Archive for July, 2010

              Enfin, songez, mon cher Porphire, qu’il n’est qu’un temps de la vie pour ecrire & pour travailler, & que ce temps s’ecoule avec une extreme rapidite [remember there is only one time in life for writing, for working within, and it flows away oh so swiftly, relentlessly], Adele et Theodore, Felicite de Genlis

Rosalba Carriera, Venetian 18th century pastel:  a young girl

Dear friends and readers,

Mistress to Philippe Egalite, beloved mother-tutor to Louis-Philippe (the citizen king from 1830-46), and a female Talleyrand.  This is a blog dedicated to (as she used to be called) Madame de Genlis, her life, her educational writings, the gothic, and her connections to Austen.

As I wrote last time, I’m embarked on a reading product for a shortish paper on the lesser-known gothic sources of Northanger Abbey, its fuller intertextuality (to use fashionable phraseology).  Sade’s La Marquise de Ganges is one of these; another is Genlis’s Adele et Theodore ou Lettres sur l’education (1782), especially the embedded three novels. As I’ve done before, I’d like to share and work out some of my ideas here.

Felicite de Genlis, circa 1780s, by George Romney

As she is no longer well-known outside of scholarly, French and women’s studies cirlces, I thought I’d start with a biography:  Caroline-Stéphanie Félicité de Genlis was born Jan 25, 1746 and remarkably long lived (died 1830), considering her fame as an aristocrat and connections to various internecine parties of the French revolution, including Philippe Egalite (d’Orleans, heir to the throne) whose mistress she was.  She rose through using sex and marriage, writing, governessing and politicking as a high servant in a house (and manipulating scams), salons and in later life kept her head and provided herself with a roof through keeping on the right side of great men (e.g., Napoleon) and fleeing at the right time to the right place (e.g., Switzerland in 1793).

She had five children.  Three by her husband, Charles Alexis, Count of Genlis, later Sillery:  Caroline, the first, by Genlis (later La Wolestine); 1766, Pulcherie, her second (later de Valence), 1768, a son, Casimir, who died at age 5 in 1773; she gave an adopted son this name years later.  Her children by the Duke of Orleans were Pamela Seymour (so called Nancy Syms, in 1780 she was 6) and Hermine Compton. 

She brought up many more: There was also Henriette de Sercy (referred to as orphaned niece).  She also brought up the children of the Duke by the Duchess:  Adelaide (twin sister had died), and Louis Philippe who became King of France in 1830.  Other children:  Genlis’s nephew, Ceasar Ducrest, and three aristocratic children:  Victorine de Chastenay [translator of Radcliffe] and her brother, and Josephine de Montault-Navailles, future duchess of Gontault).

She was a kind of poor relation of the very wealthy and well-connected (a fringe person, pseudo-gentry, not all that different from Austen say in connections).   She was brought up mostly by her mother, came to Paris, and with the help of her aunt (or close older female kin)’s rich lover, introduced at court where she played the harp and was obviously witty.  The limit of family love is seen when her husband (before they married) rescued her father from prison (captured after an unsuccessful attempt to restore their fortune in the military); then Felicite’s mother, Madame Du Crest asked her her half-sister, Mme de Montesson to help them financially; the sister refused  and Felicite’s father died in debtor’s prison. 

In the teeth of intense opposition from his family, she married a the Count of Genlis, this wealthy young man (called Sillery at the time), when she was 16: she had no property and her connections were not worth much. She was enormously talented and one of the areas she shone in was theatrics; she was a musical prodigy too.  Imagine a Mary Crawford on the harp. 

Super at the Prince de Condi’s (said to be recognizable individuals): note the harp player (Talleyran said the ancien regime provided a sweet sweet life for the privileged few).

She would play parts in amateur theaters, and she dressed very well — she was very pretty it’s said. She managed to overcome the objections of the husband’s family by diplomacy (it might be called — a talent she shared with Talleyrand who she’s very like); she then through her aunt (also made it by being someone powerful’s mistress) weasled her way into the household of the Prince de Chartres, later d’Orleans, later Egalite, whose mistress she became; she was governess to his children (thus mortifying the wife) and thus taught the Citizen King.  Both her husband (by this time Genlis) and d’Orleans were guillotined.  She escaped to Switzerland and hung on and returned to become a favorite of Napoleon. She was more consistent than people admit:  like de Stael, she was a constitutional monarchist all her life.

Genlis wrote a great deal.  Plays for children to act out. Important educational treatises:  Adele et Theodore was her answer to Rousseau’s Emile.  Wollstonecraft studied A&T; Austen used it in Emma.  It was almost immediately translated by Maria Edgeworth (who however destroyed her work, among her first) and the copy published by Gillian Dow is by at least three women translators.

Now the morality  of these books is not ours — and it is not Mary Wollstonecraft’s. Among other things Madame de Genlis counsels women to control and manipulate their daughters and shows them how.  Emotional blackmail on behalf of worldly prudence. At the time some people saw her as producing a version of Rousseau perverted.  But 19th century novelists often refer casually to the way women know how to train their daughters so as to make them submissive. Wollstonecraft said of Genlis she is an enemy to truth and sincerity of heart, a teacher of hypocrisy out of desperation.  It’s hard to say whose teachings Wollstonecraft deplored more:  Rousseau’s or Genlis’s?

Lancret, Blindman’s Bluff
Genlis was advising worldly accommodation, still accepted as a goal of education, but we define worldly accommodation as teaching children how to make a career, fit in with people, get money and make friends and connections. Among other things Madame de Genlis was specific about was that a girl must be kept near her mother, never go to a public school.  This of course gives ultimate control to the parent — if the parent is a controller.  If not, then of course the child has a free childhood — as the Austens mostly did.  She is determined to control and manipulate and the way she using lying is very troubling. But I now realize her insistence a girl be kept near the mother and controlled by her is repeated by Barbauld and kept up in the 19th century. The goal is to produce a censored mind – May Welland in Age of Innocence is a good example of what was wanted.

Austen said there was much wisdom in Madame de Genlis and I can’t tell from her usually enigmatic tone in her letters how I am to take that: seriously or ironically or both.  At any rate Austen was strongly influenced by her as was Edgeworth and Fanny Burney.

Madame de Genlis was mocked and called a hypocrite for her ostentatious piety.  She continually argues for rigorous chastity:  yet we can’t count her lovers (by which I mean she was discreet).  Her daughter, Pamela, she married off to Edward Fitzgerald (who tried to lead a real revolt in Ireland) of the Lennox clan; she would  not permit Pulcherie to divorce a brutal husband she had sold the girl to. 

I’ve disliked her since I read an important book on Isabelle Montolieu whose friend Genlis was:  Berthoud, Dorette. Le Général et La Romancière: 1792-1798, Épisodes de L’Émigration Française en Suisse, d’Après les Lettres du Général de Montesquiou à Mme de Montolieu. (Neuchatel: Éditions de la Baconnière, 1959.  She and her son-in-law (Pulcherie’s husband) and another friend have basically stolen some jewels and won’t give them up; they want to sell them and they succeed in getting away it. It shows Genlis was a low level crook, creating a scam with a thug (the son-in-law)  — and this is true of many of the ancien regime; many of the court cases Sarah Maza discusses in her Private Lives and Public Affairs are ultimately fights for money and property where one person has broken the law in a way hard to prove or egregious or somewhere inbetween. In Genlis we can see the perniciousness of behaviors this corrupt society led to on lower levels.

A second girl (the niece?) Henrietta, she managed to marry off richly to a French clan; the Chateau de Claremont shows what she bought for her by selling her.

Chateau Carlepoint

She would say how else is she to get money and live in luxury. But then she turns round and writes these pious books pretending to such tender concern over intangibles. 

The hypocrisy is unusually grating because of the distance between what she teaches, claims for herself and what was reality..

Napoleon saw her as writing propaganda for and his praise of her too reads oddly:  there is this ironic condescension.  She was also  much admired for her learning — and still is.  Thia woman spent her life among books and in writing.   Late in life she wrote a 10 volume memoir rich with information about the period she lived through, her Mémoires inédits sur le XVIII e siècle et la Révolution française.  It reveals a world whose outward unsavoury behavior is fairly close to what we see in La Clos’s Les Liasions Dangereuses.  Until recently this was the one book that she lived on through. She was also a survivor, a female Tallyrand in that.  She kept coming back.

She has a great short novel of the kind Joan Stewart Hinde discusses in her Gynographs.  It’s called  Mademoiselle de Clermont.  (Stewart does not discuss this one but it is the sort of thing she covers: she discusses the gothic novel inset to Adele et Theodore, Duchess de C******* and The Rivals Mothers.)   I’m not alone in thinking Mademoiselle de Clermont the closest any other writer ever came to Madame de Lafayette’s Princess de Cleves.  

Another popular educational work which was influential was Les  Veillées du Château (commented on twice by Austen in her letters).  I could cite a slew of novels:  they are psychologically astute.  She wrote gothics, historical novels, novels which are women centered and about bringing up children out of wedlock. One of her best historical novels is based on the life of the morganatic wife of Louis XIV:  Madame de  Maintenon.  Genlis identified with Maintenon.

A large theme in her books is motherhood. Governessing. She again and again says there is more than one kind of love, erotic love is just a small part of life, and for her it’s obvious being a mother was central. She says erotic love is only one part of her: her Rival Mothers is said to be a powerfully engaged book about how wonderful and painful it is to be a mother. She wants contorl over her daughters so they will never leave her.

She is discussed in Ellen Moers’s Literary Women – under a chapter on heroic teachers.  You find Isak Dinesen there and books whose major theme is education.  Many novels really have this as their theme, from Austen’s Mansfield Park and Emma to Anne Bronte’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall (miseducation of men). Her heir today is Azar Nafisi, in her Reading Lolita in Teheran, the heroic teacher. Genlis also liked to call herself a Scheherazade.

Adele et Theodore; ou Sur l’education

Genlis with two of her daughters, Pamela and Henriette

There are different ways of describing this book in order to try to convey its quality. On one level, it’s an epistolary novel with a large group of characters, the older ones educating the younger; they travel and it turns into a travelogue; they themselves have entangled passionate stories. It ends happily for the main characters, in a wedding that resembles Harriet Byron and Sir Charles Grandison’s.

I find it hard to convey what is interesting about Genlis’s Adele et Theodore. For one thing it’s well-written and occasional passage soar, but then you have to read them in French so for French readers, the Esprit de Genlis does bring out what is within her.  In the later 19th century a fan and popular book-maker (making books), Alexander Main created an anthology of "beauties" taken across Eliot’s novels, published and made a huge success of it.  He worshipped at her shrine, but also published such anthologies from other famous Victorians.

Well in 1806, long before she died, such a book was produced from Felicite de Genlis’s oeuvre called Esprit de Madame de Genlis by one M. Demoncaux, avocat.  I don’t know who he was, only that Elibron published a facsimile of it which sold cheaply and I bought it (around the time I got my 1785 copy of Adele et Theodore and a nineteenth century copy of Genlis’s biographical novel, Madame de Maintenon). It’s not just short beauties, poetical passages, but long stretches from this or that novel placed under topic heading, many of them moral, but also seasonal and topics like "female authors."  What such anthologies do is rip something out of context and encourage reading against a plot, ignoring the story.  And they do often bring out the best in an author, what one might read him or her for, a kind of Matthew Arnold "touchstone" point of view gone mad. The epigraph for this blog is taken from Esprit de. And the feeling of the lines is that of Adele et Theodore in French.

In a way Adele et Theodore is a book about home-schooling taken to an extreme position: all is education for the daughter by this controlled devoted mother.  One article I’ve now read says that the governess-mother, Madame D’Almane controls and shapes her daughter, through a kind of school of terror. Yes. This does not make the book sound appetizing.  The terror is done through subterfuge and thus I find that Eva Figes’s book on women’s novels from the 18th through mid-19th century (Sex and Subterfuge) is the right word.  Surely in Austen we find so much subterfuge and her characters who are the good ones dislike this so but can’t get round it.  But much very good advice and it makes me think about when I was younger and myself and my two daughters. Surely that was something of what other women readers felt reading it.  Ideas like the Importance of reflection and thought in gaining happiness. Education leads to control over self — enormous importance in happiness — and how to teach a book to get this across. As a teacher I find it piquant.

