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Full text of "Jane Austen"

. 




JANE AUSTEN 



BY 



O. W. FIRKINS 




NEW YORK 

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 
1920 



CONTENTS 

PART I 
THE NOVELIST 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I. SENSE AND SENSIBILITY 3 

II. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE 24 

III. NORTHANGER ABBEY 49 

IV. MANSFIELD PARK 65 

V. EMMA 96 

VI. PERSUASION 116 

VII. THE GROUP OF NOVELS. . . 130 



PART II 

THE REALIST 

VIII. THE REALIST 147 

PART HI 
THE WOMAN 

IX. LIFE AND WAYS OF LIFE 177 

X. LIABILITIES AND ASSETS 206 

XI. CONCLUSION 229 

APPENDIX 241 

INDEX. . . 249 



TO JANE AUSTEN 

O THOU who to romance's sleights 
Didst come as dawn to elves and sprites, 
Replacing spectre-haunted nights 

With daylight's genial reign; 
Shrewd exorcist who couldst so well 
Romance's goblin bands expel, 
Yet keep thine own unrivalled spell, 

Incomparable Jane! 

How doth thy bodkin's slender steel 
Men's frailties and faults reveal! 
To thee Achilles is all heel, 

Thou lash of Folly's train! 
Thou scourgest tomboy, cynic, grig, 
The man whose diction is all wig, 
The snob, the autocrat, the prig, 

Inimitable Jane! 

Thou seekest truth, and when 'tis found 
Thou dost its sportive whims confound; 
The shafts, the stables, and the pound 

Shall now its pranks restrain; 
It dreads thy logic's bristling fence, 
Thy files of serried evidence, 
Thy panoplied, embattled sense, 

Irrefragable Jane! 

I know thy passion's cautious throes, 
Its timed and tactful overflows, 
Its firmly regulated glows, 
Its exemplary pain; 



viii TO JANE AUSTEN 

Oh, if a tense could court a mood, 
Or axioms propositions wooed, 
Their raptures were not more subdued, 
Inestimable Jane! 

O little world so trim and flat, 

Where Fate must straighten his cravat, 

And Death himself must use the mat, 

Ere they could entrance gain! 
Thine earth a box of mignonette, 
A bird-cage in a window set, 
A shelved and shapely cabinet, 

Inviolable Jane! 

eye of eagle and of mole, 

Thou shrewd and penetrating soul, 

Yet off thy little English knoll 

So impotent and vain; 
Satiric yet beneath thy glee 
An orgy of propriety, 
Thou riotest in decency, 

Invulnerable Jane! 

Was e'er a keen, satiric bent 
So quaintly, comically blent 
With smug and purring self-content, 

And homiletic strain? 
A Puck in cassock or a nun 
In motley art thou both or one? 
O frolic lore, surpliced fun, 

Inexplicable Jane! 

What pen could draw thee, line by line, 
With art ironic and benign, 
And truth unflawed; what pen but thine 
woman sage and sane? 



TO JANE AUSTEN ix 

I would this gladdened world might see 
Another Jane to laugh at thee, 
Rare target for rare archery, 
Irrevocable Jane! 

Lightly through time thy figure trips, 
Skirt lifted where the highway dips, 
Thy brow now crinkled, now thy lips, 

As mirth rules or disdain: 
The barred and bolted centuries 
Thou frontest with unerring keys, 
The Park, the Abbey, Emma these 

Shall swift admission gain: 
And if the porter claim a fee, 
Fling Pride or Sensibility: 
The flattered door shall ope for thee, 

Imperishable Jane! 



PART I 
THE NOVELIST 



JANE AUSTEN 

/ 

CHAPTER I 
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY 

/Sense and Sensibility* belongs to a very old type of 
story the story of brotherly (or sisterly) contrast. 
In Hebrew narrative it is as ancient as Cain and Abel, 
and receives the countenance of Jesus himself in the 
parable of the Prodigal Son and his brother. In 

* The dating of Miss Austen's novels is not altogether precise, 
but it seems generally agreed that Sense and Sensibility represents 
an earlier formation, if not an earlier date, than Pride and 
Prejudice. A review of this novel is therefore the natural intro- 
duction to a survey of her work. At the outset, however, I shall 
gratefully avail myself of the succinct and useful summary in 
which Mr. R. Brimley Johnson has snooded up, if I may risk 
the word, the dishevelment of priorities in which the composition 
and publication of Miss Austen's fictions is involved. "Pride 
and Prejudice, written between October, 1796, and August, 1797, 
first published in 1813, and a second edition the same year, 
third edition, 1817; Sense and Sensibility, written in its present 
form between November, 1797 and 1798, though a portion was 
extracted from an earlier manuscript, in the form of letters, en- 
titled Elinor and Marianne, first published in 1811, second 
edition, 1813; Northanger Abbey, written during 1798, and first 
published in 1818; Mansfield Park, written between 1811 and 
1814, and first published in 1814; second edition in 1816; Emma, 
written between 1811 and 1816, and first published in 1816; 
Persuasion, written between 1811 and 1816, and first published 
in 1818." 

3 



4 JANE AUSTEN 

classical and modern drama it lengthens chainwise 
and spreads fanwise in a long descent from Men- 
ander to Terence, from Terence to Moliere, from 
Moli^re to Sheridan (with his griding Surfaces) 
down to a success not two years old in the commer- 
cialized drama of our American metropolis. On the 
sisterly side the theme reaches at least as far back as 
Martha and Mary hi the New Testament, and comes 
down to yesterday hi the Marta y Maria of Vald6s 
and the Constance and Sophia of Arnold Bennett 
hi the Old-Wives' Tale. The Austen mark is pleas- 
antly conspicuous hi the fact that the two sisters 
contrasted in this novel are both virtuous and af- 
fectionate women; they differ only hi the degree in 
which they permit judgment to control feeling. 

The conduct of the novel is careful and successful, 
though far from blameless. Two sisters, Elinor and 
Marianne Dashwood, expecting offers of marriage 
from two young men, are forsaken by their lovers 
without declaration or explanation hi the first half of 
the book. The retirement of the two cavaliers in- 
duces a languor or slackness hi the middle of the 
narrative comparable to the effect of the departure 
of the masculine element on a social assembly. For 
this shrinkage of interest the redress offered by the 
conclusion is imperfect. 

But the stories claim a more complete analysis. 
Elinor Dashwood learns that Edward Ferrars, who 
has made tacit love to her, is bound by an early and 



SENSE AND SENSIBILITY 5 

secret engagement to a young woman of inferior 
breeding called Lucy Steele. The secret is divulged; 
the young man is promptly disinherited by his vin- 
dictive and grasping mother; and he prepares by 
marrying the girl to try how far the fulfilment of 
duty can console its victim for a blighted love and a 
vanished income. Extrication comes from a novel 
quarter; the brother who has stripped him of his in- 
heritance unexpectedly relieves him of his bride. 
The supplanter is decoyed into a secret marriage, and 
the release of Edward Ferrars is followed by his be- 
trothal to Elinor and the reluctant forgiveness of 
the thwarted mother. The average novelist would 
call this material interesting, and the author of 
Vanity Fair would have lingered and luxuriated in 
the story of the arts by which the young girl sub- 
stituted the rich brother for the poor one. Not so 
Miss Austen. She dislikes, or merely tolerates, this 
material. She is as slow in getting up to it and as 
quick in getting away from it as the decencies of the 
situation will permit. Two-thirds of the book is 
over before the divulging of the engagement which 
would start the interest for the average reader is ac- 
complished, and the decisive events are narrated at 
second-hand hi the briefest summary in the impatient 
conclusion of a somewhat leisurely and ambling tale. 
The haste was probably due in part to Miss Austen's 
discontent with the makeshift expedient by which she 
cleared the path of Elinor and Edward to their de- 



6 JANE AUSTEN 

ferred and improbable happiness. She was also not 
indisposed to evade the direct treatment of crises, 
as her management of the Lydia-Wickham affair in 
Pride and Prejudice clearly shows. 

The conduct of the other story is subject to equal, 
if different, strictures. John Willoughby leaves 
Marianne Dashwood without making the offer to 
which his whole behavior has served as prelude and 
promise. Marianne follows him to London. Her 
disillusion is then effected by a series of incidents 
which are not uninteresting, but are at once so 
obvious and so meagre as to retard the speed and 
contract the volume of the narrative. Another suitor 
has been provided for Marianne hi the person of an 
amiable and melancholy Colonel, twice her age and 
the object, at his first introduction, of her untiring 
and unsparing raillery. The renovation of Colonel 
Brandon in the esteem of Marianne might have 
seemed a seductive theme to a novelist who in Pride 
and Prejudice was to lavish time and pains on the 
rehabilitation of the rejected and discredited Darcy. 
But in Sense and Sensibility Miss Austen has stayed 
her hand. The embellishment of the Colonel is in- 
cidental and perfunctory; it consists chiefly in his 
bestowal of a rectory upon Edward Ferrars a point 
of only indirect concern to Marianne and his fetch- 
ing of Mrs. Dashwood to her daughter's sick-bed. 
The courtship is unhesitatingly shirked ; Miss Austen, 
for all her implacable worldly sense, may have been 



SENSE AND SENSIBILITY 7 

woman enough to shrink from detailing a process by 
which a young girl was induced to marry a middle- 
aged gentleman who is the domicile I had almost 
said the sepulchre of all the virtues. 

Sickness is a classic expedient for reviving our 
interest in heroines who are slipping into insignifi- 
cance, and Miss Austen likes sickness for its own 
sake; she delights in its respectability. Accordingly 
Marianne, who seems likely to fall into abeyance in 
the last third of the story, is saved from this calamity 
by taking to her bed. It is only fair to this illness 
to note that it disappears with the most obliging 
celerity as soon as it has accomplished the rather 
trifling errand for which its presence was invoked. 
That Marianne should be sick in a house not her 
own whence the whole family, with the exception of a 
grandmother who is half a guest, have fled at the 
mere pronunciation of the name "typhus," appears 
forced in an author so studious of the normal as Miss 
Austen. The change of domicile is intended chiefly 
to provide an excuse for a penitential visit on the 
part of the mercurial and dashing Willoughby. He 
makes an explanation to the placable Elinor which 
he has the impudence, and Miss Austen the courage, 
to present as a defense of his behavior. 

The two stories, as the outline shows, are essen- 
tially distinct; they are bound together after a fashion, 
however, by the intimacy of the two sisters who 
scarcely leave each other's sides, and there are one 



8 JANE AUSTEN 

or two secondary ligatures. Colonel Brandon, for 
instance, who is Marianne's suitor, is destined for 
Elinor by the prevalent opinion of the circle in which 
they move. As we have seen, it is Colonel Brandon 
who provides the rectory for Edward Ferrars. The 
interval between the two plots is lessened, or at 
least blurred, by the likeness of the two situations 
and the identical moral which is deduced from the 
contrasted behavior of the two sisters. I may re- 
mark here that the difference between Elinor and 
Marianne, whether in conduct or fortune, is probably 
not so wide as Miss Austen in the zeal of tutorship 
intended that it should be. Marianne's palpable 
indiscretions, the private excursions and the letters 
to Willoughby, are productive of no palpable mis- 
fortune. Her real error consists hi the surrender of 
her heart without guarantees, and the guarded 
and provident Elinor has made the same mistake. 
A few months of anguish is the sum total of Mari- 
anne's penalty, and the endurance of a very little 
less is all the reward that Elinor reaps for the per- 
severing exercise of the whole troop of circum- 
spect and heedful virtues. It may be said in Miss 
Austen's defense that the support her narrative 
gives to the virtues is no more uncertain or unequal 
than the support they commonly receive from that 
lukewarm and hesitating moralist that we call life. 
To return to the handling of the story. The volume 
of the two plots is small, and the reader who recalls 



SENSE AND SENSIBILITY 9 

the plethora of minor incident, the incessant meet- 
ings and partings, the fuss and bustle, which mark 
the London section of the novel will be puzzled to 
relate this superflux of exertion to this shortage of 
accomplishment. The truth is that Miss Austen's 
main end is the exhibition of life and character for 
their own sake, and her specialty is not the great 
scene hardly even the deciding or impelling scene 
but the normal social occasion. The multiplying 
of these occasions without too rigid a scrutiny of 
their actual contribution to the outcome has resulted 
in a feebler story and a better novel. It is notable 
that side by side with this slackness in the pursuit 
of relevance there is an extreme, almost an ex- 
travagant, interest hi the development of minor 
trains of consequence. Here is a little catena. First, 
John Dashwood meets his sister Elinor in a jeweler's 
shop. Second, he calls on her the next day. Third, 
he asks Elinor to take him to the Middletons. 
Fourth, he recommends his wife to call on the Mid- 
dletons. Fifth, his wife complies. Sixth, friendli- 
ness results. Seventh, the Dashwoods invite Lady 
Middleton to their home, where Mrs. Ferrars is 
staying. Eighth, the Misses Steele, who have been 
invited to stay with Lady Middleton, hasten their 
acceptance. Ninth, they are included in the Dash- 
wood invitation. Tenth, Lucy Steele meets Mrs. 
Ferrars. Miss Austen revels in this sort of general- 
ship; her own temper has points of contact with 



10 JANE AUSTEN 

that of the satirized Mrs. Jennings. On the other 
hand, Colonel Brandon's supposed courtship of 
Elinor has almost no bearing on the outcome of 
the story. Willoughby's seduction of Colonel Bran- 
don's ward is material only in the clearer revelation 
it affords of the infamies of that young wastrel's 
character. The utility of the Palmers appears to 
be confined to the provision of a house in which 
Marianne can be sick, the Colonel assiduous, and 
Willoughby histrionic. If Miss Austen had been a 
man, she would have enjoyed the vocation of a 
courier. To see people from place to place, to pro- 
vide for their entrances and exits, and to get as much 
out of them as an adroit use of these opportunities 
permits would have given point and vivacity to life. 
Miss Austen is unable or unwilling to dispense 
with the friendly offices of coincidence. Coincidence 
had not in her day fallen into that sere and yellow 
leaf to which the frost of latter-day criticism has 
reduced the green of its abundant foliage. In this 
novel Mr. Robert Ferrars is seen by chance hi a 
jeweler's shop. Mr. John Dashwood is seen, equally 
by chance, in the same place. Edward and Lucy call 
on Elinor by chance at the same time. The en- 
counter of the man-servant with Lucy Ferrars at 
Exeter is one of those alms of destiny to which the 
poverty of novelists is perennially grateful. I may 
add that the servant's mistake as to the identity of 
the bridegroom is one of those borrowings from 



SENSE AND SENSIBILITY 11 

farce which a novelist of Miss Austen's calibre in 
our own time would find incompatible with self- 
respect. Far worse is the misunderstanding between 
Mrs. Jennings and Elinor hi Chapter XL, where 
Elinor is talking about the gift of a rectory and Mrs. 
Jennings about an offer of marriage. Here the stale 
devices which realists contemptuously allow to 
farce prolong through a conference of appreciable 
length a misconception to which the bluntness of 
actuality would have put an end hi sixty seconds. 

I pass to an estimate of the characters. Elinor 
Dashwood is the personification of good sense and 
right feeling, and the instructress by precept and 
example of her impetuous and incautious mother and 
sister. The hardships of such a position are manifest, 
and nothing less than Miss Austen's wit and vitality 
could have extricated Elinor from the straits into 
which she is thrown by Miss Austen's irrepressible 
didacticism. "He really is not disgusting," said 
Gwendolen Harleth of Grandcourt, and insisted that 
the praise was generous for a man. The critic is 
half disposed to say of Elinor Dashwood: " She really 
is not disagreeable," and to say that for a paragon of 
discretion the praise is munificent. Our liking passes 
through crises at every turn, and its final safety is a 
form of miracle. The reader is aided by the fact 
that under Miss Austen's convoy he takes up his 
abode in the mind of Elinor, and a well-bred person 
feels a difficulty in quarreling with his hostess. 



12 JANE AUSTEN 

Elinor, moreover, has strong affections and even 
keen sensibilities, though, like captive princesses, the 
most they can do is to flutter a signal or drop a rose 
through the gratings of the tower in which her judg- 
ment has confined them. Possibly another help is 
her practical helplessness in many cases. Her temper 
is less rigid than her ideal, or what we may venture to 
call her own version of her temper. She seems, at 
first sight, a bureau, an official headquarters, to 
which all questions are automatically referred for 
instant and final adjudication. But, however rigid 
her judgment, her conduct abounds in compliances. 
Elinor accompanies Marianne to London against 
her judgment. She is diplomatic in her treatment of 
her brother, of Fanny Dashwood, of the gadfly Lucy 
and of the buzz-fly Miss Steele. She does not openly 
protest against Marianne's letters to Willoughby. 
She accepts the hospitality of the Palmers hi opposi- 
tion to her initial prejudice. She hears Willoughby 
after her indignant refusal to hear him, and, by one 
of the subtlest touches hi the book, allows herself to 
be swayed hi his favor by the romantic charm of his 
person and manners. Miss Austen is after all so 
much wiser than her superflux of wisdom would 
suggest. The truth is that the novelist is as in- 
tensely social as she is conscientious, and if the 
essence of conscience is inflexibility, the essence of 
society is compromise. The rational woman is 
provisionally rational and ultimately woman. 



SENSE AND SENSIBILITY 13 

Elinor is much better than her ungrateful role; 
Marianne is not quite so good as her vocation. She 
is imagined strongly, but thinly and brokenly as it 
were. She suffers from that glaze of formality which 
in Miss Austen's work overlays the really formal and 
the really informal characters alike. The twen- 
tieth century hardly knows what to do with a young 
woman to whom apostrophes of this type are feasi- 
ble: 

And you, ye well-known trees but you will continue the 

same. No leaf will decay because we are removed, nor any 

branch become motionless although we can observe you no 
longer. 

In lines like these the satirized Mrs. Radcliffe is 
vindicated or avenged. Even where the heart is 
stirred, the creaking of the eighteenth-century stays 
in which its throbbings are confined is distinctly 
audible. 

" Nor I," answered Marianne with energy; " our situations 
then are alike. We have neither of us anything to tell; you, 
because you communicate, and I, because I conceal nothing." 

The pitiless Taine remarked of Pope's Eloisa 
to Abelard that Abelard would have cried out 
"Bravo" at certain passages, and on reaching the 
end would have reversed the letter to see if "For 
press" were not added to the superscription. If 
Marianne wrote as she talks, one could almost for- 
give a similar levity in Willoughby. 



14 JANE AUSTEN 

Deep passion is not Miss Austen's strong point, 
and Marianne's suffering has the vague though real 
impressiveness of a house of mourning which the 
spectator views from the remoteness of the pave- 
ment. As her business is largely to suffer, the re- 
sulting exclusion is considerable. The need of keep- 
ing her imprudences within strictly respectable 
limits has shortened the span of the character, and, 
as I have already intimated, her speedy recovery 
does not conduce to the energy of the thesis. 

The first effect of Willoughby, as he comes dashing 
into the story with spurs jingling and bridle-bells 
tinkling, like a youthful chevalier, is distinct and 
promising. But with this first sharpness of impres- 
sion Miss Austen's proficiency ceases. Her knowl- 
edge of a bad man was decorously limited. George 
Eliot in Tito or Grandcourt would spell you out a 
bad man, word for word and letter for letter; Miss 
Austen keeps warily aloof from the lip of the crater. 
She knows Willoughby's manners and that part of 
his temperament to which manners are the clew. 
She is not withheld by any visible squeamishness. 
Her account of Willoughby's worst offense is handled 
with a frankness and a discretion and an absence of 
any consciousness of either frankness or discretion 
which, in relation to her sex and epoch, is notable 
and laudable. The awe, the mystery, which encircle 
sex are entirely absent; her disapproval is emphatic, 
but her coolness is immovable. Willoughby is a 



SENSE AND SENSIBILITY 15 

trumpery character. The curvettings and bridlings 
with which he dashes upon the stage in the outset of 
the story arouse a distrust which is rather confirmed 
than lessened by the final caracole of his repentance. 
Miss Austen leaves us at last with the impression 
that his desertion of Marianne and his betrayal of 
Eliza are criminal at best, and that, in an unpolished 
or unhandsome man, they would have been totally 
unforgivable. 

Edward Ferrars is placed in direct contrast to 
Willoughby. Willoughby is gloss without sub- 
stance; Edward is substance without gloss. The 
difficulty with Edward is that the absence of plumage 
is so much more demonstrable than the presence of 
marrow. Edward has the ill luck to be compelled 
always to carry a shyness which needs no nursing 
into situations which supply it with the most liberal 
encouragement. He is inactive and largely invisible; 
and when he is dragged upon the stage by the in- 
exorable Miss Austen, his chief aim is to conceal his 
mind from the friends to whom he has been obliged 
to expose his person. His adhesion to the pestiferous 
Lucy seems a dismal if not a truckling type of virtue, 
and the American reader is not propitiated by his 
naive view of the ministry as a steppingstone to a 
living in the double sense of a rectory and a livelihood. 
It is quite true that in this view of the church as a 
refectory he has the cordial support of his patroness, 
Miss Austen. 



16 JANE AUSTEN 

Colonel Brandon is the last of the three men in the 
story to whom the office of lover and suitor is com- 
mitted. He is hampered in this function by an 
accumulation of years which exposes him to the 
contempt of romantic young women of eighteen. 
Colonel Brandon is thirty-five, and the touch of 
rheumatism from which he suffers is confessed by 
the novelist with a candor which may be classed with 
the heroisms not to say the heroics of conscien- 
tious realistic treatment. That touch of rheuma- 
tism is felt hi Colonel Brandon's gait throughout 
the story. He is a very good, indeed a very efficient, 
man, if the only sound test, the test of deeds, be 
applied to his character, but we feel always that 
he is bandaged. He is the most recurrent, yet the 
most unobtrusive, of characters, and the reader 
starts at the perception of his arrival as he might at 
the discovery of the nearness of some quiet person 
who had entered the room on tiptoe. Even at the 
very end of the tale he can hardly be said to have 
laid aside his muffler; we know the facts, but we do 
not know the man. It is natural that he should be 
drawn to Marianne rather than to Elinor, between 
whom and himself is the obvious bond and the 
impalpable barrier of a precise conformity of tastes 
and principles. It is not so easy to understand his 
final conquest of Marianne even with the aid of a 
proviso that Marianne accepts him in the first in- 
stance on the unromantic basis of grateful friendship 



SENSE AND SENSIBILITY 17 

and esteem. Discretion that is to be made amiable 
to indiscretion might surely assume a livelier and 
courtlier shape than it wears in the sedate almost 
the lugubrious Colonel. 

Miss Austen's tolerance of inconsistency is evident 
hi the changes undergone by two characters, Mrs. 
Jennings and Mr. Palmer, hi the shifting exigencies 
of a varied novel. Mrs. Jennings as we first see her, 
is a vulgar gossip, wholly foolish and wholly con- 
temptible. In the course of the story she becomes a 
convenience to Miss Austen, and Miss Austen is too 
robustly English to view any convenience with un- 
qualified contempt. Mrs. Jennings is revamped. 
Her cheap good-nature is changed to an endearing 
benevolence; the folly which had pervaded and con- 
stituted her character is reduced to a tincture that 
makes her virtues pardonable by making them 
diverting. The change in Mr. Palmer, while much 
less conspicuous, is even more violent. When we 
are first introduced to this extraordinary person, the 
only characteristic he exhibits is a brutal and super- 
cilious rudeness, and that characteristic is pushed 
to an extreme from which anybody but a demure and 
discreet clergyman's daughter engaged in the writing 
of realistic novels would have shrunk. Later on, 
when Mr. Palmer has a chance to be useful, half his 
brutality is obliterated at a stroke. These alterations 
are instructive. In Miss Austen's comic delineations 
the character is spitted on a trait, and the trait is 



18 JANE AUSTEN 

abnormally sharpened for the due performance of 
this trenchant office. This may pass, if the handling 
is brief and includes no diversity of functions. A 
person may stand on his peculiarities, as he may 
stand on the tips of his toes, for a little while, if he is 
content to do practically nothing else. But there is 
nothing like prolonged contact for the taming of 
superlatives, and nothing like variety of function for 
abatement of the rankness of caricature. Miss 
Austen's changes are tacit acknowledgments that 
the unrevised Mrs. Jennings and Mr. Palmer were 
libelous. 

This confession really involves the whole prolific 
and interesting group of characters in Miss Austen for 
which the formula is the raising of a single trait to 
the highest power and the iteration of that trait 
with tireless insistence. People are not like that, 
whatever Smollett and Dickens and Miss Austen 
may think. The arbitrary modification of full- 
blown or full-grown characters is one of the artistic 
sins that spot the record of Dickens. I will take an 
illustration from that novel of Dickens which repe- 
rusal has lately freshened hi my memory, the Tale 
of Edwin Drood. The lawyer, Mr. Grewgious, hi that 
book is pure fool and butt hi the extravagant and 
irrational scene in which he is first introduced to the 
amused but protesting reader. Later on, Mr. Grew- 
gious's help is wanted by Dickens in some rather 
delicate transactions in the conduct of which a char- 



SENSE AND SENSIBILITY 19 

acter and brain are indispensable. The equipment 
of Mr. Grewgious with these desiderata is carried 
out without hesitation or delay. Unsightly tricks 
of this sort excite the liveliest indignation hi admirers 
of the authoress of Sense and Sensibility. 

Mrs. Jennings has two daughters, Lady Middle- 
ton and Mrs. Palmer. They are like each other only 
in their brainlessness, Lady Middleton's folly taking 
the form of an mane silence, Mrs. Palmer's that of 
inane speech. Mrs. Palmer is the smarter perform- 
ance, Lady Middleton the truer success. Mrs. 
Palmer's drivel is incessant and her good-nature is 
swashing, but beside her husband and she is tactful 
enough never to leave his side her very insipidities 
are lustrous. Lady Middleton has not the air of the 
woman of fashion she is presumed to be, at least 
not of the woman of high fashion; the middk tone hi 
her, if I may venture the pun, is very noticeable. 
But the suggestion of well-bred and tranquil in- 
eptitude by a very few strokes is expert; and as her 
specialty is silence she is not subject to that con- 
tinuity hi self-betrayal which is the retribution of 
loquacity in Miss Austen. Her husband, Sir John 
Middleton, is described by Goldwin Smith as "half- 
way between Squire Western and the country 
gentleman of the present day." This is gracious, 
almost obsequious, to Squire Western. Possibly as a 
social datum it might be approved by a committee 
of historians, but I find nothing hi my own impres- 



20 JANE AUSTEN 

sion of Sir John to indorse it. I cannot think, with 
Goldwin Smith, that the character is hinged on its 
vulgarity. The hinge is brainless good-nature, and 
in the deft though sparse drawing I seem to feel that 
this good-nature is reciprocated by Miss Austen, 
who is less violent than usual in her chastisement of 
the brainlessness. 

Fanny Dashwood is inhumanly simplified, and 
the same process that robs her of nature endows her 
with liveliness, if not with life. Her business is to 
clutch at property and to maltreat her husband's rel- 
atives, and in the pursuit of this vocation she is not al- 
lowed even those passing furloughs which Thackeray 
permits to Blanche Amory or Becky Sharp. John 
Dashwood, her husband, is a curious study. In 
him the crudities and delicacies of Miss Austen's 
handiwork are seen in operation side by side. He is 
a fool who talks; that is tantamount to saying that 
he is his own target, and his marksmanship is so 
expert that he is left at the end of the exhibition com- 
pletely riddled by his own bullets. The crudity 
lies hi that uniformity of method which never per- 
mits him to open his mouth without, so to speak, 
swallowing his own character. The delicacy lies 
hi the art with which his own view of his character 
is suggested at the same time that the utter falsity 
of that view is laid bare to the least wakeful reader. 
The ground, the texture, of his character is selfish- 
ness and worldly greed, but there is a lining of de- 



SENSE AND SENSIBILITY 21 

cency, humanity, and self-respect, and the lining 
is very thick and very soft. That is the delicate and 
worthy task to portray inside of the fool and knave 
the man who is like ourselves hi every point but 
the excess of his knavery and folly. The combina- 
tion of abilities and ineptitudes in John Dashwood is 
mysterious. Here is a man of excellent business 
judgment, of perfect social tranquillity, of faultless 
ease in the handling of unexceptionable English; 
yet he is the dupe of the flimsiest pretenses and blind 
even to those inconsistencies which his own circle 
must have trained itself to perceive. He complains 
of poverty in the same breath hi which he offers 
proofs of riches. He thinks a woman who invites 
two girls to spend a few weeks at her house hi London 
is under a moral obligation to remember them hi her 
will. I have no first-hand knowledge of England; 
hi America folly is more symmetrical. 

To Mrs. Dashwood, the mother, who is an un- 
regenerate, or, if the reader pleases, an undegenerate, 
Marianne, Miss Austen is, for tactical reasons, 
rather inattentive; but the brand of truth which she 
exhibits seems to me more delicate than that which 
I find in the fuller portraitures of the younger 
women. The two daughters are encumbered by the 
necessity of serving at the same tune as the poles of an 
antithesis and the stays of a thesis; Mrs. Dashwood 
has the leisure and freedom to be herself. 

I am not sure but the best-drawn character in the 



22 JANE AUSTEN 

book is Lucy Steele. She finds the spot of vindictive- 
ness in the gentlest reader, for her business through- 
out the book is to provide distress for Edward Fer- 
rars and Elinor Dashwood, to the first of whom she 
serves as barnacle, to the second as gadfly. An early 
and heedless engagement has bound the scrupulous 
and submissive Edward to this incubus, and placed 
his honor between him and his later and lasting love 
for Elinor Dashwood. Lucy Steele is single-minded, 
courageous, and resolute. She is without manners, 
without affection, and without conscience. She is 
capable of meanness, hypocrisy, and treachery. At 
the same time it is impossible to detect in Lucy the 
smallest trace of harlotry, of Bohemianism, or of 
disorder. She is privateer, but not buccaneer. Her 
means and her ends alike find harborage within the 
securities and the decorums those securities and 
decorums which so often serve as shelter to worse 
deeds than the deeds to which they serve as barrier. 
A Frenchman could not have so neatly separated the 
manoeuverer from the adventuress. 

We see Lucy only in her relations with Elinor 
Dashwood relations in which her confidences are 
unmeasured, her attitude dissembling, and her 
Jesuitry extraordinary. In the skill with which she 
is drawn there are occasional lacunae. Lucy is sup- 
posed to talk bad English, but the stuff or tissue 
of which her English is composed is not bad at all. 
On the contrary, it is very good English upon which 



SENSE AND SENSIBILITY 23 

patches of vile English have been purposely and in- 
expertly sewed. A second mistake, already men- 
tioned, is the final stroke by which Lucy, having 
jilted Edward to marry Robert, allows Elinor to 
imagine that the marriage has gone forward without 
change of bridegrooms. This seems an overdraft 
on the badness of a character which has met all its 
obligations to the evil principle with the most com- 
mendable punctuality and exactness. The stroke, 
even if natural, seems artistically wrong. A touch of 
malignity is as injurious to the artistic perfection of 
the pure self-seeking embodied in Lucy Steele as a 
touch of benignity would have been. 

Lucy has a sister, Anne Steele, a scatterbrain, 
frankly vulgar, who may be said to reek with good- 
nature. Her conversation is an unceasing current 
in which she not merely swims but splashes. She is 
drawn with a precision which by no means excludes 
gusto. Robert Ferrars, on whom Lucy is finally 
bestowed, has every claim to that privilege which im- 
becility and vanity can confer. He is hacked out with 
the broad-axe, but the vigor of the axeman's stroke 
is unmistakable. 



CHAPTER II 
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE 

I INCLINE to rank Pride and Prejudice among the 
best-plotted novels in English literature. This is far 
from holding it to be impeccable. It is unfortunately 
true that a novel need not be faultless need not 
be free from grave faults, to be classed with the best- 
woven fabrics of the clumsy English looms. English 
novelists commonly write on the grand scale which 
makes the correlation of particulars difficult and irk- 
some, and in general they are eager or preoccupied. 
Like the man who had been so busy in making money 
that he had wanted time to think about finance, they 
have been so lost in narrative that they have almost 
forgotten plot; and their forethought, when it has 
existed, has been moral and intellectual rather than 
artistic. Even the aesthetic re-quickening in the 
last years of the nineteenth century came almost 
too late for the amelioration of their plots. They 
found themselves ready to appropriate the patterns 
of their continental masters at the very time when 
those masters were preparing to teach them that art 
is truth and that truth is patternless. Accordingly, 
a strong, definite, and shapely plot, like that of Pride 
and Prejudice, has never lacked the pedestal of isola- 

24 



PRIDE AND PREJUDICE 25 

tion. For the most part the English have muddled 
through in novel-writing as hi war. Lovers of liter- 
ature will find solace hi the thought that hi the mili- 
tary field the habit has not acted as preventive to 
Blenheims and Trafalgars. 

The plot of Pride and Prejudice belongs to that 
admirable class hi which two processes, a flux and 
reflux, of approximately equal length and strength, 
are parted hi the middle by a crest or equinox in 
which the first process finds an end and the second 
a beginning. This is the type which proved so 
captivating to the imagination of Gustave Freytag 
that he was decoyed into the error of making it an 
imperative formula for tragic drama. In Miss Aus- 
ten's novel, Elizabeth Bennet accumulates dislike of 
Darcy throughout a volume; throughout a second 
volume she accumulates love; the arch finds its 
beautifully poised keystone in the rejection scene in 
which her aversion touches its acme. The manner of 
these changes is highly characteristic. The word 
" process" which I have applied to the movements is 
inexact, they are no more processes than a flight of 
steps or a series of ledges is an incline. The gradu- 
ated is achievable by Miss Austen, but not the grad- 
ual. Elizabeth, in the first volume, collects evidence 
of Darcy 's wickedness; in the second she collects 
evidence of his worth: and this evidence comes not 
hi grams but hi blocks. As soon as the rebuttal is 
complete, so strict a logician cannot delay the be- 



26 JANE AUSTEN 

stowal of the hand which is the irrefutable Q. E. D. 
Yet it is by no means unpleasing or unexciting to 
watch the deliberate movements of the crane by 
which block after block is swung into its due place in 
the massive lines of Miss Austen's geometric masonry. 
The mingled correspondence and opposition hi the 
two movements is worth noting. The inexcusable 
rudeness of Darcy to Elizabeth hi volume first leaves 
a bruise to which a series of delicate courtesies in 
volume second applies the counteractive and appeas- 
ing salve. A scandalous count hi the indictment 
against him in the first hah" of the book is his in- 
justice and malignity toward an angelic personage 
called Wickham. In the second hah" we are informed 
that the object of these persecutions is a worthless 
ingrate on whom generosities have been vainly 
lavished. But the crowning offense in Darcy is his 
interference with the thriving mutual attachment of 
his friend Bingley and Elizabeth's sister Jane. This 
act is not only revoked hi the second volume, but 
is more than counterpoised by an act of magnanimity 
toward another sister by which a prostrate reputation 
is placed not on its feet indeed, but on crutches, and 
repairs are effected in the highly reparable honor of 
the unexacting Bennet clan. The equation is not 
precise; precision would outrun nature. Even the 
general plan of the two movements is a departure 
from the truth, and owes all its brilliant virtuosity 
to the imposition on life of a symmetrical elegance 






PRIDE AND PREJUDICE 27 

to which life itself is uncompromisingly hostile. Of 
itself, it would block Miss Austen's claim to the title 
of an inexorable realist. 

The differences in merit between Sense and Sensi- 
bility and Pride and Prejudice are emphasized in one 
point by the similarity of then* materials. There are 
two sisters with two parallel love-affairs in both 
novels. But in Sense and Sensibility the union of the 
stories has little other basis than the union of the 
heroines, as if two lapdogs became companions 
rather than partners through the fact that their mis- 
tresses were inseparable. In Pride and Prejudice, on 
the other hand, the two stories are virtually one; 
they not only interlace; they interlock. Darcy, hi 
destroying the happiness of Jane by the removal of 
Bingley (who, it may be incidentally remarked, is 
almost as removable as a joint-stool), has ruined his 
own prospects with the justly resentful Elizabeth, 
and his sanction of the renewal of Bingley's addresses 
to Jane is the prelude to the establishment of his own 
happiness. There is another point in which the two 
stories are superficially alike, but artistically differ- 
ent. In the middle of Sense and Sensibility the two 
cavaliers ride away; the interest slackens, almost 
languishes; and there is a "moated grange " effect in 
the forsaken cottage to which the name "Marianne" 
seems charmingly apposite. In Pride and Prejudice, 
likewise, the two heroes betake themselves to Lon- 
don, but the threat of languor for the story implicit 



28 JANE AUSTEN 

in this step is dispelled by the promptitude with 
which Darcy is recalled to the proscenium. It may 
be noted as a symptom of the times that the modest 
and discreet Jane pursues the fleeing suitor to London 
almost as promptly as the headlong and reckless 
Marianne. The maxim that "To the victor belong 
the spoils" appears to have regulated the conduct of 
the most exemplary young women of the period. ^ 
In Pride and Prejudice the fabric is minute. Ob- 
^/ serve the dense packing and close coherence of the 
little incidents which precede and provoke Darcy's 
final declaration to Elizabeth. Bingley becomes en- 
gaged to Jane. This brings Darcy and Elizabeth 
into contact. To gossiping countrysides one marriage 
suggests another. The report passes from the Lu- 
cases who belong to that countryside to their rel- 
atives, the Collinses, and from the Collinses to 
Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Lady Catherine visits 
Elizabeth to bully her into a refusal. Elizabeth 
betrays a willingness to accept. Lady Catherine, 
visiting Darcy, unwittingly allows him to divine this 
willingness. Darcy renews his proposal, and is ac- 
cepted. 

This is more than care: it is elaboration. It in- 
/ 

dicates not merely a love of good plots but a love of 
plotting. Meredith's plots have a similar careful 
minuteness, but the enjoyment they might afford 
to the reader is nullified by the onus of unravelling 
their complications. Miss Austen's admirable clear- 



PRIDE AND PREJUDICE 29 

V 

headedness makes even her minuteness lucid. The 
Gardiners are entirely subordinate, but they are en- 
listed hi the plot three times; they serve as hosts to 
Jane, as escorts to Elizabeth, as helpers to Lydia. An 
ordinary novelist would have treated such auxiliaries 
as porters or hackmen to be changed at every station. | 
When Mr. Collins marries Miss Lucas, that might 
serve as his conge from the novel at the hands of the 
easygoing, shiftless storyteller. Not so with Miss 
Austen. Further service is to be extracted from Mr. 
Collins. Elizabeth's visit to his wife becomes the 
occasion for Darcy's first proposal, and his value as a 
medium for the transmission of Longbourn gossip 
to Lady Catherine has been noted in a former para- 
graph. 

But if Miss Austen's care hi the provision of se- 
quences is unresting, I cannot affirm that her choice 
of ligatures is always sound. The means by which 
Jane and even Elizabeth are made to spend a night 
or more under Bingley's roof may be called un- 
scrupulous, but they are modesty itself in com- 
parison with the effrontery of the methods by which 
Elizabeth of all persons is conveyed into the grounds 
at Pemberley, yes, even into the unmitigated pres- 
ence of Mr. Darcy himself. Still, even where Miss 
Austen is brazen, she is careful according to her 
lights. To rationalize the visit to Derbyshire, Mrs. 
Gardiner was long before appointed to be born and 
bred in that county, and an effect of innocence is 



30 JANE AUSTEN 



given to the choice of that district as a destination 
by making it a reluctant second choice. The ball at 
Netherfield Park illustrates both the skill and the 
heedlessness of the writer. To make Darcy's con- 
duct hi deporting Bingley excusable, two things are 
requisite: he must be convinced of Jane's indiffer- 
ence and of the hopeless vulgarity of the vulgar 
members of the Bennet family. The second of these 
objects is obtained with admirable foresight, but the 
first, which is even more important, is ignored. In- 
deed, two points hi Jane's behavior make for a con- 
clusion precisely opposite to that which it is needful 
to implant in Darcy's mind, and the elasticity x of 
the term "gentleman" hi Miss Austen's day is 
proved by his pursuit of his unchivalrous object 
without forfeiture of that title. 

In a review of the characters in Pride and Preju- 
dice the Bennet family merits the first place. A 
family, as Americans understand that term, they are 
not; they are a congeries. They are bedded and 
boarded in the same enclosure, but a family life is 
iinimaginable in their case. Even under the double 
disadvantage of the father's neglect and the mother's 
attention it is difficult to conceive that Kitty and 
Lydia should have sprung from the same stem of 
which Jane and Elizabeth were the primary off- 
shoots. Sisters may be as far apart morally as 
Goneril and Cordelia, as far apart intellectually as 
Dorothea and Celia Brooke; but, if reared in one 



PRIDE AND PREJUDICE 31 

household, they can hardly differ in manners as 
Rosalind differs from Audrey in As You Like It or 
as Romola differs from Tessa in George Eliot's 
Florentine story. Breeding, being more superficial, 
is more teachable and less variable than either in- 
tellect or character. The two eldest and the two 
youngest sisters in the Bennet household are divided 
by an incongruity of this type. 

