Forster on Jane Austen

"Jane, How Shall We Ever Recollect" an article by E.M. Forster in The New Republic, 1924

Once again, isn't the internet wonderful?  We are so blessed (and cursed) with its capabilities.


  1. Thanks for this, Stephen Riddle. I confess myself an Austenite, and I have an interest in textual scholarship to boot. Reading Forster on that Oxford edition was a solid satisfaction.

    In case you've never seen it, I paste in below the prefatory poem O.W. Firkins composed for his 1920 study of Austen.

    "To Jane Austen" (O.W. Firkins)

    O thou who to romance's sleights
    Didst come as dawn to elves and sprites,
Replacing spectre-haunted nights
    With daylight's genial reign;
Shrewd exorcist--who couldst so well
    Romance's goblin bands expel,
Yet keep thine own unrivalled spell,
Incomparable Jane!

    How doth thy bodkin's slender steel
Men's frailties and raults reveal!
To thee Achilles is all heel,
Thou lash of Folly's train!
Thou scourgest tomboy, cynic, grig,
The man whose diction is all wig,
The snob, the autocrat, the prig,
Inimitable Jane!

    Thou seekest truth, and when 'tis found
Thou dost its sportive whims confound;
The shafts, the stables, and the pound
    Shall now its pranks restrain;
It dreads thy logic's bristling fence,
Thy files of serried evidence,
Thy panoplied, embattled sense,
Irrefragable Jane!

    I know thy passion's cautious throes,
Its timed and tactful overflows,
Its firmly regulated glows,
Its exemplary pain;
Oh, if a tense could court a mood,
    Or axioms propositions wooed,
Their raptures were not more subdued,
Inestimable Jane!

    O little world so trim and flat,
Where Fate must straighten his cravat,
And Death himself must use the mat,
Ere they could entrance gain!
Thine earth a box of mignonette,
A bird-cage in a window set,
A shelved and shapely cabinet,
Inviolable Jane!

    Was e'er a keen, satiric bent
So quaintly, comically belent
    With smug and purring self-content,
And homiletic strain?
A Puck in cassock or a nun
In motley--art thou both or one?
O frolic lore, O surpliced fun,
Inexplicable Jane!

    What pen could draw thee, line by line,
With art ironic and benign,
And truth unflawed; what pen but thine
O woman sage and sane?
I would this gladdened world might see
Another Jane to laugh at thee,
Rare target for rare archery,
Irrevocable Jane!

    Lightly through time thy figure trips,
Skirt lifted where the highway dips
    Thy brow now crinkled, now thy lips,
As mirth rules or disdain:
The barred and bolted centuries
    Thou frontest with unerring keys,
The Park, the Abbey, Emma--these
    Shall swift admission gain:
And if the porter claim a fee,
Fling Pride or Sensibility:
The flattered door shall ope for thee,
Imperishable Jane!

  2. Dear Mr. Richardson,

    Many thanks for the note and the poem, I appreciate both.




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