I am most humbled and honored to share an excerpt from my book, Jane Austen Speaks About her Life, the Modern World, & Heavenly Pursuits in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death on July 18, 1817.
I began my lifelong love for Jane Austen when I was twelve years old. An entire new world opened up before me when first I laid eyes upon the opening pages of Emma. In the many years since that day, I have eagerly learned everything I could about Miss Austen and her world. Lately, I have been inspired to write about it.
Jane Austen Speaks was born out of my own frequent musings about what the illustrious English novelist, born in the late eighteenth century into a proper Anglican clergyman’s family, would think about all manner of phenomena in the modern-ay world. If someone could speak with Jane Austen’s spirit, what would she think? What would she notice? Most importantly, what would she have to say about it?
This book is my own lighthearted attempt to allow Miss Austen to voice what might have been her “own” opinions on modern day matters, based on a knowledge of her life, work, society, and the prevailing social morés inherent in Western culture of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with which she was raised.
Though the book’s tone is frequently lighthearted and humorous, there is often a more serious undertone to the juxtaposition of viewpoints which Miss Austen offers to readers through the contrast between her world and that of the modern day. This profound contrast highlights both positive and negative changes in our society and culture over the past two centuries.
Here is an excerpt from the essay entitled “The Challenging Art of Child Rearing” for your reading pleasure.
Children must deal with so many complex issues which youngsters did not have to face during the centuries when I lived. The unhealthy world of social media of course springs to mind. Bullies we shall always have amongst us—they are a sad product of the evil side of human nature—but to give a bully a Facebook page and free reign is nothing short of alarming and dangerous! It has come to my attention that children who are bullied online will sometimes fall into deep states of melancholy, or even take their own lives, as a result of the often anonymous cruelty inflicted upon them by these crude ruffians, using whatever media platform happens to be in vogue. Parents, do not allow your children to partake in this social media morass until you feel that they are old enough and wise enough to withstand the slings and arrows cast by these dreadful online bullies. Is that not common sense? If only they could be exposed and vilified for the cowards and scoundrels they are! And if you do allow your children to participate in social media, do not hesitate to make your presence known in every conceivable way! I am absolutely certain that my sister Cassandra and I, formidable aunts that we were, would have done the same with our nieces and nephews.
Trying to steer a young person away from the ungodly, unwholesome influences present in your modern Society is difficult and most unenviable, indeed. It shocks me exceedingly to see how young people must navigate a vile world of temptations, including illicit drugs and sexual immorality. Nothing of the sort was even spoken of when I lived. We dwelt within a highly defined world of prescribed social rules and dictates. Childhood did not last a long time. People generally married young to avoid the natural temptations of the flesh and to begin their own families, since the human lifespan was generally much shorter than it is today.
What, then, can you do to promote the growth of a healthy, wholesome young person? Why, first of all, I would advise you to take children to church and form them in the ways of God. Encourage them to read, both for edification and diversion! Read with them, and discuss what you have read together. Play games in the out of doors, and indulge them in the beauty of the natural world, which is God’s gift to us. Allow them to spend time with cherished pets. Remove them from all electronic devices for long periods of time, whether it be the computer, smartphone, or television. Let them write, draw, act, play musical instruments, dance, and engage in sport to their hearts’ contentment! And please allow them to do these things freely, without pressuring them to engage in competitions to earn medals or recognition. Encourage their friendships with other good young people of your acquaintance. Pray for them, Dear Readers. Sometimes that is all one can do.
It is only in moulding a young person to be confident, secure, and happy with himself or herself that he or she might avoid the pitfalls of societal pressure. In truth, it takes a strong character to withstand being isolated or cast out of one’s social circle simply because one is not wearing the most fashionable shoes or because one does not have the latest digital device or an intimate “boyfriend.” Upon my word! In teaching your children that there is much more to life, and that there is a proper time and place for everything, you are doing the Lord’s work, and please do not forget it. Your children will thank you for it later, I assure you.
Be sure to check out our Book Notes archive.
About the author: Maria-Emilia de Medeiros is a teacher, writer, artist, and lifelong Janeite. She read her first Jane Austen novel at the tender age of twelve and has never looked back.