Thursday, August 01, 2013

Jane Austen on a £10 note – a good choice for a bad reason

From Mr Alexander Boot:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of good talent must be in want of commemoration.

Aesthetic judgment comes into this only tangentially, if at all. Still, de gustibus... and all that, for what it’s worth I think Jane Austen is an overrated writer, though clearly a very good one.

Her Elizabeth Bennet is a bit one-dimensional compared to Emma Bovary, never mind Anna Karenina.

Her satire lacks the bite of Swift’s, Thackeray’s or Dickens’s, although in the last case Austen makes up for it by eschewing cloying sentimentality and socialist bias.

And her contribution to the English language is slight by comparison to the three gentlemen I mentioned, to say nothing of Shakespeare or Lancelot Andrewes (of the KJB fame).

Yet Austen’s name is instantly recognisable all over the world, especially since her prose effortlessly lends itself to the format of a TV series.

For that reason alone, she’d merit anyone’s consideration as a candidate for the female face on the tenner. Alas, that reason isn’t alone.

Jane Austen’s case wasn’t championed by scholars or literary critics. It was put forward by feminists – and for them she qualifies on the strength of being a famous English woman, rather than just a famous English writer. It’s only for God and St Paul that there was 'neither male nor female'.

Regarded in that light, one can think of a few other English women whose claim to this accolade would appear to be stronger than Austen’s.

Elizabeth I springs to mind. Good Queen Bess was easily the greatest woman in English history, and arguably the greatest head of state. Also, she was no less of a woman than Jane Austen, and just as single.

So why not choose Elizabeth I? Surely she must make every feminist proud? How many other women (or even men) can be said to have altered the course of English history as dramatically? Precious few, I dare say.

Perhaps in a century or two Margaret Thatcher will be viewed in a similar way, though it’s too early to tell. Yet not too many eyebrows would have been raised had she been picked to grace the £10 note. If we must have a woman, and Elizabeth I isn’t to our liking, why not Lady Thatcher?

Anyone asking such questions misses the point altogether. Which is that to a feminist a woman is defined not physiologically but politically. Feminism and femininity may be cognates but they’re closer to being antonyms than synonyms.

To qualify as a woman in the feminist canon, it’s not enough for a person to have two X chromosomes. She must also have the X factor reflecting aspects of victimhood (real or imaginary, it doesn’t matter), general left-wing inclination and unwavering commitment to the mathematical fallacy that 51 percent of the population constitutes a minority.

Jane Austen accomplished too much to be seen as a victim in retrospect, and her politics are uncertain. Still, as a single Hampshire woman who wrote unthreatening novels featuring women as main protagonists, she qualifies, by a whisker. A queen who united the realm or a politician who busted the unions doesn’t – not by a long chalk.

And speaking of the politician who busted the unions, when commissioned to compile a list of prominent women in politics, Harriet Harmon didn’t even mention Margaret Thatcher, though Diane Abbot, Britain’s first black woman MP, figured prominently. Since Lady Thatcher was demonstrably prominent in politics, she clearly wasn’t regarded as a woman.

Similarly Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who was US Ambassador to the UN and an ardent anticommunist, was denied her womanhood by the feminists – who at the same time complained of the dearth of women in ministerial posts.

Kirkpatrick just didn’t count as a woman. At present, the same honour bypasses Sarah Palin, a mother of five children who, for all her manifest faults, was the governor of America’s largest state and a presidential candidate.

This is all symptomatic of the semantic larceny of modernity: words have lost any real meaning, acquiring instead a virtual one. These days ‘husband’ may well mean a woman, ‘wife’ a man, ‘Tutu’ a Christian or ‘Dave Cameron’ a Tory.

So let’s rejoice that, for all her achievements and political neutrality, Jane Austen still qualifies as a woman. Just.

Alexander Boot is a writer on political, cultural and religious themes


Blogger Martin said...

Why do you think in a century or two we'll have £5 notes? I remember the ten bob and £1 notes of yore as I suspect you do. We might not even have the £ then, or maybe even money.

