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Thread: Jane Austen - why the fuss?

  1. #46
    Cat Person DickZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kiki1982 View Post
    . . .I realise you are a male, which is a downside for reading Austen, and I can't imagine why your teacher (as there are so many) regard this book as to be read by all, male and female alike. There is a lot of female energy in Austen (of course, she was a female, doh ) which some men do not get, and certainly not in high school. . .
    I'm a male, and just finished Pride and Prejudice, my first Austen novel. I'm now eagerly looking forward to completing the whole set of her works. What I liked best were the well-worded quotations that apply as well to people today as they did 200 years ago. Just two examples are:

    “He then went away, and Miss Bingley was left to all the satisfaction of having forced him to say what gave no one any pain but herself.”

    “Her father captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour which youth and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind, had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her. Respect, esteem, and confidence had vanished forever, and all his views of domestic happiness were overthrown . . . To his wife he was very little otherwise indebted, than as her ignorance and folly had contributed to his amusement. This is not the sort of happiness which a man would in general wish to owe to his wife; but where other powers of entertainment are wanting, the true philosopher will derive benefit from such as are given.”
    Last edited by DickZ; 11-04-2011 at 07:51 AM.
    Currently reading Lust for Life by Irving Stone. Recently completed The Origin by Irving Stone, Moguls and Iron Men by James McCague, The Great Bridge by David McCullough, All the Great Prizes by John Taliaferro, Empire by Gore Vidal, Middlemarch by George Eliot, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, Animal Farm by George Orwell, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.

  2. #47
    www.markbastable.co.uk MarkBastable's Avatar
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    I think one has to get away from the idea that liking something and it being good are the same thing. It's entirely possible to know—intellectually, historically, analytically—that Jane Austen was a talented, influential and important writer, but at the same time to profess that you find her work irrelevant, smug and irritating.

  3. #48
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DickZ View Post
    I'm a male, and just finished Pride and Prejudice, my first Austen novel. I'm now eagerly looking forward to completing the whole set of her works. What I liked best were the well-worded quotations that apply as well to people today as they did 200 years ago. Just two examples are:

    “He then went away, and Miss Bingley was left to all the satisfaction of having forced him to say what gave no one any pain but herself.”

    “Her father captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour which youth and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind, had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her. Respect, esteem, and confidence had vanished forever, and all his views of domestic happiness were overthrown . . . To his wife he was very little otherwise indebted, than as her ignorance and folly had contributed to his amusement. This is not the sort of happiness which a man would in general wish to owe to his wife; but where other powers of entertainment are wanting, the true philosopher will derive benefit from such as are given.”
    Good on you! My hubby would not be seen dead with an Austen book as he calls it 'women's politics', but he enjoyed Lost in Austen. He just doesn't like focussing on something so trivial as landing a husband and can't see how that can be funny. I think he is also faintly annoyed by how some men are portrayed and kind of 'evaluated' in those books. That would make me uncomfortable if I were a man, I tell you... I don't know, I would just prefer not to know what women think about me and thought about me in the past... That would make me uncomfortable in their presence forever.
    Not liking it is fine, and there will be many other men who prefer thins like Dostoevsky to Austen.

    There is the other kind, of course.

    And yes, Mark, there is a difference between finding something irritating and it being bad in an absolute way.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)

  4. #49
    Ok let me first reproach myself slightly:
    Jane Austen's not realy that bad. I mean, I can see just by reading over a page that she has a formidable writing ability. It's on my shelves in my basement: "The complete novels of Jane Austen". And I wouldn't throw it out or sell it, even though I don't plan on reading it.

    BUT- I still hate Jane Austen: allow me to elaborate.

    Right off the bat when I opened the first page and read the first sentance, here's what I see:
    "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." (end of paragaraph)
    I don't know why, but everything about it just immediately pissed me off. And since the entire book functions off of that single smug assumption, the entire book pisses me off. I geuss that's the simplest way to put it. The whole book just seems plastic to me.

