Literary Musings

Jane Austen’s Final Days — Her Illness, Courage, and Death

Jane Austen by Sarah Fanny Malden (1889) is a valuable resource on the life and work of the beloved British author from the perspective of the late 19th century. The following excerpt describes Jane Austen’s final days —her illness, the courage she displayed, and her death.

Persuasion, the last novel Austen worked on prior to her death, and Northanger Abbey, her first completed novel, were both published six months after her death in 1817.

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 has been her principal authorities for this work.” Read More→

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Jane Austen’s First Attempts at Publishing

Jane Austen’s talent was recognized early on and taken seriously by her entire family. Her father and brothers played key roles in getting her works published, as it wasn’t considered proper for a woman to do so herself in the early 1800s. This 19th-century view of Jane Austen’s first attempts at publishing illustrates the difficulties of the pursuit.

Austen longed to see her work in print, regardless of whether or not it would gain her fame or fortune — but getting it published was important to her, contrary to the myth about her extreme modesty.

Her father and brothers took it upon themselves to seek publication opportunities for Jane’s first works. It was clear that she didn’t write merely for her own amusement but was deeply invested in having her work published and read. Read More→

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Enigmatic Recluse or Sheltered Genius? A Tribute to Emily Dickinson

While scrolling through social media, it’s not usual for me to stop because a word or words grab my attention, but sometimes I simply had to go back and read the lines that had caught my eye. More often than not, it turned out to be one of Emily Dickinson’s poems.

They’re light in the sense that she tended to use simple, everyday words, often sparingly. Yet, vivid images spring out from them to capture one’s imagination. Or her deep concepts compressed into a few lines oblige one to delve deeper into her poems.

Her verses aren’t pretentious, though she was as well-read as any man of her era. Yet, it seems she didn’t choose grandiose words to impress anyone, especially as most of her poems went unpublished during her lifetime. Read More→

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Did Little Women’s Jo March Become a Writer After All?

Jo March, the standout sister of Little Women (1868), was the idealized alter ego of her creator, Louisa May Alcottboth were tomboyish, with a bit of a temper. Like Louisa, Jo was completely dedicated to the pursuit of writing and the writer’s life. Or was she?  Certainly, that was her stated ambition in Little Women, in which we witness the birth of her first book. 

I can’t think of another fictional character who inspired generations of real-life aspiring female writers. It’s almost easier to find writers who weren’t at least a little influenced by Jo, than those who were. Because so, so many young wordsmiths wanted to grown up to be like Jo.

Though Jo longed to be a writer more than anything, she also sought a happy medium between achieving independence and finding love, something that was expected of women of her time. That’s why she felt she had to turn down Laurie’s proposal (much to the chagrin of millions of readers). Read More→

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A Tribute to Claudia Emerson, Poet and Friend

Claudia Emerson (1957 – 2014) won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for her book Late Wife in 2006.  I think she would have been eventually chosen as the United States Poet Laureate if her brilliant career hadn’t been cut short by cancer.

She not only published eight collections of verse, but she was also a gifted teacher and musician. I knew her because we were in the same class at Chatham Hall, an all-girls’ school in Pittsylvania, County, southside Virginia. We were the class of 1975.

Chatham Hall was founded in 1894, originally named Chatham Episcopal Institute, and our most famous graduate was Georgia O’Keeffe. The school’s motto is Esto perpetua – “Let it be perpetual.”     Read More→

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