self-denial to relinquish

Moon Palace

Senior Member
French
Hello again,
Here is a passage from a criticism pf JA's P&P, and more largely on JA's writing technique. I must say I do not understand it very well, more especially the last part, and I'd appreciate some help.
Thanks in advance.

If it were not that the class to which she confines herself was the one most intimately and thouroughly known to her, we should be diposed to consider it a piece of self-denial on Miss Austen's part to relinquish all stronger lights and shadows. :confused: (followed this way: but perhaps it is better to say that she was conscientious in her determination to describe only what she knew).
 
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I would like to hear more context. However, my thinking is the following:
    Perhaps the writer is accusing JA of choosing to present only the middle or mainstream, rather than the extremes (the stronger lights and shadows) of the people and behaviors of the class of which she writes. Choosing to stay away from these extremes would be judged as "self-denial," were it not for the fact that she was so familiar with this class.
     

    Moon Palace

    Senior Member
    French
    I would like to hear more context. However, my thinking is the following:
    Perhaps the writer is accusing JA of choosing to present only the middle or mainstream, rather than the extremes (the stronger lights and shadows) of the people and behaviors of the class of which she writes. Choosing to stay away from these extremes would be judged as "self-denial," were it not for the fact that she was so familiar with this class.
    Sorry for not giving more context, but the two sentences before hint at JA's characters who are seldom fine but never go any further than being prevented from travelling post without a servant.
    I believe your analysis is sensible, but I don't quite understand yet why it would be 'self-denial'? :confused: All the less so as JA herself was not in any of the extremes you mention. Denial of the truthfulness of the society of her century would suit me fine, but 'self-denial' seems not to make sense since she herself never knew these extremes.
     

    Moon Palace

    Senior Member
    French
    OK, here we go...
    To be sure, Miss Austen's ladies and gentlemen are seldom fine, but they are all to be found in the same kind of house with the same kind of surroundings. Their poverties, when they have any, are caused in a genteel way by the entail of an estate, or by the premature death of the father without leaving an adequate provision of his lovely and accomplished girls. The neglect which leaves the delicate heroine without a horse to ride, or the injury conveyed in the fact that she has to travel post without a servant, is the worst that happens.
    If it were not that the class to which she confines herself was the one most intimately and thouroughly known to her, we should be diposed to consider it a piece of self-denial on Miss Austen's part to relinquish all stronger lights and shadows.
    (extracted from Pride and Prejudice, Norton edition; the above excerpt is in fact itself extracted from Margaret Oliphant's 'Miss Austen and Miss Mitford', 1870)

    I still don't see where the self-denial lies. :confused: Thanks for your help.
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    The class she limits herself to, those who only faced slight financial hardships or other deprivations, is what she knew best. If in her own life she had not been a part of this class, it would almost be denial or escapism for her to so strictly limit the financial problems of her characters to the minor types of contretemps described.
    If she had suffered more extremes, it would be suspicious if she did not to include their like ("the strongest lights and shadow"). That she did not discuss or describes these is more understandable because she did not live them or see them within her own social circles.
     

    Moon Palace

    Senior Member
    French
    Yes, I got it... thanks to you, I don't know why the author uses such a convoluted way of saying what is in fact simple.
    Anyway, this is of paramount importance to me, and I am very grateful to you for your help. :)
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    JA lived in the world she writes about. It's what she knew best.
    We know that.

    If she had lived in a context more exposed to the social extremes of her times, she would surely have written about those extremes - those stronger lights and shadows (think of Dickens, later).

    We are invited to consider that for her to have known of such a world and avoided writing about it would have been an act of literary self-denial.

    I seem to have ended up re-expressing bibliolept's post.
     

    Moon Palace

    Senior Member
    French
    Then it means the critic is here counter attacking the numerous critics that claimed JA had not been dary enough in her portrait of society. Right? And he shows here that instead of not exploring what she knew not, she focused on what she knew and did so very shrewdly indeed. Thus she proved true to herself at least.
    Thanks for your contribution, Panj. It sinks in better when reasserted. :)
     
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