Light, and bright, and sparkling

Well, whatever one may say of the rest of them, with the Gardiners they were always on the most intimate terms – and when I say they I mean both of them mind, not just Miss Lizzie, with her natural calls of gratitude and family propinquity, but Mr Darcy too ‑ even though it could not for a moment be denied that Mr Gardiner earned his money in the city. That slight taint notwithstanding, they were really quite welcome at Pemberley, for as Miss Austen emphasised, the happy couple “were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the persons who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them”.

On January 29th, 1813 Jane Austen wrote from Chawton to her sister, Cassandra:

I want to tell you that I have got my own darling Child from London [Pride and Prejudice, published anonymously in three volumes on the previous day].

In the evening the book was read aloud to the Austens’ neighbour Harriet Benn, who had come to dinner.

... she really does seem to admire Elizabeth. I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, & how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know.

In the following week Jane wrote again to Cassandra. A further reading had been performed but had not gone so well as the first, something perhaps, Jane thought, to do with her mother’s deficient skills in reading aloud.

... I believe must be attributed to my Mother’s too rapid way of getting on – and tho’ she perfectly understands the characters herself, she cannot speak as they ought. – Upon the whole, however, I am quite vain enough & well satisfied enough. – The work is rather too light & bright & sparkling; it wants shade; ‑ it wants to be stretched out here & there with a long Chapter – of sense if it could be had, if not of solemn, specious nonsense – about something unconnected with the story; an Essay on Writing, a critique on Walter Scott, or the history of Buonaparte – or anything that could form a contrast & bring the reader with increased delight to the playfulness & Epigrammatism of the general stile. I doubt your quite agreeing with me here – I know your starched Notions.

The Reader will, I pray, forgive me for beginning this short memorandum with the last, rather than the first, sentence of Miss Austen’s comedy. It is indeed well known to be the case that the hack writer in want of a snappy opening line will grab at the most obvious and gimcrack device to hand, be they never so many who have travelled the same path before before him. A universally acknowledged practice indeed, but not universally observed.

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