Okay, not really. More like: Jane Austen hates other people on Twitter.
At its best—i.e., in her own hands—Twitter sounds like Jane’s kind of thing, the kind of program that might have suited her style and benefited her business: bits of wit delivered to a mass audience, “editors” and “publishers” and all others unaware of her genius be damned. After all, we’d have followed her: wry humor, subtle sarcasm, and bits of local gossip? Sign us up!
It’s all those other Twitterers (Tweeters?) who cause the trouble. Some people really shouldn’t be tweeting in the first place; one look at any of Austen’s novels indicates that, had the technology of the time caught up with the human instinct to share mundane life details 140 characters at a time, she would have picked the over-sharers out of the crowd without a second thought. Just think: Mrs. Bennet with an iPhone (“Waiting 4 hunky rich neighbor to show, can smell the $ now!”). Mr. Collins discovering Twitterific (“Wife encourages me to garden AGAIN, guess she likes the outdoorsy type!”). Even Catherine Morland might not, engaging heroine or no, have been the world’s most fulfilling Twitter correspondent (“Twilight OMG!!1!”). As it is, Jane had an ear for—by which I mean “mocked mercilessly and with great glee”—the indiscreet and the overly familiar; imagine how much worse things would have been for her with 24/7 wifi and a pop-up qwerty keyboard.
In terms of her work, constant microblogging would certainly muck up Jane’s stories. Not sure if one Mr. Wickham is a catch or a cad? “Let’s check his Twitter for skeevy drunk-tweets” may save poor Lydia a heap of trouble, but it ends Pride and Prejudice far too quickly, and then how will Mr. Darcy prove his boundless kindness, discretion, and general uprightness of character? Even if Wickham and Lydia—just to use an example, of course—were able to spirit off into the English night, there’s not much point in sending out the search party if we know exactly where they were and what they were doing at 10:17 and again at 10:24 and again at 10:27. (Indiscreet and over-familiar: your poster children have arrived.) No, far too much is lost in the land of Austen when characters are too easy to find and too eager to tell us what’s up.
So, Twitter: Jane Austen hates you. Not so much from some place of anti-tech “get off my lawn!”-itis as from knowing people—like, humanity—too well and from liking to tell stories where information is sometimes withheld for whole chapters at a time (WHAT?). Good thing she’s got that nice, loopy penmanship to fall back on, no?