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Jane Austen’s Byronic Heroes II: Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice

  • Sarah Wootton

Abstract

Persuasion (1818) is, like Northanger Abbey (1818) and Sense and Sensibility (1811) before it, concerned with misreading and masculinity. It is also, above Austen’s other novels, conversant with the literary scene of the day. As Janet Todd and Antje Blank explain,

In the years just prior to her death, then, Jane Austen showed herself more open to her immediate historical and literary moment than at any other period of her life. […] But only in Persuasion does she interact profoundly with the major writers of her present moment, with the poets Byron, Southey, the later Crabbe and Scott, with the political prose of Helen Maria Williams, and with the latest novels of Scott, Burney, Hawkins and Edgeworth.1

Keywords

Woman Writer Film Version Female Protagonist Romantic Poet Male Protagonist 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    See Jane Austen, Persuasion, ed. by Janet Todd and Antje Blank (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006), p. lviii.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Marilyn Butler, Jane Austen and the War of Ideas (Oxford: Clarendon, 1975), p. 290. A volume of Byron’s poetry appeared alongside editions of Scott’s Marmion and The Lady of the Lake in an exhibition of Jane Austen’s reading at Chawton House Library in 2009.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Jane Austen, Persuasion, ed. by Gillian Beer (London: Penguin, 1998), p. 94. Subsequent references will be given in the text.Google Scholar
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    Susan Allen Ford, ‘Learning Romance from Scott and Byron: Jane Austen’s Natural Sequel’, Persuasions, 26 (2004), pp. 72–88 (p. 73).Google Scholar
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    John Halperin, The Life of Jane Austen (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 1984), p. 303.Google Scholar
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    Patricia C. Brückmann, ‘“Such Days as These”: Books, Readers, and Libraries in Persuasion’, in New Windows on a Woman’s World: Essays for Jocelyn Harris, ed. by Colin Gibson and Lisa Marr, 2 vols (Dunedin, New Zealand: University of Otago, 2005), II, pp. 9–28 (pp. 15–16).Google Scholar
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    Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey and Other Works, ed. by James Kinsley and John Davie, intro. by Claudia L. Johnson (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003), p. 323. Subsequent references will be given in the text. In many respects, Sanditon represents a culmination of Austen’s literary dialogues with past and present authors — making allusions to Cowper, Burney, Scott, and Wordsworth, among others — and it also extends her concerns over the undiscerning reader and the value of the novel.Google Scholar
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    William Hazlitt, ‘Lord Byron’, in The Spirit of the Age (UK: Dodo Press, 2007), p. 63. The specific phrase ‘first-rate’ also anticipates Charlotte Brontë’s eager recommendation of Byron’s and Scott’s poetry, as well as Thomas Moore’s Life of Byron, to a friend. See The Letters of Charlotte Brontë: With a Selection of Letters by Family and Friends, ed. by Margaret Smith, 3 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), I, pp. 130–1. Brontë, along the lines of Captain Benwick, ‘devoured the works of Scott and Byron with something bordering on obsession’. See An Edition of the Early Works of Charlotte Brontë, ed. by Christine Alexander, 3 vols (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991), II. i, p. xxi.Google Scholar
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    H. Elisabeth Ellington argues for the influence of William Gilpin in Pride and Prejudice and for Capability Brown’s improvements at Chatsworth as a source of inspiration for Pemberley. Ellington, ‘“A Correct Taste in Landscape”: Pemberley as Fetish and Commodity’, in Jane Austen in Hollywood, ed. by Linda Troost and Sayre Greenfield, 2nd edn (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2001), pp. 90–110 (p. 90).Google Scholar
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    The importance of Darcy’s letter as an ‘alternative narrative’ is discussed in Susan J. Wolfson, ‘Re: Reading Pride and Prejudice: “What Think You of Books?”’, in A Companion to Jane Austen, ed. by Claudia L. Johnson and Clara Tuite (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), pp. 112–22 (p. 119).Google Scholar
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    Jean Domarchi, Cahiers du Cinéma (1963), cited in George Lellis and H. Philip Bolton, ‘Pride but No Prejudice’, in The English Novel and the Movies, ed. by Michael Klein and Gillian Parker (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1981), pp. 44–51 (p. 44, added emphasis).Google Scholar
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    Ellen Belton, ‘Reimaging Jane Austen: The 1940 and 1995 Film Versions of Pride and Prejudice’, in Jane Austen on Screen, ed. by Gina Macdonald and Andrew Macdonald (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003), pp. 175–96 (p. 192).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Virginia L. Blum, ‘The Return to Repression: Filming the Nineteenth Century’, in Jane Austen and Co.: Remaking the Past in Contemporary Culture, ed. by Suzanne R. Pucci and James Thompson (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003), pp. 157–78 (pp. 166, 165). The gentler, unobtrusive masculinity of Hugh Grant’s performance as Edward Ferrars, in the 1995 film of Sense and Sensibility, was read in terms of a late twentieth-century liberal feminist idea of the ‘New Man’.Google Scholar
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    Monomania, as ‘a form of mental illness characterized by a single pattern of repetitive and intrusive thoughts or actions’ (OED), came into use as a psychiatric term in the early nineteenth century. While a number of Byron’s protagonists seem to suffer from this or a similar condition, the term is not widely used in literature until the mid-Victorian period. Nelly Dean, towards the end of Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights (1847), surmises that Heathcliff ‘might have had a monomania on the subject of his departed idol [Cathy]’. Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights, ed. by David Daiches, rpt (London: Penguin Classics, 1985), p. 354.Google Scholar
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    Janet Todd identifies Darcy’s heirs in twentieth-century novels by, among others, Daphne du Maurier, Barbara Cartland, and Georgette Heyer. See ‘The Romantic Hero’, in The Cambridge Companion to Pride and Prejudice, pp. 150–61. On the fate of the Byronic hero in Cartland’s romances, see Roger Sales, ‘The Loathsome Lord and the Disdainful Dame: Byron, Cartland and the Regency Romance’, in Byromania: Portraits of the Artist in Nineteenth-and Twentieth-Century Culture, ed. by Frances Wilson (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1999), pp. 166–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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Copyright information

© Sarah Wootton 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Wootton
    • 1
  1. 1.Durham UniversityUK

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