chapter  3
28 Pages

Self-conscious Author

“The key to Jane Austen’s fortune with posterity has been in part the extraordinary grace of her facility, in fact of her unconsciousness.” Thus, in 1905, Henry James, as a pontificating man of letters. “We are hardly more conscious of her process, or of the experience that fed into it,” he elaborated, “than the brown thrush who tells his story from the garden bough.” Not content with this gentle masculine put-down, he goes on to imagine her at her work-basket, dropping stitches as she is wool-gathering, and picking them up afterwards “as little touches of human truth, ... little master-strokes of the imagination” (James, “Lesson” 117–18).