I am a closet Jane Austen fan. I could lock myself away for days and devour every letter of every beautiful word she has ever written. As a romantic young girl, I fantasized about my own Fitzwilliam Darcy telling me how “ardently he admired and loved me” and whisking me away to my own Pemberley. I’ve wanted to walk the park with my sister, go to balls and ride in open carriages to admire the English countryside.
The world that came alive in the writings of Austen were magical. Yes, they were set in the midst of titled English families struggling to keep their holdings and make good marriages for their families. Despite their elaborate fashions, seemingly palatial residences and endless parties, the tales are set in themes that remain timeless: financial struggles, relationships that do not come about easily, misunderstandings and heartaches that cause much pain. Her writing and her views on life, love and family have stood the test of time.
To this day, I can nary find a passage of Mansfield Park, Emma or Pride and Prejudice – to name a few of my most favorite Austen novels – that don’t have incredible relevance to today. In Sense and Sensibility, Mrs. Dashwood is talking to young Edward, who has come to visit. Edward has the weight of the world on his shoulders and while he doesn’t share the reasons for his conflicted emotions with his hosts, he talks about his future children in that way only Austen’s characters do.
In his hopeless and despair, he explains how his children will be so very different from himself, “They will be brought up,” said he, in a serious accent, “to be as unlike myself as is possible. In feeling, in action, in condition, in every thing.” His hostess, Mrs. Dashwood, gently tells him that he is not unlike anyone else. She reminds him that we all have days where things don’t go as they should and that no one is immune from days of melancholy humor and moments of sadness. But her advice is the advice that stands the test of time for us all:
“Know your own happiness.
You want nothing but patience
—or give it a more fascinating
name, call it hope.”
Whatever brings you your Edward moments – times when you look around and feel like everyone else’s life is not subject to as much pain and hardship as yours; those days when you feel like more is expected of you than anyone else and it is hard to put one foot in front of the other and move forward. Yes, even if – deep down – you know it is just a moment of melancholy setback, remember the advice penned by Austen through Mrs. Dashwood’s words. Know your happiness and be patient. Wait expectantly and never, ever lose hope.
Who knows, maybe your Darcy will come. Mine eventually did.