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LRBFrankKermodeTooGoodandTooSilly:CouldDarcySwim?

JanesFame:HowJaneAustenConqueredtheWorld byClaireHarman
Canongate,342pp,20.00,April2009,ISBN9781847672940
TheCambridgeEditionofJaneAustenisaproductiononthemostmonumentalscale,involvingninebeautifulbutheavyvolumesandsomethinglike
adozeneditors,withapowerfuleditorialboardandateamoflearnedcommentators.OnevolumeapiecegoestothemajornovelsSenseand
Sensibility,PrideandPrejudice,MansfieldParkandEmma.NorthangerAbbeyandPersuasion,whichoriginallyappearedinasingleposthumous
volume,areheredivided.LaterManuscripts,thelasttoappearandthelargestvolumeofall,istheworkofthegeneraleditor,JanetTodd,andof
LindaBreeoftheCambridgeUniversityPress,whichlongagosetastandardforeditingnovelistswithitsmultivolumedD.H.Lawrence.Theextent
andminutenessofthelaboursofToddandBree,bothinthisvolumeandthroughouttheseries,arealmostpainfultocontemplate.
Itusedtobetakenasobviousthattheaimofaneditorwastorepresentasfaraspossiblethefinalwishesoftheauthor,butthefashionnowrequires
therecordingofmultipleintentionsofequalinterest:authorialchangesofmind,variantsthathavesomethingtotell,theproductionofatextthatisa
processratherthanafixedentity.Followthatdoctrinelongenoughandyouarriveathypertext,andinformationofinterestonlytoothereditors,who
havetotakethetroubleofreadingit.Butithastobesaidthatonecantimaginethatreaderswholackinterestinthescholarlyminutiaewillchooseto
readthenovelsinthisform.
TheToddBreevolumeonthelatermanuscriptsrunstoabout800pages,ofwhichonlysome200arebyJaneAusten.Themostimportant
manuscriptfragmentisoftheunfinishednovelSanditon.AnothersubstantialfragmentistheearlyLadySusan,andathirdisTheWatsons,also
abandonedinmanuscript.Inadditiontolinebylinetranscriptionswhichaddtothebulkofthebookandmaynotbemuchconsulted,exceptbyfuture
editors(ifonecanimaginetheneedforthem),therearesomeprayersofunsettledauthorship,adramatisationofpartofSamuelRichardsonsnovel
SirCharlesGrandison,admittedlyoflittleinterestinitself,andsomepoemsofwhichthesamemightbesaid.The100pageintroductionislovingly
minuteinitscoverageofearlycommentary,andtheannotationsarecarefulanduseful.
Theperformancesoftheothereditors,sofarasIvebeenabletoscanthem,areofthesamecalibreanddesignasBreeandTodds.Theinclusionin
theeditionofavolumecalledJaneAusteninContext(2005),dedicatedtomoderncommentary,isadeparturefromcurrentpracticeitgivesthe
readerthebenefitofinformationsupplementarytowhatisofferedintheindividualeditions,anditspresencemakesthisasortofeditiocumnotis

variorumnotatallabadthing,indeedagenerousone.
AgoodspecimenofthekindofcommentaryonofferhereisthecontributionbyEdwardCopelandonmoney.Otherswriteaboutdomestic
architecture,careersinthearmy,thenavy,thelawmanners,medicine,rank,religion,transportandsoon.Butletusconsidermoney.Moneywasa
subjectofimportancetogentlemenoftherankofDarcyinPrideandPrejudice,whohad10,000ayear,butitwasofnolessimportancetohis
servants,whoprobablygotbyon16adisparitysanctifiedbyconvenientlyunexaminedassumptionsconcerningrank.EverythingintheAusten
novelsseemstoaddupatthecashregisterintheusualway,Copelandsays.Thepianos,shawls,muslins,carriagesandhorses[are]sofamiliarthat
wethinkweareinthesameworld.Heimmediatelygoesontosaythatwearenot.ButhegivesanaccountoftheAustenfictionaleconomywhich
suggeststhatinthebrieftimebetweenhiswritingandourreadingthisessaytheworldhasbeensorearrangedthatwecanhappilycomecloserto
Austensashedescribesit:aworldofforeignwars,scarcecapital,inadequatebankingandcreditsystems,povertyandtaxesonwindows,onhair
powderandoneverythingelsePittcouldthinkof.

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FrankKermodegetsatwhat21stcenturyJaneismisabout:ItissaidthatamongthetelevisionaudiencethereweresomewhosawDarcys
emergencefromhispondaneventAustenomittedfromhernarrativeasthehighpointofthebook(LRB,30April).Andthingshavegotworse
sinceAndrewDaviess1995serial.Itissadtothinkthatthereisagenerationwho,whentheytrytoconjureLizzyBennetfromthepage,willhaveto
fightbackimagesofKeiraKnightleypoutingandpretendingnottobebeautifulinamudhemmeddress.
Janeismwasntalwayssoaggressivelyfemalefriendly.RudyardKiplingwrotetheendearinglyoddstoryTheJaneites(makingthetermfamous)in
1924.HisJaneitesarenotmobcappedelderlywomenofBath,butsoldiersandofficersontheWesternFront.SoldierHumberstall,invalidedoutof
thearmywithaheadwound,findsawaybacktothefront,todiscoverthatheisonlyfittobeanassistantmesswaiter.Hesurvivesintheofficers
messbybeingintroducedintothecultofJanebytheheadmesswaiterchalkingReverendCollins,LadyCatherinedeBuggandGeneralTilney
onthebattalionsgunsbringshim100cigarettesinsteadofatickingoff.ButbeingabletospeaktosuperiorsonequaltermsisnotJanesonly
godmotherlypower.Whenthebatteryisdestroyedinabarrage,Humberstallistheonlysurvivor.AfterhejokinglycallstheseniornurseMissBates
aplottwistIanMcEwanwouldenvyshemakesroomforhimonthehospitaltrain,savinghislife:Youtakeitfrommetheresnoonetotouch
Janewhenyoureinatightplace.Gawdblesser,whoevershewas.Endowedwithsuchhealingpower,itisnowonderthatPrideandPrejudicewas
prescribedtoshellshockedsoldiers,orthatChurchillsaiditwasAustensnovelsheturnedtowhenthingsseemedbleakduringtheSecondWorld
War.SoithasnotalwaysbeengirlssighingoverDarcyswetshirtLizzyhasalsohadherdevotedboyfans.InalecturetothewomenofNewnham
College,Cambridgein1911,A.C.BradleyneedednoscriptwriterspromptingtosayofElizabethBennet:Iwasmeanttofallinlovewithher,andIdo.
KateBrayshay
Melksham,Wiltshire