JANE AUSTEN THE WOMAN by George Holbert Tucker


Some Biographical Insights
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 Instead of the promised revelations from hitherto censored materials offering a more ``vibrant'' Jane Austen, Tucker assembles a reference guide to Austen's life, a genealogy of her relatives, friends, some people she never met at all, and gossip long since refuted. Readers who savor connectedness, relationships, coincidence, and triviality may appreciate this reference guide to Austen's social life, already depicted ironically in her novels. Here are the provincial towns (Steventon, Bath, Southampton, and Chawton), the flirtations, friends, cousins, scandals, the places she traveled (not far, not many), her religious practices, and the people she almost knew, that literary demimonde of Regency England. William Beckford's uncle was married to her brother's wife's aunt; another aunt's cousin was a friend of George Crabbe; an uncle's barrister was William Cowper's confidante; and seven years after Austen's death, Byron's body lay in state in her niece's London parlor. Austen's neighbors at Steventon, like her neighbors everywhere, their houses' lineages, occupations, and marriages are delineated with the same care and affection as are the men she flirted with, didn't marry, and even the women they didn't marry. These men had the unlikely names of Digweed, Fowle, Heartley, and Powlett; there's an unsubstantiated rumor of a summer romance with John Wordsworth, the brother of the poet. Tucker (a Virginia-based journalist and author of A Goodly Heritage: A History of Jane Austen's Family, not reviewed) describes Austen's interest in private theatricals, piano, art, dancing, her attitude toward the foppish prince regent, her reading, and her interest in the scandals, suicides, affairs, elopements, and petty crimes of friends and relatives. The very kind of pedantry that elicited Austen's most stinging satire, reproducing the whole petty and suffocating social network her fiction indicts.

Pub Date: June 6th, 1994
ISBN: 0-312-12049-4
Page count: 270pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1994