Jane Austen Jokes

"I wonder if you've heard what I saw in the Hampshire Chronicle 10 days ago: that a new breed of tourists is coming to Chawton. Some are now arriving clutching their copies of Sense and Sensibility and hoping that Jane Austen can sign their copies, and even asking if she might be over the road in the pub."
-- June 19th 1996 email from John H. Holder, Hampshire

*Return to Jane Austen info page

The Jane Austen top ten song list

First Version

This was originally written by Kathleen Glancy (of Edinburgh, Scotland), and published in volume 9 (the December 1987 issue) of Persuasions, the journal of JASNA.

The Jane Austen Top Ten

 1. "All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor"...........Anne Elliot,
                                       Mrs. Croft, and Louisa Musgrove

 2. "Once I had a Secret Love"...................Jane Fairfax and
                                                 Frank Churchill

 3. "Lord, It's Hard to be Humble"...............Mr. Darcy

 4. "Food, Glorious Food"........................Dr. Grant

 5. "I Had a Letter from my Love"................Elizabeth Bennet

 6. "Mad About the Boy"..........................Lady Osborne

 7. "How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria?".....Sir Thomas and
                                                 Lady Bertram

 8. "Girls Were Made to Love and Kiss"...........Sir Edward Denham
                                       and the Seducers' Barbershop
                                       Quartet:  Messrs. Willoughby,
                                       Wickham, Crawford, and Elliot

 9. "Soldier Blue"...............................Colonel Brandon

10. "Baby, It's cold Outside"....................Mr. Woodhouse and Emma

A response

"Anne3" of the P&P2BB was inspired by the above to make her own contribution:

Date: Tue, Mar 11, 1997 09:18
From: Anne3

  • I Got Plenty of Nuthin' -- the Bennet girls
  • I Cain't Say No -- Lydia Bennet
  • There's No Business Like Show Business -- Henry & Mary Crawford, Maria & Tom Bertram, Mr. Rushworth, and Mr. Yates
  • I Love a Piano -- Jane Fairfax, Mary Bennet
  • Change Partners -- Harriet Smith
  • Isn't This a Lovely Day to be Caught in the Rain -- Mrs. Bennet to Jane
  • Lazy -- Lady Bertram
  • I Won't Dance -- Darcy, Lizzy (at different times)
  • I've Got My Eyes on You -- Mr.Knightley to Emma
  • Love For Sale -- Mrs. Bennet
  • My Heart Belongs to Daddy -- Emma Woodhouse
  • I'm Afraid I Love You -- Darcy
  • An Armful of You -- Willoughby
  • Nobody's Chasing Me -- Caroline Bingley
  • Glad to Be Unhappy -- Marianne Dashwood
  • I've Got a Crush on You -- Harriet Smith
  • Ask Me Again -- Lizzy, post-Pemberley
  • Where Are the Men? -- Kitty & Lydia Bennet
  • Bidin' My Time -- Frank Churchill
  • Take My Mother Home -- Jane and Elizabeth Bennet
  • The Gentleman is a Dope -- Maria Bertram (re Mr. Rushworth)
  • There's No Cure Like Travel -- Elizabeth Bennet
  • Love Me, Love My Pekinese -- Lady Bertram
  • On And On And On -- Miss Bates
  • Why Am I So Gone About That Gal -- Darcy
  • Memories -- Mrs. Musgrove
  • Medley: There is Nothing Like a Dame, There'll Always Be a Lady Fair, Falling Out of Love Can Be Fun, Just One of Those Things, So Long It's Been Good to Know You -- Willoughby, Wickham, William Elliott, Henry Crawford

Second Version

Kathleen Glancy has now forwarded the following ``NEW AND IMPROVED JANE AUSTEN TOP 10'':

  1. When Did I Fall In Love? Mr. Darcy*
  2. Material Girl. Lucy Steele
  3. Among My Souvenirs. Harriet Smith
  4. I'm Just A Girl Who Can't Say No. Eliza Williams
  5. Girls Just Want To Have Fun. Lydia and Kitty Bennet
  6. I Wish I Was Single Again. Mr. Palmer
  7. Papa Don't Preach. Maria and Julia Bertram
  8. The Second Time Around. Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth
  9. I Was A Good Little Girl Till I Met You. Catherine Morland
  10. Wonderful, Wonderful Day! Mrs. Bennet (Recorded live at the wedding breakfast for her two most deserving daughters).
* Mr. Darcy was apparently attracted to this ballad from the Broadway show "Fiorello" because the singer is not able to tell when he fell in love, and nor was Mr. Darcy when asked to account for his doing so by Mrs. Darcy, then his fiancée. The song shot straight to Number One in the Charts when he performed it at a charity concert wearing a clinging shirt which looked as if he had been for a swim in it, though surely such a thing is not possible.

The Jane Austen Punishments List

These suggestions are due to participants on AUSTEN-L, including Jackie Adam, Laura <llhalbl>, Karen Patterson, Diane M. Drew, "Miranda" Callier Chris, Mary K. Taylor, and Shellie Mueller.

(There was a parallel discussion on "Jane Austen rewards", but that wasn't as pointed -- the "rewards" mainly depend on one's gender, and which Jane Austen characters one is personally most attracted to ;-).)

