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Monday, March 9

Mark Twain Gets Another Dig at Jane Austen

Nearly 99 years after Mark Twain's death, an unpublished short story found in his archives will be published in The Strand mystery magazine. The story, The Undertaker's Tale, will also be included in a new book "Who Is Mark Twain?," a collection of his unpublished short works, which will include 24 stories and essays. As we know, Mr. Twain was no fan of Jane's, and included in this new compilation will be his thoughts about her. Known for his ascerbic wit, he famously said: "Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book."

Although Mr. Twain was fascinated enough with Jane's novels to read them several times, some of his remarks are downright mean spirited. Read his observation to Joseph Twitchell in a letter written in 1898: "I haven't any right to criticise books, and I don't do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone." (Image taken at the Mark Twain house, Connecticut, which is in danger of closing - read the post in Austenprose.)

Let's just say that if you're no fan of Jane's I'm no fan of yours. I can't say I don't like Mr. Twain's writing, but I can state most emphatically: The man's no gentleman.

Posted by Vic, Jane Austen's World

17 comments:

giddymomof6 said...

grr...

Bostan natsuko said...

well thats mean of him

Lynn said...

Mark Twain was a wit that cut both ways...remember, women writers, especially ones who never married, were easy targets of men writers ( and men in general )who thought women had no business writing AND making money doing it ! He was a man with many opinions alright...he could be mean while trying to seem clever but the only people he really offends now are us Austen fans.

Hopefully, he and Jane have already met in heaven and she has dressed him down as nicely as the reproof Elizabeth gave Darcy in Pride & Prejudice !

morgan said...

This was the quote that first got me turned off to Mark Twain, and yet you notice that he says "every time I read Pride and Prejudice..." he keeps going back despite his supposed hatred:-)

Lynn said...

Morgan, thanks for your comment...that was what I was trying to explain with my comment too !

Mists of Seattle said...

My feeling about this is that Mark Twain was obviously in love with Jane and frustrated that she was dead. He admits to re-reading her books - and methinks the man doth protests too much. He sounds much like a prickly twarted suitor than a keen literary critic. I belive that Mr. Twain is smarting....not hating.

Lili said...

i couldn't expect anything else from the man who wrote huckleberry finn...yuckkkk

Austen would kick his ass anytime literary speaking lol

wk said...

haaaaaaaaaaaaah!I don't care who you are, that right there is a funny joke.

Nicolas said...

Don't forget that Twain also wrote this about her tragic efforts:

"She makes me detest all her people, without reserve. Is that her intention? It is not believable. Then is it her purpose to make the reader detest her people up to the middle of the book and like them in the rest of the chapters? That could be. That would be high art. It would be worth while, too. Some day I will examine the other end of her books and see."

Anonymous said...

I love Mark Twain even more for saying this. What an amazing man.

~ Erin

About said...

lol

Anonymous said...

To Lynn, Mark Twain was actually a woman's rights supporter. Maybe he just genuinely thought she was a horrible writer. It's not the best idea to accuse someone of sexism when they clearly are not.

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Kristine said...

Ha!!! Yes!! That comment makes me want to read more Mark Twain novels--what a witty, brilliant man :D I was in hysterics when I saw this picture: http://www.brothers-brick.com/2007/03/18/thwack-shinbone-to-the-skull/

For my part, I far prefer the Brontë style of writing, and I most emphatically agree with Charlotte Brontë's estimation of Miss Austen--She does her business of delineating the surface of the lives of genteel English people curiously well; there is a Chinese fidelity, a miniature delicacy in the painting; she ruffles her reader by nothing vehement, disturbs him by nothing profound: the Passions are perfectly unknown to her; she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy Sisterhood…. Jane Austen was a complete and most sensible lady, but a very incomplete, and rather insensible (not senseless) woman.

Brittany said...

Actually you cannot say that he isn't a gentleman. The true meaning of the word "gentleman" is one who owns land and bears a coat of arms. In other words, one of a "noble" birth.
you are using the word as it is incorrectly defined today. unfortunately that definition is based solely on opinion because what may be gentlemanly to one may be offensive to another. the word really serves no purpose in enhancing the English language any more. using it the way you did is not only wrong, but I disagree with what you find "gentlemanly"

Sliuk said...

I hate M.T writtings, and I thing Jane Austen is fantastic. C'mon Mark didn't write about something that is really interesting. He was nerd and just jealous of Jane.

Stephen said...

Maybe Mark was harsh, but he is also correct. Austen is bubblegum schtick for women like bad cowboy stories for men - she is essentially the world's first soap opera writer. She has no idea how to write men, in fact, she makes Hemingway look like a scholar on writing about women in comparison. All of her male characters are just women acting like men. They are emasculated and very effeminate, just not believable at all.