Manydown — old print of the house the Bigg girls grew up in, Austen went to balls in, and she could have been mistress of had she been willing to marry Bigg-Wither

Aloft on yonder bench, with arms dispread,
My boy stood, shouting there his father’s name,
Waving his hat around his happy head — Southey, Proem to Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo

Dear friends and readers,

We have 12 letters left — by Jane Austen. Three to Fanny Knight — one of them contains the striking description of Anna as “poor animal” brought down and aging from miscarriages and pregnancies. Two to friends, Alethea Bigg and Anna Sharp. 3 to Caroline, 1 to James-Edward Austen Leigh (JEAL). Two rare ones to Charles. Her last to Francis Tilson, the wife of Henry’s partner, someone Jane had described twice as perpetually pregnant, this one in scraps showing that Austen herself was censoring out any real description of what she had been experiencing.

Then 3 — by Cassandra, 2 to Fanny Knight and 1 to Anne Sharp.

Alethea was an old and close friend, one of the sisters of Harris Bigg-Wither; the other close friend was sister Catherine who found a hard berth by marrying an old wealthy man who then perpetually impregnated her (Austen comments on this at least three times). Alethea, Le Faye reports, spoke candidly to Austen of the novels with words that suggest intelligent reading MP superior to S&S and P&P in many points but lacked the spirit of P&P; Althea thought Emma not equal to P&P or MP — many readers of the era were (alas) bored by Emma as too much like real life. Austen seems to have taken this seriously too — Persuasion marks a departure to include the war frame, the sea, Bath, allusions to colonial world and Sanditon further yet in a new direction of commercial seaside spas.

The letter to Alethea is not short but it is not hard to decipher as there is a directness and plainness about it that show a real confiding friendship and some congenial (ironic?) joking: the “real purpose of the letter” held off until the postsript is a recipe for orange wine. Here is another woman friend I assume others wish we had more of Austen’s letters to.

She is putting the best face on a series of calamities that she can — from her illness (she’s got it under control now), to Henry’s drop in status to a curate, from Anna’s weakness (but must spare donkeys) to her spinster friend’s misplaced gown. What is really needed is some orange wine from Manydown.

Streatham Common

Austen opens with the assertion that it’s “time there should be a little writing between us.” They have been parted enough, they have not been in contact in too long a time; Austen says the “epistolary debt” is on Alethea’s side. In other words, Austen was the far more regular correspondent — as often happens between friends (when you have not the Internet to find people who like to write). Alethea is is involved with Catherine’s family at Streatham nearby and Austen hopes all are well.

An older drawing of Chawton with the street in front flooded

Then there’s been a break in the frost and Austen describes the near by roads “great many ponds” near by the meadow with “fine running streams.” She does not look upon this as something to be drained, but beautiful and providing subject for talk. anyone looking at the early 20th century photos of the huge body of water in front of the block with Chawton cottage recognizes damp raw damp, fetid horse manure would get into the place. Disease ridden as well as smelly and making for weather discomfort. The Austens blocked up their front window from the street with good reason. So when Austen writes “it is nothing but what beautifies us & does to talk of,” she is again putting a good face on something not desirable, is perhaps ironic?

All on her side in “good health” — a few precious words are cut out — these are about her sickness – but we can see from the previous letter and this it is still in remission and Austen is believing she may be able to beat it. She says “bile” is at the bottom of her ailment. She’s putting a good face on her illness and like others in such a grave frightening state trying to convince herself she can cope with her condition by herself (as her doctors are no help).

That is a reference to a psychological state too – part of the humors theory. Paula Byrne in her Real Jane Austen adheres to the older theory that Austen had Addison’s disease where adrenal glands don’t make enough cortisol which helps the person against stress — and it’s thought is a disease brought on by stress too — so Byrne connects this to Leigh-Perrot leaving the family nothing (all to the miserly mean aunt — and Austen mentions this in one of the remaining letters connecting it to her collapsed state), Henry’s bankruptcy, Edward’s law suit, and after all writing and publishing books is stressful. Remember Job who wished on other people they should publish books — she has probably heard far more remarks than she wanted to. She may have realized that after all she should have taken Murray’s good offer of 450 — all she would get now is 38 pounds and some shillings as profit for Emma. But she did not write for money — she wrote to write and then would have liked to make money.

Wyards Farm
Wyards Farm (where Anna Austen Lefroy was living)

Then several sentences on JEAL — all testifying to her liking for him – I see his kindness in his continual visits to his sister at Wyards Farm; she is not well or strong enough to come to Chawton; she says of JEAL the “sweet temper and warm affections of the Boy confirmed in the man.”

A modern donkey cart

She turns to thoughts of Anna by implication. They don’t have a horse and carriage but donkeys and cart — and these they take care of. They use but one at a time. Donkeys are not easy to force to carry you places and they haven’t been using them in a while. Still it does seem like an avoidance again. Imagine how these spinster women looked to others. She does wish for Anna that Ben would be ordained already and with a parsonage house. It did happen but alas he died young, she was widowed and after that lived a penurious life off other relatives. JEAL was one of those who helped her a lot.

Their own new clergyman is Henry of course and they want to see him acquit himself very well as they have now heard he is doing. She does not register what a come down this is (banker to rich people to country curate) but it is understood.

Then a recognition that Alethea is a spinster living off others — if there should be “any change” in the circumstances at Streatham and Winchester, ” let the Austens and Mary Lloyd know and come to them. That underlying more somber reality prompts a joke: her comic alarm that Alethea left her gown at Steventon (visiting Mary?) She will want to look right for another friend, Mrs Frere.


I find the long passage on Southey’s Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo takes us to a prose elegy on the death of Southey’s young son — he pays a moving tribute to his boy, spared such a battlefield. (Austen had been reading Scott’s Antiquary, now she moves to meditations on a battlefield.) We see how she identifies with Southey as a person part of their circle — the genteel circles of the UK were intertwined. Southey was Catherine Bigg’s husband’s nephew and his elder son has died — part of the mournful thoughts of the poem. She finds the proem “very beautiful” but the “poor man” rings flatly — too cliched? — even if the words that follow show she does empathize to this extent: that fondness of Southey for this boy has come across to her and so his grief. It is propaganda and against the French revolution as having “caused all this” — without regard for the reasons for the revolution, why it failed to produce the reformed society people said they wanted (did they?) and thus a Tory poem. Austen is liking it — more than his earlier critique of English life in his Letters from England: she disliked that: ever the partisan.

More single lady friends: Miss Williams and Charlotte from abroad but being determinedly anti-anything but English Austen declares she would not like their letters unless they breathed regret at not being in England — as usual LeFaye (p. 585) tells us about the family and nothing about the two women which might light up the passage with understanding — such as where they were, it’s they as individuals. It’s a circle of spinsterhood — Donoghue sees lesbian patterning in these too — and they are amorphous, mentioning now this woman and that and over the years we’ve seen Austen tried to add women to it, who were pulled away by relatives.

The last is kind love to Catherine’s children with positive comments and an attempt to show interest — a social gesture. “I suppose his holidays are not yet over” — these people sent their sons away. It may be she has in mind persuading Alethea she did the right thing in refusing Harris Bigg-Wither but we must remember how many years have gone by since then. I do doubt Austen would think that Alethea would have such a thing in mind: H B-W had long since married, had many children, Austen had written books. It is old and dead history by now.

The P.S.

Home-made orange wine

A joke about the purpose of the letter really being to get a recipe for Orange wine from Manydown — though perhaps it is no joke and Austen is hoping for a medicinal effect from the wine. If Austen was worried she was drinking wine that was too strong, associated with black bile, her request for the wine recipe may have been more urgent and poignant than we realize.

And let us recall that she has begun and is writing Sanditon at a frantic pace: I’d call it filled with a form of nervous hilarity when (for example), she has her Diana write of how it deranges the nerves don’t you know to have 3 teeth pulled at once, and other such funny jokes about fatal illness ….

See comments for text and other readings.


Northanger Abbey, annotated ed. Susan Wolfson (Harvard)

Dear friends and readers,

On the NASSR-l listserv today, this new annotated edition of Northanger Abbey (yes, yet another!) was mentioned, prompting me to mention here that although I will be teaching Anthony Trollope: the first half this coming fall at OLLI at AU, I also submitted a proposal to teach Jane Austen: the second half, which unless the Poldark novels are screened in the US in spring 2015, I’ll teach then. As all my readers of course instantly recall, I’ve been teaching Jane Austen, The first Half, this season — still a joy to myself.

Well this will be the sequel eventually:

Austen II: Chawton, Gothic, French-influenced novels

This study group will read Austen’s last published and two posthumously published novels in the order they were published:  Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. We will contextualize them through her artistic development and life, and their particular literary contexts. To observe the French connection, we will preface Emma with Lady Susan, her letter novella about an adulterous widow, completed just before she moved to Chawton. To understand her central connection to the gothic we will preface Northanger Abbey with Anne Radcliffe’s Romance of the Forest. Persuasion will enable us to see her among the romantics Our epilogue will be a text that reveals her traveling years, Sanditon, a fragment she wrote while she was already fatally ill and shortly before she died. We will end on later close followers by viewing excerpts from Andrew Davies’s 2007 BBC films, Northanger Abbey and (from E.M. Forster) A Room with a View.

Henri Fuseli (1741-1825), Silence (1799-1801) —


A masquerade: The Ball of the Yew Trees

Friends and readers,

Herewith my third report on the past ASECS conference at Williamsburg. The morning after the masquerade ball, I was up by 7:30 am as I knew two sessions included papers I did not want to miss. Without intending it, I spent a morning listening to papers about the unjust treatment meted out to women by law and custom — if we include the actual content of Burney D’Arblay’s The Wanderer, a session alive with the excitement of the individuals with their text. After lunch I met the editors of the coming complete edition of Anne Finch and heard some of her poetry sung aloud — not for the first time; I had myself participated in writing a script of her songs for a musica dolce group using later 17th and early 18th century musical instruments in the 1990s. And there was a walk along Colonial Williamsburg where people read aloud from documents either read aloud at the time of the revolution or delivered and read silently as momentous and (for the participants) dangerous events went on.

Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea

“Paper Cuts: Criminality, Violence and 18th century Judicial Reform” turned out to have three papers whose focus was violence and economic injustice inflicted on women as permitted by laws and customs. Peter Mello’s “Searching the Garrett: Jane Barker, John Stanhope, and Religious Law after the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion:” in going through archives from 1714/15 Prof. Mello discovered on 20 July a marquis received a letter from Stanhope: the pretender’s forces were aroused, and he outlined measures to take against recusants. The inhabitants of Lincolnshire for the previous 60 years had seen action taken against local matters: prostitution, theft, having a babies born outside marriage. Now state matters like demanding people take oaths against the pope began to be enforced. Inaction had been the rule on anti-papal laws; in 1715 the Papist Act forced registration of papists. Overt acts of persecution ensued. So just before the rebellion began parliament had begun practices which anticipate modern methods of control. Jane Barker was Catholic and feared inclusion; her property could be hurt; to have a stable and horses taken from you was a substantial loss. She went silent for about 8 years. From a hopeful Jacobite waiting for the return of her king Barker became a writer about the anxiety and results of living as a Catholic in England. These stories were held together as a patchwork quilt. Her heroine, Belinda, was at risk, as she tried to “pass”. Marriage in this collection is used as an analogy of political behavior: those who don’t marry are at risk of prosecution or imprisonment; when she marries, she ends up in disaster and calamity.

Helen Allingham, Fruit Stall, early 20th century Venice

Ana Maria Diaz Burgos’ “Slanderos words and violent deeds: Female victims and perpetrators in 18th century Peru:” from 1543-1821 many cases of misery and violence inflicted on women and women trying to defend themselves under siege and gain some social standing in Lima records. There were 151 cases where emotional and physical violence were imposed on women. In one case of physical violence the female victims were allowed to sue; women themselves uttered violent words to gain attention and protection. Prof. Burgos looked at who were the witnesses and how the events were portrayed, how women explained relationships they had with attackers. She told of a case of attempted rape and homicide where the woman denounced the brutal regime itself: the woman was badly injured; the man thought he had the right to beat her; the law required 6 indigenous witnesses and she had only 4: he said these witnesses were relatives and friends and thus biased; She said he had chosen a day when she was relatively unprotected. In the second case an altercation arose between women who had a history of quarrels; we get a picture of the narrow alleys, small houses, the squares where neighbors hung out; one dangerously accused the other of whoredom and witchcraft and one of them had to pay restitution; one had more witnesses, the other a daughter of under 25. The words are not quoted (as too defamatory). In these records we can hear the voices of lower class women.

After the rape, Clarissa washing herself (1991 Clarissa, scripted David Nokes, Saskia Wickham)

Mary Trouille’s “Evolution in Rape Laws and Attitudes towards sexual assault in the 18th century:” Men have often imposed sex on women through violence; the crime is now more visible than it once was, but one can construct a history of rape in pre-revolutionary France. Women were not considered as actors in their own right; if she came from the lower ranks she was ignored. Age, social status, reputation all played a role in whether a rape could be prosecuted. Forcible rape among the haute bourgeois and aristocracy was taken seriously; seen as a crime against the property of a father or husband; women as property were damaged as this threatened the sure legitimacy of the heirs born to them (modern variant: honor-killing). Punishments could be severe: burning at the stake; you could be drawn and quartered on a wheel, and less gruesome forms of capital punishment. Rather than risk shaming someone or a family the charges would be downgraded. Gradually attitudes shifted so rape seen as a crime against a person who has right to autonomy, and the focus begins to be the rape victim. There was a gap between the reality and heightened attention; the law did not distinguish between kinds of consent; less weight to testimony than medical records; when rape committed on a pre-pubsecent girl it was regarded as a crime and prosecuted more vigorously. People began to require examination of the victim. From 1791 the Napoleonic code demands proof of rape, unequal strength, cries for help, traces of violence on the body. 1803 there is a move backwards; hard to have 4 witnesses.Rape cases accounted for little more than 1% of what was prosecuted. We see a turning point in attitudes towards dissolute aristocrats: the public was apparently distressed to see a horrible crime go unpunished because the perpetrator was a high status male. There is still a popular belief in the untrue idea that in custom a lord had the right to deflower a girl who lived on his property on the first night of her marriage; it was in the 18th century these false beliefs took hold. There was greater determination to prosecute violence.

Prof Trouille then went over some high profile cases of sexual assault involving aristocrats. 1733 a chambermaid attacked by a marquis and his brother who broken into the house; the man was angry when he was ignored by the prosecutor; in the end there were royal pardons and the woman was imprisoned for taking money from her attacker (a bribe to be silent). In a second case of a Duke’s abduction and rape of a Parisian shopkeeper’s daughter, he followed her from church, gave her gifts, went after her mother. It reads like an episode from a Sade novel: he had a rape machine which held her upside down with her legs tied; the behavior of the libertines cold and calculating. The judicial procedure was suspended after the Duke offered money. In another case a count’s wife paid the victim in another case where the man raped his chambermaid in a carriage (perhaps Valmont modeled on this). Sade as emblematic dominates the landscape of these stories: the most notorious case (1768) when on a Sunday a girl was abducted, raped, beaeten, hot liquid poured over her wounds and she fled to and reached magistrates with her story. Sade said she was a prostitute, and she that he had offered her money after she lost her job in a textile factory. The story was elaborated into a myth — Sade supposed to have used a crucifix; it’s still being discussed by Deffand and Walpole. Charges were withdrawn in return for payment of a substantial sum of money, but Sade’s mother-in-law used a lettre de cachet to imprison him; he would be imprisoned for life. Booksellers provided indignant accounts as an illustration of the impunity enjoyed by the high placed male. Sade’s wife helped him escape to Italy; she was among the strangely complicit wives (eventually divorced).

The talk afterward was instructive. A legal historian asked Prof Mello about the non-enforcement of the laws against Catholics before 1715: among other things said: after the Monmouth rebellion there was a reaction against the savagery inflicted on the suspected; and after 1715 we see an attempt to put “the right” people into office. Prof. Burgos said Lima was a port where there was much corruption in the markets. As to rape, someone talked of a recent article in Past and Present where the figure of 80-90% acquittal was claimed; to prove rape you had to prove ejaculation; those who won had help from witnesses; repeatedly there were partial verdicts on lesser charges; the sexism is seen in the way women’s low status made them not believed. We see Richardsonian complexes of feeling; when a brutal male like Charteris was successfully convicted, he was pardoned by the king. Prof Trouille said middle class males were able to get cases dismissed completely because the magistrate was reluctant to prosecute harsh laws. We see minor differences between states but the same patterns emerge. The panel moderator talked of the difficulty of proving spousal abuse; midwives did testify to abusive husbands; bruises then had to be aggravated. It is true that parishes drove women from one parish to another in order to avoid supporting them or their children.

Anonymous print

The experience of the masquerade the night before seemed to seep into the session of Francis Burney’s D’Arblay’s The Wanderer. I was not alone in remembering Cecilia that night. I found myself sitting next to someone who recognized me from the night before but I had not recognized her as the woman who told me about her paper on tuberculosis and women’s beauty.

To the papers: Tara Ghoshal Wallace spoke of how the real history of the era is reflected in The Wanderer, a text conceived during the height of the French revolution. In FBDA’s writing outside this novel she insists that politics remains outside her sphere, yet she writes a recusant narrative, and in her diaries of how she rescued her papers as she was crossing the channel. Prof Wallace talked of “rupture” in the novel as history entering through the margins of the novel; e.g., the text punishes those who travel to France as frivolous tourists who want to find favorite famous spots. Diane Boyd talked of how The Wanderer conveyed paranoia, commenting on key scenes of intense anxiety and discomfort for the heroine. Shen then told of her study mapping the text using computer programs finding clouds of words and diagramming their frequency. The graph for Book I shows violent ambivalence over women working: Juliette had trouble finding a place in the shop, networking. Hired as musician, she is reluctant to perform in public and stays with private families, hoping to pass unobserved and yet she attracts intense attention. The graph shows violent swings over aging, public performance. Juliette is in a double bind: she must pay to learn so go into business; we see how inadequate her learning because she lacks theoretical knowledge; her working conditions sound terrible, she is often anxious about her inability to support herself. FBDA has a source information about a famous French milliner. Juliette flits from place to place: liberty is a source of difficulty. Juliette a kind of female Robinson Crusoe and her novel one which keeps some realities of work for money for women before us.

Francis Burney D’Arblay, The Wanderer; or Female Difficulties (as edited by Margaret Doody)

Elaine Bander’s paper was rather different: she went over the comedy of The Wanderer, expatiating on Sir Jasper. She argued for the influence of Pope’s Rape of the Lock. We see a complex of characters’ relationships evolving over the novel: Jasper’s inconsistency enables him to read Juliette’s character subtly; he is a guardian as the sylphs are guardians over Belinda; he tells her not to take an aversion to him; under her redemptive influence, Jasper helps her. Prof Bander also talked of the ending of the novel in Stonehenge and an Abbey. (Later Diane Boyd said the word cloud for “Harleigh” the hero was huge.)

Lastly Catherine Parisian discovered from the history of sales and descriptions of costs of printing The Wanderer that the book actually did well; the problem was how large it was and the costs of printing it; the book failed to meet the publisher’s high expectations & outlay. She offered fascinating details (who got what sums, how many copies of a book printed, typical length) that enabled her to compare the various earnings for The Wanderer with how a novel by Anna Maria Porter and Alicia Lacey (a novel) did. At the same time Burney D’Arblay wrote her brother that she had never read or chanced to meet with one word on the subject, and she never expected the book to find favor in the world or enjoy “the partiality” its “Elder sisters” had enjoyed. We know that she was energized by her obsessive suspicion the publisher was cheating her (as the publisher for Cecilia had, she felt) and got a good price.” It’s a book that resembles books of the 1790s; Napoleon had just abdicated when it was published so the publisher had over-estimated “how the market would perform” at that juncture.