Adele et Theodore is about mother-love too, mother love trumping all; mother- and father-hood not at all on the margins, for Baron d’Almane and his friend, a tutor of a prince, exchanges letters on teaching Theodore and a prince — these are fewer but they highlight how gendered education was even in a woman who values girls in and for themselves. Genlis’s book is of course a corrective of Rousseau’s Emile where Sophie is brought up to be toy, sex mate, mother, wife to Emile and that’s it.

Here’s what our Baroness’s woman friend says about how she feels as she watches her daughter marry:  " "terrible and affecting day a mother conducts her child to the altar to put her into the hands of a stranger, and give her a master who perhaps knows only the right he has over her to make an ill use of it." 

Nonetheless, it’s also often very sentimental :   the sentimental depiction of the nun Cecilia’s father reminds me of how Sutherland played Mr Bennet in Wright’s P&P  == and why it’s all wrong.

At the same time, it does have so much in it analogous to what one finds in Austen; Austen is continually more like numbers of these later 18th century French women than anyone else of her time.  She will analyze a book or human event in a way which defends the Elinor Dashwood outlook in S&S; or Jane Fairfax trying to wrest herself from Frank Churchill, her problem is that she needs Churchill to stave off governessing. 

It might interest anyone else who has read The Princess de Cleves how often Genlis refers to it and how she provides analyses. Basically her take is not about the mother (maybe for her it was so obvious) but rather she see it as a book where the heroine discovers her lover was no such thing as she imagined (that she deluded herself) and she does not love him and has destroyed her life by her delusions. Not a bad take.  That’s how Genlis presumably would have regarded Anna Karenina.  The first adult books given Adelaide are Mme de Sevigne’s letters (ideal mother) and the English Clarissa:  "beauties of Mme de Sevigne’s style and deeply touched by the sublime Clarissa .. struck with the black character of Lovelace, and shuddered at his arts of hypocrisy: This is what I wished. It is very important for young women early on to distrust men in general. No book is better calculated for that wide purpose than Clarissa (letter 47): more comments on superiority of Richardson and why: sensibility not sexuality her aim

And there is overt modern feminism too:  In Adele et Theodore Baroness d’Almane  says she has not seen "female artists draw landscapes from Nature, or make good and correct likenesses in their portraits." Connect that to her Tales of the Castle: there is a striking defense of Angelica Kauffman and Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun and Genlis says a painter
"never conceives the project of making her [his daughter, the artist he is training] a painter of history but will continually repeat she should attempt to paint portrait, miniatures, or flower-pieces. Thus is she discouraged, and thus is the fire of fancy stifled: she paints roses; she was born, perhaps to  paint heroes."


Genlis at 50 by Pulcherie (or Caroline?), her daughter by Sillery-Genlis (her husband)

I was surprised at how engaged I became while reading it, occasionally feeling passionate over this or that issue. I’m reading it for the inset gothic novels, but what interests me is are the many letters, meditations, scenes about education. This is a central theme for novels of the era, and women especially were involved and wrote.  Wollstonecraft’s Rights of Woman is 3/4s a diatribe against several books, among them Genlis’s. Both Wollstonecraft and Genlis have written books animated by real care and concern for girl children, awareness of them as different beings, that they are susceptible to permanent damage (English, I, p 85: "Bad impressions difficult to destroy")  Educational treatises were popular in an era where there was no mass education.  Genlis quotes quite a number, critiquing and evaluating them. She means to situate herself and does in the context of many educational treatises and does and she is very insightful.

Adele et Theodore also contains inset gothic, epistolary and sentimental novels.  One is a story very like (but much poorer) Diderot’s Nun in that it’s intended to expose and critique the coercion of girls into nunneries. She shows the great cruelties perpetrated – by such nunneries too which were often impoverished places for those without a big dowry. You went hungry.

Another is a story of a younger brother whose life is destroyed by primogeniture in effect.  He is thrown in prison by lettre de cachet when he marries out of his class and won’t obey by conforming to accepting a life he doesn’t want — again of relative poverty and hardship either in India or a monastery.

The most famous is a gothic novel, very powerful which begins in Volume II and goes on for quite a while. It was published separately and in English translation too — and today exists in a modern separate edition in French.  I will treat of that centrally here.

Histoire du Duchess de C*****************  Ecrite par elle-meme

It’s the textual experience on offer that makes this novella extraordinary.  What we have is this fragmentary kind of long manuscript of the type found in the center say of Romance of the Forest or (recently) Nuala O’Faolain’s My Dream of You, only here the person is not dead but a survivor.  The story is, as I’ve suggested, about a young girl who is coerced into marriage with a very rich, Italian (important) man who has castle far away in Italy.  He is extremely domineering and passionate and he is mean and cold and cruel to people.  Our heroine soon learns to detest him and he knows it.  She makes the mistake of writing a letter to her friend to tell her about this. In this letter she also remembers a young man this friend introduced her to who she fell in love with — at first sight. She longs for him still — the Count de Belmire, related to her husband, and an ideal Grandison or St Preux type.

Well the husband goes wild with rage and jealousy.  Our heroine has just given birth, and he removes her and baby to a castle in Italy where he proceeds to terrify her and browbeat her in isolation. Only a very few servants around. He rips the child away.  He tells her he will forgive her if she tells him the name of her "lover."  She suspects if he does he will not keep his word and punish her anyway.  If you have read roman noirs or Jacobean plays, you will know she is probably right.  When she keeps refusing, in a really chilling long scary scene he gives her a drug, she looks like she’s dead for a day or so, and he claims she died. He has people visit her, and makes a wax figure (so here is a source of Mysteries of Udolpho) buried. Then he puts her in a dungeon for 9 years.

We are only at the beginning of the tale at this point.  Maybe 10 or 15 pages in. Many many more to go.  And here is the book’s greatness:  Genlis really imagine what it might be like to be a hostage.  She takes on the values of her keeper, the husband who must stay in the castle to bring her food.  A brilliant book by Judith Herman is on psychology of hostages and Diderot’s Nun is explicated by this — only Diderot knows his moral is how horrible the church institution is being used, and how vicious human nature can be.  Genlis does know this for she has a tale about a girl coerced into a nunnery in Adele and Theodore where there is no happy ending.  She also has the husband give our heroine food using a "wheel" which was used in these nunneries to provide food for girls in isolation without seeing or talking to them or them having any recourse to you.  People may recall that General Tilney according to Catherine faked his wife’s death, faked the scenes Henry and His brother were at, and now in the dead of night brings her food.

Our heroine is left in the dark, alone, in solitude.   We in the US have prisons filled with people who endure these conditions for years on end; Atul Gawande has written a  fine essay proving this is torture. Some of what he says happens to US prisoners happens to our heroine. She loses it, goes mad. There are long passages, pages and pages telling of how she feels and thinks. What it’s like to live in darkness. When he doesn’t bring food for a while, she gets frightened she will starve.

She has periods where she wants to die, but religion stops her when she comes close to starving herself to death.

It’s in the long slow minutiae of this ordeal the novella shines. No frantic language like Lewis, no evasions like Radcliffe.  The husband thinks he is right, she is an adulteress. The moral is how people can do terrible things while thinking themselves fine people. Well, here not quite. . Extraordinary intuitions about how people behave in such cases.  Sometimes I thought of  Robinson Crusoe — the loneliness of it.

The husband sickens and grows remorseful and guilty and lo and behold he confesses in part to the very man his wife loved — naturally, it was his cousin and an heir, a younger male relative.  This lover rescues her. Her husband has died so apparently there’s no use discussing the horror he was and no punishment.  Her parents are rejoiced to find her alive again and the ending as I described it ensues.

She does describe herself as in a shattered state and cannot easily recover. In fact she doesn’t quite recover, we are shown that such an ordeal is not recoverable from.

On Italy: Marie Mancini (niece to Mazarin) was married off to a Colonna prince; when she began to refuse to have sex with him because she didn’t want any more children, he became incensed and managed to have his thugs put her in  castle prison for a number of years in the Pyrenees. It was not as bad as with the duchess, but it was terrifying and she left a memoir now in print.  Men could and occasionally did put their wives away with impunity.  Castle Rackrent is said to be based on a real incident. Certainly they could put them in madhouses in the 19th century and did.

So that’s why Austen hedges in NA and says certainly in southeastern England we do not have such things going on. She can’t say for sure outside that area.

Don’t rush out and buy Adelaide and Theodore because the book is no La Religieuse (Nun) like Diderot’s. Some of Genlis’s drawn morals seem laughable at first and so inadequate, self-berating: we are to learn to obey our mothers, and not keep secrets from them; we see how dangerous it is to rely on friends who are shallow and not our mothers (I’m not kidding), how religion helps us through life, and even if it was her father who drove her to marrying a vicious man, it was our heroine’s fault for falling in love with another man first. 

All is at first said to end in bliss when she is taken from the dungeon and after several years of recuperation her daughter marries the man she really loved, Count Belmire.  (This happens in some of these 18th century women’s books: the mother marries her lover off to her daughter; in other words, our heroine at the end does not marry the hero, but prefers to give him to her daughter, she having had quite enough thank you of love, sex, marriage, "the world."  The daughter is of course glad to marry this older man — a la Marianne Dashwood who is an more oblique revenant.  The closest Austen comes to the Duchess of C************* is Eliza Brandon, though we are given some reasons to infer that General Tilney was no easy man to live with; his bullying ways could have made a miserable existence for Mrs Tilney. But like Eliza Brandon, Mrs Tilney is dead before the book opens.

But there is one moral which is brought up now and again which is to the point to some extent: how dangerous is erotic love and enthrallment for women, how risky sex. This is a theme that does underlie all Genlis’s work; it’s the justification for her teaching methods: she represses a girl and makes her scared rather than allow her to be destroyed by the system then which coerced girls into marriage, gave them no property rights, no rights of custom over their children if the husband was really displeased (husbands could and did send the children to what school he wanted over the wife’s head).  Beyond pragmaticism, there is also a running kind of awareness of great danger from violence, and emotional destruction.

There is something significant for the era also in the second "lesson" Genlis wants us to draw from the catastrophe the Duchess of C******* endures:  "fortitude."  I looked up some of the English reprints of the Story of the Duchess and discovered they were given the subtitle: "Fortitude."  It’s true she survives in a shattered state.  The point is made she cannot recover for real or fully ever from such terrorizing inhumanity — nor do people who spend time in concentration camps, undergo torture, are hostages. It’s not uncommon for them to kill themselves sometime later, and our duchess goes into retirement where our Baron d’Almane (mother-governess) and daughter (Adele) find her.

For Genlis, on the other hand, an important inference from the tale is the daughter must trust and turn to her mother.  The whole point of Adelaide and Theodore (English title) is this mother gives up her existence to teach her daughter.  Whatever one may think of the morals to be drawn or methods used, the Baroness loves her daughter dearly and when she thinks it’s okay to do so, showers affection on her.  I was led to see this by going on to read Charlotte Smith’s Montalbert and thinking further on The Princess de Cleves, Austen’s Lady Russell and her bad advice and obliviousness to Anne Elliot’s haggard state and wretched 8 years, and pressure on Anne to marry Mr Elliot, a cold-hearted mean unjust man (which 8 years ago Anne might not have withstood). I read The Princess of Cleves as also about a well-meaning mother who nonetheless gives her daughter bad advice drawn out of the illegitimate and oppresive norms of the era.

