5 thoughts on “Fanny Austen Knight (Knatchbull)

  1. Outraged “Janeites the world ’round” seem to be grossly misunderstanding Fanny’s letter for some reason. These words are not “harsh” or “ungrateful”, so far as I can tell. Aficionados of Jane Austen should certainly be in a position to understand that “refinement” in 19th-century British “society” parlance referred to a set of customs and behaviors particular to some social classes (but not others). One dictionary gives the general definition of “cultured elegance in behavior or manner”. Those who didn’t grow up with some particular style of such “cultured [i.e., artificial] elegance” naturally weren’t accustomed to acting in that so-called “refined” manner. If a close relative says that Jane Austen did not really grow up with this particular manner of “fashion &c”, but instead chose consciously to “teach herself” that style, how can anyone today contradict this observation without other evidence — much less be outraged at the supposed “insult”? Here is what the “infamous” letter from Fanny actually says about her aunt’s characteristics: talented; superior in mental powers and cultivation; clever; agreeable. If JA truly “would have been… below par as to good Society & its ways” without an effort to the contrary, that is no strike against her in my book; and I strongly suspect that JA herself might have heartily approved of her niece’s description! (Remember Jane’s own famous comment about “pictures of perfection”, for example.) Honesty is certainly not ingratitude, much less when it comes to something as arbitrary and (often) silly as societal fashions of “refinement.” Perhaps many of Austen’s fans have not actually read her very carefully?

Leave a Reply