Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Take a hike!: Exercise and entertainment in Jane Austen’s world

For all the strictures and constraints in Jane Austen’s 19th century England, there are some surprisingly good stress management techniques. The characters are constantly visiting friends, drinking tea, playing card games, listening to piano music, dancing at balls, and taking hikes. No stressed-out, email-checking, can’t-go-anywhere-without-my-calendar people here!

Taking hikes, in particular, seems to accomplish a vast multitude of benefits: exercise, meditation, socialization, entertainment. Not to mention that it is a great way to find potential suitors!

After walking 3 miles to visit her ill sister, Elizabeth Bennett gets noticed (negatively) by the snarky Miss Bingley and (positively) by the enigmatic Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice). Marianne Dashwood stumbles in the rain and badly twists her ankle during a walk, only to be rescued by the gallant Mr. Willoughby who literally sweeps her off her feet (Sense and Sensibility). Anne Elliott’s quick thinking and deftness in helping her friend Louisa after a dangerous fall during a walk in Lyme regains her the regard of the noble Captain Wentworth (Persuasion).

And even if romance is not for you, taking a hike can improve the looks:
“She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an excellent walker. I shall never forget her appearance this morning. She really looked almost wild” (about Elizabeth Bennett, in Pride and Prejudice, p. 35).

And soothe the mind:
“Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn… (Anne Elliott, in Persuasion, p. 84).

And forget TV! Walking can provide endless entertainment with friends and family:
“When the weather is settled, and I have recovered my strength,” said she, “we will take long walks together every day. We will walk to the far a t the edge of the down, and see how the children go on; we will walk to Sir John’s new plantations at Barton-Cross, and the Abbeyland; and we will often go to the old ruins of the Priory…” (Marianne Dashwood, in Sense and Sensibility, p. 343).

Almost makes me want to throw my TV out the window and take a walk right now! Who’s in with me?


  1. Since it's been so nice in St. Louis (before today!), Katie and I have been trying to walk. Sometimes, I think: "DO we really have time for this?" But every time we do it; I always feel better. I think this winter we are going to join the mall walking crowd.

  2. I think that Jane Austen would be stumped by the concept of a mall, but the walking sounds great!

  3. I see a Jane Austen exerise video in the works.