Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Wit of Jane Austen

Over on Normblog, Norm posts on the wit of Jane Austen. His examples are fair enough, but omit my personal favourite, so I shall add it here. It is, simply, Chapter Two of Sense and Sensibility. I can't say in honesty that it reduces me to a puddle of hysterical giggles when I read it: it isn't Reggie Perrin, or Bertie Wooster, but it never fails to raise a smile. What it is, is a perfect (I don't think I overstate) description of a self-seeking person deflecting a well-intentioned one from his intention by systematic dilution. We have all known people like that (the deflector and the deflectee), but how many of us could put so much deadpan humour and dry wit in their description?

I may have been fortunate in that I never studied Jane Austen at school; I'm not sure she's ideal teenage fiction in general. My introduction to her was from a girlfriend when I was twenty. I read P&P, Emma, then S&S. I never warmed to Persuasion as much as the other novels (much to my girlfriend's disgust as it was her favourite) but the three I have cited made a great impression on me; and I suspect it may have been the unexpected humour in them that won me over. If Emma had been less amusing, would Clueless have been so funny? I doubt it.


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