Thursday, September 9, 2010

Chesterton on the writings of JA

"... I fancy that Jane Austen was stronger, sharper and shrewder than Charlotte Bronte; I am quite sure that she was stronger, sharper and shrewder than George Eliot. She could do one thing neither of them could do: she could coolly and sensibly describe a man. ..."

G.K. Chesterton What's Wrong
With The World (1910)

"...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 other 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. ...

Jane Austen was born before those bonds which (we are told) protected women from truth, were burst by the Brontes or elaborately untied by George Eliot. Yet the fact remains That Jane Austen knew more about men than either of them. ... When Darcy, in finally confessing his faults, says 'I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice though not in theory,' he gets nearer to a complete confession of the intelligent male than ever was even hinted by the Byronic lapses of the Brontes' heroes or the elaborate exculpations of George Eliot's. Jane Austen, of course, covered an infinitely smaller field than any of her later rivals; but I have always believed in the victory of small nationalities."

G.K. Chesterton The Victorian Age in Literature (1913)


grace said...

I loved this article! You have put into words many of the thoughts I have had when people have called JA "shallow" which horrified me naturally, but I did not feel qualified to argue against it. Now I am ready:)

Esther said...

Shall I lace up your boxing gloves for you?