  1. An evening at a recital given by Mary Bennet.
  2. A tour of Rosings with Mr. Collins
    - OR - (updated)
    Watching an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous guest-hosted by Mr. Collins.
  3. Relationship advice from Lady Russell.
  4. A visit to a library with Miss Bates.
  5. An audience with the Queen accompanied by Mrs. Bennet.
  6. A night of babysitting Lady Middleton's children.
  7. Sir Walter Elliot standing in for your father at a father/son wilderness survival camp.
  8. One day of nursing Mary Musgrove through one of her illnesses.
  9. The friendship of Lucy Steele.
  10. An evening of backgammon with Mr. Woodhouse (and don't expect sweetbread and asparagus when the refreshments arrive).
  11. A girls' clothes-shopping expedition and makeover with Caroline Bingley.
  12. Having Lydia Bennet over for a two weeks' holiday.
  13. A conversation with Mrs. Elton about Maple Grove.
  14. A carriage ride with John Thorpe.
    - OR - (updated)
    Buying a used car from John Thorpe. (Joshua Silverman writes:)
    "This was suggested by a query whether it was possible to imagine any Austen character as a used car salesman. Not only does John Thorpe fit the bill, but his boasts to Catherine about the smoothness of the ride, the great mileage he gets from his horse, and his prowess in wheeling and dealing, leave me astonished at Austen's prescience."
  15. Matchmaking by Caroline Bingley.
  16. A weekend in Reno or Las Vegas with Mr. Wickham.
  17. Aunt Norris moves in next door and becomes an Amway distributor.
  18. A moral discussion with Mary Bennet and Mr. Collins.
  19. A cross-country tour in the Barouche with the condescending Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
  20. The ultimate:
    Being Charlotte Lucas when she performs her conjugal duties with Mr. Collins, especially when he moans "Catherine!" instead of "Charlotte!" at the crucial moment. ;-)
    [See this description of Mr. Collins's dancing abilities to get an idea of what his lovemaking technique would be like.]

(Miscellaneous fragments)

If they were alive today (Jane Austen headlines and TV promos):

Date: Fri, 15 Mar 1996 12:04:00 -0500
From: Carolyn A. Nelson

  • "Mrs. Norris to chair task force on Welfare reform"
  • "Coming up at 11 -- the latest update on blizzard conditions from our meteorologist, John Knightley"
  • "Next week on The Frugal Gourmet, ``Gruel: so good and so good for you'' with special guest, Mr. Woodhouse"

Answering Machine messages of Jane Austen characters

From: Linden
Date: 2/27/2000 6:43 p.m.

In the wisdom of the board, what messages would various Jane Austen characters put on their telephone answering machines? Just to kick off, here's the one at Hunsford Parsonage:

"Thank you for calling my humble abode. I am inexpressibly sorry that neither I nor my dear Charlotte are at home, but if you would be so kind as to leave your message, I will assure you most sincerely that I shall return your call."

From: Adeleide
Date: 2/28/2000 7:28 p.m.

To which I would add . . .

"This answering machine was paid for and chosen by my patroness, the Honorable Lady Catherine de Burgh, who also wrote this message and directed its execution. Such condescension!"

From: Anne
Date: 2/27/2000 9:13 p.m.

Here's the one at Rosings:

"I am most seriously displeased to have missed your call. I will return it at my earliest convenience (yours is of no consequence) for I must have my share in the conversation."

From: Elspeth
Date: 2/28/2000 10:37 a.m.

Mr Bennet's? --"You wish to leave a message, and I have no objection to you doing so!"

From: Beth H Shaffer
Date: 2/29/2000 3:21 p.m.

How about Captain Wentworth?

"The ring of the phone pierces my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman to return calls. Absent I may have been, busy I have been, but never impolite. A message, a number will be enough to decide whether I return your call this evening or never..."

From: Cheryl
Date: 3/1/2000 12:46 p.m.

Continuing with Persuasion....

Mary Musgrove: "I am very ill today and quite unable to answer the phone. If I had a visitor, I suppose that person could have spoken with you, but it does not suit the Miss Musgroves to visit the ill, and I dare not rise from my bed for fear that I may be seized in some dreadful way!"

Sir Walter: "I am unable to take your call, being thoroughly occupied with my tailor. Not that I would have answered the phone myself -- after all, a baronet must be seen to live as a baronet!"

From: Stephanie Anne
Date: 2/28/2000 1:44 p.m.

This was heard on Mrs. Wickham's answering machine:

"You may leave a message. You will have nothing better to do. I will return your call if I can. But you know married women have never much time for returning calls."

From: Julie P.
Date: 2/28/2000 3:43 p.m.

I was going to say that Mr. & Mrs. Wickham's machine would say something resembling this:

"We will return your call at some time or other, but it does not much signify when."

From: Linden
Date: 2/28/2000 8:57 p.m.

Miss Bates's answering machine:

"It's so obliging of you to call, but then we have so many obliging friends that we are truly grateful, not that we wouldn't be grateful just for our health, but all these friends are so kind, and I know that you will forgive us for not being here when you called, except that my mother might be in but she can't answer the phone because she's deaf you know, not that she has anything else to disturb her, in fact she's remarkably healthy for her age, and she would answer but she probably hasn't heard the bell, so I'm sure you won't mind, and where was I? Oh yes, if you'd be so good as to leave your message just after the beep, that's the fourth long beep, not the first one, there are three short beeps and then a long one, that's the one to speak after, otherwise the machine won't record your message and we'd be ever so sad if we didn't receive it because I'm sure that it's very interesting, and I will call you just as soon as I get in ..."

