Exquisitely crafted minia­tures

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

JANE Austen has been one of the great “sleep­ers” of English lit­er­a­ture, that is one of the great un­ex­pected suc­cesses. Her lat­est recog­ni­tion is her ap­pear­ance on the new £10 bank note, now is­sued in plas­tic, com­plete with an ap­po­site quo­ta­tion: “I de­clare, af­ter all, there is no en­joy­ment like read­ing.”

A reclu­sive spin­ster who never trav­elled far out­side her home ter­ri­tory, let alone Eng­land, she wrote about mat­ri­mo­nial pol­i­tics and the com­pli­cated de­ci­sions, dilem­mas, self-de­cep­tions and in­trigues of ro­mance.

Per­haps her most fa­mil­iar and time­less quo­ta­tion is the ironic open­ing of Pride and Prej­u­dice (1813): “It is a truth uni­ver­sally ac­knowl­edged, that a hand­some man en­dowed with a good fortune must be in need of a wife.”

She re­garded her nov­els as pieces of em­broi­dery, for they are exquisitely crafted minia­tures undis­turbed by the great po­lit­i­cal events of the time.

She rather ob­served the pas­sions, sad­ness and hypocrisies of the pro­vin­cial mar­riage mar­ket with shrewd­ness and hu­mour. Although this mar­ket has proved ex­tremely lu­cra­tive for less sub­tle writ­ers, trad­ing on sex and vi­o­lence, her pop­u­lar­ity has steadily in­creased.

Her style has not dated in 200 years, nor have the sharp­ness of her in­sights, nor the wit of her di­a­logue.

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