Perhaps as a pre-teen, I was more able to appreciate the glitz of Regencies featuring members of the haut ton and including exciting events such as duels and elopements. Maybe I needed to mature to properly appreciate Austen’s brilliant characterizations and what she could do with “three or four families in a country village.”
But I also think the period language itself was a stumbling block, between the occasional long, convoluted sentence structures and some of the vocabulary. Of course, I’d already learned many new words from Georgette Heyer, yet with Jane they mattered more. I realized why this past summer, when I read P&P with my own 11 year old. In Heyer’s books, context could help one understand the longer words (e.g. the “diaphanous gown” or the “ubiquitous footman”). However, in Jane Austen, the difficult words are often central to the meaning.
Consider this bit of Darcy dialogue:
“When you told Mrs. Bennet this morning that if you ever resolved on quitting Netherfield you should be gone in five minutes, you meant it to be a sort of panegyric, of compliment to yourself — and yet what is there so very laudable in a precipitance which must leave very necessary business undone, and can be of no real advantage to yourself or any one else?”
Has anyone else tried introducing Jane Austen to friends, family or offspring? How did it work out? Have you ever tried reading Jane aloud?
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