Mr. Bennet is well drawn, though sometimes he 
seems little more than a salver for his own pleasan- 
tries. The appearance is unjust. He has a character 
apart from his witticisms, but he and his witticisms 
are practically inseparable, and hi their seductive 
and distracting company his character, though 
visible, is hardly seen. No one ever joked better, 
but his jazy^tatorftn cc is more characteristic than his 
wit, which is almost too consummate to be individ- 
ual. One imagines his wit, when not springing, to be 
always couchant for a spring, or rather perhaps one 
imagines his condition between jokes to be syncope. 
He is described interestingly enough as an odd mix- 
ture of "quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and 
caprice," and one can imagine that in a richer soil 
and sunnier climate he might have matched felicities 
with the Bromfield Corey of Mr. Howells's Rise of 
Silas Lapham. But Mr. Bennet's lot was less for- 
tunately cast, amid earthier and grosser conditions, 
op a social order in which the farm-horse took the 
to fashionable parties. He is overridden with 



32 JANE AUSTEN 

women woman-rid as the schoolmaster whom 
Charles Lamb avoided and pitied was boy-rid. A 
little henpecked fry fris wifp, he finds hi irony both 
solace and revenge; in his encounters with herTie is 
perfectly secure^of an absolutely ineffectual victory, 
since his shafts, though unerringly aimed, are stopped 
by the cuirass of her insensibility. I think we should 
be more comfortable with Mr. Bennet if he had less 
to do or did more; he reaps the guilt, without the 
grace, of nonchalance. His indignation at his 
daughter's elopement is vehement but short-lived, 
and the baseness of his new son-in-law supplies his 
returning levity with a fresh target. Idleness, the 
least active of passions, is perhaps finally master of 
the swiftest and fieriest of its competitors. I think 
there are possibilities of delicacy, of pathos, in Mr. 
Bennet which his creator lacked the power to exploit; 
a century later, a more intuitive Miss Austen would 
have drawn a more intimate Mr. Bennet. 

The character of Mrs. Bennet illustrates the 
firmness and sureness of Miss Austen's hand. It 
illustrates no less clearly the utter want of temper- 
ance, of shading, almost of decency, in her satirical 
delineations. It is brilliant and it is garish. Many 
women have had follies akin to Mrs. Bennet's, but 
no live woman ever devoted herself to the quite 
superfluous task of proving that she was a fool with 
the perseverance and assiduity of Mrs. Bennet. 
The wariest of fools are off their guard sometimes . 



PRIDE AND PREJUDICE 33 

they stray into remarks which would be conceivable 
on the lips of intelligence. There is a neutral ground 
between wit and folly in which perhaps both wit and 
folly spend the greater part of their time. Miss 
Austen scores every minute with Mrs. Bennet, and 
at the end of the book her recompense is a splendid 
score rather than a human being. With her usual 
ruthlessness Miss Austen will allow Mrs. Bennet 
nothing; motherly feeling is conceded only in the 
form of a weakness. The woman has undoubtedly 
strengttij>f_aHnd tne strength olj^ undivided" 
"nature. Counsel, experience, suffering, leave no 
f her prepossessions? She is a 



'consummate jjxMbit^ but sjbie^ is hardly a char- 

acter. 



Jane is probably commemorative the liquidation 
of some debt of affection and homage. She is the 
angelic person who delights the middle-class reader, 
and she is naturally rather tedious to that kind of 
upper-class reader who regulates his aversions by the 
raptures of the middle class. In Jane there is a 
contrast between the softness of the material and the 
firmness of the handling which is interesting to the 
thoughtful student of Miss Austen. In calling the 
material soft I do not contest Jane's possession of 
judgment and a kind of fortitude. We are impressed 
with the strength of her defenses, even while we are 
a little impatient of the weakness which requires the 
evocation of so much hardihood for its subdual. We 



84 JANE AUSTEN 

like Jane, but perhaps we are tried by her emotion 
when we ought to be touched by it. We feel pain 
for her, but we do not feel that pleasure in our pain 
which draws and wins us in the case of Ellen Douglas 
or of Lily Dale, We are behind a closed door, and 
the exclusion magnifies our sense of the suffering, 
while it denies us the solace of participation. 

Elizabeth's Bennet's value as a character is large, 
though not transcendent, and her interest as a study 
is extreme. If it is hard to find room for Jane's 
judgment in the rifts of her sensibility, it is hard to 
find room for Elizabeth's sensibility in the crevices 
of her judgment. We might think her made by 
formula; her very speech seems diagramed. These 
impressions are delusive. Elizabeth has all the 
human, all the womanly, traits, but she holds them 
by the oddest of tenures. Her figure possesses the 
indispensable feminine curves, but these curves are 
so gradual and so elongated that in viewing any small 
arc of her character we might readily mistake them 
for straight lines. Her delightful humor should 
temper the precision of her intellect, but the humor 
itself has a sharpness of definition so unusual that 
it all but reenforces the precision it should qualify. 
Elizabeth has a woman's variations, but her shifts 
are so massive "and so deliberate that to a remote or 
careless glance they have much the ah* of constancy. 
She has impulses, as a woman should have, but the 
reader must know her pretty well, before he can tell 



PRIDE AND PREJUDICE t 

these impulses from plans. In short, there is a 
woman, even a girl, inside Elizabeth, but you must 
rummage to find either. Compare her with Beatrice 
in Shakespeare, with Diana Vernon in Scott's, 
Rob Roy, with Patience Oriel in Trollope's Doctor 
.Thorne. What is the difference? In the last three 
cases the temperament wields the intelligence, and is 
dignified by the brilliancy of its utensil. In Eliza- 
beth the intelligence wields or seems to wield 
the temperament. In the firm edges and broad sur- 
faces of her character there is both satisfaction and 
unrest. There is not a fold in her personality, or if 
research lights upon a fold it is so straight and so 
severe that it leaves an effect of added candor, not of 
coyness. So much formality would have frozen a less 
spirited woman; so much spirit would have ignited 
less formality. Elizabeth's position is curiously 
intermediate. 

In Mary Bennet Miss Austen courted disaster. 
Miss Austen's own serious conversation is exag- 
gerated almost to the point of burlesque in respect 
of the conversation of real people. One shudders to 
think what will happen when Miss Austen sets forth 
her own notion of exaggeration and burlesque. Mary 
justifies the shudder. 

If Kitty is the least interesting, she is likewise the 
least exceptionable, of the portraits in the Bennet 
family. In the lifelike limpness and tameness of this 
subsidiary character the evocative force of a very 



86 JANE AUSTEN 

few touches, when the few touches are Miss Austen's, 
is happily evinced. 

Lydia Bennet herself is hardly more reckless than 
Miss Austen is reckless hi the lengths to which she 
permits the boisterousness and shamelessness of 
Lydia to go. The drawing is unbridled. Here is a 
girl who disgraces herself, tries and sentences herself 
hi every speech a thing hardly compatible with 
human nature. Her want of conscience, her want 
of decorum, are perhaps barely conceivable. But 
can it be imagined that a girl whose pleasures and 
ambitions are purely social should be absolutely in- 
different to the preservation of her claims to the 
respect or even the tolerance of society? She is a 
gentleman's daughter; she has two sisters who are 
models of refinement; and she has not one ladylike 
instinct, not one vestige of decorum. Scott is 
thought to be impromptu and swashing hi com- 
parison with Miss Austen, but compare the shading 
in the character of the compromised and fugitive 
Effie Deans with Miss Austen's big bow-wow por- 
trayal of Lydia Bennet. 

Nevertheless gross as the characterization is, it is 
vigorous in its crude way. If the strokes are few, 
their vividness is unequalled; and, if they have no 
support hi human nature, they reenforce each other. 
Even individuality is secured, though how individu- 
ality can be imparted to a character that has neither 
variety nor moderation is a paradox before its ac- 



PRIDE AND PREJUDICE 37 

complishment and a secret afterward. Lydia's in- 
dividuality rests mainly on a self-reliance which 
gives a massiveness to her very levity and is intrin- 
sically a respectable trait. I think that Miss Austen 
felt this, though I doubt if she was awake to her own 
feeling. 

Darcy, the problem of the book, is also its failure. 
He is neither firmly drawn nor clearly understood. 
A really estimable character is to appear intolerable 
throughout the first half of a book, and to reveal 
a climax of virtue in the last half. The condition 
of success in this adventure is that no offense shall 
be specified in the premises which cannot be forgiven 
as venial or explained as illusory in the conclusion. 
Miss Austen is too fond of violent coloring to observe 
this rule. Darcy is merely the shell of a character, 
and the two lips of the shell will not meet. 

When he first appears, he speaks insultingly of a 
young girl within her hearing. After that, all is 
over, and to search the character for virtues is to 
delve among ruins for salvage. Goldwin Smith's 
comments on this behavior leave nothing whatever 
to be said either in supplement or hi retort. "No- 
body but a puppy would reply when he was asked to 
let himself be introduced to a young lady, 'She is 
tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; 
and I am in no humour at present to give conse- 
quence to young ladies who are slighted by other 
men." 1 Strange things no doubt passed as ladies 



38 JANE AUSTEN 

and gentlemen in Miss Austen's day, but it is difficult 
to imagine that puppyhood and magnanimity shared 
a character between them hi any age. Darcy has not 
exhausted his littleness hi this remark. The thrift 
of Miss Austen has provided him with a reserve of 
enormities. He insults Elizabeth in the act of solicit- 
ing her hand. Later on, he writes her a letter hi 
which he vilifies her family, and excuses this in- 
decency on the characteristic ground that "my 
character required that it be written and read." 
In a word, the recovery of her esteem is to be pur- 
chased by her mortification hi the perusal of insults 
to her nearest relatives. This is the conduct of a 
man whose character, in the sequel, is to be pictured 
as the abode and meeting-place not only of all the 
virtues but of all the delicacies. One does not envy 
the virtues and the delicacies their lodgings. 

Miss Austen's explanation of all this is that he was 
spoiled hi his youth, that his pride was not innate or 
ingrained, but a cloak or even a shawl, which dropped 
off at once and forever the moment a young woman 
with a mind of her own gave it a vigorous twitch by 
rejecting its wearer. Darcy, however, is long past 
the juvenilities of life, and his strong character we 
are assured that it is strong is fully ripened. His 
pride is not a gentleman's pride, but a sullen and 
forbidding arrogance, a pride that flaunts its own 
withdrawals and isolations, that battens on the morti- 
fications it inflicts. He is like Dombey, except that 



PRIDE AND PREJUDICE 39 

he is not absolute fool, and the change he exhibits is 
only a little less incredible than the change by which 
Dombey, in the language of the uncompromising 
Taine, " spoiled a fine novel." His churlishness hi 
society would have a certain excuse, if, like the im- 
perious Rochester in Jane Eyre, he had a tempera- 
ment to which society was an episode or a bagatelle. 
But Darcy is as much a social animal as Bingley or 
Wickham; he is that unpleasing and unlucky combi- 
nation in which the social ideal consorts with the un- 
social temper. 

An owl I fancied scared by night, 

A fish that had the water-fright 
\ 

though in Darcy it is dislike rather than scare that is 
visible. 

There is a stiffness in almost all the man's move- 
ments; it abates a little hi the spring warmth of his 
first hesitating attraction toward Elizabeth, but soon 
reasserts itself, especially in the love-making, which 
has an effect of being done by clockwork. Even 
his anger is heavy; it makes him vehement, but it 
cannot make him supple. There is one happy 
stroke in which Miss Austen, who is wiser than she 
sometimes chooses to let her patrons suspect, indi- 
cates the survival of the old man in the spick-and- 
span paragon whom she has obligingly revamped for 
the delectation of the uncritical reader. When 
he revokes the inhibition he has laid upon Bingley, 



40 JANE AUSTEN 

Elizabeth cannot "help smiling at his easy manner 
of directing his friend. . . . Elizabeth longed to 
observe that Mr. Bingley had been a most delightful 
friend so easily guided that his worth was invalu- 
able; but she checked herself." Does Miss Austen 
often check herself, with the satiric truth balancing 
on her lips? 

As portraits I prefer either Bingley or Wickham 
to Darcy. The delineation is sparing, almost frugal, 
in both cases; the margin round the text is blank and 
broad. Bingley, slight as he is, possesses an in- 
dividuality, tfie key to which may possibly be found 
in his union of impulsiveness with docility. He is one 
of those persons in whom an effect of general ade- 
quacy to the immediate occasion is combined with 
final insignificance. He is not a mere nobody; he is 
not a mere anybody: yet we feel that his proximity 
to both those characters might have made a more 
perceptive wife than Jane uncomfortable. That his 
winningness should somehow percolate through the 
scant portrayal to the indifferent mind of the half- 
attentive reader is proof of the delicacy of Miss 
Austen's touch. 

Side by side with the attachable and detachable 
Bingley, we have in Wickham another happy illus- 
tration of the muUum in parvo form of character- 
drawing. We know of Wickham's person only what 
we can extract from the brief generalities of a single 
uncommunicative sentence. "His appearance was 



PRIDE AND PREJUDICE 41 

greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of 
beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure, and very 
pleasing address." We do not hear his voice, or 
discriminate his tones, and his speeches, which are 
conscientiously reported, are suggestive of an ab- 
stract and colorless propriety. Yet somehow Wick- 
ham is got before us. His entrance is clandestine, 
but his presence is unmistakable. The word that 
embodies him, to my imagination at least, is velvety. 
He is the demure, pensive, and pathetic rascal; 
he had wished to be a clergyman, and he is not un- 
like the sort of man whom one can imagine the Rev- 
erend Laurence Sterne to have been at any rate 
that traditional Sterne whom Thackeray amused 
himself by impaling in the English Humourists. His 
aplomb is exemplary: it is very nearly as good as 
innocence. Miss Austen, who is the kind of person 
to accept a bon mot as expiation for a felony if the 
transaction could be kept inviolably secret, is rather 
more tolerant of Wickham than so responsible a 
woman has any right to be. 

I do not think that the prodigious and portentous 
Mr. Collins is fully entitled to the superlative praise 
he has elicited in certain quarters. He is rather too 
unqualified himself to be admired without qualifica- 
tion. Miss Austen's stroke is bold and blunt, and 
she begrudges the character every delicacy I mean 
of course artistic, not moral, delicacy which could 
impair its rollicking completeness. There is a con- 



42 JANE AUSTEN 

ceptual felicity in the union of egregious self-im- 
portance with gross toadyism. The sycophant to 
rank who is boaster and bully to his inferiors is by 
no means a rare figure, but the imperturbable self- 
respect of the incorrigibly fawning Mr. Collins is 
something for which memory is slow to furnish 
parallels. His flunkyism has a peculiar literary 
virtue; it is not in the least disinterested, but, in a 
gross way, it is sincere. He wants the wages, but 
he likes the job. What is policy hi its origin becomes 
religion in the process; most religions have doubtless 
grown up in the same way. Thackeray, with his 
proclivity for moral discovery, showed us later, in 
his account of Tom Tusher, how caste-worship might 
turn inward. " 'Twas no hypocrisy in him to flatter, 
but the bent of his mind, which was always perfectly 
good-humoured, obliging, and servile." 

Mr. Collins is amusing, undoubtedly, but he 
fatigues almost as much as he enlivens. The pun- 
gency of verbiage has been overrated. Even hi the 
famous and excellent Micawber, it is doubtful if the 
rotundity of the periods is to be counted as yeast 
or dough hi the ingredients of that eccentric bread- 
making. The lawyers in Browning's Ring and the 
Book are intolerable. The chief satisfaction of laugh- 
big at a character is to feel that we are getting the 
better of him, and, even while we laugh at Mr. 
Collins, we feel that his mighty periods and redoubt- 
able diction are getting the better of us. The laugh- 



PRIDE AND PREJUDICE 43 

ter cannot pierce the bore, but the bore, as his name 
wittily indicates, can penetrate anything, including 
the laugher. 

What chiefly troubles me in Mr. Collins is the 
reconciliation of his sophistications with his clown- 
ishness. There is not the slightest artistic reason 
why a man who writes an English far beyond the 
capacity of most professional men in America, and 
who makes a point of scrupulous adhesion to the 
ritual of politeness should not insult his kinsfolk 
and triumph in their misfortunes. But, while he 
may be as low-minded as a carter in the substance 
of his communication, I doubt if he could address 
a gentleman hi these terms: 

The death of your daughter would have been a blessing in 
comparison of this. And it is the more to be lamented, because 
there is reason to suppose, as my dear Charlotte informs me, that 
this licentiousness of behaviour in your daughter has proceeded 
from a faulty degree of indulgence; though, at the same time, 
for the consolation of yourself and Mrs. Bennet, I am inclined to 
think that her own disposition must be naturally bad, or she 
could not be guilty of such an enormity at so early an age. . . . 
They agree with me in apprehending that this false step in one 
daughter will be injurious to the fortunes of all the others; for 
who, as Lady Catherine herself condescendingly says, will con- 
nect themselves with such a family? And this consideration 
leads me moreover to reflect, with augmented satisfaction, on a 
certain event of last November; for had it been otherwise, I 
must have been involved in all your sorrow and disgrace. 

This passage appears to be enjoyed; at all events 
the letter is quoted in full by Goldwin Smith as one 



44 JANE AUSTEN 

of the "charming" things in Pride and Prejudice. 
To me it seems neither enjoyable nor true. I do not 
quarrel with its vindictiveness or cruelty; I quarrel 
with its open vulgarity. This is not the brutality 
of the parsonage, though parsonages may be brutal 
hi their kind; it is the brutality of the sponging-house, 
the barrack, and the counter, with a bedizenment of 
Johnsonese which those haunts could not parallel. 
I may add that to laugh at Mr. Collins in this phase 
is almost a form of complicity, and admission of kin- 
ship. A world hi which the record of insults to sensi- 
tive women hi calamity can amuse the refined is of 
one substance with the world hi which their perpetra- 
tion can delight the vulgar. 

Charlotte Lucas, who marries Mr. Collins for pru- 
dential reasons, is hardly drawn at all, yet her situa- 
tion is strangely disquieting. In the few plain words 
in which her sedate and steadfast fortitude is sug- 
gested to the wakeful reader there is the intimation 
of a tragedy which awes us like the neighborhood of 
death. That the martyrdom is voluntary and that 
the martyr is pedestrian and calculating does not 
alter the decorous grimness of a situation hi the 
drawing of which the pencil of Mary Wilkins Free- 
man might have found an acrid pleasure. Charlotte 
says nothing, and Miss Austen very little; the con- 
tinence of both is impressive, almost dismaying. 
One thinks with heartbreak of a social order in which 
a woman of family and education could find marriage 






PRIDE AND PREJUDICE 45 

with Mr. Collins the preferable alternative. Litera- 
ture has strange repercussions, and in this quiet 
English country-side, amid these inexorable de- 
corums, I catch a faint foreshadowing of the dilemma 
(or trilemma) from which a nimble and bustling 
French dramatist was to rend the veil with cruel 
abruptness in the Three Daughters of Monsieur 
Dupont. Nothing makes me respect Miss Austen 
more than her portrayal of Charlotte Collins. 

Miss Austen requites herself for the hush in which 
she has enshrined the homespun tragedy of Char- 
lotte by the shrillness of her portrayal of the arro- 
gant and domineering Lady Catherine de Bourgh. 
They say Miss Austen is quiet. The elderly friends 
of young Marlow in the Good-Natured Man said that 
he was quiet. They had not seen him with the bar- 
maids. The discoverers of quiet in Miss Austen 
have surely not seen her with the titled aristocracy. 
Thackeray was a high colorist, a reveller in extremes, 
but the difference between Lady Kew, for instance, 
and Lady Catherine de Bourgh is the difference 
between an extravagant human being and a per- 
former, a trick mule, whom his trainer exhibits to 
a delighted audience. I grant the excellence of the 
training and the merit of the tricks; but the mule 
never steps off the platform. Miss Austen in a quiet 
novel which leisurely people are to read by a cosy 
fireside draws a character of the sort which Moliere 
or Congreve would have adapted to the glare of a 



46 JANE AUSTEN 

theatre that is to say, she excludes all points but 
the points of highest relief. The series of volleys 
of which this woman's conversation is made is in- 
consistent I will not say with the virtue or the 
decency but with the laziness and fickleness of 
ordinary human nature. Her daughter, Miss de 
Bourgh, is put on the low ration of half-a-dozen 
sentences to an entire book, but those few and 
scattered words, chosen with infallible judgment, 
make her a sounder and more credible human being 
than her mother. 

Miss Bingley, like many of Miss Austen's un- 
pleasant characters, unites the diction of an aca- 
demician with the manners of a housemaid. She is 
clear enough unendurably clear in many particulars, 
but I have a sense of fissures, of lacunae, in the de- 
lineation. She is like a book from which handfuls 
of pages have been casually torn; all is felt to be 
capable of unification, but the connective tissue has 
been snatched away, and incompleteness puts on the 
guise of incoherence. 

The other members of the Darcy-Bingley group 
may be passed over with the single exception of 
the inconspicuous but unforgettable Mr. Hurst, of 
whom Miss Austen supplies the following account: 
"As for Mr. Hurst, by whom Elizabeth sat, he was 
an indolent man, who lived only to eat, drink, and 
play at cards; who, when he found her prefer a plain 
dish to a ragout, had nothing to say to her." Another 



PRIDE AND PREJUDICE 47 

hint or two of equal meagreness are furnished later 
on, and Miss Austen, whose concern for Mr. Hurst 
seems to be patterned on his own solicitude for 
Elizabeth, has completed her portrait of this por- 
cine individual. In the normal writer even in the 
normal strong writer this handful of vulgarities 
would be nothing; yet somehow hi the utterance of 
these meagre phrases Miss Austen has smuggled a 
soul, or whatever hi his primitive make-up takes the 
place of a soul, into the sluggish and sensual Mr. 
Hurst. Of just this form of magic I am not sure 
that even Shakespeare has given proof. 

I have commented on sixteen distinct characters in 
Pride and Prejudice. I doubt if another novel of 
its size can show sixteen characters who invite or 
permit comment. To these might be added a list 
of persons who are by no means wholly indistinct, 
Georgiana Darcy, Mrs. Hurst, the two Gardiners, 
Mrs. Philips, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Maria Lucas, Sir 
William Lucas. Here are twenty-four persons to 
whom individuality in various amounts is allotted in 
a novel which, by the scale of Dickens and Thackeray 
and George Eliot, must be accounted short. Yet the 
novel has not that effect of being cumbered or lit- 
tered with characters which is more or less notice- 
able in Scott's Peveril of the Peak and Mr. Howells's 
Hazard of New Fortunes. The minor figures are not 
tuftod or ranged in scattered groups, and the emi- 
nencO of the primary actors is never threatened by the 



48 JANE AUSTEN 

intrusion of the subordinates. I must not close the 
chapter without noting the rather frequent shifts of 
place in the narrative, and the ease and convenience 
with which the transfers are effected under the un- 
hurried but unpausing conductorship of Miss Austen. 



CHAPTER III 
NORTHANGER ABBEY 

Northanger Abbey has a motive and a story, but 
the bearing of the story on the motive is very ob- 
scure, and, so far as the obscurity is penetrable, 
unsatisfactory. The author wishes to reprove the 
romanticism of a fiction-reading young girl. Sheridan 
had done the same thing not ineffectually in Lydia 
Languish, and an older form of the same dreamy 
and paralyzing romanticism had been rebuked by 
Lessing hi the Schwaermerei of the heroine of Nathan 
the Wise. The obvious course in such a fable is to 
lead the heroine from daydreams into indiscretion 
and from indiscretion into misfortune or difficulty. 
Miss Austen, however, hardly pursues this course. 
Her heroine does indeed run heedlessly into two or 
three imprudent and improper acts in calling alone 
upon the Tilneys, but these are blunders for which 
it is difficult to make Mrs. Radcliffe and the Mysteries 
of Udolpho even indirectly responsible. Her roman- 
tic theory of General Tilney's conduct to which I 
shall refer later is unproductive of any evil to her- 
self; and the semi-romantic misadventure which 
expels her from the General's house has its real 

49 



50 JANE AUSTEN 

origin in the dustiest of calculations in which Cath- 
erine has neither guilt nor share. 

Catherine Morland is not even a romantic char- 
acter; she seems intended as a rebuke and corrective 
to romance. 

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 respecta- 
ble 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 woman of useful plain 
sense, with a good temper, and, what ia 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 any body 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 will 
always be called a fine family, where there are heads, and arms, 
and legs enough for the number; but the Morlands had little 
other right to the word, for they were in general very plain, and 
Catherine, for many years of her life, as plain as any. She had a 
thin awkward figure, a sallow skin without colour, dark lank 
hair, and strong features; so much for her person, and not less 
unpropitious for heroism seemed her mind. 

Miss Austen allows her heroine a plain girlhood, 
but her courage falters at the threshold of maturity. 
She is no Charlotte Bronte to say to her sisters (in 
relation to Jane Eyre): " I will show you a heroine as 
plain and as small as myself, who shall be as inter- 



NORTHANGER ABBEY 51 

esting as any of yours." This is implacable self- 
discipline. Jane Austen was not bred among the 
rigors and self-macerations of Haworth. Abnega- 
tion in Kent and Hampshire has its limits; and when 
Catherine is to visit Bath and see young men, nature, 
equally friendly to budding girls and rising novelists, 
is called in to renovate her physique. The conces- 
sion is large, but Catherine is not wholly untrue to 
the tradition of her noisy, dirty, and athletic child- 
hood. Her first exploit, on venturing into the world, 
is to fall instantly and irreparably in love with a 
young man whose main attraction is his raillery, and 
the prime object of whose raillery is the absurdities of 
the producers and consumers of romance. At the 
end of the book she marries this young man, magnan- 
imously overlooking his possession of a large income 
and an enviable position. 

There is, however, hi Catherine's nature another 
coil for the analyst to unwind. She is unromantic, 
but she is romanticistic.. At Bath she forms a passion 
for Mrs. Radcliffe which so far colors her view of life 
as to impart vividness to her expectations of North- 
anger Abbey. Miss Austen, in a word, has com- 
missioned the same young person to serve as an- 
tithesis to the Radcliffe heroine and as illustration 
of the flightiness of the Radcliffe reader. I do not 
say that the combination is impossible; from reader 
to heroine is a far cry; and, in reading, a man may 
court those idealisms which subjection to the God of 



52 JANE AUSTEN 

things as they are has remorselessly banished from 
his practice. But Miss Austen's art seems to me 
unwieldy and unthrifty hi the appointment of the 
same person to both parts. It may be said that the 
difference between Catherine's real and imaginary 
self is the point of the book. If so, I cannot think 
that the point is effectively made. We remember 
the case of Julia Mills hi David Copperfield Julia 
who sang "Affection's Dirge," and married an old 
Scotch Crcesus with great flaps of ears. We remem- 
ber the case of Blanche Amory, who sighed for a 
paladin, and, after a vain assault upon a brewer, 
married a cook. If Catherine had married dollars 
after yielding her heart or her fancy to witticisms, 
she might have been counted among these renegades 
to sentiment. But since her first, last, and only 
object is Henry Tilney, who is neither romantic 
enough nor unromantic enough to make his capture 
a pointed victory for either side, I cannot see that 
her daydreams really becloud her mind or that her 
conduct really unmasks her disposition. 

The truth is that the satire on romance has no 
real or logical relation to the slender plot of North- 
anger Abbey. Imagine the story to have taken 
shape by itself; then four additions or modifications 
will bring the novel to its present form. First, a few 
paragraphs will be delightfully rewritten from the 
point of view of their contrast with the habits and 
prescriptions of romance. Second, Catherine Mor- 






NORTHANGER ABBEY 53 

land is lent a copy of the Mysteries of Udolpho. 
Third, the addition of a few Gothic windows and 
feudal trappings converts General Tilney's country 
house into an abbey. Fourth, Catherine is pre- 
sented with two or three romantic misconceptions 
which are dispelled without the faintest damage to 
herself or the slightest profit to the story. The satire 
can be lifted clean out of the frame of the narrative, 
and the narrative will not even show a dent. 

The delusions which are foisted upon Catherine 
are the least acceptable portions of the tale. She 
believes she has discovered an ancient manuscript in a 
cavity of a black and gold Japan cabinet in her bed- 
chamber; the morning light reveals nothing worse 
than a laundry bill. The childishness of this adven- 
ture would seem to be pretty evenly divided between 
Miss Austen and Catherine. This is the grade of 
burlesque which the Sunday newspaper might be 
glad to admit to its columns of syndicated fiction, 
or which the school-girl essayist might read aloud 
to the willing laughter of uncritical classmates. The 
second point is a little graver, but even more ridic- 
ulous. Catherine frames the notion that General 
Tilney has murdered his wife. This nightmare is 
detected and gently dispelled by the general's 
younger son. On first thought we are inclined to 
say that the attribution of the mistake to any person 
hi his senses is as crazy as the mistake itself. A 
little introspection shows us that chimeras as frantic 



54 JANE AUSTEN 

as this do knock at minds whose sanity we are indis- 
posed to question, and that they are received with a 
hospitality which the hosts themselves would scoff 
at in another person. This is a fact, and yet our 
objection to the incident in Jane Austen proves 
impervious to our recognition of the fact. The 
truth is that delusions of this sort are on the same 
footing as dreams in their adaptation to record. 
Dreams are as much a part of experience as purchases 
or conflagrations, but their irrelevance to ordinary 
reality is such that they are remanded to silence 
except where their aptness or then* influence is 
extraordinary, or where emphasis is concentrated 
on the hinterlands of the imagination. In Miss 
Austen's cool, clearheaded, good-humored narrative 
a vagary of this sort seems as misplaced as a secret 
panel in a railway station. 

The main plot may be condensed into two or 
three sentences. Catherine Morland, in a first 
sojourn at Bath, falls in love with a vivacious young 
clergyman, Henry Tilney, whose response to her 
affection is not the less sincere for being gentle and 
leisurely. Catherine spends several weeks at North- 
anger Abbey by invitation of Henry's father, 
General Tilney, by whose order she is later on 
ejected from the house with a cruel abruptness un- 
softened by explanations. The General had invited 
her on the baseless report that she was rich, and now 
drives her out on the better grounded, but not quite 



NORTHANGER ABBEY 55 

accurate, report that she is penniless. The young son 
follows Catherine to her home, and marriage in- 
stantly follows on the ungracious consent of the 
muddle-headed father. The plot, though scant, is 
spacious enough to include two gross improbabilities, 
that the general should be prepared to risk his 
son's happiness with a girl whose fortune was at- 
tested only by rumor, and that he should brave the 
tongues of the county by an act of violence which 
stamped him as dupe no less than ruffian. 

I have omitted certain minor trains of incident; 
my ability to omit them in a summary of the main 
plot is proof enough of their logical detachment. 
Isabella Thorpe, Catherine's friend in Bath, engages 
herself to a young clergyman, whom she jilts for the 
sake of a young captain, by whom she is ruthlessly 
and promptly flung aside. These circumstances are 
related to Catherine's story only by the purely 
mechanical links that the clergyman is Catherine's 
brother and the captain is Henry Tilney's. There is 
also a bragging and brawling young bully, John 
Thorpe, who makes slapdash love to Catherine 
between oaths and whip-crackings. An attempt has 
been made to give this fact a bearing on Catherine's 
relations with the Tilneys, but the device betrays as 
much awkwardness as conscience. General Tilney's 
informant as to Catherine's wealth and as to her 
poverty is John Thorpe. Now John Thorpe's bluster 
hardly imposes on the artless Catherine, whose 



56 JANE AUSTEN 

ignorance at eighteen is abysmal; General Tilney is a 
man of the world : yet in a matter vital to his interest 
General Tilney reposes implicit confidence in the 
word of a stranger whose blackguardism is vocif- 
erous. 

It has been correctly observed that the second 
part of Northanger Abbey is less interesting than the 
first. There is a curious break and falling-off in the 
middle of the tale which I can only explain on the 
theory that it underwent some mysterious internal 
lesion. It was prosperous and joyous in its own 
course; it swerved from that course without ade- 
quate reason; and it ceased to prosper and rejoice. 
The Bath part has a charm peculiar to itself in 
Miss Austen's work, a charm almost anticipative of 
the lighter and readier touch of the later decades of 
the nineteenth century. There is a brisk patter of 
incident, a light, sprightly cursiveness, a gayety of 
movement that sweeps along even the disappoint- 
ments and heartaches in the alacrity of its buoyant 
course. In a word it is the sort of story that thrives 
in a pump-room and mopes in an abbey. Why, then, 
send it to an abbey? I do not mind an II Penseroso 
after my U Allegro, if I can have a Milton to write 
it for me; but Miss Austen's II Penseroso would 
tempt nobody to forsake "the gay motes that 
people the sunbeam" in Bath or any other cheerful 
watering-place. Miss Austen has not even the 
excuse of having wound up her affairs in Bath. Her 



NORTHANGER ABBEY 57 

affairs in Bath are most distinctly not wound up; 
the affairs of Isabella plead for further elucidation on 
the spot, and John Thorpe's pursuit of Catherine 
actually clamors for a settlement of its claims in the 
place of its origin. But Miss Austen packs us off, 
bag and baggage, with a peremptoriness which she 
might have learned from the hare-brained General 
Tilney himself. Of course there is the satire on 
romance to supply a motive; but if the satire on 
romance is to furnish us with no better amusement 
than we find at Northanger Abbey, I think the 
ghost of Mrs. Radcliffe is avenged. 

The first remark on Catherine Morland's character 
has been anticipated in my comments on the plot. 
She has a taste for romantic novels, but the texture 
of her mind is wholly unromantic. Romanticism has 
not struck in; it merely dusts the surface of the 
character. Her charm lies very largely in an in- 
cipient good sense which is held down for the moment 
by her ignorance of reality and her delight in fiction. 
The body has barely flowered, and the mind is still 
unblown, and the result is a grace which is rather 
seasonal than personal. Her mind is not only simple ; 
it is plain; she will pass from girlhood to matronhood 
without any interval of young-ladyship. Strangely 
enough, I find her the most winning of Miss Austen's 
heroines in the absence of nearly every quality which 
makes the heroines of other novelists pleasant hi 
my eyes. I am rather shocked to find myself pre- 



58 JANE AUSTEN 

ferring her to Elizabeth, that "darling child," on 
whom her parent lavished a fondness that reminds 
one a very little of Sir Walter Elliot and the Eliza- 
beth whom he blindly favored. 

I think I am drawn to Catherine by the fact that 
she is the only one of the heroines who acts like a 
young girl. Anne Elliot's youthfulness is past; she 
already wears the willow, and her attitude imitates 
its droop. Emma, Elizabeth, and Elinor (they run 
to E's like the early Saxon kings) are not really 
young. I reject the futility of baptismal registers 
and the vain umpireship of the family Bible. They 
all impress us as having sat on boards; we are lucky 
if we do not feel that they are sitting on them hi 
our very presence. Marianne's conversation is ten 
years older than her behavior. I shall be told that 
Fanny Price is a young girl. Miss Becky Sharp was 
obliged by circumstances to be her own Tn.nrmm; to 
my mind, Fanny Price is obliged by nature to be her 
own maiden aunt. But Catherine Morland is young 
in the fashion of young girls whom I actually know, 
simple, warm-hearted, pleasure-loving, diffident be- 
tween her impulses and eager behind her shyness, a 
few strong interests and vivid likings checkering the 
unresponsiveness of girlhood to the proffers and 
urgencies of life. Miss Austen has stinted her of 
attributes and yet kept her distinct. The note of her 
small but clear personality is never hushed in that 
Bath turmoil in which Isabella shrills and John 



NORTHANGER ABBEY 59 

Thorpe bellows. Isabella and John may silence 
Catherine, but her very silences are audible. There 
is little to Catherine perhaps, but what there is is 
firm. You may call her a particle if you like, but the 
particle is a granule. 

Henry Tilney is a dancing shape, an image gay; in 
other words, his humor is the best and biggest part 
of him. His virtues are unmistakable, but they 
efface themselves in the company of his spirits like 
obliging aunts and grandmammas in the presence of 
madcap juniors. Goldwin Smith finds him so like his 
clerical brother. Edmund Bertram, as to threaten the 
stability of Macaulay's famous observation on the 
unlikeness of Miss Austen's young divines. To my 
thought he resembles Edmund Bertram about as 
much as tomato salad resembles peach marmalade. 
His gayeties and railleries are not definitively clerical, 
and in this point he reminds one of Mr. Breckon, 
Mr. Howells's young Unitarian pastor in the Ken- 
tons. Mr. Breckon paid his calling the deference of 
an occasional doubt as to whether a person so jovial 
and quizzical as himself was qualified to lead his 
fellow-men in worship. No such doubt visits the 
mind of Mr. Tilney. The clerical profession in Miss 
Austen's day appears never to have pestered its 
votaries with any scruple as to their qualifications; 
in fact it gave little trouble of any sort. Its un- 
obtrusiveness was quite endearing. 

I confess that I am drawn to a young man who can 



60 JANE AUSTEN 

make much of a young girl in the very act of mak- 
ing fun of her; the combination is sound. Henry's 
treatment of Catherine, if free hi appearance, is 
really delicate. Perhaps amusement and condescen- 
sion pass a little too speedily into love; if the growth 
of his affection is too slow to keep pace with Cath- 
erine's, it is quite swift enough to outrun nature. 
One of the capital points hi which Miss Austen flouts 
the romantic tradition is conveyed hi the following 
words: "I must confess that his affection originated 
hi nothing better than gratitude; or, hi other words, 
that a persuasion of her partiality for him had been 
the only cause of giving her a serious thought." On 
this point Miss Austen's courage is delightful, and 
there is no doubt that hi principle she is entirely 
correct. The only adverse comment on the specific 
case is that gratitude is among the most fragile of 
human traits, and it is difficult to conceive that a 
plank so slender should adequately bridge a chasm 
so broad as that which divides the minds at least of 
Catherine Morland and Henry Titney. Miss Austen 
crows over the insulted romanticist hi making Henry 
Tilney love Catherine Morland because she loved 
him. But does not romanticism turn the tables on 
Miss Austen when she arranges a match between 
so ill-matched a young couple with an appended 
guarantee of lasting happiness? Catherine's strong 
points are youth and artlessness, and both these 
qualities have a reckoning to make with time. 



NORTHANGER ABBEY 61 

Gratitude is a shortlived passion. Can we trust the 
longevity of a love which is its offspring? 

Of Henry Tilney's relatives little need be said. 
The general is an ogre quite unfit to be the father of 
the young prince hi a modern fairy tale, and conducts 
himself with a blind folly from which even the 
possession of a single eye should have protected him. 
He qualifies himself equally for the straitjacket and 
the halter. Elinor Tilney is little more than a suave 
excuse for the approximation of Henry and Cath- 
erine. 

The Bath party cannot be quite so brusquely dis- 
missed. Mrs. Allen, whom Miss Austen despatches 
in a few cavalier strokes of brilliant exaggeration, 
is perhaps as good a portrayal of pure inanity as the 
history of literature can supply. The creation of 
Mrs. Allen points to a momentary suspension hi 
Nature's proverbial abhorrence of a vacuum. She 
undertakes the duties of a chaperon with that cheer- 
fulness which is the outgrowth of a complete in- 
difference to their fulfilment. She is the most 
amiable and the most selfish of human beings, and 
human nature is of course both shamefully maligned 
and tinglingly enlivened in the mere tip or extremity 
of itself which it sees reproduced hi the unequalled 
Mrs. Allen. The odd thing the all but impossible 
thing outside of Miss Austen is that inanity should 
be clean-cut. Even emptiness for Miss Austen is not 
vague. If she drew a zero, she would give it angles. 



62 JANE AUSTEN 

Miss Austen's treatment of the redoubtable 
Isabella Thorpe may be said to have found a model 
in the dash and smartness of Isabella herself. On the 
surface this young lady is all modesty, sensibility, 
devotion. Inwardly, she is heartless, impudent, 
perfidious. Hypocrisy is inevitable, and it is the 
fashion of this hypocrisy that imparts to Miss Aus- 
ten's treatment its rare vivacity and its real unsound- 
ness. Isabella Thorpe is fool as well as hypocrite, 
and, at the very moment when her hypocrisy is 
covering her meanness, her folly is drawing away 
the screen from her meanness and her hypocrisy 
alike. Her rule is to say one thing and within the 
space of five minutes to do or say something that 
is hi open and violent contradiction to the initial 
speech. The rawness of this method is incontesta- 
ble. Even a fool would avoid the constant recur- 
rence of these obvious clashes, and Isabella's excuses 
show an agility which ought to have fitted her to 
evade the continual necessity of evasion. It is Miss 
Austen's way to bestow great alertness on persons 
to whom she peremptorily refuses an atom of sense. 

In view of the widespread belief in the delicacy of 
Miss Austen's craftsmanship a belief which is as 
beautifully justified by a part of her work as it is 
refuted and mocked by another I shall clarify my 
point a little further by contrasting Isabella with 
Hialmar Ekdal in Ibsen's Wild Duck. Hialmar, like 
Isabella, is a sentimental hypocrite, masking selfish- 



NORTHANGER ABBEY 63 

ness and heartlessness under professions of tender- 
ness and magnanimity. Ibsen's portrayal, though 
very forcible, is not remarkably delicate; it scores too 
constantly against Hialmar to maintain an agreement 
with reality. But in comparison with Miss Austen's 
Isabella, Ibsen's not over-scrupulous portrait is 
delicacy itself. Hialmar, like Isabella, falls into 
open self-contradiction. The beer which his plain- 
tiveness has refused is accepted in the next second by 
his magnanimity, and his semi-abstraction consumes 
the bread-and-butter which his self-respect had 
imperiously declined. But hi a very long and minute 
portrayal this unsoftened self-reversal occurs only a 
very few tunes. Other means are freely used for 
bringing out the weakness of the character; there are 
even tunes, though never long times, in which the 
exposure of its littleness is suspended. Miss Austen's 
method is as monotonous as the character she draws 
is unshaded. It is only fair to the Englishwoman to 
repeat that she has not failed to attain the vivacity 
to which temperance and truth have been so ruth- 
lessly sacrificed. Those who smarten up reality 
have their reward, and the reward in Miss Austen's 
Isabella is considerable. 

