Virginia Woolf's Nose
Virginia Woolf's Nose Essays on Biography By Lee, Hermione Book - 2005

How does a biographer handle the ambiguities, contradictions, missing years, mythmaking, facts, and fictions? When British writer Hermione Lee gets to the case of Jane Austen in her essay "Jane Austen Faints,", she has plenty to talk about. Given the piddling amount of factual information that exists from Jane?s forty-two years on earth, Austen is a notoriously tough subject. Any incident that is known?no matter how trivial?is ripe for debate. Once, according to family legend, Jane Austen fainted. The cause was the unexpected news that Mr. Austen had decided to move the family to Bath; the result has been intense biographical speculation. This is Jane exhibiting extreme emotion; it must be important. Lee examines various Austen bios see what different writers have made of the incident. Is Jane shocked by how sudden the news is? Terrified of city life, away from the familiar green countryside? Afraid a secret love affair has been uncovered and she is being forcibly separated from her suitor? The real cause is unknown, and so every biographer?s point of view colors our vision of Austen?and forces us to question whether we can ever really know Jane as well as we think we do.

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