Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Jane Austen's Temper

‘Temper’ is a word that in our modern vocabulary has become reduced to two sorts; good and bad. For Jane Austen there were 47 varieties of it. In Emma I find it and mentioned 47 times. I find ‘amiable’(temper), ‘social’, ‘sweet’, ‘contented’,’sweetness of temper’, ‘good’, ‘benevolence’, ‘sour the temper’,’ill-tempered’, ‘best-tempered’, ‘cheerful’, ‘odd-tempered’, ‘devil of a temper’, ‘recover his temper’, ‘sanguine temper’, ‘restlessness of temper’, ‘open temper’, ‘faults of temper’.

It is clear that someone with the writerly resources of Austen could have avoided that repetition and chosen cognates and near synonyms for what we might call 'characteristic disposition’, 'dominant mood’, 'general feeling’ , 'personality’ and so on. We need not have recourse to ‘premsia’ and ‘threctia and the universe of Cattell to vary the delineation of temper. That she did not do so is very likely because of its importance to her. It is the natural word. Living in a restricted closed off world as she was, attention to the moods of others and navigation of their reefs and shoals would be a useful skill. On an open tempered, interpretation it might be a loving awareness. I find her acerbic ironies refreshing and I shouldn’t wonder if some of her family found her temper a little sharp betimes.

Related Post:Losing Your Temper

No comments: