Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"i do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them." - jane austen

I'm on one of those obsessive knitting jags where I can barely set my yarn down long enough to brush my teeth, so I'm watching a lot of movies to be background noise to my agonized screams and nearly-swears.  (Knitting lace is pretty much my version of a hair shirt.)  Autumn makes me feel cozy and domestic and in need of beautiful new clothing; naturally, then, I'm watching loads of Jane Austen movies.

Except of course the thing about Austen is, she's not that cozy.  I just read the superlatively excellent Searching for Jane Austen by Emily Auerbach, and am now chock-full of Austen trivia.  Did you know, for example, how hard her biographer-brother worked to edit her image after she died?  He censored her letters before publishing them; he whitewashed her rowdy juvenilia; he even gussied up her only portrait so that she'd seem more compliant and sweet. Here's the original, painted by her sister:
Discontented expression, clenched arms, plain clothes, penetrating eyes.  

Now here's the pretty-pretty version published by her brother:
There's more frills on the bonnet and dress; mouth is softer, eyes are calmer.  Her arms are now genteelly clasped, and even her hair has been tamed

Which woman do YOU think would be more likely to quip, "I was as civil to them as their bad breath would allow"?  Which woman would suggest, of a critic, "Kill poor Mrs Sclater if you like"?  

And which woman would be more fun to invite to dinner?

All right.  Mini-rant's over.  I'm going back to my yarn.   

(Hey.  Feminists are knitters too.)

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