Watch out for that Intrusive Author

“Author intrusion” is a definite writing “don’t” nowadays.  The fiction author is not to call attention to him/herself in any way, thereby interrupting the flow of the story and the reader’s total immersion in it.  But in the 18th and 19th centuries, it wasn’t uncommon for authors to address readers directly in the narrator’s voice, sometimes even beginning these asides with the words “Dear reader.”  Here’s one of Jane Austen’s more “intrusive” statements:

Yes, novels; for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom so common with novel writers, of degrading by their contemptuous censure the very performances, to the number of which they are themselves adding – joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who if she accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust. Alas! if the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard?  I cannot approve of it.  Let us leave it to the reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure …  Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body.  Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried. …there seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them.  (Northanger Abbey, chapter 5)

Come on, Jane.  Don’t be shy; tell us what you really think.  (And this is only about half of her diatribe.)  It must have felt great to get all that out of her system and down on paper.  Even though novels are a more respected form of literature today, those who write them can feel just as undervalued at times.  And we aren’t allowed to vent our feelings all over the pages of our books, at least not so obviously.

I love what Jane Austen says here about authors sticking together, that we should be each other’s best champions.  I have an idea.  Let’s make a pact to do as she suggests, and see to it that the heroine of one novel promotes the interests of the next.  From now on, no matter what genre you write, find an appropriate place for your hero or heroine to support the nobility of what we do by uttering these words (also quoted from Northanger Abbey):  “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”  That ought to do it.

Update: Be sure to look for the intentional incidences of author intrusion in my Northanger Abbey sequel!

About Shannon Winslow

author of historical fiction in the tradition of Jane Austen
This entry was posted in Jane Austen, Jane Austen Quotes, writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Watch out for that Intrusive Author

  1. literaryoverdose says:

    Love this quotation! Northanger Abbey is a classic, and I love how Austen inserts herself into the text. Guilty pleasure, I know, but hard to resist in writing. I like your idea of supporting writers and readers…too often poor people who don’t know any better (or those who, like me, salivate at the idea of a “writing life”) don’t realize the solitude and the not-so-greatness of writing. I say, cheers for you, and I, for one, will make my characters firmly support reading! Thanks for this post.

  2. Yes, we share a brother/sisterhood, since only other compulsive writers can understand the peculiar form of insanity from which we suffer. Thanks for your comment and support!

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