By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Jane Austen and her Country-house Comedy
Author: Helm, W. H.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Jane Austen and her Country-house Comedy" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

[Frontispiece: Jane Austen]








"I concluded, however unaccountable the assertion might appear at first
sight, that good-nature was an essential quality in a satirist, and
that all the sentiments which are beautiful in this way of writing,
must proceed from that quality in the author.  Good-nature produces a
disdain of all baseness, vice, and folly; which prompts them to express
themselves with smartness against the errors of men, without bitterness
towards their persons."--STEELE, _Tatler_, No. 242.


The author is much indebted to the Hon. C. M. Knatchbull-Hugessen, and
also to Messrs. Macmillan & Co., Ltd., for permission to make extracts
from the _Letters of Jane Austen_.




Jane Austen's abiding freshness--Why she has not more
readers--Characteristics of her work--Absence of passion--Balzac, Jane
Austen, and Charlotte Brontë--Jane in her home circle--Her tranquil
nature--Her unselfishness--Compared with Dorothy Osborne--Prudent
heroines--Thoughtless admiration



Literary influences--Jane Austen's defence of novelists--The old
essayists--Her favourite authors--Some novels of her time--Criticism of
her niece's novel--Sense of her own limitations--Her
method--Humour--Familiar names--Some characteristics of
style--Suggested emendations--A new "problem" of authorship--A
"forbidding" writer--"Commonplace" and "superficial"--Thomas Love
Peacock--Sapient suggestions



Origins of characters--Matchmaking--Second marriages--Negative
qualities of the novels--Close knowledge of one class--Dislike of
"lionizing"--Madame de Staël--The "lower orders"--Tradesmen--Social
position--Quality of Jane's letters--Balls and parties



Dr. Whately on Jane Austen--"Moral lessons" of her novels--Charge of
"Indelicacy"--Marriage as a profession--A "problem" novel--"The
Nostalgia of the Infinite"--The "whitewashing" of Willoughby--Lady
Susan condemned by its author--_The Watsons_--Change in manners--No
"heroes"--Woman's love--The Prince Regent--_The Quarterly Review_



What has woman done?--"Nature's Salic law"--Women deficient in
satire--Some types in the novels--The female snob--The
valetudinarian--The fop--The too agreeable man--"Personal size and
mental sorrow"--Knightley's opinion of Emma--Ashamed of relations--Mrs.
Bennet--The clergy and their opinions--Worldly life--Absence of
dogma--Authors confused with their creations



The novelist and her characters--Her sense of their
reality--Accessories rarely described--Her ideas on dress--Her own
millinery and gowns--Thin clothes and consumption--Domestic
economy--Jane as housekeeper--"A very clever essay"--Mr. Collins at
Longbourn--The gipsies at Highbury--Topography of Jane
Austen--Hampshire--Lyme Regis--Godmersham--Bath--London



Jane Austen's genius ignored--Negative and positive instances--The
literary orchard--Jane's influence in English literature



FRONTISPIECE . . . . . . _By Violet Helm._








Jane Austen's abiding freshness--Why she has not more
readers--Characteristics of her work--Absence of passion--Balzac, Jane
Austen, and Charlotte Brontë--Jane in her home circle--Her tranquil
nature--Her unselfishness--Compared with Dorothy Osborne--Prudent
heroines--Thoughtless admiration.

The year 1775, which deprived England of her American colonies, was
generous to English art and literature.  Had it only produced Walter
Savage Landor, or even no better worthy than James Smith of the
_Rejected Addresses_, it would not have done badly.  But these were its
added bounties.  Its greater gifts were Turner, Charles Lamb and Jane
Austen.  Could we be offered the choice of re-possessing the United
States, or losing the very memory of these three, which alternative
would we choose?


It is difficult to appreciate the lapse of time since Jane Austen was
at work.  We are now within a few years of the centenary of her death.
She had been laid beneath that black slab in Winchester Cathedral
before the first railway had been planned, or the first telegraph wire
stretched from town to town, or the first steamship steered across the
Atlantic.  Yet the must of age has not settled on her books.  The
lavender may lie between their pages, but it is still sweet, and there
is many a successful novelist of our own times whose work is already
far more out of date than hers.

This perennial timeliness of atmosphere is no necessity of genius.
Fielding and Scott remain a delight for succeeding generations, because
they possess the essential quality of humanity, but the life which they
offer us is largely remote from our own, foreign to our experience.
Jane Austen invites us to enjoy a change of air among people with most
of whom we may soon feel at ease, finding nothing in their conversation
that will disturb our equanimity.  If you are one of Jane Austen's
lovers, you come back to her novels for a holiday from the noise and
whirl of modern {15} fiction, as you would come from a great city to
the countryside or the coast village for rest and restoration.

The failure of her books to attract the mass of novel-readers is due in
the first place to a lack of "exciting" qualities.  No syndicate that
knew its business would offer them for serial purposes; they have no
breathless "situations," and their strong appeal is to the calmer
feelings and the intellect, not to the passions and the prejudices.  In
one respect only has she anything in common with the popular novelists
of our day.  Her set of characters is even more limited than theirs.
The virtuous heroine, the handsome hero, the frivolous coquette, the
fascinating libertine, the worldly priest, are to be encountered in her
pages, but the wicked nobleman and the criminal adventuress find no
places there.  What is often overlooked, however, by those who speak of
Jane Austen's few characters, is that no two of them have quite the
same characteristics of mind.  They are differentiated with admirable
art.  Even so, the types are few, and the smallness of the field which
she cultivated has been frequently adduced as a bar to her inclusion
among the {16} masters of English fiction.  She has the least range of
them all.  When one thinks of the host of strongly-marked types in
Scott, in Dickens, in Thackeray, of the diversity of scenes and
incidents which fill the pages of their books, her few squires and
parsons and unemployed officers, with their wives and daughters, who
live out their days in Georgian parlours and in shrubberies and parks,
make a poor enough show in the dramatic and spectacular way.

No particular passion dominates the life of any one of her leading
personages.  Avarice, which has afforded such notable figures to almost
every great novelist, in her world is only represented by meanness;
lust and hate are nowhere strongly emphasized, even love is rarely
permitted to suggest the possibility of becoming violent.  There are no
Pecksniffs, Quilps, Père Grandets, nor Lord Steynes; no Lady Kews, Jane
Eyres, nor Lisbeth Fischers.  Only into the hearts of her younger women
does Jane Austen throw the searchlight of complete knowledge, lit by
her own feelings, and tended with self-analysis, and her heroines still
leave a large part of virtuous womankind unrepresented.


Balzac, describing the origins of his play _La Marâtre_ to the manager
who produced it, said: "We are not concerned with an appalling
melodrama wherein the villain sets light to houses and massacres the
inhabitants.  No, I imagine a drawing-room comedy where all is calm,
tranquil, pleasant.  The men play peacefully at the whist-table, by the
light of wax candles under little green shades.  The women chat and
laugh as they do their fancy needlework.  Presently they all take tea
together.  In a word, everything shows the influence of regular habits
and harmony.  But for all that, beneath this placid surface the
passions are at work, the drama progresses until the moment when it
bursts out like the flame of a conflagration.  That is what I want to

The scene described is Jane Austen's--the quiet parlour, the
card-players, the women chatting, and working with their coloured
silks, the tea-tray, the shaded candles, the general air of ease and
tranquillity.  We find it at Mansfield Park with the Bertrams, at
Hartfield with the Woodhouses, and, in spite of Lydia and her "mamma,"
at Longbourn with the Bennets.  But the _dénouement_ to which Balzac
looked for his {18} effect has no attraction for Jane Austen.
Catherine Morland, at Northanger Abbey, imagines some such tragedy
smouldering into life below the surface of quiet habitude as Balzac
discovers in his horrid war of step-daughter and step-mother, and Jane
Austen herself laughs with Henry Tilney at this impressionable country
maiden whom he mocks while he admires.

Balzac and Jane Austen both strove to depict life, to show the motives
and instincts of men and women as the causes of action; in his case of
an energetic and passionate type, wherein the primary instincts are
freely exercised, in her case, of a simple, orderly kind, which allows
but little scope for the display of violence or the elaboration of
plots.  There are exceptions, of course, which for fear of the precise
critic must at least be illustrated.  Balzac has his quiet Pierrettes
and Rose Cormons, who suffer as patiently and far more poignantly than
an Elinor Dashwood or a Fanny Price; Jane Austen has her dissolute
Willoughbys and disturbing Henry Crawfords, and also her Maria
Rushworths and Mrs. Clays, who throw their bonnets over the windmills
with even less regard for their reputations than a Beatrix de {19}
Rochefide or a Natalie de Manerville.  When a lapse from virtue on the
part of any of her characters was, on some rare occasion, necessary to
her plan, Jane Austen did not allow any prudish reserve to stand in the
way, but it may be said no less unreservedly that she never introduced
vice where her story could do quite as well without it, and it is never
the central motive of her novels.  It is, then, not alone for the
narrowness of her field that her title to greatness has often been
disputed.  Many persons whose literary tastes are marked by
understanding and catholicity refuse to acknowledge the genius of so
peaceful a novelist.  Because of the absence of passion and sentiment
in Jane Austen's works, the author of _Jane Eyre_ would not recognize
in her the great artist that Scott and Coleridge believed her to be.
"The passions," wrote Miss Brontë, "are perfectly unknown to her; she
rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy sisterhood.  Even
to the feelings she vouchsafes no more than an occasional graceful but
distant recognition--too frequent converse with them would ruffle the
smooth elegance of her progress."  The three novelists here brought
into momentary {20} association, the creators of _Eugénie Grandet_,
_Emma_, and _Jane Eyre_ represent three distinctive forces in fiction.
Charlotte Brontë, disillusioned with the world, of which she knew very
little, and angry at its follies and injustices, sat alone and poured
out her feelings in her books; Balzac, hungry for fame, wrote furiously
all night by the light of a dip, stimulating his fiery imagination with
the strong coffee which was the irresponsible author of many of his
most astonishing chapters; Jane Austen, taking her meals and her rest
regularly, sat at her little desk in the parlour where her mother and
sister were sewing or writing letters, and placidly turned her
observations and reflections into manuscript.  Her hazel eyes, we may
be certain, never rolled in any kind of frenzy, her brown curls were
never disturbed by the spasmodic movements of nervous hands.  Great
artist as she was, she had no greater share of the "artistic
temperament" than many a popular novelist who "turns out" two or three
serial stories at a time by the simple process of shuffling the
situations, changing the scenery, and re-naming the characters.  If she
had been touched by the strong emotion of a Charlotte Brontë, or the
{21} burning imagination of a Balzac, she might have produced work
which would have set the world on fire, instead of merely infusing keen
happiness into responsive minds and compelling their love and
admiration.  That is only to say that if she had been somebody else she
would not have been herself.  It is peace, not war, that she carries to
us.  Even her irony is not of the sardonic kind, and in her work the
"master spell" is so daintily mingled that the bitter ingredients seem
to have disappeared in the making.

Respect and admiration and sympathy in a high degree have been given by
millions of minds, not always emotional, to many authors, but Jane
Austen is loved as few have been.  The love is inspired by her works,
and she shares it with Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse, and Anne
Elliot.  Milton, in a line which is as clear in meaning as it is foggy
in construction, speaks of Eve as "the fairest of her daughters."  Jane
Austen is regarded by the generality of her lovers as the most
delightful of her own heroines, and not merely as the woman who brought
them into existence.

Could we have loved her so much if we had {22} lived with her at
Steventon Rectory or at Chawton Cottage?  What she was at home I think
we know much better from her own letters than from her brother Henry's
panegyric, which, in spite of its obvious sincerity of intention, too
nearly resembles the memorial inscriptions of his own period to be
regarded with quite as much confidence as respect.  "Faultless
herself," he wrote, "as nearly as human nature can be, she always
sought, in the faults of others, something to excuse, to forgive, or
forget."  "Always" is a word which--as Captain Corcoran discovered of
its reverse--can hardly ever be used without considerable reservations.
We know, from her own pen, that Jane--we call one unwedded queen
"Elizabeth," why should we not call another "Jane"?--did not "always"
show so much tenderness for the faults of others, and when we remember
the endless variety of human nature we cannot but regard this
ascription of "faultlessness" by an affectionate brother as of little
more evidential value than Mrs. Dashwood's opinion (in _Sense and
Sensibility_) of the "faultlessness" of Marianne's lovers.  It is no
disparagement to Henry Austen to say that his little {23} memoir is
more convincing as a record of his own character than of his sister's.
Their nephew, Mr. Austen Leigh, who wrote the fullest and most
admirable account of Jane Austen, was still in his teens when she died.
Apart from these sparse reminiscences we know practically nothing about
her except from her own novels and letters, but from them we may learn
almost as much of the mind of this delightful woman as any loving
relation could have told us.  It may be possible for an author to write
an artificial novel without betraying his own nature to any positive
extent, but such novels as Jane Austen's cannot so be produced; it is
possible to write letters which, apart from the penmanship, offer no
evidences of character; but a pair of devoted sisters, however
different their ability or their philosophy of life, could not
correspond during twenty years without displaying much of the workings
of their minds.

Some of Jane's literary admirers think that she was lively and
talkative, others that she was prone to silence in company.  Probably
both views are correct.  It depended on the company.  Among those who
could appreciate her fun and her wit, her harmless quips and quizzing,
she was {24} full of vivacity; among those who raised their eyebrows at
her impromptu verses and missed the points of her piquant remarks on
persons and incidents she was speedily content, within the bounds of
good manners, to observe rather than to join in the comedy of
conversation.  We need not unreservedly believe her brother's assurance
that "she never uttered either a hasty, a silly, or a severe
expression," but we may, from all we know of her, be fairly confident
that she had a control over her tongue which few such gifted humourists
have possessed.  As for her temper, it was said in her family that
"Cassandra had the _merit_ of having her temper always under command,
but that Jane had the _happiness_ of a temper that never required to be

That her nature was not, in any marked degree, what is commonly called
"sympathetic" we may see from many passages in her letters, and her
novels afford ample corroboration.  There was no avoidable hypocrisy
about her.  In this at least she is the counterpart of Elizabeth or
Anne.  "Do not be afraid of my encroaching on your privilege of
universal goodwill.  You need not.  There are {25} few people whom I
really love, and still fewer of whom I think well.  The more I see of
the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms
my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the
little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of either merit
or sense."  In a letter from Jane Austen to Cassandra there would have
been nothing to surprise us in this passage, which is actually taken
from the remarks of Elizabeth Bennet to her sister on the subject of
Bingley's long silence after the Netherfield ball.

If Jane Austen did not cry over misfortunes which did not affect her,
neither did she pretend to ignore the affectations and weaknesses even
of her nearest relations.  Can it be supposed, for instance, that she
was in the least degree blinded to the shortcomings of a beloved mother
of whom she could, on various occasions, write such news as that she
"continues hearty, her appetite and nights are very good, but she
sometimes complains of an asthma, a dropsy, water in her chest, and a
liver disorder"?

A daughter and sister and friend whose attention was so closely
devoted, however {26} unobtrusively, to the study of character in a
narrow circle, would in most cases be "a little trying," but when the
observer was endowed with a keen sense of the absurd, and an irony
which, however weak in caustic, was strong in veracity, it might be
supposed that she would be an _enfant terrible_ of that mature kind
which in our own days is commoner than the nursery variety.  In her
case, the supposition would be ill-founded.  She was at once too
well-bred, and too kind-hearted, to let her special powers of wounding
take exercise on gentle hearts.  But falsehood of any sort was
abhorrent to her, and as a consequence she was inclined, in communing
with her sister, to show herself a little intolerant even of those
amiable pretences of sorrow for common ailments and small troubles
which are so soothing to weak humanity.  She rejected, for example, the
idea of commiserating with any one on account of a cold or a headache,
unless there were feverish symptoms!

Of the "vacant chaff well-meant for grain" of which Tennyson sings so
sadly, Jane brought little to market.  She would express to Cassandra
her sympathy with their acquaintances under great {27} disasters and
trivial misfortunes with the same penful of ink.  What she wrote to her
sister--of her devotion for whom, from earliest childhood, her mother
said, "If Cassandra was going to have her head cut off, Jane would
insist on sharing her fate"--is far more free than what she uttered in
the family circle.  Few have realized better the value of the unspoken
word, or given their relations less opportunity to remind them of the
evils of indiscretion.

If she was unemotional and, in the ordinary sense of the word,
unsympathetic, she is not to be blamed for this lack of the qualities
with one of which she so amply endowed Marianne and with the other
Elinor Dashwood.  We can no more make ourselves emotional or
sympathetic than we can make ourselves fair or dark, or rather, we can
only alter our ways as we can alter our complexions, by artifice.  The
outward show of sympathy which is not felt is one of the commonest of
hypocrisies, perhaps inevitable at times from very charity.  Happily it
is not a necessary part of that ultimate barrier which, even in the
truest friendships and the deepest love, makes it as impossible for one
human being to see the {28} whole of another's heart as it is
impossible to see more than a little of the "other side" of the moon.
We cannot help being more or less unfeeling, but we can subdue our
selfishness in action.  Almost everything that can be learned about
Jane Austen strengthens the conviction that she was one of the least
selfish of women.

In her last illness the fidelity of her spirit is constantly shown, and
her affection becomes more unreserved in its utterance.  There is one
letter wherein, after speaking of Cassandra, she says, in a phrase
curiously suggestive of Thackeray: "As to what I owe her, and the
anxious affection of all my beloved family on this occasion, I can only
cry over it, and pray God to bless them more and more."

That she was by nature "meek and lowly," as one of her American adorers
declares, I cannot believe, but if she preferred the spacious rooms and
well-spread board of her brother's mansion to the common parlour and
boiled mutton-and-turnips of her father's rectory, she did not grizzle
over her state, nor did she allow her conscious superiority of
intelligence to claim distinction in her home.  One of the few glimpses
(apart from {29} her own writings) that we have of her in her family
relations is when, in the closing year of her life, her illness having
begun to weaken her body, she was obliged to lie down frequently during
the day.  There was only one sofa at Chawton Cottage, and although Mrs.
Austen, in spite of the many ailments she had formerly complained of,
was a tolerably healthy old lady, the stricken daughter made herself a
couch by putting several chairs together, and declared that she
preferred it to the sofa which her mother commonly occupied.  Sofas, we
must remember, were at least as rare then as oak-panelled walls are
now.  It was in those days that Cobbett regretted that the sofa had
ever been introduced into his country, and he no doubt, according to
his habit, held the Prime Minister responsible for the aid to
effeminate indulgence of which his contemporary Cowper sang.

Jane's discontent with the comparative poverty of her surroundings was
not translated into ill temper.  There are many reasons for believing,
and few indeed for doubting, that she tried to do her duty in that
state of life to which she was born, and from which she was not
destined to {30} emerge into the more varied pleasures and pains of a
larger world.  What if, among those whom she trusted, she could not
resist expressing the lively thoughts suggested to her acute wit by the
acts or utterances of her friends.  She was the pride of her family,
and its sunshine, even if her rays were more akin to the sun as we know
him on a fine spring day at home than as we seek him on the Côte d'Azur.

She seems to have been more nearly understood among the clergy and
squires, and other members of her family, than most humourists in their
immediate circles.  The common experience of the genius in childhood
and youth, if biographers are to be credited, is for the delicate
shoots of his intelligence to be nipped by domestic frosts; but if
there had been any freezing in the Austen family, it was more likely to
be produced by the chill of Jane's own satirical remarks than by any
harm that the convention and narrowness of others could do to a mind so
well defended as hers.  There are few traces of any such wintry weather
having occurred at Steventon or Chawton.  Jane was certainly beloved,
greatly and deservedly, in her home.  She was, no doubt, a little {31}
lonely, as genius, one may suppose, must always be, and as those who
are blest, or curst, with a strong sense of the absurd must be whether
they be geniuses or not.  Her sister was her closest friend, but Jane's
published letters to Cassandra, read in the light of the novels,
suggest a reserve in discussing her inmost thoughts with that devoted
spirit which seems hardly compatible with the closest concordance of
ideas, in spite of the completest concordance of affection and a high
respect on Jane's part for Cassandra's sound sense and critical
judgment.  Very different is the tone of the letters of that other
pretty humourist, Dorothy Osborne, to William Temple.  In Dorothy's
case there was a perfect confidence in the entire sympathy and
comprehension of the recipient.  This factor apart, how much there is
in common between the two dear women.  The one was dead more than
eighty years before the other was born, but in all the history of
womanhood is there any pair in which the smiling philosophy that is the
salt of the mind is more fairly divided?  Jane Austen lives still in
Elizabeth Bennet and in Emma Woodhouse; Dorothy Osborne only in her
sweet self.  The one had {32} no passion but her work--and it was a
quiet, unconsuming passion.  The other had no passion but her love, and
it was never able to overmaster her intelligence.  "In earnest," she
wrote, "I am no more concerned whether people think me handsome or
ill-favoured, whether they think I have wit or that I have none, than I
am whether they think my name Elizabeth or Dorothy."  It was not quite
true in her case, nor would it have been in Jane's, but it contains no
more exaggeration than is allowed to any woman of sense, and it was as
true of the one as of the other.

Love has lately been defined by a ruthless analyzer of feelings as "a
specific emotion, exclusive in selection, more or less permanent in
duration, and due to a mental fermentation in itself caused by a law of
attraction."  Jane Austen had never read such an explanation of love as
this, yet her views on the most powerful of the mixings of animal and
spiritual instincts are usually more placid than would please the
fancies of maidens who sleep with bits of wedding-cake beneath their
pillows.  That passionate love "is woman's whole existence" is not
exemplified by Jane's favourite heroines.  Emma or Elizabeth did not
{33} so regard it, even if Anne Elliot did lose some of her good looks
and Catherine Morland her appetite when their hopes of particular
bridegrooms seemed likely to be disappointed.  Elizabeth would not have
worried greatly over Darcy if he had not come back for her, and Emma
would have been as happy at Hartfield without a husband as she had
always been, so long as Knightley was friendly.

We cannot imagine that Jane Austen could ever have written to any man,
as Dorothy Osborne wrote to Temple of a love which she could not make
her family understand: "For my life I cannot beat into their heads a
passion that must be subject to no decay, an even perfect kindness that
must last perpetually, without the least intermission.  They laugh to
hear me say that one unkind word would destroy all the satisfaction of
my life, and that I should expect our kindness should increase every
day, if it were possible, but never lessen."

The conjugal instinct was not strongly developed in Jane; and, although
she seems to have been very fond of children, and especially of her
nephews and nieces, it may be assumed with some {34} confidence that
the maternal instinct also found little place in her nature.

Marianne Dashwood, emotional, fastidiously truthful--she left to her
elder sister "the whole task of telling lies when politeness required
it"--romantically fond of scenery and poetry as any of Mrs. Radcliffe's
heroines, stands out among the girls of Jane's imagining as the only
one who outwardly exhibits the conventional signs of passionate
affection for a lover, Catherine's and Fanny's emotions being more
suggestive of maiden fancies, of "the flimsy furniture of a country
miss's brain," than of the yearnings of a Juliet or a Roxane.

Nevertheless the idea that the Austen people are cold-blooded is warmly
opposed in an appreciative little essay published in America a few
years ago by Mr. W. L. Phelps.  "Let no one believe," he writes, "that
Jane Austen's men and women are deficient in passion because they
behave with decency: to those who have the power to see and interpret,
there is a depth of passion in her characters that far surpasses the
emotional power displayed in many novels where the lovers seem to
forget the meaning of such words as honour, {35} virtue, and fidelity."
It may be that, like Richard Feverel on a certain occasion, the Henrys
and Edwards, the Emmas and Annes are "too British to expose their
emotions."  But Lucy Feverel, one of the purest and truest women in
fiction, shows passion so that no special "power to see and interpret"
is requisite on the reader's part, and the same note is true of many of
the charming heroines drawn by the masters of imagination.

At any rate Jane allowed her heroines as much passion and sentiment
as--so far as we can discover--she experienced herself.  The one known
man who seems to have come near to being regarded as her accepted lover
was Thomas Lefroy, who lived to be Chief Justice of Ireland.

"You scold me so much," she writes, in her twenty-first year, to
Cassandra, "in the nice long letter which I have this moment received
from you, that I am almost afraid to tell you how my Irish friend and I
behaved.  Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking
in the way of dancing and sitting down together.  I _can_ expose
myself, however, only _once more_, because he leaves the country soon
after next Friday, on which day we _are_ to have a {36} dance at Ashe
after all.  He is a very gentlemanlike, good-looking, pleasant young
man, I assure you.  But as to our having ever met, except at the three
last balls, I cannot say much; for he is so excessively laughed at
about me at Ashe, that he is ashamed of coming to Steventon, and ran
away when we called on Mrs. Lefroy a few days ago."

No coquettish "reigning beauty" was ever more easy as to the fate of
her lovers, or less likely to suffer at their hands, than this
Hampshire maiden, whose fine complexion, hazel eyes, and
well-proportioned figure attracted so much admiration, and whose sweet
voice and lively conversation completed the conquest of those whom she
cared to entertain.

"Tell Mary," she writes to her sister (also in 1796), "that I make over
Mr. Heartley and all his estate to her for her sole use and benefit in
future, and not only him, but all my other admirers into the bargain
wherever she can find them, even the kiss which C. Powlett wanted to
give me, as I mean to confine myself in future to Mr. Tom Lefroy, for
whom I don't care six-pence."


This agreeable Irishman, to whom, in later years, we find references in
the records of the Edgeworth family, was speedily to pass out of Jane's
young life.  Very soon she has to write: "At length the day is come on
which I am to flirt my last with Tom Lefroy, and when you receive this
it will be over.  My tears flow as I write at the melancholy idea.
William Chute called here yesterday.  I wonder what he means by being
so civil."

We need not picture her as stopping her writing while she wiped the
tears from her streaming eyes.  "We went by Bifrons," she says on
another occasion, "and I contemplated with a melancholy pleasure the
abode of him on whom I once fondly doted."  She never did "dote" on any
man, so far as can be discovered or reasonably surmised, to any greater
extent than her favourite Emma may be said to have "doted" on Frank
Churchill.  Emma's feelings about the man who was secretly engaged to
Jane Fairfax at the time, are thus analyzed by Jane Austen--

"Emma continued to entertain no doubt of her being in love.  Her ideas
only varied as to the {38} how much.  At first she thought it was a
good deal; and afterwards but little.  She had great pleasure in
hearing Frank Churchill talked of; and, for his sake, greater pleasure
than ever in seeing Mr. and Mrs. Weston; she was very often thinking of
him, and quite impatient for a letter, that she might know how he was,
how were his spirits, how was his aunt, and what was the chance of his
coming to Randalls again this spring.  But, on the other hand, she
could not admit herself to be unhappy, nor, after the first morning, to
be less disposed for employment than usual....  'I do not find myself
making any use of the word _sacrifice_,' said she.  'In not one of all
my clever replies, my delicate negatives, is there any allusion to
making a sacrifice.  I do suspect that he is not really necessary to my
happiness.  So much the better.  I certainly will not persuade myself
to feel more than I do.  I am quite enough in love.  I should be sorry
to be more.'"

Save for Willoughby's burst of misplaced enthusiasm over Marianne,
Frank Churchill's description of Jane Fairfax to Emma is the warmest
bit of love-painting in the Austen comedy--

"She is a complete angel.  Look at her.  Is not she an angel in every
gesture?  Observe the turn of her throat.  Observe her eyes, as she is
looking up at my father.  You will be glad to {39} hear (inclining his
head, and whispering seriously) that my uncle means to give her all my
aunt's jewels.  They are to be new set.  I am resolved to have some in
an ornament for the head.  Will not it be beautiful in her dark hair?"

Such raptures as these are rarely permitted to the Austen lovers.  In
their affairs of the heart, as in the general conduct of their lives,
plain living and quiet thinking reflect the simple habits of the people
among whom Jane passed her own smoothly-ordered life.

To the simplicity of that life we owe one of her peculiar charms.  If
she had been the famous, sought-after literary woman who is the
necessary complement of a dinner-party in a house of cultured luxury,
and whose name is found in the index of every volume of contemporary
reminiscences, she would not have been half so attractive to the type
of mind that most enjoys her novels.  Yet when all possible allowance
has been made for her lightness of expression her own predilections
were certainly for the conditions of "opulent leisure" rather than of
decent comfort, for the amenities of Mansfield Park and Pemberley
rather than for those of Fullerton Rectory or the {40} Dashwoods'
cottage.  "People get so horridly poor and economical in this part of
the world," she wrote from Steventon to her sister at Godmersham, "that
I have no patience with them.  Kent is the only place for happiness;
everybody is rich there."

This was written early in her life.  In the year before she died,
writing to her niece Fanny, she said: "Single women have a dreadful
propensity for being poor, which is one very strong argument in favour
of matrimony, but I need not dwell on such arguments with _you_, pretty

Contempt for poverty is expressed by several characters in her work.
"Be honest and poor, by all means"--says Mary Crawford to Edmund
Bertram--"but I shall not envy you; I do not much think I shall even
respect you.  I have a much greater respect for those that are honest
and rich."

Perhaps neither the real Jane nor the imaginary Mary is to be taken
quite literally, but that Jane would have freely assented to a
disbelief in the wisdom of marrying on a small income, however little
she approved of Mary's "too positive admiration for wealth," is certain
from all that {41} we know of her opinions on the essentials of

Godmersham is in Kent, and it was in that spacious, well-provided house
of her brother Edward, amid all the charms of parks and beechwoods, of
home comforts and "elegances" that marked the life of the large
landowner in those days, that she usually found herself most contented.
Then was the time when the squire was not driven to find an income by
letting his manor to a company promoter to whom the difference between
an oak and an elm is scarcely known, and whose chief object in hiring a
mansion in rural surroundings is to fill it with week-end parties who
play bridge indoors on summer afternoons and leave the beauties of the
gardens and the park to the peacocks and the deer.

