Letters & bios
Posted by Valerie Mc. on March 31, 1998 at 22:26:05:
In response to you misunderstand me., written by P. Bingham on March 31, 1998 at 03:29:17
] I don't believe that intimate would appropriately describe Jane's letters. I'm fairly certain that Cassandra took care of any that might be deemed so.
I think the fact that her friends and relatives destroyed so many letters (one gets the impression, in response to her growing popularity) shows that they did want discretion, and she did write some that were much too full of lines under the words to be made public. The loss of the letters would not affect her original degree of honesty (whatever it was), though it does of course limit our subsequent understanding.
] I only bring to the attention that you can lose a great deal of money if you make a bet based on her letters. This is not a matter of opinion. It is the nature of life and most any historian or phychologist for that matter, will tell you the same.
I don't think it necessary to set letters against other materials; though I cannot see any reason for being more suspicious of letters than of other sources. Any other person, when writing of a subject, will be influenced by opininions, fads, prejudices, etc. Ultimate truth will remain elusive.
So I rather think it's a matter of taste and convenience where one begins reading about JA; one will come across all the facts fairly quickly, and run through most of the plausible speculation, too.
] There is that annoying old saying "don't judge a book by its cover." What is on the jacket of a book is rarely the author's work but merely intended to promote the work and is out of the author's hands. The author is lucky enough just to choose his own title. The jackets can be misleading, of course, and most often are, but that should not necessarily reflect on the writer's work.
Well, no, it shouldn't; but in this imperfect world those of us who are reading for pleasure depend on such things as covers, quick skims and rumors. This particular book was decidedly not being marketed to me; though I think this supports my remarks. Even though the author had not thought it necessary to add titillating speculations, the publisher evidently didn't feel the book would sell well without some. (Chain stores being what they are, the publisher was probably right.)
As you say, that doesn't affect the quality of the work; any more than Tomalin's speculations affected the interest and quality of her other research. But it throws a very interesting and amusing light on the relation between scholarship and selling books.
Posting followups to old messages is disabled; instead go to the main index and post a new message which mentions this one.