Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Book Buying

We go to the bookshop to buy Jane Austen. The Complete Works.

And we see this hardback boxed set, with the texts printed on Bible paper edged in gold (quite unnecessary) costing no more than a clutch of decent paperbacks.

What's not to like?

Well- one thing really; they have the early 20th century illustrations by Hugh Thomson- which are very charming but wrong.

I'd rather not have my novels illustrated. I want to imagine things my own way. Only kids books should be illustrated.

And to illustrate Austen is a violation of her aesthetic. Her lightness and swiftness are bound up with her refusal of description. What does Mr Bingley look like? He has a black hat and a blue coat.

Hugh Thomson's pictures are all about bonnets and frocks. Austen could care less.

But I've seen the Austen films. My vision is already corrupted. I can't help but see her characters as Emma Thompson, Kate Winslett, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. Pemberley is forever Lyme Park.

What further harm can Thomson do?

And hard covers, Bible paper, gold edges.....

We buy them.

We also buy a copy of Anne Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolfo (roughly contemporary with Austen.) I read it on the train coming back from town. Radcliffe is all description. Her heroine lives in the foothills of the Pyrenees and spends her time collecting botanical specimens and playing the lute in mountain glades. Sooner or later she's going to be abducted by brigands and it can't happen a page too soon.
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