The last character that demands attention is 
John Thorpe. What will Jane Austen do with such a 
character? That a keen woman should succeed with 
a young springal and prodigal like Tom Bertram, 
that she should succeed with unbending and power- 



64 JANE AUSTEN 

ful masculinity in Mr. Knightley, need not surprise 
us overmuch. But what will the sheltered and cir- 
cumspect spinster, the young girl born and bred 
in an English vicarage, make of a sheer blackguard 
mildly qualified with dunce and booby? The answer 
is that the success is extraordinary. John Thorpe is 
drawn with absolute clearness, with great apparent 
accuracy, and with a hidden zest from which a cynic 
might infer that the horror women feel for insolence 
and rudeness is often only an inverted sympathy. 
If Sheridan had dramatized Northanger Abbey for 
Drury Lane, I doubt if he would have found it 
necessary to add one coarsening or one enlivening 
touch to the demure novelist's portrayal of this loud- 
mouthed and bullying young Englishman. In saying 
this I concede that the picture is highly charged, but 
the excess, if I may be indulged in the paradox, is 
not excessive. What is excess from the point of 
view of the painstaking and conscientious historian 
may be moderation from the point of view of the 
painstaking and conscientious artist. The cases of 
John and Isabella are essentially different. Isabella 
is disclosed by an obvious artifice, by assigning per- 
manence to what hi the real world is merely occa- 
sional. But loudness and impudence are capable of 
indefinite prolongation even in life itself, and Miss 
Austen has done nothing more than magnify the 
truth without altering its quality. 



$t CHAPTER IV 

MANSFIELD PARK 

IN Mansfield Park there is a concentration which 
contrasts pleasantly with the width and diversity 
which give the character of polypi to Sense and Sensi- 
bility and Pride and Prejudice. Mansfield Park is 
frame as well as title; for most of the book the fixture 
of the story at the Park seems as unchangeable as 
that of Lady Bertram herself, and the removal of 
the tale to Portsmouth, with the other baggage of 
Fanny Price, surprises us almost to the point of 
dismay. We had grown so used to acres and turbot. 
Again, the characters hi the novel are relatively 
few, and form what may be called a closed circuit. 
The effect of cushioned and curtained privacy is 
highly marked, and the social animation, the provi- 
sion of which throughout the tale is rather liberal, 
adds, as it were, the sparkle of firelight to this 
shielded and luxurious tranquillity. At this point, 
however, we face one of the baffling paradoxes of the 
book. The material enclosure seems to imply, 
almost to require, a corresponding moral intimacy, 
but the people whom Mansfield Park secludes and 
embosoms are not intimate, are scarcely even fa- 
miliar. Between the two sisters, no sympathy; 

65 



66 JANE AUSTEN 

between the two brothers, no sympathy; between 
brothers and sisters, no sympathy. Between parents 
and children the case is hardly better: the father 
sits on a dais; the mother lies on a sofa. The sugared 
relations between Edmund and Fanny are agreeable 
enough in their studied way, but they neither com- 
pensate nor console us for the want of ease, of flexibil- 
ity, hi the propinquities of this divergent family. 
The leopardlike presence of the sinuous and faintly 
sinister Crawfords adds its modicum to the curious 
unrest, the sense of distance in proximity, of peril in 
an asylum, which follows the reader throughout this 
reassuring and disquieting tale. 

Mrs. Price, wife of an indigent lieutenant of 
marines in Portsmouth and Lady Bertram, a rich 
baronet's lady hi Northamptonshire, are sisters. 
The baronet's family offer to adopt Mrs. Price's 
eldest daughter, Fanny, and the hardships of rearing 
a large family on a small income are revealed in the 
promptitude of Mrs. Price's grateful acceptance. 
Transferred to Mansfield Park, the ten-year-old 
girl grows up with the marvellous rapidity with 
which that operation so tedious in real life is 
accomplished by the heroines of fiction. Fanny has 
made haste to qualify herself for the part of heroine 
by forming an almost instant, ardent, and constant 
attachment for her cousin, Edmund Bertram, the 
only young person hi the house for whom benevolence 
to a penniless cousin can take a brighter shape than 



MANSFIELD PARK 67 

amused or condescending toleration. With the en- 
gagement of Maria Bertram to a neighboring mag- 
nate, Mr. Rushworth, a transaction in which the 
young lady's heart is suavely neutral, and with the 
installation at the rectory of Henry and Mary Craw- 
ford, brother and sister of the rector's wife, the story 
is, hi the sturdy parlance of the American street, 
"open for business." 

An attraction speedily grows up between Edmund 
Bertram, who is destined for the church, and Mary 
Crawford, hi whom a fondness for deriding clergy- 
men is not the only symptom of worldliness. Miss 
Austen is adept in the accumulation of evidence, but 
in the evocation of moral or psychical process she 
has little skill, and the relation between Edmund and 
Mary is kept almost at a standstill, without engage- 
ment or unmistakable declaration, till very close to 
the end of the novel. There is affection and mis- 
giving on both sides. If, to appropriate the language 
of Bishop Blougram, on Edmund Bertram's part it 
is a life "of faith diversified by doubt," on Mary 
Crawford's it is a "life of doubt diversified by faith." 
While in this quarter matters assume what we might 
describe as permanence hi instability, Henry Craw- 
ford, after exhausting the piquancy of alternate 
courtship of the two Misses Bertram, centres his 
assiduities on Maria. A visit of the Mansfield party 
to Mr. Rushworth's place and the undertaking of an 
amateur play at Mansfield itself are friendly to 



68 JANE AUSTEN 

Mr. Crawford's success in this cruel and ignoble 
enterprise. 

To Miss Austen they are no less friendly than to 
Mr. Crawford. In scenes half social, half domestic, 
where the characters are many, the setting com- 
pact, the regroupings facile, and the openings for 
minute but intimate and zestful diplomacy pretty 
frequent, her spirits rise and her art brightens, and 
the trip and play chapters must be classed with the 
signal enlivenments of the book. That Mr. Rush- 
worth is a nullity for Maria and Maria herself is a 
nullity for the reader, that it is hard to tell whether 
her detachment from her brainless suitor is to be 
viewed as rum or salvation, are drawbacks which 
are swept aside, for the tune being at least, by the 
alacrity and momentum of the narrative. That 
Miss Austen's condemnation of the theatricals is 
unqualified does not prevent her from portraying 
them with that gusto which, in an impish world, is so 
often the associate of disapproval. A careful Amer- 
ican parent would find no fault with the securities 
for propriety and innocence which accompany the 
rehearsals of the play. There is no audience, no 
professional man except a scene-painter, no actors 
from outside except a guest staying in the house and 
the brother and sister of the parish rector's wife; 
the mother of the family is informed, consenting, and 
on the spot. For all that, Miss Austen, who has a 
taste for wine, indulgence for cards, and approbation 



MANSFIELD PARK 69 

for balls, and who had seen her own kinsfolk taking 
part in private theatricals in her father's barn, is 
inexorable in her reprobation of the sport. Her 
mingled zest and horror remind one a little of the 
comment of the maiden aunt, Franziska, in Suder- 
mann's Heimat, on learning that her operatic niece 
drank a mixture of coffee and chocolate, "Horrible 
but it must be good." 

On the arrival of Sir Thomas Bertram from 
Antigua, the theatricals dissolve the word is exact 
and Henry Crawford rides away to Bath. The 
brusqueness of his treatment of Maria seems almost 
copied by Miss Austen in her cavalier desertion of an 
affair with which she has lingeringly and solicitously 
dallied. The train so needfully laid is not touched 
off, and the novelist, who is as unfeeling toward 
Maria as Henry himself, despatches her "agony" in 
a summary paragraph. Maria bears her loss with 
a fortitude which culminates in her marriage with 
Mr. Rush worth. 

The story has now reached a halting-place. (It 
must be understood that all this time the Edmund- 
Mary affair has been going on or, better, standing 
still, or better yet, has attained a combination of 
going on and standing still by simply oscillating.) 
Miss Austen has no sooner despatched Henry Craw- 
ford to Bath than she discovers that she has the most 
urgent occupation for him at Mansfield. That 
occupation is the courtship of Fanny Price. This 



70 JANE AUSTEN 

move is disconcerting to the reader. If there is no 
positive answer to the question, "Why should not 
Henry Crawford fall hi love with Fanny Price?" 
there is likewise no positive answer to the question, 
"Why should he fall in love with her?"; and the 
absence of an answer to the second question is in 
effect an answer to the first. When a certain point hi 
novels has been reached, all new events should have 
traceable pedigrees; and this movement of Craw- 
ford's resembles the Merlin of the older Arthurian 
tales in being a child without a father. It might be 
defined with equal accuracy as a father without a 
child. It is the mam business, if not the major 
interest, of the remainder of the book, yet its re- 
moval in a block from the tale would not alter the 
conclusion by a line. Indeed, its effect is worse than 
neutral; it is a hindrance to the conclusion. It 
forces Miss Austen into at least the seeming im- 
probability of allowing a man to elope with a mar- 
ried woman whom he does not love to the certain 
nun of his not uncheerful prospects with the woman 
whom he loves sincerely. What, then, is the motive 
for the episode? Miss Austen designs a testimonial 
to Fanny on the grand scale, but the reader has two 
difficulties. The grandeur of the scale is not wholly 
clear, at least to a man who does not share Miss 
Austen's womanly sense of the immeasurable im- 
portance of wicked charmers; and, hi the second 
place, he finds it hard to triumph for Fanny hi the 



MANSFIELD PARK 71 

very circumstances in which he is called upon to 
suffer with her. 

Crawford conducts his suit with that mixture of 
acuteness and stupidity which marks the abler and 
coarser mind in its dealings with the simpler and 
finer one. In the strategy of his assault, I am more 
sensible of Miss Austen's cleverness than of faith- 
fulness in the report of actuality; the abatement of 
prejudice on Fanny's side is handled with delicate 
and authentic insight, and Miss Austen comes closer 
to emotional process in this episode than in any other 
place in her works which I recall. The caution of the 
novelist arrests the process in its nonage, almost in 
its infancy; it never reaches a stage which imperils 
either Fanny's heart or Edmund's prospects. 

The outcome of the novel is rather skilfully ma- 
noeuvred. A double suspense has been created with 
regard to Edmund Bertram's courtship of Mary 
Crawford and Henry Crawford's pursuit of Fanny 
Price. A stroke of masterly contrivance enables one 
event to furnish a solution for both these problems. 
Crawford elopes with Maria Rushworth Maria who 
has been kept so long in the background that she has 
almost the effect of being resuscitated for the com- 
mission of this enormity. Crawford's prospects with 
Fanny are destroyed, and Edmund's hopes of Mary- 
are equally shipwrecked by the worldliness and 
levity of mind revealed hi Mary's comments on the 
scandal. 



72 JANE AUSTEN 

Miss Austen, however, makes a mistake in the 
remoteness and chariness of her handling of the 
elopement, which is not only the mainspring of her 
two denouments, but the event to which the prepara- 
tions in the first half of the book look forward with 
unswerving constancy. Miss Austen recoils from her 
own crises. She resembles those persons whom Max 
Piccolomini in the first act of Wattenstein described 
as calling up a spectre hi their need, and shrinking 
away from it the instant it reveals itself. She says 
plainly: "Let other pens dwell on grief and misery. 
I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can." 
To which the answer is very simple: If you ob- 
ject to dogs, you should not rear puppies. For 
dogs at a polite distance, hi a judicious half-light, 
Miss Austen appears to have a real partiality. At 
all events, at the very moment Maria Rushworth 
is eloping with Crawford, Julia Bertram is eloping 
with Mr. Yates, though hi this latter case nothing 
worse than a clandestine marriage is the outcome of 
the adventure. This is rather too much; the reader 
raises a protesting eyebrow. Maria, yes; some sort of 
black lamb was doubtless owed to Hecate. But why 
Julia? Julia was entitled to the shelter of insig- 
nificance. 

I have thus far slighted an element hi the tale 
which protests rather loudly against omission. In 
the last half of the book Fanny spends several weeks 
at her parents' house in Portsmouth. The reason for 



MANSFIELD PARK 73 

this visit is peculiar. Sir Thomas Bertram, anxious 
to reconcile his niece to the desirable match with the 
wealthy Henry Crawford, resolves that she shall 
learn the value of riches by a brief but drastic expe- 
rience of the hardships of poverty. In this reasoning 
Sir Thomas is hopeful rather than lucid. Fanny's 
alternative is not Crawford or Portsmouth, but 
Crawford or Mansfield. Portsmouth was in every- 
way qualified to teach her the superiority of comfort 
to poverty. But the only thing that it can be hi the 
least profitable to teach her is the superiority of 
opulence to comfort, and her mother's house is the 
last place in which that not indisputable thesis could 
be verified. The Portsmouth chapters have been 
warmly praised, and there can be no question that the 
exactness of their particulars is impressive. I cannot, 
however, rank them with Miss Austen's very best 
work, because, if I may trust my instinct, while they 
have exactness, they lack pliancy; I miss the ease and 
suppleness of life. If Miss Austen is ever like Gis- 
sing and I should think twice before affirming that 
she was she is like him in this Portsmouth inter- 
lude. It is all schooling, all exhibit; every one of its 
clean-cut particulars is tilted at the precise angle 
at which the admonition to Fanny is unmistakable. 
This accumulation of salutary warnings to a recal- 
citrant young person who finally rejects them all 
and prospers in her contumacy impresses the reader 
as uncalled for. 



74 JANE AUSTEN 

Mansfield Park is a combination of two genera: it 
is a biography, the biography of Fanny Price, and 
it is a novel, the novel, roughly speaking, of the 
Bertrams and the Crawfords. Now biography, even 
in the most artistic hands, is congenitally loose, and 
Miss Austen, though skilful, is not punctiliously 
skilful. Naturally enough, she has not succeeded 
in tucking all the loose ends and ravellings of the 
biography into the compact parcel of the novel. For 
example, Mrs. Norris's services to the plot are 
virtually over after the first few chapters in which 
her mendicant benevolence it deserves no better 
phrase brings Fanny Price to Mansfield. After 
that she is installed as a permanent incumbrance in 
the biography, while her relation to the novel is 
merely that of spectator or invader. The conclusion 
of the work is evidently hurried. Miss Austen has 
even the barbarity to withhold from the reader the 
sight of the final mutual confession of Edmund and 
Fanny. 

The moral or morals of Mansfield Park are doubt- 
less sound enough, but I do not feel that they are 
powerfully or skilfully enforced. In Chapter 48, 
almost at the end of the book, there is a formal and 
solemn exposition of the errors in the training of the 
two Misses Bertram. The passage reads like an 
afterthought. Until I came to these paragraphs, in 
which the elders are loaded with the misconduct of 
the children, I own that I had failed to realize that 



MANSFIELD PARK 75 

the rearing of the Misses Bertram had been vicious, 
and was obliged to run hastily through the book to 
discover if Miss Austen or myself had failed in 
vigilance. My diligence was rewarded with one 
short paragraph hi which a hint of unwisdom was 
unmistakably lodged, but I was harsh enough to feel 
that the need of research to obtain this information 
was almost as sharp a criticism on the novelist as the 
failure of research to obtain it would have been. 
Authors, like other parents, sometimes discover too 
late their oversights in the early treatment of their 
children. After all, it is hard to see anything in the 
bringing-up of these girls which would account for 
Maria's desertion of her husband and elopement 
with a gallant. They had a sensible father, a harm- 
less, if helpless, mother, and an injudiciously flatter- 
ing aunt. To assert that vice is the logical outcome of 
these conditions is to magnify unduly the ascend- 
ency of aunts. 

A similar warning against the evil fruits of un- 
wholesome training is clearly intended in the case 
of the two Crawfords. But a relation between 
training and its consequences cannot be made effec- 
tive hi a book hi which the training is not presented, 
or is presented only in a few passing words of hurried 
retrospect. The evils of parental folly may be again 
suggested in the picture of the slatternly Price house- 
hold, but if, in the Crawford matter we have the 
conclusion without the premises, in the Price affair 



76 JANE AUSTEN 

we have the premises without the conclusion. On 
the whole, we cannot but feel that the lessons of 
Mansfield Park, though doubtless far from insincere, 
were somewhat adventitious. Miss Austen probably 
made the confection to please the sprightly, and 
later discovered its virtue as cough medicine in order 
to placate the discreet. 

Mansfield Park is Fanny Price's book; indeed its 
faithfulness to Fanny is almost canine. It is a 
technical flaw perhaps that a book which scarcely 
leaves Fanny's side should admit a brief dialogue 
here and there from which she is shut out. I mind 
this very little, however, because I think that no 
disapproval which arises in the critical re-survey of a 
book matters much except as the sequel of a dis- 
pkasure in the original uncritical reading. In point 
of fact, I read the book without the slightest per- 
turbation from this error in consistency, and even 
now I am not sure that Miss Austen would not have 
done well to part from Fanny oftener and more 
freely. The love-affair between Edmund and Mary 
Crawford is seen only hi parcels and through slits, 
because it is seen only through the eyes and ears of 
Fanny Price. 

Fanny herself interests and attracts us, though we 
yield to her charm with a shade of reluctance and a 
measure of reserve. Her position as the poor de- 
pendent in the great house is as advantageous for 
heroineship as it is undesirable in reality. She is by 



MANSFIELD PARK 77 

no means the pining and whining orphan of nursery 
fiction; she is fairly well treated at Mansfield, though 
she lives at her uncle's on a curiously mixed footing 
which permits her the luxury of a horse and denies 
her the comfort of a fire. Her virtue is a little 
formidable even in a heroine from whom we have 
learned to expect no moderation or self-restraint in 
that particular. Fanny does not allow our admira- 
tion the breathing-space which the commission of a 
single fault in the course of well-nigh three hundred 
pages would afford. She is permitted to dislike only 
those persons whom it is permissible, even laudable, 
to dislike. For her offenses in this kind she has the 
excuse of youth and inexperience. 

This very excuse, however, becomes the source of 
another difficulty. Fanny, at the time when we see 
most of her, is eighteen, absolutely ignorant of the 
world, shrinking and docile to an appealing, almost a 
pathetic, degree. But her mind is about twenty 
years older than her physique or her character. She 
is set down in the Mansfield Park circle as Miss 
Austen's delegate and mouthpiece. She observes 
with Miss Austen's keenness, and condemns with 
Miss Austen's severity. We are disconcerted by 
the hardihood with which this fragile and trembling 
girl holds out in her own mind against the judgment 
of the very persons who, so far as we can see, are 
responsible for the formation of her judgment. 
Literature has not hesitated to combine the mildest 



78 JANE AUSTEN 

and sweetest of dispositions with perfect clearness of 
head and unbending precision of verdict. Hilda, 
hi the Marble Faun, is a case hi point, but Hilda, a 
solitary American girl in Rome, is predestined by 
her very part to unhesitating self-reliance. But 
Fanny has never left her dovecote or rookery. If, 
hi the Emersonian phrase, she had a Delphi hi her 
own breast, the case might be altered; but Fanny is 
quite innocent of any such appanage; her opinions 
are formed by that society hi which the people she 
condemns are judges and leaders. 

We like to associate keen judgment with active 
force, and Miss Austen has done Fanny an ill turn 
by transporting her to her mother's house hi Ports- 
mouth, where her want of practical efficiency receives 
a peculiar almost a sardonic emphasis. In the 
squalors of that riotous household Fanny, apart from 
her encouragement of Susan, can do nothing but 
lose her appetite and her color, retreat into herself, 
and pine for Mansfield. In one way, all this is right 
and shrewd. The nursling of the aristocratic leisure 
in which Fanny has been dandled would no doubt 
have been powerless to cope with the grimy situation 
at the Prices', and the reader who dreams of an 
Esther Summerson, shepherding a meek flock of 
renovated Jellybys, must not be peevish at the snub 
to his romanticism. There is, however, something 
narrow and mean hi viewing these young and old 
ne'er-do-weels solely in relation to their success or 



MANSFIELD PARK 79 

failure in conciliating the taste of Mansfield, and I 
fear that Miss Austen can hardly be acquitted of 
complicity in the littleness and egotism of this 
view. What is Miss Austen's expedient for helping 
the child of a drunken father and a slipshod mother? 
Apparently she has nothing to suggest but adoption 
into a rich family. When told that the French poor 
had no bread, Marie Antoinette is said to have re- 
plied: "Why, then, let them eat cake." I have no 
doubt that Miss Austen would have been duly 
amused at the artlessness or heartlessness of the 
young queen's reply. 

There is another trait in Fanny which, if hardly 
to be classed as a fault, is, in my own case at least, a 
bar to enjoyment. About half the time Fanny is hi a 
state of fright, or at least of flutter. She is like 
Spenser's almond-tree on Mount Selinus, 

Whose tender locks do tremble every one 

At every little breath, that under heaven is blown. 

Further, this fright can never be taken for granted 
and pushed aside; it must always be recounted with 
care, with detail, with affectionate and solicitous 
assiduity. We all think that Miss Austen's mind was 
strong, if matched with Miss Burney's, and her- 
culean in comparison with Mrs. Radcliffe's; but not 
Evelina in the novel she names, not Emily in the 
Mysteries of Udolpho, is more fondled and cosseted 
on the score of nervousness than Fanny under the 



80 



JANE AUSTEN 



wing of the robust authoress of Mansfield Park. 
The trait had for the novelists of that day all the 
holiness of a convention, a convention to which 
the martial and feudal Scott did not hesitate to 
subscribe hi the portrayal of his heroines. But 
Scott had at least the excuse of giving his heroines 
something to be frightened about, and the emotion 
in its alternation with joy and love had for the heart 
the romantic charm which the eye felt in the passage 
of blush and pallor across the maiden's face. Miss 
Austen, as a realist, profits less by these excuses, and 
her constant presentation of the trait as an elegance 
is at war with the modern reader's indignant refusal 
to view the matter in that light. Fanny's charm, 
moreover, lies largely hi the orderliness, the thrift 
and neatness of her compact and shapely little mind, 
and to this charm flutter is adverse. 

Fanny remains, after all deductions, a kind and 
good girl whose fortunes and feelings one can follow 
with sincere, if somewhat patronizing, sympathy. 
Miss Austen reveals some of her most delicate 
psychology hi the strokes of nature that now and then 
rise like bubbles to the smooth surface of Fanny's 
impeccable decorum. Miss Austen's infinite respect 
for very good little girls cannot always blind her 
shrewdness to the fact that they are human beings 
like the rest of us. 

I now pass to Fanny's relatives at Mansfield Park. 
They are, first of all, an imaginable family, differing 



MANSFIELD PARK 81 

in that respect from the Bennets, who are only a 
parcel loosely knotted together by an hereditary 
string. Sir Thomas Bertram does not rank in 
interest or power with Miss Austen's prime successes, 
but in one point he is a capital illustration of the 
delicacy of her workmanship. To split a character 
in two, and make it half ridiculous, half estimable or 
lovable, is a feat to which the dexterity of artists has 
long accustomed us. But to split a man's dignity 
in two, and make one-half ridiculous and the other 
half estimable is a rarer and subtler, though not 
necessarily a more valuable, accomplishment. Sir 
Thomas is a worthy and a stilted man; he is to be 
exposed and vindicated at the same time, and the 
instrument of his exposure and vindication alike is the 
fashion of his speech. That speech involves a great 
deal of the "mild majesty and sober pomp" which 
Burke praised in the Anglican ritual. It is pleasant 
to see the cunning with which Miss Austen protects 
Sir Thomas in the very act of demolishing his 
defenses. Her sense of the mixture in things is 
finely evinced in the art which allows Sir Thomas 
to be indignant with the household for refusing a 
fire to Fanny at the precise moment when he is 
himself angry with her for rejecting a desirable 
suitor. 

Miss Austen's hand is consummate in the tiny 
portraiture of Lady Bertram. Even the initial 
strokes are final. She is done perfectly, and done 



82 JANE AUSTEN 

all at once. Continuance adds nothing to clearness, 
though it adds much to pleasure. In Lady Bertram, 
fortunately, there is very little of that pyrotechnic 
quality which exaggeration sometimes confers on 
Miss Austen's instant and vigorous effects. She is 
one of those woolly characters who roll themselves 
into balls, make themselves their own wrappage, as 
it were, and offer the minimum of exposure to the 
incursions of a teasing world. If her selfishness is 
unlimited, equally unlimited is her good-nature. 
Such beings, if happy, may be real alleviations of 
the inclemency of life for other people. A cat, the 
most selfish of animals, is sometimes the most 
agreeable of companions through the warmth shed 
abroad by its complete success in ministering to its 
own welfare. We hah" despise, hah* envy, the dis- 
position for which comfort is pleasure. In her 
abandonment of responsibility in her mature life, 
Lady Bertram is not unlike two married women of 
contemporary fiction, the Mrs. Gaylord of Mr. 
Howells's Modern Instance and the Mrs. Folyat of 
Mr. Carman's Round the Corner. 

Tom Bertram is drawn with a free and light but 
fortunate touch. Miss Austen likes him pretty well 
without minding him very much, and this is a frame 
of mind that is favorable rather than otherwise to 
success in portraiture. His type is much commoner 
hi the English novel in general than hi Miss Austen's 
corner of the field. She favors either the brilliant 



MANSFIELD PARK 83 

and plausible scapegrace, the Wickham, Willoughby, 
or Churchill type, or the mild and discreet young 
men, the Fen-arses, Bingleys, and Edmund Bertrams. 
Tom Bertram is of the type prefigured hi the Tom 
Jones of Fielding and carried forward in the Tom 
Brown of Mr. Hughes's Rugby, and stands about 
midway between his two namesakes in point of time 
and rakishness. A single sentence will show the dis- 
cretion with which Miss Austen portrays a character 
which the ordinary novelist is tempted to fondle or 
buffet. "Tom listened with some shame and some 
sorrow; but escaping as quickly as possible, could 
soon with cheerful selfishness reflect, firstly, that he 
had not been half so much in debt as some of his 
friends; secondly, that his father had made a most 
tiresome piece of work of it; and thirdly, that the 
future incumbent, whoever he might be, would, in 
all probability, die very soon." One of those sick- 
nesses which flourish in the third volumes of novels, 
with a view to the inducement of repentance hi 
the hero or relenting hi the heroine, waylays 
Tom Bertram; a moral convalescence accompanies 
the physical, which Miss Austen, whose respect for 
truth is highly variable, prolongs beyond the date of 
recovery. It may be added that Tom's brusque and 
hearty unconcern is perfectly evident and pleasantly 
evident through the shapely and decorous periods in 
which he confesses his filiation to Sir Thomas and to 
Jane Austen. Scott faced and mastered a similar 



84 JANE AUSTEN 

difficulty in his delineation of George Robertson in 
the Heart of MicLLothian. 

There is a curious likeness and interesting differ- 
ence between Sir Thomas Bertram and his younger 
son Edmund. Sir Thomas is something of a prig; 
Miss Austen knows it, likes him in spite of it, and 
succeeds in conveying both the knowledge and the 
liking to the reader. Edmund is a worse prig than 
Sir Thomas, but Miss Austen draws him under the 
impression that she is drawing nothing worse than 
an agreeable and exemplary young man, and the 
reader feels the full virus of the priggishness. Ed- 
mund is once just once allowed to do wrong. He 
consents to take part in an amateur theatrical per- 
formance to be given in his father's house among 
brothers and sisters and two or three intimate 
friends. I wish to give Edmund due credit for this 
solitary misdemeanor, but I feel bound to point out 
that a single act, however iniquitous, cannot redeem 
a long career of hardened and unblushing virtue to 
which even the excuse of thoughtlessness is wanting. 

Edmund is a worshipper of decency, and religion 
which is a part of decency and indeed the prime 
decency, has a claim to his unqualified respect. He 
is shocked with Mary Crawford for letting him see 
that her real objection to the Crawford-Rush worth 
elopement is the damage to respectability. One 
suspects that this is the real trouble with Edmund 
himself, but to avow it as the real trouble is the 



MANSFIELD PARK 85 

opposite of respectable. There are situations where 
respectability makes a point of subordinating its 
own claims, where it shocks all the conventions to 
give primacy to the conventional shock. We like 
Edmund's kindness to Fanny, and we do not feel 
that Fanny's virtues are rated too high hi the award 
of Edmund as their recompense. As a husband his 
kindness will be unvarying, and he will treat Fanny 
with a condescension so delicate that both he and 
Fanny will mistake it for respect. 

Of the two Misses Bertram very little is made. 
Julia, the younger sister, is clear, though slight, and 
the slightness is hardly a fault in a story in which 
Julia's position is obviously secondary. But Maria's 
case is very different. Maria is a mainstay of the 
plot, and why should Maria be grudged the boon of 
individualization in the Austen temple where even the 
small pillars are caryatids? The reason is quite dark 
to me. Maria is cheap ware certainly, but Miss 
Austen's interest is not confined to porcelain. 

Mrs. Norris, Lady Bertram's 'sister, is the out- 
standing figure of the book. Goldwin Smith says 
of her: " Short of criminality, nothing can be more 
odious; nor has Jane Austen painted anything which 
we should say was more worthy of hatred. Mrs. 
Norris is harsh, ill-natured, mean, and artful. Her 
mind is thoroughly low. . . . Yet what character 
is dearer to us than Mrs. Norris? What would 
even Mansfield Park be without her? It is to the 



86 JANE AUSTEN 

bad characters in novels and plays that we are in- 
debted after all for the excitement and the fun." 
My own feeling about Mrs. Nonis is more closely 
approximated in Henry James's comment on an- 
other famous exemplar of acrimony and bullying, 
the Mrs. Proudie of Trollope's Barsetshire series. 
"She is exceedingly true; but I do not think she is 
quite so good as her fame, or as several figures from 
the same hand that have not won so much honour. 
She is rather too violent, too vixenish, too sour." 
For me Mrs. Norris is loud herself, and Miss Austen's 
portrayal of her is simply boisterous. Nowhere has 
Miss Austen's hand been more brilliant or incisive; 
nowhere has it been more unbridled in the neglect 
of shading and the disdain of moderation. 

Mrs. Norris, like Lady Bertram, belongs to what 
might be called the single-stroke type of character. 
She is shrewish and she is stingy, and the delineation 
consists of little else than the defiling past the 
reader's mind of successive illustrations of these 
major traits. Mrs. Norris has been cited in proof 
of the alleged complexity of Miss Austen's delinea- 
tions, but I think she offers no ground for serious 
discomfort to supporters of the thesis that Miss 
Austen is anything but complex. Besides the 
parsimony and the acrimony we are invited to con- 
template her flattery of the young Misses Bertram, 
but this flattery, of which we have only one marked 
exhibition in a very early chapter, never dominates or 






MANSFIELD PARK 87 

permeates the drawing. Indeed, it has rather the 
effect of being provided by a charitable afterthought 
as a crutch for a tardy and tottering moral. Perhaps 
I am a little ill-natured hi quarrelling with the 
strokes for falling so uniformly into two groups when 
almost every stroke qua stroke is masterly. For- 
tunately for herself, Miss Austen, who excels hi the 
concrete and delights in the abstract, is forced, hi one 
side of the presentation of Mrs. Norris, to forego her 
preference and exercise her faculty. Love, hate, 
wrath, and shame may promenade in the abstract, 
but frugality positively refuses to renounce its adhe- 
sion to the concrete. If you save, you must save 
green baize or shirt-buttons or their equivalent. 

I admire the portrait, but I cannot exult in its 
merits hi the unreserved fashion of the ordinarily 
temperate Goldwin Smith. The picture tries me 
almost as much as it exhilarates. I feel that a 
criticism which Scott in his review applied, and, on 
the whole misapplied, to the Miss Bates and Mr. 
Woodhouse of Emma is unassailable in relation to 
Mrs. Norris. The criticism may be restated thus: 
there is a class of portraits hi which the material 
repels faster than the treatment can attract. In the 
mimicry of a bagpipe it is conceivable that inaccu- 
racy or inadequacy might be a blessing. I know that 
the uglinesses of art, like the distresses of love, are 
sectors hi a circle of which delight is the circum- 
ference; yet even the salubrity of art acts but feebly 



88 JANE AUSTEN 

on the asperity of Mrs. Norris. The laceration of 
Fanny is the less forgivable because the service to the 
plot is simply zero. We suffer keenly with Cosette 
in the claws of the Thenardiess hi Hugo's Les Mis&ra- 
bles, but we suffer stoutly, because this barbarity is of 
the very grain and tissue of a story to which our 
hearts are joyously and unreservedly conxmitted. 
But, after the first chapter, the footing of Mrs. Norris 
in the Mansfield Park story exactly coincides with 
her position hi the Mansfield Park household; she is a 
tolerated superfluity. 

Miss Austen has kept some of the slyest of her 
pungencies for the verbal chastisement of Mrs. Nor- 
ris, but I have my doubts if the essence of the char- 
acter be truly humorous. Humor is masquerade, 
and the parsimony and acerbity of Mrs. Norris 
hardly seek the protection of a mask. At tunes, 
indeed, the meanness is altogether too barefaced. I 
quote a paragraph. 

While Fanny's mind was engaged in these sort of hopes, her 
uncle was, soon after tea, called out of the room; an occurrence 
too common to strike her, and she thought nothing of it till the 
butler re-appeared ten minutes afterwards, and advancing de- 
cidedly towards herself, said, "Sir Thomas wishes to speak with 
you, ma'am, in his own room." Then it occurred to her what 
might be going on; a suspicion rushed over her mind which drove 
the colour from her cheeks ; but instantly rising, she was preparing 
to obey, when Mrs. Norris called out, "Stay, stay, Fanny! what 
are you about? where are you going? don't be in such a hurry. 
Depend upon it, it is not you who are wanted; depend upon it, 
it is me (looking at the butler) but you are so very eager to put 



MANSFIELD PARK 89 

yourself forward. What should Sir Thomas want you for? It 
is me, Baddeley, you mean; I am coming this moment. You 
mean me, Baddeley, I am sure; Sir Thomas wants me, not 
Miss Price." 

A master of a house often wishes to see a servant, 
and Fanny is a relative; Mrs. Norris's disbelief in 
the possibility of her being sent for is an insult to the 
reader's common sense. The instance is extreme, 
and most of Mrs. Norris's speeches and acts, taken 
singly, are credible enough. It is their reiteration 
and concentration that provides trials for the reader's 
faith. Miss Austen is not the historian, is not the 
judge; she is the prosecuting attorney whose business 
is not the probing of the truth, but the collection of 
incriminative evidence. One rebels and admires. 
Mrs. Norris pounds at Fanny, and Miss Austen 
pounds the reader with Mrs. Norris. The picture is 
as swashing as it is brilliant, and is no less a hardship 
than a joy. 

The two Crawfords, brother and sister, are much 
alike both as persons and as portraits. The relation 
of Edmund to Mary is not wholly unlike that of 
Fanny to Henry. In each case the serious character 
feels both a charm and a danger hi the worldly one. 
The same catastrophe, the elopement, puts an end to 
both uncertainties. Edmund's support of Crawford's 
suit is curiously parallel to Mary's countenance 
of Henry's. Neither brother nor sister occupies 
a front place in the Austen gallery. Each is more 



90 JANE AUSTEN 

than a failure, but each is less than a success, and in 
both cases the half-failure seems assignable to the 
same cause, to lacunae in the portrayal, the absence 
of connective tissue. 

The problem of the young woman of the world 
whose heart is drawn to a young clergyman is one of 
vigorous appeal. If one had to pick out a more 
penetrating problem, it would be that of the young 
clergyman whose heart is drawn to a woman of 
fashion. When these two first-rate situations face 
each other, the material becomes almost inestimable. 
In one respect the planning of Mary Crawford's 
character is worthy of this splendid opportunity. 
She is not a bad woman, not even a wholly frivolous 
woman. The difference between her and the wholly 
baleful influence is the difference between Calypso 
and Circe. On one occasion in the theatrical squab- 
ble, the author has made her truly kind to Fanny, 
not to mention the many occasions on which she is 
politely or politicly kind. She loves the world; she 
loves Edmund Bertram; her preference is hidden 
from herself. She is old enough to know the value of 
circumspection, and young enough to rejoice at 
times in throwing it off. She has principle enough to 
protest, though far from strongly, against her 
brother's plan to divert himself with Fanny. 

Nevertheless, I must own to a feeling that I can- 
not get at Mary Crawford, and I have sometimes the 
temerity to think that Miss Austen shares my em- 



MANSFIELD PARK 91 

barrassment. There are two marked difficulties; we 
are obliged to see her brokenly through Fanny 
Price's interrupted vision, and obliquely through 
Fanny Price's biased eyes. Her love for Edmund, 
its feature, its profile, is absolutely withheld from us, 
and even for the other side of her character we are 
obliged to depend on scattered hints and surface 
indications. Again, while the contiguity of the two 
elements in her personality has been finely and 
naturally conceived, I do not feel that their amal- 
gamation has been brought to pass. The synthetic 
view by which dramatic elements are unified into a 
human being is not perceivable hi the treatment of 
Mary Crawford. Miss Austen dislikes her, and while 
intent on controlling the dislike, is betrayed here and 
there into a flash of malice. One such flash is her 
reference to Tom Bertram's illness: "I never bribed 
a physician in my life." This is worse than cruel on 
Miss Austen's part; it is tactless. It does not take 
Miss Crawford out of nature, but it vulgarizes a 
worldliness whose interest lay largely in its delicacy. 
In Henry Crawford the discerning endeavor to 
balance good and evil is equally noticeable, but the 
success is even more imperfect. Henry Crawford 
leaves ruin behind him, but even in power he lacks 
significance. He talks very freely, but his utterance 
is inexpressive. Don Juans as a class are tenuous, the 
sort of persons whom ghosts can discipline and stat- 
utes kill, and Crawford is an attenuated Don Juan. 



92 JANE AUSTEN 

At the close of the book he runs off with a woman 
whom he despises to the certain loss of the woman 
whom he really loves. We touch here on the power- 
ful suggestion that the penalty of pursuing caprice 
at the expense of others' comfort and one's own con- 
science is the final sacrifice to this tinsel god of one's 
own profoundest and most passionate desires. Wil- 
fulness thwarts our will. Striking as this reflection 
is, in Mansfield Park it is hardly more than a re- 
flection, or indeed an implication. It remains on the 
verge of the story where its influence on the book is 
naturally slight. Crawford is the leisurely, the placid, 
the indolently supple ladykiller, the huntsman to 
whom the chase is more than the game, and his ele- 
gance in the saddle more than the chase. With 
Fanny his heart is touched, and alacrity is more ap- 
parent. I do not know whether Miss Austen is 
blind to the real insolence of the means he adopts 
in his pursuit of Fanny means which reek with 
latent insult and which would settle his fate once for 
all with any spirited woman. I incline to think that 
Miss Austen views his wooing as refined and diplo- 
matic. I think she erred in denying him personal 
beauty; the fear of the obvious has impaired, or at 
least imperilled, the naturalness of the portrait. A 
man whose mind and manners are only moderately 
winning could not safely dispense with the reenforce- 
ment of good looks. 

The other characters are of small account. A 



MANSFIELD PARK 93 

stroke or two makes Dr. Grant absolutely clear 
clearer than his wife to whom many more strokes 
are less profitably devoted. The contents of Mr. 
Rushworth's mind are so meagre as hardly to furnish 
even the needful equipment for an adequate im- 
becile. At a distance he excites pity. William 
Price, the midshipman, is agreeable and unob- 
trusive; Susan is clinched in a few deft touches; and 
the other Prices, of whom Miss Austen is almost 
inhumanly contemptuous, are distinct enough in 
their clamor and squalor. 

I may note, finally, that in Mansfield Park there 
is a partial disparity between the form at least, 
the apparent form of the book, and its contents. It 
purports or claims to be made after an ancient and 
approved recipe by which the tediums of genera- 
tions have been salved. There is the nestling of 
poverty who becomes the nursling of wealth, the 
penniless girl brought up among the chilly bounties 
of rich relations. There is the handsome young 
heir (or cadet) by whom an instant and constant 
attachment is inspired. There is the wicked knight 
or amorous conjuror who uses all his arts to draw 
the young girl within the fated circle of his malign 
influence. There is, finally, the ogress (Mrs. Norris) 
who dogs the heroine's steps. This is the kind of 
tale to be read stretched out lazily upon the hearth- 
rug or doubled up in the cosiness of the sofa-corner 
(to read it in a chair is unpermissible), and the effect 



94 JANE AUSTEN 

of lamplighted and carpeted interiors in Mansfield 
Park fits in with these agreeable conditions. This is 
not quite the book that Miss Austen wrote, it is the 
book she feigned to write. The feint is not unskilful, 
and lovers of this particular brand of literary sweet- 
meat are not the persons whom deceivers find most 
troublesome. It is this cousinship with a more 
popular and insinuating type of fiction that helps 
to account for the appearance of its name seven 
times on the slips of paper with which, according 
to Goldwin Smith, a party of men of letters balloted 
for the novel affording the most pleasure. 

I have very little faith in this "tradition," as 
Goldwin Smith himself circumspectly calls it, and I 
doubt if Mansfield Park has largely profited by the 
attempt to couch a serious study of life in the frame 
of a fairy tale. The frame is too slight, and its 
fragility must not be overstrained. The width of 
character congenial to Miss Austen is shut out, and 
Lady Bertram and Mrs. Norris are the only char- 
acters in which the novelist rises to her full height. 
The elopement of Henry Crawford and Maria Rush- 
worth in a story of this kind is like the firing of a 
pistol shot at an afternoon tea. The story, naturally 
enough, flees to the nearest hiding-place, crouches 
down, and puts its fingers in its ears. The fairy 
tale is a little too elemental or exotic for Miss Austen's 
free and robust hand. We feel that Edmund is 
overstarched, that Fanny is oversweetened, and 



MANSFIELD PARK 95 

that the two Crawfords are unfortunate in their 
resemblance to unstable chemical compounds. The 
book has much that is valuable and attractive, but 
in soundness of plan, in fundamental health, it im- 
presses me as notably inferior both to Emma and to 
Pride and Prejudice. 



CHAPTER V 
EMMA 

THE claim of Emma to the second place among 
Miss Austen's novels seems to me as incontestable 
as its failure to compete with Pride and Prejudice 
for the honor of the first. Emma, the novel, has a 
quality of its own, a good-natured, placid, slightly, 
dispersed and unoccupied quality, which is pleasantly 
reflected in the character of its heroine. The atmos- 
phere is sunny; the people are in the main healthy, 
prosperous, and cheerful; nobody, with the doubtful 
exception of the two Knightleys, has much to do; 
and the story resigns itself with the other inhabitants 
of Highbury to that poverty of incident and defect 
of bustle which is the price paid by small villagers 
for security and comfort. 

