Posts Tagged ‘Jane Austen’s Novels’

The Georgian city of Bath plays a prominent role in Persuasion & Northanger Abbey. View several 360 degee panoramas of the city in this link. Click on the photo you’d like to see, and use your cursor to move around the picture.

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My book group, Janeites on the James, will be revisiting Pride & Prejudice in January. It will be the 21st or 22nd time I have read it, a bit often, I know, but at each stage of my life the story of Darcy and Elizabeth takes on new meaning. These days I pay more attention to secondary characters, like Charlotte Lucas and Lydia Bennet, to whom I gave short shrift in earlier readings. In fact I shall read Charlotte’s story with more interest, knowing that with her limited options and beauty, she seized on her one opportunity to snare a husband. I will pay particular attention to her resourcefulness in finding some peace and quiet from Mr. Collins in her private area in the back parlor.

The most comprehensive site online about Pride & Prejudice is the one developed by The Republic of Pemberley, an encyclopedic site about all things Jane Austen.

Also of vast interest is the Annotated Pride and Prejudice by David Shapard, which is both entertaining and informative. As one reads the book, the left side is devoted to novel, and the right side contains his annotations. Here is what David Shapard wrote in a discussion board about discovering Jane Austen’s work:

I only altered that intention years later when, unexpectedly, several historical or philosophical books I read included admiring comments on her, and of the profound thought in her books. This made me undertake a complete reading of her works, and I was entranced, so much so that it was not long before I began rereading the novels, an unusual step for me. My entrancement even posed dangers for my work. While scrambling to finish my dissertation, on the French Enlightenment, I had picked up a battered paperback copy of Pride and Prejudice at a book sale, and found myself frequently taking time off from my writing to read it again and again, finding new brilliant subtleties every time I looked. More than once I admonished myself that this was foolish—after all, I had a looming deadline for my dissertation and needed to get back to work. But my admonishments did not always succeed, so captivated was I by the novel. Little did I imagine then that an annotated version of Pride and Prejudice, rather than an expanded version of that same dissertation, was to be my first published book.

  • In this link find a series of images I found on the 1940 movie version of Pride & Prejudice, in which the film’s creator’s revamped the plot and costumes (Civil War era), and in which the two stars are much too old to play Lizzie and Mr. Darcy.

Images source: 1940 Film of Pride & Prejudice

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I am a Mary Crawford fan. This likable, complex woman with malleable ethics, who attracted then repelled the staid and rather wooden Edmund Bertram, is more interesting to me than Fanny Price, the novel’s heroine. Of all the scenes in Mansfield Park, I am particularly drawn to this one from Volume 3, Chapter 16. In it, Edmund Bertram is speaking to Fanny Price, relating the conversation he had with Mary Crawford, in which his eyes to her true character were opened:

He had seen Miss Crawford. He had been invited to see her. He had received a note from Lady Stornaway to beg him to call; and regarding it as what was meant to be the last, last interview of friendship, and investing her with all the feelings of shame and wretchedness which Crawford’s sister ought to have known, he had gone to her in such a state of mind, so softened, so devoted, as made it for a few moments impossible to Fanny’s fears, that it should be the last. But as he proceeded in his story, these fears were over. She had met him, he said, with a serious—certainly a serious—even an agitated air; but before he had been able to speak one intelligible sentence, she had introduced the subject in a manner which he owned had shocked him. “‘I heard you were in town,’ said she—’I wanted to see you. Let us talk over this sad business. What can equal the folly of our two relations?’—I could not answer, but I believe my looks spoke. She felt reproved. Sometimes how quick to feel! With a graver look and voice she then added—’I do not mean to defend Henry at your sister’s expence.’ So she began—but how she went on, Fanny, is not fit—is hardly fit to be repeated to you. I cannot recall all her words. I would not dwell upon them if I could. Their substance was great anger at the folly of each. She reprobated her brother’s folly in being drawn on by a woman whom he had never cared for, to do what must lose him the woman he adored; but still more the folly of—poor Maria, in sacrificing such a situation, plunging into such difficulties, under the idea of being really loved by a man who had long ago made his indifference clear. Guess what I must have felt. To hear the woman whom—no harsher name than folly given!—So voluntarily, so freely, so coolly to canvass it!—No reluctance, no horror, no feminine—shall I say? no modest loathings!—This is what the world does. For where, Fanny, shall we find a woman whom nature had so richly endowed?—Spoilt, spoilt!—”

After a little reflection, he went on with a sort of desperate calmness—”I will tell you every thing, and then have done for ever. She saw it only as folly, and that folly stamped only by exposure. The want of common discretion, of caution— his going down to Richmond for the whole time of her being at Twickenham—her putting herself in the power of a servant;—it was the detection in short—Oh! Fanny, it was the detection, not the offence which she reprobated. It was the imprudence which had brought things to extremity, and obliged her brother to give up every dearer plan, in order to fly with her.”