    But beyond that, what REALY put me off was to have to sit through class, day after day, for like TWO MONTHS, discussing the book, watching the movie, hating every second of it, and yet being completely surrounded by a classroom full of crooning admirers, showering Austen with their ardent praise!
    It's not that I mind particularly, but why wasn't this happening during Hamlet or Lord of the Flies?? Normaly I DO like to see ardent praise being showered, but only where it's RIGHTFULY deserved... Most of the students, save a small handful, seemed to remain completely unphased by Hamlet, and during LOTF, I would ocasionaly have to overhear the group of girls who sat in front of me casualy denouncing, rolling their eyes at the book.
    Well, I geuss it's just a matter of opinion, but HAMLET AND LOTF ARE ON AN ENTIRELY HIGHER LITERARY ECHELON. (IN MY OPINION)
    Them dumb B's can just keep reading their silly Twilight and Harry Potters, and if they like Jane Austen too, they can go ahead and read that as well.

    To be honest, it's not fair of me to lump it in alongside twilight like that; But realy though, I geuss that, in a way, it actualy just prooves the mastery of Janes craft; to be able to write somthing in 1810, that still manages to remain completely viable and apealing to the masses of today. Even if the masses are mostly asses. Which they mostly are.

    And I must admit, I didn't even finish the whole book, quit half way. I have a kind of bad habit of being in the middle of 3 or 4 books at once; I was being beckoned by several other novels and was sick of wasting my time on P&P. This was only last year, senior year in highschool.

    I apologize for being a bastard; It's strictly for dramatic effect!
    And I respect Austen's literature... somewhat.
    I'd write a bit more, but not tonight, I seriously need to get to bed NOW
    Last edited by StephenLazarus; 11-08-2011 at 06:18 AM.

  5. #50
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StephenLazarus View Post
    Ok let me first reproach myself slightly:
    Jane Austen's not realy that bad. I mean, I can see just by reading over a page that she has a formidable writing ability. It's on my shelves in my basement: "The complete novels of Jane Austen". And I wouldn't throw it out or sell it, even though I don't plan on reading it.

    BUT- I still hate Jane Austen: allow me to elaborate.

    Right off the bat when I opened the first page and read the first sentance, here's what I see:
    "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." (end of paragaraph)
    I don't know why, but everything about it just immediately pissed me off. And since the entire book functions off of that single smug assumption, the entire book pisses me off. I geuss that's the simplest way to put it. The whole book just seems plastic to me.
    That made me laugh out loud! Not out of contempt, mind you, but I can see you feeling like Mr Bennet feels eevry day and I can see too how sometimes Austen's books can reall drive men up the wall. Let's face it, there will be very few who enjoy that kind of typical female patronising stuff. And, believe me, there is a big chance that you will be addressed the same way as Mr Bennet by your wife, one day. Not about your daughters, mind you, but about something else. A handbag perhaps, or the new Lagerfeld collection .

    That's why I think it would be fun to write the whole thing again with observations from Mr Bennet's side... That would seriously amuse all the men! There he is, in his haven of manhood (his library, a very male room in the house), sheltering from all the bonnets, shawls and dresses, not to mention the balls and the anticipation of it all. Oh, and not to forget his wife's incessant chattering.

    Makes me smile already.

    Quote Originally Posted by StephenLazarus View Post
    But beyond that, what REALY put me off was to have to sit through class, day after day, for like TWO MONTHS, discussing the book, watching the movie, hating every second of it, and yet being completely surrounded by a classroom full of crooning admirers, showering Austen with their ardent praise!
    It's not that I mind particularly, but why wasn't this happening during Hamlet or Lord of the Flies?? Normaly I DO like to see ardent praise being showered, but only where it's RIGHTFULY deserved... Most of the students, save a small handful, seemed to remain completely unphased by Hamlet, and during LOTF, I would ocasionaly have to overhear the group of girls who sat in front of me casualy denouncing, rolling their eyes at the book.
    Well, I geuss it's just a matter of opinion, but HAMLET AND LOTF ARE ON AN ENTIRELY HIGHER LITERARY ECHELON. (IN MY OPINION)
    Them dumb B's can just keep reading their silly Twilight and Harry Potters, and if they like Jane Austen too, they can go ahead and read that as well.
    No, that's doesn't sound like much fun. Usually I refrain from ardent praise (nicely put) as it is mainly given by people who have nothing else to say but ardent praise. And let me guess (I was saddled with the same thing in class years and years ago), the teacher had nothing to say, but that she was a fan and that Austen was fantastic?