The main bid for heart-throbs lies in a secret en- 
gagement, and though Miss Austen does her best 
to uphold its solemnity by speaking of it in the tone 
appropriate to a defalcation or a burglary, the reader 
declines to excite himself. Indeed, the opportunity 
to excite himself is not offered until three-fourths 
of the narrative is complete, for this is the point at 
which he is apprised of the occurrence. Meanwhile, 
he has contented himself with such amusement as 

96 



EMMA 97 

he could pick up by the way. Of what does this 
amusement consist? There is a semblance of a 
love-affair between Frank Churchill and Emma 
Woodhouse, but as the affair is pure imagination on 
the woman's part and pure simulation on the man's, 
and as both parties are warmly agreed on the ex- 
pediency of its prompt consignment to the dustheap, 
its contribution to the life of the story is not great. 

What more does the narrative offer? There is a 
young girl who is induced by a benevolent but 
shortsighted patroness to transfer her affections from 
a young farmer, who is her social equal and mental 
superior, to a young clergyman who airs his want of 
sense in a politer circle. The young clergyman 
proving ungrateful, nourishing indeed a most un- 
seasonable passion for the patroness, the heart of 
the young girl is transferred, this time by its own 
volition, to a county landowner. The landowner 
remaining obdurately unconscious, the heart, which 
has been passed around like a photograph in a draw- 
ing-room, is returned with the strictest probity to 
its original possessor, the young farmer. This kind 
of chain-work will obviously awaken no great sus- 
pense, especially when we allow for the fact that the 
young girl is subsidiary and insignificant. The 
young clergyman, having been refused by the pa- 
troness, proceeds with vindictive celerity to court 
and marry another woman. This second woman's 
contribution to the plot is minute; it consists hi 



98 JANE AUSTEN 

securing a place as governess for Jane Fairfax (the 
woman who is secretly engaged), which the said 
Jane, accepting one evening in an access of despair, 
cancels a few days later in a reflux of happiness. 
The clergyman's wife, irrelevant to the plot, is 
nevertheless invaluable to Jane Austen. The mo- 
ment of her entrance is critical for the story. The 
first interest, that of the young clergyman's love- 
affairs, is definitively ended; the secret engagement 
which is to vivify the close is undiscerned as yet by 
any except the Dupins among the readers; something 
is clearly needed to keep the public from dozing. 
Now this clergyman's wife is a woman with rings on 
her fingers and bells on her toes (I speak partly hi 
metaphor), and with the jingle of these trinkets she is 
deputed to amuse the reader in the slumber or sus- 
pension of the other interests. The expedient is not 
artful; but in the act of drowning one clutches at 
Mrs. Eltons as at other straws. 

Meanwhile, a love-affair of a calm, slow, and un- 
eventful type, disguising itself as a friendship when 
it is not masquerading as a feud, has established 
itself between the heroine and the landowner, and 
mutual avowals close the book. The novel as a 
whole is a curious medley in which there is a great 
deal of what passes for heart interest, handled with 
scant suspense and broken continuity. The reader 
is often constrained to wonder where the story is. 
He thinks of a picnic hi which desultory groups of 



EMMA 99 

persons dispose themselves at random, or pursue 
nominal objects with devious strolls and pointless 
rearrangements. The simile is instructive and yet 
unfair, because in work so clean-cut as Miss Austen's, 
observation becomes an end in itself, and the addi- 
tion of fact to fact is significant irrespective of its 
bearing on an issue. The story does not loaf even 
when it lingers; loafing implies languor of movement 
as well as uncertainty of route, and Miss Austen's 
gait is never shuffling; even her route is rather various 
and devious than unsure. 

It may be thought that Emma's blunders should 
supply a unifying principle for the book. But 
Emma's blunders are an odd lot; they are of all 
sorts and all sizes; they are sometimes rather unde- 
fined, and the degree of their harmfulness is some- 
times difficult to measure. They have nothing like 
the symmetry and ordered neatness (nor, let us 
hasten to add, anything like the arrant artifice) 
of the blunders of Lelie in Moliere's Et&urdi or of 
Sir Martin Mar-all in Dryden's imitation of that 
comedy. Emma's capital error is her first the 
fostering of Harriet's passion for Mr. Elton. By 
that step, if I may paraphrase the language of Ma- 
caulay on Marlborough's treachery, she put herself 
under the disadvantage which attends every great 
artist from the moment he has achieved a master- 
piece; and, unlike Marlborough, Emma fails to cope 
successfully with this disadvantage. Her second 



100 



JANE AUSTEN 



blunder in the same kind is far less flagrant, and 
the recuperative powers of Harriet's heart do not 
strengthen our sense of the wickedness of Emma. 
With one exception, her other follies amount to little. 
Her flirtation with Frank Churchill is hardly more 
than an excusable imprudence, and her levities at 
Box Hill are a relatively innocent part of a complex 
general situation of which a rupture of the engage- 
ment between Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax is 
the momentary outcome. On the other hand, her 
really unpardonable conduct in the Dixon matter is 
productive of no evil beyond a passing embarrass- 
ment. It is quite true that Emma's experience is no 
more unequal or unsorted than the normal course of 
life, but life is not a novel and the entertainment of 
spectators is not the object of its march. 

It is regrettable that the mistake of Elinor Dash- 
wood and Mrs. Jennings as to the identity of the 
person of whom they talk is repeated with equal ex- 
travagance and rather less excuse in the conversa- 
tion of Harriet and Emma in the fortieth chapter. 

Emma Woodhouse is a finely drawn character. 
She is not lovable, she is not winning; but she is 
vastly likable. (She is one of those persons whose 
vicinity is wholesome; her presence is more excit- 
ing than her conversation, which seems merely 
episodic to her presence. She does nothing but 
blunder, and the effect of this succession of blunders 
is the instilment of an unshakable trust. The truth 



EMMA 101 

is that Emma's consciousness at this stage of her 
life is the antipodes of her temperament; what she 
thinks and feels belies what she is. Her thinking 
and feeling is for the most part frivolous and silly; 
but the essential things in her are bottom and poise. 
She has that firm-based British nature, that rounded 
I am almost moved to say that mounded temper- 
ament which shows itself hi such diverse forms and 
to such varied purpose hi Scott's Jeanie Deans, in 
Hardy's Tess Durbeyfield, and hi George Eliot's 
Mary Garth. 

She is handsome, clever, and rich, and she suffers 
from the malaise of having nothing to do. She has 
too many servants to permit her to work, and too 
few dependents to exercise her charity. The care 
of an invalid father to whom she is devoted furnishes 
her with just that degree of occupation which makes 
the absence of voluntary tasks forgivable. She has no 
religion to speak of, no zeal in the pursuit of study, 
no serious intellectual interest. The social activity 
in the populous village of Highbury is meagre and 
casual. She has indefinite leisure and an untilled 
mind. A mind capable of seriousness, but not capa- 
ble of finding its own occasions for seriousness, has 
drifted into levity through defect of schooling and 
excess of freedom. Only a fraction of her nature is in 
play; she is the owner of a chateau who lives hi a 
marquee. 

Emma's love for Mr. Knightley is the natural and 



102 JANE AUSTEN 

salutary demand of her tentative nature for cer- 
tainty and authority. She has no explicit principles; 
it has never occurred to her that a person of such ad- 
mirable dispositions as herself could stand hi need of 
principles. One doesn't muzzle a lamb. Unfortu- 
nately, the most admirable of dispositions, if unse- 
cured by principles, are in themselves no security 
against acts the most contrary to their own tenden- 
cies. The good-natured and generous Emma con- 
fides to Frank Churchill her meddlesome and ill- 
bred conjectures on the relations of Jane Fairfax to 
Mr. Dixon. Conduct of this kind is a trial not to 
say an ordeal for the sympathetic reader, but our 
kindness for Emma has something of the stability 
and amplitude of Emma herself. I use amplitude 
here in a moral sense, though there is a quality, 
including both mind and person, which tempts me to 
use, and yet will not quite permit me to use, the ad- 
jective buxom. 

Mr. Woodhouse is drawn with hardly less ability, 
though with less subtlety, than his daughter. The 
solicitudes of Mr. Woodhouse are undoubtedly cari- 
catured Miss Austen loves truth, but not truth at 
a vast expense of pungency yet that is not tanta- 
mount to saying that Mr. Woodhouse himself is a 
caricature. There is much in him besides the self- 
coddler. He is grateful and affectionate and hos- 
pitable and courteous, and his anxieties are so wi- 
dened by his altruism as to include the whole body of 



EMMA 103 

his deplorably reckless acquaintance. Mr. Wood- 
house is the mildest of men, yet being a member of 
the Austen world, he is precise hi his mildness. If 
hi his softness and tremors he is jelly, he is jelly hi a 
mold. The association of ceremony with flutter was 
an original thought, whether the originality was 
nature's or Jane Austen's. Nothing hi Jane's work 
is more endearing than the deference that is paid 
on all hands to a type that is normally unlucky both 
in its companions and its painters. Mr. Woodhouse 
is an egotist and fool, an exacting and trying fool, 
yet he is the object of unrelaxing tenderness and 
esteem from people who, like the Knightleys, are 
possessed of every excuse for impatience which health 
of unfeeling robustness and the curtest of tempers can 
bestow. 

The Westons will hardly detain us. Mr. Weston, 
while personally a little tedious, is highly interesting 
as a bit of craftsmanship. He is the best of men, with 
all the favorable indications and all the dubious im- 
plications of that amiably insidious phrase. To be 
specific, he is just, kind, cheerful, friendly, talkative, 
a little lavish hi his talk, a little ^discriminate in 
his cheer and comity. A comic dramatist would 
have left the virtues unclouded, or would have given 
the foibles a free hand. But Miss Austen makes a 
mere abatement, a qualification, both a source of 
difference and guarantee of reality. The picture 
is instinct with that rare equity which hi Miss Austen 



104 JANE AUSTEN 

was the incongrous associate of so reckless and dash- 
ing a onesidedness. Her temper in the portrayal 
is as perfect as her art; it is almost as hard to de- 
spise men a little with Miss Austen as to despise them 
tenderly with Anatole France. 

Mrs. WesJton, in whom all the virtues are neatly 
packed and plainly labelled, has only one drawback; 
she has always the air of a person who comes to us 
superlatively recommended. We feel that she is 
earning our indorsement; at the end of her stay we 
shall be powerless to refuse her a "character." We 
respect her for bearing a child; that is an act of re- 
freshing solidity in a world in which the people are 
mostly idle observers of each other's idleness^ 

Mr. Knightley, Emma's dictatorial lover, is the 
kmd of material which anybody who can draw char- 
acter at all can draw admirably. Incisiveness re- 
quires less art, or will make the same allowance of 
art go farther, than almost any other trait. Being 
the least expensive of material, it is also the most lu- 
crative ,-the returns on the investment are very large 
in the Hotspur of Shakespeare, the Anthony Ab- 
solute of Sheridan, the Jaggers of Dickens, and the 
Lady Rockminster of Thackeray. Mr. Knightley 
is a middle-aged English landowner of redoubtable 
probity, great executive force, adamantine opinions, 
and a candor by which others profit and suffer. His 
speech has the velocity, regularity, and energy of a 
force-pump, yet manages to keep its human property 



EMMA 105 

for all that. He is almost cruel in his rebuke of 
cruelty; one feels that he is the sort of master who 
would damn a servant for a lapse into profanity. 
I cannot but feel that this world must be far better 
and far better-natured than it now is before a mere 
flick of satire at another person's obvious and ob- 
trusive folly can deserve the avalanche of reproba- 
tion which Emma receives for her treatment of Miss 
Bates. Nothing is more curious, nothing is more rev- 
elatory of Miss Austen's self-inclosed and conse- 
quential world, than the subjects which occupy the 
mind of this thoughtful, powerful, and unimaginative 
man of affairs. They include snubs to old spinsters 
by thoughtless young women, but they mainly deal 
with love. His interest hi the marriage of a young 
farmer with a village girl engrosses him to the point 
of quarrelling with the woman he loves hi its behalf. 
It is the oddest of worlds in which a novelist, assum- 
ing the part of Omphale, can find no apter instru- 
ment for Hercules than the distaff. 

Mr. John Knightley is the brother of the elder 
Knightley and the husband of Emma's sister. I 
spoke just now of Miss Austen's delicate fairness to 
the demonstrative and genial Mr. Weston. Mr. 
John Knightley is a fairly good illustration of the 
opposite habit the habit of making a single trait 
the sum and substance of the portrayal to the ex- 
clusion or unfair subordination of more vital ele- 
ments in the character. Mr. John Knightley is in 



106 JANE AUSTEN 

most ways a very good man, but Miss Austen has 
no time to waste on such kickshaws as virtues. Mr. 
John Knightley is the possessor of an invaluable 
little temper of which a thrifty novelist must make 
the most. The point in visiting a geyser is always to 
arrive at or near the moment of eruption. That is 
exactly the point in the portrayal of Mr. John 
Knightley. His ill-temper is crisp enough, though 
in view of the smallness of its occasions and the en- 
tire innocence in many cases of the human receptacle 
into which its acerbities are poured, it might pass for 
mere peevishness, but for its assumption of logical 
form and its origin hi a masculine chest. It is not 
merely in literature that the recourse to the big 
bow-wow strain is of service to the arrogant 
male. 

Mr. Frank Churchill is Mr. Weston's handsome 
and aristocratic son. He enters the story at a very 
advanced point to be precise at the one hundred 
and fifty-first page in an edition of three hundred 
and ninety-five pages; but in the interest which pre- 
ludes and the sensation which accompanies this be- 
lated entrance he is comparable only to Chad in Mr. 
James's Ambassadors. Like Chad again, he is a 
little disappointing and not perfectly elucidated. To 
adopt the language of Elizabethan stage directions, 
after the opening flourish there are scattered alarms 
and excursions, which are clearly mere episodes and 
offshoots of some larger conflict off-stage, the pur- 



EMMA 107 

port and progress of which are inscrutable from our 
post of observation. 

Mr. Churchill is a spasmodic young person, pro- 
lific in arrivals and departures, and with feelings 
almost as agile as his person. There are, roughly 
speaking, three stages in the portrayal: the splendor 
of his advent, the disillusion, and the partial re- 
habilitation. Miss Austen has hardly time enough 
for thoroughness in the report of all three processes, 
and the second in particular is hurried and mulcted. 
Frank Churchill is variable; he is light; he can 
be momentarily unfeeling. So much we know, and 
we are by no means completely reassured by the 
condescensions and sumptuosities of his almost too 
bountiful repentance. We are not clear as to the 
extent to which we should commiserate or congratu- 
late Jane Fairfax. In one point it seems to me that 
Miss Austen has committed an artistic error. After 
setting Frank Churchill on his feet, she is seized with 
a qualm of candor or a jet of spite, and gives us a 
last glimpse of the young man (in the final conversa- 
tion with Emma at Mrs. Weston's) for no apparent 
purpose but that of convincing us that he is a maw- 
kish fribble. This comes too late. I have enough of 
the New England housewife in ine to be horrified 
at the spectacle of muddy foot-tracks on a floor that 
has been newly mopped. 

I confess that I quite agree with Emma in her dis- 
like of Jane Fairfax. I grant that her character is 



108 JANE AUSTEN 

exemplary, but example may be quite as irksome as 
precept. The irreproachableness of Jane Fairfax is 
a reproach to all the onlookers. There are two main 
points about Jane, her reserve and her pathos. The 
one should command respect, and the other should 
engage sympathy. Neither fulfils its office. There is 
no disguise like the appearance of openness, and 
nothing invites curiosity like the appearance of re- 
serve. Jane Fairfax's bearing has the indiscretion 
and the impropriety of a whisper in company. As 
for her sufferings, there are people who have a talent 
for endurance which is little short of an entreaty to 
destiny to unload its carload of misfortunes at their 
door. These comments are of course rather trivial, 
but a reader's disposition to trifle is a matter of 
weight for the novelist and critic. I doubt if Jane 
Austen liked Jane Fairfax; at the close of the book 
Emma and Emma's creator seem to be doing pen- 
ance together. 

Miss Bates, like Mr. Woodhouse, is a humor in 
the old-fashioned sense. But, like Mr. Woodhouse, 
she is much more than a caricature, though the 
picture is extreme, if not burlesque, in one of its 
phases. The elephant's nose is greatly elongated, 
but the general size of the animal is a justification 
of the magnitude of his proboscis. Miss Bates has 
character enough to bear up her peculiarity. There 
is something snug and buxom in this spinster, the 
like of which is not easily to be found in the novels 



EMMA 109 

of Miss Austen. We feel that she would get on with 
Mrs. Nubbles and Mrs. Lupin and Polly Richards 
and other worthies of a circle with which most of 
Jane's characters would be at a loss to fraternize. 
Her hand, if touched, would be warm pudgy, if 
you insist, but warm; and there is hardly another 
specimen of the handiwork of her creator of whom the 
same thing could be securely said. She has an artless 
faith in the good-will of her fellow-creatures which 
illumines and adorns the world. Everybody is glad 
to survey that embellishment of himself which faces 
him in the trustful geniality of that simple mind, 
and the reader on whom she has never looked is in- 
directly flattered by the admiration she bestows on 
his inferiors. 

The peculiarity which makes her the dread and 
wonder of her neighbors is her speech. Miss Bates 
is the rambling monologist, but she differs from her 
tribe in several interesting particulars. The Austen 
trade-mark is visible in the precision of her trim 
her almost formal volubility. The speech of her 
class tends to coagulate, to become a paste a trait 
clearly observable in the much less cohesive, but 
much more glutinous, monologues of Mrs. Nickleby. 
Miss Bates always keeps her thread even when she 
lets it dangle, and the difference between her and the 
scatter-brained monologist is the difference between 
excursion and wandering. In the nineteenth chapter 
Miss Austen has some important circumstances to 



110 JANE AUSTEN 

impart to the reader. She does not hesitate to in- 
trust the conveyance of these facts to the progressive 
if dilatory conversation of Miss Bates. In the ball- 
room scene the speeches are sharply punctuated, 
cut into blocks with an evident concern for style 
underlying all the superficial inadvertence. In this 
respect they resemble the more obviously fabri- 
cated monologues of Blanche Evers later Blanche 
Wright in Mr. James's barely remembered Con- 
fidence. 

Mrs. Elton's character has been warmly praised. 
In those interesting Opinions of Emma cited in the 
Life and Letters of Jane Austen, four persons are 
particular in their admiration of Mrs. Elton. A Miss 
Sharp, who has sense enough to dislike Jane Fair- 
fax, thinks Mrs. Elton beyond praise, and there is a 
Henry Sanford who thinks "Mrs. Elton the best- 
drawn character in the book." Here, again, I think 
of Scott's apt judgment, applied with such doubtful 
aptness to Mr. Woodhouse and Miss Bates that 
the unpleasantness of a reality may overcharge the 
portrait. Mrs. Elton is clear, but disagreeable, and 
we, not having been inured to the regimen of Dothe- 
boys Hall, grow tired of that particular mixture of 
brimstone and treacle, in other words of malice and 
smirking, which is served up to us without stint in 
her lavish conversation. The case would be less 
irksome if she had any real business in the story. 
But, as I have already observed, her office is merely 



EMMA 111 

that of a screen or stop-gap, and her impertinence 
is emphasized by her inutiiity. 

Again, Mrs. Elton is more foolish than comic, or, 
at all events, she does not amuse in the degree in 
which she repels. She has not quite the amount or 
land of folly which contents a reader by the es- 
tablishment of his own superiority. To insure that 
result, Mrs. Elton should be humbled. Nothing 
of the sort occurs; Mrs. Elton is secretly abominated, 
but, openly, she is tolerated and deferred to by 
everybody on the premises. Mr. Knightley is 
taciturn; Emma is acquiescent; Jane Fairfax is 
submissive; Miss Bates is idolatrous. The form of 
portrayal does not show Miss Austen at her very 
best. In Mrs. Elton's conversation, self-betrayal 
is abnormally, even incredibly, continuous; indeed, 
it goes on long after there is nothing left to betray. 
It is only fair to repeat after this train of objections 
that the character is drawn with much skill. Mrs. 
Elton is real to us, at least while she is hi our com- 
pany. In the memory I find that she undergoes a 
sort of disembodiment or dissolution to which Mr. 
Woodhouse, Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Miss Bates 
are by no means subject. 

I find Mr. Elton a more satisfying figure I would 
not say a cleverer piece of drawing than his wife. 
In Mrs. Elton, the coloring is garish; in the husband 
the artist's own design has obliged her to stay her 
hand. Mr. Elton is Emma's choice for Harriet, 



112 JANE AUSTEN 

and Emma is Harriet's sincere, if very condescend- 
ing, friend. A bound must be set to his meanness. 
His profession clearly sets no bound to it in the eyes 
of the creator of the Reverend Mr. Collins. Mr. 
Elton's calling, like Mr. Collins's, appears to be re- 
movable like his surplice and with his surplice. He is 
not merely not religious; he is not even clerical. 
He is a handsome young fellow in whom the senti- 
mental and the mercenary blend as amicably as 
politeness and rapacity in the behavior of a shop- 
keeper. He is full of arch and winning ways, trap- 
pings and furbelows of manner, the forms of an 
effusiveness that is partly nature, partly convention, 
and partly strategy. In several of the early chapters 
through which Mr. Elton waltzes so briskly, his 
character no less than his attitude toward Harriet 
is left in a state of cunning ambiguity. "There are 
cats" said Violet Effingham to Phineas Finn, "who 
play with their mice and do not eat them, cats who 
eat their mice and do not play with them, and cats 
who play with their mice and eat them." Miss 
Austen may be trusted to eat her mouse in the Elton 
case, but she is feline in her willingness to postpone 
her meal to her sport. Mr. Elton, disappointed in 
Emma, retaliates by marrying fashion and folly in 
the person of Augusta Hawkins, and spends the rest of 
his time more quietly in the wake of his wife's train 
and the lee of her vocabulary. The insult to Harriet 
in the ball-room scene has the effect of a sudden de- 



EMMA 113 

scent of Miss Austen's fist at a moment when we ex- 
pected nothing more than the play of the finger-tips. 

In Harriet Smith, Miss Austen faces a difficulty. 
She draws character as it were hi straight lines, and 
if there is anything willowy or sinuous hi the con- 
tours of her subject, the need of adjustment is ob- 
vious. The need is especially insistent hi a young 
girl like Harriet Smith. The problem is by rto 
means hopeless. Trollope, with a similar though 
slighter propensity to the rectilinear, succeeded in 
drawing young girls of an ideal charm and an ade- 
quate suppleness. Miss Austen asks less of Harriet, 
but her success hi getting what she asks is consider- 
able. Miss Smith is a light-haired and blue-eyed 
young thing whom an accident of birth has placed 
hi the neutral region between two social classes, 
without assured footing or firm poise hi either. An 
American girl in Harriet's place would have more 
spring and lissomeness. Her mind might be stored 
to as little purpose as that of Harriet, but at worst 
it would be more littered; it would not have that 
effect of bare walls and whitewash which belongs to 
those unfurnished lodgings otherwise known as the 
mind of Harriet Smith. One might almost complete 
the figure by imagining a sign "To Let" suspended 
in the curtainless window of Harriet's mind or heart. 

A character like Harriet's needs the embellish- 
ment of simplicity, and in the formal Austen world 
simplicity is hard to come by. Harriet uses the 



114 JANE AUSTEN 

buskined diction of her associates; she affects judg- 
ment and discretion in conformity to the manners 
of a time when the semblance of judgment and dis- 
cretion was mandatory even upon flighty little girls. 
But in spite of this dowager's harness which fashion 
has obliged her to put on, she remains a young girl, 
and Miss Austen, who has drawn her in a magnani- 
mous mood, is scrupulously and studiously just to 
her good qualities. She bears her disappointments 
with unresentful patience, and omniscience hi the 
person of Mr. Knightley is compelled in the course 
of time to retract a large part of its overbearing 
strictures. Harriet Smith is not vulgar; she is not 
flimsy; she is not missish. She is girlish, school- 
girlish that is the worst that can be said. Miss 
Austen's power to combine attack and defense hi 
the same portrayal is worthy of all praise. Nothing 
can be better than the manner in which Harriet's 
fluttered deference and bashful vanity are conveyed. 
She has less firmness perhaps than any other of Miss 
Austen's characters, who, take them as a class, 
are a tenacious and resolute set. But if the woman 
lacks individuality, the same cannot be said of the 
portrait. An artist of Miss Austen's power can im- 
part individuality to the drawing by the very touches 
which deny it to the sitter. 

The value of the characterization hi Emma is 
great, and the novel is more individual, more hi a 
class by itself, than any of the other books but 



EMMA 115 

Pride and Prejudice. In Pride and Prejudice, how- 
ever, the individuality is that of the author; in 
Emma it is that of the village. The communal 
effect, while not explicitly sought, is strongly im- 
parted. This explains, almost justifies, the negation 
of plot; we feel that plots, like circuses, would skip 
Highbury. We feel that the stories of such a region 
would copy the deliberation of its brooks, and that 
the intervals between events might be patterned on 
the spaces between houses. We are hi a world with 
broad margins, a world in which everybody's dole of 
space and tune is larger than in the compact and 
bustling metropolis. There is a reserved and lei- 
surely but persevering social life, loose but secure 
ties, malice enough to temper the dulness, and good- 
will enough to temper the malice, a placidity which is 
patient of the usual, happily blent with a curiosity 
to which the mildest forms of the unusual are excit- 
ing. Is a society of this land vacuous? Its neighbor- 
ship to the earth and the processes by which earth is 
tilled and man is fed prevent it from becoming that. 
Bovine in a sense the life of "Emma" is, but "bo- 
vine" is a word of various suggestiveness, and in- 
cluded creatures in the early Greek mythology who 
were thought worthy of Apollo's mastership and of 
the forays of the youthful Hermes. We are not sur- 
prised that a book to which such an epithet should 
be even loosely applicable should be the healthiest 
and sunniest of Miss Austen's works. 



CHAPTER VI 
PERSUASION 

Persuasion is a story without a plot. In 1811, the 
date of its commencement, a plot or the semblance 
of a plot, was imperative, and a large part of the 
author's ingenuity is devoted to the concealment of 
the omission from the eye of the analytic reader. 
The problem is very similar to that of Colonel and 
Mrs. Crawley, who undertook to live fashionably 
on exactly nothing a year. The original economy 
of mental effort in the fable has forced Miss Austen 
into such an expenditure of ingenuity on makeshifts 
and evasions that it might have been cheaper in the 
long run to pay her way. 

Some years before the story opens Anne Elliot 
and Captain Wentworth had confessed a mutual 
passion, but Anne, hi deference to the will of a 
father and submission to the counsels of a friend, had 
broken off the engagement. Eight years later, at 
the opening of the narrative, the lovers are brought 
together once more. The renewal of the engage- 
ment is the obvious consequence. Miss Austen is 
bound to prevent, or rather postpone, the arrival 
of a consummation so portentous to a novelist, but 
her embarrassments are very great. The pecuniary 

HO 



PERSUASION 117 

obstacle to the union has disappeared, and no re- 
source is left but the evocation of drama out of 
changes of heart and the demand for psychic read- 
justments. But here again the situation is as com- 
placent to the lovers as it is obdurate to Miss Austen. 
The man and woman still care passionately for 
each other, though the man for a short period wilfully 
feigns the contrary to himself. What is left for Miss 
Austen to do? She temporizes, and of these tempor- 
izings the book is made. 

A rival is provided for Anne and another for Cap- 
tain Wentworth, but as neither of these rivals makes 
the smallest impression on the incorrigible loyalty 
of the primary actors, the gain in drama is hardly 
worth the cost hi trouble. Captain Wentworth is 
drawn into some random attentions to Louisa Mus- 
grove. Louisa suffers ajaJLIojiwhich his nicety of 
conscience makes Elm answerable. He is ready to 
offer the restorative of marriage; but Miss Austen, 
who is equally anxious to insure and to postpone his 
reunion with Anne, becomes vastly disquieted, and 
snatches Louisa from Captain Wentworth by the 
crude expedient of a precipitate and causeless at- 
tachment between Louisa and anotEer man. We 
have retraced our steps and stand once more at the 
point of departure. 

Miss Austen's perplexity is great, but a doctor's 
resource for a troublesome case and a novelist's ex- 
pedient for an invalid story are one and the same. 



118 JANE AUSTEN 

They must go to Bath. At Bath people move about 
and bustle in the effort to hide their want of occupa- 
tion. A story hi the same predicament may grate- 
fully accept a like relief. Nearly everybody goes to 
Bath. Anne meets a suitor, a cousin also named 
Elliot, a man of agreeable manners and of that de- 
signing character which agreeable manners so often 
overlie hi the novels of Miss Austen. The jealousy 
of Captain Wentworth is excited. An old acquaint- 
ance of Anne, whose perfunctory r61e in the story / 
is adumbrated hi the name of Smith, unmasks the 
baseness of Mr. Elliot's character. As Anne's re- 
luctance to accept any suitor but Captain Went- 
worth is invincible, the utility of this disclosure 
remains obscure. Even the exertions of a novelist 
can no longer keep the lovers apart, but the con- 
trivance by which understanding is brought about 
is so clumsy and artificial that perhaps it ought not 
to surprise us to hear that it has been warmly ad- 
mired. Anne, in a rather intimate conversation with 
a rather distant acquaintance, expresses her deepest 
convictions on the subject of the duration of attach- 
ments in woman. Captain Wentworth, hi the same 
room, at a distance so artfully planned that he can 
hear perfectly without being suspected of overhear- 
ing, becomes aware of Anne's unchanging fidelity. 
He writes a letter on the spot containing such apos- 
trophes as "You good, you excellent creature," and 
such asseverations as " You pierce my soul." Anne, 



PERSUASION 119 

fortunately in a mood which makes criticism of 
style impossible, responds in the affirmative, and 
happiness, abrupt from the very length of its delay, 
descends upon the reunited lovers. 

One episode of dramatic interest is handled with an 
unconcern which makes the mystery of its insertion 
doubly dark. A species of adventuress, Mrs. Clay, 
has obtained a footing hi the household of Anne's 
father, Sir Walter Elliot, and seeks to entrap the 
widowed baronet into a marriage. The jealous heir 
to the title and estate baffles this design by diverting 
her affections to himself. The woman, in spite of 
the projecting tooth and freckles, is artistically 
hardly more than a profile, her story is a mere edge, 
and it is hard to see why Miss Austen should have 
cared to make anything of a point of which she cared 
to make so little. 

Miss Austen's work in Persuasion may be de- 
scribed as teasing the reader, finding excuse after 
excuse for withholding from him a satisfaction which 
she is almost as eager to grant as he to obtain. It is 
quite true that character and psychology find a 
way through the broad intervals hi this loosely 
matted fabric, but it is also true that they make a 
passage even more successfully through the compact 
and serried woof of a novel like Pride and Prejudice. 

The book is meant to show that in the disposition 
of their hearts young people are often wiser than 
their confident and urgent seniors. The proposition 



120 JANE AUSTEN 

is sound enough, is even stale to our contumacious 
generation, but in Miss Austen's time it no doubt 
savored of revolution, and the novelist's timidity 
in the advocacy of courage makes her load her 
doctrine with disabling qualifications. She recom- 
mends independence to young people hi very much 
the fashion in which Mr. Woodhouse recommended 
the questionable dishes on his table to the consump- 
tion of Mrs. Goddard and Miss Bates. "Miss 
Bates, let Emma help you to a little bit of tart a 
very little bit. ... I do not advise the custard. 
Mrs. Goddard, what say you to half a glass of wine? 
A small half-glass, put into a tumbler of water? I 
do not think it could disagree with you." 

We noted in Pride and Prejudice a list of sixteen 
characters who might almost be termed principals 
with a secondary list of eight whom a little persuasion 
or good-nature might allure into the same category. 
Mansfield Park, a family tale, retrenches this abund- 
ance, and even Emma, which is almost the chronicle 
of a village, is not populous after the style of Pride 
and Prejudice. But in Persuasion, the absence of 
plot which restricts the capacity of the main char- 
acters to furnish diversion, obliges Miss Austen, 
like a spectacular dramatist, to pack the stage as an 
offset to the scantness of the entertainment. There 
are eighteen characters of appreciable value: Sir 
Walter Elliot, Elizabeth Elliot, Anne Elliot, William 
Elliot, Charles Musgrove, Mary Musgrove, Henri- 



PERSUASION 121 

etta Musgrove, Louisa Musgrove, Charles Hayter, 
Captain Wentworth, Captain Benwick, Captain 
Harville, Admiral Croft, Mrs. Croft, Mrs. Clay, 
Mrs. Smith, Lady Russell, Mr. Shepherd. Few 
of these people do much; even Anne and Captain 
Wentworth are by no means burdened with occu- 
pation; but not one of them, however few and brief 
his appearances, is a mere blank or cavity when he 
does appear. While this is true and interesting, it 
must not blind us to the fact that the sum total of 
effective characterization in this novel is decidedly 
smaller than in any other work of its creator. There 
is a shyness in the book which seems to place a 
barrier between us and the persons of the drama. 
The novel declines to face us; it lacks the immediacy 
of Pride and Prejudice. 

Anne Elliot is the charm, as she is the nucleus and 
centre, of Persuasion. She is just the sort of placid 
and gentle person whose virtues are a security to 
every one except the novelist. In Scott's hands 
she would have been a Lucy Bertram, as indistinct 
as "water is in water," or at best a Lucy Ashton 
owing chiefly to lunacy her ability to excite us. Miss 
Austen remarks of Anne with instructive frankness: 
"She is almost too good for me." Anne is twenty- 
seven, and is supposed to have lost her bloom, but 
on this delicate point there is a vacillation that shakes 
our faith in Miss Austen's vigilance. The loss of 
beauty has gone so far that Frederick Wentworth, / 



\ 
JANE AUSTEN 

after a separation of eight years, finds her "altered 
beyond knowledge," or at best " wretchedly altered." 
At Lyme, not long after this, her appearance has 
mended to the point of making a deep and lasting 
impression on the mind of a virtual stranger a 
cousin who sees her for the first tune without knowing 
of the cousinship. Miss Austin feels that these are 
dubious procedures, and falters out something about 
the west wind and its reparative power upon faded 
beauty. It is clear that we have all underrated the 
west wind. 

I am fond of Anne, but I suspect that she is rather 
sympathetic than interesting. She is really hi love, 
and the love in her is perhaps more positive than 
Anne herself . There is also a core of vigor in the por- 
trayal, an infiltration from the robustness of Miss 
Austen's temperament, which blends with sensibility 
and melancholy and fragility without either losing 
itself or nullifying them. For my own pleasure, I 
could wish that Anne was less subject to agitation. 
I feel the same mixture of pity and irritation before 
the quivers and tremors that I should feel for a 
woman whose veils and draperies were blown hither 
and thither in the turbulence of a high wind. The 
embarrassment may be real, but the costume seems 
to invite it. Anne has the wisdom with which one 
must always reckon in Miss Austen's heroines with- 
out the antiseptic humor which attends it in the best 
pf them. 



PERSUASION 123 

Anne's father, Sir Walter Elliot, is an insolvent 
baronet, obsessed with his rank, and an elderly 
widower, infatuated with his own beauty. Among 
Miss Austen's extreme oomic types he is the only 
one who approximates the bore. I think one desires 
that vanity should be nimble; Sir Walter is heavy 
and pompous. In one point he is a sore trial to one's 
faith. That a man past fifty should pique himself 
on his beauty is credible enough. That his demand 
for beauty in women should be peremptory is ex- 
cusable. But that he should insist that another 
man even a man past fifty is recreant to his 
social obligations unless he flaunts a handsome face, 
is outside of nature, as nature is conceived by a 
Western American like myself. His company even 
hi print is repugnant, and Miss Austen, solicitous 
of good measure, has added a sheer badness of heart 
which was hardly required for the exploitation of his 
follies. 

In Elizabeth, the eldest daughter, the folly is 
hardly comic, and it is combined with an asperity 
which makes the narrative thorny without further- 
ing the plot. The third daughter, Mary, married to 
Charles Musgrove, is an effective specimen of the 
imaginary invalid type. The point in which Mary 
contrasts happily with her tribe is that while she 
complains she does not whimper. She is crisp where 
the ordinary self-cherisher is sodden, and there is a 
briskness in her protestations of infirmity which re- 



124 JANE AUSTEN 

lieves the alarm of the most credulous listener. Her 
changes of front are rather acrobatic, but they stop 
short of that almost professional gusto which stamps 
the agilities of Isabella Thorpe. If half of Mary 
lies outside of nature, the other half is sufficingly 
natural, and the lie and the truth divide the pun- 
gency pretty evenly between them. 

Charles Musgrove as a portrait is far finer, though 
much less piquant, than his wife. The fineness lies 
in the art that has kept an ordinary character from 
melting into the mass with which its affiliations are so 
plentiful. Charles is a country gentleman with a fond- 
ness for hunting. In mind he is at once rather vacuous 
and pretty sensible, and in his disposition a healthy 
selfishness finds itself on the best of terms with an 
ample good-nature. Nothing in him is overcharged, 
not even the commonplace. Daudet remarked of 
a certain X: "He excels in mediocrity." Not even 
this form of extravagance can be charged against 
Miss Austen's delineation of Charles Musgrove. 

The parents of Charles are little more than a back- 
ground for their children, and Charles's two sisters, 
Henrietta and Louisa, offer little to win the atten- 
tion or anchor the memory. Henrietta, indeed, is 
less than a sketch, but one of the shrewdest points 
among the secondary realisms of the book is as- 
sociated with her name. Her momentary and hesi- 
tating estrangement from Charles Hayter, followed, 
not instantly but quickly, by an eager return to the 



PERSUASION 125 

old suitor, is wholly in the key of life. With Louisa 
a little more is attempted. If Miss Austen does not 
actually begin to draw Louisa, at least we can see 
her biting the end of her pencil. Louisa affects 
backbone, and Nemesis retorts with a fall in which 
the spine nearly comes to grief. Captain Went- 
worth has a preference for women of strong char- 
acter, and the strength of Louisa's character had 
been growing by leaps and bounds ever since she 
discovered this preference in the captain. One can- 
not help speculating on the possible consequences 
of his expression of a predilection for fragile and 
tremulous women. In the section of .the country 
in which I live one often sees over a vacant lot the 
announcement: "Owner will build to suit tenant." 
One cannot but feel that Louisa Musgrove's char- 
acter building was regulated on the same principle. 
There are four sailors in Persuasion, of whom the 
most prominent and perhaps the most interesting 
is Anne's lover, Captain Wentworth. We do not 
see much of the captain. He is not reserved per- 
haps, but he is very far from talkative. He has 
special reasons for effacing himself in Anne's pres- 
ence, and as Anne is our conductress through the 
story, and we see and hear only through Anne's 
eyes and ears, our impressions are both incomplete 
and second-hand. We hear much of his handsome 
person and determined character, and still more of 
his agreeable and distinguished manners. Miss 



126 JANE AUSTEN 

Austen in this novel appears to have humored in 
her sisters or herself that markedly feminine point 
of view which regards man as a furtherance to soirees. 
Captain Wentworth is manly enough, but what im- 
presses everybody hi the story, including the au- 
thoress, is his being so immaculately eligible. From 
Congreve's Ben hi Love for Love to Smollett's Com- 
modore Trunnion and Dickens's Captain Cuttle, 
the conversation of sailors has been a sort of brine; 
indeed the sea lingo has often risen, or sunk, into a 
mannerism. It is rather curious that the only novel- 
ist, I suppose, in English literature who had two 
brothers in the admiralty should paint sailors so 
emphatically in their unprofessional capacity, their 
capacity as gentlemen. The four sailors in Persuasion 
mention the sea; they even discuss ships: but the pro- 
fession to which they are wedded appears in their 
conversation in much the same incidental and inter- 
mittent way in which their human consorts would 
appear. Their speech doesn't " foam tar," if I may 
appropriate and pervert a phrase of Spenser's. 

Captain Harville, who enters the story under the 
disadvantage of being called " a perfect gentleman," 
never recovers from this initial bruise. I do not 
know whether his gentility is supposed to be re- 
enforced by his uttering one speech with a "deep 
sigh," and another with a "quivering lip." He cer- 
tainly qualifies himself to take part hi the stilted 
dialogue which reveals the state of Anne's heart 



PERSUASION 127 

to the palpitating Captain Wentworth in what is 
almost a modernized version of a mediaeval debat. 

Captain Benwick is another plaintive sailor. The 
recent loss of his betrothed has doubled his sen- 
sibility to the Bride of Abydos and to the charms of 
other women. I will not say that Captain Benwick 
is the male counterpart to the woman in Maupas- 
sant's story who, visiting her lover's grave in the 
earliest stages of bereavement, accepted the con- 
solations of another lover on the spot. It is certain, 
however, that in less than a year after the death 
of Fanny Captain Benwick engaged himself to 
Louisa, having previously encouraged his friends 
to believe that he was about to engage himself to 
Anne. The character is uninteresting, though the 
psychology is probable. The mood of sentimental 
contemplation which fidelity induces is favorable to 
infidelity. 

The only sailor in whom any salt is perceptible is 
the excellent and excellently pictured Admiral Croft. 
He is a natural and lovable person, full of quiet 
bustle and tender whimsicality, with the half-coaxing 
imperiousness in which an inherently modest man 
finds a covert for his modesty. His interest in affairs 
of the heart and his total inability to follow their 
complications endear him to the more discerning 
sex. He is one of the few humorous characters in 
Miss Austen who owe nothing to exaggeration. His 
wife is exactly what a wife should be a person whose 



128 JANE AUSTEN 

relation to him is symbolized in her place, side by 
side with him in the great world and opposite not 
adverse to him in domesticity. 