He stopt.—”And what,” said Fanny, (believing herself required to speak), “what could you say?”

“Nothing, nothing to be understood. I was like a man stunned. She went on, began to talk of you;—yes, then she began to talk of you, regretting, as well she might, the loss of such a——. There she spoke very rationally. But she has always done justice to you. ‘He has thrown away,’ said she, ‘such a woman as he will never see again. She would have fixed him, she would have made him happy for ever.’—My dearest Fanny, I am giving you I hope more pleasure than pain by this retrospect of what might have been—but what never can be now. You do not wish me to be silent?—if you do, give me but a look, a word, and I have done.”

No look or word was given.

“Thank God!” said he. “We were all disposed to wonder—but it seems to have been the merciful appointment of Providence that the heart which knew no guile should not suffer. She spoke of you with high praise and warm affection; yet, even here, there was alloy, a dash of evil—for in the midst of it she could exclaim ‘Why, would not she have him? It is all her fault. Simple girl!—I shall never forgive her. Had she accepted him as she ought, they might now have been on the point of marriage, and Henry would have been too happy and too busy to want any other object. He would have taken no pains to be on terms with Mrs. Rushworth again. It would have all ended in a regular standing flirtation, in yearly meetings at Sotherton and Everingham.’ Could you have believed it possible?—But the charm is broken. My eyes are opened.”

“Cruel!” said Fanny—”quite cruel. At such a moment to give way to gaiety, to speak with lightness, and to you!—Absolute cruelty.”

“Cruelty, do you call it?—We differ there. No, her’s is not a cruel nature. I do not consider her as meaning to wound my feelings. The evil lies yet deeper; in her total ignorance, unsuspiciousness of there being such feelings; in a perversion of mind which made it natural to her to treat the subject as she did. She was speaking only, as she had been used to hear others speak, as she imagined every body else would speak. Her’s are not faults of temper. She would not voluntarily give unnecessary pain to any one, and though I may deceive myself, I cannot but think that for me, for my feelings, she would—Her’s are faults of principle, Fanny, of blunted delicacy and a corrupted, vitiated mind. Perhaps it is best for me—since it leaves me so little to regret. Not so, however. Gladly would I submit to all the increased pain of losing her, rather than have to think of her as I do. I told her so.”

“Did you?”

“Yes, when I left her I told her so.”

“How long were you together?”

“Five and twenty minutes. Well, she went on to say, that what remained now to be done, was to bring about a marriage between them. She spoke of it, Fanny, with a steadier voice than I can.” He was obliged to pause more than once as he continued. “‘We must persuade Henry to marry her,’ said she, ‘and what with honour, and the certainty of having shut himself out for ever from Fanny, I do not despair of it. Fanny he must give up. I do not think that even he could now hope to succeed with one of her stamp, and therefore I hope we may find no insuperable difficulty. My influence, which is not small, shall all go that way; and, when once married, and properly supported by her own family, people of respectability as they are, she may recover her footing in society to a certain degree. In some circles, we know, she would never be admitted, but with good dinners, and large parties, there will always be those who will be glad of her acquaintance; and there is, undoubtedly, more liberality and candour on those points than formerly. What I advise is, that your father be quiet. Do not let him injure his own cause by interference. Persuade him to let things take their course. If by any officious exertions of his, she is induced to leave Henry’s protection, there will be much less chance of his marrying her, than if she remain with him. I know how he is likely to be influenced. Let Sir Thomas trust to his honour and compassion, and it may all end well; but if he get his daughter away, it will be destroying the chief hold.'”

