Flamewar: by a Lady

I’m a big fan of Jane Austen.I’ve read all but two of her books. I like to space them out between readings, so first readings of Northanger Abby and Persuasion are still in the distance. I also enjoy adaptations and retellings of her works, though the quality often varies. When FYA announced they’d be doing a Pride and Prejudice theme week, I might have responded with a loud “booyah!” You can read their many hilarious posts here.

Over the last few years there has been a rash of authors embarrassing themselves and damaging their reputations by responding to negative reviews on blogs and sites such as Amazon. It is a shocking phenomena, with both indie and traditionally published authors making a spectacle of themselves. These authors seek out the negative reviews of their work and lash out and attack the reviewers. It is a terrible idea on their part. Bad reviews are no fun, I’ve had my share and should I mange to publish something I’m sure I’ll have many more. And yes they sting and sometimes I get defensive and dismiss the review as “not getting it.” But only in the privacy of my own head. I would never attack someone else for their opinion of my writing. Watching these meltdowns from the outside can be a bit of a head desk moment. What on Earth are these writer’s thinking? No matter if the review in question is well written and thoughtful essay or a single sentence along the lines of “This author sucks, they should stop writing.” A tirade always does far more damage to an author’s career than a bad review could. In short if you can’t weather a bad review here or there, maybe publishing isn’t for you.

Which is a long winded explanation for what I’m about to lay out. I posed myself the question. If the experienced, successful authors of today, who should know better, can’t resist the lure of railing against a bad review, could one of the greatest of all time?

Jane Austen Gets Into a Flamewar With Her Fans

To the editors and readership of the “Austentonian Times,”

Before I address the comments which compelled me to put pen to paper, I would first like to ask that you cease appropriating my name for this “publication” which I most certainly do not endorse. I would also like to point out that while you purport said publication to be an outlet for so called “fanatics” of my work, it seems to me that it is more a place for uneducated lunatics to criticize and ascribe meaning to my work that was never intended.

I would like to refute the anonymous contributor who accused me of having a bias against the clergy.  On the contrary I have the utmost respect for men of God as a whole.  I am in fact a rector’s daughter, and consider the loss of my excellent father to be the great tragedy of my life. To suggest that because I painted characters such as Mr. Collins and Mr. Elton, both clergymen, as undesirable and comical is evidence that I have no respect for the church is utterly ludicrous! Must I explain the function of fiction to your readership? Must I defend my choice to create characters with foibles regardless of their profession? I fear even if I were to try, they would not have the intelligence to comprehend.

To the young lady who wrote to lament that “Fanny Price is so dull! As is Mansfield Park on the whole. La, what happened to the liveliness of Pride and Prejudice? It is by far my favorite.”  I must ask, did I force you to read Mansfield Park if you were not enjoying it? Were you perhaps stuck at the bottom of a well, with only my third novel to pass the time? Did you burn Pride and Prejudice on acquiring my next book, and therefore can no longer derive enjoyment from the less mature piece?  Am I not allowed to explore new themes in my work? Must I rewrite Pride and Prejudice time and again? Only changing the lovers names to Miss Traliza Bonnet and Mr. Pitzsimmon Farcy? Is that what you would have me do? I suspect it is.

To Mr. Currer Bell, if that is indeed your true name, I detect a feminine hand behind your words, but that is neither here nor there. I do not take offense that you and your family believe I concern myself too much with propriety and not enough with “poetry and passion” as you so eloquently put it. If you cannot detect the turmoil within my characters regarding the conflicting pulls propriety and passion, then you are not the audience to which I write. I encourage you to take the next few years, you will excuse me for presuming you are still quite young, there was much in your letter to give me that impression, to seek out books written with your sensibilities in mind. Perhaps if no one is writing such literature you can do it yourself, you clearly do not believe it is the least bit difficult. I look forward to someday seeing the overwrought, sensational, and likely sentimental stories you come up with in print.

There is much more I would like to say, but I have decided you are no longer worth the paper it would take to do so. Good day to you all, and God’s grace on all your future endeavors.

Miss J. Austen, authoress.

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