Jane Austen Critical Essays

Jane Austen Critical Essays-48
We’re going to be seeing a lot more of Jane Austen.

We’re going to be seeing a lot more of Jane Austen.

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It was a time of clashing armies and warring ideas, a time of censorship and state surveillance.

Enclosures were remaking the landscape; European empire building was changing the world; science and technology were opening up a whole universe of new possibilities.

We’re perfectly willing to accept that writers like Wordsworth were fully engaged with everything that was happening and to find the references in their work, even when they’re veiled or allusive.

But we haven’t been willing to do it with Jane’s work.

Yet Jane herself remains a shadowy, curiously colorless figure, one who seems to have spent the majority of her 41 years being dragged along in the wake of other people’s lives.

Jane Austen Critical Essays

But what lives the people around Jane had: her father, orphaned in early childhood, who worked his way out of poverty; her mother, who could claim kinship with a duke but found herself making ends meet in a country vicarage; her Aunt Philadelphia, who, with no prospects in England, traveled to India to find herself a husband; Philadelphia’s daughter, Eliza, who lost her French spouse to the guillotine.

We know that one of Jane’s aunts was accused of stealing lace from a shop in Bath and that one of her cousins died in a carriage accident.

We know that her sister’s fiancé died of yellow fever and that her great-great-uncle was the Duke of Chandos.

All of Jane’s modern biographers repeat these facts, just as they reproduce the portraits of her brothers and her aunts and her cousin and the men who might (or, more probably, might not) have wanted to marry her, and the confused, contradictory opinions of people who barely knew her, in the belief that somehow, by combining together every scrap, something will take shape—an outline, a silhouette, a Jane-shaped space.

But in spite of all their efforts, Jane remains only a slight figure vanishing into the background, her face turned away—as it is in the only finished portrait we have of her.


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