Good Reading : May 2010
MAY 2010 ı goodreading 19 PS Published anonymously during her lifetime, you may rejoice, dear readers, to discover that the 'dear quiet aunt' of cult literature is here with us this evening. Miss Austen, welcome. JA I thank you, Sir, for your most agreeable introduction, though I fear I must disappoint you. I can have nothing to say that any body should want to hear. PS Your modesty does you credit, Madam. And naturally I can understand how you might be surprised, even overwhelmed, by my interest in you. My reasons are as follows: first, the details of your life, loves, and not least the mysterious circumstances of your untimely demise are matters of no small fascination to our readers. Secondly, only a psychic of my inestimable talents could hope to draw these out; and thirdly -- and perhaps I should have mentioned this earlier -- your name was brought to my attention on the particular advice and recommendation of my esteemed editor and patroness, Lady Rowena Cseh. Twice she's condescended to give me her opinion on this subject, without my ever having to ask for it. Why, just this past week she wrote to me and said: 'Mr Snyde, you simply must interview Miss Austen. Only a writer of her wit and vivacity is worthy of your inestimable psychic talents.' These, in short, are the facts, and I flatter myself that they will in no way lower your high opinion of me. JA For such flattery, Mr Snyde, I fancy that you have a quite uncommon genius, and are fortunate to have a most amiable object on whom to lavish it. PS Yes ... quite. Now, with your per mission, let's begin by discussing your early attempts at ... JA You are too hasty, Sir.You forget that I have made no answer. Let me do it without farther loss of time. Accept my thanks for the compliment you are paying me; I am very sensible of the honour of your proposal, but it is impossible for me to do otherwise than decline it. PS But of course ... Being, as I am, exceptionally well bred, I realise that it's customary for ladies of good manners to first reject an offer they ultimately mean to accept, and sometimes to reject it a second or even a third time. I trust this once will be sufficient, however, as I was rather hoping to pop out for a tipple at the club before it closes. JA Upon my word, Sir, your hope is rather an extraordinary one after my declaration. I am perfectly serious in my refusal. Nay, were your friend Lady Rowena to know me, I am persuaded she would find me in every respect ill-qualified for the situation. PS Well, frankly I find all this reverse psychology rather tedious -- and I daresay I shan't sleep a wink tonight without my evening sherry. Rest assured, Madam: I am suitably encouraged. Now, then ... JA Really, Mr Snyde -- you puzzle me exceedingly. If what I have hitherto said can appear to you in the for m of encouragement, I know not how to express my refusal in such a way as may convince you of its being one. PS Indeed, my dear Miss Austen: you can't. After all, given that I'm the world's pre-eminent psychic journalist, you can hardly think me unworthy of your time.You might also consider that, in spite of your many char ms, it's by no means certain that another offer of an interview will ever be made to you.Your situation in life -- or lack thereof -- rather precludes it, and, to be entirely candid, your sales of late could dowithabump... JA It would appear that you mean to leave me no possibility of refusal.Very well, Sir; I shall not attempt to deny you farther. PS Let's begin, then, by discussing your early attempts at publication. The first effort, I understand, was made on your behalf by your father in 1797, when he petitioned -- unsuccessfully -- to have one of your novels published at his own expense. Was this ter ribly discouraging? JA It had no occasion to be. I was not aware of it. PS How very awkward ... At any rate, that particular work was entitled First Impressions, later to become Pride and Prejudice on its eventual publication in 1813, and finally Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, as it's known today. JA 'Zombies'? PS Come now, Madam; no need to be coy. Zombies: the living dead; animated cadavers shuffling across the English countryside, feasting on the brains of passing milkmaids. 'When there's no more room in Hell,' and all that ... Miss Austen? Are you there? snyde remarks This month, renowned psychic Philbert Snyde attempts to interview JANE AUSTEN. Interview transcribed by GARETH BEAL.