Many of Austen’s men could be argued to be rather sheltered pretty-boys. Many are wealthy, of the upper-classes, and haven’t much to trouble themselves about besides finding a female with enough family nobility to consider aligning their name with. One of Austen’s men that definitely doesn’t fall into that category though is Colonel Brandon. Though he comes from a family with much wealth, Brandon has much experience with his own trials and tribulations. He was twice in love with women out of his class, forced to abandon one of them for a life of banishment in the East Indies, and teeters dangerously on the brink of losing the other one to a man without either morality or money. Through his rather tumultuous life and extensive travels however, Brandon gains an insight into character, a charm, and a sense of wisdom that is unmatched by any of the younger, potentially more eligible, bachelors of Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility.
In Colonel Brandon alone…did Elinor find a person who could in any degree claim the respect of abilities, excite the interest of friendship, or give pleasure as a companion. -Elinor Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility
- Work here: Maps are beautiful by themselves, but when done on a scale like this, and done in unusual places like covering an entire floor, suddenly you’ve got a map worthy to grace even the Colonel’s work space.
- Read by this: I’m going to say that Colonel Brandon wouldn’t be caught dead modge-podging one of his East Indies maps to a lampshade, but that’s all they did over at Rosie’s Vintage Lampshades to make this unique twist on using maps in a whole new way.
- Sit here: West Elm’s ‘Victor’ chair is so sleek and modern, yet has enough of a nod to the Victorian gentleman’s chair that I think Brandon would rest quite comfortably in it.
- Collect these: Brandon is always hunting, traveling, and riding, and I think he would take much pleasure in the new trend for globe-collecting. There’s so many awesome things you can do with globes besides just having them stand guard on a desk.
- Leave notes here: I want to do this so very badly: just find an old globe at a thrift store, paint it with chalkboard paint, and you’ve got the perfect, whimsical place to leave notes. If you can’t imagine painting over a globe, I’ve seen many at places like Salvation Army that are rather torn and ragged and would be otherwise unusable,–so, find one of these torn treasures and you don’t have to feel bad about covering cartography.
Even if you can’t travel like Brandon did, you can have a little global perspective in your own home with these design-ideas. Colonel Brandon’s global perspective allowed him to see through the immaturity, selfishness, and immorality of a man (Willoughby) everyone else found dashing, handsome, and irresistible, enabling him to stand apart from a society that seemed only to fall in love with appearances. His insight is what attracted the respect, admiration, and finally the love of Marianne Dashwood, the woman whom Brandon loved dearly despite her lack of wealth.
Happy Friday everyone! That’s it for my Men of Austen week, I had so much fun doing it and hopefully you found them a bit inspiring with recipes, DIY’s, gift ideas, and some commentary on the modern man.
Plain Jane: “There is something so amiable in the prejudices of a young mind, that one is sorry to see them give way to the reception of more general opinions.”
-Jane Austen’s Colonel Brandon, in Sense and Sensibility
Happy Friday everyone! I hope you enjoyed the Men of Austen Week. I’m ending with Colonel Brandon since he seems a man worth giving the final word. Though Marianne initially thought him quiet, broodish, and too old to set her sights on, his wisdom and insight eventually led her to love him when the prejudice of her young mind towards him at last faded.
Out of all the couples in Austen’s novels, Marianne Dashwood and John Willoughby of Sense and Sensibility most resemble a modern relationship. If you know anything about the novel, you’re probably thinking, “no way! Willoughby is a playboy and somewhat of a loser, why can’t modern-love be Darcy-and-Elizabeth-love?.” Well, think about it: In an era strictly enforcing rules of courtship, with a chaperone always present among the lovers, Willoughby and Marianne are instead, like modern couples, often alone together. They are in constant communication via letters, (the modern couple’s texts), and quickly make things serious without spoken commitment (the modern couple’s swift jump from ‘hanging out’ to cohabitation). Are things looking familiar yet? But what about the nineteenth century rules of marrying within your social class? There’s nothing like that today, at least, it’s nothing spoken of. You’re right, Willoughby deserted Marianne because she wasn’t wealthy enough to cover his expensive lifestyle. Since he was a “gentleman,” he couldn’t raise his fortune himself by working, but had to marry a woman with her own cash.
