Jane Austen’s Words

Greer Garson (as Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice 1940)

There is a…dialectic at work in Jane Austen’s words, their meaning being dependent on the level at which they are being used.  One cannot simply say, for example, that “propriety” is one of Jane Austen’s values, but “sensibility” is not because as they stand those statements have no useful truth or falsity.  There is a sense in which either word may be used to claim an unreal value; in this false sense it may well mean, not hypocritically but ironically, the very reverse of the unlimited strength it assumes and represents itself to be.  There is another sense in which either word has a real value; and in this sense it may well be a possession of someone who does not seem to have it, or may seen to be a weak limitation of its possessor rather than the strength it proves to be.  –Stuart M Tave, *Some Words of Jane Austen*

Upcoming Poetry Reading

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I will be reading from *Stony Lonesome* (I plan to read some of the poems I haven’t been reading, so if you have been to an earlier reading, you should hear some new poems).  I will also be reading from draft poems for my new book, whose working title is *Flirting with Death*.  St. Dunstan’s is a great space for an event like this; I hope to see you there.

Jane Austen, Tony Tanner

I have been slowly reading through Tanner’s impressive Jane Austen.  It is truly instructive:  even when I disagree, I often do so using the very terms of discussion that Tanner discerningly provides, so that my disagreements turn often on more fundamental agreements (“we agree in the language we use”).  I strongly recommend the book to any serious Austen fans out there.  The chapter on Mansfield Park is worth the price of the book by itself.

The Nativity


Alone, alone, about a dreadful wood Of conscious evil runs a lost mankind, Dreading to find its Father lest it find The Goodness it has dreaded is not good: Alone, alone, about our dreadful wood. Where is that Law for which we broke our own, Where now that Justice for which Flesh resigned Her hereditary right to passion, Mind His will to absolute power? Gone. Gone. Where is that Law for which we broke our own? The Pilgrim Way has led to the Abyss. Was it to meet such grinning evidence We left our richly odoured ignorance? Was the triumphant answer to be this? The Pilgrim Way has led to the Abyss. We who must die demand a miracle. How could the Eternal do a temporal act, The Infinite become a finite fact? Nothing can save us that is possible: We who must die demand a miracle. –Auden

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