View Full Version : Jane Austen and bawdy 18th Century literature

02-11-2019, 08:00 PM
I am currently reading The History of Tom Jones, A foundling, by Henry Fielding. This was published in 1749. Presumably Jane Austen read it. I wondered what she made of it. Squire Western: he is not really like any of Austen's gentlemen. Tom Jones' characters include the gentry, but also peasants, servants, pub landladies, blackguards, plonkers, and trollops. Austen basically only deals with the gentry. I don't suppose Austen was all that sheltered, but she rarely wrote anything coarse in her books. That weak joke about rears and vices in Mansfield Park is as coarse as she gets. I would not say Tom Jones was coarse, but it is bawdy in places. There are at least two scenes of women fighting bare-breasted. But then some books from 18th Century were more than just bawdy. I believe The Monk by Matthew Lewis was mentioned in Northanger Abbey. That is like a script for a Ken Russell film. I have not read Northanger Abbey, but I've heard say on the radio that the character who recommends the book condemns himself by doing so, because it was not a suitable book for a young lady. Then there are books like Moll Flanders and Fanny Hill, which I have not read, but which deal with prostitution. So what did Austen make of this stuff?