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Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The Language of Jane Austen: 'did not reply' or 'made no answer'

Here's a curious footnote to Pride and Prejudice.

The expression 'made no answer' is used seventeen times in the novel, with reference to several different (non)-speakers: Catherine Bennet, Bingley, and Miss Bingley once each, Mr. Bennet twice, Darcy five times, and Elizabeth seven.

Jane Austen uses the expression five times in Sense and Sensibility. You may not be surprised to hear it is usually Edward who chooses not to answer! 

Given their contexts, the three appearances of the expression in Emma seem especially deliberate rather than formulaic.

Jane Austen does not use the expression at all in Mansfield Park or Persuasion or Sanditon.

I conclude it was an expression she was fond of in her early years as a novelist but for which she found alternatives in later writing.