PERSUASIONS ON-LINE V.34, NO.2 (Spring 2014)

Teaching Two Janes: Austen and West in Dialogue

Daniel Schierenbeck


Daniel Schierenbeck (email: is Professor of English at the University of Central Missouri.  He has published in Studies in Romanticism, Romanticism on the Net, and the Romantic Circles Pedagogy Commons and in Enlightening Romance, Romancing the Enlightenment and On Theorizing Romanticism and Other Essays on the State of Scholarship Today.  Most recently, he authored entries for Blackwell’s Encyclopedia of Romantic-Era Literature.


Since Jane Austen is currently one of the most popular Romantic-era novelists, students tend to see her as a singular author who so completely overshadows her contemporaries that they are not even remembered or recognized as such.  Therefore, one of the challenges in teaching Austen is trying to place her within an historical context that demonstrates how she adapted, rejected, or transformed contemporary fictional genres, styles, and themes.  Indeed, it is one thing to tell students about Austen’s contribution to the development of the novel but quite another to read her alongside her contemporaries to test and flesh out such assertions.  As Marilyn Butler argues, “[B]y placing Jane Austen within her genre, we help to define her meaning; and, in the process, to isolate what is unique in her work, its ultimate originality” (4).


For Austen, such attempts are complicated by traditional periodization1 that still drives much undergraduate (and graduate) curriculum and faculty research.  Austen’s place as the “culminating” figure in a course on eighteenth-century literature or as a starting point in a nineteenth-century fiction course may situate her diachronically but still does not provide the same rich, synchronic details available from comparing her with contemporary novelists.  A single Austen novel assigned in a British literature survey or in a Romantic poetry course signals Austen as a unique author, but it does not contextualize that uniqueness.


Perhaps students will encounter a dialogue between Austen and contemporary writers in a course on Gothic fiction, where they might read Northanger Abbey alongside novels within the genre to which Austen was directly responding.  A similar strategy could be employed by teaching one of Austen’s novels within a course on moral and/or didactic, domestic fiction.  Though one could teach Austen’s novels alongside works by other well-known novelists, including Frances Burney, Maria Edgeworth, or Mary Shelley, instructors might pair Austen with other authors whose popularity and critical reputation have waned over the years.  Several novelists come to mind that fit the bill, including Barbara Hofland, Susan Ferrier, Mary Sherwood, Mary Brunton, and others.  In this essay, I will focus on teaching Austen in dialogue with a once-famous Jane—Jane West.  This pairing calls for further reflection on questions of popularity, horizons of expectations, canonicity, style, and genre as they relate to the study of Austen and her contemporaries.



Before addressing some specific ways in which Austen and West may be paired, it may be useful to provide a brief introduction to West, who, though quite popular in her time, has received very little modern, critical attention and thus may be unfamiliar even to those familiar with Austen.  West (1758-1852) was one of the most prolific conservative authors of the Romantic era, producing six volumes of poetry and plays, two conduct books, several long poems, a children’s story, a volume of scriptural essays, and eight novels.  Her writing was admired by such influential figures as Queen Charlotte, Richard Nares (editor of The British Critic), Bishop Percy, and Sarah Trimmer.  Even more radical authors, such as Mary Wollstonecraft and Anna Seward, appreciated West’s writing and her views on female education; in fact, Wollstonecraft commissioned Mary Hays to review West’s A Gossip’s Story (1796) for the Analytical Review, praising the novel’s “display of the small causes which destroy matrimonial felicity & peace” (Todd 393).  Subscribers to West’s poetry encompassed an eclectic range of important literary figures that included Seward and Percy as well as William Mason, Henry Pye, and Matthew “Monk” Lewis.  Indeed, in 1802, West was popular enough to have her precise class status debated in several issues of Gentleman’s Magazine.2


Though West’s early novels were published before Austen’s, West’s career as a novelist spans Austen’s lifetime, and Butler rightly finds “strong generic resemblance” (101) between them.  Furthermore, not only did West publish domestic fiction, but she also wrote anti-Jacobin fiction and historical romances as well as poetry and conduct books.  Because of such range, West’s generic choices as a female, professional writer shed light on the generic options available to Austen and allow for multiple entries for comparison.


