Gentle Readers: Today is the anniversary of Jane Austen’s death at Winchester in 1817. She was only 41 years old, succumbing to what most believe was Addison’s disease. Here is my tribute to her passing In Memoriam: Jane Austen.
Even though this is a day of solemn reflection for Janeites, it is also a day to pay homage and respect to a talented lady who has brought us so much amusement and happiness for close to two hundred years. It is quite amazing to see all of the many editions of her books in print and numerous movie adaptations available today. She has indeed reached pop icon status. In reverence to her genius and in defense of her honor, I offer this parable for your edification and enjoyment.
There is an ancient tale told by a succession of vergers at Winchester Cathedral that a faint apparition of Jane Austen has been known to appear above her gravestone at midnight on the anniversary of her death. Witnesses have claimed that at times she appears quite happy and content, and at others, most seriously displeased. In the past, these unsettling visitations have coincided with certain events surrounding the actions of her family or admirers. In 1870, the year her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh published a memoir of his aunt, all the votive candles in the nave were simultaneously extinguished. When several of her letters were put up for auction by the Knathcbull family in 1893 the pews rattled, dislodging the hymnals. In 2007 with the release of the bio-pic Becoming Jane, the brass plaque erected in her honor mysteriously tarnished black overnight. With the recent announcement of the book Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, a new tale of romance, heartbreak, and tentacled mayhem, I shudder to think what her reaction will be to this blatant bastardization of her novel.
One of the main reasons I admire Jane Austen is her droll sense of humor. I am a proud card carrying member of The Gentle Reprove and Witty Banter Society. I dearly love to laugh and enjoy a good parody more than most. As an Austen enthusiast, I am happy to see her works reinterpreted for a new generation in a light-hearted and humorous way. I was one of the first bloggers to take up the banner and promote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. My review reflects my tongue-in-cheek reaction. The quirky and hilarious mini-series Lost in Austen was also a surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed. I must, however, draw the line of propriety when the editor of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters thinks it would be “really funny to desecrate a classic work of literature.“ This new novel combines 60% of Austen’s original text with 40% all-new scenes of giant lobsters, rampaging octopi, two-headed sea serpents, and other biological monstrosities. A satiric parody is one thing. Total desecration is another. This has gone far beyond making “sport for our neighbors and laughing at them in our turn.” It is slap in the face to all dead authors who can not defend themselves from greedy publishers acting like naughty school children doodling mustaches and blacking out teeth over their portraits.
Abominable! Is civility dead? I say badly done Quirk Books. We are not amused, and we doubt very much that Jane Austen is either.
Has Quirk Books Gone Too Far? Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters: Our Jane Austen Today readers aren’t thrilled either
Jane Austen’s Legacy: Precious Bits of Ivory Turned Into Monsters: Vic (Ms Place) at Jane Austen’s World voices her opinion on how Austen’s legacy is being misused and abused.