Date: 2/1/2000 11:09 p.m.
From: Laurel Ann

...The recording of that voice at the airport loading zone that exclaims in Lady Catherine's voice, "I am most seriously displeased. This will not be borne. Move your carriage immediately."

Persuasion by Dr. Seuss

From: Rhonwen
Date: 7/20/2000 2:48 a.m.

Do you mind if I give "Green Eggs and Ham" a try? Anne's words are in black and Sir Walter's are in blue.

"A Naval Man" by Rhonwen
(with sincere thanks and apologies to Dr.Seuss)

That Anne-I-am
That Anne-I-am
I do not like that Anne-I-am

Do you like a naval man?

I do not like a naval man.
I do not like them, Anne-I-am.

Would you like one to live here?

I do not want one to live here.
I would not like him anywhere.
I do not like a naval man.
I do not like them, Anne-I-am.

Would you let me marry one?
Would you have one for a son?

I do not want one to live here.
I would not like him anywhere.
I would not let you marry one.
I do not want one for a son.
I do not like a naval man.
I do not like them, Anne-I-am.

Would you have one at Camden-Place?
(Provided he'd a tolerable face?)

I do not want one to live here.
I would not like him anywhere.
I would not let you marry one.
I do not want one for a son.
I do not want one at Camden-Place
(For none do have a tolerable face)
I do not like a naval man.
I do not like them, Anne-I-am.

Would you? Could you?
If he were rich?
Meet him! Meet him!
Here he is.

I would not,
could not,
if he were rich. (Well, on second thought?)

You may like him.
You will see.
You may like him just like me!

I would not, could not like the navy.
No I won't! You let me be.

In Bath?
Here in Bath?
Would you, could you, here in Bath?

I would not could not here in Bath.
I do not like a naval man!
I do not like him Anne-I-am.

You do not like him.
So you say.
Meet him! Meet him!
And you may.
Meet him and you may, I say.

If you will let me be, I will meet him.
You will see.

I do like a naval man!
I do! I like him, Anne-I-am!

Pride and Prejudice, by George Lucas

From: Rose
Date: 7/25/2000 11:54 p.m.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

Darth Collins: Elizabeth, (breathing heavily) I am your cousin.

Elizabeth Skywalker: Noooooo!

Darth Collins: Join me and we can rule Longbourne together, as husband and wife under the excellent patronage of Empress Catherine de Bourgh. (More heavy breathing)

Elizabeth Skywalker: Neverrrr!

Darth Collins: I can give you more power than you have ever dreamed of, visits to Rosings twice a week, shelves in your closet... But I understand your refusal -- hahaha! -- it is the current custom of Fashionable Ladies.

Elizabeth Skywalker: No! I am an Unfashionable Person, as you were before you were corrupted...

Darth Collins: Gasp! (He grabs for his throat) You have won this time, but you'll be sorry! You will never again have an offer like this...hahahahah!
(He limps off)

Bennet Kenobi: You have done well Young One.

(Darth Collins re-enters with Charlotte Lucas)

Darth Collins: Haha! The Rosings Parsonage shall have a mistress! Now she shall have a visit from Empress Catherine de Bourgh!

Elizabeth Skywalker: Nooooooo! Charlotte!

Charlotte Lucas: (With a dazed look) Happiness in...marriage...is...purely coincidental...

Elizabeth Skywalker: You've brainwashed her!

Darth Collins: Hahahahaha! (Heavy breathing)

Coming in the next episode: Will Darcy Duo and Elizabeth Skywalker be able to save Princess Lydia from the clutches of Wickham the Wicked?

Jane Austen's novels transposed to other eras?

Date: Fri, 8 Mar 1996 09:47:44 -0500
From: Garnet Bass

An idea I've been toying with ever since I first saw Clueless is what other non-Regency settings would fit which of the novels. I've seen Sense and Sensibility as a movie about the '60s -- Marianne and Willoughby as hippie wannabes, eager to let it all hang out but unwilling to forgo the comforts of life. Anyone else want to have fun with the possibilities?

Date: Fri, 8 Mar 1996 20:28:22 -0500
From: Karen P

I think Northanger Abbey would work well as a Western. Catherine Morland would become a girl from the East (don't the city girls always seem to be from either Boston or Philadelphia in the Westerns?) with her head full of cowboys, Indians, and gunfights instead of crumbling castles. She would meet Henry Tilney, the Jimmy Stewart-ish proprietor of a progressive ranching operation, at a square dance. John Thorpe, sleazy clerk in the local bank, would whisk Catherine away in his buggy on the false pretence of showing her the OK Corral.

Date: Wed, 1 Oct 1997 00:29:42 -0500
From: Juliet A. Youngren

Can anyone doubt that if Northanger Abbey were set today, Catherine would be an avid reader of Steven King?

Date: Tue, 30 Jul 1996 23:24:11 -0700
From: Karen P

Re: contemporary professions for the characters -- I think people are right to put Lizzy Bennet and Darcy in the law, but I see her as a federal prosecutor, investigating in-house corporate counsel Darcy for white collar criminal misconduct. Darcy is, naturally, innocent, but he looks guilty. I see Emma as an upscale wedding coordinator (Emma's approach to gracious living would be: hire someone). In other words, she gets to tell everyone what to do. And when couples inevitably threaten to call off the wedding because of jitters, Emma moves in and straightens things out, or at least so she likes to think.

Date: Fri, 2 Aug 1996 12:36:20 -0500
From: "Juliet A. Youngren"

I love this idea! It goes with Emma's role as self-appointed matchmaker too (hey, it's good for business).

I remember someone a while ago (Ellen Moody?) imagining Fanny Price as an under-paid, overworked junior executive in some large family-run corporation (Bertram Sugar Company, maybe!). I could see this. Tom, Maria, and Julia would probably be vice-presidents of something, have big, plush offices and never actually come in to work. Everyone would always be reminding Fanny that they hired her as a favor to her family, while at the same time expecting her to do all the boring things that actually keep the place running. Edmund would be the one brother who didn't go into the family business; he could still be a seminary student, or perhaps a social worker (but to eliminate the religious element from Mansfield Park would be to rip its guts out, it seems to me -- pardon the un-Austen-like expression).

Date: Mon, 19 Aug 1996 09:22:26 -0400
From: Susan Dara Wright

Emma would be a good host for "The New Dating Game".

Date: Wed, 31 Jul 1996 14:55:53 U
From: Mary Taylor

Your choice of Lizzy as lawyer is appropriate: her maternal grandfather was an attorney. I could see her as a newspaper columnist or writer with a scathing wit for a small alternative weekly.

Date: Tue, 20 Aug 1996 02:26:20 -0400
From: Arnessa M. Garrett

With Lizzy and Darcy as lawyers, the possibilities are so rich. They could meet in law school. (She on a scholarship.) Darcy could slight her as a debate partner: ``Tolerable, I suppose, but not clever enough to tempt me.'' Then later, when Lizzy gets the job investigating Darcy, Wickham could be the star witness whose story crumbles on the stand.

Date: Mon, 5 Aug 1996 17:23:20 +1100
From: Louisa Moore

I've been thinking that Elizabeth and Darcy could be seen as political opponents as well as rivals in the courtroom. Elizabeth would be a Labour MP and Darcy a Conservative Minister. Despite his attraction to Elizabeth, Darcy knows that she is not the best candidate for "conservative political wife". Jane would be a primary school teacher involved in the teacher's union and therefore unsuitable for Bingley (Darcy's Chief of Staff). Wickham would be an attractive young radical who is actually a plant from British Intelligence who is ultimately exposed as a spy. Darcy's die-hard conservatism is challenged by Elizabeth's passionate progressive agenda and he realises there are more important things than delivering a budget surplus...

Date: Wed, 7 Aug 1996 10:33:08 U
From: Mary Taylor

I like the thought of Elizabeth being in politics or the law, except that might bump her up into a financial bracket that's higher than what hers is in the book; perhaps you could have Mr. Bennet as a once idealistic, now cynical, perpetually-elected MP for a working or middle class constituency and Elizabeth could be his aide, who's fond of her boss but not blind to his shortcomings. Mr. Collins could be an up-and-coming lobbyist (for land developer Catherine de Bourgh?) who tries to get Elizabeth to sell out her principles, and who, after Elizabeth turns him down, does hire away fellow aide Charlotte Lucas (she needs the money). Lydia could still be Mr. Bennett's daughter and do something with Wickham that would not only threaten his reputation, but threaten the well-being of their community. Darcy's first proposal is like a hostile takeover (that fails miserably) by a large multinational of a very small business; I don't know what that would be in political terms (or would he just make a pass at her?).

Date: Mon, 12 Aug 1996 14:55:50 +1100
From: Louisa Moore

I'm glad people have taken up the political idea and I'll elaborate further. (When I was writing it, I was thinking of Britain, where class is still such an issue in politics.) I like the idea that Mr. Bennet is an old hack, running for the same safe seat every election. Mrs. Bennet's contribution as the Minister's wife (opening fêtes etc.) is tempered by her complete lack of political understanding or tact. Lydia's running off with Wickham, the MI5 plant, to the USSR (defunct now, of course) or the Middle East creates an enormous scandal for the Bennet family and their political fortunes. The Gardiners are environmental activists and therefore initially appalling to Darcy's conservative sensibilities. The ball at Netherfield would be a charity fundraiser, while the meeting in Derbyshire would arise on the hustings. Lizzy, Darcy, and the Gardiners have all gone to address the same conference/rally/protest over the logging of trees in a heritage-listed forest or something, when news of Wickham & Lydia's defection comes through and Darcy rushes off to work his contacts in the diplomatic corps (an old school tie network that Lizzy will be unable to utilise on her own). Any other ideas anyone? (Don't blame me, I voted Labour.)

Date: Wed, 7 Aug 1996 09:37:47 -0500
From: Penny Klein

Mary Crawford would be the board chairman for some Fortune 500 company: she has just the right coldness and ambition to climb her way up -- no guilty conscience for her when it came to layoffs. Like many U.S. CEOs she would insist on big compensation and perks. I don't see her as married unless that is how she needed to get something -- but in this day and age, ambitious, ruthless women do not need to be married.

Date: Thu, 15 Aug 1996 11:15:18 PST
From: Gina Dimino

Mr. Bennet would be a recently downsized corporate executive. Since Mr. and Mrs. Bennet never saved a penny, Elizabeth is working her way through college as an temporary administrative assistant at the same corporation; she is hoping some day to go to law school. Jane is a second-grade teacher, much loved and abused by her students. Mary, a senior in high school, is a straight A student and member of the National Honor Society, who writes essays on "What America Means to Me" for essay competitions. Her life's ambition is to be published in the Reader's Digest. Kitty and Lydia are, of course, mall rats.

