Doubts and Reticence: Sense and Sensibility to Persuasion

  • T. B. Tomlinson


Yet to leave that as the final note about Jane Austen — the kind of confidence she does indeed achieve in Emma — would be to leave a slightly distorted picture, both of Jane Austen herself and of her position in relation to later novelists. Because in the first place it doesn’t sufficiently stress the fact that, in the England of her day, confidence of this crisp, alert and intelligent kind was so unusual that it must have been hard won. The state of England at the end of the Napoleonic wars cannot have been much better (and in some ways must have been much worse) than it is today. Indeed, most other writers (the second-generation Romantic poets, in particular) have moods in which they reflect, however indirectly, a feeling of disillusionment, or a collapse of energy, that is clearly more widely spread than just their own personal feelings of the moment. Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive … In such a context, the appearance of a novel like Emma must have been almost as unexpected as it would have been at any later date.


Human Nature Young Lady Distorted Picture Main Impulse Physical Weakness 
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© T. B. Tomlinson 1976

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  • T. B. Tomlinson

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