1 August 2013 at 10:11  
Blogger Rambling Steve Appleseed said...

Better Jo Brand than Uncle Charlie.

1 August 2013 at 10:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fear that well before a century or two a prominent Gay activist will appear on a banknote in recognition of their monumental achievement in the field of social advancement.

They will of course be portrayed as gender neutral, posteriors raised. (in prayer of course)

Thankfully, I will not be around to see it. The sight would surely reduce one to despair especially if it was denominated in Euro's.

1 August 2013 at 10:32  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

We may well not have any form of solid currency certainly.

The Government would have abolished cash years ago if it could, to prevent anyone from ever being able to hide any money or transaction from it. The abolition of cash money would be a major step on the path to electronic tyranny.

1 August 2013 at 10:34  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Jay Bee:

Peter Tatchell, probably.

Unless, of course, it's a Muslim: in which case your prediction is unlikely to become reality.

1 August 2013 at 10:45  
Blogger Preacher said...

Darter Noster.
Dead right. according to The Book of Revelation, going down the chippy will have nothing to do with French Fries & everything to do with Commerce. No chip no buy or sell!.

1 August 2013 at 10:50  
Blogger JohnH said...

I rather irritated my wife by asking that as a woman has featured on every banknote printed since 1952, what's the fuss about?

1 August 2013 at 10:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm having difficulty envisaging a prominent Muslim Gay activist. Do they "come out" or play at home?

If Allah trumps Gaylord then you're right. I'm presuming the Godless are strong enough to put Allah back in his box and will do so before demographic disaster.

1 August 2013 at 11:19  
Blogger Gareth said...

I think that Alan Turing would be a good figure for the reverse side of a note. Not, however, because he was gay but because of his contributions to the field of computing and his work at Bletchley.

1 August 2013 at 11:36  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Jay Bee:

I realised afterwards that I'd left out 'instead'.

Don't know if the godless ARE strong enough: they may be too scared. It'll depend, also, I imagine, on what happens with oil: new offshore fields, new methods of extraction (current controversy), or some new energy source altogether.

PS: If Allah WERE to triumph, would the topic of the current thread become academic?

1 August 2013 at 11:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Probably, but there's an outside chance that the Baroness might make it.

Warsi that is, not Thatcher.

1 August 2013 at 12:03  
Blogger MattNotts said...

According to Mervyn King, Jane Austin was 'waiting in the wings' anyway.

Unfortunately the feminists were unhappy to wait just a few weeks to find out, so now they have made it look as though she was chosen as a sop to a political campaign, rather than on merit. For demanding something that was already happening they have been referred to as a 'successful political campaign', but I would argue that it has rather detracted from the recognition the Bank were about to give her anyway.

1 August 2013 at 12:25  
Blogger Simon said...

I rather think it batter to have only one monarch portrayed on a banknote.

No prime minister should ever appear on a banknote. Once one appears, no matter how deserving, they will all want to appear. (If, despite my argument, we must have one, it should be Spencer Perceval pour encourager les autres).

1 August 2013 at 12:28  
Blogger Peter D said...

Ummm ... a good start. However, what we really need is a black, transgendered, lesbian, disabled woman on all our bank notes.

1 August 2013 at 12:53  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

Jane Austin is a good choice for the back of a tenner I think because she has brought a taste of classic literature to the masses through the serialisation of her books “Pride and Prejudice” and “Emma”. She has helped improve many people's minds - mainly women's as her tales are rather girily. She wasn't a feminist and her books reflect tradition, and old fashioned values, in fact I can't see the feminists liking them so why would they want her on the back of a £10 note?

She is less remote than Elizabeth the 1st, or another royal. After all ten pound notes are handled by the masses that have seen the series and read her books.

Margaret Thatcher would be a good choice for the back of a £100 note in the future that is if Bitcoin hasn't taken over as the new currency.

