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by Kate McDonnell

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My dearest Jane

Imagine my surprise when I entered a bookshop recently and saw that a writer calling herself Emma Tennant has written a sequel to your own Sense and Sensibility. It was a matter of moments to pay for it and whisk it home to read it at leisure over tea, but I must say that it was not an improving accompaniment to the crumpets and oolong.

My dear sister, although I know you are always interested in the fate of your books, and indeed have recently largely taken pleasure in their fates in the new medium of the cinematograph, I cannot recommend this new publication with any great enthusiasm. In fact, it pains me to see Mrs. Tennant taking the names of your familiar characters in vain with a story so improbable and so vulgar, and so full of a snickering relish for plot circumstances more appropriate to modern decadents than to the dear Dashwood girls and their connections.

Indeed, it were probably not excessive cynicism on my part to wonder whether Mrs Tennant had not taken advantage of the moment to publish this work, so soon after the success of the film of Sense and Sensibility. Certainly the book would have no reason for existence, my dear sister, were it not that she rides on your coattails, or perhaps I should say on the hem of your gown.

Elinor, Marianne, Edward Ferrars, Colonel Brandon, even that exquisite scoundrel Willoughby, are all reduced to simple caricatures and set prancing like so many puppets through an unpleasing plot, all told in letters from one to the other. How Mrs Tennant has managed to write something both so slight and so implausible is a mystery, yet there it is. And there are our other old friends, Mrs Ferrars run mad, Mrs Jennings robbed of her kindness and set up as a silly gossip - I cannot continue, Jane.

Most distracting to these ears that have so often attended the cadences of your prose, Jane, were the lapses in language. Would Elinor say "before Papa was cold in his grave"? I think not, Jane--it is an expression I would expect to hear from a scullery maid. Would Mrs. Jennings complain that her daughter's husband was "not spontaneous"? Would Marianne confuse a harp and a harpsichord? I think not. The entire book was sprinkled throughout with such faults so that the claim of continuing the story of Elinor and Marianne was an empty promise.

No, Jane, your Elinor and Marianne do not inhabit this book. Times have changed indeed when it is an Emma Thompson and not an Emma Tennant who better understands your intent.

With apologies for the briefness of this letter, I remain

Yours affectionately,


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