Though Austen only mentions West twice in her letters, critics have already traced potential lines of influence, specifically in A Gossip’s Story and Sense and Sensibility The connections between these novels have been fleshed out by J. M. S. Tompkins, who argues that West’s novel is “the starting-point of Sense and Sensibility” (33); Tompkins compares the novels, arguing that in reworking Elinor and Marianne into Sense and Sensibility, Austen was attempting to improve West’s material.  Martin Melanger contends that “when Jane Austen read A Gossip’s Story she found it dull, and, in spite of Mrs. West’s desire to the contrary, unrealistic” (155).  He thus sees Sense and Sensibility as “a sort of protest against” (157) West’s novel.  As I hope to show in this essay, though, by shifting the focus a bit, we can uncover ways in which these authors align more closely.


Finally, reading West with Austen provides a way to rethink Austen’s originality (and, indeed, the concept of originality itself) and to analyze anew the different constructions of Austen.  In particular, such a combination can help reframe Austen not as conservative or progressive but as sharing with West and other authors a particular vision of realism for domestic fiction.  This consideration allows us to reexamine not only Austen’s political and social views, but also how these views intersect with and are read through her generic choices.



Austen herself mentions West twice in her letters, and these letters provide an interesting starting point for a conversation about these two authors.  Austen first mentions West in a letter to Anna Austen on 28 September 1814:


Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones.—It is not fair.—He has Fame & Profit enough as a Poet, and should not be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths.—I do not like him, & do not mean to like Waverley if I can help it—but fear I must.—I am quite determined however not to be pleased with Mrs West’s Alicia de Lacy, should I ever meet with it, which I hope I may not.—I think I can be stout against any thing written by Mrs West.—I have made up my mind to like no Novels really, but Miss Edgeworth’s, Yours & my own.—


Then, on 8 September 1816, she writes to Cassandra:


I often wonder how you can find time for what you do, in addition to the care of the House ;—And how good Mrs West cd have written such Books & collected so many hard words, with all her family cares, is still more a matter of astonishment!


The first letter, which aligns Austen’s comments about West with her playful castigation of Scott, makes it difficult to take her objection to West as unequivocal, or even totally serious.  Indeed, the fact that the West novel she singles out is, like Waverley, a historical novel leads to the possibility that she is “jealous” of both authors’ abilities to thrive in one genre (for Scott, poetry; for West, moral, domestic fiction) and then to move on and succeed in another, especially since Austen’s fiction is much more generically limited.


The admiration Austen displays in the second letter concerns the way in which professional female authors were perceived.  Such definition becomes especially important for West.  Since she was seen as a politically conservative author, she was in the apparently paradoxical position of defending and advocating for traditional roles for women in the family and the private sphere through her interventions in the public sphere.3  West’s image as an author derived from her image as a wife and mother, and Austen here recognizes not only how prolific an author West was but also the additional challenges she faced as a professional woman writer who still had all the cares of domestic life.


While we may never be certain about Austen’s exact feelings about West, the very fact of West’s popularity and that Austen knew of her can be used as a springboard to begin discussions about popularity, contemporary and current.  If students have not heard of West before, what do they think about the fact that she was a popular writer with whom Austen was familiar?  How do we view “popular” writers today?  What might Austen think about being a fairly “popular” writer today, at least compared to West?  Such discussions begin to introduce students to West while de-mythologizing Austen.  Furthermore, these questions lead to students rethinking connections (positive and negative) between popularity and literary quality.