There was not much time for talk afterward as a group; I did talk and sit with the organizer of the session, Cheryl Clark, who sat with me to listen to the Clifford lecture and then came with me to the luncheon where we sat together and talked of Burney studies some more.

Benjamin Lay (1677-1760).

There are just a few notes from Marcus Redicker’s rousing (almost preacher-like) talk on the remarkable abolitionist, Benjamin Lay. Prof Redicker opened with an anecdote typifying Lay’s behavior, outlook, status (or class): in 1738 he took a look walk to attend an annnual meeting of Quakers, which would include many slave-owners, where he decried slavery and performed a theatrical act which got people’s attention. He was thrown out. Prof Redicker emphasized how Lay used forms of guerilla theater to call attention to his causes, e.g., he kidnapped a couple’s child and arrived at the distraught parents’ cottage, he said to all who were there this is what it is to be a slave who can be sold at any time. Another time he smashed delicate tea cups in a market place to point to the connection between these and the mistreatment of slaves. 1677 Lay was born to Quaker parents in Colchester England, he worked as a shepherd, and active on behalf of the revolutionary people after the Civil War; he was a farm laborer, a seaman until he was 33; in 1717 ex-communicated by the Society of Friends (he would go to services and be disruptive); he and his wife lived in Barbados for 14 years: there he came into direct contact with half-starved, wretched slaves who would steal and he remained haunted by what he saw. He lived a long time in Philadelphia, he died 1759 at the age of 82. In physique he was a dwarf, 4 feet 11 inches high with a large head, and might be called disabled; his wife was a dwarf too and an active abolitionist. Benjamin Franklin published Lay’s vehement uncompromising anti-slavery, All Slavekeepers That Keep the Innocent in Bondage, Apostates. He paid small attention to genre, so this work combines autobiography, tract, bibliography, scathing denunciations of quakerism as really practice, quotations from his commonplace book. The absence of sources (people don’t write down the terrible things they do) never bothered Lay who liked also to point out analogies between slaves’ lives and that of the workers in English mills. Lay opposed the death penalty, refused to eat meat (animals are God’s creation), boycotted sugar. Writers who influenced him included Edward Burrow. He was known widely and in his last years was something of a hermit and lived in a cave with a huge library. During the discussion Prof Brycchan Carey (who has researched into Lay’s life and works and written about him) brought up Lay’s significance for vegetarianism (Lay was far ahead of his time in his understanding of the politics of consumption). He has been a subject hard to research.

It was then time to go to the women’s caucus lunch. I can report the women just rejoiced at the terrific success of the evening before, the amount of money gotten, and made plans for next year: the 40th anniversary of the caucus deserved a party. All the tables were filled and we picked topics for next year, and good conversation was had.


For the afternoon sessions and “re-enactments” and walk in the set of blocks that make up Colonial Williamsburg, see comments.


Caroline Austen

You are now collecting your People delightfully, getting them exactly into such a spot as is the delight of my life; — 3 or 4 families in a Country Village is the very thing to work on — & I hope you will write a great deal more — to Anna Austen (later Lefroy), 9-18 Sept 1814

What should I do with your strong, manly, spirited Sketches, full of variety & Glow? — How could I possbily join them on to the little bit (two inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush, as produces little effect after much labor? — to JEAL, 16-17 Jan 1817

I feel myself getting stronger than I was half a year ago, & can so perfectly well walk to Alton, or back again, without the slightest fatigue that I hope to be able to do both when Summer comes — The Piano Forte often talks of you; — in various keys, tunes & expressions I allow — but be it Lesson or Country dance, Sonata or Waltz, You are really its constant Theme — to Caroline, 23 Jan 1817.

Dear friends and readers,

I again group four letters by Austen to her nephew and nieces (see 140-43). These are not solely to James’s children, one is to Cassandra-Esten Austen (Cassy), Charles’s daughter, companion and of an age to be a peer to Caroline. While Austen has by this time known much pain, debilitation, loss of mobility and bodily strength (probably girth too), she experiences a remission lengthy enough to renew hope (see above quotation), rewrite the ending of Persuasion and write an astonishing rapid draft of Sanditon over the next 4 months when she was again driven to put her pen down. In JEAL’s memoir which covers precisely this time, he confirms that she was working on Persuasion and (as dated on the manuscript) it was on 17 January 1817 that she began writing Sanditon.

When summer came she was literally dying in Winchester and dead by July. Cancer (aka the lymphoma) can come on rapidly & devour you. For those interested in cancer treatments here’s an early case described of a person who (in effect) does not have chemotherapy (drastic strong measure so one is seen to be doing something even if badly understood) nor the terrifying operation removing central organs (the latest expensive measure). We see the disease take a natural course which includes a surcease for a precious few months. Nowadays she’d go on a trip (last journeys anyone?) At any rate here is evidence she did not herself always act on a premonition she was dying; it was intermittent. She was not always on the other side of a fence looking at people from the aspect of someone mortally ill.

These letters show JEAL and Caroline were seeking Austen’s approval and supporting her morally (what shows more admiration than imitation) by writing novels or scraps of them on their own, sending them to her, and she reciprocates with generosity. A few of her comments to JEAL (and Anna earlier in 1814) have been ceaselessly cited and discussed. In all three cases, Anna’s novel which she paid the compliment of really detailed responses), Caroline’s short pieces and now Edward’s Scott-like attempt, Austen is pretending to regard them as working in the same light or level of seriousness as she does. She knows they do not, and one assumes that she feels assured of the profound difference between her fiction and theirs. But that she can pretend otherwise and it pass muster suggests Clare Harman is right when she writes the family did not see her novels as above other novels of her era and perhaps equally valued James’s poetry, if not as much because it couldn’t sell (bring fame, money, respect) but as that which the period took seriously.

We should note that the way she often treats her own fiction as amusement, how when even praising the novels of others (which she is not inclined to do) she does not discuss any serious ideas in them, is just the way she is treats JEAL’s probably Scott-like stories and her young niece’s efforts. Anna’s novel written in 1814 was given the literal verisimilitude treatment along with how consistent are the characters and how much they make us laugh.


Letter 146, to JEAL, Mon 16-17 Dec 1816, Chawton to Steventon

19th century illustration of a wild scene conjured up by story-telling from the past in Scott’s Antiquary (alluded to by Austen in this letter)

There is a deliberate effort to be far more cheerful than the writer really is; the letter has the effect of putting on a show. Everyone so well (Anna too, though again we catch Austen declining one of Anna’s dinner invitations), Uncle Henry in excellent looks, all health and good humor, pickled cucumbers extremely good. She feels herself working something up as she refers to her use of the word “uncle;” he must not tire of it “for I have not done with it.” She makes fun too of the way JEAL will now tell her of his miseries and crimes, on the point of hanging himself once, now that his school days are over. She will soon turn to writing a lightning quick draft of Sanditon and deal with what she feels in her body happening — making fun of just the pain she has known and probably began to know again towards the end of the draft. I believe her the walk to Anna is beyond her strength and she would need Uncle Charles plus donkey carriage.

The second paragraph is her insisting on Henry’s health, his good looks — which again is part of this vein of denying: she has denied endlessly that Henry has been upset for real about what happened to him — when she herself has given much evidence to the contrary during their tours around southern England just afte Eliza died, but in a continual denying vein — this a characteristic response, how she got through life we might say, at least on the surface. We must concede her response to her mother’s continual hypochrondia (given how long Mrs Austen lived) — that she’s not really ill at all — seems to have been born out by Mrs Austen’s long life.

She’s avoiding Anna again: whether perfectly recovered or sick, she does not want to go to Anna’s house; the rest on the uncles and then the usual joking about who she is glad to marry. It’s painful when she does not empathize with other women in their conditions as women — in life and in her books or those of others — but she doesn’t.

This is such a famous letter and the central portion where Austen characterizes her fiction deprecatingly discussed so many times it’s natural to feel we can have little more to say and I won’t go on to discuss at whether her fiction is trivial (it’s not), on a very narrow range of topics, or if this comment refers to her artistic techniques (I think it does). Rather let’s look at the remark in its social context.

Her allusion to Scott’s Antiquary suggests she and her nephew had been reading the novel together — in Scott’s novel his character launch into tales from the past, wild and whirling whose point is rediscovery of the past not just recovery and a reinstatement of Sir Arthur’s daughter (disinherited and therefore one would think someone Austen from her fiction might sympathize with); the scene Austen specifically alludes to is a famous powerful landscape storm sequence. Just the sort of thing Austen made fun of in Brunton’s Self-Control only (admittedly) much much better done. The Antiquary is a work of genius. Probably (given the love and preference for Scott JEAL evidences in his Memoir of his aunt) JEAL has been trying to imitate Scott with his “glowing” and “manly spirited sketches.” — Austen is a jealous reader of other people’s novels, of her rivals of which Scott she knew was one but whom she could not dismiss as unrealistic in the way she could Mary Brunton when Brunton did traumatic weather scenes. She did see Scott’s greatness.

Patrick Allen Fraser, A Scene from the Antiquary (1842)

She also alludes to Hannah Cowley’s Which is the Man? A comedy (1786). She tells JEAL to tell his father what he will — but then switches and says, no, James must not be left off the hook, kept out of the loop as he must make a tenant pay his rent. This sounds like a family joke referring to Mary Lloyd Austen in a hidden way.

Another by Cowley: “The charms that helped to catch the husband are generally laid by, one after another, till the lady grows a downright wife, and then runs crying to her mother, because she has transformed her lover into a downright, husband.” Cowley’s lines evoke the grim realities of marriage which Austen lightly refers to here.

Her comical acceptance of Mr Papillon as a suitor seems to have been a family trope — I wonder if they tired of it. In Miss Austen Regrets he does — am is irritated and hurt. By the end of the letter it’s obvious the family is back from legacy hunting.

