Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Her Spirits were naturally good, and not easily depressed, and she possessed such a fund of vivacity and good humour as could only be damped by some very serious vexation.- Besides these antidotes against every disappointment, and consolations under them, she had another, which afforded her constant relief in all her misfortunes, and that was a fine shady Bower, the work of her own infantine Labours..."
~from Jane Austen's Catherine, or the Bower

Jane Austen filled 3 notebooks with her writings when she was a girl and very young lady that are quite enjoyable. I would have to say my favorite so far is her History of England http://penelope.uchicago.edu/austen/austen.html which she wrote when she was 16. It is funny, and rather better written than she would've ever fessed up to. I've also enjoyed reading some of her letters. Her correspondence with James Stanier Clarke has left us with some real gems. Notably her Plan of a Novel. http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/plannovl.html
It is also interesting and highly gratifying to hear how she felt about what she wrote. (Here is an excerpt from one of her letters to Clarke.)

You are very kind in your hints as to the sort of composition which might recommend me at present, and I am fully sensible that an historical romance, founded on the House of Saxe-Cobourg, might be much more to the purpose of profit or popularity than such pictures of domestic life in country villages as I deal in. But I could no more write a romance than an epic poem. I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or at other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter. No, I must keep to my own style and go on in my own way; and though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other.

I remain, my dear Sir,
Your very much obliged, and sincere friend,

So many feminists today badly want her to feel how they feel, basically how Maria Bertram felt in Mansfield Park,
In all the important preparations of the kind she was complete; being prepared for matrimony by a hatred of home, restraint, and tranquility; by the misery of disappointed affection, and contempt of the man she was to marry.
In Margaret Doody's Oxford World's Classics introduction of Catherine and Other Writings, she used words like pretend, accommodated, necessity of pattern, and cultural lies when referring to JA's novels written when she was grown, that JA couldn't possibly have been content and happy. Calling G.K. Chesterton's thought that she "was happy with her domestic role", "the usual twaddle". (And as my sister pointed out, you ought not call Chesterton's thoughts twaddle when you've never so much as even had a cup of tea with the man!) But the lady that wrote these 6 novels and all these other stories, poems, letters, and prayers, was not a discontented little vixen! She has what her best heroines have, what Catherine had: Spirits naturally good, and not easily depressed, and she possessed such a fund of vivacity and good humour ...


Katy said...

Have you ever felt this way?...I confess I have:)

"I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal."
from one of Jane's letters

Esther said...

Yeah...I think maybe once or twice.:)