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Daphne DuMaurier walking with her children in front of Menabilly (fictionalized into Manderley)

Dear friends and readers,

As this is a blog not just on Austen and her contemporaries and the long 18th century, but also on women’s art, I thought I’d record a proposal to explore with a group of retired and adult learners the life and work of Daphne DuMaurier; if accepted, this would be for a 5 weeks this summera the OLLI at Mason:

The worlds of Daphne DuMaurier

Daphne DuMaurier is far more than the writer of a single powerful Manderley novel, Rebecca, and not just a writer of women’s romances (and thus underrated) and material for Hitchcock to make movies from. She wrote gothic and Cornish romances; historical and regional novels; travel books, including time-travellers;  insightful biographies (of her father, the great actor, Gerald DuMaurier, of Branwell Bronte) and autobiographical books; family sagas; eerie and terrifying short stories, and transgressive murder mysteries; and realistic novels too. I propose to explore her marvelous oeuvre with those who’d want to do this. For summer we’d read, to begin with, one of her historical Manderley novels, The King’s General, and one of her haunting travel books, Vanishing Cornwall. It is suggested that students see the 2007 biographical film, Daphne, the screenplay by her biographer, Margaret Forster, featuring Geraldine Somerville as DuMaurier.

If rejected, I’ll save this for another time at the OLLI at AU. if it were for a fall semester, I’d do a third book, probably her biography of her father.

The great biography of DuMaurier is by Margaret Forster. I should say I’ve never read a book by Forster I didn’t like. You could call DuMaurier bisexual but the marriage to Browning was something of a veneer even if she had 3 children: her long-time relationships were with Ellen Doubleday (played by Elizabeth McGovern in the film) and Gertrude Lawrence (Janet McTeer). (She was also a friend of Noel Coward’s.)

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She had a good deal of the chatelaine English type in her outward social life, but in her books she loves to cross-dress. She’s a powerful biographer and romancer, Menabilly meant a lot, but it would be going against all I am to give a falsifying dumbed wn course on this woman, perpetuating stereotypes which reverse some of her significance, erase it. There is evidence to suggest that far from identifying with the second Mrs DeWinter, she bonded with Rebecca and meant us to see Max as a tyrant. In The King’s General, which takes place in the 17th century, during the English civil war, the heroine is crippled very early on (badly, she must stay in a wheelchair) so she has a central disabled character. She identifies with heroes and transgressive characters.

Nina Auerbach (who also writes transgressively on Austen) has a perceptive informative literary biography of DuMaurier, Haunted Heiress, and Avril Horner with Sue Zlosnik on DuMaurier as a gothic and Cornish regional and historical woman novelist. I’d love a chance to read more of her novels, memoirs, life-writing, letters, and other essays on her and the films made from her books.

It’s unfortunate that most of the films from her work that are famous were made by Hitchcock, which turned her work into his usual nasty school of cruelty and misogyny. It’s their fame which has partly framed her work popularly. I did like the take on DuMaurier in the movie Daphne as brooding often solitary writer embedded in her a chosen landscape.

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I’ve 33 books altogether, some on Cornwall and linked to the writing and life of Winston Graham.

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A Cornish Seascape

How I’ve loved her books and would love to read more of them and more books on her and the film adaptations.

Ellen dreaming perhaps

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Flirting amid piles of plays (Maria and Henry with Tom and Yates in the background, the 1983 MP by Ken Taylor)

Dear friends and readers,

Herewith my second blog report on the gist of the individual papers delivered on Saturday, October 10th, at the JASNA AGM in Montreal. Looking over the 7 to 8 break-out sessions on against the one I chose, I again regret that so many papers were on against one another.

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I went to hear Br. Paul Byrd’s paper comparing Mansfield Park with Margaret Oliphant’s Perpetual Curate because I’m a reader of Oliphant’s fiction, and know she was influenced by and wrote a perceptive essay on Austen’s fiction and Austen’s nephew’s memoir of his aunt. He brought the two novels together as by two Anglican women who saw the need for reform in the church with clerical heroes who suffer repeated attacks. Mansfield Park: Edmund is distracted by his personal involvement from his vocation; his religion though more often discussed than portrayed; pluralism and absenteeism condemned. He is contrasted to Dr Grant. Mary argues priests have little influence on people, represents a segment of society that no longer believes thoroughly in the Christian religion; mercenary considerations strongly influence her judgement; Henry Crawford is sensual, self-indulgent. Edmund’s relationship to Fanny shows him thoughtful, meaning to be reflective though he fails to be an accurate observer. The Perpetual Curate: Frank Wentworth presents a Victorian ideal and knows what a clergyman ought to be; but is his own worst enemy, not politic, handles a scandal foolishly, yet remains true to himself; Br Byrd brought in each author’s male relatives who were clergymen, and seemed to believe that Austen assumed her readers believed that Anglicanism could be an effective force in the world while Oliphant delivers a blistering critique of Anglican church of her day: Br Bryd thought Oliphant was showing a cultural shift from a gentleman who is a clergyman to clergyman who have a calling; he also read Mansfield Park as seriously about religion and religious failings in Austen’s characters and the cultural world they belonged to.

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I went to hear Kathryn Davis’s “Charles Pasley’s Essay and the ‘Governing Winds of Mansfield Park,” because during the long course of reading and analyzing Austen’s letters (see my blog analysis of Letter 78) I became aware of how she admired the ruthless imperialism of Pasley through what she said in a letter and Southam’s analysis of Pasley’s career and writing (in his book on Austen’s brothers) and how narrowly partisan Austen could be when it came to what she thought were her brothers’ interests. Ms Davis talked of Austen’s admiration for this man, and of his life as retold in the ODNB, and then presented Pasley’s writing in terms of his patriotic ideals and worry about the navy weakening; how he reminds his audience of the commercial good (profit, well ordered places) the military could lay the grounds for in conquest and expansion; she quoted eloquent passages (duty is service); he recognizes there is a loss of social and economic liberty but such bonds as are formed are a deterrent to war. I had not realized Pasley wrote specifically about the West Indies (e.g., Antigua must be held onto). I was much relieved when Robert Clark who had given a paper in the previous break-out session on the British empire at the time of and as reflected in MP (I heard a version of his excellent papers at the ASECS in Williamsburg last spring), when Mr Clark brought out the murder and destruction of societies found in these colonial places, the suffering inflicted on these native peoples; that Pasley’s is a ruthless militarist deeply anti-liberal argument, where the East India Company’s doings are an exemplary norm. Southam shows how he disobeyed orders to aggrandize himself. Mr Clark remarked that it’s telling that Pasley was republished around the time of WW1.

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Fanny Price and Henry Crawford dancing foreground, Mary and Edmund just behind them, at the Mansfield ball (1999 MP by Rozema)

I went to hear Nora Stovel Forster’s paper because it was about film, specifically “dancing as a blueprint for marriage in Rozema’s MP.” Ms Forster argued that Rozema modernized MP by politicizing its themes to push her own agenda. Austen’s MP is relentlessly about money as intertwined with love (Mary sees everything in terms of money; Maria marries to gain the use of a great deal of money). Ms Stovel spent a lot of time on the Portsmouth episode in the movie where (Ms Stovel felt) the poverty of the Prices is exaggerated, and drives Fanny to accept Henry Crawford’s proposal momentarily. Slavery is brought in as Fanny journeys around England; through the horrors illustrated in Tom’s sketches of his father’s plantation in Antigua; the sexuality made explicit for us to see the corruption of the hollow characters. Fanny’s character is much changed and she is (in effect) made the author of the movie. I liked how Ms Stovel showed us some of her stills in slow motion. It was hard to tell but I thought the audience this time was more pleased by Ms Stovel’s talk about Rozema’s movie than they had by Sorbo’s presentation because it could be taken as implicitly criticizing the movie for not being faithful (but that is not why they dislike it so as other movies as unfaithful, say Ang Lee and Emma Thompson’s S&S is very popular among such people).

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The Harp arrives (1999 MP)

I did not know that the session where Jeanice Brooks and Gillian Dow were listed was actually an attempt to present two papers in the 60 minutes. Ms Brooks’s paper was on French culture and music in Paris and as sold and mirrored in London and the provinces of England around the time of MP. I hope hers is one of those papers published in Persuasions for she presented much valuable information in a perceptive way applicable to Austen’s novel and life too (Austen played the pianoforte; Eliza, her cousin, the harp). She told of the invention and history of the harp in the 18th century, the music books in Austen’s household, and went over two volumes of selections from 18th century periodicals which only Eliza de Feuillide could have supplied. She gave a brief resume of Eliza’s movements in France and England from 1780 to 1813 when she died (1780 in Paris with harp; 1781 married, lived in Paris; 178-86 lives on husband’s estates; 1786-87 visits Steventon; Sept 1788 returns to Paris, back in 1789; death of Feuillide, of her mother, her marriage to Henry, the musical party Austen records in April 1811; Fanny Knight’s note on Eliza’s cancer); she then played a lovely piece of music to which one of the songs in the book was set at the time. I regret not having a copy of the text to share with others. I was unable to take it down in sten quickly enough.

