English writer Jane Austen

``The progress of the friendship between Catherine [Morland] and Isabella was quick as its beginning had been warm... and if

English writer Jane Austen

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d, after the discovery of Lucy's engagement to Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility). On three occasions, Fanny Price of Mansfield Park imagines to herself that she is on the point of fainting, and once Elinor Dashwood thinks that her sister Marianne is about to faint, but neither Fanny or Marianne ever does. And Elinor Dashwood, at one critical moment in Sense and Sensibility, feels herself to be "in no danger of an hysterical fit or a swoon".

Jane Austen's parsimony in faintings in her novels does not apply to her , where she mocks the propensity to faint of the conventional novel-heroine of the day. So Elfrida in Frederic & Elfrida "fainted & was in such a hurry to have a succession of fainting fits, that she had scarcely patience enough to recover from one before she fell into another".

Notoriously, Jane Austen hardly ever quotes from a conversation between men with no women present (or overhearing). However, despite some assertions that she never includes such dialogue, there is at least in Mansfield Park. (A less clear possibility is Sir Thomas Bertram's chiding of his son Tom when he has to sell the Mansfield clerical "living", in Chapter 3 of Mansfield Park)

She is also sparing of describing the internal thoughts and emotions of male characters (thus in Pride and Prejudice, much of admiration for is expressed by means of convenient conversations with ).

She is very sparing with (except to some degree in her last novel, Persuasion).

She tends to glide over the more passionately romantic moments of her characters, not describing closely lovers' embraces and endearments. So in the marriage proposal scene in Pride and Prejudice the quoted dialogue breaks off just before the critical point, giving way to the following report: . Similarly in Emma: "She spoke then, on being so entreated [with a proposal]. What did she say? Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does." In fact Jane Austen had something of an aversion to sappy language; thus in Pride and Prejudice she has Mrs. Gardiner (in fact, the very same expression "violently in love" that Austen saw fit to fob us off with later in the novel in the proposal scene!). Even in her more "romantic" last novel Persuasion, she still ruthlessly cut out Wentworth's line "Anne, my own dear Anne!" from her , and replaced it with less pointed narration in the final version of the text; and she almost makes fun of her heroine Anne Elliot:

"Prettier musings of high-wrought love and eternal constancy could never have passed along the streets of Bath, than Anne was sporting with from Camden Place to Westgate Buildings. It was almost enough to spread purification and perfume all the way."

And in a letter of November 8th 1796, Jane Austen wrote "I have had a... letter from Buller; I was afraid he would oppress me with his felicity & his love for his wife, but this is not the case; he calls her simply Anna without any angelic embellishments".

And Jane Austen never even mentions lovers kissing (an important moment in Emma is when Mr. Knightley fails to kiss Emma's hand), though Willoughby does kiss a lock of Marianne's hair in Sense and Sensibility. And Mr. Knightly touches Emma, causing a "flutter of pleasure" in Emma (though they are not yet acknowledged lovers at this point).

See a (non-academic) Pride and Prejudice.

See an

Her heroines also famously .

One minor but interesting point is that, though Jane Austen never used a Jewish character, or discussed Judaism in any way in her writings, she manages to strike a blow against anti-Semitism anyway - her sole mention of Jews is the phrase "as rich as a Jew", used repetitively in Northanger Abbey by John Thorpe (one of the most obnoxious and ridiculous characters in all her novels); significantly, the heroine Catherine Morland does not at first understand what he means.

 

2.3 Jane Austen's literary reputation

 

Though she always had her admirers, Jane Austen was not the most popular or most highly-praised novelist of her era (none of her novels were reprinted in English between 1818 and 1831), and she was not generally considered a great novelist until the late nineteenth century (). During her lifetime, boosted Jane Austen through his review of Emma, but nowadays it is Jane Austen who is used to boost Sir Walter Scott - Jane Austen's comments () on Scott's Waverley have been used as a back cover blurb for recent reprintings of Scott's novel.

