Jane Austen, on blogging

Jane Austen didn’t actually predict the rise of the internet and blogging. However I was struck by the following discription of letter writing, from her novella Catherine:

‘Why indeed, Mrs Percival,’ said Mrs Stanley, ‘I must think that Catharine’s affection for her bower is the effect of a sensibility that does her credit. I love to see a friendship between young persons and always consider it as a sure mark of an amiable affectionate disposition. I have from Camilla’s infancy taught her to think the same, and have taken great pains to introduce her to young people of her own age who were likely to be worthy of her regard. Nothing forms the taste more than sensible and elegant letters–. Lady Halifax thinks just like me–. Camilla corresponds with her daughters, and I believe I may venture to say that they are none of them the worse for it.’

These days, the equivalent is blogging, effectively a letter broadcast on computers

These ideas were too modern to suit Mrs Percival who considered a correspondence between girls as productive of no good, and as the frequent origin of imprudence and error by the effect of pernicious advice and bad example. She could not therefore refrain from saying that for her part, she had lived fifty years in the world without having ever had a correspondent, and did not find herself at all the less respectable for it–.

I’m sure I’m not the only blogger who has encountered the attitude of “why write a blog?” When I was first telling people about the Stop HS2 blog, quite a number of people couldn’t see the point – and yet it is a vital part of the campaign.

Mrs Stanley could say nothing in answer to this, but her daughter who was less governed by propriety, said in her thoughtless way, ‘But who knows what you might have been, ma’am, if you had had a correspondent; perhaps it would have made you quite a different creature. I declare I would not be without those I have for all the world. It is the greatest delight of my life, and you cannot think how much their letters have formed my taste as Mama says, for I hear from them generally every week.’

‘You received a letter from Augusta Barlow to day, did not you, my love’ said her mother–. ‘She writes remarkably well I know.’

‘Oh! Yes ma’am, the most delightful letter you ever heard of. She sends me a long account of the new Regency walking dress Lady Susan has given her, and it is so beautiful that I am quite dying with envy for it.’

Fashion blogs. Need I say more!

‘Well, I am prodigiously happy to hear such pleasing news of my young friend; I have a high regard for Augusta, and most sincerely partake in the general joy on the occasion. But does she say nothing else? it seemed to be a long letter–Are they to be at Scarborough?’

‘Oh! Lord, she never once mentions it, now I recollect it; and I entirely forgot to ask her when I wrote last. She says nothing indeed except about the Regency.’ ‘She must write well’ thought Kitty, to make a long letter upon a bonnet and pelisse.’

Actually I’m more partial to the craft blog

Turbalance Ahead

Seth Godwin recently published a post about Unexpected Turbulence

It’s hard to summarise a post that’s only four sentences long, but the final sentence struck me as being very relevant to the HS2 proposal:

If your plan will only succeed if there is no turbulence at any time, it’s probably not a very good plan (either that or you’re not going anywhere interesting.)

Unfortunately, the HS2 proposal was originally dependent on very high levels of growth, higher then any other industry prediction. Eventually HS2 Ltd reduced the growth rate, but simply extended the forecast period – which was already longer then would normally be used in forecasting – until they got to the magic ‘doubling of passenger numbers’ that they needed to make HS2 a proposal that would not be rejected out of hand.