A couple of months ago, I was unexpectedly sent a boxful of Virago Modern Classics. One of them contained Emily Eden’s two novels, The Semi-Attached Couple and The Semi-Detached House. People kept telling me as I was reading that they really liked the title of my book, and I kept having to explain that it was actually two books. The titles are still pretty good, I think.
There’s a quote on the back of this book — no, wait: there are three quotes on the back, and all three compare Eden to Jane Austen. One of them, the one I’ve seen several times before, says that Emily Eden is the person whose books you read when you’ve finished all of Austen. I hesitate to say I’ve read all of Jane Austen — I don’t feel like I need to read all of her juvenilia, and having read one of the unfinished novels, I’m not terribly interested in reading the other. I’m not sure if the number of times I’ve read Lady Susan counts for anything. Anyway, I’m a fan.
You can see the Jane Austen comparisons from the start of The Semi-Attached Couple, which was written in 1829, but not published until after the success of The Semi-Detached House, which was released in 1859. It’s set in the same sort of world as Pride and Prejudice, and one of the families seems intended to draw comparisons to the Bennetts, although for the most part Eden concentrates on the characters who move in similar circles to the Darcys and Bingleys. So, there are characters similar to Jane Austen’s. There are plot elements similar to Jane Austen’s. Emily Eden’s brand of gentle satire is similar to Jane Austen’s. As I read The Semi-Attached Couple, I began to feel really irritated that I had been introduced to Eden in terms of Austen. Read the rest of this entry ?