Like many Jane Austen fans, I was horrified to hear that there is now an erotic version of some of her books. As if the whole Pride and Prejudice and Zombies thing wasn't enough. Poor Miss Austen must be rolling over in her grave.
One of the virtues of Victorian literature (and the movies based on them) is the sexual tension between the main characters. The dialogue is outstanding - the facility with language is far beyond anything one might experience today. It never ceases to amaze me the way an Austen character can deliver an insult or proffer a challenge while being unfailingly polite. It certainly beats the base language we tend to resort to when we are annoyed or angry today.
But, beyond the dialogue, it is what goes unsaid that often has the most power. Supposedly, in the new version of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy are ripping off their clothes at every opportunity. (Truly, I don't even know how this fits into the story, seeing as they don't get together until the end of the novel. Regardless, I'm not going to read the new version to find out.) This reminds me of most movies today. Boy meets girl. They kiss. In the next scene, they are in bed together. Leaving the large issue of morality out of it, what ever happened to anticipation? To longing? To something worth waiting for?
The Victorians had all the same desires as we do today, yet perhaps they knew something that we have seemingly lost in our culture. Namely, that there can be as much (if not more) electricity in a look or a gentle brush of a hand as in a genital thrust. Little things can mean so much, and the subtext lingering behind a conversation can reveal as much as the conversation itself. The promise of potential sexual union is a powerful thing. Sexual tension can go a long way in keeping a relationship going. In literature, it can keep a reader interested. Both in life and in fiction, it seems we are giving too much away much too soon.