1 August 2013 at 15:20  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Not even Zombies could redeem Pride & Prejudice. It's the seminal Romance novel. I have often thought that it would be interesting to take a survey to find out how many guys had ever read Pride & Prejudice except under compulsion from an instructor if English literature. Hemmingway she isn't.

On the bright side, count your blessings. It could have been J K Rowling.


1 August 2013 at 16:18  
Blogger Peter D said...


You really must try to foster your more feminine qualities. All those violent Japanese cartoons have hardened your heart! Is there no romance in you at all? Perhaps 'Kill Bill'?

1 August 2013 at 16:56  
Blogger John Thomas said...

I thought Elizabeth Fry had been on a note once ... ? Austen has the advantage that, in our awful times, she has been turned from being someone who concerned herself with Virtue (the ... oh dear ... Christian virtues) to being something wholely about (the god of this age): SEX - but (sting in the tail, here) that necessary post-modernist reconstruction was achieved by (gulp!) a man, Andrew Davies.
Still, better than having the Grandfather of the Holocaust (yep, C.D.) on tenners.

1 August 2013 at 17:06  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Top notch subject there Mr Boot. One now views the happy business of who shall grace our notes with jaw dropping despair. As is the sum of their influence on society, feminist involvement always makes the subject they dive into squalid and downright tacky.

You do have the advantage over the Inspector, Sir. He knows little about Jane Austen or her works. A conscious decision, you know. Why should a lad read Pride and Prejudice when the excellent Eagle comic was around. You see, ladies with the vapours just doesn’t cut it, then or indeed now.

And of course, we do have a dearth of deceased ladies of merit from whom to choose, as pointed out. Actually, one is hard pushed to name anyone else not already mentioned. Must be mens fault that, generally is…

1 August 2013 at 17:30  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

To keep the queer community sweet, what about Tatchell on the back of our notes in the guise of a school master, with a group of nine year old boys gathered around him hanging on his every word ?

Back to the women. Taking inspiration from the unknown soldier, we could have the unmarried mother. This sterling personification of everything the feminist movement is about is screaming out (…as only feminists can scream…) for recognition. For doing the country a favour, apparently, by raising children without a father figure and denying man his natural mate at the same time. All on the generous benefits only a socialist corrupted state can provide. Well done, you slack disgraces…

1 August 2013 at 17:32  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

Inspector General, there was me thinking you appreciated irony, and enjoyed being tongue in cheek, and you have never read Jane Austen?!! Shame on you!! She is the master- whoops mistress- of such. Irony, banter, social observation, and good prose. Did you not understand that these are her fortes? Not a million miles from your own interests I would think. It's not chicklit you know. It really isn't.

1 August 2013 at 17:48  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Inspector: "To keep the queer community sweet, what about Tatchell on the back of our notes in the guise of a school master, with a group of nine year old boys gathered around him hanging on his every word ?"

Or some Benedictine monks instead of Tatchell?

1 August 2013 at 18:00  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

The Inspector thanks you Lucy Mullen as he values literary recommendations. Perhaps if he was to cover the thing in plain brown paper he might get away with reading it on the bus...

1 August 2013 at 18:35  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

DanJ0, here’s some screamingly funny irony for you, sweetheart. With Cameron pressing ahead with his internet filth filter, there’s so much gay pornography on the internet, put there by gay pornographers of course, that it looks like the only way to keep all of it of decent society is to make the single word ‘gay’ a banned search word.

They’re all heartbroken over on Pink News...


1 August 2013 at 18:41  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

John Thomas,

"Still, better than having the Grandfather of the Holocaust (yep, C.D.) on tenners."

What rubbish.

Darwin's theory of natural selection explains how characteristics are passed on by animals and plants in nature. The fact that the scumbags of the eugenics movement and the Nazis took his perfectly valid observations and theory far beyond where it was ever meant to go, and into that hideous slur of "Social Darwinism" is hardly Darwin's fault.

