Reflection upon the Deaths of Jane Austen and Civility

Jane Austen's gravestone at Winchester CathedralGentle 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.

Portriat of Jane Austen (1870)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 ZombiesMy 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.

Respectfully &C

Laurel Ann

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.

15 thoughts on “Reflection upon the Deaths of Jane Austen and Civility

  1. Pingback: Jane Austen’s Last Hours « Jane Austen’s World

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  3. Great tribute from you as I’ve come to expect. I shudder at the sea monsters as well… horid, horid, horid I expect my JA friends would say! I’m off to read P & P, nearly half way through the book again. Have a great weekend!

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  4. Pingback: Jane Austen’s Legacy: Precious Bits of Ivory Turned Into Monsters « Jane Austen’s World

  5. “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.”

    Excellent point, LA. I am amazed that we both came to the same boiling point at about the same time, but then, we’ve been exposed to the same books and JA memorabilia. Thanks for saying what needs to be said! Vic

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    • Thanks Vic. I could have lived with this novel, and just ignored it, until the publisher promoted desecration of classic lit as being fun. That sends the wrong message to anyone, and is so disrespectful. I suspect that this will NOT be the last novel or movie to appear on the scene that takes this approach. I just hope that they move on to another source.

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  6. What a lovely tribute to one of the world’s greatest authors. Thanks!

    >when the editor of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters thinks it would be “really funny to desecrate a classic work of literature.“

    I’m a pretty firm believer in the power of the market. The audience for all this Austen paralit is Austen lovers, who like you, enjoying romping in the wit and remember that Austen herself wrote madcap stuff in her salad days. But you have to love Austen to buy the paralit and no Austen lovers wants to see any Austen work desecrated, so my prediction is that if S&S&SM really does desecrate instead of honor Austen’s original, it will fail.

    Of course, a lot of people read McCullough’s Mary Bennet book, which I thought a desecration of P&P, so I could be out to lunch with this rose-colored theory.

    Nevertheless, lovely tribute!

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    • Hi JaneGS, thanks for stopping by and your kind complements. I think your prediction will happen. Austen lovers will be totally put off by someone desecrating her work. So disrespectful to brag about it. The publisher, I assume, is trying to appeal to those young readers who are not reading this book to discover Austen or a lit classic, but as a fun joke against what society values, and they do not. I have always enjoyed parodies. They laugh with the authors intensions. This approach, laughs at them and puts them down.

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  7. Hard to believe it’s been almost 200 years since her passing — and her “fan base,” if you will, seems stronger than ever! The anniversary of Austen’s death is my birthday, actually, so I spent July 18 paying tribute to both myself (with cake and ice cream) and Jane (by grabbing a new copy of Persuasion)!

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