Jane Austen Letter Moments

Watercolour portrait of Jane Austen by James Stanier Clarke, 1815I think I may boast myself to be, with all possible vanity, the most unlearned and uninformed female who ever dared to be an authoress. The Letters of Jane Austen, 11 December 1815

Unlearned? Uninformed? Vanity? I think NOT!

This one line from a letter written to the Rev. James Stanier Clarke, librarian to the Prince Regent of England, expounds Austen’s sly charm and passive wit!  How humble, how unpretentious, how insignificantly she promotes herself to the Rev. in an attempt to put him off his absurd request for her to write a historical romance formed around the House of Saxe Coburg (Germany). Little he knew what made our Jane tick!

I will concede that Austen was correct on one level. As an author in comparison to some of her learned contemporaries, her education and experiences were indeed unlearned and uninformed. She had little formal education beyond the influences and guidance of a traditionally educated father who augmented his income as a tutor. In her defense, she had the sense to understand her limitations, and the intelligence to write within her scope of knowledge and experience.

In response to Rev. Clarke’s request of topics for her writing, I feel that her reply was more a vexation to his suggestions, than vanity on her part about her ability.

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