In the last few days, I have re-read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. This book is a staple re-read for me (along with Emma, Persuasion et al) and this set me thinking. What is it about this small handful of novels that is so appealing?
OK. Let’s not beat about the bush. It’s literary escapism from our modern world. Life moves at the speed of the fastest available transport. The horse.
Poverty and brutality aren’t big parts of any Austen novel. Wickham’s infamous behaviour is as worse as it gets. With the odd bit of drunkeness thrown in here and there.
The characters either chaff or blossom within the confines of the strict codes of conduct for polite society of the time. But these rules, and their observance, create a sense of harmonious living, for those that are lucky enough to be troubled by them. And this has its attractions.
“Follow the Money”. Where would the novels of this era be without a good entail? The entail of the Bennet estate is the reason for the story. I can’t remember the last time I saw such a thing in a modern work, so a novel device in a novel (ha!).
Characters are finely drawn and their words chosen carefully (“Hang Kitty!”. Good old Mrs. Bennet). The use of language obviously varies depending on which character speaks, but the general mode of expression is well educated, considered and measured (interesting, in the case of the Bennet girls, as they never had a governess). This, to any right minded person, has much to recommend it.
Therefore, beware. When I become Prime Minister, I will enforce the regular reading of Austen’s novels; I’m sure we’d all be politer, kinder, more thoughtful people as a result.
And, dear Reader, that can’t be bad.
[Picture courtesy of Wikipedia. Public domain image.]