Of Mirth and Mischief, Mortality and Measure

Of Mirth and Mischief, Mortality and Measure

(illustration credit to Dale Stephanos for this image from the Wall Street Journal)

For those with short memories who may not recall, two years to the day (plus one day for Leap year?), Goodread’s blogger Jessica Donaghy posted the surprising discovery and plans for publication of a long-lost Jane Austen novel, Mirth and Mischief.

I didn’t come upon the post until late afternoon, hours after I’d become inured to jest attempts having already suffered a disappointing blow at realizing Puppy Chat would not be a real thing (AND WHY NOT, I continue to ask to this day).

While I did not fall for the news, I did enjoy reading the comments of those who had, and who described their brief, fleeting brush with joy at the thought of another Austen tale. Most took the joke in stride. Some found it too cruel. Others didn’t care for it for reasons having to do with them having very little sense of humor or love for Austen.

Yet all understood the root of the joke…the poignant angst of limited supply.

Jane Austen did not know the limited time she had to create her works. There are less than a million words, really, between her novels, short works, juvenilia, and letters. A University of Arizona study released the same year of the Austen April Fool’s Prank found the average person speaks 16,000 words a day. While the range of spoken words is large, even the average illustrates a point: the average person will speak a million words in just over two months.

I hear the objections already: that the written word is different from the spoken word, that the fictional word is more weighted and meaningful than casual conversation. And so fine, I bow to these realities. But even if we double, triple, quadruple, the impact of Austen’s million words that we have, the fact that remains they are so very little. A small amount of words for someone with so large a presence.

April Fool’s is a wonderful time to poke fun, to joke, to be fooled, and to laugh, and to consider things that may hurt to consider:  we will never have what feels like enough of the things we love, and so we must love them as much as we can while we do have them.

Happy April Fool’s, and may you trick someone you love, if only for a short while.

 

11 Responses to Of Mirth and Mischief, Mortality and Measure

  1. Thanks, Cecilia, you have put words to my pain. The thought of a new Austen novel would be wonderful.

    I have a file on my computer with the text of the six novels and I’m constantly searching it to see if the word I’m contemplating in my own writing was ever used by her. For instance if want to use the word gravity, I wonder whether Austen used it. I know it comes from the Latin gravis and predates Newton, but I still l check. (A quick search shows Austen did use it.)

    Her non-use of a word isn’t a deal breaker, of course, but had she written more, I would worry less.

  2. I love the corner image by Stephanos of Austen looking at a very modern novel. A novel my local library says it is the most checked out ebook they have… so patrons are not seen checking out the hard copy.

    Oh how times have changed…I doubt anything arrives in the mail in unmarked brown packages any longer. They are now front and center, on display, on the shelf, in the checkout line for the entire world to see. I nearly fainted in the checkout recently and questioned the cashier regarding the store allowing such a display. My facial expression, I am sure, mirrored that of Stephanos’ illustration. What would Austen say? With her sense of humor, you know it would be funny.

    We still hope that someone will find something, anything of our dear author. For this alone fans will never forgive Cassandra and all those who burned or destroyed letters and works of our dear author. Wouldn’t it be awesome if a WIP was discovered? WOW!! The entire Austen world would explode for sure. And no April Fools jokes please. I’m staying home today to avoid jokesters.

    • I’ve managed to avoid any April Fool’s today (although my heart goes out to the poor people who lost job prospects due to the google joke), and I’ll never stop yearning for an undiscovered WIP! Although until then, I’m glad to have all the wonderful fan fiction to read. 🙂

Your thoughts are precious!