After repeating this, Edmund was so much affected, that Fanny, watching him with silent, but most tender concern, was almost sorry that the subject had been entered on at all. It was long before he could speak again. At last, “Now, Fanny,” said he, “I shall soon have done. I have told you the substance of all that she said. As soon as I could speak, I replied that I had not supposed it possible, coming in such a state of mind into that house, as I had done, that any thing could occur to make me suffer more, but that she had been inflicting deeper wounds in almost every sentence. That, though I had, in the course of our acquaintance, been often sensible of some difference in our opinions, on points too, of some moment, it had not entered my imagination to conceive the difference could be such as she had now proved it. That the manner in which she treated the dreadful crime committed by her brother and my sister—(with whom lay the greater seduction I pretended not to say)—but the manner in which she spoke of the crime itself, giving it every reproach but the right, considering its ill consequences only as they were to be braved or overborne by a defiance of decency and impudence in wrong; and, last of all, and above all, recommending to us a compliance, a compromise, an acquiescence in the continuance of the sin, on the chance of a marriage which, thinking as I now thought of her brother, should rather be prevented than sought—all this together most grievously convinced me that I had never understood her before, and that, as far as related to mind, it had been the creature of my own imagination, not Miss Crawford, that I had been too apt to dwell on for many months past. That, perhaps, it was best for me; I had less to regret in sacrificing a friendship—feelings—hopes which must, at any rate, have been torn from me now. And yet, that I must and would confess, that, could I have restored her to what she had appeared to me before, I would infinitely prefer any increase of the pain of parting, for the sake of carrying with me the right of tenderness and esteem. This is what I said—the purport of it—but, as you may imagine, not spoken so collectedly or methodically as I have repeated it to you. She was astonished, exceedingly astonished—more than astonished. I saw her change countenance. She turned extremely red. I imagined I saw a mixture of many feelings—a great, though short struggle—half a wish of yielding to truths, half a sense of shame—but habit, habit carried it. She would have laughed if she could. It was a sort of laugh, as she answered, ‘A pretty good lecture upon my word. Was it part of your last sermon? At this rate, you will soon reform every body at Mansfield and Thornton Lacey; and when I hear of you next, it may be as a celebrated preacher in some great society of Methodists, or as a missionary into foreign parts.’ She tried to speak carelessly; but she was not so careless as she wanted to appear. I only said in reply, that from my heart I wished her well, and earnestly hoped that she might soon learn to think more justly, and not owe the most valuable knowledge we could any of us acquire—the knowledge of ourselves and of our duty, to the lessons of affliction—and immediately left the room. I had gone a few steps, Fanny, when I heard the door open behind me. ‘Mr. Bertram,’ said she. I looked back. ‘Mr. Bertram,’ said she, with a smile—but it was a smile ill-suited to the conversation that had passed, a saucy playful smile, seeming to invite, in order to subdue me; at least, it appeared so to me. I resisted; it was the impulse of the moment to resist, and still walked on. I have since—sometimes—for a moment—regretted that I did not go back; but I know I was right, and such has been the end of our acquaintance! And what an acquaintance has it been! How have I been deceived! Equally in brother and sister deceived! I thank you for your patience, Fanny. This has been the greatest relief, and now we will have done.”

  • Fanny’s Excellence, by Carolyn Duncan, and the JASNA 2006 Essay Winner, discusses this scene and its meaning in quite some detail.
  • In this passage, “God made the country, man made the town’ or the ‘Active’ Rich Lady and Her Harp,” Ellen Moody discusses Mary Crawford and Edmund Bertram in terms of city values (Mary) versus country values (Edmund.)

In Free Will to Pervert Goodness, Edea A. Baldwin writes that all is not lost for Mary, and that Jane Austen leaves the door open a crack for her future happiness.

Mary wants to do good, but her actions are often twisted into evil. In trying to help her brother win the heart of Fanny Price, Mary tricks Fanny into accepting a necklace that Henry bought, telling her that it was a gift from herself. Really believing that she did the right thing, she later tells Fanny, “I was delighted to act on his proposal, for both your sakes.” Fanny, however, cries, “Oh! Miss Crawford, that was not fair . . . had I had an idea of it, nothing should have induced me to accept the necklace.”[36] In spite of Mary’s past and her twisted attempts to do the right thing, Austen never lets the reader forget that Mary’s unhappy end comes as a result of her own choices. There is no hint of determinism or fate. Mary provides a bit of sad foreshadowing during a card game when she exclaims, “There, I will stake my last like a woman of spirit. No cold prudence for me . . . If I lose the game, it shall not be from not striving for it.”[37]

Mary Crawford walks away from Mansfield Park as a tragic character, but Austen’s final words about Mary keep the door open for future happiness. Readers who sympathize with her may well hope that she will eventually choose goodness over the bitter cynicism that corrupts her judgment: Mary . . . was long in finding . . . any one who could satisfy the better taste she had acquired at Mansfield, whose character and manners could authorise a hope of the domestic happiness she had there learnt to estimate.

Learn More About Mansfield Park in these links:

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Northanger Abbey traveled a long and torturous journey to publication. According to her sister, Cassandra, Jane Austen wrote the book in “about ‘98 and ‘99” when she was still in her twenties. After Jane completed First Impressions, her early version of Pride and Prejudice, her father attempted to get the book published. He met with no success. Jane’s hopes of becoming a successful author were raised expectantly when her brother Henry sold Susan to a respected publishing house. Claire Tomalin writes in Jane Austen: A Life (p182):

She copied out and revised Northanger Abbey (still called Susan). Henry offered to take over from Mr. Austen as her agent, and deputed one of his business partners; a lawyer named William Seymour, to offer the manuscript to Richard Crosby, a London Publisher. This was at the start of 1803. Crosby paid 10 [pounds] for the manuscript, promising early publication. He then advertised the book in a brochure called Flowers of Literature as being “in the press”; but after this nothing more happened.

