The Folio Society has been around for years, putting sumptuous editions of the classics within reach (or not) of discerning readers. At present, as Sarah Seltzer tells us, they’ve turned their attention to the works of Jane Austen, in particular an illustrated edition of her last novel, Persuasion.
You can judge for yourself whether the quality of the illustrations make purchasing the volume worthwhile, but I must tell you that I’m quite fond of that picture of Anne Elliot on her bed, looking the way an Austen heroine should look: slightly disheveled, but with wide, clearly open eyes–eyes that, eventually, will see everything that they need to see, and penetrate deep into the heart of things.
And who wouldn’t want the most elegant edition of an Austen novel possible? She is a master, if I may use that word with no sexism intended; a genius of gesture and nuance in social relations. And she laughs, softly and gaily, at the human condition, but never at us. She has too much sympathy for that. Were she alive today, she’d be standing solidly with the millions of women who are, for the first time in history, making for themselves the choices that govern their own lives. But she’d also be whispering in the ears of those same women to regard men–those puzzling, proud creatures–as fit companions for most of life’s journey, and encouraging both sexes to see each other, no matter how long it takes, without guile and without pretense.