Now in Montalbert — as in Radcliffe’s Udolpho and Sicilian Romance — we get the harrassed near-destroyed mothers who cannot help their daughters. The generations go like this:   Mrs Vyvian (Miss Montalbert that was) gets pregnant out of wedlock because of "an affection cherished in secret" (Vol I, p 253) for an unacceptable (lower class) man.   Miss Montalbert lived somewhat secluded while father ill; a doctor or physican or family servant, Ormesby helps him get better; she and Ormsby fall in love, sex happens, and she gets pregnant so Mr Vyvian married her pregnant.  He knew she didn’t love him, but unlike Trollope’s Plantagenet Palliser who also married after Lady Glen separated from engaged man (though not pregnant) he did not make any attempt to win Mrs Vyvian’s heart; if father knew she was pregnant by Ormesby he’d stab her to the heart to death.  She thinks he killed Ormesby at first.  Rosalie, the child, has now married in secret too — partly for lack of advice from a good mother.

The absent or powerless mother is the black hole at the center of these gothics. In her preface to Marchmont Smith wrote that her "purpose is to enforce the virtue of fortitude." In an era when women had to endure coerced marriages, had little control over their property until they were much older (if then), fortitude is what is needed to survive. And the gothics while stories of males regarding women as their possessions to fight and tyrannize over (as Sade does too – he was sexually very possessive and jealous over Constance late in life), they are also stories of mothering — of the loss and discovery of who is your true or good mother figure. In Udolpho, at the end of the book you discover a blighted thwarted but good mother. In Montalbert we have the capitulation of three mothers to unworthy and dangerous (destructive of the heroine) demands.

This mother/daughter axis as well as female friendship is very important in the feminist perspectives and women’s studies courses. It makes for quarrels and fault-lines, for some women readers read as daughters (rebels) and others as mothers (advocating the older woman’s point of view). A brilliant book on how this political slant is really the one that counts is Marianne Hirsh’s The Mother/Daughter plot.

A sign a book is by a man is often the slighting of mothers or making their role not important with the good-man hero becoming a mothering figure. Juhasz’s book on Reading from the Heart goes so far as to say the mark of popular heterosexual romances is the man who is a mother in disguise: Rhett Butler, Mr Knightley, and (pit-a-pat goes my heart) I’d add Ross Poldark (especially as played by Robin Ellis) in Winston Graham’s historical novels set in Cornwall in the 18th century.


Genlis and children by the father’s tomb, by Hubert Robert

Finally some direct Connections to Austen:

In Adele et Theodore there’s a visit to a beautiful chateau which is reminiscent of Austen’s Elizabeth at Pemberley. Genlis present this as an emblem of peace, order, prosperity and virtue, teaching virtuous values to visitors as they contemplate it (seen in the recent movies). Austen’s Mrs Gardener knew what it was all about: a little phaeton to go round the park in each day, just the thing, Elizabeth dear. Money, pleasure, power too.  The Duchess of C********** husband is a man who once you lose his good opinion, it’s lost forever. In French the word implacable is use by him about himself. So there’s a possible memory that lies behind Darcy’s hard remark.

It’s plain to me that Genlis’s Adele et Theodore is a central influential source/paradigm in Emma, though when I come to try to work out what Austen’s stance was towards this work, how Emma is a surrogate say for Madame D’Ostalis and Mrs Western for Baroness d’Almane, I’m all at sea.  One of the particular attributes of those allusions and references we find in Austen when they are explicit is how unexplained they often remain, suggestive that’s all.  There’s a long essay by Susan Allen Ford in Persuasions 21 (1999) explicating what she finds of the parallels (many).

I do agree with her. I remain firm also with Samuel Johnson (one of the first close reading critics in English) that the way to recognize a source is something idiosyncratic in the work not found elsewhere. If you patiently read the reviews of Jocelyn Harris’s latest book, you will find for all the praise for her readings of the novels, except when the reviewer is an acolyte, the last paragraphs express scepticism that the particular source she has used is a source.

So, yes, In Adele et Theodore, Madame D’Almane’s older adopted daughter, Madame d’Ostalis does a portrait drawing of Flora, Madame de Limoges faulty daughter (cold, manipulative, amoral) with Charles watching by; Madamde d’Ostalis thinks he is in love with Flora or falling in love with her; no such thing, he loves Madame d’Ostalis.  He has to be taught to give them both up and take Adele. Here is Emma drawing Harriet in front of Elton and thinking he loves Harriet when he loves her.

We are told the Duchess of C****************

la fortune & la nature sembloient avoir tout fait pour moi … J’atteignis ma quinzieme annee sans avoir, jusqu’a cette epoque, eprouve un seul chagrin, sans avoir eu de maladie, sans avoir verse d’autres larmes que celles que l’attendrissement ou la joie font repandre .. " so she expects only good in her future. (French 2, 330, English 2, 197]

Rough translation:  fortune and nature seemed united to have made everything for me.  … I attained my 15th year without having, until that time, experienced a single [real] sorrow [chagrin], without having had a serious illness [that includes mental distress], without having poured out any more tear than tenderness or joy could expand [could make a happy thing] …

This is the opening of Emma.

1996 A&E/Meridian Emma (Davies the writer, Beckinsale and Morton, Emma and Harriet)

However, the texture of the incidents in Emma surrounding the painting are pure Austen, e.g., Emma is "detected in the design of drawing:"  If you look at the patterns of use of "dessiner" in the contemporary French women and line them up with Austen’s, you come out with exquisite mockery of Emma’s pretensions — which fit into a portrait of an egoist. (This is not at all Genlis’s point.)   Emma improves on Harriet in her "design" as she wants to make Harriet to be something she’s not — to flatter herself as well as give herself something to do in her ennui — and in so doing endangers the real Harriet. Isabella’s dislike of Emma’s portfolio also does not meant quite that Isabella is seeing her beloved John clearly (we are given lots of evidence she does not), but that her preconceived self-centered self-feeding notions are not flattered by Emma’s image of John Knightley

I may have found one such source for NA too:  in NA Catherine imagines that General Tilney actaully faked Mrs Tilney’s death before secreting her away in a dungeon. He just didn’t shove her there.  Now in the famous Duchess de C************ in Adele et Theodore there’s a strikingly long and memorable scene of the Duke faking his wife’s death — how he lures her into the room, makes her take a drug, brings people in to say goodbye, and then when she awakens, secrets her away .. &c&c.  I can’t find any such scene of faking someone’s death in this way in The Monk, Radcliffe’s Sicilian Romance or Smith’s Montalbert, all novels with the motif of the wife shoved in the dungeon or secreted away, brought food too for years etc.  It’s the dwelling on this that’s striking.  Maybe I’ve found the source for this specific idea of Catherine’s.

But then how are we to take it?  how far is this parodic?  how far are we to sympathize with Catherine’s taking gothics seriously, for Mrs Tilney had a bad time with her husband.  And it’s not the only detail in Catherine’s nightmare.  Another appears to come from Sophia Lee’s Recess; though it is one found elsewhere, the names are striking (Ellinor as well as Matilda), and another clearly from Radcliffe’s Romance of the Forest.

2007 Northanger Abbey (Eleanor mounting the stairs to her father, Catherine flees, Davies plays suggestively with fear, but does not develop it)

More "idiosyncratic" detail found in Duchess of C********** and NA:  The Duke sets up a pious monument just the way there is one for Mrs Tilney in which he asserts his pious love for his wife.

I’ve looked in two places for the faked death with children coming to the bedside and this seems to be just in Duchess of C and NADuchess of C was by the way translated into English very quickly and published separately. But I’ve only looked at two.

As for the monument, yes monuments for dead parents turn up in these fictions, often the occasion of the pious son or daughter going over in the dead of night to grieve.  Quite like Mary Shelley did over her mother’s grave in real life. Oscar Wilde would be amused — but this is heartless; rather it shows that people are influenced by what they read.  But a monument built by a husband who elaborately faked the death asserting his piety I don’t not know another example of beyond NA and Duchess of C.


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                                         Could you shrink from so simple an adventure?   No, no, you will proceed into this small vaulted room, and through this into several others, without perceiving anything very remarkable in either.  In one perhaps there may be a dagger, in another a few drops of blood, and in a third the remains of some instrument of torture; but there being nothing in all this out of the common way, … Jane Austen as Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey

From Quills: another 18th century film where we watch a book burn (others are both NA films, and Miss Austen Regrets)

Dear friends and readers,

Tonight I’m writing a blog movie-review about Philip Kaufman, Doug Wright and Julia Chasman’s Quills, a movie I did not like. It’s been my policy over the past year or so not to write about movies or books or whatever that I don’t like – as it takes time — except when I think there is something importantly bad about it. In this case too I’m clarifying to myself (or will as I write and then revise and polish this one) what I think about this movie and how it relates to my recent project.

Charenton Dungeon halls as seen or built in Quills

Someone asked me why I watched it, and have been reading Francine du Plessix-Grey’s At Home with the Marquis de Sade as the probable sexual sadism of this movie and (as I’ve discovered) the snobbery, willingness to cater to supposed glamor and liking for stories of famous aristocrats in Plessix-Grey are not my usual thing. 

Good question and I’ll answer it as preface:  more than a year ago now I read Mary Trouille’s book on Wife Abuse in mid-18th century France and liked it very very much. I wrote a blog-review:  In Trouille’s book is a chapter on a woman called the Marquise de Granges. She was pushed into an arranged or coerced marriage, and then treated horribly, beaten, terrified, harassed, and she went to court to win separation and an income, a real life court case producing records which show aspects of the ancien regime as women experienced it.  Sade wrote a novel based on her life story. I’ve wanted to read it since then.  I had listened to Plessix-Gray’s book read aloud by Donada Peters for Books-on-Tape but not read it quietly to myself which I did want to do.  In order to understand why Sade wrote a novella based on the Marquise de Granges’s story I needed to learn about him and how this book relates to his life and other work.

Miolans, one of the fortresses Sade was imprisoned in, from Plessix-Grey’s Chez Sade

I’ve also read: Sadeian Woman by Angela Carter, a brilliant parody and critique of Sade, and A. S. Byatt’s Babel Tower, which includes an inset novella set in the ancien regime where a group of idealists set up a community apart, which given human nature from Sade’s point of view (or what we find in The Lord of the Flies) becomes a hell of cruelty where the strong abuse the weak.  The story in the present is parallel to this and is about wife abuse.

I am just now reading Felicite de Genlis’s Adele et Theodore, which contains at least 3 gothic novels:    The most famous is a longish inset gothic novel,

Histoire de la Duchess de C**********, very powerful, epistolary journal, about a wife badly abused by her husband, among other things he throws her in a dungeon, beats her, terrorizes her,
which begins in Volume II and goes on for quite a while. It was published separately and in English translation too — and today exists in a modern separate edition in French. I hope to read Charlotte Smith’s Ethelinde, or The Recluse of the Lake, her Celestina (a dungeon story), and perhaps reread Radcliffe’s Sicilian Romance which like the story of the younger son in Adele et Theodore has a wife in the dungeon.  I want to bring together these materials as the underbelly of Northanger Abbey, embedded or reflected in the story of Mrs and Eleanor and General Tilney, not to omit Henry — and Catherine’s nightmare dreams.

