Monday, February 04, 2019

Whewell on Austen

I recently quoted a passage by Viriginia Woolf in which she mentions William Whewell's opinion of Jane Austen's Persuasion. I like finding nonstandard traces of philosophers I study, so I wondered if I could trace down the source, and I have (I was afraid it would be difficult, but it turned out to be quite easy). It's from A Memoir of Jane Austen by her nephew, J.E. Austen-Leigh; Chapter IX to be precise:

My brother-in-law, Sir Denis Le Marchant, has supplied me with the following anecdotes from his own recollections:

When I was a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, Mr Whewell, then a Fellow and afterwards Master of the College, often spoke to me with admiration of Miss Austen's novels. On one occasion I said that I had found Persuasion rather dull. He quite fired up in defence of it, insisting that it was the most beautiful of her works. This accomplished philosopher was deeply versed in works of fiction. I recollect his writing to me from Caernarvon, where he had the charge of some pupils, that he was weary of his stay, for he had read the circulating library twice through.

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