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Edmund reading to Fanny as children (he made her books meaningful to her, 1983 MP)

I was not able to stay for much of Gillian Dow’s paper which had to be fitted in to the tail end of the session. Ms. Dow attempted a speculative answer to the question, from what books did Fanny Price learn French? She talked of what we know of Austen’s interactions with Grandison (reading, alluding, the playlet) and how she uses Lovers’ Vows in MP, to show Austen’s interest in plays, and she suggested Austen may have meant us to think the Fanny learned French by reading the plays Madame de Genlis wrote for children. While I agree that Adele et Theodore is an important source in two of Austen’s novels (Emma and NA) and Austen seems to have been an avid reader of Genlis’s fiction (which we can see from her reading with her sister in her letters), but at the time I left the session I had heard no evidence Austen read these plays or meant us to feel Miss Lee would be a person who would teach from them. Sir Thomas seems to have instructed his sons through having them declaim plays but there is no sign his daughters or niece were encouraged in such self-displays (even if the texts were impeccably moral).

My daughter, Izzy, may have chosen more wisely than me.

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Everyone reading and rehearsing playscript (2007 MP by Maggie Wadey)

On Saturday she listened to Nancy Yee outline how Shakespeare’s Henry VIII relates to MP (she had a sheet of passages from Henry VIII); she was amused by Arnie Perlstein’s paper on subtexts in the allusions to plays in Mansfield Park; she said she understood Susan Allen Ford’s paper on Hester Chapone’s Letters and their relationship to Mansfield Park (was persuaded there really was one), and she positively enjoyed Sara Bowen’s “Fanny’s future, Mary’s Nightmare, on Jane Austen’s understanding of a clergyman’s wife’s life in the context of all the clergyman’s wives that she knew, from her mother, to her sisters-in-law, her niece, Anna Austen Lefroy and many other kin, friends and acquaintances.

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From 1982 Barchester Chronicles, scripted Alan Plater (the clerical families dining, Mr Harding and his daughter, Archdeacon and Mrs Grantley and Mr Arabin, adapted from Trollope’s Barchester Towers)

Izzy talked of (I imagine from this paper) Trollope’s presentation of the life of Archdeacon Grantly’s wife in Barchester Towers, Mrs Proudie across the Barsetshire series, and what we see of clergymen’s wives in his mid- to later 19th century books, and said Ms Bowen argued that the demands on a woman’s life as a clergyman’s wife were changing and are reflected in Austen’s books: we see little expectation of religious doings or doctrine in Elinor Dashwood; we seem never to see Henry Tilney do or think about religion or doctrine (even if he does not neglect his parish and preaches there of a Sunday); in Mansfield Park things are changing, expectations growing. Izzy was amused to try to count up all the female characters in Austen’s fiction who either might have or do become clergyman’s wives.

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Mrs Norris humiliating Fanny over her refusal to play (1983 MP)

The most fun she and I had together while at the JASNA conference was when she downloaded all of MP onto my ipad (there is a library APP which permits this, offering free books out of copyright and books you must buy) and we read together parts of MP found suggestive hints in the first three chapters of the book tending to prove McMaster’s thesis that Mrs Norris loathed Fanny because she had wanted to have her as a vicarious child through Sir Thomas and found her personality one a vindictive, selfish, aggressive, competitive and greedy personality would bitterly resent.

I know I reported that my proposal to present a paper on the relationship of the four Mansfield Park films with the novel was rejected, though happily I wrote a brief elaboration of what I would have said and it was published on-line by BSECS, but I believe I never wrote about how I had had an idea to compare Smith’s Ethelinde, or the Recluse of the Lake with Mansfield Park. A well-meaning friend suggested to me my idea was too dry or scholarly or narrow (who reads Ethelinde?) and the MP proposal was more likely to find acceptance. I’ll end on this proposal I never sent: “Empire, Marriage, and Epistolarity in Charlotte Smith’s Ethelinde and Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.”

I propose to give a talk on revealing parallels between Charlotte Smith’s Ethelinde; or the Recluse of the Lake, and Austen’s Mansfield Park. First, the novels both use visual space, be it a country, rural, town or city, a prison or a great house, to project the inner psychic and moral state of a character in the context of a larger exploration of empire. Characters in both value male work which is part of a professional career to gain money and rank; whether they travel widely or spend their days in a local parish, the two novelists justify and/or critique the means by which the characters succeed or fail. Second, the novels contain slowly evolving love stories which end in an unexpectedly welcome misalliance for one couple and adultery for another, destroying the destined hopes of some of the characters, all seen in the context of arranged, mercenary, and far-flung marriage, further career moves. Last, the development of the novels’ plot-design relies on epistolary situations, characters who reach others only through letters, and reading with all the tension, misunderstanding and critique from afar distance creates and facilitates.
In other words, I’ll be discussing these novels from a post-colonial standpoint. Smith’s central characters are openly driven by economic need, caught up in wars, bad marriages and illegitimate yet loving liaisons, exile and painful and distant correspondences; while most of Austen’s characters’ circumstances are economically comfortable, and adultery is only adumbrated; nonetheless, her characters go through the same paradigms of need, war, mismatch and have to force themselves to write and read their letters Whether it’s a question of intertextuality or influence, a comparison of the way Smith’s and Austen’s characters discuss, dramatize and solve their career, marital and social or moral needs, will shed light on these novels and contemporary attitudes towards the demands of the local mercenary and rank-based and global commercial worlds as these intersect with the people’s private needs and desires.

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After Harvest Storm, Richard Westnall by R.M. Meadows (early 19th century)

E.M.

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Fanny’s first sight of Mansfield Park (1983 BBC MP)

Scenes must be beautiful which daily viewed
Please daily, and whose novelty survives
Long knowledge and the scrutiny of years:
Praise justly due to those that I describe.
— Wm Cowper as quoted in the 1983 MP

Dear friends and readers,

It’s been more than a month since I attended the yearly JASNA AGM at Montreal, which this year focused on Mansfield Park as 200 years ago it was first published. I’ve blogged on my and Yvette’s experience of the conference itself, and the Burney conference and its papers; I’ve yet to offer some summaries and comments on the lectures and papers I heard on Austen and MP. As with my reports on the Burney papers, I will be in most cases offering the gist of what was said.

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Rozema substitutes the narrator of the Juvenilia as Fanny (Francis O’Connor dreaming over satiric writing in 1990 Rozema MP)

For Yvette and I this part of the conference began on Thursday at 9 pm when Linda Troost and Sayre Greenfield offered some thoughts on the “Fanny Wars:” this phrase is understood to refer to an assumed hostility to Fanny Price which flared up on the Internet when Austen-l was founded after the airing of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice which exponentially expanded the membership of this, other listservs and eventually blog-rings as well as JASNA itself. They and all others from here on in are hampered because the archives from Austen-l from the years 1994-1998 have vanished due to technological obsolence. I once told the history of those years (on a Burney page where I tell of how a group of us fared trying to read and discuss Cecilia), but of course what one wants is to read the actual postings. Surprisingly (to me they found a dislike of Fanny Price as a character, type, or personality (hard to say which) goes back to the earliest comments on the novel (gathered by Austen herself) at the same time as voiced admiration for the character (Whateley, 1821). Basically they offered a brief survey of criticism of Mansfield Park. I was disappointed because they did not bring out how Speaking About Jane Austen was the first published criticism to bring out into the discussably open how the average non-professional and woman fan reacted to Austen’s books: it’s here you find the first vehement rhetoric rejecting any identification with Fanny Price. Unsurprisingly (but registering this discomfort with this character and also book) they found radio and film productions have been influenced by the perceived popular dislike of this heroine.

At 1:30 pm on Friday the AGM proper began with the opening plenary lecture: Robert Miles, “Mansfield Park and the News.” Prof Miles is known for his admirable and ground-breaking work on Ann Radcliffe and the gothic. Prof Miles began by defining news as including gossip, particularly of the type found in lurid newspaper stories of the era. His talk consisted of regaling the assembly with stories of violence (executions and deaths from all sorts of causes), hanging of women for infanticide and men for sodomy, melodramatic elopements, heroic and disruptive incidents at sea and during wear and other catastrophes, gambling, executions for and the murdering of slaves (this enabled him to include stories of Antigua), local squalid internecine family preying on one another. His point seemed to be that this is the background crowding into Mansfield Park.

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Gillray’s typical caricature propaganda: Slippy Weather outside a print shop

I did get up and objected. First, I praised his book on Ann Radcliffe, but then suggested there were two problems in his talk: the first, he took the stories he told at face value: told them as if this reporting was of what really occurred when quite a number seemed to be exaggerated re-tellings of what was supposed to be the truth (it’s been shown that the accusation of infanticide was often deeply unjust); second, if this is the feel of much of this material, we cannot know how Austen felt about what she read in such newspapers, which in any case are kept at the margins of the novel, whether it be vague references on the part of Tom Bertram asking Grant what he thinks about the trouble in the US, or Fanny asking a question we never hear nor its answer, or Mr Price reading about the Rushworth-Crawford scandal at Portsmouth. It is true that some of this material seeps into Austen’s letters where she is gleeful about scandals she occasionally glimpses in the appearance of people at assemblies, but Prof Miles made no reference to those places in Austen’s writing where we can try to glean what was her attitude through the jeering satire. In fact he turned away and didn’t answer my objections. Arnie Perlstein also spoke: it was to support Prof Miles and say all this material was deeply relevant to the subtext of Mansfield Park. I can’t remember a third person talking.

