Despite the title, there will be no chasing today. There will be no running, panting, or physical exertion of any kind. There will be no running. I repeat, there will be no running.
Fortunately for the indolent among us, when I say chasing, I mean it in the Guinness-with-an-Irish whiskey chaser kind of way. Dark, malty goodness chased with a velvety shot of rich caramel. Delicious.
The “Jane” I refer to here is, of course, Jane Austen, but you all knew that, didn’t you? Jane’s reached that mythical status where last names are no longer necessary. She’s the Cher, the Britney, the Madonna of romance lovers. She’s Jane. Enough said.
Now, I’m not here to frighten the Irish-beverage-loving community, but this question must be asked. What if there was no more Guinness? What if all the Guinness had already been consumed? Guinness-lovers would be cut off at the knees. Grief-stricken. Bereft. Thirsty. Mass chaos would ensue.
Well, that’s how Jane-lovers feel. There are only six novels, and we’ve read them all. We’ve seen all the movies, some of them a shameful number of times (I’m looking at you, BBC version of Pride and Prejudice). What’s an addict to do?
If I could produce another Jane novel for you, I’d do it. I share your pain. But alas, once it’s over, it’s over. No, don’t start screaming into the void. It’ll get you nowhere, and besides, there is a bright side. We still have the chaser. If you’re jonesing for Jane, turn to the whiskey.
Figuratively, I mean. Hands off the bottle until the end of the article, ladies.
Let’s start with author Fanny Burney. As many Jane-lovers already know, Burney is the classic Irish whiskey chaser to Jane’s Guinness. You could chase Jane’s final full-length novel, Persuasion with any one of Burney’s four novels, but I recommend starting with Evelina, in which our socially obscure, naïve but breathtakingly lovely heroine triumphs over the evils and degeneracy of wicked old London. We have dueling suitors (one a flirt, and the other a gentleman), ballroom, theater and pleasure-garden hijinks, and a half-dozen complicated subplots. Janesque in style and tone, Evelina is part coming-of-age love story and part stinging social satire.
With its innocent virgins, brooding heroes and decaying skeletons, author Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho is pure Gothic fun. We know our beloved Jane herself read Udolpho, because she lampoons it in Northanger Abbey. Radcliffe’s sweeping landscapes and ruined castles don’t have much in common with Jane’s tight, sharp prose, but readers who crave old-world romantic suspense with rational supernatural teasers (supernatural events with rational explanations) will find a little melodramatic terror goes down smoothly after a taste of Jane’s biting wit.
Once you’ve overdosed on crumbling castles, it’s back to fashionable London for another courtship story with author Maria Edgeworth’s novel Belinda. Edgeworth hung out with the cool writer crowd of the time (Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott, ahem). Edgeworth is a touch more moralistic than Jane, but Belinda is a diverting love story with two suitors competing for Belinda’s favor, Belinda’s London sponsor, a fashionable but frivolous and hypochondriac matron, and a slightly scandalous subplot involving the hero and his supposed mistress. Each of Edgeworth’s characters learn some moral lesson or other, and Edgeworth wraps it up with a satisfyingly romantic HEA, a la Jane.
Have you ever longed to use the word ‘coxcomb’ in a sentence? Well, here’s your chance. Check out author Catherine Gore’s Cecil, or Adventures of a Coxcomb. Gore’s novels are prime silver-fork novels, that is, fashionable novels focusing on high society — you know, the kind of trendy aristocrats who used two dainty silver forks to eat the fish course. Yes, that’s really where the term “silver-fork” came from. I swear, I didn’t make it up. Our hero, Cecil is a fashionable London dandy, so there’s a lot of gentlemanly (and not so gentlemanly) frolicking about London. Cecil was published in 1841, so it’s hanging on the edge of the Victorian era (think Fitzwilliam Darcy meets Heathcliff), but it’s less a Bronte-esque tale of dark, sweeping moors than an elegant comedy of manners.
Fielding…Fielding…where have I heard that name before? Sounds familiar. Oh, right. It’s a famous literary name in a Tom Jones-ish, Joseph Andrews-y kind of way, isn’t it? But it turns out Henry Fielding wasn’t the only writer in that family. His sister Sarah Fielding’s first novel, The Adventures of David Simple was pretty successful in 1744 when it was published, but she’s since faded into literary obscurity because of, you know, that pesky being a female thing. The novel features an innocent, naïve hero (yes, hero, not heroine!) who wanders about depraved London looking for a true friend. Fair warning: David Simple is on the touchy-feely, sentimental side. Skeptical realist reader-types might not be able to stomach it.