Perhaps the best, or at least the most obvious, starting point for a comparison of Austen and West would be to read Austen’s Sense and Sensibility in conjunction with West’s A Gossip’s Story (1796).  West’s novel depicts the stories of two sisters, Louisa and Marianne Dudley, who parallel Elinor and Marianne Dashwood in their dispositions.  At the beginning of the novel, the romantic, sensibility-filled Marianne rejects the admirable suitor Pelham and vows never to marry.  This vow is short-lived, though, for after being rescued from an accident with a horse by Clermont (anticipating Willoughby’s rescue of Marianne), she falls deeply in love with him and ends up unhappily married to him.  Louisa almost forces herself to marry Sir William Milton so that her father, who has been cheated out of West Indian investment money, will not have to worry about providing for her (Marianne has her own fortune).  Once Louisa finds out that Milton has fathered children and abandoned them and their mother in the West Indies, he is no longer considered an option.  The novel ends with the marriage of Louisa and Pelham, who before Louisa’s father’s death was able to get his money back and discharge all his debts.


In teaching Austen and West together, I would argue that—perhaps against our usual inclinations—it is helpful to provide students very little information about West upfront.  Indeed, I would save any biographical and/or historical information about West until after they had read both novels.  Since Austen is a household name, and many are familiar with her characters and plots (even if they have not read any of her novels), it is impossible to see Sense and Sensibility as a first novel of an unknown author.  Such an experience, however, is much more possible with West.


Furthermore, approaching West’s novel as a “neutral” entity is key to building an understanding of Austen through West.  Otherwise, it may be tempting to characterize West too narrowly as a conservative author.  Indeed, it is striking how two opposite poles of Austen criticism, represented by Marilyn Butler and Claudia Johnson, are constructions of Austen that are built upon seeing West as an anti-Jacobin author.  Butler, for example, contends that “Austen’s novels belong decisively to one class of partisan novels, the conservative” (3) and argues that “Sense and Sensibility is an anti-jacobin novel just as surely as is A Gossip’s Story” (194).  Johnson sees a more feminist Austen and attempts “to reconceptualize the stylistic and thematic coherence of Austen’s fiction by demonstrating how it emerges, draws, and departs from a largely feminine tradition of political novels, novels which are highly informed and often distinctively flexible, rather than ferociously partisan, in their sympathies” (xix).  Removing such labels from West helps us to see her in a new light but also allows us to see Austen’s relationship to contemporary fiction with a fresh perspective.  We begin to see Austen, then, as an even more complex author—one who is not necessarily a spokesperson for either political side or an original, literary giant among lesser lights but one who, like her contemporaries, is not easily categorized.


To enhance these new perspectives on West and Austen, students should read both texts in online editions of the original novels (first and second editions are easily available through the Hathi Trust Digital Library and Google Books, as shown in the figures below).


Title page of the Hathi Trust’s Sense and Sensibility.


Title page of Google Book’s A Gossip’s Story.


Practically speaking, one of the challenges of teaching West is that there are no modern editions of her novel (beside the 1974 Garland facsimile copies), so an alternative format for reading West is necessary.  More important, this method puts the authors on more equal footing.  Though most have, of course, heard of Austen, reading a modern critical edition of Austen alongside a facsimile of West just further instantiates Austen as the more “valuable” author.  Also, reading an Austen novel with no introduction, no footnotes, and no critical essays attached to it (and in a similar type and format and West) defamiliarizes students’ reading of Austen.


After students have read both novels, response papers or in-class discussions can be used to direct discussion of how and why these novels should be compared.  One means of encouraging students to dig into these larger issues would be to assign a response paper that answers two simple questions:  Which novel is better?  Why?  Such an assignment helps students think about the aesthetic and formal criteria we use in studying fiction.  This exercise strikes me as especially important for studying Austen, whose current canonicity and popularity almost ensure that few students really think about why Austen is so revered and has such cultural cachet.