1 August 2013 at 18:52  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Inspector, at least your desire to hang around Pink news all the time will give you an excuse of sorts to disable the 'family friendly' filter if that's the case.

1 August 2013 at 19:03  
Blogger Nick said...

It's hard to think of other women who could appear on our bank notes.

Germaine Greer perhaps? Too white and too successful.

Diane Abbott? She lost the Labour leadership contest so she was obvioulsy discriminated against because of gender and colour.

I heard that Doreen Lawrence is getting a peerage for her campaigning. Apparently, you are eligible for a Labour peerage if you are the parent of a crime victim and have had to deal with inept, ineffectual , and disinterested police officers. That makes about 20% of the population eligible.

1 August 2013 at 19:34  
Blogger r33per said...

Constance Mary Whitehouse CBE

1 August 2013 at 19:43  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Darter @ 18:52

You're describing the 'Origin of Species': in which Darwin studiously avoids the implications for humans.

In 'The Descent of Man', though, there is genuinely troubling stuff: when he talks of how the the primitive races will be exterminated.

As to Eugenics, Francis Galton was Darwin's cousin, and the two exchanged ideas. There is an incipient eugenics programme in 'Descent': only "evolved sympathy" - and look what Nietzsche made of that - keeps us from applying the principles of the well-run farm to the human situation. Darwin shrank from extermination, but felt it right that certain people should not be allowed to marry.

Ernst Haeckel, Darwin's foremost German disciple, was pretty racist.

Grandfather: I would say no. But I would also say, in view of 'Descent', not as blameless as you suggest.

1 August 2013 at 20:01  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

@ Darter Noster,,,But surely social Darwinism, which both of us, and probably most of the people here, quite rightly abhor. You are right to link it with eugenics, aspects of Nietsche,Nazism, authoritarianism, and so on, which we all hate, but it does arise out of his second book (not "The Origin of Species")itself. Maybe he just went too far, or was partly unaware of where the argument led, and I wouldn't think he would have liked the Holocaust, nevertheless it is sadly not unrelated.

1 August 2013 at 20:04  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

Sorry a sentence misposted, but it was the same point as the Explorer made coterminously, and more fully anyway!

1 August 2013 at 20:07  
Blogger Cressida de Nova said...

Jane Birkin would be a good choice for her ambassadorial role in fostering good relations between England and France!

1 August 2013 at 20:07  
Blogger ukFred said...

Why not the animal that epitomises the feminist logic, the Hamster. AFter all, when one explains anything to a feminist using logic, one is immediately attacked with screams of "Sexist!" or "Mysogynist!" when all that has happened is that you have used the logic upon which the whole world depends to totally negate their arguments. The hamster gets my vote.

1 August 2013 at 20:09  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Still think we should tell the journalistic ‘sisterhood’ to get stuffed and stop being so damned sexist.

1 August 2013 at 20:36  
Blogger Roy said...

I think a lot of the controversy over the campaign to have a woman on one of the banknotes could have been avoided if the feminists had nominated a woman who nearly all men could admire (with the possible exception of DanJO - no offence meant but you cannot please everybody).

The obvious choice, given that the person would have to have been dead for some time, would have been Diana Dors. She once described herself as "the only sex symbol Britain has produced since Lady Godiva."

Alternatively, if people thought that Diana Dors was not a serious enough figure (although I would certainly take her figure seriously enough!) we could have chosen Lady Godiva herself, dressed as she was when she rode through Coventry!

1 August 2013 at 20:41  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

@ Lucy Mullen and the Explorer,

Darwin's second book contained speculation about the effects of human social organisation and technical development on what would otherwise have been unchecked natural selection; he speculated thus using terms which today seem very un-PC, and some of his phrasing makes me as a disability rights bod feel uncomfortable, I will admit.

However, he also speculated that human philanthropy and technology were evolutionary factors in and of themselves, admitted that natural selection was far more complicated than human understanding of it, and stated that to deliberately abandon charity and philanthropy in the pursuit of perfect breeding would rob humanity of its very nobility.