    Quote Originally Posted by StephenLazarus View Post
    In a way, it actualy just prooves the mastery of Janes craft; to be able to write somthing in 1810, that still manages to remain completely viable and apealing to the masses of today. Even if the masses are mostly asses. Which they mostly are.
    There you have touched upon the whole point. However, that is mostly not what the masses see. How amazingly normal people in her books are! Women these days maybe do not get in raptures when they think about muslin (that is Northanger Abbey), but an Alexander McQueen may do the trick. Particularly those comments following the long-awaited revealing of Kate Middleton's wedding dress were very telling ('Oh my God, I can't tell you what a moment this is, I am speechless...!' Shut up then and franly it is *only* a wedding dress).
    Austen is not even only about that (people), but she is also about the ways and ridicule resulting from those ways back then.

    Quote Originally Posted by StephenLazarus View Post
    And I must admit, I didn't even finish the whole book, quit half way. I have a kind of bad habit of being in the middle of 3 or 4 books at once; I was being beckoned by several other novels and was sick of wasting my time on P&P. This was only last year, senior year in highschool.
    It is entirely up to you, but at least you know why you do not like her. I am sure half your classmates would take longer to argue their ardent praise .

    Quote Originally Posted by StephenLazarus View Post
    I apologize for being a bastard; It's strictly for dramatic effect!
    And I respect Austen's literature... somewhat.
    I'll leave you with that
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)

  6. #51
    Pro Libertate L.M. The Third's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StephenLazarus View Post

    Right off the bat when I opened the first page and read the first sentance, here's what I see:
    "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." (end of paragaraph)
    I don't know why, but everything about it just immediately pissed me off. And since the entire book functions off of that single smug assumption, the entire book pisses me off. I geuss that's the simplest way to put it. The whole book just seems plastic to me.
    You have to realize that that sentence is ironic; and ironic on multiple levels. That's certainly the assumption that Mrs Bennet (and many of the females in the neighborhood) functions on - why? Because it's what she wants out of life. To quote Jane, "How quick come the reasons for approving what we like!" So naturally everyone is at first delighted to meet a man as rich as Mr Darcy - until they are offended by him and he loses importance - in all eyes by his own. By the time he proposes to her daughter, Mrs Bennet is back to adoring him. Another man (who is not rich) is at first adored by the community, but when he elopes they suddenly remember how they all distrusted him from the first.

    The sentence also comes back to haunt us when, after being led through the whole novel (by the narrator and Mr Bennet) to despise Mrs Bennet, she is the one who's favorite theories and efforts yield the most satisfactory results.

    This is the surface irony of the story - but Austen's irony extends to her hero and heroine - as they (ostensibly) discover their true selves and, to quote Shakespeare, "hearing their retractions, put them to mending." Indeed, Austen's irony is so all-pervading that some suspect that Mr Darcy never actually changes but is acting yet another part that "clever" Elizabeth is deluded by.

    One of Austen's primary themes, in all her novels, is self-delusion. So while her laugh-out-loud funny irony is reserved for side-characters, the climaxes of the novels take place when the protagonists realize how ironically they've been acting. Elizabeth and Emma have been priding themselves on perspicacity and they were "doomed to blindness".

    Austen frequently leads her readers to identify with certain characters (such as Elizabeth in P&P or Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park) and turns her irony on the readers' assumptions, by humiliating that character and us with them.

    Frankly, sometimes I'm downright scared of how ironic Jane is. I'm almost afraid to argue certain positions by saying, "Jane said such and such" because she can "speak" ironically with such a perfectly straight face. I'm about to read her letters and I fear that I'll miss some of the irony, since many Janeites consider the compiler of the letters to have been too dull an elf to recognize many of the ironies and literary references.

    (For example, Austen was urged to dedicate Emma to the despicable Prince Regent, and he probably thought the dedication perfectly nice. However, it resembles her sadistically sarcastic juvenilia. She also included a charade in the book, mocking him as the "Prince of Whales".


