13 NOVEMBER 1953, Page 26

Jane Austen's Novels. By Andrew H. Wright. (Chatto & Windus.

16s.) A SENSITIVE study, written with a charming modesty, and free of jargon. The sub-title is "A Study in Structure," but it is a study in pattern rather than of structure in, say, Mr. Percy Lubbock's sense, or, in the sense that it really means anything, of the emotional structure built up in the reader. It might be called a Jane Austen Primer for adults, for those who know Jane Austen. It will certainly please all Janeites, though it is doubtful if it will tell them much that they did not already know; nevertheless it will be invaluable for anybody plunging into Jane Austen's work, for pleasure or for study. Mr. Wright is very perceptive, nothing misses him, and he makes the good point that Emma Woodhouse learns not only that she cannot direct the lives of others, but that she must herself be involved. (Is there a touch of Existentialism here? being engage?) It is a pity that he has allowed himself to be swept away on the fashionable American flood of insisting that irony is an essential literary quality; with him everything goes into the ironic bag—a genial joke, a direct piece of sarcasm—so that all distinction becomes lost. It is difficult to assess for whom this book is written—it will a little puzzle those who know little of Jane Austen's novels; yet it is a book to be recommended, a happy book, written from love, and pleasant to read.