Edward Knight's Family
Jane Austen and Three Generations
... many facts concerning them through talks with his mother and his 'Aunt Knatchbull', of whom he was very fond. At any rate, he talked to me of them with interest, as his relations of a past generation – and it was always 'Aunt Cassandra' and 'Aunt Jane.'
I was introduced to Aunt Jane's books by my father, who read Pride and Prejudice to me when I was in bed with measles, aged fourteen. How that hour of reading brightened the days! He read all Aunt Jane's books to his family over and over again, and I myself went steadily through them all after my introduction to Pride and Prejudice.
I suppose my father and aunts were the first 'Janeites', I can't answer for their brothers and sisters! But they were 'Janeites' in their own way – they knew her books almost by heart and the characters were as real to them as if they actually existed. They discussed them, and chose their favourite book – and then changed their minds. They were no literary critics, it may even be that they were a little jealous of Miss Austen's growing fame (this applied rather to my Aunt Caroline than the others.) They all considered her their exclusive family possession, a very rare and precious one.
But my aunt went further, 'Grandmama read Aunt Jane as no one else could.' This was because she was her niece and could enter into the whole atmosphere of the wit and setting of the books. The next generation followed, but there was a difference. When my generation came ...
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