Mrs. Bennet is the type of middle-aged woman who wears a leopard-spotted leotard all day and alternates bits of Jane Fonda's workouts with Snickers bars. She's always urging all the girls to "make the most of themselves". She particularly hates the stylish, mostly black clothing that Lizzy wears, and is always pestering her about how ugly her Doc Martens are. "Why not wear nice shoes like your sisters?"

Date: Mon, 12 Aug 1996 02:07:09 EDT
From: Bethany Grenald

Rereading Mansfield Park recently, it struck me that if the story happened today, it would fit in well as a college story -- the characters are all so free and pleasure-seeking. So I imagine that Mary Crawford, the Bertram sisters (Maria and Julia), and Fanny Price all belong to the same sorority. And Tom Bertram, Mr. Yates, and Henry Crawford all belong to the same exclusive fraternity. Mary Crawford is a business major -- I see her as one of those women who likes being in a man's world, such as business or science, while wanting to keep other women out, so that her status and achievement can seem all the greater due to the contrast. She befriends Fanny (who she sees as shy and not a threat to herself), a freshman pledge and scholarship student: she is from a poor family, but has had scholarships since she was young to exclusive schools like Exeter or Andover. Mary meets Edmund through Tom and Henry. Edmund is from the very wealthy, local high society Bertram family, which appeals to Mary, but he has decided to forgo family assistance, so that he can become a social worker (he rejects his family's money because it is built in part on sweatshops in third world countries). He wants to work his way through school, so he has some kind of menial job, which Mary is embarrassed to have her friends see him doing. In this modern version, the thing that corresponds to the play production in the original is a big party, to take place at the Bertram household while the parents are taking a cruise to the Caribbean on the QE2. Maria is engaged to the dull insurance agent Mr. Rushworth, a recent grad who is in line to become CEO of his father's billion-dollar corporation. Everybody except Fanny gets very drunk at the party, and both Maria and Julia end up sleeping with Henry Crawford. They clean up from the party just in time to avoid censure from their returning parents, who came back early. The party was a graduation party for Maria and Julia, so they leave to go to the big city. Tom takes time off from school (one of many breaks) to become a NASCAR driver. Then Henry Crawford finds out that Fanny is the only virgin in the sorority, and decides to seduce her, but falls in love with her instead, she being the only woman he has ever seen who has been able to live up to his impossible standards for women, since he has a virgin/whore complex due to his uncle's misogynist influences. Fanny spends a semester away from school as a VISTA volunteer, ending up in the same poor neighborhood where she grew up, and living with her family... Tom gets into a car accident while racing, Maria cheats on Rushworth with Henry, etc. Since this is not as great a sin as it used to be, in this version what really causes Edmund and Mary to break up is that Edmund discovers that Mary helped set up Kathie Lee Gifford's new line of clothing, and saw nothing wrong with the child labor...

Date: Sun, 11 Aug 1996 00:42:55 -0400
From: Carolyn A. Nelson

Jane Fairfax, upon graduation from secretarial school, would go on holiday to the Caribbean where she falls for the lead vocalist in a rock and roll band, Frank Churchill.

Date: Mon, 5 Aug 1996 00:12:17 -0400
From: Arnessa M. Garrett

I think Mrs. Elton would be an overzealous social worker. Can't you just see Mrs. E forcing her help on those who don't want or need it? (But I give two points for originality to the person who said she'd be a former prime minister with an opinion on everything -- not naming any names, of course.)

Date: November 12, 1996 at 19:13:06
From: Hilary

I actually really enjoy Miss Bingley: For one thought to be so accomplished, she is so insensitive, superficial, and transparent, and every `art of deception' that she tries on Darcy and Lizzie fails so spectacularly. She is bright enough to know she has been put in her place, but stupid enough to be unable to resist having another go!

I like the thought of Miss B. as a celebrity chat show host, as someone else mentioned -- all those traits would equip her beautifully for the job. But does she have the necessary sentimentalism?

Date: November 13, 1996 at 01:58:37
From: Arnessa

Are you asking if she could pretend to sympathize with all the sob stories crossing her stage? In a word, no. Well, maybe I shouldn't speak so fast. Jane Austen says that she and Mrs. Hurst could show some feeling for Jane who was sick at Netherfield -- that is, as long as Jane was in sight. So maybe Miss Bingley could fake enough empathy to carry her talk show to commercial breaks. Then it would be like, "Focett, get these people off my stage."

Subject: A startling revelation!!!!!!
Date: September 09, 1998 at 12:40
From: cheryl @ janeausten Campfire

I recently had the priviledge of being admitted to the collected papers of Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy, she of international fame. Her friendship with the noted Lady Author Miss Jane Austen is well documented. They carried on a spirited correspondence for many years. Among Mrs. Darcy's papers I found a document, the importance of which can scarcely be overrated by the modern reader. Not only does it reveal the striking modernity of thought held by our 19th century ancestors, it reveals that the oft-quoted -- indeed perhaps the most famous of any opening sentences in the Western Canon, may not have come from Jane Austen's imagination, but from a far more mundane source.

Despite its length, I reproduce the entire letter for your edification.


It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a young man, with access to the penny post, and six shillings of available money, must be in want of a way to increase his good fortune. Having devised such a means of securing to myself and those I love an income surpassing even that of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, (of whose wealth you may have heard) I am compelled by my sense of honour to share my good fortune with others.

You may think me imprudent to make such statements, yet I demand of your sense of justice that you read my letter thoroughly, and with attention.

Your reward shall be a gentleman's income which requires only a few minutes at one's business desk each day.

