Great Lines in World Literature: Jane Austen
I'm currently re-reading all of Jane Austen's novels, and with far more understanding than thirty years ago, when I was still quite ignorant and rushed through every line. I'm still somewhat ignorant, but I've learned to go slowly amidst the bustle of this world . . . in reading great literature, anyway.
In other areas, I wish that I were faster.
Another reason that I read slowly is that I have no unbroken time for reading. I can read on the subway to Ewha Womans University, and on the way back home, or I can read while 'riding' my stationary bike, and while drinking a beer afterwards. Those are about the only times, so I find myself focusing very closely upon the text to understand it -- stopping often to recall a details or re-reading a passage to ensure that I comprehend.
I'm now about seventy-five pages into Mansfield Park and often laughing at Austen's wit, sometimes out loud (thereby ensuring myself plenty of room on the subway). Last week, while reading of Maria Bertram's engagement to the landed and wealthy Mr. Rushworth, I had to laugh at the words that Austen put into Tom Bertram's thoughts regarding his sister's engagement:
He could allow his sister to be the best judge of her own happiness, but he was not pleased that her happiness should centre in a large income; nor could he refrain from often saying to himself, in Mr. Rushworth's company -- "If this man had not twelve thousand a year, he would be a very stupid fellow." (Austen, Mansfield Park, Chapter 4)Which is, of course, a way of saying that Mr. Rushworth is a very stupid fellow while also remarking upon the social fact that stupid rich people are nevertheless often regarded as more clever than stupid poor people.
Austen's point? If you want to raise your IQ, just get yourself some money. Nah, just kidding. Austen was ignorant of IQ testing . . . for the simple fact that there was no such test at that time. Lacking any means of assigning numerical scores to people's intellectual faculties, Austen would simply have meant that a quantitative increase in wealth results in qualitatively superior intelligence. Nah, I'm still kidding. She really just meant that having more money doesn't make you smarter.
But does it make stupidity more tolerable? And how much more tolerable did Mr. Rushworth's twelve-thousand pounds a year make him? What would that be worth in today's money?
In other words, how 'smart' is Rushworth?