Happy Valentine’s Day!
Jane Austen’s novels, we would argue, are not primarily about romance. They are about gossip and fun, social realism, women’s inequality, striving for independence and struggling with morality – and yet, there’s no denying that when Jane Austen does romance, she does it very well indeed. There are swoon-worthy heroes and villains enough amongst her pages. Who amongst us has not imagined ourselves a Marianne Dashwood, falling down a hill in a storm only to be swept off our feet by a dashing Willoughby? Or a Lizzy Bennet, our bright eyes and muddy petticoats melting the pride of an arrogant Mr Darcy? Or, come to that, a strong, silent Mr Darcy, whose heart and pride are melted by a feisty Miss Bennet?
But if we are looking for romance, there is one scene that we must put before all others. It is constantly voted the most romantic in a Jane Austen novel. One speech – one letter. You know the one we mean. So without any more explanation, or indeed any apology at all (because it is Valentine’s Day, and we’ve all hard a hard year, and we deserve a treat…), we give you:
Persuasion, Chapter 23:
I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.
I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.
And if you want another treat… we have a present for you! Our fabulous artist in residence, Léna Gibert has created a pair of very special Valentine’s Day cards for you to print at home. Find them here!
And that’s not all! In a tribute to lovers everywhere, we are hosting a special event this evening. Join us online for Love Fest – a celebration of love in Jane Austen’s life and work, with special guests, readings and music. Find out more and book…
And finally, wherever you are in the world, and whoever you are celebrating with or loving from afar, we’d like to wish you a very happy Valentine’s Day. Love is love.