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Any 'Ernestites' Out There?

August 11, 1985

Three obviously worthless books were reviewed on July 21: "Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen" by Fay Weldon; "Antipodes Jane: A Novel of Jane Austen in Australia"; "Mansfield Revisited: A Sequel to Jane Austen's Mansfield Park" by Joan Aiken. They might better have been left to lie and stink unnoticed until they disintegrated naturally. But it was easy to see why John Espey of UCLA chose them as a subject. It was a great chance to exercise what he considers to be erudite wit. He probably does not realize that he was indulging in the crudest kind of sexism.

"Tee hee! She's an old maid!" is the substance of many male assessments of Jane Austen's genius, whose readers are slurred as "Janeites."

We do not hear of the admirers of Faulkner, Fitzgerald and Hemingway (a besotted and overrated trio) called "Ernestites," "Scottites" or "Williamites." Are lovers of Shakespeare also "Williamites"?

Espey's comments were not the lowest I've heard on the subject. That prize goes to a scurvy fellow who was told that flocks of tourists visit Austen's home and are shown her desk and chair. "Do the Janeites bend and sniff the seat?" he asked.

CAROL ELLIOTT

Los Angeles

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