Jane’s Fame – Chapter Four – A Vexed Question

In this chapter Harman writes about the Austen families response to Austen’s growing popularity (as Caroline wrote to James Edward ‘this vexed question between the Austens and the public’)and the demand for more information.

  • Catherine-Anne Hubback (Frank’s daughter) wrote a novel (which was essentially a continuation of The Watsons – not that the public knew)
  • James Edward Austen Leigh wrote the memoir
  • Lord Brabourne published the letters that were in his mother’s possession (his mother was Fanny Knatchbull – Edward’s daughter).

James Edward wrote the memoir to stop the speculation and to provide more information (the family hoped enough information). The memoir, however, generated more demand, people wanted to read her earlier works that were mentioned in the memoir and to know even more details about her life.

Harman believes two distinct groups of fans emerged; those who ‘were keen to celebrate Austen’s mental distinctiveness and Artistry and those who ‘took comfort in such an artist being just like the rest of us‘.

There is also a discussion on the different portraits of Jane Austen (the sketch by Cassandra, the prettied up version of the sketch and the Rice portrait).

I found it interesting that no one person was in charge of Jane Austen (so to speak). Her papers were spread amongst her family (when Cassandra died there was 23 living nieces and nephews) with Fanny having the majority. Harman dispels to Austen myths; one about Austen refusing to have a door oiled so she could hear people coming and therefore hide her writing and the second about the ‘little bit of ivory’.

Next Chapter – The Divine Jane

I don’t think I’m going to meet the 31st July deadline, but maybe I’ll make up some time in the later months. I plan to watch Mansfied Park in December – surely that won’t take an entire month?

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