Wednesday, September 10, 2008

G. K. Chesterton on Austen


From The Victorian Age in Literature:
[George Eliot's] originals and even her contemporaries had shown the feminine power in fiction as well or even better than she. Charlotte Bronte, understood along her own instincts, was as great; Jane Austen was greater. The latter comes into our present consideration only as that most exasperating thing, an ideal unachieved. It is like leaving an unconquered fortress in the rear. No woman later has captured the complete common sense of Jane Austen. She could keep her head, while all the after women went about looking for their brains. She could describe a man coolly; which neither George Eliot nor Charlotte Bronte could do. She knew what she knew, like a sound dogmatist: she did not know what she did not--like a sound agnostic. But she belongs to a vanished world before the great progressive age of which I write.

4 comments:

Josh said...

"Everytime I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone."

- Mark Twain

I'm afraid I'm closer to Twain's sentiment than Chesterton's on this one. How'd you come across this quote? That's a fairly difficult to find Chesterton work it comes from.

Daniel McLain Hixon said...

dude, Jane Austin is pretty awesome. I think i have a crush on her...

Nance said...

I'm trying to scrounge up a little 'Chesterton on Austen' right now for a paper. That work actually turned out to have little to say on her.

And of course Mark Twain also said: "... Jane Austen's books, too, are absent from this library. Just that one omission alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn't a book in it."
He doesn't quite seem to have settled his mind on Jane.

Anonymous said...

Twain's distaste for JA seems to be perfectly consistent and "settled," whatever else it is. The second comment says that her books have such a high negative value that their mere absence makes a library valuable. How did you conclude that he hadn't "settled his mind on Jane"?