Archive for June, 2012

Louise Bogan

Dear friends and readers,

This is the first foremother poet blog I’ve written since putting up my new From the Women’s Canon: Foremother Poets on my website. I chose her as first because when reading through anthologies I’ve been caught by one of her poems again and again. This is my favorite, the kind of poem one reads and thereafter doesn’t forget having read, even if details face:

“Evening in the Sanitarium”

The free evening fades, outside the windows fastened with
       decorative iron grilles.
The lamps are lighted; the shades are drawn; the nurses are watching
       a little.
It is the hour of the complicated knitting on the safe bones of needles;       &nbspof the games of anagrams and bridge;
The deadly game of chess; the book held up like a mask.

The period of the wildest weeping, the fiercest delusion, is over.
The women rest their tired half-healed hearts; they are almost

Some of them will stay almost well always; the blunt-faced woman
       whose thinking dissolved
Under academic discipline; the manic-depressive girl
Now levelling off one paranoiac afflicted with jealousy.
Another with persecution. Some alleviation has been possible.

O fortunate bride, who never again will become elated after
O lucky older wife, who has been cured of feeling unwanted!
To the surburban railway station you will return, return,
To meet forever Jim home on the on the 5:35.
You will be again as normal and selfish and heartless as anybody

There is life left: the piano says it with its octave smile.
The soft carpets pad the thump and splinter of the suicide to be.
Everything will be splendid: the grandmother will not drink
The fruit salad will bloom on the plate like a bouquet
And the garden produce the blue-ribbon aquilegia.
The cat will be glad; the fathers feel justified; the mothers
The sons and husbands will no longer need to pay the bills.
Childhood will be put away, the obscene nightmare abated.

At the ends of corridors the baths are running.
Mrs C. again feels the shadow of the obsessive idea.
Miss R. looks at the mantel-piece, which must mean something

(This puts me in mind of Susan Hill’s A Change for the Better where an older woman leaves, escapes is the more accurate word, her daughter’s house and moves to a home for the retired, and finds a better life. Or Elizabeth Taylor’s Mrs Palefrey at the Claremont where a much much older woman develops a loving friendship with a young man.)

The essayist at the Poetry Foundation distinguishes Louise Bogan as “the most accomplished woman poet of the twentieth century,” and heaps honorific words and phrases on her (“restrained, subtle, intellectual style,” about “private experience, but is not private,” “precise” and complex” (!), and of course not susceptible to alignment with feminists (by whom she has been “unfairly castigated”, “meticulously distilled”)a and writes about “betrayal, especially sexual betrayal.” She is terse, writes rhymed, accentual poetry, uses stanzas, and her poems tend to be short. See Glora Bowles, Louise Bogan’s Aesthetic of Limitation [Indiana University Press, 1987]).. I like all this and how her poetry has inward stance, is often profoundly melancholy. I love its stillness (that’s why the often-reprinted “Medusa”), its subjects which seem to be very much that of a woman (though they are often unspecific in origin). In many the implied speaker is an older women, more vulnerable, uglier (or so the world and men judge her), but at the same time or thus freer, having given over wanting what one cannot have

“Henceforth, From the Mind”

Henceforth, from the mind,
For your whole joy, must spring
Such joy as you may find
In any earthly thing,
And every time and place
Will take your thought for grace.

Henceforth, from the tongue,
From shallow speech alone,
Comes joy you thought, when young,
Would wring you to the bone,
Would pierce you to the heart
And spoil its stop and start.

Henceforward, from the shell,
Wherein you heard, and wondered
At oceans like a bell
So far from ocean sundered —
A smothered sound that sleeps
Long lost within lost deeps,

Will chime you change and hours,
The shadow of increase,
Will sound you flowers
Born under troubled peace-
Henceforth, henceforth
Will echo sea and earth.

I like the love poems which use vast and classical imagery, which are drenched with sudden hope and insight out of grief and loss:

“Song for the Last Act”

Now that I have your face by heart, I look
Less at its features than its darkening frame
Where quince and melon, yellow as young flame,
Lie with quilled dahlias and the shepherd’s crook.
Beyond, a garden. There, in insolent ease
The lead and marble figures watch the show
Of yet another summer loath to go
Although the scythes hang in the apple trees.

Now that I have your voice by heart, I look.
Now that I have your voice by heart, I read
In the black chords upon a dulling page
Music that is not meant for music’s cage,
Whose emblems mix with words that shake and bleed.
The staves are shuttled over with a stark
Unprinted silence. In a double dream
I must spell out the storm, the running stream.
The beat’s too swift. The notes shift in the dark.

Now that I have your voice by heart, I read.

Now that I have your heart by heart, I see
The wharves with their great ships and architraves;
The rigging and the cargo and the slaves
On a strange beach under a broken sky.
o not departure, but a voyage done!
The bales stand on the stone; the anchor weeps
Its red rust downward, and the long vine creeps
Beside the salt herb, in the lengthening sun.

Now that I have your heart by heart, I see.


We have struck the regions wherein we are keel or reef.
The wind breaks over us,
And against high sharp angles almost splits into words,
And these are of fear or grief.

Like a ship, we have struck expected latitudes
Of the universe, in March.
Through one short segment’s arch
Of the zodiac’s round
We pass,
Thinking: Now we hear
What we heard last year,
And bear the wind’s rude touch
And its ugly sound
Equally with so much
We have learned how to bear.

“The Crows”

The woman who has grown old
And knows desire must die,
Yet turns to love again,
Hears the crows’ cry.

She is a stem long hardened,
A weed that no scythe mows.
The heart’s laughter will be to her
The crying of the crows,

Who slide in the air with the same voice
Over what yields not, and what yields,
Alike in spring, and when there is only bitter
Winter-burning in the fields.

She is also likened to the metaphysical poets, to Walter Pater (and his love of aestheticism), but it seems to me she eschews being outstanding, nothing forced, all plain common words. She’ll call a poem, “Second Song,” and begin “I said out of sleeping,” and yet is unlike Emily Dickinson, doesn’t shock or startle you frontally (“Success is counted sweetest by those who ne’er succeed”), and she can be irritated, as in another often-reprinted “Women:” “Women have no wildernesses in them/They are provident instead.” Not everyone can take a chance, be wild, wander about daringly as she did.

I prefer the poems where she drops all classical masks and uses the imagery of such poetry to visualize her state. Her sister here is her other uncontrollable self:

“The Sleeping Fury”

Your hair fallen on your cheek, no longer in the sem-
      blance of serpents,
Lifted in the gale; your mouth, that shrieked so, silent.
You, my scourge, my sister, lie asleep, like a child,
Who, after rage, for an hour quiet, sleeps out its tears.

      And now I may look upon you,
Having once met your eyes. You lie in sleep and forget
Alone and strong in my peace, I look upon you in yours.

No sentimental returns to childhood for her when she grew older: from “Kept:” “The trumpery dolls, the toys/Now to be put away:/We are not girls and boys.

And I get a certain wry exhilaration from her address to her glass of wine, enemy and long-time friend:

… Take from the mind its loss …
Return to the vein
All that is worth
Grief. Give that beat again.

John Singer Sargent (1856-1825), Wineglasses (1875)


Louise Bogan (late in life)

Despite growing up the daughter of a white collar mill-worker (her father) whose mother is described as “unstable” (very bad, and yet worse, adulterous), one of three children where the middle child died, moving about she had an excellent education: a New Hampshire convent (1906-1908) and at Boston’s excellent Girls’ Latin School (1910-1915), where she received a classical education in Latin, Greek, French, mathematics, history, science, and the arts. How I know not. She even went to Boston University, and then by earning a scholarship to Radcliffe. Another bad mistake was escape through an early marriage to a German soldier, which landed her in Panama, with a daughter; another flight to her parents ended in reconciliation with the husband and army base life. By 1919 though she left her daughter with her parents, and went to NY, a year later upon her husband’s death gaining a widow’s pension. Somehow she then went from a job at Brentano’s bookstore (there weren’t so many of these good bookstores then) to being a member of the NY literary community, people who counted (good poets and writers too), friend of Edmund Wilson.

