I've been reading this edition of James Edward Austen-Leigh's Memoir of Jane Austen while waiting patiently for a copy of the Oxford edition, which has a few extra bells and whistles.
And finally, we discover the reason for Mary Russell Mitford's nastiness about Jane Austen - she was jealous because Jane was a much better writer! James Edward Austen-Leigh writes:
I remember Miss Mitford's saying to me: 'I would almost cut off one of my hands, if it would enable me to write like your aunt with the other.'
Although poor Mr. Austen-Leigh was not at all happy when he read the "prettiest, silliest, most affected husband-hunting butterfly" comments made by Miss Mitford, and was driven to add a postscript to the first edition, denying that his esteemed aunt had been anything of the sort.
I suppose that might show up a difference between Georgian and Victorian sensibilities, and also between Victorian and modern-day sensibilities. Personally I find the description of Jane's lively, youthful personality far more attractive than the impression of a somewhat dour Jane many people have had - until Anne Hathaway's inspired portrayal turned that smartly on its head.
Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!
5 weeks ago