Reading Austen in the 70s

From Margaret Drabble’s introduction to Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon:

We may tend to think Elizabeth Bennet a sensible girl not to mind getting her skirts muddy, and the Darcy and Bingley women ridiculous for noticing, but eighteenth-century mud was doubtless much more substantial than our own, and long skirts picked it up more, as those who now wear long skirts again will surely have noticed…. The Austen family wore pattens when young, to negotiate the country lanes round Steventon, a practice which seemed as archaic and vulgar to Jane Austen’s nephew, as the wearing of clogs would have seemed to us now, had not a freak of fashion brought them very nosily back again in 1972.

I confess I did wear clogs in the 70’s, though I preferred pants to maxi-skirts. I wonder what cultural trends we could relate to Jane Austen today? Perhaps laptops are today’s writing desks, and instead of daily letter-writing today’s young ladies check Facebook.


4 comments on “Reading Austen in the 70s

  1. Grad says:

    I remember clogs! I might even still have a pair hidden away in some trunk in the garage. I never thought of FB as today's version of letter writing, but come to think of it, you are quite right!

  2. Hermana Grande says:

    I read a book called “The Life and Times of the Victorian Servant” in which it was estimated that cleaning shoes was about 15% of a personal servant's work …. cleaning very, very muddy shoes – no sidewalks, no drainage, horses' effluvia everywhere …

  3. Stefanie says:

    Good point about the mud. It's hard to imagine just how dirty things were in those days in which bathing was not a daily event and sometimes not even a weekly one.

  4. Grad, the Facebook connection just popped into my head when I read in “Jane's Fame” about how much time women (of leisure) spent writing letters every day. Some things don't change!

    Hermanita, I have a similar book called “Below Stairs” on hold at the library and can't wait to read it. We fantasize about Upstairs but most of us would have been Downstairs… if we were lucky! :S

    Stefanie, yes, there's a reason we like to pave everything around us, the alternative is messy!

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