Austen cults and cultures

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


Ever since Henry James, early in the twentieth century, observed that a “body of publishers, editors, illustrators, [and] producers of the pleasant twaddle of magazines’ found “their “dear”, our dear, everybody’s dear, Jane so infinitely to their material purpose’, two things have been abundantly clear: first, that Austen has been not a mere novelist about whom one might talk dispassionately, but a commercial phenomenon and a cultural figure, at once formidable and non-threatening; second, that many of Austen’s most acute admirers have been unhappy with this extravagant popularity. An Austenian descendant himself, James aims his criticism not so much at Austen but at her faddish commodification by publishers and marketers. He had a point. Since 1832, Austen’s six novels were available separately in the Standard Novels series published by Richard Bentley. But even though Bentley reprinted the novels at various times in the coming decades, joined by other printers once his copyrights expired, Austen’s novels were hardly bestsellers. Indeed, she remained an artist admired intensely by a few, such as George Lewes and Thomas Macaulay. “Janeitism’ – the self-consciously idolatrous enthusiasm for “Jane’ and every detail relative to her which James is alluding to – did not burgeon until the last two decades of the nineteenth century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780511974359
ISBN (Print)9780521763080
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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