Fiction was not considered an important part of literature in the early nineteenth century when Jane Austen published her novels. Fiction was presumed to be immoral and even dangerous since it "over-excited the imagination" (Halperin 5). Many religious denominations instituted anti- fiction campaigns to protect young people from the corrupting influence of the novels. It was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that this attitude regarding fiction began to change. Due to this bias as well as the anonymity that Jane Austen sought by not putting her own name on her novels, there were very few critical reviews made of her work until the mid-1800's.
Many early reviewers of Austen's work were uncomplimentary. Among them were writers considered to be literary greats, such as Wordsworth and Mark Twain. Though Wordsworth conceded that Austen's novels were an admirable copy of life, he remained adamant in his dislike for that type of literature. Mark Twain compared Austen to a Puritan as her novels made him feel like a "bar-keeper entering the Kingdom of Heaven!" (Halperin). Gradually critics have come to recognize Austen's literary talents. Austen's ability to make her characters "speak and act as . . . in every day life" has caused some critics to refer to her as the "greatest artist that has ever written" (Halperin 18). Her "attention to detail" can be compared to a conscientious seamstress who stitches her seams neat and leaves no ragged edges (Hardy 21). In her novels, she shows her ability to overcome the gap between the author and her reader which enables the reader to better understand the characters and their conduct.
"Sense and Sensibility" was Austen'...
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