This article accompanies the fable
Not enough men?
There’s a purely practical explanation of course: not enough men to go around. One academic study has suggested that at the time Austen was weighing the merits of a husband, as many as 70% of English women were not married. The figures are skewed by the fact that most women from the working classes never married at all although many were in relationships. Many eligible men were serving abroad in the wars with Napoleon, where thousands of them were killed, or they traveled to the margins of empire, like the man Cassandra was engaged to, who died of Yellow Fever in the Caribbean. No wonder Austen didn’t have a wide selection of men to choose from.