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Jane Austen on The Healthy Freakout

Jane Austen on The Healthy Freakout

“Run mad as often as you chuse; but do not faint—” - Jane Austen, An Unfinished Novel in Letters

Hey all, I thought I would break up the relentless march of stoicism with a little Jane Austen amuse-bouche. This fantastic quotation is from her Juvenilia collection, and in context she’s writing an epistolary story from the point of view of a young woman, Laura, who has lost both of her parents. Her mother’s dying advice to her: “A frenzy fit is not one quarter so pernicious [as fainting]; it is an exercise to the Body and if not too violent, is I dare say conducive to Health in its consequences—Run mad as often as you chuse; but do not faint—”

Not gonna lie, I just love this one. Everyone needs to cut loose once in a while, throw off the restraints (in this case, some serious high heels), and go. Yes I know the shoes are a little anachronistic for the Regency era. I also changed the spelling of “chuse” without adding a [sic] note! Perhaps my reckless indifference will send you to the nearest fainting couch, or perhaps inspire your own mad run (it’s conducive to Health with a capital H!).

Imagine a young, precocious Austen first experimenting with character, tension, dramatic arc, form and so forth, and discovering those first sparks of genius in her work. I’ll confess to knowing too little of the history of fainting, except that it was prevalent enough to create a market for custom couches and a useful conversation starter with dashing men.

I doubt young Jane intended this, but being the deeper-meaning-junky that I am, I find some real truth in her advice. Putting aside all of the context of social norms and the “weaker sex” business, and there’s something to it. If, in the face of a crisis, you are going to freak out, you are better off “running mad” than “fainting.” Fainting is “pernicious,” because it’s giving up and handing over all of the decision-making to someone else.

So run! Run mad! Then wash your feet and get back to it, I guess.

About the Art

“What kind of a woman would abandon her brand new heels? and running barefoot?? and without a proper escort??? Why, the illustrator's shameless impertinence is enough to send the most stalwart reader to the nearest fainting couch!”

Art by Evan Robertson. All rights reserved.

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