'Her Love Made No Answer ...'

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Jane Awesome has jokes:


"Oh! my love," cried Mrs. Palmer to her husband, who just then entered the room; "You must help me persuade the Miss Dashwoods to go to town this winter." 

Her love made no answer; and after slightly bowing to the ladies, began complaining of the weather. "How horrid all this is!" said he. "Such weather makes everything and everybody disgusting. Dulness is as much produced within doors as without by rain. It makes one detest all one's acquaintance. What the devil does Sir John mean by not having a billiard room in his house? How few people know what comfort is! Sir John is as stupid as the weather." 

The rest of the company soon dropt in. "I am afraid, Miss Marianne," said Sir John, "you have not been able to take your usual walk to Allenham to-day." Marianne looked very grave and said nothing. 

"Oh! don't be so sly before us," said Mrs. Palmer: "for we know all about it, I assure you; and I admire your taste very much, for I think he is extremely handsome. We do not live a great way from him in the country, you know, -- not above ten miles, I dare say." 

 "Much nearer thirty," said her husband. 

"Ah! well! there is not much difference. I never was at his house; but they say it is a sweet, pretty place." "As vile a spot as I ever saw in my life," said Mr. Palmer. 

Marianne remained perfectly silent, though her countenance betrayed her interest in what was said.

"Is it very ugly?" continued Mrs. Palmer -- "then it must be some other place that is so pretty, I suppose." When they were seated in the dining room, Sir John observed with regret that they were only eight altogether. 

"My dear," said he to his lady, "it is very provoking that we should be so few. Why did not you ask the Gilberts to come to us to-day?" 

"Did not I tell you, Sir John, when you spoke to me about it before, that it could not be done? They dined with us last." 

"You and I, Sir John," said Mrs. Jennings, "should not stand upon such ceremony." 

"Then you would be very ill-bred," cried Mr. Palmer. 

 "My love, you contradict everybody," said his wife with her usual laugh.  "Do you know that you are quite rude?" 

"I did not know I contradicted anybody in calling your mother ill-bred."

That last line is just killer. I really need to read that Christopher Hitchens article on why women aren't funny. I have a disdain for the intentionally and overly provocative, so I skipped it. But now I wonder what he said, if anything, about Jane Austen. 

There's a scene in Their Eyes Were Watching God where two men basically clown this guy's mule driving him to no end of frustration. It's one of the funniest things I've ever read, and it's one of the reasons why I wasn't pleased to hear it was being made into a movie. Film-makers often miss the subversive humor of their source material, or rather they see it as unimportant or unfilmable. I'm not sure which. 

I liked the BBC's Pride and Prejudice just fine. But they were making a romantic drama, and I thought Austen wrote a romantic comedy. Perhaps the definitive romantic comedy. 
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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