1925 another husband (Raymond Holden, from a wealthy family, a sometime poet and novelist who had been a friend of Robert Frost), she retrieves her daughter and is living the life of a woman of letters. A Guggenheim in 1932 (and trip to Europe, Italy, France, and Austria, struggling to write and often depressed, the marriage falling apart completely), she returned to NY to put herself into a hospital (again they were different then) with a severe nervous breakdown. Out (7 months), divorcing, making it with some good friends, she became a staff writer and wrote stories for the New Yorker. Money troubles came (she was once evicted) but the 1930s and 40s were good years for her; they included a love affair with a younger poet, Theodore Roethke. Out of Italy and this relationship came the magnificent:

Roman Fountain

Up from the bronze I saw
Water without a flaw
Rush to its rest in air,
Reach to its rest and fall.

Bronze of the blackest shade,
An element man-made,
Shaping upright the bare
Clear gouts of water in air.

O, as with arm and hammer,
Still it is good to strive
To beat out the iamge whole,
To echo the shout and stammer
When full-gushed waters, alive,
Strike on the fountain’s bowl
Alive the air of summer

Sargent, A Roman Fountain in a Medici Villa

Another good relationship much later was with a much-less admired man, an electrician from the Bronx who helped her during a depression (they met on a boat to Southampton); she hid this lover from her friends so the sources I’ve read don’t cite his name. Her last apartment was on West 169th and from there she lived her later hard-working sometimes depressed years as critic, essayist and poet. She was alcoholic in these later years. She died in her apartment of a coronary occlusion February 4, 1970.

I hope to read her autobiography this coming year (or soon at any rate): Journey Around My Room, edited by Ruth Limmer. Her original works include: Achievement in American Poetry, 1900-1950 (Chicago: Regnery, 1951); Collected Poems, 1923-1953 (New York: Noonday Press, 1954); Selected Criticism: Prose, Poetry (New York: Noonday Press, 1955); The Blue Estuaries: Poems 1923-1968 (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1968); A Poet’s Alphabet: Reflections on the Literary Art and Vocation, edited by Robert Phelps and Ruth Limmer (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970).

It fascinates me that she translated Goethe’s dark bitter Elective Affinities: I realize I’ve read his Sorrows of Werther in her translation (both with Elizabeth Mayer). She wrote on Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf. Ruth Limmer (who seems to have been her close friend) edited her letters: What the Woman Lived: Selected Letters, 1920-1970. Elizabeth Frank’s is the biography cited: Louise Bogan: A Portrait (New York: Knopf, 1985). Jaqueline Ridgeway did the sensible Twayen. Jane Couchman produced a book of primary materials by Bogan for research; Martha Collins an anthology of critical essays. Poets Bogan’s studied with: Elizabeth C. Dodd, The Veiled Mirror and the Woman Poet: H.D., Louise Bogan, Elizabeth Bishop, and Louise Glück; Mary DeShazer, “My Scourge, My Sister: Louise Bogan’s Muse,” in Coming to Light: American Women Poets in the Twentieth Century, edited by Diane Wood Middlebrook and Marilyn Yalom (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1985), pp. 92-104.

Margaret Foreman (b. 1951), Mrs Mabel Whitehead (cover illustration for Elizabeth Taylor’s Mrs Palefrey at the Claremont)


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“They found at last, on examining their watches, that it was time to be at home” (1995 P&P, scripted Andrew Davies, final walk, P&P 3:17, Ch 59)

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve completed an accurate and fully detailed calendar for P&P, the first ever done in this detailed way: A calendar for P&P. I did it by noting all the mentions of days, months, intervals of time that are almost continually (not quite) to be found on every page of the extant P&P; checking these with the equally careful (if not so frequent) annotations of distance walked, traveled, planned; and noting all novel’s letters quoted whole, in part, paraphrased, summarized, mentioned, referred to significantly, remembered or simply mentioned.

My conclusion is that an ur-Pride and Prejudice (so to speak) can be seen clearly (not just glimpsed) in the summary chapters and placements of material in the present text. First Impressions in the first and subsequent drafts (there was more than one) was wholly or nearly wholly epistolary, much longer, and made Jane and Bingley’s story as prominent as Darcy and Elizabeth’s and used Lydia’s romance as am intrinsic counterpoint for both.

In my previous blog I mentioned the chapters at the close of Volume 2 and opening of Volume 2 where we have the concurrent correspondences of Jane with Elizabeth and Elizabeth with her aunt Gardiner. There are a sequence of chapters that has a similar mix of narrative types in Volume 3 of P&P

Beginning with the insertion of Jane’s two letters to Elizabeth at Lambton (Vol 3:4, Ch 46) and then resuming after Elizabeth comes home and has her conversation with Jane, where there is a break in Chapter 5 and continuing to near the end of Chapter 7 there is a similar mix of whole, partial, and redacted letters set more or less in date order (with new narrative connectives) which tell the story of Lydia’s elopement which occurred concurrently with the story of Elizabeth’s 2 visits to Pemberley, and Darcy’s return visits to the Lambton inn. Andrew Davies intuitively (or consciously) saw in these a coherent story he turned into a flashback in his mini-series. The section as presently constituted includes 5 letters in whole or part from Mr Gardiner, 1 from Mr Collins to Mr Bennet, 1 from Colonel Forster (summarized), 2 from Mr Bennet (quoted and paraphrased, Lydia’s letter (given whole), & 1 from Jane to Mrs Gardiner (now vanished) and of course Mrs Gardiner’s crowning revelatory finale.

I had mentioned the vestigial epistolary feature shown up in the sudden insertion of Mr Collins’s October 15th letter in a chapter which occurs much later in time. Now I’ve found ironic juxtapositions of the kind I found in the present Sense and Sensibility which would come naturally when you write epistolary narrative (and are free to rearrange time and have events occur concurrently by different groups of people) but not have the same effect at all in omniscient narrative. Ironic juxtaposition is one of the satiric strengths of epistolary narrative.

The original novel had two sets of letters around the time of Elizabeth going to Pemberley: Elizabeth’s first visit to Pemberley is on the Tuesday, the same Tuesday (confirmed twice by Jane) that Mr Bennet left Longbourn to chase after Lydia. It would have been very exciting to have these two events run concurrently. Far from being a superfluous back story piggybacked into Pride and Prejudice and irrelevant to its main plot-design, Lydia and Wickham’s stories both were intrinsic.

Wickham and Lydia eloping (95 P&P, Pt 5)

Parallel scene in original book of Elizabeth and Darcy walking together in Pemberley (94 P&P, Pt 4)

From my calendar as taken from the present novel:

Saturday night, August 1st, “an express” “at twelve just as we were all gone to bed.

Saturday, August 1st: early evening: Lydia leaves a letter for Harriet, (now given Elizabeth to read by Jane on Saturday August 8th as Mr Collins’s letter was similarly replaced later in the omniscient narrative):

“They were off Saturday night “about twelve, as is conjectured,” “not missed till yesterday morning at eight.”

Sunday, August 2nd: Colonel Forster upon hearing from Denny that Wickham did not intend marriage, he traced them to “Clapham” but no further”. He tells this to the family at Longbourn on Monday: called “yesterday” in the second half of Jane’s letter written Tuesday.

Monday, August 3rd? “… “within five miles of Lambton” Pemberley was situated … a mile or two out of” their road. Jane writes her first more hopeful letter.

Tuesday, August 4th: “The next morning, the subject revived … To Pemberley, therefore, they were to go. This day also is day Mr Bennet went to London in quest of Lydia. It is not conjectured but stated by Jane: “Yes he went on Tuesday as I wrote you word … ”

And the salient oddity: Austen did not delete from Mrs Gardiner’s letter a description of Jane’s letter written (Mrs Gardiner says) the Wednesday before hers, which sufficiently described to her the shameless behavior of Lydia and Wickham upon their return to Longbourn: Mrs Gardiner would have felt personally insulted by Lydia’s behavior “if I had not perceived, by Jane’s letter last Wednesday, that her conduct on coming home was exactly of a piece with it” (Longman III:10, 276, ch 52). There is no such letter; the sequence has been turned into omniscient narrative.

Again Davies’s 1995 P&P has picked up the psychological perspective: Samantha Harker as Jane is hurt, irritated, even angry and put on edge by her mother’s screeching joy and Lydia’s needling.

