Jane Austen, the English Novelist

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“Anything like warmth or enthusiasm, anything energetic, poignant, heartfelt, is utterly out of place in commending these works: all such demonstrations the authoress would have met with a well-bred sneer, would have calmly scorned as outré or extravagant. She does her business of delineating the surface of the lives of genteel English people curiously well. There is a Chinese fidelity, a miniature delicacy, in the painting. She ruffles her reader by nothing vehement, disturbs him by nothing profound. The passions are perfectly unknown to her: she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy sisterhood… What sees keenly, speaks aptly, and moves flexibly, it pits her to study: but what throbs fast and full, though hidden, what the blood rushes through, what is the unseen scat of life and the sentient target of death - that Miss Austen ignores.” Though Charlotte Bronte, one of the finest English novelists, contradicted with and criticized Miss Austen’s novel writing in several ways, it is the latter who has proven to be a superior novelist. Even though Miss Austen’s novels are love stories and her career coincided with the Romantic Movement, but unlike Charlotte Bronte she was not a romanticist. Miss Austen believed in the importance of the set standards of society but at the same ridiculed those customs that were irrational and unnecessary through her heroines. Charlotte Bronte negated the general expectations of society from women through her writing and wrote instead on women who relied upon the respect of themselves, rather than society. It is through this aspect of self-reliance that Charlotte’s women received the fulfillment in their lives and conquered happiness. Being a complete romantic, Miss Bronte gave the world of literature the gift of the independent and modern women. Her women were determined to make their own way, and live their own lives in accordance to their own set of standards. Perhaps Charlotte Bronte’s opinion may appear to be convincing to some extent, it can be wholly rejected when we scrutinize the work of Miss Austen as a satirical moralist. Although Miss Austen is classified as a modern novelist, her affinities lie more with the eighteenth century novelists than the nineteenth century’s. Her choice of subject, technique, skills and precision in craftsmanship are similar to the classic writers. The romanticists loved describing nature but if there is any mention of nature at all in Miss Austen’s work, it is very brief. They also glorified poor characters but in Miss Austen’s work there is an indifference towards the peasants and other lower classes. Unlike the work of Romantics, her work is free of unreserved emotion or overindulgent passion. She believed that the power of feeling should be controlled and be depicted in an intellectual manner. Her work had no room for the vivacious fun that was present in the work of the first novelists of the century. Her work indeed seems little touched by political events in her world or by major literary trends of her day. In her words, “My canvas is just a little bit of ivory, two inches wide, on which I work with so fine a brush.” It is true that the range of vision of Jane Austen is much smaller than most of the 18th century novelists, but the vision is much more intense. She did not weave in the Napoleonic Wars or the Industrial Revolution in the world she created. But this does not make her work weak or less interesting. On the contrary, it makes it self-contained, with the larger context supplied by Miss Austen’s continual awareness and scrutiny of the values. Her insights into the lives of women of her period, and her mastery of form and irony have made Austen one of the most noted and influential novelists of her time. Sir Walter Scott, one of the greatest European novelists during the time of Miss Austen, remarked in his 1826 diary that, "the big Bow-Wow strain I can do myself like any now going; but the exquisite touch which...
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