Tag Archives: british novel

Persuasion by Jane Austen, a Re-Read

Persuasion by Jane AustenAfter spending a great deal of my recent free time reading non-fiction, I found myself in the mood for something more immersive. I re-read both Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice in 2017 thanks to a local hurricane, but I never connected as much with Austen’s other novels. I decided, however, to give Persuasion another chance, and I’m very glad I did. Looking back at my old review, I read the book at the exact same time of year, which is an interesting coincidence.

I don’t remember liking the book much, but reading it again, I definitely enjoyed it more the second time through. I sympathize a lot more with Anne Elliot’s plight than I did the first time. I had forgotten, really, that she has such an unlikable family; Sir Walter is vain, Elizabeth is a snob, and Mary won’t stop pretending to be sick. Anne’s mother dies before the text begins, and it’s implied that she would have kept her daughters from growing up to be so foolish (sort of a reverse Mrs. Bennet). Anne is almost the Pride & Prejudice Mary of the text, except she gets to fall in love, which I really appreciate, because I feel a bit bad for P&P Mary. (Also, what did Austen have against people named Mary?) Anne is underrated by her family, but has her late mother’s friend, Lady Russell, looking out for her. Unfortunately, Lady Russell looks out for her a touch too much, and persuades (get it?) her to back out of an engagement, which Anne regrets. Anne is trying to ‘do the right thing’ in the time before the novel, and when the novel starts, she is very much the worse for wear thanks to it. Lesson: Always look out for number one, ladies!

Anne’s family is pushed into financial troubles by Sir Walter’s incompetence; he is forced to rent his estate, and Anne get casually pushed out of the household in the process. This ends up being great for her because, as it turns out, two walks on the beach and spending time with anyone nice is all is takes to restore her beauty. It also lands her in much better company in general, and her ex-fiance, Wentworth, shows up, too. He tries to fall in love with Louisa Musgrove, but she throws herself down a flight of stairs like a dingus, and falls on her head. Since Wentworth was too charming near her, he is obliged to marry her, even though she’s the type of person who will just leap into the air expecting to be caught. Immodest! Facing a real predicament, Wentworth is saved by Louisa herself, who falls in love with a brooding young man whose wife had just died like six months ago. Move on faster, why don’t you? Everyone agrees that the poor, deceased young woman deserved better, but also that the bump on the head made Louisa a much better person, so that’s good enough.

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Clarissa by Samuel Richardson, a Reading Journal

I have the extremely odd habit of saving drafts in the most random places, and so, I just stumbled upon this Clarissa reading journal that I wrote way back in 2007. I have to published it because it’s just so odd (it was, it seem, an assignment for school that I took really seriously), it’s in the same epistolary style, and because I’m so amused that I wrote it an forgot about it again. It seems to function as a sort of diary of my Clarissa reading experience, and if you have ever read the novel, I’m sure you understand why such a step is necessary. I hope you enjoy.

Robert Lovelace preparing to abduct Clarissa Harlowe, by Francis Hayman
Week 1

Letter 1: Miss Pamela Coovert to Self at Future Date
4 September 2007

I’ve read through the Introduction to Clarissa and I can’t help but be a little worried, the Introduction is, theoretically, written by someone very fond of the book, but even their glowing terms can’t seem to mask what appears to be a staggering behemoth of a novel. I have unofficially assigned it tome status, which I like to give books more than 100 pages larger than a nice, round thousand. Apparently, every time Samuel Richardson went to edit it down he – in an act that makes it obvious that he was his own publisher – added to the book. Happily it seems that we are dealing with the first edition, which, it seems, is the smallest version. Also, the Introduction amusingly notes all of the far better known writers to slam the book (and Richardson in general) as time goes by, specifically, S. T. Coleridge. Still, Dr. Runge assures us that we are lucky to be among the few classes of graduate students who will ever get through the authentic version of this book; perhaps my pride would be more awakened at this thought were we reading James Joyce, at least then, at the end of the novel, I’d feel cool.

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Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

I recently decided to add Jane Austen to the tiny list of authors of whom I have read all their works. I saved Northanger Abbey for second-to-last partially because it was the first book she wrote and in part because it has a reputation for being one of her weaker novels. With only Emma left I have to say Northanger is the weakest for me, though still not in any way a “bad” novel, of course, because it’s Jane Austen we’re talking about here. I have been trying to buy the Norton Critical editions of all of the novels but, as it turns out, there isn’t one of Northanger Abbey (or if there is I couldn’t find it). Instead, I ended up getting this SoHo Books edition, which seems pretty at first, but then is obviously implying that the book is about a young lady relieving herself in the woods. Jane Austen would not approve.

As for the actual text of the novel itself, ha! The heroine of the novel, as the narrator keeps telling us, is Catherine Morland, a girl who her family feels is somewhat unimpressively average and who is sent off on vacation with a neighboring family. This is ostensibly because she needs to think about snagging a man, she is, after all, 17 years old and not particularly amazing so no one is going to be banging down to door for her ho-hum dowry. In Bath (ye olde vacation spot) her guardians are dunces and the wife only cares about clothes, but she meets a guy named Henry Tilney, who is clearly a lot more clever than she is, but he wouldn’t want a clever wife, just an innocent and obedient one, so Catherine is in the running! Go girl! Catherine also makes friends with some no-good-nicks, Isabella and John Thorpe, and becomes bffffffs with Isabella. John takes a lot of liberties with Catherine, talks constantly about how amazing he is, and uses a lot of profanity. Catherine does not like him. Catherine and Isabella read Gothic novels together, thus filling their heads full of nonsense, but no one is raising them properly so it goes unchecked.

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