A very modern MS
A week in books
Saturday 01 April 1995
Dr Nanda Brookenham, a lecturer in English at Sussex University and long- standing authority on Austen, called the discovery of the new MS "terrifically exciting. Many Jane-ites have suspected that the trail did not end with the discovery of Sanditon [the fragment Austen was working on when she died]. Lady Catriona shows the mind of a young and unusually spirited Jane, in some respects a `teenager', though she would not have recognised the word, of course. Its setting and idiom will raise a few eyebrows in the academy, mark my words."
Indeed. The novella deals, more explicitly than the rest of the Austen oeuvre, with the rituals of flirtation and romance, with the theme of sexual promiscuity before marriage, even with - unimaginable to more old- fashioned Austen readers - the trauma of single parenthood in the repressive society of the 1790s. Its heroine, Kate, is a well-born and credulous innocent (a proto-type of Harriet Smith from Emma) who visits, aged 17, her Aunt Sadie's seedy home in Nether Wallop, Hampshire. Appalled by the poverty of her surroundings, the heavy drinking of her opium-addicted Aunt and the foul language of her coarse-grained cousins, Mick and Keith (the latter known as "Mister Thrice-Knightly"), Kate is forced to take part in degrading rituals that ridicule her aristocratic lineage and abuse her person (hence the title). By the end, however, she persuades them to lead judicious and mannerly lives, and learns to be less hasty in judging the worth of others.
The literary world will naturally be divided about the worth of this unusual text. Students should order their copies without delay from: Editions Fou d'Avril, 323 rue de L'Odon, Paris, France.
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
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Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food