Springtime in the Country

20150528_115744Every year about this time, I feel compelled to expound on the glories of spring in some way or another. Today is a beautiful day in the great Pacific Northwest. The sun’s out, the birds are singing, and it’s the perfect temperature – not too hot or too cold. I’ve got all the windows of the house open for fresh air and, if the breeze blows the right direction, I can smell this fragrant azalea that’s blooming outside my front door.

I’m fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the world and in a semi-rural area where tall evergreen trees and tangled undergrowth still dominate the landscape. On days like this, there’s no place I’d rather be. Fanny Price felt the same way about 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)

20150518_152624She’d been sent back to Portsmouth where confinement, bad air, bad smells, substituted for liberty, freshness, fragrance, and verdureThe contrast made her appreciate the delights of her adopted home all the more. Fanny Price’s preference for country life over town 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.

From Persuasion, here’s more evidence of Jane Austen’s dislike of town, Bath specifically:

Anne entered [Bath] with a sinking heart, anticipating an imprisonment of many months, and anxiously saying to herself, “Oh! When shall I leave you again?”

In The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen, where Anne’s character is a representation of Jane’s own life and views, I expanded on this thought. On her return to Bath from a seaside holiday, Jane is thinking…

IMGP2528The setting itself gave me no comfort, for I had learnt to dislike Bath. Not least among its detractions for me was the familiar din that greeted us immediately upon our arrival – the dash of other carriages, the heavy rumble of carts and drays, the bawling of newsmen, muffin-men, and milk-men… For me, it was a sad thing indeed to exchange the natural music of wind and wave for the mechanical clatter of town.

>Part Three: Hampton Court, Sonehenge, and BathI visited Bath once a few years ago and didn’t find it at all unpleasant. But I guess I wouldn’t want to live there – or in any other city – permanently either. I much prefer the country. That’s another thing Jane Austen and I have in common.

Well, the wind chimes outside my window have just stirred, generating their natural music and reminding me that I shouldn’t be sitting inside at my computer, not on such a perfect spring day. I think I’ll go out for a walk or take some more pictures of flowers to share.

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About Shannon Winslow

author of historical fiction in the tradition of Jane Austen
This entry was posted in Bath, gardening, Jane Austen, Jane Austen Quotes, my books and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Springtime in the Country

  1. Sheila L. M. says:

    That was lovely, especially with the photos. I, too, prefer the county, having lived in such for most of my life. It is too hot here at present to have the windows open but I do like to do that also.

    • Thanks, Sheila. When I went outside after writing this, I discovered it was warmer than I thought – much too warm for the weeding I probably should have done, for instance. Haha! What a shame!

  2. Cozynookbks says:

    Like Jane I prefer the country. Having lived in N.Y.C. for most of my life, and now NC for the past 11 years, I can safely say I enjoy the noise of wind and the chatter of birds over the honking of car horns and the starting up of noisy bus engines and garbage trucks at 4:00 a.m. For me, the quiet serenity of the country outweighs the material luxuries of city life. Thanks for the post with pictures, and for the Mansfield Park excerpt, one of two remaining books of Jane Austen’s that I have not read yet, but much desire to.

  3. kirk says:

    A most delightful post! I like to joke that MP is my 6th favorite JA novel!(I do enjoy reading it…when I have a bookclub commitment to read it(I’m in 2 JA book clubs). Tried reading on my own for the 200th anniversary last year, only made it to chapter 9). I hope you’ll be pleased to know someone choose for me “The Persuasion….” as part of the Goodreads group “Austenesque Lovers TBR Pile Reading Challenge 2015” Some else choose a June book(what a mouthful!). I had started the book but needed a little push. I enjoyed it…especially the ending! 🙂 You and I were on some JA tread and I mentioned I enjoy books about “The Author”. You rightly suggested your book! 🙂

    • Hi, Kirk, and thanks for subscribing. I won’t overload you with too many posts to read, I promise. One or two a month is about my speed. 😉

      MP is my 6th favorite JA too, but I’ve actually just started reading it again because of an idea I have for another book. It’s also the source of my favorite JA quote, which has become my personal motto: Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore every body not greatly in fault themselves to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.

      Yes, I’m very pleased that someone (besides me) recommended TPMJA to you and that you enjoyed it! A review on Amazon/Goodreads would be lovely, if you’re so inclined. The book hasn’t really broken out yet. I think it’s because so many JAFF readers aren’t interested in anything that’s not P&P. Maybe they just need a little “push”, like you did. Haha!

  4. rearadmiral says:

    And hi back….I love that MP quote! That applies to my reading selections, for the most. So sorry to read the book hasn’t broken out yet. Great point about JAFF readers and P&P. P&P is my favorite JA book(not by much) but…I think P&P is generally gets 60% of “which is your favorite JA novel”…but the % of JAFF books and readership for P&P books must be well north of 85%(even 90%?). I always forgot to post a review on Amazon but have now done so. Posted on Goodreads and Austen in Boston…of course, 🙂 too!

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