The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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March 13, 2017

' Her Muse, when consulted, merely smiled...'

... and asked for tidings of Emma Woodhouse. For there are indications of a difference of opinion between them over the next story. In vain did the votary explain that her new heroine was to be a Jane Fairfax, a lovely, interesting and accomplished girl who had been brought up away from her family in refinement and comfort and who had returned home in circumstances which ... (Have we not heard this before?) ...
      But the Muse would take no interest in Jane Fairfax. She continued to ask, with great earnestness, why Miss Woodhouse was rude to the aunt.
      'That is not important. It is a minor incident.'
      'On the contrary it is a major incident. Was not Miss Woodhouse very sorry for it afterwards? Did she not cry all night?'
      'If she did, I shall not say so. She is not my heroine. She is the sort of girl I detest. She has an absurd opinion of herself.'
      'Still, you know, she learns. Those rich young ladies, upon whom you are so determined to be severe, can sometimes be amiable. If amiable, they correct themselves. Miss Woodhouse has an excellent heart which prevails over a faulty education. That, I think, is your subject.'
      'But if I take her for my heroine nobody will much like her.'
      'What does that signify if you like her?  The effort to do so may enable you to write a worthy successor to Mansfield Park.'
      'But what am I to do with Jane Fairfax?'
      'Do the best you can with her.'
      'She will never stay quietly in the background now. And the insolence to the aunt cannot be a major incident. The aunt is not sufficiently important.'
      'Leave that to me. Oblige me by liking Emma and I will send you an aunt.'
      'You will send me an aunt?' Here have I been, for eighteen years, imploring you for another Elizabeth Bennet, and you promise me a spinster aunt?'
      'You are very ungrateful. Not often in a thousand years do I send two gifts to the same person.'

from Jane Austen, by Margaret Kennedy

Because a spinster aunt is always a good gift. Always. :)



Claire (The Captive Reader) said...

Ha! I'd forgotten this bit entirely and love it completely.

Cosy Books said...

The very word 'spinster' is all I need to know and the book is mine. And Sophie Thompson as Miss goodness, she is wonderful in that film. Oh Audrey, try not to turn green, but I've booked a seat at the British Library for a panel discussion on Jane Austen while I'm in London. And it's chaired by John Mullan!

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