Jane Austen and Representations of Regency England

By Roger Sales | Go to book overview

Introduction

I have written this account of Jane Austen’s later, or Regency, writings mainly for undergraduates at all levels who are studying the literature and history of this period. The material on the Austen industry at the beginning may also be of interest to those who are working on contemporary British culture. This is not then a specialist monograph aimed primarily at other scholars, even though it is based on detailed research and advances its own distinctive arguments. It nevertheless obviously needs to win the broad support of other Austen specialists. These opening statements will therefore explain to them and others both the aims and organisation of the arguments. I have chosen, at this preliminary stage, to refer to general patterns within both Austen criticism and social history rather than to anticipate the more detailed references and citations that are provided later.

The book is divided into four unequal parts. The first one consists of a single chapter which considers the origins and growth of the Austen industry. It probably requires a little more explanation than any of the subsequent chapters since it could be argued that the facts about Austen’s Victorian biographers are too well-known to bear repetition. My own particular experience has been that this is not a familiar story, or mouldy tale, for many students in Britain and elsewhere. This may be the result of the fact that some of the relevant texts are not always easily available to those who do not enjoy access to good research libraries. The main reason, however, for starting with the origins of the Austen industry is that the early biographers often tried to suppress the very connections between her writings and the Regency period which form the main subject of this study. The short survey of their anxieties about Regency values therefore provides a necessary introduction to the more detailed account of the period that follows.

This opening chapter also considers some of the mythologies that circulate around the figure of Austen in contemporary British culture.

-xiii-

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Jane Austen and Representations of Regency England
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Textual Note xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Part I - The Regency Reproduced 1
  • 1 - Rewriting the Regency 3
  • Part II - The Regency Rediscovered 29
  • 2 - The Letters: Keeping and Losing Her Countenance 31
  • 3 - The Prince, the Dandy and the Crisis 56
  • Part III - The Political Condition of Regency England 85
  • 4 - Mansfield Park: The Regency Crisis and the Theatre 87
  • Part IV - The Sick Society: Leisure and Invalidism in the Later Writings 133
  • 5 - Emma: The Village and the Watering Place 135
  • 6 - Persuasion: The War and the Peace 171
  • 7 - Sanditon: The Madhouse and the Greenhouse 200
  • Appendix 222
  • Afterword 227
  • Notes 240
  • Select Bibliography 268
  • Index 271
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