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Q: Jane Austen, Victorian authors, and the omission of proper nouns ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Jane Austen, Victorian authors, and the omission of proper nouns
Category: Reference, Education and News > Teaching and Research
Asked by: daxueshngmsu-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 18 Feb 2004 03:01 PST
Expires: 19 Mar 2004 03:01 PST
Question ID: 307906
In her famed work, Pride and Prejudice, why does author Jane Austen
leave out names and other various proper nouns?  For example, in
chapter 51 she writes, "The carriage was sent to meet them at ----,
and they were to return in it by dinner-time" (Austen 307).  This type
of peculiar omission seems common among Victorian authors.  Why did
they do it, and is there a specific academic or literary name for such
Subject: Re: Jane Austen, Victorian authors, and the omission of proper nouns
Answered By: jackburton-ga on 18 Feb 2004 04:04 PST
Dear daxueshngmsu,
A similar question was posted by "Diane Catherine" on "The Republic of
Pemberly" website, a site designed precisely to disentangle the
minutiŠ of Jane Austen's writings.
"Diane Catherine" asks:
"A friend just read Jane Eyre for the first time, and wondered as I
have, why Charlotte Bronte used "-----shire" rather than a real place.
I believe I recall that Jane Austen does this too. Does anyone know
I always assumed that it was because if she used a real place name,
readers living there would say, "This author obviously knows nothing
about this place. What a stupid book!" But I would like a more
definitive answer if there is one. Thanks!"
"Caroline" responds:
"That's one reason why they did it. A development of this was that if
they used real places, or real regiments, or what looked like real
places and real regiments, then people could say "Well, the Colonel of
that regiment wasn't callled xxxxxx, or the Colonel of that regiment
didn't do that/wasn't the fool you make him out to be/couldn't
possibly have given that order!" Authors would be opening themselves
up to accusations of libel, if not stupidity.
It's also a fall-out from a literary convention of the time when many
books and pamphlets were written criticising the government of the
day, or important figures, by using false names. Defoes' Gullivers
Travels is possibly the best known of the earlier ones. Since the
reporting of Parliamentary discussions was banned until about 1808, it
had to be reported in newspapers under false names (and Samuel Johnson
first did it by reporting the activities of the people of Lilliput!).
Some rather scurrilous stories were also printed which were thinly
veiled parodies or criticisms of important figures.
So when Jane Austen wrote the _________shire regiment, or the Earl of
_________, she was a)avoiding the pitfall of being accused of
inaccuracy and b) avoiding the pitfall of being accused of criticism
of some important political figures.
And just for the record, there realy was a militia regiment that went
to Hertfordshire and then camped for the summer at Brighton. It was
the Derbyshire Milita.........
Now the Bronte sisters followed in this tradition, although I really
don't know if they were as worried about political consequences as JA
was. Jane Eyre is fairly obviously set in Northern Yorkshire and
Durham, (The reference to Gateshead, a real place gives it away.) But
Lowood Schooll may wel be based on a real place, in which case
Charlotte was playing safe by not giving any more deatil about its
location than she absolutely needed to." 
Here's another discussion on the same topic. You can follow the thread from here:
- "Omissions in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.... " (20 posts)
The Republic of Pemberley
Jane Austen Info Page
I hope this satisfies your curiosity.
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"the carriage was sent to meet" omission OR omissions
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