With such a modern plutocrat Jane would have had little in common, but
she would have had less with the modern Socialist.  Landed property
stood for everything stable and dignified in her days, and those
critics of _Pride and Prejudice_ who unkindly emphasized the fact that
Elizabeth Bennet only decided to marry Darcy after she had seen the
glories of Pemberley and its park {42} and gardens, while they
implicitly libelled the girl, were not so unfair to the general
sentiment of her period.  Sir Walter Scott, by the way, was one of
those who regarded Elizabeth Bennet's change of feeling towards Darcy
as the result of her visit to the fine place in Derbyshire.  Surely
such a view connotes a failure to appreciate the humour of the
conversation on this point between Jane Bennet and her sister.  The
elder girl asks the younger how long it is since she has felt any
affection for Darcy, and Elizabeth replies: "It has been coming on so
gradually, that I hardly know when it began; but I believe I must date
it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley."  Even Jane
Bennet, whose humour sense was not strongly developed, asks her to give
a serious answer.

This much may be admitted, that the idea of marrying the curate never
presented itself to any one of the maidens who brighten the novels of
Jane Austen with their charms of mind and appearance.  Elinor Dashwood
seems to have regarded about £600 a year (with sure prospect of
increase) as the minimum on which married life could hopefully be
entered upon, and I fancy {43} Jane would have agreed with her.  The
majority of novel-readers may still prefer the hero and heroine whose
love will triumph over all obstacles of position, and opposition, of
want of sympathy on the part of others or of sense on their own, and
there have actually been readers who thought Lydia Bennet more
"interesting" than Elizabeth!  The prudence of the heroines may to some
small extent account for the failure of Jane Austen's work to captivate
the "great heart of the public."  In any case her fame is far from
universal.  She has never been, and never will be, popular in the sense
in which the men and women whose publishers cheerfully print first
editions of a hundred thousand copies are popular.  Her appeal, in her
own lifetime, when her name was unknown, was not to "the general," and
it is only much less restricted now because of the enormous increase in
the reading public.  Actually it is immensely greater; relatively, its
increase is evidently small.  One cannot, as in the case of some
authors, describe her work as being enjoyed only by the cultured class,
and neglected, because misapprehended, by the rest.  True culture is
always discriminating, even in the presence of its {44} divinities.
Mr. Anthony Hope said not long ago, referring to literary snobbishness:
"There are certain companies in which to suggest, even with the utmost
humility, that certain parts of Jane Austen's novels are less
entertaining than other parts is thought considerably worse than
drawing invidious distinctions between various passages of Holy Writ."

With those who regard Jane Austen's work as equally excellent in every
part, no patience is possible.  The reader who finds it easy to get as
much enjoyment from _Sense and Sensibility_ or _Northanger Abbey_ as
from _Pride and Prejudice_ or _Mansfield Park_ must be blessed with a
comfortable absence of discrimination.  Those who see no degree of
superiority in the presentation of the characters of Elizabeth Bennet
and Anne Elliot as compared with Elinor Dashwood and Catherine Morland
might be expected to regard Blanche Amory and Mrs. Jarley as the equals
respectively of Becky Sharp and Mrs. Gamp.

Such uncritical admiration as Mr. Anthony Hope referred to is even more
annoying than the tone in which I have heard a distinguished writer
speak of Jane Austen as "that woman"--the {45} mildest of the
contemptuous terms that Napoleon applied to Madame de Staël.  The
author who spoke of Jane Austen so slightingly admitted her power of
presenting a "bloodless" and trivial society in a life-like manner.  No
such recognition of power is allowed to her by an American critic of
to-day, who says of her work "it may be called art, but it is a poor
species of that old art which depended for its effect upon false
similitudes."  It is hard to believe that the writer of this
astonishing opinion had read many pages of the author he thus condemned
to a place among the third-rates.




Literary influences--Jane Austen's defence of novelists--The old
essayists--Her favourite authors--Some novels of her time--Criticism of
her niece's novel--Sense of her own limitations--Her
method--Humour--Familiar names--Some characteristics of
style--Suggested emendations--A new "problem" of authorship--A
"forbidding" writer--"Commonplace" and "superficial"--Thomas Love
Peacock--Sapient suggestions.

"I believe there is no constraint to be put upon real genius; nothing
but inclination can set it to work," was one of the many sensible, if
unoriginal, observations of the monarch in whose reign Jane Austen was
born and died.  But the inclination itself is usually started by
external suggestions, and it is a mere truism that most books are
written because others have appeared before them.  Macaulay declared
that but for Fanny Burney's example Jane Austen would never have been a
novelist.  Some of her early attempts at a complete novel did indeed
take the epistolary {50} form which was common in the preceding age,
and was the method of her admired Richardson, who, I think, fired her
ambition quite as much as Miss Burney.  It would also seem that Mrs.
Radcliffe's wild romances had induced in Jane the desire to do
something that should please by the absence of every quality that had
made them popular.

I doubt if there is any author of any period to whom the most famous
remark of Buffon could be more justly applied than to Jane Austen.
"_Le style est la femme même_" is a conviction which becomes more and
more firm as one reads her novels and her letters, and reflects over
their relationship.  Her simple life and her limited opportunities, her
genius being granted, are a sufficient explanation of her work.  Part
of that life, and a part more important, in proportion to the rest,
than it would have been in the case of one who had lived less remote
from the world of thought and action, was the reading of favourite
books.  _Clarissa_, _Sir Charles Grandison_ and _Pamela_ influenced her
strongly, but she avoided more than she took from them in the formation
of her style.  Miss Burney she now and then laughs at a little, {51} as
when, after John Thorpe has said to Catherine (who confesses she has
never read _Camilla_): "You had no loss, I assure you; it is the
horridest nonsense you can imagine; there is nothing in the world in it
but an old man's playing at see-saw and learning Latin; upon my soul,
there is not," Jane Austen adds that "the justness" of this critique
"was unfortunately lost on poor Catherine."  But where she loved she
laughed.  She appreciated her sister-novelist's work very highly, and
she writes of a young woman whom she met at a neighbour's house: "There
are two traits in her character which are pleasing--namely, she admires
Camilla, and drinks no cream in her tea."

Scott's poetry, of course, Jane read and enjoyed.  Three of his most
popular novels--_Waverley_, _Guy Mannering_, and _The
Antiquary_--appeared during her lifetime, and their authorship, like
that of her own works, was not avowed until after her death.  How
wide-open was the "secret" of their origin from the very first, years
before Scott's acknowledgment, we may see in one of Jane's letters of
1814, where she says: "Walter Scott has no business to write novels;
{52} especially good ones.  It is not fair.  He has fame and profit
enough as a poet, and should not be taking the bread out of the mouths
of other people.  I do not like him, and do not mean to like _Waverley_
if I can help it, but I fear I must."  She herself declared, half
jestingly, that she wrote for fame and not for profit.  Neither, in any
but shallow measure, was granted to her whilst she lived.  She did not,
like Robert Burns, "pant after distinction," nor was she of the
"pushing" type.  The offering-up of self-respect in the cause of
self-interest was the least possible of sacrifices with her.

The machine-made horrors of Ann Radcliffe--"_la reine des
épouvantements_" as she has been aptly called, in spite of her retiring
disposition--were as familiar to Jane as were those, far less
_pouvantable_, of Ainsworth to the girls of a later generation.  The
Radcliffe novels were published between Jane's fourteenth and
twenty-third years, when she was most open to romantic influences, but
however much she may have shuddered over them in her teens, she laughed
at them in her twenties, and it is certainly to the desire to satirize
the melodramatic sensations of the school of fiction {53} which they
represent that we chiefly owe _Northanger Abbey_, a pleasant mixture of
a serious love-story and a burlesque, a motto for which might have been
found in a sonnet of Shakespeare:

  "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
  Coral is far more red than her lips' red:
      *      *      *      *      *
  I grant I never saw a goddess go,--
  My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground."

It is in this novel that, leaving her characters for a page or two to
take care of themselves, the author thus refers to the sorrows of the
novel-making craft, and expresses her high appreciation of the work of
Miss Burney and of Miss Edgeworth--

"Let us not desert one another--we are an injured body.  Although our
productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than
those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of
composition has been so much decried.  From pride, ignorance, or
fashion, our foes are almost as many as our readers; and while the
abilities of the nine-hundredth abridger of the history of England, or
of the man who collects and publishes in a volume some dozen lines of
Milton, Pope, and Prior, with a paper from the _Spectator_, and a
chapter from Sterne, are eulogized by a thousand pens,--there seems
almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and {54} undervaluing
the labour of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which
have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them.  'I am no
novel-reader.--I seldom look into novels.--Do not imagine that '_I_
often read novels.--It is really very well for a novel.'  Such is the
common cant.  'And what are you reading, Miss----?'  'Oh! it is only a
novel!' replies the young lady; while she lays down her book with
affected indifference, or momentary shame.  'It is only _Cecilia_, or
_Camilla_, or _Belinda_;' or, in short, only some work in which the
greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough
knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties,
the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in
the best-chosen language.  Now, had the same young lady been engaged
with a volume of the _Spectator_, instead of such a work, how proudly
would she have produced the book, and told its name! though the chances
must be against her being occupied by any part of that voluminous
publication of which either the matter or manner would not disgust a
young person of taste; the substance of its papers so often consisting
in the statement of improbable circumstances, unnatural characters, and
topics of conversation, which no longer concern any one living; and
their language, too, frequently so coarse as to give no very favourable
idea of the age that could endure it."


This is a hard saying for those who count "Sir Roger de Coverley," "Mr.
Bickerstaff," and many "Clarindas" and "Sophronias" among their
friends.  The age of the Regency may or may not have been as lax in its
morality as some of its detractors have declared, but that it was one
in which ladies could reasonably have been expected to blush over the
pages of the _Spectator_ is not easily to be believed.

The girls in the manor-houses and parsonages of those days formed their
literary tastes on native productions without going abroad for their
novels.  They did not read French fiction as their grandmothers and
great-grandmothers had done, or as their cousins in town still did in
spite of such warnings as that of a contemporary critic who held it
scarcely possible to read French "without contracting some pollution,
so extensively and radically is its whole literature depraved."  Times
had changed since Dorothy Osborne discussed the voluminous romances of
Calprenède and Mademoiselle de Scudéri with William Temple.

Another important branch of Jane's private and voluntary curriculum was
her reading not only in the "coarse" journalism of Steele and Addison
{56} and their colleagues, but in the various successors of the
_Spectator_ and the _Tatler_ which had their little days and died,
particularly during the reign of George II.  Not only in the _Rambler_
and the _Idler_ of the great man whom she so highly respected, but in
the _World_, the _Mirror_, the _Lounger_, the _Connoisseur_, and other
less remembered publications of their class, you may come upon
characters and reflections and incidents which may have afforded
fruitful suggestions to one who, after the manner of genius, could turn
even the dulness of others into sparkling delight of her own.

Her favourite poet was Crabbe.  She never met him, but she was so
charmed by his work that, as her nephew has recorded, she used jokingly
to say, "If she ever married at all, she could fancy being Mrs.
Crabbe."  Her appreciation of such poems as _The Village_ and _The
Parish Register_ is suggestive.  She herself made no attempt to
illustrate the "simple annals of the poor."  Born in a family which was
itself a part of the landed gentry, in those days in its pride, she was
obviously conscious of a lofty barrier between her own class and the
peasantry.  George Crabbe, on the other {57} hand, the son of lowly
folk, was born and nurtured in poverty, and he never forgot that he had
sprung from the sand-dunes of the East Coast.  His pictures of the
poor, their sorrows and joys, fill the most delightful of his verses;
his ease in their society, his understanding of their minds and
characters mark him off as clearly from Jane Austen as--to take a very
modern instance--the admirable and sympathetic pictures of farm-life in
la Vendée offered in _La Terre qui meurt_ distinguish M. René Bazin
from M. Marcel Batilliat, who has dealt so feelingly with the decadence
of the château in _La Vendée aux Genêts_.  Jane found in Crabbe
something that she missed in herself, a ready appreciation of all

She loved Cowper too, both in his poems and his prose.  There was much
in _The Task_ that could not but please her, though the humour must
have struck her as being exceedingly mild, and the descriptions
over-laboured.  Cowper, though kindly to the rural poor, and often
referring to their occupations, smiles derisively at those who pretend
to envy the labourer's lot and to regard his cottage, if properly
"rose-bordered," as preferable to any other kind of residence.


  "So farewell envy of the _peasant's nest_!
  If Solitude make scant the means of life,
  Society for me! thou seeming sweet,
  Be still a pleasing object in my view;
  My visit still, but never mine abode."

Jane was wholly in accord with the sentiment of these lines.  In some
verses--composed in 1807 for a family competition in producing rhymes
with "rose"--which, but for the rhyming, are a burlesque of Cowper's
style, we find a picture of a cottager, wherein, if the "poetry" be
naturally of small account, are lines that would mark it, without the
direct evidence of the name, as hers, and not Cassandra's or Mrs.

  "Happy the lab'rer in his Sunday clothes!
  In light-drab coat, smart waistcoat, well darn'd hose,
  And hat upon his head, to church he goes;
  As oft, with conscious pride, he downward throws
  A glance upon the ample cabbage-rose,
  Which, stuck in button-hole, regales his nose,
  He envies not the gayest London beaux.
  In church he takes his seat among the rows,
  Pays to the place the reverence he owes,
  Likes best the prayers whose meaning least he knows,
  Lists to the sermon in a softening doze,
  And rouses joyous at the welcome close."

There is a letter of January 1758 from Johnson to Bennet Langton which,
as Boswell remarks, shows its writer "in as easy and pleasant a state
of {59} existence, as constitutional unhappiness ever permitted him to
enjoy."  I cannot help quoting it here as evidence of an affinity of
Johnson, in his happiest hours, with his constitutionally cheerful
admirer, Jane Austen--

"The two Wartons just looked into the town, and were taken to see
_Cleone_, where, David says, they were starved for want of company to
keep them warm.  David and Doddy have had a new quarrel, and, I think,
cannot conveniently quarrel any more.  _Cleone_ was well acted by all
the characters, but Bellamy left nothing to be desired.  I went the
first night, and supported it as well as I might; for Doddy, you know,
is my patron, and I would not desert him.  The play was very well
received.  Doddy, after the danger was over, went every night to the
stage-side, and cried at the distress of poor Cleone.  I have left off
housekeeping, and therefore made presents of the game which you were
pleased to send me.  The pheasant I gave to Mr. Richardson, the bustard
to Dr. Lawrence, and the pot I placed with Miss Williams, to be eaten
by myself....  Mr. Reynolds has within these few days raised his price
to twenty guineas a head, and Miss is much employed in miniatures.  I
know not anybody else whose prosperity has increased since you left


If the date and the reference to the writer's relations with the
dramatist had been suppressed the letter might have been given as one
of Jane's own without arousing suspicion in any but a confirmed
"Boswellian."  "David" is Garrick, of course, while "Doddy" is Dodsley,
author of the play, and the fortunate recipient of the Langton pheasant
is the author of _Clarissa_, another of Jane's favourites more than
thirty years after, when she had had time to be born and grow up.

Richardson, Fanny Burney, Ann Radcliffe, Maria Edgeworth (after 1800),
Scott (as poet), Johnson, Crabbe, and Cowper, then, afforded the more
solid literary nourishment of Jane Austen.  She had studied the
essayists of Queen Anne's time and their emulators, and was not
unfamiliar with Fielding, and she did not neglect the ordinary books
that came from the circulating libraries of the day.  "Mrs. Martin,"
she writes of a bookseller in her neighbourhood who had started such a
library, "as an inducement to subscribe tells me that her collection is
not to consist only of novels, but of every kind of literature, etc.
She might have spared this pretension to _our_ family, who {61} are
great novel-readers, and not ashamed of being so; but it was necessary,
I suppose, to the self-consequence of half her subscribers."
Unhappily, this "high-class" venture was a total failure.

The novels supplied by "Mrs. Martin" and others, forerunners of those
which now go forth from the Strand and Oxford Street, are frequently
referred to in Jane's letters, and some of them, if we are so disposed,
we can read at the British Museum.  There was, for example, Sarah
Burney's _Clarentine_, which Jane and her mother read for the third
time (in 1807), and "are surprised to find how foolish it is ... full
of unnatural conduct and forced difficulties"; there was
_Self-Control_, a book "without anything of nature or probability," but
which Jane feared might be "too clever," and that she might find her
own work forestalled by it; there was the _Alphonsine_ of Madame de
Genlis, which "did not do.  We were disgusted in twenty pages, as,
independent of a bad translation, it has indelicacies which disgrace a
pen hitherto so pure"; and there was _Margiarna_, which the Austens
were reading in the winter of 1809, at {62} Southampton, and "like very
well indeed.  We are just going to set off for Northumberland to be
shut up in Widdrington Tower, where there must be two or three sets of
victims already immured under a very fine villain."

About the same time Cassandra tells of some romance which the
Godmersham circle has been devouring, and Jane replies--"To set up
against your new novel, of which nobody ever heard before, and perhaps
never may again, we have got _Ida of Athens_, by Miss Owenson, which
must be very clever, because it was written, as the authoress says, in
three months.  We have only read the preface yet, but her Irish girl
does not make me expect much.  If the warmth of her language could
affect the body it might be worth reading in this weather."

We shall not find much criticism of books either in the novels or the
letters.  There is a passage in one of "Aunt Jane's" letters to her
niece Anna, written in 1814, in which her point of view on one
important question of style is clearly expressed.  Anna, probably
inspired by her aunt's example--for the authorship of _Sense and
Sensibility_ and _Pride and Prejudice_ had leaked out {63} in the
family in spite of all precaution--had written a novel herself, and had
sent the MS. to Jane for kindly consideration and advice.  The result
was not wholly encouraging--

"Your Aunt C. (Cassandra) does not like desultory novels, and is rather
afraid yours will be too much so, that there will be too frequently a
change from one set of people to another, and that circumstances will
be introduced of apparent consequence which will lead to nothing.  It
will not be so great an objection to me if it does.  I allow much more
latitude than she does, and think nature and spirit cover many sins of
a wandering story, and people in general do not care so much about it
for your comfort....  I have scratched out the introduction between
Lord Portman and his brother and Mr. Griffin.  A country surgeon (don't
tell Mr. C. Lyford) would not be introduced to men of their rank, and
when Mr. P. is first brought in, he would not be introduced as the
Honourable.  That distinction is never mentioned at such times, at
least I believe not."

Of a later novel of Anna's, which Jane "read to your Aunt Cassandra in
our own room at night, while we undressed," she tells the girl that
"Devereux Forester's being ruined by his vanity is extremely good, but
I wish you would not let {64} him plunge into a 'vortex of
dissipation.'  I do not object to the thing, but I cannot bear the
expression; it is such thorough novel slang, and so old that I dare say
Adam met with it in the first novel he opened...."

Mrs. Austen had said, and Jane agreed with her, that Anna had allowed a
married couple in the novel to be too long in returning a visit from
the Vicar's wife, and Jane had ventured to expunge, as "too familiar
and inelegant," the "Bless my heart" in which Sir Thomas, one of the
characters, indulged.  Jane's own Emma might say "Good God!" when she
pleased, but Anna's Sir Thomas might not even bless his heart!

A last criticism on Anna's book is worth quoting for its direct bearing
on the critic's own method.  "You describe a sweet place, but your
descriptions are often more minute than will be liked.  You give too
many particulars of right hand and left."

Jane's estimate of her own manner of work is modest enough.  "The
little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a
brush as produces little effect after much labour," she says.  {65}
With this phrase of her own as a text she has been called a
"miniaturist," but if authors and artists are to be compared, there is
quite as much of the selection and the richness of a Gainsborough in
her work as of the minuteness of a Metzu or a Meissonier.

In her reply to the amazing proposal of the librarian at Carlton House
that she should compose an historical romance founded on the records of
the Saxe-Coburg family, she writes, not without a touch of her gentle

"I am fully sensible that (such a romance) might be much more to the
purpose of profit or popularity than such pictures of domestic life in
country villages as I deal in.  But I could no more write a romance
than an epic poem.  I could not sit seriously down to write a serious
romance under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were
indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at
myself or at any other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had
finished the first chapter.  No, I must keep to my own style and go on
in my own way; and though I may never succeed again in that, I am
convinced that I should totally fail in any other."

Her limitations of subject are clear to her own mind.  Even of the
"domestic life in villages" {66} she would only deal with the side
where the daily bread was provided out of income, not out of retail
profits or weekly wages.  It is a suggestive fact, to which I have
already alluded, that she never even tried to draw a peasant's family.
Her heroines may, on the rarest occasions, call at a cottage to inquire
after a sick child or leave a charitable gift, but of the conditions
under which the labouring classes lived, during the hard times of the
French wars, we learn nothing at all from her writings.  The nearest
approaches to such subjects are the account of the Prices' home at
Portsmouth (a sordid interior which has been held, I think not
unjustly, to be as vivid in its suggestion of impecuniosity and
discomfort as anything written by Zola), and the similar, but far less
effective, picture of the Watsons' family life.

Her literary style seems to be spontaneous, and so, in comparison with
that of "stylists," it certainly is.  She had stored her mind with good
literature while still in her teens, and no doubt most of her limpid
sentences flowed freely from her pen.  But the consistent absence of
superfluous epithets and other redundancies is evidence that she had
consciously formed an ideal of {67} composition, and that she thought
out the means of producing her effects is clear from several passages
in her letters.  To her niece who addressed her as "Dear Miss Darcy,"
and wanted her to answer in that character, Jane replied--"Even had I
more time I should not feel at all sure of the sort of letter that Miss
D. would write."  She had studied her art till she could analyze its
qualities, as we may see from a letter written from Chawton in 1813.
Mrs. Austen had been reading _Pride and Prejudice_ aloud to Jane and
Martha Lloyd (who lived with the Austens), and Jane tells Cassandra

"Though she perfectly understands the characters herself, she cannot
speak as they ought.  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--to be stretched out here and there ... an
essay on writing, a critique on Walter Scott, or the history of
Buonaparte, or something that would form a contrast, and bring the
reader with increased delight to the playfulness and epigrammatism of
the general style."

Happily she did not provide the conventional "shade," which would have
been on a par with {68} the "brown tree" that, according to Sir George
Beaumont, was an indispensable feature of every properly composed
landscape painting.  Shade, however, did appear in several chapters of
_Persuasion_, which, for a certain suggestion of melancholy, stands
apart from the other novels, though not as markedly as _Northanger
Abbey_ stands apart for its exuberant frivolity.

Macaulay declared of Fanny Burney's later style that it was "the worst
that has ever been known among men."  Jane Austen's style, in its happy
hours, is so admirably adapted to its purpose that, while we may not
call it "the best," a term which advertisement has rendered meaningless
as a standard of excellence, it has never been surpassed as a means to
a desired end.  It seems trite to say that the first point to consider
in any question of style is the intended result, but it is a point so
frequently overlooked that much criticism about art and letters, as
about politics or agriculture, is vitiated by the hopeless effort to
set up an abstract ideal applicable to all cases, like a universal

The result for which Jane Austen worked can scarcely be put in
question.  She was impelled to {69} make her little world live in
fiction, not precisely as she saw it and heard it, but as she could
most attractively present it to minds possessing the indispensable
modicum of humour, without which the charm is lost at least as nearly
as the charm of a Turner sunset by a person whose optic nerve is
irresponsive to the red rays.  Apart from her prevailing humour, the
modesty of her style is a continual beauty.  There is none of that
florid eloquence which depends more on sound than sense for its effect,
nor of that forcing of strange phrases which in these days so often
passes for literary excellence.  There is no preciosity about her
books; the narrative is easy, the incidents are probable; the dialogue,
with few exceptions, is natural, the bright people being differentiated
from the dull by their talk, and not, as in most novels, by the
author's assurances.  If Mr. Meredith was right when he declared that
"it is unwholesome for men and women to see themselves as they are, if
they are no better than they should be," there must be many
"unwholesome" pages in Jane Austen's work for the tolerably large class
to which he referred.  Neither in real life nor in the life of her
books did she "suffer fools gladly," {70} and so far as the men of her
creation are concerned she is on the whole more successful in
representing the foolish than the wise.  Her chief failure is in the
realization of such a young man as one of her heroines would have been
likely to admire.  Most of the younger men are sketchily drawn, and we
who are men would fain believe that she did not understand the nature
of a man's heart, seeing that she never found one worth accepting.
Knightley and Bertram seem to have been favourites of hers, but they
are not lively people, nor sufficiently wanting in priggishness.  The
liveliest of them all is Henry Tilney, whatever his qualities of mind.
The Jane Austen touch is charmingly varied, and it is felt in some of
its happy strokes in the talk between this mercurial young rector and
the girl whose early-budding affections he so speedily returns.

"'Have you been long in Bath, madam?'

"'About a week, sir,' replied Catherine, trying not to laugh.

"'Really!' with affected astonishment.

"'Why should you be surprised, sir?'

"' Why, indeed!' said he, in his natural tone; 'but some emotion must
appear to be raised by {71} your reply, and surprise is more easily
assumed, and not less reasonable, than any other.'"

This bit of dialogue recalls a remark in a letter written by Jane to
Cassandra: "Benjamin Portal is here.  How charming that is!  I do not
exactly know why, but the phrase followed so naturally that I could not
help putting it down."

Mr. Collins is one of the most finished of Jane's studies of men.  He
comes near to the impossible at times, but she makes him a living
creature.  The speech in which he offers his hand and advantages to his
cousin Elizabeth has often been quoted, and its charms can never fade.
Only a page of it is necessary to tempt the reader to turn--again or
for the first time--to _Pride and Prejudice_ in order that he may find
the rest of the inimitable scene--

"My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing for
every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example
of matrimony in his parish; secondly, that I am convinced it will add
very greatly to my happiness; and, thirdly, which perhaps I ought to
have mentioned earlier, that it is the particular advice and
recommendation of the very noble lady whom {72} I have the honour of
calling patroness.  Twice has she condescended to give me her opinion
(unasked too!) on this subject; and it was but the very Saturday night
before I left Hunsford--between our pools at quadrille, while Mrs.
Jenkinson was arranging Miss de Bourgh's footstool--that she said, 'Mr.
Collins, you must marry.  A clergyman like you must marry.  Choose
properly, choose a gentlewoman for my sake, and for your own; let her
be an active, useful sort of person, not brought up high, but able to
make a small income go a good way.  This is my advice.  Find such a
woman as soon as you can, bring her to Hunsford, and I will visit her.'
Allow me, by the way, to observe, my fair cousin, that I do not reckon
the notice and kindness of Lady Catherine de Bourgh as among the least
of the advantages in my power to offer.  You will find her manners
beyond anything I can describe; and your wit and vivacity, I think,
must be acceptable to her, especially when tempered with the silence
and respect which her rank will inevitably excite."

The immediate consequences of Elizabeth's refusal are delightfully
imagined and described.  The moment Mrs. Bennet hears of it, she rushes
to her husband's room--

"'You must come and make Lizzy marry Mr. Collins, for she vows she will
not have him; and {73} if you do not make haste he will change his mind
and not have _her_.'

"Mr. Bennet raised his eyes from his book as she entered, and fixed
them on her face with a calm unconcern, which was not in the least
altered by her communication.

"'I have not the pleasure of understanding you,' said he, when she had
finished her speech.  'Of what are you talking?'

"'Of Mr. Collins and Lizzy.  Lizzy declares she will not have Mr.
Collins, and Mr. Collins begins to say that he will not have Lizzy.'

"'And what am I to do on the occasion?  It seems a hopeless business.'

"'Speak to Lizzy about if yourself.  Tell her that you insist upon her
marrying him.'

"'Let her be called down.  She shall hear my opinion.'

"Mrs. Bennet rang the bell, and Miss Elizabeth was summoned to the

"'Come here, child,' cried her father as she appeared.  'I have sent
for you on an affair of importance.  I understand that Mr. Collins has
made you an offer of marriage.  Is it true?'  Elizabeth replied that it
was.  'Very well--and this offer of marriage you have refused?'

"'I have, sir.'

"'Very well.  We now come to the point.  Your mother insists upon your
accepting it.  Is it not so, Mrs. Bennet?'


"'Yes, or I will never see her again.'

"'An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth.  From this day you
must be a stranger to one of your parents.  Your mother will never see
you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you
again if you _do_.'"

There is nothing "commonplace" about this.  What matter that the
characters are only middle-class and "respectable," if they can afford
material for such excellent wit?

In one respect, judged by the present standard in fiction, Jane
Austen's work assuredly is "commonplace."  No novelist was ever less
troubled in the search for names.  She merely took those of people she
had heard of or met, preferring the common to the unusual.  Bennet,
Dashwood, Elliot, Price, Woodhouse--names that the modern "popular"
novelist would reject at sight, served her turn, a Darcy or a Tilney
being her highest flights in nomenclature.  As for the Christian names,
they are of the most ordinary and are used over and over again.  In
_Sense and Sensibility_, for example, three of the prominent characters
are named John--John Dashwood, John Middleton, and John Willoughby.
There are two {75} Catherines in _Pride and Prejudice_.  Elizabeths,
Fannys, Annes, Marys, Henrys, Edwards, Roberts, "fill the bills," and
such a name as Frank Churchill seems recondite.  It is much the same in
the letters, the truth being that the Gwladyses, and Evadnes, and
Marmadukes of those days were very rare, and almost unknown in rural
society.  The burden which her sister Cassandra bore must have
strengthened Jane's determination that her heroes and heroines should
not have unusual names, and so we have our Elinors and Elizabeths, and
Fannys, with their Edwards and Edmunds, and Henrys.  The Darcys are
almost the only exceptions that try the rule; "Fitzwilliam" and
"Georgiana" are more in the style of the ordinary novel of "high life."