As Mrs Bennet launches into lamenting over Lydia marrying in London, her lack of clothes, marital announcement, Jane has clearly (if quietly) had it (95 P&P)


“The men shan’t come and part us, I am determined. We want none of them, do we? Darcy had walked away to another part of the room. She followed him with her eyes: Mrs Bennet’s Tuesday night party upon Bingley’s return. From the 1979 BBC P&P, scripted by Fay Weldon, the only one of the P&P films to dramatize Darcy & Elizabeth’s thwarting

In my previous blog I catalogued and described 4 important Tuesdays in the present P&P; I have two more and a third patterning with Tuesday whose whack when coupled with another day resembles that of Lady Susan and Sense and Sensibility.

These 4 were: Mr Collins’s first letter (written Tuesday, October 15th); the first long day & evening Elizabeth spends at Netherfield with a very ill Jane up in the bedroom (Tuesday, Nov 12th, signalled by Mrs Bennet’s letter saying she does not want her daughters to return before they’ve spent a whole week at Netherfield, so not before next Tuesday is done); 3) the day the Bennet girls walk with Mr Collins into Meryton and witness Darcy and Wickham’s strained encounter, leading an already aroused Elizabeth to be suspicious that something untoward needs explanation (Nov 19th, the next day after “Mon, Nov 18th)

As played in the 79 P&P, Wickham is ashamed

Darcy mortified

Elizabeth fierce

and 4) the day of the catastrophic Netherfield Ball (Tues, Nov 26th, a day and/or date mentioned several times).

To these I now add:

5) The visit to Netherfield, Tuesday, August 4th, whose importance needs no demonstration, but now it is equally the day that Mr Bennet set out on his futile journey to rescue Lydia and Jane wrote her second distressed letter.

6) Tuesday, September 29th: The word Tuesday mentioned three times. Bingley invited to dine (Longman III:12, 287, Ch 54). This day is built up as important in text but has been overshadowed by Lady Catherine’s visit; its marginalization has been reinforced because it’s usually skipped in the P&P films and has been rarely discussed. It’s the day that Bingley and Jane manage to renew their love, but Darcy and Elizabeth are continually separated. It could be treated as semi-comic anguish and is by Weldon in her film: Darcy and Elizabeth end up seated “almost as far … as the table could divide them,” they are thwarted in their attempts to talk; Darcy is sucked into a card table at the other end of the room.

That Tuesday night Darcy confesses his manipulation intervention and been dishonesty to Wickham: he had kept secret from him Jane’s presence in London for three months (a detail similar to Elinor’s keeping secret for four months from Marianne Edward’s clandestine engagement to Lucy). Bingley is described as very angry, Darcy leaves we must assume much chagrined, and, as he tells Elizabeth after she accepts his proposal, despairing of Elizabeth. His departure of course desolates Elizabeth.

So this is a bad Tuesday.

One less obvious Tuesday which I hesitate to cite as it does not fit my criteria of announcement directly in some way, and happens off-stage, but as it fuels an ugly event I feel I can’t ignore it: it seems to me a bleak kind of joke that the day that Collins received the letter from someone in Hertfordshire regaling him with gossip. This previous day may be a Tuesday and this letter prompted his vicious triumph.

The Bennet girls listen to Mr Collins deliver his “condolances” (how the letter is conveyed in the 95 P&P): again Samantha Harker as Jane conveys a strong sense of the nastiness of his in the rigid lines of her jaw

Perhaps Mr Collins’s letter appeared as an insert in Jane’s to Mrs Gardiner. This is a Richardsonian technique: the insertion of letters within other letters.

In Austen’s Lady Susan and S&S I’ve noticed a pattern of double whacks which include Tuesday: On a Tuesday Lady Susan terrifies her daughter, Fredericka, with demands that Fredericka marry Sir James, and on Wednesday early in the dawn, Fredericka writes her revelatory letter to the hero, Reginald, Lady Susan’s deluded lover whom Fredericka loves; on a Tuesday night Willoughby snubs Marianne Dashwood and on Wednesday early in the dawn, Marianne writes Willoughby, prompting his cruel letter and the return of her letters and lock of hair.

To refer to my calendar: between Wed and Thursday, Aug 12th-13th (but probably Wednesday), Mr Collins’s letter is inserted. It is not necessary for the plot-design, but Austen kept it to expose him & his hypocritical Christianity. It’s in the vein of hard caricature see Longman P&P III:6, 552, Ch 48). He has hurried to tell of the affair to Lady Catherine and her daughter; he conveys Lady Catherine’s withering dismissal of the Bennet girls from here on in as marital choices, and his “augmented satisfaction on a certain event of last November”. We learn someone wrote “by letter” to tell them (Lucases?) yesterday.


Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth reading Darcy’s long letter to her

We have to stop thinking about this novel as originally dominated by Elizabeth. It originally had an array of correspondents and yes a much wider purvey and perspective therefor. Ironically critics are endlessly writing about what is not explicitly or even implicitly in the extant novel (the politics of war for example) and ignore what’s there: on each and every page Austen’s mind is on literal verisimilitude and psychological time in reading, writing, responding from a variety of characters, among them Mr and Mrs Gardiner:

Joanna David as Mrs Gardiner sitting down to write to Elizabeth (95 P&P)

I’m now going to turn my attention for a couple of days to some books on time, the development of the ability to track small intervals in the era, the genres which grew out of the an awakened consciousness of daily time, and how time works in epistolary fiction and addressing oneself to another intimately in psychological development. Then I’ll turn to Mansfield Park. I’ll put off reading about Mary Queens of Scots until after that.

I’ve chosen beyond Janet Altman’s Epistolarity:

Stuart Sherman, Telling Time: Clocks, Diaries and English Diurnal Form, 1660-1785 (good sections on diurnal subjective literary forms in the 18th century);
Gary Saul Morson, Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time (“Everything I do is planned … “)
Eviastar Zerubavel, Hidden Rhythms: Schedules and Calendars in Social Life (I’m looking forward to this one)
Irvine Schiffer, The Trauma of Time (this may be more relevant to Austen than people might imagine)

I too am a person who follows routs, schedules.


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Elizabeth to Charlotte: “their correspondence was as regular and frequent as it had ever been (1979 BBC P&P scripted by Fay Weldon, II:3, Ch 26)

Dear friends and readers,

I know the idea has been around for a long time and a number of people have argued in learned journals (sometimes for several paragraphs, complete with a rough outline of a calendar) that First Impressions was epistolary. I have written a paper trying to demonstrate that as Elinor and Marianne, S&S was first written as epistolary narrative, but not until early this week did I truly believe firmly this is so, and especially demonstrable from the present P&P.

Mrs Bennet reads Miss Bingley’s letter to Jane inviting her to Netherfield (1979 P&P, I:7)

People have attempted to work out who wrote who and from where, from statements in P&P, e.g., between Mrs Gardiner and her two nieces. Mrs Gardiner and Elizabeth, Elizabeth and Jane, Charlotte and Elizabeth (first when she is Miss Lucas and then as Charlotte Collins), and suggested maybe Elizabeth went on the originally planned longer tour, when FI was much longer, how it was set into a 1796-97 calendar, altered in 1799, set into an 1802 calendar, lifted off the grid and re-set to 1811-12, by looking at the calendar’s inconsistencies and gaps.

What no one has done is to trace the calendar in full detail, look at the chapters as redactions of longer correspondences where a narrative summary has replaced what was epistolary, and sample letters and quotations of letters brought in. I believe I’ve found a vestigial epistolary feature in the present text too. I also uncover the patterns of alterations and contractions in the present P&P. What follows comes from my newly exacting calendar for P&P.

Why do it? because the persistent, frequent and closely repeated precise indications of intervals of time, days of the week, a few dates (month and numbered day) as well as distances reveals the nature of Austen’s art, what was in her conscious mind as she wrote — as well as another curious pattern of important Tuesdays, all of which Austen tells us are a Tuesday. I cited three for S&S in my last blog.

I’m not finished with the novel yet but, using an 1811-12 calendar as of the time of Lydia’s elopement I’ve found 5:

1) Tuesday, 15th October, from Hunsford, near Westerham, Kent Mr Collins writes his letter, (I:13:);

Jane ill, Elizabeth rightly concerned (1995 BBC/WBGH P&P, scripted by Andrew Davies, I:7-8)

2) Tuesday, Nov 12th: “The next morning” Mrs Bennet’s “felicity of contrivance” lands Jane ill in bed, and we have the very long day whose phases of time Austen carefully plots from Elizabeth’s reception of Jane’s evening before note, three miles, long day by Jane’s bedside alternating with time in the Netherfield drawing-room (Mrs Bennet’s refusal to let them come back until the following “Tuesday” so that they will have been there a a full week as of this second Tuesday confirms this);

3) Tuesday, Nov 19th: “The next day” after Mr Collins’s arrival on Monday, Nov 18th, Lydia’s plan enacted: the girls take Mr Collins with them to Meryton and Elizabeth sees the estranged encounter of Darcy and Wickham.

