Saturday, June 5, 2010

Two Books

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."

(Shamelessly swiped from Happy Catholic who posted it on her blog last year.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Jane Austen's History of England

One thing leads to another on the Internet.

Hoping to improve my English paper piecing technique, I was searching through tutorials when I discovered a link to the British Library which has a number of virtual books one can peruse online.

On their page of most viewed works is a link for Jane Austen's The History of England from the reign of Henry the 4th to the death of Charles the 1st: By a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant Historian. (Scroll down the list until you see it.) Originally written when she was a mere slip of a girl,* The History of England is a parody of popular historical writing. It also contains allusions and in-jokes which would have been most fully appreciated by their intended audience -- her family. But the little book is amusing on its own even for modern readers. The illustrations were painted by Austen's older sister Cassandra, to whom she dedicated the work.

Should you find Miss Austen's handwriting difficult to read, do not despair! At the click of a button, a small window will open with that page's text in an easily read font. Or if you prefer, pressing another button will trigger a oral version of the text which is read aloud by a young lady with a delightful voice and appropriate accent.

I was particularly pleased to have found her History of England during my convalescence because of my firmly held belief that "Jane Austen never lets you down." Every time I went to the hospital to have a baby, I took one of her novels with me in the Oxford World Classic editions. (They are conveniently sized hardcovers, smaller than my hand.) Whenever I have been sick, or sad, or sorely tried, I turn to Jane Austen to take me elsewhere. In fact, I even took a copy of Persuasion with me when I went to have my foot surgery, just in case there was a long wait.

As it turned out, mine was the first surgery scheduled for that morning, so there was no waiting at all. But after I was gowned and prepped and waiting on a gurney, I was so incredibly nervous that I was afraid I might dissolve in tears despite the comic antics of the anesthesiologist (whom I suspect of moonlighting as a stand-up comedian). But then I asked my mom to hand me my copy of Persuasion, and as soon as my hand closed around it, a feeling of quiet calmness

spread from my palm through the rest of my body.

As I said, Jane Austen never lets you down.


*The British Library says she was 13, Wikipedia suggests 15, and volume 6 of The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen (edited by R.W. Chapman) dates the work as having been composed in 1791 when Austen would have been 16.