Quote Jane

“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

maandag 6 juni 2011

Jane Austen’s Reading

Caroline Austen documents Austen’s appreciation of the importance of reading, recalling her aunt’s advice to “cease writing till I was 16” and her statement “that she had herself often wished she had read more, and written less in the corresponding years of her own life” (qtd. in Le Faye, Family Record 239).  Despite her desire to have “read more” in her youth, recent scholarship has established that the range of Austen’s reading was far wider and deeper than either Henry or James Edward suggest.  Isobel Grundy makes the point that Austen read like a potential author from a very early age, looking for what she could use, “not by quietly absorbing and reflecting it, but by actively engaging, rewriting, often mocking it” (190).  Austen did not, as far as is known, make a list of her reading, but her letters and novels refer, either directly or allusively, to a wide variety of texts.  As Jocelyn Harris argues, Austen’s excellent memory stood her in good stead when it came to employing her reading (Art of Memory

She knew poetry by Milton, George Crabbe, Robert Burns, Thomas Campbell, Wordsworth, and Byron, and the sermons of Hugh Blair, Thomas Sherlock, and Edward Cooper.  She mentions conduct literature by Thomas Gisborne, James Fordyce, Jane West, and Hannah More, and plays by Shakespeare, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, John Home, Richard Cumberland, George Colman, Hannah Cowley, Susanna Centlivre, and Elizabeth Inchbald.  She read political history by Thomas Clarkson, historian of the slave trade, and Charles Pasley, historian of the government of India, travelogues by Joseph Baretti and Lord Macartney, and the correspondence of Hester Thrale Piozzi and Dr. Johnson.  She knew works by the French authors Stéphanie Félicité de Genlis, Arnaud Berquin, and Anne Louise Germaine de Staël, and the Germans, Johann von Goethe and August von Kotzebue.  She read the efforts of relations and acquaintances such as Cassandra Cooke and Egerton Brydges, and the nascent novels of her nieces and nephew.

The snippets from Austen’s letters remind us that books were relatively expensive luxury items, often bought by circulating libraries or private reading societies and circulated among the members or subscribers. Jane Austen got hold of books in many different ways—reading them in her father’s library at Steventon and her brother’s Godmersham library, borrowing from circulating libraries in Bath and Southampton, joining the Chawton Reading Society, and borrowing the latest publications from her publisher—but she rarely bought books. Those bought during her youth were sold with her father’s before the move to Bath in 1801, and presumably regularly purchasing books was quite simply outside the limited means of the Austen ladies’ household during their years in Bath, Southampton, and Chawton.
Austen werd geboren in Hampshire. Haar vader was een geestelijke. Het grootste deel van haar leven bleef zij in haar geboortestreek. Austen had zes broers en een oudere zuster, Cassandra, met wie zij zeer hecht was. Het enige onbetwiste portret van Jane Austen is een gekleurde schets die door Cassandra werd gemaakt en nu in de National Portrait Gallery in Londen hangt. In 1801 verhuisde de familie naar Bath. In 1802 werd Austen ten huwelijk gevraagd door de rijke Harris Bigg-Wither en zij stemde toe; de volgende dag deelde ze echter mee dat zij haar woord niet kon houden en trok haar instemming in. De reden hiervoor is niet bekend, maar Austen is nooit getrouwd. Na de dood van haar vader in 1805 woonden Jane, haar zuster en haar moeder daar nog verscheidene jaren tot zij in 1809 naar Chawton verhuisden. Hier had haar rijke broer Edward een landgoed met een plattelandshuisje, dat hij aan zijn moeder en zusters schonk (dit huis is tegenwoordig open voor het publiek). Zelfs nadat zij naam gemaakt had als romanschrijfster bleef zij in relatieve stilte leven, maar haar gezondheid ging sterk achteruit. Er wordt nu aangenomen dat zij de ziekte van Addison had, waarvan toen de oorzaak nog onbekend was. Ze reisde naar Winchester om behandeling te zoeken, maar stierf daar en werd begraven in de kathedraal.
Tot Austens beroemdste werk behoort de roman Emma. Het boek wordt vaak aangehaald vanwege de perfectie van vorm. Moderne critici blijven ook nieuwe perspectieven ontdekken op het scherpe commentaar van Austen betreffende de klasse van jonge, ongehuwde, aristocratische Engelse vrouwen in de vroege 19e eeuw.


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Fashion - Regency 1

Edward Austen Leigh wrote down this description of Jane's appearence in the years just after the family left Southampton.

"She was tall and slender; her face was rounded with a clear brunette complexion and bright hazel eyes.

Her curly brown hair escaped all round her forehead, but from the time of her coming to live at Chawton she always wore a cap, except when her nieces had her in London and forbade it."

Henry Austen said of his sister, " Her stature rather exceeded the middle height; her carriage anad deportment were quiet but graceful; her complexion of the finest texture, it might with truth be said that her eloquent blood spoke through her modest cheek." Henry applied these lines to Jane: " Her pure and eloquent blood spake in her cheeks and so distinctly wrought that you had almost said her body thought."

Austen's niece Caroline recollected: "As to my aunt's personal appearance, hers was the first face I can remember thinking pretty. Her face was rather round than long, she had a bright, but not a pink colour—a clear brown complexion, and very good hazel eyes. Her hair, a darkish brown, curled naturally, it was in short curls around her face. She always wore a cap