Jane Austen

by O.W. Firkins

Chapter X: Liabilities and Assets

I think it well at this point to gather up the limitations noted in the last chapter, and to add a few others so obvious as to require no proof. That Jane Austen's field was restricted her very idolaters admit, but the extent of that restriction can be realized only by a summary of the particulary. Certain elements in the novel have arisen since her day, and to note their absence in her work is demarcation, not disparagement. It would be equally silly and captious to blame Miss Austen for not dealing in politics with Mrs. Humphry Ward, in sexual adjustments with Madame Sarah Grand, in artistic endeavor with Mrs. Edith Wharton, or in spiritistic phenomena with Miss E. S. Phelps, now Mrs. Ward. The blamelessness of the restriction, however, does not in the least contract its area. The next great curtailment of material relates to a point in which her acquittal must be equally complete, if not equally rapid. She cannot be blamed for not forestalling George Sand or Charlotte Brontë in the held of labor difficulties or economic readjustments, though in her own day a woman whom she greatly admired was already beckoning fiction to this laborious and hardy enterprise in Castle Rackrent. These things did not lie in Jane Austen's way, and forbearance was sagacity.

Miss Austen's forbearances, however, did not stop at things that lay outside her path. Landscape was certainly a part of her experience, and its treatment in action would not have been anomalous or hazardous in a successor of Mrs. Radcliffe. Yet landscape is barely visible, and is anything but influential in Miss Austen's work. Again, the physical frame and process of life, its food, drink, clothes, lodging, and conveyance, was exposed to her view; her letters show that her grasp of this material was robust; and the few touches of this kind which are sparingly and cautiously admitted into her novels are of a vividness which sharpens our regret for their infrequency. This was not alien ground on which she declined to trespass; it was ground of her own which she refused to cultivate.

She confined herself, again, to what might be called, a little loosely, one social class, the educated class which includes the landowners and the professional men, and which, even when it bewails its poverty, keeps servants and horses as guarantees of caste. Miss Austen's likeness to Thackeray and divergence from Thackeray in this point are both significant. Thackeray's world, like hers, is genteel, but is widened by the inclusion of nobles, and, more profitably and notably, by the welcome bestowed on those persons who, in the form of direct service of purveyorship, are adjacent and subjacent to the propertied and educated folk. The plebs has only to put on a livery in order to find instant and cordial admission to the pages of the creator of Mr. Jeames Yellowplush. But even this passport is ineffectual in the fiction of Jane Austen. That she could have handled this class with fidelity and force is sufficiently evinced by her success in the treatment of analogous material in the Portsmouth episode in Mansfield Park although she traverses these sordid alleys in her manorial work with an apparent elevation both of skirt and nostril which I hesitate to accept as characteristic of her mind. Be that as it may, Miss Austen has again made a large sacrifice of available and profitable material.

Once more, it is very curious that Miss Austen should not have anticipated Louisa Alcott and Mrs. Whitney in the emphasis they gave to that domesticity which plays in Miss Austen's novels a part so grossly, almost ludicrously, disproportionate to the part it played in her own life. Her love for Cassandra was probably her great experience, but the loves of Elinor and Marianne, of Jane and Elizabeth, tender and touching as they undoubtedly are, are portrayed in a subordination to courtship which seems to have been viewed as inevitable and final. The affection between William and Fanny Price affords a juster version of the compass of such relations in her own life, but at Mansfield that affection is scarcely domestic, and the space it receives is scarcely liberal. It is remarkable that Jane Austen never drew a child; the young Prices or Middletons or Musgroves cannot be said to be drawn. These young persons might be thought to intimate and to justify a dislike of children, but the letters show conclusively that Jane did not dislike children as a class, and, besides, dislike never debarred its object from her novels.

Other renunciations, already touched, must be included in our summary. If Miss Austen could not be modern with the modernists, there seems no reason why she should not have been ethical with Miss Bront¨ or George Eliot, or religious with the upholders of Anglican piety in action. We have seen that she put sense in the place of ethics, and as to religion the taboo excluded not only the feelings, which are clearly not open to everybody, but even the social or public phenomena, the services, the obligations, everything pretty much except the clergymen, from whom, as she unerringly divined, the worldliness of the worldliest novel had nothing to dread.