There are different gothics, and one, male, which often features vampires, is deeply misogynistic, tends to pornographic and revels in cruelty, especially towards women, power over them.  This movie participates in except two of the women attempt to free themselves from either the hated husband or job as chambermaid — supposedly liberated by reading Justine, which is said to be (by Plessix-Grey) a kind of Candide which exposes the cruelty of the universe.  Justine is like Pangloss going about saying virtue is rewarded, and we see that the reality is the opposite. So she might as well give in to her appetites.  My view is that giving into her appetites is giving into appetites of men and becoming their plaything — and Carter partly says this. .Another type of gothic can be (and has been called) female gothic: Radcliffe writes this, so too Wharton, and it tends to be ghost stories, stories of psychological intangible terror with woman as victims. Here’s my paper on NA as a female gothic novel, recuperative, genuinely empowering

I’ve been reading about Sade and books by him:  Sade

So, now:  Quills

Madeleine ‘Maddy’ LeClerc (Kate Winslett) and The Abbe du Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix): there was such a chambermaid with that name and an Abbe who was an idealist running Charenton, but the characters as developed in this movie are fantasy.  Winslett often plays radical-thinking and feeling victim heroines (Marianne Dashwood, Sue Bridehead in S&S and Jude, respectively) Here they have a philosphical discussion which presents the idea it’s hard to tell evil from good, and indeed we will find that the evil man of the movie, Dr. Royer-Collard (Michael Caine) masquerading as an religious stern but good man is a cruel power-hungry appetite-ridden sadist who destroys the Abbe and inflicts horrendous cruelties on everyone

Caine is dressed to look Vampire like

Written by Doug Wright, directed by Philip Kaufman, and produced by Julia Chasman.  I watched this movie last night — well, nearly watched it. I couldn’t really look at the film steadily in the last 25 minutes or so.  I had to avert my eyes, look away.  It left me shaking, shocked. No one who had mentioned it to me really conveyed the horror of it.  It seems to me a horror male gothic film disguised as or combined with period and biopic drama, and connects to "horror-revenge" films or rape-revenge cycles, a subgenre of high violence, heavily sexua, brutal (I Spit on Your Grave is a notorious example).  There are articles on these, books:  Jacina Reed, The New Avengers: Feminism, feminity and the rape-revenge cycle (Manchester University Press, 2000); Colleen Kennedy, "Simulating Sex and Imagining Mothers," American Literay History, 4 (1992):165-85; Julianne Pidduck, “The 1990s Hollywood Femme Fatale: (Dis)Figuring Feminism, Family, Irony and Violence,” Cineaction, 38 (1995):65-72

I realize the film-makers are presenting it as "serious" on some level.  We have the audio-commentary (not for me as then I’d have to sit through the film in slow motion), two features (which I will try to watch), and other paratexts which announce this.  But I wonder: at some level it felt very sick (I was sickened), a revelling in imagined perverse physical pain on offer (about people’s mouths especially), even if what was exposed was the cruelties that masquerade under respectability and (yes) religion.  Bizarre too, necrophilia, sexual sadisms.

The movie began tongue-in-cheek, with Ron Cook as a parody  Napoleon, and at first was self-reflexively making fun of itself as well as other conventions. Its themes were censorship, hypocrisy, freedom of speech ostensibly, but as it went along (as Andrew Stein shows in a review),

           "is about desire and its discontents, not freedom of speech. The deplorable act uncovered in the film is not censorship of free speech but censorship of desire. Sade represents a man open to all his desires (in art if not in the real world); this is the theme that provokes and excites, fascinates and generates horror in people. Consequently, the film is about Sade and sadomasochism, and, to the extent that the ideals of free speech are at stake, they are couched in the language of Sadean perversion. Liberal ideals of free speech, when connected to a figure like Sade, become rationalizations masking the contemporary fascination with a historical figure who appeared open to forbidden fantasy; the stuff about censorship, the right of Art to say anything and critique hypocrisy, is at best secondary, a mere smokescreen. Quills thus expresses the filmmakers’ and filmgoers’ fantasies of perverse, unlimited gratification and their anxieties about the limits placed on those desires. We have only to look to consumer culture to discover the source of those fantasies and preoccupations. The media projects a continuous barrage of messages inviting people to indulge their fantasies and overcome their inhibitions. In the consumer age, to be free takes on the meaning of being free to enjoy and express desires without being censored for them (either from within or without). That is the fascination a figure like Sade holds over people in the postmodern consumer society. That is the real subject of the film (From The American Historical Review, Vol. 106, No. 5 (Dec., 2001), pp. 1915-1916)

And when the violence really got going and the attack (so to speak) on the abbe and Sade ended in the horrific death of the latter and madness of the former, it became a revelling in cruelty itself, especially towards women. We see them sodomized as a matter of course, and finding liberation in reading pornography, e.g., Simone (Amelia Warner), the girl Dr Royard-Collard buys from a nunnery.  No where in the movie do we find out anything philosophical about Justine: what’s suggested is girls want to have fun. 

Maddy reads Sade’s writing

As Andrea Dworkin and others have argued, this is changing one nightmare for the same one with a new justification that deprives women of the desire to say no. This is what is especially troubling. And that it was said to be mainstream. 

Perhaps this was thought right for a Sade movie. As the reader will see from the comments I received on C18-l, the film is a fantasy, seen as a metaphor for Sadean ideas.   As far as I can see it, the film tells us about our era far more than Sade: how a particular group of film-makers want him to be seen and how they use what’s associated with him.  So he is made to stand against censorship but he is also closely associated with sadism. In this film he is the victim not the perpetrator — as in life especially in his early years he was, if not of such total horrific acts as are attributed to Royard-Collard in the film (and his instruments and people acting for him), acts bad enough to make him a clear and present danger to others as he would not or could not control his sprees. See from Plessix-Grey’s book: Chapters 5 (The First Outrage), 8 (Easter Sunday, the Keller case), and 10 (The Orgy, sometimes referred to as "Little girls" as if prostitutes were not women) whch however tell only what got into police records and went to court at length. I do think there was something wrong or disturbed in this man: for periods he’d ben an exemplary husband, son-in-law, father, and then turn around and act out bizarre adolescent boy cruelties dressed up with blasphemies of a childlike sort.

That a film has little to do with its central historical figure in and of him or herself is very common with biopics and also many movies, sequels, to say nothing of academic literary and film criticism, recent biographies and editions.  Yes the sources are said to be (variously), Lever’s or Schaeffer’s biography.  But these are huge and I’ve dipped into them and they are hagiographical.  You would as well instance Plessix-Grey. the feature claimed that Boilly’s slightly salacious depiction of a laundress ironing lies behind the presentation of the chambermaid — she does use her iron to stop the monster-man  fro raping her; it is he who finally destroys her as we listen to her screams:

Probably the source are the movies and scripts Doug Wright knows well, and books like Bataille’s Literature and Evil.  Think of Becoming Jane, Shakespeare in Love.  A not unimportant change is to chose the brilliant actor, Geoffrey Rush who is handsome and vulnerable looking and has much gravitas:

Here he is elegant

Melancholy, and now as kind of mercurial waif, neurotic, but he wouldn’t hurt a fly, a friend to the Abbe who is deluded and destroyed by Royard-Collard:

Peter pan like, he writes all over his clothes!

It had a number of conventions at the close which are found in horrors:  the man who Kate Winslett as the chambermaid burns on the face when he sexually harasses her is a hideous fat monster type (an Egor) and he wants to get back.  He takes a scissors to her mouth, her vagina.  Just about everyone is subjected to the worst cruelties in their mouths:  tongues cut out, teeth cracked and pulled out, crosses rammed down their throats.  Close-ups of this are provided. And all this is connected to the guillotine:  the movie opens with a scene of horrific humliation and cruelty as we watch a young woman slowly put on the guillotine and beheaded in slow motion so she can experience each second of it. She gets to see the heads below.  The idea is to equate these tortures with the French revolution.

There were the counter-movement images of sympathy for women:  one chambermaid is the snitcher and it’s she who actually leads to Maddy’s death (though Royard-Collard who permits the horror to go on), but we do have Simone sodomized, Pelagie walking away with dignity (played by Geoffrey Rush’s actress wife in real life) and especially Billie Whitelaw as Madame LeClerc, Maddie’s closest friend-mother-companion. She survives and when we last see the now crazed Abbe in a cell, himself deprived of quills and paper as he (under the instruction of Royard-Collard) had deprived Sade who had been his friend if he had only recognized it:

or at least as here, harmless, civilized

Now the Abbey is given quills and paper in the laundry by Madame le Clerc as Kate (the maid) once gave Geoffrey (as Sade). The final scene of the film provides a moment of comaraderie and compassionate feeling for this older woman, which reminds me of Marianne von Werekin paintings

Abbe now the pathetic tormented starved prisoner

the old woman gives him quills and paper in the laundry

This is the closing image of the film. Compare Madeleine von Werekin’s Woman with a Lantern

There’s no comparison with the mini-series, the 1975-8 BBC Poldark, probably half-despised, which makes no over pretensions to an art film and its sources in the genuinely liberal Poldark novels by Winston Graham.  In the film there we merely get sudden and marital rapes, casual executions of people lined up against walls (roped in that morning from a prison, counter-revolutionaries the killers), very sick people (typhoid, malaria) dying with terrible miseries in prison, thrown there for poaching to feed families, starvation riots on beaches (also to get back) mantraps set up by aristocrats with feet crushed, enclosures throwing people off land, death by drowning in mines and from the wretched conditions, people shot up while smuggling to fish. Usual stuff.  More my speed. 


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Dear friends and readers,

Two novels of two sisters, P&P, written first, about 2 sisters holding a shared life apart from others (with others nearly unbearable), S&S, second, about 2 sisters sharply dissonant from one another. 

Understanding, passing time together

Discord, I do not understand you, Marianne aggressive, I must be very dull, Elinor’s reply

The same Jane Austen autobiography from different angles.  What Davies puts before us, with Jane & Elinor the same presence which accepts & endures.  Elizabeth empathizes but kicks hard, Marianne not able to comprehend, escapes, just, "the worst."

How worried and grated upon Elizabeth looks in that muddy walk:

Elinor walking too, enduring:

 It’s easily noticeable how much similar (and appropriate) language Davies gives Elinor Dashwood and Jane Bennet ("I am perfectly content … " as she moves on in grief, containing it) and how the second set of sisters (for S&S was written completely up as a full probably epistolary novel after P&P) are at loggerheads, but in both must turn to one another, for this enables them to endure life.

Over the past four days I’ve been rewatching Davies-Langton-Birtwistle’s 6 hour P&P and have found I missed out on an important element in it in my first blog:  A Spectacular, Extraordinary Film, one and others have felt there at the time, but was hard to apprehend more than impressionistically unless you study the movement-images in the film — this is the new angle Julianna Pidduck uses to such perceptive brilliant effect in her Contemporary Costume Film and I’ve begun to follow in my last three chapters (of the book I’m working on).

If you study or explore Davies’s P&P from the plot of view of plot-arrangement, how he present hinge-points, character development that alters Austen’s (or even stays with it), you come out with an Oedipal story: Mr Darcy becomes the central character, his story the one we are concerned to watch as he reforms and in so doing earns Elizabeth’s love; he is paralleled to Mr Bennet who has been an inadequate father (against a hopelessly dense mother).

But handy dandy, turn your kaleidoscope and instead study the movement images of the film, look at how many scenes say occur between major characters, how they are developed and presented visually, verbally and metaphorically, how linked in symbolic and other ways and you emerge with a story about two sisters deeply attached to one another, and Jane Bennet’s loss of Mr Bingley and her coping with it becomes a parallel and contrast to Elizabeth’s loss of Wickham, justified rejection of the comic slime Mr Collins and rejection of that noble misunderstood soul Darcy.