“You have delighted us long enough, Mr Bennet to Mary (95 P&P, the Netherfield Ball, I:18)

4) Tuesday, Nov 26th: the famous Netherfield ball where Elizabeth dances with Darcy, is mortified by her family while he is alerted to Bingley’s intense attraction to Jane and Mrs Bennet’s determination to marry Jane to Bingley;

Mr Bennet realizing Sat/Sun, leaves Tuesday (Jane’s further letter) (95 P&P)

Elizabeth realizing as she reads both letters at Lambton inn (95 P&P)

5) Tuesday, August 4th: the day of Elizabeth’s visit to Pemberley, Mr Bennet’s trip to town to try to find and rescue Lydia from infamy and the second part of Jane’s letter informing Elizabeth of all this (“”Yes he went on Tuesday as I wrote you word”)

Elizabeth’s shocked surprise (III:1)

Darcy startled (III:1)

I have excluded conjectured Tuesdays (where on can work out a Tuesday but it is not named by Austen) and Tuesdays that are named but do not as yet seem to me made emphatic (as the “Tuesday” in Sept 1812 when Darcy and Bingley dine at Longbourn). I may have to change my mind when I see all the novels this way. (I’m not as quick as Sherlock Holmes.)


Darcy writes his long letter (95 P&P, II:12, Ch 35)

Vestigial and full-blown epistolary features (based on Janet Altman’s study):

1) Oddities often reveal that we have failed to explain something. So, first, an oddity. Mr Collins’s letter is dated 15 October but first put into a much later chapter where the date is (we are told in the letter itself) Monday Nov 18th. Mr Bennet reads it aloud for the first time on the day Collins is due to come. This is odd; he would have gotten it a month earlier and written a fortnight before (as he says) and never mentioned it to anyone? And tell just before Mr Collins arrives? He might have in order to avoid the fuss Mrs Bennet will make, but the pace of the chapter is different from those that have gone before, sudden and abrupt. Instead of slowly from moment to moment we suddenly jump back and forth. She does it real smooth. It’s almost not noticeable. But it is since she leaves those dates in.

I surmise the letter itself originally appeared in the novel in the place it’s dated and thus the reader read it — without having to ask ourselves who else read it.

2) If you trace the calendar carefully as I’m doing now, you notice the characters discuss 5 meetings between Jane and Bingley which they refer back to, discuss and were cut. These, together with William Lucas’s assembly ball are in one of the periods of indeterminate time. Darcy later on refers to dancing only four times at a ball where he knew no one, but the ball where he knew no one he refused to dance. At Sir Lucas’s assembly there is not one mention of Jane and Bingley; indeed at no point in the novel do they ever talk to one another.

I suggest Jane Austen revised the first quarter of her novel to make the attention of the first curve is wholly on Darcy and Elizabeth and that romance and cut all else away ruthlessly away (including Jane and Bingley’s encounters). Collins’s letter is held off so we will not be distracted. Also that the thematic emphasis would have come out more directly: first impressions. Bingley is manipulated to receive the wrong impression about Jane’s love for him; perhaps we saw situations where he could have easily been mislead.

Obviously Elizabeth gets the wrong first impression of Wickham and Darcy but as Wickham’s letter now stands there is more to be explained. In the present novel Elizabeth just dismisses the charges of Darcy’s jealousy and we are asked to forget how really nasty and exclusive his early behavior is. It seems that in the present novel we are to say that when he meets someone who makes the hierarchy irrelevant, Darcy makes an exception for her (or is an Aspergers type) rather than she was really mistaken. His behavior in the early part of the novel also resembles that of Lord Osborne in the unfinished fragment The Watsons, and Catherine Hubbard accounts for Osborne by presenting him as really shy and awkward, but in P&P once Darcy changes tactics he’s not shy at all.

3) A central feature of the epistolary novel is the letter as actor, the letter as what initiates an action or phase. We know of one: Darcy’s long one. Another is the reader reading the letter: usually in the form of another letter to a friend. We have that: Elizabeth’s reading Darcy’s letter.

In his commentary to the 2005 P&P Joe Wright said he disliked letters in a movie (so uncinematic and dull he opined) but could not avoid them: Elizabeth reading Darcy’s letter

At the close of the present Volume I we have a sudden turn to vagueness (no longer moving tick-tock, tick-tock except now and again within the vagueness and dialogues surrounding Miss Bingley’s letter. That letter is an initiator.

(We have some further long letters, Mr and Mrs Gardiner’s in Volume 3 as a way of telling Lydia’s story, with Elizabeth and Jane’s readerly responses).

4) There seems to be a correlation between when time in the novel turns indeterminate and much was “contracted” (to use Cassandra’s term) or “altered:” we are a few chapters in the book which are made of quotations from letters (or a correspondence), descriptions of letters, an interconnecting narrative, with a powerful climactic letter as if Austen were taking a bunch of letters and condensing them by linking narrative and summary into brief transitions.

For example, II:3, Ch 26: Here we have two correspondences cut down: Jane’s and Elizabeth’s; Elizabeth’s and Mrs Gardiner. As Jane was experiencing her anguish in London and writing to Elizabeth about it and Elizabeth reading; so Elizabeth was experiencing her more controlled and distanced pain as Wickham dropped her in favor of the suddenly richly endowed Miss King in Hertfordshire. In both cases we end on a poignant letter, in Jane’s case frankly presenting her pain, in Elizabeth’s rationalizing it away. These are the remnants of two correspondences which ran parallel in FI.

Elizabeth reading Jane’s letters (95 P&P — Davies intertwines Jane and Elizabeth’s voice-overs

Jane’s vigil told in letters is visualized (95 P&P)

A lot in the present P&P is closely similar in thought patterns to the present S&S. No surprise as these two extant texts were written either in tandem or alternatively 1809-181.3 The way in which Jane stubbornly holds onto her faith in Miss Bingley in the face of all signs of cold betrayal anticipates or rehearses or simply is parallel to the way Marianne maintained her faith in Willoughby; the way Jane thinks about it is similar to Mrs Dashwood’s: “considering what her behaviour was, my confidence was as natural as your suspicion” (II:3, Ch 26). The way Elizabeth justifies Wickham while “less clear-sighted” (the narrator’s phrase) about Charlotte’s need anticipates or rehearses how Elinor justifies and forgives Edward but not Willoughby. Love is blind.

There’s a closely similar mixture of unmoored conversations (some of biting satire between Mr and Mrs Bennet), remnants of dramatic narrative, connective tissue and the climactic redacted letter in I:24 and II:1, Ch 25: Austen cut a much longer accounting of the arrival of Miss Bingley’s letter, the devastation of Jane, the pain inflicted on her by her mother and her father’s sardonic ironies.

5) During Elizabeth’s visit to Hunsford one can see very clearly (because the section is long) that we go back and forth between indeterminate and/or approximated time to precisely clocked or phased time. During those parts of the novel which are precise we have the famous long scenes at Rosings, Elizabeth’s walk with Fitzwilliam, and Darcy’s proposal These are very like the long letters Samuel Richardson uses to convey his novels. When the clock slows down to tick-tock, tick tock with every hour and phase of a day accounted for, we are similarly in the famous scenes say of assemblies and balls at Herfordshire, or the time at Pemberley.

By contrast, Lady Susan is written to a template of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, where the length of the letters is kept credible. If then LS is a mid-career book (as I believe it to be), Austen had indeed moved away from earlier epistolary modes by her mid-career, but when she revised her books for publication the best writing was still that which the epistolary narrative genre had encouraged or allowed.

Epistolary narrative does allow a novelist to personate a character directly without having to analyse in a more distanced way as 3rd person omniscience demands and it allows for continual reflection and ironies through juxtaposition.

Helen Fielding’s highly successful free adaptation made strong use of voice-over (2001 Bridget Jones’s Diary)

Well those are my findings thus far and I’ve not finished P&P for an umpteenth reading. What I’ve not broached is how Austen’s obsessive keeping of time and her choice of epistolary narrative in the first place relates to her sense of selfhood in the novels and in her life, her psychic adjustments as an artist and woman and the 18th century developing sense of time through the growing use of clocks, calenders and subjective art forms.


