From Sanditon, Chapter 8 in the Penguin Classics:
The two ladies continued walking together till rejoined by the others, who, as they issued from the library, were followed by a young Whitby running off with five volumes under his arm to Sir Edward’s gig - and Sir Edward, approaching Charlotte, said, "You may perceive what has been our occupation. My sister wanted my counsel in the selection of some books. We have many leisure hours and read a great deal. I am no indiscriminate novel reader. The mere trash of the common circulating library, I hold in the highest contempt. You will never hear me advocating those puerile emanations which detail nothing but discordant principles incapable of amalgamation, or those vapid tissues of ordinary occurrences from which no useful deductions can be drawn. In vain may we put them into a literary alembic; we distil nothing which can add to science. You understand me, I am sure?"
"I am not quite certain that I do. But if you will describe the sort of novels which you do approve, I dare say it will give me a clearer idea."
“Most willingly, fair questioner. The novels which I approve are such as display human nature with grandeur; such as show her in the sublimities of intense feeling; such as exhibit the progress of strong passion from the first germ of incipient susceptibility to the utmost energies of reason half-dethroned; where we see the strong spark of woman’s captivations elicit such fire in the soul of man as leads him – (though at the risk of some aberration from the strict line of primitive obligations) - to hazard all, dare all, achieve all, to obtain her. Such are the works which I peruse with delight and, I hope I may say, with amelioration. They hold forth the most splendid portraitures of high conceptions, unbounded views, illimitable ardour, indomptible decision. And even when the event is mainly anti-prosperous to the high-toned machinations of the prime character -- the potent, pervading hero of the story -- it leaves us full of generous emotions for him; our hearts are paralyzed. T’were pseudo-philosophy to assert that we do not feel more enwrapped by the brilliancy of his career than by the tranquil and morbid virtues of any opposing character. Our approbation of the latter is but eleemosynary. These are the novels which enlarge the primitive capabilities of the heart; and it cannot impugn the sense or be any dereliction of the character of the most anti-puerile man, to be conversant with.”
"If I understand you aright," said Charlotte, "our taste in novels is not at all the same."
END OF QUOTE
This is a very long quote, but I could not bear to leave anything out in order to shorten it. The paragraphs following my quote are also recommended for more enlightenment on the subject of ‘novels’. I used the Penguin Classic edition, 1974 with an introduction by Margaret Drabble that had Lady Susan and The Watsons also. I had marked up my copy and there were markings such as “T.L.?” where I had wondered if she were writing about you-know-who. I will try to get to that quote later on. Sanditon is the last book Jane wrote and therefore I can see it is highly charged with meanings about several subjects. It bears a lot more looking into. I get the sense that there are more treasures to be found in it.
My main point/question is: how does the opinion of novels, quoted above, reflect her own opinions/writings?
Linda the Librarian
Pic: 'Girl Reading At a Sunlit Window' by Carl Vilhelm Holsoe, from Booksdofurnisharoom