What the hell was that last one about? I hope you are not laying
yourself open to the charge of parochialism?
Your post reminds me of something John Cleese recently said. He was
explaining to his countrymen why the English are superior to Americans: "(1) We
speak English; (2) when we hold world championships we invite other countries;
and, (3) we expect visitors to go down on only one knee before our rulers". (Of
course, when the English hold world championships, reason dictates that
other nations be invited.) Today is Super Bowl Sunday in the United
States and that is the game that decides the professional football championship.
The crocery stores have been crowded for several days as this day ranks only
behind Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and Independence Day as a national day
of festival. We are at our best and at our worst today. The greatest team game
ever invented is being played by the very best players, but the event is
embedded in the worst display of gauche commercialism imaginable. This is what
happens when a nation does not provide for an elite upper-class to dictate good
taste and provide examples of dignified decorum. Still, all things considered, I
think we made a good trade-off on that one - America is the better off. Jane
Austen would have loved watching the silliness and she would have been
It's CLEESE, you football-crazed colonial! Obviously suffering from a lack of tea and cucumber sandwiches to the brain ... ah, yes, Independence Day - July 14, wasn't it ... or have I mistaken my language?
In the interests of saving you from the slur of ignorant parochialism, may I
invite you to join with me in celebrating Australia's National Day? Check
up on the date, and let me know if it fits in with your
I forgot to explain my reference to the "49ers" in my first post of 1/31. That is the name of the San Francisco professional football team, which was recently cheated out of its rightful Super Bowl appearance. The reference is to 1849, the year of the gold rush in California. That was a worldwide pandemic that brought many thousands of crazed immigrants to our state.
Thanks for the errata - I edited it into my original posting. I thought to repay you by telling you about something that I have just read: Maurice or The Fisher's Cot by Mary Shelley with editing and an introduction by Claire Tomalin (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1998). This is a very recent publication of a manuscript found in 1997 - YES! - That was 1997. Ms. Tomalin participated in the verification process and she details that along with the history of the manuscript in her very long introduction to this children's story that was probably written in 1820. Tomalin tells us about her excitement when she was boarding a flight to Italy where the manuscript was discovered; her husband's last words to her were "remember the Hitler diaries".
Independence Day is July 4.
Mr Wilder may have enjoyed a comment, which has always been a favourite of mine, that I found in an introduction to Emma, in one of my old editions of that novel: 'of all great authors, she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness.'
But I do not think that I agree that 'nothing happens', or that nothing
happens in relation to other great novels. Would you think, for instance,
that the action of Mansfield Park, with its elopement, near-death
experience, and tormented, unrequited loves, contains any less 'action' than
Middlemarch, which has debt, a dead husband, and dishonestly gained
wealth? The action of both novels is the domestic upheaval rather than the
public one, but, then, it is not the action that makes the novels - their
authors are concerned with the psychological development of their characters,
and the events to which they are exposed are the means of this
development. Really, I think this is the case with many great
novels: plot development is interesting, but not cataclysmic, as it does
not need to be - the characters themselves are enthralling. I could
mention such works as The Age of Innocence, Washington Square,
Portrait of a Lady, Felix Holt, Vanity Fair (I know
Waterloo is in it, but only as a bit of background) and others. The
'ripping yarn' type of novel, whether good or not, is rather a different
category, I feel.
From the Meister: Your introducer was quoting Virginia
"Anyone who writes about Jane Austen is aware of two facts:
first, that of all great writers she is the most difficult to
catch in the act of greatness; second, that there are twenty-five
elderly gentlemen living in the neighborhood of London who
resent any slight upon her genius as if it were an insult to the
chastity of their Aunts." 'Jane Austen at Sixty', Athenaeum 1923
So, basically, what Lawrence is saying is that he is a dufus who lays about with his ill-considered opinions, without first researching his subject. Jane Austen is a detached observer - what is wrong with that? She is also exceptional for her enlightened tolerance. (Not necessarily for publication: I bet she would be worth hearing on the Clinton debacle!) In Emma, she says, in her heroine's favour, that Emma 'did not expect marvels of virtue from those for whom Providence had done so little'. Reminds me of Pygmalion, where Eliza's father stands up for himself by saying "I'm not one of the deserving poor!"