So much for names.  How are the men and women who bear them
"introduced" to us?  When a Colonel Newcome, or an Alfred Jingle, or a
Sylvain Pons comes upon the scene, we hear a good deal about his
personal appearance, his manner of dress, his bearing, and those who
introduce him have a huge circle of men and women to bring before us
with similar formalities.  Jane Austen, like a casual hostess at a
modern {76} dance, leaves us, as often as not, to make acquaintance in
any way we can.  Scott, with his wealth of character-studies among high
and middle and low, his kings and cavaliers and covenanters and
crofters, was the most generous giver of types among Jane Austen's
contemporaries; Maria Edgeworth in depicting the gentry and peasantry
of Ireland, and John Galt the small shop-keepers and their customers in
the Scottish country-towns, managed to present us to a large circle of
new acquaintances, of various classes and occupations.  Jane had no use
for characters, or centres of social life, that required to be
specially described for a particular purpose.  Only in one of her
novels (_Sense and Sensibility_) is the busy life of London made the
subject of any but the most casual description, and even then it is but
the transference of the country people to town, and of the two or three
towns-people back to their London houses from their country visits that
is effected.  (The general life of the metropolis, its theatres, parks,
and bustle are left, to all intent, unnoticed.  Yet, as we know from
many passages in her letters, Jane during her visits was a keen
spectator of the pageantry of life in a city which, she {77} jestingly
declared, played havoc with her character.  "Here I am once more in
this scene of dissipation and vice," she writes from Cork Street in
August 1796, "and I begin already to find my morals corrupted."  And in
the next month she sends this little message to Mr. Austen: "My father
will be so good as to fetch home his prodigal daughter from town, I
hope, unless he wishes me to walk the hospitals, enter at the Temple,
or mount guard at St. James'."  She was not "prodigal"--save in gloves
and ribbons--but she enjoyed the delights of the country-cousin in
town.  She went very often to the play, so often at times as to be
weary of it.  _The Hypocrite_ (Bickerstaff's "alteration" of Cibber's
"adaptation" of _Tartuffe_) "well entertained" her, Dowton and Mathews
being the chief actors; and she saw Liston, Miss Stephens, Miss
O'Neill, and Kean at the outset of his fame.  "The Clandestine
Marriage" was a favourite piece, and on one occasion she notes that her
nieces, whom she sometimes took to the theatre, "revelled last night in
Don Juan, whom we left in hell at half-past eleven."  Such joys,
however, did not move her mind enough to seduce {78} her from the
country as a source of inspiration for her work.

"_All_ lives lived out of London are mistakes more or less
grievous--but mistakes," said Sydney Smith, adapting, consciously or
not, the saying of Mascarille to the _Précieuses_: "Pour moi, Je tiens
que hors de Paris, il n'y a point de salut pour les honnetes gens."
The life of Jane Austen, whose humour the author of the _Plymley
Letters_, the father and uncle of a hundred diverting anecdotes, so
greatly enjoyed, may serve to show the weakness of such unreserved
generalization.  Her subjects were found in the restful backwaters of
life, not in the crowded centres where mankind is more and more
bewildered by the failure of wisdom to keep pace with the advance of

It is one of Jane's qualities as a writer that she shows little
hospitality to the stock phrases of ordinary people.  Lord Chesterfield
told his son: "If, instead of saying that tastes are different, and
that every man has his own peculiar one, you should let off a proverb,
and say, that 'What is one man's meat is another man's poison.' ...
everybody would be persuaded that you had {79} never kept company with
anybody above footmen and housemaids."  Proverbial philosophy finds
little encouragement from Jane, who places it in the mouths of her
least agreeable characters, and one may believe, after reading her
books and her letters, that she agrees with her own Marianne Dashwood,
who, when Sir John Middleton has dared to suggest that she will be
"setting her cap" at Willoughby, warmly replies: "That is an
expression, Sir John, which I particularly dislike.  I abhor every
commonplace phrase by which wit is intended; and 'setting one's cap' at
a man, or 'making a conquest,' are the most odious of all.  Their
tendency is gross and illiberal; and if their construction could ever
be deemed clever, time has long ago destroyed all its ingenuity."  The
offending Sir John "did not much understand this reproof," but he
"laughed as heartily as if he did."  Elizabeth Bennet's use of the
saying, "Keep your breath to cool your porridge," gives us a worse
shock than it can have given to Darcy, so unexpected is it from the
mouth of a Jane Austen heroine.  When one of Cassandra's letters had
diverted Jane "beyond moderation," and she added: "I could die of {80}
laughter at it," she felt the banality of the phrase as keenly as
Marianne would have done, and saved herself with "as they used to say
at school."

Whatever the words and phrases she employed, it can never be held that
she "spoke well" according to the test proposed by Catherine Morland
when she said to Henry Tilney, "I cannot speak well enough to be
unintelligible," a remark which Mr. Tilney hailed with delight as "an
excellent satire on modern language."  Its origin may be found in that
first volume of _The Mirror_ which Catherine's mother brought
down-stairs for her edification, where we are told that "many great
personages contrive to be unintelligible in order to be respected."

A peculiarity of Jane Austen's vocabulary and manner is her fondness
for negatives in "un," such words as "unabsurd," "unpretty,"
"unrepulsable," "unfastidious," "untoward," and "unexceptionable"--a
pet fancy of hers, which occurs, I am told, at least eight times in
_Emma_ alone--being as common in her novels as "halidome" and "minion"
in the older romances of Wardour Street.  Some day, perhaps, a lost
novel of hers, written during the apparently idle years {81} of her
residence at Bath, will be identified by the prevalence of "uns" in its

In clarity of meaning her style is usually of the purest, and there is
reason to think that her few obscurities are as often due to
carelessness as to defective art.  Not that she was exempt from all the
weaknesses that she discovers for our amusement in the generality of
her sex.  Henry Tilney's appreciation of women as letter-writers can
hardly have been imagined without at least a moment's reflection by the
author over her own achievements--

"'I have sometimes thought,' says Catherine, doubtfully, 'whether
ladies _do_ write so much better letters than gentlemen.  That is, I
should not think the superiority was always on our side.'

"'As far as I have had opportunity of judging,' replies Tilney, 'it
appears to me that the usual style of letter-writing among women is
faultless, except in three particulars.'

"'And what are they?'

"'A general deficiency of subject, a total inattention to stops, and a
very frequent ignorance of grammar.'

"'Upon my word, I need not have been afraid of disclaiming the
compliment!  You do not think too highly of us in that way.'


"'I should no more lay it down as a general rule that women write
better letters than men, than that they sing better duets, or draw
better landscapes.  In every power, of which taste is the foundation,
excellence is pretty fairly divided between the sexes.'"

Deficiency of subject has not been charged against Jane's published
letters, but they have often been charged with deficiency of serious
interest.  Her works certainly do exhibit an occasional looseness of
grammar, mostly due to bad punctuation.  The faulty construction of
Lucy's letters (_Sense and Sensibility_) is noted by the author, but
while Jane would not have been likely to regard "Sincerely wish you
happy in your choice" as a proper way of beginning a sentence, her own
delinquencies with respect to commas are sometimes no less grave than
those of Mrs. Robert Ferrars.  She would have felt no serious sympathy
with Cyrano's declaration concerning his literary compositions--

  "... Mon sang se coagule
  En pensant qu'on y peut changer une virgule."

Her blood was too cool to be frozen by the printer's fancies in


In an old number of the _Cambridge Observer_ the curious student may
find some suggested emendations of Jane Austen's text by Mr. A. W.
Verrall, many of them being concerned with what are probably printers'
errors.  Those which deal with punctuation need not reflect on the
printer as prime offender.  The author was a woman.  Mr. Verrall's
ingenious suggestion that when Jane Austen is made to say that William
Price's "direct holidays" might justly be given to his friends at
Mansfield Park (his own family seeing him frequently at Portsmouth,
where his ship was lying), she really wrote "derelict holidays," has
little to commend it, "direct" so evidently, I think, being used to
differentiate his actual leave from his ordinary leisure hours when on
service.  But there are two emendations, typical of many which might be
suggested (Mr. Verrall has probably noted them for the edition which he
ought to undertake in time for the centenary), which are entirely
acceptable.  Fanny Price is made to say to Mr. Rushworth, on the
occasion when Maria Bertram and Crawford gave that unfortunate person
the slip in his own garden, "They desired me to stay; my {84} cousin
Maria charged me to say that you would find them at that knoll, or
thereabouts."  Mr. Verrall justly observes that no one had desired
Fanny to stay, and she would be the last girl to utter "an irrelevant
falsehood."  He holds that "she really did on this occasion, for
kindness' sake, say something 'not quite true,'" and it was: "They
desired me to say--my cousin Maria charged me to say, that you would
find them at that knoll, or thereabouts."

Again, when in describing the discussion over Mrs. Weston's proposed
dance, Jane Austen is made to say (in _Emma_), "The want of proper
families in the place, and the conviction that none beyond the place
and its immediate environs could be attempted to attend, were
mentioned," the author's words were, in Mr. Verrall's opinion, "tempted
to attend."  Like Shakespeare's, the MSS. of Jane Austen's masterpieces
are to seek, so that what she wrote we cannot prove.  The probability
that in these two cases, as in others, the author omitted to notice in
proof the errors of the printer is more likely, on the whole, than that
her pen had slipped badly, and that her "copy" had never been carefully
read over.  She {85} cared little for such slips, however, as we know
from a letter written after _Pride and Prejudice_ was published,
wherein she says: "There are a few typical errors, and a 'said he' or
'said she' would sometimes make the dialogue more immediately clear,
but 'I do not write for such dull elves,' as have not a great deal of
ingenuity themselves."  "Typical," of course, is here used in its
obsolete sense of "typographical."

The negative bond of union referred to above between Jane Austen and
the only English writer whom some of her eminent admirers have allowed
to take precedence of her--that the MSS. of both have
disappeared--suggests the passing reflection that in these days when
Shakespeare is not allowed to hold the title to his plays without
challenge, when Anne and Emily Brontë are accused of being (so far as
the public is concerned) mere pseudonyms of their sister Charlotte,
when George Henry Lewes has been given the credit for George Eliot's
novels, and the speeches of eminent statesmen are said to be written by
their wives, it is rather surprising that no one in search of a
striking subject for a magazine article has attacked the claims of Jane
Austen to a place among English {86} authors.  There is no evidence in
the memoirs of her time that any distinguished person ever found
himself in her company, her name did not appear on the title-pages of
any books, she was almost unknown outside a small provincial circle,
and in that circle no one seems to have had any idea that there was
anything specially remarkable about her.  Is it likely that such an
obscure little body should have written such admirable books?  Is it
not much more likely that they were the work of Madame d'Arblay, or
that in these peaceful compositions Mrs. Radcliffe found rest and
recreation after the fearful strain on her delicate nervous system
involved in the production of her "_èpouvantable_" melodramas?  Jane
Austen lays claim to some of the novels in her letters, it is true,
but, since Ben Jonson's references to Shakespeare, and all other
contemporary evidence in favour of the Stratford actor's authorship of
the plays have been explained away to the complete satisfaction of
those who dispute his claims, it would be no very difficult task to
persuade a number of earnest souls that Jane Austen's letters are not
really evidence of her authorship of the novels.  As for her nearest
relations, they were {87} not in the real secret.  The secret they are
supposed to have kept during her life was that she wrote the novels,
but if so, where are the MSS.?  Why did not her admiring brothers
treasure those most precious relics?  Two of her MSS. (in addition to
the opening chapters of her final effort in fiction) her family did, as
a fact, preserve, those of _Lady Susan_ and _The Watsons_, and these
(here italic type becomes necessary) _are so inferior to the six novels
acknowledged, soon after her death, as hers_, that it is easy (if we
like) to find it _difficult to believe that they are from the same
pen_!  The real secret was that she did not write those six novels.
This fascinating theory is freely offered to whomsoever it may please
to follow it up.

We gain many vivid glimpses of Jane Austen's views of life in her
novels, and _Northanger Abbey_ holds a place apart from the others, not
only for its many pages of burlesque, but as the vehicle by which so
many of the author's reflections are conveyed, in a bright wrapping, to
her appreciative readers.  Let me give one or two examples--

"The advantages of natural folly in a beautiful girl have been already
set forth by the capital pen {88} of a sister author; and to her
treatment of the subject I will only add, in justice to men, that
though, to the larger and more trifling part of the sex, imbecility in
females is a great enhancement of their personal charms, there is a
portion of them too reasonable, and too well-informed themselves, to
desire anything more in woman than ignorance.  But Catherine did not
know her own advantages--did not know that a good-looking girl, with an
affectionate heart and a very ignorant mind, cannot fail of attracting
a clever young man, unless circumstances are particularly untoward."

The sister author is Fanny Burney.  The opinion of men, the "trifling"
or the "reasonable," is Jane Austen's.  In Henry Tilney's remarks upon
Catherine's extraordinary fears concerning his father's conduct to Mrs.
Tilney we may discover something of Jane's view of the general
condition of society in her time.

"Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you
have entertained.  What have you been judging from?  Remember the
country and the age in which we live.  Remember that we are English:
that we are Christians.  Consult your own understanding, your own sense
of the probable, your own observation of {89} what is passing around
you.  Does our education prepare us for such atrocities?  Do our laws
connive at them?  Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a
country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a
footing; where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary
spies; and where roads and newspapers lay everything open?  Dearest
Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?"

Of Jane Austen as humourist there is no need to write specifically at
any length.  Almost every extract given from her novels, whatever the
point to be illustrated, shows her in that capacity.  It is impossible
for long to separate her humour from the rest of her qualities.  Yet
there are people who see no humour in her, and actually like her novels
in spite of their "seriousness "!

An American author, Mr. Oscar Adams, wrote a book about her some years
ago in order "to place her before the world as the winsome, delightful
woman that she really was, and thus to dispel the unattractive, not to
say forbidding, mental picture that so many have formed of her." Who
were these "many" people?  Evidently they existed (either without or
within the author's own circle) or there would have been no reason {90}
to write a book for their conversion.  They were probably those worthy
persons--we have all met a few of them ourselves--who read _Emma_, and
_Pride and Prejudice_, and the rest, without noticing that a malicious
little sprite is for ever peeping between the lines.  Imagine a reader
who regards all Mr. Bennet's remarks as sober statements of considered
opinion, and you will understand how Jane Austen might seem formidable.
Though she is never so ruthless to her characters as Mr. Bennet is to
his wife, Jane is herself a member of his family.  Perhaps "ruthless"
is the wrong word.  You might apply it to a boy who throws pebbles at a
donkey, but if the object of his attack was a rhinoceros, the boy would
suffer more than the pachyderm.  To the slings and arrows of her
husband's outrageous humour Mrs. Bennet was less sensible than was
Gulliver to the darts of the Lilliputians.  Gulliver did feel a
pricking sensation, whereas Mrs. Bennet was merely annoyed that Mr.
Bennet did not always agree with her mood of the moment.  In his
critical introduction to _Pride and Prejudice_ Professor Saintsbury
forcibly says, in reply to those who resent the presence of such a
husband as Mr. Bennet, that {91} Mrs. Bennet was "a quite irreclaimable
fool; and unless he had shot her or himself there was no way out of it
for a man of sense and spirit but the ironic."  The most unpleasant
aspect of Mr. Bennet's sarcasms is not that they hurt his wife, which
they could not, but that they were heard by his five daughters, three
of whom at least were more or less able to understand them.

Jane Austen the novelist, then, may truly be "forbidding" to readers
who take her _au pied de la lettre_.  Such readers are in the position
of Catherine Morland listening to Henry Tilney's imaginary account of
the antiquities and mysteries of Northanger Abbey.  She went there and
painfully discovered the truth, while they can no more hope to discover
it than a man with one eye can hope to see things as they appear to his
fellows who have two.  Still, he is a king among the blind, and the
readers who find pleasure in Jane Austen as an entirely serious author
are to be counted happy as compared with those who cannot read her at

It has been said by Mr. Goldwin Smith that there is no philosophy
beneath the surface of Jane Austen's novels "for profound scrutiny to
bring {92} to light," her characters typifying nothing, because "their
doings and sayings are familiar and commonplace.  Her genius is shown
in making the familiar and commonplace intensely interesting and
amusing."  Such justification as may be discovered for the charge that
the subjects of the novels are commonplace is chiefly negative in kind.
It is not that we may find in real life innumerable people as
distinctive and entertaining as the principal characters of these
stories, but that Jane does not introduce us to dramatically unusual
scenes or persons.  There are no houses like Dotheboys Hall or
Ravenswood Tower, no incidents like the flight of Jos Sedley from
Brussels or the arrest of Vautrin, no strange creatures like Mr.
Rochester or Jonas Chuzzlewit, no scenes like those in Fagin's kitchen
or Shirley's mill.  She was immediately followed by a humourist whose
scenes and characters are as unusual as hers were familiar.  He is
almost unknown to the great fiction-devouring public, and little read
in comparison even with Jane Austen, with whom he has some strong
affinities as well as antipathies.  Thomas Love Peacock was never, so
happily inspired--or so happy perhaps--as when he was "ironing" the
{93} insincerity or the unreasonable prejudice of the "well-to-do"
class.  There is, among the parsons of Jane Austen's creating, none who
is more gloriously diverting than Dr. Ffolliot in _Crotchet Castle_,
and it is pleasant to imagine Mr. Collins as curate to that militant
theologian.  The talk of the young women in Peacock's modern novels is
better "informed" and much less natural than that of Elizabeth Bennet,
or Emma, or Anne, and as for the men, while Mr. Tilney or Mr. Darcy
might not have found it difficult to hold their own with most of the
lovers in Peacock's novels, his intellectuals--Milestone, McQueedy, and
the rest--would have found no one to refute their arguments among the
company at Netherfield or at Mansfield Park.  Peacock allows his
satirical hobby-horse to run wild over the bramble-covered desert of
British prejudice, while Jane Austen never leaves go of the rein.  The
result is that while he frequently makes us laugh at the absurdities of
his Scythrops and Chainmails, whose performances we know to be
burlesque, she makes us chuckle by her silver-shod satire of the class
which she had studied from childhood.  There are some who read Jane
Austen and cannot read {94} Peacock, and the reverse is also true.
Those who can read both are never likely to be in want of pleasure on
winter evenings so long as mind and eyes are left.

It is certain that no one familiar with either author could mistake a
page written by one of them for a page by the other.  Jane Austen's
people, in spite of the humour with which the atmosphere is charged,
are always possible--except, some of her most intimate admirers say,
for Mr. Collins--while Peacock was never to be deterred from breaking
through the fence which borders the pathway of probability.  Only such
readers as the prelate who declined to believe some of the incidents in
_Gulliver's Travels_ could be expected to regard _Melincourt_ or
_Nightmare Abbey_ as veracious narratives.  For all that Peacock, whose
first novel, _Headlong Hall_, appeared in the year (1816) in which Jane
Austen's last (published) work was done, was her immediate successor as
a satirist of the follies and foibles of English men and women, and he
was succeeded in turn by the splendid Thackeray, whose most obvious
difference from Jane Austen lies in his frequent indulgence in
sentimental reflections.


Jane was amused by the suggestions for improving her work, or for the
plots of fresh novels, given to her from time to time, and among the
papers found after her death was one endorsed "Plan of a novel
according to hints from various quarters," the names of some of these
human "quarters" being given in the margin.  There were to be a
"faultless" heroine and her "faultless" father driven from place to
place over Europe by the vile arts of a "totally unprincipled and
heartless young man, desperately in love with the heroine, and pursuing
her with unrelenting passion."  Wherever she went somebody fell in love
with her, and she received frequent offers of marriage, which she
referred to her father, who was "exceedingly angry that he should not
be the first applied to."  The "anti-hero" again and again carried her
off, and she was "now and then starved to death," but was always
rescued either by her father or the hero!  For even the mildest
varieties of the plots thus burlesqued Jane had no use, unless to laugh
at them.




Origins of characters--Matchmaking--Second marriages--Negative
qualities of the novels--Close knowledge of one class--Dislike of
"lionizing"--Madame de Staël--The "lower orders"--Tradesmen--Social
position--Quality of Jane's letters--Balls and parties.

In her letters, as in her books, the satiric touch was on almost
everything that Jane Austen wrote.  Her habit of making pithy little
notes on the doings of her acquaintances was, in writing to her sister,
irrepressible.  The pith was not bitter.  It was just the comment of a
highly intelligent woman to whom the gods had given the gift of humour,
and who, at an age when most girls of her day were as ingenuous as
Evelina or as Catherine Morland, had learnt how much insincerity and
affectation coloured the conduct even of kind and well-meaning people.

In her references to the foibles of real men and women we gain many
glimpses of the origins--if not the originals--of some of her character
studies.  {100} At an Ashford ball in 1798 one of the Royal Dukes was
present, and among those who supped in his company were Cassandra and a
Mrs. Cage, with whom the Austens were well acquainted.  This lady was
uneasy in the presence of Royalty, and her mistakes were described in a
letter from Cassandra.  Jane's mention of the incident in her reply is
a fair sample of the way in which, in her more serious mood, this young
woman of twenty-three regarded the weakness of her less cool and
reasonable friends: "I can perfectly comprehend Mrs. Cage's distress
and perplexity.  She has all those kind of foolish and incomprehensible
feelings which would make her fancy herself uncomfortable in such a
party.  I love her, however, in spite of all her nonsense."

One can see a hint of Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Bennet in the silly woman who
flustered herself and fidgeted her companions in her attempts to assume
what she supposed to be the right behaviour on such an occasion.  Jane,
who had never seen a prince, so far as we know, would have had no
"distress and perplexity."  She would have curtsied in the prettiest
way, the Duke would have been charmed by her graceful figure, her {101}
clear complexion, and her soft brown eyes, and she would next day have
written to her sister "all the minute particulars, which only woman's
language can make interesting."

Her reflections on the gossip of the hour are not always quite so
kindly.  When Charles Powlett (of whose rejected offer of a kiss we
have already heard) brings home a wife, Jane tells her sister that this
bride "is discovered to be everything that the neighbourhood could wish
her, silly and cross as well as extravagant."  Once, when a story has
reached her in the way that "Russian Scandal" is played, by the
muddling up of half-understood particulars in the process of
transmission from mouth to ear, she has to correct a previous statement
about some of the Austen circle--

"On inquiring of Mrs. Clerk, I find that Mrs. Heathcote made a great
blunder in her news of the Crooks and Morleys.  It is young Mr. Crook
who is to marry the second Miss Morley, and it is the Miss Morleys
instead of the second Miss Crook who were the beauties at the music
meeting.  This seems a more likely tale, a better devised imposture."


The sting is where stings usually are.

Scandal was as distasteful to her as it can have been to Madame du
Châtelet, of whom Voltaire said that "_tout ce qui occupe la société
était de son ressort, hors la médisance._"  Jane gave Cassandra many
little bits of news about their friends which the principals might have
resented, but between sister and sister such things are not scandalous,
and as for those who read them now, they may talk about the incidents
referred to as freely as they like without harm to any one.  Many of
the "scandals" Jane mentions are "serious" only in her innocent fun.
We hear, for instance, that in 1809, "Martha and Dr. Mant are as bad as
ever, he runs after her in the street to apologize for having spoken to
a gentleman while she was near him the day before.  Poor Mrs. Mant can
stand it no longer; she is retired to one of her married daughters."
Jane amused herself and her sister and teased poor Martha by her jokes
on this affair.  "As Dr. M. is a clergyman," she writes, "this
attachment, however immoral, has a decorous air."  Mrs. Jennings, Sir
John Middleton's mother-in-law, would have told the story quite
seriously, and with immense gusto, at the Barton {103} breakfast-table,
but Dr. Mant and Martha were not transferred to a novel to the
discomfort of themselves and their families and the delight of the
_roman à clef_ hunters of Southampton.

The letters do seem occasionally to bring us into the company of people
whom we know quite well in the novels.  Jane, replying to Cassandra at
Christmas 1798, says: "I am glad to hear such a good account of Harriet
Bridges; she goes on now as young ladies of seventeen ought to do,
admired and admiring....  I dare say she fancies Major Elkington as
agreeable as Warren, and if she can think so, it is very well."  Alter
the surnames, and this passage might apply as well to Harriet Smith as
to Harriet Bridges.  "I dare say she fancies Mr. Martin as agreeable as
Mr. Churchill, and if she can think so, it is very well," might have
been written by Emma to dear Anne Weston about the "little friend" from
the boarding-school.  Jane, as in this case of Harriet Bridges, took so
much interest in the love affairs of her friends that we often think of
Emma Woodhouse and her match-making propensities, about which Mr.
Knightley spoke so harshly.  By Emma's advice Harriet Smith, having
refused {104} Robert Martin, the young farmer, had regarded Mr. Elton
as a prospective husband, and when he went elsewhere Emma had selected
Frank Churchill for the vacant post.  Then, through a serious mistake,
Mr. Knightley was the man, until at last the "inconsiderate,
irrational, unfeeling" nature of her conduct became clear to her mind,
and Harriet was allowed to marry the constant Martin.

Mrs. Mitford declared that Jane Austen was husband-hunting at twelve
years of age, but the old lady's memory was evidently quite
untrustworthy about people and dates when she talked such nonsense.
Jane was, however, on her own showing, fond of looking out for possible
husbands for her pretty little nieces.  Here is an instance, from a
letter of 1814--"Young Wyndham accepts the invitation.  He is such a
nice, gentlemanlike, unaffected sort of young man, that I think he may
do for Fanny."  Next day she is less pleased with him--"This young
Wyndham does not come after all; a very long and very civil note of
excuse is arrived.  It makes one moralize upon the ups and downs of
this life."

That the habit was hereditary--it was a custom {105} of Jane's time,
even more than it is of our own--we may see from a report she sent to
Cassandra of the pleasure with which Mr. and Mrs. Austen, with one
accord, lighted upon a suitable "match" for their elder daughter.  He
was "a beauty of my mother's."  Having no _affaire_ of her own to
trouble her rest, Jane took an active part as adviser for those in
whose fate she was affectionately interested.  Especially was this the
case with this favourite niece, Fanny Knight, who, having fancied she
was "in love" with one man, discovered that she preferred, or thought
she preferred, another.

"Do not be in a hurry," wrote Aunt Jane, "the right man will come at
last; you will in the course of the next two or three years meet with
somebody more generally unexceptionable than anyone you have yet known,
who will love you as warmly as possible, and who will so completely
attract you that you will feel you never really loved before."

Fanny, who was "inimitable, irresistible," whose "queer little heart"
and its flutterings were "the delight of my life," might have been
fickle, but she did not, said her aunt, deserve such a punishment {106}
as to fall in love after marriage, and with the wrong man.

Jane's views on second marriages are expressed in the case of Lady
Sondes, whose haste to find consolation after the death of Lord Sondes
was the subject of much chatter among the Mrs. Jenningses and Mrs.
Bennets of her neighbourhood.  "Had her first marriage been of
affection, or had there been a grown-up single daughter, I should not
have forgiven her; but I consider everybody as having a right to marry
once in their lives for love, if they can, and provided she will now
leave off having bad headaches, and being pathetic, I can allow her, I
can _will_ her, to be happy."

In the novels no woman of consequence--excepting the callous and
selfish Lady Susan Vernon--is allowed a second mate, nor is the
courtship before any of the marriages much in accord with the general
practice of English fiction.  There is not even a description of some
splendid wedding.  Jane, by the way, did not regard a marriage as the
proper occasion for public advertisement of the bride's qualities.
"Such a parade," she writes of the conduct of a certain {107} "alarming
bride," is "one of the most immodest pieces of modesty that one can
imagine.  To attract notice could have been her only wish."

It might seem, indeed, that the most original characteristic of her
works is the absence of almost all the qualities of plot and treatment
on which fiction usually depends for success with the public.  If we
were asked of some modern lady writer, "What are her books like?" and
we replied, "In one respect they are conventional, for they all end in
the choosing of wedding-rings.  But scarcely anybody in these novels
feels the 'grand passion,' they have no relation to current events,
nobody ever has a strange adventure, only one married woman is
faithless to her vows, no adventuress appears, there are no foreigners,
no one is in revolt against anything, nobody is seriously troubled
about the trend of society or the decadence of morals and taste, nobody
starves, or commits a murder, or engineers a swindle, there are no
cruel husbands, no triple _ménages_ and no mysterious occurrences or
detectives, and as nobody dies, nobody makes death-bed revelations,"
the retort would probably imply, "What stupid stuff they must be."
These novels {108} do, indeed, depend for their effect on less of "plot
and passion" than almost any others of consequence yet written.  There
are many novels of small plot.  Balzac, in _Eugénie Grandet_, George
Sand, in _Tamaris_, show what even "stormy" novelists can do with a
modicum of events.  But the lack of both plot and passion is rare in
the work that lives.  It is thus that the genius of Jane Austen is
strongly displayed.  Only genius could give a vital, an enduring
fascination to a record chiefly concerned with the ordinary experiences
of a few respectable country people, almost all of one class.

