Saturday, January 01, 2011

Starting 2011 off right

Later today, I'll be back with our first Pride and Prejudice post.

Lady Katherine De Bourgh is so astounded that I have the audacity to post about this book that she turned up early to holler about it.

If you've read the book and/or seen the 1995 BBC production or the 2005 film version, you have some inkling who she is. If not, then you are in for quite a treat. And if you've only seen a film version, I encourage you to read along with us, because I can assure you that Austen is 100% on her game in this novel, and that characters such as Lady Katherine are both more offensive and funnier if you read the book.

When this novel was first published in January 1813 (actually available in December of 1812), it became the Talk of the Town, with rampant speculation as to the identity of the author, who was merely identified as "A Lady" - or, in at least one advertisement, misidentified as "Lady A". (Oh inversion, what hilarious errors you engender!)

In a facetious letter to her sister not long after publication, Austen claimed that the work was "too light and bright and sparkling." Some biographers and critics believe she was serious, but a quick examination of the rest of the quote makes plain that she's talking nonsense and is completely giddy with her success, and with the widespread acceptance of her novel:

Upon the whole, however, I am quite vain enough and well satisfied enough. The work is rather too light, and bright, and sparkling; it wants shade; it wants to be stretched out here and there with a long chapter of sense, if it could be had; if not, of solemn specious nonsense, about something unconnected with the story; an essay on writing, a critique on Walter Scott, or the history of Buonaparte, or anything that would form a contrast, and bring the reader with increased delight to the playfulness and epigrammatism of the general style.
Austen had no love for "solemn specious nonsense", nor would she seriously want to inject anything unconnected to her story - especially a critique on Walter Scott (who was not yet a Sir, but who did review her fourth book, Emma, in 1816, since he and Austen shared a publisher at that time. But I digress. Austen also would not have wanted the history of Napoleon to be stuffed into her novel - "or anything that would form a contrast".

Dear Jane Austen, let us all hope you are blissfully unaware of the "contrast" that has been unceremoniously stuffed into your novels by the people at Quirk Books. Zombies, sea monsters, and God knows what else are certainly something "that would form a contrast", but it's pretty clear it was NOT Austen's intent to have such a contrast interposed in her wonderful work.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ONE AND ALL! And I hope you'll stop back for the first chapter of Pride & Prejudice later today. Plus anything else I manage to post.

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