James Stanier Clarke was librarian to the Prince Regent at Carlton House, London. Jane Austen and Stanier Clarke had met at Carlton House the previous year, when the librarian informed Austen that she was ‘at liberty to dedicate any future work’ to the Prince. She did so with her next novel, Emma (1815), after further encouragement from Stanier Clarke.
Romance or realism?
This letter is a response to a previous one from Stanier Clarke, in which he suggested that Austen might attempt for her next work a ‘Historical Romance illustrative of the august house of Cobourg’ which ‘would just now be very interesting’. Austen tactfully declines to engage with his proposals, writing that although such a work might be more profitable or popular than her ‘pictures of domestic Life in Country Villages’, she ‘could not sit seriously down to write a serious Romance under any other motive than to save my Life’.
Stanier Clarke’s personality, so similar to that of the (already created) Mr Collins from Pride and Prejudice, must have afforded Austen much delight – a case of life mirroring art.
- Article by:
- Kathryn Sutherland
- The novel 1780–1832
Jane Austen fills her novels with ordinary people, places and events, in stark contrast to other novels of the time. Professor Kathryn Sutherland considers the function of social realism in Austen’s work.