Jane Austen, chronicler of 18th century social norms, was more receptive to criticism from her loved ones than most. The novelist actually encouraged her friends and family to write her with opinions on her work, and her own notes on those letters are about to go on display at the British Library, The Guardian reports.
"Jane Austen Among Family and Friends" celebrates the writer on the 200-year anniversary of her death. It features reviews by Austen’s friends and family on her third novel, Mansfield Park, which was published in 1814, just a few years before her 1817 death. And many of those reviews were not favorable. Austen's own mother told her the novel wasn’t as good as Pride and Prejudice and called its main character, Fanny Price, “insipid.” Others tended to agree, like her niece, Anna Lefroy, who liked the book but hated the character of Fanny. Another letter writer said it “wanted incident,” and one, according to Austen, thought her first two books were “nonsense,” but hoped the new novel would be better.
A spoof story featured in the exhibition, written by Austen and illustrated by her sister Cassandra. Image Credit: Courtesy the British Library
Not all the reviews were so bleak. Austen’s sister Cassandra (who drew the sketch of the author above) “thought it quite as clever, tho’ not as brilliant as P. & P.” She was fond of Fanny and found the stupidity of the character Mr. Rushworth delightful.
Regardless of the opinions of those close to her, the novel would sell out within six months of its publication.
The exhibition also includes notebooks of writings by a teenage Austen as well as her writing desk and some of her memorabilia. They will be on display at the British Library from January 10 to February 19, 2017.
[h/t The Guardian]