2008 Miss Austen Regrets (based partly on the letters, partly on Nokes’s biography): Jane (Olivia Williams) teasing Mr Papillon who does not enjoy being mocked

On Janeites and Austen-l there was a reading of the letter which asserted Austen was mocking, ridiculing her nephew in effect throughout. Mockery as a tone includes ridicule; there is no ridicule at all here. The tone is one of friendship. I agree Austen maintains a distance in her letters to Anna and there is in the opening to Edward here something similar (but the tone is kinder), lightly making fun of his supposed stories of anguish revealed at last — perhaps to forestall him? The opening paragraph does not really have him in mind: she is — as she does in her juvenilia and perhaps first drafts of her novels — opting for repression of all deep emotional states by making fun of them. We will glimpse for a moment a startling distance between Austen and Fanny Knight in the opening of a later letter where she appears to be openly regarding Fanny as a specimen under glass of young girl’s absurdities in love – and makes Fanny uncomfortable.

The thesis she is mocking and resentful would make her really feel threatened by these family writings. Everything we have suggests it was this family writing that allowed her to write. Other families would have inhibited her (as Mary Lloyd Austen jealously tried to stop her husband and step-daughter from fulfilling their gifts). She is half-joking that she and her nephew must steal one of Henry’s sermons and put them in our novels but as companions, as two people gayly pretending to make mischief.

She doesn’t want Henry to be the complicated man he was as that makes him less manageable to her mind. She avoids them when they present depths — that’s the avoidance of Anna who is now a mature woman (with a full sexual life too). Cassandra was her shelter against the world and she builds conventional walls and understandings. JEAL is as yet a boy and that’s why she can condescend in the friendly way she does: no threat; nor Caroline.

I admit to a certain discomfort in how Austen can so easily write to people so much younger than she and act as if they were her peers. Caroline is 9. It’s unsettling when she giggles with Fanny Knight in London over Mr Haden — as if she too were a 16 year old innocent girl titillating herself. These are not acts put on: for whose benefit would be the mockery? Even assuming Cassandra reading over the shoulders could understand her letters this way, would she enjoy such laughter at her nephew or any of her nieces? Hard to say. Cassandra did laugh at Cassy with Austen when Cassy first came to stay and feared bugs in the beds. Are we to imagine Austen enjoying her mockery alone? Rather she partly identifies with this younger generation.

My feeling is the occasionally ummediated identification comes from Austen having not been given enough experience outside her family on her own utterly — to cope with money and sex too. She longed to travel on her own, but there were many areas she was kept from experiencing. Money matters and sexual experience directly especially.


Letter 147 (C). To Anna Lefroy. Thurs? Dec 1816

A loosened flexible corset: meant for pregnant women

To Anna she sends thanks for a turkey in the form of comical-benign or sweet information that Mrs Austen, the grandmamma, is grieving Anna did not keep it for her family. Austen again promises to come over. Had we not read the many previous letters we would dismiss this last as, well, after all it’s January and Austen is ill, but having gone through quite a number where she is avoiding going over to Anna, I suspect Mrs Austen is alone in wishing to get to Anna soon. They are in the position of Miss and Mrs Bates in Emma who are sent fowls and other eatables.

It is sad to think how Anna and Austen were once loving half-mother-aunt and girl and then close as aunt-and-young woman, but then became estranged when Jane took the attitude of the family towards Anna’s courtship years and marriage to Ben. As a later letter suggests some of her discomfort now is to see her niece continually pregnant and not well. After all it’s not a joking matter as she says then.


148. To Casandra-Esten Austen. Wed, 8 Jan 1817

Designs for toy alphabets (a set is used in Emma)

Cassy, still very young so she gets a mirror letter congratulating her on her 9th birthday. My dear Cassy it begins … and ends Your affectionate Aunt. A transcription I thank the members of Janeites for providing. One must have patience for this sort of thing: a love of word games, good nature too — it would also be seen by her brothers and their wives.

I wish you a happy new year. Your six cousins came here yesterday, and had each a piece of cake. This is little Cassy’s birthday and she is three year’s old. Frank has begun learning Latin. We feed the robin every morning. Sally often enquires after you. Sally Benham has got a new green gown. Harriet Knight comes every day to read to Aunt Cassandra. Goodbye my dear Cassy.


Letter 149. To Caroline Austen. Thurs, 23 Jan 1817, Chawton to Steventon

Muzio Clementi piano belonging to Jane Austen

She sits there looking at a comfortable long blank sheet of paper and really delights in the sense of presence she will have as she talks to her niece. In making “a handsome return” to Caroline’s 2 o3 3 notes, we see how happy she was to have Edward’s visits and seems to take his fiction seriously. She teases how “vile” she & Mrs Austen were to keep him from Anna – who also needed his intelligent kind company, but they were ruthless. A play on words from butter to better (vowels). No one seems to know where the evening party was held, but Clearly JEAL was a center. How he must’ve remembered such a time happily – the mood of his book comes from such experiences. Here is one of its sources: he wanted to relive these happy times, to thank her, do her justice, make sure she was remembered. At the party he read his chapters aloud and all took an interest. Mr Reeves is a name from Sir Charles Grandison. And we see Austen take the superficial attitude towards fiction she consciously does when describing it in her letters – either she condemns or talks in terms of literal verisimilitude or approaches the fiction as how “amusing”.

An association makes her remember Caroline’s similar efforts – to please the aunt no doubt too, and join in with brother and sister. Austen sensed something snobbish in using French for a malapropism for the character. I take “Lunar” to be a reference to the group that met calling themselves the Lunar Society and that’s interesting because it shows her awareness of philosophical cults in her time. She did know Maria Edgeworth enough to send her a copy of Emma so she might have been able to hear of Edgeworth, Day and that group’s activities. They were located in Birmingham:

Then she does not forget the servants: Cassy has sent them some small remembrance and Austen characterizes Sally quickly, and a bit condescendingly but she likes Sally and recognizes her good nature: “Sally has got a new red Cloak, which adds much to her happiness, in other respects she is unaltered, as civil & well-meaning & talkative as ever.

Upstairs and downstairs are intermingled in a cottage like Chawton.

Caroline’s cat brought a dormouse to her (?), and Austen laughs: only think, and well, I never …

Caroline would want Cassy to return as a playmate and companion, but March is her time to come. Austen seems to imply that Cassy is not much of a letter writer to Caroline – so there is an awareness between them of different people’s natures and capacities (Cassy not as articulate as Caroline). Everyone of course sends their love (remember Mr Knightley’s comment on that sort of thing), then Charles’s desperate sickness, and her usual refusal to admit to this: “He has a said turn for being unwell.” After all the man has just been court-martialed, his first wife dead, an array of children to care for, a sister-in-law to keep, his career is in total disarray. Who would not be ill. He has a great eruption in his face and symptoms which look like rheumatism.

Then she gets to herself and it’s worth quoting again: “I feel myself getting stronger than I was half a year ago, & can so perfectly well walk to Alton, or back again, without the slightest fatigue that I hope to be able to do both when Summer comes. Because of her better health and strength she has been able to go over to Frank and Mary and enjoy herself with them and their children. She teases that she may be be excused for “loving them” on the supposition that perhaps Caroline will be jealous of her cousins.

The postscript about her playing the piano is revealing and touching: she is saying when she plays she thinks of Caroline. Caroline comes across in her late short memoirs as sensitive, intelligent, really like Anna and Austen does lend herself to the girl and have a real relationship. The girl is yet though not into puberty, still young, not someone to arouse any feelings of disquiet over what’s to come, or what she will be. In the event she never married and lived a very quiet life. Austen says she wishes Caroline could come over as easily as her older brother, but the girl is much more easily domineered and controlled by her mother than the boy. Perhaps she felt such affection for Anna too when Anna was young.

From the online digital edition of Austen’s manuscripts: the cancelled penultimate chapter of Persuasion

Some general comments: there is enough in the letters (remnants though they are) to outline a sense of Austen’s politics and morality, central to what we find in her novels, an element shaping them. I don’t think she’s the arch-conservative Marilyn Butler makes her out to be, but we do see Austen become more conservative in her later years. Early on she was rebelling and resentful that as a woman her needs for career fulfillment were utterly ignored: she was to marry and all effort was for her brothers and used metaphors about why should she not go and hang herself. Then she wanted to set up housekeeping with Martha Lloyd and her sister. Not allowed.

But as she aged, she accepted the imposition of a conventional life-style — as many people do, because they become tired of banging their heads against a wall that is not coming down and want to identify with the culture they find will give them the only respect they can socially find,in her case as a woman writer on the meagre terms her milieu would give her. She had time and space and peace to write publishable versions of her books and was given help (by Henry) to get them into print. So she is gaining some respect, money, more self-esteem — through her books.

You can trace the changes by reading what she reads – that means more than the novels, but also books like Buchanan’s and Paisley’s (for violent imperialism both). Sometimes too — used very carefully — you can sense things about her texts by the people drawn to them to write a sequel type (feminists, PD James a conservative mystery writer) when the sequel is reasonably intelligent (it need not be a work of art) – and of course good critics.

She was also a strong partisan for most of her family members for most of her life — putting aside her own vulnerability when young, thwarted desires (to set up housekeeping with Cassandra and Martha Lloyd) — but there she could see straight too and in a couple of remarks referring to the aunt, the portrait of Mrs Norris as a smoocher, and remarks in the letters she drew a line at pretending her aunt was decent person — partly that’s the result of the way the aunt treated the Austen family.

She carried on put off by the evangelicals (we see that in her reaction to Cooper’s sermons — the cousin) as well as direct didacticism of the type we see in Hannah More but she is influenced by the mood of the times, part of her times. Her books are most of the time resolutely secular. Rare instances of allusions to religion outside Mansfield Park include Marianne confessing to Elinor that had she self-destructed she would not have had time to confront God in the afterlife.

When she writes her novels, another writing self comes forth, the one Proust speaks of in his novels, and an eye which can see further into experience archetypally and overcomes her conscious inhibitions. The draft concluding chapters for Persuasion that we have show her to be writing comically, slightly farcically, the working on those bits of ivory over and over, released something deeper and emotional and the scene become a deep meditation on loss, compensation and solace, the different way men and women experience life.

