A Chat with Austen’s Mothers, by Rose Fairbanks

A Chat with Austen’s Mothers, by Rose Fairbanks


My daughter turns three today, and it’s all because of her that I found JAFF at all! I had terrible insomnia during my pregnancy with her. In honor of her birthday, I thought I’d interview the mothers and mother figures in Jane Austen’s books to see if they had any words of wisdom for me.

Rose: Thank you all for coming to this tea. My daughter just turned three, and I have to admit, in a lot of ways I feel more comfortable as the mother of a boy. Perhaps it is because I was never very girly myself.

Mrs. Bennet: You married young, didn’t you? Surely you had some feminine wiles then.

Rose: Um… It wasn’t really like that. We knew we loved each other and were committed to making a life together. We felt essential to each other.

Lady Russell: I always say a lady has no right to marriage with a man that might be inconvenient to her family. It is far too easy to rush in passionately at a young age and then regret it for the rest of your life.

Rose: Thanks for your input… but about my daughter. Maybe it’s because my relationship with my mother has been rocky.

Lady Catherine: Nonsense! A daughter is always more useful to her mother than anyone else. Now, what sorts of accomplishments does your daughter have?

Rose: Annie is only three.

Lady Catherine: What a good name! Well, my own Anne was reading Cowper by that age. She has more natural taste in poetry than anyone in all of England.

Lady Russell: My goddaughter, also Anne, suggests Byron over Cowper.

Rose: But surely not for a three-year-old…

Mrs. Bennet: Is she a pretty girl? It is never too young to think of suitors.

Mrs. Dashwood: I find being pretty is often not enough. I do hope you are putting aside some funds for her.

Rose: We plan to help with college if she wishes to go. A lady has many opportunities.

Lady Catherine: College! Is that a new sort of school for girls? Well, I prefer governesses myself.

Miss Bates: My niece, Jane, would have made a wonderful governess. Although she did compare it to slavery once. I wonder if she has any friends—

Rose: I do have some friends who are teachers that might agree on the comparison. I am not so concerned about her education at this point. She loves frilly dresses but also getting messy. She’s headstrong! We already argue!

Mrs. Morland: Catherine was always getting into scrapes like that. She is not so headstrong, though. I learned to allow her time for activity.

Rose: Did she become adventurous and unruly?

Mrs. Morland: Not unruly and as for adventure, if they do not befall a lady at home she must seek them abroad.

Mrs. Weston: Emma had an active imagination and used her stubbornness to lead others.

Rose: Yes, Annie sometimes leads her older brother.

Mrs. Bennet: Jane always had the sweetest disposition in the world. Annie sounds more like my Lizzy. The girl had no compassion for my nerves!

Lady Susan: I often say that Frederica was put on this earth to try me. Sending her to school was the best idea I ever had.

Rose: I do think she needs more socialization. She starts preschool next week and is so excited about it. She keeps talking about the play kitchen they have.

Mrs. Bennet: Oh no! I never let my girls in the kitchen.

Lady Catherine: Quite right. I commend you.

Lady Lucas: It can be a useful skill, should you have a large family.

Mrs. Morland: Indeed! Does she help with the little ones?

Rose: She’s the youngest and likely to remain so.

Lady Russell: Does she care for others then? With such energy, she could make an excellent caretaker.

Mrs. Dashwood: Or perhaps she could be the family peacemaker.

Lady Bertram: A pet might do her wonders. Julia would tease my pug, but Fanny was so kind to it.

Mrs. Price: Fanny? Oh! I am sorry, I did not mean to fall asleep. A girl of three is hard to bear, but soon she will be of use. I would recommend finding a position for your boy instead. They are the ones that make a family proud.

Lady Russell: Now, that I disagree with. A daughter might do much better than a son.

Lady Catherine: Hear, hear!

Mrs. Dashwood: My step-son was always a good boy but his wife…

Mrs. Morland: Oh, yes. Do be careful of the young ladies that attach to your son!

Mrs. Bennet: My husband says it is much harder watching over daughters, but I have no idea why. He has three wonderful son-in-laws, and the one that is not rich is at least so very handsome and charming.

Lady Bertram: Beware the charming ones! Best to arrange everything for your daughter and then keep her from outside influences.

Lady Susan: Nonsense. Charming men make the best companions, but a biddable man makes the best husband.

Rose: Well, this is all interesting, but we seem to have strayed from the issue of my daughter. I just worry about helping her grow into a happy and functional adult.

Mrs. Reynolds: My dear, I’ve not said anything before now, but it’s been my experience that they who are good-natured when children, are good-natured when they grow up.

Rose: Well, for as headstrong and stubborn as she gets,  I can say she is good-natured. She generally likes to please me. She loves playing with other kids and her brother. She loves singing and dancing. She has a good sense of humor and an adorable laugh. I shall simply trust that the rest of her personality will help her grow into a delightful heroine one day. Thank you all for coming and putting my fears to rest!


There’s nothing like revisiting Austen’s mothers to let me see things more clearly. I hope you enjoyed the chat! Now, instead of gifts for Annie, I’m offering a giveaway for you! Comment by May 29 to be entered in a reader’s choice of a signed print copy of one of my books!

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June 4, 2016 2:25 PM

It is unfortunate you couldn’t have Mrs Gardner join you on this occasion. She is grounded, kind, and wise; and her children are well-adjusted. I’m sure she’d have been very supportive and helpful. Sorry I’m too late for the draw.

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