As you will observe, I have included the directions of six persons, whom I can attest are of the finest social and moral character. You must simply direct a correspondence, with a shilling under the seal, to each of these persons, who, as I have said, are of unimpeachable character. Upon finishing this task, you may remove the topmost direction and submit your own at the bottom of the list.

It is imperative that you now send your amended list to those individuals of your acquaintance, or whose directions you may obtain. Soon they will be directing their shillings to your door, thus ensuring you a lifelong income.

You must, of course, ensure that those upon your list are honest and forthright characters, else they shall not send their shillings and yourself and others shall suffer.

Should your parish magistrate be so ill-mannered as to object to your actions, you may assure him that no gentleman would ever engage in an activity of questionable integrity, nor can it be proven that you are not rendering a service to those individuals whose shillings you have collected.

I must assure you, upon my word as a gentleman, that by mailing your shilling to me, and following the terms of this letter exactly, you will receive the income of which you have always dreamed.

Yours, repectfully

 Lt. Wickham              Henry Crawford          Mrs. Wallace
 3rd Reg. Horse Guards    Fallow Hall             65 Gracechurch St.
 Newcastle                Norfolk                 Bath

 William W. Elliot        John Thorpe             Mrs. John Dashwood
 125 Trafalgar Sq.        41 Putney St.           Norland Park
 London                   London                  Sussex

Date: Sat, 24 Aug 1996 04:58:32 -0500
From: Dave Hardenbrook

I'd like to post this story my mom wrote about what Mr. Woodhouse would be doing today:

Mary Hardenbrook

It is my conviction that if Mr. Woodhouse were living today, he would be a television star. With the current confusion and panic over what to eat and what not to eat, Mr. Woodhouse would be in his element. Considering the number of diet plans inundating the marketplace, espoused by any and all from innumerable diversities of backgrounds and disciplines, Mr. Woodhouse is as qualified as anybody to promote a diet plan of his own: the Woodhouse Diet Plan. Rather than being regarded merely as a lovable and kind-hearted nuisance, Mr. Woodhouse would come into his own in the modern world of instantaneous telecommunications.

Mr. Woodhouse, alarmed by questionable eating habits, decides to take matters into his own hands. Inspired by his mission, and after establishing Fast-Gruel Restaurants throughout the western hemisphere (Mr. Woodhouse has also recently opened franchises in Beijing and Moscow), he comes to realize that the media is the real power behind the message, and decides to carry his tenets to network television, and, via satellite, to every corner of the globe known and unknown. Mr. Woodhouse's strategy is a hit and so is he; the ladies especially adore him, and the Nielson ratings soar; his fan mail averages three thousand grateful letters weekly.

As the daily program is about to be taped before a live audience, Serle, Mr. Woodhouse's devoted assistant, stands by, ready to demonstrate the proper boiling of a fat-free egg. The assistant director counts down the seconds to broadcast time: "Five, four, three, two, one, you're on the air!" Mr. Woodhouse appears on screen, smiling benignly.

"Well my dears, have you had your gruel today? I assure you, it is most wholesome. Completely cholesterol free, it contains only polyunsaturated fats. It contains no chemical preservatives whatever, and has been enriched with vitamin C, A, D, E, and K. It provides thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pyridozine, Pantothenic acid, Folacin, cyanocobalamin, Biotin, Choline, Phosphorous, Iron, Iodine, Sodium, Chlorine, Cobalt, Fluorine; all from natural sources and organically grown, with the added Calcium so important for the health of ladies."

"The caloric content? None!"

And in conclusion:

"Take good care of yourselves. Ladies are delicate plants; ladies should take care of their health and their complexion! Be sure to take your daily constitutional, but not in inclement weather! Remember to avoid draughts and the dews of the evening. Remember to change your stockings, drink plenty of gruel, and every day and in every way you will grow better and stronger."

"This is Henry Woodhouse saying Ciao until next time!"

There is a standing ovation, and Mr. Woodhouse is surrounded by enthusiastic autograph seekers.

After the broadcast, his chauffeur James drives Mr. Woodhouse in a 350 horsepower cherokee-red Ferrari to an interview for People magazine, after which Mr. Woodhouse boards a supersonic Concorde to Geneva to attend the International Health Conference.

Apart from a sincere and disinterested dedication to his cause, the reason for Mr. Woodhouse's universal success is because The Woodhouse Diet Plan is merciful. While his nutrition-expert colleagues impress upon their anxious audiences that celery is the only comestible that can be ingested without risk, The Woodhouse Diet Plan allows for the consumption of a soft boiled egg, a thrice baked apple tart, and an occasional pork chop as "not unhealthful".

Date: Sun, 25 Aug 1996 01:37:20 -0400
From: Leslie Wolber

I enjoyed the Woodhouse diet post, though I find it hard to imagine that Mr. Woodhouse would leave his abode for a TV taping. They probably film it in his drawing room, while he sits by the fire.


Date: Mon, Mar 10, 1997 (07:51)
From: Bill (Quarky)

A while ago, I stumbled upon the following P&P summary, which I hope will be as delightful by you:

Pride and Prejudice

``Marry well'' is Bennet tenet: Bingley singly must remain
Since classy Darcy (Lizzy-dizzy) thinks he's far too good for Jane.
Rummy mummy, jaunty aunty, these would drag both gallants down --
Plus the younger siblings' dribblings over officers in town.
See the specious Wickham trick 'em with his tales of birthright gloom,
See how hideous Lydia's ruin looms before she gets her groom;
Glassy Darcy saves the bacon, shaken out of former pride:
Is he Lizzy's destined love, to shove her prejudice aside?
Has she clout to flout that matron, patroness of priestly coz
(He whose ludicrous proposing Rosings rules -- like all he does)?
Darcy oughter court her daughter, destined his through two decades...

