Literary Analyses

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen: A 19th-Century View

 Jane Austen by Sarah Fanny Malden (1889) is an excellent resource as a 19th-century view of Jane Austen’s works. The publication was part of an Eminent Women series published by W.H. Allen & Co., London. The following analysis and plot summary of Sense and Sensibility (1811) focuses on this work, which was Jane Austen‘s first published novel. 

Mrs. Malden said of her sources, “The writer wishes to express her obligations to Lord Brabourne and Mr. C. Austen Leigh for their kind permission to make use of the Memoir and Letters of their gifted relative, which have been her principal authorities for this work.” This excerpt is in the public domain:

In the summer of 1811, two years after Jane Austen’s move to Chawton Cottage, Sense and Sensibility was published by Egerton. Jane, at the age of thirty-six, was fairly launched on that career of authorship which was to prove so short, yet so much more brilliant ultimately than her best friends and warmest admirers could have expected. Read More→

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Vera Caspary’s Ladies and Gents, and Women’s Flapper Novels of the 1920s

Women’s flapper novels of the 1920s captured the essence of a fleeting era known as the Jazz Age and Roaring Twenties. This look at a largely forgotten genre of fiction, many written by women, is excerpted from A Girl Named Vera Can Never Tell a Lie: The Fiction of Vera Caspary by Francis Booth ©2022. Reprinted by permission.

The 1920s was the age of the flapper — the free, single, modern woman unencumbered by long skirts or long hair who could go anywhere, do anything; she did not have to settle for what her mother had to settle for.

She could change her life and entire social and economic situation, if only through marriage, and even change her physical appearance. The Flapper magazine, with its slogan “not for old fogeys,” was based in Vera Caspary’s hometown of Chicago and started in 1922. The opening issue made its stance clear. Read More→

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Vera Caspary’s Bachelor in Paradise (1961): Sex and Bias in the ‘Burbs

The newly built Los Angeles suburb of Paradise in Vera Caspary’s 1961 novel Bachelor in Paradise is rather like the aspirational estate of Northridge in Caspary’s earlier story “Stranger in the House” (1943). Excerpted from A Girl Named Vera Can Never Tell a Lie: The Fiction of Vera Caspary by Francis Booth ©2022. Reprinted by permission.

“It is one of those suburbs distinguished in real-estate advertisements by the word exclusive. The residents spend large sums to separate themselves from neighbors whom they meet as often as possible at the Country Club . . . Pedestrians are seldom seen.”

It is also somewhat similar to the setting of Grace Metalious’s 1956 novel Peyton Place (1956), with its simmering suburban sexual tensions among the “simple, well-constructed, one-family dwellings, most of them modeled on Cape Cod lines and painted white with green trim” and to Pepper Street in Shirley Jackson’s The Road Through the Wall (1948), also set in a California suburb. Read More→

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The Pure and the Impure by Colette (1932)

The Pure and the Impure by Colette, a strange work first published in 1932, feels less like a novel and more like a series of loosely stitched together character sketches. Indeed it is just that, of the gay and lesbian demimondaine societies in the Paris of Colette’s time. This deep dive into The Pure and the Impure is excerpted from Text Acts: Eroticism in 20th-Century Literature, volume 2* by Francis Booth. Reprinted by permission.

All but one of the characters are unnamed but are presumably real people that Colette knew. Janet Flanner, who was Paris correspondent for The New Yorker from 1925 onwards, and published plenty of her own sketches of Paris society, said of The Pure and the Impure: Read More→

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The Daring Fiction of Maude Hutchins

Maude Phelps McVeigh Hutchins (1899 –1991) was raised in an upper-class environment, born to wealthy parents in New York City. She was orphaned at a young age and brought up by her grandparents, prominent members Long Island society.

This introduction to Maude Hutchins’ creative life, first in the visual arts and then more predominantly as the author of fiction considered daring even by mid-twentieth-century standards, is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century Woman’s Novel  by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission.

A 1935 article about Hutchins (in her then role as a sculptor in Chicago) makes it clear just how aristocratic her family was. “Mrs. Hutchins’ mother was a Phelps, of a New England family that made their advent in Massachusetts in 1632. It was her Phelps grandparents who brought her up after her parents died.” Read More→

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