People, this is awesome. Have you seen this week’s New Yorker?
You all know Mr. Collins’s proposal. I know you do.
Turns out we—or I, at the very least—have been missing a whole joke all this time. Sure, it’s a super weird proposal. Sure, Mr. Collins’s priorities seem…unusual. But guess what? There’s a whole other layer of humor there, and it’s ALL BECAUSE OF THE ANGLICANS!
It all starts on page 76, toward the end of a review—if you can call it that—in commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer. (You know, as you do.)
Says the critic James Wood, “Every reader notes that the pompous parson neglects to mention love or even the happiness of the woman he wants to marry; every reader notes the sly vaudeville whereby Austen makes us think that Mr. Collins’s third reason for matrimony will be his most important (‘which perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier’), only to have him announce that his third reason is the approval of his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. But how many readers note that this classic comedy is really a joke, from an Anglican vicar’s daughter, about the order of the marriage service in the Book of Common Prayer?”
He’s totally right. He goes on to compare the substance and order of Mr. Collins’s talking points (1. A clergyman should set the example of marriage; 2. Marriage would make me happy; 3. THIS marriage would make Lady Catherine happy) with those of the church’s (1. The procreation of children; 2. Remedy against sin [apparently]; 3. Mutual society, help, and comfort—the “I GUESS” being heavily implied). “Thomas Cranmer’s words live on in Jane Austen’s,” says Wood, “even if not in the form he would have desired.”
Leave it to Jane to make Mr. Collins’s decision to speak, ever, into a double-decker joke AND a social statement; leave it to Jane to make a continually relevant joke out of a text that was antique even at the time; leave it to Jane to hit a little close to home for her own time and place. It never gets old, does it?
It’s all right, Cranmer. It could have happened to anybody.
Literary aesthetes/crafty nerds, take heart! Penguin Classics, ever popular for their artsy, modern designs, is taking things even further this fall: hand-sewn covers for Emma, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, and Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty! Or, at least, the originals were hand-sewn—the mass-produced versions will use sculpted emboss, which (according to the Google machine and my limited understanding of non-standard cover design; Miss Osborne could doubtless fill in the gaps) is a non-thread, non-manual-labor sort of endeavor. Which, hey, might be okay, considering the thorny issues surrounding who exactly would be doing the embroidery of thousands of ostensibly non-exorbitantly-priced mass-market books. In any case, the covers were created by artist Jillian Tamaki (check out process photos here), who apparently said that she would not be taking commissions for embroidery work unless Penguin Classics invited her to embroider their books. Which just makes me want to say, Hey, I will never write for television unless it’s for whatever Bryan Fuller‘s doing next! Nor will I ever take a writing job on the internet unless it’s for Go Fug Yourself! And I certainly won’t write for print unless it’s for The New Yorker. OBVIOUSLY.
Sooooo, I’ll just be over here, waiting for the phone to ring. Yup, aaaaany second now.
Via The Atlantic.
Today we are giving props to a sister under the skin, namely, Kate Beaton of Hark! A Vagrant. It makes us wish we could draw, it really does.
Lest we think Jane alone inspires Ms. Beaton, check out “Dude Watchin’ with the Brontës”.
You know, speaking as someone with $0.02-worth of knowledge about comics, I think the web has been a great thing for literary and nerdy comics. Would you have seen XKCD in the Sunday funnies? No, because it has math in it, and yet it is the most widely quoted comic among people I know. And as for Wondermark? Not even a chance. The way Wondermark pairs antique and modern is far too weird for The Normal Person, though, come to think of it, he’s probably a brother under our skin (ew). Even if he is kind of steampunk and we’re . . . not? But we do love to relate Austen to the earth-shattering concerns of our day!
Would Jane Austen herself have used comics? (Did she, O scholars of juvenilia?) She could pop off some awesome one-liners, and that makes it easy to connect her with the understated elegance of The New Yorker cartoons or the devilry of Charles Addams. (Was Jane the soul-sister of Wednesday Addams? Discuss.) But in end her forte was the subtle precision of words, lots and lots of words. I think she would have found the text-lite format of even the graphic novel to be a trial. Witness the weakness of Pride and Prejudice tweets compared to the original.