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Jane Austen and slavery

In the New English Review, Ibn Warraq defends Jane Austen from Edward Said’s “egregious misreading” of her.

Gabrielle White. . .examines Austen's last three novels, and sets them in the context of the world of the abolitionists. Ms White writes, ‘The last three novels, the so-called Chawton novels [Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion], were written in the decade after the 1807 Abolition. Amongst Jane Austen's favourite writers were people who were passionately anti-slavery, such as William Cowper, Doctor Johnson and Thomas Clarkson. One of her naval brothers was known to be abolitionist. I use the term 'abolition' in connection with both the slave trade and slavery. Cowper's tirade against slavery in lines 37-39 of Book Two of his epic poem The Task is severe, and leads up to the question: 'We have no slaves at home—then why abroad?' Jane Austen would have been aware of the popular campaign for abolition.[5]

As Warraq and White go on to describe, Jane Austen denounced slavery.

Warraq’s piece is here.

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Our piece on “the abolition” as Jane Austen called it, is here.

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