chapter  1
16 Pages

Energy Versus Sympathy 1

Take “Jack and Alice,” which Jane Austen wrote when she was about 13. It has three heroines, one with a red face who is “addicted to the Bottle and the Dice,” one a virtuous widow “with a handsome Jointure and the remains of a handsome face”; and the third a “lovely young Woman” whom we first encounter lying under a citron tree with a leg broken by a man-trap. The eponymous hero, Jack, barely appears. The other hero is “of so dazzling a Beauty that none but Eagles could look him in the Face.” The villainess is “short, fat and disagreeable” (J 14, 17). 2 The action includes the breaking and setting of a leg; a masquerade, from which the guests are all “carried home, Dead Drunk” (15); proposals of marriage by a woman; threats and attempts by one lady to cut the throat of another; and a poisoning. Finally the villainess is “exalted in a manner she truly deserved ... Her barbarous Murder was discovered and ... she was speedily raised to the Gallows” (29). Does this sound like the Jane Austen we know? Hardly.