Rather than moving in the direction of cool mockery, I suggest (agreeing with Marvin Mudrick here) that Jane Austen feared what she most loved – what she feared were precisely the kind of passions she herself is intensely drawn to and in her deepest emotional life in the novels acted out. What we see in the letters is a continual distancing, much guardedness, but as she draws close to the end of life sudden bursts of open plangency and reaching out. One feels so alone, so helpless and vulnerable when one lays dying in such pain, with only opium to moderate the intensity.


Piero Longhi (1701-85), The Ridotto in Venice (1750s)

Dear friends and readers,

Friday, the second full day of the conference, was the longest and would have been fuller had I known how to get to the Hennage Auditorium, at one of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, for between the last session of papers for the day and the masquerade ball, John Styles gave a lecture on the foundling hospitals of 18th century London, how bits of textile were used to connect a mother and her new-born baby in the kept records, not that it was common for a mother to return to find a living baby to take home with her. Most of the time the impoverished women never returned and the babies died.

The poignancy of these lives as caught in these textiles (to my mind) connects to the state murder of a 12 year old African-Indian girl as told by Prof Roach (in the plenary lecture briefly summarized below). The Wm and Mary museum owns a large collection of these textile fabrics. I did hear him describe his lecture on Saturday when at the end of the day William Warner led a walk around the streets of Colonial Williamsburg and took us to the College of Wm and Mary where the museum is located.

From the 1991 mini-series, Clarissa: writing while in prison

The day began for me shortly after 8:00 when, as a continuation of what I had heard at the Richardson Society luncheon on Thursday, I sat down in a chair at a session where people were sitting in a circle and talking. Several papers had been written beforehand, circulated and the writers and readers were discussing these. So much better than papers being read aloud. The description of the papers was clear enough that I could follow what was said. Topics included: Jarrod Hurlbert’s paper on Clarissa’s reception in the US (where the texts were transformed into omniscient narratives in the 1790s). Elaine Phillips’s paper about the two rewrites of Clarissa that she likened these to fanfictions on-line today, where readers actively participate and re-shape fictions to fit their own world views; Byran Mangano on friendships in Clarissa as power struggles; Teri Doerksen’s paper on the problem of poetic justice in Clarissa; Marilyn Marie Holguin if Richardson had been influenced by Jacobean tragedy (mixed together with Christian doctrine); Christopher Fanning on the mad papers Clarissa writes after she is raped, isolated, and disconnected; after listening to Eric Drew’s remarks for first time in decades I had an impulse to reread Pamela (especially the near suicide scene at the pond).

What made the session stimulating was the talk about these theses; papers were discussed and ideas debated. Everyone seemed to know one another and the talk was companionable. People spoke of how Clarissa is about uneasy relationships, shows Richardson’s attraction to Catholicism; the dark fantasy about a (pyrrhic) triumph at its catastrophic close; intense identifications; tension between characters’ inner and outer worlds; how strength is in this novel not gendered, where we see a world of perpetual conflict in which animal passion is a powerful amoral force. I thought about how the pleasures of Richardson’s texts are imbricated with levels of pain.

Image cropped and Photoshopped
Hogarth: a detail from his depiction of people seeking the longitude (seen as “mad”)

A disability studies caucus was held in the next (9:45 am) session; in a crowded small room, there were 9 papers where the people poured forth complicated and interesting ideas inside 8 minutes each. Laurel Daen’s was on a woman whose art work led people to ask what disability means; is it also a strength? ought gov’t to intervene because people respond with alarm. Dana Glisermann Kopans talked of how mental disability was theorized in the era. Madness began to be seen as a disease rather than innate, but while there were no consistent findings, people wanted to imprison the so-called mad. Some people did fake disabilities; the problem for mental disabilities is these lack ocular and physical proof. Jason Farr discussed an 18th century poem by Mary Rogers showing what can happen when a profoundly deaf person is taught sign language. It included these lines:

When Britains’ Roscius on the stage appears,
Who charms all eyes, and (I am told) all ears
With ease, the various passions I can trace
Clearly reflected from that wond’rous face.
Whilst true conception with just action join’d,
Strongly impressed each image on my mind –
What need of sounds, when I plainly descry,
Th’expressive features and the speaking eye.

Greta Lafleur spoke of how disability and homosexuality shape a pathologized past. Both are positions outside reproduction which was thought essential for all people. Divorce cases bring out into the open some of this: Anne Marie Baum applied for divorce on the grounds her husband, George Miller, was impotent; he called her a whore, threatened her if she went public. The couple was not granted a divorce; it was somehow determined that his penis did work, so they spent the rest of their lives in connected hatred. No one saw Miller’s condition as a disability.

James Rasmussen, a German scholar spoke of stuttering, a speech impediment shared by Moses Mendelsohn and Johann Homen. No one understands why some stutter and why some outgrow the problem when there is a demand in public for rapid speech; this seemingly minor problem can build major emotional barriers as it was seen as a moral failure of the will. Here the sign is the disease or condition. Terry Robinson talked about people inhabit their bodies and how melodrama with its relentless highlighting of the body and putting before us social processes lends itself to portrayals of disability. Thomas Holcroft wrote a play about a deaf and dumb boy abandoned by his uncle; a friend tries to teach him to communicate his thoughts. French philosophes had invented versions of sign language (one was pantomime and gestural). Miriam Wallace worried lest in our efforts to stop the oppression of the disabled we find they are used ahistorically to justify the humanities; a disability is a variation; at the same time there is a limit to what help is provided this way. Cynthia Richards spoke last and movingly on disabilities inflicted on people by war experiences. Few want to be frank, to focus on the acute discomfort of what is done to the vulnerable animal body which collective consciousness denies.

Talk afterward included the need for a good definition of what is meant by disability, the importance of terminology; how we should look at where some of the words used came from; how able-bodied actors imitated disabled people and the problem of doing searches in databases.

Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), Elizabeth Farren (1790)

Before lunch I attended the session by the women’s caucus intended as a sort of preface to the coming evening ball. The papers augured well. Catherine Craft-Fairchild spoke on “Masquerade and female identity,” and traced eloquent and perceptive depictions of women in Maria Edgeworth’s Helen, Elizabeth Inchbald’s Simple Story and Catherine Maria Sedgwick’s American and didactic fiction. She felt that Edgeworth learned from Inchbald (who didn’t give us Miss Milner’s inner world); the characters of the first two novelists are dissatisfied with their realities. Nora Nachumi worried the concept of authenticity as replacing an older ideal of virtue as seen Hannah Cowley’s Belle’s Strategem, Inchbald’s I’ll Tell You What and Cibber and Van Brugh’s Provok’d Husband: she talked of how actresses justified their roles on stage as somehow authentic selves seen through a masquerade; if you outwardly conformed to conventional social life (Jordan did not) you could be an insider on the stage and achieve a modicum of power (e.g., Abingdon’s versatility) and make a small change in the way women regarded. Using the two different heroines of Inchbald’s Simple Story (gothic heroine, Matilda is authentic and thus naive and gullible), Jamie Smith traced how a resurgence of religion and gender panic in the later 18th century led to the decline of the masquerade which was an expression of what is repressed in everyday life; ritual became identified with paganism, Catholicism, self-indulgence, so its use for exploring unstable identities was lost.

John Hoppner (1758-1810), Dora Jordan as Rosalind (from Shakespeare’s As You Like It) (1791)

Discussion afterward included the idea that novels contain secret thoughts and can be places to perform a kind of authenticity. Jamie Smith suggested there are different levels of performance, understandings of it, and what you can do depends on who you are interacting with. Mary Trouille then said that given the structure of behavior, presented norms, in upper class 18th century groups it’s doubtful authenticity of any kind was possible. Catherine Craft-Fairchild rejoined that her women characters and real people were trapped in social performances; Nora Nachumi, that social control and anxieties about breaking code are ever there as people try to evade surveillance. Someone in the audience added that one could say that when you wear a mask you are not disguising yourself, but acting out an alluring image; most people at the same time do not expose themselves too fear lest they be too “found out.” You expect to be recognized, want to be.

Joshua Reynolds (1723-92), Mrs Abingdon as Miss Prue (from Congreve’s Love for Love) (1771)

For lunch I went into the bar had a whiskey and ginger ale with a small pizza and emailed friends through my iphone. Bars are friendly comfortable places and I was able to relax as I made needed contact with daughters at home and friends on-line.


The plenary lecture, by Joseph Roach, “Invisible Cities and the Archeology of Dreams” began with Italo Calvino, Marco Polo, and Kubla Khan, and the idea that it’s not possible to tell if the cities encountered are real. He moved between arguing that authors have intentions and we can ferret them out, but the truth is that in an effort to understand a previous era we can only look at what’s left (busts, costumes and descriptions of what happened in the playhouses, texts). He mentioned in passing the people who go to theme parks, or to see resurrected time capsules where they look at rebuilt versions of what once existed, and ended on a nightmare happening that is as characteristic of the period as anything else: Hannah, a 12 year old girl, perhaps autistic, part African, part Indian, hung for murder. She had to endure a sermon preached over her and seems to have behaved stoically in the face of a tortured death. Prof Roach quoted Antonin Scaglia on how in US history child-killing (execution) was not unusual. (What a horrific past lies behind the movement into twisted cruelties in the present US criminal justice “system” now allowed and made worse by uncontrolled capitalism.)