    But beyond that, what REALY put me off was to have to sit through class, day after day, for like TWO MONTHS, discussing the book, watching the movie, hating every second of it, and yet being completely surrounded by a classroom full of crooning admirers, showering Austen with their ardent praise!
    It's not that I mind particularly, but why wasn't this happening during Hamlet or Lord of the Flies?? Normaly I DO like to see ardent praise being showered, but only where it's RIGHTFULY deserved... Most of the students, save a small handful, seemed to remain completely unphased by Hamlet, and during LOTF, I would ocasionaly have to overhear the group of girls who sat in front of me casualy denouncing, rolling their eyes at the book.
    Well, I geuss it's just a matter of opinion, but HAMLET AND LOTF ARE ON AN ENTIRELY HIGHER LITERARY ECHELON. (IN MY OPINION)
    Them dumb B's can just keep reading their silly Twilight and Harry Potters, and if they like Jane Austen too, they can go ahead and read that as well.

    To be honest, it's not fair of me to lump it in alongside twilight like that; But realy though, I geuss that, in a way, it actualy just prooves the mastery of Janes craft; to be able to write somthing in 1810, that still manages to remain completely viable and apealing to the masses of today. Even if the masses are mostly asses. Which they mostly are.
    I'm as devout a Janeite as can be and there is little that disgusts me more than people raving over Austen as though she was a fluffy romance writer. Anyone who has really read Austen with careful attention knows that she is the epitome of anti-Romantic - diametrically opposed to the ideologies that drive the Twilight obsession.

    Actually, I think if Austen lived today she'd be delighted to parody the superficial readers of her own novels - just as she parodied the superficial or credulous readers of the gothic novels of her day in Northanger Abbey.

    Forgive me for saying this, but in your confidence in your judgment you sound remarkably like Elizabeth Bennet. But coming from a Janeite that's a compliment. Kinda.

  7. #52
    Quote Originally Posted by kiki1982 View Post
    And let me guess (I was saddled with the same thing in class years and years ago), the teacher had nothing to say, but that she was a fan and that Austen was fantastic?
    Quite so, haha in fact, exactly so. Yeah, she realy never explained anything in that class, lol from what i remember she basicly just played movies half the time, and was therefor in very high favor among my fellow classmates. She never realy got down to any technical analysis, which frankly was the thing I was most looking forward to when I chose to take it. I was holding her in comparison to the teacher I had the year before, Mr Williams; -'dude was INSANE. Like when we read gatsby, he'd be going on and on about all these extremely discrete symbols, to every smallest detail, it blew my mind. we asked him one time "HOW DO YOU KNOW ALL THIS STUFF?" and he was like "Oh, I've read the book probably about 30 or 40 times by know; I re-read it every year for the class." haha a dedicated teacher- he knew his stuff inside and out.

    well, forum, I must say; you guys are a rather respectable bunch! I'm quite impressed, considering I was basicly just trollin' in my first post ( heh).
    If I were to perhaps, consider reconsidering Jane Austen in the future, which novel besides P&P would be most recomended? I mean hypothetically, if I were to consider reconsidering? (Not like there's any chance I ever would, of course)

    By the way, I think its kind of funny to add; I basicly took a complete failing grade for that whole semester- I was down to like a 20/100 by the time we finished the book hahaha. I didn't even sparknote (I'm a stuburn bastard, what can I say?) It was a moral victory nontheless.
    Luckily the teacher showed some sympathy; For the final I wrote THE most insane essay for Lord of the Flies- had all the symbolism completely figured out (which I had to do on my own since she scarcly told us a thing about it of course.) She must have been impressed; gave me an A+ for it and even gave me a few bonus points for a passing grade

  8. #53
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    Haha, i won't get any illusions into my head about reconsidering, but if you ever do, then read Emma (as long as you start from the viewpoint that she is absolutely totally looking the wrong way and extremely smug in order to be prooved wrong ) or Northanger Abbey, but then you could read The Mysteries of Udolpho first as it seems to be a parody on it. That is not romance mind you, but really a little bit of mindless English 18th century/beginning 19th century middleclass scary story (very period Gothic) set in Italy about a girl who is engaged to the son of the scary Udolpho, whisked off to a castle where her husband dies (I think) and then is forced to marry his father Udolpho. hehehe Although you might not like the girliness of NA... It was Austen's first, so she was still a teenager, but she already mocked all that mindless novel-reading (as opposed to serious books/novels of better quality)...