There were then two break-out sessions. Maria Sorbo’s talk on the Mansfield Park heritage films (she excluded any consideration of Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan) was of real interest to me as I have been working on a book and written extensively on the Jane Austen film canon. She approached the 3 films from the point of view of how the film-makers “read” Austen’s novel which she regards as a “rich, intricate and provocative” book treating courtship and love ironically. She argued that the 1983 BBC MP often described as “faithful” is deeply unfaithful (because of the serious earnestness with which the film invests the book’s themes); the 2007 MP has a miscast central star (Billie Piper whom she described as “sullen”), which while it shows how Fanny is marginalized and makes Mary Crawford a witty heroine remains inert. Her talk was designed to show that Rozema’s 1999 MP came closest to replicating Austen’s distruptive (of sentimentality), playful and quizzical tones; the lens is that of the confident and assertive Juvenilia. Prof Sorbo’s analysis of the ironic and sceptical outlook of the book brought out why it is so relevant today.

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Rozema’s comical close of self-absorbed characters who by chance end up the way they do, with the happy rewarded couple walking off to their parsonage (1990 MP)

While I felt she also made a strong case for the brilliance and subtlety of the use of film by Rozema, as in the incident of the release of the doves, the unadmitted to (by her) departures from Austen in the whole of the Portsmouth sequence, I felt she was unfair to the 1983 film when she suggested that its Fanny was silent and protested that the over-voice throughout was Sylvestre le Tousel’s, that it made a genuine attempt to capture the epistolary and subjective consciousness of the novel, and that filmically the 2007 MP became a work of art (however truncated) in its own right against artifice. But what was most ironically telling and indeed generally indicative of a number of the break-out sessioss I attended was the audience reaction to all she said and her clips (mainly from the 1999 Rozema film, including the sequence showing Maria and Crawford caught in bed by Edmund, and the painfully vile sexual exploitation of women slaves in the drawings by Tom of what he saw in Antigua): when she asked what they felt about each film, it was as if she had not spoken at all. The majority of her audience (no more scholars of film than literary texts) remained adamant in their dislike of Rozema’s film. There was an utter disjunction between this scholar’s approach to Austen and film and the fan understanding (I sensed they hated the sexualized clips from Rozema’s MP). Sorbo’s published book, Irony and Idyll: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park on screen uses the same criteria as her talk offers an informed history of a selection of the film adaptations of these films (for P&P she does only the 1940, 1980, 1995 and 2005 films) while looking to see how her and other scholar’s reading of Austen’s 2 books is captured in these chosen films.

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Kentchurch at Deer Park

For the second break-out session I attended Sarah Parry’s “‘Did you not hear me ask him about the slave trade last night: Looking for Clues in Real Houses Which Point to the Wealth and and Lifestyle of the Pictorial Mansfield Park.” Ms Parry took the audience through a journey of slides showing us a series of great country houses in England whose size, lifestyle, and source of wealth make them good surrogates for the house at the center of Austen’s book. When the owning family’s source of wealth for house after house is examined she found war profiteering, slavery, corrupt politicking, enclosures (whole villages erased or moved), Nabob and Barbados colonialist practices (including the occasional massacre) as what “made it all possible.” I couldn’t begin to take down the caterpillar (her word at one point) details. I assume (hope) the ironical information and pictures she provided will be published in the coming Persuasions on the conference. I find especially entertaining those passages she quoted which showed that what today is seen as “timeless elegance” in a mansion and landscape was in Austen’s time seen as vulgar, pretentious (a family trying to make up for not having a long upper class genealogy). She mentioned how when websites on line about such houses try to tell the truth about their pasts, some tourists protest. This reminded me of what I saw in the self-repression of the MOOC I watched on the Literature of the Country House. Afterward she was at the Chawton Library table (she is a member of their staff) and I congratulated her on the nature of her talk and mentioned how a course on country houses never mentioned the source of these houses’ wealth, their actual economic basis and working. She said such sites when they told such truths got vociferous mail demanding such truths not to be told as it “spoilt” the enjoyment. At Winterthur Museum similarly no one tells important truths or even admits what is the nature of the Downton Abbey exhibit or some of their others.

It was then 5:30 and the sessions for the day were unfortunately over. There had been no less than 8 sessions on at one time during this 2 hours and 15 minute period — an absurdity for those who would have liked to hear more of what was seriously on offer at the conference. (I am far from alone in this frustration.) The morning had been given over to tours, a dance workshop (for those few lucky enough to get in); since I had been at the Burney conference I had had to miss Marcia Folsom’s Teaching Mansfield Park. At around 6 I and Izzy filled with period called ” dinner on your own” with an enjoyable meal with a friend and the people who had judged the essay contest (though the restaurant like so many nowadays was so noisy we could hardly hear ourselves speak). At 8 there was the one-hour play, A Dangerous Intimacy: Behind the Scenes at Mansfield Park, by Diana Birchall and Syrie James and then for a second hour the glee singing (which I have described as lovely in my account of the social activities of the conference).

Saturday though was the one full day of the conference and I include the second plenary talk of the conference which occurred from 9-10:20 am, Lynn Festa’s “The Noise in Mansfield Park” here, so as to keep this report of the conference talks to two blogs (my next will cover 4 break-out sessions plus an account of what Izzy remembered of what she had heard and enjoyed).

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Quiet star-gazing by Billie Piper as Fanny and Blake Ritson as Edmund (2007 MP, scripted Maggie Wadey)

Prof Festa’s lecture was a rich and stimulating display of an post-colonial, feminist and subtle psychological reading performed by a an intelligent mind engaging with the text at a close reading level. She began by saying it may seem perverse to discuss MP featuring a quiet unobtrusive heroine in terms of noise: Fanny is a quiet, gentle, timid character whose sharp observant mind throbs with emotion, and Mansfield Park quiet and peaceful [under the governance of Sir Thomas] though Mrs Norris, Lovers’ Vows and Portsmouth provide dissonance. Prof Festa suggested Austen wants us to listen to the kinds of noise we hear: soft fretful tones of Lady Bertram, strident cadences from Mrs Norris; Maria does not want to hear the noise of the cottage or church bells (everyone has her taste in noise); slamming doors and hallooing in Mrs Price’s hallways and stairs shows how power is seen when someone can control noise (Fanny is grateful when Sir Thomas stops Mrs Norris from discussing Henry’s proposal to her) and for those can speak freely (no Austen heroine has the right to speak freely). Mansfield Park lacks a language in which to discuss issues among themselves and listening itself is underrated: Fanny looks upon the voices of the Crawford as what she wants not to hear; her silence ignored by most but to some she speaks volumes with it. the rewards and punishments of the novel measure the characters: Mary is not evil but flawed because she does not control what she says and her understanding of what she is told and her wit superficial (so she ends up frustrated but at peace with her widowed sister); a harsh condemnatory language is used by Fanny of her mother; she speaks out of embittered disappointment and escapes back to Mansfield Park whose oppressions she never acknowledges. That hole in Fanny’s heart was put there when she was brought to MP and brought up displaced and marginalized and abused which Henry Crawford does recognize. Prof Festa seemed to have heard and been using Prof McMaster’s talk when she mentioned that Fanny was a proxy child for Mrs Norris, and suggested the terror Fanny feels at the approach of Sir Thomas’s footsteps an index of the brutality Fanny fears from powerful people.

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Aubrey Rouget (Fanny, Carolyn Farina) and Tom Townsend (Edmund, Edward Clemens) discussing Trilling’s dislike of MP (1990 Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan)

The blurb about the conference apologized for Mansfield Park as a book a lot of readers of Austen don’t like. If this is true, all 5 talks thoroughly countered this dislike by demonstrating that the speakers’ at least found it in all the insight, drama, fraught trauma and comedy and satire, and depiction of levels of society and attached exploited worlds found in any great Victorian novel.

Ellen

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An 18th century trunk

Gentle readers and friends,

Now where were we? I hope you have not forgotten the Burney Society Biennial Conference? We had reached the later afternoon. Due to the unexpected popularity (sense of exclusion) that actuated large numbers of JASNA people to join the Burney people to listen to Juliet McMaster’s “Female Difficulties: Austen’s Fanny and Burney’s Juliette,” and the time it took for them all to obtain coffee and/or tea, and snacks, Prof McMasters was forced to rush through her talk and leave little bits off. Luckily I heard it again in the very late morning the next day so can convey the gist of what she said and a few notes. In the later evening after dinner at the Burney conference members performed scenes from Burney’s Love and Fashion.

The next day, Friday morning, the Burney group were given a tour of the Burney Centre at McGill: at the McGill center we saw all the tools and papers and microfilms and microfiches at the scholars’ disposal and were told something of their procedures. Catherine Parisian’s talk ended the conference. She linked The Wanderer to MP (both published 200 years ago — as well as Edgeworth’s Patronage, Scott’s Waverley) she mentioned the War of 1812, Napoleon’s abdication, but her focus was Burney’s life that year.

