“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love Pride and Prejudice!
Amazing Jane Austen – what a writer! Some 200 years after she penned her spirited novels, they are still going strong: devoured in book clubs, spawning imitations, inspiring movies and conferences, and even spa weekends — you name it. What a glorious legacy!
Yet here’s a fascinating bit of Austen literary lore: Sense and Sensibility, the first of the divine Jane’s six major novels, first appeared in bookstores in 1811. Although it quickly sold out – as did all of Austen’s novels published in her lifetime – it did not feature her name on the cover. Instead, its title page simply read, “By a Lady,” while the title page of Pride and Prejudice bore the inscription, “By The Author of Sense and Sensibility.”
Astonishing, isn’t it? Austen never enjoyed the immense, soul-satisfying joy of seeing her name emblazoned on the covers of any of her marvelous concoctions. Now, that may not have been upsetting for her: I suspect it’s more than likely that Jane liked it that way and that everyone who needed to know who penned her novels did, in fact, know the truth.
Still, to think that all a globally admired author’s fabulous tales were more or less ascribed to a “Jane Doe” is not, for me, a happy thought. It also makes me appreciate just how far we’ve come on the literary front. Think about it: Today, authors of the female persuasion enjoy a very different life. If they are plucky and lucky, They are:
Boldly celebrated and courted — everyone knows their names;
Spin their stories in every genre, from chick lit to science fiction;
Compete for and have won virtually every literary prize awarded;
Gather admiring and enthusiastic readers around the globe;
Reach their readers using the full range of channels available.
Yes, writing a novel or nonfiction work isn’t easy. Getting published isn’t easy. Building an audience isn’t easy. Rising above all the media chatter isn’t easy. All this is true, but even so, today, every author who tells a tale has a name. Now that’s progress. Write on!