Let us now summarize our summary. In the novels of Jane Austen there is no politics, no literary or aesthetic life, no supernaturalism (though this is not significant), no sex-radicalism, no class problems, almost no landscape, almost nothing of the corpus or physical order of life, no low-life portraits, scant domesticity, no moral experience, no vestige of religious sentiment. I doubt if any such concourse of negatives, any such wealth of privations, can be attributed to any other novelist of superlative capacity. One asks in stupefaction: What is left? what did she find to paint? To which it might be concisely replied: She painted courtship in the upper middle class and minor gentry.

Like most condensations, this simplifies too much. Other topics find a place in Miss Austen. The cupidities of the Dashwoods, the servilities of Mr. Collins, the qualmishness of Mr. Woodhouse, the loquacity of Miss Bates, the coxcombry of Sir Walter Elliot, the nightmares of Catherine Morland, are not courtship, but they are all episodic or ancillary matters, admitted as small contributions, or indulged as passing interruptions, of narratives whose substance is courtship. Of the treatment of love I shall speak briefly in the sequel; for the rest it suffices for the moment to remark that success in fiction is not an appanage to range, and that Miss Austen's ownership of the two master faculties of humor and characterieation at once lowers this want of compass into the class of secondary though far from negligible limitations.

One offset to this narrowness is found in a trait to the right perception and valuation of which I am inclined to think that a knowledge of the Letters is indispensable. The trait is powerful but tacit in the novels; it is powerful and audible in the Letters; and it is only an ear that the Letters have trained to alertness that can recognize its full authority and virtue in the fictions. The trait might be called incisiveness or robustness, but, if allowed my choice, I should willingly name it downrightness, which, with forthrightness as its tool and uprightness as its support, makes the Letters interesting even when they are trivial and authoritative even when they are capricious. The reason why the effect is less instantly perceptible in the fictions must be sought in the veneer of abstraction with which the concrete substance of the novels is tiresomely overlaid. She was born to write books that should have closed with life in the hand-to-hand encounter of Turgénieff or Verga; but the fashion of her day favored combat at long range, and, in form at least, she was not rebellious to the fashion. Her nature, however, asserted itself even in its plasticities, and the reader felt the picture even through the curtain of abstraction, as a man divines the warmth of a friend's hand even through the glove in which the rigor of fashion obliges him to muffle it. The effect is seized in the vigor of the concrete strokes with which the rational and bodiless narrative is so sparsely punctuated.

In the Letters, however, the quality is revealed in its fulness. "He touched nothing that he did not adorn," was said of one writer; of Miss Austen in her letters it may be said that she touches nothing that she does not indent. They are not written, but stamped; they remind us of the Journal to Stella and of the more varied, but in parts equally homely, letters of that other tersely pungent Jane, Mrs. Carlyle. There is a disinfectant, antiseptic quality in this downrightness which operates in several curative ways. If Jane Austen has delicacies, they are of a granular type healthily remote from that pastiness which often makes delicacy indelicate. If she sends affectionate messages, they are not the dribble or drivel which such things are prone to become on the pen of the womanly woman; her "Yours affectionately's," are not saccharine and her "God bless you's" are not unctuous. If she uses a pretentious phrase such as "her sister in Lucina," the smart blow of the little tackhammer with which she drives it in redeems it from all ineptitude. Her very affectations, which are very few, have the carriage of nature. What could be worse on general principles than phrases of this kind, both by an odd chance on the same page: "The Lances with whose cards we have been endowed"; and "whether she boasts any offspring besides a grand pianoforte"? Yet these things are--I will not say pleasant--but endurable in Jane Austen. Her robustness has a cathartic effect even on the gossip of which the supply in the letters is inexhaustible. It is a straight forward and unembarrassed gossip, of semi-masculine quality, written--I speak in symbolic terms--in a bold hand without underscorings or interlineations. Lastly, I know no one more obedient or less servile to convention; in her conformities she appears to ratify quite as much as to submit.

This temperamental virtue by which the letters so signally profited was beneficial to the novels in two great points the treatment of which has been thus far scanted or postponed. They are humor and the portrayal of love--the two things which have extended Miss Austen's popularity. Miss Austen is an eminent novelist because of her truth; she is a popular novelist because she possessed a delectable humor and because she portrayed love with vigor and pertinacity. So far as the major public goes, the readers who like Miss Austen for her faithfulness to nature are the cousins or possibly the descendants of those paragons who read historical novels for the sake of the history. The enjoyment of truth is highly respectable, and if one has the luck to enjoy a truth-telling writer, the association of the two facts is irresistible to vanity. Everything is assigned to the credit of truth, because the reader is a partaker in that credit, and truth, I regret to say, is hypocrite enough to accept the praise for victories in which the real conqueror was personality or Trigor. I am far from saying that there is not much realism both in Miss Austen's humor and in her love: but neither shows her truth in its purity; the admixture of burlesque in the one case, of convention in the other, was considerable.

I wish neither to delay nor qualify the willing avowal that I hold Miss Austen's humor in high esteem. It is less the viand than the service, less the ingenuity of the combination than the perfection of its delivery, that liberates and quickens admiration. The good jest is that which keeps its incognito best and longest, which belies and disowns itself--which, in a homelier figure, avoids leakage. Miss Austen's humor is water-tight, and the neatness of joinery which the adjective implies is one of its most winning characteristics. The virtue is largely in style and tone. I have a feeling--which is more, I hope, than a fancy--that the style is unusually good when its freightage is a joke. In such cases Miss Austen employs effectively what I shall venture to call her legalmanner. I quote again the opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." Does not one savor a "Be it known unto all men by these presents" in the modulation of that austerely pungent sentence? Again, the tone of the humorous expression is all that one could ask. I will resist the temptation to say that it is the very best tone to be found in English humor; when a critic's mind is strongly on one object and faintly or vaguely on many others, the detection of superiorities is facile. Miss Austen's humor is not arch or sly or magnetic or exuberant, and all these moods have their fascination. In Miss Austen the pointed merit is a cogency which is the ideal counterpart to what I have presumed to call the legalism of the style. Extracts, like other transplantations, are prone to be disappointing, but I shall draw what illustrative service I can from the following excerpt from Pride and Prejudice.

Elizabeth laughed heartily at this picture of herself, and said to Colonel Fitzwilliam, "Your cousin will give you a, very pretty notion of me, and teach you not to believe a word I say. Ism particularly unlucky in meeting with a person so well able to expose my real character, in a part of the world where I had hoped to pass myself off with some degree of credit. Indeed, Mr. Darcy, it is very ungenerous of you to mention all that you knew to my disadvantage in Hertfordshire--and, give me leave to say, very impolitic too--for it is provoking me to retaliate, Bad such things may come out as will shock your relations to hear." "I am not afraid of you," said he, smilingly. "Pray let me hear what you have to accuse him of," cried Colonel Fitzwilliam. "I should like to know how he behaves among strangers." "You shall hear then--but prepare yourself for something very dreadful. The first time of my ever seeing him in Hertfordshire, you must know, was at a ball--and at this ball, what do you think he did? He danced only four dances. I am sorry to pain you--but so it was. He danced only four dances, though gentlemen were scarce; and, to my certain knowledge, more than one young lady was sitting down in want of a partner. Mr. Darcy, you cannot deny the fact." "I had not at that time the honour of knowing any lady in the assembly beyond my own party." "True; and nobody can ever be introduced in a ballroom."
The phrase, "I am sorry to pain you" as witticism is ordinary enough, but it is deftly placed and perfectly said, and its effect in the context is charming. The whole passage illustrates the salutary force d that positiveness, of that robust and affirmative property, of which the manifestations in Miss Austen's work are so variously happy.

Humor is commonly the result of the clash between two dissenting sets of values, and in Miss Austen's case the sources of dissent can be pointed out with definiteness, if not with completeness or rigor. The first and least important of the disparities is the opposition of the judicious and the freakish which I have already noted in the letter-writer, the imperious ness of the caprice finding its pointed contrast and eventual correction in the delayed but unqualified surrender to fact. What points the situation is the grave irony which makes the caprice almost as magisterial as the judgment. "I am very much obliged to Mrs. Knight for such a proof of the interest she takes in me, and she may depend upon it that I will marry Mr. Papillon, whatever be his reluctance or my own. I owe her much more than such a trifling sacrifice."