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To begin with Fanny in MP and Juliette in The Wanderer:

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Fanny’s trip with Mrs Norris in the carriage (dramatized in Ken Taylor’s BBC 1983 MP)

Prof McMaster’s most remarkable insight made me see Mansfield Park anew: she suggested that Mrs Norris so loathes Fanny because Fanny was to be her way of having a child with Sir Thomas; things go awry immediately in the first carriage ride where Mrs Norris finds Fanny’s personality to be deeply antipathetic to her own; Fanny’s crying and yielding personality sabotages Mrs Norris’s project and she hates her ever after. If you reread the 1st and 2nd chapters, you see a lot of language which supports this thesis. Prof McMasters brought the two novels together in the context of other women’s novels of the era also about women in distress: we also know Austen’s high opinion of Burney’s work from Northanger Abbey. In both novelists nature is a moral force, where the heroines endure trials demanding the greatest fortitude. In Fanny Price we see dramatized the pain of enforced passivity (we also see this in Anne Elliot); Burney’s Elinor Joddrell does not accept this kind of role, fiercely resisting this socializing, but when she is rejected for her rebellion, she tries to kill herself. We do find a free spirit in Mary Crawford, but note that it is Fanny who is the catalyst in the scene between Mary and Edmund in the attic where they act out of the lines from Inchbald’s Lovers’ Vows. Fanny knows deep mortification, distress, gnawing jealousy as she is bullied and pressured into accepting a role in the play taken on for its usefulness in erotic exploitation. Juliette’s adventures are as harrowing as those in a Hardy novel, reflecting the French upheaval, the nameless Juliette is hurled from job to job, showing the same reluctance as Fanny to display herself in public (she gives up means of support); her wanderings include an eloquent depiction of the blighted lives of seamstresses. Fanny is forced to come out of silence; Juliette is silenced for volumes. Juliette may be a picture of perfection, but she is jeered at in public; she hates making money, it’s embarrassing. It seems what gets in their way is their “delicacy,” their fear of exposure. She ended on the thought that now in 2014 that we females have left these paths of avoidance and repression no matter what the cost, we find new hard difficulties.

******************
I move to the concluding moving (poignant) matter of Frances Burney’s 1814:

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Norbury Park

Prof Parisian’s chosen topic was “Frances Burney in the year 1814,” and she showed what a tough year it was for Frances. Charles Burney died and Frances finds that her father’s wish that the estate be divided equally is thwarted by her brother, and nephews; the sales of The Wanderer are poor, part of the run destroyed. Burney has her £2000, but her husband remains in France (he had visited for 4 weeks but had to return while hoping for an ambassadorship); he has an appt with no pay, and Burney foresees that his health will not hold up (he was to die painfully of cancer in 1817). Her beloved and now dead sister, Susan’s oldest son died, and a crushing blow, Camilla cottage is sold, and she can do nothing about the money she sunk into the place as she has only a lease on the land. Her long-time friend Fredericka Locke sides with her son, saying that the cottage does not belong on the big estate. Frances goes on to endure penurious circumstances, sharing quarters with Charlotte over Sloane Street (they have no visitors, no carriage). Her apparently apathetic son, Alex incurs expenses;the only alternative for him is a military career in France, but this is unrealistic given what he is. (He is presented as hopelessly unworldly but I wonder if there is something else here: was he a homosexual man? autistic and disabled?) Burney begins to sell things to make ends meet. D’Arblay wrote a letter to the Lockes that offended and Frances intervened to smooth things over, but here she is a mature adult but finds she had no rights (over Camilla cottage) and where she has (her father’s wishes at least) cannot act in court on her own behalf. The bright future she had hoped for her older years did not happen.

How can I bring these papers together? Austen’s life also began to go seriously awry a year later, in 1815 when Henry went bankrupt and she began to show the first symptoms of her fatal illness. There is a mad abuse of Fanny Price in Mrs. Norris’s fierce castigating antagonisms, matched by scathing censure Juliette experiences in the worlds she wanders through. Perhaps it is not overstating to say these novels are expressionistic mirrorings of the inner and outer lives of their authors and their own enforced (and for Austen soon fatal) passivities.

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Bath where Austen and Burney both lived — contemporary photo of a bridge Austen and Burney both knew well

*********************

I regretted very much that I was not able to stay for the performance of Act I, scene 2 of Burney’s Love and Fashion though I had read the play. This is an area of talent Burney was not permitted to allow to flourish and develop. Only recently have her plays been edited and even played:

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From a performance of The Witlings; a review of another performance (Houston, Feb 1998)

I can at least contribute Doody’s accurate reprise in her The Life in the Works:

Love and Fashion … is a stageable play … with many good things in it. Burney here uses the circumstances she had once sketched as the ground plan of the novel that became Camilla — the story of a family plunged into poverty, and the different members’ reactions to the change. Lord Exbury, his daughter, and his younger son Valentine are impoverished because of the extravagance of his elder son, Mordaunt Exbury. The family is forced to move to a humble dwelling in the country. Lord Exbury’s ward, Hilaria Dalton, good-hearted but volatile, flippant, and worldly, has doubts about life in the country, and is torn between Love (for Valentine) and Fashion, in the prospects offered by marriage with the wealthy if unpleasant Lord Ardville. Hilaria, who seems more like the original “Ariella” than does the ultimate heroine of Camilla, goes very near making the same mistake “Clarinda” almost makes, marrying a disagreeable old peer for his money. But Hilaria has little capacity for sentiment or self-reproach and a very strong sense of what she wants. When the fop Sir Archy Fineer woos her for” old Lord Ardville, her mind runs on the attractions of the life Ardville can offer:

Hilaria. Is it not provoking one can’t marry a man’s fortune, without marrying himself? that one can’t take a fancy to his mansions, his parks, his establishment, — but one must have his odious society into the
bargain?
Sir Archy. But think how soon you’ll be free.
Hilaria. No; I hate to think about people’s dying.
Sir Archy. But you don’t hate to think about people’s being comfortably wrapt in fleecy hosiery, –reclined on an easy chair, & unable, by the month together, to hop after & torment their fair Mates?
Hilaria. Why no — that is not quite so disagreeable. But, really, poor Women are cruelly off: ’tis so prodigious a temptation to be made mistress in a moment of mansions, carriages, domestics — to have Time, Power, & Pleasure cast at once at their disposal –
Sir Archy. And where is the cruelty of all this?
Hilaria. It’s [sic] accompaniment is so often discordant! If the regard of Lord Ardville be sincere –
why can he not settle half his wealth upon me at once, without making me a prisoner for life in return?

One recognizes in Hilaria the tone of the Frances Burney who had thought that “a handsome pension for nothing at all would be as well as working night and day for a salary.” Hilaria, analyzing the situation in which marriage is a lady’s only way to come at mansion, establishment, power, and pleasure, mocks and (with the help of Sir Archy) caricatures the powerful but strangely impotent and unnecessary male who can command all this data, and she has the same desire for choice that other Burney heroines have. She carries forward the theme of woman’s choice — of libido, if you will — so marked in Burney since Evelina first laughed in the fop’s face, and refused to dance with the man she found unattractive, intending to choose one she liked. Hilaria, of course, has to come about. When she hears that Valentine has been ruined at play and is being pursued by a bailiff who wants to arrest him, she accepts Lord Ardville’s present of jewels, in order to free her true love, even though that means she must accept Lord Ardville. Her act of self-sacrifice is misinterpreted by Valentine, though she is persuaded to break off with Lord Ardville by Valentine’s homily: “You wish … to unite Love with Fashion? … The happiness of true Love is domestic life: the very existence of Fashion is public admiration” (V.i.204-20S). Lord Arville, in order to get out of the embarrassment of being considered “a disappointed Man,” will not take back the jewels, pretending they were a free gift and that he had no particular interest in Hilaria. She gives the jewels to Lord Exbury, and from them, presumably, the family debts may be paid-a dubious transaction, sorting ill with the moral that ends the play: “What is there of Fortune or distinction unattainable in Britain by Talents, probity, & Courage? … Has a Man hands, & shall he fear to work for the Wife of his choice?” (V.iV.233).

Independence achieved through work — this moral is similar to that of The Witlings … Love and Fashion reflects Burney’s own pride in the choice she had earlier made of “love in rural poverty” with General d’Arblay, and a “retort courteous” to those who mocked and cut her.” But the play also peculiarly validates the choice of Sally and James in 1798 99 (Frances half-sister and brother who eloped to live together), for they had chosen love, poverty, and “domestic life,” if not in a cottage then in a slum up Tottenham Court Road. Sally and James act like distorting reflectors of Burney’s own values (289-92).

The cast and scenes performed.

It seems to me (humbly do I say this of course), that Burney’s play reflects the experiences of her own family and its insecurity and ways of surviving in a patronage culture. There is the bad careless brother for whom all is sacrificed, who however would not be a bad person given some other asusumptions and alternatives: Mordaunt Exbury whose best moment is his last: “I have been the ruin of yuou all, — & I feel cursed queer. I’ll go and lie down again.” This time the father is evasive (in Cecilia he was simply a hectically active sycophant).

In rehearsing Act III, the Burney players noticed a Freudian blockage in a line of Miss Exbury’s, lamenting that she doesn’t know about pin money. Burney wrote “now how my uncle can be so cruel…” but it ought to be “father.”

The autobiographical is ever central to her text. The tone of the play recalls (to me) the benevolent comedy of the era, yet the threat is much harder than say School for Scandal: real poverty, the marriage of a young girl to an old man. Again we see much sycophancy. Innis the maid is a character worth study — she is another form of heroine Burney relates to (silent, an exchange item between male servants). I was amused to find that Burney was concerned to mock the uses of ghosts on the stage: consciously she was not a gothic fiction writer.