In Persuasion, her attitudes for the various members of the Musgrove family are sufficient illustration of her value for people as people - not a few of her major characters in this novel are justified or condemned by their attitude to the family of Mrs Musgrove's sister, Mrs Hayter. The Musgrove family is delightful - unfashionable, partly wealthy, partly not - but warm-hearted and caring. The Great House is in a state 'of change - perhaps of improvement', due to its two fashionable young daughters, but even they are so very much above the brittle, nasty and fashionable Elliot family (Anne, of course, excepted).
I defy anyone, including Mr Lawrence, to find one single instance where Jane Austen does not acknowledge and value solid country interests. Mr Darcy is valued as a landowner who acknowledges his responsibilities (he managed to be a 'squire' without banging every milkmaid in sight!) Sir Thomas Bertram is not perfect, but his faults are not those of drunken rollicking (Tom took on that duty) - he financially supported a whole horde of children, who were no blood kin of his. Tom's ultimate redemption is acknowledged in the words 'he became what he should be - quiet, not living wholly for himself, and useful to his father' - in other words, conscious of the fact that he had been born to great privilege, and with it, great social obligation.
Lawrence's beaming, red-faced, idealised squire reminds me of
Middlemarch, where Dorothea's uncle will not provide his tenants with
decent housing, because their rotting huts are 'picturesque'. He
enjoyed riding past the 'picturesque', but, then, he didn't have to live in
From the Meister: Yeah!
I do feel that the criticisms of Jane Austen that you have quoted from Charlotte Bronte and George Eliot (and for the purposes of the conversation, let us assume that the latter was written by George Eliot) are criticisms not simply of Jane Austen as an author. I suspect that these two women are voicing their dislike of the social system portrayed in Jane Austen's novels, especially as it applied to women - a system under which both had suffered, and to which both remained outsiders.
Neither George Eliot nor Charlotte Bronte were members of the middle classes themselves neither through birth nor association in later life. Charlotte Bronte's paternal grandparents were Irish peasants. George Eliot's father was of the 'trade' class. Neither novelist was concerned with the middle classes in her writing. Charlotte Bronte, of course, carried an enormous chip on her shoulder all her life towards her middle-class employers. George Eliot, by her decision to live with Lewes, put herself outside such society altogether (not that I imagine she cared all that much).
The thing is, while Jane Austen was writing about her world so exquisitely
that it is real to us today, to George Eliot and Charlotte Bronte she was
writing of a class system which they resented, and of which they felt only the
Good Lord - I had totally overlooked the fact George Eliot had lived with G.H. Lewes! Lewes, of course is mentioned so prominently in my posting on Charlotte Bronte. And, as you may know, Lewes was one of the strongest possible supporters of Jane Austen's work. That means that either the household split on the matter of Jane Austen or that the scholars got it wrong and GE didn't write that article. (Or, maybe, we now know why the article was unsigned.) What is your thought? Can you read that article and decide if it might be Eliot's or not? I would trust your judgment before my own.
Well, for what it's worth, I am inclined to doubt that George Eliot wrote the piece you have included, though I haven't a lot with which to support my opinion. My first reason is that the piece does not to me 'read' like George Eliot: the rhythm is different (if that makes any sense), and the propositions not explored with the depth and consideration one usually finds in her writing.
My second reason is that I am quite sure that I have a quote, somewhere, of George Eliot's opinion of Jane Austen, and that it is a much more positive piece - but I can't find it, try as I might. I will keep looking, though - it's sure to turn up.
The Bronte quotes are quite genuine, though - neurotic passion oozes from the
You may be right, that quote may not be George Eliot's. My reference, of course, is B.C. Southam [South-68]. He quotes only a small extract from the original article (yes, I have excerpted from an extract). In his introduction, Southam indicates that the article was unsigned and then he writes this:
"Professor Gorden S. Haight has suggested, on
evidence, that the author may be George Eliot."