Mr. Elliot is the man of shrewd brain and of 
unexceptionable manners who dispenses with the 
impedimenta of a heart and conscience. The 
exemplar of this type is perhaps the Edmund of 
King Lear, and it finds more recent analogues hi the 
Rastignacs of the Comedie Humaine and the Lord 
Illingworths and Dorian Grays of Oscar Wilde. 
Miss Austen is chary hi the portraiture of an only 
half-congenial type, and her Mr. Elliot differs from 
his class chiefly in the fact that he lives rather more 
hi the salubrities of his attractive surface and rather 
less in the sordidness of his base interior than the 
beguiling hypocrite of average fiction. This seems 
to have the indorsement of nature. If a man's house 
has a pleasant veranda and a fetid living-room, 
common sense and human impulse would seem to 
indicate that he spend the better part of his time on 
the veranda. Mr. Elliot's relation to Mrs. Clay 
is something like that of Fabrice to Clorinde in 
Augier's L'Aventuri&re the relation, hi a word, of 
the jealous kinsman to the designing intruder. This 
intrigue, which is not at all in Miss Austen's way, is 
reduced in her gingerly treatment to a faint outline, 
and a bold and brilliant sequel, which is still less in 
her way, is smuggled, so to speak, into eight lines of 
the concluding chapter. This sequel is the victimiza- 



PERSUASION 129 

tion by Mrs. Clay of the very man whose diplomacy 
has thwarted her designs for the victimization of his 
cousin. Of Mrs. Clay little is visible but her freckles 
and her projecting tooth; the most exacting reader 
craves no more. 

Mrs. Smith is that virtuous woman hi reduced 
circumstances to whom so many novels have offered 
an asylum. Her innocence hardly extenuates her 
dulness. Lady Russell is one of those exemplary 
persons whose judgment lends a deadly effectiveness 
to its own blunders. 

In Persuasion there are but four characters of real 
value: Anne Elliot, Mary Musgrove, Charles Mus- 
grove, Admiral Croft. As a group these are far 
inferior to interest to a similar quartet taken from a 
novel so reduced in scale and so moderately peopled 
as Northanger Abbey to be specific, with such a 
quartet as Catherine Morland, Henry Tilney, John 
Thorpe, Isabella Thorpe. When this showing in 
character is combined with the conspicuous feeble- 
ness in plot, the secondary place of Persuasion in 
Miss Austen's work is unmistakable. 



CHAPTER VII 
THE GROUP OF NOVELS 

THE full criticisms I have given to the plots of the 
several novels will enable me to abridge my general 
comments on the Austen plots. I may say, hi a 
word, that Sense and Sensibility reads like the 
'prentice-work of a born expert; Pride and Prejudice, 
speaking broadly, is unreservedly_ej?:_cellent; North- 
anger Abbey beguis ~wttlP mature power, only to 
relapse into juvenility; Mansfield Park, in its ce- 
mented love-affairs, is a much reduced but apprecia- 
ble success on the same lines as Pride and Prejudice; 
Emma is a half lucky, half unlucky, shift to a newer 
and looser method; Persuasion is an unqualified 
failure. I speak solely with reference to plot. My 
own order would be as follows: first, and much the 
first, Pride and Prejudice; second, Mansfield Park 
and Emma almost on a level; fourth, at a marked 
distance, Sense and Sensibility; fifth, again, at a 
distance, Northanger Abbey; and, lastly, Persuasion. 

So wide a grade in so scant a field is remarkable; 
and probably Mansfield Park and Emma indicate 
the normal level of a talent which unconcern lowered 
in Persuasion and accident raised hi Pride and Preju- 
dice. The difference between the plots of Mansfield 

ISO 



THE GROUP OF NOVELS 131 

Park and Emma in kind is much greater than the 
difference in merit. My feeling prefers Emma; my 
reason, Mansfield Park; and in such conflicts I think 
it reasonable to prefer one's feeling. Mansfield Park 
is an old-fashioned tale, somewhat cumbered with a 
biographical and a domestic bias, neither of which 
is in the least favorable to strictness of logical con- 
tinuity. Emma is a village chronicle or civic record, 
a later genus, which Bulwer-Lytton was to pursue 
in the first part of My Novel, and Trollope to adum- 
brate in the Barsetshire series, and to which George 
Eliot was to give the distinction of rounded finality 
in Middlemarch. In such a case the looseness of the 
plan is the defense of the looseness of the particulars; 
a hole in a tightly woven basket is a far more serious 
offense than an interval of the size of a hole in a 
basket of which the woof is avowedly open. The 
independence of the Elton-Smith and Churchill- 
Fairfax love-affairs in Emma is inoffensive, because 
the reader has not been lantern-led by the supposi- 
tion that one of them was to influence the other. 
But the failure of the Elliot courtship to exert any 
influence upon the relations between Anne Elliot and 
Captain Wentworth hi Persuasion is an offense, 
because the reader has been induced to confide in its 
relevancy. 

Jane Austen was very fond of persons hi her novels, 
and her fondness was comprehensive; she had ac- 
quired from those provincial balls in which she half 



132 JANE AUSTEN 

eagerly, half deprecatingly, participated a relish for 
watching a dozen or two of people in simultaneous 
and loosely complicated action. A taste of this kind 
is inimical to logic, especially if it be combined with a 
predilection for truth. Nature is thoroughly mascu- 
line in her fondness for logic, that is for an internal or 
ultimate logic; but she is brazenly feminine in the 
fitful and desultory way in which logic is distributed 
among the appearances of things. On the surface 
and novels in the broad sense deal with surfaces she 
refuses to be compactly or intricately logical. She is 
stubborn in her reluctance to cast the relations of a 
dozen persons for a considerable period into logical 
form. If a novelist wants to portray many persons, 
he must choose between logic and nature, in other 
words between artifice and incoherence. Dickens, in 
his populously intricate fictions, to his gain and to his 
loss, chose artifice. But for Jane Austen the grand 
scale of Dickens was impracticable. Her world 
was a Belgium populous but minute. Moreover, 
never easy outside of nature and those simple though 
notable modifications of nature to which she was in- 
clined, she had neither taste nor capacity for artifice. 
The result is a falling-off in coherence. The 
amount of injury which this did to her work will be 
variously estimated, but the story as story has so 
declined hi authority hi our day that a mere crack in. 
its frame evokes no lively displeasure. The world on 
this point has all but revolted to Jane Austen. 



THE GROUP OF NOVELS 133 

Moreover, Jane was a true craftsman in her way. 
She liked her work liked solicitude in her work. 
The adaptations, the congruities, the comities, of 
particulars, were dear to her woman's hand. With- 
out being scrupulous, she was nice. If she permitted 
large folds hi her work, it amused her to smooth out 
the little wrinkles. A very clear illustration of what 
is meant may be found in the use of the Palmers in 
Sense and Sensibility. The Palmers are really 
quite otiose hi the story; Marianne's sickness did 
not require the appropriation of their country- 
house. But the visit, though badly conceived, is 
deftly prearranged by the introduction of the Palmers 
hi the first half of the tale, and an urgent, farsighted 
invitation to the two sisters to spend their Christmas 
at Cleveland. The same thing is observable hi 
Emma. In that placid, yet vigorous, novel an ex- 
quisite art overlies a clumsy art; everything falls to 
pieces, but the pieces cling together. In a letter 
criticising a manuscript novel of her niece, Anna 
Lefroy, Miss Austen says: "Had you not better 
give some hint of St. Julian's early history hi the 
beginning of the story?" In Persuasion, written 
partly hi failing health, she is sometimes un- 
observant of her own precept. Mrs. Smith is in- 
troduced in Chapter XVII without the salve of an 
anticipatory reference in the early chapters. Let 
not the young reader be too much startled at these 
inconsistencies. The willingness to work hard to 



134 



JANE AUSTEN 



avoid a bad error in its association with the unwill- 
ingness to work harder to avoid a worse is one of the 
most normal if least logical things in that normally 
illogical contrivance known as human nature. 

I think we shall find in Miss Austen's style another 
illustration of the same form of inconsistency. I 
should call her style, hi the first instance, a diagonal 
between her taste and her conscience, and, in the 
second instance, a compromise between her zeal and 
her ease. To take up the first point: the following 
sentences from her letters will show how she wrote 
when she obeyed her instinct. 

Your abuse of our gowns amuses but does not discourage me; 
I shall take mine to be made up next week, and the more I look 
at it the better it pleases me. My cloak came on Tuesday, and, 
though I expected a good deal, the beauty of the lace astonished 
me. It is too handsome to be worn almost too handsome to be 
looked at. The glass is all safely arrived also, and gives great 
satisfaction. The wine-glasses are much smaller than I expected, 
but I suppose it is the proper size. We find no fault with your 
manner of performing any of our commissions, but if you like 
to think yourself remiss in any of them, pray do. 

I will now quote a passage from Dr. Johnson, 
which I imagine to have conformed pretty closely 
to her notion of the decorous and desirable in English 
style. 

But biography has often been allotted to writers, who seem 
very little acquainted with the nature of their task, or very 
negligent about the performance. They rarely afford any other 
account than might be collected from publick papers, but 



THE GROUP OF NOVELS 135 

imagine themselves writing a life, when they exhibit a chron- 
ological series of actions or preferments; and have so little regard 
to the manners or behaviour of their heroes, that more knowledge 
may be gained of a man's real character, by a short conversation 
with one of his servants, than from a formal and studied narra- 
tive, begun with his pedigree, and ended with his funeral. 

There are indeed, some natural reasons why these narratives 
are often written by such as were not likely to give much in- 
struction or delight, and why most accounts of particular persons 
are barren and useless. If a life be delayed till interest and envy 
are at an end, we may hope for impartiality, but must expect 
little intelligence; for the incidents which give excellence to 
biography are of a volatile and evanescent kind, such as soon 
escape the memory, and are rarely transmitted by tradition. 
We know how few can pourtray a living acquaintance, except by 
his most prominent and observable peculiarities, and the grosser 
features of his mind; and it may be easily imagined how much 
of this little knowledge may be lost in imparting it, and how soon 
a succession of copies will lose all resemblance to the original. 

It must be remembered that Jane Austen was 
ultimately a docile person. She had her whims and 
rebellions and naughtinesses, for which the readers 
of her books and letters are profoundly thankful, 
but she knew the boundaries of her playground. 
She wished to express herself, but she wished to ob- 
serve the proprieties. Imagine a cosy New-England 
body renting an Italian palace and trying to infuse 
into its large and desolate rooms a little of the do- 
mesticity and cheerfulness proper to her own ideas 
of housekeeping, and the extent of Jane's problem 
will become clear. Or, moving the simile to English 
soil, her problem was not wholly unlike that of the 



136 JANE AUSTEN 

Tilneys in carving or scooping a home out of the 
austerities of Northanger Abbey. 

Of course, one can imagine a solution that would 
have been ideally perfect. The formality might have 
conferred the elegance which we so often miss hi the 
brisker styles, and the impulse might have insured 
the sprightliness the absence of which has so often 
made- elegance formidable. But actuality is rarely 
so clever as speculation, and Pride and Prejudice, 
for example, though well written throughout, does 
not quite sustain the union of opposite merits which 
marks its exquisite beginning. 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in 
possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. 

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may 
be on his first entering a neighborhood, this truth is so well fixed 
in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered 
as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters. 

If only this manner could have tinged the whole 
book. The issue would have been much the same as 
if a lively person, hi a time of family mourning, 
wanting to wear pink and bidden to wear sables, 
should have compromised on lilac. In Miss Austen's 
case, however, the austerities often carry the day, 
as in the following account of a man whose pompous 
diction is to serve as a butt for the novelist's most 
intolerant satire. 

Mr. Collins was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of na- 
ture had been but little assisted by education or society; the 



THE GROUP OF NOVELS 137 

greater part of his life having been spent under the guidance of 
an illiterate and miserly father; and though he belonged to one 
of the universities, he had merely kept the necessary terms, 
without forming at it any useful acquaintance. The subjection 
in which his father has brought him up had given him originally 
great humility of manner; but it was now a good deal counter- 
acted by the self-conceit of a weak head, living in retirement, 
and the consequential feelings of early and unexpected pros- 
perity. A fortunate chance had recommended to Lady Cather- 
ine de Bourgh when the living of Hunsford was vacant; and the 
respect he felt for her high rank, and his veneration for her as his 
patroness, mingling with a very good opinion of himself, of his 
authority as a clergyman, and his right as a rector, made him 
altogether a mixture of pride and obsequiousness, self-importance, 
and humility. 

This is fighting the ponderous with its own weap- 
ons. In concreteness of any sort, and especially in 
action, the style gains hi trimness and vigor. When 
it goes out for a walk it loops up its skirts. I need 
hardly say that in the plain but priceless merits 
that come from knowing precisely what one wants 
to say its proficiency is invariable. Jane Austen's 
hold on facts is muscular. 

Pride and Prejudice was written, on the whole, 
with the scrupulosity of a debutante dressing for her 
first ball. Even in this book passages can be found 
hi which vigilance is relaxed and facility replaces 
neatness. 

Mr. Darcy was expected there in the course of a few weeks 
and though there were not many pf her acquaintance whom 
she did not prefer, his coming would furnish one comparatively 
new to look at in their Rosings parties, and she might be amused 



138 JANE AUSTEN 

in seeing how hopeless Miss Bingley's designs on him were, by 
his behaviour to his cousin, for whom he was evidently destined 
by Lady Catherine, who talked of his coming with the greatest 
satisfaction, spoke of him in terms of the highest admiration, 
and seemed almost angry to find that he had already been fre- 
quently seen by Miss Lucas and herself. 

A sentence of this type accommodates particulars 
with the elasticity of a third-rate lodging-house. 
The following from Mansfield Park reads like an un- 
corrected college theme: 

The subject of reading aloud was further discussed. The two 
young men were the only talkers, but they, standing by the 
fire, talked over the too common neglect of the qualification, the 
total inattention to it, in the ordinary school-system for boys, the 
consequently natural, yet in some instances almost unnatural, 
degree of ignorance and uncouthness of men, when suddenly 
called to the necessity of reading aloud, which had fallen within 
their notice, giving instances of blunders, and failures with their 
secondary causes, the want of management of the voice, of 
proper modulation and emphasis, of foresight and judgment, all 
proceeding from the first cause: want of early attention and 
habit; and Fanny was listening again with great entertainment. 

Did Miss Austen read aloud her own paragraphs? 
In Mansfield Park a decline hi grace of style is evi- 
dent, and in Emma the falling-off is marked. I 
quote the opening of Chapter IV, italicizing the 
phrases which a lover of harmony and symmetry 
would have altered. 

Harriet Smith's intimacy at Hartfield was soon a settled thing. 
Quick and decided in her ways, Emma lost no time in inviting, 
encouraging and telling her to come very of ten; and as their ac- 






THE GROUP OF NOVELS 139 

quaintance increased, so did their satisfaction in each other. As 
a walking companion, Emma had very early foreseen how use- 
ful she might find her. In that respect Mrs. Weston's loss had 
been important. Her father never went beyond the shrubbery, 
where two divisions of the ground sufficed him for his long walk, 
or his short, as the year varied; and since Mrs. Weston's marriage 
her exercise had been too much confined. She had ventured 
once alone to Randalls but it was not pleasant; and a Harriet 
Smith, therefore, one whom she could summon at any time to a 
walk, would be a valuable addition to her privileges. But in 
every respect, as she saw more of her, she approved her, and was 
confirmed in all her kind designs. 

Possibly none of the errors I have noted can be 
called a blemish, but all of them are annoyances, 
all proofs that we are not dealing with the exigent 
stylist. Miss Austen is not ringing each sentence 
on the counter of her ear, as a usurer tests corns 
to make sure of their claim to acceptance. The 
style preserves the aspect of solicitude, but disin- 
tegration, neither very rapid nor very slow, is clearly 
visible. The truth is that style, like other delicate 
things, is fragile, and one of its great enemies is the 
success of its possessor. The novice's attention to 
language in the days of his apprenticeship is like the 
lover's attention to dress while courtship is hi prog- 
ress. Its aim is propitiation, and when the lady 
or the public is won, and the consent is ratified by 
marriage or fame, only the man who loves dress or 
style for its own sake will persevere in wearisome 
niceties. Miss Austen was always an able or facile 
writer to whom many neat things offered themselves 



140 JANE AUSTEN 

without compulsion or entreaty; Emma itself has 
no lack of neat things: but the evil of having 
felicities visit you unbidden is the iinwillingness 
you feel to go hi search of them when they 
are refractory or disobliging. Miss Austen liked 
style very well, but I think she liked ease and 
liked speed, and the English hi her last three 
novels is the mixed result of these diverging tend- 
encies. 

Quite apart from her abounding humor, Miss 
Austen had a talent for crispness hi language to 
which she was indisposed to give full play. I cannot 
help wishing she had written oftener in the style of 
the following characterization of Mrs. Bennet: "She 
was a woman of mean understanding, little informa- 
tion, and uncertain temper. When she was dis- 
contented, she fancied herself nervous. The business 
of her life was to get her daughters married; its 
solace was visiting and news." I sometimes fancy 
that Miss Austen's style would have profited by the 
adjournment of her date of birth by fifty or seventy- 
five years. A clever woman can always get a great 
deal of her own way in the teeth of the social re- 
strictions and literary habits to which she feels bound 
to defer, but always less than she might have had 
under a system that favored liberty. Diana of the 
Crossways would have been a completer woman in 
1900 than in 1800, and Jane Austen's style might 
have been bettered not so much by the instruction as 



THE GROUP OF NOVELS 141 

by the countenance of the fashions exemplified in 
Macaulay and Thackeray. 

Jane Austen's diction is of a lustrous purity, and 
her grammar is normally sound. It is a natural 
grammar, flowing like a spring out of the soil of her 
native Kent, not let in by pedagogic irrigation. In 
that test point of English, the discrimination of 
"shall" and "will," her usage has a boldness and a 
precision that in itself must have recommended her 
work to the esteem of Macaulay. She is perfectly 
secure hi the remotest of its intricacies, and I could 
half wish that the young barbarians all at play in 
our American colleges could be enjoined to read her 
Letters through with pointed reference to her virtuos- 
ity in this particular. On the other hand, a grammar 
which has the grace and fortune to be untaught has 
the drawback of being uncritical, and certain loose- 
nesses, which no doubt prevailed in her circle, fairly 
rioted hi her letters and novels. The slovenly use of 
the plural pronouns, "they," "their," and "them," 
in dependence on the singular antecedents, "every- 
body," "every one," "each," and the like, is unceas- 
ing, and appears even where the avoidance of confu- 
sion between the sexes cannot possibly be advanced 
as an excuse. Miss Austen not only writes: "Every- 
body was pleased to think how much they had al- 
ways disliked Mr. Darcy," but, in relation to two 
women: "Each felt for the other, and of course for 
themselves." Of course this is no worse than Lyly's: 

\ 



142 JANE AUSTEN 

"Each Fury skips and flings into her lap their whips" 
or Galsworthy's: "Each of these ladies held fans in 
their hands," but the original sin hi the usage is 
not expiated by the gentility of its sponsors. Miss 
Austen is also overfond of that scarcely incorrect 
but highly inelegant use of the relative "which" 
which makes it subtend, not a noun or pronoun, 
but a clause. "Mr. Hinton is expected home soon, 
which is a good thing for the shirts." She has a 
fashion of using the subjunctive "were" hi place 
of the indicative "was" hi contexts where the former 
is unsupported by any precedent, either hi speech 
or literature, which I succeed in recalling. She 
writes: "Imputing his visit to a wish of hearing that 
she were better"; "Before her answer were sent"; 
"And that Serle and the butler should see that every- 
thing were safe in the house." In the invalid, not 
to say the moribund, English subjunctive, such 
aggressiveness is peculiarly surprising. 

I have little heart for the criticism of those dis- 
carded or unfinished works which the zeal of friends * 
often as much to be dreaded as the malice of 
enemies extracts from the cabinets of dead au- 
thors, and bares to the vain curiosity of an idle 
world. I presume, however, that I should be held 
critically remiss, if I failed to say a word on the early 
but undated Lady Susan and the maturer but un- 

*In justice to Mr. J. E. Austen Leigh, who gave Lady Sitsan 
to the world, it may be said that he yielded reluctantly to repeated 
solicitations. I honor his reluctance and regret its futility. 



THE GROUP OF NOVELS 143 

revised and unfinished Watsons. Lady Sitsan is 
the story, in forty-one short letters, of the machina- 
tions of a Balzackian woman, a woman not only un- 
principled, but bad-hearted and cold-blooded, who 
has a place and technical standing hi fashionable 
English society and in a distrustful, but accom- 
modating, family circle. If the treatment is weak hi 
its entire absence of gusto, it is respectable in its 
total relinquishment of the levity of melodrama. 
Lady Susan herself is no bugaboo, but a study, and 
while it cannot be classed as a strong study, the cool 
resolve which is its main ingredient distinguishes it 
sharply from the juvenile and the commonplace. 
The book is arctic perhaps hi a sense, but it shows 
the firmness no less than the rigidity of frost. Pos- 
sibly the most promising trait in the book is an ar- 
tistic severity, which is strong enough to hold even 
the moral severity in check. The book is quite cor- 
rect in its awards of praise and rebuke, but it de- 
clines to excite itself over the fact of disapproval. 

The fragmentary Watsons, though much better 
than Lady Susan, calls for less comment, because 
it deals with Miss Austen's habitual material, as- 
semblies, visits, gossip, and flirtations, hi a swifter 
and sketchier form of the customary Austen manner. 
The treatment, both of character and incident, is a 
little lean, but the narrative shows a lightness and 
speed which I doubt if it always reaches in finished 
works where it has the weight of style to carry. 



PART II 
THE REALIST 



CHAPTER VIII 
THE REALIST 

I MUST treat with some fulness Miss Austen's 
general method in character-drawing, because her 
truth to life is mainly exhibited in her portraits, 
and the correction of certain common misapprehen- 
sions as to the nature and extent of her truth to 
life is the mam purpose of this book. The calm re- 
mark of her grand-nephew that she describes men and 
women exactly as men and women really are would 
perhaps be accepted without dissent or qualification 
by the majority of trustworthy judges; but, waiving 
for the moment all question as to the narrowness 
of her field, which, as the image and measure of the 
narrowness of her life, was an attestation of her 
realism, I believe that even within that field her ac- 
curacy is subject to two great deductions a deduc- 
tion on the score of decoration or convention and an- 
other on the score of extravagance or hyperbole. 
In both these points I believe her to have been the 
child and inheritor of the eighteenth century, as 
in her faithfulness to truth in other matters she was 
the forerunner and hi part the parent of the nine- 
teenth and the twentieth. 

The eighteenth century was a curious mingling of 

147 



148 JANE AUSTEN 

the courtly and the brutal. It was an age hi which a 
clergyman like Sterne could write like a rake, and 
in which a rogue like Defoe could write like an evan- 
gelist; an age in which a rough rider like Smollett, a 
vagabond like Goldsmith, and a prodigal like Sheri- 
dan could practice and to all appearances relish a 
stately and decorous diction framed in ceremonious 
and rotund periods. In the ancient Indian dramas 
the aristocrats spoke Sanskrit, while the inferior 
characters contented themselves with a vulgar 
dialect known as Prakrit. Now the eighteenth- 
century dramatists and novelists had a homespun 
speech for everyday people, while they contrived a 
formal Sanskrit for the use of their high-born and 
high-bred characters. The convention is not limited 
to language, but language is one of its plainest and 
most notable manifestations and is a point of dis- 
tinct value for the criticism of Miss Austen. There 
is not the slightest doubt that Fielding, Smollett, 
Richardson, Johnson, and Mrs. Radcliffe bequeathed 
their stilts to her, and there is every evidence that 
she was proud and happy hi the legacy. 

Let us see how her people talk in an early novel, 
Sense and Sensibility. 

"Whoever may have been so detestably your enemy, let them 
be cheated of their malignant triumph, my dear sister, by see- 
ing how nobly the consciousness of your own innocence and 
good intentions supports your spirits. It is a reasonable and 
laudable pride which resists such malevolence." 



THE REALISTS 149 

Is this the exuberance of youth which maturity 
will prune? Let us try Jane Austen by a novel 
finished after forty. Anne has just told Mr. Elliot 
that she is a very poor Italian scholar. 

" Yes, yes, I see you are. I see you know nothing of the matter. 
You have only knowledge enough of the language to translate 
at sight these inverted, transposed, curtailed Italian lines into 
clear, comprehensible, elegant English. You need not say 
anything more of your ignorance. Here is complete proof." 

" I will not oppose such kind politeness; but I should be sorry to 
be examined by a real proficient." 

How does a lively girl talk to the father from whom 
she has inherited her own racy humor? These are 
the words of Elizabeth Bennet: 

It is not of peculiar, but of general evils, which * I am now 
complaining. Our importance, our respectability in the world 
must be affected by the wild volatility, the assurance and disdain 
of all restraint which mark Lydia's character. Excuse me, for 
I must speak plainly. If you, my dear father, will not take the 
trouble of checking her exuberant spirits, and of teaching her 
that her present pursuits are not to be the business of her life, 
she will soon be beyond the reach of amendment. Her character 
will be fixed, and she will, at sixteen, be the most determined 
flirt that ever made herself and her family ridiculous; a flirt, 
too, in the worst and meanest degree of flirtation; without any 
attraction beyond youth and a tolerable person; and, from the 
ignorance and emptiness of her mind, wholly unable to ward off 
any portion of that universal contempt which her rage for 
admiration will excite. In this danger Kitty is also compre- 
hended. She will follow wherever Lydia leads. Vain, ignorant, 
idle, and absolutely uncontrolled. 

* Observe the curious substitution of " which " for " that." 



150 JANE AUSTEN 

The extreme censure that I can pass upon this 
specimen of conversation is that it would have been 
approved by the author of Pamela and extolled as 
superlative by the author of Rasselas. "In this 
danger Kitty is also comprehended." The diction 
is senatorial. But Miss Austen does not stop at 
pomp. She of all persons must traffic hi romantic 
melancholy. The following lines are not engraved 
upon a tombstone; they are part of Anne Elliot's 
speech to a mere acquaintance: "All the privilege 
I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable 
one: you need not covet it) is that of loving longest, 
when existence or when hope is gone." This de- 
cides the eavesdropping Captain Wentworth; it 
would have decided me. Even that acme of 
affected elegance, the use of the third person for 
the second, is not spared us. Captain Wentworth 
is talking to Louisa Musgrove: "If Louisa Mus- 
grove would be beautiful and happy in her Novem- 
ber of life, she will cherish all her present powers 
of mind." German romanticism could hardly go 
further. 

Do all of Miss Austen's characters talk in periods? 
By no means. If a character is ill-bred, or, if he is 
comic or fatuous, he is allowed to talk hi a vivid 
and natural way. The reader of Jane Austen even 
the educated reader is under the constant humilia- 
tion of seeing the English which he himself talks 
appropriated to the fools and grotesques hi her 



THE REALISTS 151 

novels. The grace of naturalness is permitted only 
to the under-bred. Miss Austen was too clearheaded 
to imagine that she was drawing life in the lofty 
diction of her favored characters; that diction was 
merely her way, as it was her century's way, of 
letting the reader know that the persons so express- 
ing themselves were ladies and gentlemen. It was 
a most arbitrary, circuitous, and cumbersome way 
of imparting the fact, and reflected pointedly, if not 
quite fairly, on the genuineness of a breeding which 
had to be identified by a fabrication. A dictum 
which I reserve the right to amend by an important 
deduction later on may be stated provisionally 
in this form: From one large field of truth Jane 
Austen was debarred by her conformity to the pre- 
scriptions of her age. For her, distinctions of rank 
were capital, and since dress, the ordinary badge 
of people of rank, could not be transported into 
literature, she turned their speech into costume. 
The plays and novels of men like Galsworthy had 
not yet taught the world that refinement and dis- 
tinction might find in simplicity not a peril but a 
safeguard. The athlete can afford to strip himself, 
and the true gentleman does not fear to lay aside 
pomp. 

It may be said that I am going too fast, that a 
century which made fine language the convention 
of gentility in literature might make it the conven- 
tion of gentility in life, that the condemnation of 



152 JANE AUSTEN 

Jane Austen by the living critic is the condemnation 
of the eye-witness by the absentee. I admit Miss 
Austen's authority, and to that authority I will 
appeal. It is impossible to believe that on normal 
occasions she heard any better English than she 
spoke, and it is equally impossible to believe that 
she spoke any better English in the sense of finer 
or comelier English than she wrote in her letters. 
I will take a passage from the very first page on 
which I light hi opening the Letters at random. 
Whatever elegance or intricacy is superadded to 
this in the conversation of her high-bred characters 
is clearly superadded to nature. 

The Evelyns returned our visit on Saturday; we were very 
happy to meet, and all that; they are going to-morrow into 
Gloucestershire to the Dolphins for ten days. Our acquaintance, 
Mr. Woodward, is just married to a Miss Howe, a young lady 
rich in money and music. 

I thank you for your Sunday's letter, it is very long and very 
agreeable. I fancy you know more particulars of our sale than 
we do; we have heard the price of nothing but the cows, bacon, 
hay, hops, tables, and my father's chest of drawers and study 
table. Mary is more minute in her account of their own gains 
than in ours; probably being better informed in them. I will 
attend to Mrs. Lloyd's commission and to her abhorrence of 
musk when I write again. 

What is the effect of this limitation on Miss Aus- 
ten's delineation of character? Naturally, the dis- 
advantage, the incumbrance, is very great. But 
the elasticity of Miss Austen's rebound from the 
stringencies of this compression is as noteworthy 



THE REALISTS 153 

as the compression itself. Beyle once said that the 
ingenuities and resourcefulness of the classic French 
drama reminded him of the nimbleness of a person 
dancing in chains. Miss Austen certainly danced 
in chains, but the agility with which she moved 
within the restriction was marvellous. The effect 
of a uniform parlance is to slur distinctions and the 
tendency of a formal diction is to crush vivacity. 
It was highly fortunate for Miss Austen's self- 
extrication from these difficulties that her discrimi- 
nation in characters was extraordinary, and that in 
drawing character animation was her strong point. 
Observe the resilience of her faculty in the load it 
shoulders in the manipulation of a passage like the 
following: 

"I see what you think of me," said he, gravely; "I shall make 
but a poor figure in your journal to-morrow." 

"My journal." 

"Yes; I know exactly what you will say. Friday, went to the 
Lower Rooms; wore my sprigged muslin robe with blue trim- 
mings, plain black shoes; appeared to much advantage, but was 
strangely harassed by a queer half-witted man, who would make 
me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense." 

"Indeed, I shall say no such thing." 

"Shall I tell you what you ought to say?" 

"If you please." 

"I danced with a very agreeable young man, introduced by 
Mr. King; had a great deal of conversation with him; seems a 
most extraordinary genius, hope I may know more of him. That, 
madam, is what I wish you to say." 

"But perhaps I keep no journal." 

"Perhaps you are not sitting in this room, and I am not sitting 



154 JANE AUSTEN 

by you. These are points in which a doubt is equally possible. 
Not keep a journal! How are your absent cousins to understand 
the tenour of your life in Bath without one? How are the civil- 
ities and compliments of every day to be related as they ought 
to be unless noted down every evening in a journal? How are 
your various dresses to be remembered and the particular state 
of your complexion, and curl of your hair to be described, in all 
their diversities, without having constant recourse to a journal? 
My dear madam, I am not so ignorant of young ladies' ways as 
you wish to believe me. It is this delightful habit of journalizing 
which largely contributes to form the easy style of writing for 
which ladies are so generally celebrated. Everybody allows that 
the talent of writing agreeable letters is peculiarly female. Na- 
ture may have done something, but I am sure it must be essen- 
tially assisted by the practice of keeping a journal." 

"I have sometimes thought," said Catherine, doubtingly,* 
"whether ladies do write so much better letters than gentlemen.; 
That is, I should not think the superiority was always on our 
side." 

"As far as I have had opportunity of judging, it appears to 
me that the usual style of letter-writing among women is fault- 
less, except in three particulars." 

"And what are they?" 

"A general deficiency of subject, a total inattention to 
stops, and a very frequent ignorance of grammar." 

Observe that Mr. Tilney's style is as much heavier 
than Catherine's in mass as it is lighter hi movement. 
His syntax at a ball outweighs that of many clergy- 
men hi the pulpit; but the more Jane Austen thick- 
ened her dough, the more she poured in her yeast, 
and the struggle between levity and gravity is 
exhilarating. Miss Austen both loses and profits 
by the test. In the absence of the load, the actual 
result might have been greater, but the demonstra- 



THE REALISTS 155 

tion of capacity would have been less. Of course the 
relatively happy issue is confined to the livelier 
characters; the solemn persons founder in their own 
verbosity. 

There is another quality in Miss Austen's por- 
trayal of life, for which, as I strongly suspect, she 
was not indebted to her faculty of observation. I 
have in mind the judiciousness which it is the pride 
and delight of nearly every person to exhibit in his 
kind and degree. I do not mean simply judgment; 
judgment is the underpinning of civilization, and its 
distribution hi moderate amounts is fairly universal. 
What is peculiar in Miss Austen is the pomp and 
gusto with which this judicial faculty is exercised. 
The persons affect us like bureaux; they make a 
vocation of foresight; they pose as experts in life. 
The quality or its imitation is more or less pervasive. 
The starch is evident not only in Sir Thomas Ber- 
tram, where its accumulation is pardonable, but in 
his young son Edmund; even in Fanny Price, where 
much of the starch, under a well-known chemical 
analogy, has undergone a conversion into sugar, its 
aroma is unmistakable. I can hear the intonation of 
casuistry even in the frou-frou of Mrs. Elton's 
frivolous and vapid speech. If I hold my hand to my 
ear, I fancy I can even catch its attenuated echoes 
in the clatter and jingle of the scatter-brained 
Isabella Thorpe. Let any one compare these two 
young women with what a fribble and a flirt would 



156 JANE AUSTEN 

have been a hundred years earlier in Dryden or 
Etherege or a half-century later in Dickens or 
Thackeray, and he will be struck by the largeness of 
the difference. As in a theocratic organization the 
very scoundrels are pietists, so hi the Jane Austen 
world the very fools are wiseacres. It must not be 
supposed that the amount of wisdom even in the 
exploited and favored characters bears any propor- 
tion to the amount of flourish with which the wisdom 
is set forth. The sense is sense for the most part, 
but its limitations both in depth and breadth are 
notable. 

This attitude as the habit of a community is 
unknown to me in actual life. The responsibility 
with which two young girls in the security of isola- 
tion discuss the conduct of life is received with mis- 
giving by a critic whose acquaintance with that 
species has been formed in America. No doubt the 
vanity of discretion is quite imaginable as a social 
formula, however thoroughly in one's own time and 
place it has been supplanted by the vanity of smart- 
ness. The literature of the age seems at first blush 
emphatic in Miss Austen's support. From Pope's 
sense in the early seventeen hundreds to Words- 
worth's solemnities in the early eighteen hundreds, 
the art of behaving "like one well studied in a sad 
ostent to please his grandam" was practiced by the 
sages and professed by the madcaps of literature. 
Goldsmith's Good-Natured Man is a case in point. 



THE REALISTS 157 

Here the ripe baronet, Sir William Honeywood, is 
entitled by age and rank to the treasures of wisdom 
he exhibits, but the key to his intellectual coffers has 
clearly been filched by his prodigal nephew, who is 
all acuteness and discretion hi the pursuit of thought- 
lessness and extravagance. The young lady of the 
play, Miss Richland, might have chaperoned her 
own grandmother. 

But this unanimity of literature is capable of two 
interpretations. Indeed, literature is a witness 
whose veracity is already discredited. That any 
young girl should talk to go back, for an instant, to 
the previous point as Elizabeth Bennet talked in 
the passage just quoted on page 149 is not only 
beyond the credible; it is beyond all temperance and 
decency in the incredible. Yet it is not so very much 
worse than the customary genteel speech of litera- 
ture hi its time. There is no reason why a literature 
that lyingly affirmed that birth in a good family and 
education at Eton and Oxford conferred the gift of 
talking like a book should not lyingly affirm its 
power to install its protege in what might be defined 
as a professorship of good sense. All this is somewhat 
speculative, and the main reason for my skepticism 
a skepticism into which I am not anxious to urge the 
reluctant or hesitating reader is drawn once more 
from the correspondence of Miss Austen. In Jane 
Austen's letters good sense is never out of the way, 
but it is seldom to the fore, and never goes out for an 



158 JANE AUSTEN 

airing. With her heroes and heroines it is always 
driving through the country in a barouche-landau. 
These people are serious hi fact, and still more 
serious hi theory. With Miss Austen herself, as with 
most sensible people hi our tune, precisely the re- 
verse is the case. 

An example will clarify the point. Miss Austen's 
niece, Fanny Knight, wants advice as to an 
offer of marriage. For a spinster of thirty-nuie 
the occasion was priceless. Here was a chance 
for "My dear Fanny's" ad nauseam (there are 
plenty of "My dear Fanny's" hi Mansfield Park 
three on four pages) for the parade of experience, 
the mouthing and mummery of good sense. Of all 
this not a vestige is discoverable. Jane's letters 
are easy and unpretending; they are vivacious; they 
are even jolly. At the same time they abound hi care 
for Fanny and for Fanny's welfare. Even the graver 
letters are not unduly grave; the grief is not smoth- 
ered hi bombazine. Jane Austen may have been an 
exception among her family and circle, but on this 
point I am disposed to trust the letter-writer and 
impugn the novelist. I believe that the pragmatism 
of her fictions was a bid for respect, or, what is al- 
most the same thing, an obeisance to respectability. 
When Martha Lloyd wanted Jane to buy a pair of 
shoes for her hi Bath, Jane's reluctance was marked, 
and she adds to her protest the emphatic words: 
"At any rate they shall all have flat heels." No 



THE REALISTS 159 

wonder she refused high heels to Martha; she was 
too busy in providing them for the characters in her 
novels. 

On Miss Austen's realism in this point my mind is 
still open, but there is another matter on which my 
convictions are immovable. In my review of in- 
dividual characters in the several books I have often 
pointed out the fact of overcharge. I now wish to 
declare my belief that in the comic figures, which 
include so many of Miss Austen's liveliest and most 
famous characters, the rule is overcharge. Miss 
Austen was capable, as few writers have been ca- 
pable, of shaded portraiture, and this fact in combina- 
tion with the mildness of her plots and her pose as 
schoolmistress has obscured the cardinal fact that a 
large part of her best and best loved characterization 
is the untempered and strident characterization of 
comedy, the comedy of Moliere, Sheridan, and Gold- 
smith. Macaulay, hi a famous passage, thus exposes 
the garishness of Fanny Burney in contrast with the 
chastened half-lights of Jane Austen. 

In Cecilia, for example, Mr. Delvile never opens his lips with- 
out some illusion to his own birth and station; or Mr. Briggs, 
without some allusion to the hoarding of money; or Mr. Hobson, 
without betraying the self-indulgence and self-importance of a 
purseproud upstart; or Mr. Simians, without uttering some 
sneaking remark for the purpose of currying favor with his 
customers; or Mr. Meadows, without expressing apathy and 
weariness of life; or Mr. Albany, without declaiming about the 
vices of the rich and the misery of the poor; or Mrs. Belfield, 



180 JANE AUSTEN 

without some indelicate eulogy on her son; or Lady Margaret, 
without indicating jealousy of her husband. Morrice is all 
skipping, officious impertinence, Mr. Gosport all sarcasm, Lady 
Honoria all lively prattle, Miss Larolles all silly prattle. 

Now I intend to furnish a parallel to this passage 
from the sinless and adorable Miss Austen; and if I 
draw my examples from two novels instead of one, it 
must be remembered that Miss Burney's novels are 
longer and more thickly peopled than Miss Austen's. 
Here is my effort. Mrs. Jennings never opens her 
mouth without some low-bred allusion to courtship; 
nor Mrs. Palmer without some outgush of imbecile 
good-nature; nor Mr. Palmer without some laconic 
insult; nor Fanny Dashwood without the use of some 
mercenary manoeuvre; nor Lucy Steele without 
some fawning and malicious calculation; nor Sir 
John Middleton without some display of gregarious 
joviality; nor Robert Ferrars without some betrayal 
of supercilious conceit; nor Mr. Bennet without some 
cynical pleasantry; nor Lady Catherine de Bourgh 
without some overbearing or interfering remark. 
Mrs. Bennet is all addleheaded worldliness, Lydia 
Bennet all boisterous levity, Mary Bennet all 
pompous verbosity, Georgiana Darcy all fluttered 
reticence. Of course these assertions are not literally 
true, but they are satisfyingly near to truth, and a 
satisfying nearness is quite as much as Macaulay at- 
tains in his indictment of the uniformities of Fanny 
Burney. Strange as it may appear, in this section 



THE REALISTS 161 

of her field, Miss Austen is to be reckoned among 
dashing and reckless artists, the artists who draw 
character as they drive nails by pounding with all 
their might upon one spot. 

This is part of the truth the neglected part; the 
pther part is the fact that in another group of char- 
acters she is mistress, as perhaps no other artist in 
our literature has been mistress, of the restrained, 
the shaded, the impalpable. Macautay's picture 
of her four young clergymen who are all alike and all 
unlike, though pressed rather far hi certain phrases, 
is just hi its main contention. It is easy to handle a 
character with handles; Miss Austen can dispense 
with that convenience. Put the neutral character 
beside the strongly marked, put Charlotte Collins 
beside her husband, put Kitty Bennet beside Lydia 
or Mary, put Charles Musgrove beside his wife, and 
you feel that in Miss Austen's palette the drabs are as 
significant as the purples. The milder figures on 
Miss Austen's canvas are finer and abler I do not 
say stronger or even more valuable than the out- 
standing ones, in much the same way that Seth Bede 
is a greater achievement than Adam, that Mrs. Tul- 
liver is the solution of a greater difficulty than 
Mrs. Glegg. How Miss Austen, in whose temper, 
method, and style there is no shading, manages to 
get shade into her characters is a problem that I 
cannot solve; it is an instance of squaring the circle, 
or rather of rounding the square, the secret of which 



162 JANE AUSTEN 

I do not pretend to fathom. Miss Austen is prone 
to spend the delicacies of her workmanship on cheap 
materials, cheap, I hasten to explain, by the test of 
intellectual and moral values. As I have hinted, she 
rarely combines her most delicate and her most 
spirited work in the same portrait. I think, however, 
that it is quite possible to name a character who is as 
finely edged as any of her neuters and as vital, if not 
quite so vivid, as the most glaring of her exaggera- 
tions. That character is Emma Woodhouse. 

