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Written by Barbara
(4/1/2006 12:06 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, First lines..., penned by Nicki
The introduction to the edition I'm reading (Broadview Literary Critical Edition) calls this novel the most 'overtly literary' of all JA's books, and suggests that almost everything is a reference to some work of literature or other.
This line and what follows early in the first chapter, for example, is a reference to particular novels.
For example, Belinda Portman, the title character in Maria Edgeworth's Belinda (one of the novels mentioned in the 'defense of the novel' a bit later in this week's reading) is described as being:
The novel also makes frequent references to how a heroine is and is not supposed to act, as though there were some universally acknowledged set of 'rules' for them:
I think that we are meant to understand that Jane Austen approved of Belinda, even though she has the natural beauty, grace, and taste that Catherine apparently lacks, and seeks to act as unlike a heroine as she can.
On the other hand, JA seems to disapprove of the novel Tom Jones and the author Henry Fielding (noted by her brother in the biographical notice that comes with the novel). These early reference to how Catherine is unlike a heroine also make particular reference to that book. JA writes that Catherine, among other things, was not partial to the 'more heroic enjoyments of infancy' which include "feeding a canary-bird".
This is how Sophia Western, the heroine in Tom Jones, is described:
Tom Jones, when very young, had presented Sophia with a little bird, which he had taken from the nest, had nursed up, and taught to sing.
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