For students to consider the relationship between these two novels, group work or a response paper will quickly begin to generate a substantial list of similarities in plot and character.  For example, they will be immediately struck with the paired sister plot and how Elinor and Marianne evoke some of the same comparisons that are applied to Louisa and Marianne.  Marianne Dashwood’s overwrought sensibility can be usefully compared with Marianne Dudley’s romantic visions of life.  Students can even isolate quite particularly Willoughby’s rescue of Austen’s Marianne and Clermont’s rescue of West’s Marianne.  Similarly, the revelation of Milton’s seduction and abandonment of a woman makes him an unfit husband for Louisa, while Willoughby’s past similarly makes him an unfit husband for Marianne.  Indeed, some students may even pick up on a comparison between Mrs. Jennings, the inveterate gossip, and Prudentia Homespun, West’s narrator for A Gossip’s Story.


Once the students gather the similarities between the novels, the real work begins as they speculate on the significance of these similarities.  Indeed, these similarities demonstrate that Austen was working within an established genre—or at least a comparable context—and this knowledge itself is an accomplishment, for it can lead to a discussion of how novelists (especially female novelists) negotiate and mediate particular social concerns through their fiction.


To help students tease out the similarities (and differences) between these novels, it is helpful to bring in historical and generic contexts and to guide them to particular issues.  Rather than seeing Austen as “copying” West’s paired sister narrative, students need to recognize the background and tradition of this type of plot.  For example, Alan Richardson argues that this “rigorously binary structure . . . demonstrating the effects of two educational modes by embodying them in opposed characters” should be seen as “obviously indebted to Day’s Sandford and Merton, which itself marries the educational treatise to the ‘Kind and the Unkind’ folktale type” (187).  Richardson goes on to point out that “this basic pattern would be refined in such novels as Jane West’s Advantages of Education and A Gossip’s Story, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, and Maria Edgeworth’s Helen” (187).  Richardson’s comments help reframe Austen’s and West’s novels as educational texts, a point that helps us see Austen’s place in a didactic tradition.4  Given this context, students can be asked to consider what these novels say about education and/or training, especially for women.  One simple way to pose this question is to ask:  What causes the different perspectives and actions of the paired sisters in each of these novels?


In West’s text, though Louisa “from her earlier years discovered a disposition to improve both in moral and mental excellence” (1:15), it is clear that the differences between Louisa and Marianne emerge from their different upbringing and education.  After their mother’s death, Louisa is brought up and taught by her father—thus “her education had extended to particulars not usually attended to by females” (1:18)—while Marianne is spoiled by her grandmother.  In Austen’s text, however, the differences seem to be more influenced by nature than nurture. Elinor “possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgment” and “an excellent heart,” and “she knew how to govern” her feelings.  Marianne, however, “was sensible and clever; but eager in every thing; her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation” (6).  The narrator does not elaborate, though, about how and why Elinor turns out differently than her mother and sister.


A discussion about human nature and education that emerges from such comparisons can be highly rich, especially in regard to competing Romantic-era theories of education.  For example, students could be introduced to how Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s vision of the innately good child and Hannah More’s and Sarah Trimmer’s concept of original sin influence their educational texts.  In this sense, I would argue that West may be seen as more radical than Austen, for she highlights the ability to shape and change human nature through education (and even appears to advocate for similar educations for both sexes), while the worldview of Sense and Sensibility can be seen to reinforce concepts of natural difference.  However, by shifting the terms from “sense” and “sensibility” to “reason” and “romance”—from what were perceived as gendered, bodily characteristics to socially constructed expectations—one can read both West and Austen in debates about education and fiction for women that featured such authors as Mary Wollstonecraft.5  Tracing how Wollstonecraft, viewed as a radical, and West, as a Church and King conservative, share similar views on education and fiction calls into question the value of such labels in thinking about Romantic-era women writers.  Such a discussion can help reframe Austen as well, for her views on education likewise are not easily characterized as radical or conservative and thus point to the inadequacy of such labels.


A close comparison of the paired sisters’ education and reading practices can also begin to reveal ways in which West and Austen may share a similar agenda for novels, especially those geared toward female readers.  As noted above, Marianne Dudley is an inveterate reader of romances, and she mistakenly shapes her life according to these romance plots.  Marianne Dashwood seems to have much better taste in reading, for she enjoys Alexander Pope, William Cowper, and Sir Walter Scott; her actions, however, seem to be also structured on a romance mythos.