Studying the film this way I found no less than 20 effective scenes, many of them occurring the girls’ bedroom (so made memorable by the repeating place) and several sandwiching pivotal points in the plot:

An outline (using the divisions in the DVD):

Part 1:


1) in Jane’s bedroom they talk at length before mirror; then after a little sweep of house and Mr Bennet at bills, Elizabeth alone before her mirror — this is Jane’s bedroom. I’ll call it the double mirror scene as much is seen through a double mirror:

The "treat" is Jennifer Ehle seen in and of herself not through the mirror

Episode 3:

2) two girls talk at length in garden about part at Lucas’s lodge — tracking shot, middle length:

Elizabeth parodies Mr Darcy

Episode 4: 

2) Elizabeth arrived, we see her in Jane’s bedroom, a silent scene between two. This is preceded by a twinned scene:  Jane miserable, mortified riding in the rain; Elizabeth shamed and frustrated with parents by fire watching rain; Jane snubbed and patronized at useless meal with Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst; Elizabeth defying her mother that she will go:

Jane shamed

Elizabeth worried as she looks at her

Episode 5: 

3) Alternating with men shooting, they are in Jane’s bedroom, teasing kindly scene Elizabeth reluctant to go downstairs:

Then close, Episode 6: 

4) Jane and Elizabeth in carriage going home, few words, striking still

Part 2

Episode 7: 

5) they have a tete-a-tete in the garden while others are talking, playing – but it’s so fleeting and kept from us it’s hard to see if one should number it, but I do as a visual memory

Episode 8:

6) Jane and Elizabeth discuss Wickham after card-evening party at Mrs Philips — this a Jane’s bedroom scene, talk at length scene:

Part 3:

Episode 13: 

7) Jane and Elizabeth discuss Charlotte’s acceptance of Mr Collins, and then Caroline’s letter comes and they discuss that

8) Moving scene upstairs between Jane and Elizabeth in bedroom after Wickham’s visit (not dramatized) and painful scene downstairs; Jane really a kind of Elinor in this scene and gets a mature response (which Marianne not capable of)

Jane’s words closely like those Davies gives Elinor Dashwood in 08 S&S

Again Elizabeth doesn’t believe it

Episode 14: 

9) Jane’s letters to Elizabeth so they are communing, it emerges from time-passing sequence

Episode 17: 

10): Elizabeth writing to Jane after piano scene at Rosings, Jennifer Ehle voice-over, followed by Eliza’s distress before she encounters Colonel Fitzwilliam:

Eliza’s distress for Jane after letter writing scene

Part 4:

Episode 3:  11) 9th scene literally of two of them, fourth Jane’s bedroom scene: immediately home from Huntsford Eliza confides some of what happened

Eliza confides proposal by Darcy, and what Wickham is said to be

12) A garden scene at first Jane and Elizabeth, then mother comes and then Lydia: the language so like that of Elinor: I shall be perfectly content … I shall be myself again ….

Part 5:

Episode 8: 

13) Dreadful news: if you count the letter scene Elizabeth and Jane communing

Jane’s letter: many subjectivized flashbacsk

Episode 9:  14) Elizabeth and Jane by the door — they turn to one another:

15) by the window they discuss Lydia’s letter and there are flashbacks:

15) they are now in Elizabeth’s bedroom, at length again; mirror too (holding hands before us scene — no one will want them now)

Episode 12: 

16) now in Jane’s bedroom and Elizabeth wishes Darcy had not known, fears his despising her, intense with stress (Jane drying hair scene, ends with Darcy envisioned with Tristan and Isolde notes)

Elizabeth very fretful, Jane drying hair, all common sense

Part 6

Episode 15: 

17) scene with plants, Jane says she not bothered, in control, Elizabeth smiling

18) Jane and Elizabeth walking and talking after Bingley and Darcy’s first new visit — she is in danger of making him as much in love with her as ever

19) Jane and Elizabeth walking in after Mr Bingley leaves having proposed and been accepted and we get the first version of Elinor’s coda remark to Marianne; I shall have to find myself a Colonel; I may in time meet with another Mr Collins is in Austen

Episode 18: 

20) Final, now Elizabeth’s bedroom and she has to persuade, mixture of teasing and earnestness: in words it’s short and it’s not that lengthy either

Double mirrors open this scene and intersperse and end scenes

People often commend Samantha Harker’s performance but then do not go on to prove why it’s so good. It’s in the many silent scenes she and Cristin Bonham Carter (probably related to Helena) enact pantomime-style while the front part of a frame is devoted to articilated matter; her brilliance in conveying her own bitterness and disappointment in other scenes with her mother, Collins (his ugly visit replacing his letter after Lydia runs away)

This underlying grid of continual images of the women is backed by the often noticed meditative sequences of Ehle as Elizabeth walking. She loves to walk outdoors and I cannot but believe this is Davies’s tribute to an aspect of Austen he likes.  These are among my favorite stills in all the Austen films.  I’ve included one above of Elizabeth distressed (replacing the scene it follows of Elizabeth writing to Jane).  These are so familiar to me (and I suppose others) that I shall include only the lesser known ones.

Walking scenes:  Elizabeth is seen walking or in the open, or contemplative outside alone again and again:

Part 1,
Episode 1, she sees see the men on the horseback; on the way to the first scene (tracking shot);
Episode 2: she meets Lydia, Kitty and Mary walking and hears of Lucas party;
Episode 3, she walks to Netherfield in mud to reach Jane;
Episode 5: Elizabeth downstairs playing with dog while Darcy baths in tub, runs into,
Episode 5:  Elizabeth with dog, Darcy in tub.

Part 2,
Episode 7: she is walking high above house, contemplative, voice over of father about Collins.

Part 3: 
Episode 14: Elizabeth walking in early spring (after winter montage and Jane’s letter), meets unexpectedly Mr Wickham and forgives him:

Episode 16: walking with Charlotte, but walking moment; both love to walk;
Episode 17: one of the loveliest of the walk scenes, she encounters Darcy; walking alone after talking with Darcy, in a second after just before Fitzwilliam meets her darkness turns to light — one of few unreal moments, dream moment:

Part 4:

Episode 2:  Elizabeth’s walk revelling (running) in landscape stressed before Darcy gives her his letter
Episode 4: Summer travels, includes piece where she climbs alone on a rocky peake and looks down


The learning Davies did here goes into the 2008 S&S which unfortunately had to be just 3 not 6 hours so the movement images and sister-scenes curtailed and shortened, but they are just as surely there and central too. I will just include a summary here, with only one still for each. Now what is striking is that in most of these scenes the sisters are semi-quarrelling; there is no meeting of the minds until the end because Marianne cannot rise to understand in the way Elizabeth could Jane.  They are made much less baiting than in book, and are the most harmonious of the 5 films. The scenes of Elinor alone deeply moving; she is not contemplative, but often grieving; the scenes of Marianne archetypally, romantically expressive. 

Elinor a darker version of Elizabeth?  but also contains in her Jane. All four heroines types of JA and Cassandra when young.

The 2008 S&S:

Getting into bed together at Barton cottage at night in attic room, the first night

Elinor and Marianne (Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield) in paired scenes, often in attic or bedroom:

Part 1:
Part 1, Episode 2,
Scene 12:  Two girls in Norland bedroom:
Part 1, Episode 3,
Scene 28: Under Tree: 
Part 1, Episode 5: 
Scene 43; Attic 1:  The cold and dark and settling in together. 
Part 2, Episode 1
Scene 6, Attic two:   After dancing and set-to of Brandon and Willoughby; a sharp scene
Part 2,
Episode 1:
Scene 9:   sharp quarrel in front of mother in cottage front room, although in front of someone part of ongoing presentation of relationship. 
Part 2, Episode 3:
Scene 19, Attic 3, after Allenham and accusatory defensive soup scene.  Ends cloying again: I’ll hope for you; oh Ellie I do love him (yuk). 
Part 2, Episode 4,
Scene 31: two girls walking in meadow, brief but revealing:  I cannot understand what it’s like to be you; very dull; the talk is about how they fit as a family
Scene 38  This one where they discuss whose hair in Edward’s ring.  JA: "there is an awful lot of these bedroom scenes in this episode.
Part 2, Episode 5:
Scene 42:  Girls in attic again: "what was that long conversation with Lucy Steele about". "Nothing of consequence." Her hopes and dreams for the future."  Marianne is dismissive, but of herself she would say such things important.  Very moving music at last moment with her eyes so big and then into cave. 
Scene 45:  Again attic bedroom, now packing, no understanding of what’s happening in Marianne nor what Elinor is thinking or feeling, between Elinor and Marianne; a dialogue: we’ll see W and E … perhaps perhaps not
Scene 48:  after Mrs Jenning leaves the room we see them alone, Marianne writing, Elinor turns, hesitates, says nothing, turns away
Scene 49: split second up on balcony Marianne so sure that Willoughby will come; it’s dramatized clearly that the letter written intended to make him come quickly
Scene 60: Marianne flippant in bed that Brandon’s great defect he’s not Willoughby: Elinor is true sensibility in this scene
Part 3
Episode 1, Scene 2:  the interstices of the scene of Marianne and Elinor as Marianne writes that morning; does become a scene about male hatred, also connects to Elizas (Brandon and Williams) through Brandon’s fierce hatred; Elinor’s head laying sideways in covers again
Episode 1, scene 4: Marianne reading the letter in deep pain; this scene occurs in all four transpositions.  Resonant music; turns on Marianne lashing out at Elinor
Episode 2, Scene 7: one line, I’m so sorry Marianne, 3 stills (Marianne’s face, whole bed with Elinor next to her, then Marianne, then switch to waves crashing on sea as leading into mother writing next to Margaret with her comments about women).   HM: there has not been an order as well there used to be a scene under the sheet which is now moved to a different place … [do men regard women as toys, placed as part of Cleveland, after they arrive and before sickness sequence see Episode 4, Scene 24 below] 
Episode 3, scene 22: upstairs bedroom, now Marianne knows terrifically moving; how much should Elinor cry was debated:
Episode 4:
Scene 24: scene alone in carriage with Brandon as escort:  carriage shots one of each girl after one of Brandon by carriage and then shot of them coming up to house with warm welcome
Scene 27, at Cleveland, both faces lying down, after a scene with baby (now cut), what do men want of us?
Scene 37:  Elinor comes in with shawl, perceives Marianne very illl.
Scene 41:  Elinor weeping over Marianne: silent but full of meaning, stress not so much on her not coping but equally on her concern for Marianne (Thompson’s Elinor altogether a more ego-centered character).
Episode 5:
Dawn Scene 44: Big shot of dawn and then she is better: Oh Marianne …"
Scene 44:   Inside, bedroom, Elinor sleeping, sees Marianne looking peaceful, goes over, Elinor grasps her hands and kisses them, feel of flesh, and Marianne speaks: "Elinor!"  Elinor:  "Oh! Marianne."  Crisis weathered.
Scene 45: glimpsed Elinor reading to Marianne
Scene 52: the travelling back to Devon was originally conceived of as an Elinor Marianne scene that occurred earlier;
Scene 56: Elinor and Marianne by seaside
Part 3,
Episode 5
Scene 62/3:  Elinor insisting to Marianne that the news of Edward’s marriage hasn’t changed anything;
Scene 67:  last attic scene:  Marianne in love and Elinor happy for her if she really loves Brandon’s; she may hope to encounter a Colonel one day too.

Elinor her grief expressive in nature

Part 1,
Episode 2,
Scene 15:   Library: Elinor with papers and remembering father
Scene 16:  Beating carpet scene; Elinor for a moment there alone to beat the carpet
Melded love-montage scenes 21 (22, 23, 24, 25, 26):  Here we have a movement from frame to frame (for scene to scene) like turning a page … Elinor trying clothes turning away from mirror …
Episode 3
Scene 32:   Establishment shot is Elinor’s drawing of Norland, taken down from library wall,
Episode 4: 
Scene 35:  Carriage at night, mother & Margaret sleeping, Marianne, Elinor looks at her present
Scene 43:  Vast shot of seascape, Elinor putting up picture of Norland at Barton
Part 2,
Episode 1
Scene 7:  On the meadow/heath, Elinor walking, looking into present of book, distressed (juxtaposed to above self-control)
Scene 11:  Out of doors, Elinor in mist with bucket, as she walks down stream we see Margaret’s shells
Episode 3
Scene 30:  Inside Barton cottage: Elinor finds mother writing a letter to Edward
Episode 4
Scene 1:   Elinor realizes it’s Edward, sustained alone
Scene 36:  Outside Barton cottage, women saying goodbye to Edward, very sad, dark melancholy music — last shot of Elinor sustained
Episode 5
Scene 43:  Cave by sea, woman grieving silently:  Elinor, silhouette
Part 3,
Episode 3,
Scene 21:  Mrs Jennings’s drawing room, begins with close up of Elinor’s face,
Episode 4,
Scene 31:  Outside in the front:  Elinor runs to front and with cape over her head looks just as she did when she gazed at Edward chopping wood.
Scene 37:  Close up to Marianne’s flesh, face, very sick, Elinor in shawl, harsh chords, Elinor sees her very sick, tone of surprize, puzzle, "Marianne?" breathing hard
Scene 41:  Elinor by Marianne’s side, cold compresses, this the equivalent of Emma Thompson’s great scene: here very moving, she cries remarkably brilliantly,  wiping her eyes and face
Episode 5
Scene 44:   Inside, bedroom, Elinor sleeping, sees Marianne looking peaceful, goes over, Elinor grasps her hands and kisses them, feel of flesh, and Marianne speaks: "Elinor!"  Elinor:  "Oh! Marianne."  Crisis weathered.
Episode 6,
Scenes 62, 63, 64, connected by music as subjective, feel retrospective:  Elinor by seascape sketching, holding back tears in silhouette (Oenone); seen buying fish, pier turns into cobb (a quotation and reference to Persuasion); replacing picture of Norland with one of Barton cottage (this is home now)
Scene 66: Climax the one from the paratext: she is seen backwards looking out at sea, blurry, facing she will be alone, eating it …

Marianne Alone:

Marianne — the girl with the statue goes back to ’87 NA and is most recently seen in ’08 Miss Austen Regrets

Part 1,
Episode 2,
Melded love-montage scenes 21 (22, 23, 24, 25, 26):  Here we have a movement from frame to frame (for scene to scene) like turning a page, with Marianne at her music … for passing time: Elinor trying clothes before mirror …
Episode 5,
Melded scenes 44 (45, 46, 47):  Barton cottage, Marianne seen through doorframe playing …   Marianne playing again at Barton park
Scene 57:  Rushing seascape and her ecstatic standing there turns into fall
Part 2,
Episode 3,
Scene 28:  Barton cottage as in 95 film (and also the misty cottage of 81 film), Marianne in ravine, holding bridal veil
Scene 29:  Inside Barton cottage:  Mrs Dashwood measuring Margaret for dress; Marianne waiting at window
Episode 5,
Scene 49:  Mrs Jennings’s London house, upper floor corridor by columns, odd angle from below, and Marianne gives letter to Foot,
Episode 6,
Scene 61:   Mrs Jennings’s London House, upstairs, Marianne chases Foot but there is nothing …
Scene 62:  Outside the London shop, Marianne looking around, not he
Scene 63:  Mrs Jennings’s London house, upper floor corridor with columns, from up top or odd angle, and again no message
Scene 66:  Inside ball, Marianne runs ahead, gasps,
Part 3,
Episode 1,
Scene 2:  Daring back-and-forth between duel and Marianne’s dawn letter writing …
Episode 2,
Scene 12:   Mrs Jennings’s London house, a reception room, cut to Marianne playing piano,
Episode 4,
Scene 28:  Cleveland house seen from distance, emphasizing neuroticism of clipped cone hedges, storm coming up; satyr like statue, walks through hedge, half mad, tracking her, glimpses through columns, trees, up to temple, running high on hill with flashbacks of memories (stills of Willoughby at Allenham), choral music, idea is she has lost all perspective …
Episode 5,
Scene 48: … upstairs balcony:  Marianne caught by camera from odd angle listening, then his and Elinor’s close faces, facing off (she’s "glad" he has "lost her sister’s love forever," W:  "You despise me"), and she walks off, and camera up to Marianne who looks appalled, horrified, at last sees him
Scene 58:  Library, door opens, fruit on table, he walks slowly in, at this point the characters seem to walk slowly rather like a dream; she finds piano and sits and plays and this leads to Marianne’s dream?
Scene 59/60: Montage of Brandon letting hawk loose, while Marianne playing inside, and looks up and we see that bird, then back to Brandon, it comes back to his hand, and she is standing there, and he says come, and she smiles, but we are back to her at piano:  was she dreaming it?, closure as camera moves to see her framed and ends on fruit dish: little aria of images, collage, montage

Curious truth: in book we are told Marianne goes off alone a lot, Elinor is for being with others, but in the 2008 film we see Elinor alone at least equally to Marianne and in the 1995 film it’s Elizabeth we see alone, though we are given enough glimpses to see that Jane spends a lot of time in contemplation too.


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Dear friends and readers,

If you’ve been reading this blog, you will know that on Janeites and Austen-l the question was asked, what (if any) influence do any or all of the Austen films have on our reading of Austen’s books. I think they do influence the people who read the books too, and they give license to all sorts of popular readings today which are not in the books. Some of these readings are fascinating and brings out elements in Austen only adumbrated.   A film which enrichens, explains and interprets an Austen novel brilliantly and is an effective movie in its own right is Nick Dear’s 1995 Persuasion, directed by Roger Michell

Here is a touching still from the 1995 Persuasion:

We see Amanda Root as Anne Elliot gently kiss Sophie Thompson as Mary, see Mary brighten up and begin to behave better and Anne herself get more cheerful as she is needed, respected to some extent and is cheering her sister.

For the opening scenes of this movie until this scene Amanda Root as Anne Elliot is desperate and miserable amid her Elliot family in the great house. She stumbles, sits to the back, becomes near going into an open fit of crying when her father talks disdainfully of the curate Wentworth, looks terrible.

She tries to reach Susan Fleetwood as Lady Russell in separate scene, but we see that although Lady Russell loves Anne and means well, she is somewhat dense (like Austens’ character). She is is oblivious to Anne’s present misery and state; and when asked by Anne to discuss what happened 8 years ago, she refuses to go into it and will only say it was not prudent to marry this man and not address the state of Anne today. Her idea is Anne should go to Bath and that will help. We are led to think how inadequate this is to this depressed woman’s state, and from the previous scene realize she may be among the same people who are largely responsible for her present dejection and wretched state.

A still which shows Susan Fleetwood as Lady Bertram does not want to look at what she’s wrought (Anne’s solitary life), nor can she.

Anne then goes by a miserable cart to Uppercross — as Elizabeth tells her no one will want you at Bath. No one will pay for a carriage for her.

Anne in her animal cart — there is so much to carry you see.

Let me suggest this is the first anti-heritage film. Wright was not the first to present the poor conditions of most people including lower gentry in the UK when they came into contact with the lower orders (which Austen did) at this time.  Indeed you may find it in Poldark; but there it is limited to the abysmally poor.  Dear and Michell were the first to break this habit of presenting these earlier people as spic-and-span clean, their hair ludicrously perfect, their clothes as if they had emerged from a supercleaners, their houses those of people having 70,000 pounds (Chatsworth income) a year rather than 900.

Anne finds Mary is wretched too, partly because she is selfish, petty, narrow, stupid, nonetheless we are to feel for her as neglected by her husband (because she is) and needing Anne. We see Mary’s malice is most of the time (not all — and we see when she hurts Anne hard) harmless. Anne begins to feel somewhat better. She is needed, useful. She picks up toys, she helps her sister begin to get out of bed, and her sister makes one of her stupid remarks which are harmless and Anne laughs. Anne kisses Mary and for a moment Mary is softened and grateful. This is the first uncertain step (and Anna sometimes is again hit hard and falls back) towards health and then an experience of fulfillment. 

My discovery is this movie is about a depressed heroine who gradually gets better over the course of the 2 hours. This is the real trajectory or story of this film, and it’s very well done.  This is what we see.  You have to be subtle and watch slowly for nuances yourself to get all this. If you do though it could influence your reading of Persuasion, deepen it.

Equally we watch an analogous process experienced by Captain Wentworth (Ciarhan Hinds).  He is (as it were) stranded among people who are not as perceptive and sensitive as he (thus his speech about Benwick in the novel is about himself).  He is lonely and seeking a true congenial partner.  (The 2008 Persuasion by Shergold, Burke, and Snodin understanding this took it further and made Wentworth depressed too, anxious; not here, here the norm of filmic projected manliness still holds sway; Hinds was chosen precisely because he is so sturdy, large, proud looking.)  What happens if you watch slowly is that from the first moment Wentworth sees Anne, he is watching her, he is as nervous as she and trying to reach her, staring at her directly at moments:

He needed to get away inthe year 06

but she seem incapable of making intelligible eye-contact or acknowledging she understands:

She just looks gravely and enigmatically at him.

The first new obstacle beween them is Mary’s having come home from a shooting Anne did not go to (staying home with Mary’s child).  There (in the film)  he said she was so changed.  (In the movie this is in the house).   It’s said maliciously by Mary in the book too.  At the dinner in the film that night we can see that he didn’t mean it to hurt.  He moves off the piano because he cannot bear to take a place she wants; she is mortified by the attention.  When you watch the movie still-by-still, rather like when one close reads a poem, you see that he was intensely in love with Anne still, but had long denied this to help me cope.  If you do, you see that Wentworth tries to catch and watched Anne’s eye from the moment he enters the cottage, and then goes on to the dinner, as that’s the high time of this group.

A real problem in this movie is nowhere is it made explicit or even clear that Wentworth and Anne had an affair 8 years ago; it’s not until well in Lyme we realize it. I know this from having gone with someone who had not read it.  (The 2008 Persuasion rectifies this.)  Then the film-makers are afraid of their audience: they want to mend again a problem in Austen with her characterization of Wentworth. It’s not as bad as in the P&P case; Wentworth is not arrogant and cold and his character not out of kilter with what we see all along, but we are not given enough to be sure of what his attitude was — he does say in the final chapter he now realizes he loved her all along and that he never meant to lead Louisa along; that’s why he fled when she fell and became prostrate. It gave him his opportunity.

I feel this movie is trying to enact this hard thing:at the long dinner sequence Wentworth is looking for her approval, wanting her, watching her unconsciously and hurting her too without realizing it.  I’m now studying the film to watch this process.

It’s accompanied by a brilliant use of water imagery and music intended to make us feel we are watching a subjective experience — in this film it’s Anne’s we are in, and Wentworth we watch from the outside. In the 2007 Persuasion we have two subjectivities intertwined.

The dinner at which Anne and Wentworth first meet for a lengthy time in the same room is in the 2007 Persuasion film too, only it falls away, vanishes and we are left with the two’s inner life staring at one another in front of us.  Whether this is quite what Austen intended we cannot say for the novel is unfinished.  It does make sense of the novel.

The core idea of the free adaptation Lake House, that the two people are creating a world of meeting that never happened, nor could, its utter subjectivity and wish fulfilment would then be a further development of the 1995 insight by Dear. I love the one of the two on benches trying to reach one another, but that’s obvious (and we find them sitting side-by-side several times); what I noticed recently was a break in realism where we suddenly have a vision of ice-skate dancers; I’ve learned this realm of sport-art is one where what’s on offer continually between pairs is dreams of love and the insertion of these shots si a kind of pointer to that and Austen’s book:

Kate (our Anne character) is played by Sandra Bullock and Alex Wyler Keenu Reeves, and now I realize they were first together in Speed and feel there’s an intertexuality here, and it’s reinforced (if not deliberately) by the re-making of Speed in the free adaptation of S&S, I Have Found It, by Manohar (the Edward character).

Of course the movies can also lead those who read the books to misread them — transpositions, commentaries and analogies all do this. However, misreadings are defended all the time nowadays. I’ll write about this in another blog soon.

July 19, 2010:   more thoughts on quoted poetry in movie

When we reach Lyme in an emphatic scene between Benwick and Anne on the Cobb there are two sets of lines of poetry quoted in the film.  Neither is quoted in Persuasion: Austen’s Persuasion alludes to several poems, including one of Charlotte Smith’s sonnets about no spring (or renewal) coming again to people, Byron (several, including possibly the Corsair and through that Dante), Scott, but all that is cited are Marmion and the Giaour.

