Memo from the Department of HuhWhat?


Recent press has two examples of journalists misappropriating Jane Austen and her writings for their own purposes.

First, the Memphis Flyer has a review of a play (not Austen-related) that contains the following:

The play’s best moments, however, go to Jo Lynne Palmer, a character with hysterical tendencies who seems to be plucked directly from the pages of a Jane Austen novel. Her comic bit involving the dearly departed’s ashes and a bowl of gazpacho nearly brought the opening-night audience to their feet mid-show.

We can only hope he means a comic minor character such as Mary Musgrove or Miss Bates, not one of Jane Austen’s heroines!

The second, much more egregious passage, is from the Guardian, in an article about pressure on modern teenagers:

When Jane Austen was 16 she wrote a short story entitled Catharine, or the Bower. The tale follows the adventures of a young penniless orphan, Miss Wynne, forced to marry a man twice her age ‘whose disposition was not amiable and whose Manners were unpleasing’. Austen’s own teenage years were not much better: they were spent looking after nephews and nieces, caring for a hypochondriac mother, assisting various female relatives during their confinement and then childbirth.
Her fate, like Miss Wynne’s, was not uncommon in the 19th century. Indeed, for generations of girls in Britain, their teens brought only a succession of arranged marriages, factory work, barbaric boarding school, pregnancies, poor nutrition, medicine, hygiene and dentistry.

Cinderella Austen: whodathunkit?

And as for this article, also in the Guardian, we can only paraphrase Catherine Morland and say: Oh! Who can ever be tired of Austen?