Really, she is quite probably, I believe, the most talented and witty author that ever put pen to paper. So far I have read Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Persuasion and part of Emma. Mansfield Park and Persuasion I have just read in the last fortnight. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.) Last night I started Jane Austen’s last novel, Northanger Abbey. I read 13 chapters in one sitting. So much good did my ingenious security console cozy do! I stayed up until 1 a.m. reading!
So far I absolutely love this book. I think it may just be my second favorite. How could anything displace P & P? It’s so different than the other books. At some points it seems as if she was almost in a hurry to get it written. Not to say that the quality leaves anything to be desired. I just find it so funny that she curtails some descriptions with quotes like this, “This brief account of the family is intended to supersede the necessity of a long and minute detail from Mrs. Thorpe herself, of her past adventures and sufferings, which might otherwise be expected to occupy the three or four following chapters; in which the worthlessness of lords and attornies might be set forth, and conversations, which had passed twenty years before, be minutely repeated.” or this, “It is now expedient to give some description of Mrs. Allen, that the reader may be able to judge in what manner her actions will hereafter tend to promote the general distress of the work, and how she will, probably, contribute to reduce poor Catherine to all the desperate wretchedness of which a last volume is capable – whether by her imprudence, vulgarity, or jealousy – whether by intercepting her letters, ruining her character, or turning her out of doors.”
I also absolutely love how Ms. Austen suddenly fires off into a diatribe in defense of the reading and writing of novels. I finished this particular chapter with a feeling of, “Where on earth did that come from?!” But I loved it. I love it that she was unafraid to show her hand right in the middle of her book! I can’t exactly wonder why it took the publisher 13 years to publish it after purchasing it.
But the reason I had to post my thoughts about this book today is that I found the following passage so funny in relation to homeschooling.
“You are fond of history! And so are Mr. Allen and my father; and I have two brothers who do not dislike it. So many instances within my small circle of friends is remarkable! At this rate, I shall not pity the writers of history any longer. If people like to read their books, it is all very well, but to be at so much trouble in filling great volumes, which, as I used to think, nobody would willingly ever look into, to be labouring only for the torment of little boys and girls, always struck me as a hard fate; and though I know it is all very right and necessary, I have often wondered at the person’s courage that could sit down on purpose to do it.”
“That little boys and girls should be tormented,” said Henry, “is what no one at all acquainted with human nature in a civilized state can deny; but in behalf of our most distinguished historians, I must observe that they might well be offended at being supposed to have no higher aim, and that by their method and style, they are perfectly well qualified to torment readers of the most advanced reason and mature time of life. I use the verb to torment, as I observed to be your own method, instead of to instruct supposing them to be now admitted as synonymous.”
And here is where I was most entertained. This had me laughing out loud so close did it hit to home! I think any other homeschooling Mom might want to embroider this on something, somewhere just to remind themselves that this pheonomena seems to be just about as old as the hills. It’s so good to know that “torment” seems the proper word for what we do on some days… although I can’t really say who feels it most as torment… the mother or the children!
“You think me foolish to call instruction a torment, but if you had been as much used as myself to hear poor little children first learning their letters and then learning to spell, if you had ever seen how stupid they they can be for a whole morning together, and how tired my poor mother is at the end of it, as I am in the habit of seeing almost every day of my life at home, you would allow that `to torment’ and `to instruct’ might sometimes be used as synonymous words.”
“Very probably. But historians are not accountable for the difficulty of learning to read; and even you yourself, who do not altogether seem particularly friendly to very severe, very intense application, may perhaps be brought to acknowledge that it is very well worth-while to be tormented for two or three years of one’s life, for the sake of being able to read all the rest of it. Consider – if reading had not been taught, Mrs. Radcliffe would have written in vain – or perhaps might not have written at all.”
And he’s right… all the torment will indeed be worth it!! What are a few years of “torment” to a lifetime of knowledge and love of learning? Thank you Ms. Austen for this reminder today! I needed it.