I had the honour of interviewing Meg Kerr, the author of Jane Austen fanfiction novels Devotion and Experience! We had a great discussion about sex and sexuality in Jane Austen’s novels, as well as in Meg’s books, that was really thought-provoking! Be sure to check it out if that is something that intrigues you as well!
Flavia the Bibliophile: Jane Austen’s novels are suffused with sexual tension, but most of the actual sex occurs “offstage.”
Meg: Absolutely! The physical sexual relationships exist in the stage wings, in the shadows—and they often cast a darkness over both the sexual partners and their families and friends.
Flavia the Bibliophile: And in Devotion you decided to bring the dark sex onstage, into the light?
Meg: Yes. But before you ask, I didn’t write Devotion just to combine Jane Austen and sex. Inside each of Austen’s rather prim novels there is a bawdy 18th century novel, nestling like a pearl. In Devotion I imagined Austen turning one of these pearl novels into the full novel.
Flavia the Bibliophile: What do you mean by a pearl novel? Give me an example.
Meg: The pearl novel readers know best is the story of Lydia and Wickham. I call this novel Lydia, and I can see Daniel Defoe writing it. A sexually adventurous 16-year-old virgin travels away from her family, under the nominal protection of a young officer and his wife, to a military camp, where she re-encounters a handsome blackguard she first met in her village. She wants carnal knowledge and he is happy to educate her, and when he flees from his creditors he brings her along with him to hide out in London.
If Defoe were writing Lydia, Wickham would have deserted her but she would have become the exuberant concubine of increasingly wealthy men, the last one of whom would die and leave her a substantial fortune…which she would use to marry into the aristocracy.
(By the way, in Devotion it turns out that Mr. Collins wrote—and published!–a novel called Lydia; or, Vice Rebuk’d. As you can imagine, from knowing the author and the title, Lydia upon being deserted by Wickham came to a bad end.)
Flavia the Bibliophile: And Austen’s ending for Lydia?
Meg: Instead of giving Lydia a life post-Wickham that she would really have enjoyed, Austen punishes her by arranging a marriage with Wickham. You will recall Austen’s ending to their passion: “His affection for her soon sunk into indifference; hers lasted a little longer….” But still–Austen leaves the door open to a Defoe-style future life for Lydia: “she retained all the claims to reputation which her marriage had given her.” Go for it, Lydia!
Flavia the Bibliophile: Now tell me about Devotion.
You can read the rest of the interview in Meg’s blog post
Meg Pauses In Her Journey Through the Shadowlands to Chat About Her Novel Devotion!
Also, for readers who don’t know, we have an international Jane Austen swag giveaway
happening right now, and you can enter it below. Go go go!
THANK YOU FOR READING MY THIS POST! HAVE YOU READ AN JANE AUSTEN, OR BOOKS SET IN THE REGENCY ERA? WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THEM? DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE? ALSO, WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON SEXUAL CONTENT IN REGENCY NOVELS? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!