Eric Rohmer’s Marquise of O (1976): the Marquise leaving with her children, grieving at her parents’ ejection of them

“The Eighteenth-Century on Film,” one of the many last sessions of the day was not so grim or vatic. Oliver Wunsche spoke of the use of paintings in films through studying the relationship of Rohmer’s Marquise of O and Fuseli’s Nightmare (one series of shots in the film imitates Fuseli’s painting) and a Fragonard set of paintings (The Progress of Love). Greuze was another influence. His subject was how the camera eye in painting helps us understand our historical visions, basing some of his talk on Michael Baxandall’s Painting and Experience in 15th Century Italy (1972). Guy Spielmann and Joseph Bartolomeo gave papers on the many film adaptations of LaClos’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses and the 1991 BBC Clarissa (scripted by David Nokes and Janet Baron) respectively. The problem with both papers was ultimately they went about to compare the films against the eponymous novel, showing departures from fidelity (how the two differed in literal content), with the assumption that the novel’s vision was not only superior but the movie had the obligation to project either the author’s vision or some truth or reality of the 18th century. Prof. Spielmann was thorough in his continual see-sawing of how this movie departs this way and that that way and seems to have watched every filmic adaptation but one of this century. He kept asking what is a film adaptation and what is transformed but he never talked literally about the transferred materials and techniques used as metaphor (or filmic mirror, to use Kamilla Elliot’s phrase). Prof Bartolomeo went carefully over several places in the film where he objected to how Lovelace’s character seemed to him to have been simplified (made far more sinister than in the novel); he thought that while in the novel Clarissa does not know what is going on around her, since in the movie she does, she emerges as a deluded simpleton.

1989 Miles Forman’s Valmont: Valmont (Colin Firth, departed from LaClos’s conception to make the character appealing) and Cecile (Meg Tilly, not playing the character as an innocent at all) dancing intensely

From Cruel Intentions (1999), a free adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons, when it comes to love and sex, the usually manipulative and nasty Valmont (Ryan Phillipe) is tender and sincere; in this still a modern Tourvel (Reese Witherspoon), informs him, “it’s not about winning, Sebastian

The discussion afterward took the form of a real debate — though Prof Spielmann denied he was using the criteria of faithfulness; during the discussion period he said if movie-makers want to make a story about the 18th century, why do they go to these works? He seemed to be indignant over “misrepresentations.” (The answer is they are out of copyright and the film-makers are engaged by the works and want to make some comment about them, or bring them before an audience in ways that are relevant and appealing.) On Clarissa, I did identify myself as someone who had written and delivered a paper arguing for the excellence of the 1991 film (“How you all must’ve laughed; what a witty masquerade”), and suggested the place to begin talking about Nokes and Baron’s film is their vision (one which I think is about a nightmare of sexuality as experienced by many women in our present culture), how they saw the novel against our modern culture, how BBC filmic art was developing in the early 1990s. Prof Bartolomeo and I did agree that Nokes and Barron were much influenced by Mark Kinkhead-Weekes’s SR: Dramatic Novelist. Another woman in the audience suggested that if Lovelace seems exaggerated, there are ways in which Clarissa’s character is deepened and altered that make her more interesting to modern women in the audience. She also thought there was an enormous difference in the film of the Marquise of O and the 18th century painting, on the basis of how today the norm for women’s bodily size has become anorexic; there has been ontological out of cultural change.

Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) Plaisirs du Bal (1717)

It was then evening, the public sessions at the Lodge for the day were over and I went back to my room and rested. At about 8:30 I began to get ready for the masquerade. I wore a pretty beaded aqua blue dress that I had worn for my older daughter’s wedding that looked like a 1920s flapper dress (it has layers of silk), dark blue pumps, and at the door I bought a black eye mask with cat-like ears. I came along thinking I would stay for a short while and leave. Many said later they felt this. But like many I stayed and stayed and finally was like many others dancing the night away. Over 2/3s of the people came in some sort of costume; and of these about half in 18th century dress. Some people rented, others made their own costumes, still others put together what they could find in their wardrobe that gave the appearance of someone in the 18th century. It really was a party where everyone was having a good time. I’ve thought it was a loss when the banquet was given up as too expensive and not attracting enough people; the whopping success of the night (it lasted well past midnight and took in $14,000) is a testimony to people wanting to get together for pleasure. I neglected to take a photo of myself but many took photos and some of these may be accessed at the facebook page on ASECS Women’s Caucus Masquerade Ball.

1991 Clarissa: Diana Quick as the fake Lady Betty taking her mask, wig, and hat off

But the costumes also mattered; they made the experience have the curious excitement or slight theatrical thrill it did. I felt like I was in Burney’s Cecilia when people came over who were completely swathed in costume, including a mask and wig and I could not tell who they were until they spoke for a while. People I knew emerged as having different aspects to themselves both from knowing them before and also seeing them the next day back in their usual costumes (you might say). A friend wore a Venetian mask and monk’s outfit from head to toe; I saw a hunchback of Notre Dame. Some of the women were orange wenches. Couples came with the woman in a lovely sacque; one friend was a replica of Charles II, black curly wig, extravagant outfit, little dog and all; his wife had made an outfit which made me think of Pamela in high life.


Cassandra Austen — as close as we come to an image of her made during her lifetime

Do pray meet with somebody belonging to yourself. — I am quite weary of your knowing nobody. — Jane

Dear friends and readers,

This very long letter may be the last Jane wrote to Cassandra: our documents begin on 10 January 1796 and end 20 years later. It is a very long one, such as we’ve not had since Southampton, perhaps wholly saved and unmutilated because it is the last one saved. No 158 in LeFaye’s edition is Jane’s will addressed to Cassandra in the form of a letter, and reminds me of the few 17th and 18th century wills by women I’ve read: similarly leaving a very few personal belongings and small sum of money.

As last week’s penultimate letter come down to us in fragments may have faced up to the reality of whatever this grave illness was doing and going to do to her; this whole one is written in an implicit denial and pretense that all is fundamentally (approved by Cassandra — ever keeping the conventional front from 1796 on). When we come upon letters like these, in effect journal-entries, we realize, Austen’s letters resemble Frances Burney D’Arblay’s, at least in their first versions, written to a beloved or trusted person recording her life as it unfolded.


145. To Cassandra Austen
Sunday 8-Monday 9 September 1816
Chawton, Sunday Sept: 8.

My dearest Cassandra

I have borne the arrival of your Letter today extremely well; anybody might have thought it was giving me pleasure. –I am very glad you find so much to be satisfied with at Cheltenham. While the Waters agree, every thing else is trifling. — A Letter arrived for you from Charles last Thursday. They are all safe, & pretty well in Keppel Street, the Children decidedly better for Broadstairs, & he writes principally to ask when it will be convenient to us to receive Miss Palmer, the little girls & himself. — They will be ready to set off in ten days from the time of his writing, to pay their visits in Hampshire & Berkshire — & he would prefer coming to Chawton first. I have answered him & said, that we hoped it might suit them to wait till the last week in September, as we could not ask them sooner, either on your account, or the want of room. I mentioned the 23d, as the probable day of your return. — When you have once left Cheltenham, I shall grudge every half day wasted on the road. If there were but a coach from Hungerford to Chawton! — I have desired him to let me hear again soon. — He does not include a Maid in the list to be accomodated [sic], but if they bring one, as I suppose they will, we shall have no bed in the house even then for Charles himself — let alone Henry. But what can we do? — We shall have the Great House [Chawton mansion] quite at our command; — it is to be cleared of the Papillons Servants in a day or two; — they themselves have been hurried off into Essex to take possession — not of a large Estate left them by an Uncle — but to scrape together all they can I suppose of the effects of a Mrs Rawstorn a rich old friend & cousin, suddenly deceased, to whom they are joint Executors. So, there is a happy end of the Kentish Papillons coming here.

Broadstairs, contemporary advertising photograph: August 2008

She begins sometime Saturday. The opening paragraph is about Charles and his family. Charles is said to have been strained and depressed after the shipwreck and court martial so a trip to the seacoast was tried: Broadstairs is a coastal town on the Isle of Thanet in the Thanet district of east Kent, England, about 80 miles (130 km) east of London. but it’s embedded in her missing Cassandra badly and not hiding that at all: she shows the difficulties they have accommodating people in their small cottage (recalling the Dashwood’s Barton cottage in Sense and Sensibility). Note how Charles taking responsibility for his sister-in-law — eventually his second wife. Austen grudges days lost from Cassandra — she knows her time is limited? where shall they put him, let alone Henry. The big house will come in usefully, and then Charles and family are off to pay visits — almost like a couple introducing themselves I’d say …

Then an anecdote which shows the desperate behavior of these people when it comes to money. The Papillons have rushed off the way we saw some of Mrs Austen’s relatives do some years before. Not a large estate either, but scraping together what may be grabbed by sheer possession. Jane is not sorry the Papillons will not be in Kent any more. There is a good deal of her old hardness here. Maybe we have not seen it because the letters containing it were destroyed. We have always to remember there are no job ads to get a job in this world, only the beginning of employment bureaus in London, and the way to climb is inherit, marry or patronage (which often comes down to bribes). No meritocracy (not that ours exists any more either — or only a remnant).


A walk by moonlight

The paper shows her writing on the next page so perhaps she broke off that Saturday and is continuing noon Sunday and she explains why:

No morning service to day, wherefore I am writing between 12 & 1 o’clock — Mr Benn in the afternoon — & likewise more rain again, by the look & the sound of things, You left us in doubt of Mrs Benn’s situation, but she has bespoke her Nurse. — Mrs. F.A. [Frank's wife] seldom either looks or appears quite well. — Little Embryo is troublesome I suppose. — They dined with us yesterday, & had fine weather both for coming & going home, which has hardly ever happened to them before. — She is still unprovided with a Housemaid. — Our day at Alton was very pleasant — Venison quite right — Children well-behaved — & Mr and Mrs Digweed taking kindly to our Charades, & other Games. — I must also observe, for his Mother’s satisfaction, that Edward at my suggestion, devoted himself very properly to the entertainment of Miss S. Gibson. — Nothing was wanting except Mr Sweney; but he alas! had been ordered away to London the day before. — We had a beautiful walk home by Moonlight. — Thank you, my Back has given me scarcely any pain for many days. — I have an idea that agitation does it as much harm as fatigue, & that I was ill at the time of your going, from the very circumstance of your going. — I am nursing myself up now into as beautiful a state as I can, because I hear that Dr White means to call on me before he leave the Country. –

She writes between 12 and 1 because there is no morning service. The nearly destitute Miss Benn died some time back, so the reference to the Mr and Mrs Benn are to other members of the family. As we saw Anna so troubled with endless pregancies so Frank’s wife continues to be, the famous sharp line: “Little Embryo is troublesome I suppose.” No housemaid. But a pleasant afternoon was had. She remembers to write for Mary Lloyd Austen’s satisfaction that JEAL did devote himself to the entertainment of one Miss Gibson — a relative of Mary’s (Frank’s wife). So Mary is trying to engineer her son’s marital fate. Jane does seem to have enjoyed the games, charades (word games after all), and then this. After writing “We had a beautiful walk home by Moonlight” the association of walking causes her to offer a diagnosis which seems sound: emotional distress does her back as much harm as physical fatigue, and she was ill because Cassandra had been leaving her. This is unusually frank.

