A British author is rewriting Pride and Prejudice from the servants’ point of view. Sounds like my two favorite things (Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey) are getting together.
Pride and Prejudice was published two hundred years ago. But what were the popular novels of the time? Who was Jane Austen reading, and who influenced her writing?
Austen month' is a good time to ditch the wilful misogynist misreadings of the revolutionary novelist's life and work
As Paula Byrne’s new book, The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, elaborates, we have erroneously exaggerated Walter Scott’s view of Austen as “close to common incidents, and to such characters as occupy the ordinary walks of life”. Indeed, our Austen stereotype is now rather closer to Ralph Waldo Emerson, who – like many Victorians – was rather more insulting, complaining that she depicted a “pinched and narrow” existence in “sterile”, overly conventional novels.
Accordingly, there is a pervasive misogynist fiction that Miss Austen was a retiring, domestically cloistered, prudish, apolitical, conservative type, amateurishly concerned only with the machinations of the “3 or 4 families in a country village” that she recommended to her novel-penning niece while composing Emma (1815), which atypically maintains such a focus.
In fact, as Byrne suggestively contends, Austen was spirited, cultured, courageous, worldly, well-travelled, globally politically aware, anti-slavery, au fait with hardship, mental illness and sexual scandal, fond of London and the theatre, proto-feminist in her attitudes to marriage, children and career, diligent, professional, actively interested in both fame and earnings, and entirely capable of coquetry, hangovers, and even sodomy gags (see Mary Crawford’s knowing reference to naval “Rears, and Vices” in Mansfield Park, 1814).