Channelling Jane Austen

I am a mere

white middling Australian

male who likes,

among many other

non-masculine things,

to listen intently to

the voice of a woman

long deceased,

whose gentle satiric laughter

at the foibles and ways

of petulant humankind

can still be heard

across the distances

of history and place

in the exploratory words

of the fiction she wrote.


I like to think that

I am channelling Jane Austen.


I am getting inside her keen

and anthropological look at

what she saw and imagined

in her limited English world

of mannered characters,

women and men,

who lived their lives

with boundaries

and encumberments,

customs and

class distinctions,

that they never saw

as we do today:

we who look back

with the advantage of

Austen’s forensic eye

to see the sense

of being a person

in such a time,

in those estates

and manors

that held captive

her characters and

their stories.


Yet, as I read and

think about these six

novels that sit

well worn and

thumbed on my shelf,

and still live

and breath into the

lungs of my thinking now,

I also see the humanness

and the core desires

that she fine-spun with words,

desires that I also share,

desires that still drive all of us

in our not-so-different foibles today.


Yes, I am channelling Austen.


I am connecting with

this woman who

never married

and had children

of her own,

and thus did not

fulfil the expected

social convention

of her times.


But that is the irony and

the laughter into

the face of time:

for she spurned her children

far beyond her mortal deck.


For she had the distant eye

outside the processes

that she could never share;

and as she looked in

and saw the intricacies,

ambiguities and pretenses

of all that were in the circles

and patterns of that

life that has now gone

to the grave of history,

she saw it as

few others could;

and not even Dickens

got inside what she saw

and heard what she heard.


I am channeling Jane,

as a friend of truth

and a truthful friend,

with grace and wit

and subtle charm,

who brings me a vision

of a long-gone world,

an alluring surface place

to which I am

strangely drawn.