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Jane Austen 'continues to surpass Maria Edgeworth'

8th June 2010

A comparison of the works of Jane Austen and Maria Edgeworth shows why modern readers return to Austen time and time again, it has been argued.

Rosemary Goring, the literary editor of the Herald, pointed out that Edgeworth was considered to be a 'far more fashionable and illustrious' author than Austen when the two were writing and still has fans today, as evidenced by her recently reissued Helen.

However, she noted that it is Austen who has captured the hearts and imaginations of modern readers, partly due to her reluctance to moralise and her willingness to include immorality in her works.

'Edgeworth's fiction may have been the bestselling work of her era, making her the richest novelist alive, but where she thumps the table and cranks up the melodrama, Austen quietly rips the rug from under her characters and her readers,' Goring added.

The editor also noted the sheer number of fellow authors who are devoted to Austen's novels, citing the recent publication of A Truth Universally Acknowledged, edited by Susannah Carson. The book collects essays from writers such as Virginia Woolf, Kingsley Amis and C.S. Lewis on why Austen continues to fascinate today.

A review of Edgeworth's Helen in the Herald by Goring says it demonstrates the novelist's style and wit, but can seem long-winded at times.

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