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Paula Rego, Germaine Greer (1995)

Dear friends and readers,

At long last I have made a new section on my website. It will be a kind of online anthology of women poets, beginning in classical or the earliest recorded time we have and continuing to today. I call it “From The Woman’s Canon,” for it can represent only a small part of a canon that itself doesn’t properly exist. Paula Backscheider (whose Eighteenth Century Women Poets and their Poetry I reviewed) is just one of many women scholars who have demonstrated that a large and varied women’s canon would exist but that much of it has been destroyed and what was left censored, with its original perspectives changed, often reversed. I probably first became aware of this when a couple of years after finishing graduate school (1982) I discovered that there had been quite a number of Renaissance women poets, and a number of these had large oeuvres of poetry. No one had said anything about such a group when I was in graduate school, and for a time I majored in the Renaissance.

by 1984 I had begun to go once, twice, perhaps three times a week to the Library of Congress to do research on Anne Finch whose poetry I had fallen in love with while doing my dissertation on Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa and Grandison. During that time I had learned there were many women novelists who were good and had written fine novels; but their works were no longer available and what one could learn of their lives was the result of very recent compilations, surveys, books like Mothers of the Novel by Dale Spender. Now I began to discover more women poets, 17th through 18th century and many poetry that I loved and thought superb. They often took a woman’s view of the world. Among the critics I read then to whom I was grateful for her work was Germain Greer (whose picture you see heading this blog).

Well that was 30 years ago, and I’ve gone on to read many feminist (and not so feminist) histories of women’s literature, and seen an explosion in publication of women’s writing. I have myself now translated the complete poetry of two Renaissance women (Vittoria Colonna and Veronica Gambara), done original researching on the still unpublished writing of a great 18th century poet, Anne Finch, and written for conventional publication as well as here online about many women writers.

I find especial solace and strength and write about women’s life-writing, novels, films, but poetry remains my special love. and sometime during 2005 I began to write short lives of women poets to which I attached what I thought were their best or most characteristic poems and evaluative commentary. I would also offer a list of essays or books by or essays on these poets, or anthologies which included them. I put these on my first blog, Ellen and Jim Have a Blog, Too (see remnant of part of blog devoted to Jane Austen).

It was probably around 2005 I joined Wom-po, a listserv community devoted to talking about and sharing women’s poetry, and there I met the listowner, Annie Finch, poet and translator who had declared Wednesday to be a day for us all to share poems by women. She was committed to recovering a woman poets poetic tradition, to the reality that women “think back through our mothers” as writers, readers, artists.S She had declared Wednesday to be a day for us all to share poems by women. After I began to post, she declared Friday to be a day for posting poems about and lives of “foremother poets.” The custom continued for some months, but after that most of the people only contributed now and again. I was one of the people who contributed consistently and by the time of the First Annual Festival of Women’s Poetry (online), had with thirty lives and poetry ready to be put on the site.

Since then I’ve written more of these little lives, posting them to Wom-po and also the listservs I moderate (at Yahoo: Eighteenth Century Worlds, Women Writers through the Ages, Trollope19thCStudies), and when I opened my new blogs I began on Fridays to write them regularly (Ellen and Jim have a blog, Two, and Reveries Under the Sign of Austen). Now, in order to make these visible to others, to have one single handy place to reach them, and to fill in unnoticed gaps, I have decided to gather all I’ve done on my website onto this one place.

Foremother Poets: From the Women’s Canon

As you will see, I tell a version of the above little history, define “foremother” and have arranged the poets chronologically. To facilitate finding individuals I also provide

An Alphabetical Index

Stevie Smith (one of my favorite mid-20th century poets)

While my selection must reflect my own knowledge and tastes, I have a wider goal because I have gained so much in my life of meaning, strength, pleasure from women’s writing, and so have made a third section which I mean to add it. It is a list of

Anthologies, Handbooks, Histories & Essays, Blogs & Periodicals.

I had early on when I first made my website (1995-96), put together a bibliography of women’s literature. This was simply intended to help other researchers do research on any and all women writers; its origin in my studies of Renaissance literature is reflected in the choices, but it is wide-ranging and attempts to supplement all sorts of causes. This new site is narrower and perhaps shows my experience over the past 15 years of life on the Net, socializing with writers, readers, editors, publishers, and may useful for those coming to it beyond any needs for research or specific knowledge.

In Annie Finch’s “How to create a Poetic Tradition,” Finch demonstrates how central to visibility and thus a perceptible, findable, and usable context for writers and readers is “the entire literary apparatus of reviews, anthologies, journals, histories, panels, conferences, encyclopedias and textbooks.” Anthologies which are 90% male and where the choice of poem is often an unacknowledged masculinist bias (presented as universal or general) cripple the woman writer. Anthologies, handbooks, histories of literature come out of people’s desires, respect, point of view, what they think others will value. So the context is the manifestation of living people and people in the past reading, writing, talking, acting together: “numerous small acts of persistence … To edit, write, and create this apparatus is creative and fulfilling work in itself and tends to enrich a poet’s poetry.” I hope also to enrich other women’s lives as readers, as people, to be able to find a book or text that really speaks home to her.

The site is intended to help reading girls and now women especially not feel alone in their particular sensibility.

Cardplayers: Francis Coates Jones (1757-1932), called The Perplexed Player

If you want to find the books that Germaine Greer wrote as a feminist and specific research on feminism or any women writer, go to the bibliography; if you want to reach a picture of the woman’s poetry canon join in this is yet another place on my site where you will find women thought to be unusual because they were writers but whose lives were like your own in many ways gathered together.


Paula Modersohn-Becker (“To sleep among my paintings is beautiful”)

I hope to keep adding to this website. I have written “lives and work” blogs for a few women artists and many more postings about many women artists for Women Writers Through the Ages, and mean eventually to include these on my site as blogs or linked in from the Yahoo site

My speciality has for the last 15 years been the 18th century, and I read French fluently and Italian pretty well, but would be happy to add material for other languages and women poets beyond my three. I realize how weak my site is in German anthologies, to say nothing of non-European texts.

If anyone knows of an anthology of women’s poetry you think ought to be included, please to let me know. The sole criteria is that it should be an anthology, history, handbook devoted to women poets. I know I have already broken this “rule” (consistency is a bugbear &c), but in the couple of cases where I did there were so many women poets in the supposed general anthology and the selection seemed so good or important I cited it; also I have a few general histories of women’s literature because they include many women poets or are historically important.

I have written about girls’ books and hope to make include this special and important subset of women, of whom I once was one. (See also Deborah O’Keefe, Good Girl Messages and Maureen Corrigan’s Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading) I have two (biological) daughters of my own.

Vanessa Bell (1878-1961), “Her granddaughters [Amaryllis and Henrietta] reading” (with their dolls nearby)


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Mary: “‘Oh! do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow.I cannot be dictated to by a watch” (1983 BBC Mansfield Park, scripted Ken Taylor), Fanny, Mary, and Edmund walking into the part, MPII,Ch 9)

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve gotten into my project of study towards writing a paper on the curious pattern of “important” or bad Tuesdays I found several years ago in Austen’s novels as I drew out the timelines for her novels.


First, I’m returning to the novels rereading them and am almost through S&S and have confirmed for this first published novel there are three of these Tuesdays, with two named specifically. The day Elinor is humiliated and mortified by Mrs Ferrars in front of the Steeles, Dashwood, Brandon, Mrs Jennings and whoever else was at that dinner party is called “the important Tuesday” and a study of the timeline of S&S bears this out.

Two or three important Tuesdays:

The day Willoughby left his card is referred to by him as “last Tuesday” on the night of the snubbing, and my calendar bears out that the snubbing or the morning after of the terrible letter was a third Tuesday.

