Use of Letters of Austen and Dickens and Comparison between Two Austen’s Novels

Looking into the Use of Letter in Pride and Prejudice

Last week I discussed the use of letter in works of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice extensively uses letter quote. With new techniques from last class, I can delve into this idea, analyzing the epistolary usage in each chapter.

There are three parts of my code.


Part I divides the text into chapter.

#####A bunch of useful code

### Function to read the text
my.scan <- function(x){
Raw_Text.scan <- scan(paste(“C:/Users/klijia/Desktop/HIST582A/W3/Raw Text/”, x, sep = “”),what=”character”,sep = “\n”)
Raw_Text.df <- data.frame(Raw_Text.scan, stringsAsFactors = FALSE)

Pride.raw <- my.scan(“Pride.txt”)
Pride.cut <- Pride.raw[c(16:10734),]

### Find the start and the end line
chapter.line <- grep(“^Chapter\\s[[:digit:]]+”, Pride.cut)
start.line <- chapter.line + 1
end.line <- chapter.line[2:length(chapter.line)] – 1
end.line <- c(end.line, length(Pride.cut))

Pride.df <- data.frame(“Start” = start.line,”End” = end.line, “Text” = NA)

i <- 1
for (i in 1:length(Pride.df$End)){
Pride.df$Text[i] <- paste(Pride.cut[Pride.df$Start[i]:Pride.df$End[i]], collapse = ” “)

### Now the text is nicely cut in chapters

Part II uses ggplot to create scatter plots that shows the use of the word “letter(s)” in each chapter.

Pride.df$letter <- str_count(Pride.df$Text,”\\bletter\\b | \\bletters\\b | \\bLetter\\b | \\bLetters\\b”)
Pride.df$count <- str_count(Pride.df$Text,”[[:alpha:]]+”)
Pride.df$Chapter <- 1:61

ggplot(Pride.df, aes(Chapter, letter,color=non.null)) +
geom_point(color = “orange”) +
xlab(“Chapter Number”) +
ylab(“Use of ‘letter(s)'”)

Pride.df$letter.per <- Pride.df$letter/Pride.df$count*100

###Another graph in percentage
ggplot(Pride.df, aes(Chapter, letter.per,color=non.null)) +
geom_point(color = “orange”) +
xlab(“Chapter Number”) +
ylab(“Use of ‘letter(s)’ in percentage”)


I made two scatter plots. The first is the use of word “letter(s)” of each chapter. The second is the use of word “letter(s)” in percentage. They look similar, but the second graph would be better, if the novel has a chapter that is too long or too short.

From the graphs, we see that the first 20 chapters do not use the word, except for chapter 10 and 13. After chapter 20, the chapters that does not use the word become exceptions. There is a transition in at chapter 20 or 21 that may be interesting. Using the key word in context method will make this easier.

Part III attempts to use KWIC to look closely in to the text.

Pride.kwic <- paste(Pride.cut, collapse = ” “)
Pride.kwic.fine <- unlist(str_split(Pride.kwic , “\\W”))
location.kwic <- which(Pride.kwic.fine == “letter” | Pride.kwic.fine == “letters”| Pride.kwic.fine == “Letters” | Pride.kwic.fine == “Letter”)

start.kwic <- location.kwic – 5 ## Change 5 to any numbers
end.kwic <- location.kwic + 5 ## Change 5 to any numbers
start.kwic <- ifelse(start.kwic > 0, start.kwic, 0)
end.kwic <- ifelse(end.kwic < length(Pride.kwic.fine), end.kwic, length(Pride.kwic.fine))

KWIC.letter.df <- data.frame(“Start” = start.kwic, “End” = end.kwic, “Text” =NA)
k <- 1
for(k in 1:length(KWIC.letter.df$End)){
text <- Pride.kwic.fine[KWIC.letter.df$Start[k]:KWIC.letter.df$End[k]]
KWIC.letter.df$Text [k] <- paste(text, collapse = ” “)

write.table(KWIC.letter.df,”C:/Users/klijia/Desktop/HIST582A/W3/KWIC_letter.txt”,sep = “\t”)

I created two files, one for text that is 5 characters before and after the keyword and another for 25 characters. With the shorter texts, I could read through it quickly, but sometimes I would look at the longer text for more details.

We also need to pay attention to chapters that uses the word a lot, because those chapters may describe writing letter as an activity or involving people talking about writing letters (as in chapter 10). In this situation, all the start and end positions cluster tend together. The first ten entries do not use letter quote.

Some text, however, shows there is use of letter quote. Just a few examples (in 132 entries):

"13" 22775      22875      " dear sir  with respectful compliments to your lady and daughters  your well wisher and friend   WILLIAM COLLINS   At four o clock  therefore  we may expect this peace making gentleman   said Mr  Bennet  as he folded up the letter   He seems to be a most conscientious and polite young man  upon my word  and I doubt not will prove a valuable acquaintance  especially if Lady Catherine should be so indulgent as to let him come to us again    There is some"
"49" 75133      75233      "of consulting him  I shall endeavour to find some opportunity of putting this letter in your hands in the course of the morning  I will only add  God bless you   FITZWILLIAM DARCY  Chapter 36 If Elizabeth  when Mr  Darcy gave her the letter  did not expect it to contain a renewal of his offers  she had formed no expectation at all of its contents  But such as they were  it may well be supposed how eagerly she went through them  and what a contrariety of emotion they excited"
"84" 108958    109058    " It was as follows   MY DEAR SIR   I feel myself called upon  by our relationship  and my situation in life  to condole with you on the grievous affliction you are now suffering under  of which we were yesterday informed by a letter from Hertfordshire  Be assured  my dear sir  that Mrs  Collins and myself sincerely sympathise with you and all your respectable family  in your present distress  which must be of the bitterest kind  because proceeding from a cause which no time can remove "
"99" 118499    118599    "soon as she possibly could  She was no sooner in possession of it than  hurrying into the little copse  where she was least likely to be interrupted  she sat down on one of the benches and prepared to be happy  for the length of the letter convinced her that it did not contain a denial   Gracechurch street  Sept  6   MY DEAR NIECE   I have just received your letter  and shall devote this whole morning to answering it  as I foresee that a _little_ writing will not"
"130"       144183    144283    "with philosophy the conviction that Elizabeth must now become acquainted with whatever of his ingratitude and falsehood had before been unknown to her  and in spite of every thing  was not wholly without hope that Darcy might yet be prevailed on to make his fortune  The congratulatory letter which Elizabeth received from Lydia on her marriage  explained to her that  by his wife at least  if not by himself  such a hope was cherished  The letter was to this effect   MY DEAR LIZZY   I wish you joy  If"

As we see Jane Austen uses capital letters for the names of senders and receivers in letters. Sometimes greetings and dates can be helpful in identifying a letter quote.


Further Question:

As I was writing the post, I was thinking about does it really matters that how frequent the use the word “letter(s)” is. Maybe it is more important that Austen uses it or not in a chapter?

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