Jane Austen

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

Excerpt

The eighteenth century was an age such as our imagination can barely comprehend; weltering as we do in a slough of habitual ugliness, ranging from the dreary horrors of Victorian sham gothic to the more lively hideous- ness of modern jerry-building, with advertisements defacing any space that might be left unoffendingly blank, and the tourist scattering his trail of chocolate paper, cigarette ends and film cartons, we catch sight every now and again of a house front, plain and graceful, with a fanlight like the half of a spider's web and a slip of iron balcony; among the florid or stark disfigurements of a graveyard we discover a tomb- stone with elegant letters composing, in a single sentence, a well-turned epitaph. Among a bunch of furnishing fabrics, we come upon a traditional eighteenth-century chintz, formal and exquisitely gay; a print shows us the vista of a London street, with two rows of blond, porticoed houses closing in a view of trees and fields. The ghost of that van- ished loveliness haunts us in every memorial that survives the age: a house in its park, a teacup, the type and binding of a book.

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey
Where wealth accumulates and men decay .

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