View Full Version : Pride and Prejudice - Virginia Woolf quoted Jane Austen as ...

05-01-2010, 10:10 AM
Hi everyone,

Can someone please elaborate the meaning of Virginia Woolf's quote to Jane Austen as the "mistress of much deeper emotions than appears on the surface" . I read 'Pride and prejudice' and found it full of feelings and emotions. Obviously Woolf reads Austen in more depth and if someone can enlighten me the meaning of that quote. I'm writing as essay based on that quote. Academic English literature analysis can be mind twisting and I want to understand fully an essay question by asking the ideas of others. The quote seems very simple but as I start to explore it, I'm afraid that I will come up with a totally unrelated answer. For instance, I have thought that perhaps Woolf feels that Austen could have been more outward with the portrayal of the feelings and emotions in the novel but because of the limitations imposed on the position of women in the regency era, Austen was exceptionally careful though there are hints of radical thoughts in her writing as well. I'm not sure if the way my mind is going at this point is answering the quote. Thanks for your time. Marylou

05-01-2010, 11:04 AM
It would appear that your are actually answering the question... ;)

But why should rules only have been imposed on women? I know it is fashionable to think so, but that is not true.

Regency England was tortured by a rigid sex-divide. It sounds maybe strange, but women and men (single ones) were not allowed to talk to each other unboserved, let alone touch. And unobserved went far. Talking in private (without anyone hearing what was being said though you were seen to talk) was also improper. Talking in private was only permitted if already engaged, and then still with a chaperonne to make sure nothing touchy happened... This was both imposed on men and women and it must have been hard to find a life partner and not be disappointed with him or her. Imagine what people knew about each other... Lizzie knew what about Darcy? That he had a lot of money, had a nasty aunt, admittedly had changed for her, that he was intelligent, liked books and thought highly of them... What does he know about her? That she can play and sing, but should practice more, that she is stubborn, that she likes his sister which is reciprocal, that she has a starnge father and an even stranger mother... People were not allowed to get to know each other before they made a commitment, only dancing was a short way out, but then you had couples in your set too...

I think you might want to address the language and have a look at what is really meant? What is under the surface of the oh so calm language? I think it is mainly the gestures and descriptions of them that come into play. However much Darcy tries to restrain himself, he still betrays something of what he feels. Though some of the language is really on the edge, for them at least, what were they saying. (Mainly Lizies la,guage to Darcy in the beginning I think, she can be really nasty)

05-02-2010, 06:43 AM
Hey Kiki1982, That's so great of you to give me a different perspective on the matter in question. You've just made me realised of the ideas that are fundamentally spot on and I will be looking into those areas which will assist to expand my thoughts. You're obviously a wordly Austen reader and I appreciate your time and ideas. Cheers!

05-02-2010, 08:43 AM
I am happy I could help. :)

Good luck!

If you have any more questions in a historical perspective, let me know ;).

05-03-2010, 06:07 AM
Can someone please elaborate the meaning of Virginia Woolf's quote to Jane Austen as the "mistress of much deeper emotions than appears on the surface"

In Woolfe's To the Lighthouse, we perceive the moment-to-moment anxiety of all human beings: where have we come from, where are we going, why are we here? For all her characters life was, is and will be less than satisfactory, less than coherent. Yet all put on a brave face, most of the time. And once in a while, each approaches a lighthouse of clarity and revelation: approaches, not reaches.

In a similar way, the monumental humour pervading Pride and Prejudice relies, in part, on the the incoherent and indeterminate nature of human experience. Charlotte accepts a lifetime of marital mediocrity with seeming aplomb. Mr Bennet and Wickham ultimately arrive at less than satisfactory compromises, but find paradoxical compensation in each other. Happy Mrs Bennet and Lydia remain incapable of sustained satisfaction. Jane suffers for ages in unbroken silence for little reason. Life is opaque.

By contrast, Darcy and Elizabeth end eternally happy. Hmm. The humorous Jane Austen is the "mistress of much deeper emotions than appears on the surface".

05-03-2010, 10:58 AM
Hi Gladys, I'm getting to enjoy the benefit of this site. In regards to your answer, I'm beginning to develop a better or broader understanding of the quote by looking into those elements of human experiences that embody the uniqueness of an individual. Thank you also for your great insight.