Jane Austen and her Works 9781472554093, 9781472511294

In one volume Sarah Tytler presents the most characteristic of Jane Austen’s novels, together with her life. The tales a

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PR E FACE. My intention in this book is to present m one volume to an over-wrought, and in some respects over-read, generation of young people the most characteristic of .Tane Austen's noreIs, together with her life. I think the tales and the life are calculated to reflect light on each other; I think, also, that the arrangement of the tales-which I have selected as the author wrote them, and not as they happened to be published, particularly in reference to the fact that the two which I have given first were written more than ten years before" Emma" and" Persuasion "-is an advantage, in permitting the growth of the author's mind and taste to be recognised. I have used my own judgment in the selection of the stories, and in the degree and manner in which I have condensed them. It is with reverent hands that I have touched these great English novels, for the purpose of bringing them into such compass as may make them readily accessible to all, and especially to young readers, apt to be wearied by the slightest diffuseness. Wherever it has been possible, in view of my aim, I have used the author's own words, as incompal'ably the best for the characters and situations. I have pointed out here and there the great changes in

JANE AUSTEN AND HER WORKS.

JANE

AUSTEN.

I. is said there is an ancient tradition in the East} that close on a certain date of the year are born the men to whom are given special gifts to enlighten and delight their fellow-creatures. To} or near to} this date we can assign the birthdays of William Caxton} by the invention of printing the father of widely-diffused learning; William Shakespeare} with his marvellous knowledge of human nature; Cervantes} the great humourist; and W illiam Wordsworth} to whom skies and hills} trees and flowers} beasts and birds} had a voice} and told a story which he could make plain to the duller comprehension of thousands. But no Oriental sage had a word to say in anticipation of the birthday-at a very different season of the yearwhen there looked out for the first time on the world and its wonders} the child-eyes of a woman who was to edify and charm some of the wisest men of her own and succeeding generations. Women may well be proud of the woman who has B

I~I JANE AUSTEN'S NOVELS. study of Jane Austen's novels is in some respects a liberal education. The proper appreciation of these stories has been suggested as a gauge of intellect. But though the verdict of the best judges, including the earnest, well-nigh reverential approbation of Sir \tV alter Scott, and the boundless enthusiasm of Lord Macaulay, who has pronounced Jane Austen, in her more limited walk, next to Shakespeare, the test is unfair, so long as men and women's minds, no less than the schools of fiction, are in two major, in addition to many minor divisions. Of course, where authors are concerned, in rare and great instances, as in that of Shakespeare, the divisions are united, and we have a comprehensive, many-sided genius. But these exceptions are few and far between, like stars of the first magnitude. There is a cast of inventive intellect, and a school of writing which deal exclusively with human nature in the mass, choosing to work with common materials, and to make them valuable by the penetrating fidelity, and nice perception and adaptation of the workmanship. There is another order of genius and of wit, which selects an extraordinary, sometimes an abnormal subject, whether man or woman, story or surroundings, and by the sheer power and the passionate insight which are shown in the treatment,

JANE AUSTEN'S NOVELS, AND JANE AUSTEN. "PRIDE AND PREJUDICE."*

I. "

T is a. truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." Such is the lively sentence with which "Pride and Prejudice" begins. Then the author proceeds to illustrate the statement in her own admirable way. Mr. Bingley, a young bachelor, well-born, wealthy, good-looking, agreeable, kindly-disposed-even sensible, while not too clever for his company, suddenly sets the whole country gentry of a quiet neighbourhood into a pleasant ferment, by taking a lease of Netherfield Park, and coming to occupy the house. My readers must remember that it is nearly a century ago since this happened, for it actually happened. The charm of Jane Austen's situations is that they must have happened thousands of times. Her people all lived, are living still, since human nature never dies. We may correctly think and talk of Jane and Elizabeth Bennet, and their father and mother; of Bingley and his sisters; of Darcy and his sister; as if they were real men and women. They were and are the very men and women whom our grandfathers knew, whom we • Written in 1796-97.

NORTHANGER ABBEY.

*

I. "I:~~~~~VORTHANGER

ABBEY" begins in a quizzical vein, with a record of Catherine Morland's disqualifications for her post of heroine, according to the popular acceptation of the term in Jane Austen's days. "No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be a heroine.' Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her. Her father was a clergyman, without being neglected or poor, and a very respectable man, though his name was Richard, and he had never been handsome. He had a considerable independence, besides two good livings, and he was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters. Her mother was a womau of useful plaiu seuse, with a good temper, aud, what is more remarkable, with a good constitution. She had three sons before Catherine was born, and instead of dying in bringing the latter into the world, as anybody might expect, she still lived on-lived to have six children more, to see them growing up around her, and to enjoy excellent health herself. A family of ten children

*' Written in 1798. " Read Dickens's' Hard Times,' and another book of 'Pliny's Letters;' read 'Northanger Abbey,' worth all Dickens and Pliny together, yet it was the work of a girl."MacaUlay. J

"SENSE

AND

SENSIBILITY,"

AND

" MANSFIELD PARK." the two novels for which I have not found space here, the one belongs to the first, and the other to the second series of Jane Austen's tales. (( Sense and Sensibility" in its original form was, with the exception perhaps of "Lady Susan," the first written of the author's stories which have come down to us. It has always seemed to me inferior to the novels which follow it, though its writer not only re-wrote it in her youth, but prepared it again for the press in her mature years, and brought it out before" Pride and Prejudice." The astonishing precedence thus given might, however, have been accidental, or it might have been the result of the publisher's ehoice. It might also have been an instance of Jane Austen's confidence in her own powers and steadfastness of purpose. Certainly she appears to have valued " Sense and Sensibility" as highly as her other novels: an example of the proverbial blindness of authors to the proportion of merit in their own writings. To say that" Sense and Sensibility" is inferior to its companions is by no means to suggest that it is without excellence. It has many of the attractions of Miss Austen's work. It is bright, clever, interesting and exceedingly life-like. Here and there, as in the charac-

" PERSUASION."

*

I. eighteen Anne Elliot} a pretty} gentle} motherless girl} one of the three daughters of a poor and proud baronet} had met a gallant young naval officer} a Lieutenant Wentworth} who had paid ample homage to her attractions. The couple had fallen very genuinely and deeply in love. Their marriage was impossible till the gentleman should rise in his profession} or come home with prize-money. But Sir vValter Elliot} more from indifference than indulgence to Anne} would have permitted the engagement--entered into for a brief space of mingled happiness and misery-to continue. It was Lady Russell-Anne}s mother}s friendwho interfered} and by her urgent representations of the trials of a long engagement} and the sacrifice of the man}s prospects} still more than those of the woman} in a poor marriage} induced Anne to consent to the engagement being broken off. The couple parted in mutual sorrow} strongly dashed by resentment on the gentleman}s side. They did not meet} they hardly heard of each other again} for eight years} during which the young officer followed his profession and won honours and fortune; while the girl he had loved lived on with her uncongenial relatives} and passed} with more than usual rapidity} from blooming} • Written in 1816, and published after the Author's death.