Books: An Irate Accent

By God, if wommen hadde

written stories

As clerkes han with-inne hir

oratories,

They wolde han writen of men

more wikkednesse

Than al the mark of Adam may

redresse.

When Chaucer's earthy Wife of Bath made that ill-veiled threat, literature was still largely in the hands not only of men but monks. It was more than four centuries before women in any numbers began to write fiction; but almost as soon as they did, it was clear that writing talent has no gender. Jane Austen is one of the supreme geniuses of the novel, and only...

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