Dear has Benwick and Anne spontaneously bring out together some lines from Scott’s Lady of the Lake (Canto 2, Stanza 22)

Like the dew on the mountain,
      Like the foam on the river,
      Like the bubble on the fountain,
      Thou art gone, and forever!
This can be taken in numerous ways, but it is about death, and how death is not being there, vanishing.  The book is about lost youth (even if compensated for by its ending), aging characters, and literal death (Lady Elliot) as well as the possibility any time the Captain could be lost at sea. He almost was he says. We have the crippled ailig Harville, the dead Phoebe (shepherdess name). Benwick is citing is presumably to express his grief over the death of Phoebe Harville and also that he did not marry her in time.

The other is more curious and interesting to me. I suggest by quoting a stanza from Byron’s Fare thee well, Dear is suggesting that his reading of the novel and what we are seeing in this film is from the get-go of Wentworth’s arrival, Wentworth is still longing for Anne and Anne for him.  This differs from Austen’s book for in Austen’s book Wentworth says he didn’t realize it. As played by Hinds and directed by Michell, Wentworth is trying to reach Anne from the time of the dinner party, intensely watching her during that walk (why he sees how weary and even distraught she is), but she cannot respond or does not until several days at Lyme pass.  Coleridge’s epigraph (printed with the poem by Byron) are particularly appropriate too:   "to be wroth with one we love/Doth work like madness in the brain" — I suggest Nick Dear sees Wentworth’s incensed response at Anne’s obedience to Lady Russell coming out of half-crazed anger, why else not try to reach her in 8 years?  The second stanza (standing "aloof, the scars remaining/the hollow heart from paining …") are about them both.

The poem itself is (I think) autobiographical on Byron’s part, about leaving his half-sister Augusta. 

Byron’s Fare Thee Well

                         "Alas! they had been friends in youth:
                         But whispering tongues can poison truth;
                         And constancy lives in realms above;
                         And life is thorny; and youth is vain;
                         And to be wroth with one we love,
                         Doth work like madness in the brain;
                         But never either found another
                         To free the hollow heart from paining –
                         They stood aloof, the scars remaining.
                         Like cliffs which had been rent asunder;
                         A dreary sea now flows between,
                         But neither heat, nor frost, nor thunder,
                         Shall wholly do away, I ween,
                         The marks of that which once hath been."
                                   Coleridge, Christabel

                         Fare thee well! and if for ever,
                             Still for ever, fare thee well:
                         Even though unforgiving, never
                             ‘Gainst thee shall my heart rebel.

                         Would that breast were bared before thee
                             Where thy head so oft hath lain,
                         While that placid sleep came o’er thee
                             Which thou ne’er canst know again:

                         Would that breast, by thee glanced over,
                             Every inmost thought could show!
                         Then thou wouldst at last discover
                             ‘Twas not well to spurn it so.

                         Though the world for this commend thee –
                             Though it smile upon the blow,
                         Even its praise must offend thee,
                             Founded on another’s woe:

                         Though my many faults defaced me,
                             Could no other arm be found,
                         Than the one which once embraced me,
                             To inflict a cureless wound?

                         Yet, oh yet, thyself deceive not;
                             Love may sink by slow decay,
                         But by sudden wrench, believe not
                             Hearts can thus be torn away:

                         Still thine own its life retaineth,
                             Still must mine, though bleeding, beat;
                         And the undying thought which paineth
                             Is – that we no more may meet.

                         These are words of deeper sorrow
                             Than the wail above the dead;
                         Both shall live, but every morrow
                             Wake us from a widowed bed.

                         And when thou wouldst solace gather,
                             When our child’s first accents flow,
                         Wilt thou teach her to say "Father!"
                             Though his care she must forego?

                         When her little hands shall press thee,
                             When her lip to thine is pressed,
                         Think of him whose prayer shall bless thee,
                             Think of him thy love had blessed!

                         Should her lineaments resemble
                             Those thou never more may’st see,
                         Then thy heart will softly tremble
                             With a pulse yet true to me.

                         All my faults perchance thou knowest,
                             All my madness none can know;
                         All my hopes, where’er thou goest,
                             Wither, yet with thee they go.

                         Every feeling hath been shaken;
                             Pride, which not a world could bow,
                         Bows to thee – by thee forsaken,
                             Even my soul forsakes me now:

                         But ’tis done – all words are idle –
                             Words from me are vainer still;
                         But the thoughts we cannot bridle
                             Force their way without the will.

                         Fare thee well! thus disunited,
                             Torn from every nearer tie.
                         Seared in heart, and lone, and blighted,
                             More than this I scarce can die.

Why Anne’s mood changes in the movie I don’t know as yet:  perhaps it’s being freed from the awful family long enough, having Mary at a distance, and finding herself in congenial company for the first time in a long time. (She cares not how poor the Harvilles are.



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Dear Friends and Readers,

As a reasonable number of people on my three listservs and the 18th century French and English scholarly communities know, a few years ago now I prepared and put online an etext edition of a novel important for Jane Austen:  Caroline de Lichtfield by Isabelle Montolieu, a strong direct influence (perhaps gave rise to) Sense and Sensibility

Well, I was chuffed yesterday when I was told that Eighteenth Century Fiction, a respected and reasonably circulating 18th century periodical which publishes mostly in English (but also has articles in other languages — the one I’m referring to is in French) published a 3 page review and strong praise of my etext edition of Caroline de Lichtfield:

Isabelle Tremblay, "Isabelle de Montolieu (1751-18320, Caroline de Lichtfield, ou Memoires d’une Famille Prussienne, ed. Ellen Moody. http://www.jimandellen.org/montolieu/caroline.show.html," Eighteenth Century Fiction, 22:4 (Summer 2010):739-741.

I have now placed it on my website under the notes explaining some characteristics of my etext edition briefly.

What made it especially gratifying was it’s the second notice and I’ve done nothing at all to spread the word :). I’ve been sent a copy too. 

A couple of years ago a much shorter (and in English) review and praise was published in the 18th century Intelligencer, but the Intelligencer is a newsletter; it has a surprisingly large circulation unless you know how readable and useful it is.  But the review was shorter, not as detailed and didn’t tell all the things I put in the site: for example, I wrote a short biography of Montolieu, at the time the first one available in English. Since then Valerie Crossy in her Jane Austen in  Switzerland included a several paragraph life because Montolieu was the first French translator of Austen (Montolieu’s translation of S&S into French is now available at Amazon.fr — well, almost available, someone allowed an editor to "correct" it, supposedly to make it more "accurate," which loses some of the value), but mine is a real biography where I take you through Isabelle’s life — it’s accurate, readable and interesting.

I also correct the romancing and dismissal of Montolieu’s relationship with Gibbon: what happened is either exaggerated into a torrid romance or people say nothing happened at all.  In fact they had a kind of mild romance, an event that help Montolieu put her first novel into print:

Francois Boucher (1703-70), Morning Coffee (1739) — anappropriate picture, coming out of Montolieu’s milieu

I invited people to read my biography. After all I won’t be going on for any chapter 2 and I’ve told the life. I have to change my title.

She loved my bibliography, edition of part of Montolieu’s travel books, Les Chateaux Suisses, Anciennes Anecdotes et Chroniques,  that I included her preface to her translation of S&S. and links to Montolieu’s books elsewhere.

She did not approve of my giving each of the individual letters in the novel separate titles as that makes an emphasis not in the original where they are just numbered.  On the other hand, she admitted the titles are summaries of the story and help the reader not only in the reading of the book, but navigating back and forth and rereading and referring to it. In fact this is real 18th century practice. In later editions of Clarissa, Richardson included summaries of all the letters, and Everyman in its publication of the 3rd edition of Clarissa includes these summaries and they are very helpful. The recent French edition of Prevost’s translation, Clarisse_, includes modern summaries of each letter 🙂

She didn’t approve of my including some popular comments (one on Swiss Family Robinson):  I thought this snobbery.  But she also didn’t approve of my choice of a second novelist, Sophie Cottin as part of Montolieu’s milieu:  Amelie Mansfield

Popineau’s La Jouvence, 1934, Place des Thermes, Bagnères-de-Bigorre, France, where Cottin vacationed and Montolieu could have. 

It is true that I don’t explain why I link Cottin to Montolieu and so here is an explanation:  I did not make the second etext edition for the sake of the first. They were two separate projects which I linked together, and the two women’s work are alike and both influenced Jane Austen.  Here I’ll answer just one caveate: it seemed to me obvious that Cottin and Montolieu are sister-novelists. Their work has repeatedly been covered in the same or similar studies (e.g., Joan Hinde Stewart’s Gynographs) and both were directly influential on Jane Austen. Similarly I thought a study of the French influences on Fanny Burney an analogous one to the perspective which informs my sight, explicated further in my essay, "Jane Austen Among Frenchwomen."

What’s lovely about website productions is you can change them 🙂

Anyway I’m really pleased at the careful attention (which I know Catherine Delors will understand) and mean to correct the place where this reviewer has a reasonable criticism and also put her review somewhere on the site as an endorsement.  Although my extext edition of both books have been picked up on large scale French sites (and used by two French classes I was told about), and are available now through some French academic sites, each academic endorsement helps give mine respect and thus lead others to trust as well as read it.  Thomas Holcroft’s English translation of Montolieu’s important book is now available through google, but the French edition until mine still had no trustworthy edition.  Tremblay says one is in preparation by one of these giant team editions, but that it will be some time before it’s published 🙂

If anyone is interested, I can send the review on as a pdf. It is in French.


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Dear friends and readers,

I’ve not made a working blog on Austen — by which I mean a blog where I work out some thoughts on the Austen movies — in quite a while. I need to force myself to do this as it’s an effective way for me to see what I think about the issues connected to, and films I’ve been watching and studying. 

This summer I may say I’ve been paying attention to the movement images of which films may be said to be composed and have discovered this is the best way to understand what the movie literally is, and the meanings and art it projects. Only by going slowly through shot by shot do you begin to realize what is there in any conscious way. By studying the movement images in Gwyneth Hughe’s Miss Austen Regrets I’ve noticed a long series of stills showing Olivia Williams at work dreaming and writing her stories.

A morning reverie at Chawton Cottage

These shots punctuate the narrative, and we see gradually it’s these bouts at her desk, time during her long walks that gives Austen’s life meaning.

Someone has asked about the influence of these movies on Austen’s texts and readership. I answered in two ways (see comments), my second required a still from the 1995 Persuasion. Here it is and if you want to know what this is about, read the comments:


Well, in order to understand Joe Wright’s film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (2000, Working Title) I’ve been doing just this kind of scrutiny of movement images.  This past weeek I tried my patience by watching the film in slow motion; that is, I took down his audio-commentary and captured lots of stills. The exercise is one that enables a viewer to grasp or understand a movie for real.  One thing I picked up which I had been told in passing, but saw more clearly here:  Deborah Moggach’s script was rewritten for crucial scenes by Emma Thompson, and the fine scenes which actually reflect Austen’s book, e.g., Charlotte Lucas’s speech (Claudie Blakely does this part better than any Charlotte ever did) justifying herself to Elizabeth aggressively as well as defensively, the actual words of the first proposal-as quarrel scene of Darcy and Elizabeth, and a number of others. 

Thompson is not properly credited in either the printed screenplay (available on line) or the movie (she is just thanked specially at the close, rather an enigmatic credit too)..

On Wright’s audiocommentary and what he did in his movie:  He’s a clever guy, too smart to, like Maggie Wadey (who did two film adaptations of Austen, the 87 NA and 07 MP)  say that he loathes Austen’s text or characters or part of it. What he does is basically ignore it and make statements about the characters which may be true of *his film’s characters* but is not at all true of Austen’s book. The thing is it sounds plausible in today’s climate.  The couple of times he refers to specifics in Austen’s books (only a couple), it’s clear he doesn’t respect the books. Of one line by Darcy he says "she thinks this is a joke." He doesn’t and he implies the line is misunderstood because most people would not understand her this subrisive angry comment (by Darcy) as a joke.  Again he suggests her presentation of the two sisters is not believable.   But otherwise he is referring to his reading of the book as if it was Lawrence — and not acknowledging this at all.

