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Victorian Readers and “England’s Jane”

  • Cheryl A. WilsonEmail author
Chapter

Abstract

In this Chapter, “Victorian Readers and ‘England’s Jane,’” considers how and why the Victorians associated Austen with a specific, idealized version of Englishness that was particularly suited to the changing national identity of the late nineteenth century. This Englishness was evoked by a historical nostalgia that linked Austen to the places she lived in and wrote about and glorified the sense of community depicted in her novels. Such connections were most often established in the biographies and works of literary tourism that sought to bring late-Victorian readers closer to Austen’s Regency England. Novels, too, provided opportunities for Victorian writers to engage with their own ideas of Englishness, positioning their texts in conversation with Austen’s works and revising both her depictions of England at home and the influence of England abroad. At the same time, however, many writers and critics were troubled by the apparent lack of connection between Austen’s works and the broader social and political forces of the period. This chapter includes discussion of texts by Mary Russell Mitford, Charlotte Yonge, and Elizabeth Gaskell, as well as works of literary tourism and biography by Constance Hill and Lord Brabourne. Jane Austen and the Victorian Heroine ends with a brief conclusion that looks at the purported “first” Austen sequel, Sybil G. Brinton’s Old Friends and New Fancies (1913), to create new links between both the fictional and critical narratives surrounding the development of Jane Austen’s literary and cultural significance.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stevenson UniversityStevensonUSA

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