I haven't the slightest idea what "internal evidence" signifies. I assumed that it meant something about the records at Westminster Reviews which published the original article in October 1853, pp 358-359. Nor can I identify Professor Haight for you. Unhappily, Southam does not provide a reference to Haight's research.
Since this is a woman we are discussing, I will search no further; however, I will be keenly interested in anything you or anyone else turns up.
Once again, you are far kinder to Charlotte Bronte than I could ever manage: What you call "neurotic passion" is simple petulant jealousy to me. But I wonder if we cannot detect the same sort of thing in the quote attributed to George Eliot? Mary Ann may have been jealous of the admiration inspired in her lover by Jane Austen's novels. What say you?
Your comment about the "rhythm" being all wrong reminded me of something interesting taking place in American culture at present. A novel was published a few years ago which was a disguised description of the Clinton presidential campaign. No one believed that the author's name was genuine since, so the reasoning went, only an insider could have written it. Shortly after, a Professor from one of our leading Universities announced that he had used his literary forensic skills to identify the true author as a well-known journalist who, in fact, had been close to the Clintons during the campaign. The journalist immediately denied the report and caused great embarrassment for the Professor and his University. But, that was nothing compared to the journalist's embarrassment when he later announced that he had lied - he had, in fact, written the novel! I saw another journalist then test the Professor's skills in front of the TV camera - damned impressive. He explains how he does it and, certainly, punctuation and vocabulary are key clues, but sentence structure and rhythm are also part of his science.
No, I really don't think that George Eliot would belittle a fellow novelist simply because Lewes admired her work! I am actually going out today to see if I can buy a decent biography of George Eliot, as that may give me some more information.
And I must try and defend poor Charlotte. Charlotte was urged to read
Jane Austen (can't remember by whom, just at the moment) and use the latter's
work as a guide on how to moderate the 'passions' of her novels. One
recurrent criticism of her own and Emily's work was that it was 'coarse'
(meaning prurient) and unfeminine. This never failed to get Charlotte's
back up - it was a criticism she took as a great personal insult. It would
be hard, indeed, to find another two authors with less in common, either in
style or background, or in personal circumstances. Charlotte Bronte could
be spiteful, undoubtedly, but in this instance she was also partly defending
herself from what she felt to be a personal attack.
From the Meister: Bronte lover!
Want to join a P&P mailing list??? GO TO
Scroll down and there is a link. Could you join please??
Hi. I just finished a short "mini-thesis" on comparing Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. If anybody would like to read it, I would be happy to post it. I thought it would be neat to get a new perspective on it. Don't worry, it's short!!:) You can either e-mail me or I will check here. Thanks!
Welcome to our community. You propose to do the very thing we encourage. I am a little concerned about length, but I am sure we can work that out. In general, I would limit posts to about 20K and place an absolute limit at 30K (however, nothing is truly absolute). I would prefer that you use a "copy all" option and then paste it into the form at the bulletin board. I look forward to reading your posting. If you have any technical questions, you may e-mail me at
Dear Jane Austen Fans,
Maybe you've asked the same question that I have.... Was Jane Austen really suited for her time? When I read her works I find that her characters aren't really suited for their time. Take for example Catherine Morland in "Northanger Abbey" is in Bath, sent there to look for a husband and encounters a man who is ideal in everyone's view but Miss Morland's, she prefers the somewhat elusive Mr. Tilney. Catherine is unlike other women in that era also because, low and behold, she reads novels! Was Jane Austen maybe more of a rebel then we think?
I have to say that I feel you have misread Northanger Abbey. None of your assertations are supported by the text: there is never, ever, any inference that Catherine Morland was sent to Bath to find a husband. Neither is there any support for your idea that "everybody but Miss Morland" is in favour of her marrying Mr Thorpe. You have misunderstood the text, I believe. Jane Austen was writing, as a very young girl, a satire on the romantic novel of the day (and taking the time also to acknowledge her respect and enjoyment of good contemporary fiction).
