ColumnWhere celebrity goes conscious.
(Writer’s Note: The following must be read while maintaining perfect posture with hands clasped demurely in one’s lap)
Catherine Middleton, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and a happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence. Or so are the words I might have placed on paper, would that Miss Middleton had lived in my own time of 1811 Chawton rather than 2011 Bucklebury. (Bucklebury is a large and populated village almost amounting to a town, where the Middletons have, as late, been quite the first in consequence there). So I felt that I might modestly offer the intimacy of my thoughts on the occasion of the marriage of Miss Middleton to His Royal Highness, Prince William of Wales.
First, it is because I feel the marriage of His Royal Highness and Miss Middleton would have easily obliged itself within the frame of one of my own dear novels. Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery, I have been wont to remark. Marriage and matchmaking is my forte. And the splendid match of the elder daughter of an affectionate, yet entirely unsuitable commoner to the future King of England is the subject matter which would have greatly concerned my Emma Woodhouse or Lady Catherine de Bourg. Foremost, I felt I must also comment in good faith on the recognition of the great enthusiasm to which this modern society still applies to marriage. While two hundred years may have passed since the time a simple ball in Highbury was considered so diverting, it is still apparent that moderners regard marriage as engrossing as my own most gay and affectionate contemporaries.
As I wrote in Pride and Prejudice in 1811, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in good fortune must be in want of a wife. And as I noted later in that merry gathering of my thoughts, happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. As with the case of Miss Middleton, when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Upon my word, something must and will occur to throw a hero in her way.
Miss Middleton has certainly conducted herself as this heroine, while His Royal Highness himself stepped in most obligingly as her hero. They met as schoolmates at St. Andrews University in the North Country and only just concluded with their hands joined in marriage. After all, everybody likes to go their own way, to choose their own time and manner of devotion. And while His Royal Highness may have faltered along the way, I pay very little regard to what any young person says on the subject of marriage. If they profess a disinclination for it, I only set it down that they have not yet seen the right person. Or perhaps Miss Middleton simply emulated our dear Miss Elizabeth Bennet in only recognizing the true source of her happiness once he proved himself. In the end, His Royal Highness performed much as Mr. Darcy did when he carried away Miss Elizabeth to his handsome country estate, Pemberly.
And so, last week, the marriage of His Royal Highness and Miss Middleton took place under the superior eaves of Westminster Abbey, with the bride in a gown the opposite of shabby, containing an abundance of silk and lace which met the standards of even the most discriminating Mrs. Eltons. Attended by her sister Miss Phillipa, our Catherine Middleton is now the Duchess of Cambridge, with all the wishes, the hopes and the confidence a woman can muster. The predictions of the world who witnessed the ceremony are all perfectly answered in the perfect union of the happiness.
But what was most surprising to me, a humble authoress who has been slumbering for the past couple centuries, is how little life has changed in modern times. I was wont to capture dissections of people, places, and social settings in my writing, and I find that the authors and authoresses of this time are much inclined to do the same. In view of cinematic productions playing in your movie theatres, an entire genre of marriage-minded young ladies take great pleasure in landing a suitable husband. This is a story that has played out again and again in narratives such as 27 Dresses,Valentine’s Day, Bride Wars, and more. (And might I note, a colorful moving screen cannot take the place of a dulcet pianoforte played handsomely amongst congenial friends).
I am left to ask with loving inquisition, have things really changed so much since my era? It seems that many are as obsessed with getting married as one was in my own gentle time. Why, just this week a new film is being released called Something Borrowed, in which a career gentlewoman worries about being unmarried at age 30. The film also carries the mark of actress Kate Hudson, which I have observed quite rightly means that the heroine of said film will likely endure a series of misunderstandings, resulting in a happy coincidence of matrimony at story’s end. A modern heroine must end up with her prince and never with a scoundrel such as Mr. Willoughby, even if she has fifty thousand pounds in her immediate possession.
So when the romantic comedy exists outside the sheltering enclosure of fiction, it is no wonder that we all embrace the same story with a passion worthy of dear Miss Marianne Dashwood. Your media reported the event with as much fervency as we would have attended in my own time. But, in the end, it is difficult to argue why this is destructive to modern social temperament. After all, a lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment. And while the most modern women have miraculous amounts of freedom not afforded to ladies in my time, is it so ill-boding that the same strong career-minded woman should take pleasure is seeing a happy couple unite? Never forget, kind reader, that one half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other. And silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way.
So to the newly appointed Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, I wish the greatest joys of love. It shan’t be hard. After all, a large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.
*Jane Austen’s observations drawn from records of her life and library of works.
This is another installment in Katherine Butler’s column, Shade Grown Hollywood, where celebrity becomes conscious. “Shade grown” refers literally to shade grown coffee, a farming method that “incorporates principles of natural ecology to promote natural ecological relationships.” Shade Grown is our sustainable twist on Hollywood.