In the literary world, the image of a balding man in a doublet - English bard William Shakespeare - is iconic. But the etching of a hazel-eyed woman in a bonnet is, perhaps, just as cherished and well-known. And it’s not Pride and Prejudice that makes me say so about British author Jane Austen.
Click start to play today’s Crossword, which will test your knowledge of the author’s beloved books and characters.
Austen has long been a source of debate – you either love her work or find it terrible. According to a 2015 report by UK-based news website The Guardian, British author Charlotte Brontë apparently found only “neat borders” and elegant confinement in Austen’s fiction, while British poet DH Lawrence called her “English in the bad, mean, snobbish sense of the word”. But, as Austen’s own character Emma Woodhouse once said: “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.”
Austen’s novels, on the surface, seem to follow the affairs of a few families, usually in a country village. But her writing was revolutionary in form and technique. Her novel, Emma, for instance, is about a self-deluded young woman with the freedom and power to meddle in the affairs of her neighbours. And the novel’s narration itself was through the distorted lens of the protagonist’s mind – a radical experiment at the time.
English writer Virginia Woolf noted Austen's stylistic innovation and her ability to capture human flaws, and wrote that if Austen had lived longer (she died at age 41) or written more, she would have been “the forerunner of Henry James and of [Marcel] Proust”, authors known for their experimental work.
Today, over 200 years after her novels were published, Austen’s work has been made into several well-loved television and film adaptations. In 2017, the Bank of England printed her image on the new £10 note – she replaced naturalist Charles Darwin, and before him, author Charles Dickens, and became the first female writer to be honoured in this way.