Do you REALLY want to write like Jane Austen???

by Wilhelmina Lyre
17th August 2016

I've just read a comment by Jimmy at https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/question/view/2618 and was reminded of an e-mail that I received not long ago. It said something like: "[Do you] Want to write like Jane Austen?" Or maybe "How to write like Jane Austen". I suppose that it was offering places on a writers' workshop / seminar / whatever, and came from either "The Writers' Workshop" or "Writers & Artists". I've been looking through my e-mail inbox and can't find it, so I guess that I must have binned it. Or maybe there never was such an e-mail and dementia is advancing on me. Can any of you confirm [seeing something like this] (and rescue my sanity)?

Anyway, Jimmy's comment ('According to Jane Austen, the correct form was "Do not you think" ') has spurred me to answer this question "Want to write like Jane Austen?" with a resounding "Certainly NOT!" *

Not only do I not want to write "Do not you think", I ALSO don't want to write novels where the #1 obsession is "Is she going to catch him in the end?" NOR novels where none of the main characters seem to work for a living (OK, OK: an exaggeration, but there ARE a lot of idle rich swanning about with nothing better to do than going for outings in carriages) while the working class hardly puts in an appearance. (And a low income disqualifies them from love.)

Or have I been reading the wrong Jane Austen books?

* Not even the fact that Pride and Prejudice is by far the most down-loaded book of the Gutenberg Project's list sways me. (16,690 down-loads compared with the much-more-deserving #2, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, at 10,183) [See http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/search/?sort_order=downloads] (Sherlock Holmes comes in 3rd, and a piece of erotica victoriana 4th. That's the only one I downloaded. [I've already got Alice in printed form.]) Of course, you have to remember that all the books on their list are copyright-free.

Actually, P&P is one of Austen's that I haven't read. (Perhaps the only one?) But I promised myself that if I was a good girl and behaved myself, I wouldn't have to. Even if it's free.

Replies

Hello

Well I want to be well known like her, however, but I can't be exactly like her. We're all different in our writing work and should be. I respect copyright and I won't pinch work.

If people are giving me ideas, then great but I will just consider them as ideally you should just be inspired on your own. If I truly like it, I will keep it, but through their consent.

And most importantly, my books have different stories, as of all books - so they can't all be like hers. Maybe in the same period of time, however, but not exactly the same. That would be stealing.

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K L Mason
26/04/2017

Well I want to be my own author.

I have one of my first books set in that period, however, because I generally do like that time of History, but they speak normally like we do now so that it is understandable. I like to engage my readers and let them use their imaginations to the set times.

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K L Mason
11/03/2017

OK; OK; so I'm an illiterate bumpkin. I should have stopped to think of the example "I suggest that he have all his teeth pulled out". One point to Ms. Austen, even if her sentence STILL sounds wrong to me. But the point I made within the point, that the speaker is full of stupid, sexist ideas, still holds. And some light-weight Googling trawls up this passage. AUSTEN is describing Catherine:

"She was heartily ashamed of her ignorance. A misplaced shame. Where people wish to attach, they should always be ignorant. To come with a well-informed mind is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.

"The advantages of natural folly in a beautiful girl have been already set forth by the capital pen of a sister author; and to her treatment of the subject I will only add, in justice to men, that though to the larger and more trifling part of the sex, imbecility in females is a great enhancement of their personal charms, there is a portion of them too reasonable and too well informed themselves to desire anything more in woman than ignorance."

So either Austen was being ironically malicious, maliciously ironic, or these are her own thoughts: stupidly sexist and conniving. And even if she WAS being ironic, she should have had enough sense (and sensitivity) to know that irony goes over the heads of perhaps 80% of the population, who assume that a writer is writing exactly what they mean.

In propagating such drivel - whether ironically meant or not - Ms. Austen must have put quite a break on women's struggle to be considered of equal worth as men.

"If you want to attract a husband, Ladies, act like a cretin."

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