Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Notable Colds in the Works of Miss Austen

Sent home early from work to nurse my cold, I sit in the rocking chair after lunch, fighting off the urge to sleep (why does it seem so shameful to sleep in the afternoon?) and reading Catharine, a fragment by the excellent and esteemed Miss Jane Austen.

Imagine my horror when I come across this statement from the excitable Mrs. Peterson/Percival: "It is unknown how many people have died in consequence of catching Cold! I do not believe there is a disorder in the World except Smallpox which does not spring from it."

Oh dear. Just when I thought the sinuses were clearing and the cough lessening. I think of Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, who catches "a cold so violent ... as ... would force itself by increasing ailments on the concern of everybody, and the notice of herself." She is "heavy and feverish, with a pain in her limbs, a cough and a sore throat...." Within days, Marianne is on the brink of death. (Happily she survives.)

I comfort myself with the words of Mrs. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, upon being informed of her daughter Jane's catching a cold: "People do not die of little trifling colds."

The Misses Bingley (of P&P) detest colds as much as any: "The sisters ... repeated three or four times how much they were grieved, how shocking it was to have a bad cold, and how excessively they disliked being ill themselves."

Poor Harriet Smith of Emma is obliged to miss the Westons' Christmas dinner party due to a bad cold: "Emma called on her ... and found her doom already signed with regard to Randalls. She was very feverish and had a bad sore throat ...."

Jane Fairfax (also of Emma) is liable to shocking colds and is constantly watched over by her friends lest she strain her throat by too much singing, or make herself ill by walking in the rain. This from the abhominable Mrs. Elton: "My dear Jane, what is this I hear? Going to the post-office in the rain! ... You sad girl, how could you do such a thing?" And this from kind Mrs. Weston: "Miss Fairfax, you must not run such risks. Liable as you have been to severe colds, indeed you ought to be particularly careful...."

Being myself rather feverish and low, I can recall no other colds in Miss Austen's works (though I have a vague idea that delicate Fanny Price of Mansfield Park may have had one or two). I decide to lie down - just for a bit, I tell myself. Several hours later, I awake feeling much better. Tired Nature's sweet restorer has once again come up trumps. (Sorry, but I couldn't come up with an Austenian quote on sleep.)

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  1. :-))

    I hope you're feeling better now.

  2. You shouldn't miss a chance to have an afternoon nap, they are very restorative. I have one most days.

  3. I love your Jane Austen references!! She's one of my faves!!! For fun, go to Vimeo and search for Jane Austen fight club!! Funny!!! :)

    I think naps are a physical need. Look at our South American cousins....siesta!!!! It's only our American workaholic mindset that makes us think it's lazy. Pshaw!!!! :)

    I hope you are feeling well soon!!!!!! :)

  4. I can't believe you composed something so well-researched while you have a cold!!! Wonder what kind of haiku you could come up with while you're sneezy??? (hint, hint, hint!)

    Get some rest, have some chicken soup, and get feeling better!

  5. Thanks all! That long nap yesterday seems to have turned the tide. The cold is on its way out and I feel human again.


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