The book’s not being published was a curious development, for Crosby and Co. was the fourth most prolific publisher of novels during the 1800s in London. The income of ten pounds could not be dismissed as a paltry amount, for the sale represented half of Jane’s allowance of 20 pounds per year. The novel continued to languish on Mr. Crosby’s shelves for six years, however, before a frustrated Jane decided to take matters into her own hands. In 1809 she wrote the publisher under the assumed name of Mrs. Ashton Dennis:

Why had the book never been published, she asked, since “early publication was stipulated for at the time of sale”. If the publishers had lost their copy, she would undertake to provide another one. Should they not answer her letter, she would feel free to attempt publication elsewhere. It was a firm letter, and got a firm answer. Richard Crosby wrote by return to say that they had indeed bought Susan outright for ten pounds cash, “but there was not any time stipulated for its publication, neither are we bound to publish it”. He went on to threaten proceedings if she published elsewhere, and offer her the manuscript back for the ten pounds it had fetched. – Only a Novel: The Double Life of Jane Austen, Jane Aiken Hodge, p 112. (To read the letters, go to Northanger Abbey: Behind the Scenes, Jane Austen Centre)

Of course, Jane did not have the money to repurchase the novel, and it remained unpublished for another seven years. In 1816, under Jane’s instructions, her brother Henry bought back the book for ten pounds. He “then had the pleasure of telling the dilatory publisher that the book he had neglected was by the author of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility” (Aiken Hodge, 174-175). During this frustrating time, another novel named Susan was published. As Jane revised her book for the third time, she changed the heroine’s name to Catherine Moreland. She then wrote a short advertisement to prepare the book for publication and to explain why certain parts of the book had been rendered obsolete by the passage of time:

ADVERTISEMENT BY THE AUTHORESS, TO NORTHANGER ABBEYTHIS little work was finished in the year 1803, and intended for immediate publication. It was disposed of to a bookseller, it was even advertised, and why the business proceeded no farther, the author has never been able to learn. That any bookseller should think it worthwhile to purchase what he did not think it worthwhile to publish seems extraordinary. But with this, neither the author nor the public have any other concern than, as some observation is necessary upon those parts of the work which thirteen years have made comparatively obsolete. The public are entreated to bear in mind that thirteen years have passed since it was finished, many more since it was begun, and that during that period, places, manners, books, and opinions have undergone considerable changes.

Then, inexplicably, Jane herself delayed publication, writing to her niece Fanny in March, 1817: “Miss Catherine is put upon the shelves for the present, and I do not know that she will ever come out.” Sadly, Jane never saw this novel or Persuasion in print. Henry, her favorite brother, arranged to have the novel he renamed Northanger Abbey published posthumously along with Persuasion in late December, 1817. In his foreword he wrote:

The following pages are the production of a pen which has already contributed in no small degree to the entertainment of the public. And when the public, which has not been insensible to the merits of “Sense and Sensibility,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Mansfield Park,” and “Emma,” shall be informed that the hand which guided that pen is now mouldering in the grave, perhaps a brief account of Jane Austen will be read with a kindlier sentiment than simple curiosity. Short and easy will be the task of the mere biographer. A life of usefulness, literature, and religion, was not by any means a life of event. To those who lament their irreparable loss, it is consolatory to think that, as she never deserved disapprobation, so, in the circle of her family and friends, she never met reproof; that her wishes were not only reasonable, but gratified; and that to the little disappointments incidental to human life was never added, even for amoment, an abatement of goodwill from any who knew her.

Click here to read the rest of Henry’s touching foreword and on the links below to learn more about this fascinating tale.

  • Find an interesting book review by Joan Aiken on Claire Tomalin’s and David Nokes’ biographies of Jane Austen, in which she puts forth her own conjecture on why it took Jane so long to publish her three early novels, and about the 10 year drought in her literary output.
  • Fronticepiece of the book: Wikipedia
  • C.E. Brock Illustration from Molland’s
  • Jane Austen, The World of Her Novels, Deirdre Le Faye,
  • Only A Novel: The Double Life of Jane Austen, Jane Aiken Hodge, Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, Inc, NY, 1972, SBN 698-10425-0
  • Jane Austen: A Life, Claire Tomalin, Albert A. Knopf, NY, 1998, ISBN 0-679-44628-1

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