She had the power, because, with the gifts of expression and of humour,
she combined an almost perfect knowledge of a typical section of
society, all the more clearly exhibited because of her comparative
ignorance of any other section.  She did not care to study the very
poor, the very rich were outside her circle of common experience, and
she would rarely write about people or phases of life that were not as
familiar to her as the squire's daughter and the manners of the hunt
ball.  She had none of Disraeli's audacity.  "My son," said Isaac
Disraeli, when some one {109} expressed surprise at the knowledge of
"exalted circles" shown in _The Young Duke_, "my son, sir, when he
wrote that book, had never even _seen_ a duke."  Jane Austen, "never
having seen a duke," or a ducal palace, never attempted to describe
either.  She shrank from any kind of "lionizing," whether in village
society or in the "great world," and to this healthy pride is no doubt
partly due the obscurity in which she lived and died.  One instance of
her reserve may be adduced.  Soon after the appearance of _Mansfield
Park_ she was invited, "in the politest manner," to a party at the
house of a nobleman who suspected her of the authorship of that book,
and who, as an inducement, intimated that she would be able to converse
with Madame de Staël.  "Miss Austen," says her brother, "immediately
declined the invitation.  To her truly delicate mind such a display
would have given pain instead of pleasure."  The story, which has
sometimes been regarded as evidence of improper pride on the part of
the English novelist, is in keeping with all that is known of Jane
Austen's nature.

Had the meeting of the authors of _Emma_ and {110} _Corinne_ come
about, one would like to have heard their conversation.  The talking
would have been largely on one side.  Madame, who knew the "world," and
enjoyed the distinction of having been called a "wicked schemer" and a
"fright" by the greatest man of her time, would have tried in vain to
impress the unaffected Englishwoman who cared so little for politics
and Napoleon that, in those novels which Madame regarded as
"_vulgaire_," she scarcely alluded to either.  Jane would have listened
attentively, and now and again, when Madame paused for breath, would
have made a polite remark, the covert humour of which would have been
lost on her famous companion.  There is no suggestion that any hint as
to Madame de Staël's reputation had reached Chawton Cottage, otherwise
some might suppose that it was not only the diffident modesty Jane's
brother alleges which prevented her from going to the party.  It is
quite likely that she who described the loves of Lydia Bennet and Maria
Rushworth with such an entire absence of sermonizing would yet have
felt that, though she might like to converse on a more private occasion
with the author of _Corinne_ and _Delphine_, she would {111} prefer not
to be matched with a lady who had put to so practical a test her
theories "_de l'influence des passions sur le bonheur_."

Could there be a stronger contrast, physical or moral, than between the
country parson's slight and good-looking daughter, whose knowledge of
men and affairs was gained in the parlours of manor-houses and the
assembly-rooms of watering-places, and the financier's stout and ugly
daughter, whose political activities were so persistent that she had
been expelled from Paris, who had travelled, mingling in the society of
the governing classes, the artists, the men of letters in Italy,
Germany, and other lands, and whose literary performances, historical,
political, and imaginative, were read wherever educated readers existed?

If Jane had no strong desire to be brought into contact with the great,
wise, and eminent of her time, neither were her tastes at all in the
direction of social equality or the advocacy of the "rights of man,"
and while she was indifferent to the famous and influential, she was
scarcely more concerned for the obscure and lowly.  Admire her work as
we may, and love her as many of us {112} must, we cannot recognize that
she was much in sympathy with any class but her own.  It is certainly
to no undue regard for social position, to no want of charitable
intention, that we can attribute her general neglect of the drama,
comedy and tragedy alike, of humble life.  It might be said that she
could, and if she would, have drawn the poor as well as she drew the
"gentry."  She knew her limitations, and thus such rare sketches of the
"lower orders" as she gives stop short of any errors of understanding.
Mrs. Reynolds, Darcy's housekeeper, whose admiration for her master and
his sister is so strongly expressed, and Thomas, the servant at Barton
Cottage, who comes in to describe how he has seen "Mr. and Mrs.
Ferrars" in Exeter, are in no way out of drawing, though the phrase
with which the author finishes off the man-servant--"Thomas and the
table-cloth, now alike needless, were soon dismissed"--so aptly
suggests the position accorded to the working classes in her own works
that it almost seems to have a double meaning.  Let any one familiar
with the novels try to recall occasions when a servant is introduced
even in such common cases as the answering of a bell or waiting {113}
at table, and he will find it hard to add to the examples already given
any with a better part than the overworked Nanny at the Watsons', who,
when Lord Osborne is paying his untimely visit, puts her head in at the
door and says, "Please, ma'am, master wants to know why he be'nt to
have his dinner."  As for the class from which most of these servants
came, it has no place at all.  Emma takes Harriet to a cottage where
there is a convalescent child who requires jellies or beef tea, but the
incident is of no account except as leading up to the visit to Mr.
Elton; and she goes to see an old servant while Harriet pays her formal
call at the Abbey Mill Farm.  Robert Martin is a farmer, and a letter
from him is introduced, but he has no share of any consequence in the
dialogue.  When we remember Jane Austen's avowed partiality for Emma,
and Emma's disgust at the idea of Harriet marrying a mere farmer, no
matter how much her admirer Knightley might support the man's claims,
we may not unreasonably suppose that Jane to some extent shared Emma's
prejudice.  There was, however, a notable exception to Jane's
remoteness from the farming class.  The joint tenant of the Manor {114}
farm at Steventon, the happily named James Digweed--who seems to have
been ordained later on--was admitted to so much favour that she could
not only dance and dine, and gossip with him, but could chaff her
sister about his evident desire to gain Cassandra's affection.

Two or three apothecaries are admitted into the novels.  One attends
Jane Bennet at Netherfield, and another attends Marianne Dashwood at
Cleveland.  Apothecary was almost a term of contempt in those days, and
one of Jane's hits at the neighbourhood of Hans Place was that there
seemed to be only one person there who was "not an apothecary."  She
even, as we have seen, corrects her niece for supposing that a country
doctor--not a mere "apothecary"--would ever be "introduced" to a peer!

The only country tradesman who figures at all prominently is Sir
William Lucas, who had "risen to the honour of Knighthood by an address
to the King during his mayoralty.  The distinction had perhaps been
felt too strongly.  It had given him a disgust to his business....  By
nature inoffensive, friendly, and obliging, his presentation at St.
James's had made him courteous."  He is {115} not so diverting a
creature as Martin Tinman of Crikswich in Mr. Meredith's delightful
comedy _The House on the Beach_, who, when rescued from that
storm-beaten home on a terrible night, was found to be wearing the
Court suit in which, long before, he had presented an address to the
throne!  But Sir William Lucas's constant recollection of the fact that
_he_ had been received by the sovereign, while his neighbours, the
"small" country-gentlemen, had not, is illustrated with admirable art.
In his "emporium," with his stock-in-trade around him, his portrait
would never have been drawn.  Mr. Weston also made money in trade,
apparently "in the wholesale line," after he had retired from the
militia, and of the proud and conceited Bingley sisters we are told
that "they were of a respectable family in the north of England; a
circumstance more deeply impressed on their memories than that their
brother's fortune and their own had been acquired by trade."

Jane has many kindly things to tell her sister about, her mother's
maids, especially of a faithful and industrious "Nannie."  Of the
maids' relations, the agricultural class, amid whose homes {116} she
passed nearly all her life, she has, as I have said, left no account in
her novels.  Her letters do indeed contain many bits of news concerning
the ploughmen and washerwomen of the parish, and they are significant
as to the manner, proper to the age, in which she regarded her humble
neighbours.  Her references to the cottagers are commonly devoid of any
indication of deeper feeling than the consciousness of a need to give
them clothes.  Of the people employed on her father's farm, she says--

"John Bond begins to find himself grow old, which John Bond ought not
to do, and unequal to much hard work; a man is therefore hired to
supply his place as to labour, and John himself is to have the care of
the sheep.  There are not more people engaged than before, I believe;
only men instead of boys.  I fancy so at least, but you know my
stupidity as to such matters.  Lizzie Bond is just apprenticed to Miss
Small, so we may hope to see her able to spoil gowns in a few years."

About Christmas (1798) she writes--

"Of my charities to the poor since I came home you shall have a
faithful account.  I have given a pair of worsted stockings to Mary
Hutchins, Dame Kew, Mary Steevens, and Dame Staples; {117} a shift to
Hannah Staples, and a shawl to Betty Dawkins, amounting in all to about
half-a-guinea.  But I have no reason to suppose that the _Battys_ would
accept of anything, because I have not made them the offer."

Of personal service we hear but little.  There is just the old "Lady
Bountiful" idea, adapted to the purse of the parson's younger daughter.
Alms were what the poor chiefly wanted, and alms they received--if not
in money, in warm garments.  She gave them worsted stockings, and
flannel to wear in the cold weather.  She did not often, so far as we
hear, sit and chat with Dame Staples and Dame Kew over the things that
made up their life-interests, or listen to the confidences of Lizzie
Bond and Hannah Staples concerning their rustic lovers.

Sometimes we do hear of talks with poor women, as when Jane writes, "I
called yesterday upon Betty Londe, who inquired particularly after you,
and said she seemed to miss you very much, because you used to call in
upon her very often.  This was an oblique reproach at me, which I am
sorry to have merited, and from which I will profit."  We may well
believe that Jane was no {118} pioneer in "district visiting."  Her
services to humanity were of another kind.  Almost alone among the
greater novelists who have written the fiction of drawing-rooms, she
was hardly less indifferent as a writer to the concerns of the
governing class of her day than of the voteless class, unless, indeed,
she was a hostile witness so far as her knowledge went.  Among the
worst-bred persons in the novels, with John Thorpe, Mr. Collins, and
the ever-delightful Mrs. Bennet, are Sir Walter Elliot and Lady
Catherine de Bourgh, and the hero whose manners are most open to
reproach is Lady Catherine's nephew, Darcy--before he has been refused
by Elizabeth.

Jane Austen's views on the claims of social position, as distinct from
individual character, were much the same as Anne Elliot's.  Mr. Elliot
and Anne, we learn--

"Did not always think alike.  His value for rank and connection she
perceived to be greater than hers.  It was not merely complaisance, it
must be a liking to the cause, which made him enter warmly into her
father's and sister's solicitudes on a subject which she thought
unworthy to excite them....  She was reduced to form a wish which she
had never foreseen--a wish that they {119} had more pride....  Had Lady
Dalrymple and her daughter even been very agreeable, she would still
have been ashamed of the agitation they created; but they were nothing.
There was no superiority of manner, accomplishment, or understanding."

The Dalrymples and Lady Catherine de Bourgh do not lead one to suppose
that Jane's acquaintance with their class was a fortunate one.  Had it
been, she would probably have given some happier examples of the
titular aristocracy.  Lord Osborne, in _The Watsons_, is in some ways a
more amiable type, but too "sketchy" to be of much account as an
antidote to such unpleasing people as the aunt of Darcy and the cousins
of Anne Elliot.

If persons of artificial eminence are almost unknown in the novels,
there is an even more complete dearth of men or women distinguished for
their individual gifts or achievements.  Sir John Middleton fills his
too hospitable mansion with an endless supply of guests who keep his
maid-servants hard at work in preparing spare bedrooms, that were
occupied the night before, for fresh arrivals in the afternoon.  He
hardly allows {120} time to speed the parting guests before he must
turn to welcome their successors.  But no statesman, or traveller, or
professor, not so much as a rising politician or a poet, crosses those
ever-open doors.  They do not come, for one reason--and it seems a
sufficient one--because they scarcely exist for the author, or if they
do, the people who eat mutton and drink port and Madeira around the
mahogany tables at Netherfield, or Barton, or Uppercross, know and care
nothing whatever about them and their performances.  "Each thinks his
little set mankind" is as true of the characters in Jane Austen's books
as in a sense it is true, one is sometimes inclined to think, of their
author.  The Morlands, and Musgroves, and Woodhouses, and Bennets have
never travelled, unless an occasional visit to London may count as
travel.  They have been into some neighbouring county, they have been
perchance to Bath.  They have not so much as been to Paris.  Emma had
never seen the sea.  Twenty years earlier it would have been different.
Darcy at any rate would have known something of France had he been
twenty years older.  From the outbreak of the Revolution till the first
exile of {121} Napoleon, France was not a likely place for any but the
most adventurous of squires to choose for a pleasure-trip, nor, after
the rise of Napoleon's star, were the accessible parts of the Continent
very attractive for any but soldiers of fortune and spies.  Thus, not
only are the conversations which Jane Austen offers devoid of any such
elements of interest as are introduced, for example, by the appearance
of Byron in _Venetia_, or of Shelley in _Nightmare Abbey_, but the
opportunities of lively talk offered by reminiscences of foreign
manners and scenes are not allowed to the author.  On the other hand,
we do not meet with any of those egotistical travellers who, as a
contemporary of Jane Austen's declared, "If you introduce the name of a
river or a hill, instantly deluge you with the _Rhine_, or make you
dizzy with the height of _Mont Blanc_."

In any case, however much the fact may be due to want of opportunities
for enlarging her knowledge, Jane, literature apart, took very little
interest in anything outside the social and family life of her own
class in the country.  Her published correspondence has been described
as "trivial" (as her novels have been, for that is what {122} Madame de
Staël meant by "_vulgaire_," and not "vulgar," as Sir James Mackintosh
and others have supposed), and, in comparison with such contemporary
letters as Byron's or Lamb's, her accounts of her dances and her
bonnets are certainly weak tea for serious readers.  They are, however,
exactly such letters as she might have been expected to write.  Her
satire gives them an agreeable tartness which somehow suggests the
syllabubs which were so common a feature of the supper-tables of her
time.  It is all, one may reasonably suppose, like the common talk of
the drawing-room in a manor-house on an afternoon when the men are
hunting or shooting--the choice of a winter frock, the prospects of a
ball at some territorial magnate's, the errors of cooks and housemaids,
the fatuity of this young man who is so rich, and the silliness of that
young woman who is so pretty--enlivened by Jane's wit.

The dances, whether full-dress balls or merely "small and early hops"
were among the favourite pleasures of Jane Austen.  If you have read
her letters you will feel that she is present when Fanny Price dances
so prettily at Mansfield Park, or when Darcy declines to dance with
Elizabeth because though she is "tolerable," she is {123} "not handsome
enough" to tempt him.  "I danced twice with Warren last night, and once
with Mr. Charles Watkins, and to my inexpressible astonishment I
entirely escaped John Lyford.  I was forced to fight hard for it,
however.  We had a very good supper, and the greenhouse was illuminated
in a very elegant manner."  Such bits of news are common at all periods
of Jane's correspondence.  For example: "The ball on Thursday was a
very small one indeed, hardly so large as an Oxford smack;" and again,
"Our ball on Thursday was a very poor one, only eight couple, and but
twenty-three people in the room"--just as it was when they got up the
scratch dance at the Bertrams, "the thought only of the afternoon,
built on the late acquisition of a violin player in the servants' hall."

On another occasion, at a public hall at the county town--

"The Portsmouths, Dorchesters, Boltons, Portals, and Clerks were there,
and all the meaner and more usual etc., etcs.  There was a scarcity of
men in general, and a still greater scarcity of any that were good for
much.  I danced nine dances out of ten--five with Stephen Terry, T.
Chute, and James Digweed, and four with {124} Catherine.  There was
commonly a couple of ladies standing up together, but not often any so
amiable as ourselves."

Jane, from all we know of her, would almost as soon dance with another
girl as with a man--it was the dancing she loved, and watching the
behaviour of others, their flirtations, their love-making, their airs
and affectations.

Emma Woodhouse, the day after a dance at Highbury, might have sent to
her sister in Brunswick Square just such an account as Jane Austen to
her sister at Godmersham--

"There were very few beauties, and such as there were were not very
handsome."  One of the girls seemed to her: "A queer animal with a
white neck.  Mrs. Warren, I was constrained to think a very fine young
woman, which I much regret.  She danced away with great activity.  Her
husband is ugly enough, uglier even than his cousin John; but he does
not look so _very_ old.  The Miss Maitlands are both prettyish, very
like Anne, with brown skins, large dark eyes, and a good deal of nose.
The General has got the gout, and Mrs. Maitland the jaundice."

A ball to which Jane Austen went in 1808--her {125} thirty-fourth
year--was "rather more amusing" than she expected.  "The melancholy
part was to see so many dozen young women standing by without partners,
and each of them with two ugly naked shoulders.  It was the same room
in which we danced fifteen years ago.  I thought it all over, and in
spite of the shame of being so much older, felt with thankfulness that
I was quite as happy now as then.  We paid an additional shilling for
our tea."  This letter is but one of many bits of evidence that no
memory of a Captain Wentworth troubled Jane's own life.  The "shame"
such a woman could have felt in being "older" one can scarcely imagine,
and the context shows it was not seriously felt.

The most pathetic dancing incident in the novels was the impromptu
affair at Uppercross (in _Persuasion_), where Anne saw her old lover
apparently losing his heart elsewhere.  "The evening ended with
dancing.  On its being proposed, Anne offered her services, as usual;
and though her eyes would sometimes fill with tears as she sat at the
instrument, she was extremely glad to be employed, and desired nothing
in return but to be unobserved."  She did not know that Wentworth, who
was making so merry with {126} the Musgrove girls, was faithful all the
time to his old love--herself.  We might doubt whether the author knew
it until later on in the story, were it not that the idea of ending a
novel without the marriage of the principal maiden to the man she liked
best would have been entirely foreign to Jane Austen's method.  So
Frederick Wentworth danced with the Musgroves, and Anne played for
their delight.

The dance most fully described was that given by the Westons at the
"Crown," when Mr. Elton behaved so abominably to Harriet Smith, and Mr.
Knightley showed himself a _preux chevalier_ and saved Emma's lovely
_protégée_ from the humiliation of being the only "wallflower."  In
describing how Elizabeth at Netherfield, Catherine at Bath, Harriet at
Highbury, and Fanny at Mansfield Park idly watched the dancing because
no man had asked them to join it, Jane, pretty girl and excellent
dancer as she was, spoke from personal experience.  Once at any rate,
when "in the pride of youth and beauty," she was able to write, after a
dance at a neighbouring house--

"I do not think I was very much in request.  People were rather apt not
to ask me till they {127} could not help it; one's consequence, you
know, varies so much at times without any particular reason.  There was
one gentleman, an officer of the Cheshire, a very good-looking young
man, who, I was told, wanted very much to be introduced to me; but as
he did not want it quite enough to take much trouble in effecting it,
we never could bring it about."

She would not, if she could help it, dance with bad partners.  "One of
my gayest actions," she writes after a ball, "was sitting down two
dances in preference to having Lord Bolton's eldest son for my partner,
who danced too ill to be endured."

It is in connection with one of the Westons' parties that Mr. Woodhouse
makes his sage observations on the eternal question of ventilation.
When Frank Churchill says that the fresh air difficulty will be settled
by their dancing in a large room, so that the windows need not be
opened, because "it is that dreadful habit of opening the windows,
letting in cold air upon heated bodies, which does the mischief," Mr.
Woodhouse cries--

"'Open the windows! but surely, Mr. Churchill, nobody would think of
opening the windows at Randalls.  Nobody could be so imprudent!  I
never heard of such a thing.  Dancing with open windows!  I am sure
neither your father nor {128} Mrs. Weston (poor Miss Taylor that was)
would suffer it.'

"'Ah! sir--but a thoughtless young person will sometimes step behind a
window-curtain, and throw up a sash, without its being suspected.  I
have often known it done myself.'

"'Have you, indeed, sir?  Bless me!  I never could have supposed it.
But I live out of the world, and am often astonished at what I hear.'"

The conversation of this valetudinarian quietist is always diverting.
He suggests that Emma should leave the Coles' party before it is half
over, as it is so bad to be up late.  "But, my dear sir," cried Mr.
Weston, "if Emma comes away early it will be breaking up the party."

"And no great harm if it does," said Mr. Woodhouse.  "The sooner every
party breaks up the better."

Advancing maturity did not do much to spoil Jane's love of dances.
From Southampton, in 1809, she wrote: "Your silence on the subject of
our ball makes me suppose your curiosity too great for words.  We were
very well entertained, and could have stayed longer but for the arrival
of my list shoes to convey me home, and I did not like to keep them
waiting in the cold."

[Illustration: A letter of Jane Austen's]


If Jane tells Cassandra about her own dances, she is ever ready in
return for news of Cassandra's.  "I shall be extremely anxious to hear
the event of your ball, and shall hope to receive so long and minute an
account of every particular that I shall be tired of reading it....  We
were at a ball on Saturday I assure you.  We dined at Goodnestone and
in the evening danced two country dances and the Boulangeries."  This
French dance, by the way, was on the unwritten programme at Mr.
Bingley's ball, in _Pride and Prejudice_.  It seems to have had its
birth in the Revolution, when the bakers, men and women together, kept
themselves warm by joining hands and dancing up and down the streets.

After Jane Fairfax had sung herself hoarse at the Coles' party--

"The proposal of dancing--originating nobody exactly knew where--was so
effectually promoted by Mr. and Mrs. Cole that everything was rapidly
clearing away, to give proper space.  Mrs. Weston, capital in her
country dances, was seated, and beginning an irresistible waltz; and
Frank Churchill, coming up with most becoming gallantry to Emma, had
secured her hand, and led her up to the top, (where) she led off the
dance with genuine spirit and enjoyment."


The waltz was a novelty still in those days, and seems here to be
classed as a country dance.  It had been imported from Germany, where
Mozart had done much to forward its triumph, after Jane Austen had
written her earlier novels, and I cannot remember any other reference
to it in her work.  It was at first considered an "improper" dance, and
one need not be surprised that a generation which had danced nothing
more intimate than the "boulangeries" was at first a little flustered
by the new fashion.  Sheridan, watching the dancers in a ball-room,
repeated the following lines of his own composition, which aptly
suggest the contrast between the old dancing and the new as it struck
the eyes of our great-grand-aunts about the time when Emma danced at
the "Crown" and Jane Austen at Goodnestone.

  "With tranquil step, and timid, downcast glance,
  Behold the well-paired couple now advance.
  In such sweet posture our first parents moved,
  While, hand in hand, through Eden's bowers they roved,
  Ere yet the Devil, with promise fine and false,
  Turn'd their poor heads, and taught them how to waltz."

Little wonder, when a waltz was regarded as forbidden fruit, if Edmund
Bertram, Fanny, and Sir Thomas were shocked at the very idea of
play-acting by the family and guests at Mansfield Park.  {131} Not that
there were wanting plenty of quiet souls who were in nowise personally
distressed at the "impropriety" of the waltz on their own account, just
as, in the other matter of amateur theatricals, and the choice of a
play, when Lady Bertram asked her children not to "act anything
improper," it was not because she had any personal objection to offer,
but because "Sir Thomas would not like it."

The Bertrams' ill-fated theatricals, and the waltz which Mrs. Weston
played, serve to emphasize the place which Jane Austen fills as an
historian of the transition from the formal prudery of the sceptical
eighteenth century to the broader liberties of the scientific
nineteenth.  "What is become of all the shyness in the world?" she asks
her sister in 1807; "shyness and the sweating sickness have given way
to confidence and paralytic complaints."  Morals change but little as
compared with _moeurs_.  The girls who act in private theatricals every
winter and dance twenty waltzes a night half the year round are no whit
less virtuous than their great-grandmothers who were shocked at the
waltz, and caught cold in clothes which were so thin that, as a close
observer has recorded, you could "see the gleam of their {132}
garter-buckles" through the silks and kerseymeres as they danced, and
altogether so suitable for a classical revival that a contemporary poet
was moved to utter the quatrain--

  "When dressed for the evening the girls now-a-days,
  Scarce an atom of dress on them leave;
  Nor blame them, for what is an evening dress
  But a dress that is suited to Eve."

Thus the mother of mankind is accused by one poet of having danced the
first waltz, and held responsible by another for the airy fashions of
the Récamier period.

One of the principal differences of etiquette, we may note before
passing on, between the customs of the ball-room a century ago and now,
was that in the days when John Lyford was eluded with so much
difficulty a girl danced two successive dances with the same partner as
a matter of course, so that neither an imaginary John Thorpe nor a real
John Lyford could be got rid of by the promise of one dance.

The scraps from the letters, given on the last few pages, help us to
realize how clearly Jane Austen's own life is at times reflected in her




Dr. Whately on Jane Austen--"Moral lessons" of her novels--Charge of
"Indelicacy"--Marriage as a profession--A "problem" novel--"The
Nostalgia of the Infinite"--The "whitewashing" of Willoughby--_Lady
Susan_ condemned by its author--_The Watsons_--Change in manners--No
"heroes"--Woman's love--The Prince Regent--_The Quarterly Review_.

"The moral lessons of this lady's novels," wrote Archbishop Whately in
his _Quarterly_ article of 1821, "though clearly and impressively
conveyed, are not offensively put forward, but spring incidentally from
the circumstances of the story."  So inoffensively, indeed, are they
offered to our notice, that Dr. Whately himself seems to have been
unable to discover them at all.  "On the whole," writes the Archbishop,
"Miss Austin's (_sic_) works may safely be recommended, not only as
among the most unexceptionable of their class, but as combining, in an
eminent degree, instruction with amusement, though without the direct
effort {136} at the former, of which we have complained, as sometimes
defeating its object."

The most obvious "moral" of Jane Austen's novels is that if you are a
heroine you need not trouble yourself about your future.  You are
certain to marry a worthy man with an income sufficient for a
comfortable existence.  He may be endowed with something less than a
thousand a year, like Edward Ferrars, with a couple of thousand like
Captain Wentworth, or with the ten thousand a year which made Darcy
appear so admirable to Mrs. Bennet.  In any case you will not have to
eat bread-and-scrape or go without a fire in your bedroom.  The
Country-house Comedy of Jane Austen is full of morals if you are in
need of them, but it was not written to improve you, only to amuse
you--and its maker.  If you must have a clear moral for each story,
after the manner of tracts, you may take them thus.  _Pride and
Prejudice_ conveys the useful lesson that the person you most dislike
in one month may be the one you will very sensibly give your affection
to in the next; _Sense and Sensibility_ that when the bad man falls
into the pit he has dug for himself, the good man comes by his own;
_Emma_ that the {137} man whose society is most necessary to a woman's
quiet contentment is the man she ought to marry; _Mansfield Park_ that
a simple, unaffected girl who gains the second place in a man's
affections may win the prize through the disqualification of her more
brilliant rival; _Persuasion_ that nothing is more likely to revive an
old passion than to see its object warmly admired by some other
eligible party; _Northanger Abbey_ that a tuft-hunting father may be
induced to receive a daughter-in-law of no importance by the kindly
influence of a son-in-law of superior rank.  As for _Lady Susan_, the
moral of that unpleasing story is that if a worldly _mater pulchra_ is
the rival in love of an ingenuous _filia pulchrior_ she will probably
lose the battle after much suffering on either side; and from _The
Watsons_ we may see that if a girl is educated above her family she
will find it hard to be happy beside the domestic hearth.  All these
are plain workable morals.  Whether the author of the novels would have
endorsed them we cannot certainly know, but it is more than probable
she would not.

We need not suppose that Jane Austen was ignorant of the coarseness of
conversation, the {138} hard-drinking, the wild gambling, the moral
laxity of a large section of society that are so frequently exhibited
in the records of the age, in spite of the improvement in manners.  But
we can hardly help laughing at the objection taken to her novels even
by some of her contemporaries, that they were "indelicate"!  The
"indelicacy" was usually found in the views of marriage held and
expressed by the heroines and their families.  The love-affairs of
these country maidens were not often, we must admit, such as to steal
away their beauty sleep or spoil their appetites for breakfast.  Mrs.
Jennings' kindly endeavour to cure a girl's disappointment in love by a
variety of sweetmeats and olives, and a good fire, was perhaps not
wholly unjustified by experience.  In those days, when no profession
save that of governess was open to women, when nursing the sick was
regarded as an occupation specially suitable for those of a low class,
when no door opened from the drawing-room on to the professional stage,
and when the very idea of a "female" as secretary to a man of affairs
or of business would have been condemned as "improper," marriage was
undoubtedly viewed by most people as the only aim {139} of a young
woman, "the pleasantest preservative from want," as Charlotte Lucas
regarded it, and, moreover, the average age of brides was much lower
than it is now-a-days.  To avoid being a governess by attracting the
admiration of a man who could afford a wife was the hope, at least, of
most poorly endowed girls, and even if matrimony is not viewed with so
much sentiment and reserve by Jane Austen's heroines as by the
excessively squeamish Evelina, we may be inclined to prefer the
"indelicacy" of Jane Austen to the elaborate, delicacy of Fanny Burney.
Scott himself, by an ingenious paradox, has been accused--as a
novelist--of immorality, and _Quentin Durward_ in particular described
as "one of the most immoral novels that has even been written," because
its romance expresses nothing.  The interest a boy takes in its
romantic passages "depends on the fact that he dreams himself to be in
similar circumstances; he must treat the novel subjectively, and it is
the subjective use of the imagination which does all the damage.  It is
in reading such books as this that a bad habit of mind is begun, and
_Quentin Durward_ is more immoral for a boy of fourteen than a
translation of the most {140} shockingly indecent French novel."  Well
may the anonymous writer of this unexpected criticism add: "There are
paradoxes to be met everywhere, and most of all in the question of
morality."  This particular kind of immorality has not yet, so far as I
know, been charged against Jane Austen.  She cannot be justly accused
of writing romance which "expresses nothing," but she certainly leaves
plenty of opportunity for young readers to exercise their imaginations,
and thus begin a "bad habit of mind."

