Ruth Bernard Yeazell is Chace Family Professor of English at Yale. Her books include Picture Titles: How and Why Western Paintings Acquired Their Names and Fictions of Modesty: Women and Courtship in the English Novel. (September 2017)
by Jane Austen, edited and with an introduction and notes by Kathryn Sutherland and Freya Johnston
On July 18, the Bank of England marked the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death by officially unveiling a new £10 note in her honor. It would be nice to imagine that someone at the bank had been reading Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century and thought this an appropriate way of acknowledging the woman who figures in it as one of our most clear-sighted guides to the origins of current economic arrangements. But Austen’s shrewdness about money seems to have been far less on anyone’s mind than a desire to rectify the absence of women other than the queen on British currency.
What did Virginia Woolf mean by calling George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871–1872) “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people”? Like many of Woolf’s most telling critical remarks, it is tossed off without elaboration, as if both the character of Eliot’s “magnificent book” and the judgment on the rest …
Like the nineteenth century, our own moment is one at which the expansion of museums and new technologies for the dissemination of images have combined to make the history of art-making seem open to view as never before. Elizabeth Prettejohn’s elegant new book reminds us that pastiche and ironic “appropriation” are not the only possible responses to that experience.