Monday or Tuesday 15-16 January 1798. “Nothing occurred during the next three or four days . . . about the end of this time” Dashwoods engaged to attend Lady Middleton to a party. Marianne’s public suffering is at least not prolonged. The meeting occurs soon after the Dashwoods enter the room: “They had not remained in this manner long . . . ” The important statement for the chronologist is Willoughby’s “I did myself the honour of calling in Berkeley-street last Tuesday . . . My card was not lost, I hope.” (1:6:175-77; 28:148-49) Tuesday or Wednesday 17 January 1798. The first letter in the novel we get to read; four altogether, one by Willoughby, and three by Marianne. “The next day . . . a cold, gloomy morning in January,” Marianne writes Willoughby last letter which is sent from his lodgings to where he is breakfasting with Sophia Grey at the Ellison’s. During long breakfast she receives the reply (“Bond Street, January“), together with her 3 letters of 4, 11, and 17 January 1798, and the lock of her hair. Around 1 o’clock Elinor is perusing Willoughby’s letter and remains dazed by Marianne’s side until the coming of Mrs. Jennings’s “chariot” to take Mrs. Jennings to Mrs. Palmer’s rouses her to go over the letters with Marianne.

All pivotal moments in the novel. The card produces Marianne’s second letter. The snub needs no explaining. The dinner party leads to Lucy Steele being taken into Fanny and John Dashwood’s house and then her exposure and Edward’s ejection.

“I did myself the honour of calling … last Tuesday … My card was not lost … ?” in S&S (1995 BBC, scripted Emma Thompson): a week later Wednesday dawn after Willoughby turns coldly away Tuesday night, snub/mortification, deep distress; Marianne writing, Elinor sitting by

Tuesday 13 February 1798, “The important Tuesday” dinner party which “introduces” Elinor and Lucy to Mrs. Ferrars who “distinguishes” Lucy in order to spite Elinor. Elinor overtly snubbed. (2:12:231-36; 34:196-99).

“The Important Tuesday” in S&S (1971 BBC, scripted DConstanduros): John and Fanny Dashwood’s dinner party: Mrs Ferrars has done all she can to mortify Elinor; Marianne defends her fiercely; Mrs Jennings to her right


Now I want to add to this an account of those days where we get three indications of time: day, month and if not the exact date (though in some of the novels we do), a indication of precisely which week in the month is meant. For example, when Elinor meets Nancy Steele in Kensington Gardens, we told this occurred on “the second week in March” and on a “Sunday. Since Austen has given us sufficiently precise information on when Easter occurred, the year may be arrived at (1798).

S&S 2008 (Andrew Davies): far shot of September trip to Barton Cottage

What months are mentioned: “very early in September,” a “showery October” “The first week of January” their departure from Barton to London “on the approach of January” “Latter end of January” Lucy to come to London because Edward will be there in “February” “a cold gloomy morning in January” “early in February” the two Miss Steeles present themselves in London. It was “last November” they came to Barton Park; Colonel Brandon remembers “February … almost a twelvemonth back”;and we are told the Dashwoods and Palmers and Mrs Palmer are considering leaving London the “end of March for the Easter holidays” and in the event leave “in the very early days of April.”

I’m looking at the distances and time carefully calculated: Cleveland (we are told) was within a few miles of Bristol, the distance to Barton was not beyond one day, though a long day’s journey (3:3:237) and intense attention paid to time: Marianne “draws up a statement of the hours, that were yet to divide her from Barton, 3:3:237; they’ll be home “in little more than three weeks’ time. Brandon “calculated with exactness the time in which she might look for his return”, 3:7:264. “How slow was the progress of time which yet kept them in ignorance”, 3:7:267. Brandon and Willougbhby’s stories filled with continual time-keeping, time words.

1983 S&S (scripted Alexander Baron): Brandon returning to Delaford; the ’81 film could have used more sense of Eliza Williams waiting there for him: all three men have a backstory to confess

After S&S, I’ll go for Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion, Lady Susan, The Watsons. Then the Juvenilia and then the letters.

What does this curious pattern mean? where does it come from? it’s an obsession with place as well as time: “What Edward felt on being within four miles … day after day passed off, and brought no letter, no tidings” (S&S III:12, 302-3)

2000 I Have Found It (Raj Menon): Sowmya (Elinor) watches Manohar from afar on TV

Well, in 1998 when I was writing my paper, “A Calendar for Sense and Sensibility,” I was so intent on demonstrating my thesis that the S&S we now have represents a revision of an epistolary novel into an omniscent one, with add-ons of chapters (1-6 for example), insertions of chapters (like Mrs Dennison’s musical party, and new connecting chapters (the trip from London to Cleveland for example, where either the pace of the novel was so different from that of the central sections or its content self-explanatory instead of narrative — that I was ignoring one obvious source. Austen’s obsessive time-keeping. Hardly a paragraph is written in those sections which were epistolary where we are not old so many minutes passed by for this to happen, so such-and-such amount of hours, or days, and occasionally weeks or a fortnight.

I had simply been looking for the instances of humiliation, mortification, loss that occur on Tuesdays, seeing the descriptions and creating a general picture. I wondered if Austen combined some memory of a personal trauma with a way of deflecting it through jokes, and to make a joke of it, Austen just might have used “bad Tuesdays” in Richardson

>Clarissa: Lovelace announces the rape of Clarissa on a Tuesday:  “Tuesday morn, June 13: “And now Belford, I can go no further. The affair is over. Clarissa lives. And I am your humble servant, R. Lovelace (Letter 257)

Clarissa 1991 (scripted by David Nokes): aggravated rape (Clary further humiliated because women there)

Grandison: Charlotte Grandison is married on Tuesday, it’s called “the Important Tuesday” and much attention is paid to coercing her acceptance of Lord G), many letters devoted to this;

whether bogus or not I know it but it’s said that Mary Queen of Scots had a very bad Tuesday night before her execution. Mary had a bad night one Tuesday in 1585 because she was executed the next day, Wednesday.

Now I shall take another trajectory which takes into account the calendars as such. I had not sufficiently considered how central is the keeping of and playing with time in the epistolary mode, especially when you have several central interlocutors, how this relates to the creation of a subjectivity that matters to the person experiencing it.

I’ve begun to read sources here: Norman Holland’s The I (the subject in intimate contact with another subject, self-formation); Janet Altman’s Epistolarity with its long section on temporality in epistolary narratives; and today I’ve been told about Stuart Sherman’s Telling Time: Clocks, Diaries and English Diurnal Form, 1660-1785: A revolution in clock technology in England during the 1660s allowed people to measure time more accurately, attend to it more minutely, and possess it more privately than previously imaginable. In Telling Time, Stuart Sherman argues that innovations in prose emerged simultaneously with this technological breakthrough, enabling authors to recount the new kind of time.

Perhaps worth while is to look into sophisticated writers’ use of time: Margaret Church’s Time and Reality (dealing with the awareness and uses of time in “modern” respected writers (Woolf, James, Proust), but I suspect I’d do better to see how Scott kept time in the portion of Redgauntlet that’s epistolary as opposed to the omniscient part. How much attention Richardson pays within a letter. Seek a few of the mass of epistolary novels of the era Austen knew so well, from the great by LaClos (Les Liaisons Dangereuses), to ordinary uses like de Stael (Delphine), to whatever is the most feeble — to see exactly what happens to time.

On my website I had suggested Austen was using time to imitate the pace of internal and external reality as we experience it in life. Now I want to look at how this keeping of time was also a form of controlled poetic utterance she could handle and shape step-by-step. Her metaphor of herself working on a tiny piece of ivory takes on a new meaning.

Now I need to take that more seriously and relate it to her sense of herself and her life story. That will (I hope) also provide a framework for my A Place of Refuge: The Sense and Sensibility films.

My underlying key idea is that authors who use epistolary narrative originally and with multivalent voices come to this from a life where they have themselves used routs, repetition, holding fast to time as a way of conquering and dealing with stress and depression. They seek control over their environment and shape for their existence this way. I saw Richardson that way, under his carapace Trollope and (from her letters and novels too and her picture and verse), Jane Austen.

I’ve long been fascinated myself as a person who needs routs in writers who make a sophisticated use of epistolary, e.g., Trollope’s Partly Told in Letters.

