A Belated Birthday Letter

Dear Miss Austen,

       I doubt you even considered the possibility that years after your death people all over the world would be celebrating your birthday. Celebrating the day that brought your brilliant literary self into the world. 

   When I first came across you I wasn’t overly impressed. It’s not my proudest moment, I’ll admit. I remember picking up “Pride & Prejudice” and thinking it was boring. Yes. I was a stupid child. 

   But it seemed your presence would be an inevitable part of my life, because soon after my ridiculous snubbing of you my dad gifted me with a hardback copy of the exact novel which I had snubbed. 

   I suppose enough time had passed since my first rejection that I decided to give you another try – as if it would be an ordeal! But no sooner had I read the first sentence I was blissfully submerged in your world. I chuckled and cringed and swooned throughout the entire book. You were brilliant. Here was a book you had written in the nineteenth century and it was playing out like a film in my mind. Characters you had penned to life within the walls of Steventon in the eighteen hundreds seemed inherently familiar to me – an extension of the very people I knew in my own life. 

   How could you do it? How did you know? I was happily in awe. I spent whole days curled up in the sofa, content to let your words wrap around me. You impressed me with every page – your wit, your humor, your sharp execution of characters! I was quickly falling in love. Lizzie’s and Darcy’s story flamed the romantic in me. Mrs. Bennet’s and Mr. Collins’ antics left me alternately chuckling and shaking my head. I cringed at Lydia, bristled at Caroline and longed to give Mr. Bennet a good whack over the head. There was no doubt that you’d created a literary world in which I loved to live in. Loved it because, despite the distance of time, manners and custom, it was so believable. 

   Years ago you breathed life into your novels, penning your characters, and now, after so much time, those characters have become whole entities – they’re beings who have become so real to me  – real to a lot of your readers. So many of your characters are more real, more vibrant than the ones in my own life. Your keen eye for observation left me seeing my own relatives, friends and acquaintances reflected in the pages of your novel. 

   It wasn’t long before I eagerly hunted down the rest of your novels – yes, the girl who snubbed you – and devoured them as if they were an elixir. And in a way they are. Every year, every time I revisit a story of yours, I wish so badly that you had lived longer, written more, so that we could have more of your brilliant wit to enjoy, more of your wonderful characters to love. Even so, I’m glad that we Janeites have at least these novels to bring us such joy and entertainment. Your six masterpieces through which we come to know you a little better with every reading. 

   You are simply brilliant and the sixteenth of December is a day close to all Janeites’ hearts.

     Lady Disdain


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