“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” This is the first line of Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice” and it is perhaps one of the most recognized lines in all of literature. It is right up there with “Call me Ishmael” from Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick,” Leo Tolstoy’s opening line in “Anna Karenina” – “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” – and of course “Amelia Bedelia must look for a new job!” by Peggy Parish. I have always strongly identified with Amelia because of our alternative approaches to domestic tasks.

Though I think Jane Austen’s opening passage is a remarkable one, I do not know if it has managed to remain valid over the course of a hundred years. This line definitely does not apply to the society of college. Perhaps something more like – it is a truth universally acknowledged that a guy who has had five or six beers on a Saturday night is probably in want of some ass. The language isn’t quite as rich, but I think it conveys a point.

Sometimes I really do wish that things were as elegant and proper as they were in the time of Jane Austen, circa the early 1800s.

I wish we used words like “felicity,” “scruples” and “vither” in our everyday vernacular. I just took the GRE’s – maybe more than twice – which required me to pump up my vocabulary knowledge. At first this was annoying but then I really got into running over to the dictionary anytime I didn’t know a word and trying to slip it into daily conversation, for example the word “cadge.” My friend Phil is a cadger. If you don’t know what that means then go look it up and you will be in on the secret about Phil.

Now, though I do consider myself a rather technologically savvy girl – I can’t write an article without mentioning my iPod – I think I would have been quite content with the quiet peacefulness of the society of aristocratic Jane Austen England.

Basically by the time you were 13 you were looked at as a candidate to be someone’s wife so all day you were required to boost your resum. This included extensive reading, archery practice, making sure you sat up really, really straight and practicing an instrument, most likely a piano.

Well, I love to read, have suitable posture and can play a diverse array of songs on the piano – everything from the theme from “Jaws” to the “Flight of the Bumblebee.” If I had busted out a little Billy Joel at one of those parties people would have just been fawning over me and some guy named Darcy would have been professing his love to me in the pouring rain.

Also, because there was no electricity, which as all you scientific people know meant no television, stereos or video games, there wasn’t a lot to do except gossip about people.

Jane Austen was the quintessential gossip. She observed the elaborate social customs of the people in her surroundings and then wittily made fun of them in her books.

I love to gossip and often get myself in huge trouble because some of my friends don’t appreciate when I told others something they would have preferred not to be spread. I look at gossip as a public service if you will. They look at it as secrets that are meant to be kept private but tomato, “tomaaato.” Basically the more scandalous information you knew about someone back then, the more popular you were.

I would like to say that the character I most identify with would be Elizabeth Bennett, the protagonist of “Pride and Prejudice” because of the way she was able to put the proud Darcy in his place and still make him fall in love with her by using cunningly clever language. However, I am probably more like Emma, the title character from “Emma.” She was a gossip who stuck her nose in everyone’s business and then got together with her brother-in-law.

Alas they still both got modern movies based on them – “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “Clueless.” Bridget was a self-loathing alcoholic who was 20 pounds overweight but ended up with Colin Firth. Cher was a Beverly Hills princess who loved to give her friends make-overs and went shopping everyday but ended up with Paul Rudd. I’d say either of those outcomes are fine with me and would provide me with much felicity and vigor.

Lepore can be reached at


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