The Voices of Men in Praise
Of Jane Austen
Messages c. March 4, 2002


Dear Voices,

I will excerpt from this link. It is explained there that,
"Published annually to cover the years 1801-09, The Flowers of Literature consisted primarily of extracts from what were perceived to be the year’s most popular publications. ... A headnote in the 1806 volume asserted that 'No books are inserted in this list but such have been perused by the editor, for the purpose of making extracts and comments. ...' Flowers seems to have been conceived to help guide readers through the growing numbers of publications vying for their attention, especially at a time when the British reading public may have been preoccupied with other extra-literary subjects:

From there, the discussion turns to a particular publisher, Crosby & Co.

"... In terms of fiction output, [Crosby] was very much a significant source, being the fourth most prolific primary publisher of novels throughout the 1800s. Crosby had auspiciously begun his publication of fiction with Godwin's Things as They Are: or The Adventures of Caleb Williams (1794), and throughout its twenty years, Crosby and Co. displayed a consistent commitment to fiction, and a total of sixty-eight titles appeared between 1794 and 1814 with Crosby's name first on the title-page imprint. Many of its novels were run-of-the-mill fictions, with output of new titles consisting typically of sentimental romances and Gothic tales that were especially concentrated in the 1790s and late 1800s. The Gothic titles themselves matched the respective periods of favour of first the Radcliffean derivatives and then the more scurrilous, post-Monk horrors. Paradigmatic Gothic fictions included John Palmer's The Haunted Cavern (1796), Theodore Melville's The White Knight (1802), Mary Julia Young's Moss Cliff Abbey (1803), David Carey's Secrets of the Castle (1806), and Francis Lathom's The Fatal Vow (1807). Most of its fiction can best be described as domestic melodramas within a broadly sentimental framework. The combination of fashionable or upper-class locales with dramatic incident and manoeuvring Machiavels is a popular formula for Crosby novels. Typical examples include The History of Netterville, A Chance Pedestrian (1802) and Anne Ker's Gothic-sounding Mysterious Count/; or, Montville Castle (1803). In addition to its Gothic romances and sentimental melodramas, Crosby published a number of stories with a modern setting, either comic or domestic: these include Horatio Smith's A Family Story (1800), Elizabeth Gunning's The Farmer's Boy (1802), and Sophia Woodfall's anti-fashionable Frederick Montravers; or, the Adopted Son (1803)."


"If the firm of Crosby and Co. is remembered by Romantic-period scholars nowadays it is for its dealings with Jane Austen over the manuscript of what would eventually be published by John Murray as Northanger Abbey (1818). In the spring 1803, Austen had sold the manuscript of the novel, then titled Susan, to Crosby for £10. It appears that Crosby had intended to publish it, since a work entitled ‘Susan; a Novel, in 2 vols.’ was advertised as ‘In the Press’ in The Flowers of Literature for 1801 and 1802 itself (reproduced here). For a number of (mainly financial) reasons, Crosby did not publish Susan, and this led to a bitter exchange between Austen and the firm, with each party challenging the other over the ownership of the work. Following this unsatisfactory correspondence, Austen’s dealings with Crosby ceased until 1816, when her brother Henry bought back the manuscript, following the publication of Emma."
"According to the James Edward Austen-Leigh’s Memoir of Austen (1870-71), Henry ‘found the purchaser very willing to receive back his money, and to resign all claim to the copyright’; once the exchange had been made, Henry ‘had the satisfaction of informing him that the work which had been so lightly esteemed was by the author of Pride and Prejudice.' "

I was unaware that Godwin wrote novels, or perhaps I forgot. I thought you might like to look at that page. Link there to find contemporary reviews of the novels of the time, in particular, those of Godwin.

From the Meister: Thank you so very much for this information! And to actually show us the advertisement for Susan! As you know, this occasioned our Lady's famous M.A.D. letter that is secretly celebrated at this web site. I had heard that the reason that Crosby & Co. had not published Susan was that it published a number of Gothic novels and Jane Austen's parody of that style might hurt their sales. Your posting lends credence to that speculation.

Dear Voices,

The question of whether Jane Austen truly understood human behavior, or merely reported makes me think of another writer, who one wouldn't normally mention in connection with JA:  Agatha Christie.  Now, before you light your torches and hunt up the pitchforks let me explain. Agatha Christie's character Miss Marple always put her shrewdness down to  " in a village year round."  Miss Marple also declared that there was more wickedness in your average village than in any big city. I'm not so sure about that, but what's there is definitely more in your face, and the city provides a level of anonymity which is impossible in a small town (as I'm finding out daily.)  A single woman like Jane Austen with an excellent understanding and the leisure to indulge her curiosity could hardly have had a better chance to learn all about human nature.

