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  4. | The Works of Jane Austen

But nobody thinks for a moment that there might be any danger at Brighton, or that something precarious might be going on there. In short, it turns out that the war is there all the time. Part of the point of the book, part of the point about this community in which all judgements are fast and mostly wrong, is that they are simply unaware of what is going on outside. Emma is extremely cocky; she believes that she is right in all her judgements. There is a lot of language in the book about how thoughtful she is of other people, how conscientious she is, of course, in taking care of her father.

But also how conscious she is, most of the time, about not offending Miss Bates, about pleasing Miss Bates. She is generous, she is caring, she is really benevolent in impulse, all of which makes it the more shocking when she allows herself to insult Miss Bates. We have heard Miss Bates saying foolish things one after another.

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The other thing that fascinates me about Emma — Austen plays this trick in other novels too, but not nearly as much as in Emma — is the degree to which she can report the most tedious possible speech and make you enjoy it. It is just the essence of boredom — if you were sitting in that room, you would go crazy with boredom, and she somehow manages to make it hilariously funny. I taught a faculty seminar on Emma at the National Humanities Center a few years ago.

We spent two weeks and four hours a day on it. The members of the seminar were assistant professors who were themselves teaching Emma in their classes — they had all taught it repeatedly.

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We had the most wonderful time, and together discovered so many new things. Everybody thought at the beginning that they knew all about Emma , and by the end, they realised that there was a lot more to know…. Persuasion is really the best of the Jane Austen books. It makes you realise that Austen was writing in the early 19th century, right along with people like Wordsworth and Coleridge, and that she was capable of having and expressing the same kinds of feeling. I reread it quite recently and was very moved by it.

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But most of it is absolutely straight. The reader is enabled to feel the beauty of autumn and participate with her in that sense of things. I think most scholars would settle on one or the other. Four out of your five choices are by Jane Austen, rather than about Jane Austen.

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That certainly seems primary. I was saying, in effect, that I would rather read Jane Austen than about her. But as your final choice you have a book about her, A Companion to Jane Austen.

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Then, when it came to thinking of a piece of criticism, it seemed so arbitrary to choose one piece of criticism. There have been a lot of good books written about Austen, from many different points of view. But it differs from many of those books in that the topics of the essays are often quite unexpected. And the scholars who are writing the essays are, without exception, among the most distinguished people writing now. Time, as he points out, is essential to this particular meeting.

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If they had come to Pemberley a day later, they would not have been admitted, because Darcy would have been there. They encounter him because they are there at just the right time. Get the weekly Five Books newsletter. To write something new about a Jane Austen novel that has been as much written about as Pride and Prejudice is quite a feat, and this is a really fresh and interesting essay.

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There are also other essays on very unexpected subjects, like Jane Austen and music, which is a record, really, of her relationship to musical instruments: her habits in practising, her conscientiousness in practising the pianoforte every morning although she was not apparently a remarkable musician and accounts of how she used music in her various writing. The book is full of things you would not have thought to wonder about; you learn about things before you even have a chance to wonder about them…. There have been a lot of biographies.

Going back to what you were saying about marriage, all these Austen novels culminate in a woman or even two women getting married.

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My problem is, what happens afterwards? I mean, once we are married? Pride and Prejudice is the only one — at the end of Pride and Prejudice the author really thinks that her central characters are going to live happily ever after. This is the view that Mrs Bennet has, and that Charlotte has — that a woman has her attractiveness, variously defined, and the man has his money, and the woman exchanges her attractiveness for his money. But the last sentence of Pride and Prejudice is about the various people who come to visit at Pemberley, and how they are welcomed. It implies a view of marriage as the centre of a community, of marriage being a community and making a larger community.

At the end of Persuasion , which I was talking about as a love story, there is a happy marriage. It is perplexing to think about. As you probably know she was proposed to, she accepted the man, she thought about it overnight and she rejected him in the morning. | The Works of Jane Austen

Five Books aims to keep its book recommendations and interviews up to date. If you are the interviewee and would like to update your choice of books or even just what you say about them please email us at editor fivebooks. Click the image below to view a sample interior spread from Pride and Prejudice. Use the pop-up arrow buttons, your mouse scroll wheel, or your left and right arrow keys to cycle through the images.

Going Downtown. As a child in Chicago, Emily Remus was enchanted by the sights and sounds of its downtown. The digital Loeb Classical Library loebclassics. The Jane Austen Annotated Editions. She strikes a deft balance between information and analysis in her notes and with supporting documents that lend historical depth to the edition, while also linking the narrative to popular culture… With this edition, readers will want to stay with these characters for as long as possible.

This handsome edition is all the richer for it. Its rich illustrations range from frontispieces and portraits to caricatures and Regency fashion plates, including a fine one for the Beaver Hat.