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But, by and large, it is Austen the expert on courtship rites who dominates contemporary popular culture.It is this Austen who is emulated by authors of middlebrow women's fiction, from Helen Fielding (who wrote indicates, we have to imagine Austen as Elizabeth Bennet and grant her a Darcy of her own—even if in the end we take him away again.
Spence was up against a familiar problem: Literary biographers who set out to establish how Austen's novels arise from her personal experience have long been handicapped by the scarcity of source material. Austen's first biographer, her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh, began his 1870 book, discouragingly, with the claim "Of events her life was singularly barren" and neglected to mention even the marriage proposal—from a certain Harris Biggs-Wither—that she did receive and reject in 1802.But long before they reach the border, Jane remembers that Tom's family relies on him for financial support and realizes that their imprudent elopement would ruin his prospects.She renounces her chance for romantic happiness and returns home to her family. Flash-forward a decade and a half: We see Jane in spinsterly middle-age reading .Pilgrim proposed that the mysterious admirer on whom those legends centered was a sea captain—and not just any sea captain, but rather the poet William Wordsworth's brother John—who subsequently went down with his ship before he could return to England and whisk a waiting Jane to the altar.(It is true that John Wordsworth died at sea in 1805, but that is the only hard fact in Pilgrim's wholly speculative story.) .The repartee in the film between Jane and Tom is frequently lifted from the novel's dialogue.
Like Darcy, Elizabeth's frosty suitor, the film's Tom is a snob who eventually learns better manners.
And he is careful, as the filmmakers are not, to clarify that in speculating about Austen's romantic experience he is reading between the lines of the family records and of the three rather opaque Austen letters that are his principal sources.
Other scholars have been more skeptical than Spence about whether this pair were ever "a couple." They see a flirtation that terminated without fuss when Tom ended his visit to relations in the Hampshire countryside where Jane lived and returned to the London law courts.
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Like Elizabeth, its Austen rebels against propriety and rambles around the countryside in muddy petticoats.