This year, we're confronting another hater, Charlotte mothereffing Bronte. And just what does our good ole Lottie have to say?
"I have likewise read one of Miss Austen's works, Emma—read it with interest and with just the right degree of admiration which the Miss Austen herself would have thought sensible and suitable—anything like warmth or enthusiasm; anything energetic, poignant, heartfelt, is utterly out of place in commending these works: all such demonstration the authoress would have met with a well-bred sneer, would have calmly scorned as outre and extravagant. She does her business of delineating the surface of the lives of genteel English people curiously well; there is a Chinese fidelity, a miniature delicacy in the painting: she ruffles her reader by nothing vehement, disturbs him by nothing profound: the Passions are perfectly unknown to her; she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy Sisterhood; even to the Feelings she vouchsafes no more than an occasional graceful but distant recognition; too frequent converse with them would ruffle the smooth elegance of her progress. ... Jane Austen was a complete and most sensible lady, but a very incomplete, and rather insensible (not senseless) woman, if this is heresy—I cannot help it. If I said it to some people (Lewes for example) they would accuse me of advocating exaggerated heroics, but I am not afraid of your falling into any such vulgar error."Well. Tell us how you really feel.
But wait! There's more...
Charlotte was also known to passionately confront (via snail mail) anyone who professed a love for Jane. In a letter to critic G.H. Lewes, she says:
"Why do you like Jane Austen so very much? I am puzzled on that point. ... I had not seen Pride and Prejudice till I read that sentence of yours, and then I got the book. And what did I find? ...a commonplace face; a carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers; but no glance of a bright vivid physiognomy, no open country, no fresh air, no blue hill, no bonny beck. ... These observations will probably irritate you, but I shall run the risk....Now I can understand admiration of George Sand ... she had a grasp of mind which, if I cannot fully comprehend, I can very deeply respect: she is sagacious and profound; Miss Austen is only shrewd and observant."And in response to his response:
"What a strange lecture comes in your letter! You say I must familiarize my mind with the fact that that 'Miss Austen is not a poetess, has no "sentiment" ... no eloquence, none of the ravishing enthusiasm of poetry'; and then you add, I must 'learn to acknowledge her as one of the great artists, of the greatest painters of human character, and one of the writers with the nicest sense of means to an end that ever lived.'....That last point only will I ever acknowledge....Can there be a great artist without poetry? ... But by 'poetry', I am sure you understand something different to what I do, as you do by 'sentiment'. ..."
Strong words across the board here. But wait a minute, lets go back to that first quote. "I have likewise read one of Miss Austen's works Emma." So she read Pride and Prejudice, trashed it, then decided, You know what, I should give this Emma a try...?
Could it be that Lil' Lottie is angry that Lewes simply praised Bronte's Eyre, but wrote of Jane that she was "one of the great artists, of the greatest painters of human character, and one of the writers with the nicest sense of means to an end that ever lived"?
Anyone else have the feeling that Charlotte is an affronted Marianne, with all her "bonny becks" and "sentiment"?
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