This article, written by the administrator of the Republic of Pemberley website, is an adjunct to the August 15th issue of the At the Back Fence column, which focuses on Jane Austen as an early branch of the romance family tree. The Republic of Pemberley is a web site is devoted to Jane Austen; many on our staff frequent the site. What better person to share her thoughts on Austen than someone who lives and breathes her?
The Republic of Pemberley was born of a desire to talk about Jane Austen’s novels, the film adaptations and the era in which they took place. Although Jane Austen is not strictly speaking a romance writer, her work has certainly been a path to Romance from many readers and writers.
Although the essence of Jane Austen’s novels is the comedy of manners and the soul is satire, the adaptations that hit big and small screens starting in 1995 are very romantic. The RoP website was begun as a forum to discuss the 1995 BBC/A&E adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth. Many of the early participants were drawn by the romantic nature of the adaptation and by Colin Firth’s charismatic Mr. Darcy. Indeed, as the website expanded to include other novels and historical background, it has not totally forsaken its love affair with the romance of Jane Austen.
Over the years, The Republic of Pemberley has grown into a site encompassing a wide range of information on Jane Austen and discussion of her works, her era, sequels and adaptations. The Jane Austen Information Page at Pemberley is an exhaustive compilation of scholarly information and is frequently cited as the #1 source of information about Jane Austen on the web.
Visit any of the discussion boards and you are sure to find serious and scholarly talk about the novels or the Regency era. But you will also find a good deal of discussion about the relationship between the hero and heroine of each novel (a key romance element). You would also likely find some discussion about our own romance with the hero.
As manager of The Republic of Pemberley, I classify myself as a Janeite. I am also an unabashed reader of romance novels. I suspect that, like me, many others came to romance through their love of the Regency and their desire to read more about characters that acted like those in Jane Austen’s novels.
One of the manifestations of the desire to know more about Jane Austen’s time and her characters is Fan Fiction. Early in the life of The Republic of Pemberley, people began creating scenes they felt were missing from their favorite novels. What happened to Darcy in London right before he proposed to Elizabeth or what went on during that walk to Oakham Mount? (Pride & Prejudice) Did Marianne Dashwood and Col. Brandon live happily ever after? (Sense and Sensibility) What about the ten days in Bath from Capt. Wentworth’s perspective? (Persuasion). All these questions and many more fueled the pens of Pemberley’s writers.
Six years later, the Republic of Pemberley has amassed a large collection of fiction based on Jane Austen’s characters and has spun off two other sites: one devoted almost entirely to non-period derivations of Jane Austen stories and one that includes stories too sexually explicit for our RSAC-rated site. (It seems as though everyone wants to write about Darcy and Elizabeth’s wedding night).
Is this how a romance writer starts? I don’t know, but I imagine it’s possible. Of the hundreds of stories published at The Republic of Pemberley’s Bits of Ivory Archives, some are very good, indeed and most are definitely romance.
Why have so many of us turned Jane Austen’s characters into romance heroes and heroines? Jane Austen’s novels are not without a romantic element. Certainly the denouement of each work is when the heroine finds her hero and marries him. And each marriage promises to be happily ever after.
If you were to ask our authors about their characters, I think you would find many of them visualizing Jane Austen’s heroes and heroines as they have been portrayed in recent adaptations. You can fairly see Alan Rickman as Col. Brandon in Barbara Larochelle’s All Men Make Faults. Ann Rydberg’s Darcy in Perfectly Amiable is definitely being played by Colin Firth. And there are other stories in which you can easily picture Ciaran Hinds as Captain Wentworth or Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightly.
This is not to say that these stories are not based on Austen’s characters. They are and the women who wrote them know and understand Jane Austen’s writing. But the romance has been magnified by the film adaptations and by our imaginations and the result is a collection of romances. So, it seems that, at the Republic of Pemberley at least, Jane Austen has very directly been the mother of romance fiction.
-- Myretta Robens
|The Republic of Pemberley|
|Jane Austen Information Page at RoP|
|Bits of Ivory (Fan Fiction) Archive at RoP|
|Derbyshire Writers' Guild (a spin-off of contemporary stories not part of Pemberley)|
|Drool Fan Fiction (spin-off of R-rated stories not part of Pemberley)|
|Return to August 15 issue of At the Back Fence|
|Our Romance Family Tree series|
|Check out our Jane Austen "convenience store" of amazon links to her books and film adaptations|
|Post your comments and/or questions to our Potpourri Message Board (this is a "jump" link)|