My affection for Marianne…was all insufficient to outweigh that dread of poverty or get the better of those false ideas of the necessity of riches…it had been for sometime my intention to reestablish my circumstances by marrying a woman of fortune. -John Willoughby
Modern lovers aren’t inhibited by that thank goodness, so how does this relate? Well, wait just a moment: though the days of marrying for money as a general, recognized, and accepted practice are long since gone, the days of quantifying love are actually just beginning:
Details is a fairly recent, immensely popular, men’s magazine. It’s target audience is men from their early twenties into their late thirties, and has everything from style and relationship advice to parenting and politics. In an article entitled “The No-Baby Boom” from their April 2011 issue, author Brian Frazer relates a burgeoning new trend of couples who are saying “none” to the usual after-marriage-question, “so, how many kids are you planning?” The article has some good points, indeed, if everyone put as much thought into the not so fun realities of having children as the couples in this article did, perhaps there wouldn’t be so many dysfunctional families with parents obviously uncommitted and unprepared to raise their children. However, Frazer’s reasoning, and the reasoning of many of the couples for not having kids was, on the whole, rather unsettling. For, they had succeeded in turning one of the most unconditional symbols of love (that of a parent’s love for their child) into a cut-throat spreadsheet of a cost-benefit analysis:
Are you beginning to see the problem? Begin to “count the hours” that are necessary involved in “loving” a child, and you begin to slide down the slippery slope of elevating the cost-quantities involved in love, above the act, benefit, and rewards of the emotion of love in all of your relationships. Count the hours you spend with your significant other, the money you’ve spent on them. Goodness, count the money you spend on that special dog food, there’s a lot of cost involved there and I don’t get much back from my pet besides a sideways glance and an ambivalent lick when they’re feeling a bit friendly. And your kids? Now there’s something pricey, and Frazer seems to think that children just don’t make the cut anymore:
Unless you’re among the less than 2 percent of Americans who farm for a living and might conceivable rely on offspring for free labor, children have gone from being an economic asset to an economic liability.
I know Willoughby would agree with this quantifiable theory of relationships. Though he openly admits to loving Marianne Dashwood, he also declares such love was “insufficient” to overcome the loss of his lifestyle. And, worse still, while Austen portrays men like Willoughby’s choice to emphasize wealth and comfort above love as a choice concluding in regret and misery, Frazer actually positions the men (and women) who choose childlessness to be the wiser ones: “Regret is more common among the breeders,” he says, and goes on to include the following disgruntled parents’ quips: “I have no time for myself!” “I don’t know who I am anymore!” “Thank God! Only 11 more years and he’ll be out of the house!” “Only 17 years, 8 months, and 29 days and she’ll be out of college!” Blame a sinking economy or a rising selfishness and sense of entitlement in the culture at large, but regardless of where you put the blame, love and healthy relationships still get left out of this analysis. Frazer makes good points, if you don’t want the job of being a parent, don’t be a parent, and don’t decide that after you’ve become one. But, basing those choices on a quantifiable analysis of how much it’s going to cost you to love someone is an overwhelmingly sad way of looking at this life. Willoughby realized too late that he gained wealth at the cost of losing his heart and happiness. A lot of young men read Details, a lot of young men read this article, and if the family, and the next generation is the backbone of this country, it seems to me like that backbone is splintering into small fragments of selfish groups of pleasure-seekers who we all may discover too late that the conclusion of their selfishness is much, woeful regret.
quote source: sense and sensibility, Austen, penguin books | “the no-baby boom,” Frazer, “details” magazine, april 2011
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Plain Jane: “Willoughby…is he in the country?” “you know him then?…what sort of a man is he?” “As good a kind of fellow as ever lived I assure you. A very decent shot and there is not a bolder rider in England.”
-Jane Austen in Sense and Sensibility
Willoughby wasn’t the only man, or woman for that matter, to be judged solely on his skills and appearance. Poor Marianne suffered much for having fallen in love with the outside of a man without knowing what the inside was capable of.
Plain Jane: “I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon a woman’s inconstancy. Songs and proverbs all talk of woman’s fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men.”
-Jane Austen in Persuasion
After I read this quote I began to think of what Jane has to say of the constancy of her heroines. While she doesn’t necessarily say that they are inconstant, Jane’s heroines often are assisted into a greater knowledge of themselves by the men in their lives: Mr. Knightley shows Emma she is selfish in Emma, Captain Wentworth shows that he is willing to forgive Anne Elliot and love her though she first scorned his love because he was of a lower birthright in Persuasion. In Sense and Sensibility, Colonel Brandon patiently waits for Marianne Dashwood to discover the difference between passion and true love and is there to pick up the pieces when she follows the wrong man. And, Henry Tilney helps Catherine Morland learn that the overblown themes of novels have no place in real life in Northanger Abbey. Tilney is ready to forgive and love Catherine despite her foolishness. Of course, all these men have their own issues that the ladies at times forgive and forget, but while Jane deposed male writers for their mistreatment of the feminine sex, it seems she had a rather wary eye for them too!