Aphelion Issue 279, Volume 26
December 2022/January 2023
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The Time Traveller's Guide To Jane Austin

by David Barber

You are Samuel Blackall, a clergyman,
Which gives you status here, a deference
Unearned, but owed to what he represents.
The Assembly Rooms will be crowded.
(Mirrored candle flames and hot faces)
Through here, (the racket subsides) the Card Room;
There, the Buffet. Note a mouthful of food
Is no hindrance to good conversation.
This is the Ball Room where she will be found.
She liked to dance, and when younger, flirted,
But now she is sitting. That is her
In the rose muslin, with the small, straight mouth.

Tom Lefroy, you recall, was snatched away
When his family sensed a profitless
Attachment. She makes light, but suffers still.
Cassandra, that life-denying martyr
Has gone outside to piss. This is your chance.

Miss Austen? May I introduce myself?
We share an acquaintance with the Lefroys.
Tom. Poor taste in morning coats. Ten children.
Becomes Lord Chief Justice of Ireland
And a pious bore. Narrow escape there.
I am a great admirer of your work.
The narrow bit of ivory. Priceless.
Your women always faced thorny choices:
Marriage and home; but then all those babies;
A pram in the hall shoves Art out the door.
Or being true to oneself. Spinsterhood
I concede, has its shames and restrictions
That are spared the mistress of Manydown,
But Harris Bigg-Wither? Jane Bigg-Wither.
How can you burden readers yet unborn?
And the lad was Aspergers. Yes my dear,
Confusing I know, but you will have done.

Sadly, only words can make you happy.
But then, happiness is over-rated
And you have offspring still to publish.
Prove Jane Austen is no Charlotte Lucas.
Cassandra has the taste for sacrifice,
Let her be your guide and flee for your soul.
Sorry, am I Mr Collins? Why no,
You are mistaken. Incidentally,
Elinor and Marianne deserve better.
Sense and Sensibility alliterates
And would sell more. Feel free to use it.

© 2011 David Barber

Find more by David Barber in the Author Index.

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