Favorite Austen Moments—and a Giveaway
Guest post by Laurie Viera Rigler
One of the things I love about Austen is her scope: within those famous two inches of ivory on which she worked “with so fine a brush,” are drama, comedy, romance, suspense, and an unflinching observation of human nature—the good, the bad, and the embarrassing.
We all have our favorite moments, the ones that keep us coming back to her novels again and again—and to their many reimaginings on film.
Here are some of my favorites. What are yours?
Northanger Abbey, the novel
(which is, by the way, the most underrated of all Austen’s works, and quite unfairly, IMHO):
- The very first time Henry Tilney, the hero of Northanger Abbey, and Catherine Morland, the heroine, meet, he reveals his sly yet good-natured sense of humor:
"I see what you think of me," said he gravely -- "I shall make but a poor figure in your journal tomorrow."
"Yes, I know exactly what you will say: Friday, went to the Lower Rooms; wore my sprigged muslin robe with blue trimmings -- plain black shoes -- appeared to much advantage; but was strangely harassed by a queer, half-witted man, who would make me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense."
"Indeed I shall say no such thing."
"Shall I tell you what you ought to say?"
"If you please."
"I danced with a very agreeable young man, introduced by Mr. King; had a great deal of conversation with him -- seems a most extraordinary genius -- hope I may know more of him. That, madam, is what I wish you to say."
- Then there is the kind but firm way in which Henry responds to Catherine’s distress at the sight of her brother’s fiancée flirting with another man. The entire scene is a gem, and this line unforgettable: “No man is offended by another man's admiration of the woman he loves; it is the woman only who can make it a torment."
- Henry tenderly wipes a bit of mud from Catherine’s cheek.
Persuasion, the novel:
- Captain Wentworth declaring himself in THE LETTER: "..Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago.…”
- The precursor to THE LETTER, which is Anne Elliot talking to Captain Harville about constancy: “I believe you capable of everything great and good. So long as—if I may—so long as the woman you love, lives, and lives for you. All the privilege I claim for my own sex—and it is not a very enviable one, you need not covet it--is that of loving longest when all hope is gone.”
Pride and Prejudice, the novel:
- When Lizzie confesses to Darcy that she knows he saved Lydia, and he says it was all for her and adds, “"You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever."
- This same scene, except in this reimagining Darcy emerges from the mist in a gorgeous long coat and says, “You have bewitched me, body and soul.”
- Darcy trying to fence away his feelings for Lizzie after she rejects him: “I shall conquer this. I shall.” Not in the book, but who cares? (It’s also way sexier than that dripping-wet-from-the-lake scene, IMO.)
Emma, the novel:
- When Emma finally gets a clue. “Emma's eyes were instantly withdrawn; and she sat silently meditating, in a fixed attitude, for a few minutes. A few minutes were sufficient for making her acquainted with her own heart. A mind like hers, once opening to suspicion, made rapid progress. She touched--she admitted--she acknowledged the whole truth. Why was it so much worse that Harriet should be in love with Mr. Knightley, than with Frank Churchill? Why was the evil so dreadfully increased by Harriet's having some hope of a return?”
- “Marry me, my darling friend.”
- “Try not to kill my dogs.”
- When Emma says it’s okay for her to dance with Mr. Knightley because they are not brother and sister, and he answers, “Indeed we are not.”
- When Marianne finally gets a clue and says to Elinor: “But you,--you above all, above my mother, had been wronged by me. I, and only I, knew your heart and its sorrows; yet to what did it influence me?--not to any compassion that could benefit you or myself.--Your example was before me; but to what avail?--Was I more considerate of you and your comfort? Did I imitate your forbearance, or lessen your restraints, by taking any part in those offices of general complaisance or particular gratitude which you had hitherto been left to discharge alone?--No;--not less when I knew you to be unhappy, than when I had believed you at ease, did I turn away from every exertion of duty or friendship; scarcely allowing sorrow to exist but with me, regretting only that heart which had deserted and wronged me, and leaving you, for or I professed an unbounded affection, to be miserable for my sake."
- Marianne standing on the hill overlooking Willoughby’s estate and quoting from Shakespeare’s 116th sonnet:
- Hugh Laurie as Mr. Palmer (Emma Thompson admirably took every opportunity imaginable to capture Austen’s humor, even in the midst of a story with as much tragedy as this one)
Mansfield Park, the novel:
- When Fanny finally breaks her silence about what she objects to about Henry Crawford and tells his sister Mary how little she trusts Henry as a man or a potential lover, especially in light of her having witnessed his playing Maria against Julia, and vice versa: "I cannot think well of a man who sports with any woman's feelings; and there may often be a great deal more suffered than a stander-by can judge of."
- Tough choice. The one directed by Patricia Rozema was watchable, but it deviated so far from the character of Fanny Price that it might as well be called Mansfield Park2: Fanny Gets a Personality Transplant. In all fairness, Fanny as a character can be such a challenge that I get why the filmmakers did what they did. Favorite moment in this one? When Fanny finds Tom Bertram’s horrific sketches of slaves from his father’s Antigua plantation, something that was certainly not in the book, though any of Austen’s contemporaries would know that Sir Thomas’s going off to manage his lands in Antigua meant he was a slaveholder. Besides, Austen did mention a famous abolitionist from her time in a letter as follows: "I have fallen in love with the writings of Thomas Clarkson.”
What are your favorite moment(s) from Austen novels and/or movies?
There will be one winner:
If you are located in the US, you will receive a signed paperback of each title.
If you are located outside of the US, you will receive both titles in ebook form.
Thanks for hosting me here, Misty, and for putting on this wonderful Austen in August event!
[Misty says, You're welcome; thanks for stopping by!]
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