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wpid-368916.jpg“You’ll be fascinated to learn (from me that hates novels) that I finally got round to Jane Austen and went out of my mind over Pride & Prejudice which I can’t bring myself to bring back to the library till you find me a copy of my own.” – Letter from Helene Hanff to Frank Doel at Marks & Co., Booksellers, May 11, 1952, as quoted in the book 84, Charing Cross Road, which if you haven’t read you should do so immediately

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“The process by which academic critics deprecate Austenian admirers outside the academy is very similar to the way…trekkies, fans, and mass media enthusiasts are derided and marginalized by dominant cultural institutions bent on legitimizing their own objects and protocols of expertise.” – Claudia L. Johnson, “Austen cults and cultures,” The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen

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“There are many ways to kill a zombie, but the most satisfying is to stab it in the head with a wooden stick.” – Dwight K. Schrute

The More You Know

Memo to Truman Capote

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From a 1974 article about Elizabeth Taylor, discussing her relationship with Richard Burton:

Gradually, one became aware of an excessive tension between the two: constant contradictions in dialogue, a repartee reminiscent of the husband and wife in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Yet it was the tension of romance, of two people who had made a physical, psychological commitment to one another. Jane Austen once said that all literature revolved around two themes: love and money.

Reading that, we remarked aloud, “Jane Austen never said any such thing, Charles Baker Harris.” (We refrained from adding a DOOOOOOOOO JESUS, since we like to think of ourself as being more Miss Maudie and much less Miss Rachel.) We are willing to be corrected if wrong, however. Has anyone ever heard or read of Jane Austen saying any such thing? We hope the Jane Austen of South Alabama had the opportunity to correct her old friend.

(The Church of Austenology will be holding services this Sunday.)

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“Yes, it was England—England. It was the England of Constable and Morland, of Miss Mitford and Miss Austen, the Brontës and George Eliot. . . . The village street might be Miss Mitford’s, the well-to-do house Jane Austen’s own fancy, in its warm brick and comfortable decorum. She laughed a little as she thought it.”

From The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett (which you can download from Girlebooks)

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“But my second or supplemental title was a matter of much more difficult election, since that, short as it is, may be held as pledging the author to some special mode of laying his scene, drawing his characters, and managing his adventures. Had I, for example, announced in my frontispiece, ‘Waverley, a Tale of other Days,’ must not every novel-reader have anticipated a castle scarce less than that of Udolpho, of which the eastern wing had long been uninhabited, and the keys either lost, or consigned to the care of some aged butler or housekeeper, whose trembling steps, about the middle of the second volume, were doomed to guide the hero, or heroine, to the ruinous precincts? Would not the owl have shrieked and the cricket cried in my very title-page? and could it have been possible for me, with a moderate attention to decorum, to introduce any scene more lively than might be produced by the jocularity of a clownish but faithful valet, or the garrulous narrative of the heroine’s fille-de-chambre, when rehearsing the stories of blood and horror which she had heard in the servants’ hall? Again, had my title borne, ‘Waverley, a Romance from the German,’ what head so obtuse as not to image forth a profligate abbot, an oppressive duke, a secret and mysterious association of Rosycrucians and Illuminati, with all their properties of black cowls, caverns, daggers, electrical machines, trap-doors, and dark-lanterns? Or if I had rather chosen to call my work a ‘Sentimental Tale,’ would it not have been a sufficient presage of a heroine with a profusion of auburn hair, and a harp, the soft solace of her solitary hours, which she fortunately finds always the means of transporting from castle to cottage, although she herself be sometimes obliged to jump out of a two-pair-of-stairs window, and is more than once bewildered on her journey, alone and on foot, without any guide but a blowzy peasant girl, whose jargon she hardly can understand? Or, again, if my Waverley had been entitled ‘A Tale of the Times,’ wouldst thou not, gentle reader, have demanded from me a dashing sketch of the fashionable world, a few anecdotes of private scandal thinly veiled, and if lusciously painted, so much the better? a heroine from Grosvenor Square, and a hero from the Barouche Club or the Four-in-Hand, with a set of subordinate characters from the elegantes of Queen Anne Street East, or the dashing heroes of the Bow-Street Office? I could proceed in proving the importance of a title-page, and displaying at the same time my own intimate knowledge of the particular ingredients necessary to the composition of romances and novels of various descriptions;–but it is enough, and I scorn to tyrannise longer over the impatience of my reader, who is doubtless already anxious to know the choice made by an author so profoundly versed in the different branches of his art.”

–From Waverley; or, ‘t Sixty Years Hence by Walter Scott, Chapter I (1805)

(Regular posting should resume tonight.)

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“(Jane Austen) has possibly given pleasure to more men in bed than any other woman in history, except perhaps Agatha Christie.” -Richard Jenkyns, A Fine Brush on Ivory