They came and they sat and they went.


Myer tells Jane Austen’s story principally through her own words and the words of her family and friends. This can get a little tedious but it’s still all Jane all the time and worth it for little gems like this from her letters

Lady Elizabeth Hatton and Annamaria called here this morning; yes, they called, but I do not think I can say any more about them. They came and they sat and they went.

and this from the author on Jane’s refusal of a proposal

On 2 December [1802] came Harris Bigg-Wither’s proposal to Jane. Seen in the context of her age, her dissatisfaction with life in Bath or trailing round with her parents, and her pinched life of poverty, her refusal of this opportunity is dazzling its integrity…We may think the decision was correct, and also, given the background, heroic.

Not to mention which her name would then have been Jane Bigg-Wither, which I personally am grateful we were spared on the title page of her novels.

There are interesting tidbits on the genesis of some her most well-known characters like this one

The fierce Dowager Lady Stanhope, wife of the second earl and mother of the third, was…the mother of Lady Hester Stanhope, the noted traveller and eccentric. Hester was the same age as Jane and a distant relative on her mother’s side. Old Lady Stanhope, whose Christian name was Grizel, was in her seventies, and domineering. Her bossiness provided the model for Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and her mother-in-law’s name was, interestingly, Catherine Burghill.

and this on Jane’s intellectual curiosity

…Jane was reading An Essay on the Military Policy and Institutions of the British Empire by Captain Sir Charles William Pasley of the royal Engineers, which she found highly entertaining and delightfully written. She declared herself in love with the author, as much so as with Thomas Clarkson, author of History of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade (1808), and Claudius Buchanan, author of Christian Researches in Asia (1811). Yet some people are convinced that Jane Austen’s interests were purely trivial.

Myer concludes on this infuriating paragraph

In 1818 the Cambridge University Library, although a copyright library entitled to claim everything publishing in Britain, rejected as unimportant works by Ludwig van Beethoven and by Jane Austen. Between 1817 and 1870 there was only one complete edition of Jane’s works. Since then, there have been countless editions, film and television versions, and endless commentaries and critiques. Since her death, Jane’s work has made millions for other people. As early as 1930 one of her letters fetched £1,000 and by the mid-1980s a collector paid £900 for a mere scrap of her handwriting…In her lifetime the produce of her hand and brain was poorly and grudgingly rewarded.

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. Jane had neither and wrote six novels anyway, and for that we shall always be grateful.

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