P&P, day 21, episode 3: A sudden headache – a rant about health

Austen Advent Calendar

Lizzie blames a sudden headache to cover up her visible agitation when she finds out about Mr. Darcy’s interferance with Bingley & Jane’s relationship. As an added bonus, she gets out of a visit to Lady Catherine! And since I have a bit of a headache myself today, I thought this theme would be as good as any… because I may have had a bit of writer’s block, despite my list of suggestions a few posts away!

I did a quick search for the history of health and Jane Austen, and there is an article about headaches used as plot device in Austen’s work! Unfortunately my university doesn’t have access to it, but if you have access, it might be an interesting read! I’ve found another article on Jane Austen and the cultural history of health on the same journal publication page, so I can only read the abstracts.

Another thing that pops up in my search was the Jane Austen diet thing. I’ve linked it so you can make up your own mind about it, since this article is not behind a journal publication wall. I’m not entirely sold on the premise, as you probably could tell from my introduction of the subject! It sort of gives me the same feeling as when someone has quoted Caroline Bingley’s “There is no enjoyment like reading!” to show that books are good – it simply seems to lack the original context. I think my issue with this branding is the same issue I have, as an archaeologist, with the branding of the paleo diet. It all boils down to:

Don’t brand things as a diet from history if you haven’t studied food consumption from that time period! Or at least read and taken in the research of other published scientists and researchers in the field…

There are so many things that make my skeptical mind go haywire. Like paleo dishes with tomatoes. Or claiming that Jane Austen was a health guru in disguise.

I can see the business need for branding and storytelling of diets in this day and age, and there will always be different readings by different people from the same source material. But it still rubs me the wrong way.

At least the article about Austen as health guru rather than dowdy spinster (in the words of the article) names the diet “in lack of better description”. I just have issues with the historical fancy diet names in the same way I have issues with phrases like “when we were hunted by lions on the savanna and lived in caves” whenever people want to romanticize the early stone age or tell us about how different our world was when our bodies’ stress mechanisms evolved.

I guess everyone has their rights to whatever interpretation they wish. I just wish for a world where there wouldn’t be a need for fancy diet names. That, I think, would be most beneficial for both mental and physical health.


This went from headaches to a rant about diets, you just never know what happens in the Austen Advent Calendar! If you want the original context of this, you should check out Drunk Austen, as I’m doing this as a join-in of their tradition!

I’ve updated the image of the post since I saw that the original image I used was free for download, but not to put on another website. I’ve chosen to exchange the image to the current one, a fashion plate in the public domain from LACMA. I try to use other people’s images as correctly as possible, and will change it if I realise I’ve made a mistake!

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