I am at a loss to understand why people hold Miss Austen’s novels at so high a rate, which seem to me vulgar in tone, sterile in invention, imprisoned in the wretched conventions of English society, without genius, wit, or knowledge of the world. Never was life so pinched & narrow. The one problem in the mind of the writer in both the stories I have read, “Persuasion”, and “Pride & Prejudice”, is marriageableness; all that interests any character introduced is still this one, has he or she money to marry with, & conditions conforming? ‘Tis “the nympholepsy of a fond despair”, say rather, of an English boarding-house. Suicide is more respectable.But "marriageableness" was the "one problem" for women in English society. Marrying well was the only way to attain a modicum of power. To my mind her stories are about women of agency maneuvering within this very limiting environment to the best of their ability (see also Gone with the Wind).
In Google Reader, Matt Walker commented, "his statement actually sounds pretty feminist, no?" Eh, no. This is the same line of thinking that leads men to trash books by women not on the grounds that they are written by women but because the content is silly and womanly (to quote V.S. Naipual, "feminine tosh"). Oh, if only women would stick to writing about important man issues, we'd have no problem with them dabbling in the finer arts.
Anyway, where's the wit in Emerson? Unless he was joking about that whole transparent eyeball thing.
By the way, I've never read Austen, but feel compelled to defend her against nitwit arguments anyway.