The view of marriage as a profession, with or without ardent affection,
is not the only thing that has shocked the delicacy of many of Jane
Austen's readers.  Serious objection has been taken to her introduction
of episodes of an "improper" nature.  How is the charge supported?
Lydia Bennet, a vulgar, badly brought-up girl still in her teens,
infatuated with the red coats of the militia officers, insists on going
away with Wickham, and lives with him as his mistress until, by the
generous aid of Darcy, and the determination of the Gardiners--her
uncle and aunt--"a marriage is arranged" and does "shortly take place."
This episode, say the stern critics, was (1) unnecessary to the plot,
{141} and (2) if it was necessary, it is too much insisted on and
developed.  That it is an essential part of the little plot, worked in
to exhibit the best side of Darcy's character, which before has only
been seen in its least attractive light, seems to me obvious, and I
agree with Professor Saintsbury's opinion that it brings about the
_dénouement_ with complete propriety.  Lydia's entire indifference to
the moral aspect of her conduct is and was unusual in a girl of sixteen
and of her class, but her character from first to last is consistently
drawn, and the contrast between the selfishness of Wickham and Lydia,
who care nothing for any one's happiness except their own, and not even
for each other's, and the sympathy of heart and variety of temperament
which bring Elizabeth and Darcy together is admirably drawn.

Then we are asked to be shocked at the illustration of the bad
character and selfish cruelty of Willoughby given to Elinor Dashwood by
the very worthy and very dull Colonel Brandon in _Sense and
Sensibility_.  It is a painful story.  Willoughby, the faithless lover
of Marianne Dashwood, had seduced an impressionable girl whom Brandon,
out of affection for the memory of her {142} mother, herself ruined by
a scoundrel, had practically adopted, and whom such scandal-mongers as
Mrs. Jennings declared to be the Colonel's own child.  "Why drag in
this nasty story?" ask the objectors, and above all, "why allow the
Colonel to pour it into the ears of a young girl like Elinor?"  That it
comes unfortunately from Brandon, who is a rival--hopeless as it had
seemed--of Willoughby for Marianne's affection, and that in the
middle-class society of to-day a well-bred man would not tell such a
tale to a girl if he could find any other means of achieving an
imperative object is undeniable.

What was Brandon to do?  He knew that Marianne was pining for love of a
man at least as unworthy of her as, in his worst days, was Tom Jones of
Sophia, and he believed, with or without reason, that the knowledge of
Willoughby's character would be a bitter but efficacious medicine for
her heart-sickness.  Elinor, the sensible, prudent, devoted sister,
seemed the only person to whom he could tell the story with any hope
that it would be discreetly used.  "He had spent many hours in
convincing himself that he was right," and when Elinor said, "I
understand you, you have {143} something to tell me of Mr. Willoughby
that will open his character farther.  Your telling it will be the
greatest act of friendship that can be shown to Marianne.  My gratitude
will be ensured immediately by any information tending to that end, and
hers must be gained by it in time.  Pray, pray let me hear it," there
is little reason for wonder that "upon this hint he spake," and told
the story of the moral ruin of the mother and the cruel desertion of
the daughter which the reader of _Sense and Sensibility_ will recall,
Elinor lost little time in retailing it to her sister, with the
immediate and apparently unexpected effect of increasing the girl's
unhappiness.  "She felt the loss of Willoughby's character yet more
heavily than she had felt the loss of his heart," though we know that
she soon afterwards became as fond a wife of Colonel Brandon as she
ever could have been of Willoughby.

Far more remarkable, I think, than Brandon's telling Elinor the
miserable story of his sister-in-law and her daughter is the manner in
which Elinor herself receives Willoughby's attempt to excuse his
conduct.  He admits his treatment of Miss Williams, but asks how Elinor
could think {144} Colonel Brandon an impartial reporter of the affair,
and proceeds to offer his own excuse in the words that follow--

"I do not mean to justify myself, but at the same time cannot leave you
to suppose that I have nothing to urge,--that because she was injured,
she was irreproachable,--and because I was a libertine, she must be a
saint.  If the violence of her passion, the weakness of her
understanding--I do not mean, however, to defend myself.  Her affection
for me deserved better treatment, and I often, with great
self-reproach, recall the tenderness which, for a very short time, had
the power of creating any return.  I wish--I heartily wish it had never
been.  But I have injured more than herself; and I have injured one
whose affection for me (may I say it?) was scarcely less warm than
hers, and whose mind--oh! how infinitely superior."

In other words, the inexperienced child was of weak understanding, and
loved him passionately, and therefore he was not so much to blame as if
she had been less warm in her affection and stronger in her
intelligence.  Surely the reasoning should have been reversed.  Yet
after this fine oration Elinor "pities" him, and, when he goes on to
disparage his wife, whom he has married for {145} her fortune, and to
express his continued love for Marianne, all that Elinor says is, "You
are very wrong, Mr. Willoughby, very blamable, you ought not to speak
in this way, either of Mrs. Willoughby or my sister," and in saying
this "her voice, in spite of herself, betrayed her compassionate
emotion."  When he left her, Elinor assured him that she thought better
of him than she had done, "that she forgave, pitied him, wished him
well--was even interested in his happiness--and added some gentle
counsel as to the behaviour most likely to promote it;" counsel which
he showed little disposition to take.

This tolerance by Elinor for a man who, on his own admission, had
"taken advantage" of a simple young girl, ignorant in the world's ways,
this readiness to allow extenuating circumstances to a mercenary
breaker of reputations and hearts, is a far more serious fact than the
mere introduction of a story which does fit quite easily into the plan
of the novel.  Elinor's reflections when Willoughby had ended his
apologies sufficiently show that the point of view suggested in the
duologue between the sinner and the sister was deliberately set up by
the author--


"She made no answer.  Her thoughts were silently fixed on the
irreparable injury which too early an independence and its consequent
habits of idleness, dissipation, and luxury, had made in the mind, the
character, the happiness, of a man who, to every advantage of person
and talents, united a disposition naturally open and honest, and a
feeling, affectionate temper.  The world had made him extravagant and
vain; extravagance and vanity had made him cold-hearted and selfish.
Vanity, while seeking its own guilty triumph at the expense of another,
had involved him in a real attachment, which extravagance, or at least
its offspring necessity, had required to be sacrificed.  Each faulty
propensity, in leading him to evil, had led him likewise to punishment.
The attachment from which, against honour, against feeling, against
every better interest he had outwardly torn himself, now, when no
longer allowable, governed every thought; and the connection, for the
sake of which he had, with little scruple, left her sister to misery,
was likely to prove a source of unhappiness to himself of a far more
incurable nature."

The chapter describing this interview between Willoughby and Elinor is
the only one in all the novels of Jane Austen wherein a "problem,"
after the kind dear to the dramatist of to-day and the novelists of
yesterday, is fully presented and {147} considered, the heroines, with
this exception, answering to Mr. Andrew Lang's description, being
"ignorant of evil, as it seems, and unacquainted with vain yearnings
and interesting doubts."  Elinor only, as we find her on this occasion,
is a pioneer of that school of sociology which whitewashes the
individual at the expense of his early environment and education.  Her
defence of this wretched man is, in principle, that which an Old Bailey
advocate offers when he cites the theories of Lombroso in favour of a
beetle-browed criminal who has stuck his knife into the breast of some
confiding woman.  It was "the world" that had made him what he was, he
was to be pitied, not condemned.

Though we have not to consider here whether Elinor and the advocate are
right or wrong, it is hard to avoid the thought that, when she wrote
this remarkable chapter, Jane Austen was influenced in a degree quite
unusual in that age with people of her class by the sense of futility
which, not long before her day, had been the motive of _Candide_.
Voltaire's irony is bitter, in spite of the optimism which his book
preaches, and of the essential kindness of his nature, while Jane
Austen's is as sweet {148} as irony can ever be.  That she was
intentionally ironical in this case of Elinor's tolerance is scarcely
possible.  Only a cynic would treat a pure-minded maiden's apology for
a heartless seducer as a subject for covert satire, and Jane was not a

Writing of Maria Edgeworth in his _Notes for a Diary_, Sir M. E. Grant
Duff says: "In her, as in Miss Austen, there is something wanting.  Is
it what has been called the _nostalgie de l'Infini_?"  That
intellectual ailment is more common now-a-days than it was in the
eighteenth century, and there was little of it in the grey matter of
any country brains when Jane was born.  Certainly it cannot be
diagnosed from her work generally.  Only in the particular case of
Elinor and Willoughby does that idea of the helplessness of man in the
maelstrom of Infinity which has paralyzed the wills of so many unhappy
victims, and induced the devastating literature of determinism, seem to
have entered into her plan of work--for only thus can I account for the
moral whitewashing of Willoughby, not by a "man-of-the-world," with his
"after all," and his "human nature" arguments, but by a country
ingénue.  The more I {149} read Jane Austen's writings the stronger
grows my conviction that she was one of those fortunate beings whose
optimism is differentiated from pessimism by the good offices of an
excellent digestion and an even pulse.

We need not suppose that she had thought much about the philosophical
sanction of conduct as opposed to the purely religious, or that she had
studied the French _Encyclopædia_.  She was born and brought up in an
atmosphere wherein convention, in regard to the things that matter, was
almost omnipotent, and she was not of the type whereof iconoclasts are
made.  She attacked no system, social or religious; but she had no
fondness for "isms," and thus it is that dogmatism is quite as hard to
discover in her writings as scepticism.

It has been said already that Jane Austen was not a cynic.  Yet it
would be easy, by making _Lady Susan_ one's text, and ignoring the rest
of her writings, to show that she was as cynical as a Swift or an
Anatole France.  Of course I do not mean that her apparent cynicism in
this case was exercised on the kind of subjects which is ridiculed in
_The Tale of a Tub_ or in _L'Ile des {150} Pingouins_.  But I know
nothing, in its way, more cold-blooded in the presentation of "love"
than the conclusion of that novel of Jane's springtime, which she
herself, her own wise critic, withheld from publication.  The rivalry
of mother and daughter for the affections of the same man must always
be an unpleasant subject, and the story of the conflict between Lady
Susan Vernon and her daughter for the matrimonial prize represented by
Reginald de Courcy, as told in letters among the characters concerned,
is on a low plane.  The morals of the "heroine" may not be suspect, but
her tone is below suspicion.

What is the _dénouement_ of _Lady Susan_?  The mother's schemes to
marry the man of the daughter's choice have ended in her own marriage
to the wealthy noodle whom she had tried to force upon the daughter.
"Frederica," says the author,--dropping the "correspondence" plan in
order to wind up the book more readily--"was therefore fixed in the
family of her uncle and aunt till such time as Reginald de Courcy could
be talked, flattered and finessed into an affection for her which,
allowing leisure for the conquest of his attachment to her mother, for
his abjuring all future {151} attachments, and detesting the sex, might
be reasonably looked for in the course of a twelve-month.  Three months
might have done it in general, but Reginald's feelings were no less
lasting than lively.  Whether Lady Susan was or was not happy in her
second choice, I do not see how it can ever be ascertained...."

It is certain that to some considerable extent _Lady Susan_ was a
satire on several lady novelists of the period.  All Jane Austen's
novels are more or less satirical, from _Northanger Abbey_, which is
full of burlesque passages, to _Persuasion_, in which they are so rare
that it needs a hunt to discover any.  Whether or not _Lady Susan_ was
intended to be taken more seriously than in jest, it is a dull
performance.  The whole plan and treatment of the book are artificial.
It was not Jane's natural instinct or her finer art which was at work
in its making.  So foreign is it to herself that if the MS. had been
found in some cupboard of a manor-house no occupants of which had been
of known relationship to the Austens, I doubt if it would have been
attributed to her by any one who had not made a meticulous comparison
of its phraseology with her acknowledged works.


There is, I think, no surer evidence of Jane's fine taste, alike in
character and in literature, than that, having brought this novel to
completion, she deliberately suppressed it.  Had she sold it to a
publisher, and allowed it to run its chance of popularity like the rest
of her finished novels, we should have had to revise our views on her
nature and judgment to a considerable extent.  As it is, the fact that
having written a poor novel of disagreeable tendency she recognized the
unsatisfactory thing that she had done in time to cancel it is much in
her favour, and justifies the opinion that whatever defects of subject
or of treatment we may find in _Lady Susan_ were condemned by its
author.  It is for this reason that we need not regret the decision of
her nephew and niece to publish, many years after their aunt's death,
the book which she herself had withheld.  Only, let us never forget as
we read it that it was cancelled by the author.

_The Watsons_ was produced, as far as can be ascertained, in that
middle period of Jane's life when, after her father's resignation of
the Steventon living he was spending his few remaining years at Bath
with his wife and daughters.  Having {153} written three of her six
novels in the nineties of the eighteenth century--the six novels by
which she chose to be judged--at Steventon, she produced nothing more
of her best until at Chawton, in the early years of the nineteenth
century, she completed her life's work.

All her books that live by their own merits were written in the heart
of the country.  The book that comes nearest to the commonest fiction
of her period was chiefly written in a town which, however staid and
irreproachable in its tone at the present date, was in her time a
centre of worldliness and frivolity.

_The Rivals_ was first acted in the year of Jane Austen's birth, but
the picture it offers of Bath society is almost as true of 1802 as of
1775.  Dress had changed much in the intervening years, but in all else
there seems to have been little change between the Bath of Sheridan the
lover of Elizabeth Linley, and the Bath of Sheridan the friend of the
Prince Regent.  It was among Lydia Languishes and Captain Absolutes
that Jane Austen walked in Milsom Street and danced at the
Assembly-rooms in 1802-5, and it was in an atmosphere of social
affectation and busy idleness that she found {154} her powers unequal
to any nobler performance than the account of the husband-hunting and
silly young women who angle for Lord Osborne and his friends.  The
futilities of _The Watsons_ form a remarkable interlude between _Pride
and Prejudice_ and _Mansfield Park_.

The rural society into which Jane Austen takes us in all her novels
marks a rapid development from the manners of the preceding age.  If we
regard the Squire Western of Fielding as representative of a
considerable class of the country gentlemen of his time, we may wonder
how it is that no such rude disturber of the peace bursts in among the
Woodhouses and the Dashwoods.  His nearest relation in Jane's novels is
Sir John Middleton, and he, with all his noise and ignorance, is a
quiet, well-bred person in comparison with the rude father of the
delicious Sophia.  Even the less rubicund and animal squire of the
Hardcastle species is here unknown, and Squire Allworthy himself would
have been strange in the drawing-rooms of Mansfield Park and Pemberley,
or the parlours of Longbourn and Hartfield.  There is less change to be
seen in the "manners and tone" of the women, especially the younger
{155} women, than of the men.  Sophia and Amelia would have used a few
expressions, perhaps, that might have made Emma stare and cry "Good
God!" or the fine colour deepen on Elizabeth's cheeks, and Marianne
Dashwood would have confided to Elinor her astonishment that such
otherwise attractive girls should be so ignorant of the poets, and of
the proper arrangement of natural scenery.  Had the girls become
confidential on further acquaintance, Sophia might have wondered why
Elizabeth said so little about the appearance of her lover, and so much
about his intelligence.  But Tom Jones and Booth would never have got
on intimate terms with Knightley, or Darcy, or Edward Ferrars, until
these Austen young men had drunk more port than anybody in Jane's
novels--with the exception of John Thorpe as described by
himself--could carry without disaster.

There are no "heroes" among these honest gentlemen of a hundred years
ago.  Wentworth has indeed won credit and fortune at sea.  Bertram and
Knightley do nothing to entitle them to the name, beyond marrying the
heroine.  Edward Ferrars merely behaves properly in keeping faith {156}
with Lucy as long as she wants him.  Darcy is heroic in taking Mrs.
Bennet for a mother-in-law; Henry Tilney makes fun of his chosen mate
in a way that would have cost him her heart in a more conventional
novel.  "Il y a des héros en mal comme en bien," says Rochefoucauld,
but of the evil-doing kind there are none here, unless, indeed, the
effrontery with which, after jilting Marianne for a rich wife,
Willoughby comes to her sister Elinor and asks for her sympathy for his
sad fate, or the coolness of Wickham in the presence of the people he
has wronged may be regarded as evidence of heroism.

It is to the wonderfully true presentation of the hearts and minds of
girls that these novels chiefly owe their immense power of attraction
even for readers who miss the greater part of the humour.  Fanny Price
and Elinor Dashwood are themselves but poorly endowed with humour, and
Catherine Morland only possesses it in the rudimentary way of a lively
school-girl.  With how much of understanding, how clearly and fully are
the hopes and fears, the innocent little plans of Fanny and Catherine,
the more mature and reasoned ways of Elinor shown to us, without the
least apparent effort.


The trustful reader nurtured on the successful fiction of our own time,
especially that of the last ten years, during which English novelists
have been able to indulge themselves and their public by the
introduction of incidents and types of character which up to about the
commencement of that decade would have secured the ban of the
circulating libraries, has been led to believe that sensual impulse
plays as large a part in woman's life as in man's.  That such women as
Lady Bellaston in _Tom Jones_, Arabelle in _Le Lys dans la Vallée_, or
the Bellona of _Richard Feverel_ exist, and in great numbers, is
certain, but they are not representative of woman.  Balzac, who was
not: much restrained by any fear of the libraries, knew that many
faithless wives (so very common in French fiction and drama, whatever
they might be in life) gave themselves to men their love for whom
contained much less of sensuality than of other instincts.  Esther, the
unhappy Jewess of _Splendeurs et Misèes de Courtisanes_, loves Lucien
with an affection far more chaste than that which many a correct
heroine is made to display for the man with whom she goes to the altar
in the last chapter.  The mistresses of famous men, as known to us from
memoirs and histories, have not {158} generally been of a sensual
nature.  Aspasia, most distinguished of them all, was of the
intellectual, not the sensual, type.  Strangely indelicate as was
Madame du Châtelet, her relations with Voltaire were based on affinity
of literary taste and critical appreciation much more than on physical
attraction.  Even among the unintellectual women who have figured among
the _grandes amoureuses_ of history, the passion of the woman does not
in most instances appear to have been of the coarser kind.  Louise de
la Vallière is at least more typical of womanhood than Barbara Villiers.

Emma Woodhouse, deeply distressed at the supposed intention of
Knightley to marry Harriet Smith, feels that she cares not what may
happen, if he will but remain single all his life.  "Could she be
secure of that, indeed, of his never marrying at all, she believed she
should be perfectly satisfied.  Let him but continue the same Mr.
Knightley to her and her father, the same Mr. Knightley to all the
world; let Donwell and Hartfield lose none of their precious
intercourse of friendship and confidence, and her peace would be fully
secured.  Marriage, in fact, would not do for her."  Marriage, we know,
"did for her" very {159} well, and not at all, so far as we have her
story, in the idiomatic sense in which the words are commonly used.
But in this healthy maiden, who could regard with equanimity a future
wherein the man she liked best should never be more to her than a dear
friend who dropped in for tea or supper, we have an effective
illustration of the relative insignificance of passion in Jane Austen's
view of life.

Emma Woodhouse has near relations in Elinor Dashwood and Edward
Ferrars, who, after the marriage of Lucy Steele to Robert Ferrars had
cleared away the only barrier to their own avowals of affection, "were
neither of them quite enough in love to think that three hundred and
fifty pounds a year would supply them with the comforts of life."
Kitty and Lydia Bennet could simultaneously adore all the officers of a
militia regiment, but there was nothing of the "all for love, and the
world well lost" nonsense about any of the agreeable women of Jane
Austen's creation.  They were not to be captured by a man's attractions
of mind and person in the way that Millamant was by Mirabell's, nor
even by the art of others, as Beatrice was won for {160} Benedick--and
he for her.  The names of Millamant and Beatrice were in the ancestral
tree of Elizabeth Bennet, but her pulses beat more regularly than

In the effect of Mary Crawford's charms on Edmund Bertram we may see
some pale suggestion of such an awakening as that of Robert Orange (in
_The School for Saints_), who, on meeting with Brigit, "suddenly had
found presented to him a mind and a nature in such complete harmony
with his own that it had seemed as though he were the words and she the
music, of one song."  But it was only a "seeming" in Edmund's case, and
while we read Jane Austen our thoughts are rarely allowed to flow into
a "Romeo and Juliet" channel for more than a few moments at a time.

The re-awakening of Wentworth's dormant love for Anne Elliot would have
afforded to most lady novelists an opportunity for some fine, romantic
writing.  Jane Austen allows herself no romance in the matter.  The sea
air at Lyme has heightened Anne's colour, and a passing visitor--her
cousin, as it happens--is attracted by her appearance.  Wentworth
notices his glances of admiration and is _reminded_ that she is


"When they came to the steps leading upwards from the beach, a
gentleman, at the same moment preparing to come down, politely drew
back and stopped to give them way.  They ascended and passed him; and
as they passed, Anne's face caught his eye, and he looked at her with a
degree of earnest admiration which she could not be insensible of.  She
was looking remarkably well; her very regular, very pretty features
having the bloom and freshness of youth restored by the fine wind which
had been blowing on her complexion, and by the animation of eye which
it had also produced.  It was evident that the gentleman (completely a
gentleman in manner) admired her exceedingly.  Captain Wentworth looked
round at her instantly in a way which showed his noticing of it.  He
gave her a momentary glance--a glance of brightness which seemed to
say, 'That man is struck with you'--and even I, at this moment, see
something like Anne Elliot again."

This scene may be deficient in the sentiment that delights Catherine
Morlands and Marianne Dashwoods, but it is a bit of true observation of
a familiar phase of human folly.  Archbishop Whately remarks that:
"Authoresses ... can scarcely ever forget that they _are authoresses_.
They seem to feel a sympathetic shudder at exposing naked a female
mind.  _Elles se peignent en buste_, and {162} leave the mysteries of
womanhood to be described by some interloping male, like Richardson or
Marivaux, who is turned out before he has seen half the rites, and is
forced to spin from his own conjectures the rest.  Now from this fault
Miss Austin is free.  Her heroines are what one knows women must be,
though one never can get them to acknowledge it."  It is a striking
proof of the little that was known of Jane Austen by her contemporaries
that, even four years after her death, neither Whately himself, nor the
editor of the _Quarterly Review_ knew how to spell her name.

The criticism that the mind brought up on modern fiction would be
likely to make on the girls of Jane Austen would be the reverse of
Whately's.  It would be that her chief defect in depicting woman's
character was that she almost invariably did force the reader to spin
from his own conjectures when the "mysteries of the heart" were the
subject of her pages.  The truth is divided, I think, between the
Archbishop and the supposed modern critic.  Jane's heroines are true
women, admirably portrayed, but they only represent a certain
proportion of their sex.  It could never be suspected of Elizabeth, or
Elinor, {163} or Anne, or Fanny that there was Southern blood in her
veins.  There might have been a few drops--no more--in Marianne's.  The
feelings of the author are reflected in her most attractive characters.
She might have married, again and again, of that there can be small
doubt; and while for herself she shared Dorothy Osborne's opinion as to
the essentials of conjugal happiness, I fancy that she would also have
agreed with Dorothy's brother that "all passions have more of trouble
than satisfaction in them, and therefore they are happiest that have
least of them."  That, indeed, as we have already seen, was very much
the fault that Miss Brontë found in her as a novelist.

Anne Elliot comes nearer than any of her fellow-heroines to Dorothy
Osborne's ideal of the changelessness of affection, the true union of
hearts, but, save for her involuntary tears at the Musgroves', she kept
her feelings under the most perfect control, and never, we may be sure,
tried to beat her convictions into the heads of her silly family, or
even of her faithful friend Lady Russell.

There were, we may fairly believe, not a few who would like to have
been Jane's chosen mate.  {164} One such unhappy being seems, as we
read, to be the actor in the little bit of serious comedy related, with
lively exaggeration, in a letter written when she was twenty-five years
old.  "Your unfortunate sister was betrayed last Thursday into a
situation of the utmost cruelty.  I arrived at Ashe Park before the
party from Deane, and was shut up in the drawing-room with Mr. Holder
alone for ten minutes.  I had some thoughts of insisting on the
housekeeper or Mary Corbett being sent for, and nothing could prevail
on me to move two steps from the door, on the lock of which I kept one
hand constantly fixed."

Elizabeth Bennet was not more uncomfortable when her mother took Kitty
up-stairs after breakfast in order that Mr. Collins might have what he
called "The honour of a private audience" with the elder girl.  "Dear
ma'am," Elizabeth cried, "do not go.  I beg you will not go.  Mr.
Collins must excuse me.  He can have nothing to say to me that anybody
need not hear.  I am going away myself."  But her mother's, "Lizzy, I
_insist_ upon your staying and hearing Mr. Collins," compelled her to
remain, with results for which we must ever be grateful to {165} Mrs.
Bennet.  It is not clear, however, that Mr. Holder was a suitor for
Jane.  We are left in doubt both as to his hopes and his demerits.

There is a little matter connected with the _Quarterly's_ two articles
in praise of Jane which is perhaps worth noting here.  Gifford, who was
editor when both appeared, was so warm a supporter of the Prince Regent
that Hazlitt--one of Gifford's "beasts"--wrote in an open letter to
him: "When you damn an author, one knows that he is not a favourite at
Carlton House."  Now the Prince is said to have been so fond of Jane
Austen's novels that he kept a set in each of his residences, and it is
unquestionable that, in consequence of a suggestion that was
"equivalent to a command," she dedicated Emma to him.  "You will be
pleased to hear," she wrote on April 1, 1816, to John Murray the First,
who published the book, "that I have received the Prince's thanks for
the _handsome_ copy I sent him of 'Emma.'  Whatever he may think of
_my_ share of the work, yours seems to have been quite right."

In the same letter she expresses her disappointment at the "total
omission of 'Mansfield Park'" {166} in the _Quarterly's_ review of her
work in the preceding autumn.  As to that review, it is a curious fact
that until Lockhart's "Life of Scott" appeared, Whately, who wrote the
1821 article, was credited with the authorship of the earlier review,
and it is still to be found against his name in the British Museum
catalogue, not from the ignorance of the cataloguers, but because he
appears as author on the title-page of a reprint of the article issued
at Ahmedabad in 1889.




What has woman done?--"Nature's Salic law"--Women deficient in
satire--Some types in the novels--The female snob--The
valetudinarian--The fop--The too agreeable man--"Personal size and
mental sorrow"--Knightley's opinion of Emma--Ashamed of relations--Mrs.
Bennet--The clergy and their opinions--Worldly life--Absence of
dogma--Authors confused with their creations.

It is a commonplace of those who refuse to recognize the claims of
woman to equal treatment in spheres of activity where man has long held
a monopoly, to ask what great thing has woman done in any walk of life?
One may talk in reply of Sappho, of Joan of Arc, of George Sand, of
George Eliot, of Florence Nightingale, and two or three others, and the
retort, if the greatness of these be admitted, is that they are the
exceptions that "prove" the rule.  It is difficult, impossible perhaps,
to upset the man who denies that anything of "the greatest" in art, or
literature, or science has been achieved by a woman.  The list {170} of
women who have left an abiding fame as poets, or novelists, or painters
is soon exhausted, and there is not a name that can, without reserve,
be placed among the Rembrandts and Turners, the Goethes and Miltons,
the Newtons and Darwins of mankind.  Maybe this deficiency is largely
due to lack of opportunity.  Since the gates were partly opened to
woman, within the lifetime of those who are still not old, she has done
enough to change the opinions of many who held that rocking the cradle
was a sufficiently active share in the ruling of the world for the sex
that produced the Maid of Orleans and the Lady with the Lamp.  Such
justly conspicuous success as Madame Curie has attained in chemistry,
or Mrs. Garrett Anderson in medicine, or Mrs. Scharlieb in surgery, has
compelled the admission that even if woman were by nature unfitted to
reach the highest levels of intellectual achievement, she at least
could not be excluded from the learned professions on the ground of
inadequate mental equipment.

"Nature's old Salic law," said Huxley, "will not be repealed, and no
change of dynasty will be effected."  Jane Austen, at any rate, did not
{171} desire to repeal it.  She was among the most feminine of the
women writers who have left an enduring reputation.  It is something of
a paradox, therefore, that the quality on which her fame chiefly rests
is one which is rare among women, and in which most of those women who
have attained success in literature have been conspicuously
lacking--satirical humour.  Apart from physical disabilities, want of
humour is woman's heaviest handicap in the conflict of life.  Humour is
the principal ingredient of the philosophic temperament.  Woman has
courage in adversity, she can suffer intensely without complaint, but
she rarely possesses the power of laughing at her own misfortunes.

It has been said, and the saying might not easily be gainsaid, that
none of the great jokes of the world was made by a woman.  There are
perhaps fifty great jokes--spoken jokes, of course, are meant, not
those generally humourless things known as "practical jokes"--and the
good stories that are told and received as novelties are, save in the
rarest instances, merely new editions of some wheeze which was already
ancient when it was told to a circle of mead-drinkers round a fire
{172} the smoke whereof--or some of it--escaped through the roof.  It
is, there is reason to believe, no mere figure of speech that
originally most of the basic jokes were told round the galley fire of
the Ark during the long dark evenings after the animals had been fed,
the decks swept down, and the women had retired to their quarters.
Thus may we account for the otherwise inexplicably large proportion of
sea-faring and animal tales among the mirth-provoking yarns of man.  A
woman might never make a joke, and yet have a keen sense of humour,
while, on the other hand, she might make many jokes, and have no sense
of humour at all.  Most of the jokes that have any element of freshness
are alive with fun, and not with humour.  Who is more humourless than
the notoriously funny man?