    Now on a less serious note:

    haha, we also had a very dedicated teacher whose literature list was as long as all the English classics you could find. and I mean everything, including the whole of Agatha Christie's collection too. In opposition to other years, we were free to choose our books (I just think the other teachers were too lazy, like yours), but as we were in a girls' school, I think about 90% of the class chose Austen's Sense and Sensibility (it was the age of Hugh Grant's role as Edward Ferrars and Kate Winslet's rise as Marianne)... Anyway, I was one of the exceptions, because I had got S&S for my friend in the library, and had borrowed P&P, but, I kid you not, I did not understand at all what this thing was about. English was not my first language, you see, so I was planning to read something else like Dickens but wondered what the hell the rest was going to do whose English wasn't much better apart from the odd exception like my friend. So, the day of the return of the paper came and the teacher walks in with a smug smile. So they all get their essay back, 90% of the class, with very low marks apart from my friend. The teacher said, 'You all watched the film which was on last night, didn't you?' One brave one says, 'Why do you think so, Miss, I did not watch it, I really read the book.' The teacher says, 'Nope you didn't because the ending was different.' There were indeed a few changes to the film... Not bad, but distinctly different from the plot of the book... Including characters who vanished.

    But you see, girls will always pick romance things because they like them. That is not to say that Austen writes romance. She doesn't. Well, she does, but out of spite.

    There is one piece of symbolism, I have to say, in P&P when Darcy's Pemberley is portrayed for the first time. It is in essence an evocation of him as a man inside, after which he emerges and really seems to be gentle, friendly and generous, beautiful, and everything Lizzie can wish for, like his mansion.

    I grant you, Austen does not carry much symbolism, but the strength of her work is endless mockery, of all: people, habits, traditions and situations.

    Which film did you watch, by the way? Not that thing with Keira Knightley, did you? You could have sworn the Bennets were farmers! The thing was so devoid of any Austen content that it should not even bear the name. Nononono, the only ever film/adaptation to watch is 1995. There will never be a better one and you can't beat Firth in his wet shirt (there, he will hate me for saying it again). However, if you really want to have a taste of real Austen from a modern perspective, watch Lost in Austen (it's probably on YouTube so you don't even have to spend money on it). A modern woman and ardent Austen fan finds herself in P&P, taking up the part of Lizzie she doesn't want. It includes surprising lesbian love from an original character, a very good Darcy, a very very good Mr Collins (yuck ) and an adorable Mr Bingley. Oh, and not to forget a very good Mrs Bennet too. Read my take on it in the thread with the same name.

    Your teacher should have picked a work which was maybe not more basic, but more polyvalent or should have highlighted other points than romance , that is very basic reading not worth a class...

    You see, we are not out to 'get' you, but to convert you . We are very respectible people .
    Last edited by kiki1982; 11-11-2011 at 06:41 AM.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

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    this a bit harsh on Austen's artistic talents. i have not seen a single adaptation of her novels, yet i feel that the novel itself is capable of making Mr. Darcy popular with women. Austen wrote in a time when novel writing was considered to be a menial job and was left for women to pursue it. yet novels by many women could seldom see the light of publication. so we should rather praise her that she was and is sstill able to cause stir in a readers mind. before judging her, place her novels in her contemporary social structure and do not judge hjer by the film or TV adaptations of her novels.