To conclude with Doody’s thoughts on this play: Burney (understandably) is sympathetic to the “abused sycophant.” We see what toadying costs, the psychic penalties that warp a personality: “Burney is always interested in, and resentful of, snobbery and condescension, and keenly observes what different effects social tyrannies have on different people” and some of the play’s best lines are given over to Litchburn, the “fragile humbly explanatory toady (292-93).”

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The great actor, Clive Francis as Sir Roderick in a performance of Burney’s The Woman Hater at the Burney Center December-February 2007

Ellen

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Darcy (Matthew Rhys) apologizing to Georgiana (Eleanor Tomlinson), freeing her from an engagement to Fitzwilliam (Tom Ward)

Climax (2)
Darcy, having apologized to Elizabeth (Anna Maxwell Martin), admit he’s wronged her

Climax (1)
we see the core family reconfiguring itself

MakingLove
after which Darcy and Elizabeth make love for the first time in a while, wake and decide they must tell Lydia about Wickham’s affair with Louisa Bidwell (Nichola Burley)

Dear friends and readers,

As the second part of Death Comes to Pemberley has its pivotal climax (it’s literally half-way through) in Elizabeth’s climb to the temple and Elizabeth’s finding in Jane (Alexandra Moen) a resource for strength because Jane believes Darcy continues to love and respect Elizabeth, so the third and final part has as its pivotal climax (it’s literally half-way through) Darcy’s resolution to give up the idea of a marriage of Georgiana to Colonel Fitzwilliam, his apology to Georgiana and Elizabeth, and his resolution not to look upon everyone but close blood family suspiciously, but to be genuinely generous-spirited to all around him. In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice the central recognition is Elizabeth’s of herself, in Towhidi’s movie script, it’s Darcy’s of himself. The only other heritage Austen film (characters in 18th century costume) where the hero instead of the heroine apologizes, is the much-maligned 2007 Mansfield Park (scripted by Maggie Wadey). Most movies on whatever subject humiliate the woman as the maturation event. I was very moved by this scene because it was carefully built up to.

I follow with another outline of the weaving; while I indicate most of the scenes generally I do miss out some sequences of images in the form of brief flashbacks within flashbacks or sudden moments of brooding between characters; these are many and as is common today, brief and swift, but the outward movement holds them within itself. For example, Darcy brooding in the dawn after we have seen shots of a midnight and early dawn sky over the woods:

Darcybrooding

We open with Wickham in prison, brooding, the camera on his face as he writes an autobiography in the spirit of self-release; we move into his face for a flashback sequence of his remembering his following Louisa into an area of Pemberley wood where they make love.

Wickhamopening

The film moves away from his mind and the image becomes Louisa trying to jump off a bridge with her baby, to kill them both, and collapses on the bridge unable to jump.

UnabletoJump

As is common in this and many contemporary movies, an overvoice from the coming scene is heard, Elizabeth’s and we are listening to Sir Selwyn Hardcastle (Trevor Eve) propose to her and Darcy that Louisa Bidwell’s story is centrally connected to the murder of Denny, to Darcy’s denial, Hardcastle’s scepticism (he has seen from Louisa’s behavior that Freddie Delancy is Wickham), and then we are with Darcy in Wickham’s (Matthew Goode) prison cell where Wickham asserts he didn’t murder Denny, and Darcy pretends to believe him. Wickham asks Darcy to care for his son, says he does care (in a limited way) for Louisa, and, as if by association, we are staring at Mrs Reynolds (Joanna Scanlon) worrying over Louisa and the children of such misalliances (she seems to care little for the woman in front of her, Louisa, the mother, only the imagined baby) and then turn to Louisa who Mrs Reynolds and Elizabeth are questioning. They elicit from her her memories of the day she took her baby to a ruined cloister where she met with Denny (Tom Canton), Mrs Young (Mariah Gale) and saw Fitzwilliam, and, where it not for the hesitation of the reluctant Denny, Louisa would have had her baby taken by Mrs Younge.

Dennyhesitating

Inthecloister

An intensity of interactive, juxtaposed psychological presences, fills the first ten or so minutes of this hour, and then the camera moves out to film at a greater distance the social scene and landscapes of Louisa and baby hiding behind a tree, and back again inward and suddenly we are in the dark Bidwell cottage with Elizabeth questioning Louisa and Mrs Bidwell (Jennifer Hennessey) there, warily, on guard, all of them interrupted by the sick and dying Will (Lewis Ranier) who comes out for a moment, elusive, as we shall learn the key figure in what happened. There is a distinct fade out, switch and Elizabeth is telling Mrs Reynolds to find a home for Louisa’s baby (and we hear if Janeites delightedly of Mrs Reynold’s widowed sister who runs a boarding school, in Highbury, Mrs Goddard).

None of this is rational; like many melodramatic films today it follows an associative psychological trajectory to tell a story through its past and present simultaneously. The point is to involve us on a deeply emotional level, work up suspense.

There is a relaxation as we find ourselves watching Elizabeth walking and talking with Darcy on the Pemberley grounds: Elizabeth is telling him all she has learned, but they get into a quarrel as soon as she brings up Fitzwilliam’s activity in the story and he refuses to believe her, thinking family honor and safety require that Georgiana marry Fitzwilliam.

confrontational

The parallel next sequence is of Georgiana and Fitzwilliam walking along the great hall, his proposal of marriage, and her obvious nervous distaste while she accedes that she will marry him.

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Tomlinson as Georgiana deeply unhappy as she says yes to Fitzwilliam

A transition of Darcy coming upon Sir Selwyn in the woods examining evidence in the trees, stones, before the trial scenes open.

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I won’t go over these in detail as they provide the central mood (they culminate) and are the outward manifestation of what we have seen the inner life of. James and Towhidi (it must be remembered that James is credited with helping Towhidi with the screenplay) are not above condescending comedy as they expose the innkeeper’s wife’s nosiness and absurdities (she overheard Denny and Wickham’s quarrel which we now know was about betraying Louisa).

They drag in Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Penelope Keith) apparently because they feel the audience would be disappointed if the snobbish useless dragon lady were not seen; the purpose of the scene is to show Elizabeth’s invulnerability to this woman now.

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Keith as Lady Catherine explaining to Elizabeth how she tells sick people to get better or hurry up and die … (this reminds me of James’s long-sick husband and how she must’ve cared for him)

In court all is going badly for the proud Wickham and his helpless attorney, Alveston (James Norton). We have two scenes between Darcy and Mrs Younge prefaced by his memory of her extorting money from him to find Wickham years ago to force Wickham to marry Lydia (Jena Coleman): Mrs Younge defends herself ably, she behaves ruthlessly because she has nothing and the only person she has known love from and for is Wickham, her brother. What interests me is what this is in service of: on the coach ride home the first day, Darcy finally confronts and demands an explanation from Fitzwilliam and when he sees Fitzwilliam regards Georgiana as nearly spoilt goods, is unrepentant about his deceit, manipulation of Mrs Younge, breaks with him, and then we get the central scene of Darcy’s apology, change of heart, self-recognition and new resolution.

Darcy
Darcy suddenly seeing Fitzwilliam as they ride home

What is important is Darcy has his change of heart before the trial reaches its climax. Despite Hardcastle not telling all he knows (about Louisa — much to the prosecuting attorney’s disappointment), Wickham is declared guilty and told he will hang the morning after the next day. Upon the verdict, Mrs Younge rushes out, throws herself under a carriage, and dies. (Probably improbably; the carriage is treated as if it were an automobile.) Darcy writes a letter telling the verdict to Elizabeth (we have him communicating by voice-over. This last phase has Elizabeth trying to tell Lydia that Wickham had an affair with Louisa, and Lydia, movingly for once, refusing to know, telling her sister she lives on different terms with Wickham than Elizabeth with Darcy; they pretend not to have around them the evil they do is the point. This scene between Elizabeth and Lydia is Lydia’s best moment in the movie:

Lydiasbestmoment (2)

Lydiasbestmoment (1)

A matching shows Lydia in prison with Wickham and although he has about told Darcy that he regards her as an irritating foolish nuisance (a parallel with her mother as Mr Bennet sees Mrs Bennet), he is suddenly kind, regretful, expresses the idea he has not given Lydia much of a life; she denies this and says they have had a good time. This is an instance of getting through life by telling gay lies sufficiently intensely to believe them.

Elizabeth is next seen in church, presumably praying, when the vicar comes upon her to say Will Bidwell is dying but refuses to see him as Will has done since the murder. As they walk on, Elizabeth suddenly sees it: Denny had gone to the cottage to warn Louisa both Darcy and Hardcastle said, and she can add that Will must’ve seen him, and so she breaks through Mrs Bidwell as barrier to Will and rather than see Wickham hang,

Willtellinghissory

Will tells of how he came to the door, hit the man he thought had ruined his sister, with an iron, the man fell back through the wood and fell down a hill, with a huge stone ripping the back of his head. The scene of the crime we have now seen and heard ceaselessly repeated, is gone through once again, only now the missing murderer is there to explain it all.

