”I murdered my father at a very early period of my Life, I have since murdered my Mother, and I am now going to murder my Sister. I have changed my religion so often that at present I have not an idea of any left. I have been a perjured witness in every public tryal for these last twelve years; and I have forged my own Will. In short there is scarcely a crime that I have not committed–But I am now going to reform. Colonel Martin of the Horse guards has paid his Addresses to me, and we are to be married in a few days.”
I read this to my mother yesterday after reading Fay Weldon’s article in the Saturday paper.
‘Guess who wrote this?’ I asked her.
‘Jane Austen of course’ said my mother without missing a beat.
For who else could write such a perfectly cadenced litany of destruction without a hint of heavy labour or regret? One clause chases another to the finishing line, where a new start is perfectly possible through romantic love enjoyed with a fine, most military man.
A morally reformed soul is thus easily within reach, certainly within reach of Austen’s droll wit and succinct syntax! Our tainted characters can be redeemed without a trace of the dishevelling, ‘ugliness’ of guilt!
In Austen’s mature novels, monsters lurk around in most drawing rooms, and young girls are metaphorically imprisoned by social mores and economic strictures. Yet here, in an example of her early writing, Austen reveals her zest for anarchy, with this subversively witty ‘confessional’, which restores happiness to a’ lost soul’ through the healing powers of an excellently executed marriage to a Horse Guard!
(I wonder what became of the Colonel….)
Ps here is another wickedly witty extract from Austen’s earlier self, this time from Love and Freindship (her spelling)!
“She is probably by this time as tired of me, as I am of her; but as she is too Polite and I am too civil to say so, our letters are still as frequent and affectionate as ever, and our Attachment as firm and sincere as when it first commenced.”
What a devastating woman she was! I do wonder at the extent of her cynicism or whether her exuberant wit just took over and took off ? And why did her sister Cassandra burn the letters?!
How to write a good essay!
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