ok, at the persistance of a friend, i started reading 'pride and prejudice' and i'm wondering why some of the city names aren't complete. it'll say something like "And she wanted to meet him in ----shire". why the heck doesn't it have the whole city name? thanks so much! ++++++++++++ 07-28-05, 10:26 PM newnickname It's not just Austen who did this. It's common to see placenames and dates (17--) left incomplete in eighteenth and nineteenth century novels.
The convention might have come from 'epistolary novels'. These were early forms of the novel, written in the form of letters. The reader was supposed to accept that these were not fiction, but real letters, gathered into a book. Naturally, this would mean that the editor would keep the 'real' names and places secret, to protect privacy.
(Robert Louis Stevenson's narrator says at the beginning of 'Treasure Island' that he will withold certain details because there there is still some treasure 'not yet lifted' from the island - so we don't get to read the bearings of Treasure Island itself.)
"...Defoe ['Robinson Crusoe'] sought to mingle fact and fiction because that was what his readers wanted. There was an appetite in the eighteenth century for true stories. Fiction had to seem true or else it couldn’t compete with the popular forms of nonfiction popular at the time. The novel, in its infancy, sought to be similar to nonfiction. Its only difference from biography and nonfiction was that its events never “really” happened. The epistolary novel follows this same convention of similarity to nonfiction.
Epistolary novels were popular during a time when “letter writing [had] bec[o]me very fashionable and was taken seriously. . . . Collections of genuine . . . letters [had] bec[o]me favorite reading material” (Wurzbach xi). It is unsurprising then, considering the success fiction had in mimicking other nonfiction genres, that letter collections should be any different. If Defoe could write a fictional travel narrative and it could be as popular as a real one, then other authors could write fictional collection of letters.
Epistolary novels, then, were “often difficult to distinguish from a genuine correspondence” (Wurzbach xi). Letter collections, both fictional and nonfictional were very similar.
The trend in the eighteenth century for reality-based fiction accounts for the popularity of epistolary fiction. One of the advantages to an epistolary novel is that it has the semblance of reality. It requires a small suspension of disbelief to really accept the fact that the letters of the characters in the book were actually written. Readers can easily accept the idea that the story and the letters could have been “really” written by the characters. The genre mimics and parallels reality...
...[in the nineteenth century] many writers were still drawn to the use of letters in fiction. “Incomplete epistolary form . . . appears repeatedly in the fiction of the early nineteenth century” (Beebee 169). Writers supplemented their narratives with letters. Jane Austen, who read epistolary fiction and was heavily influenced by it, “uses letters in important ways, but not as carriers of the plot itself” (Beebee 180). Many writers used letters within their work at this time, but did not construct their entire narrative of letters. The difference between this approach and the complete epistolary is, as Beebee points out, that these letters do not carry the plot.'webpages.shepherd.edu
So, when reading Austen, you might want to go along with the idea that the story is true and really happened, and the author has ellided placenames to prevent hordes of sensation seekers descending on the characters and disrupting their happy ending.
07-29-05, 12:01 AM HiddenOne wow, newnickname - what a quick, knowledgable, and precise answer! thank you SO much!
i didn't know that this was ever done, but it does make some sense - wanting to make it seem more real by seemingly protecting identities and places. yet the authors *were* willing to name the majority of people and places . . . odd.
thanks so much for the awesome reply! i guess it's true - you learn something new every day! Smile
07-29-05, 12:19 AM newnickname You're welcome. I'm not sure that I'm correct, however. Maybe she just wanted to avoid people writing to her saying stuff like, "But there's no such village in Whotsitshire..."
07-29-05, 06:07 PM HiddenOne no i definately think you're right. i even asked somebody else about it and they said the same thing. thanks again!This message has been edited. Last edited by: DorianGreyed,