The second and more usual form of clash is illustrated in the following passage:

The good news quickly spread through the house, and with proportionate speed through the neighborhood. It was borne in the latter with decent philosophy. To be sure, it would have been more for the advantage of conversation had Miss Lydia Bennet come upon the town; or, as the happiest alternative, been secluded from the world, in some distant farm-house. But there was much to be talked of in marrying her; and the good-natured wishes for her well-doing which had proceeded before from all the spiteful old ladies in Meryton lost but little of their spirit in this change of circumstances, because with such a husband her misery was considered certain.
In Miss Austen's matter-of-fact world there was a curious paradox. It was a world that loved materialities, the beef and pudding in which long ago, perhaps unjustly, Lowell found the fulcrum with which to move John Bull, a world that was unashamed in its pursuit of houses and lands, dinners and lunches, livings and dowries, orchards and coach horses. Jane Austen was a willing part of this world, and her assent to its ideals was unperturbed and cordial. But this was not the end. The earth-world begets an air-world as its adjunct and envelope; prosperity results in that priceless boon and dreaded pest called leisure, and people fly from the vacuum of solitude to what harsher critics would describe as the equal vacuum of social intercourse. The implement of society is speech, and a new world, a world of communication, is formed, in which old values are whimsically modified and transposed; the particle is enlarged and the magnitude reduced, uncertainty becomes fact and prophecy fulfilment, calamities gratify and prosperities displease, life is re-edited, in short, to suit the call of the occasion or the pleasure of the individual. We have no reason to doubt that Miss Austen accepted this secondary world with the same serenity and alacrity with which she lent herself to the solid universe of which it was the mocking shadow. She perceived its unreality, but she did not infer its unsoundness. She viewed it very much as she viewed the fruits on the ladies' hats in Bath. She had good eyes, and she knew perfectly well that the grapes and cherries of the feminine headgear were not edible grapes and cherries. But, so far as we know, it never occurred to her that they were not right because they were not real, or that they were less legitimate in their own way than the fruit which pleased the taste and fed the body. A real cherry on a hat would have been, not honest, but absurd. Now Miss Austen was a person who grasped things, and when a sham came in her way, she took hold of it with the admirable solidity and downrightness with which she grasped the actualities of life. That was where the fun arose. The relation between this thin world and this solid fashion of conceiving it was the relation between flax and hemp, between gauze and wire. An exhilarating contrast resulted from the expression of the fragile in terms of the massive.

Jane Austen saw through these shams, but perhaps her humor was brightened by the fact that, seeing through them, she did not see beyond them. In other words, she saw no alternative. In the presene of a strong inner vision, poetical or mystical, the vision of a Shelley, a Blake, or even a Galsworthy, the social fabric would have undergone a shrinkage in the face of which the contrast between its assumptions and its realities would have lost all its weight and half its piquancy. But to Jane Austen society: was roof and wall. She was social to the core, concreted with her kind, touching human beings on all aides, and touching little else but the corporeities and tangibilities of things. Somebody was always by; ber room at Chawton and at Steventon was shared by her sister. It is doubtful if she read enough to command that virtual solitude of which the persevering reader is master or mistress. Her books were written in secret, but the shifts to which she resorted for the maintenance of this secrecy are of the degree to which her life was enveloped and permeated by the life of the household. Outside of the home proper and the half-domesticity which she enjoyed in the establishments of her generous and hospitable brothers, loomed the wider social world which for Jane Austen seems to bave been both the rim of experience and the boundary of imagination. Her letters are sanded with proper names; she is always meeting, testing, docketing, somebody. Society often bored and sometimes vexed her, but these misadventures apparently led her to question its finality as little as a bad hand or a bad partner at whist arouses any doubt of the worth of the game in the mind of the tireless player. It is probable that Jane's respect for this order whose extremities and eccentricities she allowed herself to satirize was at bottom unshakable; and it was this esteem for the whole that gave point to her quarrel with the particulars. The last thing the tactful humorist should do is to call his victim insane; by so doing he normalizes every vagary. The absurd in the rational is comic because out of place; the absurd in the absurd is proper and pointless. In the same way a satire which arraigns society in the mass at once effaces contrast and levels expectation. To that extent it defeats its own purpose. Jane Austen's concessions to society were large enough to give piquancy to her refusals.

