Those of us in the business of the word gather magnificent companions. That is, we make friends with those with whom we are constantly in communication or communion–the writers we read. For we tend to do more than read their works–listen to their side of the conversation. We observe them, go behind their backs to converse with others about them, travel around to see where they have been. It makes no matter if our friends are alive or dead–I dare say, most are legally dead. But to us they are alive and very much parts of our lives.
I have a friend–alive, tangible, still making his physical way on earth–who became enamored of Jane Austen. I do not know what it is about her, but he went so far as to become a member of the Jane Austen society. To me he seems well acquainted with her, having read her novels multiple times and knowing something about her environment. If she were a contemporary movie star, we might see him on the news arrested for stalking her. But she is dead, so he is free to go through whatever of her refuse he can find. Not long ago, he went to the society’s annual national convention and came back humbled: how little he knew about Jane. Compared to her other friends at the affair, he was a mere acquaintance. Those others really knew her. The color of her eyes; one cannot learn that from that one silhouette representation of her in Winchester Cathedral, but the close friends of Jane knew the color.
Clarence Wolfshohl is professor emeritus of English at William Woods University. He has published both creative and scholarly writing in small press and academic journals. He is a member of AAPA and operates El Grito del Lobo Press. A native Texan, Wolfshohl now lives with his writing, two dogs and one cat in a nine-acre woods outside of Fulton, Missouri.