If you missed our Jane Austen music special earlier today, I hope you'll want to give it a listen: it's a grand samplings of the songs and piano pieces Miss Austen played on her pianoforte for an hour before breakfast every morning of her life: A little bit of opera, a lot of sonatas, "Scotch and Irish airs", and more.
Meanwhile, welcome to Part Twenty-Two of our current Tale for Our Time - our autumnal diversion by Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey. A few episodes back, the author observed that fashion-conscious ladies were unaware that men never noticed "the texture of their muslin" - and I added my own two ha'porth on the question. David Wilson, a First Weekend Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club from the gruesome Newsom state of California, responds:
I agree with you that men notice when women dress as women, as opposed to dressing as boys. But when women dress as women, we notice the lass, rather than the dress' shade of peach color or the freshness of its muslin.
Miss Austen is correct that men almost never notice degrees of dress quality. My wife has told me that women dress to impress other women, rather than to impress men. I think that may be by default, due to the paucity of men's voiced compliments on specfics, as opposed to women's voluminous comments and criticisms of their rivals' attire.
I am also late to say thanks for introducing me to this laugh-out-loud, spit-take funny novel! I was slow to dip into Miss Austen's work until I discovered her brilliant use of humor, which was not often mentioned by people pressing me to read her. For example, the humor in Pride and Prejudice is essential to its appeal. Mr. Bennett is hilarious (think Falstaff); and I find Donald Sutherland's portrayal in the 2005 movie version nearly flawless.
No argument there, David: There are fashions in humor as there are in muslin frocks, and most comedy dates pretty quickly. But Jane Austen's is genuinely funny two centuries on, and that's why she endures.
And with that, on to tonight's episode. In recent days, Catherine has descended into ever wilder theories about General Tilney and his misdeeds. Now she has been disabused by Henry - but at what cost?
Henry's address, short as it had been, had more thoroughly opened her eyes to the extravagance of her late fancies than all their several disappointments had done. Most grievously was she humbled. Most bitterly did she cry. It was not only with herself that she was sunk—but with Henry. Her folly, which now seemed even criminal, was all exposed to him, and he must despise her forever. The liberty which her imagination had dared to take with the character of his father—could he ever forgive it? The absurdity of her curiosity and her fears—could they ever be forgotten? She hated herself more than she could express... In short, she made herself as miserable as possible for about half an hour, went down when the clock struck five, with a broken heart, and could scarcely give an intelligible answer to Eleanor's inquiry if she was well.
Tales for Our Time began as an experimental feature we introduced as a bonus for Mark Steyn Club members, and, as you know, I said if it was a total stinkeroo, we'd eighty-six the thing and speak no more of it. But I'm thrilled to say it's proved very popular, and is now in its fifth season. If you're a Club member and you incline more to the stinkeroo side of things, give it your best in the comments section below. But, either way, do join me tomorrow evening, a couple of hours after my Monday appearance with Colin Brazier on GB News, for Part Twenty-Three of Northanger Abbey.