The Other Boleyn Girl: we never tire of these stories of compensatory victimhood; Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies the latest money-maker. Austen participated in these sorts of displaced emotions too


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The Chateau de Jourdan, near Nerac, to which Jean Francois Capot de Feuillide took Eliza Hancock & her mother in 1784

Dear friends and readers,

I finished reading Claire Tomalin’s Jane Austen: A life for the second time a couple of days ago, and wanted to record here that it seems to me the best biography of Jane Austen now available. It’s much better than is usually admitted to and (what is sometimes suggested) is by no means just an updating of Elizabeth Jenkins (whose book still has the merit of being the first serious full unbiased one which brings to bear on Austen’s life the matter we find in her novels). Tomalin is much franker than Jenkins, has found out more about Austen’s relatives, friends, milieus. As Park Honan’s book misses the inner reality of his subject, Tomalin’s chief modern rival is David Nokes who did far more original research and thinking than Tomalin, especially in his examination of Austen’s letters; yet when Tomalin treats of Austen’s novels she is much more accurate than Nokes (who perversely seems to prefer the Juvenilia), is less personally reactive to her life (Nokes dislikes the idea that Austen didn’t like Bath because he would have liked it) and thus is more accurate about Austen’s personality.

Tomalin is a gifted writer, a stylist and she writes biographies that feel like novels. Her people come alive and they make sense as interactive characters in an imagined environment, only this one is real, has recorded reality. She did go to France to ferret out the full story of Eliza de Feuillide Austen who (after making the usual bow to Deirdre LeFaye’s defensive pro-family stances) Tomalin treats as Warren Hastings’ biological daughter) Tomalin goes on to it as this explains so much that happened to Eliza in her life.

Tomalin’s retelling puts everything into place, especially de Feuillide’s real motives in marrying Eliza, and hers for marrying him. Eliza was clearly a stigmatized yet protected person (we see this in the way Jane Austen’s family describe and treat her) as the biological daughter Warren Hastings provided for and helped from time to time and yet kept, together with her apparently unperceptive somewhat incompetent mother, briefly his mistress, at a distance from him. Hastings became a source of introduction to desperatgely needed patronage for George Austen’s naval sons. The Mary Crawford character would be a direct reflection of Eliza. The Steventon theatricals lie behind Mansfield Park — Eliza did become seriously involved both with James and Henry Austen (eventually of course marrying the latter who himself pretty quickly preferred to go off to Godmersham alone. Jane Austen was not the only intelligent woman, Edward’s rich wife, Elizabeth did not like. Tomalin does seem to over-rate Jane’s connection with Eliza which from the letters was intermittent and not confidential — Jane has to maneuver her way round Eliza’s needs and assumptions in the way we see her doing Edward and Elizabeth Austen’s to say get permission to leave early to visit the woman she was really attached to, like Catherine and Alethea Bigg.

Plan of Sloane Street, London, where Austen stayed with Henry and Eliza (from 1900 mapping)

Tomalin is particularly good on the De Feuillide connection. This fringe bourgeois hoped for huge sums to conduct a drainage project over lands he actually had little right to enclose: in effect he tried to sluice the money Hastings wrenched from Indian peasants to take over this land (through bribes) and then enrichen himself in developing it. In the event the French revolution put an end to that. Tomalin brings out how Philadelphia Hancock had probably formed a second liaison outside marriage, with Lambert who was the conduit for this marriage, which Hasting’s businessman, Woodcock and George Austen, Philadelphia’s brother, saw in its true light. Both parties (Feuillide and Eliza) presented themselves somewhat falsely to one another. de Feuillide was no count and Eliza knew it some time after marrying him; her lien on Hastings was limited. Hence they did not last.: marriage was indeed a take-in from her experience. At the same time Tomalin does full justice to Eliza’s behavior as the mother of a disabled son, mentally and physically dependent and defective, epileptic. No Lady Susan she. She also clung to her mother as the one person she could count on to be there whose relationship with her was not on some level unaccountable (Hancock’s letters are pathetic attempts to control his wife, Hastings would not acnknowledge actual obligation). She seems to have found the Steventon family a comfort she did not quite belong to either.

The importance of this is the woman was part of Austen’s central growing up experience and as a comparative woman’s life. Tomalin provides a similarly rich portrait of Eliza Chute who is another perceptive sensitive unconventional type to some extent whom we might wish Austen had formed a close relationship, who we feel she ought to have (like Emma with Jane Fairfax), but whom Austen makes nasty cracks about: when Eliza proposes to visit, Austen says she knows ‘a trick or two of that’ as if the visit is meant aggressively. Austen seems to be jealous of, and avoid Chute; I suggest a deeper look and thought tells us that like Anna Austen but not Fanny Austen Knight, and and perhaps like Henry or James in certain moods, but not Frank, Chute threatened the older Austen’s conventional carapace thickened to protect her from hurt (from the mother? Cassandra even).

Here is one example of what Tomalin intuitively does quickly so well again and again in detailed expositions that other biographers do not. Two poems Austen wrote to Catherine Bigg on the occasion of Bigg’s marriage have been printed numerous times. In the Todd and Bree Cambridge edition (Later Manuscripts), while they begin with the disparity in age between bride and prospective bridegroom (she 33, he in his sixties) and quote Austen’s line to Cassandra on the day before this wedding; “tomorrow we must think of poor Caroline” (25 Oct 1808) and then four years later when Catherine was pregnant for the 4th (!) time, “there is a melancholy disproportion between the Papa and the little Children” (2 Sept 1814), the latent insight about the tone and mood of the poem that could have arisen and explanation for the imagery is lost amid a welter of detail on Austen’s great skill as needlewoman, talk about hand-embroidered handkerchiefs, because Austen sent such a memento to Bigg with the poem. Southam resembles Chapman in just saying the poem was part of a wedding gift and leavimg it at that (nothing about the man Bigg married, her pregnancies, the beautiful house she got), and implying Catherine was a not-so-close friend who happened to live at Manydown Park, the very place where Austen almost married Catherine’s brother.

Jane too could have been mistress of Manydowne, and she saw the price that Catherine Bigg had to pay for this

Tomalin’s way of telling this calls our attention to the disparity in age and Austen’s feeling of real distaste and pity for her friend. The embroidered square of cloth is secondary. Tomalin places the incident of Catherine’s marriage in immediate context: it occurred in time just after Austen saw herself defeated in one of her many plans to gather women friends together, and was trying to retrieve the plan by uncharacteristically begging Edward to provide the needed carriage. He yielded after she gave him and Elizabeth (still alive then) a “private reason” for wanting this and then did it grudgingly.

(Digressive. Tomalin also tells us in another place how when Edward would come home at 11 in the night, he would demand Fanny get out of Elizabeth’s bed so he could get in. Asserting his rights over this perpetually pregnant woman. I rather think that her keeping Eliza out of the house (Eliza may not have wanted to visit, but Henry did a lot – theirs was not exactly a close marriage it emerges in this book) and Jane and sister and mother no offer of a place to live might have seemed to her a small enough thing not to endure these smart women.)

Back to Catherine Bigg’s Charlotte Lucas-like selling of herself. Tomalin then shows from a couple more of Austen’s passages from letters in in 1808-09 (written in Southampton) that Austen had become more explicit (less indirect) about describing her spinsterhood as freedom and liberty. Austen was no longer hurling bitter filips against births, marriages, but rather openly feels sorry for women getting married (this is the tone of her “poor animal” about Anna after a few years, a couple of births and miscarriages), identifying with some of the servants around her (eating together before the fire) and intensely aware of how other women were coping or failing to cope with their dependent marginalized status.

Then Tomalin goes over the imagery and tone of the poems:

Cambrick! thou’st been to me a good,
And I would bless thee if I could.
Go, serve thy mistress with delight,
Be small in compass, soft and white;
Enjoy thy fortune, honour’d much
To bear her name and feel her touch;
And that thy worth may last for years,
Slight be her colds, and few her tears.

Tomalin points out as no one else does that this one was not sent, but rather a weakened self-censored second version:

Cambrick! with grateful blessings would I pay
The pleasure given me in sweet employ! —
Long may’st thou serve my Friend without decay,
And have no tears to wipe, but tears of joy!-

There are no tears of joy to be expected in the first version. Because Tomalin situated the poem so, I for the first time took a look. I noticed for the first time that the poem has intimate imagery. The handkerchief will be against her friend’s skin, feel her “touch” live in close proximity, physical. This reminds me of other poems — by Anne Finch and Katherine Philips — to other women which have a strong erotic component. In other words it’s the lesbian impulse coming out. Suddenly this is not some vacuous stuff sent with a pretty nothing but a statement as genuinely felt as her poems to Anna, to Mrs Lefroy, on her headache and on the frivolous happenings in Winchester as she lay dying but had (she hoped) made herself immortal in her writing however overlooked for such a long then and then undersold.

