“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”
Catherine Morland – Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
I found this delightful little quote in Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. Yes, I am once more reading the classics, thanks to my Kindle. (I am also reading The Crown Conspiracy, Excelsior, The Secret, The Sword Lord, the Sword, A Different Hunger and Wild Sight on my Kindle – but back to the topic at hand.)
Northanger Abbey is supposed to be a gothic story… I haven’t encountered that yet. What I have encountered is very poetic prose, delightful turns of phrase and a very confusing story. Why confusing? I think it was the period it was written in, and often I feel myself just drifting along in the monologues that happen, rather than reading them, because they seem… Archaic. But the story is a classic. I haven’t read it before, so I can’t tell you what it is about – other than a young woman, named Catherine, who is taken to Bath by family friends, Mr and Mrs Allen, where she meets a lot of interesting characters including Mr Tilney – whom I gather – is a priest. Catherine is rather smitten with Mr Tilney, although Mr Thorpe is also vying for her attention. I am at the point in the story where Catherine’s new acquaintance Isabella is soon to be engaged by Catherine’s brother.
Why am I rambling on about this story? Well, the story tells of their favourite past time – reading, and the girls are quite proficient at it. The quote above stood out on the page – and I guess I actually believe it to be true.
OK, so people aren’t stupid if they don’t read, but if you can’t get pleasure in a story, then they aren’t reading it right, are they? They must be stupid not to see the world that someone else has taken the time to create (whether it be present day, historical, science fiction or fantasy) and to appreciate the craftmanship that goes into it. People read for enjoyment, to escape the mundane, to feel alive, to relax, and a multitude of other reasons.
As a writer, I want people to enjoy the stories I write, to appreciate the skill and effort that goes into it. Catherine Morland and Isabella often discussed the books that they read, Catherine totally wrapped up in the world created by a Mrs Radcliffe in Udolpho (The Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe, published in 1794 apparently – I Googled it!), and she was quite disgusted if anyone said anything bad about the book. Catherine (and I am presuming Jane Austen did too) enjoyed the story so much that she had to tell everyone in her acquaintance why she enjoyed the story. She liked the turn of phrase, the characters, the settings, she was able to envision the coast of France even though she had never been there, so the description was also something else she liked. I hope that someday, someone will enthuse as much about my writing as Catherine (a fictional character) and Jane (a writer who liked the story enough to go on about it in her story) did about Mrs Radcliffe.
So, in conclusion of this rather rambling post, writing is a pleasure. But to read and to not enjoy it… well that is just stupidity.