BY Richard Brown
I suspect she would have approved of the formation of the Noise Abatement Society. And who can blame her? She may not have lived in a county dominated by dark satanic mills, but she wasn’t far from a few. England is not huge and the Industrial Revolution, with all its attendant pollutions, had a profound— transformative—impact on every village, town, and city.
She had seven siblings, six brothers, and one sister: her beloved Cassandra. All of whom survived the rigors—and terrors—of a late eighteenth-century childhood.
And then there are the servants, the nameless, numberless servants, who lit the fires, emptied the chamber pots, swept the floors, attended to the needs and whims of the children, cooked, scoured the utensils, and the chamber pots, polished endlessly, and so on. She excised them. The Vicar of Wakefield was one of her favourite books, but her opinion of She Stoops to Conquer is not known. I have not read any of the biographies; Wiki suffices, so I do not know where, when, and how she found the time and space to write novels—but peace and quiet, if not tranquility, must have been a prerequisite.
Forty-years later, on the other side of the Atlantic, Emily Dickinson lived a recluse-like existence—recluse-like because she was a wonderfully prolific and intimate correspondent in a substantial, almost uninhabited house. Siblings were scarce and servants an addendum which allowed her to withdraw, write, and read, for she was more than familiar with Austen’s novels.
So that’s it then, one writer somehow contrived to write in a house thronged with people and the other went from vacant room to vacant room, in her plain muslin dress, tapping her fingers and humming.
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RICHARD BROWN lives in the North London suburbs where he is semi-retired from the insurance industry. He's written dozens of screenplays. Most notably, The Whitechapel Murders, which has received some interest on Amazon Studios. In his spare time, he is a 5-course breakfast aficionado.
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