by Margaret Mills
What reading material do you turn to if you are unwell? The novelist Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell wrote a letter early in 1865 to John Ruskin, about one of her own books, in which she said: “whenever I am ailing or ill, I take Cranford and – I was going to say enjoy it (but that would not be pretty!) laugh over it afresh!”
For a couple of months last summer, my own life was temporarily disrupted because I was “ailing or ill”, and spent most of my time indoors. No real hardship this, as I am, and always have been, a great reader, and at times like this I turn to one of my favourite authors, the divine Jane Austen. Well or not, I can’t begin to estimate how many times I have read Jane Austen’s works over the years. My favourites are probably Pride and Prejudice and Emma, but the reason I settled on Pride and Prejudice as my first selection rests partly on the first chapter alone: the immediacy of the introductory paragraph plunges you straight into the story, and I have always adored the dry humour of Mr Bennet, the father of those “silly and ignorant” daughters!