Nothing he said could be read as advocating the sort of genocide or eugenics programmes which would later take place.

1 August 2013 at 20:41  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Calling him the Grandfather of the Holocaust is over-egging the pudding to the point at which it becomes an omelette.

Darwin observed, demonstrated and wrote up an observable natural phenomenon; calling him that is like blaming Ernest Rutherford for the atomic bomb.

1 August 2013 at 20:53  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Or Michael Faraday for the electric chair...

1 August 2013 at 20:54  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Darter Noster, fairly sure Faraday’s been done. Would put ‘money’ on it..,

1 August 2013 at 21:06  
Blogger Peter D said...

Should have been Miss Piggy; femininity personified.

"I plan to write more books whenever I can find the appropriate writing attire and colour-coordinated pen."

"This, you see, is my ultimate ambition – to live a simple life with the frog I love."

1 August 2013 at 21:09  
Blogger The Explorer said...


"At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of men will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races." ('Descent')

Or the 1881 observation about the future: "an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilised races throughout the world."

Haeckel listened to stuff like that, and took it back to Germany.
Which is why I cannot feel confident that Darwin had no influence in the genocide in South-West Africa pre World War One.

My comment stands: not the grandfather, but also not as blameless as your initial comment suggests. And would you have modified it without Lucy's and my intervention?

1 August 2013 at 21:19  
Blogger Darter Noster said...


What part of "Nothing he said could be read as advocating the sort of genocide or eugenics programmes which would later take place." can be read as modification?

What he said, with the rather important bit that you left out highlighted, was:

"At some future period, NOT VERY DISTANT AS MEASURED BY CENTURIES, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world."

As in, they would die out through falling birth rate, assimilation and interbreeding, over a period measurable in centuries. In the hundred and some years since he wrote that, we have heard many times that various tribal societies are at risk of dying out, which rather suggests he was right. You can't read into the word 'exterminate' a sinister meaning which it did not posess at the time

He was making predictions based on what he observed, not justifying mass slaughter. The fact that certain genocidal f***wits decided they could speed the process up is no more Darwin's fault than Chernobyl is Ernest Rutherfords; the Germans didn't slaughter the Herero because Darwin gave them the green light, they'd have done that anyway.

1 August 2013 at 21:50  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Well, what about Cressida on on a £10 note- entente cordiale and all that!

And on other notes and coins we could have Explorer, Mr Belfast, Len, Albert, Inspector, Peter D, Avi, Carl Jacobs,Danjo and His Grace on,say, the £50?

And Darter is correct. I think Farraday was on a £20 note at one stage. Elgar was on one or at least someone who looked like the 'old' Mr Inspector.

1 August 2013 at 21:57  
Blogger Peter D said...


"Exterminate" means to get rid of, usually intentionally, by destroying totally. It can refer to genocide - the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group.

What other meaning can it possibly have? Not the rather 'as if by accident' meaning you are suggesting.

Being an atheist, Darwin saw no moral order, no teleology, in the universe just random events. That was the dangerous element of his theory. An amoral creation where mankind was just another evolving species.

1 August 2013 at 22:52  
Blogger Peter D said...


DanJ0 could certainly be displayed on a 'nine bob note' - today that'd be a 45p coin!

1 August 2013 at 23:02  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Peter D.,

Savage peoples would be exterminated by centuries of competition with civilised people, such that over the centuries their obsolete lifestyle would cease to exist - their birth rate would drop, their people would abandon tribal society, they would become indistinguishable from the rest of humanity - not physically exterminated by people with guns in a gigantic massacre. Read the rest of the book.

Darwin repeatedly states that for people to deliberately practice eugenics or genocide in supposed pursuit of natural selection would be wrong.

Darwin was a scientist who observed a natural phenomenon, which like those observed by Copernicus and Galileo challenged religious positions. Like Copernicus and Galileo, and every other decent scientist, Darwin was simply observing and theorising - it had nothing to do with teleology. Also like Galileo and Copernicus, there is no need to abandon one's belief in the special nature of man on the basis of what he wrote.

