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James Stanier Clarke, the Prince Regent's librarian (mentioned in a post the other day) was not the only person to give Jane Austen unsolicited advice about what she ought to write. She got so fed up that for her own entertainment - and that of her closest friends and family members - she wrote up a document entitled "Plan of a Novel, according to hints from various quarters." There is much to love about the document, and every writer I know would doubtless appreciate the scathing wit and irony, particularly since we have all at some point in time been told "what we ought to write" by acquaintances.

The line I especially like is the description of the proposed main character of this never-to-be-written novel: "Heroine a faultless Character herself,— perfectly good, with much tenderness and sentiment, and not the least Wit." I'd say that the description is entirely unlike anything Austen ever wrote, except that it comes perilously close to some takes on Fanny Price from Mansfield Park (who was, however, intelligent, and therefore not entirely lacking in Wit). But that's not the point.

Austen and her main characters had flaws, were occasionally wrong (sometimes egregiously so - I'm thinking of Emma, but she's not alone), were not overly sentimental (apart from Marianne in Sense & Sensibility, but she grew out of it), and had plenty of Wit (a word which meant intelligence, not humor, although most of her heroines had both).

Who better to pair with today's quote than Dorothy Parker, a woman known for her intelligence and scathing sense of humor? It is well-represented in "Interview", a short poem in rhymed couplets about what men supposedly admire in women (those who are faultless, perfectly good, etc. - rather like the heroine Austen sniffs at):

by Dorothy Parker

The ladies men admire, I’ve heard,
Would shudder at a wicked word.
Their candle gives a single light;
They’d rather stay at home at night.
They do not keep awake till three,
Nor read erotic poetry.
Read the rest here

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( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 10th, 2012 12:09 am (UTC)
Austen had a rapier wit, and she wasn't afraid to wield it - especially among her closest acquaintances.
Apr. 10th, 2012 02:54 am (UTC)
Hee! I love this Dorothy Parker poem. Such a clever lady.
Apr. 10th, 2012 04:01 pm (UTC)
She was indeed - I was saddened to find out how she struggled with depression!
Apr. 11th, 2012 09:17 am (UTC)
tanita says:
Hilariously, the link you gave says the poem can't be read outside of the United States because of copyright issues, so I just Googled it elsewhere.
Apr. 16th, 2012 05:04 am (UTC)
Re: tanita says:
Well, if that doesn't stink - here I was trying to be all correct and not violate copyright by linking to a site that had permission . . .
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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