Jane Austen had already been dead for 44 years when Emerson took it upon himself to slate her. If he was fed up of her back then (and he was by no means the only detractor), imagine how he'd feel at the knowledge that nearly two hundred years after her death, she's as popular as ever. Perhaps more so.
So just how have her six stories from the early 19th century continued to find an audience? And why aren't we bored of Jane Austen yet?
Handsome, privileged and/or emotionally stunted men; beautiful, witty and/or neurotic women; the middle and upper classes at play; a materially-obsessed world; the underlying rituals of the mating dance; husband-hunting mothers, daughters and friends; love, romance…I could just as easily be outlining an average episode of Sex & The City. And therein lies Austin's chief appeal; she has transcended time. The day we become bored of Jane Austen is the day we become bored of human foibles, frailties and the frustration of relationships, both familial and romantic.
As such, I raced to see Becoming Jane at the weekend. And while the film is beuatifully shot and delivers a potentially devastating emotional crescendo it failed to break my heart. Rather, I emitted a faint whimper that a writer of Austen's calibre would have found most disagreeable.
Watch the trailer here.
Read Germaine Greer on Jane Austen in today's Guardian here.