December 16 is Jane Austen's birthday, and I wish that I could give her a present. I wish that I could thank her for all the joy her work has given me. For every time I re-read one of her novels, I revel in the pure pleasure of a well-loved tale. But along with the familiarity is ever-unfolding discovery, for these are stories that are all about human nature, its beauties as well as its follies.
And isn't there always something new to learn about ourselves and those around us? That's the beauty of Jane Austen. As she put it herself via her heroine, Elizabeth Bennet in her most famous book, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, "...people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them for ever." The same is true for her novels. There is something new to be observed in them for ever.
What would Jane Austen say, I wonder, if she knew that at the age of 234, she would be as young and fresh and relevant to her devoted readers of the twenty-first century as she was when her first published novel, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, delighted readers in 1811? I imagine she would be pleased with her immortality, for who among us has never had a wish to live forever? I do believe, however, that Jane Austen has achieved something far greater than immortality: She has made millions of people happy.
What better way is there to celebrate this day than to spread some of that happiness around? That, and maybe curling up with one of her novels.