(And why they are neither here nor there)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that all people with taste must be a fan of Pride and Prejudice (Will I ever tire of that allusion? I doubt it). However, a quirky article from The Examiner “The 50 bext author vs author putdowns of all time” reveals some fairly harsh blows to our beloved Jane, from some prominent and fantastic writers we all know.
This caused me to dig up some interesting criticisms of Pride and Prejudice. I can’t say I agree with a single one of them, but they certainly are amusing.
Mark Twain, for instance, said:
“Whenever I take up “Pride and Prejudice” or “Sense and Sensibility,” I feel like a barkeeper entering the Kingdom of Heaven. I mean, I feel as he would probably feel, would almost certainly feel. I am quite sure I know what his sensations would be — and his private comments. He would be certain to curl his lip, as those ultra-good Presbyterians went filing self-complacently along.”
And then he said:
“She makes me detest all her people, without reserve.”
And pushing it just a little bit further over the line in his letter to Joseph Twichell, 1898:
“I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”
Flattering words, indeed (and highly funny) yet he doesn’t really explain his distaste so well.
But what of Charlotte Bronte, whom I, as many others, also love? She, it seems, is able to articulate what it is that irritates her about Austen quite clearly.
“I had not seen Pride and Prejudice till I had read that sentence of yours, and then I got the book. And what did I find? An accurate daguerrotyped portrait of a commonplace 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.”
And then again:
“Why do you like Miss Austen so very much? I am puzzled on that point. What induced you to say that you would rather have written ‘Pride and Prejudice’…than any of the Waverly novels?”
It is obvious that C Bronte believes Austen to write about a boring, narrow and highly civilized group of people, but I have to ask- why does that matter? People are people, with the same instincts, desires and wants- whether they are out in the country muddying right through their dresses, or inside stitching. Austen wrote about what she knew, and it was therefore effective.
And for just some absolute hilarity, this is Colin Firth on Pride and Prejudice:
“I’m not remotely interested in Pride and Prejudice in any way and haven’t watched it since doing it.”
*Mouths fall agape, words half-heartedly hang from the tips of our tongues…* Dream shattering?