Unless you're implying that the Roman Catholic Church's coming to terms with Darwin implies apostasy...?

1 August 2013 at 23:18  
Blogger ukFred said...

What is wrong with the picture of the duchess of Cambridge on the spoof £10 notes that are available on the internet?

1 August 2013 at 23:19  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

HI Peter D,

I'm a bit of an avid coin collector!

But, among my prized coins, I have a penny from 1900, a coin from the Nazi sympathizer of King Edward the something or other (grr!) from 1936, a couple of maria Theresa thaler's (I think that's like the Mother Thersea of your own faith), a couple of Krugerrands (like the guy from nightmare on elm street, I guess), one or two British gold Sovereigns, a Dutch Ducit (love the name), a Russia Rouble, an American Egale and one gold coin (which was lying around our uncle's house, in the Priest Hole, when we used to play hide and seek) which has got Oliver Cromwell's face on it (another grr!)... oh and something called a Guinea, which uncle said was like my guinea pig, but more valuable.

Apparently my humble coin collection, is worthless and the valuer said £400 for the lot, so I decided to keep them, for a hobby (:

1 August 2013 at 23:30  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

And much to our shame, I did read today that the governor of the bank of England, Monty Norman, was apparently a Nazi sympathizer and ordered the transfer of Czech gold to the Fascists when the Nazis entered Prague in 1939 (!).

I'm amazed our wonderful Avi likes Britain so much after his former country was left to the not so tender mercies of Hitler (which convinces me more than ever that Churchill was right to speak out in the 1930s and to lead us in the war). No wonder Avi's fellow Canadian, Mark Carney took down his picture!

1 August 2013 at 23:31  
Blogger Martin said...


If you were to purchase a Kindle you could obtain a number of Miss Austen works free of charge without the danger of the cover giving away what you are reading.

Incidentally, I was required to read "Northanger Abbey" as a GCE subject. Fortunately I had previously learned "The Ancient Mariner" off by heart.

1 August 2013 at 23:32  
Blogger Martin said...

Darter Noster

Darwin may have observed, but he also speculated well beyond what was reasonable, given his observations and his limited knowledge of biology.

As do his followers, with less excuse.

1 August 2013 at 23:41  
Blogger Peter D said...


Have a good look through your collection for a nine bob note. Terribly valuable these days.

I started collecting coins back in 1995 - WWII commemorative ones mainly. Only meant to collect the one special Royal Mint set as a present for my father. He died that year but I kept going with it and before I knew it, it had snowballed.

I have the Vatican special issue millennium set too and managed to get one from Bethlehem and a first day stamp cover.

1 August 2013 at 23:57  
Blogger Berserker said...

Thank goodness the overrated trio of Brontes did not make the tenner. My choice would have been Mrs Gaskell, a warm hearted and funny writer who knew and wrote of the joys and tragedies of spinsterhood.

Jane Austen is not funny, amusing yes, but her plots are similar and i for one cannot stand Elizabeth Bennett - give me the free spirited Lydia anytime. Only 'Persuasion' gives me pleasure.

2 August 2013 at 00:04  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Hi Peter D,

I will look out for the 9 bob. I know I have to be careful with these collections- my brother Samuel collects (really plays with, lol!) Transformer toys and stamps. He wasn't happy when I once tried to post a birthday card to uncle with 26 of his penny blacks...

2 August 2013 at 00:08  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Hi Peter D,

My bros are having a good old laugh at that! I have a Ten Shilling note in my collection. But nine bob note is a word for gay 'as queer as a nine bob note'.... grrr and lol at the same time!

2 August 2013 at 00:12  
Blogger non mouse said...

Thank you, Mr. Boot. Yes, the right choice for the wrong reason.

