Twain on Austen

“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.”

Mark Twain and I do not agree on the merits of Jane Austen. One aspect I admire is how well she chronicled her era (she died two decades before Twain was born).

Twain left behind a scathing and unfinished essay of Austen. Yet he certainly was familiar with her novels — meaning he took the time to read them. Twain was a master of the “put down” and seemed to relish writing them. So I’m not sure if this literary feud was real or for the sport of it. You’ll find an interesting essay on Twain’s writings about Austen in The Virginia Quarterly Review. Twain went on to observe that an Austen novel was such that “once you put it down you simply can’t pick it up.”


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