Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My ancestral link to Jane Austen

For those of you you who may not already know, I am a devoted Austenophile. I LOVE all of Jane Austen's writings, though I am most attached to her three most widely known novels, Sense & Sensibility, Emma and Pride & Prejudice. There is a logical and obvious reason that these novels are popular and widely known and read; Jane's writing style is a fantastic snapshot of everyday life in societal England for that particular time period (Regency, early to mid 19 C). She tells it like she sees it, while maintaining her characters as entirely fictional so that no one of her time could truly be offended or insulted if the events, circumstances or character's mannerisms hit close to home. I love her writing style, most of all reasons, because she gives me leave to be myself in my own writing idiosyncrasies. I come across (rather often I'm afraid) as an insufferable know it all, because I love the English language. I revel in a wide and diverse vocabulary, stating in twenty or more words what my contemporaries could sum up in two. I like the sounds of different words that express the same thoughts and ideas and I like the way they feel in my mouth as I pronounce them. Jane uses such a broad vocabulary and her vivid imagery is so well practiced that I have no trouble at all composing a mental image of the Misses Dashwood as they are forced to endure the pointed remarks of Lucy Steele and the condescending looks of disdain from Edward's brother, Robert Ferrars at Lady Chelsea's ball in London while they are guests of Mrs. Jennings (S & S). I can imagine, with perfect clarity, the room in which Elizabeth Bennet is entertained by Mr. Bingley, his sisters and his friend Mr. Darcy when Elizabeth goes to see about her sister Jane, who became ill with a cold while also their guest (P & P). I know the character Emma Woodhouse inside and out from the author's descriptions of her and were she a living, breathing person, I think I know her well enough that I could recognise her if we passed on the street someday.

In can be no surprise, then, how utterly happy I was to discover in my genealogical search that this author, whose works of classic English literature I love so well, has a place in my own family tree! The link is an obscure one, to be sure, and is not by direct birth (Miss Austen never married or had any children), but through association by a siblingship. However, it is a link all the same and I grin and gloat with all of the other Austenophiles who have found her in their family trees as well. My link to her is as follows:
My 15th Great Grandmother (well, I told you it was a vague and obscure connection!) Had 2 sons, John and William. John's line comes down to me on my mother's side and William's line goes to Jane. I am not practiced enough in genealogical familial terms well enough yet to decipher exactly WHAT my relation to Jane is. My 6th -greats "somethingth" (4th? 8th?10th?) cousin, heaven knows how many times removed. But still, there it is. I wish I could post the chart, but the blog format removes all of my spacing and relation lines. Maybe I'll play with it further and post it somehow later.

There are several dozen other famous people in my tree that I could spend an afternoon blogging about, but the connection to Jane Austen is the most dear to me because of how much I relate to her intellectually already.
I'll write some more on the subject of Jane, her life and times, her books and how much I love them, etc, another time. I have to finish cleaning up our room before Emily wakes up from her nap. (Which may be quite soon if my cat doesn't handle jumping down from my chair with a little more grace and a lot less noise.)