"Higher Cannibalism in biography" *spoiler*
Posted by Valerie Mc. on March 26, 1998 at 03:00:24:
In response to Not giving away secrets..., written by Cyndie on March 24, 1998 at 18:52:05
You'd appreciate Kipling's definition of "the Higher Cannibalism in biography" - "...the exhumation of scarcely cold notorieties, defenceless females for choice, and tricking them out with sprightly inferences and 'sex'-deductions to suit the mood of the market."
I think Tomalin's problem was that she had some good material on the Austen neighbors and relatives, but not enough to hang a popular book on. So she took the popular modern position of refuting the idea that Jane's life was uneventful. Since by all evidence it really was uneventful (except for that little incident of being a great writer), Tomalin was forced to, ah, make the most of her material. (Another biography that came out last year claimed to be revealing dark secrets from Jane's life, like her brother George.)(Oh, that was the spoiler part, in case some people were still hoping for a new event :-)
It's fun to read pop bios of past figures, and see how well the author works in the obligatory "sex-inferences". One otherwise good book on Charlotte Bronte made the devastatingly insightful comment that we don't know what she thought of her first experience of sex (were we expecting her to write a newspaper column about it?)
I'm also kind of amused at the idea that we modern people think that it's about as disreputable for a woman to live a life of little event, as the Victorians thought it was for her to live an eventful one.
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