A Fine Brush on Ivory: An Appreciation of Jane Austen by Richard Jenkyns

By Richard Jenkyns

Jane Austen's paintings used to be a real triumph of the comedian spirit--of deep comedy, emerging from the guts of human existence. In A positive Brush on Ivory, Richard Jenkyns takes us on an amiable travel of Austen's fictional international, establishing a window on many of the nice works of global literature. Focusing principally on Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Emma, yet with many diverting aspect journeys to Austen's different novels, Jenkyns shines a loving gentle at the beautiful craftsmanship and profound ethical mind's eye that informs her writing. Readers will locate, for example, a superb dialogue of characterization in Austen. Jenkyns's perception into figures reminiscent of Mr. Bennett or Mrs. Norris is brilliant--particularly his portrait of the a laugh, shrewdpermanent, continuously ironic Mr. Bennett, whose humor (Jenkyns indicates) arises out of a deeply unsatisfied and disappointing marriage. the writer can pay due homage to Austen's unrivaled ability with complicated plotting--the good looks with which the first plot and a few of the subplots are woven together--highlighting the endless care she took to make every one plot element as traditional and as believable as attainable. possibly most vital, Jenkyns illuminates the guts of Austen's ethical mind's eye: she is consistently conscious, all through her works, of the nearness of evil to the comfy social floor. She understands that the socially applicable sins will be actually merciless and harsh, is aware that society should be pink in enamel and claw, and but she permits the pleasures of comedy and party to subordinate them. Insightful and hugely wonderful, A fantastic Brush on Ivory captures the spirit and originality of Jane Austen's paintings. it is going to be a adored souvenir or reward for her many fanatics.

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She begins, that is to say, in Cinderella's situation, but she does not make a glamorous marriage: she weds, as his second choice, her first cousin, a dull clergyman who, as a younger son, will not be rich. If we want a fairy-tale archetype for Pride and Prejudice, it might better be found in Beauty and the Beast: Elizabeth gives her love to the man who has seemed morally ugly to everyone before his transformation. Of course, Darcy makes a paradoxical version of the Beast, as 40 THE SHAPE OF COMEDY he is strikingly handsome in appearance.

True, the fact that something is a basic datum of a novel, or the kernel around which the rest of the book has grown, does not absolve the novelist from making it convincing. A good case in point is Tess oftheD'Urbervilles. That Tess murders her lover and swings for it was Hardy's starting point, based upon an actual case. But it remains an uncomfortable fact that in the book as written Tess's act of murder seems inadequately motivated and her flight and death an awkward appendage to the story; all this feels like a forced attempt to wrench the plot factitiously into the shape of tragedy.

Jane's mother, Cassandra Leigh, came of more aristocratic stock. The family seat, Stoneleigh Abbey, is a baroque mansion of palatial size. There was a barony in the family, and Jane was also related through the Leighs to at least two other peers; her great-great-uncle, the Duke of Chandos, had been one of the highest noblemen in the realm. But grand connections did not mean grand living, and she and her parents were short of money for most of their lives. Nonetheless, these links to the high aristocracy give a significance to the fact that there are no noblemen in her novels (Lady Catherine de Bourgh is a nobleman's daughter, and there is a peer in the abandoned fragment, The JVatsons)'.

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