The Saint and Sensibility at the Austen Exhibit

Like many of the important things in my life, Jane Austen is something I learned from my sister. Unlike Lip Smackers, New Kids on the Block, and training bras, Austen is not something I’ve outgrown.

I stumbled on Austen accidentally; my sister’s anthology of Jane was the thickest book on her bookshelf. I was at a middle school age when big books = better, so I smuggled it out of her room while she was at a cross country meet and probably would’ve have gotten away with reading and returning it… if I hadn’t gushed how much I adored Jane Austen and Elizabeth Bennet and Oh-My-Darcy, in front of the owner of the book.

“Your sister is sense, and you, Tiffers, are pure sensibility,” my father said with a laugh. This might be the most profound and truest statement he has ever uttered and I grilled him about it while we drove to the bookstore to purchase my own copies of the books. I hadn’t gotten to Elinor and Marianne yet and was trying to determine if Dad was complimenting or insulting me.

Neither. He was stating a fact.

Another true fact, my sister may have recovered her anthology, but Austen was firmly entrenched in my life.

How disappointing it is, however, that The Jane has never been able to infiltrate St. Matt’s heart. He’s accepted that she pre-dates him in mine. He knows he’ll have to see every film version of each of her novels. {Let’s pause for a moment and offer a sigh to Mr. Colin Darcy-Firth} He even took the initiative and came to me when Becoming Jane arrived in our little town theater and asked, “So, 7:00 show or 9:00 show?”

Even proofreading each draft of my college thesis: Conjugal versus Consanguineal: Relationships in Austen* did nothing to spark an interest in his saintly heart. Finally, after I made him watch The Jane Austen Book Club and pointed out how Grigg was my very-most-favorite character and he was a boy and read Austen and wouldn’t-he-at-least-try-reading-one, St. Matt relented. VICTORY! I must say, my pout was exceptionally adorable that day.

Not one to waste a moment, I scrambled for my copy of Northanger Abbey. “It’s got danger and excitement and it’s in this creepy gothic setting,” I gushed as he nodded and got leashes to take the dogs out.

This would not do. He’d said he’d try reading Austen. I wanted him to try reading Austen now!

So, I waited inside the door with the book in my hand and as soon as it opened and the puggles-bounded in, I began: “No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be a heroine…”

I continued reading as he walked around the downstairs turning off all the lights, while he climbed upstairs, brushed his teeth, put on pajamas, and climbed into bed.

“One more chapter?”

He turned off the lights.

Yet, king among men that he is, he voluntarily spent Saturday squiring me to the Morgan Museum to see A Woman’s Wit: Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy .

I swooned and drooled over each of the display cases, pausing between contented sighs to admire a photograph of Mr. Colin Darcy-Firth, and staring open-mouthed at the drawings of Isabel Bishop who captured the characters exactly as they look in my head.

St. Matt patiently studied the drawing of her contemporaries and amused himself by trying to decipher Miss Austen’s handwriting – he was disappointed to discover the first five lines he decoded were informing her sister, Cassandra, about a lovely piece of lace.

I left the exhibit all smiles and spinning. St. Matt left with a saintly grin.

Now do you want to read her?” I asked, as I skipped out to the sidewalk.

St. Matt tugged me out of the path of speed-walking pedestrian and laughed. “No. Thank you, but no. Not at all.”

But before my lip could quiver or fold downward into a pout, St. Matt had twirled me round and added, “But, that exhibit was not nearly as bad as I expected. I enjoyed it.”

A girl can hope. And dream. And plot.

I’m sure St. Matt’s already working on his counter-strategy. I may be sensibility, but he is sense, down the very logical core of his Austen-free heart.

*I think this was the title of my thesis. It was lost in The Great Un-Backed-Up Laptop Meltdown of 2005 and I have not gone back to Lehigh to search down the bound copy. Do they have a bound copy? *sobs*

© Copyright Tiffany Schmidt - Designed by Pexeto