March 12, 2017

'...a heaven-born companion...'



      Comedy discriminates but does not reprove, has no general indignation, and is kindly to man, though laughing at his foibles, his fantasies, his inconsistencies and his egotism. It springs from that warm pleasure which we all feel, at times, in the human scene and in social life, in spite of all the sorrow and the evil and the pain. This pleasure is as true and vital an element in our experience as any other emotion. Its power to raise us above the level of the brute, to purify our hearts, may not be so exalted as the nobler, the more profound appeal of tragedy, but it is felt by us more constantly, and a special Muse has been put in charge of it.
      This Muse, beholding in 1796 the indecision of a chosen votary, took matters into her own hands. She granted one of the lightning flashes of pure inspiration which no artist can hope to experience more than once or twice in his life. She descended from Parnassus to Hampshire with a bait, a sample of the treasures to be found in her genial domain. The bribe was artfully fashioned:  a laughing, dark-eyed girl, no older than the votary, a heaven-born companion with whom to venture upon those untried slopes. It was accepted and then there was no turning back. with the creation of Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Austen was vowed to comedy.

from Jane Austen, by Margaret Kennedy


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