``Mulish, foolish girl, remember Pemberley's polluted shades!''
Dare she share his great estate, or can't Aunt Catherine be defied?
Yes! and ere the bells ring jingly, Bingley too shall claim his bride.

by Mary Holtby

from: How to Become Ridiculously Well-Read in One Evening, compiled by E. O. Parrott (Viking, Penguin Books, 1985)

[Note that this works best when read with a British accent; also "ludicrous proposing" is the object of the verb "rules".]

Pride and Prejudice Product Packaging?

Date: February 02, 1998 at 13:22:28
From: Bob

On the Emma board, there is a little exchange going on about appropriate similes, such as: "As brief as Miss Bates". It set me thinking in a slightly different direction -- what about some desirable Austen products?

  • How about "Mrs. Bennet's Balm" -- a soothing tape of Mrs. Bennet talking calmly and wisely about spiritual matters.
  • Or "Lydia's Laboratory of Love and Elopement" -- a distance learning course for young ladies of position to learn a rational approach to the etiquette of marriage
  • Or "Mr. Bennet's Guide to Wise Parenting", or "Collins' Concise..." anything?

Why not? After all, in Haworth Village they sell "Heathcliffe Mints" (I kid you not).

What Fanny Price would have to do for some people not to find her "insipid"!

Date: May 29, 1997 at 13:15:17
From: kathleen (elder)

Sherry & Donna -- what should/could Fanny have done? You say:

> Her qualms about her cousin's marriage don't lead her to any actions.
> I agree that she knows all and tells nothing. She could have saved her family whom she loves so much. Why does she not speak up?

What should Fanny have said and to whom? What should/could she really have done to prevent Maria's marriage -- and why should she have done that?

Date: May 29, 1997 at 18:39:06
From: kathleen (elder)

Here's an over-the-top combination of your suggestions so far (strictly tongue in cheek). ;-p

OK, so we're gonna change Fanny's story. Let's see,

  1. She smacks Edmund and says, "Hey, Dip-head, I need a fire in the schoolroom where I hide out. See to it, now!"
  2. She goes up to Maria and gently tells her to call off her wedding because -- "Your fiancé is a boob, you obviously have the hots for that two-timing cad Henry Crawford (even though he doesn't give two figs for you), and if you persist in marrying, you will live to regret it."
  3. She goes back to Edmund and tells him that all Mary Crawford has going for her is her sex appeal -- "Mary is a bitchy witch or a witchy bitch or whatever, and I'm not saying that just because I've been madly in love with you all my life."
  4. She waits until Aunt Bertram dozes off, grabs Pug and takes him/her out to the fountain and drowns him/her.
  5. Then she walks over to Dr. Grant's house, breaks in through a window, creeps into Mary's room and beats her up. She tells Mary to stay away from Edmund, or else.
  6. Emboldened by her success so far, she walks over to Aunt Norris' house and sneaks in. [Mrs. Norris probably is a light sleeper, so Fanny will have to be very quiet -- maybe she put a sleeping draught in her Aunt's tea earlier in the evening.] She then grabs a pillow and smothers the old lady.
  7. Now, I personally think that if Fanny is able to do all of this, then she will go back to Mansfield Park, grab a bag and stuff in all the cash and portable loot she can find, and then use that fire in her room to burn the house down. She manages to save Edmund, of course, and persuades him that Mary started the fire, and maybe the two of them should run away. Next we hear of them, they'll both be missionaries in the West Indies (returning the ill-gotten wealth of the Bertrams to the island people).

I like this -- it can be fun to rewrite the story. (It's not literature, but it is therapeutic!) ;-)

*See also a concept illustration for another possible alternative ending to Mansfield Park (one that many people may find just as believable as Fanny getting together with Henry C.!)
     (An even bigger version of the above image is also available.)
*Read a humorous updating of Mansfield Park set in rural Tennessee
*Go to the definitive Fanny-bashing (if you can't top this, don't even bother trying to insult Fanny Price!)
*Go to Austen's collection of others' opinions on Mansfield Park.

Pride & Prejudice in one minuet!

From: Laurel Ann
Date: 6/10/2000 7:14 p.m.

When you need a quick fix in one minuet or less!

  • It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be want of a wife.
  • "She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me."
  • "I am all astonishment. How long has she has she been such a favorite? -- and pray, when am I to wish you joy?"
  • "No, my dear, you had better go on horseback, because it seems likely to rain; and then you must stay all night."
  • "It is my cousin, Mr. Collins, who when I am dead, may turn you all out of the house."
  • "I had not thought Mr. Darcy so bad as this -- though I have never liked him."
  • "Engaged to Mr. Collins! My dear Charlotte--impossible!"
  • "Why should they try to influence him? [Mr. Bingley] They can only wish his happiness; and if he is attached to me, no other woman can secure it."
  • "Neither of us perform to strangers."
  • "I must tell you how ardently I admire and love you."
  • "This will not do," said Elizabeth "you will never be able to make both of them good." "For my part, I am inclined to believe it all Mr. Darcy."
  • "Oh yes! -- If one could but go to Brighton!"
  • "I am grieved indeed," cried Darcy; "grieved -- shocked."
  • "It is possible?" cried Elizabeth "Can it be possible that he will marry her?"
  • "But gracious me! I quite forgot! I ought not to have said a word about it. I promised them so faithfully. What will Wickham say?"
  • "'Tis too much," she added, "by far too much. I do not deserve it. Oh! Why is not everbody as happy?"
  • "Not so hasty if you please."
  • "You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me at once."
  • "Oh Lizzy! It cannot be. I know how much you dislike him."
  • "But in such cases as these a good memory is unpardonable."
  • "If any young men come for Kitty or Mary, send them in, for I am quite at leisure."

