Jane’s Fame – Part One

I’ve read the Preface in which Ms Harman states her goal for this book

This book charts the growth of Austen’s fame, the changing status of her work and what it has stood for, or been made to stand for, in English culture over the past two hundred years.

In her own lifetime Austen’s books were not particularly successful – the editions were small and remaindered or pulped after her death. Henry Austen wrote what he thought was a definitive biography of Austen when he published Persuasion and Northanger Abbey in 1818.

A life of usefulness, literature and religion was by no means a life of event.

In the 1820s her novels were out of print considered too restrained and old fashioned for Victorian tastes. Critics had mixed responses; Charlotte Bronte hated the novels, G H Lewes liked them, etc. However, by the end of the century ‘all the reading world is at Miss Austen’s feet’.

And now her fame has reached all parts of the globe. Just to place her name in a book title seems to generate sales (The Jane Austen Book Club, Lost in Austen, etc). Since the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice there has been 15 adaptations (and a new Emma in the making).

Ms Harman observes that there have been two surges of popularity; the first after the publication of James Edward Austen-Leigh’s Memoir of Jane Austen and the second of the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice.

How did a young woman writing in the late 18th and early 19th Century become a ‘pivotal figure not simply in literature of all sorts but in the heritage and multimedia’?

I look forward to reading more…

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