Jane Austen in Canada


Canadian author Marisa Hopp shares with us what it might be like if Jane Austen visited her for a day.

Jane and I would head out to a popular Ottawa restaurant, housed in an old bank, so she could marvel at the vaulted ceilings and soft light. Perhaps it would be to scale of some of the ballrooms she conjures in her novels. Sitting at the room-length bar, we would both order a gin and tonic and laugh over the coincidence. The British gin craze would have been over by Jane’s day, but she likely would have known it as a popular drink for the lower class. A cocktail passed on through generations, throughout the British Empire.

Being just a block from Parliament, we would take a stroll across the lawns in front of the Peace Tower and Jane would comment on how like her own Parliament building it is, but that the grounds remind her of a country estate. I imagine she would arrive in late spring. Perfect timing to miss the -35C of winter, but before the +30C summer heat wave. I would make sure we stopped at monument to the Famous Five. It commemorates the women who won the legal case to declare women as persons, a little bit of Canadian feminist history I feel Jane would love.

This would lead to a further discussion about her novels. I would ask her about the social commentary in her works: did she feel they were subtle and went just far enough or did she have papers on the cutting room floor that pushed the envelope even further? Her sassy remarks in Northanger Abbey about critics of novels is a particular passage I would bring up.

Perhaps she would then ask me which quote I am particularly attached to and I would blush and say it is “to be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love”, from Pride and Prejudice. I would tell her it turned out to be good advice, because my husband-to-be is always ready to hit the dance floor, and our love story is better than many I’ve read.

We’d be sad to part, but I have no doubt Jane and I would strike up a correspondence. If Jane has taught me one thing, it is that a woman can never have too many pen pals.

Writing from the Commonwealth - Ontario, Canada, Marisa Hopp is an Anglophile at heart who loves corgis and fills her wardrobe with the latest Kate Middleton fashion. She studied English and History at the University of Ottawa and completed a creative writing certificate from Algonquin College. She was recently published in the anthology Fairy Tales and Folklore Re-imagined and the flash fiction publication Blink ink #30. She hopes to one day publish her own novels and can’t wait to see how her Jane Austen-esque life story continues after her marriage vows. You can read more of her writing in Cocktails with Miss Austen.

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