For some characters in Jane Austen's world, what they're driving (or their equipage as we should say) is almost as important as that vintage Corvette up on blocks in your brother-in-law's garage. Mrs. Elton, the Vicar's new wife in Emma springs to mind. Desperate to make an impression on the new neighbors, and not actually having anything so fine in her garage, she falls back on the excellent barouche-landau owned by her brother-in-law, Mr. Suckling.
One must give a nod to that predecessor of all Corvette-up-on-blocks owners, John Thorpe of Northanger Abbey fame:
“What do you think of my gig, Miss Morland? A neat one, is not it? Well hung; town-built; I have not had it a month. It was built for a Christchurch man, a friend of mine, a very good sort of fellow; he ran it a few weeks, till, I believe, it was convenient to have done with it.”
One could not find a prouder gig-owner, nor one readier to take you up in it and drive you to Blaise Castle.
And Anne Elliot, at the end of Persuasion, is not only married to her beloved Captain Wentworth, but the mistress of a very pretty landaulette.
For some, however, this prompts the question: What would Jane Austen's characters drive if they were around today?
Let's start right off with John Thorpe, who would definitely have the Corvette up on blocks in his garage. It wouldn't be in very good shape, and he would have paid too much for it, but he wouldn't stop talking about it: What do you think of my Corvette, Miss Morland? A Beauty, isn't it? Good suspension, American made. I just got it off a little old lady from Coventry who only drove it on Sundays. Do not accept his offer of a spin around the block.
I'm sure we all wonder what Mr. Darcy would drive. Or would he be driven? I'm imagining him pulling up in a Bentley limousine driven by an elderly but sprightly chauffeur who has been in the family for ages. Mrs. Reynolds' (the housekeeper's) husband, perhaps. You may accept his offer of a ride.
Mr. Knightley, Emma's beloved and dedicated owner of Donwell Abbey? A Land Rover for sure. Top of the line, pretty pricey, but a workhorse around the farms. He'll be driving this over to see how Robert Martin is doing at Abbey Mill Farm. He'll offer you a ride, but don't make too much of it. He's busy with the farms and his heart belongs to Emma
I'm pretty sure that Captain Wentworth would have given his new bride not a landaulette (so old-fashioned), but a very pretty Mustang convertible. Nothing is too good for Anne.
And then we have the Eds: Edward Ferrars (vicar at Delaford and husband of Elinor Dashwood of Sense & Sensibility) and Edmund Bertram (vicar at Thornton Lacey and husband of Fanny Price, formerly of Mansfield Park). If they're lucky, they’ll both have nice new hybrids—A Toyota Prius or a Honda Civic. If they're not so lucky, we'll see both in second-hand Ford Fiestas, hoping for better days.
Yes, there are other cars in the garage. What sports car would John Willoughby be driving? For it certainly would be a sports car. Would Mr. Wickham have a car or would he be driving something he borrowed from someone in his militia unit? Has Frank Churchill run his new BMW into a stone wall while he was teasing his passenger? Does Colonel Brandon really drive that old beat-up thing?
Who would you ride shotgun with and what are they driving?
Line drawings from The Republic of Pemberley
The Republic of Pemberley