REVIEWOFRICHARDCRONIN,ROMANTICVICTORIANS

S. CURRAN
2004 Nineteenth-Century Literature  
Miller's little book is so elegantly written, so tightly constructed, that it is a pure pleasure to read. (It is also beautifully produced, from the toothpick case on its cover to the paper silhouette used as an author photo-a choice both historically appropriate and, in its dark blankness, visually suggestive.) As for its ability to convince, two standards apply. Miller is able to explain many cruxes of the novels: Mary Crawford becomes "the saint and martyr of Austen Style" (p. 54), Jane
more » ... (p. 54), Jane Fairfax becomes a symbol of Austen's own reticence, Mrs. Smith's prominence at the end of Persuasion becomes explicable, and the hypochondria of Sanditon becomes the perfect topic for a dying writer whose subject has always been "the negation of her subjectivity" (p. 56). But I closed the book wondering if style and substance really need to be so mutually exclusive. Does Lizzy have to forgo all of her style in order to marry Darcy? Can't a married person have style? There is something tremendously sad about this reading of Austen that does not gel with the happiness that many (if not all) of her books produce in their readers, and I do not think that Miller's answer to this conflict (that "the heroine's good conscience," her "naiveté" [pp. 54, 53], sustains the charm of the books) is entirely satisfactory; after all, we readers need not be so naive. Still, anyone working on Austen will want to engage with this stylish and thoughtprovoking book.
doi:10.1525/ncl.2004.59.1.126 fatcat:l4kv5qyz6zgzdldyeey6ovuzge