"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

Monday, July 7, 2008

What They Said About Her: Mary Russell Mitford

Mary Russell Mitford (pictured, aged three) who herself knew a thing or two about writing a sharp and pointed letter, had this to say about the young Jane Austen and her physical appearance. The report is based on the observations of her mother, who had lived in the Steventon neighbourhood when Jane was growing up.

"Mama says she was then the prettiest, silliest, most affected, husband-hunting butterfly she ever remembers."

MRM goes on to add, in a bravura performance of downright maliciousness, that Jane had by then (1815):

"stiffened into the most perpendicular, precise, taciturn piece of 'single blessedness' that ever existed" and until Pride and Prejudice came out, "she was no more regarded in society than a poker or a fire screen or any other thin, upright piece of wood or iron that fills its corner in peace and quiet. The case is very different now; she is still a poker, but a poker of whom everyone is afraid."


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