Jane, I should have trusted you. Yes, I am ashamed to admit it, I was duped by the Serious People into taking something you said at face value. Out of context even.
I’ve been reading William Deresiewicz‘s new book, A Jane Austen Education, which is better than the Huffington Post feature makes it sound. (Geez, I wish I could say that about my book . . .) But we can talk about that later. The point is, all my academic life, people have told me that you repented writing Pride and Prejudice, and justified themselves by this quote:
The work is rather too light & bright & sparkling . . .
This is how they explain Mansfield Park, you see. However, Mr. Deresiewicz continues the quote:
—it wants to be stretched out here and there with a long Chapter—of sense if it could be had, if not of solemn specious nonsense—about something unconnected with the story; an Essay on writing, a critique on Walter Scott, or the history of Buonaparte.
Or, to sum it up in modern terms, Jane is saying, “I’m too sexy for Moby Dick.” (Oh dear . . . you all remember that song, right? . . . and anyway she is.)
Is this generally known by those that didn’t study math in college? Is it just me who’s been underestimating Miss Austen all these years? Learning the truth here is such a relief—Jane didn’t really hate P&P after all—but is also a little disturbing when you think about it. A friend once said that I was ironic at least 70% of the time, and Mr. Fitzpatrick thought he’d underestimated it. How many of my off-the-cuff remarks have been wildly misunderstood? How many of yours? If we’re still read in 200 years (ah, if only!), will the Serious People have their way with us? It makes me kind of sad to think so.
Ah well, who cares, I say! We’re too sexy for them! Repeat after me:
Jane’s too sexy for your paper, too sexy for your theory, so sexy . . .
As a final thought, I leave you with this quote from a Guardian sports article: “this Mr D’Arcy is some way removed from Jane Austen’s bodice-ripping fop.” Bodice-ripping fop. Just let that sink in. And then go hit someone with your copy of Pride and Prejudice. Repeatedly.