We are two part-time academics. Ellen teaches in the English department and Jim in the IT program at George Mason University.

Re-Drawing Austen · 8 June 05

My dear Fanny,

I want to talk further about one of the books Jim laconically described as having come into the house. This one I didn’t pay for.

Although you never, not once, not even hintingly, referred to any of Jane Austen’s novels, she referred to yours many times. She subscribed to your Camilla. She saw your son in Bath, and you knew some of her close connections. I cannot understand this. Maria (Edgeworth in case you pretend not to know) writes sneeringly of Emma, but she does write. Scott recognized something peculiarly alive in Emma and in his review of it, included astute comments on S&S and P&P (though as Jane noted he omitted MP). Richard Sheridan said P&P was the most intelligent book he’d ever read.

Did not you recognize this? Did her books seem just like dozens of others?

No matter. I write to you anyway about a new book of essays about her, even if it’s perhaps too late.

Ah, Fanny, I have had one of these rare lovely experiences of seeing myself in print in a beautiful book. Even better the two Italian editors left my piece alone—this is not common. The editor of Studies in the Novel lopped off the first two paragraphs of my "Taking Sides", forever ruining it. Now it starts with this stilted thesis statement. My essay on the four sonnets I attributed to Anne Cecil was totally fucked-up by the editors of English Literary Renaissance. They revised the language to make it duller, reversed the final paragraphs so as to blur the force of my final commentary. The Scriblerian people who have taken charge after Simon Varey’s death (he was a fine good man and genuine scholar) savaged my piece on The Georgian Image of Bath.

Oh well. Nothing to the torture and death meted out daily on this planet. And I’m not one of those who have to work physically hard for little pay and be berated and made insecure—a common happening all over the US today.

My "Continent Isolated: Anglocentricity in Austen Criticism" has appeared in Re-Drawing Austen: Picturesque Travels in Austenland edited by Beatrice Battaglia and Diego Saglia. Napoli: Liguori Editore, 2004. As is. Or as was. All ten pages of it! And footnotes too! They didn’t cut it. I thought they would. This was the original paper out of which I developed my "Continent Not Isolated: Jane Austen Among Frenchwomen.

Thank you Beatrice and Diego. Thank you. Tante grazie, grazie mille, grazie alla vostra gentilezza e vostra pazienza.

It’s splendid, beautiful materials, well-sewn, fine paper, lovely print. A picturesque framed picture in the front. On WW we’ve been talking about how important the cover is, how it frames the book and identifies itself as belonging to a given readership.

Many fine essays are in it, some with old-fashioned redolent titles: Beatrice Battaglia, "Italian Light on English Walls." I still
remember my undergraduate delight when I read Italian Landscape in Eighteenth Century England; A Study Chiefly of the Influence of Claude Lorraine and Salvator Rose on English Taste, 1700-1800 by Elizabeth Wheeler Manwaring (I still have my old copy). A thoughtful essay on Rozema’s MP and Jane Austen adaptations by Roger Sales. Janet Todd. Many Italian scholars: e.g., Marinella Rocca Longo’s "Notes on Literary Translation: An Example Based on a Short Analysis of the Language of Jane Austen." Valerie Cosy’s "Austen and Her French Readers and
Genre Again" (she wrote her dissertation on Isabelle de Montolieu—she’s the one who promised a member of WW that she’d help me in my work on Montolieu and Caroline de Lichtfield and never did). Queer Austen, Re-writing Austen, Jane Austen in Turkey, P&P in Italy, Fanny Price ("problems"—what problems? Isobel just finished MP and found none), Diego Saglia’s "Here We are At Bath," and so on and so forth.

And there am I with these people. I admit I’m chuffed. Stars who include people who have written me about my calendars trying to get me to change them: Brian Southam. I see Cora Kaplan, the latest stars in Romantic studies (Clara Truiite) and lots of small pieces like mine from people like Anne Mellor.

And then just people whose work I admire: Gary Kelly, Juliet McMaster ("Classifying the Husbands"—hey I did that on Austen-l), Mirella Billi ("Austen’s Bonnets"—I wrote about these in the films for Jim May, "Jane Austen Goes to the Movies").

Aura. Aura counts. It is probably impossible to get at Austen’s biography or books without having to take into account this aura. When I went to the NYPL exhibit of later 18th and early 19th century women, I saw plainly that Austen was simply a fine writer in a milieu, and at the time the lack of recognition of her as somehow different was right. So I understand, dear Fanny, it was not simply envy that kept you from writing the slightest recognition of Austen’s presence.

Of couse when a "person" (long dead, her world long vanished) has been turned into an object of reverence, wonder, it’s easy to mistreat and misrepresent. The book deals with this too, but then its beauty (and expense) comes out of the aura. We cannot deny that.

Not really alienated, for my Anglophilia probably saved me. It’s probably due to my Anglophilia I am sitting here typing this today. Mary Poppins in the Park and Nancy Drew did it. I even have a blue coupe in the form of my Chevrolet Cavalier.


Posted by: Ellen

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