We move to the area of improbable rescue with Mr Bidwell (Philip Martin Brown) offering to drive Elizabeth to the magistrate through the night with Will’s signed confession. Mr Bidwell blames himself for not staying by Will’s side — he was too faithful a butler, too interested in the upper class family he served than his own. I did very much like how the camera made sure that we noticed that although Wickham was saved in the nick of time, two other helpless poor people are murdered by hanging (as was the boy long ago hung for poaching, whose death has been repeated like a recurring nightmare predicting coming hanging deaths).

hanging

The sudden uptick into comedy and daylight (from a kind of film noir that the film is drenched in on and off, all shadows and darkness) comes with the return of gay music, Darcy and Elizabeth in the coach as he tells her there is no reason why Louisa should not keep her child and they act up to their responsibility and provide for them and the boy as an upper servant as he grows older. A king of mocking fast-paced voice-over narrative of Elizabeth’s dismisses Wickham and Lydia back to their insouciant publicly proud ways as they are turned off to make their way in America. Some how good feeling is conveyed by Martin — as she has shown a strong good heart and generosity throughout.

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Anna Maxwell Martin near the end of the film

I love her as Elizabeth; perhaps I prefer this conception of Elizabeth to Austen’s own, only I would say it is an outgrowth of Austen’s: this Elizabeth recognized herself in a previous novel and the older soberer woman was inherent in the younger one.

I can’t quite explain why I was so moved by the rush of Georgiana and Alveston into one another’s arms as part of Martin’s narrative telling us how it all ended (the combination brought tears to my eyes). Perhaps because I loved my husband so, married him for love (he had nothing, no job, no presentability, no college degree, was just my peace, my stability, the one person I had met who I found trustworthy, tender, loving, with real understanding).

lovingmarriage

I did not care so much for the ending which was an amalgam, a layering on of allusions to Austen films: Darcy and Elizabeth stand on the other side of the lake from Pemberley (apparently Howard Castle was filmed from afar), but a house as such (whether Chatsworth or another) has become an icon since the ending of Joe Wright’s 2005 Pride and Prejudice with Matthew McFayden as a young Darcy and Keira Knightley as Elizabeth celebrating their marriage and love. Now Elizabeth lets Darcy know she is again pregnant, and true to a very mild feminism about wanting a girl more than a boy, Darcy hopes for a girl. He picks Elizabeth up, swirls her about: this recalls the 2008 Sense and Sensibility where Dan Steevens as Edward Ferrars swirls an ecstatic Hattie Morahan as Elinor Dashwood about. Our reunited couple are last seen in front of the grand house — as the 2007 Persuasion placed Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth and Sally Hawkins Anne before a very grand Kellynch. The difference is the young master (boy) which adds domesticity to this re-establishment of the oligarchic paradigm where the great houses carry on no matter what the individual sacrifice (in this film, Denny, Will Bidwell, Eleanor Younge — none of them important characters or even in Austen).

Iconic

This hour works because it is the culmination of all that went before carefully woven in. Like other recent costume dramas, it attempts to soften the reactionary material, here of P.D. James’s redaction of Pride and Prejudice as a moralizing hierarchical detective story, by making the central characters appealingly vulnerable, humane, as Elizabeth says at the opening of Part 2, acting responsibly for and with one another through life. The 3 novels by James I’ve read, her non-fiction and autobiography have a deep vein of melancholy awareness of the continual losses and hurts we sustain and try to recuperate ourselves from by art, and that is here too in the surface beauty of the film and as I’ve said the quieter scenes.

It’s a mini-series where important scenes occur in carriages, important decisions taken. I never mentioned Alveston and Georgiana overlooking the book of illustrations of Scottish castles and lakes (Part One) so in Part Three (despite its hectic pace) beyond the moments between Darcy and Elizabeth (their talk in bed), I found the hands of women writers in the returns to the phases of daylight and night, and liked the owning up of having been wrong by Fitzwilliam to Alveston and Sir Selwyn’s rueful quiet asides to Darcy (Trevor Eve is excellent in the role).

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Lydia at dawn waiting to be told Wickham’s dead

While at the EC/ASECS conference I heard two each perceptive and informed papers by undergraduates on P.D. James’s book and Jo Baker’s Longbourn: the two undergraduates suggested that James (they did not take into consideration this film comes from Howtidi’s screenplay) was too faithful and worshipful of Austen and invented the Bidwell family in order not to have to use Darcy and/or Elizabeth as guilty parties to a murder, and to deflect attention from her unwillingness to move beyond Austen by developing Georgiana and Alveston’s love story as well as the Wickham-Lydia-Louisa triangle. I would put it the reason the book and film of Death Comes to Pemberley are ultimately unsatisfying is this unwillingness to go deeper into pain and hurt, to subvert and transgress Austen’s conservatism. For example, we are supposed to look upon Louisa as just fine now, having a good life because her son is kept at Pemberley to become servant to the master of the house.

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By contrast Baker crosses over, goes beyond Austen in her story of an illegitimate son for Mr Bennet, an exploited servant girl, the Peninsula War.

Still for me the problem with Death Comes to Pemberley is its subgenre formulaic unserious use of mystery thriller material, and with Longbourn is the author stays within the historical franchise of Austen’s novel instead moving out also to make an original historical novel set in the later 18th century which happens to use parts of Austen’s story as Valerie Martin makes of her sequel to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Mary Reilly, a serious historical fiction by including in her novel’s world her own assessment of the cruel hard later 19th century world and an idiolect, a style of her own fitting for her new heroine.

Ellen

Strained
The Strained family group

Dear friends and readers,

Having last week watched the ruined version of Juliette Towhidi’s Death Comes to Pemberley; that aired on PBS, as I began the new second half and saw immediately that the centrality of Pemberley itself, which begins Part 2 of the 3 Part British version, was lost in the re-arrangement, and again the sensational so-called thriller elements dominate, I gave up on PBS (not for the first time); watched no more, and instead watched Part 2 of the 180 minute three part Death Comes to Pemberley.

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Elizabeth responds to Darcy’s “I will do no such thing” (he refuses to renege on his promise to Fitzwilliam to push for a marriage to Georgiana) with “I will do no such thing” (she refuses to persuade Georgiana)

The hour plots the growing estrangement of Darcy (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Anna Maxwell Martin), which leads to the break-up of Georgiana’s (Eleanor Tomlinson) promised possible engagement to Alveston (James Norton). The continuing mystery emphasized over and over as what importantly needs to be explained is why Captain Denny (Tom Canton) suddenly jumped out of the carriage and rushed into the dark woods; this mystery is in Part 2 contextualized by Colonel Fitzwilliam’s unexplained visit to Mrs Younge (Mariah Gale) in a tavern where he gave her £30 that turned up in the lining of Wickham’s hat. That more than one person asserts this can have nothing to do with the night’s events makes it all the more probable that Fitzwilliam (Tom Ward) was providing Wickham (Matthew Goode) with some sort of trigger, but for whom and what?

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The guarded harsh Fitzwilliam

Fitzwilliam is the first to visit Wickham in jail (early in the hour) and their dialogue shows that Wickham could blackmail Fitzwilliam for some amoral behavior both know about. What is Fitzwilliam’s relationship to Wickham? If Mrs Younge was Fitzwilliam’s mistress, who is Mrs Younge (now we see she was the woman found in the wood thought to be Mrs Riley’s ghost) to Wickham? (Part 3 reveals she’s Wickham’s sister.) Elizabeth wants Darcy to investigate and interrogate his cousin closely, and Darcy refuses at the same time as he insists Elizabeth should help him forward the marriage of Georgiana to Fitzwilliam.

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Will peering out the window: POV Elizabeth’s

We get some clues. The new Bidwell baby in the cottage, called little George by Louisa (Nichola Burley), turns out to be Louisa’s (Elizabeth sees her breast-feeding the baby), and the climax of Part 2 is Louisa identifying the father who called himself Freddie Delancy (first initials the same as Fitzwilliam Darcy) as Wickham just as he is declared sufficiently suspicious by a jury to be tried for the murder of Denny. The cottage is in the depths of the woods where the carriage stopped and Elizabeth also notices that Louisa’s brother, Will (Lewis Namier), is kept from her by Mrs Bidwell, his mother (Jennifer Hennessey), presented as sicker and unable to see anyone when he is rather behaving furtively and elusively. James’s explanation comes only at the novel’s huddled close, the Bidwell story and cottage we didn’t know about before.

This material is the central objective action of Part 2 of the mini-series. As in recent and older mysteries, our magistrate detective, Sir Selwyn Hardcastle (Trevor Eve) gathers clues he fails to understand but which we are expected to remember or make sense of. Often such bumbling is treated comically; here his pre-conceived idea that Wickham was the murderer is treated as a threat to the Wickhams and Darcys. The central part of James’s novel woodenly rehearses Pride and Prejudice and weakly (there is little dramatization) suggested Darcy’s original intense pride in place and family has reasserted itself when threatened by the re-appearance of Wickham, murder of Denny, and mortifying vanity-ridden absurd stories of Lydia (Jean Coleman). This suggestion in the novel is made the central meaningful emotional trajectory that fills out and gives Part 2 its gravitas.