In the portrayal of love, the second of the two things which make Jane Austen a popular novelist, she profited vastly by that positive and downright quality which scattered its beneficence so liberally through her work. The peculiarity about Jane Austen's love is that it is a fact, a fact that stands squarely and sharply in front of you, blocking your path, a fact that you cannot elude or circumvent. I think this no bad way in which to approach the passion. Trollope's love is delicious, because he felt and painted its force without a vestige of sentimentality and with very little of that pleating and wimpling which we loosely designate as sentiment. His women in love are delightful, because, while womanly to the core, they love almost like boys, not blustering or domineering boys, but kind and modest lads, frank even in shyness. Miss Austen's girls are less winning than Trollope's, because they are more cansciously rational, but they share with the later novelist's heroines the half-nautical properties of trimness and balance. Her girls are always clear-headed, and their clearness as to the man they want is so peremptory as to conquer in the long run the opposition of parents and even the backwardness of the man himself. Sweet and docile as they often are, they show very little of that shy, reluctant, amorous delay which Milton, a stickler for the proprieties even in Paradise, ceremoniously ascribed to our first mother. Agitation, of course, is furnished in correct amounts at proper intervals, but this flutter of the spirits is almost as external to their cbaracters as the flutter of their fans.

Courtship is omnipresent in the novels of Jane Austen. Racine is said to have found in love the counterpoise to the alarming dearth of interest in the French classical drama, and his characters make love with an ardor proportioned to the necessities of the dramatist. Ardor is not the precise word for Jane Austen's people, but they are equally alert in applying the same specific to a kindred malady. In Pride and Prejudice Miss Austen marries off three daughters in one family--no small accomplishment even for a novelist whose competence in match making is so formidable. Apart from this sisterly triad, Miss Lucas obtains Mr. Collins, and three or four other tentative inclinations are defeated or renounced. In Emma four women obtain husbands, not to mention other courtships, in which the issue was less successful without being less fortunate. In Persuasion Anne and the two Musgrove sisters are married, and even the objectionable Mrs. Clay is indulged with the prospect of a husband. Sense and Sensibility could hardly have been more amatory if its authoress had been Mrs. Jennings herself, and the allowance of love-making in Mansfield Park would satisfy a school-girl or a lady's maid.

In contrast with this engrossment with the theme is the unwillingness to engage with love in what might be described with almost literal accuracy as a hand-to-hand encounter. Miss Austen shirks or slights a declaration scene. She leads up to it, she circles round it, she recalls and supplements it; but, if possible, she eludes the crisis. The obvious exception is merely a formal exception. Darcy's first proposal to Elizabeth is fully handled, because it is vital to the plot; moreover, the outcome is rejection and a quarrel, and Miss Austen is not called upon to portray tenderness. In Mr. Knightley's proposition to Emma, Miss Austen shares the discomfort of the suitor. Mr. Crawford is granted a little more freedom in the expression of his regard for the unreciprocating Fanny. But Miss Austen has only silence or at best reserve for the explanations between Jane and Bingley, between Elinor and Edward Ferrars, between Marianne and Colonel Brandon, between Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney, between Edmund Bertram and Mary Crawford, between the same Edmund and Fanny Price, between Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, in spite of the elaboration of the scaffolding which in the last-named case hides the insignificance of the edifice. The devices to which Miss Austen will resort in the endeavor to avoid a grapple with this problem are sometimes comic in their awkwardness. What follows is the sequel to Darcy's second offer to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced was such as he had probably never felt before, end he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do.
The mistress of a young ladies' boarding-school could not express herself with a less informing or more edifying vagueness. What would the author of these demure lines have said to a certain other woman who in a letter to her sister jested about a lord's having a mistress? There is another point in the behavior of Miss Austen which a preceptress would have cordially indorsed. I do not at this moment recall a kiss given by a young man to a young woman in any novel of Jane Austen; and while this generalization would doubtless go down, as such fragile craft commonly do, in the storm and stress of a resolute induction, the quality to which it points is seaworthy enough to outride any tempest. I have already remarked that stage-business is missing in Miss Austen's scenes, and a ban so austere was clearly not to be relaxed in favor of kissing or fondling or other expedients by which writers of the febrile type have raised the temperature and lowered the morale of their productions. Miss Austen not only excludes the flesh, but, to a very great extent, its not less attractive and more innocent associate, the blood.

