Jane’s Fame – Chapter Five – Divine Jane

Chapter Five – Divine Jane

In this chapter Harman discusses how Jane Austen became ‘Divine Jane’ or ‘Dear Jane’.

In the 1880s the increasing audience was more for Miss Austen than the novels. She was still, however, being read by ‘a few cultured men’ which ensured her critical success. An idea seemed to emerged that liking Austen was a sign of ‘taste and intellect’. This idea generated a literary cult around Austen.

George Saintsbury in a forward to Pride and Prejudice coined the term ‘Janeite’ …

[the fans] now had a banner under which to rally.

The cult of ‘Divine Jane’ provoked violent reactions in people; Mark Twain thought ‘her impossible’ and Ralph Waldo Emerson thought her ‘sterile in artistic invention …’.  It must be noted that Mark Twain didn’t have the most propitious meeting with Austen.

W D Howells (Mark Twain’s friend) was a one mad austenolatry machine. In his magazine roles he kept Austen forever in the public eye.

In the late 19th Century Austen’s most ardent fans were American. Henry James thought the industry around Austen created unreal and disproportionate attention (what would he think today?).

Constance and Ellen Hill created a new type of Austen research (or tourism) a trip to ‘Austen Land’.

I found it interesting to know that during the Great War Austen’s novels were recommended reading for the severely shell-shocked.

Of course there is information on Rudyard Kipling’s Janeites.

And the final section is about R W Chapman (and his wife) and how their serious study of Austen ‘was pivotal to her establishment as a classic author in the twentieth century’.

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