Introduction: Did Jane Austen Really Mean That?

  • Jillian Heydt-Stevenson


In Pride and Prejudice, Lydia intimates that her virginity has already been lost when, on the eve of eloping with a scoundrel, she explains that “I shall send for my clothes when I get to Longbourn; but I wish you would tell Sally to mend a great slit in my worked muslin gown, before they are packed up” (291–292).1 In NorthwngerAbbey, Thorpe congratulates himself on his masculine prowess by displacing it on to his carriage: “What do you think of my gig, Miss Morland? a neat one, is not it? Well hung; town built” (46). Mary Crawford urges her chaste friends to imagine “with what unwilling feelings the former belles of the house of Rushworth did many a time repair to this chapel? The young Mrs. Eleanors and Mrs. Bridgets—starched up into seeming piety, but with heads full of something very different—especially if the poor chaplain were not worth looking at …” (Mansfield Park 87). In Sense and Sensibility, Sir John exclaims to Marianne, “Aye, you will make conquests enough, I dare say, one way or other. Poor Brandon! he is quite smitten already, and he is very well worth setting your cap at, I can tell you, in spite of all this tumbling about and spraining of ancles [sic]” (45). To “tumble” meant to “lie down to a man”; and “tumble in”—that is, tumbling—referred to copulation (Partridge 915).


Romantic Period Woman Writer Iron Gate Gender Prejudice Female Reader 
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© Jillian Heydt-Stevenson 2005

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  • Jillian Heydt-Stevenson

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