A Companion to Jane Austen by Claudia L. Johnson, Clara Tuite

By Claudia L. Johnson, Clara Tuite

Reflecting the dynamic and expansive nature of Austen experiences, A better half to Jane Austen offers forty two essays from a exotic crew of literary students that study the total breadth of the English novelist's works and occupation.

  • Provides the main finished and updated array of Austen scholarship
  • Functions either as a scholarly reference and as a survey of the main cutting edge speculative advancements within the box of Austen reports
  • Engages at size with altering contexts and cultures of reception from the 19th to the twenty-first centuries

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The letters written to Cassandra between January 1801 and January 1809 have a particular claim to be considered as the equivalent of an author’s notebook. Contrary to the artistic narcolepsy that the family wished to impose on the record of Austen’s life throughout this time, these years should be reconsidered as the crucible for her talent, a second and certainly more painful novelist’s apprenticeship, during which she set aside the literary models of epistolary fiction and tested the potential of her own epistolary voice.

Cassandra’s culling and distribution of family mementos may have been no more than an old woman’s final act of housekeeping, but it has been viewed suspiciously ever after, within and beyond the family, as an act of censorship and suppression. Whatever her motives, she created a record with deliberate holes in it. There are at the latest count 160 letters (161 when Austen’s will is included) extant from an original correspondence calculated by Deirdre Le Faye, using patterns established in the more prolific periods of communication, at around 3,000.

The potential for disorientation in a form, the personal letter, whose cluttered impersonality and bizarre conjunctions of topic and tone confound our expectations, is pointed up in the opposed reactions first of family, and later of critics. To the embarrassment of the cautious Austen-Leigh, Henry Austen had publicly defended admittedly highly selected extracts as “more truly descriptive of her temper, taste, feelings, and principles than any thing which the pen of a biographer can produce” (Austen-Leigh 2002: 142).

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