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  • Writer's pictureElsie King

Jane Austen-A matter of style

Last week I wrote about the difficulty of capturing the essence of the Regency era language and style in a modern novel.

Jane Austen wrote fabulous witty plots in the language and written style of her time. She captured the tone and words used in everyday conversations that revealed the values and judgements of the people around her.

The following example is taken from Pride and Prejudice when Lizzy is discussing the forthcoming marriage of her friend Charlotte Lucas to Mr Collins. It is Lizzy's response to Janes defence of the match.

"To oblige you, I would try to believe almost any thing, but no one else could be benefited by such a belief as this; for were I persuaded that Charlotte had any regard for him, I should only think worse of her understanding, than I now do of her heart. My dear Jane, Mr Collins is a conceited, pompous, narrow-minded silly man; you know he is, as well as I do; and you must feel, as well as I do, that the woman who marries him, cannot have a proper way of thinking. You shall not defend her, though it is Charlotte Lucas. You shall not, for the sake of one individual, change the meaning of principle and integrity, nor endeavour to persuade yourself or me, that selfishness is prudence, and insensibility of danger, security for happiness."

Pride and Prejudice ©Jane Austen 1813 (page 124, Penguin Books, 1995 edition) Pride and Prejudice is in the Public Domain.

I love this style of writing. Yes it is difficult to read, tends to be repetitive and judgemental but the wide vocabulary and the way the sentences flow you can pick up the essence of Lizzy's anger, confusion and disbelief. You can hear her speaking, the rhythm of her horror at her friend's decision. It is a masterclass in writing and worth trying to capture in my own novels.

Image: Blue Roses © L.C.Wong 2023

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