For example, in Austen’s text, Marianne’s belief in marrying her first love seems to be guided more from romance than reality and is, of course, proved wrong by reality.  When she meets Willoughby, she finds that “[h]is person and air were equal to what her fancy had ever drawn for the hero of a favourite story” (43).  Elinor, though, takes the opposite approach in attempting to subdue her feelings for Edward Ferrars and thus “did not adopt the method so judiciously employed by Marianne . . . to augment and fix her sorrow, by seeking silence, solitude, and idleness.  Their means were as different as their objects, and equally suited to the advancement of each” (104).  In part, then, Austen’s novel, like West’s, is structured by contrasted expectations, realistic or romantic, and both highlight the importance of women adopting an anti-romance attitude when considering marriage.  In other words, both novels call for a realistic view of marriage, and both combat the romantic view of love and marriage posited by contemporary novels.


While Austen’s novel is, of course, titled Sense and Sensibility, perhaps the most significant revelation that comes from reading Austen through West is how Austen, though much less didactic than West, also contributes to the valorizing of reason over romance in novels and why she does so.  To help students think in larger terms about the novel form itself, quotations from Austen’s letters are helpful.  For example, in a letter to Cassandra of 11-12 October 1813, Austen describes Mary Brunton’s Self-Control as “an excellently-meant, elegantly-written Work, without anything of Nature or Probability in it.”  Similarly, a year later (?24 November 1814), she comments on Brunton’s novel and once again notes its improbability, again citing the heroine’s escape in a canoe.  She also reveals her concern with naturalness and probability, features of realism, in her letters of novel-writing advice to her niece Anna.  This concern can be seen as part of her overall emphasis on realistic details, such as her comment that “Lyme will not do” because it is “towards 40 miles distance from Dawlish & would not be talked of there” or pointing out that having a character walking to the stables the day after he broke his arm would “appear unnatural in a book” (10-18 August 1814).  She also does “not like a Lover’s speaking in the 3d person” because it “is not natural” (?mid-July 1814).


Austen’s comments on naturalness and probability fit the standard fictional views of authors such as Samuel Johnson because they focus on character.  For example, she tells Anna she should revise the idea of having the character Mrs. F, a woman with two daughters, move to a neighborhood where she only knows one man.  Because Mrs. F “is very prudent,” she would be unlikely to take this action, and Austen warns, “you must not let her act inconsistently” (9-18 September 1814).  In the same letter, Austen focuses on Susan’s “behaviour” and finds her interactions with other characters so varied that she “seems to have changed her Character.”  She then praises Anna’s narration of a conversation where “both talk in character & very well” and her depiction of Cecilia, whose “want of Imagination is very natural” (9-18 September 1814).


Austen’s insistence on realism, marked by a concern with nature and probability, fits the traditional, historical discourse on the novel’s realism in opposition to the extravagance of romance.  Striking, though, in comparison to a writer such as Johnson, is Austen’s severing of morality and probability; instead, she focuses solely on verisimilitude.  This distinction is brought to the fore in an 1817 letter to Fanny Knight.  Concerning heroines, Austen writes, “pictures of perfection as you know make me sick & wicked” and contends that Fanny “may perhaps like the Heroine, as she is almost too good for me” (23-25 March 1817).  Though Johnson provides the caveat that a good character should be believable, in the end, he would compromise probability and naturalness for the sake of morality, while Austen’s allegiance lies squarely with probability.


