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<---More Recent 117. Entailments and Women 116. Novels and Everything 115. Secret names of shires Earlier Answers-->

Name:JoNette LaGamba
Question 118 I'm writing an essay suggesting that although Jane Austen's first  two novels were set in the country, she brought elements of city life to her stories by including city-style festivities, military personnel (who brought back stories from the cities), and stories about the wealthy landowners whose properties extended beyond the city. Do you agree with these statements?
Reply Dear JoNette,

The country landowners I so often referred to and used as characters lived on country estates. In a famous judgement my Mansfield Park was called ‘visibly ideological’, what that means in part, contained the idea, broached by Fanny, that 'the spirit of the metropolis, London, was 'at war with all respectable attachments', and Mary Crawford in particular was corrupted by London, and so not a meet mate for an excellent country clergyman like Edmund Bertram. But this 'social theory' (as broached, to be fair, by one character), was developed from ideas and attitudes of the earlier novels, especially Sense and Sensibility. Meanwhile the spoilt daughters of Sir Thomas Bertram are mad for ‘a house in town’, but the metropolitan spirit is held to be a bad one, as shown by the reaction to Edmund and his qualities as reported by a fastidious Fanny Price exiled in Portsmouth. [Just to give it a mention, lighter-toned Northanger Abbey, not much changed from its drafting in 1798, showed the poverty of village life, (the heroine could ‘only go and call on Mrs Allen’ by way of social diversion, earning her boy friend Henry Tilney’s mockery of this ‘picture of intellectual poverty’): Bath, the city of this novel, is shown to be rather corrupt and hard to ‘read’ by an ingenuous up-country girl, but more rowdy and thoughtless than actually depraved.] Pride and Prejudice is a different sort of book from the later Mansfield Park, without an insistent theory of society, but here is fashionable London as a place of false values, while towards the East End are low class, but decent and 'rising' (thank heavens!) relatives of the pressured Bennets, and the corrupt world of Mrs Younge. The officers bring temptations (and fun), but do they symbolise things as you appear to wish to assume?

A country estate seems to be ‘the thing’, but depends on the character of its owner, and the misunderstood Darcy is finally reassuring in that respect. Lizzie did admit that their father hated London , liked books and the country, and so showed sound taste, but life in the country wasn’t quite lively enough for the younger Bennet girls. Perhaps they deserve some sympathy in this respect.  Interestingly, Elizabeth’s phrase about her father hating London was used by Hugh Grant’s Edward in the 1995 Ang lee and Emma Thompson Sense and Sensibility; and in S&S, the novel, London is also indeed a source of false values and an overwhelming emphasis on ‘money and greatness’ in likeable Mrs Jennings’ indignant words. Edward Ferrars in particular, Elinor's shy boy- friend, definitely needs to be 'out of it', given that London is the place where this ambitious repertoire of snobbish match-making and acquisition afflicts the soul, and MP develops some of the ideas this suggests.  In Pride and Prejudice London is the scene of the fashionable world and the Court, both of which seem to have a tendency to turn people's heads.  On the South Coast, Brighton is bright with flashing military uniforms, but city spaces don't take the 'ideological blame' as they do in Mansfield Park in particular (Wickham, source of much of the trouble, was not a typical officer, may have been a gambling addict. Emma deals with country living and village life, likes its hierarchy and the humanity of the local landowner Mr Knightley, but the tedium which can result from such a confined existence, and its penury for some, is not glossed over. London is not too far away, not condmned, but an addiction to the fashionable world represented by a town like Weymouth is suspiciously viewed, and Bristol brings ideas of the slave trade, and Bath, so mentioned by odious  pseudo-sophisticated outsider Mrs Elton, of a marriage market. Good luck.

Best wishes.

Jane Austen.

November 3, 2006 01:49:04 (GMT Time)

Name:Wanda Van Norden                     Top
Question 117 In Pride and Prejudice, the Longbourne estate is entailed 'away from the female line' but Miss DeBourge was 'heir to a very large property'. Clearly this is not only a case of missing a first born son.  Do you know why Miss DeBourge's case differed from the Miss Bennets?
Reply Dear Wanda,

Oh dear! I’m not sure I can keep you happy. This seems like quite a serious historical or even legal inquiry and I was simply using the idea, from my limited but adequate experience and understanding, to structure my novels--although there were lawyers in the older generations of my family. Conceivably I had the mind of one. According to the note in my handy ‘Penguin’ edition, ‘an entail is any settlement which restricts the terms by which an estate can be bequeathed to subsequent generations’. Not specifically a device to oust females, it was often so used, although according to this note it was equally often contested. Perhaps, casting my mind back, I assumed the reader would infer that the Bennets were insufficiently wealthy to embark on the process of  preventing freehold inheritance by the ‘relatively remote’ Mr Collins. Lady Catherine, as one would expect, ‘saw no occasion for entailing estates from the female line’, and perhaps the reader might have been expected to infer that her power and consequence would make it more difficult to enforce this than in the Bennet case. Besides, ‘it was not thought necessary in Sir Lewis de Bourgh’s family’ ( Ch. 29) (i.e., that of her late husband, poor man). Incidentally, the misfortunes of the Bennet family were not merely caused by the entail itself, but Mr Bennet’s imprudent reaction to the fact (e.g., Ch. 50): ‘Mr Bennet had very often wished that, instead of spending his whole income, he had laid by an annual sum’, etc. He assumed a son would be ‘on the way’, sooner or later, to cut off the entail. He was not very diligent, unlike his brother-in-law, the surprising Mr Gardiner (considering he is the brother of Mrs Bennet!) I am sending this directly and it may be a little while before the reply is posted. Hope it isn’t altogether useless.

With best wishes

Jane Austen.

September 23, 2006 17:42:13 (GMT Time)

Name:shikha jain                     Top
Question 116 What is Jane Austen's contribution to the English novel? What are the main characteristics in novel which keep her alive even today? Name the six novels written by her. How does Jane Austen justify the begining of the era of the realist novel?
Reply Dear Shickha Jain,

The six novels is the easy one: Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice were drafted when I was young, and living at father’s Rectory in Steventon, Hampshire. Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion later, at Chawton (in the same county). First to be published was Sense and Sensibility. I died only 6 years later. My contribution to the English novel is a tall order. This one could write about for ever. Basically, I developed realism in new ways and directions, when the French and American and Industrial Revolutions ensured that I was living in interesting times with interesting ideas about human rights and even women’s rights, inter alia, stirring abroad. I took examples from the stage to increase spoken dialogue while retaining the advantages of narrator’s commentary. Sometimes this moves so close to what the character is thinking it is quite hard to disentangle the two, and this kind of subtlety gives a heightened reality-effect in the presentation of character and consciousness. The novel had been going since the end of the seventeenth century in England, with writers like Defoe (Robinson Crusoe), and Swift (Gulliver’s Travels), followed by Fielding (Tom Jones), Samuel Richardson (Clarissa), Laurence Sterne (Tristram Shandy)—these people are geniuses. Indeed, although more women were writing in my time, the novel was struggling out of the doldrums after the great achievements earlier in the century. My brilliant technical advances in subtlety of presentation enabled a subtler look not only at intimate emotions and the way these mesh with social processes and constraints, the workings of capitalism and the traditional social arrangements I found about me. My fairy-tale plots are set in the context of a sense of realism about how society is ordered and human behaviour. My phrasing is concise and precise, enabling me to be read as carefully as critics have traditionally read great poetry. If you find any of this useful, please do acknowledge our site as you would a book or article. You may find other answers helpful, and, due to temporary conditions, this answer will take a while to appear. Good luck!

With best wishes.

Jane Austen

September 23, 2006 17:06:28 (GMT Time)

Name:Leslie G Curtis                     Top
Question 115 In Pride and Prejudice, what did you mean when you referenced ------shire? Is it pronounced "dashesshire", or is the real name a secret?
Reply Dear Leslie,

This was one of the ploys from the early days of the novel around the turn of the 17th/18th centuries, which I was happy to inherit. It pretended to be a true and veracious account of real events with real people in. A true history of more personal and intimate kind than full-scale accounts, but still related more nearly to what in Northanger Abbey I referred to as ‘real, solemn history’ than to admitted fiction(s). I refer to '------ Street; as the place in which Lydia and Wickham are concealed as too hot a detail to be released, though I allowed the location of the lodging-house of Mrs Younge to be mentioned: ‘Edward Street’. The idea that a name must be concealed for reasons of propriety increases the reality-effect or realism of this particular instance of a genre which prides itself on having this / these feature(s).

As for pronunciation, you do have an interesting point, as I liked my novels to be read aloud where possible. ‘Blank’shire [etc.] is another possibility, but I left a leeway for personal preference here! Note also the cunning mixture of unreal or at least unexisting places which sound real, like Hunsford, Rosings and Pemberley, and their mentioned proximity to real places (London, Bakewell, Birmingham, etc.) There are real complications here which you might like to tease out! Meryton, the small town near Longbourn, doesn’t seem to be either real or to have an original to which it refers (??) but we also have a later mention of a town of ----- in Hertfordshire, a real county, of course, and to which I had already assigned many named places which seem to be 'pure fiction'.

With best wishes

Jane Austen.

August 26, 2006 15:49:50 (GMT Time)