To me, one of Jane Austen's great charms is her intelligent, humane and
sympathetic observation of her society. I do not believe her to have been
a "rebel"; she was analytical, certainly, but nothing of her published or
private writing breathes of rebelliousness.
Welcome to the community, your enthusiasm and fresh point of view will be much appreciated here.
I think that Jane Austen's vision is timeless and that is one kind of answer to your basic question. Your own answers require some modification because they are out of tune with her biography, novels and, most importantly, they are incongruous with the history of her times. Women of the Regency period were not only good readers, they were also novelists. Jane Austen was on the crest of that wave and certainly not on the leading edge. You might wish to familiarize yourself with those authors and here is a link, of modest quality, to get you started. You should know the names of Burney, Edgeworth, Inchbold, and Radcliffe to name only a very few women novelists who published a few years before Jane Austen. (Incidentally, Inchbold is the authoress of the play, Lover's Vows, which is mentioned so prominently in Mansfield Park.) Jane Austen wasn't even the first woman in her family to publish a novel. The leading literary critic of her day was a woman - that would be the French immigrant, Mne. de Stael. You might appreciate looking up any encyclopedia description of the Blue-Stockings Societies that began in England some two decades before Jane Austen's birth - that just might fill out your understanding of female readership in Jane Austen's times (see the archive and index).
It seems wrong to me to suggest that Jane Austen was a rebel when compared to the truly rebellious women of her day, starting with Mary Wollstonecraft. Jane Austen was an artist, Kate, and stood above the sort of thing you would wish for her. (In fact, she was actually a Tory and seemed quite proud of it.)
Do you imagine that anyone in Catherine's family would prefer Thorpe to Tilney? Why would you think that? As you become more familiar with the women's literature of that day, you will find the independence of women, as regards to choice of husband, a bit less remarkable. You will also come to understand that Catherine did not show very good taste in her reading - it was Jane Austen's intent that you should understand that. I wonder - are you confusing Jane Austen's times with the later, Victorian Period? Your thoughts seem more appropriate for those times. Perhaps you can clear this up for me.
Hopefully, my reply will clear up your questions. I see Jane Austen as a
rebel and an artist. Jane made her pictures with words and brought that era to
life in a way that I found different from the viewpoint of such other authors
such as, Radcliffe etc. Jane points out in "Northanger Abbey" that not many of
the other women in Bath read novels, in case this confused you, I was speaking
about the characters, not the authors in that era. If you have any more
questions as to my opinion please, feel free to e-mail me.
It has always been my hope to build a community at this site, a place where everyone might feel free and easy and a place where we might debate the issues surrounding Jane Austen's vision and intent. For that reason, I would hope that you and I would communicate in this open forum and not retreat to private e-mail. You should not feel any reluctance because your view is the majority view at this place and mine is the minority view of one - I know of other community member who will sign on to my opinions. So, post away!
If you will take the trouble to read the home page, you will find that I believe that there is a masculine view of these matters that is either muted or suppressed. I take every opportunity to express that as best I can. This is quite presumptuous because I have neither the credentials, the talent, any special background, nor the wisdom for this effort. Perhaps these defects on my part will make you feel more comfortable putting forth your own views - I hope so. (And, of course, pretend as I might there is no such thing as a single "masculine" opinion on any matter.)
Let me see, I always think of Bath as being a bit like the Riviera or Palm Springs of our day. Would you guess the women enjoying those places read more novels than did the women at Catherine's Bath? I will give you my guess, I think the smaller percentage of women belongs to our times. O.K., O.K. that is just a guess. What about the men at Catherine's Bath? - Were a higher percentage of them readers? I think that Jane Austen makes it quite clear that it was the women, in the main, who read novels. What I would like to see you explore is exactly what you find so unique in Jane Austen's novels ? THAT is the reason-for-being of this place, the place where you can compose and express that sense of things. Please do so - you are so very welcome to do so.
Back To The Bulletin Board
Table Of Contents
The Male-Voices Home Page