Comments from Austen’s letters help students to gauge her contribution to the novel in terms of their contribution to realism and domestic fiction.  The overt didacticism of West’s novel is striking to contemporary readers and serves to bring into relief Austen’s subtle, ironic approach.  West’s didactic purpose is highlighted in the preface to Gossip’s Story where she declares that the novel is “intended . . . to illustrate the Advantages of Consistency, Fortitude, and the Domestick Virtues; and to expose to ridicule, Caprice, affected Sensibility, and an idle censorious Humour” (n.p.).  In describing the “favourable reception” of her previous novel, The Advantages of Education, in her introduction, she describes it as having “no splendour of language, no local description, nothing of the marvellous, or the enigmatical, no sudden elevation, and no astonishing depression.  It merely spoke of human life as it is” (1:xi-xii).  Her approach to fiction definitely shares Austen’s desire for realism, but West also notes that “moral improvement” is her “avowed end” (1:xiv).  West’s portrayal of the different fates of the sisters, of course, fulfills the morality for her tale, especially through highlighting Louisa’s “filial piety” (1:222) and her “virtue, discretion, and self-command” (1:74).


West also points her reader to the correct reading of her novel through her narrator, Prudentia Homespun.  For example, in chapter five, Prudentia explains that Marianne’s faults derive from her “forming to itself a romantick standard, to which nothing human ever attained; perplexed by imaginary difficulties; sinking under fancied evils; destroying its own peace by the very means which it takes to secure it; and acting with a degree of folly beneath the common level, through its desire of aspiring above the usual limits of female excellence” (1:47).  She also points to the negative influence of sentimental novels:  “And do these, writers whose works generally fall into the hands of the younger part of the softer sex, indeed suppose that they serve the interests of this divine institution, when they excite the dangerous excess of the passions, by representing the violence of love, grief, despair, and jealousy, not only as amiable frailties, but as commendable qualities?” (1:49-50).  West, then, warns of romance as leading young women to “arraign the wisdom of Providence for not having rendered this world a perfect, instead of a probationary state; for not having given us the felicity it never promised, or for having implanted in us desires which we ought to subdue, since our Creator meant them rather as trials of fortitude than as sources of gratification” (1:51).


West connects a realistic attitude with a Christian, providential worldview, but she also practically sees realistic expectations as important for women in their approach to marriage.  Mr. Dudley warns his daughter, Marianne:


Marriage, like all other sublunary connexions, mixes the bitter with the sweet. Mutual confidence and esteem compose the latter, and mutual forbearance must be exerted to palliate the former.  The similitude of soul, of taste, and of sentiment, which you talk of, is not necessary.  The strong tie of sympathy often cannot exist; and the delicate attentions and pleasing assiduities of the lover so rarely appear in the husband, that if these circumstances still seem essential to your peace, do not commit your happiness to the slender chance of finding a human phœnix, but confine your sensibility to the calmer enjoyments of friendship.  (1:100-01)


West’s rejection of romance and favoring of realism thus also intends to help young women navigate the marriage market with proper knowledge and expectations.


Austen’s achievement, then, in light of West’s novel is her ability to further the realism of domestic fiction even as she makes a similar argument about marriage as West.  Austen, first of all, is able to replace the meta-fictional narrator with a less intrusive authorial voice, thus heightening the realism of her fiction.  Furthermore, by removing an emphasis on romance reading, Austen is able to avoid another metafictional element that could undermine her realism.  Austen’s plot, like West’s, underscores the importance of realistic expectations for marriage.  West’s novel, though, also helps readers see the ending of Sense and Sensibility in a new light.  In A Gossip’s Story, Marianne Dudley ends up marrying Clermont, and West provides details of their unhappy married life.  Rather than marry off Marianne to Willoughby and leave them to a similar fate, Austen ends the novel with Marianne’s marriage to Brandon. We are told:  “Marianne could never love by halves; and her whole heart became, in time, as much devoted to her husband, as it had once been to Willoughby” (379).  While readers may speculate about just how happy Marianne will be, and to what extent she is deluding herself, read in the context of West and Austen’s comments on realism, what emerges is Marianne adjusting her expectations to make them more realistic.  Perhaps such an ending is less romantic than many readers of Austen would prefer, but such realism is precisely what makes Austen so important to her age as well as ours.


