It would seem that generations of bored A level English students have been proved right, as a respected scholar has reached the conclusion that Jane Austen was actually rubbish.
Professor Stanley Fanshawe of Oxbridge University was writing an introduction to a new collection of essays, Of Petticoats and Priapism: Towards a New Hermeneutic Epistemology of Early-Nineteenth Century Literature, when he made the discovery.
‘I was rereading Persuasion when I suddenly realised that the plot was skimpy and predictable, the characterisation weak and the writing style clumsy and tedious. I then saw that this was true for all of her output. My former view, that she was one of the greats of English literature, has now been changed for ever.
‘To put it in a nutshell, she’s a bit crap.’
Agatha Hawthorne of the Jane Austen Society was anxious to dispute the findings. ‘Austen has a special place in British culture,’ she said. ‘Opinion polls consistently show Pride and Prejudice to be the number one book people pretend to like. Star-studded adaptations of her lightweight and sanitised novels have given countless tourists a confused and unrealistic view of British history. Quite simply she is the backbone of the thriving period drama industry.’
The government has announced it would be taking Professor Fanshawe’s advice and dropping Austen from the curriculum. It is expected she will be replaced by someone good.