Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cyncisim in one so young!

Jane Austen was just twelve years old when she wrote 'The Three Sisters' but, if the following extract is anything to go by, she had already developed a healthy sceptisicm for love and marriage:
I am the happiest creature in the World, for I have received an offer of marriage from Mr Watts. It is the first I have ever had and I hardly know how to value it enough...I do not intend to accept it, at least I believe not, but as I am not quite certain I gave him an equivocal answer and left him... He is quite an old Man, above two and thirty, very plain, so plain that I cannot bear to look at him. He is extremely disagreeable and I hate him more than any body else in the world. He has a large fortune and will make great Settlements on me but then he is very healthy...
Years later she had not allowed success to go to her head and appreciated her own limitations. In response to the suggestion from the Prince Regent´s Private Secretary that she write a historical romance illustrative of the history of the House of Coburg she was both firm and diplomatic in her refusal. This is the letter she wrote to James Stanier Clarke on 1st April 1916.
You are very kind in your hints as to the sort of composition which might recommend me at present, and I am fully sensible that an historical romance, founded on the House of Saxe Cobourg, might be much more to the purpose of profit or popularity than such pictures of domestic life in country villages as I deal in. But I could no more write a romance than an epic poem. I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughting at myself or other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter. No, I must keep to my own style and go on in my own way and though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other.
What courage and strength of character it must have taken to decline such an invitation!
An earlier example of Jane´s irreverent wit is revealed in this extract of a letter written to her sister Cassandra in October 1798.
Mrs Hall, of Sherborne, was brought to bed yesterday of a dead child, some weeks before she expected, owing to a fright. I suppose she happened unawares to look at her husband.
Wendy Soliman


Jan Jones said...

I just love JA's words, both in and out of her fiction.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Jan. Just think of the commercial success she would be today.


Monica Fairview said...

I love the last quote! JA was sharp as a razor. Funny how people think of her as a maiden aunt!