Sunday, 14 June 2009

Jane Austen Quote - Week 60 by Linda

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."


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


bilbo said...

I was very glad to see a quote from Sanditon on the BJ fansite - something I feel comfortable commenting on. One of my favorite books is the completion of Sanditon by Marie Dobbs (aka Anne Telscombe), originally published in 1975. It starts with the whole fragment left by Jane and continues it very charmingly, with the existing cast as drawn by Jane acting completely in character.
The quote at hand was definitely not intended by Jane to be taken as serious literary criticism. It was spoken by Sir Edward Denham, who, perhaps uniquely, combined the well-known Austen archetypes of the cad and the buffoon. He had the habit of using many big words to describe literature (usually poetry)he himself did not understand. Jane's following paragraphs describe his pretension to be a passionate seducer of young women, a characteristic put to fine comic use in the continuation.

Icha said...

Hahaha! Bilbo, you are so true! This Sir Edward was so full of big words that I can't even understand what he meant. No wonder Charlotte commented as such.

So you think that the Sanditon to pick is by Telscombe? What about the latest one a few years back?

Rachel said...

I too would love to know why you believe, Bilbo, that Marie Dobb's completion of Sandition was the most charming?
I also see a recent completion of the novel by Juliette Shapiro. Has anyone read that version?
Thanks for a great quote Linda and i agree that more exploration of Sandition is definitely needed.
I may make it my next read but keep a dictionary close at hand for when Sir Edward decides to speak!

bilbo said...

Icha & Rachel, the only other Sanditon continuation I've read was 'Charlotte' by Julia Barrett. The dialogue of the characters in that one is atrocious. E.g., the first words Barrett puts in Charlotte's mouth are "Dear Madam, were you then privileged to know the gentleman of this gracious house whilst still he walked these venerable halls?" All the characters speak in like manner all the time. A scathing NY Times review of this book can be found at:

I have just obtained a copy of the Shapiro version, and look forward to reading it. I would be fascinated to see Anna Austen Lefroy's unfinished attempt, but it apparently has not been widely published. The Wikipedia entry for Sanditon lists several other 'continuations' I have not seen, including one,'The Price of Butcher's Meat', which appears to be a gruesome serial murder mystery!
Rachel, for an example of what I find charming about the Dobbs continuation, here is a brief excerpt: '...she discovered she had done nothing but sit holding an ugly little shell box in her hand, reliving a few moments in a curio shop and a few others in some tea rooms.'