Jane Austen is not often funny and seldom makes jokes in her novels.
Her humour is of the essential kind, which is so nearly akin to wit
that it is often almost identical with it.  Wit and humour, after all
definitions, are brothers who might be taken for one another by those
who do not notice that the one has colder hands than the other.


If you want to laugh heartily you must not trust to Jane's novels for a
stimulant.  Her characters laugh but little among themselves, and are
the cause of intellectual joy rather than of physical contractions in
those who read about them.

When, after a re-reading of the novels, we sit and think over their
delights, many are the admirable bits of character-drawing that come to
mind.  After we have thought of the heroines, the "good" people, in the
common meaning of the word, do not come back to us so readily as those
who, if not "bad," are decidedly faulty.  The Westons, the Gardiners,
the Harvilles, the Crofts, Lady Russell, the John Knightleys, we recall
when we jog our memories.  After Elizabeth, and Emma, and Anne, it is
the appallingly tactless Mrs. Bennet, the odiously snobbish Mrs. Elton,
the race-proud Lady Catherine, the entirely selfish Mr. Collins, the
lazy and thoughtless Lady Bertram, the mean and tyrannical Mrs. Norris,
the fatuous Sir Walter Elliot, these and their like, who throng into
view.  No writer--not even Thackeray--has realized the female snob more
knowingly than Jane Austen in Mrs. Elton, whose {174} constant
reference of all matters of taste to the standard presented by "Maple
Grove" and the "barouche-landau" renders her as diverting to us as she
was insufferable to Emma Woodhouse.  A woman like this, who is never
betrayed into an unselfish action or a noble aspiration, is happily not
a common object in real life, but there are enough of Mrs. Elton's
great-granddaughters about the world to exculpate Jane from the charge
of undue exaggeration.  Emma herself has been called a snob, and only
the other day was described as "perpetually acting with bad taste."
But Emma's disdain for Robert Martin, and her opinion of the
degradation of marrying a governess, were due to prejudices of
convention, which thought--under Knightley's influence--dispelled.
Mrs. Elton was a snob at heart, who revelled in her own vulgarity of

If the snob is portrayed to perfection in Mrs. Elton, the
valetudinarian is no less happily presented in Mr. Woodhouse--"My dear
Emma, suppose we all have a little gruel"--and for a picture of an
empty-headed, frivolous wife married to a rational and bearish husband,
the Palmers, in _Sense and Sensibility_, have few equals.  As for {175}
Miss Bates, she is without a serious rival as an inconsequential
babbler, and though we may be, and ought to be, as angry with Emma for
her rudeness at the Box Hill picnic as was Mr. Knightley himself, we
must admit that years of Miss Bates's disjoined garrulity were some
set-off against that gross breach of charity and good manners.  Lady
Catherine de Bourgh has been placed by some critical readers among Jane
Austen's obvious caricatures.  Is she not an entirely credible, if
happily rare, type?  She is seen in a strong light in her attempt to
bully Elizabeth into a promise not to marry Darcy--

"'With regard to the resentment of his family,' says Elizabeth at last,
'or the indignation of the world, if the former _were_ excited by his
marrying me, it would not give me one moment's concern--and the world
in general would have too much sense to join in the scorn.'

"'And this is your real opinion!' replies Lady Catherine.  'This is
your final resolve!  Very well.  I shall now know how to act.  Do not
imagine, Miss Bennet, that your ambition will ever be gratified.  I
came to try you.  I hoped to find you reasonable; but, depend upon it,
I will carry my point.'

"In this manner Lady Catherine talked on till {176} they were at the
door of the carriage, when, turning hastily round, she added--

"'I take no leave of you, Miss Bennet.  I send no compliments to your
mother.  You deserve no such attention.  I am most seriously

"Elizabeth made no answer, and without attempting to persuade her
ladyship to return into the house, walked quietly into it herself."

Thus ends one of the great scenes of Jane Austen, a bit of duologue
which gives us the natures and capacities of two remarkable people, a
charming, clear-headed, self-reliant girl, and a blustering, stupidly
proud old woman.

Sir Walter Elliot is the companion figure, more highly-coloured, of
Lady Catherine.  This man, a vain fop who has not sense enough to
govern his own affairs, regards professional men as contemptible, if
necessary, adjuncts of society, and, at a time when only the splendid
services of our sailors had saved England from disaster he thus babbles
about the navy--

"Yes; it is in two points offensive to me, I have two strong grounds of
objection to it.  First, as being the means of bringing persons of
obscure {177} birth into undue distinction, and raising men to honours
which their fathers and grandfathers never dreamt of; and, secondly, as
it cuts up a man's youth and vigour most horribly; a sailor grows old
sooner than any other man.  I have observed it all my life.  A man is
in greater danger in the navy of being insulted by the rise of one
whose father his father might have disdained to speak to, and of
becoming prematurely an object of disgust himself, than in any other
line.  One day last spring, in town, I was in company with two men,
striking instances of what I am talking of,--Lord St. Ives, whose
father we all know to have been a country curate, without bread to eat:
I was to give place to Lord St. Ives,--and a certain Admiral Baldwin,
the most deplorable-looking personage you can imagine; his face the
colour of mahogany, rough and rugged to the last degree; all lines and
wrinkles, nine grey hairs of a side, and nothing but a dab of powder at
top.  'In the name of heaven, who is that old fellow?' said I to a
friend of mine who was standing near (Sir Basil Morley).  'Old fellow!'
cried Sir Basil, 'it is Admiral Baldwin.  What do you take his age to
be?'  'Sixty,' said I, 'or perhaps sixty-two.'  'Forty,' replied Sir
Basil, 'forty, and no more.'  Picture to yourselves my amazement: I
shall not easily forget Admiral Baldwin.  I never saw quite so wretched
an example of what a sea-faring life can do; but to a degree, I know it
is the same with them all: they are all knocked about, and {178}
exposed to every climate, and every weather, till they are not fit to
be seen.  It is a pity they are not knocked on the head at once, before
they reach Admiral Baldwin's age."

There have been such fools as Sir Walter Elliot, but as a type he is
overdrawn.  Jane loved the navy so much that her anger with those who
disparaged it gave her pen speed and added colour to the ink.

Anne's cousin William Elliot, whose attentions to her help to revive
Wentworth's affection, is more closely studied by the author than any
of her "heroes."

"Everything united in him; good understanding, correct opinions,
knowledge of the world, and a warm heart.  He had strong feelings of
family attachment and family honour, without pride or weakness; he
lived with the liberality of a man of fortune, without display; he
judged for himself in everything essential, without defying public
opinion in any point of worldly decorum.  He was steady, observant,
moderate, candid; never run away with by spirits or by selfishness,
which fancied itself strong feeling; and yet, with a sensibility to
what was amiable and lovely, and a value for all the felicities of
domestic {179} life, which characters of fancied enthusiasm and violent
agitation seldom really possess."

Anne, however, was not long in discovering grave defects in this
outwardly model person.  She saw that while he was

"rational, discreet, polished, he was not open.  There never was any
burst of feeling, any warmth of indignation or delight, at the evil or
good of others.  This, to Anne, was a decided imperfection.  Her early
impressions were incurable.  She prized the frank, the open-hearted,
the eager character beyond all others.  Warmth and enthusiasm did
captivate her still.  She felt that she could so much more depend upon
the sincerity of those who sometimes looked or said a careless or a
hasty thing, than of those whose presence of mind never varied, whose
tongue never slipped.

"Mr. Elliot was too generally agreeable.  Various as were the tempers
in her father's house, he pleased them all.  He endured too well, stood
too well with everybody."

Those who accuse Jane Austen of hardness have sometimes relied on her
treatment of Mrs. Musgrove's sorrow over her ne'er-do-well son, long
after his death, to support this charge.  Anne and Wentworth, whose
mutual liking was just {180} beginning to bloom again, were "actually
on the same sofa, for Mrs. Musgrove had most readily made room for him;
they were divided only by Mrs. Musgrove.  It was no insignificant
barrier, indeed.  Mrs. Musgrove was of a comfortable, substantial size,
infinitely more fitted by nature to express good cheer and good humour
than tenderness and sentiment; and while the agitations of Anne's
slender form, and pensive face, may be considered as very completely
screened, Captain Wentworth should be allowed some credit for the
self-command with which he attended to her large fat sighings over the
destiny of a son, whom alive nobody had cared for."  And then the
author stops in her narrative to observe that "Personal size and mental
sorrow have certainly no necessary proportions.  A large, bulky figure
has as good a right to be in deep affliction as the most graceful set
of limbs in the world.  But, fair or not fair, there are unbecoming
conjunctions, which reason will patronize in vain--which taste cannot
tolerate--which ridicule will seize."

She thus bluntly expresses what almost every satirist merely implies,
but she underrates her own powers.  The ordinary writer might or might
not {181} be able to describe the grief of "a large, bulky figure"
without offence to the ordinary "taste."  Genius could assuredly do
this thing.  Shakespeare, with whom Whately, Macaulay and Tennyson
compared Jane Austen, made one of his greatest characters "fat and
scant of breath," but when Hamlet says to his friend, "Thou woulds't
not think how ill all's here about my heart," we do not find it
"ridiculous" that this "too, too solid flesh" should be joined with a
mind weighted with such poignant sorrow.  In any case, whether she
mistrusted her own powers, or wanted Mrs. Musgrove to be slightly
ridiculous, which seems more likely, Jane did not here strive to
achieve what she pointedly tells us it would be beyond reason to expect.

The character of Emma is described with unusual fulness, but the
description is placed in the mouth of George Knightley, her candid
admirer, who was perhaps not guiltless of the fault which Fainall
attributed to Mirabell, of being "too discerning in the failings of his
mistress."  Mrs. Weston ("Miss Taylor that was") has said that Emma
means to read with Harriet Smith--


"'Emma has been meaning to read more ever since she was twelve years
old,' replies Mr. Knightley.  'I have seen a great many lists of her
drawing-up, at various times, of books that she meant to read regularly
through--and very good lists they were, very well chosen, and very
neatly arranged--sometimes alphabetically, and sometimes by some other
rule.  The list she drew up when only fourteen--I remember thinking it
did her judgment so much credit, that I preserved it some time, and I
dare say she may have made out a very good list now.  But I have done
with expecting any course of steady reading from Emma.  She will never
submit to anything requiring industry and patience, and a subjection of
the fancy to the understanding.  Where Miss Taylor failed to stimulate,
I may safely affirm that Harriet Smith will do nothing.  You never
could persuade her to read half so much as you wished.  You know you
could not.'

"'I dare say,' replied Mrs. Weston, smiling, 'that I thought so _then_;
but since we have parted, I can never remember Emma's omitting to do
anything I wished.'

"'There is hardly any desiring to refresh such a memory as _that_,'
said Mr. Knightley, feelingly; and for a moment or two he had done.
'But I,' he soon added, 'who have had no such charm thrown over my
senses, must still see, hear, and remember.  Emma is spoiled by being
the cleverest of her family.  At ten years old she had the {183}
misfortune of being able to answer questions which puzzled her sister
at seventeen.  She was always quick and assured; Isabella slow and
diffident.  And ever since she was twelve, Emma has been mistress of
the house and of you all.  In her mother she lost the only person able
to cope with her.'"

An unhappy condition of most of Jane's heroines is that they are of
necessity ashamed of their nearest relations.  Anne Elliot felt this
trouble keenly, when at length she and Wentworth decided to take the
happiness which she had refused years before--

"Anne, satisfied at a very early period of Lady Russell's meaning to
love Captain Wentworth as she ought, had no other alloy to the
happiness of her prospects than what arose from the consciousness of
having no relations to bestow on him which a man of sense could value.
There she felt her own inferiority keenly.  The disproportion in their
fortune was nothing; it did not give her a moment's regret; but to have
no family to receive and estimate him properly, nothing of
respectability, of harmony, of good will, to offer in return for all
the worth and all the prompt welcome which met her in his brothers and
sisters, was a source of as lively pain as her mind could {184} well be
sensible of under circumstances of otherwise strong felicity."

One can readily understand her regret.  Her father was a fool, her
elder sister Elizabeth a slave of convention, with few rational ideas
of her own, and her younger sister a neurotic egotist, who grudged to
others the simplest pleasures if she did not feel able or disposed to
share them.

Fanny Price was ashamed of the slovenly home at Portsmouth to which
Henry Crawford so inopportunely penetrated.  Elizabeth Bennet's mother
was, of course, more nearly "impossible" even than Lady Catherine had
so pointedly suggested, for her defects were far worse than those of
obscure birth.  This terrible woman, who kept her elder daughters
constantly on the rack by her fatuous chatter, who always said the
wrong thing, who had no desire for her children's welfare but to marry
them to anybody, with money if possible, or without it rather than not
at all, made one of her usual quick changes when she heard the
surprising news of Elizabeth's engagement to Darcy--


"She began at length to recover, to fidget about in her chair, get up,
sit down again, wonder, and bless herself.

"'Good gracious!  Lord bless me! only think! dear me!  Mr. Darcy!  Who
would have thought it!  And it is really true?  Oh, my sweetest Lizzy!
how rich and how great you will be!  What pin-money, what jewels, what
carriages you will have!  Jane's is nothing to it--nothing at all.  I
am so pleased--so happy!  Such a charming man!--so handsome! so
tall--Oh, my dear Lizzy!  pray apologize for my having disliked him so
much before.  I hope he will overlook it.  Dear, dear Lizzy!  A house
in town!  Everything that is charming!  Three daughters married!  Ten
thousand a-year!  Oh, Lord! what will become of me?  I shall go

"This was enough to prove that her approbation need not be doubted; and
Elizabeth, rejoicing that such an effusion was heard only by herself,
soon went away.  But before she had been three minutes in her own room,
her mother followed her.

"'My dearest child,' she cried, 'I can think of nothing else!  Ten
thousand a-year, and very likely more!  'Tis as good as a lord!  And a
special license.  You must and shall be married by a special license.
But, my dearest love, tell me what dish Mr. Darcy is particularly fond
of, that I may have it to-morrow.'

"This was a sad omen of what her mother's behaviour to the gentleman
himself might be; and {186} Elizabeth found that, though in the certain
possession of his warmest affection, and secure of her relations'
consent, there was still something to be wished for."

Of Catherine Morland we are told that "her whole family were plain
matter-of-fact people, who seldom aimed at wit of any kind; her father
at the utmost being contented with a pun, and her mother with a
proverb."  Having given us this little _aperçu_ of Mr. and Mrs.
Morland, the author, _more suo_, adds the information: "They were not
in the habit, therefore, of telling lies to increase their importance,
or of asserting at one moment what they would contradict the next."

If we seek in our memories for scenes of particular excellence we shall
recall with renewed pleasure the rehearsals (_Mansfield Park_), the
encounters between Elizabeth and Mr. Collins and Elizabeth and Lady
Catherine (_Pride and Prejudice_), the second and last proposal of
Wentworth to Anne Elliot (_Persuasion_), the picnic at Box Hill and the
dance at the "Crown" (_Emma_).  In all of these the spontaneity of the
narrative, the vitality of the talk and the vividness with which the
circumstances are realized with {187} the smallest amount of
description show the author's art in its most delightful vein.

It is often in little touches, generally satirical, that Jane Austen
reveals the characters of her people.  Lady Middleton, whose "reserve
was a mere calmness of _manner_ with which _sense_ had nothing to do";
Mary Bennet, whom, when her sisters visited her, "they found, as usual,
deep in the study of thorough bass and human nature, and had some new
extracts to admire, and some new observations of threadbare morality to
listen to"; the gushing Louisa Musgrove, who declared that if she loved
a man as Mrs. Croft loved the Admiral, she "would always be with him,
nothing should ever separate" them, and that she "would rather be
overturned by him, than driven safely by anybody else"; Mr. Allen, a
country gentleman of fortune who "did not care about the garden, and
never went into it"; and General Tilney, poring over pamphlets when he
ought to be in bed, blinding his eyes "for the good of others" who
would never benefit in the least by his exertions; the heartless and
humbugging Mrs. Norris, whose plentiful talk about helping her poor,
child-burdened sister ended in her {188} "writing the letters" while
others sent substantial assistance--these, and many other entertaining
people live for us largely from such casual peeps into their natures
and sentiments.

Jane Austen rarely describes a man or woman as possessing qualities
which are not justified by the evidence she offers.  Almost the only
notable exceptions are Mrs. Dashwood, of whom we are told that "a man
could not very well be in love with either of her daughters, without
extending the passion to her," but who does not herself give us any
reason to regard her as other than an affectionate, well-meaning, and
injudicious person, and Captain Wentworth, who is stated to have been
witty, but who usually manages to restrain his wit when we happen to
meet him.

The many parsons of the novels are at once too steady and too
prosperous to be in accord with either of the types of
eighteenth-century clergy most frequently conveyed by the literature of
their period.  They may not have done much for their parishioners
beyond preaching to them once or twice a week, and sending them soup
occasionally, but they set them good examples by conducting themselves
decently and soberly.  Of {189} their "views" we know little.  Indeed,
few things are more remarkable in these novels, in the light of later
fiction, than that almost complete absence of any reference to dogmatic
religion to which attention has already been drawn.  You may hunt
through them all and hardly find two definite statements that, except
to see what the vicar's bride was like, any of the characters went to
church.  We know that the parsons preached, but whether there was any
one to hear their sermons we are usually left in doubt.  In fact, as
Dr. Whately puts it, the author's religion is "not at all obtrusive."
His favourable view of Jane Austen's influence may be contrasted with
Robert Hall's of Maria Edgeworth's: "In point of tendency I should
class her books among the most irreligious I ever read....  She does
not attack religion nor inveigh against it, but makes it appear
unnecessary by exhibiting perfect virtue without it."

It has frequently been said that the atmosphere of Jane Austen's books
is "Church of England," and this is in a sense true.  She assumes that
the squires of whom she writes are adherents of Church and State, much
as a provincial {190} clergyman wrote quite recently in his Parish
Magazine: "It is generally taken for granted that Church is the only
possible religion for an English gentleman."  We meet with no Romish
priests or Methodist preachers, not so much as a member of the Society
of Friends, but, on the other hand, we meet with no one who talks
against faith.  It was a period when the Church itself had become
apathetic, when pluralists abounded, and when many rectors lived
comfortably on their great tithes, far from the parishes which they
left to the care of curates who were often worse off than gamekeepers.
A young man went into the Church, if there was a good living to be had,
just as he went to the Bar if his uncle was a flourishing attorney, or
into the navy if his friends had influence with the Board of Admiralty.
Many parsons, if they were well-to-do and fond of society, did not even
wear any distinctive dress.  One meets vicars and curates to-day, in
summer-time, wearing green ties and grey tweed suits, and even a bishop
has been known to abandon his episcopal uniform when he was away on a
holiday.  But, to take an instance from the novels, Catherine Morland,
who has met Henry {191} Tilney at a dance in Bath, and meets him again
at the Pump-room or elsewhere, does not know he is a clergyman until
she is told.  The Church was merely a profession for most of those who
entered it.  "Did Henry's income depend solely on his living," says
General Tilney, "he would not be well provided for.  Perhaps it may
seem odd, that with only two younger children, I should think any
profession necessary to him; and certainly there are moments when we
could all wish him disengaged from every tie of business."  The most
conscientious clergyman in the Austen Comedy is Edmund Bertram, who
really seems to have wished to do his duty, and thereby damaged his
chance of marrying Mary Crawford.

The scanty reference to the observances of religion in the novels bears
on the worldly life of the age, as we know it from those who were of it
and saw it at its centre of activity, London society.  Doctor Warner,
George Selwyn's chaplain, who attracted large congregations by his
eloquent preaching, and who was an avowed sceptic away from church, who
toadied the rich and noble, and told stories that delighted the Duke of
Queensberry, was no rare type of the {192} clergy of his time, and we
may be pretty certain that Jane Austen's Mr. Collins (who was not at
all likely to tell an improper story himself) would have found it very
difficult to believe that so exalted a personage as "Old Q." was unfit
for the society of clergymen.

Jane frankly admitted that she knew too little of literature,
philosophy, and science, to allow her adequately to draw the character
of a scholarly and serious parson.  "The comic side of the character I
might be equal to, but not the good, the enthusiastic, the literary.
Such a man's conversation must at times be on subjects of science and
philosophy of which I know nothing, or at least occasionally abundant
in quotations and allusions which a woman who, like me, knows only her
own mother tongue, and has read little in that, would be totally
without the power of giving."  According to her brother and her nephew,
Jane was better educated than she here makes out, knowing French, and a
good deal of Italian.  Whether we believe her or not about her literary
and linguistic limitations, we can have small doubt that she knew very
little indeed about science and philosophy, in spite of being so much
{193} of a philosopher.  In those days, when Cuvier was bringing his
genius in palæontology to bear on the recovery of lost types, and
preparing a way for Darwin, whose own grandfather was bravely aiding in
the clearance of paths in hitherto trackless jungles of prejudice and
obscurantism, science was scarcely regarded as a decent subject of
conversation before ladies in country drawing-rooms, and it never
obtrudes itself at Hartfield or at Mansfield Park.

If we may read through every word of Jane's novels without discovering
any expression of dogmatic belief, we may equally find no direct
evidence, unless in that one story of Elinor and Willoughby, of
acceptance of the chilly Deism which had eaten so deeply into the
intellects both of laymen and clergy.  The unrest, both moral and
physical, which had spread from Paris, from Holland, and from
Switzerland over the whole of Western Europe at that time, finds little
place for its fidgeting in the families to whom we are here introduced.
People, with the rare exceptions of a Wickham or a Willoughby, are
born, live, and die, in peace with the world and in general harmony
with their environments.


Admirable as Jane Austen's pictures of country life in house and garden
are, they are not to be accepted as literal transcripts.  She was,
before all else, an artist, and the more an artist is devoted to
finicking reproduction of exact details the further is he removed from
art.  Almost every author, if he writes with sincerity, must draw his
own moral portrait in his best work.  In a literal sense there is no
reason to suppose that novelists often give us studies of themselves in
any degree comparable with the self-portraits of Rembrandt, Velasquez,
Madame Vigée le Brun or the moderns in the Uffizi Gallery.  Sometimes,
of course, as in _Villette_ and _Delphine_, an author reports episodes
in his life almost as they happened, and it is certain, save in the
rarest cases, that something of an author's mental processes is
reproduced in all his creatures, "bad" as well as "good," though he is
more likely to show his own temperament and experience in a prominent
and sympathetic character than in any other.  Very few writers follow
the example of Milton, of whom Coleridge declared "his Satan, his Adam,
his Raphael, almost all his Eve, are all John Milton."  The common
mistake, a mistake so obvious that {195} we may wonder at its
continuance, is such a close identification of the author with any one
of his creations.  Thus, because "Vivian Grey is Disraeli himself,"
Disraeli is to be credited with the strange experiences of that uneasy
hero among foreign politicians and card-sharpers; and because "Jane
Eyre is Charlotte Brontë," Charlotte Brontë must at least have wished
to unite herself with a wild man whose wife had gone mad.  There were
no doubt readers of Goethe's _Faust_ who, ignoring the legend, thought
the author had bargained with Mephisto and, it "goes without saying"
(Marianne Dashwood is not within hearing), that "Hamlet is
Shakespeare."  Such arbitrary reasoning may account for the general
confusion of Frankenstein with the creature that he made.

Among the widest traps, indeed, for those who love to see a _roman à
clef_ in every novel, is this identification of the author with one or
other of his characters.  Some people have convinced themselves that
Cassandra and Jane Austen were the originals of Elinor and Marianne
Dashwood.  Such an idea could only be held by those who had not seen
Jane's letters.  Marianne, {196} sentimental, romantic, disagreeable in
a quite serious way, and usually inattentive "to the forms of general
civility," could not be Jane, and as certainly not Cassandra as we know
her, and while Elinor, the patient, long-suffering girl, might in some
ways represent either of the Austen sisters, she is very far from being
a portrait.

Yet if neither Elinor Dashwood nor Marianne is to be described as a
likeness of Jane, the elder sister in her philosophical submission to
what she believed to be the loss of her lover, and the younger in her
literary tastes and her impatience with people who talk without
thinking may fairly be regarded as in part reflecting the author's
personality.  None of her heroines _is_ Jane, but there is much of her
also in Elizabeth Bennet and Emma Woodhouse, and a good deal in Anne
Elliot, though she admitted that Anne was too nearly perfect to be
altogether after her heart.  The simple little souls of Fanny Price and
Catherine Morland, so dependent on the direct assistance of others in
the formation of their feelings, are in very small degree expressions
of the author's temperament.  We may, I think, regard Emma Woodhouse as
the nearest approach to a {197} portrait of the artist who painted her,
but "nearest" is a relative superlative.  Many people do not care for
Emma.  A strong expression of recent disapproval was quoted a few pages
back.  Jane Austen anticipated objections.  "I am going," she said,
when she was beginning the book, "to take a heroine whom no one but
myself will much like."

Whether or not we may see in Emma a good deal of Jane herself, we may
fairly be certain that none of her characters is an intentional copy of
any one in the circle of her friends and acquaintances.  She herself
declared her opinion, which tallies with all that we know of her, that
the introduction of living people as actors in a work of imagination is
a breach of good manners, and that, propriety apart, she was too proud
of her characters to admit that they were "only Mrs. A. or Colonel B."
How far she made use of individuals in the composition of such
strongly-marked figures as Mrs. Elton, Mr. Collins and Sir Walter
Elliot, we cannot, of course, know.  The point, for what it is worth,
could have been better elucidated if Miss Austen's circle had been less
far removed from the world wherein the {198} Wraxalls, the Gronows and
the Grevilles listen and watch.  We know that, whatever the degree of
similitude, Disraeli's Rigby offers a recognizable likeness to Croker,
Dickens's Boythorn to Landor, Stevenson's Weir of Hermiston to
Braxfield.  Accepting Jane Austen's denial of the deliberate
introduction of real persons in her novels, we cannot tell how many of
her Hampshire acquaintances served intellectually for her pictures of
country society as the maidens of Crotona served physically for the
picture of Helen by Zeuxis.  We may be certain that, all unconsciously,
they gave her of their best, each according to his means.




The novelist and her characters--Her sense of their
reality--Accessories rarely described--Her ideas on dress--Her own
millinery and gowns--Thin clothes and consumption--Domestic
economy--Jane as housekeeper--"A very clever essay"--Mr. Collins at
Longbourn--The gipsies at Highbury--Topography of Jane
Austen--Hampshire--Lyme Regis--Godmersham--Bath--London.

On an earlier page a contrast between Balzac and Jane Austen has been
suggested.  One characteristic they had in common was the sense of the
reality of their own creations.  Madame de Surville, the sister of
Balzac, has recorded how, when the affairs of the family were being
discussed, he would say, "Ah, yes, but do you know to whom Felix de
Vandenesse is engaged?  One of the Grandville girls.  It is an
excellent marriage for him."  Further than this an author's sense of
the actuality of his own imaginings could hardly go, unless, indeed,
like one modern author--if the {202} story is true, as it probably is
not--he were to invite the figments of his brain to lunch!

Jane Austen was not quite so much obsessed by her inventions, though
she spoke of the very novels themselves as personal entities.  _Pride
and Prejudice_ was "my own darling child," and of _Sense and
Sensibility_ she writes, when it is passing through the press: "No,
indeed, I am never too busy to think of _S. and S_.  I can no more
forget it than a mother can forget her sucking child; and I am much
obliged to you for your inquiries."  As for the characters, she loved
to talk of them as living people, and was so fond of Elizabeth Bennet,
for instance, that, as she wrote to Cassandra, she did not know how she
should be "able to tolerate" those who did not like her.

She used to tell her nieces what happened to her imaginary people after
the novels were ended, how Mary Bennet married her uncle's clerk, or
her sister Kitty a clergyman, and how Mrs. Robert Ferrars's sister
"never caught the doctor."  One of the most delightful of her letters,
as evidence of her happiness in her work, and of her half-serious
consciousness of the reality of her creations, was written after a
round of London picture {203} galleries.  The portraits she looked for
were not those of Knights, or Austens, or Leighs, but of beautiful
women out of her own novels.  They might be labelled Lady this or Mrs.
that, but she should recognize them if they were portraits of her
darling Elizabeth or her dearest Anne.  She was disappointed.  It is
true that at the Gallery in Spring Gardens she found "a small portrait
of Mrs. Bingley, excessively like her," and, moreover, "she is dressed
in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I had
always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her.  I dare
say Mrs. D. will be in yellow."  For it was "Mrs. D."--the beloved
Elizabeth Darcy (_née_ Bennet), whose face her creator and devoted
admirer looked forward to seeing on some fashionable portrait-painter's
canvas.  Alas! at none of the shows was the desired picture to be
found.  "I can only imagine," writes the disappointed "friend,"
soothing her regrets with a reflection natural to her mind, "that Mr.
D. prizes any picture of her too much to like it should be exposed to
the public eye.  I can imagine he would have that sort of feeling--that
mixture of love, pride, and delicacy."


Thus we can see that Jane knew exactly what her heroines were like,
even if in their case, as in that of nearly all her characters, the
reader is left to fill in details of colour and feature very much as he
chooses.  She was far more particular in describing the personal
appearance of real people, and in her letters the handsome and the ugly
are as clearly differentiated as the lively and the dull.  "I never saw
so plain a family"--she declares after calling on some people named
Fagg--"five sisters so very plain!  They are as plain as the Foresters,
or the Franfraddops, or the Seagraves, or the Rivers, excluding Sophy.
Miss Sally Fagg has a pretty figure, and that comprises all the good
looks of the family."  Sometimes she attributed the blame for ill-looks
to a definite part of the genealogical tree.  "I wish she was not so
very Palmery," she says of one of her nieces, "but it seems stronger
than ever, I never knew a wife's family features have such undue
influence."  The Mrs. Palmer of _Sense and Sensibility_ was not of that
family.  She was as pretty as she was foolish.

