16 December 2013

Jane Austen

Today when driving home from the Post Office I was listening to NPR and heard that Jane Austen was born 238 years ago, December 16, 1775.  For a very long time I read each of her six novels every year.  I loved them as much or more with each new reading.  It has been probably 20 years since I last read any of her books, but coincidentally I am reading "Northanger Abbey" right now.  I am once again loving Jane Austen.

I have a lovely Oxford Illustrated set of the novels.  Each novel is exactly as it was when originally published. "Northanger Abbey" was published posthumously in 1818.  Just before her death Jane wrote the following :



THIS little work was finished in the year 1803, and intended for immediate publication. It was disposed of to a bookseller, it was even advertised, and why the business proceeded no farther, the author has never been able to learn. That any bookseller should think it worth-while to purchase what he did not think it worth-while to publish seems extraordinary. But with this, neither the author nor the public have any other concern than as some observation is necessary upon those parts of the work which thirteen years have made comparatively obsolete. The public are entreated to bear in mind that thirteen years have passed since it was finished, many more since it was begun, and that during that period, places, manners, books, and opinions have undergone considerable changes.                                                         
I love her concern for the reader that society has "undergone considerable changes" in the 13 years between writing and publishing her book.  I wish she could know that people are still reading her wonderful book 209 years later. Indeed "places, manners, books, and opinions have undergone considerable changes", but her writing, her novels are timeless.            

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