  10. #55
    Pro Libertate L.M. The Third's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StephenLazarus View Post
    . She never realy got down to any technical analysis, which frankly was the thing I was most looking forward to when I chose to take it. I was holding her in comparison to the teacher I had the year before, Mr Williams; -'dude was INSANE. Like when we read gatsby, he'd be going on and on about all these extremely discrete symbols, to every smallest detail, it blew my mind. we asked him one time "HOW DO YOU KNOW ALL THIS STUFF?" and he was like "Oh, I've read the book probably about 30 or 40 times by know; I re-read it every year for the class." haha a dedicated teacher- he knew his stuff inside and out.
    If you actually ever do read Austen, don't go in with the assumption that you can't do a literary, critical reading of her. The Jane Austen Society of North America has many fabulous articles (many by academics) archived on the historical, economic and political details and themes in her works. And, although I'm skeptical, this blogger would be quick to assure you that Austen used countless symbols and literary allusions.

    If I were to perhaps, consider reconsidering Jane Austen in the future, which novel besides P&P would be most recomended? I mean hypothetically, if I were to consider reconsidering? (Not like there's any chance I ever would, of course)
    With Kiki I'd probably say Northanger Abbey or Emma. However, for something short and hilarious, I'd recommend her juvenilia which gives you an understanding of just how irreverent and unromantic she was. Some of it is available here on Litnet.

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    I rather like Jane Austen's work.
    Last edited by Der Prozess; 08-10-2013 at 05:20 AM.

  12. #57
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    I started reading Emma recently. I read Pride and Prejudice several years ago. The writer she most reminds me of is P.G. Wodehouse. Their books are romantic comedies (Bertie Wooster and Jeeves are always trying to put right some courtship that has gone wrong). Their worlds are small and privileged; only small hints of the big, cruel world encroach from time to time. It is a permanent weekend. Emma takes some concentration, but it is very funny. I am already far ahead of her, vis à vis her plan to bring Mr Elton and Harriet together. I was amused reading Mr Elton's charade (a sort of riddle) last night. My reaction was like Harriet's: dumb confusion. I was a little surprised to find the character Emma so different to Lizzie Bennet, and I remember P&P being easier to read. Reading Emma late at night may be part of the reason for that. It seems to me comic writers are at a disadvantage when being evaluated in the greatness stakes. I suspect readers tend to regard tragedies as art because they move you, and comedies as mere entertainment because they make you laugh.
    Last edited by kev67; 04-29-2015 at 06:17 PM.
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  13. #58
    Registered User Iain Sparrow's Avatar
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    You would have to look long and hard to find a writer more overrated than Jane Austen.
    I will defer to the criticism of one Charlotte Brontë on the subject of Ms. Jane...

    "I have likewise read one of Miss Austen's works, Emma—read it with interest and with just the right degree of admiration which the Miss Austen herself would have thought sensible and suitable—anything like warmth or enthusiasm; anything energetic, poignant, heartfelt, is utterly out of place in commending these works: all such demonstration the authoress would have met with a well-bred sneer, would have calmly scorned as outre and extravagant. She does her business of delineating the surface of the lives of genteel English people curiously well; there is a Chinese fidelity, a miniature delicacy in the painting: she ruffles her reader by nothing vehement, disturbs him by nothing profound: the Passions are perfectly unknown to her; she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy Sisterhood; even to the Feelings she vouchsafes no more than an occasional graceful but distant recognition; too frequent converse with them would ruffle the smooth elegance of her progress. ... Jane Austen was a complete and most sensible lady, but a very incomplete, and rather insensible (not senseless) woman, if this is heresy—I cannot help it. If I said it to some people (Lewes for example) they would accuse me of advocating exaggerated heroics, but I am not afraid of your falling into any such vulgar error."

    Charlotte Brontë, April 12, 1850

  14. #59
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    Jane Austen was the great, early genius of modern realism. Here's what Frank O'Connor said about her: ""Jane Austen was a strict contemporary of the most popular novelist who ever lived, Sir Walter Scott, and though at the time ... her work was overshadowed by his, the novel did not go his way; it went her way."

