Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Austen & August Review: A Memoir of Jane Austen by James Edward Austen Leigh








Harvard College Library


As a modern day fan of Austen it’s easy to forget that she was admired during her lifetime. In this memoir by Jane’s nephew J.E Austen Leigh, the reader discovers a lot about Jane’s early experiences with publishing and fan response  (including the Prince of England) and gets a glimpse into Jane’s life in a wonderfully personal way.


One of the biggest things I learned in this novel was the immense satisfaction Jane had in her life, and her family. Her nephew does a wonderful job portraying Jane’s live at Steventon  a small country village that gave Jane much joy. In James’s description of Jane’s life I found myself smiling at how so much of her personal life intertwined with her characters lives : Her love of family gatherings and dancing. Her interest and knowledge of naval life due to her Uncles service, her fine mind and sharp wit molded by  a family that encouraged and supported the education of the women in their family.


Jane’s Father and brother were also the conduits through which her novels reached the hands of printers. Once she was established however Jane did not shy from giving very specific directions for the printing of her books.


For a non-fiction book the reader manages to get a very thorough feel for how much James  loved and respected his Aunt. In fact in most of the chapters he seems a bit overwhelmed on how much to share of Jane’s life, yet he staunchly responds to any falsehoods and  impressions that others may have had about her.


Of course the main interest for many fans then as well as now is Jane’s romantic history. It’s an issue that James has little info about. He does confirm that there were perspective grooms whom Jane refused and one that she accepted only to lose him to death. Yet Jane never wallowed in pain or regret, she occupied her time with her writing and strengthening the social and familial bonds that brought her so much joy.


The second part of this book contains many of Jane’s correspondences and snippets of some unfinished works and the novel Lady Susan. Through her correspondence Jane’s practical, modest nature is evident as well as her humor. A wonderful look at a beloved author! I downloaded this book for free through google books and I highly recommend it for Jane fans.

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