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The Prince Regent's librarian, James Stanier Clarke, undertook a correspondence with Jane Austen not long before the publication of her fourth novel, Emma. Seems that Prinny was impressed with her prior work (either because he read and liked it himself or because his daughter and/or others recommended it), and Mr. Clarke wrote to give her permission to dedicate her next novel to the Prince Regent - a man she didn't respect. It's clear from Austen's correspondence that she would rather not have done it, but of course, royal permission was a royal command, so Emma was dedicated to the Prince Regent.

Mr. Clarke continued the correspondence, however, suggesting various story ideas to Austen. (He also kept a book of sketches of friends and acquaintances, and it is widely believed that the image to the right is his portrait of Austen. But I digress.) After Mr. Clarke proposed that she write a history of the "house of Saxe-Coburg", among other things, including a novel featuring a male character that sounds almost exactly like Clarke himself, Austen got back to him. In a letter dated 1 April 1816, Austen turns down his suggestions with this wonderful sentence:

"No, I must keep to my own style and go on in my own way; and though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other."

That called to mind today's poem choice, "The Road Not Taken," which I am wilfully taking out of Frost's intended context as a poem about how important a choice can be, and how one should go one's own way. (If you read my 2008 post about the poem, you'll see that Frost intended the poem to be ironic/sarcastic, which is also in keeping with Austen.)

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

A fuller explanation of the poem - its form as well as its meaning - can be found in my earlier post, if you're interested.

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( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 7th, 2012 04:45 pm (UTC)
Good poem :)
Apr. 8th, 2012 08:10 pm (UTC)
That Robert Frost may have been a curmudgeon at times, but he knew what he was on about.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 8th, 2012 08:11 pm (UTC)
I am afraid, then, that like Austen it amounts to a royal decree, and that the book MUST be dedicated to Scout.
Apr. 9th, 2012 11:35 am (UTC)
tanita says
Oh, what a timely wee message from Our Jane. I am getting all sorts of conflicting crap from the movie people, and "I MUST GO MY OWN WAY" is something I need tattooed on me somewhere. Seriously, I may never do anything again my way, but surely failure is at the top of the list doing what other people think I should do. Thank you for this, and the following poem.
Apr. 9th, 2012 04:34 pm (UTC)
Re: tanita says
Miss Jane Austen knew a thing or two. As do you, dear friend.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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