I thought at first that the formula, "force without warmth" might serve to differentiate the Jane Austen brand of love. This is on the whole too trenchant and succinct, though it would apply accurately enough to the passions of such couples as Darcy and Elizabeth, Emma and Mr. Knightley. They want each other earnestly no doubt, but they want each other as ambitious men want posts or covetous men want properties; they appeal to each other as sterling investments. All the considerstions that lead Elizabeth to revise her estimate of Darcy are considerations that would have acted with force on a parent or guardian impartially concerned for Elizabeth's happiness. They include, of course, the manners, brains, and morals which no enlightened parent or guardian would ignore. Elizabeth has looked over the man, as she looked over his grounds, and the appraisals in both cases have been reassuring. Why, then, do I hesitate to accept the formula, "force without warmth," as the adequate diagnosis of the passion? I hesitate, because I seem to detect in the shy passions of Fanny Price and Anne Elliot a hearth that, in Herrick's beautiful phrase, smiles to itself, and spreads a faint but gracious warmth in its vicinity. But Fanny Price and Anne Elliot are tender things, who live in a chilly world, to whom a little warmth is allowed on the same principle that a fire might be permitted to an invalid even in the household of an austere New Englander. Miss Austen is more herself in other portraits. The case of Marianne Dashwood is significant in three aspects. First of all, the drawing power, what I am tempted to call, by too violent a figure, the tug or haul of the passion, is strongly caught; second, the warmth is hardly felt, though Marianne's temperament is distinctively warm; third, the inner detail is entirely omitted. Speaking broadly, that part of the psychology of the passion on which Miss Austen instinctively dwells is the half-satirical part, the marking of its bounds and the exposure of its inconsistencies. When Emma, who had been angry with Mr. Knightley for his supposed intention to disinherit his young nephew by marrying Harriet Smith, marries him herself in total indifference to the equal peril to this young nephew's cherished prospects, we feel that this is not only shrewd and right, but eminently chrtracteristic of the author. Equally happy is the genial malice in her report of the change in the attitude of Mr. Knightley toward Frank Churchill with the increase of his awareness of Emma's unconcern for that person.

He had found her agitated and low. Frank Churchill was a villain. He heard her declare that she had never loved him. Frank Churchill's character was not desperate. She was his own Emma, by hand and word, when they returned into the house; and if he could have thought of Frank Churchill then, he might have deemed him a very good sort of fellow.
That is what I mean by force without warmth. Of course force and warmth could not be separated in the actual Mr. Knightley; they are simply discriminated in the portrayal.

Literature has two fashions of viewing love. The first regards love as a motor or dynamo; it starts the narrative, and beeps it moving. In this regard its value is unlimited, but as long as it propels the car, an inquiry into the detail of its mechanism is useless, if not hurtful. The immortal instance is the elopement of Helen and Paris and its calamitous sequel in ten years of heroic and profitless conflict between Europe and Asia. We know that the thankless and disdainful Homer vouchsafes only a casual word or two to the content or aspect of a passion to which he owed the glory of an Iliad. The second fashion of treatment views love, not as the mere inqntive or starting-point of the exhibition, but as, in large part at least, the exhibition itself. A colossal--almost a portentous--instance is found in Chaucer's Troilus and Cressida, in which the symptomatic treatment, the treatment by particularization of symptoms, is carried to a point which breeds rebellion in those who can read Romeo and Juliet with joy, and D'Annunzio's Il Fuoco with fortitude.

Between these two forms of approach Miss Austen chooses a diagonal. Love on the amorous side, its warmth, its intimacy, its poetry, its color, she rejects with quiet decision. Psychology of a kind she does paint, but I trust I shall not fall into Venetian supersubtlety if I suggest that what she gave was less the psychology of love as such than the psychology of human nature as affected by the perturbations and instabilities for which that unsettling passion is responsible. Half her pleasure in love grew out of the new scope it offered to the perceptive and judicial faculties in the exercise of which her interest was unquenchable. Love was a fresh call to judgment, a new spur to criticism. Jane Austen, again, felt a keen interest in the vibrations and palpitations, the concords and discords, the cleavages and solderings, which betrothals induce in the environment of the lovers. She was precise in her drawing of the secondary or derivative traits of love, and her sense of its limitations was realistically keen; the primary traits alone were left in the cautious twilight of conventional assumptions. When Jane Austen's lovers meet, the gas is turned low.

This text was originally digitized by Catherine Dean for her "Jane Austen E-Texts, Etc." website, and is archived at Molland's with Ms. Dean's permission.