Deborah Yaffe

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Here we go again. . .

By Deborah Yaffe, Jan 15 2018 02:00PM

Last month, the Washington Post drew well-earned Janeite derision when it published an article exploring the astonishing news that Jane Austen wrote about marriage but never married. (Turns out that novelists make up stuff they haven’t experienced personally! Who knew?)


Perhaps news of this teapot tempest didn’t cross the pond: Tomorrow is the London premiere of a show I’ve mentioned before -- “Austen: The Musical” – which is apparently obsessed with the very same non-issue.


"The question we ask and ultimately try to answer in the show,” the musical’s author, Rob Winlow, told the London Evening Standard, “is how come Jane Austen wrote so eloquently about romantic affairs when she had seemingly few loving relationships and never married?"


Leaving aside the fact that, in my humble opinion, this is perhaps the least interesting question that one could possibly ask about Jane Austen, I must take issue with the claim that “she had seemingly few loving relationships.” Austen was part of a large and close-knit family: at a minimum, we are pretty sure that she adored her father, was close to two or three of her brothers, corresponded regularly with her oldest nieces, maintained a number of lifelong friendships with women about her own age, and was almost inseparable from her sister.


This is hardly the portrait of someone whose emotional life was a desert. Unless, that is, your definition of “loving relationship” includes only heterosexual romantic relationships. Which is kind of, you know, sexist.


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