Signs of Addiction

Here are our Top Ten Signs of Austen Addiction (You can send us your own, and we’ll post our favorites.)

1. You have a tendency to forget things like your friend’s birthday and picking up the dry cleaning, but you can recite, by heart, Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne Elliot.

And why shouldn’t you? After all, you have read Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Austen’s four other major works no less than five times each (let’s be honest, you have probably read one or more of them as many as ten or even twenty times.) Which is why you generally lie when a friend asks you what you are reading, having tired of the odd looks you get when you are honest.

2. Your appetite for Austen grows insatiable, no matter how many times you read her six novels. And so you begin to branch out, devouring scores of books about Austen and her world, plus follow-on’s, inspired-by’s, and even the monster mash-ups.

3. Reading Austen and those inspired by her works is not enough. And so you turn to a veritable universe of Austen sites online, a Janeiverse, if you will. Consequently, you find yourself feigning work at your computer while actually reading no less than three Austen blogs and playing games such as Regency dress-up dolls or Which Jane Austen heroine are you (and hoping this time you will be Lizzy Bennet). The days begin to fly.

4. You are now behind in your work, homework, or housework because you spend half your day (and a good part of the night) on Austen forums arguing about whether Fanny Price is a prude, the admirable moral center of Mansfield Park, or the most tiresome creepmouse in literary history.

5. You spend the other half of your workday online arguing over whether Colin Firth or Matthew MacFadyen is the hottest Mr. Darcy on film. You are in serious danger of losing your job.

6. Your friends’ idea of exercise is a game of squash or a Pilates session. Yours is English country dance lessons. That is, if you could find a dance partner to go with you. Your best friend thinks you’re joking. Your boyfriend informs you that he would rather locate your preferred brand of long, thin, medium-flow, no-wings maxi pads in your local shop (his idea of a no-win, failure-is-the-only-option errand) than engage in such a fundamentally uncool activity.

7. You find a dance class where partners are not required, but no one tells you that English country dance lessons are a gateway drug. As a result of learning how to shake your groove thang like Lizzy and Darcy do, you are using the money with which you were to pay down your credit card debt for a trip to the Jane Austen Festival in Bath. There you will get to dance at a real ball. In costume. Which you’re having made. Before you know it, you’re also buying a handmade bonnet, a fan, and…well, a girl can’t get by on only one outfit, can she?

8. Your friends, family, and significant other stage an intervention in which they confront you about your addiction. After enduring their nonsensical accusations, you proudly look them in the eye and say, ‘You have insulted me in every possible method. I must beg to return to my laptop’. Where you promptly log on to your favorite Austen forum and report this outrage to your cyber-friends.

9. You give in to the pressure of non-Austen-addict friends who have been after you for weeks to go with them to a new dance club. When you arrive, your senses are assailed by the crowded, maddeningly loud venue full of hoi polloi. When someone asks you to dance, you say, ‘At an assembly such as this, it would be insupportable’.

10. It isn’t long before only your fellow Austen addicts can understand your hopes, your dreams, and your involuntary spouting of quotes, frequently mangled, from the novels and films (see #8 and #9 above). Which is why your social life now consists solely of Austen society meetings, Jane Austen book clubs, English country dance lessons, Austen movie marathons with friends from the aforementioned groups, and cyber-friendships on Austen forums. When you are alone, you re-read Austen’s six novels, her letters, and her minor works, and you have begun writing your own fan fiction.

At last, you have found perfect happiness. Until, that is, someone invents a time machine. [Go to the next page for readers’ signs of addiction, including contributions by authors Georgia Hill and Jenna Dawlish…]