Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Jane Austen and Anonymity

From The Guardian:
The fact that Jane Austen, in the course of her short life, published her books anonymously made a great impression on me as a girl of 15. It was the surly English teacher who told us this, and I was tempted to ask why, but I soon abandoned the idea, out of timidity. Meanwhile, I read Pride and Prejudice, but it didn’t interest me. At the time, I was enthralled by the great male adventure novels, with their stories that ranged all over the world, and I wanted to write such books myself: I couldn’t resign myself to the idea that women’s novels were domestic tales of love and marriage. I was past 20 when I returned to Austen. And from that moment not only did I love everything she had written but I was passionate about her anonymity. Sense and Sensibility appeared in October of 1811, in three volumes, with the sole clue: “By a lady”. The three other books that she published in her lifetime – Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1815) – also came out anonymously. As for the two novels published posthumously in a single volume, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, they, too, appeared without the name of the author, but with a note about Austen written by her brother Henry: an interesting example of how the living can both respect and, at the same time, violate the memory of the dead. (Read more.)

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