Jane Austen's eldest brother James Austen
wrote this poem soon after the appearance of her first-published work,
Sense and Sensibility, when
the knowledge of Jane Austen's authorship of the novel was still confined to
her family. He pretended that it was written by an unknown admirer.
On such Subjects, no Wonder that she should write well
In whom so united those Qualities dwell;
Where "dear Sensibility", Sterne's darling Maid,
With Sense so attemper'd is finely portray'd.
Fair Elinor's self in that Mind is exprest,
And the feelings of Marianne live in that Breast.
Oh then, gentle Lady! continue to write,
And the Sense of your Readers t' amuse and delight.
No words can express, my dear Aunt, my surprise
Or make you conceive how I opened my eyes,
Like a pig Butcher Pile has just struck with his knife,
When I heard for the very first time in my life
That I had the honour to have a relation
Whose works were dispersed throughout the whole of the nation.
I assure you, however, I'm terribly glad;
Oh dear! just to think (and the thought drives me mad)
That you made the Middletons, Dashwoods, and all,
And that you (not young Ferrars) found out that a ball
May be given in cottages never so small.
And though Mr. Collins, so grateful for all,
Will Lady de Bourgh his dear Patroness call,
'Tis to your ingenuity he really owed
His living, his wife, and his
Beats thy quick pulse o'er Inchbald's thrilling leaf,
Brunton's high moral, Opies's deep wrought grief?
Has the mild chaperon claimed thy yielding heart,
Caroll's dark page, Trevelyan's gentle art?
Or is it thou, all perfect Austen? Here
Let one poor wreath adorn thy early bier
That scarce allowed thy youth to claim
Its living portion of thy certain fame
Oh! Mrs. Bennet! Mrs. Norris too!
While memory survives we'll dream of you.
And Mr. Woodhouse, whose abstemious lip
Must thin, but not too thin, his gruel sip. Miss Bates, our idol, though the village bore;
And Mrs. Elton, ardent to
While the clear style flows on without pretence,
With unstained purity, and unmatched sense.
Or, if a sister e'er approached the throne,
She called the rich `inheritance' her own.
About 1893, a schoolboy named E. Clerihew Bentley invented the
clerihew, a four-line verse biography. (The first clerihew: "Sir
Humphrey Davy / Was not fond of gravy. / He lived in the odium / Of having
discovered sodium.") G. K. Chesterton contributed the following:
The novels of Jane Austen
Are the ones to get lost in.
I wonder if Labby
Has read Northanger Abbey.
`Labby' was a nickname of Henry Du Pré Labouchere (1831-1912),
English journalist and radical, who delighted in attacking Queen Victoria
(by the way, whether or not Labby had read
Northanger Abbey, Victoria
had). Recently on
AUSTEN-L, Eugene E. Mcdonnell suggested
updating `Labby' to `Dear Abby'.
He heard the question
Circle Heaven through --
Closed the book and answered:
"I did -- and do!" Quietly but speedily
(As Captain Wentworth moved)
Entered into Paradise
The man Jane loved!
Epigraph to "The Janeites"
Jane lies in Winchester -- blessed be her shade!
Praise the Lord for making her, and her for all she made!
And while the stones of Winchester, or Milsom Street, remain,
Glory, love, and honour unto England's Jane!
Extracts from Letter to Lord Byron, one of his long poems,
first published in 1936.
Letter to Lord Byron
There is one other author in my pack:
For some time I debated which to write to.
Which would be least likely to send my letter back?
But I decided I'd give a fright to
Jane Austen if I wrote when I had no right to,
and share in her contempt the dreadful fates
Of Crawford, Musgrave, and Mr. Yates.
You could not shock her more than she shocks me;
Besides her Joyce seems innocent as grass.
It makes me uncomfortable to see
An English spinster of the middle class
Describe the amorous effects of `brass',
Reveal so frankly and with such sobriety
The economic basis of society.
To women in contemporary voice and dislocation
she is closely invisible, almost an annoyance.
Why do we turn to her sampler squares for solace?
Nothing she saw was free of snobbery or class.
Yet the needlework of these needle eyes...
We are pricked to tears by the justice of her violence: Emma on Box Hill, rude to poor Miss Bates,
by Mr Knightley's Were she your equal in situation --
but consider how far this is from being the case
shamed into compassion, and in shame, a grace.
The amazing epitaph's "benevolence of heart"
precedes "the extraordinary endowments of her mind"
and would have pleased her, who was not unkind.
Dear votary of order, sense, clear art,
and irresistible fun, please pitch our lives
outside self-pity we have wrapped them in,
and show us how absurd we'd look to you.
You know the mischief poetry could do.
Yet when Anne Elliot spoke of its misfortune
to be seldom safely enjoyed by those who
enjoyed it completely, she spoke for you.
From How to Become Ridiculously Well-Read in One Evening,
compiled by E. O. Parrott (Viking, Penguin Books, 1985)
Pride and Prejudice
``Marry well'', is Bennet tenet: Bingley singly must remain
Since classy Darcy (Lizzy-dizzy) thinks he's far too good for Jane.
Rummy mummy, jaunty aunty, these would drag both gallants down --
Plus the younger siblings' dribblings over officers in town.
See the specious Wickham trick 'em with his tales of birthright gloom,
See how hideous Lydia's ruin looms before she gets her groom;
Glassy Darcy saves the bacon, shaken out of former pride:
Is he Lizzy's destined love, to shove her prejudice aside?
Has she clout to flout that matron, patroness of priestly coz
(He whose ludicrous proposing Rosings rules -- like all he does)?
Darcy oughter court her daughter, destined his through two decades...
``Mulish, foolish girl, remember Pemberley's polluted shades!''
Dare she share his great estate, or can't Aunt Catherine be defied?
Yes! and ere the bells ring jingly, Bingley too shall claim his bride.
[Note that this works best when read with a British accent, and
that "ludicrous proposing" is the object of the verb "rules".]
This poem was published in The New Republic, August 7 & 14,
1989. Note that some of this actually only applies to Emma
Woodhouse; for example, Anne Elliot of Persuasion did go to a
boarding school (as Jane Austen herself did). On the
AUSTEN-L list, John O'Neill pointed out
that "Frank Churchill doesn't really go to London to get his hair cut; he
goes to Broadwood's to order the pianoforte for Jane Fairfax -- and
Knightley rightly condemns him for his purported motive. And Elizabeth
Bennet walks five miles on her own and is much appreciated for it by Bingley
(and secretly by Darcy)"; only Bingley's sisters take advantage of this
slight violation of propriety to criticize her.
Said on AUSTEN-L to be from her
Come Into the Garden, Cassandra.
Mr. Bingley's Friend
I have never understood
Quite how Mr. Darcy could
Tolerate the sisters Bingley --
As a pair, or even singly.
Much for friendship he endured;
For he often was immured
All those evenings with the boring
Elder sister's husband snoring.