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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63 Responses to A Chat with Austen’s Mothers, by Rose Fairbanks

  1. Happy Birthday Annie! Thank you Rose for the great post and lovely giveaway. The Austen mothers are a fun set of ladies. I’m just glad nonebof them were mine.

    • Hahaha! It’s enough to make one understand Mr. Bennet’s desire to hide from all the ladies in his house! It’s interesting with as neurotic as Austen’s mothers were none of her heroines were so desperate to leave home that they would take the first marriage offer that came around or designed a marriage in some way. That must speak to the mental fortitude of Austen’s leading ladies!

  2. Have a FUN birthday Anne. Wishing you a year of love,happiness and blessings. HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANNE. You are a cutie.

  3. Happy Birthday to Miss Annie. What an enjoyable interview, all the ladies were so helpful. Ha!

  4. That was a lot if fun thanks Rose. Your daughter is adorable and it sounds like she is a very determined young lady. Already arguing with Mum and bossing big brother around haha. Love it. Go girl!

  5. This was utterly delightful! Have a happy birthday, Annie! I only had a younger sister and she has been gone since 1997, the year of the comet. I still miss her. In 2001 I lost my Mother. We did have a rocky relationship at times; but I always loved her (even when she was wrong).

    • I’m so sorry for your losses! I love my mother too, but I also am quite hard on myself in wanting to succeed in ways she did not. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  6. Thanks! No fond memories of my mother, but I do have plenty with my Grammy who regularly would share two pots of tea with me and tell me stories of the 1930’s.

  7. Happy birthday Annie!!! If your mum makes stories up for bedtime, it must be an amazing moment of the day!!

    Rose, that conversation is hilarious. I love that Mrs Reynolds is there 🙂 as well as Mrs Weston and Miss Bates! very enjoyable. I was putting the voices in my head while reading.

    I do not know if the giveaway is international or not, but if it is, thank you for the opportunity!

    • So, I must have bumped my mouse when replying the other day because I missed several comments in the middle here! Forgive me! Yes, the giveaway is international. I’m glad you had enjoyed the post!

    • Thanks! Just a stock photo for the cake. We’re going to celebrate with a Frozen themed cake this weekend. Cupcake this afternoon at Barnes & Noble. 🙂

    • Thank you! She knows she’s cute and uses her powers for evil! If I had posted a pic of her in pigtails, you would have died.

  8. What a fun interview! But those mothers….yikes! Annie is absolutely adorable. I have a grandson who will turn 4 next week, and he’s the light of my life. 🙂
    Thanks for the giveaway!

    • Lol. Those mothers are something else, aren’t they? The crazy thing is that there’s still mothers like that. And the good news is that clearly it doesn’t matter so much about being perfect. I hear Mrs. Bennet telling me I should ask about your grandson’s future prospects. Does he come from a good family? Is he likely to inherit? She can not be so beautiful for nothing!

  9. This was delightful! I loved this very much. My daughter is five and will be starting Kindergarten in the fall. You can imagine my anxiety. Thanks for the giveaway and Happy Birthday to Annie!

    • My son started all day pre-kindergarten last year and I was a wreck then. I mean, he had been with me just about every minute of his life for 5 years. And I was supposed to trust strangers with him. ALL DAY? EVERY DAY? Just had to take a deep breath and realize that we’d all be ok.

  10. Annie sounds adorable! She sounds a lot like my Casey at 3 (soon to be 36–yikes!) and she turned out just fine. No worries, Rose; she’s in good hands.

    • She reminds me so much of my younger sister! I’m sure my mother would tell me they both got it from me. And then, because I’m a brat, I’d remind her I got it from her and stick my tongue out for good measure.

  11. That, my dear, would be the tea party from hell…LOL. What an idea…very creative and hilarious. It was absolutely delicious. All those JA women in one place, oh my. There is a story there…has to be.

    Happy Birthday little Annie, I hope you have a great summer. The pictures were wonderful, such a beautiful little girl. What fun!!

    • Could you imagine them all modern day Mommy Wars? I suppose Mrs. Weston would be the health nut because of her employer, Mr. Woodhouse. Mrs. Price would be the hot mess mom. Mrs. Bennet is the tiger mom. Lady Catherine is the helicopter. Lady Russell is the one that’s got a clear favorite and making her “child” live out her dreams. I might have to do a short story about this.

      • You do that and I will read it.

        P.S. since I recently won something from AuAu so you can exclude me from this drawing. I just wanted to respond.

  12. Nice post — you captured them all very well. And I hope your daughter has a great birthday!

    • Thanks! I think Mrs. Morland was pretty sensible but with 10 kids the dynamics are pretty different. Of course, she didn’t have all 10 of them back when Catherine was 3. And I liked Mrs. Reynolds’ advice, but it’s an over simplification.

  13. Happy third Birthday, Annie! Listen to your Mother and enjoy your birthday cake, even though Mr. Woodhouse would not approve.

  14. Happy birthday, Annie!!! How timely and hilarious !!! Mothers – can’t live with them, can’t live without them!!!! LOL

    • Lol. I do have to say in defense of the mothers, if they seem crazy their children likely made them that way!

  15. What excellent advice. I am sure you are suitably grateful (and entertained as I am!) If I was giving any advice I would just say that as long as your children know they are loved they will hopefully grow up well. I hope your daughter has a lovely birthday ???

    • Thanks for YOUR advice! Much better than the others’ I think! She’s been grumpy but I think is finally napping. Of course, it has to be a short one as my son gets out of school early today. Sigh.

    • Thanks! It alarms me sometimes how much I think I could agree with Lady Susan about children’s purpose in life. They constantly want to thwart my dastardly schemes of sleeping, alone time and snacking in peace! 😀

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