Town or Country?

It’s still officially winter, but our clocks did “spring” ahead this morning.  That’s close enough for me.  Knowing that we’ve probably seen the last of snow for the year (except in the mountains, where it belongs), and that each day is a few minutes longer than the one before, gives me a real lift.

I’m fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the world (Washington State), and in a semi-rural area where tall evergreen trees and tangled undergrowth still dominate the landscape, maybe not unlike the lush greenery of Mansfield Park.

It was sad to Fanny to lose all the pleasures of spring.  She had not known before what pleasures she had to lose in passing March and April in a town.  She had not known before how much the beginnings and progress of vegetation had delighted her – what animation both of body and mind she had derived from watching the advance of that season which cannot, in spite of its capriciousness, be unlovely, and seeing its increasing beauties, from the earliest flowers in the warmest divisions of her aunt’s garden, to the opening of leaves of her uncle’s plantations, and the glory of his woods.     (Mansfield Park, chapter 45)

She’d been sent back to Portsmouth where confinement, bad air, bad smells, substituted for liberty, freshness, fragrance, and verdureThe contrast made her appreciate the glories of her adopted home all the more. Fanny Price’s preference for country life over town probably reflects her author’s own bias.  Jane Austen spent five unhappy years in Bath, where the family moved after her father retired and was obliged to give up the Steventon rectory in Hampshire. 

Austen’s description above of the unpleasantness of town reminds me of a passage in my book The Darcys of Pemberley:

The weather turned uncommonly warm for June, which might have been pleasant in the country with the amendment of fresh air and cooling breezes.  Yet there were no such friendly modifying influences in town.  The simmering heat only served to intensify the more unpleasant aspects of living in close quarters with so much humanity and horseflesh.  If one dared open the windows in hopes of some relief from the stifling air indoors, one quickly closed them again against the noise and odors emanating from the streets.  For those who had the option of somewhere else to go, the advent of such conditions began turning thoughts toward getting out of town. 

Hmm.  I guess Jane Austen isn’t the only author with a solid, underlying preference for country over town.  That’s something else we have in common.


About Shannon Winslow

author of historical fiction in the tradition of Jane Austen
This entry was posted in Bath, England, Jane Austen, Jane Austen Quotes, Shannon Winslow's writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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