Jane Austen - Still Rebounding After Two Centuries

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Those characters that Jane Austen described more than two centuries ago, with more emphasis on women, returned to the popularity of the film versions. Many critics consider that those personalities of the fiction and that of the Austen reached the dimension of "popstars" from the cinema, the musicals or celebrations like dances of time in the Chatsworth Mansion, where Pride and Prejudice was filmed.

The image of the writer was honoured on the 10-pound bill issued by the Bank of England - a privilege that had only been bestowed to Queen Elizabeth - and even tourist caravans were organized around the "Austen sites". But if all this constitutes a promotional display with the excuse of a precise date - July 18 was the Bicentennial of her death - it does not omit that Jane Austen and her works as a literary value emerged from the past and extended until today. The author is defined as a "fine observer of their time and their customs”, there is now a higher valuation than who could stay in the simple anecdote, in the momentary enjoyment or in considering only a psychological, superficial and sweetened version of the society.

Woolf was another eminent writer and many know Virginia Woolf as a Feminist Critic. Virginia Woolf wrote that "if Jane Austen suffered something because of her circumstances, it was because of the narrowness of life imposed on her. A woman could not go out alone. Never travelled, nor walked without company. But maybe it was natural in her not to need what she did not have. Her talent and her circumstances harmonized completely." Austen was one of the writers admired by Henry James or later included in the "canon" of Bloom.

Angeles Mastretta affirmed that "in the midst of a quiet life, within a harmonious and simple family, Austen wrote stories that are exciting. She was a narrator capable of unravelling a world much more complex than the one governed by the forms and appearances of her time ". She wonders that: "How can we not read it with humility, amazement and devotion and without prejudice?"

Now, with the recent reissue of much of her books by Penguin Random House, we are given the opportunity to enjoy again their beloved characters such as the sisters Marianne Dashwood, Elinor, Catherine Moorland and Elizabeth Bennett.

The writer, daughter of a Protestant clergyman, was born in 1775 in Steventon, barely studied and left six novels, of which only four were published in her life (The Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published after her death). She wrote as a teenager and her first formal work -which was published posthumously- was Lady Susan, the fruit of an epistolary exchange that turns out to be one of his most amusing works. It is the description of a seductive veteran.

She lived with her mother and her sister Cassandra and her most relevant works, such as Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice correspond to her youth, although the editors have just accepted them since 1810. Emma (1815) and the densest Mansfield Park complete their bibliography. There is no doubt that they are the fruit of her readings, experiences and subtle observations, but also of a sentimental life of which little is known. She was 20 when she fell in love with an Irishman named Thomas Lefroy, at a couple dance. Months later, she writes to her sister: "Finally the day has come when I'm going to flirt for the last time with Tom Lefroy. My tears flow as I write about the idea of melancholy.” According to the writer's nephew, also her first biographer, she "had another mysterious love as an adult, with a man she met on vacations by the sea." Austen's work does not make references to that episode. Likewise, she would have rejected a marriage proposal from one Harry Biggs, brother of a friend, in 180.

For a long time, it was argued that she died of Addison's Disease, a hormonal disorder. But more recent versions indicate that Austen was probably a victim of tuberculosis. Her remains, revered, rest in the Cathedral of Winchester. Austen's works reflect and explain an era, a society and its class divisions, its relations and customs. Some even discover philosophical inquiries, while their character’s exchange ironic dialogues, with hidden intentions and mixed feelings. There are others that analyze a financial side. In the respected The Economist magazine, it was written that Austen's novels "contain a part of the economic history of England. The wealth of the landlords was being supplanted by the monetary wealth that came to dominate the 19th century. Between 1796, when Pride and Prejudice began, and 1817, when Austen died, land and money were in a harsh and uncomfortable equality. In this changing balance were the foundations of the Anglo-Saxon world's commercial prosperity as much of the drama and humour of Austen's books."

It is not a matter of going deep. Enough to recover Pride and enjoy one of the beginnings and classics in literature: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."