Matters of Fact in Jane Austen

Janine Barchas  suggests that many of Jane Austen's fictions allude to real people, such as Regency celebrities, and she also studies references to the great gardener Evelyn and symbolism in some of Austen's works.  For example, Frederick Wentworth may have been named after the last Eart of Strafford who also rose from humble beginnings against all odds, and Louisa Musgrove's fall may have been based on Henrietta Wentworth who financed the Duke of Monmouth's failed rebellion at Lyme Regis.

Barchas also writes about Austen's playfulness in her use of names.  Austen probably named the naval families in Persuasion after great landed families of the time, for example, and she called the landed aristocrats after naval families.  This makes Persuasion less revolutionary than previously thought. Perhaps, Austen was hedging her bets and not as much in favour of Wentworth's self-made status as many critics thought.

This was interesting, but it became rather tiring at the end because there was just so much information in the book.  You really need to read it slowly and thoroughly to absorb it all!


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