Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Jane Austen did not have sex because she was a Christian

I'm a fan of historian Dr Lucy Worsley. Yet I felt slightly indignant at her recent speculations on whether Jane Austen 'had sex'.  Dr Worsley came down on the view that she did not - but omitted to say that Jane Austen was not only the daughter of a clergyman, the granddaughter of a clergyman, but the sister of another.  She was a Christian who actively wrote and said prayers. Christians knew that sex outside marriage was against the teaching of the Bible. We must also not forget that the past was innocent: some of our own grandmothers did not understand sex until their late twenties.

We live in an all too sex-focused society. Yet we all know that it makes no difference to anyone whether they have sex. It was only Sigmund Freud who suggested it did! Having had sex - an expression I have long hated - does not make someone more human, or more perceptive about the sexes or about life and Jane Austen is a good example.

Secularism is myopic: it understands with 'only one eye open' because it is determined to edit out of all discourse the hidden influence of Jesus Christ. For the secularist, anything is acceptable to explain the Universe and our actions and thoughts - except God.

Yet in practice, we all know that Jesus, who, as Bernard Levin, Jewish Times leader writer  once said 'still looms over the world' makes a huge difference to our lives and our thoughts about equality and respect between the sexes, morality and love, particularly (but not exclusively) for those who believe.

Rarely an hour goes by for serious Christians not overwhelmed by the many demands of the present hour, that they are not thinking about serving God, society and others; using their God-given talents in fulfilling their vocation/calling (asking "What goes God want me to do?"); being faithful to God in their secular work and in some cases, about the worldwide furtherance of The Kingdom.  Unmarried, they will also be asking God to help them make the right choice for a life partner.

Jane Austen, like all great writers, wrote to try to make money, in her case for small treats and charity. But, as her father realised, she was also the voice of (Christian) reason and (Christian) right thinking for women trapped in the immoral Regency age (and our own). Sharing this wisdom with them (and us) was Jane Austen's calling.  She would have regarded her talented pen as a gift of God to be used for His service.

Dr Worsley suggests that Jane did not accept any marriage proposals because she feared childbirth, which killed three of her female relatives. Was she was more of a coward than our own female ancestors? Surely not?  The real reason is what Austen expresses in 'Sense and Sensibility', that  in an age without fair divorce, it is better to be single and poor than to be unhappily married to a bore, a boor or someone without Christian love crowned by high intelligence, ideally earning a minimum of about £35,000 a year (in today's money) with a profession and a (rented) house, even a Rectory, and some land. This was the decision, her mother, and Elinor, made - for love.

  • Behind Close Doors: Dr Lucy Worsley's excellent programme on the houses that Jane Austen lived in
  • For my own blog on Steventon and the houses she knew locally, in Hampshire, see here.

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