Dear Bree,

Well, maybe J Lo is not a good fit for Catherine Morland - it doesn't matter - I nominate her for everything these days in any case. If you ever get around to watching Waddell's Tess of the D'Urbervilles, you might agree with that nomination. See especially the opening scene where Tess and her walking club are dancing on the hillside. In that scene, she is Catherine as well as Tess. By the bye, that scene is an exact reproduction of the opening passage of the book right down to Tess's red ribbon. The scene seems wonderful, but as the story unfolds, one realizes that it is the saddest passage in the novel (in all of English literature?) It will delight you at first, but then bring you a lot of pain as you reflect on it.

Dear AtLashton,

I kind of figured you would nominate J. Waddell for Frederika. I can't think of anyone better, actually.  What do we do about Lady Susan? Maybe the actress who played Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park ('99) - she seems to be the type!

Perhaps our only hope is to interest Sue Birtwistle in producing everything JA ever wrote.  Let's just leave it with her!

Dear Breeby,

Yes, who, indeed, will play Lady Susan. I suppose that Hollywood geniuses would choose Madonna or Glenn Close, so let's hope that the Brits do it. The actress you mention is Embeth Davidtz; she was born in America but raised in South Africa. She is 36 at present, a bit young for the part. Also, she seems not nearly mean or dangerous enough for the role in my opinion.

I have been staring at Sophie Marceau for some time now, so you can believe me when I say that the woman satisfies all of my criteria. I also think she would be perfect as Lady Susan.

Dear MAsht,

Who is Sophie Marceau?  I admit, I don't recognize the name (I'm nothing if not humble!)  30 years ago Joan Collins might have made a passable Lady Susan.  I'm sure there is some really good British actress stomping the stage on Shaftsbury Ave. in London, or maybe in Elstree studios? who would be perfect.  Someone has to find her.  How old is Lady Susan supposed to be actually?  I get the impression she is either 39 or 40, or else she is several years older but LOOKS really young.

Dear Whomever,

I'd be interested in getting anyone's opinion regarding Bronte's Rochester, and Austen's Darcy and Knightley.  I'm especially interested in any comparisons or contrasts between Austen's and Bronte's male "heroes" --in such, a view, also, on their interactions with their female foils/loves.

I know this isn't a 19th-Century-women-writers site and so I shouldn't be asking about Bronte here, but ... why DID Rochester have to become "uglified" before he could belong to Jane, whilst Austen's Darcy ... and even Knightly (though he was an "older" man), were attractive?  What was Austen saying that Bronte wasn't on this point?

(I'd read Sense and Sensibility so long ago, I cannot recall those characters at all well but I do recall the female protagonist's love interest as also being attractive.)

Any insight given with regard to ANY of these points will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you,

Dear Victoria,

Please feel free to ask anything you care to, it never hurts to ask - or to say, "I don't know."

Actually, Charlotte Bronte is mentioned often here. I often have something snotty to say about her and then others try to defend her. First I can give you some local links and then the snotty remark. As you probably know Charlotte had two sisters that also published, Emily and Ann - I don't care for either of them as well.

Here is a link to what Charlotte Bronte said about Jane Austen. Here is a link to what G.K. Chesterton said about Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen - amen. You may find more of what you are looking for in the archives of our web site, so here is a link to the B-section of the index with links to the archives. There you find the postings of others that actually say something positive about Ms. Bronte - go figure!

For me, none of the Bronte sisters understood men and that shows in their characterizations. Jane Austen, on the other hand, is justly famous for her understanding of men as well as women. So, for me to talk about Charlotte Bronte is a bit like asking a Boston baseball fan to compare the Red Sox to the Yankees. Perhaps I should not attempt the matter. Here is a link to my overly long posting on Darcy. Here is a link to a discussion of Knightley and Emma Woodhouse.

Dear Ms. Paley,

Thank you for your kind words.

I have only recently come to understand that William Godwin was actually a fairly good novelist. Better, perhaps, than even his daughter, Mary Shelley. This aspect is neglected in my treatments of the man. That will soon be rectified as I am preparing a long posting on that matter. It might prove useful, because it might provide a useful perspective on "Gothic" novels - especially those of Ann Radcliffe - and even on Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. One can always hope.

Dear Voices,

The Hallmark Channel is doing a two-parter on Mark Twain's Roughing It on March 16 and 17 - 8 pm Eastern/Pacific time both days.  Looks like it may be a good'un.

Here is a LINK to check out the details.

I wish - maybe if I try hard enough I could get the book read by then. The hurrieder I go the behinder I get.

From the Meister: Phooie! I don't get the Hallmark Channel!

It's nearly that time so I'm going out on a limb here ... let's see if we can beat the Meister's playoffs prognostications.

