Anyone who reads and loves Jane Austen has heard of Kipling's story ?The Janeites' about the WWI soldiers with their secret Jane society. I'd read references to the story and phrases like ?Tilneys and trapdoors', but never read the entire story until now. A must for one's complete Jane Austen education!
Rudyard Kipling?s 1922 ?The Janeites? is one of the first stories to mention Jane Austen as a member of the literary canon, as an author one is expected to know and love. In the story, a simple-minded ex-soldier recounts how, thanks to Jane, he survived World War I. Humberstall is wounded and reassigned to the position of assistant mess waiter. While he?s working, he notices the senior mess waiter conversing on equal terms with military officers. The subject, of course, is Jane Austen. Humberstall has never heard of this ?Jane woman,? but he can tell that a passion for her is something akin to being a member of a secret society. Soon Humberstall is escaping the horrors of war by learning the meaning of ?Tilney,? naming artillery after other characters, and gossiping about whether Jane ever got married. Humberstall tells his own story so Kipling writes in a lower-class British dialect; it?s charming (once you get used to it) and Austen fans will get a kick out of Humberstall?s crash-course in all things Austen?including figuring out what a ?Tilney? is and learning how to spell ?Lady Catherine De Bugg.?
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