Jane Austen’s admirers are a diverse bunch, from Chief Justice John Marshall to my husband (finally!). I’ve learned recently, however, that I cannot count Charlotte Brontë as a member of the 200-year-old “Austen Admiration Society.”
Between volumes of Charlotte Brontë’s Villette, which I’m reading as part of Beth’s read-along, I have been perusing—and I mean part 1(a) of this “Janus word’s” definition—Charlotte Brontë: Selected Letters (edited by Margaret Smith). Brontë said this to George Henry Lewes, a literary critic and philosopher, in 1848:
What induced you to say you would rather have written “Pride and Prejudice”… I had not seen “Pride and Prejudice” till I read that sentence of yours, and then I got the book and studied it. And what did I find? An accurate daguerreotyped portrait of a common-place face; a carefully-fenced, highly cultivated garden with neat borders and delicate flowers—but no glance of a bright vivid physiognomy—no open country—no fresh air—no blue hill—no bonny beck. I should hardly like to live with her ladies and gentlemen in their elegant but confined houses. These observations will probably irritate you, but I shall run the risk.
That isn’t her only swipe at Austen in this selection of letters. It seems few novelists of this era impressed Charlotte, who fourteen years earlier recommended to her good friend Ellen Nussey that, “For fiction—read Scott alone all novels after his are worthless.” I assume she meant Sir Walter Scott, who, as it turns out, was actually a Jane Austen fan.
Oh well. Charlotte Brontë and I can’t agree on Austen, but I do think we’d probably have been of the same opinion about her books.
Happy Friday! What are you reading this weekend?
PS. Don’t forget to participate in my Villette-inspired GIVEAWAY! [See details here]