September 25, 1899 — No one knows what passes in the profound depths of our soul. To feel God near, to meditate, to pray, to gather all our deepest thoughts so as to reflect on them more deeply: that is to live the inner life, and this inner life is the supreme joy of life. But so many moving thoughts and ardent desires and generous resolutions should be translated into deeds, for we are in the midst of human life and a great task lies before us.
It is time for painful effort: one must tear oneself asunder, forsake the realm of thought for that of reality, face action, know that one will either not be understood or be understood wrongly; and that one will perhaps suffer at the hands of humanity for having willed the good of humanity. We must already have drawn from God an incomparable strength and armed our hearts with patience and love, in order to undertake day by day and hour by hour the work that should belong to every Christian: the moral and material salvation of his brothers.
(Leseur, Elisabeth. My Spirit Rejoices. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 1996.)
I finally got around to watching Miss Austen Regrets on DVD this weekend. It’s a depiction of the remarkable author of such novels as Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice – my current favorite is actually Persuasion – a rather contested story among critics for its authenticity (or lack thereof) –
But there are several elements about this movie that I want to share.
Beforehand, however, let’s acknowledge that movies, being of finite duration, cannot include every event or person in the life of its subject; many important members of Jane’s family are omitted in this script, and it’s possible that those who are included must represent elements of others. A lengthy miniseries might do some justice to the story in its entirety; otherwise, I can recommend Parks’ biography to fill in a great many personal and generally historical gaps in the Austen history.
What makes me love this story as it was presented is that – first and foremost – the movie uses real, middle-aged actresses, with little or no makeup to disguise their age. Here is the lead character, Olivia Williams – a beautiful woman, but in a role that shows her crowsfeet and the lines around her mouth –
And here is the glamorous Greta Scacchi, looking anything but glamorous – but I’ve never thought her so beautiful:
I love the story because it shows a family facing real crises, and a famous woman looking back over her life and asking, “Did I make the right choices? or was I selfish?” – as I believe we do as we end one period of our life and enter another.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, do rent it. It’s quite enjoyable.
I love the novels of Rosamunde Pilcher. She has such a way of incorporating lovely domestic detail into the lives of her characters that I find homey and gracious. Rosamunde herself is a gracious lady; retired from writing and living in Scotland now, she still takes time to respond to fan letters – I have a charming note from her pinned to my bulletin board as I type this.
Here’s a passage from her novel, The Shell Seekers (orig. published St. Martin’s Press, also available as a Dell paperback, which is what I have) –
Richard was gone. Penelope learned to live without him, because there was no alternative. You couldn’t say, “I can’t bear it,” because if you didn’t bear it, the only other thing to do was to stop the world and get off, and there did not seem to be any practical way to do this. To fill the void and occupy her hands and mind, she did what women under stress and in times of anxiety have been doing for centuries: immersed herself in domesticity and family life. Physical activity proved a mundane but comforting therapy. She cleaned the house from attic to cellar, washed blankets, dug the garden. It did not stop her from wanting Richard, but at least, at the end of it, she had a shining, sweet-smelling house and two rows of freshly planted young cabbages.
Update Sept 22, 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time: A friend emailed to tell me that she thinks this passage is maudlin – but I love it! It always makes me want to sweep the cobwebs out of remote corners of my home, and to go out and plant cabbages, no matter what time of year it is.