Mark Twain on Jane Austen
I haven’t any right to criticise books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.
- Letter to Joseph Twichell, 13 September 1898
Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book.
- quoted in Remembered Yesterdays, Robert Underwood Johnson
To me his prose is unreadable — like Jane Austin’s [sic]. No there is a difference. I could read his prose on salary, but not Jane’s. Jane is entirely impossible. It seems a great pity that they allowed her to die a natural death.
- Letter to W. D. Howells, 18 January 1909
Jane Austen’s books, too, are absent from this library. Just that one omission alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn’t a book in it.
- Following the Equator
Whenever I take up “Pride and Prejudice” or “Sense and Sensibility,” I feel like a barkeeper entering the Kingdom of Heaven. I mean, I feel as he would probably feel, would almost certainly feel. I am quite sure I know what his sensations would be — and his private comments. He would be certain to curl his lip, as those ultra-good Presbyterians went filing self-complacently along. …
She makes me detest all her people, without reserve. Is that her intention? It is not believable. Then is it her purpose to make the reader detest her people up to the middle of the book and like them in the rest of the chapters? That could be. That would be high art. It would be worth while, too. Some day I will examine the other end of her books and see.
- “Jane Austen,” published in 2009 in Who Is Mark Twain?