Yesterday evening the other half and I took a delightful drive into the countryside about 30 miles away, and sat for a while in the Hampshire village of Chawton (whilst listening on the car radio to the commentary from the Centre Court where Heather Watson almost defeated Serena Williams.) It was a gloriously bright summer's evening, lambs bounding in the fields around the parish church and Chawton Hall, the Elizabethan mansion once owned by Jane Austen's brother - and model for the great house described in various of Jane's novels. I commented that the countryside looked Austenian for it did undoubtedly bring to mind scenes from such as Pride & Prejudice.
But then I thought again. My own enduring criticism of Jane Austen, is that her wonderfully articulated prose is obsessed with the drawing-room manners of the lesser gentry. And this was written at the time of the Napoleonic Wars - whilst the poorer classes of Britain, in her nascent industrialisation, were being treated with the most brutal disregard - transportations, hangings, floggings, imprisonment under the Combinations Acts, filth, squalor and disease in the new towns and cities etc.
So my feeling is that the word Austenian should be reserved to describe those people who continue to drink tea with their little fingers extended, but blind to the mayhem all around them.
Is this unfair on Jane Austen?