One takes your point about the Feminazis and the idea that Jane Austen’s case wasn’t championed by scholars or literary critics. It was put forward by feminists – and for them she qualifies on the strength of being a famous English woman, rather than just a famous English writer. I'd support you by observing one root of the problem: the world of scholarly and literary criticism is riddled with feminazis. [Or with strange Americans who claim that Austen is a Romantic - i.e. of the Wordsworth, Byron, etc. ilk.]

While you clearly are an impressively well-read person, I nevertheless feel though, that a claim like this: Her Elizabeth Bennet is a bit one-dimensional compared to Emma Bovary, never mind Anna Karenina-- merits some detailed support if it is not to be dismissed as sweeping. I have no idea what you mean by 'one-dimensional,' but I would say that you reference 3 very different characters on social and ethnic context alone. Surely one point about Austen is that she describes a particular and real kind of English society; she also depicts the situations such women (and men) face when considering life-long commitment.

As an English woman who has seen some of that truth surviving among English people, I also thank Lucy Mullen for her summation of JA's style: Irony, banter, social observation, and good prose. Certainly Flaubert produced good froggish and Tolstoy, doubtless, good Russian -- but I cannot like reading about the broken families they depict, and the subsequently ruined lives of their women. It's not that we never had those, or adultresses, in England - it's rather that, at our best, we tried to develop the good sense (and good families) to avoid it. Austen helped generations of English girls to think that way.

That's why I would agree that she still stands tall - as a woman (as you say), but also as what we so long recognised as a lady with a mind of her own.

And that's not the same thing as a modern, foreign-sounding 'Baroness' -- not by a long shot.

2 August 2013 at 04:07  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Darter @ 21:50

I take it your use of capitals is to suggest a failure of emphasis on my part, rather than a failure to quote?

We could debate endlessly whether Darwin's humane disclaimers are to be taken at face value, or whether he is using the tactics of Iago.

We could debate endlessly what is implied/sanctioned by "...if he is to advance still higher he must remain subject to a severe struggle" at the end of 'The Descent of Man'.

That is my point - Man - and why I intervened in the first place. Your riposte to John Thomas suggested that Darwin confined himself to plants and animals.

2 August 2013 at 08:31  
Blogger John Thomas said...

Darter Noster - I never said CD was responsible for the holocaust - grandfathers are never, can never be, responsible for what their grandchildren get up to - but sure as sure, CD's ideas did lead to other (bad) peoples' ideas (Germany, later-19th cent.) which led to ... (read Richard Weikart). And also ... CD did acknowledge, in his last years, that if some of his ideas were taken to extreme conclusions, it was possible that bad things could come from them ... CD was honest and wise, and not beyond respect (certainly as far as I'm concerned)- but the Grandfather of the Holocaust nontheless, and not the great hero militant anti-theists portray him as (feminists could find fault with him, I'm sure - he gave his wife a difficult time, apparently).

2 August 2013 at 09:54  
Blogger Janet said...

Cranmer sneers that Lizzie Bennet is 'one-dimensional', while praising Dickens. Has he read any Dickens lately? Try 'A tale of two cities', Cranmer. Heroine Lucy Manette is so insipid, idealised and sickly-sweet that you might need your blood sugars checked before you've got to bit where Sidney Carton mystifyingly goes to the guillotine to save her. Many Dickens heroines are similarly sentimentalised.

Austen heroines are far more down-to-earth, personality-rich and humorously described: witty Elizabeth Bennet; snobbish and self-deluded Emma Woodhouse; Anne Elliot, who lost her love through weakly giving in to persuasion; naive young Catherine Morland, her head turned by addiction to melodramatic gothic novels. Most women can relate to at least one of them, I think.

Dickens? I don't think I ever related to his women.

2 August 2013 at 10:02  
Blogger The Explorer said...


Myself, I like Dickens' Marchioness.

Incidentally: Cranmer, or Alexander Boot?

