viernes, 11 de septiembre de 2015

Is there any sex in Jane Austen's novels?

(*To my English readers: I apologize for every mistake. Please be aware I am a Spanish writer) Find more about Jane Austen and her men)

The book What matters in Jane Austen? (by John Mullan, 2012) explores rituals and conventions of Jane Austen's (1775-1817) fictional world in order to reveal "her technical virtuosity and sheer daring as novelist". The chapter eleven is devoted to the issue Is there any sex in Jane Austen?

'What matters in Jane Austen?
by John Mullan (Bloomsbury).
Yes, there is. At the end of Northanger Abbey, we can sense that Isabella Thorpe slept with Frederick Tilney, maybe thinking that sooner or later he was going to marry her. In Mansfield Park, Heny Crawford likely persuaded Maria Bertram to have sex with him, and certainly Lydia Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) had lots of sexual intercourses with Wickham for almost a mont before their marriage. Another example: in Sense and Sensibility we are told that Willoughby has eloped with the sixteen-year-old Eliza from Bath. She dissapears for eight months before Colonel Brandon, her guardian, finds her: she has a baby, and she and her child are "removed... into the country". In this novel the reader learn that acceptance of gentlement's sexuals indiscretions was widespread.

Public bathing at Bath, the city where
 Lydia allows herself to be seduced by Wickham
There are several men in Austen's stories who do want a wife for reasons beyond financial calculation. It's the case of Robert Ferrars marrying Lucy Steel "speedily" because he wants her; that was also the implicit situation of a young Mr. Bennet chosing Mrs. Bennet by her beauty (having made a mistake, he lived with it); and it's almost certainly the case of John Knightley (Emma), oppenly irritated by most of his wife's preoccupations. Why did he marry her? Presumably because of physical attraction; their five children after only seven years of marriage might be evidence of this.

Collin Firth, the best Mr. Darcy ever filmed.
Jane Austen's novels acknowledge men's sexual needs, but it is hard to know what to think of the men with whom her heroines are finally paired and married, for example, the world-famous Mr. Darcy. In general, critics of her fictional works states that "in Austen, as in the eighteenth-century novels from which she learned, pre-marital sex happens because a young woman gets into the hands of a rakish man, not because two people simply cannot resist each other" (John Mullan).

Thomas_Lefroy (1776-1869)
inspiration for Jane Austen's
iconic Mr. Darcy.
Naturally, none of Austen's heroines would have sex before marriage, but those practices were not unimaginable to her. Even her more naive character (Jane Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice) knows that sex before marriage happens, though she is determined to believe otherwise ("My father and mother believe the worst, but I cannot think so ill of him").

Last but not least, Jane Austen and her readers lived in an era of considerable sexual licenses among the elite: the Prince Regent and his brothers the Duke of York, the Duke of Clarence (later King William IV) and the Duke of Kent (Queen's Victoria father) were famous for their sexual irregularities.

Austen's heroine Emma is well known for his habit to evade a truth by indulging in a fancy. This applies also to sexual affairs in her neighbourhood, as we can see when she dreamt about Frank Churchill's adoptive father ("Half a dozen natural children, perhaps"). Maybe these "dreams" are the way for Jane Austen to require the reader to recognise what she has sometimes been accused of denying; that humans are driven by sexual appetites.

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