'Nerves' for a certain type of woman could be just so useful!
So, she never fundamentally changes. And Mr Bennett, by marrying such a person, caused many and various problems for the family of course. Still, he was an intelligent man and managed to see his way through many and various situations, somehow or other (although he recognised the fact that he was also often very fortunate in how things finally turned out).
"Lydia - the humiliation, the misery she was bringing on them all..." (p. 204)
I similarly, have suffered considerable embarrassment from certain members of my family on and off over the years!
As I have already said though, what I particularly loved and appreciated reading the book this time round, was the powerful and insightful introduction to the book by Brigid Brophy. Brigid Brophy made me think very clearly about some very important points about the novel as an art form; thereby emphasising the brilliance and genius of Jane Austen in a slightly different way for me (as opposed to enjoying the novel on a somewhat simpler level).
Brigid Brophy talks about the beautiful forms that Jane Austen created, and how she did this partly by being ruthless with her work, and destroying that which needed to be destroyed.
"Jane Austen's novels are beautiful forms because of what she destroyed in uncovering them. No element is without counterpart. No action merely ends a phase - it is always a resolution, not merely the last note but the key note, exactly in tune by virtue of its relation to all the notes that went before and theirs to one another." (p. x)
This reminds me of Mozart's work in some ways; having just the right amount of notes, and in the right order etc. (as opposed to some of his critics at the time, that said that his compositions had too many notes! Dear oh dear).
And then there is Mr Collins, the silly and annoying cousin of Lizzy's that also never read novels. As Brigid Brophy says:
"...Mr Collins declares he never reads novels. Jane Austen couldn't have said anything more damning than that." (p. xv)
Here then, Jane Austen is emphasising again how infuriating she can personally find silly and annoying people to be, whilst also making it clear just how wonderful she thinks the novel is. And Lizzys' love of reading is also articulated in the following way when she is reading a book, and then looks up to say to Mr Darcy:
"How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! - When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library." (p.40)
'How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book." I couldn't agree with her more!
Yet, in 'Emma' we witness here the compassionate side of her in regard to those that are less intelligent, with Miss Bates, who is so good-hearted and kind, but not very bright. Also, how guilty Emma felt at one point, when she felt that she had not treated her right and where she had spoken in public about the limits of her conversation.
Moving on, Brigid Brophy rightly turns on its head, the notion that Jane Austen wrote limited novels that just mirrored the society and the surroundings that she was brought up in. This is an accusation that is often thrown at her work, and is really just so unfair. I am reminded of the work of the philosopher J.S. Mill which I have written about in my newsletters and on my 'Ruth Rikowski Updates Progression' blog. J.S. Mill had an amazing ability to be able to write clearly and in an approachable way, which can then sometimes perhaps be taken for granted. I think something similar can apply to Jane Austen's novels. On one level they can appear to be so clear and simple and just lovely, creating a beautiful environment with interesting people - we can just escape into it, and perhaps wish that the real world was more like it, and leave it at that (or at least I can on one level, that's for sure). But although this is all very nice, if we leave it at that, then we are grossly under-estimating the power and brilliance of Jane Austen's work of course (although in reality, to be fair, that does not really happen much). As Brigid Brophy rightly says:
"It is sometimes implied that Jane Austen was a great novelist despite these limitations on her own experience and on her subject matter. But there is no 'despite' about it. Her subject matter constituted bricks quite adequate to building the structures her imagination conceived, as the perfection of the finished structures bears witness. Her own circumstances were actually helpful in that they included the opportunity for her to make herself technically competent - indeed, virtuoso - at writing novels. The technique of fiction is every bit as hard and lengthy to acquire as that of architecture or counterpoint" (p.v-vi)
Charles Hazlewood also thought this about Mozart's work; that much of the brilliance and passion of Mozart's work arose precisely from the life circumstances that he found himself in; and that his work should not be seen as something separate from this. But geniuses have the unique ability to be able to do this; to transform everyday occurences and passions into something else; into something creative, artistic and wonderful, that we can then all enjoy. This is what I see as being the big difference to be.
Brigid Brophy continues, says that:
"Far from passively and impartially reflecting back everything in her own milieu, she is a ruthless suppressor of all items which would not forward her plot or carry a structural weight in her design. A mirror reflects an assemblage in which the elements don't, as old-fashioned water-colourists used to put it, 'compose'; Jane Austen's novels are cogent, dynamic designs - structures of organic engineering." (p. vii)
Then, Brigid Brophy makes it clear that she thinks that Jane Austen's level of genius is on a par with that of Marx, Freud, Shakespeare and Mozart, and I quite agree with her about all of this. She says:
"The twentieth-century, which has been rightly taught by Marx and by Freud to get down to economic and sexual brass tacks, would quickly dismiss a merely mirroring Jane Austen as reflecting far too small a corner of England, too well protected against the intrusion of brass tacks to be statistically significant...Instead, of fading, Jane Austen is in the twentieth century standing out more and more unmistakenably. For the first time since one of her contemporary reviewers [Whately, later Archbishop of Dublin] recognised her as a Shakespearean genius, it is clear that she wrote her books not as a more entertaining way of passing the long rural, upper-middle-class winter evenings than needlework, but because she was a passionate artist whom nothing - not even if she had been a vivandiere - could have stopped." (p.ix)
"The imagination of a great novelist is an instrument as penetrating and analytic as the imagination of a Marx or a Freud. And indeed Jane Austen's artistic insight into the worlds she created carried her down to the very same brass tacks as those two thinkers reached by thinking their way down into the structure of the real world outside themselves." (p.x)
Furthermore, Brigid Brophy says that:
"The ground-plan of all Jane Austen's structures is laid out round two axes, her two great realistic perceptions: the economics of being a woman at a time when marriage was the only key to financial independence; and the power of sexual attraction, which may tempt you towards an imprudent marriage or towards a love which, not being reciprocated, won't lead to marriage at all. The novels Jane Austen constructs about these two great pillars are no more naturalistic than Mozart's operas or Shakespeare's comedies." (p. xii)
She concludes by saying that:
"...like many great works of art, Pride and Prejudice is itself a metaphor of art: an ever-living monument to the power of the imagination, constructed by an imagination of genius round imagination's two principles." (p.xvii)
Wow - Brigid Brophy's introduction is almost an amazing piece of art work in itself, I think!
The ability to re-create life in its various forms, into a beautiful work of art - what a truly wonderful, wonderful gift that is! And how much we can benefit from all of that. And of course, Jane Austen had this gift in abundance.
So I come to the end of another little episode for me in regard to Jane Austen. Although, perhaps now I will re-read one of her other novels, perhaps with new, refreshed and different eyes. Have to see.......