Austen may be joking still — again about a supposed suitor, John White (1759-1821), who had been a chaplain and physician to the Gibraltar garrison, practiced as a surgeon in Alton and Salisbury (LeFaye’s biographical notes). She writes as she does as a way of denying how bad she is beginning to or does look at this point. From her earliest years when she registered three marriages for herself in her father’s parish register to this point (see Paula Byrne’s The Real Jane Austen, “The Marriage Banns”) to when she’s gravely ill and moving into dying, she makes fun of courtship and marriage — and also in Sanditon grave illness and death itself. It was her way of dealing with pressure and trauma.

Perhaps it is not amiss to point out here as we come to the end of her life that Austen’s gay flirtations and (more probably) conversations about books with Haden were great fun and a solace for her (and a bit of rivalry she didn’t mind pretending to), and that she did experience pressure to marry in Bath, but once she did become the respected author among them (after the publication of Sense and Sensibility), that and her age, and the lack of full pressure before, ended all serious thought of any marriage. She was never much pressured by them — or the letters that recorded this have been destroyed. Ditto on teaching or, say, becoming someone’s companion which both Martha Lloyd and Anne Sharpe did for money. There are no letters remaining to suggest she was ever so pressured — but perhaps she was implicitly or explicitly — giving rise to some of the bitterness about teaching in The Watsons and Emma, and some of the sudden outcries in the novels and letters to never marry without affection and respect for your partner.


From Miss Austen Regrets 2008: Sylvie Herbert as Madame Bigeon (Madame Pericord was Madame Bigeon’s daughter)

Evening. — Frank & Mary & the Children visited us this morning. — Mr & Mrs Gibson are to come on the 23d — & there is too much reason to fear they will stay above a week. — Little George could tell me where you were gone to, as well as what you were to bring him, when I asked him the other day. — Sir Thomas Miller is dead. I treat you with a dead Baronet in almost every Letter. — So, you have Charlotte Craven among you, as well as the Duke of Orleans & Mr Pococke. But it mortifies me that you have not added one to the stock of common acquaintance. Do pray meet with somebody belonging to yourself. — I am quite weary of your knowing nobody. —

It’s now evening that Sunday and Austen reports further that she did have a pleasant morning with her brother, Mary and their children. But she is not similarly keen on Mary’s relatives. Bad news they will stay for “above a week.” Little George knows about Cassandra but not Austen — why is that,Austen asks teasingly. Something is being kept from her, and then her old self steps forth for a moment: “Sir Thomas Miller is dead, I treat you with a dead baronet in almost every letter.” Like LeFaye (who characteristically offers a longer note on the aristocracy) Cassandra offers news of the upper class in Cheltenham, but Jane sees through this or comments, who cares? These are not people you or I know and she would rather hear of Cassandra gaining one acquaintance or friend. The ironic tone registers her awareness of how hard this is in an exclusive society.

Appropriate Austen then turns to the real people she and Cassandra do know: servants, ordinary folk around them, relatives, including Edward’s son, and Anna (who we see Austen again put off visiting); servant-friends in distress (the Perigords) and the perpetually unlucky Anna Sharpe, the people Miss Sharpe works for and lives with, a doctor and his wife at the seaside resort who took pity on her (like Martha often unwell) hand finally Mrs Jane West whom Austen earlier spoke of in just this tone of semi-amazement not at what she wrote but that she wrote it at all.

Mrs Digweed parts with both Hannah & old Cook, the former will [po 3] not give up her Lover, who is a Man of bad Character, the Latter is guilty only of being unequal to anything. — Miss Terry was to have spent this week with her Sister, but as usual it is put off. My amiable friend knows the value of her company. — I have not seen Anna since the day you left us, her Father & Brother visited her most days. — Edward & Ben called here on Thursday. Edward was in his way to Selborne. We found him very agreable. He is come back from France, thinking of the French as one could wish, disappointed in every thing. He did not go beyond Paris.-I have a letter from Madame Perigord, she & her Mother are in London again; — she speaks of France as a scene of general Poverty & Misery, — no Money, no Trade — nothing to be got but by the Innkeepers — & as to her own present prospects, she is not much less melancholy than before. — I have also a letter from Miss Sharp, quite one of her Letters; — she has been again obliged to exert herself more than ever — in a more distressing, more harrassed state — & has met with another excellent old Physician & his Wife, with every virtue under Heaven, who takes to her & cures her from pure Love & Benevolence. — Dr & Mrs Storer are their [her?] Mr & Miss Palmer — for they are at Bridlington. I am happy to say however that the sum of the account is better than usual. Sir William is returned; from Bridlington they go to Chevet, & she is to have a Young Governess under her. — I enjoyed Edward’s company very much, as I said before, & yet I was not sorry when friday came. It had been a busy week, & I wanted a few days quiet, & exemption from the Thought & contrivances which any sort of company gives. — I often wonder how you can find time for what you do, in addition to the care of the House; — And how good Mrs West could have written such Books & collected so many hard words, with all her family cares, is still more a matter of astonishment! Composition
seems to me Impossible, with a head full of Joints of Mutton & doses of rhubarb. –

Mrs Digwood fires Hannah and an old cook because the cook (!) will not give up her lover said to have a bad character, but Austen thinks he is guilty only of “being unequal to anything.” In other words he wouldn’t be a servant himself. Austen tells truths about servants when she knows it. Mrs Digweed emerges as a kind of Fanny Dashwood here.

A sharp observation about how Miss Mary Terry (a contemporary living in the village — her family described in LeFaye’s notes) is not coming again “as usual” and “my amiable friend”, Miss Terry’s sister, knows the value of her company. The sarcasm works several ways: the friend is also not so amiable, Miss Terry’s company is not of much value. Anyway she doesn’t want to come but is unwilling to say so and so they play a fake social game. Austen does not like this sort of thing.

Poor Anna: reduced to visits by father and brother – she can’t go out, too weak and ill. Her second baby, Julia Cassandra, was born at Wyards on 27 September, only eleven months after Jemima’s birth. She, her father and brother do appear to have been a congenial trio. Then prejudice against the French as a group. Things were not going well just after the Napolenic wars collapsed – Henry not the only one to go bankrupt. She’s glad Edward (brother to Ben, Anna’s husband) was disappointed in everything.

Three of Austen’s friends — all single women — in distress. Mrs Perigord and mother, Madame Bigeon, Henry’s servants in London – Madame Perigord’s husband early on deserted. Austen left Madame Bigeon a small sum in her will. General poverty misery no trade no money nothing to be got but by the innkeepers (who get from tourism and people moving about). Henry had to let them go … Miss Sharp has sent one of her letters: it’s typical and Jane likes it: “quite one of her letters.” Miss Sharp, we recall, had been a governess at Godmersham where she and Austen became good friends. Suffering yet again, more distressed, more harassed, has been taken in by a decent couple who Austen likens to Mr and Mrs Palmer – so we now have some agreeable words about those Palmers at last. I do not know the details about the people Miss Sharp is involved with and this is just the sort of thing an edition of letters is supposed to do. LeFaye is supposed to tell us who Sir William is in relation to Miss Sharp, how he’s returned, why from Bridlington to Chevet and suggest (you are allowed to do this) why the “sum total” is on the whole Miss Sharp has weathered some more miseries of her existence as a governess. She is to haved a young governess under her

Finally, Austen glad of JEAL’s company and yet relieved when he went. People are a burden to one another – “a busy week, & I wanted a few days quiet & exemption from Thought & Contrivances, which any sort of company gives.” This does suggest her health was better since she was entertaining these people. How does Cassandnra find time to cater to people this way and keep a house. Paula Byrne states unequivocally how Austen disliked Jane West’s fiction but the next comment is the third in the letters where she speaks affectionately and fondly of the author as someone she identifies with – West had children so Austen sees her as having to cook and provide “Composition seems to me Impossible, with a head full of Joints of Mutton & doses of rhubarb. Rhubarb is given to regulate one’s digestive and execretory systems. This does tell us she was trying to write her novels still.


1983 Mansfield Park: Fanny (Sylvestre Le Tousel) caught in the rain

Only this last part is Monday and the weather has gone bad again – Austen knows she is not far away from Cassandra and judges Cheltenham weather by their own (They did not have a weather channel.)

Monday. Here is a sad morning — I fear you may not have been able to get to the Pump. The two last days were very pleasant. — I enjoyed them the more for your sake. — But today, it is really bad enough to make you all cross. — I hope Mary will change her Lodgings at the fortnight’s end; I am sure, if you looked about well, you would find others in some odd corner, to suit you better. Mrs Potter charges for the name of the High Street — Success to the Pianoforte! I trust it will drive you away. — We hear now that there is to be no Honey this year. Bad news for us. — We must husband our present stock of Mead; & I am sorry to perceive that our 20 Galloons is very nearly out. — I cannot comprehend how the 14 Gallons could last so long. —

We do not much like Mr [Edward] Cooper’s new Sermons — they are fuller of Regeneration & Conversion than ever –with the addition of his zeal in the cause of the Bible Society. – -Martha’s love to Mary & Caroline, & she is extremely glad to find they like the Pelisse. — The Debarys are indeed odious! – -We are to see my Brother tomorrow, but for only one night. — I had no idea that he would care for the Races, without Edward. — Remember me to all. Yours very affectionately J. Austen
Miss Austen
Post Office

Sad morning. The last two Jane says she enjoyed for Cassandra’s sake. I’ve come across this idea: we are supposed to enjoy ourselves for someone else’s sake – because they would want us to (we may be told). This a reference to her illness. But today bad enough to make you all cross. Now a reference to Mary Lloyd Austen as a difficult personality I suggest. Apparently Cassandra subject to Mary Lloyd Austen and Jane hopes Mary will change the lodging at the end of the next two weeks. Cassandra and Mary’s visit is made to feel interminable. So Mary has been cross; Mrs Potter over-charging for name of street anyway. A pianoforte has been bothering them – imagine a boarding house. Jane wishes it success in driving them away and finding some odd corner or other (I like her tone here) that is much cheaper. Another reading: Cassandra does not like the lodging and Jane hopes for her it will “drive” Mary and by extension, Cassandra, her forced companion, away.

