Hume Thoughts from a Broad

Just ahead of Part Eleven of our nightly audio adventure, a reminder that tomorrow, Thursday, I’ll be conducting another Clubland Q&A live around the planet at 11am Eastern/3pm GMT/4pm British Summer Time. Not long afterwards, the audio edition of Steyn’s Song of the Week can be heard on Serenade Radio in the UK Thursday at 9pm London time – that’s 4pm North American Eastern.

The listening is anything but easy for some of our male Steyn Clubbers as far as Jane Austen is concerned. But some of the chaps are rather partial to Northanger Abbey and the like. Calvert Whitehurst, a First Week Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club, writes from Virginia:

Having read Northanger Abbey and Jane Eyre, I think there are similarities between the two, although the Brontë sisters wrote their novels in the 1840’s, long after Jane Austen had passed away. Mansfield Park is the only Austen novel I haven’t read – of course, I’ve seen the movie – but I enjoyed all of them.

On a side note, Mark Twain despised them, which just goes to show that either Twain didn’t care for women novelists in general, or penetrating observations on the manners and mores of early 19th Century upper-class English society were not his cup of tea.

Mark Twain, like all of us, had many blind spots, Calvert. I chanced to mention him in a piece we published today, and all I can say is that my own allusion to that particular Twain story reminded me that a huge percentage of his output is today all but forgotten.

On a related subject, in tonight’s episode of Northanger Abbey, Catherine and her new friends discourse on the difference between history books and novels. Our heroine does not care for the former, and finds them quite as fictional:

“I wish I were too. I read it a little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all—it is very tiresome: and yet I often think it odd that it should be so dull, for a great deal of it must be invention. The speeches that are put into the heroes’ mouths, their thoughts and designs—the chief of all this must be invention, and invention is what delights me in other books.”

“Historians, you think,” said Miss Tilney, “are not happy in their flights of fancy. They display imagination without raising interest. I am fond of history—and am very well contented to take the false with the true. In the principal facts they have sources of intelligence in former histories and records, which may be as much depended on, I conclude, as anything that does not actually pass under one’s own observation; and as for the little embellishments you speak of, they are embellishments, and I like them as such. If a speech be well drawn up, I read it with pleasure, by whomsoever it may be made—and probably with much greater, if the production of Mr. Hume or Mr. Robertson, than if the genuine words of Caractacus, Agricola, or Alfred the Great.”

That would be David Hume (top right) and William Robertson, authors of The History of England and The History of Scotland respectively.

Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear me read Part Eleven of Northanger Abbey simply by clicking here and logging-in.

We like both actual history and fictional fancies here at SteynOnline, but there’s nothing healthier than taking a short break from the hell of the hamster-wheel news-cycle and exploring the delights of our Tales for Our Time home page. It’s configured in Netflix tile style, with the stories organized by category – thrillers, fantasy, romance, etc – which we hope will make it easy for you to find a favorite diversion of an evening.You can access four dozen of our cracking capers here – and all previous episodes of our current adventure here.

If you’ve yet to hear any of our Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club and enjoy our nightly audio adventures every evening twenty minutes before lowering your lamp – or hoard the episodes and binge-listen at the weekend or on a long car journey, if your government currently permits you to take one. For more details on that and other benefits to Steyn Club membership, see here – and don’t forget our special Gift Membership.

Please join me right here tomorrow evening for another episode of Northanger Abbey.

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