In one of the interviews he gave it becomes obvious that like Ang Lee he was hired to do this film as an up and coming auteur (he had had a big success in the costume drama genre with Charles II, a 4 part mini-series) and himself had no feeling for Austen.  But Wright is most unlike Lee: Lee had made films which show a genuine sympathy for familial drama and women (Eat Drink Man Women, Wedding Banquet) and then set about if not to read the book, try to understand it by researching it, all the while his co-producer James Schamus did read it and clearly in the audio-commentary has done all he could to make Emma Thompson’s script understandable as a reading of Austen to Lee.  Why Lee didn’t read it I don’t know — John Alexander, director of teh 2008 S&S and hitherto a director of action-adventure films, read the book and understood where he and DAvies/Pivcevic deviated thematically.

Wright did read the book and from his few direct comments about its content (beyond bland praise) suggest a decided lack of congeniality..  He says the book is about 5 virgins on an island (!), a loving family (!!), and how these women are growing up to want and like sex.  When he speaks of Elizabeth after the trip to Pemberley he says she has "it" in the "solar plexus" and directs Knightley to fall against a wall when Darcy and Bingley first return to Longbourne.  This is Lawrence male egoism.  Genital sex is what women want and need from men and this drive is what his film narrates. We need to remember that Lawrence, like Twain, inveighed against Austen. The same fierce hatred of a womah who is perceived as a virgin who seeks to control men’s sexuality and herself presents women who are not jumping into bed with men.  A line Moggach kept (the screenplay writer) and to the tone-deaf ears of Wright made no impression is said by Keira Knightley to Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy: "you are the last man I could be prevailed upon to marry …"

Prevailed upon. A desire for sex and by marriage obtaining it is not at all what Austen is on about: rather it’s the necessity for a woman to marry for social and economic survival and because then she is under his thumb, dependent upon him, the desirability of liking him, of finding a decent (aimable, worthy aka ethical kind considerate courteous) man who has an income big enough for them both and children.

However, it’s not true to say as so many have, that Madfadyen is a Heathcliff. This is the result of not respecting an thus not paying close attention the film for what it is and then comparing it to the novel.  What I’ve just done for several days. (This is an important film and it influenced the Austen films after it was screened and distributed widely because it was a popular box office success.) Yes in archetype Macfadyen is the tall dark inscrutable desirable hero — and *so are both Darcy and Heathcliff*.  Macfayden is a fine actor and if he has not read the novel, he has understood that there is a problem in the presentation of Darcy’s character, and unlike all previous Darcy’s his whole performance is calculated on showing us Darcy not so much arrogant as not comfortable in social life (Aspergers anyone?) and over the course of the movie, beginning before he and Elizabeth meet at Rosings, slowing expressing his problem to Elizabeth.  In an interview in the feature, Macfadyen said he thought of Darcy as a shy man, someone not eager for social life (that’s why he danced only when he must), not good at it — as he tells Elizabeth at Rosings by the piano.

Austen’s book is not perfect! Among the problems (probably caused by that lopping and chopping) is the Darcy we see at Pemberley and afterwards is not the same man as the arrogant cold aristocrat of the scene at the Assembly hall, and we are given no sense of how the evolution happened. Macfadyen plays the character so that the two parts cohere — he’s a good actor and is wonderful as Arthur Clenham in Little Dorrit and Felix Carbury in The Way We Live Now — two very different types of males.  Macfayden’s typology is like Ralph Fiennes, usually that of a man who is sensitive.

Second problem in Austen’s text is that Wickham’s letter makes sense and to just dismiss it is to forget Darcy’s assertion of his non-forgiveness, the boys growing up, the jealousy; it’s all swept under the rug.  Wright’s Wickham brings this out — only the actor is not given enough time and space in the film. The audio-commentary suggests some scenes of Wickham and Lydia were cut to make all focus on our romantic pair — bad idea. Also to keep the film shorter so it would sell widely.

There are others, but it is these two Wright addresses. He is interested in the men in the film.  He pities Collins (he says).

Now there are some very good things in this film, and it goes beyond those which came before in different ways and can teach us about some aspects of Austen’s books.  First, Wright himself – who has read Austen sufficiently to see that Moggach’s text is wooden and won’t do (and get Thompson to rewrite) in many of the famous crux individual scenes really  dramatizes or gets his actors to enact Austen’s text more believably than others have. This is partly because he is at dusch a distance from the previous pro-costume versions. I imagine he thought David Rintoul a stick and Firth ridiculous.  Macfadyen is never condescending or disdainful; his face is never hard like Rintoul’s; he also does not smolder, ride around on a horse close up to us (the stunt man does that) nor shoot guns or fence. He is quiet in his behavior; the most activity we see is him dancing and rehearsing with Bingley Bingley’s coming proposal scene with Jane at the end of the film. And he also walks very attractively in vast landscapes.  

Wright’s quarrel scene about the proposal includes rain as a distraction and the Stourhead park to please silly fools – Wright has no respect for tthis sort of heritage beauty, not epistolary narratives.  He knows that his last scene of the kiss went over the top. What he does like is landscape, and interiors of rooms that look lived in – that are filled with the messiness of life’s doings, scarves, hats, animals, books, food.  He’s not that smart because he uses the shibboleth this or that is uncinematic to justify himelf. No one who studies films believes such statements any more.  Anything is cinematic you want to film. He means he is bored by say letters, carriages, and (to him) many of the tropes of women’s heritage films.  But the center of the film — a number of the humanly dramatic scenes and his direction of the these is persuasive — as he says, the first proposl of Darcy is like a sudden car crash.

Some of the other actors are also brilliant, either they inhabit Austen’s character as effectively as they’ve ever been done (Judi Dench for Lady Catherine, Blakeley as Charlotte) or they reinterpret the character in a profoundly insightful way: Tom Hollander as Mr Collins.

Rosamund Pike made a try at Jane but she’s too soft.  Samantha Harker in the 1995 P&P had the character right. This is yet another film where one picks up that Keira Knightley was forced on the director, but that after all, he saw she was superb at a few things and could conform to whatever is wanted.  She is good at resentment, at anger, at rigidity and holding her own, say against Judi Dench as Lady Catherine.  Against Macfadyen’s intelligence and real humility at points, she comes out so smug, I found myself preferring him. That’s a perverse reaction to a movie which like the 1979 makes Elizabeth’s subjectivity our central concern.   Fay Weldon is the only other film-maker to have done this; and it’s a telling irony you can make Elizabeth central in both a feminist and anti-feminist reading of Austen’s book..

Wright and Moggach see that the previous encounters no matter how well acted were stilted.  Moggach’s words in the feature show how she disliked Davies’s conception of Mrs Bennet (as in Davies’s film) as a grating tasteless fool who rather disliked Elizabeth and has no feeling for anyone much beyond herself, except perhaps Lydia, and Austen’s Mr Collins is simply not realistic and doesn’t fit right in these movies. These caricatures are not funny I would think Wright might say. The result of snobbishness or coldness on Austen’s part. 

But beyond this, to be sure, Austen’s is not a kind book.  Fay Weldon tried to make Anne de Bourgh a suffering tyrannized over young woman who longs for some connection to someone outside her mother (and can’t reach it).  I feel for the way Mary is often presented as flat-chested and ugly:  Austen’s caricature of a reading girl as stupid invites this kind of thing.   It may be her male caricatures of lumpish or tall stupid men (Rushworth comes in here too) show Austen’s memories of suitors she didn’t want and felt resentful were thrust upon her.  Perhaps her sending up Mrs Austen comes from memories of nagging powerful women over her — this may well include her mother.  Were it not that Austen’s book is a couple of hundred years old, some of this would not go be acceptable to many modern readers.

But the movie as a whole perverts and undermines all Austen is about. He turns the novel’s perception of the experience of life into romantic  gush; the talk about the mother is so cloying it makes me sick.  Mr Bennet deeply loves all this daughters!  Lydia is just all about ribbons.   Some of the actors know better, Knightley herself plays the role as someone increasingly alienated from her parents and especially her mother. She is very good as nasty anger, at teenage kinds of resentment and this comes to the fore in this film again and again. She’s very smug and by the end of the film I preferred Macfadyen so much over her character I wished he had married Claudie Blakeley (semi-joke alert).

It’s no use to inveigh against this film. Unlike Rozema’s movie, the 1999 MP, which was a commercial flop, this was a hit. It made a lot of money and has influenced Austen films since. How? it showed you could drop a lot of the conventions (which Ang Lee felt constrained him) and still get not just the young audience to come in (which was wanted) but the older people who come to heritage films. IN Persuasions online there are essays published which defend this film centrally. The person wants to make Austen over and Wright is doing it.

It also is brilliant film making in its own right — the inside-outside theme and many of the movement images.   think this movie is a hodgepodge, something of a mess partly because it’s made with such commercial motives and Wright just has no sympathey with women’s romance.  He made a brilliant movie from Ian McEwan’s Atonement — a book whose thrust is anti-woman with its central heroine someone who criminalizes someone for rape who didn’t do it. My studies of rape show me this kind of story is repeatedly common and it’s misogynistic in its thrust (you find it in Fielding).

What did I like about Wright’s P&P:  the long quiet sequences (like at Pemberley):

Everyone is in cream colors here

the quiet moments with that soft piano music in the back:

She is reading First Impressions — her own story in a sunlit landscape when we first glimpse her, hardly realistic but that’s the point

Atonement is a visionary film and this P&P at its real moments with soul is that too.   The long meditation she dwells in at Pemberley.   Even though Wright wants to call our attention to his big romantic scenes,  choice of heritage places, and probably gets a kick out of undermining Austen and turning her book into where heroines reach their ultimate goal when they know male genital sex, his strength is in capturing the intimate when he true to human nature and doesn’t gush or pander. Catherine Stewart-Beer puts the film’s best moments very well: " Despite its luxuriant aesthetic pleasures and over-blown Romanticism, Wright’s adaptation actually has a stiller heart, a more introspective, shyer presence compared to the lively and engaging dynamics of its textual predecessor. " 

There are a series of interesting essays, some very good, in Persuasions  Online, V.27, NO.2 (Summer 2007); some are detailed (not impressionistic or playing with metaphors) and describe the film accurately; some did praise it (it was liked — and has been influential).  I recommend reading Carol Dole:  Jane Austen and Mud (generally didn’t like the film and makes an insightful informative strong case); Catherine Stewart-Beer, "Style over Substance" (the best one); Sarah Ailwood, "What are men to rocks and mountains" (she wants to read Austen as a romantic and this film enables that); Sally Palmer, "Little Women at Longbourne" (she goes over the many divergences); Barbara Seeber, "A Bennet Utopia" (about the sentimentalization of the father especially); Jessie Durgan on cinematography (disappointing because not concrete enough)’ David Roches, "Book and Letters" (valuable as a catalogue of these things in the movie).

To sum up, this movie is a hodgepodge, something of a mess partly because it’s made with such commercial motives and Wright just has no sympathy with women’s romance.  He made a brilliant movie in Atonement — a book whose thrust is anti-woman with its central heroine someone who criminalizes someone for rape who didn’t do it. My studies of rape show me this kind of story is repeatedly common and it’s misogynistic in its thrust (you find it in Fielding). At the same time it has great moments and for the modern mind a reading of Austen which should make one pause before worshipping her. Her portrait of Collins is overdone.  

What’s best in the movie are its very movement images themselves, the long quiet sequences (like at Pemberley), the quiet moments with that soft piano music in the back that it begins with: This P&P at its real moments where he’s neither misled by Lawrence’s "solar plexis" talk nor sentimentalizing the family or siblings or love — and shows him reaching for psychological intimacy


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