Best Actress: Sissy Spacek, who has been doing good work in small films and the Academy may think it's time they recognized that.
Best Actor
"Battle of the Jerks":
Everyone agrees it's between hot new jerk Russell Crowe and longstanding jerk Denzel Washington.  Crowe may have overplayed his hand at the BAFTA awards where he went over his allotted time to read a poem, then skipped out of the ceremony before it was over.  Washington continues to throw accusations of racism at Hollywood, which isn't too popular with a group of people who have been congratulating themselves on their liberalism for nearly 100 years.  It all depends on whether Hollywood votes for its pocketbook or its image.  I declare this one too close to call.
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Connelly who has taken over the "Queen of the Indies" crown from Parker Posy. She should have gotten a nomination for Mullholland Drive a few years ago, so this should make up for it.
Best Supporting Actor: As they're not going to give Lord of the Rings (LOTR) any of the awards it should get, this may be the bone the Academy throws.  But I'm going to take a chance on Jim Broadbent who has gone un-recognized for too many years.
Best Director: Apparently they're going to give this to Robert Altman. There's nothing Hollywood likes better than an ex-pat bitching about the US.  Baz Luhrmann should get it ... love or hate Moulin Rouge, it was a directorial tour-de-force.
Best Picture: Let's see... there's one movie that's everything a best picture is supposed to be. A big budget blockbuster with great special effects, writing, acting, directing, cinematography, an epic story, and a message that speaks to millions.  Unfortunately, LOTR isn't "really" a Hollywood movie (all production, including special effects done outside the US.)  Even worse the message that the individual must sometimes be prepared to make sacrifices to fight for the greater good and that it only takes one side bent on oppression and conquest to make a war isn't exactly the sort of thiing Hollywood wants to acknowledge this year.  I predict A Beautiful Mind for Best Picture.
Best Animated Film: Shrek, though it was mediocre at best.
Best Cinematography: I predict this will be the single nod to LOTR.
Best Score: This will be the bone thrown to the biggest money maker of the year Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's/Philospher's Stone. Which most critics faulted for "following the book too closely."


Dear Folks,

OK Cheryl! You just had to bring up the NFL playoffs, didn't you?! Well, I am going to post your Oscar record and see how you like it. - No, I won't do that, but I will think of something.

The only nominated film that I have seen is Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge. I ordered that as soon as possible because I have been a hopeless, helpless Luhrmann fan ever since Strictly Ballroom. I am glad that I watched, because I can now warn women away from viewing - it is definitely a man's film. There is a great deal of unmotivated use of the L-word and I know how the women in this feminist-dominated culture hate any usage of that sort. For example, he makes repeated use of the sentence, "The greatest thing you will ever know is to L-word and be L-worded in return." Actually, the L-word appears as the last thing on the screen. Some men may still be able to stomach that sort of thing. - Men are pigs.

My final comments are meant for the other pigs - I mean men. I spent the first fifteen minutes of Moulin Rouge asking myself, "Do I like this film?" Maybe it was twenty minutes. I didn't ask my wife what she thought or even glanced at her because Luhrmann doesn't give you the opportunity to speak or look away from the screen. There is a great deal of celebration of the popular music of the last fifty years, thrown in with a lot of great sexual double entendre, and all that is voiced over sexy, Bob-Fosse like dancing. And it comes at you fast and furious. After a while, the answer to my question was "yes" and then it was "YES!!". Anyway, after the film was over and I was able to resuscitate my wife, she haltingly gasped that she had gone through exactly the same process. Well, except the film did have to end some way, and endings seems to be the great flaw in Luhrmann's filmmaking - no big deal. Anyway, watch it with someone you L-word.

Dear Ashton,

I almost hate to admit this, but you and I are in almost perfect agreement on Moulin Rouge and Baz L. (It had to happen about something, right?)  All the reviews I read said the first 15 minutes were "torture" to use one critic's word so I was prepared for that. I only wish I'd gotten around to see his Romeo and JulietStrictly Ballroom is one of those movies (like Enchanted April) that I have to watch with the shades drawn and the husband out of town due to their excess of romanticism. Although it's kind of funny that Roy refused to watch it with me but was listening closely enough from the computer room to know that it was Jim Broadbent singing "Like A Virgin." Yes, Moulin Rouge is over the top ridiculous, but if you don't enjoy that, what are you doing watching one of Luhrmann's films?

And here I thought you were going to accuse me of playing in the compost pile again.

Dear Cheryl, Ashton, et. al.,

I was glancing at Academy Award winners in my Almanac.

The Academy Award for "best movie" has gone to some very mediocre films. Here are my choices for the worst winners of the award:

Of course the Academy picked some good movies, too, including, but not limited to It Happened one Night, Gone with the Wind, How Green was My Valley, Casablanca, An American in Paris (why no musicals these days?), both Godfathers, Silence of the Lambs, and more.

I know many people would pick The Greatest Show on Earth as one of the worst winners, but not I. It may not be DeMille's best flick, but Cecile rules. There's a gaudy energy to his films that makes a winner like Ben Hur (which would have made my list if not for the sea battle and the chariot race) look awfully dull in comparison.


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