One thing that many contemporary readers felt to be lacking in Jane Austen's novels was their failure to be `instructive' (i. e. to teach a moral), or `inspirational' (that is "to elevate mankind by their depiction of ideal persons, even in defiance of the known realities of ordinary life" - , p.14). Jane Austen makes fun of such didactic tendencies in her ending to Northanger Abbey: "I leave it to be settled by whomsoever it may concern, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny or reward filial disobedience." In her last work (Sanditon), she has a very foolish character () criticize novels like those she herself writes as "vapid tissues of Ordinary occurrences from which no useful Deductions can be drawn". Jane Austen also once said (in ) that "pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked", and she satirized the frequent lack of realism in the literature of the day in her Plan of a Novel: "there will be no mixture... the Good will be unexceptionable in every respect - and there will be no foibles or weaknesses but with the Wicked, who will be completely depraved and infamous, hardly a resemblance of Humanity left in them". What many other contemporary readers did admire in Jane Austen's novels was their plausibility and depiction of real life - as opposed to the sensationalism, unlikely meetings between long-lost relatives, villainous aristocratic would-be ravishers, etc. that were the stock in trade of much of the literature of the period.

Thus one Anne Romilly wrote in 1814 that

"Mansfield park... has been pretty generally admired here, and I think all novels must be that are true to life which this is... It has not however that elevation of virtue, something beyond nature, that gives the greatest charm to a novel."

In the Opinions of Mansfield Park, Jane Austen recorded the comments of one Lady Gordon:

"In most novels you are amused for the time with a set of Ideal People whom you never think of afterwards or whom you the least expect to meet in common life, whereas in Miss A----'s works, & especially in M [ansfield] P [ark] you actually live with them, you fancy yourself one of the family; & the scenes are so exactly descriptive, so perfectly natural, that there is scarcely an Incident, or conversation, or a person, that you are not inclined to imagine you have at one time or other in your Life been a witness to, borne a part in, & been acquainted with."

In a letter of May 1813, soon after the publication of Pride and Prejudice, Annabella Milbanke (later Lady Byron) wrote in a letter that

"I have finished the Novel called Pride and Prejudice, which I think a very superior work. It depends not on any of the common resources of novel writers, no drownings, no conflagrations, nor runaway horses, nor lap-dogs and parrots, nor chambermaids and milliners, nor rencontres [duels] and disguises. I really think it is the most probable I have ever read. It is not a crying book, but the interest is very strong, especially for . The characters which are not amiable are diverting, and all of them are consistently supported."

In 1815 one William Gifford wrote

"I have for the first time looked into P. and P. ; and it is really a very pretty thing. No dark passages; no secret chambers; no wind-howlings in long galleries; no drops of blood upon a rusty dagger - things that should now be left to ladies' maids and sentimental washerwomen."

Conclusion

 

Austen wrote her books at the dawn of the nineteenth century, when vast social changes were already encroaching on the way of life she so loved and rendered with such exquisite artistry. We read her books today on the cusp of a new century, with an unfathomable world creeping up on us, too--one globally interconnected, technologically complex, economically uncertain. Perhaps we find on Austen's rural estates and in her charming, insular society the same peace and pleasure she found there; and an analogue for the simpler, more circumscribed world of our own childhoods, itself passing quickly away into history. The time in which Jane Austen wrote her novels was a period of great stability just about to give way to a time of unimagined changes. At that time most of England's population (some thirteen million) were involved in rural and agricultural work: yet within another twenty years, the majority of Englishmen became urban dwellers involved with industry, and the great railway age had begun. Throughout the early years of the century the cities were growing at a great rate; the network of canals was completed, the main roads were being remade. Regency London, in particular, boomed and became, among other things, a great centre of fashion. On the other hand, England in the first decade of the nineteenth century was still predominantly a land of country towns and villages, a land of rural routines which were scarcely touched by the seven campaigns of the Peninsular War against Napoleon. But if Austen's age was st

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