We have never met, and with the many years between us, you being born in 1775 and me in 1977, the likelihood of this occurring is slim. However, I have admired you since I was sixteen years old, when I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time. You were talented beyond your time, and as I researched your life more, I was saddened to learn that you never received acclaimed status or rave reviews for your work as an author while living.
The early 1800s were not ready for women to be raising their fists while demanding recognition and a place in society, but you thought it so. You were eager and honest for women to be held in some form of esteem other than the mere whisper from behind their men.
You lived during the French Revolution, the Napoleonic wars and the Industrial Revolution, and yet there is never any mention of them in your novels. These historic events seemed to have passed you by without notice. When I open your books, I’m transported back to a time where none of this existed. Instead, romance, common sense and reason are woven into your words.
The history lover in me cannot help but be disappointed. In fact, if I had the chance to go back in time, it would be to the early 1800s. I’d want to live in England and experience life among the commoners. To witness King George III rule the country and catch a glimpse of WindsorCastle.
I’d run through the countryside in awe at the land untouched by man. No high-rises. No computers. No cell phones. The only sound I’d hear would be the birds, the forest around me and the quiet hum from the village nearby.
I’m sure as you’re reading this, high-rises, computers and cell phones are all alien to you, but they’re a part of my life as much as reading, gardening and household chores are yours.
I’ve often wondered what life was like for you or those who lived back then. I smile at the conversations we would have talking about our differences. I’d hope, dear Jane, that we would be friends. I’d probably sit and stare at you in awe for the first little bit, which may frighten you, but rest assured it is merely my fascination of being able to talk with you that has me looking like a crazed lunatic.
We would soon get past my strange attire of jeans and a t-shirt and your high-wasted regency gown and start chatting about literature, the weather and what our likes and dislikes were. We’d sip tea, sharing the leaves, and you may offer me some bread with cheese. I’d beg for a tour of your home in Chawton, only to see and discreetly touch your furniture, clothing, quill and papers. This, too, may seem a bit odd, as I am a stranger in your land, gaping at your everyday possessions like a mad hatter.
|Jane Austen's home, Chawton Cottage.|
I’d show you a few things from my time as well. My laptop—much like your quill, ink and paper—is how I write my stories. I’d have it charged, of course, since electricity was not a commodity then. I snicker, wondering what your reaction might be to this new and foreign object. You may think it a wonderful novel idea while skimming your fingertips along the keys, or throw it to the ground scared to death. However, I hope it’s not the latter.
You’d ask about the markings on my skin, and I’d explain that they are tattoos and a way of expressing myself, to which I’m sure you’ll disagree, but it won’t damper our conversation because you’ll want to know everything about me and my life. How do I know this? It is because you’re an author, Miss Jane, and we are very similar. My curiosity is much like yours for things I have not yet had the chance to live. I know you can relate to this because I have read all of your novels. You’d be overwhelmed with all the information I’d tell you, but your lips would stay firmly shut as you listened intently to what I was saying.
I’d hope we could write something together, such as a poem or short story. Our ideas would be quite different living worlds a part, but we are both creative and so I am not concerned.
Miss Jane, I’d love to hear what your voice sounded like, the pitch of your laughter and the quiver when you’re angry. I’d hug you tight and offer my friendship to you forever, but most importantly I’d thank you for giving me stories which inspire me to write as well as you did.
Thank you for keeping me company on the lonely nights where I was without friends and had no one to talk to. Thank you for showing me how to write characters with emotion and plight, and for taking me away to a period I knew nothing about. You have been my influence for writing. You wrote and published in a time where women authors were unheard of, and I admire you for the hardships you endured to get there.
Bless you, dear Jane, you have given the world a gift, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Your biggest fan,
Kat*Author's note: I wrote this letter to Jane Austen for the Anthology, Lost Love Letters, published Feb. 2014*