"Pictures of perfection, as you know, make me sick & wicked"

- Jane Austen
"Jane Austen is weirdly capable of keeping everybody busy. The moralists, the Eros-and-Agape people, the Marxists, the Freudians, the Jungians, the semioticians, the deconstructors - all find an adventure playground in six samey novels about middle-class provincials. And for every generation of critics, and readers, her fiction effortlessly renews itself."

- Martin Amis, in The New Yorker

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Spot of Professional Jealousy

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.

No comments: