Bloody Jane

by wjw on March 4, 2015

“From this period, the intimacy between the Families of Fitzroy, Drummond and Falknor, daily increased till at length it grew to such a pitch, that they did not scruple to kick one another out of the window on the slightest provocation.”

Who was it, d’ye think, that wrote such an elegantly balanced Augustan sentence, and with such a sting in its tail?

Here’s another sample:

“Lovely and too charming Fair one, notwithstanding your forbidding Squint, your greasy tresses and your swelling Back, which are more frightful than imagination can paint or pen describe, I cannot refrain from expressing my rapture, at the Engaging Qualities of your Mind, which so amply atone for the Horror with which your first appearance must ever inspire the unwary visitor.”

What could have created this but the pen that gave us such classic work as the Dennis Moore sketch?

Well, actually no.  The quotes are from that retiring virginal goddess of literary propriety, Jane Austen.

Miss Austen’s juvenilia, which she wrote in part with other family members, has just been published— and it turns out to be subversive, surreal, very funny, and incredibly violent.  “It is as if the young Jane Austen has strategically animated and empowered a whole regiment of teenage girls to openly revolt, in their anti-social and extravagant behaviour, against the conduct-book models of the schoolroom and the drawing room”. In this world, the self-serving, manipulative, social-climbing heroines are the winners, and “good girls” are “merely an object of contempt.”

Who would have claimed Jane Austen as an ancestor of Monty Python?

Perhaps it’s time to revisit Jane Austen’s Fight Club, and see it with new eyes.

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