Jane Austen is a goodly woman of one and forty, a fine and delicate comportment, an elasticity of mind, and who is dead. In her day, she has seen many a suitor, not all to her liking. Her works, gentle in their persuasion of love and refinement as life’s noble pursuits, have attracted many blushing attentions, from zombies to guinea pigs to Gwyneth Paltrow, perhaps not all of them agreeable. But oh, what she would give for another night playing quadrille with any of them, rather than spend one minute more suffering the overtures of the loathsome “alt-right”! That is what they called themselves, though the whispers around the parlor—when the port was flowing—was that they were fucking Nazis. And it is a truth universally acknowledged that these single men in possession of a Twitter account must be in want of constant validation, which is why they have lately taken to loudly professing their affections for Jane Austen.
These white supremacists of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper have been spied courting many a pop cultural maiden of late, an act born of desperate impulse and marked by the carelessness of its execution. Having been so recently spurned by Depeche Mode and humorously overmatched by The Matrix, they have now come speaking of love and bearing cartoon Hitler frogs to Jane Austen’s foyer, It is there The New York Times reports they stand now, stammering the most appalling entreaties to her favors. The ghastly scene is described by Nicole M. Wright, assistant professor at the University of Colorado, in a periodical titled The Chronicle Of Higher Education, the details of her passage “Alt-Right Jane Austen” unsurprising given the persistent folly of their dispositions.
It started, [Wright] writes, when she noticed the provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos riffing on the famous first line of “Pride and Prejudice,” turning it into a dig at “ugly” feminists. (He also mistakenly called Austen, who died during the reign of George III, a “Victorian” novelist, but whatever.)
Looking around, Ms. Wright also found more straight-faced references to Austen in alt-right paeans to racial purity and subservient wives, including a shout-out from a blogger promoting the infamous meme of Taylor Swift as an “Aryan goddess.”
Some alt-right admirers hail Austen’s novels as blueprints for a white nationalist “ethno-state.” Others cite her as a rare example of female greatness. But the bigger point, Ms. Wright argues, is the same.
“By comparing their movement not to the nightmare Germany of Hitler and Goebbels, but instead to the cozy England of Austen,” she writes, alt-right Austen fans “nudge readers” into thinking that “perhaps white supremacists aren’t so different from mainstream folks.”
Oh, how vanity working on a weak head produces every sort of mischief! And though Austen has been barbarously used throughout history by those who would misunderstand her, often willfully, the insolence of these Nazis would be enough to make her weep softly into her white lace, were she not certain this would be interpreted as some kind of racial “dog whistle.”
“All the Janeites I know are rational, compassionate, liberal-minded people,” protests professor and Austen scholar Elaine Bender to The Times. And while others of her kind say they are by now inured to such ghastly couplings, they agree they find it no less intolerable.
In truth, Austen’s gentility may want for only the company of clever and kind admirers, but increasingly it grows older and thus more vulnerable to the brutish whims of misinterpretation, and the callow allure of sexually frustrated internet dickheads who think she was probably preaching racially pure traditional marriage and female subservience, rather than simply writing about a world that existed more than 200 goddamn years ago. In them the deficiency of nature has been little assisted by pointing out that Austen herself rejected marriage, and also that she created the kind of shrewd, calculating female characters whose poised self-awareness would leave these insipid “alt-right” swains in mute astonishment, fecklessly pounding their anime body pillows. No, such words would only be wasted.
If only Austen had married Mr. Colin Firth, as Father had suggested! She had been too happy, too at ease, too certain that the world was sensible in its reward of beauty. Alas, such is our great and most human folly.