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Austen Experience: Not Her Style?


Mrs. Bennet to Jane Austen: Mind your semi-colons, my dear. You know what a misplaced item of punctuation does to my poor nerves.

OK, everyone grab your smelling salts and assume a Mrs. Bennet-like posture on your sofa because I am about to induce an attack on your poor nerves. 

Here we go.  

Are you ready?  

Jane Austen had an editor.  

I’ll give you a moment to recover.  

Now, that you are sufficiently ready to continue, read the following BBC article about how Austen’s rough drafts were full of careless errors and spelling mistakes and this better article about why the whole Austen style question is a bunch of hooey.  

The blogosphere has pretty much taken care of this matter to suit me, but I’d like to raise an interesting bit of irony.  

Everyone is freaking out because Jane Austen had an editor. They claim that being edited means her style was not her own and that she was not a literary genius. Her text has been altered by an editor or publisher. 

Contrast the main complaint that people make about independently published books and the reason publishers claim authors cannot self-publish: they don’t have editors to polish the text. While many make the claim the indie books are full of errors–and undoubtedly some are–most authors do hire editors or proofers to ensure that their text is clean. But I digress. 

 Having an editor is a fault for Austen; not having an editor is a fault for everyone else. 

 It’s just silly, if you ask me.