    Charlotte Bronte was a great writer, but she had no sense of humor. Perhaps Ms. Bronte SHOULD have been afraid of falling into "vulgar error". Here G.K. Chesterton compares the two:

    Her originals and even her contemporaries had shown the feminine power in fiction as well or better than she. Charlotte Bronte, understood along her own instincts, was as great; Jane Austen was greater. The latter comes into our present consideration only as that most exasperating thing, an ideal unachieved. It is like leaving an unconquered fortress in the rear. No woman later has captured the complete common sense of Jane Austen. She could keep her head, while all the after women went looking for their brains. She could describe a man cooly; which neither George Eliot nor Charlotte Bronte could do. She knew what she knew, like a sound dogmatist: she did not know what she did not know--like a sound agnostic. But she belongs to a vanished world before the great progressive age of which I write.
    Here WH Auden includes her in his poem "A Letter to Lord Byron":

    "...
    There is one other author in my pack
    For some time I debated which to write to.
    Which would least likely send my letter back?
    But I decided I'd give a fright to
    Jane Austen if I wrote when I'd no right to,
    And share in her contempt the dreadful fates
    Of Crawford, Musgrove, and of Mr. Yates.

    Then she's a novelist. I don't know whether
    You will agree, but novel writing is
    A higher art than poetry altogether
    In my opinion, and success implies
    Both finer character and faculties
    Perhaps that's why real novels are as rare
    As winter thunder or a polar bear.
    ...
    I must remember, though, that you were dead
    Before the four great Russians lived, who brought
    The art of novel writing to a head;
    The help of Boots had not been sought.
    But now the art for which Jane Austen fought,
    Under the right persuasion bravely warms
    And is the most prodigious of the forms.

    She was not an unshockable blue-stocking;
    If shades remain the characters they were,
    No doubt she still considers you as shocking.
    But tell Jane Austen, that is if you dare,
    How much her novels are beloved down here.
    She wrote them for posterity, she said;
    'Twas rash, but by posterity she's read.

    You could not shock her more than she shocks me;
    Beside her Joyce seems innocent as grass.
    It makes me most uncomfortable to see
    An English spinster of the middle-class
    Describe the amorous effects of 'brass',
    Reveal so frankly and with such sobriety
    The economic basis of society.
    Not all great authors adore Austen. Mark Twain was sufficiently a curmudgeon to write:

    "I haven't any right to criticize books, and I don't do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone."
    Perhaps. However, "every time I read..." suggests Twain, despite his hatred, read P & P over and over again.

    Here's E.M. Forster:
    "... Why do the characters in Jane Austen give us a slightly new pleasure each time they come in, as opposed to the merely repetitive pleasure that is caused by a character in Dickens? ... The answer to this question can be put in several ways; that, unlike Dickens, she was a real artist, that she never stooped to caricature, etc. But the best reply is that her characters, though smaller than his, are more highly organized. They function all round, and even if her plot made greater demands on them than it does they would still be adequate. ... All the Jane Austen characters are ready for an extended life which the scheme of her books seldom requires them to lead, and that is why they lead their actual lives so satisfactorily. ... How Jane Austen can write! "
    And here is Sir Walter Scott, whom O'Connor called the most popular novelist in English history (based on percentage of novels sold), and Austen's contemporary:

    "Read again, for the third time at least, Miss Austen's finely written novel of 'Pride And Prejudice'. That young Lady had a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life, which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The big Bow-Wow strain I can do myself like any now going; but the exquisite touch which renders ordinary common-place things and characters interesting from the truth of the description and the sentiment is denied to me. What a pity such a gifted creature died so early!"
    If you are reading "Emma", Kev, pay attention how Miss Bates -- considered a bore and a buffoon by the other characters and by most readers -- is actually the only one who sees things clearly.

  15. #60
    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
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    The Walter Scott quotation above (that I haven't seen before) says everything I'd want to say about her, only put much better than I could.

    Charlotte Bronte (also above) is describing is realism. Real people (heroines or otherwise) don't really go running off into storms after an emotional reversal, nor do those appropriate storms and landscape appear right on cue to match their mood. All that Brontesque passion I find false and formulaic. Ok, It may well have been innovative back then, but every time I read of a heroine clutching her breast and crying out some jibber-jabber against a backdrop of louring clouds, I find myself rolling my eyes. I find more true emotion in the subtle descriptions of Jane and Lizzie Bennet - their hopes dashed- trying to carry on (because that is all they know and anyway they are powerless beyond their own parlour,) than page after page of Jane Eyre type palaver.
    ay up

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