Even if it be true that Jane Austen only painted the life which she
found immediately around her, {205} and that she would almost as soon
have attempted to depict the interior of a Thibetan lamassary as of an
English country-house of the kind Disraeli loved to paint, yet do her
characters "typify nothing?"  If Mrs. Elton, and Sir John Middleton,
and Mary Musgrove are not types, then I do not see why Sir Charles
Grandison, or Mrs. Proudie, or Mr. Tulliver should be regarded as
types.  Perhaps they should not, but then, what are types?  Most of
Jane Austen's people may be common; there may be, in the flesh, a
hundred Lady Russells for one Lady Camper, and five hundred John
Willoughbys for one Willoughby Patterne.  That is only to say that
humanity is richer in one type than in another.

Jane was a realist, though Realism, in the sense in which we apply the
term in the criticism of living writers, has little place in her
novels.  She assumes that her readers--the men and women of her own
age--are neither blind nor unaccustomed to the ordinary resources of
contemporary civilization.  When her characters dine, they may usually,
for all we hear to the contrary, eat out of a common dish with the aid
of their unassisted fingers, after the manner of the nomads of the
Asiatic Steppes; {206} they may drink out of gourds like the Bushmen,
while, after the custom of the Romans, they recline on raised couches
in the attitude of Madame Récamier.  We know that they sat round solid
mahogany or oaken tables, covered with damask cloths during the meat
and pudding service, that the silver was polished, and the glass
bright, even though the supply of plates was perhaps not always equal
to the number of courses; we have little doubt as to the kind of chairs
whereon the diners sat, and we may wish we had more of them in our own

As to the costumes of the men and women who sat on the chairs, we are
usually left to dress them as we like, and there is little doubt that
many a modern reader has mentally pictured Darcy wearing a tweed suit
and a bowler hat, Charles Musgrove in a golfing-cap and loose
knickerbockers, and Mr. Collins or Mr. Elton in a stiff "round-about"
collar of the kind usually worn by the Anglican clergy of to-day.  For
the ladies, the whirligig of time has brought back the modes of a
century ago.  In spite of the cry for the equality of the sexes, there
are, as the Lord Chancellor and other eminent authorities have laid
down, marked {207} distinctions between the ways of women and of men.
One of such distinctions may be found in the fact that the fashions of
feminine dress move in a (very irregular and therefore theoretically
impossible) circle, while those of masculine dress rarely cross the
same point twice.  Thus while, during the last few years, we have seen
our sisters and aunts affecting "modes" that were in vogue in the
periods of the Renaissance, the Directory, and the Empire, we have
never seen our brothers and uncles abroad in the streets attired like
the courtiers either of François _premier_ or of the First Consul.  A
woman need not despair of wearing, without being followed by a crowd,
almost any costume of any period of woman's history.  A man need not
look for the day when he may walk in the parks in the garb of Raleigh
or of Burke without attracting more attention than will be agreeable to
the modesty of any one but an actor-manager or the European agent of
some American world-industry.  The Misses Bertram, of Mansfield Park,
might go shopping in Regent Street to-day without any one remarking
that their dress, or their coiffure, was seriously out of date.  But we
only know how they dressed because we know the date {208} of their
birth, not because the author of a bit of their life-history has told

Who that has ever read _Weir of Hermiston_ can forget the description
of the heroine as she first appeared to Archie in the kirk?  It was in
the very year (1814) in which Fanny Price's story was related, and of
Mary Crawford, if not of Fanny, a tale of town finery as bright as that
of Kirstie might have been told.  We know how alluring Kirstie looked
to Archie in her "frock of straw-coloured jaconet muslin, cut low at
the bosom and short at the ankle," and "drawn up so as to mould the
contour of both breasts, and in the nook between ... surely in a very
enviable position, trembled the nosegay of primroses."  Of some such
charming pictures we get at least the preliminary sketches in Jane
Austen's letters, but the finished works are never shown in the novels,
and we may dress the pretty heroines to our own fancy so long as we
keep to the style of their period, or, if our imaginations are feeble
and our knowledge of Regency costume deficient, Mr. Brock will do the
work for us in the more delightful of his coloured drawings, or Mr.
Hugh Thomson in his lively illustrations in pen and ink.


This point--that the material factors of manners and habits are little
noted by Jane Austen--will strike many readers, at first sight, as of
quite trivial importance.  But it is largely the reason why her novels
have so modern an external air compared with those, let us say, of
Scott, or even of Balzac, who only began to write when her short career
was ending.  If Jane Austen had described the conditions of life at
Hartfield or Kellynch with the particularity with which Balzac
describes the Grandets' house at Saumur, and the Guenics' at Guerande,
or had given us such full accounts of the villagers on the estate of
the Bertrams of Mansfield Park as Scott gave us of the smugglers and
gipsies on the lands of the Bertrams of Ellangowan, we should see more
clearly the changes that a hundred years have wrought in the habits of
the English country.

Jane Austen was by no means indifferent to the cut and colour of her
own clothing, however little she allowed her heroines to talk about
theirs.  But when we read of "Jane Austen frocks" for bridesmaids in
the accounts of modern weddings, they are copied from the illustrations
of Mr. Thomson or Mr. Brock, or else are so-called merely because {210}
they are of the period of her novels, which is much the same thing.
With the general subject of dress she deals as a novelist, we may
almost say once for all, in a single paragraph of _Northanger Abbey_.
The occasion was the dance at Bath which was to prove so momentous an
event in Catherine's life.

"What gown and what head-dress she should wear on the occasion became
her chief concern.  She cannot be justified in it.  Dress is at all
times a frivolous distinction, and excessive solicitude about it often
destroys its own aim.  Catherine knew all this very well; her
great-aunt had read her a lecture on the subject only the Christmas
before; and yet she lay awake ten minutes on Wednesday night debating
between her spotted and her tamboured muslin; and nothing but the
shortness of the time prevented her buying a new one for the evening.
This would have been an error in judgment, great though not uncommon,
from which one of the other sex rather than her own, a brother rather
than a great-aunt, might have warned her; for man only can be aware of
the insensibility of man towards a new gown.  It would be mortifying to
the feelings of many ladies could they be made to understand how little
the heart of man is affected by what is costly or new in their attire;
how little it is biassed by the texture {211} of their muslin, and how
unsusceptible of peculiar tenderness towards the spotted, the sprigged,
the mull, or the jackonet.  Woman is fine for her own satisfaction
alone.  No man will admire her the more, no woman will like her the
better, for it.  Neatness and fashion are enough for the former, and a
something of shabbiness or impropriety will be most endearing to the

If we regard these as the author's considered opinions, expressed with
a characteristic touch of _malice_, we shall probably agree that she
is, on the whole, right.  Were women to make a note, every time a man
describes one of them as "well dressed," of what the subject of the
remark was wearing, they would, I believe, find an overwhelming
preponderance of votes in favour of well-fitting, plain, if not
actually "tailor-made" costumes for the daytime, and simple though not
conventual frocks for the evening, as compared with all the highly
decorated "confections," covered with what one may call "applied art,"
whereon women spend so large a proportion of their allowances.

The letters to Cassandra make up to some extent for the deficiencies of
the novels in a {212} matter so attractive to the author's admirers
among her own sex, though the particulars given are almost always
incomplete; that is to say, they depend on information which Cassandra
possessed, but which is denied to us.  Such a case is presented when we
read: "Elizabeth has given me a hat, and it is not only a pretty hat,
but a pretty _style_ of hat too.  It is something like Eliza's, only,
instead of being all straw, half of it is narrow purple ribbon.  I
flatter myself, however, that you can understand very little of it from
this description.  Heaven forbid that I should ever offer such
encouragement to explanations as to give a clear one on any occasion
myself!  But I must write no more of this."  The tantalizing thing is
that while we know that this pretty hat was something like Eliza's, we
have no idea what Eliza's was like, beyond the untrimmed fact that it
was "all straw."

Then Cassandra is told by Jane, "I believe I _shall_ make my new gown
like my robe, but the back of the latter is all in a piece with the
tail, and will seven yards enable me to copy it in that respect?"
Alas! that we cannot discover how the robe was made, except that "the
back was all in a {213} piece with the tail."  Often, of course, the
news about dress is mixed up with other news, as when Jane writes: "At
Nackington ... Miss Fletcher and I were very thick, but I am the
thinnest of the two.  She wore her purple muslin, which is pretty
enough, though it does not become her complexion...."  Once Jane's
account of her own necessities in the way of dress is nearly followed
by a sentence which not only contains evidence of her close
acquaintance with Fielding's greatest novel, but also reminds us of Mr.
Tom Lefroy.  "You say nothing of the silk stockings; I flatter myself,
therefore, that Charles has not purchased any, as I cannot very well
afford to pay for them; all my money is spent in buying white gloves
and pink persian....  After I had written the above, we received a
visit from Mr. Tom Lefroy and his cousin George.  The latter is really
very well-behaved now; and as for the other, he has but _one_ fault,
which time will, I trust, entirely remove--it is that his morning coat
is a great deal too light.  He is a very great admirer of Tom Jones,
and therefore wears the same coloured clothes, I imagine, which _he_
did when he was wounded."

Many of her references to dress are of the {214} partly serious, partly
humorous kind which came naturally from her pen.  "Flowers are very
much worn," she writes from Bath in the summer of 1799, "and fruit is
still more the thing.  Elizabeth has a bunch of strawberries and I have
seen grapes, cherries, plums, apricots.  There are likewise almonds and
raisins, French plums, and tamarinds at the grocers', but I have never
seen any of them in hats."  She had, in the Southampton days, a spotted
muslin which she meant to wear out, in spite of its durability.  "You
will exclaim at this, but mine really has signs of feebleness, which,
with a little care, may come to something."  Then she has some
"bombazins" with trains, which "I cannot reconcile myself to giving up
as morning gowns; they are so very sweet by candlelight.  I would
rather sacrifice my blue one ... in short I do not know and I do not

A peep into the economy of Steventon parsonage is now and again
offered.  In 1796, "We are very busy making Edward's shirts, and I am
proud to say that I am the neatest worker of the party.  They say that
there are a prodigious number of birds hereabouts this year, so that
perhaps _I_ may kill a few."


Another bit of work that the want of the riches of Kent forced upon the
poorer folks of Hampshire is shown to us when Jane writes: "I bought
some Japan ink and next week shall begin my operations on my hat, on
which you know my principal hopes of happiness depend."  In this case
there is no difficulty of interpretation.  Now-a-days there are simple
"dips" wherewith young ladies whose allowances are small or who in any
case wish to make the most of their money can change old straw hats
into new, soiled white into black, or green, or heliotrope.  It was not
so a century ago, and when Jane wanted to turn her old white straw hat
into a new black one, she must needs Japan it.

"I have read the 'Corsair,' mended my petticoat, and have nothing else
to do," she writes from London in 1814, and on another day about the
same time she informs her sister: "I have determined to trim my lilac
sarsenet with black satin ribbon, just as my China crape is, six-penny
width at the bottom, threepenny or four-penny at top."  An even closer
glimpse of Jane in her home is afforded by a letter in which she says--


"I find great comfort in my stuff gown, but I hope you do not wear
yours too often.  I have made myself two or three caps to wear of
evenings since I came home, and they save me a world of torment as to
hair-dressing, which at present gives me no trouble beyond washing and
brushing, for my long hair is always plaited up out of sight, and my
short hair curls well enough to want no papering."

Such references may remind us of Henry Tilney's astonishment that
Catherine did not keep a journal of her doings.  "How are your absent
cousins to understand the tenor of your life...?  How are your various
dresses to be remembered, and the particular state of your complexion
and curl of your hair to be described, in all their diversities,
without having constant recourse to a journal?  My dear madam, I am not
so ignorant of young ladies' ways as you wish to believe me."

Jane Austen was not reduced, as was her own Mrs. Hurst, to playing with
her bracelets and rings when there were no games or dances in progress.
On such occasions, like Elizabeth Bennet, she took up some needlework,
and amused herself by listening to the general conversation, and
entering into it when opportunity offered.  Like everything {217} done
by her deft fingers, her fancy sewing is admirable, and her embroidery
would be treasured by her family for its intrinsic beauty even if no
such charming associations attached to it.  There is a muslin scarf
adorned by her needle which, to her true lovers, might seem a more
precious relic than even her mahogany desk itself.

One little "interior" sketched by Jane, after a visit to a young wife
who had just been blessed with a baby, is so illustrative of her own
neat habits, and her ideas of the material needs of happiness, that,
intimate as it is, it merits quotation: "Mary does not manage matters
in such a way as to make me want to lay in myself.  She is not tidy
enough in her appearance; she has no dressing-gown to sit up in; her
curtains are all too thin, and things are not in that comfort and style
about her which are necessary to make such a situation an enviable one."

We have seen on an earlier page that Jane Austen provided warm garments
for the village poor.  On one occasion we know where she bought her
flannel.  In an entry (made at Basingstoke) which might form the text
for a dissertation on prejudice and economy, she notes that: "I gave
{218} 2_s._ 3_d._ a yard for my flannel, and I fancy it is not very
good, but it is so disgraceful and contemptible an article in itself
that its being comparatively good or bad is of little importance."  Why
this contempt for what, in spite of all patent substitutes, inflammable
and otherwise, is still commonly esteemed one of the most harmless and
necessary of materials?  Marianne Dashwood included the wearing of a
flannel waistcoat by Colonel Brandon among the several defects which
made it impossible that she should ever be his wife, and when, for
reasons not all unconnected with the "happy ending" of the novel, she
agreed at last to marry him, it was in spite of the fact that this
gallant officer had "sought the constitutional safeguard" of the
much-despised garment.  To Jane Austen and Marianne Dashwood flannel,
it seems, was as entirely unpleasing a commodity as celluloid collars
and cuffs are to most people of our own day.

The ravages of consumption, as the Baron de Frenilly reflects in his
recently published memoirs, would have been far less terrible in those
times if women had been less hostile to warm dresses and flannel
petticoats.  Fresh air and thick boots were {219} also to seek.  The
women could not walk ten yards on a wet day without the water coming
through the thin soles of their dainty little shoes.  Miss Bates was
quite exceptional in wearing shoes with reasonable soles.

One more sumptuary extract must be quoted; it comes from a letter from
London in 1814: "My poor old muslin has never been dyed yet.  It has
been promised to be done several times.  What wicked people dyers are.
They begin with dipping their own souls in scarlet sin."  The last
sentence brings its writer for the moment very near to modern fiction,
a considerable proportion of which is mainly occupied with the vivid
representation of the process in question as applied to the world in

After clothes, the table.  Out of the works of some novelists you might
draw up menus, or at least bills-of-fare, for a month.  People who
dwell in a bracing air, and take a great deal of exercise, could live
very comfortably on a small selection from the dishes served up in the
novels of Dickens, and those who like an even more simple cuisine could
rely quite confidently on the meals described by Dumas _père_.  There
is plenty of {220} substantial fare, of course, in the Waverley novels,
and as for the works of Harrison Ainsworth, they groan under the
sirloins and haunches that were provided in those imaginary ages when
in Merry England the spits were always turning in every castle and
hall.  The people of Jane Austen ate quite as much as was good for
them.  They had breakfast, lunch--or noonshine--dinner, supper, and
tea, and everybody--always excepting Mr. Woodhouse and those whose
spirits were temporarily depressed--came with an appetite to every
meal, for all we know of the matter.  No dinner is particularly
described, but those who want to know what people ate and drank at the
end of the eighteenth century may partly gratify their appetite from
the references which inevitably occur.  Except that there were not
quite so many dishes on the table at once the meals differed little
from that to which Swift introduces us in his dialogue between the
company at Lady Smart's table.  The Smarts, by the way, dined at three,
which in Jane Austen's time was still about the hour for the small
country-houses, though in the big houses it was five, marking the
gradual advance from the ten o'clock in the morning of the {221}
twelfth century to the eight o'clock in the evening or later of the

Plain roast and boiled joints of mutton, pork, beef and veal, chickens,
game in season, sweetbreads, meat pies, boiled vegetables, suet
puddings, apple-tarts, jellies and custards were the ordinary food of
the well-to-do.  Port and Burgundy were their principal drinks, but
probably the port was not usually such as is chiefly sold now-a-days.
It was less fortified, nearer to the natural wine, which is itself more
like a Burgundy than the port of modern commerce.  Wine of any sort is
scarcely mentioned in Jane Austen's works.  One of the few exceptions I
can recall is that--of unnamed species--offered to Mrs. and Miss Bates
at the Woodhouses', which the host advised them to mix freely with
water, advice they successfully managed to avoid taking, thanks to the
good offices of Emma.  Jane Austen herself seems to have been fond of
wine.  In her thirty-eighth year she writes: "As I must leave off being
young, I find many _douceurs_ in being a sort of _chaperon_, for I am
put on the sofa near the fire, and can drink as much wine as I like."
On a much earlier occasion, when she was herself under {222}
chaperonage, she had written: "I believe I drank too much wine last
night at Hurstbourne.  I know not how else to account for the shaking
of my hands to-day.  You will kindly make allowance therefore for any
indistinctness of writing, by attributing it to this venial error."
With our full knowledge of Jane's habit of playful exaggeration we may
be certain that her "too much" was nothing to shake our heads over, and
that the "error" was indeed "venial."

Jane gives us sufficient evidence of the simplicity with which the
Austens' own table was furnished.  From Steventon parsonage, in 1798,
she thus refers to one of the doctor's professional visits to her
mother.  "Mr. Lyford was here yesterday; he came while we were at
dinner, and partook of our elegant entertainment.  I was not ashamed at
asking him to sit down to table, for we had some pease-soup, a
sparerib, and a pudding.  He wants my mother to look yellow and to
throw out a rash, but she will do neither."

Years later, from Chawton, she writes that: "Captain Foote dined with
us on Friday, and I fear will not soon venture again, for the strength
of our dinner was a boiled leg of mutton, underdone even for James."


Jane herself did the housekeeping when her mother was indisposed and
Cassandra away, and she prided herself on her success, though she
detested the necessity of great economy.  Her ideas on the eternal
servant question are not, we may be sure, quite faithfully expressed
when she writes: "My mother looks forward with as much certainty as you
can do to our keeping two maids; my father is the only one not in the
secret.  We plan having a steady cook and a young, giddy housemaid,
with a sedate, middle-aged man, who is to undertake the double office
of husband to the former, and sweetheart to the latter.  No children,
of course, to be allowed on either side."  The simple life of the
parsonage is more accurately reflected in a comparison between the
house of the Austens and that of the Knights at Godmersham.  "We dine
now at half-past three, and have done dinner, I suppose, before you
begin.  We drink tea at half-past six.  I am afraid you will despise
us.  My father reads Cowper to us in the morning, to which I listen
when I can.  How do you spend your evenings?  I guess that Elizabeth
works, that you read to her, and that Edward goes to sleep."  Jane
declares that she "always takes care to provide such things as please
(her) own {224} appetite," which she considers "the chief merit in
housekeeping."  Ragout of veal and haricot mutton seem to have been
specially attractive to her.

Picnics we hear of--one in particular, of course, at Box Hill--and the
Middletons were always getting them up.  Cold pies and cold chickens,
and no doubt cold punch, were provided in plenty on those happy

French cookery was not so much appreciated in England in those days as
it had been twenty or thirty years earlier, before the Revolution.  The
bread of our then hostile neighbours across the Channel was, however,
not infrequently copied in the bakehouse, as was the Boulanger dance in
the ball-room.  Mrs. Morland reproached Catherine for talking so much
at breakfast about the French bread at Northanger, but the poor little
girl who had been so shamefully treated by General Tilney, and sadly
missed the attentions of his younger son, replied that she did not care
about the bread, and it was all the same to her what she ate.  Mrs.
Morland could only attribute the girl's obvious unhappiness to the
contrast afforded by their humble parsonage to the glories of {225} the
Tilney mansion, "There is a very clever essay in one of the books
up-stairs, upon much such a subject," says this anxious mother, "about
young girls that have been spoilt for home by great acquaintance--_The
Mirror_, I think.  I will look it out for you some day or other,
because I am sure it will do you good."  Catherine tried to be
cheerful, but presently relapsed into languor and weariness; and Mrs.
Morland went off to seek for the "very clever essay."  As Henry Tilney
arrived before she returned with it, its efficacy as a prophylactic for
listlessness and discontent was never put to the test.  I will take the
risk of inducing the "listlessness and discontent" of the present
reader by devoting a page to this moral souvenir of Jane Austen's
infancy and of her own literary diversions.

The "very clever essay" is dated March 6, 1779, and is in the form of a
letter from John Homespun, a "plain country gentleman, with a small
fortune and a large family," two of whose daughters had been
allowed--his opposition having been overcome--to spend the Christmas
holidays with a "great lady" whom they had met at the house of a
relation.  They went with sparkling {226} eyes and rosy cheeks, they
came back with "cheeks as white as a curd, and eyes as dead as the
beads in the face of a baby."  Their father sees no reason to wonder at
the change when he hears the girls, with new-found affectations of
speech and manner, describe the habits of their new friends.

"Instead of rising at seven, breakfasting at nine, dining at three,
supping at eight, and getting to bed by ten, as was their custom at
home, my girls lay till twelve, breakfasted at one, dined at six,
supped at eleven, and were never in bed till three in the morning.
Their shapes had undergone as much alteration as their faces.  From
their bosoms (_necks_ they called them), which were squeezed up to
their throats, their waists tapered down to a very extraordinary
smallness; they resembled the upper half of an hour-glass.  At this,
also, I marvelled; but it was the only shape worn at ----.  Nor is
their behaviour less changed than their garb.  Instead of joining in
the good-humoured cheerfulness we used to have among us before, my two
_fine_ young ladies check every approach to mirth, by calling it
_vulgar_.  One of them chid their brother the other day for laughing,
and told him it was monstrously ill-bred....  Would you believe it,
sir, my daughter _Elizabeth_ (since her visit she is offended if we
call her {227} _Betty_) said it was _fanatical_ to find fault with
card-playing on Sunday; and her sister _Sophia_ gravely asked my
son-in-law, the clergyman, if he had not some doubts of the soul's

Mr. Homespun declares that the moral plague among the worldly rich
should be dealt with by Government "as much as the distemper among the
_horned cattle_."

Happily Catherine Morland had not caught this particular disease of
all--it was only the plague of love that troubled her innocent soul,
and the medicine was provided without the interference of a Government

From such a deliberate departure from the straight path I come back to
the subject of the economy of accessories in Jane Austen's novels.
When the French bread at Northanger led me astray, I was writing about
domestic economy, costumes and cookery.  Why _should_ the dresses be
described or the dishes be named?  We are concerned with the sayings
and doings of squires and parsons and their wives and daughters, not
with the achievements of cooks and milliners.  This would be quite a
fair criticism, but it is none {228} the less certain that an author
who tells you what people eat and drink and wear does enable you to
realize more fully the contrast between the present and the period with
which the novel is concerned.  That is our business, however, not his.
He is an artist, not an historian.  There is a common practice on the
stage of "furbishing up" old plays by cutting out obsolete references
and introducing topical touches.  The comedies of Robertson may be
"freshened" considerably to meet the taste of thoughtless play-goers,
by giving Captain Hawtrey a motor-car and Jack Poyntz a magazine-rifle.
The "moral" of these present pages is merely this, that with a few such
slight changes as making post-chaise read motor and coach read train,
and retarding the dinner from three or five to eight or half-past,
cutting out the occasional "elegants," and otherwise changing a word
here and there in the dialogue, long scenes from any one of Jane
Austen's novels could be acted without material alteration, in the
costume of to-day, with no serious offence to the unities.  The absence
of physical detail in her narrative is no artistic defect.  Mr.
Collins's first evening at Longbourn, for instance, is so vividly
represented that {229} we gain the impression of having been in the
room, though of its size and shape, and furniture, or of the appearance
and costume of its occupants, we are told little or nothing--

"Mr. Bennet's expectations were fully answered.  His cousin was as
absurd as he had hoped, and he listened to him with the keenest
enjoyment, maintaining at the same time the most resolute composure of
countenance, and except in an occasional glance at Elizabeth, requiring
no partner in his pleasure.

"By tea-time, however, the dose had been enough, and Mr. Bennet was
glad to take his guest into the drawing-room again, and when tea was
over, glad to invite him to read aloud to the ladies.  Mr. Collins
readily assented, and a book was produced; but on beholding it (for
everything announced it to be from a circulating library), he started
back, and begging pardon, protested that he never read novels.  Kitty
stared at him, and Lydia exclaimed.  Other books were produced, and
after some deliberation he chose _Fordyce's Sermons_.  Lydia gaped as
he opened the volume, and before he had, with very monotonous
solemnity, read three pages she interrupted him with--

"'Do you know, mamma, that my Uncle Phillips talks of turning away
Richard; and if he does, Colonel Forster will hire him?  My aunt told
me {230} so herself on Saturday.  I shall walk to Meryton to-morrow to
hear more about it, and to ask when Mr. Denny comes back from town.'

"Lydia was bid by her two eldest sisters to hold her tongue; but Mr.
Collins, much offended, laid aside his book, and said--

"'I have often observed how little young ladies are interested by books
of a serious stamp, though written solely for their benefit.  It amazes
me, I confess; for certainly, there can be nothing so advantageous to
them as instruction.  But I will no longer importune my young cousin.'

"Then turning to Mr. Bennet, he offered himself as his antagonist at
backgammon.  Mr. Bennet accepted the challenge, observing that he acted
very wisely in leaving the girls to their own trifling amusements."

The mephistophelian delight of the father in the unconscious absurdity
of his sententious guest, the rudeness of the younger daughters, and
the attempts of the elder girls to enforce the observance of ordinary
good manners, could not well be realized with finer effect, and no
description of accessories would heighten it.

It is not only material accessories and necessaries, furniture, dress,
and so on that are slighted by Jane Austen.  Incidents that are of
positive {231} value to her plan are not allowed to linger a moment
after they have served the turn.  The adventure of Harriet Smith (in
_Emma_) with the gipsies, ending in her rescue by Frank Churchill,
fills just half a page.  It would have filled a chapter in a novel by
Scott or Dickens.  One possible reason for this brevity is clear
enough.  The author knew little about gipsies, they were to her merely
low ruffians and drabs, horse-stealers and pilferers, and of their
fascination for the student of character she had no idea at all.  There
were hundreds and hundreds of genuine Romany about the country in those
days.  Borrow was not yet at work, and few people had taken the trouble
to discover what manner of mind the "Egyptians" possessed, and how they
spent their time when they were not robbing henroosts or swindling
housemaids.  Scott felt something of the mysterious charm of this
ancient and nomadic race, but he was romantic, and romance, in Jane
Austen's way of thinking, was very nearly a synonym for absurdity.  So
it is, therefore, that the gipsies in the Highbury lane appear for half
a page, speak no word that is reported, and then vanish from our ken.
The author implies that they hurried {232} away to avoid prosecution.
Perhaps she was almost as glad to see the last of them as were the
inhabitants of Highbury.  Thus is a fine opportunity for a
"picturesque" scene thrown away.  Undeveloped as it is, the adventure
stands absolutely alone in the novels as the sole occasion whereon any
of the characters has reason to fear violence at the hands of
ill-disposed persons.  It was only in imagination that Catherine
Morland was carried off by masked men, though a spirited illustration
of Mr. Hugh Thomson's did once mislead a too hurried critic into
regarding the affair as an event in the heroine's life.

There are, in fact, very few digressions in these books.  Fielding
"digressed" by whole chapters at a time, Sterne's digressions filled
more space than his tale in his one "novel."  Jane Austen keeps to the
road, and leaves the by-lanes unexplored.  It is a pleasant road, old,
and bordered here and there with attractive-looking houses into which
we may enter by her kindly introduction, but if we wish to go off to
that hamlet on the right, or that coppice on the left, we must go
alone.  She will sit on a stile till we return to pursue the direct
route.  It is to her {233} effort to avoid all but the essential
factors in achieving her object that the general absence of landscape
and topographical detail of all kinds in her work is to be attributed.
In the case of a Dickens, a Balzac, a Hardy or a Meredith, you can
constantly identify the places where the scenes are laid.  In Lincoln's
Inn Fields you can watch Mr. Tulkinghorn's windows; at Rochester you
can see the very room where Mr. Pickwick slept; at Nemours you can gaze
at the house where The Minoret-Levraults (in _Ursule Mirouet_) lived;
at Woolbridge you can find the manor house where the unhappy Tess
passed her bridal night.  Down in Surrey you can take a photograph of
the Crossways House which was almost the whole fortune of Diana, at
Seaford you can see the "Elba Hall" of _The House on the Beach_
sheltering beneath the downs, and as in these instances so in scores of
others.  But in connection with the Austen novels, save for the London
streets and squares, there are only Bath and Lyme Regis and Portsmouth
where one can truly feel sure that such or such an incident in one or
other novel "occurred" on this very spot.

If, however, there is no special "Jane Austen {234} country" to be
traced out by the diligent seeker for visible associations, there are
scattered spots where her presence is still to be felt.  At Steventon,
where the earlier works were produced, the house of the Austens no
longer stands, having given place long since to a rectory on the other
side of the valley, more convenient and comfortable than that wherein
the father wrote his sermons and the daughter her novels--sermons and
novels which at the time seemed equally likely to achieve enduring
fame.  Only the well and the pump remain to mark the site.  The
surroundings are not all new--how should they be in a thinly populated
parish?  There are still farms and cottages that were old before Jane
was born.  The church is in better trim, but, externally at least, it
is much the same.