That there is no honey means less homemade wine. Jane liked to drink wine we know, enjoyed it – home-made wine is heavy and sweet, probably nournishing. Austen surprised by how fats the 20 gallons went when 14 before lasted so long. This is indeed life’s trivia.

The statement about Edward Cooper, Austen’s cousin, shows the limits of Austen’s sympathies with evangelicals. His is one of the few letters to her that has survived (in The Austen Papers): it suggests a dull mind, someone without any sense of insight into the person he is writing to. As with More, Austen did not like the insistent didacticism and pomposity. She earlier mentioned Cooper when after Elizabeth Austen’s death she hoped one of Cooper’s letters of “cruel comfort” would not be sent. The book in question is Two Sermons Preached in the Old and New Churches at Wolverhampton, preparatory to the Establishment of a Bible-Institution, published in 1816. The “zeal” Austen refers to is everywhere: it is that of a man who has had a conversion experience and expects others to have had the same. He had earlier written tirades: Sermons of 1809, according to Paula Byrne, is one of these nagging books: it insists on the necessity that the reader experience conversion. Richard Wright in his Native Son explains how such attitudes permeating a particular church and environment can literally terrorize and shame a person not susceptible and force that person into faking a conversion experience.

In closing Martha there – always there it seems, now in Jane’s decline — sends love to Mary and Caroline. So Caroline with Cassandra and her mother. Glad they like the pelisse – made by Martha? Austen validates whatever Cassandra said about the Debarrys: “The Debarys are indeed odious. The brother coming – is it Edward himself or Henry? Austen did not think he would enjoy the races without Edward’s son. And a brief cordial close.


The first page of Sanditon manuscript

And so ends the letters that we have to Cassandra. When Cassandra came home, and took one look at Jane, she did not travel away again except the one last visit to Winchester. She may have written others and these were destroyed. Notes while home say or short stays elsewhere we don’t know about. But we do not have them. Austen is still working on Catherine and the novel that Austen does not give any title to: Persuasion. There will be one more intensely forced attempt: the draft of Sanditon written in a height of Intensity: it’s dated as begun 17 January 1817, and put down 18 March 1817.


Giuseppi Grisoni: A Masquerade at Kings Theater, Haymarket

Dear friends and readers,

Just back from a splendidly rich ASECS at Williamsburg, which included a masquerade ball that led me (and a few people I talked to) to imagine what it might really be like to be at a masquerade, or to feel they were in Burney’s Cecilia. I enjoyed very much also just about all the sessions and lectures and musical events I went to, and thought I’d try to give some account of what I heard. This is series of summaries, the gists of papers I heard on Thursday and a couple of the social activities I participated in.

I began early in the morning, 8:00-9:30 am: “The Liminal and Unique: Redefining the 18th Century Canon. I arrived in the middle of Erin Makulsi Sandler’s “Amatory Anonymity: Redefining the Amatory Fiction Canon.” She demonstrated from several short fictions that in these novels the seduction narrative is secondary and the master narrative teaches lessons quite different from the presumed punitive one where rape, prostitution, and other sexually transgressive experiences lead necessarily to a wretched life. Some women thrive after recovering or growing rich from such experiences. Marilyn Francus was not able to come to the meeting so her paper, “A Major ‘minor’ writer: Frances Sheridan” was read aloud by someone else. The question Prof. Francus asked was, Why 60 years after a highly successful career with three remarkably original, powerful and original works (Sidney Biddulph, a poignant epistolary novel in the Richardson tradition; Discovery, a hit comedy; and Nourjahad, an oriental tale as effective as Johnson’s) was Francis Sheridan marginalized? her highly praised Biddulph reached a 5th edition in 1796, a sequel of two more volumes had appeared; it had been translated into French, German and Dutch, was adapted into a French play. Francus noted several features in the process, among these that from the very first biographies she is mentioned as the wife of Thomas and mother of Richard, and her place of birth mentioned because it was relevant to her husband’s theater life in Dublin. Second her novel was not included in the famous collections by Scott and Barbauld. Barbauld protested against the novel’s melancholy and mid-19th century critics called it “vexatious, unpleasant.” And she died young.

In her paper on Charlotte Lennox, Susan Carlile showed what a central and versatile writer Charlotte Lennox had been though today she is still known mostly for her satiric The Female Quixote: Carlile went over another novel by Lennox, Harriot Stuart, which exposes and critiques the social and psychological problems a female encounters in the world (including rape). Lennox’s Shakespeare Illustrated, translation, editions of letters, philosophical dialogues were described, with special attention to her poetry, especially one poem on botany found in a book on botany that Lennox wrote in part and put together. This last account was particularly original and detailed. Lastly Nicole Horslejsi meant to create interest in Sarah Fielding and Jane Collier’s part-satire, part fable, The Cry as a self-aware metatext of literary history. In the discussion afterward people still felt the term “amatory fiction” had its usefulness. I remembered how Austen’s novels many of whose themes have nothing to do with courtship or marriage are turned into romances in films and thought of that way by readers.

Wm Birch, after Rowlandson (1756-1827), At Dover Castle a Balloon is set off headed for Calais (1785)

I attended both sessions on “Elizabeth Inchbald, Actress, Playwright, Editor, Novelist,” convened in honor of her biography, Annibel Jenkins, 9:45-1 pm. In the first, Angela Rehbein discussed the peculiar mix of progressive idealism and brutal imperialism thought and action in the Utopian socialist communities found in Inchbald’s didactic novel, Nature and Art. Misty Kreuger gave a lively account of how a group of her students went form dramatic reading to acting the roles in and staged Lovers’ Vows, how it taught them much about Austen’s attitudes in the novel. The experienced the parallels in the characters; they did tend to choose characters they had some emotional connection to. In condensing the play for a brief one-hour enactment she learned how erotic both this text and Austen’s are.

In the second session, Laura Engel described and discussed Inchbald’s Pocket Diaries: (printed into large readable type by Chatto and Windus). Inchbald got down details of her daily life (a record of her writing process), especially money spent, her work for the theater; other actors, managers, procedures, her hairdresser (her needs met); we see what she enjoys and what distresses her; how her complaints about not getting this or that part contrasts with the reality of the good parts she was assigned. Daniel Ennis’s account of the paraphernalia surrounding the production of Inchbald’s The Moghul’s Tale across a couple of centuries was supposed to accompany a second paper about a student production; the second speaker could not come, but Prof Ennis’s account as lucid enough to give the audience a real feel why this farce about ballooning and an acting company who find themselves taken prisoners in harem was so popular, how it changed over the years, how the characters (Johnny a cobber, and Fanny his long-suffering wife) in it related to the actors (e.g., John Barnes, 1761-1841) who played it. He described the different configurations of works The Moghul’s Tale appeared with, how gradually names were assigned to the Islamic characters.

A friend invited me to come to the Richardson Society luncheon, where conversation was stimulating and everyone so welcoming that the next morning I participated in a supposed closed session on Richardson (I was assured last year it had been “crashed” and this year was open to all despite the printed reservation) and since coming home have joined the Richardson Society through facebook.

Philippe Mercier (1689-1763), The Sense of Sight (1744-47)

The last session of papers I attended was the first of the afternoon, “Jane Austen’s Geography.” James Thompson, the chair, had run the Jane Austen Summer Program last year and I had had a chance to talk with him again during a coffee break. Robert Clark’s paper on Mansfield Park, the East Indies and the British (im)moral empire offered a convincing account of the felt presence of the global economy which was (from Antigua) supporting the Bertram property; he suggested the pro-abolitionist theme of Austen’s work is there to offset and justify the ruthless and cruel exploitation of the native people’s imperialism inflicts. Prof Clark pointed out how involved George Austen was in Antigua, his sons in East India, with Henry’s banking business dependent on speculation. I was glad to find this man agreed with my view that Austen’s praise of Paisley and Buchanan in her letters show her to have been a fierce pro-imperialist. Elizabeth Kowalski-Wallace gave a recent consensus interpretation of Northanger Abbey (that we are to take Catherine’s intuituions about the gothic goings on at the Abbey seriously) based on the mentions of Italy and things Italian in the novel. John Leffel attempted to map and connect globally-apart places in Austen’s juvenilia, Catherine, or the Bower (India) and Sanditon. By the end of the session one felt like the one place Austen omitted from her books was England.

After this session, I hurried over to join a group of people at a dance workshop and for an hour and fifteen minutes was told about and danced pattern dances from the 17th through the early 18th century. These are such a pleasant somehow satisfying way to pass time with other people.

Nicolas Lancret (1690-1743), Blindman’s Bluff (1728)

There was a reception between 6 and 7 where people drank and talked, and I then went with a good friend to dinner at the Tavern at the Williamsburg Lodge and had an evening meal and talk I’ll remember for a long time to come.

I regretted missing a paper by Alessa Johns on Anna Jameson as “An Enlightenment and Victorian Feminist” because I have so enjoyed Jameson’s travel writing; I wished I could have heard some of the Hogarth papers, the session on Pope’s Rape of the Lock; a session on the politics of mourning in 18th century poetry, gothic romance and real life; Rivka Swenson’s paper on Eliza Haywood’s Secret History of Mary Queen of Scots (I’d have liked to know if it at all connected to Sophia Lee’s Recess or Scott’s later Abbot; and the whole sessions on Mozart; global cities and gardens; and disability, war and violence. But one cannot be in two places at one time.



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