Is this finer discrimination the result of complex- 
ity? Are Miss Austen's figures complex? At this 
point it behooves us to distinguish. There is some- 
thing elusive hi Miss Austen's presentations, and it is 
always possible that a property which we cannot 
name may have its source in an invisible complexity. 
But if complexity refers to ascertainable traits 
traits which may be named and reached by a process 
of critical decomposition I am disposed to think 
that Miss Austen surpasses all other novelists, in the 
fewness of the traits out of which her persons are 
moulded. Take two of the young divines in whose 
diversification Macaulay exulted. What is there in 
Edward Ferrars but affection and diffidence? What 
trait can Henry Tilney boast of but winsomeness in 
raillery? After he has mocked daintily at Catherine 
two or three times, Henry is drained of significance. 
In my reviews of individual portraits I have noted 
the fact that the tune or air of a character is some- 



THE REALISTS 163 

times conveyed to us entire in the first few notes, and 
that da capo might fittingly stand for the remainder 
of the score. I have also noted Miss Austen's 
marvellous capacity for bestowing at least a spec- 
trum of individuality on characters the whole ac- 
count of whom is compressed into twenty or thirty 
lines. Mr. Hurst in Pride and Prejudice is a clear 
example. 

Glance at any really complex character, Jane 
Eyre, for instance, and the differences from Miss 
Austen's method will be readily perceptible. Jane 
Eyre has powerful passions and a mighty will; even 
that relatively simple combination is unknown to 
Jane Austen. Capable of vehemence, Jane Eyre can 
school herself to long years of savorless and colorless 
routine. She is the kind of person to whom the 
education of a young girl may be securely committed, 
and she is also the kind of person to whom men are 
impelled to relate stories of then* discarded mis- 
tresses. She can rally and advise the formidable 
St. John Rivers, can later on become the vassal of his 
relentless will, and can still later nerve herself to 
throw off that vassalage. She is demure as governess 
and as fiancee she is malapert. Even with com- 
plexities less difficult than these Miss Austen was 
scarcely qualified to grapple. Most readers would 
probably dissent from my own impression that 
Darcy is a failure, but I should command a much 
wider indorsement for the proposition that the 



164 JANE AUSTEN 

Crawfords with their cloven natures are only half 
successful, and that a two-sided character like 
Willoughby is rather a group of strokes than a pic- 
ture. 

Restrictions of this kind may not always impair 
the quality of Miss Austen's realism, but they limit 
its field. A second interesting limitation is the 
virtual suppression of the body as a factor in the 
delineations. Miss Austen's way is to summarize 
the physique hi two or three main traits the specifica- 
tion of which is compressible into as many lines. 
In this proceeding the body is paid off, so to speak, 
and is expected to trouble an upright authoress no 
further. I do not mean that Miss Austen's people 
are ascetics or phantoms; on the contrary, the men 
have a mundane fondness for port, and the objec- 
tions of the women to turkey and sweetbreads with 
asparagus are always removable with a little pres- 
sure. I mean that that sense of the present body as 
a spur to the imagination which belongs to Thack- 
eray's Beatrix Esmond, to James's Lady Barbarina, 
to Meredith's Clara Middleton, and to Hardy's 
Eustacia Vye, is scarcely discoverable in Miss Aus- 
ten's novels. The body is not an actor in the play. 
After specification the features vanish, and are al- 
most never recalled except in relation to pallors and 
blushes, which are priceless as clews to invaluable 
"agitations." 

When two people converse, there is usually no 



THE REALISTS 165 

shift of position, no interpretative gesture, no play 
of feature, no modulation of tone. Even the "she 
said's" and "he answered's" are often omitted, and 
the dialogue suffers a depilation not unlike that of 
the tonsured dialogue of Alfieri or an English moral- 
ity. I do not assert that the speech is dull. We know 
from Chaucer's Monk and from daily observation 
that baldness often shines, and conversation in 
Miss Austen supports the induction. 

Another conversational trait which has its part in 
simplifying Miss Austen's characters may be de- 
scribed, a little loosely, as generality or abstraction. </ 
The people in her books are as intensely particular, as 1 / 
vehemently personal, in their interests as people are v 
everywhere in life itself and in all pictures of life w x 
which claim even an approximation to exactness. ^/ 
The talking of generalities, like the talking of litera- 
ture, was merely a badge of caste, a point of cere- 
mony; it was, nevertheless, obeyed with that zeal 
which ceremony so readily inspires in its disciples. 
Elizabeth and Anne Elliot are discussing the proba- 
bility of their father's victimization by an uncomely 
but insidious woman. 

"You must have heard him notice Mrs. Clay's freckles." 
"There is hardly any personal defect," replied Anne, 

"which an agreeable manner might not gradually reconcile 

one to." 
"I think very differently," answered Elizabeth, shortly, "an 

agreeable manner may set off handsome features, but can never 

alter plain ones." 



166 JANE AUSTEN 

In modern realism the last two speeches might 
read as follows: 

"Her manners are good," said Anne. 
"Manners," said Elizabeth with a sniff. 

This roundness of period hi which generalities 
dilate and globe themselves has much the same 
blurring effect on variations of character that the 
enforced adoption of the orotund by a group of 
open-air speakers would have upon the idiosyn- 
cracies of voice. The expression of difference by 
speech is limited. The conversation remains vig- 
orous, and often brilliant, but it ceases to picture 
the character, or to speak more temperately and 
accurately a veil neither quite opaque nor quite 
transparent is dropped between us and the picture. 
A bodiless personality expresses itself in a bodiless 
diction. At this point I shall be very lucky, if even 
the liberal and amiable reader does not consign this 
volume to the fire, or, if no fire be at hand, to a place 
where the provision of that element is supposed to be 
unlimited and constant. The reader has a right 
to his indignation, but I cling to my thesis. My 
sentiment would be that of Themistocles when 
Eurybiades, the Spartan, lifted up his stick to 
inflict corporal chastisement on the presumptuous 
Athenian: "Strike, but hear me." Miss Austen is 
probably the most downright, the most positive, of 
all novelists hi English, yet her method is the highly 



THE REALISTS 167 

abstract method of which one development is found 
in the ponderous tenuity of Rasselas, and another in 
the formless rarefaction of Mr. James's Sacred 
Fount. Her creations are not so much bodied forth as 
minded forth, but they are alive in the face of condi- 
tions which are the normal extinguishers of vitality. 
So much stronger was her nature than her method 
that the quality of her work may almost be called 
the antithesis of the quality of her method. She was 
an individualist of the first order, and individuality 
in her figures could survive the abatement or attenua- 
tion of corporal and concrete substance to an extent 
to which the length and breadth of literature hardly 
offers a parallel. The character like Tithonus might 
waste to a grain of a sand, but that gram would be 
flint. 

There is another point hi which the truth of the 
characterizations is liable to a grave deduction. She 
thought herself hostile to those 

Men that every virtue decks, 
And women models of their sex 

to whom fiction has owed half its popularity. She 
writes to her niece Fanny: "Pictures of perfec- 
tion, as you know, make me sick and wicked." 
We have seen that she expresses a measure of dis- 
content with the faultless heroine of her own Per- 
suasion. The two facts, the faultlessness and the 
discontent, taken together are significant. Miss 



168 JANE AUSTEN 

Austen virtuously prided herself on her aversion to 
the unqualified, but those who have read her novels 
and also her letters from Bath will understand me 
when I say that several of her own characters had 
their dwelling in Paragon Street. Nothing is easier 
than to despise perfection in the characters of other 
novelists. Fielding recoiled from Richardson's in- 
effable Pamela, but I should not like to undertake 
off-hand to name a fault in the wife of Captain 
Booth or hi the sweetheart of Tom Jones. George 
Eliot in Adam Bede began with a plea for alloys and 
mixtures, but was destined to produce in Daniel 
Deronda a paragon who roused explosiveness in 
Stevenson. Stevenson did not draw Derondas, but, 
after preaching to others, I suspect that he himself 
became a castaway with John Hawkins on Treasure 
Island, if not with David Balfour in the Hebrides. 
The truth is that virtue is so insidious that the 
wariest novelist is not proof against its seductions. 
How does the case stand with Miss Austen? 

Of Elinor Dashwood we might say what an Amer- 
ican satirist said of Elinor's country that "when the 
vartoos died they made her heir." Colonel Bran- 
don's worst offense is rheumatism. We concede a 
few faults to Elizabeth Bennet and her lover, though 
Elizabeth's are of the mildest type, and Darcy's 
resemble the folds in a table-cover, which disappear 
the moment it is spread out. But what is to be said in 
stay of sentence for the impeccable Jane Bennet? 



THE REALISTS 169 

The other Jane Jane Fairfax is almost as bad I 
should say as good, but we are not required to like her 
unless we choose. The interval between Fanny 
Price and perfection is distressingly slight, and 
Anne Elliot is practically dismissed as hopeless by 
her creator. Edmund Bertram is allowed one little 
fault, but no such indulgence is vouchsafed to 
Mr. Henry Tilney. 

Evil in many characters is equally unrelieved. The 
virtues have been so far used up on the paragons that 
no good trait is left for Fanny Dashwood, for Lucy 
Steele, for George Wickham, for Lydia Bennet, for 
Lady Catherine de Bourgh, for Mr. Collins, for 
General Tilney, for John Thorpe, for Isabella 
Thorpe, for Mr. Elliot, for Mrs. Elton. About 
Mrs. Norris the authors of the Life and Letters make 
the following remark: 

Mrs. Norris, we are told, would have done much better than 
Mrs. Price in her position. It must have given Jane Austen 
great pleasure to make this remark. None of her bad char- 
acters (except possibly Elizabeth Elliot) were quite inhuman to 
her, and to have found a situation in which Mrs. Norris might 
have shone would be [would have been?] a real satisfaction. 

It is needless to comment on the methods of a 
novelist in whom a character is only saved from 
total inhumanity by a paragraph of eleven lines in 
the last quarter of the book. 

This is one phase of the matter. There is another 
phase, smaller in bulk and less pronounced in quality, 



170 JANE AUSTEN 

but of much significance and of surpassing worth. 
As we have seen, Miss Austen was not strong in the 
divided character, but in what may be called the 
slanting character, the character that is remote 
both from the perpendicular and the horizontal, she 
had a rare and precious gift. The decent and self- 
respecting meanness of John Dashwood, the mixture 
of self-indulgence and obligingness hi Charles Mus- 
grove, receive little space or emphasis, but they are of 
that profound truth which is plumbed only here and 
there by the wisest and most penetrating fiction. 
The case of Emma Woodhouse is somewhat different. 
Here the character, excellent hi the main, is weakened 
by frailties that are more damaging than grave, or, 
if the reader likes, more estranging than damaging. 
The plan requires that this character be endangered 
and safe-guarded at every moment, and the skill 
shown hi the convoy is worthy of the sister of two 
admirals. Mr. John Knightley presents a third prob- 
lem. He has an ill temper, not the agreeable and al- 
most ingratiating ill temper which seasons the virtue 
of his uncompromising brother, but the sort of ill 
temper of which one might say, in mimicry of the 
Frenchman's censure of the murder of the duke 
d'Enghien, that it is worse than a fault, it is a nuis- 
ance. He really tries the reader, yet keeps his place 
in the reader's esteem a process normal in life, 
but reserved in fiction for the attempered hand of 
the severe and ripened artist. 



THE REALISTS 171 

I shall quote a few passages which show Miss 
Austen's grasp of this doubleness, this circumflex, in 
life for which the dramatic craftsman is so prone to 
substitute the grave or the acute accent. 

Charlotte herself was tolerably composed. She had gained her 
point, and had time to consider of it. Her reflections were in 
general satisfactory. Mr. Collins, to be sure, was neither sen- 
sible nor agreeable; his society was irksome, and his attachment 
to her must be imaginary. But still he would be her husband. 
Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage 
had always been her object; it was the only honourable provision 
for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however 
uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preser- 
vative from want. This preservative she had now obtained; and 
at the age of twenty-seven, without having ever been handsome, 
she felt all the good luck of it. 

This may be questionable as ethics it is certainly 
dismal as philosophy; but its art is consummate. 
Two passages from Persuasion may be cited. 

He had very good spirits, which never seemed much affected 
by his wife's occasional lowness, bore with her unreasonable- 
ness sometimes to Anne's admiration, and upon the whole, 
though there was very often a little disagreement (in which she 
had sometimes more share than she wished, being appealed to 
by both parties) they might pass for a happy couple. 

Lady Elliot had been an excellent woman, sensible and ami- 
able, whose judgment and conduct, if they might be pardoned 
the youthful infatuation which had made her Lady Elliot, had 
never required indulgence afterwards. She had humoured, or 
softened, or concealed his failings, and promoted his real re- 
spectability for seventeen years; and though not the very happiest 
being in the world herself, had found enough in her duties, her 



172 JANE AUSTEN 

friends, and her children, to attach her to life, and make it no 
matter of indifference to her when she was called on to quit 
them. 

Miss Austen is clearly at home in that prevalent 
state of mind to which fiction so rarely adjusts it- 
self the state in which happiness is sufficiently 
clouded to lose all its brilliancy without losing all 
its worth. It sometimes seems as if the main busi- 
ness of life were to confute our expectations, to upset 
our theories, and to blunt our epigrams. Even this 
dictum is too epigrammatic to be true. The division 
of men into optimists and pessimists is at once the 
consequence and the evidence of the refusal of life to 
ally itself with either party. 

In Miss Austen's standing as realist three elements 
must be noted the conventionalist, the dramatist, 
and the observer. Convention was mighty in her, 
and influenced her conformity to truth. It not only 
affected her style and her ethics, but it made the 
whole form not the spirit of her conversation 
artificial, and as I personally think it warped 
realism by informing her novels with what one may 
call the odor of the seminar. The second force is the 
dramatist, working on an admirable ground of ob- 
served truth, but heightening the lights and blacken- 
ing the shadows, producing integers of good and evil, 
intensifying and simplifying till nothing was left 
of the character but the exaggeration and reiteration 
of one or possibly two or three qualities giving in 



THE REALISTS 173 

the end the truth, not of life, but of comedy. Last of 
all comes the observer, in the tempered and chastened 
exercise of a faculty whose compass has often been 
exaggerated, but the quality, the delightfulness, of 
which it would be difficult to overpraise. 



PART III 
THE WOMAN 



CHAPTER IX 
LIFE AND WAYS OF LIFE 

IN this final section I shall treat of Jane Austen's 
personality with glances at certain literary traits to 
which that personality is closely related. 

Miss Austen is perhaps the poorest subject for 
biography of all notable persons who have lived since 
biography began to flourish. Her family was large, 
her acquaintance not small; she was part of a peer- 
ing, listening, gossiping community; and forty-two 
years in one district and four towns should have sup- 
plied a field for the accumulation of reminiscence. 
But her life was barren of events; her fame, when it 
tardily arrived, was shy; and curiosity awoke only 
after its nutriment had vanished. She died in 1817; 
the memoir of her nephew, J. E. Austen-Leigh, pub- 
lished in 1870, was the first attempt to present her 
life in narrative. In respect of material that memoir 
is famished, though the grace and exquisite humility 
with which the little repast is served leave us obliged 
even by its meagreness. The taste and loyalty, if 
not the grace, of the memoir-writer was bequeathed 
to his son and grandson, William Austen-Leigh and 
Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh, who published in 
1913 the Life and Letters of Jane Austen. The life- 

177 



178 JANE AUSTEN 

story yielded scarcely anything to further pressure; 
but, in view of Jane's own destitution on this score, a 
purse of facts, if I may hazard the expression, was 
made up in her behalf to which every ancestor, rela- 
tive, and acquaintance was bidden to contribute his 
mite. More important was the access to the Letters 
of Jane Austen, published in 1884 by her grand- 
nephew, Lord Brabourne, with explanations of every 
point within the editor's knowledge for which ex- 
planation was desirable or permissible. Apart from 
the novels, these letters are our chief datum for 
Miss Austen's character; they furnish us with a 
vicius, if not a vita. Leslie Stephen, in the Dictionary 
of National Biography calls them trivial a remark 
of which the seriousness is almost majestic. Ad- 
dressed mainly to a sister, the Letters choose sisterly 
topics; but they paint a fashion of life in concise and 
pithy touches, and are crisped with a humor of which 
formal literature might be proud. 

I shall dispense with the affectation of chronology 
in the few facts as to Miss Austen's life which I think 
it needful to set down. Her father, George Austen, 
born in 1731, held the living of Steventon in Hamp- 
shire from 1761 to 1801, and died in Bath hi 1805. 
Her mother, Cassandra Leigh, a shrewd and hu- 
morous woman, after bringing eight children into 
the world, settled down into that state of health 
which permits one to enjoy the privileges of an in- 
valid to the age of eighty-eight. Of this family 



LIFE AND WAYS OF LIFE 179 

Jane was the sixth child. She had one sister, Cas- 
sandra, with whom her relations throughout her life 
were exquisite, and six brothers, only one of whom 
seems to have been overlooked hi nature's generous 
bestowal of capacities and virtues. The eldest son, 
James, was a clergyman. Another son, Edward, was 
adopted by a rich landowner, whose fortune he 
inherited and whose name he took. Two other 
brothers, Francis and Charles, rose to admiralships 
in the English navy. Jane's favorite brother, Henry, 
was a brilliant and unstable character, who gave up 
orders to enter the militia, and who saw hi the in- 
solvency of his banking-house hi later life a clear 
proof of his vocation for the ministry. 

The family had many roots and many branches, 
was cohesive within itself and adhesive to its con- 
nections, was prone to marry and remarry, was 
lavish of births and sparing of deaths, had no preju- 
dice against food and drink, and loved station, 
money, and office with an artlessness which may be 
taken as a partial set-off for its intensity. They were 
prone to those neighborships and clanships which 
demand for their maintenance both a certain tender- 
ness and a certain toughness of the sensibilities. 
They had a healthy fondness for good tunes in which 
the younger daughter dutifully shared. 

Miss Austen's love-affairs, so far as present evi- 
dence goes, present nothing that need detain or 
agitate the biographer. The industry of her rela- 



180 JANE AUSTEN 

tives has come upon traces of two flirtations, of 
which Jane herself speaks with a matter-of-fact and 
reassuring lightness. Her niece, Caroline, is voucher 
for another story of Jane's acceptance of an income 
and position overnight and her rejection next 
morning of the human being with whom these ad- 
vantages were encumbered. There is still another 
pointless story of a young man attractive to Jane 
who was expected to reappear and whose failure to 
meet expectations was the effect of a rendezvous with 
death. There is every reason to believe that Miss 
Austen in her youth had a girl's fondness for society, 
attention, and, very possibly, flirtation, and there is 
no reason to suppose that her aversion to matrimony 
was of the kind which suitable pressure from an 
eligible quarter would have failed to conquer. Her 
person is said to have been very attractive. I quote 
from the author of the memoir. 

Her figure was rather tall and slender, her step light and firm, 
and her whole appearance expressive of health and animation. 
In complexion she was a clear brunette with a rich colour; she 
had full round cheeks, with mouth and nose small and well 
formed, bright hazel eyes, and brown hair forming natural curls 
close round her face. If not so regularly handsome as her sister, 
yet her countenance had a peculiar charm of its own to the eyes 
of most beholders. 

Miss Austen's later years were spent in Bath, 
Southampton, and the village of Chawton in Hamp- 
shire, in which Edward Knight formerly Edward 



LIFE AND WAYS OF LIFE 181 

Austen had offered an asylum to his mother and 
sisters. The Austen novels were written rapidly in 
two groups, parted by a singular hiatus of eleven 
sterile years. The first group, comprising Pride and 
Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Northanger 
Abbey, was written hi the order named between 1796 
and 1798. The second group, comprising Mans- 
field Park, Emma, and Persuasion, was written 
between 1811 and 1816. The publication was much 
more compressed than the writing. The six novels 
all came out between 1811 and 1818. Jane Austen 
died in Winchester, on July 18, 1817, at the age of 
forty-one, of a malady which her physicians could 
apparently neither cure nor name. Her grave is in 
Winchester cathedral. 

In the dearth of biography I shall use the letters as 
the basis of a sketch of Jane's habits and interests, 
not shrinking from a little detail, which is more 
likely to surprise than to fatigue the reader. 

Jane Austen was much too substantial a person to 
affect any indifference to food. She is specific in 
the expression of her attachment to cold souse which 
she "devours" with the approval and assistance of 
her two nieces. I trust that this announcement will 
arm the reader for the still more depressing informa- 
tion that at a certain supper toasted cheese was 
ordered expressly on her account. Her mother calls 
her a very good housekeeper, an estimate hi which 
Jane cordially concurs, adding that she always pro- 



182 JANE AUSTEN 

vides such things as please her own appetite, "which 
I consider the chief merit in housekeeping." She 
inclines to haricot mutton, to ragout veal, and to 
experimental ox-cheeks, in which little dumplings are 
affectionately secreted. She invites the physician 
to dinner, and "was not ashamed at asking him to 
sit down to table, for we had some pease-soup, a 
spare-rib, and a pudding." "We are to kill a pig 
soon," she remarks with rural directness and house- 
wifely foresight. The turkey redux which we think 
so characteristic of Thanksgiving in America has 
clearly broadened slowly down from precedent to 
precedent, for Jane Austen has a jest at a French 
cook's expertness in this particular. The departure 
of guests is a welcome relief from the torments of 
rice puddings and apple dumplings, which may have 
been the cliches of cookery, abhorrent to the true 
stylist in housekeeping. 

In travelling Jane's correspondence and her bodily 
frame are nourished on the same fare. At Devizes, 
as Cassandra is punctiliously informed, they had 
asparagus and a lobster, and cheesecakes that made 
the town memorable to the children. At Dartford, 
the absence of oyster sauce for the boiled fowl is 
confided to the same sympathetic ear. At Henry 
Austen's a French cook receives due plaudits for a 
most comfortable dinner of soup, fish, bouillee, 
partridges, and an apple tart. Miss Austen has a 
. true _housekeeper's. interest^ in prices. Bath is vir-. 



LIFE AND WAYS OF LIFE 183 

tuous in the point of meat (only eightpence a pound), 
but its charges for salmon are iniquitous. 

It must not be supposed that Jane, in her solici- 
tude about food, becomes oblivious of the claims of 
drink. Her affection for wine is unconcealed. In a 
letter written January 24, 18 17, when already stricken 
with disease, she wants a recipe for some excellent 
orange wine made out of Seville oranges. At her 
brother Edward's she writes: "I shall eat ice and 
drink French wine, and be above vulgar economy." 
At Henry's we hear of a midnight participation hi 
"soup and wine and water" (before they go to their 
"holes"). She writes from her brother Edward's 
in 1813 : "By-the-bye, as I must leave off being young, 
I find many douceurs in being a sort of chaperon, 
for I am put on the sofa near the fire, and can drink 
as much wine as I like." 

At an earlier date she writes: "I believe I drank 
too much wine last night at Hurstbourne; I know 
not how else to account for the shaking of my hand 
to-day." This may be only a humorous pretense, 
but there is little reason to suppose that the reality 
would have disquieted the writer. 

Jane did not confine her partialities to imported 
liqueurs (they had liqueurs even hi her day). The 
authoress whose peculiarity in literature was her 
fondness for the English domestic home-brew was 
true to her principles in the matter of drinks. She 
likes mead, and writes in 1813: "I find time hi the 



184 JANE AUSTEN 

midst of port and Madeira to think of the fourteen 
bottles of mead very often." She turns from the 
perfunctory mention of a pianoforte to the heart- 
felt cry: "We hear now that there is to be no honey 
this year. Bad news for us. We must husband our 
present stock of mead." Mead divided her affec- 
tions with spruce beer. It was a period in which the 
variety of beverages at the same meal was some- 
times interestingly great. Mrs. Austen reports a 
breakfast in which tea, coffee, and chocolate were 
served. Jane's niece Anna returns from an evening 
in which sillabub, tea, and coffee were the suite or 
the escort of a hot supper. Jane is very kind as a 
rule to her niece Fanny, but she will stand no juvenile 
nonsense on the subject of the consumption of tea. 
"As to Fanny and her twelve pounds hi a twelve- 
month, she may talk till she is as black in the face 
as her own tea, but I cannot believe her more 
likely twelve pounds to a quarter." 

If Jane was English in her respect for aliment, 
she was woman in her emphasis on dress. She is no 
more frivolous in her care for clothes than she is 
animal in her stress on nutriment; both are merely 
articles in the treaty which she made at the outset 
with things as they are. In relation to clothes her 
sentiment shows more of the zeal of the partisan 
than of the gravity of the devotee. They mix good- 
naturedly enough with more ethereal interests. "I 
have read the Corsair, mended my petticoat, and 



LIFE AND WAYS OF LIFE 185 

have nothing else to do." Literature and dress are 
associated after another fashion in the following 
mention of a cap. " It will be white satin and lace, 
and a little white flower perking out of the left ear, 
like Harriet Byron's feather." Jane's interest hi 
caps is inextinguishable. She wears a black cap to a 
ball to the probable admiration of everybody in the 
room, even at the tune of life when she could dance 
twenty dances without fatigue and imagine herself 
dancing for a week together. She and her sister 
were thought to have taken to caps and the other 
ensigns of middle age earlier than their years or their 
looks required. 

She was not, however, indifferent to fashion. "I 
find my straw bonnet looking very much like other 
people's, and quite as smart." She enumerates 
with gusto the fruits discoverable on the hats of 
the fashionable world in Bath, grapes, cherries, 
plums, apricots, even a bunch of strawberries. 
Nevertheless, there are moments of wilfulness when 
she dallies with the thought of nonconformity. "I 
wear my gauze gown to-day, long sleeves and all. I 
shall see how they succeed, but as yet I have no 
reason to suppose long sleeves are allowable." She 
is resigned to the observance of the proprieties. 
When the Duke of Gloucester dies, the mourning 
gives importance to the death. "I suppose every- 
body will be black for the D. of G. Must we buy 
lace, or will ribbon do?" She is girlish enough at 



186 JANE AUSTEN 

thirty-eight to call gowns sweet. "They are so 
very sweet by candle light." She can satirize ef- 
fusiveness over dress without hi the least renouncing 
her share hi the object of her satire. "I have got 
your cloak home, which is quite delightful as de- 
lightful at least as hah" the circumstances which are 
called so." 

She has a rather piquant fashion of personifying 
articles of clothing. "I took the liberty a few days 
ago of asking your black velvet bonnet to lend me 
its cawl, which it very readily did." "I have found 
your white mittens. They were folded up within a 
clean nightcap, and send their duty to you." She 
takes an unaffected and unapologizing interest hi 
all the little womanly shifts and crafts by which 
appearances are sustained and incomes husbanded. 
Evening gowns are made into morning gowns. The 
outer gown is transformed into a petticoat. "We 
are all busy making Edward's shirts, and I am proud 
to say that I am the neatest worker of the party." 
A frank and humorous readiness hi the grapple with 
any of the little homely exigencies of a life that 
amused her almost as much as it bored her is char- 
acteristic of Jane Austen everywhere. 

She is not uncritical of the dress of other people. 
The right to censure other people's dress is the rec- 
ompense for the hours of anxiety given to one's 
own. " Tom Lefroy has but one fault, which time 
will, I trust, entirely remove it is that his morning 



187 

coat is a great deal too light. He is a very great 
admirer of Tom Jones, and therefore wears the same 
coloured clothes, I imagine, which he did when he 
was wounded." She appears to have favored temper- 
ance hi the colors of her own apparel, and some pink 
shoes are referred to with virtuous misgiving. 

Jane has a practical woman's interest in the prob- 
lems of housing, bedding, and transporting other 
people. "Pray where did the boys sleep?" she asks 
in a letter to her sister with the curiosity of a New 
England housekeeper. The benefits of her criticism 
are not withheld from improvements in the shrubbery 
or repairs in the house. Her attitude toward serv- 
ants is resignedly skeptical. There are indications 
that the rebellious tolerance and smouldering pro- 
test which sometimes seems almost the mutual at- 
titude of mistress and servant hi America had its 
prototypes in Jane Austen's England. 

A woman to whom the fact meant so much would 
affect no delicate indifference to money, and the 
letters and novels agree hi testifying to the weight 
that Jane Austen gave to pounds. Money is never 
lightly spoken of , either by the most sensible or the 
most romantic persons in her books, and even people 
like Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars, whose 
love is sincere and profound, are perfectly clear as 
to the relation of income to well-being. So far there 
is no ground for criticism. There is nothing sordid 
or base in the perception that a necessity, sordid 



188 JANE AUSTEN 

itself or even base, if you insist, is a necessity. Even 
spirituality may innocently note a fact, but Miss 
Austen's interest in money is very far from stopping 
at this point. I wish to speak with measure of a 
frame of mind of which measure was a prime char- 
acteristic, but I think we may say that Miss Austen's 
attitude toward money, while neither idolatrous nor 
abject, is definable as homage. She was neither a 
Fanny Dashwood nor a Mrs. Norris, but money was 
for her one of the great good facts of life hi the savor 
and brightness of which her imagination fondly 
rested. She says hi one letter: "I shall keep my ten 
pounds to wrap myself up in." The reference is 
naturally to apparel, but I think Jane would have 
been quite capable of nestling cosily into the warm 
wrappage of a snug income. "My father is doing 
all in his power to increase his income by raising 
his tithes, etc., and I do not despair of getting very 
nearly six hundred a year" (the italics are mine). 
"We have now pretty well ascertained James's in- 
come to be eleven hundred pounds, curate paid, 
which makes us very happy" (italics mine). This 
is the idyl of the cash-box; this is the Faithful 
Shepherdess in a new guise. 

Sing his praises that doth keep 

Our flocks from harm, 
Pan, the father of our sheep; 

In a family of this sort the loss of a legacy cures 
any grief that might have been evoked by the loss 



LIFE AND WAYS OP LIFE 189 

of the testator. Jane is suffering from a bilious 
attack when the news of her uncle's disposition of 
his property is revealed to her by indiscreet rela- 
tives. "I am ashamed to say that the shock of my 
uncle's will brought on a relapse." The touch that 
follows is delectable: "My mother has borne the 
forgetfulness of her extremely well" (the italics are 
Jane's). " 'Forgiveness,' said Mr. Pecksniff, 'en- 
tire and pure forgiveness is not incompatible with a 
wounded heart; perchance when the heart is wounded 
it becomes a greater virtue.' " 

Jane's objection to playing cards for money is 
characteristic. "There were two pools at commerce, 
but I would not play more than one, for the stake was 
three shillings, and I cannot afford to lose that twice 
hi an evening." It is almost needless to observe 
that in this circle the getting or not getting of a 
frank is among the small poignancies of life. Noth- 
ing awakens tenderness like a gift of money. The 
very person of the donor is renovated to the grate- 
ful vision. "I have this moment received 51. from 
kind, beautiful Edward" (italics mine). The possibil- 
ity or rather probability that Jane is jocular in 
such expressions must be punctiliously allowed for; 
but even in the act of allowance one must remember 
that humor in such cases is the excuse for sincerity 
quite as often as it is the excuse for insincerity. 

If the above paragraphs produce the impression 
that Miss Austen was grasping or parsimonious, 



190 JANE AUSTEN 

they have been unskilfully written. The delicacy 
the interest of the situation lies in the fact that 
Miss Austen was all that these paragraphs imply 
without being either grasping or parsimonious. The 
thought of money raised hi her mind a glow not un- 
like that which the sight of fire awakens in a chilly 
person in a fickle climate; that glow does not imply 
that its owner will monopolize the cheer of the 
hearth or will be niggardly of coals to freezing 
neighbors. Such a feeling in relation to money 
indicates nothing worse than the abeyance of 
lethargy of those higher spiritual interests which, 
hi women like George Eliot and Mrs. Browning, 
preoccupy the imagination and the feelings, and re- 
duce money to the condition of a railway ticket a 
thing to be at once guarded and despised. Miss 
Austen made few or no efforts to acquire money. A 
realistic estimate of publishers led her to accept 
contentedly rather small returns for literary products 
of extraordinary value. That she could be generous 
both in act and heart is evinced in the following 
quotation: "Mrs. Deedes is as welcome as May to 
all our benevolence to her son; we only lamented 
that we could not do more and that the 501. we 
slipped into his hand at parting was necessarily the 
limit of our offering." 

Miss Austen's esteem for family was large, and 
Elizabeth Bennet's defiant cry, "I am a gentleman's 
daughter," was doubtless only a proud echo of the 



LIFE AND WAYS OF LIFE Idl 

unuttered boast of the daughter of George Austen 
and Cassandra Leigh. It does not appear, however, 
that she set a high value on rank and title as things 
distinct from blood, or that the difference between 
high blood and good blood impressed her as momen- 
tous. Rank in her novels hardly rises higher than 
the baronetcy, and her baronets, Sir William Lucas, 
Sir John Middleton, Sir Thomas Bertram, and 
Sir Walter Elliot, are guiltless of any tendency to 
monopolize the talents or the virtues. Poor Lady 
Catherine de Bourgh is worse mauled than almost 
any other victim of Miss Austen's none too lenient 
satire, and as to the Viscountess Dalrymple and her 
daughter, the rustle of whose skirts and whose sta- 
tionery is audible in a chapter or two of Persuasion, 
they are cavalierly dismissed with the observation 
that they were "nothing." 

Rank and money stood on different footings for 
Miss Austen. Her hard sense drew an immitigable 
distinction between the solid earth of which gold 
is an extract and the air out of whose fluid and im- 
palpable substance such breaths as earl, marquis, 
and duke are cheaply and effortlessly drawn. She 
was not in the least overwhelmed by the consent 
of the de facto sovereign of England to receive the 
dedication of a novel, and the impassive formula, 
To the Prince Regent, shows no cleavage in her im- 
penetrable reserve. In the gregarious and compre- 
hensive social life of the county in Miss Austen's 



192 JANE AUSTEN 

day lords seem to have associated with commoners 
on easy and liberal, if not precisely equal, terms, and 
the novelist mastered the art of mentioning a peer 
without a simper or a tremor. Jane's mother was 
the great-granddaughter of a lord, Jane's brother 
Francis became a baronet, his wife had cousinships 
among lords, Jane's first cousin married a French 
count, Jane's niece married a baronet, and the 
grand-nephew who edited her letters is a lord. The 
imposture of nobility meaning by that simply 
its failure to equalize its talents or its virtues with 
its rank would soon have been pierced by an ob- 
server so keen, hi circumstances so propitious to ob- 
servation. The theory put forth by a character hi 
Chaucer that lords are "half-goddes in this world 
here" received no indorsement from Miss Austen's 
invincible common sense. 

Jane's indifference to politics was total; her own 
nephew can get no further than the surmise that she 
shared the mild Toryism of her family. The Na- 
poleonic era thundered vainly to her serene deaf- 
ness. In one letter she exclaims: "What weather, 
and what news." Her biographers conjecture that 
the news is the Battle of Leipsic. The dedication 
to the Battle of Leipsic of half a sentence (a sentence 
of five words) the other half of which is occupied with 
a eulogy of the weather is as original as anything in 
Pride and Prejudice. The navy, through its pro- 
vision of sustenance for two Austens, ranks rather 



LIFE AND WAYS OF LIFE 193 

more highly in the scale of institutions. In Persua- 
sion the navy once becomes the subject of conver- 
sation, and questions such as the admission of lady 
passengers to a warship or the wisdom of an admiral's 
wife in sharing the voyages of her husband are dis- 
cussed with appropriate gravity. One half recalls 
the type of religious question which interested the 
editor of a congeries of periodicals and newspapers 
in Arnold Bennett's What the Public Wants: "Shall 
lady parishioners give presents to curates?" It is 
pleasant, moreover, to reflect that alertness of mind 
can always find something of interest in the most 
sterile periods of the most lifeless institutions. The 
British navy could furnish enlivening topics to Jane 
Austen even amid the tediums of Aboukir and the 
nullities of Trafalgar. 

On Jane's accomplishments her relatives are not 
insistent. She is said to have excelled hi needlework 
and in penmanship, and her skill in games was the 
despair of her childish antagonists and imitators. 
Her fondness for art was not immoderate. Drawing 
as a drawing-room appurtenance or, to put the case 
a little differently, the pencil as one of the blunter 
shafts in Cupid's quiver, is sparingly visible hi her 
novels; but her remark in a letter that hi an art 
gallery the spectators diverted her attention from 
the pictures is instructive to the perspicacious. The 
woman who would read Southey's Life of Nelson, if 
it mentioned her brother Frank, would naturally 



194 JANE AUSTEN 

find the chief interest of an exhibition in a small 
portrait of Mrs. Bingley. Something is said of a 
sweet voice and of practice on the pianoforte, but 
Jane's own repudiation of musical taste was en- 
joyably robust. She says of a popular singer: "That 
she gave me no pleasure is no reflection upon her, 
nor, I hope, upon myself, being what Nature made 
me in that article." She has an undisguised fond- 
ness for persons whose impatience of music is un- 
disguised. " I liked her for being in a hurry to have 
the concert over and get away." Apparently, she 
went little to the theatre, and she certainly had not 
the temper of the true theatre-goer for whom the 
calamity of being disappointed of a play far out- 
weighs the mere misfortune of being disappointed 
in one. Kean, then in his first glory, entirely con- 
quers her, but the other actors are put off with res- 
ervations and tepidities. 

Neither the letters nor the biographies support 
the idea that Miss Austen was a systematic or sed- 
ulous reader. Hours of reading are scantly noted, 
and hours for reading belong to a world into which 
her cautious imagination never peeped. She read 
what fell in her way, or what the easy standards 
of a considerate world imposed upon a clergyman's 
daughter. She speaks once of her "dear Dr. John- 
son," and a jocular project of marriage with George 
Crabbe, whom she sincerely and appropriately ad- 
mired, was shadowed by a doubt as to the existence of 



LIFE AND WAYS OF LIFE 195 

a vacancy. She seems to have liked Cowper, though 
the line which haunted Fanny Price hi her Ports- 
mouth exile, "With what intense desire she wants 
her home," is surely as pedestrian a line as ever cum- 
bered the remembrance of a lover of poetry. An- 
other phrase of Cowper's about "syringa ivory 
pure" does more credit both to poet and reader. 
She reads Scott's poems as they emerge. In June, 
1808, she is still unconverted by Marmion, but in 
January, 1809, she has reached the point of admir- 
ing her own generosity hi despatching her copy to 
her brother Charles. She is rather captious with 
Scott. "Walter Scott has no business to write novels, 
especially good ones. It is not fair. He has fame 
and profit enough as a poet, and should not be taking 
the bread out of the mouths of other people." "I 
do not like him, and do not mean to like Waverky 
if I can help it, but fear I must." 

The above passage is charmingly illustrative of a 
certain flexibility in Miss Austen's temper, which is 
often more or less concealed by the positiveness 
of her language. She had a woman's playful self- 
will, but even hi the heyday and riot of her caprice 
she foresees its final subjection to a masculine equity. 
She has all manner of unreasoned dislikes, which 
she relinquishes with the most admirable candor and 
the most engaging reluctance. 

To resume the topic from which I was lured away 
by the tempting observation in the last paragraph, 



196 JANE AUSTEN 

Jane remarked once not over-seriously that she had 
made up her mind to like no novels really but Miss 
Edgeworth's, her niece's, and her own. According 
to her nephew, her knowledge of Sir Charles Grandi- 
son was minute, an assertion which has two refer- 
ences to Harriet Byron hi the letters on its side, but 
which I illogically decline to believe, with that faith 
in my unfaith which is one of the curious tattooings 
of human nature. She says once to her sister, in 
allusion to Miss Burney's Cecilia, "Remember that 
Aunt Cassandras are quite as scarce as Miss Bever- 
leys." She recommends Corinna to a certain deaf 
Mr. Fitzhugh, but there is no evidence hi the cor- 
respondence that her acquaintance with French 
belles-letters was more than respectable in amount 
or less than respectable hi quality. Fielding is too 
much the stable-boy for her taste. She knew the 
Spectator and its progeny, and drew her history, no 
doubt in circumspect amounts, from the approved 
founts of Goldsmith, Hume, and Robertson. When 
she undertakes to read Modem Europe with her 
niece Fanny, something always occurs to delay or 
curtail the proposed reading. The discomfiture 
of plans of this kind for self-culture is among the 
favorite recreations of destiny. 

One instinctively trusts Miss Austen's criticism 
of novels, even where one's ignorance of the book in 
question is complete. Nothing could be more un- 
assuming, nothing could be less responsible or judi- 



LIFE AND WAYS OF LIFE 197 

cial, than these criticisms, yet we feel a basic, an 
involuntary, equipoise which no wilfulness or sub- 
jectivity in the critic's conscious attitude could de- 
range. The letters to her niece Anna on Anna's 
unpublished novel contain remarks which in their 
unconfirmed sanity are so convincing that verifica- 
tion, if verification were feasible, would seem almost 
an impertinence. 