Darcytelling

Thegroup

Near the opening of Part 2 Darcy speaks to the Pemberley household declaring brusquely that the Lady Anne Ball is cancelled. He then dismissive of the disappointed (hard-work was done in the preparations) walks away, leaving Elizabeth to soothe wounded feelings and assert James’s conscious moral: the upper class family at Pemberley and the servants are all one in their devotion and work, sustaining one another, grateful and acting responsibly for one another. The stages of Darcy and Elizabeth’s alienation are in the first half of this part dramatized as stages in Darcy’s acceptance of Fitzwilliam’s proposal for Georgiana, as he first tells Elizabeth privately about his desire for Georgiana, then supports Fitzwilliam’s idea Georgiana should be sent away to Lady Catherine de Bourgh rather than be “further” besmirched (only to reverse himself on Georgiana’s vocal protests over Fitzwilliam’s dismissal of her sense of where she belongs, who she is), then in front of Fitzwilliam demands Elizabeth’s acquiescence. The second half show Georgiana’s hysteria to Elizabeth that her sacrifice is the family way of holding on to Pemberley (Fitzwilliam has more money and rank than Alveston), her rejecting Alveston after having accepted him, their desolation, her crashing to the floor.

Crash

Across the hour a second female-female relationship (the first is Elizabeth’s with Georgiana) develops when Jane now Bingley (Alexandra Moen) arrives early in the hour, comforts Elizabeth, follows her to the temple in the grounds where Elizabeth experiences a nadir of despair,

Athetemple
Jane and Elizabeth

remembering again how she fell for Wickham and Darcy’s strained proposal; accompanies her to the cottage. Finally Jane takes Lydia and Mrs Bennett back to her home, seeing how Lydia’s stupid (she attributes Denny and Wickham’s argument to Denny’s attraction to her when he is a man of integrity) and vicious tongue (tales of how Elizabeth preferred Wickham and married Darcy for his money) has been making everything absurd during questions from Hardcastle or withering in the house.

QuestioningLouisa
Elizabeth questioning Louisa with Mrs Reynolds overlooking

Women’s connections to one another are central to this mini-series in the three part format: Elizabeth’s reliance on the conventionally punitive severe Mrs Reynolds (Joanna Scanlon) does not stop Elizabeth from coming to her own judgement when she questions Louisa and discovers that the father is one “Freddie Delancy” and sets about finding out who this absconded man is. Though Elizabeth cannot make a friend of Louisa nor Mrs Bidwell (who has too much to hide), she sees that their experience is somehow important to what happened that night — and she alone insists the woman in the wood (Mrs Younge) was not only real, but important. Mrs Bennett (Rebecca Front) is not simply a foolish clown, her sheer presence and mindless grating nagging about materialistic things helps accounts for Elizabeth’s dismissal of these things (reinforced by the brief appearance of Penelope Keith as Lady Catherine de Bourgh at the opening of Part 3).

Male bonding of a sort goes on. Wickham had a loss in Denny’s scorn of him (and in part there is suspicion of Wickham whose memory of a scene with Denny is replayed over and over in the film); Denny was his “only friend,” now he sees that Fitzwilliam is no one to turn to (he deserts). There are two scenes in the prison between Darcy and Wickham; in both Darcy remembers Wickham’s scoundrel demand for £10,000 before he will agree to marry the foolishly disdainful (of Darcy) Lydia; in the second, after Lydia has visited Wickham, Wickham (somehow ironically) shows that the payment he got was not enough really to compensate for his having to spend his life with such a woman. In Part 3 he suggests for a moment he would have preferred Louisa Bidwell; while how far that goes is doubtful, as he was trying to get Denny to buy the baby from her, we are supposed to see he might have been improved by this association. What Lydia gives him is Darcy; Darcy’s money, prestige, and dubious faith in his story that he did not murder Denny is all Wickham has to fall back on.

DarcyWickham

And that and Darcy’s pride in family is presumably what makes Darcy hire Alveston as a lawyer when Alveston (Darcy sees) generously offers his services after Georgiana’s rejection of him, which Alveston knows is at the behest of Darcy.

Alveston
Alveston offering himself

Darcy (1)
Darcy realizing Alveston’s a good man

All these skeins of relationships are carefully threaded through the original part 2 in just the order I’ve told it and with the emphasis I’ve suggested.

I was most moved by Martin, as the quietly perceptive strong heroine who holds to her humane values; by Tomlinson’s performance as the vulnerable young woman who could have married a domineering man dismissive of her emotions; by James Fleet as Mr Bennett in the library unwilling to show himself after he inadvertently overheard one of Darcy and Elizabeth’s heated clashes. I felt the direction Darcy’s character was taken by Rhys under the direction of Perceval with Towhidi’s script was consonant with Austen’s adumbration of him as an arrogant young man learning to see the world less narrowly from pride.

Proposalremembered
One of Elizabeth’s flashbacks: here she remembers Darcy’s insulting proposal

Tom Ward gives a strong believable performance as an aristocratic military type. No one was weak. I just wish the immediate material, James’s intermediary novel between this film and Austen’s Pride and Prejudice had not been this inferior formulaic genre. Howtidi managed to rearrange, vivify select elements, and shape the two sets of matter, James and Austen’s — for Howtidi has Austen in mind in the principal characters found in Austen’s book — into a characteristically woman’s film, cyclical, woman-centered, intimately subjective in many of the scenes. But she does not transcend the intransigent material, as the plot-design she comes up with drives the story to a trial and climactic ending whose recursiveness is only felt in the comic departure of the Wickhams (they could and probably will return broke).

The best moments in the mini-series are some of the quiet ones, e.g., Elizabeth reading Gulliver’s Travels to the young Darcy; her standing on the terrace looking out; her washing her face for some emotional relief, cleansing herself of all this as it were:

Washingherface

Next week: Part 3, and coda

Ellen

SheridanStCecilia
Elizabeth Linley Sheraton (1754-92) as St Cecilia (1775)) by Thomas Gainsborough

Is it not provoking one can’t marry a man’s fortune, without marrying himself? that one can’t take a fancy to his mansions, his parks, his establishments, — but one must have his odious society into the bargain? (Hilaria, the heroine)

I have been the ruin of you all, — & I feel cursed queer. I’ll go and lie down again (the eldest son, a spendthrift rake responsible for the play’s chief family having to go live in a run-down cottage, from Burney, Love and Fashion)

Dear friends and readers,

It’s now nearly three weeks since I and my daughter, Isobel, attended the Burney Society Biennal, 9-10 October 2014, which this year overlapped with the Jane Austen JASNA, both taking place in or near (the Atwater Club) the same central Sheraton hotel in Montreal. The Burney people packed in as much intellectual, social and entertainment pleasure (not to omit eating and drinking) as the short time between Thursday all day (9 am to 9 pm) and Friday 9-11 am allowed. I’ve divided the report into a first part on the panels on Thursday; and a second part on Juliet McMaster’s separate hour long talk and the play-acting late Thursday, and the trip to McLennan Library and the Burney Center at McGill, and Cathy Parisian’s “Frances Burney in the year 1814″ on Friday morning.

After a continental breakfast, and welcome, there were two morning panels (with a break for coffee and talk). The first panel was called “Embodied Performances.” In her “Women of Enchanting Talents: Finding Elizabeth Linley Sheridan in Burney’s Cecilia,” Amy Fugazzi was one of two people to discuss the presence of Elizabeth Linley in Burney’s work. Ms Fugazzi told of Burney’s enthusiasm about Linley when Burney first saw her, Linley’s life (her elopement with Sheridan was partly to escape a coerced marriage with a man she did not care for), including the fallout from a duel Sheridan fought; the connection made between Linley and St Cecilia (though by 1772 she had married Richard Sheridan and and was ordered by him to give up her singing in public for money). Ms Fugazzi discussed parallels in Burney’s Cecilia and Sheraton’s life and character as known to the public and described in the young Burney’s journals.

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An engraving after Angelica Kauffman’s Anne Home as the Pensive Muse

In “Performative Sociability: Burney, Edmund Burke,and Anne Hunter”, Natasha Duquette discussed how seeking in companionship solace from the world is a theme in Burney’s novels beginning with Evelina and Mrs Selwyn, how Burney admired Burke until Burke attacked Warren Hastings: Burke provided her with intellectual pleasure, and was attracted by the poet and musician, Anne Hunter, several of whose poems were set to Haydn’s music. Hunter would have been someone whose social identities changed while she remained involved in music from an angle different from those Burney usually came across. Burney and Hunter had mutual acquaintances: Joanna Baillie another Scots woman poet was Frances Burney’s aunt.

SophiasShows

Alice Kerfoot in her “Fading into a State of Decay: the leftovers of Dress in Camilla; or, what can Princess Sophia’s Heliotrope shoes tell us about Camilla’s Lilac Uniform?” talked of how fashion, dress, shoes were seen as identifying someone’s social identity, the more extravagant in whatever was the direction of the day, the more the wearer rose in prestige, admiration — and debt. We see in Burney’s journals a quiveringly intense gratification in the glamor of costume-like outfits. Ms Kerfoot tried to work out which pair or particular kind of shoes a particular person wore. The discussion afterward included the question whether the performing self is a false or real self? The point was made however they might have reveled in performance or costuming themselves, the Linleys (so she brought in Elizabeth Sheridan) and Burneys taught performed music in public because they needed patronage and money. Esther. Burney’s sister, remained a harpsichordist after she married; Elizabeth Linley Sheridan’s problem was that it was not acceptable for a politician to have a performing wife; Sheridan was also possessive over her, and in effect did not want her competition. She died young of consumption.

