Jane Austen would have flunked English?
Jane Austen, revered for such works as Pride and Prejudice, was lousy at grammar, and her stylish writing was helped along considerably by editors, according to a new study by a University of Oxford professor.
Professor Kathryn Sutherland made the observations while studying the author's handwritten manuscripts. She says on the university website: "It’s widely assumed that Austen was a perfect stylist –- her brother Henry famously said in 1818 that 'Everything came finished from her pen' and commentators continue to share this view today. ... [But] Austen’s unpublished manuscripts unpick her reputation for perfection in various ways: ... we discover a powerful counter-grammatical way of writing. She broke most of the rules for writing good English. In particular, the high degree of polished punctuation and epigrammatic style we see in Emma and Persuasion is simply not there."
If you think the professor is just being catty, you can see for yourself on Monday, when more than 1,000 manuscript pages are put online at the Jane Austen Fiction Manuscripts Digital Edition. The manuscripts trace her development as a writer from 1787 (age 11 or 12) to 1817 (age 41).