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By T. B. Tomlinson (auth.)

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Sample text

To put our lives and styles to the question, making sure that not only in deeds but in decor they exhibit the signs of our belonging to the number of the secular-spiritual elect. 2 What the self-importance of this sort of prose misses, first of all, is the openness, the absolute lack of modern pretentiousness, in Jane Austen's own writing. What it also misses, or misrepresents, are some of the best insights in D. W. Harding's earlier essay. In outline, Harding's essay might seem to resemble Professor Trilling's chapter on Mansfield Park.

His temper might perhaps be a little soured by finding, like many others of his sex, that through some unaccountable bias in favour of beauty, he was the husband of a very silly woman, but she knew that this kind of blunder was too common for any sensible man to be lastingly hurt by it. (ch. xx) The smile in this prose is easy and relaxed, preventing even the slightest touch of Romantic or post-Romantic despair about the human condition; but the adverse comments are very sharp indeed, and they clearly point to something permanently embedded in human nature, rather than to anything that could possibly stem from lack of breeding or education.

That sequence is from Chapter n; the novel as a whole ends with this much happier, but still mildly quizzical, comment from Jane Austen: Between Barton and Delaford, there was that constant communication which strong family affection would naturally dictate - and among the merits and the happiness of Elinor and Marianne, let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands.

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