Jane Austen: A Companion

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This illuminating, entertaining, up-to-date companion is the only general guide to Jane Austen, her work, and her world. Josephine Ross explores the literary scene during the time Austen's works first appeared: the books considered classics then, the "horrid novels" and romances, and the grasping publishers. She looks at the architecture and decor of Austen's era that made up "the profusion and elegance of modern taste": Regency houses for instance, Chippendale furniture, "picturesque scenery." On the smaller scale she answers questions that may baffle modern readers of Austen's work. What, for example, was "hartshorn"? How did Lizzy Bennet "let down" her gown to hide her muddy petticoat? Ross shows us the fashions, and the subtle ways Jane Austen used clothes to express her characters. Courtship, marriage, adultery, class and "rank," mundane tasks of ordinary life, all appear, as does the wider political and military world -- especially the navy, in which her brothers served. This book will add depth to all readers' enjoyment of Jane Austen, whether confirmed addicts or newcomers wanting to know what all the fuss is about.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Were she alive today, Jane Austen would be astonished to see that she is now more popular than she was during and after the years she wrote her great novels. Recently, film and television adaptations of Emma, Persuasion, and Sense and Sensibility have sparked an Austen revival, encouraging a new generation of readers to lose themselves in her bitingly humorous and satirical novels of manners and morals, marriage and money, class, and religion. In his revealing biography, Spence (English, Doshisha Univ., Kyoto, Japan) examines Austen's development as a novelist. Drawing on journals and letters, he considers the impact that her personal experiences had on her work and the influence of those who knew her well, especially her flirtatious cousin and a young Irish lawyer whom she hoped to marry. Spence argues that Austen's juvenilia (especially the stories "Love and Friendship" and "Lesley Castle") reflect her cautionary assessments regarding the dangers of a young man's intimate involvement with an older, married woman, as well as her biting satire on the wiles of a flirtatious woman. Although this psychological biography has interesting moments, Spence commits the cardinal sin among Austenphiles of pointing to connections between the fictional characters and the real-life people-a connection that Austen herself virulently denied. Still, libraries with large Austen collections will want to own this work because of its unique focus. Ross's companion provides a helpful map to the politics, architecture, publishing, fashion, and culinary arts of Austen's novels. In brief and humorous essays, Ross (The Monarchy in Britain) tries to make Austen's world more familiar to modern readers by answering such questions as "What was hartshorn?" and "How did Lizzy Bennet `let down' her gown to hide her muddy petticoats?" Ross examines Austen's "common daily routine" at Steventon, the Hampshire village where she spent much of her life, observing that Jane would have had the benefit of a "wholesome, home-produced diet, with fresh milk from her mother's Alderney cows, pork products from the family pigs, and plentiful local fruit and vegetables." These staples provide some helpful indications of the ingredients of the "white soup" that Mr. Bingley promises to his guests in Pride and Prejudice. In the tradition of John Sutherland's Can Jane Eyre Be Happy?: More Puzzles in Classic Fiction, Ross's little handbook offers an extremely useful guide to the world Austen inhabited and that she imported into her novels. For all libraries.-Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Lancaster, PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813539546
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 274
  • Sales rank: 394,045
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.12 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Table of Contents

1 A Brief Life 1
2 'The Common Daily Routine' 45
3 'The Present Fashions' 70
4 'The Subject of Books' 98
5 'Of Lovers and Husbands' 128
6 'The Beauty of the Place' 158
7 'The Distinction of Rank' 188
8 'Politics and Public Events' 216
Further Reading 244
Index 247
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