I have premier-read a very worthy book: "Memoir of Jane Austen" by James Edward Austen-Leigh, who was a nephew of the great authoress. The book was published in 1871. (Or 1869, according to Wikipedia. Whatever...)
I found it at the Gutenberg project, which you really should check out if you are at all interested in the old classics (and old not-so-classic). Actually, the Iriver (or should I call it the Story, as it appears in Explorer?) came loaded with over 200 classics already, so I have plenty to choose from, including all the Austen novels. (Will this tempt me to throw out my much-read Complete Austen paperback? Doubtful, I will probably plead sentimentality reasons.)
Anyway, to return to the book itself, I must say it was quite entertaining. While the author is no doubt a sensible, unromantic kind of man, he seems warm-hearted and kind, as seem all of Jane Austens family and she herself. At page 38 (or thereabouts) I was reminded of the time when the biography was written:
"The two next letters must have been written early in 1801, after the removal from Steventon had been decided on, but before it had taken place. They refer to the two brothers who were at sea, and give some idea of a kind of anxieties and uncertainties to which sisters are seldom subject in these days of peace, steamers, and electric telegraphs."
The modern wonders of the electric telegraph! That was fifty years after her death. And not only the technology of communication has changed since, listen to this, from Jane Austen´s letter to a friend:
"You distress me cruelly by your request about books. I cannot think of any to bring with me, nor have I any idea of our wanting them. I come to you to be talked to, not to read or hear reading; I can do that at home; and indeed I am now laying in a stock of intelligence to pour out on you as my share of the conversation. I am reading Henry´s History of England, which I will repeat to you in any manner you may prefer, either in a loose, desultory, unconnected stream, or dividing my recital, as the historian divides it himself, into seven parts [...] With such a provision on my part, if you will do yours by repeating the French Grammar, and Mrs Stent will now and then ejaculate some wonder about the cocks and hens, what can we want?"
"Ejaculate some wonder about the cocks"? Is it just me? As you can guess, her letters are very fun to read, and I happen to have another e-volume signed by two other Austens, "Jane Austen, Her Life and Letters", which I look forward very much to read later.
Well, I recommend this book wholeheartedly to any Janite. Chances are, however, that a Janite will have read it already, and to the rest of you I say: pass on this one. Unless you feel inclined to become a Janite. In that case, your life will be so much the better for it.