of women of her time to the point of having the Regent of her nation asking for a nod in one of her works. Quite astonishing. The world is not done with her yet. Day after day people discover things that happened because of her and keep happening despite anyone’s will. Some people would like to have her framed in time but she keeps coming back through her fan fiction authors spreading her wings to unimaginable lengths and taking us with her. Girls, what have you done? I must have this book to make sure it is kept safe and no one, I mean, NO ONE can make this come true or I shall run M.A.D. (My Austen Disappeared).

Full of trepidation,

Yours truly,

Rita Watts

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