Deborah Yaffe

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A goodbye

By Deborah Yaffe, Jun 12 2017 01:00PM

My father, James Yaffe, was the man who first introduced me to Jane Austen, buying the ten-year-old me a copy of Pride and Prejudice to tide me over during a family vacation, after I’d zoomed through my suitcaseful of books. (Yes, boys and girls: We had no ebooks back then, when dinosaurs roamed the earth.)


Austen wasn’t the first author he brought into my life: My father was a big fan of the English Victorian novel, so he started me young on Dickens, Trollope, and the Brontes, moving on to Thackeray and Eliot when I got a bit older. He read aloud to me and my siblings for years, progressing from The Wizard of Oz to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, from Jules Verne to Wilkie Collins, with many stops in between.


A published author and college English professor, he edited the articles I wrote for the local newspaper as a high school student. Many years later, he gave me useful notes on my first book, Other People’s Children, and responded enthusiastically when he read Among the Janeites before its publication.


Earlier this month, my father died, at the age of 90. He gave me the incomparably precious gift of the written word, and I’ll always be grateful to him. Thanks, Dad. Wherever you are now, I hope they’ve got a good library.


2 comments
Jun 12 2017 07:37PM by A. Marie

My sympathy on your father's passing, Deborah. And I hope he's having a chat in the celestial library with the man who indirectly introduced me to JA--my step-grandfather, William T. Hilles. "Grandpa Bill" died when I was three, so I never really knew him--but my mother inherited several of his books, including the Everyman's Library P&P with the battered red leatherette cover that became my own passport to JA in my teens. The book disintegrated long ago, but the true gift lives on--as it does for you.

Jun 13 2017 02:39PM by dyaffe

Thanks, Marie. Given how strongly JA has been typecast as a "women's writer" in the last two, post-Firth decades, it's interesting to remember how many male JA fans there have always been, starting with her contemporary, Walter Scott. She's truly a universal writer.

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