A Memoir of Jane Austen (illustrated and annotated): A 200th anniversary edition Paperback – Illustrated, June 16, 2017
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Frequently bought together
- Publisher : Solis Press; Illustrated edition (June 16, 2017)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 146 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1910146293
- ISBN-13 : 978-1910146293
- Item Weight : 7.5 ounces
- Dimensions : 6.14 x 0.31 x 9.21 inches
- Customer Reviews:
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Besides the text, she adds a helpful 40 pp Intro, a Family Tree, 90 pp of Notes (!!!!), and about 65 pp of original material from his cousins that JEAL used to toss together this "biography". Be sure to read the short, but nasty, note niece Fanny Knatchbull (the Knight side of the family) wrote about her "beloved" aunt - which is in the Intro, rather than in the additonal materials at the end.
With only 161 of her letters still existing (out of possibly more than 3,000 written!), this is one of the few primary source materials available about the life of JA. In her Intro Sutherland provides us with good background to the reasoning behind this publication - that the last of JA's generation had just died, and the nieces and nephews were getting older themselves. Jane's older sister Cassandra had doled out letters and pieces of manuscript to various family members, and no one quite knew who had what! And when he wrote this JEAL was not aware that the Knight side of the family had most of JA's letters. So it is largely based on memories of a handful of nieces, and JEAL's own memories and a bit of research.
It is good to hear from Sutherland that I was not the only one who was occasionally confused by who is who in the family and amongst the family friends. Shared names, and 2 brothers who changed their names for inheritances, and all the offspring of her siblings, can make for confusing reading at times!
Sutherland makes an excellent case for JEAL (known to the family as Edward, not James - more confusion!) wanting to not only share his aunt's life and literary output with the public, he also wanted to define the narrative by which she would be known (for some, he has defined her as "Saint Jane"!). Sutherland is a great help in bringing to our attention what was not included (E. g. the mentally and physically handicapped 2nd son), and what, at times oddly (like the ancestor's letter), was included in this loose biography.
Because there is so little primary material on her life, current biographies seem to be filled more with "maybe this happened" than actual fact of what *did* happen! Which, if you have an interest in Austen, makes this well worth a read. And definitely use this Kathryn Sutherland edited editon, with its voluminous, and extremely helpful, Notes.
Unlike modern bios, this is a simple book written by someone who believed there might be a reader out there who wanted to know more about his aunt. He did not write for profit, like today's professional biographers, and as he was not a professional, his book can wander a bit and it is not the most organized of reads.
However, Mr. Leigh-Austin knew his aunt throughout his childhood and young adult life and represented his family at Ms. Austin's funeral. He was the son of Ms. Austin's eldest brother, James, who took over her father's rectory in Steventon. Because he lived close by Chawton, where Ms. Austin lived for the last few years of her short life, Mr. Leigh-Austin visited his aunt and her mother and sister (and friend, Martha) on a regular basis during he teenage years.
This intimacy and first hand knowledge is what makes this book a "winner".
It is not the most factually informative. However, I read bios to get to know the "person" and not simply the facts of their lives. Mr. Leigh-Austin shares his personal memoirs of often small, insignificant details and also those of his two sisters. It is these small things which make me see Ms. Austin as a person and not a mere subject of a bio.
I have read a few Austen bios in the past month and this remains the one I appreciate the most for reminding me that Ms. Austen was not just "the author" but also a woman quite proud of her needlework and her skill at cup-and-ball, an aunt who enjoyed sharing time with nieces and nephews, as well.