Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Watsons : Jane Austen

The Watsons
By Jane Austen

I've never read any of Jane Austen's works and was curious to see why they are considered classics.

The Watsons was an unfinished fragment and was published postumously along with the other two pieces in this book.  Emma Watson returns to her home and poor family, after living with her more well-off aunt, who has just passed away.  After attending a ball, she attracts the attention of the well-off Lord Osborne, as well as the ladies' man, Tom Musgrave.  However,  she finds herself attracted to the more modest, Mr. Howard.

I certainly understand now, why Austen was so respected.  She has a knack for describing the nuances of a person and a situation.  For example, though he is well-off, Lord Osborne is clumsy and insensitive with his remarks to the poor Watson family:
  'Ladies should ride in dirty weather. - Do you ride?'
  'No my lord'
  'I wonder every lady does not. - A woman never looks better than on horseback. -'
  'But every woman may not have the inclination, or the means.'
  'If they knew how much it became them, they would all have the inclination, and I fancy Miss Watson - when once they had the inclination, the means would soon follow.'
   'Your lordship thinks we always have our own way. - That is a point on which ladies and gentlemen have long disagreed. - But without pretending to decide it, I may say that there are some circumstances which even women cannot control. - Female economy will do a great deal my Lord, but it cannot turn a small income into a large one.'
  Lord Osborne was silenced. Her manner had been neither sententious nor sarcastic, but there was a something in its mild seriousness, as well as in the words themselves, which made his lordship think; - and when he addressed again, it was with a degree of considerate propriety, totally unlike the half-awkward, half-fearless style of his former remarks. - It was a new thing with him to wish to please a woman; it was the first time that he had ever felt what was due to a woman, in Emma's situation. - But as he wanted neither sense nor a good disposition, he did not feel it without effect. 
I also started to read a bit of Sandition, but did not find myself as interested in it as The Watsons.

I will note that with this particular edition, the introduction and notes were interesting and educational, providing the meta-context around the unpublished nature of the works, as well as providing historical context for the characters in the works and modern interpretation of some vocabulary/phrases.

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