Finally, reading Sense and Sensibility with A Gossip’s Story can help students question and/or appreciate Austen’s originality.  To approach this issue, students can read Tompkins’s “Elinor and Marianne: A Note on Jane Austen,” which traces similarities between these two novels.  I assert that students would gain more by tracing the similarities themselves and then addressing Tompkins’ essay, for they will find similarities that she misses and that are characterized differently than she does, and they will be pleased to see their observations echoed by a literary scholar.  These discussions can lead to considerations of why we value originality and what that precisely means.  These discoveries and the students’ excitement about working with an “unknown” author from Austen’s era in order to understand her fiction better are just some of the rewards that can derive from reading Austen and West together.





I am grateful to the NEH Summer Seminar of 2012, directed by Devoney Looser, which allowed me the time and access to resources and fellow scholars who helped shape this essay.


1. On this topic, see Misty Krueger’s essay in this issue:  “Teaching Austen’s Northanger Abbey as a ‘Crossover’ Text.”


2. For biographical information on West, see Pamela Lloyd.


3. On this point, see Anne Mellor, who sees at this time “the values of the private sphere associated with women—moral virtue and an ethic of care—infiltrating and finally dominating the discursive public sphere during the Romantic era” (11).  Lisa Wood also covers this particular issue in regard to narrative authority in conservative female novelists.  As she puts it, “In order to be effectual, then, the antirevolutionary text by women must be authorial, thereby necessarily transgressing its own ideological limits of the feminine” (86).  Therefore, she argues, such writers “engaged in a series of literary negotiations intended to reconcile their narrative acts with conservative models of feminine virtue” (86).


4. For further reading on Austen and the didactic tradition, see especially Jan Fergus’s Jane Austen and the Didactic Novel.  Fergus states her purpose “in considering Austen’s intentions primarily didactic” (3) and contends that Austen “practices an emotional didacticism which her contemporaries and even her greatest predecessors often sought and missed” (7). Mary Waldron, in Jane Austen and the Fiction of her Time, argues, “Because Austen wrote against the grain of contemporary didacticism but within a familiar fictional framework, her narratives become not only ironic but richly contrapunctual” (14).


5. For further discussion of West and Wollstonecraft’s similar concerns about romance, see Daniel Schierenbeck.



Works Cited


Austen, Jane.  Jane Austen’s Letters.  Ed. Deirdre Le Faye.  Oxford: OUP, 1995.

_____.  Sense and Sensibility.  Ed. R. W. Chapman.  3rd ed.  Oxford: OUP, 1933.

Butler, Marilyn.  Jane Austen and the War of Ideas.  Oxford: OUP, 1975.

Fergus, Jan.  Jane Austen and the Didactic Novel: Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice.  Totowa: Barnes, 1983.

Johnson, Claudia L.  Jane Austen: Women, Politics, and the Novel.  Chicago: UCP, 1988.

Lloyd, Pamela.  “Jane West: A Critical Biography.”  Diss. Brandeis U, 1997.

Melanger, Martin.  “An Unknown Source of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.”  Studia Neophilologica 22 (1949): 146-70.

Mellor, Anne K.  Mothers of the Nation: Women’s Political Writing in England, 1780-1830.  Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2002.

Richardson, Alan.  Literature, Education, and Romanticism: Reading as Social Practice, 1780-1832.  Cambridge: CUP, 2004.

Schierenbeck, Daniel.  “Reason and Romance: Rethinking Romantic-Era Fiction Through Jane West’s The Advantages of Education.”  Enlightening Romanticism, Romancing the Enlightenment: British Novels from 1750 to 1832.  Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2009.  69-85.

Todd, Janet, ed.  The Collected Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft.  New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

Tompkins, J. M. S.  “Elinor and Marianne: A Note on Jane Austen.”  The Review of English Studies 16 (1940): 33-43.

Waldron, Mary.  Jane Austen and the Fiction of her Time.  Cambridge: CUP, 1999.

West, Jane.  A Gossip’s Story. and A Legendary Tale.  Ed. Gina Lurie.  2 vols.  New York: Garland, 1974.

Wood, Lisa.  Modes of Discipline: Women, Conservatism, and the Novel after the French Revolution.  Lewisburg, PA: Associated UP, 2003.


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