Friday Bookblogging: Some Things Never Change Edition


For all of our Gentle Readers who have perhaps gorged themselves of late on sweet Jane-esque trifles and are starting to crave more substantial fare, we have a couple of links for your reading pleasure this weekend.

The Times Literary Supplement reprints E.M. Forster’s 1932 review of R.W. Chapman’s edition of Jane Austen’s letters, and even when we don’t really agree with Forster, it’s still a real treat to read.

Miss Austen had no idea of what awaited Jane Austen. Within certain limits she could perhaps forecast her contemporary’s future; she must have known that the novels would remain before the public for some years, and she would not have been surprised by the tributes of the Austen Leighs and of Lord Brabourne, for they were relatives, and might be expected to do what they could for an aunt. But that the affair should go farther, that it should reach the twentieth century and reach it in such proportions — of that she could have had no premonition.

The same thing could be written now (and has been, though not nearly so elegantly).

The tact and good temper of the editing are as admirable as its learning. Naturally when one invests in a concern one comes to value it, and Mr. Chapman is not exempt from this sensible rule. He has contended with the subject manfully, like St. Paul at Ephesus; and would he have done so if it was not worth while? He puts his plea endearingly, he does not thrust his struggle down our throats, and he leads us with just the right combination of honesty and circumspection past a very dubious spot in the rectory garden. What’s wrong in the garden? The drainage? No. The novels are good—of that there is no doubt, and they are so good that everything connected with the novelist and everything she wrote ought certainly to be published and annotated. Of that, too, there is no doubt, and this elaborate edition is thoroughly justified. But—and here comes the dubious spot —are the letters themselves good? Very reluctantly, and in spite of Mr. Chapman’s quiet instigations to the contrary, one must answer ” No.”

We do not agree, of course, but cannot help but admire, as one admires something beautiful and dangerous. Just go read it before we copy and paste the whole bally thing. (This is the infamous “whinneying of harpies” review, incidentally.)

JASNA has posted the text of Persuasions No. 9, dated 1987 and long out of print. The issue contains papers on Lady Susan and the juvenilia from the New York AGM. Do be sure to check out Mary Hardenbrook’s piece, “Gunfight at the Combe Magna Corral“:

All manner of thoughts run through his mind, as he faces Cool-Hand Brandon, the fastest gun in West Sussex. He thinks of high-tailing it back to the Allenham Corral, but Mrs. Calamity Smith is waiting for him there too, and he would face anything rather than her wrath. He thinks of his treasured Sophia, and a song runs through his head, again and again and again: “Do not forsake me …”

Hee. We look forward to reading all the essays! That’s it for this week’s Friday Bookblogging, Gentle Readers, and always remember: Books Are Nice!