12 July 2017
Seductions of a charmed life: a love of paradox and contradiction was at the heart of Jane Austen's impulse to write Premium
Jane Austen bicentenary
When I was a two-year-old being “rambunctious in the dining room”, my father, a philosopher, seized the chance for some high-flown pedagogy. “Repeat after me,” he said, “charm is not a substitute for goodness.” I got halfway through this challenging precept then stopped as one who has stumbled on a joyous truth: “It is!” I insisted.
He was charmed enough to record this in his diary, where I found it decades later. Could he have been reading Jane Austen at the time? No one explored so brilliantly as she did the problematic relation of charm to goodness.
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