Travelingcoaches

The second panel, “Burney’s Public Performances.” Cheryl Clark’s “Traveling in Style and Walking the Circuit: Fashioning Femininity in Frances Burney’s Novels,” delighted me by its style, content and delivery: her central argument: how you traveled expressed who you were. First she named and described the various vehicls for travel (above) and how they were seen (a curricle like today’s young man’s sports car). Burney’s novels have over 300 references to carriages, and each of her heroines appears in scenes where they are judged by their mode of travel (including walking); these experiences provided opportunities for circulating, for empowerment and some independence (Elinor Joddrell is however punished for trying for too much freedom). They were opportunities to be seen in elegant company. Characters may be very hurt by how they are treated around carriages so Juliette is denied room because she is of no consequence to anyone. She quoted male characters’ scathing indictment of certain kinds of travel, but suggested Burney’s novels discredit this hostility and celebrate the female traveler. She also talked of the Burneys’ move to St Martin’s Street in London where the Burneys observed and participated in the social life of great artists of the era.

NPG D8932; Mary Ann Yates as Lady Townley in 'The Provok'd Husband' after James Roberts
Mary Ann Yates as Lady Townley in Van Brugh’s The Provok’d Husband (engraving after James Roberts)

In her “‘It seemed to me we were acting a play: Performance and representation of women’s identity in Frances Burney’s Early Journals and The Wanderer” Anne-Claire Michoux argued that Burney presented femininity as theatrical. Burney takes parts in real plays in her journals (Lady Townley) but she stages all conversations in which she participates: in life she acts out an inability to act, with an underlying idea that one’s seemingly final or mature self is not fixed. Ms Michoux talked of how letters themselves are forms of theater, of performance. Again Burney shows the female self is not fixed, but permeable Acting allows neurotic behavior as well as social evils become less obvious and/or hard to endure.

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Reprinted in Tavistock Classics in the history of psychiatry

The thesis of Sara Tavela’s “‘Dr Lyster gave her much satisfaction:’ The Pressures of Gender Performance, the Problem of Madness, and the Doctor in Burney’s Cecilia,” was that in Cecilia the pressure to perform leads to Cecilia’s madness. Dr Lyster then functions as a conduit who mitigates misogyny and reveals a shift going on in the era to an understanding of people’s behavior as psychosomatic. Though sensibility remained suspect in this era, in 1732 George Cheyne’s The English Malady described how psychological disturbances affect the body. Cecilia discovers that no one will listen to her, but that a mad state enables her to go outside social control (Delville triggered the madness; Monckton is someone people want to give her to); the myth that marriage protects her is exposed. Dr Lyster alone does not pathologize her. Ms Tavela went over each of later heroine’s psychological journeys across their novels (Cecilia, Camilla, Juliette who is not so much deceitful as a nobody no one else bothers to control). This was a suggestively interesting paper about the state of medicine then and now too (where I would say social coercion is again enforced by psychologists).

There was much discussion after each of the panels in which many of the people there participated. Among the ideas thrown our were how Burney sees that female mobility puts women at risk and yet is fascinated and compelled by the liberty gained. Someone pointed out how in her journals a fascinating moment occurs when her husband is wounded and she is seeking him, she loses her way as she has to make a transition from one mode of travel or through one boundary to another place, and how intensely anxious and distressed she becomes. Peopel talked of how her heroines’ agonies include losing a social role or identity and recognition. I saw a great difference in the favorable attitude towards performance in Burney (both novels and letters) and the distrust Austen shows towards performance in her novels (in Austen’s letters she is far more open to performance). Colors were discussed: lilac had had prestige but was regarded as vulgar once shop girls could obtain lilac cloth for their dresses. Acting in this eras was still intensely gestural (pantomimic).

******************

school_for_scandal2013
From a 2013 production of Sheridan’s A School for Scandal

Misty Anderson’s plenary lecture focused on Burney’s 1798 comic play, Love and Fashion, selections from which were performed after dinner in the later evening. Ms Anderson described the how in 1799 Harris was ready to stage Love and Fashion for 400£. That year (among others) had played Sheridan’s The Rivals and The School for Scandal; before it, Boaden’s Romance of the Forest. Love and Fashion belongd to this type of ultimately benevolent comedy at the same time as it has a ghost meant to mock the gothic. Its characters are inches away from catastrophe; money troubles everywhere, addiction, gambling; the play satirizes toadyism, hypocrisy; it has edgy connotations in its depiction of an apparently benign father, Hilaria a self-punishing daughter, who takes a jewel from a rich suitor to obtain love and some stability; a character kills himself like Harrel in Cecilia. Burney gives us social not political criticism. Ms Anderson saw in some of this a sense of an unsustainable order (there is a reference to the food riots in France), and thinks although it needs some workshopping, the play would have been a huge success. By 1815 18th century comedy was no longer being written.

Among the implications here is that instead of writing about how Burney included allusive material on Elizabeth Sheridan in her novels, she could have been a rival playwright to Sheridan and Goldsmith (She Stoops to Conquer). Ms Anderson quoted from one of Doody’s analyses of this play as about a woman’s independence, as showing Burney’s “interest in, and resent[ment] of, snobbery and condenscension, and [she] keenly observes what different effects social tyrannies have on different people: “the willingness of some of her family to humble themselves before the glamour of position was always a source of obscure unease” (The Life in the Works, p 292).

Camilla-subscribers

The third panel followed, “Textual Performances.” Jocelyn Harris’s “Jane Austen and the Subscription list for Camilla,” brought out and identified the relationships among an intricate network of friends and relatives who knew both Austen and Burney from this list. She seemed to think that Austen canvassed among Austen’s friends on behalf of Burney. Said she, if we have nothing in Austen’s letters about this, we must remember what a tiny remnant of her letters are left to us. Prof Harris also talked of individuals found on the list, e.g., Thomas Jefferson.

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Elizabeth with her sister, Mary Linley as girls (by Gainsborough)

Kate Hamilton’s “‘The Voice of Fame'”: Celebrity in Evelina and [Burney’s] Early Years,” found allusions in Evelina to Elizabeth Linley Sheridan as a model of virtuous celebrity; the novel also presents the negative aspects of a commercialized private story. Ms Hamilton saw in Elizabeth Linley Sheridan as well as a singer-actress Versanti (found in Burney’s early journals), an apparent public intimacy which may be seen or used a way of managing one’s career. The woman becomes a commodity and yet protects her reputation by maintaining a distance somehow from events; an analogy occurs in Evelina when the Vicar tells Evelina she must show disdain and grace and keep Willoughby at a distance from her.

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A Kliban cat channeling social anxiety as belligerence

Kate Ozment’s “The Violence of Madame Duval: Performance as anxiety in Frances Burney’s Evelina,” was a subtle interesting interpretation of the sources and results of the scenes of explicit violence and terror in this sentimental romance. Evelina’s French grandmother is turned into a grotesque monster, both comic and tragic because sheis unable to manage the social awkwardnesses in life’s more public spectacles; her social anxieties and class consciousness, a gender tension in her lead to failure to adroitly perceive what’s happening around her and act. These social skills were not required of her when she was among lower class people. Violence then permeates the narrative, and she alienates and separates herself from Evelina and the other characters because she is calling attention to her anxiety rather than controlling it. This is the way to fail social life miserably. (She did say of course the primary purpose of the scenes are to prove humor from farce.)

I thought Ms Ozment’s paper broke new ground about what was happening to Madame Duval in these situations, why Burney and her associates refused to have compassion for Madame Duval: Madame Duval was breaking some deep unwritten social psychological-social code set up for self-protection, and if they reassured or helped her that would somehow threaten them by revealing their vulnerabilities too. To my way of thinking this kind of response is a fundamental cruelty at the heart of society which hits at the disabled especially.

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A depiction of the Haiti-St Domingo Revolt of 1791

Shelby Johnson’s “Traces of Haiti: Narrating Agonistic Histories in Frances Burney’s Wanderer,” was the last of the individual papers that day. She discussed what she felt were traces in The Wanderer of the multiple narratives of the era by fugitives, migrant people, slave and other revolts, Burney’s time in Paris when Toussaint Louverture was brought there; her own trip across Europe. The novel has a bleakness, a historical subjectivity coming from the era Burney and her readership had just passed through. Ms Johnson went over the phases of Juliette’s taking off and changing her painful disguises and roles, to project a coherent collective experience of displacement and vehement agons. Ms Johnson felt these traces frightened the middle class white readership. (I think of how the full tales were received in the memoirs of women imprisoned so popular in the era; see my Blood Sisters.)

Again after the plenary lecture and these four talks there was a discussion ranging over all the topics, but it had to be cut short to allow for the bringing in of many tables and chairs, and setting up of a buffet for both people from JASNA and the Burney group to become a single audience for Juliet McMaster’s speech billed as an “Afternoon Tea.” It was not the intimate talk that has been envisaged, and Prof McMasters cut some of it because it took so long for people to get their snacks and drinks; luckily I heher speech twice: I caught it again very late Friday morning in the large assembly room at the Sheraton so I can provide a summary of the speech, one of Cathy Parisian’s the last of the conference, and a record of what was played of Love and Fashion in my second blog.

Ellen

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