For the past two weeks, I've been reading Jane Austen's Emma
in my Romantic Comedies class. This is the last of Austen's books I've had to read, and I was enjoying how well it was written and all the little bits with Mr. Knightly. However, I started to notice something odd about the actual edition we were reading from for the class.
We were reading from an Oxford World's Classic edition. My professor obviously chose it for the excellent notes and background information (including a comparison to Much Ado About Nothing, our first reading of the semester). The woman on the cover is not someone I could picture Emma actually looking like. Her chin is too round and strong, her cheeks too flushed, her look too manly. Not that Emma is a dainty creature. But this woman is not exactly right. While I happen to admit I am a picky cover art person, this one was bothering me more than I imagined it would. Picture us all in a board room type classroom, with one long shiny, wooden table for almost twenty of us to squeeze into, bumping each other constantly with huge leather spinning chairs. Now picture all of our books laid out on the table, all those Oxford World's Classic Emma's displayed at every angle - even reflected by the table.
There was another face I was seeing while staring at the multiple covers across from me. Upside down. And I gasped when I first saw that familiar face. I wanted to jump out of my chair, knocking the two people next to me, shouting, "Guys, did you notice this? Her face, when it's upside down, looks just like Lord Byron!" It was so obvious to me that I wanted to scream. To try and demonstrate the likeness to you, dear readers, I took a picture of the books side by side - Emma upside down and Lord Byron rightside
up. If you can't see the similarities for whatever reason, imagine Emma at a distance (like, across a table). That might work better.
Lord Byron. One of the great Romantic poets. You might be familiar with him. Some of you might wish to have known him... perhaps in more ways than a simple hello (I mean, yeah, of course). If you don't know who he is, I suggest you search him when you have free time. I'm a huge Romanticism buff, which is why I say that, but it's an understatement to say that the Romantics have influenced us all. There. My tiny speech, haha.
And I found this bit from one of his long poems, Don Juan, that seems to me to echo the prank he was playing by showing his face to a tired grad student:
"Thus would he while his lonely hours away
Dissatisfied, nor knowing what he wanted;
Nor glowing reverie, nor poet's lay,
Could yield his spirit that for which it panted.
A bosom whereon he his head might lay,
And here the heart beat with the love it granted,
With - several other things, which I forget,
Or which, at least, I need not mention yet."
So I'm trying to imply, by his own words, that perhaps he was terribly bored and lonely. He could have left me alone to taking my notes on Emma in peace. But he reared his ugly (maybe) head just to get a reaction out of me. Maybe he hoped it was love, but I assure you it wasn't. I spent such an intense semester in my senior year of college studying the Romantics. When I see a picture or stumble upon a poem, I smile because it's like seeing an old friend. And, romantic wise, I'd probably sooner go on a date with Shelley or Keats (or even my favorite unknown Romantic poet, Thomas Lovell Beddoes) before ever putting my hand in Lord Byron's. He's just trouble.