2 August 2013 at 10:28  
Blogger ardenjm said...

Just trying to think of famous Russian woman writers from the 18th and 19th century...
Anna Bunina was Jane Austen's contemporary. She was a poet - the first female Russian writer to make a living as a writer. Here's an extract from From the Seashore:

Lina touched
The harp strings:
The golden harp
Raised its voice;
Sounds in harmony
Sing with Lina.

Rosy flames
Shine from the fireplace;
The clear bright fire
Skips upon the coals;
The dark-gray smoke
Twists in a column.

The fierce flame
Scorches the soul;
The heart languishes,
Everything is desiccated.
Poison flows
In my veins.

Hmmm. It probably sounds better in Russian, Mr Darcy.

2 August 2013 at 12:34  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2 August 2013 at 21:49  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Hannah Kavanagh1 August 2013 23:31: I'm amazed our wonderful Avi likes Britain so much after his former country was left to the not so tender mercies of Hitler (which convinces me more than ever that Churchill was right to speak out in the 1930s and to lead us in the war).....

I see your point, Miss Hannah, about the betrayal of Czechoslovakia...and not to mention the future Jewish state. Perhaps I can answer by suggesting you read or re-read Stephenson's A Man Called Intrepid, where you will see two Englands; one of petty, insular scoundrels and cowards and one with people of honour and courage who stood up both for Czechs and Jews. No other book describes this as vividly. My affinity for things British is also a cultural quirk. As a teenager I willing swore allegiance to our queen at my citizenship cetemony and later I met and married a British convert to Orthodox Judaism, and through our children I now have a Scots and Welsh connection. I like my life weird and complicated.

3 August 2013 at 01:30  
Blogger Peter D said...

"I like my life weird and complicated."

Why my good fellow there's no other way for a weird and complicated chap! However, the key to happiness is finding a good and true woman to sustain one in this - and give us the occasional clip around the ear.

3 August 2013 at 01:48  
Blogger Julia Gasper said...

@ Peter D. What a sane and sensible chap you sound.
Whoever Alexander Boot is, he has no taste or discernment in literary matters. Elizabeth Bennet one-dimensional compared to the selfish, silly cow Emma Bovary? or the obsessive Anna Arkardievna Karenin? Your opinions deserve to go straight into the waste paper bin.

4 August 2013 at 10:30  
Blogger Elwin Daniels said...

Darwin would not have approved of the Nazi race holocaust, his writings about the plight of slaves and Indians in Voyage of the Beagle show a human and anti-racist side. But his writings opened a door and others passed through that door.

European historian Professor Richard Weikart of the University of California has produced a scholarly assessment of his influence on Nazi thought, 'From Darwin to Hitler'.

The sub title of Origin of Species is 'of the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.' Slightly embarrassing for Darwin worshippers: Dawkins was unable (surprisingly perhaps???) to recall it when asked to by Giles Frazer on live radio.

And the science of evolutionism is a load of carp, Dr Vij Sodera (to name but one) has produced a magisterial destruction of it from fossils to DNA in his book 'One Small Speck to Man: The Evolution Myth'.

I would like to see Dame Cicely Saunders, a Christian woman who founded the hospice movement on the tenner, but rejoice that Darwin is going in any event.

4 August 2013 at 12:34  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Hi Avi,

'one of petty, insular scoundrels and cowards and one with people of honour and courage who stood up both for Czechs and Jews'

I understand that all too well! My family are like the last bit!

'Scottish and Welsh relatives'...

sounds just like my family!

I've been in Birmingham recently(as I've said to Mr Inspector, above). I know you are bit of an arty person... so what do you think of Pre-Raphelites (apparently Birmingham has the largest collections in the UK), Jacob Epstein (who did a statute of lucifer, inspired by 'paradise lost', a 'rock drill', which looks like something from 'star wars' and st Michael vs satan on coventry cathedral) and my favorite painter Henry Marks ('dominicans in feathers').

4 August 2013 at 20:25  
Blogger Unknown said...

What a patronising twat the poster of this blog is, talking about one of our greatest writer in such terms.

4 August 2013 at 22:14  

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