I do not know that I shall execute Martha's commission at all, for I am not fond of ordering shoes; and, at any rate, they shall all have flat heels. - Sunday, June 2, 1799, Jane Austen's letter to her sister Cassandra from Bath.
I love Jane Austen's writing. When I think of this clever, sly, witty, wry woman secretly writing her equally clever, sly, witty, wry observational novels under cover of embroidery, or doing household accounts, or reading some improving volume of boring yuck such as Fordyce's Sermons, and having to quickly whip away her pages of manuscript when someone entered the room - well. The modern mind boggles.
However. I so wish Miss Austen was kicking around on Goodreads today for several reasons - not least of which is the fact that she died far too soon, and without experiencing many of the things her heroines so happily encountered - but mainly because she left so many things unanswered in her fabulous down to earth fables. And one of these things just does not make sense, peeps.
Why, dear Miss Austen, do you never discuss shoes in your stories? I realise that others have bemoaned the fact that you pretty much ignore the Napoleonic Wars other than an occasional reference to how much loot an eligible Naval officer has pulled in - this even though Emma was published in the year Waterloo was fought and won, and you yourself had two brothers serving in the Royal Navy, eventually rising to the rank of Admiral. Perhaps you were bored senseless by Charles and Frank droning on about Trafalgar, who knows? Yo ho ho and a bottle of yawn (believe me, I am with you there sister).
But to ignore footwear... well.
Really. There's just no excusing that lapse of reason.
Did you not like shoes? Did you not have a fascination with the whole handmade kid slipper scenario? I mean, you devote a whole section in Pride and Prejudice to Lizzy's muddy petticoats, so why not chat about how stuffed her poor little boots were? I shudder at the thought of what they went through... I actually sympathise (just a tad) with prissy pants Mademoiselle Bingles in that respect.
That gives me a thought. Maybe you were mean about Caroline Bingley because she resembled a friend of yours who had nicer shoes than you. Transference issues eh Jane? Look, you should have just told her that her shoes were 'so 1798' and perhaps Caz may have been less unpleasant - who knows?
Because secretly, I think you loved shoes. The letter to your sister about Martha? Methinks the lady doth protest too much. She just knows they will be flat soled, blergh shoes and nobody is interested in that kind of malarkey. We want satin, and high insteps, and ribbons, and - well, you get the picture.
We want the early 19th century equivalent of the stiletto, sister.
I see it all now. Pride and Prejudice was originally titled Pumps and Prejudice, and was all about Darcy's horror of Lizzy's inferior ball slippers. He overcame his pride in his handmade Hessians for long enough to propose when she promised to give every pair of her crappy Chinese knock-offs to Lydia, and never write 'direct to the factory' again.
Compared to some of the other 'variations' on P & P I have read, this is actually quite believable.
I feel far more at ease thinking that JA loved shoes. Because let's face it; this is a woman sitting at home, writing furiously, giving her characters wonderfully satisfactory endings.
She damn well deserved really, really good...