There are allusions to chestnut-planting in Miss 
Austen's letters, and mention is made of two roots of 
heart's ease, "one yellow and one purple," the refer- 
ences to which in my note-book are characteristic- 
ally flanked by two other references, one to " aspar- 
agus, lobster and cheese" and the other to "ten pair 
of worsted stockings and a shift." It is nature 
drafted into the service of man, nature as the orna- 
ment and instrument of a vicarage, that is brought 
before us in scant and scattering allusion in these 
letters. In the novels the situation is not so very 
different, but a distinction must be made between 
the earlier group of novels from which nature is 
practically excluded and the later group in which 
like a well-bred villager she is allowed at cautious 
intervals to make a modest courtesy to her betters. 
In Mansfield Park a sentence or two here and there 
makes a rather formal, but not ungraceful or in- 
sincere, mention of Fanny Price's interest in spring, 
and in Persuasion matters are so far advanced that 
a whole paragraph almost a whole paragraph is 



198 JANE AUSTEN 

squandered on the charms of Lyme. The advance is 
readily explicable. Between Sense and Sensibility 
and Persuasion nature had "come out." She had 
not only received the solemn vouchers of that socially 
questionable preacher and hermit, William Words- 
worth, but the ban of rusticity had been finally 
lifted by the patronage of Walter Scott and Lord 
Byron. Miss Austen was born too early to have an 
articulate feeling for nature; not too early in time, 
for she was arithmetically younger than Scott or 
Wordsworth, but in time as related to scant educa- 
tion and unliterary sun-oundings. The love of na- 
ture has its own springtime in the centuries: when 
Miss Austen began to write, the frost was not yet 
out of the ground; at the date of Persuasion it was 
too late to plant a garden. 

Mr. Howells, in an Easy-Chair paper, has spoken 
of the kind conscience and the tender affection of 
Miss Austen, and goes on to draw a picture of ami- 
able self-dedication to the interests of friends and 
kinsfolk at which, I think, Jane Austen would have 
smiled. Jane's affections in certain quarters, par- 
ticularly toward her sister and brothers and their 
descendants, were real and deep were in fact the 
stuff and fibre of her life, but a robustness which 
abjured sentimentality and almost banished senti- 
ment was their sanative and fortifying property. 
Her friends outside of the family were apparently 
few, and she seems to have conformed to that very 



LIFE AND WAYS OF LIFE 199 

human, if also rather barbarous, custom which 
solidifies friendships by the dismemberment of ac- 
quaintance. In the raids which Jane made upon a 
defenseless society the booty, as the following pas- 
sage from the letters will clearly show, was consider- 
able. 

There were very few beauties, and such as there were, were 
not very handsome. Miss Iremonger did not look well, and Mrs. 
Blount was the only one much admired. She appeared exactly 
as she did in September, with the same broad face, diamond 
bandeau, white shoes, pink husband, and fat neck. The two 
Miss Coxes were there: I traced in one the remains of the vulgar, 
broad-featured girl who danced at Enham eight years ago; the 
other is refined into a nice composed-looking girl, like Catherine 
Bigg. I looked at Sir Thomas Champneys and thought of poor 
Rosalie; I looked at his daughter, and thought her a queer 
animal with a white neck. Mrs. Warren, I was constrained to 
think a very fine young woman, which I much regret. She 
danced away with great activity. Her husband is ugly enough, 
uglier even than his cousin John; but he does not look so very old. 
The Miss Maitlands are both prettyish, very like Anne, with 
brown skins, large dark eyes, and a good deal of nose. The 
General has got the gout, and Mrs. Maitland the jaundice. Miss 
Debary, Susan, and Sally, all in black, but without any statues, 
made their appearance, and I was as civil to them as circum- 
stances would allow me. 

This passage, in which, at times, humanity seems 
viewed almost as meat, has its pabulum for the most 
obsequious biographer. Miss Austen did not live to 
see the publication of Vanity Fair. But had fate 
indulged her to that extent, I doubt if she would have 
felt any rancor toward that other maiden aunt who 



00 JANE AUSTEN 

remarked after a dinner: "Come to my dressing- 
room, Becky, and let us abuse the company." The 
state of the case is fairly clear. Miss Austen's de- 
mands were rather exigent; the society in which she 
moved was apparently a jumble; and the satirist in 
her clamored for his rations. Jane's compassion 
would not allow him to go hungry. Her candor does 
not blench at the sight of a tombstone. Mrs. W. K. 
is just dead, and Jane had no idea that anybody 
liked her, and proceeds forthwith to the choice of a 
successor. In those days there was apparently a 
great deal of perfunctory mourning balanced by a 
great deal of spontaneous persiflage. We are told of 
"a gentleman hi a buggy, who, on minute examina- 
tion, turned out to be Dr. Hall and Dr. Hall hi 
such very deep mourning that either his mother, his 
wife, or himself must be dead." With many persons 
a bad cough means a truce to asperities or jocularities 
in relation to the sufferer. Jane writes in this fash- 
ion: "My aunt has a very bad cough do not forget 
to have heard about that when you come and I 
think she is deafer than ever." 

In writing to Cassandra Jane Austen remarks: 
"A better account of the sugar than I could have ex- 
pected. I should like to have you break some more." 
I think Jane's benevolence was a hard sugar, the 
loaf or block sugar of former days, so hard that it 
needed crushers or solvents to convince the tongue 
of its obdurate sweetness. She was no person to 



LIFE AND WAYS OF LIFE 201 

take the world into her lap. She scarcely fondled 
even her relatives. Her love for Cassandra had a 
beauty to which the ugly and the pretty would 
have been almost equally antithetic. If she sends 
"infinities of love," the hyperbole comports itself 
like a memorandum. She does once exclaim : " Sweet, 
amiable Frank," but adds: " Why does he have a cold 
too?" For colds the use of sirups is notorious. The 
general absence of criticism of her own family is re- 
markable in a person of quick eyesight and brusque 
tongue. Jane Austen liked her lot in life, and that 
life was mostly kinsfolk; hers was the temper for 
which the donnee in the dapper parlance of criticism 
or the deal hi the homelier language of the card- 
table was final and authoritative. 

I think it was this quiet finality hi the acceptance 
of current restraints that made Jane Austen's moral 
life at the same time impeccable and vacant. Her 
letters never show the slightest moral agitation, the 
slightest moral difficulty. There is no record of a 
duty arduous enough to make its fulfilment ex- 
hilarating, of a rebellion strong enough to make its 
chastisement dramatic. For Jane Austen the divi- 
ding line in conduct ran rather between sense and 
folly than between good and evil, and the very titles 
of her novels are advertisements of her adhesion to 
this view. The lesson of Sense and Sensibility is 
clearly prudential, and Pride and Prejudice is ob- 
viously a rebuke to the indiscretions rather than 



202 JANE AUSTEN 

sins which are held up to disapproval in its allitera- 
tive and pedagogic title. There is guilt as well as 
folly in both novels, but the object is evidently not 
to put virtue into immoral Willoughbys and Wick- 
hams, but sense into thoughtless Lydias and Mari- 
annes. The wolf is assumed to be incorrigible, but we 
must do what we can for Red Ridinghood. Miss 
Austen, in this point, has a certain affinity with 
Moliere, whose Tartuffe, to furnish only one example, 
exposes the hypocrites in the endeavor to instruct 
the dupes. In Northanger Abbey folly romantic 
folly is again the object of reproof; the conversion 
of the Isabella Thorpes in England is plainly not the 
incentive to the recital of Isabella's perfidy. In 
Mansfield Park the references to morality are em- 
phatic, but the exciting cause is that participation of 
a few intimate friends hi strictly private theatricals 
hi which the reader of our own day could hardly be 
coaxed into perceiving even an imprudence. The 
moral of Emma is implicit in the following words: 
"The real evils of Emma's situation were the power 
of having rather too much of her own way, and a 
disposition to think too well of ' herself.' " Persuasion 
illustrates the folly of listening too meekly to the 
counsels of your elders in affairs of the heart. 

Miss Austen assumed virtue to be normal and 
prevalent, and vice, where it showed itself, to be 
practically beyond cure. Her attitude toward 
reprobates is by no means unindulgent; she endows 



LIFE AND WAYS OF LIFE 203 

them liberally with attractions, and allows her 
virtuous Elinor Dashwoods, Elizabeth Bennets, and 
Anne Elliots to qualify their disapprobations with 
curious, though half reluctant, lenities. I think that 
the daughter of the vicar of Steventon felt toward 
these gay Lotharios very much as that other em- 
inently respectable person, the sheriff of Selkirk, felt 
toward the Roderic Dhus and Bertrams, the Rob 
Roys and Redgauntlets, with whom he blackened 
and brightened his romantic pages. I suspect that 
in Jane's world virtue, as virtue was understood, was 
so plentiful, and sensible and agreeable people were 
so relatively few that she had a difficulty in re- 
nouncing the latter on account of their insufficiency 
in the point of morals. 

It is unlikely that ideas of this sort ever influenced 
Miss Austen's conduct, but their very failure to 
affect her conduct may have strengthened their hold 
upon her feelings. "Eliza has seen Lord Craven at 
Barton. . . . She found his manners very pleasing 
indeed. The little flaw of having a mistress now 
living with him at Ashdown Park seems to be the 
only unpleasing circumstance about him." The 
" little" is irony beyond a doubt, but irony in such a 
case is leniency; manners are powerful with women, 
especially where they are scarce, and the Lovelaces 
of the period no doubt found their stoutest allies in 
the boorish Solmeses who posed as competitors. 
Here are a few remarks on a certain Mr. Lushington: 



204 JANE AUSTEN 

"He is quite an M. P., very smiling, with an exceed- 
ing good address and readiness of language. I am 
rather in love with him. I dare say he is ambitious 
and insincere." Apart from her serious and loyal 
family life the social world the little world in which, 
as appearances are the realities, so manners are the 
virtues was Jane's world. 

If in Jane Austen's life morality is tacit, religion, 
at least religious feeling, is practically null. Allu- 
sions even to the apparel and process of religion are 
comparatively scant; church-going is rarely men- 
tioned and never stressed; she is pleased once that 
two headstrong young nephews have taken the 
sacrament. Except in formal phrases like "God 
bless you," the name of God scarcely occurs in the 
correspondence. Plainly we have here to deal with 
an unpresuming divinity, a modest and circumspect 
Providence, who never oversteps the limits assigned 
to his function by the foresight of a judicious estab- 
lishment. Jane was a decent, docile, worldly woman 
by whom the paternal cult was accepted without a 
shadow of question, an atom of feeling, or a trace of 
display. It required no urgency to induce her to 
respect an institution to which so many exemplary 
relatives were indebted for their sustenance. 

In Sense and Sensibility the entrance of a young 
man into holy orders as the prelude and stepping- 
stone to his entrance into the substantial and in- 
teresting state of matrimony is accepted by Miss 



LIFE AND WAYS OF LIFE 205 

Austen with a wholeheartedness which forestalls 
indorsement, and not a drop of ink is wasted in 
condonation of the young man's total want of 
religious feeling or vocation. Even the admirable 
Edmund Bertram, hi the very act of rebuking the 
levities of the worldly Miss Crawford, calmly ad- 
mits that his father's control of a desirable living had 
influenced his decision to enter the church. Why 
not? He really likes the church. One recalls a 
satirical gibe of Miss Austen's to the effect that all 
heiresses are beautiful. In the earlier and cruder 
legends of the Holy Grail that vessel was often 
called on to provide corporal sustenance for com- 
panies of devout and starving people. I am sure the 
arrangement commended itself to the Jane Austens 
of that artless day. Singular combinations whisk 
themselves in and out of these gay and caustic 
letters. "Mr. Brecknell is very religious, and has 
got black whiskers." 

I cannot but feel regret that the absence of reli- 
gious feeling and of poetical feeling in Jane Austen's 
constitution should have been equal and parallel. As 
Mr. George Santayana has shown, poetry and 
religion have latent affinities, and often minister 
kindred nutriment in diverse forms to unlike spirits. 
The removal of both is a source of aridity. 



CHAPTER X 
LIABILITIES AND ASSETS 

I THINK it well at this point to gather up the 
limitations noted in the last chapter, and to add a 
few others so obvious as to require no proof. That 
Jane Austen's field was restricted her very idolaters 
admit, but the extent of that restriction can be 
realized only by a summary of the particulars. 
Certain elements in the novel have arisen since her 
day, and to note their absence hi her work is de- 
marcation, not disparagement. It would be equally 
silly and captious to blame Miss Austen for not deal- 
ing in politics with Mrs. Humphry Ward, hi sexual 
adjustments with Madame Sarah Grand, in artistic 
endeavor with Mrs. Edith Wharton, or in spiritistic 
phenomena with Miss E. S. Phelps, now Mrs. Ward. 
The blamelessness of the restriction, however, does 
not hi the least contract its area. The next great 
curtailment of material relates to a point hi which her 
acquittal must be equally complete, if not equally 
rapid. She cannot be blamed for not forestalling 
George Sand or Charlotte Bronte in the field of labor 
difficulties or economic readjustments, though in 
her own day a woman whom she greatly admired was 
already beckoning fiction to this laborious and hardy 

206 



LIABILITIES AND ASSETS 207 

enterprise in Castle Rackrent. These things did not 
lie in Jane Austen's way, and forbearance was 
sagacity. 

Miss Austen's forbearances, however, did not stop 
at things that lay outside her path. Landscape was 
certainly a part of her experience, and its treatment 
in fiction would not have been anomalous or hazard- 
ous in a successor of Mrs. Radcliffe. Yet landscape 
is barely visible, and is anything but influential in 
Miss Austen's work. Again, the physical frame and 
process of life, its food, drink, clothes, lodging, and 
conveyance, was exposed to her view; her letters 
show that her grasp of this material was robust; and 
the few touches of this kind which are sparingly and 
cautiously admitted into her novels are of a vivid- 
ness which sharpens our regret for their infrequency. 
This was not alien ground on which she declined to 
trespass; it was ground of her own which she refused 
to cultivate. 

She confined herself, again, to what might be 
called, a little loosely, one social class, the educated 
class which includes the landowners and the profes- 
sional men, and which, even when it bewails its 
poverty, keeps servants and horses as guarantees of 
caste. Miss Austen's likeness to Thackeray and 
divergence from Thackeray in this point are both 
significant. Thackeray's world, like hers, is genteel, 
but is widened by the inclusion of nobles, and, more 
profitably and notably, by the welcome bestowed on 



208 JANE AUSTEN 

those persons who, in the form of direct service or 
purveyorship, are adjacent and subjacent to the 
propertied and educated folk. The plebs has only 
to put on a livery in order to find instant and cordial 
admission to the pages of the creator of Mr. Jeames 
Yellowplush. But even this passport is ineffectual 
in the fiction of Jane Austen. Thatjtfae^could have 
handled this^ class with fidelity and f orchis suffi- 
ciently evinced by her success in the treatment of 
analogous material in the PortsmouilT episode in 
Mansfield Park, although she traverses these sordid 
alleys in her manorial work with an apparent eleva- 
tion both of skirt and nostril which I hesitate to 
accept as characteristic of her mind. Be that as it 
may, Miss Austen has again made a large sacrifice of 
available and profitable material. 

Once more, it is very curious that Miss Austen 
should not have anticipated Louisa Alcott and Mrs. 
Whitney hi the emphasis they gave to that domes- 
ticity which plays in Miss Austen's novels a part so 
grossly, almost ludicrously, disproportionate to the 
part it played in her own life. Her love for Cassandra 
was probably her great experience, but the loves of 
Elinor and Marianne, of Jane and Elizabeth, tender 
and touching as they undoubtedly are, are portrayed 
hi a subordination to courtship which seems to have 
been viewed as inevitable and final. The affection 
between William and Fanny Price affords a juster 
version of the compass of such relations in her own 



LIABILITIES AND ASSETS 209 

life, but at Mansfield that affection is scarcely 
domestic, and the space it receives is scarcely liberal. 
It is remarkable that Jane Austen never drew a 
child; the young Prices or Middletons or Musgroves 
cannot be said to be drawn. These young persons 
might be thought to ultimate and to justify a dislike 
of children, but the letters show conclusively that 
Jane did not dislike children as a class, and, besides, 
dislike never debarred its object from her novels. 

Other renunciations, already touched, must be 
included in our summary. If Miss Austen could not 
be modern with the modernists, there seems no 
reason why she should not have been ethical with 
Miss Bronte or George Eliot, or religious with the 
upholders of Anglican piety in fiction. We have 
seen that she put sense in the place of ethics, and as 
to religion the taboo excluded not only the feelings, 
which are clearly not open to everybody, but even 
the social or public phenomena, the services, the 
obligations, everything pretty much except the 
clergymen, from whom, as she unerringly divined, 
the worldliness of the worldliest novel had nothing 
to dread. 

x^jjet us now summarize our summary. In the 
novels of Jane Austen there is no politics, no literary 
or aesthetic life, no supernaturalism (though this is 
not significant), no sex-radicalism, no class problems, 
almost no landscape, almost nothing of the corpus 
or physic il order of life, no low-life portraits, scant 



210 JANE AUSTEN 

domesticity, no moral experience, no vestige of 
'religious sentiment. I doubt if any such concourse of 
negatives, any such wealth of privations, can be 

i I attributed to any other novelist of superlative 

capacity. One asks in stupefaction: What is left? 
what did she find to paint? To which it might be 
concisely replied: She painted courtship in the upper 
middle class and minor gentry. S 

Like most condensations, this simplifies too much. 
Other topics find a place in Miss Austen. The 
cupidities of the Dashwoods, the servilities of Mr. 
Collins, the qualmishness of Mr. Woodhouse, the 
loquacity of Miss Bates, the coxcombry of Sir Walter 
Elliot, the nightmares of Catherine Morland, are not 
courtship, but they are all episodic or ancillary 
matters, admitted as small contributions, or in- 
dulged as passing interruptions, of narratives whose 
substance is courtship. Of the treatment of love I 
shall speak briefly in the sequel; for the rest it suffices 
for the moment to remark that success in fiction is 
not an appanage to range, and that Miss Austen's 
ownership of the two master faculties of humor and 
characterization at once lowers this want of compass 
into the class of secondary though far from negligible 
Limitations. 

One offset to this narrowness is found in a trait to 
the right perception and valuation of which I am 
inclined to think that a knowledge of the Letters is 
indispensable. The trait is powerful but tacit in 



211 

the novels; it is powerful and audible in the Letters; 
and it is only an ear that the Letters have trained to 
alertness that can recognize its full authority and 
virtue hi the fictions. The trait might be called in- 
cisiveness or robustness, but, if allowed my choice, I 
should willingly name it downrightness, which, with 
forthrightness as its tool and uprightness as its sup- 
port, makes the Letters interesting even when they 
are trivial and authoritative even when they are 
capricious. The reason why the effect is less in- 
stantly perceptible in the fictions must be sought hi 
the veneer of abstraction with which the concrete 
substance of the novels is tiresomely overlaid. She 
was born to write books that should have closed with 
Ufe in the hand-to-hand encounter of Turgenieff or 
Verga; but the fashion of her day favored combat at 
long range, and, in form at least, she was not rebel- 
lious to the fashion. Her nature, however, asserted 
itself even hi its plasticities, and the reader felt the 
picture even through the curtain of abstraction, as a 
man divines the warmth of a friend's hand even 
through the glove in which the rigor of fashion obliges 
him to muffle it. The effect is seized in the vigor of 
the concrete strokes with which the rational and 
bodiless narrative is so sparsely punctuated. 

In the Letters, however, the quality is revealed in 
its fulness. "He touched nothing that he did not 
adorn," was said of one writer; of Miss Austen in her 
letters it may be said that she touches nothing that 



212 JANE AUSTEN 

she does not indent. They are not written, but 
stamped; they remind us of the Journal to Stella and 
of the more varied, but in parts equally homely, 
letters of that other tersely pungent Jane, Mrs. 
Carlyle. There is a disinfectant, antiseptic quality 
in this downrightness which operates hi several cura- 
tive ways. If Jane Austen has delicacies, they are 
of a granular type healthily remote from that pasti- 
ness which often makes delicacy indelicate. If she 
sends affectionate messages, they are not the dribble 
or drivel which such things are prone to become on 
the pen of the womanly woman; her "Yours affec- 
tionately 's," are not saccharine and her "God bless 
you's " are not unctuous. If she uses a pretentious 
phrase such as "her sister in Lucina," the. smart 
blow of the little tackhammer with which she drives 
it hi redeems it from all ineptitude. Her very affecta- 
tions, which are very few, have the carriage of na- 
ture. What could be worse on general principles 
than phrases of this kind, both by an odd chance on 
the same page: "The Lances with whose cards we 
have been endowed"; and "whether she boasts any 
offspring besides a grand pianoforte" ? Yet these 
things are I will not say pleasant but endurable 
in Jane Austen. Her robustness has a cathartic effect 
even on the gossip of which the supply in the letters 
is inexhaustible. It is a straightforward and unem- 
barrassed gossip, of semi-masculine quality, writ- 
ten I speak in symbolic terms in a bold hand 



LIABILITIES AND ASSETS 213 

without underscorings or interlineations. Lastly, I 
know no one more obedient or less servile to conven- 
tion; in her conformities she appears to ratify quite 
as much as to submit. 

This temperamental virtue by which the letters so 
signally profited was beneficial to the novels in two 
great points the treatment of which has been thus 
far scanted or postponed. They are humor and the 
portrayal of love the two things which have ex- 
tended Miss Austen's popularity. Miss Austen is an 
eminent novelist because of her truth; she is a 
popular novelist because she possessed a delectable 
humor and because she portrayed love with vigor and 
pertinacity. So far as the major public goes, the 
readers who like Miss Austen for her faithfulness to 
nature are the cousins or possibly the descendants of 
those paragons who read historical novels for the 
sake of the history. The enjoyment of truth is 
highly respectable, and if one has the luck to enjoy a 
truth-telling writer, the association of the two facts is 
irresistible to vanity. Everything is assigned to the 
credit of truth, because the reader is a partaker hi that 
credit, and truth, I regret to say, is hypocrite enough 
to accept the praise for victories in which the real con- 
queror was personality or vigor. I am far from saying 
that there is not much realism both in Miss Austen's 
humor and hi her love: but neither shows her truth hi 
Its purity; the admixture of burlesque in the one case, 
of convention in the other, was considerable. 



S14 JANE AUSTEN 

I wish neither to delay nor qualify the willing 
avowal that I hold Miss Austen's humor in high 
esteem. It is less the viand than the service, less the 
ingenuity of the combination than the perfection of 
its delivery, that liberates and quickens admiration. 
The good jest is that which keeps its incognito best 
and longest, which belies and disowns itself which, 
in a homelier figure, avoids leakage. Miss Austen's 
humor is water-tight, and the neatness of joinery 
which the adjective implies is one of its most winning 
characteristics. The virtue is largely in style and 
tone. I have a feeling which is more, I hope, than a 
fancy that the style is unusually good when its 
freightage is a joke. In such cases Miss Austen em- 
ploys effectively what I shall venture to call her 
legal manner. I quote again the opening sentence of 
Pride and Prejudice: "It is a truth universally ac- 
knowledged, that a single man in possession of a 
good fortune must be in want of a wife." Does not 
one savor a "Be it known unto all men by these 
presents" in the modulation of that austerely pun- 
gent sentence? 

Again, the tone of the humorous expression is all 
that one could ask. I will resist the temptation to 
say that it is the very best tone to be found in Eng- 
lish humor; when a critic's mind is strongly on one 
object and faintly or vaguely on many others, the 
detection of superiorities is facile. Miss Austen's 
humor is not arch or sly or magnetic or exuberant, 



LIABILITIES AND ASSETS 215 

and all these moods have their fascination. In Miss 
Austen the pointed merit is a cogency which is the 
ideal counterpart to what I have presumed to call 
the legalism of the style. Extracts, like other trans- 
plantations, are prone to be disappointing, but I 
shall draw what illustrative service I can from the 
following excerpt from Pride and Prejudice. 

Elizabeth laughed heartily at this picture of herself, and said 
to Colonel Fitzwilliam, "Your cousin will give you a very 
pretty notion of me, and teach you not to believe a word I say. 
I am particularly unlucky in meeting with a person so well able 
to expose my real character, in a part of the world where I had 
hoped to pass myself off with some degree of credit. Indeed, 
Mr. Darcy, it is very ungenerous of you to mention all that you 
knew to my disadvantage in Hertfordshire and, give me leave 
to say, very impolitic too for it is provoking me to retaliate, 
and such things may come out as will shock your relations to 
hear." 

"I am not afraid of you," said he, smilingly. 

"Pray let me hear what you have to accuse him of," cried 
Colonel Fitzwilliam. "I should like to know how he behaves 
among strangers." 

"You shall hear then but prepare yourself for something 
very dreadful. The first time of my ever seeing him in Hert- 
fordshire, you must know, was at a ball and at this ball, what 
do you think he did? He danced only four dances. I am sorry to 
pain you but so it was. He danced only four dances, though 
gentlemen were scarce; and, to my certain knowledge, more 
than one young lady was sitting down in want of a partner. 
Mr. Darcy, you cannot deny the fact." 

"I had not at that time the honour of knowing any lady in the 
assembly beyond my own party." 

"True; and nobody can ever be introduced in a ball- 
room." 



216 JANE AUSTEN 

The phrase, "I am sorry to pain you" as witticism 
is ordinary enough, but it is deftly placed and per- 
fectly said, and its effect in the context is charming. 
The whole passage illustrates the salutary force of 
that positiveness, of that robust and affirmative 
property, of which the manifestations in Miss Aus- 
ten's work are so variously happy. 

Humor is commonly the result of the clash between 
two dissenting sets of values, and in Miss Austen's 
case the sources of dissent can be pointed out with 
definiteness, if not with completeness or rigor. The 
first and least important of the disparities is the 
opposition of the judicious and the freakish which I 
have already noted in the letter-writer, the imperious- 
ness of the caprice finding its pointed contrast and 
eventual correction in the delayed but unqualified 
surrender to fact. What points the situation is the 
grave irony which makes the caprice almost as 
magisterial as the judgment. "I am very much 
obliged to Mrs. Knight for such a proof of the 
interest she takes in me, and she may depend upon 
it that I will marry Mr. Papillon, whatever be his 
reluctance or my own. I owe her much more than 
such a trifling sacrifice." 

The second and more usual form of clash is illus- 
trated in the following passage: 

The good news quickly spread through the house, and with 
proportionate speed through the neighborhood. It was borne 
in the latter with decent philosophy. To be sure, it would have 



LIABILITIES AND ASSETS 217 

been more for the advantage of conversation had Miss Lydia 
Bennet come upon the town; or, as the happiest alternative, 
been secluded from the world, in some distant farm-house. But 
there was much to be talked of in marrying her; and the good- 
natured wishes for her well-doing which had proceeded before 
from all the spiteful old ladies in Meryton lost but little of their 
spirit in this change of circumstances,, because with such a hus- 
band her misery was considered certain. 

In Miss Austen's matter-of-fact world there 
was a curious paradox. It was a world that loved 
materialities, the beef and pudding in which long 
ago, perhaps unjustly, Lowell found the fulcrum 
with which to move John Bull, a world that 
was unashamed in its pursuit of houses and lands, 
dinners and lunches, livings and dowries, orchards 
and coach horses. Jane Austen was a willing part 
of this world, and her assent to its ideals was un- 
perturbed and cordial. But this was not the end. 
The earth-world begets an air-world as its adjunct 
and envelope; prosperity results in that priceless 
boon and dreaded pest called leisure, and people fly 
from the vacuum of solitude to what harsher critics 
would describe as the equal vacuum of social inter- 
course. The implement of society is speech, and a 
new world, a world of communication, is formed, hi 
which old values are whimsically modified and trans- 
posed; the particle is enlarged and the magnitude 
reduced, uncertainty becomes fact and prophecy 
fulfilment, calamities gratify and prosperities dis- 
please, life is re-edited, in short, to suit the call of 



818 JANE AUSTEN 

the occasion or the pleasure of the individual. We 
have no reason to doubt that Miss Austen accepted 
this secondary world with the same serenity and 
alacrity with which she lent herself to the solid uni- 
verse of which it was the mocking shadow. She 
perceived its unreality, but she did not infer its 
unsoundness. She viewed it very much as she viewed 
the fruits on the ladies' hats in Bath. She had good 
eyes, and she knew perfectly well that the grapes 
and cherries of the feminine headgear were not 
edible grapes and cherries. But, so far as we know, 
it never occurred to her that they were not right 
because they were not real, or that they were less 
legitimate in their own way than the fruit which 
pleased the taste and fed the body. A real cherry on 
a hat would have been, not honest, but absurd. Now 
Miss Austen was a person who grasped things, and 
when a sham came in her way, she took hold of it 
with the admirable solidity and downrightness with 
which she grasped the actualities of life. That was 
where the fun arose. The relation between this 
thin world and this solid fashion of conceiving it 
was the relation between flax and hemp, between 
gauze and wire. An exhilarating contrast resulted 
from the expression of the fragile in terms of the 
massive. 

Jane Austen saw through these shams, but perhaps 
her humor was brightened by the fact that, seeing 
through them, she did not see beyond them. In 



LIABILITIES AND ASSETS 219 

other words, she saw no alternative. In the presence 
of a strong inner vision, poetical or mystical, the 
vision of a Shelley, a Blake, or even a Galsworthy, 
the social fabric 'would have undergone a shrinkage 
in the face of which the contrast between its assump- 
tions and its realities would have lost all its weight 
and half its piquancy. But to Jane Austen society 
was roof and wall. She was social to the core, con- 
creted with her kind, touching human beings on all 
sides, and touching little else but the corporeities and 
tangibilities of things. Somebody was always by; 
her room at Chawton and at Steventon was shared 
by her sister. It is doubtful if she read enough to 
command that virtual solitude of which the per- 
severing reader is master or mistress. Her books 
were written in secret, but the shifts to which she 
resorted for the maintenance of this secrecy are 
proof of the degree to which her life was enveloped 
and permeated by the life of the household. 

Outside of the home proper and the half-domes- 
ticity which she enjoyed in the establishments of 
her generous and hospitable brothers, loomed the 
wider social world which for Jane Austen seems to 
have been both the rim of experience and the bound- 
ary of imagination. Her letters are sanded with 
proper names; she is always meeting, testing, dock- 
eting, somebody. Society often bored and sometimes 
vexed her, but these misadventures apparently led 
her to question its finality as little as a bad hand 



220 JANE AUSTEN 

or a bad partner at whist arouses any doubt of the 
worth of the game in the mind of the tireless player. 
It is probable that Jane's respect for this order 
whose extremities and eccentricities she allowed 
herself to satirize was at bottom unshakable; and it 
was this esteem for the whole that gave point to her 
quarrel with the particulars. The last thing the 
tactful humorist should do is to call his victim in- 
sane; by so doing he normalizes every vagary. The 
absurd in the rational is comic because out of place; 
the absurd in the absurd is proper and pointless. In 
the same way a satire which arraigns society hi the 
mass at once effaces contrast and levels expecta- 
tion. To that extent it defeats its own purpose. 
Jane Austen's concessions to society were large 
enough to give piquancy to her refusals. 

In the portrayal of love, the second of the two 
things which make Jane Austen a popular novelist, 
she profited vastly by that positive and downright 
quality which scattered its beneficence so liberally 
through her work. The peculiarity about Jane 
Austen's love is that it is a fact, a fact that stands 
squarely and sharply in front of you, blocking your 
path, a fact that you cannot elude or circumvent. 
I think this no bad way in which to approach the 
passion. Trollope's love is delicious, because he 
felt and painted its force without a vestige of senti- 
mentality and with very little of that pleating and 
wimpling which we loosely designate as sentiment. 



LIABILITIES AND ASSETS 221 

His women in love are delightful, because, while 
womanly to the core, they love almost like boys, not 
blustering or domineering boys, but kind and modest 
lads, frank even in shyness. Miss Austen's girls are 
less winning than Trollope's, because they are more 
consciously rational, but they share with the later 
novelist's heroines the half -nautical properties of 
trimness and balance. Her girls are always clear- 
headed, and their clearness as to the man they want 
is so peremptory as to conquer hi the long run the 
opposition of parents and even the backwardness of 
the man himself. Sweet and docile as they often 
are, they show very little of that shy, reluctant, 
amorous delay which Milton, a stickler for the pro- 
prieties even hi Paradise, ceremoniously ascribed 
to our first mother. Agitation, of course, is furnished 
in correct amounts at proper intervals, but this 
flutter of the spirits is almost as external to their 
characters as the flutter of their fans. 

Courtship is omnipresent in the novels of Jane 
Austen. Racine is said to have found hi love the 
counterpoise to the alarming dearth of interest in 
the French classical drama, and his characters make 
love with an ardor proportioned to the necessities 
of the dramatist. Ardor is not the precise word for 
Jane Austen's people, but they are equally alert hi 
applying the same specific to a kindred malady. In 
Pride and Prejudice Miss Austen marries off three 
daughters in one family no small accomplishment 



222 JANE AUSTEN 

even for a novelist whose competence in match- 
making is so formidable. Apart from this sisterly 
triad, Miss Lucas obtains Mr. Collins, and three 
or four other tentative inclinations are defeated or 
renounced. In Emma four women obtain husbands, 
not to mention other courtships, in which the issue 
was less successful without being less fortunate. 
In Persuasion Anne and the two Musgrove sisters 
are married, and even the objectionable Mrs. Clay 
is indulged with the prospect of a husband. Sense 
and Sensibility could hardly have been more amatory 
if its authoress had been Mrs. Jennings herself, and 
the allowance of love-making in Mansfield Park 
would satisfy a school-girl or a lady's maid. 

In contrast with this engrossment with the theme 
is the unwillingness to engage with love in what 
might be described with almost literal accuracy as a 
hand-to-hand encounter. Miss Austen shirks or 
slights a declaration scene. She leads up to it, she 
circles round it, she recalls and supplements it; 
but, if possible, she eludes the crisis. The obvious 
exception is merely a formal exception. Darcy's 
first proposal to Elizabeth is fully handled, because 
it is vital to the plot; moreover, the outcome is 
rejection and a quarrel, and Miss Austen is not called 
upon to portray tenderness. In Mr. Knightley's 
proposition to Emma, Miss Austen shares the dis- 
comfort of the suitor. Mr. Crawford is granted a 
little more freedom in the expression of his regard 



LIABILITIES AND ASSETS 

for the unreciprocating Fanny. But Miss Austen 
has only silence or at best reserve for the explana- 
tions between Jane and Bingley, between Elinor and 
Edward Ferrars, between Marianne and Colonel 
Brandon, between Catherine Morland and Henry 
Tilney, between Edmund Bertram and Mary Craw- 
ford, between the same Edmund and Fanny Price, 
between Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, hi 
spite of the elaboration of the scaffolding which in 
the last-named case hides the insignificance of the 
edifice. The devices to which Miss Austen will re- 
sort hi the endeavor to avoid a grapple with this 
problem are sometimes comic hi their awkwardness. 
What follows is the sequel to Darcy's second offer 
to Elizabeth. 

Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and 
anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and im- 
mediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that 
her sentiments had undergone so material a change since the 
period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with grati- 
tude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which 
this reply produced was such as he had probably never felt before, 
and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as 
warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. 

The mistress of a young ladies' boarding-school 
could not express herself with a less informing or 
more edifying vagueness. What would the author 
of these demure lines have said to a certain other 
woman who in a letter to her sister jested about a 
lord's having a mistress? There is another point in 



224 JANE AUSTEN 

the behavior of Miss Austen which a preceptress 
would have cordially indorsed. I do not at this 
moment recall a kiss given by a young man to a young 
woman in any novel of Jane Austen; and while this 
generalization would doubtless go down, as such 
fragile craft commonly do, in the storm and stress 
of a resolute induction, the quality to which it 
points is seaworthy enough to outride any tempest. 
I have already remarked that stage-business is 
missing hi Miss Austen's scenes, and a ban so aus- 
tere was clearly not to be relaxed in favor of kissing 
or fondling or other expedients by which writers of 
the febrile type have raised the temperature and 
lowered the morale of their productions. Miss 
Austen not only excludes the flesh, but, to a very 
great extent, its not less attractive and more innocent 
associate, the blood. 

I thought at first that the formula, "force without 
warmth" might serve to differentiate the Jane 
Austen brand of love. This is on the whole too 
trenchant and succinct, though it would apply 
accurately enough to the passions of such couples 
as Darcy and Elizabeth, Emma and Mr. Knightley. 
They want each other earnestly no doubt, but they 
want each other as ambitious men want posts or 
covetous men want properties; they appeal to each 
other as sterling investments. All the considera- 
tions that lead Elizabeth to revise her estimate of 
Darcy are considerations that would have acted 



LIABILITIES AND ASSETS 225 

with force on a parent or guardian impartially con- 
cerned for Elizabeth's happiness. They include, of 
course, the manners, brains, and morals which no 
enlightened parent or guardian would ignore. Eliz- 
abeth has looked over the man, as she looked over 
his grounds, and the appraisals in both cases have 
been reassuring. 

Why, then, do I hesitate to accept the formula, 
"force without warmth," as the adequate diagnosis 
of the passion? I hesitate, because I seem to detect 
hi the shy passions of Fanny Price and Anne Elliot a 
hearth that, in Herrick's beautiful phrase, smiles to 
itself, and spreads a faint but gracious warmth in its 
vicinity. But Fanny Price and Anne Elliot are 
tender things, who live hi a chilly world, to whom a 
little warmth is allowed on the same principle that a 
fire might be permitted to an invalid even in the 
household of an austere New Englander. Miss Aus- 
ten is more herself in other portraits. The case of 
Marianne Dashwood is significant hi three aspects. 
First of all, the drawing power, what I am tempted to 
call, by too violent a figure, the tug or haul of the 
passion, is strongly caught; second, the warmth is 
hardly felt, though Marianne's temperament is 
distinctively warm; third, the toner detail is entirely 
omitted. Speaking broadly, that part of the psychol- 
ogy of the passion on which Miss Austen instinctively 
dwells is the half-satirical part, the marking of its 
bounds and the exposure of its inconsistencies. 



JANE AUSTEN 

When Emma, who had been angry with Mr. Knight- 
ley for his supposed intention to disinherit his young 
nephew by marrying Harriet Smith, marries him 
herself in total indifference to the equal peril to this 
young nephew's cherished prospects, we feel that 
this is not only shrewd and right, but eminently 
characteristic of the author. Equally happy is the 
genial malice hi her report of the change in the 
attitude of Mr. Knightley toward Frank Churchill 
with the increase of his awareness of Emma's uncon- 
cern for that person. 

He had found her agitated and low. Frank Churchill was a 
villain. He heard her declare that she had never loved him. 
Frank Churchill's character was not desperate. She was his own 
Emma, by hand and word, when they returned into the house; 
and if he could have thought of Frank Churchill then, he might 
have deemed him a very good sort of fellow. 

That is what I mean by force without warmth. Of 
course force and warmth could not be separated in 
the actual Mr. Knightley; they are simply dis- 
criminated hi the portrayal. 

Literature has two fashions of viewing love. The 
first regards love as a motor or dynamo; it starts the 
narrative, and keeps it moving. In this regard its 
value is unlimited, but as long as it propels the car, 
an inquiry into the detail of its mechanism is useless, 
if not hurtful. The immortal instance is the elope- 
ment of Helen and Paris and its calamitous sequel 
in ten years of heroic and profitless conflict between 



LIABILITIES AND ASSETS 227 

Europe and Asia. We know that the thankless and 
disdainful Homer vouchsafes only a casual word or 
two to the content or aspect of a passion to which he 
owed the glory of an Iliad. The second fashion of 
treatment views love, not as the mere incentive or 
starting-point of the exhibition, but as, hi large part 
at least, the exhibition itself. A colossal almost a 
portentous instance is found in Chaucer's Troilus 
and Cressida, in which the symptomatic treatment, 
the treatment by particularization of symptoms, 
is carried to a point which breeds rebellion hi those 
who can read Romeo and Juliet with joy, and D'An- 
nunzio's II Fuoco with fortitude. 

Between these two forms of approach Miss Austen 
chooses a diagonal. Love on the amorous side, its 
warmth, its intimacy, its poetry, its color, she rejects 
with quiet decision. Psychology of a kind she does 
paint, but I trust I shall not fall into Venetian super- 
subtlety if I suggest that what she gave was less the 
psychology of love as such than the psychology of 
human nature as affected by the perturbations and 
instabilities for which that unsettling passion is 
responsible. Hah" her pleasure in love grew out of 
the new scope it offered to the perceptive and judicial 
faculties in the exercise of which her interest was 
unquenchable. Love was a fresh call to judgment, a 
new spur to criticism. Jane Austen, again, felt a keen 
interest in the vibrations and palpitations, the con- 
cords and discords, the cleavages and solderings, 



228 JANE AUSTEN 

which betrothals induce in the environment of the 

lovers. She was precise in her drawing of the sec- 
/ ondary or derivative traits of love, and her sense of 

its limitations was realistically keen; the primary 
V traits alone were left hi the cautious twilight of 

conventional assumptions. When Jane Austen's 

lovers meet, the gas is turned low. 



CHAPTER XI 
CONCLUSION 

JANE AUSTEN'S nature was vigorous and down- 
right; her method was largely formal and abstract: 
the effort of the method to smother the nature and 
the craft of the nature in circumventing the method 
are points of analytic and dramatic interest in a 
survey of her work. In some respects I think she 
was unfortunately posted in the alignment of the 
forces of English literature in the vast terrain of the 
centuries. For the eighteenth-century pomp and 
circumstance which she so strongly exhibited, it 
was a little too late; for her nineteenth-century 
realism, it was a little too early. Recognition hi the 
sequel was secure, but the recognition of posterity 
neither sustains nor encourages. By her back- 
wardness in form and by her forwardness in sub- 
stance she was equally divided from the great ro- 
mantic movement which irradiated and transformed 
the literature of her day. In one point indeed its 
example might have been liberating; it might have 
prompted the transference to her novels of the 
concrete and pictorial diction which became her 
instinctive vehicle hi the undress of the Letters. 
But in this point her luck in time was counterpoised 

Ml 



280 JANE AUSTEN 

by her mischance in place; that beer-brewing and 
ham-curing, that hat-trimming and shirt-making, 
that card-playing and Bath-visiting, society in which 
she lived moved too slowly to find in Jane Austen 
the youthful plasticity which would have leaped to 
welcome the renovating touch. I think her novels 
had one solitary point of resemblance to the prose 
fictions of her great contemporary and antitype, 
Walter Scott; the form in both was a quarter or 
half century behind the matter if in Miss Austen's 
case we should not rather say a century behind. 

