Thursday, December 26, 2013

Delights on Jane Austen from "A truth universally acknowledged"

Cassandra's sketch of Jane Austen
(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)
Finished the Justin Welby book which offers some interesting insights on Justin's career up to his enthronement as Archbishop. Now back to A truth universally acknowledged and greatly enjoying it. Some gems include:
  • "Then [Prof Stephen Arkin of San Francisco State U] made a point that astonished us all: the disdained Mrs. Bennet is right. She seems ridiculous...but she nevertheless predicts the entire storyline of [P&P]...Although the first laugh is on Mrs Bennet...the last laugh is on us. We, too, are the targets of Austen's fierce, subtle irony." (Susannah Carson)
  • "What looks like a physical description in Austen often turns out to something else entirely: "...Mr Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features; noble mein..." This is a curiously opaque set of adjectives. If the police tried to find Mr Darcy based on this they wouldn't get very far. The truth is that it is not really a description of Darcy at all; it is a description of the effect he had on other people." (Susanna Clarke)
  • [in the present day] "Does now and then a novel come along that's so long, arch, and laborious, so ponderous in its literary conceits and so terrifying in it symbols, that it might have been written (in his bachelor days) by Mr Elton as a conundrum, or, in some prolonged spell of elevation, by Mr Collins in a bid for self-advancement?" (Eudora Welty)
  • "When Marian Evans was readying herself mentally to try her hand for the first time at fiction...she undertook a trip to the Scilly Isles...with her common-law husband, George Lewis...What did the Lewises read aloud to each over every evening...? The novels of Jane Austen" (Rebecca Mead)
 BTW I can't find any website for the author Susannah Carson. Can anyone put me in touch? I'd certainly like to congratulate her on an excellent book.

I suppose Jane Austen is Mozart to Shakespeare's Bach and Dickens' Beethoven, although this is of course a highly imperfect analogy not least because I don't think Beethoven is remotely inferior to Mozart but I really don't think Dickens is quite at the level of Jane Austen.  And it's curious that Jane was born 5 years after Beethoven and died 10 years before him. I'm fond of the fact that two of her brothers were Admirals - although she didn't write directly about the Napoleonic Wars she was very aware of what was going on in the Navy. Francis missed Trafalgar but saw action in the Battle of San Domingo and rose to be an Admiral of the Fleet. Her other Naval brother Charles "only" became a Rear-Admiral. And yet, for all their distinction, they are remembered now almost exclusively because of their genius sister.

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