This past week I read a story about some recent literary analysis done on the work of Jane Austen. Specifically, Kathryn Sutherland, a professor at Oxford University revealed that Austen's original manuscripts contained many misspellings and creative grammar. In other words, Austen's editors cleaned up her work before publication.
Some people are upset about this. Austen is no longer a perfect grammar goddess. She has tumbled from her throne of literary genius to a mere writer of tales.
Some people were even mad at Kathryn Sutherland for exposing this scandalous information.
Personally, this bit of news makes me love Jane even more.
You see, spelling has never been a strength of mine. I think I might even have some sort of undiagnosed learning disorder. I learned grammar intuitively. I only learned the rules after I started teaching grammar to others. Perhaps a writer should not disclose these kinds of deficiencies, but I like to think it makes me more like Jane.
Jane lived in the era before spell check and grammar guides. Editors could take the time to fix the errors. Of course now, we know we could never submit an unedited manuscript to an editor or agent. They simply do not have the time.
But why hate Jane for not being perfect?
When I delight in the pages of a good Austen story, I am not thinking of period placement or spelling.
I love her wonderful humor. I love her biting critique of the class system and marriage. I love knowing Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy will end up together in the end, but it's how they reach the much anticipated proposal scene that makes the story worthwhile.