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Saturday, 21 November 2009
Snide and prejudice

It is a truth universally acknowledged that short articles about Jane Austen either begin with "It is a truth universally acknowledged" or contain some worn out wordplay on Pride and Prejudice. Today we have the latter, although "Snide and Prejudice" is not as good as "Pies and Prejudice", Stuard Maconie's book about the north of England.

Title aside - they don't make jokes about Emma, do they? - Robert Fulford makes the case that Jane Austen's baddies are rather one-dimensional:

The reader can enjoy her heroes and heroines but will for sure remember, even more clearly, the moral grotesques who disfigured southwestern England as Austen described it early in the 19th century. Has there ever existed anyone in the world so dim as Sir Walter in Persuasion, or so lacking in self-knowledge as the Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice, or so self-important a toady as her acolyte, the Rev. Mr. Collins? Well, I've met a few, perhaps, but ...

True, but do we want all the characters in a novel to be drawn with equal subtlety? Such a novel would lose all of its pace and much of its wit. Besides, some people, in life as in literature, are morally grotesque; their good qualities are beside the point. Perhaps Ken Livingstone is kind to his pet newt. So what?

Too much nuance makes for a dull book and a dull life.

Posted on 11/21/2009 8:25 AM by Mary Jackson
21 Nov 2009
Send an emailHugh Fitzgerald

Does "Pride and Punishment" qualify as "wordplay" about Jane Austen or about Fyodor Dostoyevsky?