Just in case. :-)

Austen Wrestlers

Date: July 29, 1997 at 02:08:03
From: Cheryl

This is a bit of late night chat-room silliness composed by Kali, Oregon Andrea, and myself, from February, about 2am chat room time...

The Austen WWF All-Stars:

Wickham the Wicked
Benwick, the Poet Wrestler
Lardball Lucas
The Invalid Woodhouse
Hurst the Inebriated
Elton the Executioner
Bingley the Bruiser
Elliot the Elocutioner
Bertram the Beastie
Frank the Fop (Churchill)
John the Jerk (Dashwood)
Willoughby the Wishy-Washy

  • Mudwrestling: Fearless Fanny Dashwood vs. Aggravating Augusta Elton
  • Ten Rounds of Approach-Avoidance: Jane vs. Jane -- Bennet vs. Fairfax
  • The Masters of Deception: Jolly Jane Fairfax vs. Loose Lucy Steele
  • Mothers from Hell: Mrs. Jennings vs. Mrs. Bennett
  • The Aunts from Hell: Aunt Norris vs. Lady Catherine
  • The Fop Face-off: Frank the Flake Churchill vs. Sir Walter Dig-Me-Baby Elliot
  • Battle of the Sluts: Loose Lydia vs. Luscious Lady Susan

Date: August 01, 1997 at 08:17:47
From: Traci

How 'bout this one?

"Bloody" Mary Crawford vs. Fanny, Plymouth's Milquetoast Miss

Austen redneck?

Date: June 05, 1998 at 00:22:59
From: Cheryl

Here's a bit of chat room silliness we thought you'd enjoy!

You might be an Austen-loving redneck if...

...your barouche is on blocks outside your parlour window.
...you eat grits with your white soup.
...you want to grow up and be just like Lydia Bennet.
...you think cleaning rifles with Charles Musgrove sounds like a hot date.
...you drink moonshine from a teacup.
...you don't think it's weird that everyone seems to marry their cousin.
...you think a petticoat six inches deep in mud is just a speck of dirt.
...you think that the Price family of Portsmouth are an upper middle class family.
...you are a part of the local "militia".
...you match the characters for wrestling.
...your barouche-landau is lined with Astroturf.
...you show up at Pemberley in waders looking for those carp, tench and pike.
...much like Mr. Hurst, you find no pleasure in anything save sport, cards, and drinking yourself into a stupor every night.

[These refer to the various movie adaptations of Austen's novels:]

...you line dance to Mr. Beveridge's Maggot.
...you mistakenly shoot Lady Catherine's hat for supper.
...you're jealous that Anne Elliot gets to ride in that cart with the pig.
...you don't think that the old BBC Emma characters have big hair.
...you do not envy Darcy for his house, but his hounds
...you're disappointed that the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack music hasn't come out on 8-track tape.
...Mary Bennet's singing at the piano reminds you of those great old country/western stars who have gone to the Grand Ole Opry in the sky (said reverently with cowboy hat over heart!)

Austen unwholesomely wholesome?

Date: Fri, 12 Jul 1996 12:50:19 -0700
From: Leila Dooley

Last night, a friend and I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the new movie Emma, sponsored by the Cinema Society of San Diego. One nice thing about attending this screening was that the director, Doug McGrath, was there to introduce the movie and answer questions about it afterwards. One humorous note (or at least I thought so): He said that when the movie was first shown to the MPAA, it was given a G rating. Unfortunately, the executives at Miramax did not want to release a G movie (according to McGrath, all G movies must be either animated or star an adorable pig), so he was given some options on how to get the film a PG rating. Since he felt a lingerie scene was inappropriate (:-)) he decided to insert two "damn's" into the scene where Harriet is attacked by gypsies. Though I didn't notice them myself, I guess they were enough to save the movie from being labeled a "children's movie unsuitable for adults" (which is, I gather, how the studio executives view any movie rated G).

The Jane Austen chicken joke (courtesy James Dawe):

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Because it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single chicken, being possessed of a good fortune and presented with a good road, must be desirous of crossing.

Deconstructionist Jokes

From: Edith Lank

So what do you get when you cross a mafioso with a deconstructionist?

An offer you can't understand.

Date: Mon, 11 Sep 1995 12:56:30 -0500
From: Susan Allen Ford

My husband's response: How would Pride and Prejudice begin if it were written by a post-toastie? --

It is a truth value negotiated among a vast number of socially constructed groups that materially and economically fashioned positions of femininity may submit to logo- and phallo-centric voices of masculine authority, author(iz)ing the ideology of the dominant culture.

Appreciating what we have...

Subject: Hermeneutics in everyday life

Suppose you're travelling to work and you see a stop sign. What do you do? That depends on how you exegete the stop sign. A postmodernist deconstructs the sign (knocks it over with his car), ending forever the tyranny of the north-south traffic over the east-west traffic.

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