Jane Austen is a Hot Button Issue?

Last week I wrote a post noting the two hundredth anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  I took the opportunity of mentioning that I found Austen boring and noted fairly vituperative criticisms of her by Twain and Emerson.  The reaction on this blog was restrained and got sidetracked into a debate about the Reformation in England and Protestantism and Catholicism.  So far, so normal.

I also put the post up at the American history blog Almost Chosen People that Paul Zummo and I run.  Almost Chosen People is a fairly sedate blog, unlike the raucous The American Catholic, where controversy rarely occurs and on the rare occasions when it does, it is usually about the Civil War.  I was therefore shocked when my light-hearted post aroused what for Almost Chosen People was a firestorm.  Here are the comments:

On January 28, 2013 at 9:13 am dennis51 said: |Edit This

High school literature class killed any hope of enjoying a Jane Aistin book.  It would make a football player so ill that he could not play on Friday night.  Mindless Romance Novel genre for brains of mush.

  •  On January 28, 2013 at 1:52 pm Donald R. McClarey said: |Edit This

    “Mindless Romance Novel genre for brains of mush.” Romance novels with pretensions dennis!

  • On January 28, 2013 at 9:15 pm Fabio P.Barbieri said: |Edit This

    I already disliked Emerson on other grounds, and while I appreciate that Mark Twain is the first full-blown literary genius in American history, I think that as a critic he was a flake and as a mind entirely too provincial. The man who was silly enough to say “Heaven for climate, Hell for company” and think it witty certainly does not have the breadth of mind to appreciate anything outside his own narrow range of reference, and the brutality, ugliness and vulgarity of his language only worsen his position. Sorry, but this is as dumb as GB Shaw’s and Tolstoy’s attacks on Shakespeare, and for much the same reason – the unslain dragon of puritanism writhing and shrieking behind the screens,

    •  On January 28, 2013 at 9:34 pm Donald R. McClarey said: |Edit This

      I can think of few Americans less Puritan Fabio than Mark Twain.  Twain’s besetting weakness is that he could not resist a funny line, hence the “Heaven for climate, Hell for company.”  I tend to enjoy Twain when he is funny, annoyed by him when he is angry and abhor him when he is bitter, and an ever broadening streak of bitterness stayed with Twain throughout his career.  I will say something for Twain however, he is never dull, something I cannot say for Austen.

      • On January 28, 2013 at 9:47 pm Fabio P.Barbieri said: |Edit This

        The trouble is that that line is not funny. By definition, and by experience, the people who go to Hell are the least charming company imaginable. Edith Sitwell had it right: “Hell is no vastness, it has naught to keep/ But little rotting souls.” I had more to say about it here: http://fpb.livejournal.com/406368.html . And that is where Puritanism, denied, repressed, hated, yet active in the soul, comes in. MT conceived of heaven as being no better than the narrow, joyless, provincial congregations he had hated at home; and imagined that Hell would have all the liveliness and reality that he had never found at Sunday service. Nonsense, and intellectually ruinous nonsense; and nonsense that allowed the very worst of the Puritan – the provinciality, the bad manners, the ill-grounded anger and everlasting suspicion – to remain undiscussed and unnoticed at the bottom of soul. Hence the vulgarity and brutality of his statements about Jane Austen – worthy of Harlan Ellison.

      •  On January 28, 2013 at 9:59 pm Donald R. McClarey said: |Edit This

        “The trouble is that that line is not funny.”

        There we will have to differ Fabio.

        “By definition, and by experience, the people who go to Hell are the least charming company imaginable.”

        Not having talked with any of the damned I am sure that I cannot venture an opinion on that subject.  Certainly on this Earth some very evil people have been quite charming when they wished to be.

        “Hence the vulgarity and brutality of his statements about Jane Austen – worthy of Harlan Ellison.”

        The editor of Dangerous Visions and other drek should not be mentioned in the same breath as Twain.  I disagree that Twain was influenced at all by Puritanism.  His religious views, the more extreme of which he largely kept to himself, were fairly commonplace among nineteenth century agnostics and atheists.  His biography of Joan of Arc is deeply reverential however, which perhaps indicates that Twain doubted his disbelief at times.

      • On January 30, 2013 at 3:59 pm Adam G. said: |Edit This

        I regret to say that Twain can be dull at times–he wrote a *lot,* much of it no better than it should be–one can’t wade through a complete Mark Twain collection without realizing that Homer nods, and so do other blind Greek poets of the same name.

        Austen also had her off moments–Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Lady Susan, and perhaps Sense and Sensibility.  But Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion are absorbing and full of interest.  Her characters were vivid and likable.  To like her best books is to like people.

        Patrick O’Brian held her in very high esteem, which should be authority enough.  If not, I’ll cite the authority of a thousand or so high school, middle school, and elementary school kids.  I went to a play version of Pride and Prejudice put on during the school day for school trips.  The dialogue was straight Austen.  No concessions were made to ‘updating’.  And the kids loved it.

      •  On January 30, 2013 at 6:51 pm Donald R. McClarey said: |Edit This

        “I regret to say that Twain can be dull at times–he wrote a *lot,* much of it no better than it should be–one can’t wade through a complete Mark Twain collection without realizing that Homer nods, and so do other blind Greek poets of the same name.”

        Twain has often infuriated me, especially his late musings on religion, but never bored me, although I do not claim to have read all that he wrote.  Early Twain I have read most of.

    • On January 30, 2013 at 3:43 pm Adam G. said: |Edit This

      Hear, hear.

  • On January 29, 2013 at 3:10 am Fabio P.Barbieri said: |Edit This

    What deserves mention in the same breath is the brutality, intolerance, bad manners, which come straight from provincial presumption and puritanical arrogance. And it is not restricted to those two: it is an American bad habit, abundantly found, for instance, in Mencken. And what else do Twain, Mencken and Ellison have in common? That’s right: their anti-religious bent. And, mind you, the three of them have the same reason to dislike what they call religion: they find it narrow, provincial, irrational and brutal, At which point, since these are exactly the bad habits of mind that can easily be spotted in all these three otherwise quite different people, I have to say that they hate “teligion” not because it is unlike them, but because it is a damn sight too like their own worst side, and that the old village puritan is alive and active, even in the ex-Jew Ellison.

    •  On January 29, 2013 at 6:01 am Donald R. McClarey said: |Edit This

      “And it is not restricted to those two: it is an American bad habit,”

      Actually Fabio in my experience American “provincials” have absolutely nothing to teach European “cosmopolitans” when it comes to being rude and generally bloody bad manners.

      In regard to Twain, Mencken and Ellison I think they have little in common.  Twain and Mencken were writers of brilliance and Ellison is at best a hack who was lucky.  In regard to religion both Mencken and Ellison embraced a boorish atheism while Twain veered throughout his life between religious belief and agnosticism.  Mencken and Twain both had loving marriages while Ellison I believe is on wife number five.  In regard to manners, Twain’s breaches of courtesy were almost entirely for humor, Mencken’s savage diatribes suited his curmudgeon persona and Ellison is simply a brat who never grew up.  As for Puritanism being at the root of their bad behavior, I find this explanation fanciful at best.

  • On January 29, 2013 at 1:28 pm Fabio P.Barbieri said: |Edit This

    As on other occasions, I don’t think we will agree.. it’s not boorishness in general that I am speaking about, but the kind of boorishness that goes with the very village puritanism that both Mencken and MT detested and mocked. Read Mencken’s savage account of village preachers, their ignorance and their arrogance. It is not without meaning that this particular kind of boorishness is the one major fault of CS Lewis, a writer whose background is in the bigoted puritanism of Northern Ireland, who hated it all his life, and who nevertheless, according to JRR Tolkien, could never be rid of what Tolkien called “the ulsterior motive.”

  • On January 30, 2013 at 3:44 pm Adam G. said: |Edit This

    Twain could be an unmitigated ass at times.  This is one of those times.

    People who dismiss Austen as jumped-up romance novel have obviously read neither Austen nor romance novels.

    •  On January 30, 2013 at 6:44 pm Donald R. McClarey said: |Edit This

      “Twain could be an unmitigated ass at times. This is one of those times.

      People who dismiss Austen as jumped-up romance novel have obviously read neither Austen nor romance novels.”

      Agreed as to Twain.  I disagree this is one of the times, although he was obviously trying for an over the top effect.

      Well, I have read Austen in between naps while trying to read Austen.  I found her much inferior to Gone With the Wind which is the only romance novel I have read, and I didn’t think that much of that tome although it didn’t put me to sleep.

      • On January 30, 2013 at 7:25 pm Adam G. said: |Edit This

        I have quite good friends who are tone-deaf, so I likewise see no particular reason why this opinion of yours should diminish my respect for you, no matter how much it made me laugh.

      •  On January 30, 2013 at 7:33 pm Donald R. McClarey said: |Edit This

        I had a friend once who was mighty disturbed by my favorite meal as a teenager:  Royal Crown Cola, mustard sandwiches and barbecue potato chips.  His disapproval did not make the viands taste less delightful to me, as my low opinion of Jane will not disturb Austen-philes.

  • On January 31, 2013 at 12:04 pm Adam G. said: |Edit This

    Jane Austen as moral philosopher: http://philosophynow.org/issues/94/Reading_Jane_Austen_as_a_Moral_Philosopher The author says some things you’d agree with that I wouldn’t–that her characters aren’t as realistic as we’d expect these days and that her plots have contrived endings (though *if* that could be said of Austen, it could also be said of Twain).  But he acknowledges the obvious truth that there must be a reason why super-boring archaic romance novels remain broadly popular both with the reading public and the reading public with taste, and proposes one reason.

    •  On January 31, 2013 at 7:34 pm Donald R. McClarey said: |Edit This

      As you pointed out Adam, even Homer can nod!

      • On January 31, 2013 at 9:39 pm Adam G. said: |Edit This

        When it comes to literary judgment, Kipling licks Twain and Emerson (Emerson, forsooth) all hollow.

      •  On January 31, 2013 at 9:43 pm Donald R. McClarey said: |Edit This

        Oh I agree, and sometimes, like the Sultan of Swat, Kipling can strike out.

      • On February 1, 2013 at 10:34 am Adam G. said: |Edit This

        Glory, love, and honour unto England’s Jane!

  • On February 2, 2013 at 10:19 pm Tony said: |Edit This

    Come now, have none of you noticed one odd note in Twain’s rant?  Go back and look at it again.  Do you see it yet?

    He says “Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, I want to…”  Let me ask you, if you were to use the expression “every time I read X”, where X is a specific work, how many times would you have read it?  Obviously, at least 2.  Nobody says “every time” if they have only read it once.  Twice is the absolutely least number possible, but it is not the probable number.  More likely, for that expression, he read it 3 times, maybe 4.  In fact, the expression doesn’t imply any upper limit at all, so it might be more than 4.  But if the number was exactly 2 times, more likely the speaker of English would use “both times I read it”.  By saying “every time”, Twain was fairly clearly implying that he read P&P at least 3 times.

    And why, if it was so bad the first time, would he have read it a second?  Or (supposing peer pressure and other external motivations made him subject himself a second time), why ever would he read it a 3rd time?  No, if Twain really did object to P&P “every time” that much, no external pressure could have been brought to bear to make him endure it a third time.  More likely, he was having us on.  He was not above such pranks and gimmicks as that.  He actually rather enjoyed pulling the wool over our eyes.  A chance to play a prank on both the critics and the high-brow readers of the English world would be difficult to pass up, once it lent itself to his fertile mind.

    I just cannot see Twain reading P&P that much if he truly detested it.

    •  On February 3, 2013 at 6:49 am Donald R. McClarey said: |Edit This

      “And why, if it was so bad the first time, would he have read it a second?”

      No doubt for the same reason that people gawk at car crashes.  Actually some things are so bad it becomes a pleasure to watch them.  My family and I always view the 1984 film Dune every New Years Eve and it is not because we view it as a theatrical masterpiece:


      • On February 3, 2013 at 11:48 am Fabio P.Barbieri said: |Edit This

        And you are seriously proposing to stand up in front of the whole of planet Earth and assert that “Pride and Prejudice” is a car crash? Friendly advice – don’t. You’ve already had a taste of what to expect from friends. NOBODY agrees with you. Or with Mark Twain for that matter.

      •  On February 3, 2013 at 12:02 pm Donald R. McClarey said: |Edit This

        Being outnumbered Fabio has never been of the slightest consequence to me.  If I hold to an opinion it matters not to me if I be in a minority of one.  An argument from numbers is the weakest argument to make to me.

        Comparing car crashes to Austen’s writings is probably unfair to car crashes as they tend to be much more exciting than the cure-for-insomnia-in-print which is the main use of her literary contributions.

  • On February 3, 2013 at 5:57 pm Fabio P.Barbieri said: |Edit This

    Now you’re getting silly. But I suppose that’s the only resource left.

    •  On February 3, 2013 at 6:20 pm Donald R. McClarey said: |Edit This

      The intent of this post was lighthearted Fabio.  That you take it so seriously I find rather amusing. Battles over matters of taste usually are amusing, since there is no convincing someone who disagrees.  Certainly more amusement than I have ever gleaned from reading Austen’s dessicated tomes.  Keep up the good work!

  • On February 5, 2013 at 1:20 pm Adam G. said: |Edit This

    Please stop. I find myself losing respect for you.  Tastes differ, no doubt, but that is no cause for you to plod and plod and plod with a series of uninspired insults.  You are no Mark Twain.  These repeated mindless attacks on someone that I and Kipling and Patrick O’Brian and thousands of other people of some taste and judgment  cherish is boorish and beneath you.

    •  On February 5, 2013 at 1:36 pm Donald R. McClarey said: |Edit This

      Completely disagree Adam. Quite a few people throughout history have enjoyed many things of dubious value and I put the scribblings of Jane Austen in that category.  The conviction of her fans that she is a great writer is of no more value to me than the popularity of Elvis impersonators.  I wouldn’t call her a bad writer precisely, but vastly overrated and deeply, deeply dull.  Her characters are one dimensional and their domestic concerns of no more interest to me than the usual small town and rural gossip.

      • On February 5, 2013 at 2:13 pm Adam G. said: |Edit This

        You are entitled to your opinion.  But if my opinion as a reader is of so little account to you that you feel like you need to tell me, repeatedly, that you don’t care what I think and that you are entitled to be insulting about it (as you have been),  you aren’t the man I thought you were and this is not the blog for me.

        God speed.

      •  On February 5, 2013 at 6:52 pm Donald R. McClarey said: |Edit This

        I will miss you as a reader Adam.  I have insulted no one but merely given my opinion as to Jane Austen’s lack of merit as a writer in my eyes.  Those who disagree with me have been given ample opportunity to express their disagreement in the com boxes.  Vigorous disagreement with an opinion I express has rarely caused me to change my mind about a matter of taste, and it has not in this case.




I was somewhat bemused by this reaction.  I have read thousands of authors over my lifetime.  Some I have liked, some disliked, and many I have felt indifferent to.  However, I have rarely felt any emotional committment to an author, and certainly not to an author of novels.  In responding to the comments in the comboxes I realized that some people were taking this all very seriously and that I was getting an emotional reaction akin to insulting someone’s mother or the flag.    I found such an attachment to an author of society novels rather odd, at least to me.  I am curious as to whether this strong emotion for an author is fairly commonplace or does it strike other people as odd as it did me.




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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. I have to say I also fine Austen boring. My wife on the other hand loves her.

    I am looking forward to an Arnold Schwarzenegger version of Austen. “Pride and Terminate with Extreme Prejudice.”

  2. Well, Don, birthday or no, your interlocutors are correct and you are wrong.


    Pride and Prejudice is simply one of the greatest novels ever written. Like Twain (“Every time I read …”), I have read it several times. Unlike Twain, I am not so full of myself that I can’t recognize the brilliance and simple elegance of her prose, and I come away with some new insight each time.

    As for Twain himself, whose genius I recognize (just as I mentioned in commenting on your first post on this subject), I have read many of his works and find only Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer to be the least bit compelling for me personally. The rest I find tedious. Again, just personal opinion.

  3. Austen’s prose are simply incredible. Light, lucid, and sharp as a katana. I read P&P this summer and found it was nearly impossible to put down.

    Also, anyone championed by Alasdair MacIntyre as the last great representative of virtue ethics is a-ok in my book.

  4. *laughs*

    Oh, dear, I may have to ding your geek creds!

    Jane Austen is a fandom. Of course folks fly off the handle about someone not utterly loving her, let alone disliking her– and since it’s in an area where they haven’t faced the usual geek pressures, they’re over-sensitive.

    I’ll stick with Terry Pratchett.

  5. “Austen’s prose are simply incredible.”

    I just don’t see it. Of course I enjoy Edward Gibbon’s prose style and realize that quite a few differ with me on that.

    Samuel Taylor Coleridge: “Gibbon’s style is detestable; but it is not the worst thing about him.”

  6. With St. Paddy’s Day acomin’, I need to catch me a Leprechaun, get his pot o’ gold and find me a rainbow. That there will make me happy. And If I catch him napping under a tree while guarding his pot o’ gold, and the rainbow will lead me to him, I will have my Leprechaun. I have always wanted my own Leprechaun.
    The truth be told, I am concerned that the King James version of the bible, which Jane Austen certainly would have used, did not refer to the sovereign Person of God using the pronoun WHO in the Lord’s Prayer, as “Our Father, who are in heaven.”

  7. I’ve not read Austen, but I know of her primarily through Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue which appears to have been the reference by JL above.

    If, for nothing else, that MacIntyre includes Austen in a lineage of moral philosophy that includes Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas and holds it against the disaster of the Enlightenment and Nietzsche and the rest of emotivism/moral relativism/modernist philosophy, then I approve of Austen…though I’ll probably never read her. Similar to the best I hope to do with St. Thomas is to read his Shorter Summa…

    To your point, Don…while I do agree that people arguing about taste is somewhat silly, the fact is that “arguing on the internet” often ends in higher emotions than a discussion at, say, a bar. Words in black-and-white carry more force than words spoken…and that amplifies the emotional impact. As an ex-hardcore gamer (former MMO guild leader), I found that the lack of nonverbal cues in forums and IM/in-game chat led to more volatility than I’d experience if I were having the same conversation in person. In fact, this post represents my first foray back into “internet speech” in probably 4 years, despite lurking on this board since about 2010…all because I generally regard comboxes and such to be a one-way ticket to futility. Single-player games and assiduously avoiding the “Comments” sections of news articles has led to a general balance in my life since.

    So, while I have no personal affection for Austen, I respect that others do…including some philosopher I think of highly…and, were someone to say something crass (not a sincere critique, but dismissive) of…say, GK Chesterton or John Henry Cardinal Newman, I might get a tad irrational myself.

    So perhaps, Don, Austen represents an articulation of virtue or an insight into the human condition with which her fans identify…and when someone slights Austen, that is perceived as a slight against not just a mere author but against the fan’s own identity. It’s then made worse by the medium.

    I find it similar to how I feel relative to anti-Catholic rhetoric…it’s taken me a long time to be able to feel charity toward those individuals…and C.S. Lewis has an apparent understanding of how we Catholics feel in regards to Virgin Mary. Maybe that can serve as an analogue for the reaction of some fans of Austen, albeit on a less theological basis:

    ” Some people draw unwarranted conclusions from the fact that I never say more about the Blessed Virgin Mary than is involved in asserting the Virgin Birth of Christ. But surely my reason for not doing so is obvious? To say more would take me at once into highly controversial regions. And there is no controversy between Christians which needs to be so delicately touched as this. The Roman Catholic beliefs on that subject are held not only with the ordinary fervour that attaches to all sincere religious belief, but (very naturally) with the peculiar and, as it were, chivalrous sensibility that a man feels when the honour of his mother or his beloved is at stake.
    ” It is very difficult so to dissent from them that you will not appear to them a cad as well as a heretic. And contrariwise, the opposed Protestant beliefs on this subject call forth feelings which go down to the very roots of all Monotheism whatever. To radical Protestants it seems that the distinction between Creator and creature (however holy) is imperilled: that Polytheism is risen again. Hence it is hard so to dissent from them that you will not appear something worse than a heretic-an idolater, a Pagan. If any topic could be relied upon to wreck a book about “mere” Christianity-if any topic makes utterly unprofitable reading for those who do not yet believe that the Virgin’s son is God-surely this is it.”

    Mere Christianity

  8. Wonderful quote. Thanks. From a radical Protestant standpoint devotion to Mary seems very pagan. To the Roman Catholic, the Protestant critique seems unwarranted and wrong.

  9. Mary De Voe —

    I find it disturbing that you object to ordinary historical English grammar. 🙂 Seriously, though, you should not make comments like this without going to see what the Our Father looked like in Old English, Middle English, and the original Douay-Rheims.

    “Faeder ure thu the eart on heafonum” doesn’t use “who” either. And the Saxons were good Catholics who never heard of Protestantism. “That art in heaven” was pretty common in Middle English, although some went with “wicche art” instead. It certainly doesn’t make the Our Father less personal; it makes it understandable and grammatical for people of that day.

  10. It is funny that the first time I write a response is in defense of Jane Austen. I have always found it very interesting that she was able to capture the nuances of courtship and marriage having never experienced either one. I believe that Ms.Austen lived her whole life in the bosom of her immediate family and never ventured far from her home. What can I say I like her books, the depth of the characters makes them just as believable 200 years later. In the end I think it’s probably a girl thing, and explanations shouldn’t be necessary.

  11. It’s not just a girl thing, and I think to limit it as such is to depreciate its inherent worth as a piece of great writing and insightful commentary.

  12. While every author has his or her fans, this is certainly not adequate to account for people’s protectiveness of Austen. It has been noted in literary critical circles, for instance, that people who directly criticize Austen are immediately regarded as having done something obviously indecorous and in bad taste and as displaying literary incompetence. It’s not a mere matter of fans being annoyed by criticism of their favorite author; it’s a matter of people coming to regard one as obviously incompetent and gauche, so that you no longer have any credibility on any literary subject for that (at present very large) group of people. This happens with various authors from time to time; it used to be the case with Shakespeare, for instance, and people whose work took them into the vicinity of Samuel Johnson’s occasionally sharp criticism of the Bard had to disassociate themselves from it or risk being taken either as obviously incapable of appreciating the English language, or obviously questionable in moral matters, or (in England) obviously unEnglish. If you thought Shakespeare was overrated, flaunting such universally recognized bad taste was itself taken as undeniable proof of bad taste, and you would only do it if you were deliberately trying to provoke people. And as with Shakespeare, the expectation of deference to Austen will weaken over time.

    But I don’t think anyone can get out of it by saying that it’s all merely a matter of taste, either; it’s an argument about good taste and bad taste, not an argument about mere taste, and the two have never been the same kind of argument. People react not to someone disliking Austen, which will happen as it will happen, but to not admitting the dislike of Austen as a flaw in one’s taste, which is regarded as being deliberate defense of bad taste. And while matters of mere taste are matters of indifference, and everyone recognizes there is at least some slippage in determining good taste, everyone at least sometimes treats matters of good taste in the same way they treat matters of morals: character flaws are human, but deliberately and publicly insisting that what everyone else regards as character flaws are not flaws but virtues makes people angry. It’s a very human way of thinking about good taste; everybody can find a case which they regard as an egregious and unacceptable flaunting of bad taste as good taste. Criticizing Austen just happens to be one that’s widely regarded as such in our day.

    In full disclosure, though, I should say that I am undeniably pro-Austen, and think that this favoritism for Austen is one of the handful of points on which contemporary culture shows good sense.

  13. When it comes to battles of literary taste there usually is a great deal of futile sturm und drang. The battle of the books in Seventeenth Century France comes to mind. The simple truth of course is that we humans are fairly cross grained creatures and our likes and dislikes are going to be diverse about quite a few items. What I find most interesting about such battles is, no surprise, their history and how popular opinions about an author changes over time. Winston Churchill, not the English prime minister, was a contemporary American novelist of Sir Winston. His novels were extremely popular in his life time. Sir Winston added his middle intial S. to American editions of his works to cut down on the confusion between works written by him and works written by the American Churchill. The two Churchills exchanged light hearted letters about this. Now of course the American Winston Churchill is almost entirely forgotten, remembered only in biographies of Sir Winston. Does that mean that he was a “bad novelist” or that simply popular literary tastes had changed? Will Jane Austen be a “bad novelist” if here fad subsides and her novels are little read five decades hence? Does a literary work have any intrinsic value if it is read only by specialists or doctoral candidates? Petronius was designated by Nero his “arbiter of taste”. Various individuals and institutions have attempted to play that role throughout history, but none successfully over time.

  14. I read the Synoptic Gospels, and their narration is deceptively simple. I can say the same thing about Jane Austen.

    I have watched films based on Jane Austen’s books, and then read the books themselves. I must say that the films are better at fleshing out the story. Austen’s writing is somewhat bare-bones. Scriptwriters are forced to bring the drama to the fore. Nevertheless, Austen’s books are classics.

    Critics of Austen dismiss her work as fluffy and insubstantial. Yet truth be told, few things are as important as finding a good wife or a good husband. As a single man, if I ignore this truth, I do so at my peril. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

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