Even in the point of matter I think that Miss ^ 
Austen suffered from the intellectual and artistic j 
poverty of her environment. Her associates had 
good minds no doubt, and they were just sufficiently 
well read to escape the charge of want of reading. 
But they could supply little to a novelist except a 
theme, and several traits in Jane Austen which 
might have flourished under culture were doomed to 
meagre sustenance and scant thrift in that un- 
generous soil. One of these was feeling for landscape; 
another was interest in what might be broadly called 
the body and apparel of life. A third was psychology, 
in which Miss Austen's success, though considerable 
and praiseworthy, was far from commensurate with 
the scope of her faculty. A fourth was reflection on 
life; few people who have generalized so keenly have 
generalized so little. No wise critic will amplify 
these negations. In all cases of large achievement 



CONCLUSION 231 

regret for shortcomings is as ignorant as it is thank- 
less and sterile. /Limitations have their unguessed 
benefits; the fence that keeps one good thing out 
may keep another good thing in. I am not sure that 
one great reason for Jane Austen's success was not 
that in the tightness of her enclosure she was not 
bothered by stimuli nor pestered with encourage- 
ments.^ 

I am fortified hi this resignation by a feeling that 
Jane Austen did her work with the minhniiTn of fuss 
and self-consciousness. Literature as a whole is 
probably more instinctive than the deference of the 
layman imagines. There are authors who plan un- 
doubtedly, but one suspects that this comes about 
less because they plan to plan than because they have 
an inborn appetite for planning. One may further 
suspect, if one likes, that, even when pains are 
lavished upon the work, the author is generous in one 
quarter and parsimonious in another hi a fashion 
regulated rather by his own taste than the needs and 
deserts of the topic hi question; otherwise it is hard 
to explain the absence of perfection, and even of any 
evenness or symmetry in the approach to perfection, 
on the part of works that bear the fingermarks of 
study. Let the principle be sound or not ; our present 
concern is its bearing on Jane Austen. Byron woke 
one morning, and found himself famous; Jane may 
similarly have awakened some morning, and found 
that she had written a book. If I said that her 



232 JANE AUSTEN 

material slid through her into her book, I might be 
accused of rhetoric. Let me say hi less questionable 
terms that she saw things in life which she thought 
it would be amusing to set down, and she set them 
down the earliest, simplest, and most auspicious 
origin of books. I doubt if she cared much to aid the 
world. True, her novels have lessons; hi those 
didactic times she would no more have sent a novel 
into the world unprovided with a lesson than desti- 
tute of a binding. Both lessons and bindings have 
their use; they hold loose sheets together. I do not 
mean that she was insincere in her lesson any more 
than I mean that she was indifferent to her binding, 
but it is unlikely that either constituted her incentive 
' to write. On one occasion she names those incen- 
\ lives. They include praise, and what she calls 
' v pewter (money), but she is shamelessly silent as to 
the satisfactions to be derived from the practice of 
leechcraft on an ailing race. 

I doubt if she felt a moral responsibility in relation 
to the truth of her works. She would not have writ- 
ten truth with a capital letter; she would have 
feared that the next step might be to spell it "ew" 
with the oleaginous Mr. Chadband, whose ac- 
quaintance she did not live to make. I think she 
portrayed truth, when she did portray truth, because 
she liked it really liked it without theory and 
without conscience, and I think this independence 
and unconcern in combination with real attachment 



CONCLUSION 233 

is part of her strength. It may be virtuous to speak 
truth, because it is holy or useful; but it is safe and 
fortunate to follow it because it is interesting. It is 
perhaps a slight defect in the otherwise unexcep- 
tionable attitude of our own excellent Mr. Howells 
that he affects us as having stood up in church with 
truth, and uttered the promise to hold, love and 
cherish with appropriate solemnity. After that, it is 
all a matter of course. Who minds a man's atten- 
tions to his wife? With Jane the affair has all the} 
interest of courtship. Let truth be on his guard. If 
fiction should turn out to be the sprightlier fellow of 
the two? It is good to be natural in one's love of 
nature. I do not know whether Jane was uncon- 
scious or unscrupulous hi the modifications of truth 
which she unquestionably tolerated. Her surrenders 
to convention were large, and we have already seen 
that hi her comic portrayals, far from copying that 
slatternly housewife Nature in the dinginess of her 
kitchenware, she scoured the truth until it fairly 
shone. 

Jane Austen, it seems to me, was genuine, not 
superficially nor fussily nor delicately nor con- 
scientiously nor heroically genuine, but genuine in a 
large, basic, temperamental way that winked at 
little lies and tiny poses, that could give way to 
manners, to decency, for aught I know, to interest, 
but which in the absence of deflectors instinctively 
and strongly preferred the fun of uttering its own 



234 JANE AUSTEN 

sensations to the credit of voicing other people's. 
She enjoyed her own mind; she took herself cheer- 
fully like other dispensations of Providence. She 
did not care to say what she did not feel, and she 
refused to do so unless the need were peremptory. 
She had neither presumption nor diffidence the 
vices of self-consciousness. She had gauged her 
own capacities with singular exactness, and, by a 
pleasing paradox, a wise self -distrust kept her within 
the limits within which she could maintain a reason- 
able self-confidence. Her conformity and her self- 
reliance are both interestingly shown in her corre- 
spondence with the royal librarian, Mr. J. S. Clarke. 
She would dedicate Emma to the Prince Regent, 
if that potentate chose to have it so, but she writes 
a letter to his librarian in which the literary advice 
of that slightly presumptuous gentleman is civilly 
but summarily rejected. 

To understand Jane Austen, we must remember 
that she had both a strong and a docile mind. The 
adjustment of these traits to each other was easier 
than it might have been in a more thoughtful en- 
vironment or a later century. Agreement between 
the strength and the docility was more usual than 
difference, and where difference occurred, there was 
apparently no conflict. Sometimes the strength 
overcame or quietly set aside the docility, sometimes 
the docility was too much for the strength; and 
Jane Austen was no more humiliated by the second 






CONCLUSION 235 

outcome than she was inflated by the first. Jane was 
conventional in the old fashion, the better fashion 
which prevailed before conventionality was dis- 
covered, and the word had had time to define an 
defile the idea. There can be no doubt that her 
conformities are sometimes harmful to her work. 
Jane Austen was no precisian or pulpiteer, but a 
precisian or pulpiteer might have adopted her work 
as his model. I do not think that she was self- 
conscious, but I think that almost all her characters 
speak self-consciously. Miss Austen wrote majes- 
tically for the same reason that she wrote in English. 
She felt that she could no more act on her undoubted 
preference for homely directness than she could have 
acted on an abstract preference for French. She 
donned the manner as her father and brother donned 
the surplice for the conduct of morning worship, or 
as she and the English world, if her presages were 
verified, put on mourning for the Duke of Glou- 
cester. A sharp distinction must be drawn between 
submission to general usage and that aping of a 
particular usage', neither natural to ourselves nor 
binding on the world, which we justly stigmatize as 
affectation. When people wore mourning for the 
Duke of Gloucester, nobody was sincere and nobody 
was affected; when everybody pretends, everybody 
confesses and nobody pretends. 

The fate of Jane Austen in this particular was, I 
suspect, the fate of George Crabbe, who, though at 




236 JANE AUSTEN 

heart a plainspoken, straightforward fellow, had 
the eighteenth century on his back, and never 
taught his mere manner to straighten up from its 
bending posture to the natural and manly per- 
pendicular. The eighteenth century was a self- 
j conscious century, and a modest person brought up 
under its tutelage avoided personal self -consciousness 
by fleeing to the shelter of a self-consciousness so 
general and so binding as to deaden its own quality. 
In such an age one dared not be simple for fear of 
affectation. Jane's attitude hi all this was absolutely 
unheroic. Souls of harder edge whose mission was to 
liberate and inspire the world would have followed 
their own impulses to all lengths at all costs. But 
there is room for variety of type on a tolerant and 
hospitable planet. Jane Austen's business was not 
to liberate or inspire the world, and these archangels 
in their empyreal preoccupations have found no 
time to leave us Northanger Abbeys or Mansfield 
Parks. 

I have uttered the word "inspire," and I take up 
the implicit challenge of that word. What was the 
scope of Jane Austen's commerce with life? Were 
there depths and secrecies in her experience which 
left no mark on the sunny reaches of her tranquil and 
equable novels, no shadow on the current of her 
racy and provocative correspondence? To this 
query the reply is doubtful. We cannot co-ordinate 
experience with utterance until we have measured 



CONCLUSION 237 

the limits of reserve, and reserve is silent as to its own 
limits. That Jane Austen may have felt things 
which she could not impart to that singular combina- 
tion of intimate and stranger which we call a relative 
is believable enough. It is somewhat harder to 
believe that she felt things which it was impossible 
to impart to that combination of intimate and 
stranger on very different lines which we call a 
reader. If Jane Austen struggled and aspired, she 
wrote six novels without introducing a character who ^ 
struggled and aspired, and I am not sure that this 
reticence is human. It is safer to assume that 
morality and religion made upon Miss Austen cer- 
tain claims as definitive and as imperative as the 
butcher's and grocer's bills, and that they were as 
readily placated and as effectually put aside by the 
liquidation of these claims as the butcher and grocer 
by the application of pounds, shillings, and pence. 
That what may be called the wryness of things made 
itself known to her in some form or other it is im- 
possible to doubt. A woman as keen as Jane Austen 
does not live to forty years without finding much to 
pardon, or not to pardon, in this churlish and incon- 
sequential world. There is no reason to believe that 
her stoutness was not equal to all tests, or that she 
was warped or embittered by the stringencies that 
find their ruthless way into the most firmly fenced 
and snugly bolted lives. She was a censor, but 
no cynic. Cynicism is the revenge we take upon a 



238 JANE AUSTEN 

disobliging cosmos for its failure to come up to 
expectations. It is highly probable that the strong 
sense which is demonstrable and the absence of 
v idealism which is presumable in Jane Austen reduced 
expectations to a level with which reality could 
rationally cope. She is not the sweet Jane Austen of 
complacent legend, but a Jane more to my taste, a 
plain, frank, keen-sighted Englishwoman, with an 
inspiriting wilf ulness that had its bound and check in 
a touching docility, with an incisiveness finally and 
securely, though not immediately or showily, subject 
to benevolence, and with a friendly acceptance of 
limited surroundings of which the literature she gave 
to a grateful country was at once the expression, the 
result, and the reward. 



APPENDIX 



REFERENCES 

I believe in full and precise references, but have 
a strong distaste for the intrusiveness of such mate- 
rial where it interrupts the text or litters the margin. 
The best escape from two evils is to give a reference 
to every important quotation or allusion hi the text 
in a final appendix under the appropriate page- 
number. Suppose, for instance, a reader wishes to 
verify the passage beginning "There were very few 
beauties" on page 199. On page 199 he will find no 
note and no indication of a note. But all he has 
to do is to turn to the appendix where the notes are 
grouped hi the numerical order of the pages, and 
find 199, opposite which the phrase will be found in 
connection with the desired reference, "Brabourne, 
I, 242-243." 

References to the novels are made by book and 
chapter; further detail, in the diversity of editions, 
seemed impracticable. 

Memoir, in these references, means the Memoir of 
Jane Austen by her nephew, the Rev. J. E. Austen 
Leigh (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1892). Lady 
Susan and the Watsons are published hi the same 
volume, and, sometimes at least, stand first in the 
title. 

241 



242 APPENDIX 

Life means Jane Austen; her Life and Letters, by 
William Austen-Leigh and Richard Arthur Austen- 
Leigh, grandnephew and great-grandnephew of Jane 
Austen (London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1913). 

Brabourne means Letters of Jane Austen, edited by 
Edward, Lord Brabourne, another grandnephew 
(London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1884). 

Goldwin Smith means Life of Jane Austen, by 
Goldwin Smith (London: W. Scott, 1890, in the Great 
Writers series.) 

A useful bibliography is appended to the Life and 
Letters; it closes with the year 1913. 



LIST OF REFERENCES 
PAGE 

3. "The dating of Miss Austen's novels," Pride and Prejudice 
(Everyman's Library: E. P. Button), Introduction, 
page 12. 

13. "And you, you well known trees," Sense and Sensibility, v. 
13. " ' Nor I,' answered Marianne," Sense and Sensibility, xxvii. 
19. "Half-way between Squire Western," Goldwin Smith, iii. 

37. "Nobody but a puppy," Goldwin Smith, ii. 

38. "My character required," Pride and Prejudice, xxxv. 

40. "Help smiling at his easy manner," Pride and Prejudice, 

Iviii. 
40-41. "His appearance was greatly," Pride and Prejudice, xv. 

42. "'Twas no hypocrisy," Thackeray, Henry Esmond, Book I, 

Ch. 10. 

43. "The death of your daughter," Pride and Prejudice, xlviii. 
46. "As for Mr. Hurst," Pride and Prejudice, viii. 

50. "No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland," North- 
anger Abbey, i. 



REFERENCES 243 

PAGE 

50-51. "I will show you a heroine," Gaskell, Charlotte BronVk, 
xv. 

59. "Goldwin Smith finds him so like," Goldwin Smith, viii. 

60. "I must confess that his affection," Northanger Abbey, xxx. 
72. "Let other pens," Mansfield Park, xlviii. 

83. "Tom listened with some shame," Mansfield Park, iii. 

85. "Short of criminality," Goldwin Smith, vi. 

86. "She is exceedingly true," H. James, Partial Portraits, 

125-126. 

88-89. "While Fanny's mind," Mansfield Park, xxxii. 
91. "I never bribed a physician," Mansfield Park, xlv. 
94. "A party of men of letters," Goldwin Smith, vi. 
107. "In the final conversation with Emma," Emma, liv. 
110. "Opinions of Emma," Life, xviii, 328-331. 
118. "Anne, in a rather intimate conversation," Persuasion, 
xxiii. 

120. "Miss Bates, let Emma help you," Emma, iii. 

121. "She is almost too good for me," Life, xviii, 336. 

122. "Altered beyond knowledge," Persuasion, vii. 
122. "At Lyme," Persuasion, xii. 

126. "A perfect gentleman," Persuasion, xi. 

128. "Eight lines of the concluding chapter," Persuasion, xxiv. 

133. "Had you not better give some hint," Brabourne, ii, 323. 

134. "Your abuse of our gowns," Brabourne, i, 236-237. 
134-135. "But biography," Boswell, Life of Johnson, Introduc- 
tion. 

136. "It is a truth," Pride and Prejudice, i. 

136-137. "Mr. Collins was not a sensible man," Pride and 

Prejudice, xv. 

137-138. "Mr. Darcy was expected," Pride and Prejudice, xxx. 
138. "The subject of reading aloud," Mansfield Park, xxxiv. 
138-139. "Harriet Smith's intimacy," Emma, iv. 

140. "She was a woman of mean understanding," Pride and 

Prejudice, i. 

141. "Everybody was pleased," Pride and Prejudice, xxiv. 
141. "Each felt for the other," Pride and Prejudice, liii. 



244 APPENDIX 

PAGE 

142. "Each Fury skips," Lyly, Endymion, III, iii. 

142. "Each of these ladies," Galsworthy, Man of Property, i. 

142. "Mr. Hinton is expected home," Brabourne, ii, 237. 

142. "Imputing his visit," Pride and Prejudice, xxxiv. 

142. "Before her answer," Sense and Sensibility, iv. 

142. "And that Serle and the butler," Emma, xxv. 

147. "Calm remark of her grand-nephew," Brabourne, I, In- 

troduction, xiii. 

148. "Whoever may have been," Sense and Sensibility, xxix. 

149. "Yes, yes, I see you are," Persuasion, xx. 

149. "It is not of peculiar," Pride and Prejudice, xli. 

150. "All the privilege I claim," Persuasion, xxiii. 
150. "If Louisa Musgrove," Persuasion, x. 

152. "The Evelyns," Brabourne, i, 287. 

153-154. "I see what you think of me," Northanger Abbey, iii. 

158. "Miss Austen's niece," Brabourne, ii, 277-299. 

158. "Three on four pages," Mansfield Park, xxxv. 

158. "At any rate," Brabourne, i, 211. 

158-159. "In Cecilia, for example," Macaulay, Essays, Vol. V, 

309-310. 

165. "You must have heard him notice," Persuasion, v. 
167. "Pictures of perfection," Brabourne, ii, 300. 
169. "Mrs. Norris, we are told," Life, xvi, 297. 
171. "Charlotte herself was tolerably," Pride and Prejudice, 

xxii. 

171. "He had very good spirits," Persuasion, vi. 
171-172. "Lady Elliot had been," Persuasion, i. 
178. "Leslie Stephen," Dictionary of National Biography, ii, 260. 

180. "Her figure was rather tall," Memoir, v. 

181. "Devours," Brabourne, i, 132. 

181. "Toasted cheese," Brabourne, i, 305. 

182. "Which I consider," Brabourne, i, 165. 
182. "Little dumplings," Brabourne, i, 165-166. 

182. "Was not ashamed of asking him," Brabourne, i, 173. 
182. "We are to kill a pig," Brabourne, i, 165. 
182. Turkey redux, Brabourne, i, 275. 



REFERENCES 245 

PAGE 

182. "Rice puddings and apple dumplings," Brdbourne, i, 313. 

182. "Asparagus and a lobster," Brabourne, i, 207. 

182. "Oyster sauce," Brabourne, i, 155. 

182. "Soup, fish, bouillee*," Brabourne, ii, 145. 
182-183. "Bath is virtuous," Brabourne, i, 281. 

183. "Orange wine," Lr/e, xx, 381. 

183. "I shall eat ice," Brabourne, i, 374. 

183. "Soup and wine and water," Brabourne, ii, 146. 

183. "By-the-bye," Brabourne, ii, 209-210. 

183. "I believe I drank too much wine," Brabourne, i, 241. 
183-184. "I find time in the midst of port," Brabourne, ii, 200. 

184. "We hear now," Brabourne, ii, 267. 

184. "Tea, coffee, and chocolate," Life, xii, 196. 
184. "Syllabub, tea, and coffee," Brabourne, ii, 108. 

184. "As to Fanny," Brabourne, ii, 108-109. 

184-185. "I have read the 'Corsair'," Brabourne, ii, 222. 

185. "It will be white satin," Brabourne, ii, 150. 
185. "Black cap to a ball," Brabourne, i, 185-186. 
185. "I find my straw bonnet," Brabourne, i, 283. 
185. "Cherries, plums, apricots," Brabourne, i, 212. 
185. "I wear my gauze gown," Brabourne, ii, 232. 

185. "I suppose everybody will be black," Brabourne, i, 311. 

186. "They are so very sweet," Brabourne, ii, 198. 
186. "I have got your cloak home," Brabourne, i, 217. 
186. "I took the liberty," Brabourne, I, i, 177. 

186. "I have found your white mittens," Brabourne, i, 301. 

186. "We are very busy," Brabourne, i, 138. 
186-187. "Tom Lefroy," Brabourne, i, 128. 

187. "Pink shoes," Brabourne, i, 234. 

188. "I shall keep my ten pounds," Brabourne, i, 176. 

188. "My father is doing all hi his power," Brabourne, i, 254. 

188. "We have now pretty well ascertained," Brabourne, ii, 48. 

189. "I am ashamed to say," Life, xx, 385. 
189. "My mother has borne," Life, xx, 385. 

189. "There were two pools at commerce," Brabourne, ii, 12. 
189. "I have this moment received," Brabourne, ii, 249. 



246 APPENDIX 

PAQB 

190. "Mrs. Deedes is as welcome as May," Brabourne, ii, 293. 

190. "I am a gentleman's daughter," Pride and Prejudice, Ivi. 

191. "The Viscountess Dalrymple," Persuasion, xvi. 

192. " What weather," Life, xvi, 289. 

194. "That she gave me no pleasure," Life, xvi, 296. 

194. "I liked her," Brabourne, ii, 210. 

194. "Dear Dr. Johnson," Brabourne, i, 328. 

194. "Marriage with George Crabbe," Brabourne, ii, 193. 

195. "Cowper's 'Tirocinium'," Tirocinium, 562 (Mansfield 

Park, xlv). 
195. "Syringa ivory pure," Cowper, Task, Winter Walk at Noon, 

149-150 (Life, xii, 199-200). 
195. "Ought I to be very much pleased with 'Marmion'?" 

Brabourne, i, 356. 
195. "Going to send Mannion," Brabourne, ii, 58. 

195. "Walter Scott has no business," Brabourne, ii, 317. 

196. "No novels really but Miss Edgeworth's," Brabourne, ii, 

318. 

196. "Sir Charles Grandison," Memoir, v. 

196. "Remember that Aunt Cassandras," Brabourne, ii, 66. 

196. "Corinna," Brabourne, ii, 50. 

196. "Goldsmith, Hume, and Robertson," Memoir, v. 

196. "Modern Europe," Brabourne, ii, 166. 

197. "Roots of heart's ease," Brabourne, i, 231. 

198. "Lyme," Persuasion, xi. 

199. "There were very few beauties," Brabourne, i, 242-243. 

200. "Mrs. W. K. is just dead," Brabourne, i, 325. 
200. "A gentleman in a buggy," Brabourne, i, 208. 

200. "My aunt has a very bad cough," Brabourne, i, 293. 

200. "A better account of the sugar," Brabourne, ii, 256. 

201. "Sweet, amiable Frank," Brabourne, ii, 257. 

203. "Eliza has seen Lord Craven," Brabourne, i, 258-259. 

204. "He is quite an M. P.," Brabourne, ii, 186. 

205. "Mr. Brecknell is very religious," Brabourne, ii, 99. 
214. "Elizabeth laughed heartily," Pride and Prejudice, xxxi. 
216. "I am very much obliged," Brabourne, ii, 40-41. 



REFERENCES 247 

PAGE 

216. "The good news," Pride and Prejudice, 1. 

223. "Elizabeth, feeling all the more," Pride and Prejudice, 

Iviii. 
226. "He had found her," Emma, xlix. 



Correction. The author withdraws the following statement 
on page 191: "The impassive formula, To the Prince Regent, 
shows no cleavage in her impenetrable reserve." The facts do 
not, in any conclusive or decisive way, support this statement. 



INDEX 



Absolute, Sir Anthony, 104 

Adam Bede, 168 

Alcott, Louisa, 208 

Alfieri, V., 165 

L' Allegro, 56 

Allen, Mrs., 61 

Ambassadors, 106 

Amory, Blanche, 52 

d'Annunzio, Gabriele, 227 

As You Like It, 31 

Arthurian Tales, 70 

Ashton, Lucy, 121 

Audrey (Shakespeare's), 31 

Augier, Emile, 128 

Austen, Caroline, 180 

Austen, Cassandra (sister), 179, 
182, 196, 200, 208 

Austen. Cassandra Leigh 
(mother), 178, 189, 191 

Austen, Charles (brother), 179, 
195 

Austen, Edward (afterwards Ed- 
ward Knight, brother), 179, 
180-181, 183, 186, 189 

Austen, Sir Francis, (brother) 
179, 193, 201 

Austen, George (father), 178, 
188, 191 

Austen, Henry (brother), 179, 
182, 183 

Austen, James (brother), 179, 188 

Austen, Jane, accomplishments, 
193; affections, 198; appear- 
ance, 180; biographies, etc., 
177-178; classes delineated, 
207-208; criticism of novels, 
196-197; environment, 230- 
231; feeling for nature, 197- 
198; genuineness, 233-234; 
gossip, 198-200; indifference 
to music, 194; inner life, 236- 
238; lessons, 232; love affairs, 
179-180; moral sense, 201- 
204; period in English liter- 
ature, 229-230; reading, 194- 



197; religious feeling, 204-205; 

social life, 218-220; strength 

and docility, 234-235 
Austen-Leigh, J. E., 177 
Austen-Leigh, Richard, 177 
Austen-Leigh, William, 177 
L'Aventuriere, 128 

Balfour, David, 168 

Balzac, Honore de, 128, 143 

Barbarina, Lady, 164 

Bates, Mvat, 87, 105, 108, 110, 

111, 120, 210 
Bath, 51, 56-57, 59, 69, 118, 168, 

180, 185. 218, 230 
Beatrice (Shakespeare's), 35 
Bede, Adam, 161 
Bede, Seth, 161 
Ben (Love for Love), 126 
Bennet, Elizabeth, 25, 26, 27, 28, 

29, 30, 34-35, 38, 39, 40-50, 

149, 157, 168, 190, 203, 208, 

215, 222, 223, 224, 225 
Bennet, Kitty, 30, 35-36, 149, 

161 
Bennet, Lydia, 29, 30, 36-37, 

149, 160, 199, 202, 217 
Bennet, Mary, 35, 160, 161 
Bennet, Mrs., 32-33, 40, 160 
Bennet, Mr., 31-32, 160 
Bennett, Arnold, 4, 193 
Benwick, Captain, 121, 126-127 
Bertram, Edmund, 59, 66, 76, 

84-85, 94, 155, 169, 205, 223 
Bertram, Julia, 85 
Bertram, Lady, 81-82, 94 
Bertram, Lucy, 121 
Bertram, Maria, 85, 94. 
Bertram, Sir Thomas, 81, 155, 

191 

Bertram, Tom, 63, 82-84, 91 
Beverages, 183-184 
Beyle, Henri 153 
Bingley, Charles, 26, 27, 29, 30, 

39, 40, 83, 223 



249 



250 



INDEX 



Bingley. Caroline, 46 

Blake, William, 219 

Blenheim, 25 

Bio u gram, Bishop, 67 

Booth, Captain, 168 

deBourgh, Lady Catherine, 28, 

29, 45-16, 160, 169, 191 
de Bourgh, Anne, 46 
Brabourne, Lord, 178 
Brandon, Colonel, 6, 8, 10, 16-17, 

223 

Brandon, Eliza, 15 
Breckon, Mr., 59 
Bride of Abydos, 127 
Brieux, Eugene, 45 
Bronte, Charlotte, 39, 50-51, 

163,206 

Brooke, Celia, 30 
Brooke, Dorothea, 30 
Browning, E. B., 190 
Browning, Robert, 42 
Bulwer-Lytton, Edward, 131 
Burney, Fanny, 79, 159-160, 196 
Byron, Harriet, 185 
Byron, Lord, 198 

Cain and Abel, 3 

Cannan, George, 82 

Card-playing, 189 

Carlyle, Jane, 212 

Castle Rackrent, 207 

Cecilia. 196 

Chad (The Ambassadors), 106 

Chadband, Mr., 232 

Character-drawing, 147 

Chaucer, Geoffrey, 165, 192 

Chawton. 180-181 

Churchill, Frank, 83, 97, 100, 

106-107, 131, 226 
Clarke. J. S., 234 
Clay, Mrs., 121, 128-129, 222 
Clergymen, Four young, 161 
Clorinde (L'Aventuriere), 128 
Collins, Charlotte. See Lucas, 

Charlotte 
Collins, Mr., 29, 41-44, 112, 

136-137, 169, 171, 210, 222 
Collinses, 28 
Complexity of characters, 162- 

164 



Comedie Humaine, 128 

Confidence, 110 

Congreve, 45, 126 

Conventionalist, 172 

Cordelia. 30 

Corey, Bromfield, 30 

Corinna, 196 

Corsair, 184-185 

Cosette (Les Miserables), 88 

Cowper, William, 195 

Crabbe, George, 194, 235-236 

Craftsmanship, 133 

Crawford, Henry, 91-92, 94, 

222-223 

Crawford, Mary, 76, 89-91, 205 
Crawf ords, 66, 164 
Crawley, Col. Rawdon, 116 
Croft, Admiral, 121, 127, 129 
Croft, Mrs., 121 
Cuttle, Captain, 126 

Dale, Lily, 34 
Dalrymple, Countess, 191 
Darcy, Fitzwilliam, 25, 26, 27, 

28, 29, 30, 37-40, 163, 168, 

215, 222, 223, 224 
Darcy, Georgiana, 47, 160 
Dashwood, Elinor, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 

10. 11-13, 16, 22, 58, 100, 168, 

187, 203, 208, 223 
Dashwood, Fanny, 12, 20, 160, 

169, 188, 202 
Dashwood, John, 9, 10, 20-21, 

170 
Dashwood, Marianne, 6, 7, 8, 10, 

12, 13-15, 16, 21, 28, 208, 223, 

39Q 

Dashwood, Mrs., 6, 21 
Dashwoods, 210 
Dates of publication, 3 n, 181 
Daudet. AJphonse, 124 
David Copperfield, 52 
Deans, Erne, 36 
Deans, Jeanie, 101 
Death, 181 
Defoe, Daniel, 148 
Deronda, Daniel, 168 
Dickens, Charles, 18-19, 38-39, 

42, 47. 52, 78, 104, 109, 110, 

126, 132, 156 






INDEX 



Diction, 140-142 
Doctor Thome, 35 
Dombey, 38 
Don Juan (Byron), 91 
Dorian Gray, 128 
Dotheboys Hall, 110 
Douglas, Ellen, 34 
Dramatist, 172-173 
Dress, 184-187 
Dryden. John, 99, 156 
Duke of Gloucester, 185, 235 
Dupins (Poe), 98 
Durbeyfield, Tess, 101 

Each (grammar), 141-142 
Edgeworth, Maria, 196, 206- 

207 

Edmund (Shakespeare's), 128 
Effingham, Violet, 112 
Ekdal, Hialmar, 62-63 
Elinor and Marianne, 3 
Eliot, George, 14, 30-31, 47, 

101, 131, 161, 168, 190 
Elliot, Anne, 58, 121-122, 129, 

131, 150, 165, 169, 203, 222, 

223, 225 
Elliot, Elizabeth, 58, 120, 123, 

165 169 
Elliot,' Sir Walter, 58, 120, 123, 

191, 210 
Elliot, William, 120, 131, 149, 

169 

Eloisa to Abelard (Pope), 13 
Elton, Mr., 111-112, 131 
Elton, Mrs., 110-111 
Emily (Mysteries of Udolpho), 79 
Emma, 95, 96-114, 120, 130-131, 

140, 181, 202, 222, 224, 234; 

blunders, 99-100; characters, 

100-114; date, 3, n.; opinions 

of, 110; plot, 98-100; style, 

138-139; village life, 114-115 
Emma, 58, 105, 107, 108, 111, 

11^ 

English Humorists, 41 
Esmond, Beatrix, 164 
Etherege, Sir George, 156 
Evelina, 79 
Evers, Blanche, 110 
Eyre, Jane, 163 



Fabrice (L'Aventuriers), 128 
Fairfax, Jane, 100, 107-108, 110, 

111, 131, 169 
Faithful Shepherdess, 188 
Family of Jane Austen, 179 
Ferrars, Edward, 4, 5, 7, 8, 15, 

23, 162, 187, 223 
Ferrars, Lucy. See Steele, Lucy 
Ferrars, Mrs., 9 
Ferrars, Robert, 10, 23, 160 
Ferrarses, 83 
Fielding, Henry, 83, 148, 168, 

196 

Finn, Phineas, 112 
Fitzwilliam, Colonel, 47 
Folyat, Mrs. (Round the Corner), 

Food, 181-183 
France, Anatole, 104 
Franziska (Heimat), 69 
Freeman, Mary Wilkins, 44 
Freytag, Gustave, 25 
II Fuoco, 227 

Galsworthy, John, 142, 151, 219 

Gardiner, Mrs., 29 

Gardiners, 29, 47 

Garth, Mary, 101 

Gaylord, Mrs. (A Modern In- 
stance), 82 

Generality, 165-167 

Gissing, George, 73 

Glegg, Mrs., 161 

GooMard, Mrs., 120 

Goldsmith, Oliver, 45, 148, 156- 
157, 159, 196 

Goneril and Cordelia, 30 

Good-Natured Man, 15, 156-157 

Grand, Sarah, 206 

Grandcourt, H. M., 11, 14 

Grandison, Sir Charles, 196 

Grant, Dr., 92-93 

Grewgious, Mr., 18-19 

Hardy, Thomas, 101, 164 
Harleth, Gwendolen, 11 
Harville, Captain, 121 
Hawkins, John (Treasure Is- 
land), 168 
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 78 



252 



INDEX 



Hayter, Charles, 121, 124-125 

Heart of Midlothian, 84 

Heimat, 69 

Herrick, Robert, 225 

Homer, 227 

Hotspur, 104 

Howells, W. D. f 31, 47, 59, 82, 

198, 233 

Hughes, Thomas, 83 
Hugo, Victor. 88 
Hume, David, 196 
Humor, 213-218 
Hurst, Mr., 46-47, 163 

Ibsen, Henrik, 62-63 
II Penseroso, 56 
Illingworth, Lord, 128 

Jaggers, Mr., 104 

James, Henry, 86, 106, 110, 

164 167 

Jane byre, 39, 50-51 
Jennings, Mrs., 10, 11, 17, 18, 

19, 100, 160, 222 
Jesus, 3 

Johnson, R. Brimley, 3, n. 
Johnson, Dr. Samuel, 134-135, 

148, 167, 194 
Jones, Tom. 168, 186 
Journal to Stella, 212 

Kean, Edmund, 194 

Kentons, The, 59 

Kew, Lady, 45 

King Lear, 128 

Knight, Edward. See Austen, 

Edward 

Knight. Fanny, 158, 167, 196 
Knightley, George, 64,104-105, 

111, 114, 222, 224, 226 
Knightley, John, 105-106, 170 
Knightleys, 96, 103 

Lady Susan, 143 
Lamb, Charles, 32 
Languish, Lydia, 49 
Lefroy, Anna, 133, 197 
Lefroy, Tom, 186 
Leipsic, Battle of. 192 
Lessing, Gottfried, 49 



Letters, 141, 152, 177, 178, 192, 

210, 213, 229 

Liabilities and assets, 206-238 
Life and Letters, 169, 177 
Life of Nelson, 193 
Love, 220-228 
Love for Love, 126 
Lovelaces, 203 
Lowell, James Russell, 217 
Lucas, Charlotte (Mrs. Collins), 

29, 44^5, 161, 171, 222 
Lucas, Maria. 47 
Lucas, Sir William, 47, 191 
Lucases, 28 
Lupin, Mrs. (Martin Chuzzle- 

irit), 109 

Lushington, Mr., 203 
Lyly, John, 141-142 

Macaulay, T. B., 59, 99, 141, 
161, 162: quotation, 159-160 

Mansfield Park, 65-95, 120, 130- 
131, 158, 181, 197, 202, 208, 
222, 236; characters, 76-95; 
date, 3, n.; morals, 74-76; 
plot, 65-73; style, 138 

Marble Faun, 78 

Marie Antoinette, 79 

Marlow, 45 

Marmion, 195 

Martha and Mary, 4 

Maupassant, Guy de, 127 

[Melema,] Tito, 14 

Memoir. 177, 180 

Menander, 4 

Meredith, George, 28, 140, 164 

Merlin, 70 

Middlemarch, 131 

Middleton, Clara, 164 

Middleton, Lady, 9, 19 

Middleton, Sir John, 19, 20, 
160. 191 

Middletons, 9 

Mills, Julia, 52 

Milton, John, 56 

Les Miserables, 88 

Modern Europe, 196 

Modern Instance, A, 82 

Moliere, 4, 44, 99, 159, 202 

Money, 187-190 



INDEX 



253 



Borland, Catherine, 50, 57-59, 

129, 154, 162, 210, 223 
vlusgrove, Charles, 120, 123, 

129, 161, 170 

vlusgrove, Henrietta, 120-121, 

222 

vlusgrove, Louisa, 121, 150, 222 
vlusgrove, Mary, 120, 123, 129 
\fy Novel, 131 
Mysteries of Udolpho, 49, 53, 79 

fathan the Wise, 49 

Mature, 197-198, 207 

Javy, 192-193 

few Testament, 4 

ftckleby, Mrs., 109 

Morris, Mrs., 74, 85-89, 93, 94, 

169,188 
forthanger Abbey, 49-64, 129, 

130, 181, 202, 136; characters, 
57-62; date, 3, n.; plot, 54-55; 
quotation, 153-154 

ovelfs: courtship, 210; dates of 
pu T cation, 3, n. ; domesticity, 
20? 209; logic, 210; portrayal 
of iove, 220-228; religious 
element, 209 
bubbles, Mrs., 109 

)bserver, 173 
)ld-Wives Tale, 4 
Mel, Patience, 35 

'aimer, Mr., 17-18, 160 

'aimer, Mrs., 19, 160 

'aimers, 10, 12, 133 

'amela, 168 

'ecksniff, Mr., 189 

'erfection, 167-169 

y ersuasion, 116-129, 130-131, 
133, 167, 171, 181, 191, 193, 
197, 198, 202, 222; abundance 
of characters, 120-121; char- 
acters, 120-129; date, 3, n.; 
moral, 119-120; plot, 116-119 

'everil of the Peak, 47 

'hilips, Mrs., 47 

'hysique, 164 

'lots. See Titles of novels 

'olitics, 192 

'ope, Alexander, 12, 13, 156 



Price, Fanny, 58, 65, 66, 76-80, 
91, 94, 155, 195, 197, 208-209, 
223, 225; helplessness, 78-79; 
judgment, 77-78; virtue, 77 

Price, Susan, 93 

Price, William, 93, 208-209 

Pride and Prejudice, 3, 6, 24-48, 
65, 95, 96, 119, 120, 121, 130, 
136-138, 163, 181, 192, 201, 
214, 215, 221- agitation, 79- 
80; compared with Emma, 
114-115; characters, 31-47; 
date, 3, n.; plot, 25-27; style, 
136 

Prince Regent, 191, 234 

Prodigal Son, 3 

Proudle, Mrs., 86 

Radcliffe, Mrs., 13, 49-53 pas- 
sim, 57, 79, 148, 207 

Rank, 191-192 

Rasselas, 167 

Rastignacs, 128 

Realist, 147-173, 

Relatives in the aristocracy, 192 

Richards, Polly, 109 

Richardson, Samuel, 148, 168 

Ring and the Book, 42 

Rise of Silas Lapham, 31 

Rivers, St. John, 163 

Rob Roy, 35 

Robertson, George, 84 

Robertson, William, 196 

Rochester, Edward, 39 

Rockminster, Lady, 104 

Romeo and Juliet, 227 

Romola, 31 

Round the Corner, 82 

Rosalind (Shakespeare's), 31 

Rushwprth, Maria, See Bertram, 
Maria 

Russell, Lady, 121 

Sacred Fount, 167 

Sand, George, 206 

Sanford, Henry, 110 

Santayana, George, 205 

Scott, Sir Walter, 35, 36, 41, 80, 

83-84, 87, 101, 110, 121, 195, 

198, 203, 230 
Sense and Sensibility, 3-23, 27- 



254 



INDEX 



28, 65, 130, 133, 148, 181, 198, 
201, 204, 222; characters, 11- 
23; comparison with Pride and 
Prejudice, 27-28; date, 3, n. 

Servants, 187 

Shakespeare, William, 34, 47, 
104 

Shall and will, 141 

Sharp, Becky, 116 

Sharp, Miss, 110 

Shelley, P. B., 219 

Shepherd, Mr., 121 

Sheridan, R. B., 4, 64, 104, 148, 
159 

Smith, Goldwin, 19, 20, 37, 43, 
59, 87, 94 

Smith, Harriet, 100, 111-112, 
113-114, 131, 226 

Smith, Mrs., 121, 129, 133 

Smollett, Tobias, 18, 126, 148 

Solmeses, 203 

Southey, Robert, 193 

Spectator, 196 

Spenser, Edmund, 79 

Squire Western, 19 

Steele, Anne, 12, 23 

Steele, Lucy, 5, 9, 12, 15, 22-23, 
160, 169 

Steele, Misses, 9 

Stephen, Leslie, 178 

Sterne, Laurence, 41, 148 

Stevenson, Robert Louis, 168 

Style, 134-142 

Sudermann, Hermann, 69 

Taine, H., 13, 39 

Tale of Edwin Drood, 18 

Tartuffe, 202 

Terence, 4 

Tessa, 31 

Thackeray, W. M., 5, 20, 41, 42, 

45, 47, 52, 58, 104, 116, 141, 

156, 164, 207-208 
Theatre-going, 194 
Theatricals, 67-68 
Thenardiess. 88 
Thorpe, Isabella, 55, 58-59, 62- 

63, 124, 129, 155, 169, 202 
Thorpe, John, 55-56, 58-59, 63- 

64, 129, 169 



Three Daughters of Monsieur 

Dupont, 45 
Tilney, Elinor, 61 
Tilney, General, 49, 53, 61, 169 
Tilney, Henry, 59-61, 129, 151, 

162, 169, 223 
Tilneys, 49, 136 
To Jane Austen (poem), iii-v 
Trafalgar, 25 
Treasure Island, 168 
TroUus and Cressida, 227 
Trollope, Anthony, 35, 86, 112. 

113, 131 

Trunnion, Commodore, 126 
Tulliver, Mrs., 161 
Turgenieff, Ivan, 211 

Valdes, Palacio, 4 
Vanity Fair, 5, 199 
Verga, Giovanni, 211 
Vernon, Diana, 35 
Vye, Eustacia, 164 

Wattenstein, 72 

Ward (Mrs. E. S. Phelps), 208 

Ward, Mrs. Humphrey, 206 

Watson, Lady Susan, 142-143 

Watsons, 142-143 

Waverley, 195 

Wentworth, Captain, 121, 125- 

127, 131, 150, 223 
Weston, Mr., 103, 105, 106 
Weston, Mrs.. 104-107 
What the Public Wants, 193 
Wharton, Edith, 206 
Whitney, Mrs., 208 
Wickham. 39, 40-41, 83, 169, 203 
Wild Duck, 62 
Wilde, Oscar, 128 
Willoughby, John, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12 

13, 14-15, 83, 202 
Woodhouse, Emma, 100^102 

162, 170; leisure, 101 ; solidity 

100-101; want of principle 

101-102 
Woodhouse, Mr., 87, 102-103 

108, 110, 111, 120 
Wordsworth, William, 156, 19 

Yeats, William, 72 
Yellowplush Jeames, 208 



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