Probably with scenery as with men and women Jane Austen did not usually
draw from models, and when she did, she gave the models their own
names.  The one real bit of description of a place named in her work is
the account of the environs of Lyme Regis, which is so obviously
written from personal interest that some of her biographers have
supposed that her own {235} experiences during her visits there had
included a Captain Wentworth or at least a Captain Benwick.

"A very strange stranger it must be," she writes, "who does not see
charms in the immediate environs of Lyme, to make him wish to know it
better.  The scenes in its neighbourhood, Charmouth, with its high
grounds and extensive sweeps of country, and still more its sweet
retired bay, backed by dark cliffs, where fragments of low rock among
the sands make it the happiest spot for watching the flow of the tide,
for sitting in unwearied contemplation; the woody varieties of the
cheerful village of Up Lyme; and, above all, Pinny, with its green
chasms between romantic rocks, where the scattered forest trees and
orchards of luxuriant growth declare that many a generation must have
passed away since the first partial falling of the cliff prepared the
ground for such a state, where a scene so wonderful and so lovely is
exhibited, as may more than equal any of the resembling scenes of the
far-famed Isle of Wight--these places must be visited, and visited
again, to make the worth of Lyme understood."

This was quite an exceptional digression from the thoughts and
conversation of Jane Austen's characters.  One of those letters which
Leslie Stephen and others have thought so "trivial," but {236} which
are so characteristic in their spirit, was written from Lyme by Jane to
Cassandra, on September 14, 1804--

"I continue quite well; in proof of which I have bathed again this
morning.....  I endeavour, as far as I can, to supply your place, and
be useful and keep things in order.  I detect dirt in the water
decanters, as fast as I can, and keep everything as it was under your
administration....  The ball last night was pleasant....  Nobody asked
me for the two first dances; the two next I danced with Mr. Crawford,
and had I chosen to stay longer might have danced with Mr. Granville
... or with a new odd-looking man who had been eyeing me for some time,
and at last, without any introduction, asked me if I meant to dance

It is impossible to leave Lyme Regis without recalling how Tennyson,
when he was shown the place where the Duke of Monmouth was supposed to
have landed, cried: "Don't talk to me of the Duke of Monmouth!  Show me
the exact spot where Louisa Musgrove fell!"

Jane's intimacy with places was chiefly confined to Steventon,
Godmersham, Chawton, Southampton, Bath, and their neighbourhood.  It is
not a {237} day's walk or an hour's motoring from Steventon to Chawton,
where, after the long interval of comparative inactivity, the later
novels were "born."  At Chawton, according to one of her later
biographers, the "cottage" where she lived and worked has disappeared.
This is happily not true.  It is true that it is now turned to other
uses than that of sheltering a parson's widow and her daughters.  It
has been divided internally, and now forms a couple of labourers'
cottages and a village club, where tired toilers who have never read a
line of the books that were written under that roof discuss the merits
and defects of the tobacco tax and the Old Age Pensions Act.  Chawton
House itself shows little structural change, and the park is scarcely
altered since Jane walked across from the Cottage to take tea with her
relations at the great house.

At either of these villages, Steventon the birthplace of Jane herself
and of _Pride and Prejudice_ and _Mansfield Park_, and Chawton where
_Persuasion_ and _Emma_ came into being, you may find scenes which you
will associate with this or that story or incident, but nowhere are you
likely to feel the influence of locality more strongly in {238}
connection with either author or novels than at Godmersham, the home of
her brother Edward, where, until long after her death, her relations
dwelt amid their own broad acres.  The place, with other property, came
to Edward Austen from Mr. and Mrs. Knight, who had adopted him, and
whose name he ultimately took.  There is no more typically English seat
in the typically English county of Kent.  The small sylvan village, the
old church above the Stour river, offer no special attractions for
tourists, and Godmersham House itself is one of the plainest even among
the country seats of the early Georgian age.  Its one external charm is
its unpretentiousness.  It has not even the huge classic portico on
which so many of the country houses of its period depend for
"impressiveness."  Plain, commodious, well-placed, the house is lovely
for us only in that it sheltered for many a week, from year to year,
the author of _Pride and Prejudice_.  It is just such a house as Sir
John Middleton filled with visitors at all seasons, or Mr. Darcy showed
to his future bride and her Uncle and Aunt Gardiner.

If the house itself is without external beauty, the park surrounding it
is delightful.  The {239} sparkling river flows through the midst of
great elms and oaks beneath which mingled herds of deer, sheep, and
oxen browse in the peaceful security of the golden age.  As you sit on
the low wall of the lichen-covered bridge you see nothing that can have
changed in character since Jane Austen sat there and thought over the
doings of her dear heroines.  One can almost hear the rumble of the
barouche that brought her mother and herself from the coach at Ashford
to the Hall at Godmersham, and if that high-hung carriage were suddenly
to turn the corner beside the big elm near the gate one would scarcely
be astonished.  This park and this house, this river, the old trees,
the thatched cottages, the lanes and brooks all speak of the days when
Bingley came for Jane Bennet, and Henry Tilney for Catherine Morland.
If there is anything in the influence of place, Godmersham was part
author of the novels.  The spirit of Jane Austen abides in the
delicious air of this quiet and unspoilt valley, where, when the wind
blows strongly from the south-east, the salt of the sea-breeze mingles
with the perfumes of the grass and the wood smoke as pleasantly as the
Attic wit of {240} Jane Austen mingles with the sweetness of her
heroines and the thousand delights of her dialogue.

These are the chief country scenes of Jane's life.  As to the towns, we
know more or less of her associations with Bath, Southampton, and
Winchester, as well as London.  At Bath she used to stay in early youth
with her uncle and aunt, and she lived there for four years with her
parents.  The fruits of her experience there may be enjoyed in
_Northanger Abbey_ and _Persuasion_, though her lack of the
topographical instinct is suggested by the absence of evident interest
in the buildings of Bath.  We learn as much about the place from the
_Pickwick Papers_, which merely touch there on their way, or from the
allusions of the characters in _The Rivals_, where the events are of a
few days, as we do from chapters that cover long periods of residence
in one of the most beautiful, and still, in spite of the
disproportionate and architecturally discordant hotel, the least
injured cities of England.  Souvenirs of the personal association of
Jane Austen with Bath are almost as plentiful as those of Johnson with
Fleet Street.  The house in Sydney Place where the {241} Austens lived
during most of the time between Mr. Austen's resignation and his death
is the only one that bears a tablet to Jane's memory.  But in Queen
Square, whence several of her letters are dated, in Gay Street, in the
Green Park, in the Paragon, the rooms she occupied with her relations
at one time or another remain very much as they were in her day, and
externally the buildings are unaltered, one and all being built of the
local stone which gives so notable a character to the Georgian
architecture of the city.  In Camden Place where the Elliots rented
"the best house," in Pulteney Street where Catherine stayed with the
Allens, in Westgate Buildings where Anne cheered Mrs. Smith's lonely
days, there has been little change since _Northanger Abbey_ and
_Persuasion_ were written.  There is probably no town in the world
associated with the work of a famous person of even so near a period
which has altered less in appearance than Bath since 1805.

At Southampton the mother and daughters lived, after the father's
death, in a house in that secluded part of the town which stands
between the High Street and the old walls above the {242} "Water."
There is a bit of those walls which abuts on the spot where the
Austens' house stood, and it is one of the places where we may feel
confident that we are walking where Jane often walked, and gazing out
over a scene which was familiar to her in almost all save the funnels
of the steam yachts and the distant view of the train on its way to
Bournemouth or to London.

In London itself there are many spots that will always recall Jane
Austen to her devoted friends and her lovers.  In Henrietta Street
(Covent Garden), in Hans Place, in Cork Street, we know that she
herself stayed.  Many of the characters in _Sense and Sensibility_--the
only novel in which we hear much of London--are associated with
familiar streets.  Edward Ferrars stayed in Pall Mall, the Steele girls
in Bartlett's Buildings, Mrs. Jennings in Berkeley Street, the John
Dashwoods in Harley Street.  The Gardiners (_Pride and Prejudice_)
lived in Gracechurch Street.

The day has not yet come when public bodies could be sufficiently
affected by imaginative literature to place memorials on the houses
where fictitious personages have been supposed to dwell.  {243} In
Paris the memorial to Charlet is an admirable group of a grenadier and
a gamin--typical characters from his work, and a musketeer guards the
monument of Dumas.  The gods forbid that any sculptor should be
commissioned to give us life-size figures of Emma, Elizabeth, Anne, and
Fanny to sit around a statue of Jane Austen.  But when next the London
County Council contemplates the placing of plaques on the former
residences of departed worthies they might consider whether--of course
with the consent of the freeholder and the leaseholder--her name might
not be placed on the house in Henrietta Street, once her brother
Henry's home, where so many of her letters were written.  She tells of
the convenient arrangement of its rooms for the comfort of herself and
her nieces, and from its door she went to the neighbouring church, or
the theatres, which were within a few minutes' walk.  It is not likely
that any political prejudice would cause even the most advanced
Progressive on the Council to object to the name of so very mild a Tory
being thus honoured.  As to the more probable objection that she did
not "reside" there, but was only a visitor, one may plead that as there
is {244} a plaque on a newly-erected tube station recalling the
"residence" of Mrs. Siddons, and that a tablet proclaims that Turner
"lived" in a house built thirty years after his death, there would be
no great straining of logic in admitting the claim of a house in which
Jane Austen did undoubtedly write, and sleep, and talk.  The front was
cemented in the middle of the last century, and the ground-floor is now
used for business purposes, but otherwise the house is little changed
since the Austens were there.




Jane Austen's genius ignored--Negative and positive instances--The
literary orchard--Jane's influence in English literature.

The author of a book bearing the title _Great English Novelists_,
published just ninety-one years after Jane Austen's death, does not
include her in his selection.  He deals with eleven authors--Defoe,
Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, Sterne, Scott, Lytton, Disraeli,
Dickens, Thackeray, Meredith.  The very fact that he stops short at
eleven, instead of making a round dozen, suggests that he really could
not think of any other novelist worthy to be credited with greatness.
It will be observed that all the team are men.  Without quibbling as to
whether they are all "English," or all "great," or even all "novelists"
in the ordinary sense of the word, we may legitimately suppose that the
author is one of those to whom Jane Austen makes {248} no strong
appeal.  The peculiarity of her position among English novelists could
not well be more pointedly emphasized than in the fact that while
Macaulay placed her next to Shakespeare as a painter of
character-studies, a critic should be found--and he is by no means
isolated--who can choose eleven great representatives of English
fiction without adding her as a twelfth.  In the same week in which the
book just referred to was published, came a portfolio of twelve
photogravures entitled _Britain's Great Authors_.  Scott, Thackeray,
Dickens, of course, were among them, and of right, but not Jane Austen.

Perhaps even more suggestive is the statement of a clever woman-writer
the other day that Jane Austen's novels are merely "memorials," books
which no gentleman's (or lady's) library should be without, but which
are for show rather than for use.

Her name may never be among those that are painted round the
reading-rooms of National Libraries, nor included by many
school-children in examination lists of eminent authors.  Hers is too
delicate a product to attract the man or woman "in the street."  There
is a bouquet about it that is lost on the palate which enjoys the
"strong" {249} fiction of the material phase through which humanity is
now passing--passing perhaps more briefly than most of us imagine.

It has been the endeavour of this book to show Jane Austen as she lives
in her writings, and to suggest some at least of the many directions in
which those writings may be explored, and thus, if so may be, to bring
new members into the large but comparatively restricted circle wherein
she is regarded, not always as the first of English novelists, but at
least as second to none in the quality of her work.  Sappho enjoys
undying fame with only a few fragments of verse still to her credit,
Omar for his one poem transformed by another mind, Boccaccio for a
volume of short stories, Boswell for one biography, Thomas à Kempis for
one devotional manual.  Sparsity of performance, it is evident, is no
bar to enduring fame.  Jane Austen's work, indeed, was not sparse.
There are, undoubtedly, novelists who have passed the record of Balzac
with his forty novels and scores of short stories, but their books for
the most part suggest the interminable succession of poplars along so
many a high road of France.  Some of the trees have more foliage than
others, some are {250} more green or more blue in tone, a little more
tortuous, or robust, but in spite of all trivial differences _plus ça
change plus c'est la même chose_.  If this arboreal parallel may be
pursued, may we not compare the work of Jane Austen with a group of
apple-trees in a sunny corner of some vast orchard?  There are eight
Austen trees in the literary orchard.  Two of them are stunted and bear
a poor crop of a sort little better than crabapples.  The other six are
of several kinds, but all of fine quality and producing delicious fruit
of varying sweetness.  Countless thousands of novels have been
published since Jane Austen's were given to the world, and many of them
have been unseemly, and of evil influence.  But the taste of countless
writers and readers has been sweetened by the fruit of her delightful
mind, of the passing of whose fragrant harvest through English
literature it is not too much to say, as Jane herself said of Anne
Elliot's walk through Bath: "It was almost enough to spread
purification and perfume all the way."



1811.  _Sense and Sensibility_.  [Completed in 1798.  Commenced many
years earlier in the form of letters, under the title _Elinor and

1813.  _Pride and Prejudice_.  [Completed in 1797.  Originally entitled
(in MS.) _First Impressions_.]

1814.  _Mansfield Park_.  [Written in 1811-14.]

1816.  _Emma_.  [Written in 1811-16.]

1818.  _Northanger Abbey_ and _Persuasion_.  [_Northanger Abbey_
(mostly written in 1798) was sold to a Bath bookseller for £10 in 1803.
He laid it aside, and it was bought back by Henry Austen, _at the same
price_, after _Sense and Sensibility_ and _Pride and Prejudice_ had
appeared.  _Persuasion_, as originally completed (in 1816) had only
eleven chapters, but the author was not satisfied with Chapter X, and
replaced it by the present Chapters X and XI.  The cancelled chapter is
included in Mr. Austen Leigh's memoir.  It brings about the
re-engagement of Anne and Wentworth in a different, and certainly less
admirable, manner.]


1871.  _Lady Susan_, _The Watsons_, and some extracts from the novel on
which Jane was at work until four months before her death.  [These are
all included in Mr. Austen Leigh's book.  The MS. of _Lady Susan_,
written before Jane was of age, was given by Cassandra Austen to her
niece Fanny (Lady Knatchbull), who consented to its publication.  As
for the incomplete novel known as _The Watsons_, written about 1802,
Jane was not responsible for the naming of it, and had laid it aside
several years before _Mansfield Park_ was written.  The work from which
she was compelled by illness to cease in March 1817 had not, in the
twelve chapters we possess, reached a point when its plan could be
foretold with reasonable confidence.]

1884.  _Letters of Jane Austen_, edited by her great-nephew, the first
Lord Brabourne.  [These, which, with few exceptions were addressed to
Cassandra Austen, belonged to Lady Knatchbull, to whom some of them
were written.  Many of Jane's letters were destroyed by Cassandra as
being too private to pass into other hands.]

Mr. J. E. Austen Leigh's _Memoir_ of his aunt is not only to be highly
valued for its biographical details, but for its many anecdotes of Jane
Austen, and for the letters which fill a good many gaps in the other
published correspondence.


Those to whom the subject of the present volume is fresh, and who care
to pursue it, are advised to read the "introductions" contributed to
recent editions of Jane Austen's novels by various critics,
particularly Mr. Austin Dobson, Professor Saintsbury, and Mr. E. V.
Lucas, as well as the _Life_ contributed by Mr. Goldwin Smith to the
_Great Writers_ series.

[The dates given on the left hand are those of publication.]



Adams, Oscar, on Jane Austen, 89

Addison, Joseph, 55

"Allen, Mr.," 187

"----, Mrs.," 100

_Alphonsine_, 61

Anderson, Mrs. Garrett, 170

_Antiquary, The_, 51

Apothecaries, 114

Arc, Joan of, 169

Aspasia, 158

Austen, Cassandra, 31, 63, 79, 100, 212

----, Edward (_see_ Knight), 41, 214, 223, 238

----, The Rev. George, 152, 223, 241

----, Henry, 22, 243, 251

----, Jane, freshness of her work, 14; her aim, 18, 68; at home, 22;
her nature, 24-30; views on love, 32; her admirers, 35-37, 163; her
limited appeal, 43; on novels, 50-54; favourite authors, 56-60;
criticism of niece's work, 63-64; limitations of subject, 16-19, 65,
112, 192, 204; literary style, 66-70, 82-85; choice of names, 74; in
London, 76, 242; views of life, 41, 87, 217; as humourist, 89, 171-172;
a "forbidding" writer, 89; Mr. Goldwin Smith on her novels, 91;
contrasted with Peacock, 92-94; her letters, 23, 31, 99, 121, 211-223;
declines to meet Madame de Staël, 109; her charities, 116-117; at balls
and dances, 123-128; Dr. Whately on her work, 135, 161, 181, 189; views
of marriage, 106, 138-140; influenced by current philosophy, 143-149;
her fine taste, 152; her opinion of _Lady Susan_, 152; her heroines,
21, 32-33, 138-163; their relations, 183; her avoidance of dogmatism,
149, 193; love for her own creations, 202; economy of description, 205,
227, 231; on dress, 210-219; food, 219-224; places--Bath, 152, 214,
240; Chawton, 22, 153, 237; Godmersham, 41, 223, 238; London, 76, 242;
Lyme Regis, 160, 234-236; Southampton, 241; Steventon, 22, 153, 214,
234; her literary influence, 247-250

Austen, Mrs., 25, 29, 222, 223

Balzac, 17, 108, 201, 209, 233

"Barton," 102

"Bates, Miss," 175, 219, 221

Bath, 152, 153, 214, 240

Batilliat, Marcel, 57

Bazin, René, 57

Beaconsfield, Lord, 108

"Bellaston, Lady," 157

"Bellona" (_Richard Feverel_), 157

"Bennet, Elizabeth," 79, 93, 203, 216

"----, Jane," 42, 203

"----, Lydia," 43, 141, 229

"----, Mr.," 72, 90, 229

"----, Mrs.," 72, 90, 100

"Bertram, Edmund," 40, 70, 155

"----, Lady," 131

"----, Maria," 18, 83

"----, Sir Thomas," 64, 130

"Bingleys, The," 115, 129

Bond, John, 116

Boswell, James, 58

Boulangeries (dance), 129

"Bourgh, Lady Catherine de," 118, 175

Box Hill, picnic at, 175

Brabourne, Lord, 252

"Brandon, Colonel," 141-144

Brock, C. E., 209

Brontë, Charlotte, 19, 85, 195

Barney, Frances, 49, 53, 60, 86, 88

----, Sarah, 61

Byron, Lord, 121

Cage, Mrs., 100

Calprenède, 55

_Cambridge Observer_, 83

"Camper, Lady," 205

_Candide_, 147

Carlton House, 65, 165

"Chainmail, Mr.," 93

Charlet, 243

Châtelet, Madame du, 102, 158

Chawton, 22, 153, 237

Chesterfield, Lord, 78

Church of England, 189-191

"Churchill, Frank," 37, 104, 127, 231

Chute, William, 37

Cibber, Colley, 77

_Clandestine Marriage_, 77

_Clarentine_, 61

_Clarissa_, 50

"Clay, Mrs.," 18

Coleridge, 19, 194

"Coles, The," 129

"Collins, Mr.," 71, 93, 164, 192, 229

Colonies, American, 13

_Connoisseur, The_, 56

Consumption, 218

Cork Street, 77

"Cormon, Rose," 18

_Corsair, The_, 215

"Courcy, Reginald de," 150

Cowper, William, 29, 57, 223

Crabbe, George, 56

"Crawford, Henry," 18, 83

"----, Mary," 40, 160

Critic, an American, 45

Croker, John Wilson, 198

_Crotchet Castle_, 93

Curie, Madame, 170

Cuvier, 193

"Dalrymples, The," 119

"Darcy, Fitzwilliam," 33, 42, 93, 118, 203

"----, Georgiana," 67

Darwin, Erasmus, 193

"Dashwood, Elinor," 18, 43, 141-148

"----, Marianne," 79, 141

"----, Mrs.," 188

Deism, 193

Dickens, 219, 233

Digweed, James, 114, 123

Disraeli, Isaac, 108

Dobson, Austin, 253

Dodsley, Robert, 59-60

"Dotheboys Hall," 92

Dowton, William, 77

Dress, 210-219

"Dudley, Arabelle," 157

Duff, Sir M. E. Grant, 148

Dumas _père_, 219, 243

Edgeworth, Maria, 53, 60, 76, 148, 189

Eliot, George, 85, 169

"Elliot, Anne," 33, 93, 125, 163, 250

"----, Sir Walter," 118, 176

"----, William, 160, 178

"Elliott, Kirstie," 208

"Elton, Mr.," 104

"----, Mrs.," 173, 205

_Emma_, 80, 131, 237, 251

_Eugénie Grandet_, 108

"Evelina," 99, 139

"Eyre, Jane," 16, 195

"Fagin," 92

"Fairfax, Jane," 38, 129

"Ferrars, Edward," 155

"----, Lucy," 82

"Feverel, Lucy," 35

"----, Richard," 35

"Ffolliot, Dr.," 93

Fielding, Henry, 14, 154

"Fischer, Lisbeth," 16

Food, 219-224

France, Anatole, 149

Frénilly, Baron de, on dress, 218

Galt, John, 76

"Gardiners, The," 140, 242

Garrick, 59-60

Genlis, Madame de, 61

George III, on genius, 49

Gifford, William, 165

Gipsies, 231

"Gobseck, Esther van," 157

Godmersham, 41, 223, 238

"Grandet, Père," 16

"Grandison, Sir Charles," 205

_Great English Novelists_, 247

_Gulliver's Travels_, 94

_Guy Mannering_, 51

Hall, Robert, on Miss Edgeworth, 189

"Hamlet," 181

Hardy, Thomas, 233

Hazlitt, William, 165

_Headlong Hall_, 94

Henrietta Street, 242

"Homespun, Mr.," 225

Hope, Anthony, 44

_House on the Beach, The_, 115

"Hurst, Mrs.," 216

Huxley, Thomas, 170

_Hypocrite, The_, 77

_Ida of Athens_, 62

_Idler, The_, 56

"Jennings, Mrs.," 102, 138, 142

"Jingle, Alfred," 75

Johnson, Samuel, 56, 58

"Jones, Tom," 155, 213

Jonson, Ben, 86

Kean, Edmund, 77

"Kew, Lady," 16

Knatchbull, Lady, _see_ Knight, Fanny

Knight, Edward (Austen), 41, 214, 223, 238

----, Fanny, 40, 104, 252

"Knightley, George," 70, 155, 181

_Lady Susan_, 87, 137, 149-152, 252

Lamb, Charles, 13

Landor, Walter Savage, 13, 198

Lang, Andrew, 147

Langton, Bennet, 58

_La Terre qui meurt_, 57

_La Vendée aux Genêts_, 57

Lefroy, Thomas, 35-36, 213

Leigh, J. E. Austen, 23, 251, 252

_Letters of Jane Austen_, 252

Lewes, G. H., 85

Liston, John, 77

Lloyd, Martha, 67

Lockhart, William, his "Life of Scott," 166

Lombroso, 147

London, 76, 242

_Lounger, The_, 56

Love, Jane Austen's views on, 32

"Lucas, Charlotte," 139

----, E. V., 253

"----, Sir William," 114-115

Lyford, John, 123

Lyme Regis, 160, 234-236

_Lys dans la Vallée, Le_, 157

Macaulay, 49, 68, 181

Mackintosh, Sir James, 122

"Manerville, Natalie de," 19

_Mansfield Park_, 44, 137, 165, 186, 237, 251

_Margiana_, 61

Marriage, 106, 138

Martin, Mrs., her library, 60

"----, Robert," 113

"Mascarille," 78

Mathews, Charles, 77

"McQueedy, Mr.," 93

_Melincourt_, 94

Meredith, George, 69, 115, 233

"Middleton, Lady," 187

"----, Sir John," 79, 102, 119, 205

"Milestone, Mr.," 93

"Millamant," 159

Milton, 21, 194

"Mirabell," 159

_Mirror, The_, 225

Mitford, Mrs., 104

"Morland, Catherine," 18, 34, 80, 81, 88, 91, 99, 216, 224, 227

"----, Mr. and Mrs.," 186

Murray, John, "The First," 165

"Musgrove, Louisa," 187, 236

Names, 74

"Nanny," 113

Napoleon on Madame de Staël, 45

"Nature's Salic Law," 170

"Newcome, Colonel," 75

Nightingale, Florence, 169

_Nightmare Abbey_, 94, 121

"Norris, Mrs.," 187

_Northanger Abbey_, 44, 53, 87, 151, 210, 240, 251

"Nostalgie de l'Infini," 148

Novel, "Plan of," 95

----, suggestion for, 65

Novelists, defence of, 53

Novels, 50, 60-62

----, French, 55, 57

O'Neill, Miss, 77

"Orange, Robert," 160

_Ordeal of Richard Feverel, The_, 157

Osborne, Dorothy, 31, 33, 55, 163

"----, Lord," 113

----, Mr., on passions, 163

Owenson, Miss, 62

_Pamela_, 50

"Patterne, Sir Willoughby," 205

Peacock, Thomas Love, 92-94

"Pecksniff," 16

"Pemberley," 42

_Persuasion_, 125, 137, 151, 186, 237, 240, 251

Phelps, W. L., 34

_Pickwick Papers_, 240

Picnics, 175, 224

"Pierrette," 18

Plutocrats, 41

_Plymley Letters_, 78

"Pons, Sylvain," 75

Portsmouth, 66, 184, 233

Poverty, 40

Powlett, Charles, 36, 101

_Précieuses ridicules_, 78

"Price, Fanny," 18, 34, 184

_Pride and Prejudice_, 44, 62, 85, 129, 136, 186, 237, 251

Property, landed, 41-42

"Proudie, Mrs.," 205

_Quarterly Review_, 135, 162, 165

Queensberry, Duke of, 191

_Quentin Durward_, 139

"Quilp," 16

Radcliffe, Mrs., 50, 52, 60, 86

_Rambler, The_, 56

"Ravenswood Tower," 92

Realism, 205

Regent, The, 153, 165

Religion, 189

Reynolds, Sir Joshua, 59

"----, Mrs.," 112

Richardson, Samuel, 50, 59, 60

"Rigby, Mr.," 198

_Rivals, The_, 153

"Rochefide, Beatrix de," 19

"Rushworth, Maria," 18

"Rushworth, Mr.," 83

"Russell, Lady," 163, 183, 205

Saintsbury, George, 90, 141, 253

Sand, George, 108, 169

Sappho, 249

Saxe-Coburg family, 65

Scharlieb, Mrs., 170

_School for Saints, The_, 160

Scott, Sir Walter, 16, 42, 51, 67, 76, 209

----, Life of, 166

Scudéri, Mademoiselle de, 55

"Scythrop," 93

"Sedley, Jos," 92

_Self-control_, 61

Selwyn, George, 191

_Sense and Sensibility_, 44, 62, 82, 136, 143, 202, 242

Shakespeare, 84-85, 181

Shelley, 121

Sheridan, 130, 153

"Shirley," 92

_Sir Charles Grandison_, 50

Smith, Goldwin, 91, 253

"----, Harriet," 103, 231

----, James, 13

----, Sydney, 78

Socialists, 41

Sondes, Lady, 106

Southampton, 241

_Spectator, The_, 53-55

Staël, Madame de, 45, 109-111

Steele, Richard, 55

Stephen, Leslie, 235

Stephens, Miss, 77

Steventon, 22, 153, 214, 234

"Steyne, Lord," 16

Surville, Madame de, 201

Swift, Jonathan, 149, 220

_Tamaris_, 108

_Tartuffe_, 77

_Tatler, The_, 56

Temple, Sir William, 33, 55

Tennyson, 26, 236

Thackeray, 16, 28, 94

Theatricals at the Bertrams', 131

Thomson, Hugh, 209, 232

"Thorpe, John," 51

"Tilney, General," 187, 224

"----, Henry," 18, 70, 80, 88, 91, 93, 216, 224, 225

"Tinman, Martin," 115

_Tom Jones_, 157

"Tulliver, Mr.," 205

Turner, J. M. W., 13

"Uppercross," dancing at, 125

Vallière, Louise de la, 158

"Vandenesse, Felix de," 201

"Vautrin," 92

Vendée, La, 57

_Venetia_, 121

Ventilation, Mr. Woodhouse on, 127

"Vernon, Lady Susan," 106

Verrall, A. W., on text of Jane Austen's novels, 83

_Village, The_, 56

Villiers, Barbara, 158

Voltaire, 147, 158

Waltz, 129-131

Warner, Dr., 191

_Watsons, The_, 87, 137, 152, 252

_Waverley_, 51, 52

_Weir of Hermiston_, 208

"Wentworth, Frederick," 125, 155, 188, 251

"Western, Sophia," 142, 155

"----, Squire," 154

"Weston, Mr.," 115

"----, Mrs.," 84, 103, 181

Whately, Archbishop, 135, 161, 181, 189

"Wickham," 141

"Williams, Miss," 143

"Willoughby, John," 18, 79, 141-146

Wine, 221

"Woodhouse, Emma," 33, 37, 64, 93, 103, 181, 221

"----, Mr.," 172, 174, 221

_World, The_, 56

Wyndham, Mr., 104

Zola, 66



*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Jane Austen and her Country-house Comedy" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.