You could read Austen’s to Catherine Bigg in the three editions and dismiss them as empty nothings pinned to an overwrought gift (a waste of time better spent writing or reading or walking with a friend), but not in Tomalin is my point. Suddenly they come alive.

I am a therefore little nonplussed at how Tomalin does not pick up on Martha Lloyd. She will remark as an afterthought that Martha was there living with them, traveling with them, but never seems to click in her mind – or did it not. She sees it was Martha who had First Impressions by heart. Tellingly she takes out time to deny that when Jane and Cassandra might have slept together it meant “anything” more than forced sleeping arrangements. She does see that once Martha and Jane threw a housemaid out of a bed and got in together and read (we are told) and another time spent the night on the floor together. Probably an urge to stay away from GBLT and also a preconceived idea it was Cassandra who was everything all the while she does see how often they are apart, and brings forward Anne Sharp as an important (in the literature) underrated friend. Here it’s her liberal leftism wanting to find Jane preferring the governess to everyone else in Godmersham. so she sees the importance of the governess at Godmersham (the one Austen had her most real relationship with), Anne Sharpe.

Still she is otherwise alert to discomfort, misery, lies in heterosexual sex. Similarly, she does see how Frank was apparently the most valued and least uncomfortable relationship with her brothers for Austen. She suggests Henry may be seen in Henry Crawford. There’s a good sum up of Jane’s ambivalent relationships with Henry and Edward (pp. 195-98), but again she does not go far enough on what her evidence is showing. I have not myself mentioned how Frank tried to impose his will and control her traveling (not simply himself not take her), just the sort of thing a possessive male lover might do.

Again and again an instinct made Tomalin stay away from material that would be explosive if emphasized to her wider audience. The way her books sell is she has a sliding upbeat sort of take on things (candid in the sense of Jane Bennet), only at turns now and again showing the bleakness of what she says. What she does in this book (as in others) is to go up to a threshold of where disquiet begins, comment briefly and then move on.

Where Tomalin falls down is her perfunctoriness. I really felt her tone that of someone writing this biography because it’s in her way, as someone who knows this era very well, as a famous biographer of women’s lives and as a money-maker. She is getting Austen out the way, punching her ticket, and moving on. She does not regard Austen as writing sufficiently centrally wide-reaching major books. This leads to not to investigate some stereotypes about Austen used to cover over aspects of her life that would make people uncomfortable: Tomalin’s analyses of the novels which like some of her analyses of aspects of Austen’s innermost creative life misses Austen’s continual obsessive composition and revision, and minuteness; her really meaningful relationships outside her immediate family beyond her friendships with women who were in effect servants: Tomalin overlooks the curious asociality which made her briefly confide in Stanier Clarke as a rare chance to talk to a professional literary person. She also misses out on Austen’s real relationship with Edward Bridges — to Tomalin the love of Austen’s life remains Tom Lefroy; Southam sees that the later books show her intense love for Frank Austen and emotional investment with her brothers.

One of Jane’s poems to Frank

She misdates Lady Susan (again really simply accepting Southam’s prejudice against this book), but she does then make it fit into her trajectory of Austen’s development. There is a very modern turn she gives it, especially the idea that it’s the study of a character “who knows herself to be wasted on the dull world she is obliged to live in” — that is Tomalin’s take on Austen transposed to the character. In fact the character is mean and awful and not from Merteuil of LaClos’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses but rather a Madame de Vernon of Delphine (1804) much closer to the novel as Madame de Vernon succeeds in coercing her daughter into a miserable marriage. For someone who goes so thoroughly into the French sources for Eliza, she is very weak on Austen’s French reading.

Tomalin has explored Jane Austen’s library, and discovers various books in French, including presents of the multi-volume L’ami des enfants by Arnaud Berquin

Not one mention of Genlis. She has read Brunton, Smith and Radcliffe, but the political and travel books Austen devoured. No sign of knowledge of Grandison or Clarissa. Perfunctory mentions of Rousseau. Tomalin prefers the Fielding line of novels more, the ones that lead to Dickens and Hardy whom she writes so well on in other books.

Not to overdo where Tomalin has gaps. I loved how she brought home where we find Jane Austen loathing when she is coerced (gently but firmly) into having that long ludicrous dedication to the Prince Regent. She has evidence to suggest the Prince regent never read Austen’s novels. They went quickly into his library for show. In the last chapter of Tomalin’s book. Tomalin points out how Jane left a sum to Madame Bigeon to whom she was not at all related and who had no status whatsoever, and that Cassandra kept up small payments as far as she could throughout the life of Bigeon’s daughter, “Mrs Perigord.” Tomalin liked that the origin of the British Jane Austen society was a single woman, Miss Darnell who wanted to preserve Chawton cottage which by 1940 was knocked up into wretched flats and on the way to being torn down.

I recommend reading both Nokes and Tomalin as a kind of diptych.


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I am no prisoner now in a vile house. I am not now in the power of that man’s devices. I am not now obliged to hide myself in corners for fear of him — Clarissa, Thursday, June 20th

Clarissa accosted, arrested, shamed in the public streets for debt (1991 BBC Clarissa, scripted David Nokes)

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve moved into a new phase of the summer. I’m now engaged in study of Austen’s text from the point of view of my calendars drawn from her novels. My aim is at long last to write a publishable paper whose working title is now “Tick Tock: the important Tuesday, or Austen’s obsessive time-keeping.” I must do it from the perspective of her obsessive keeping of time in her novels. I began by reading one of the best biographies thus far: Claire Tomalin’s Jane Austen: A Life. I’ll write a blog-review on Tomalin’s biography tomorrow evening or the following night.

For now, or just before this plunge, I wrote and sent off my preliminary proposal for a paper to be given at the November EC/ASECS conference whose topic is: “”What does Infamy Matter?” for a friend’s panel, “The Secret and the Celebrated: Life-Writing by and about Notorious Figures.”

Here is the proposal: Infamy, infamy they’ve all got it in for me: paranoia and shame in the writings of Charlotte Smith, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Brunton, and Sophie Cottin. The title comes from the British movie comedy, Carry On, Cleo, Kenneth Williams as Caesar says it. The illustration below does not come from the novel I most want to present positively (so as to call attention to it), Amelie Mansfield, but from another where the heroine similarly abandons herself to sexual experience, Clare d’Albe

While I was writing the proposal, I was very pleased to discover that my etext edition of Amelia Mansfield has been linked into two central French sites for later 18th/early 19th century novels and was commended in a review-article in Eighteenth-Century Fiction by Alison Finch, Review of: Sophie Cottin, Claire d’Albe, ed. Margaret Cohen (and an English translated text) and Michael J. Call, Infertility and the Novels of Sophie Cottin, ECF, 17:1 (2004):134-37. It has not had the attention (two articles commending my edition and accompanying material) nor links (several) nor use that I know of (read by equivalent freshman college classes) that Isabelle de Montolieu’s Caroline de Lichtfield has; thus my efforts to bring it to the attention of a few people at the conference and then put the paper on the Net.

My text will (for once) not include Clarissa though Clarissa fits my trajectory; I want to deal with heroines who have to endure infamy the way she does, but who openly want and even chose to have sexual experience outside marriage for the sake of the sex. Novelists who are courageous enough to have such heroines are uncommon, and there are many more French writers than English: three I know I want to write about are include Charlotte Smith (heavily under the influence of French texts), Mary Brunton, and Sophie Cottin. As a sort of control — to have a gothic novel where the material is repressed and transformed into overt gothic conventions — I may include Radcliffe.

As you know, I also think Caroline de Lichfield an important source for Austen’s Sense and Sensibility; well I argued for the importance of Mary Brunton to Austen in a blog last month; everyone who studies Austen minimally knows the importance of Charlotte Smith; what I want to do in part is suggest the parallels or context for her work in that of Cottin and her indebtedness as signaled in her peculiar unconscious way through parody: her “Plan of a Novel” is a re-play of Cottin’s Elisabeth, ou les Exiles de Siberie.

I am a little worried because the day and time my panel for papers on actresses and infamy, “R-e-s-p-e-c-t: For actresses and women playwrights respect and favorable reputation matter” is set for is the same as the day of this panel for secret and notorious lives. I chose the panel because I prefer strongly being on panels where I know the people; it’s just so much more comfortable, satisfying and the response from the audience and talk afterward so much better. But as I’ve gotten not one proposal (only one person expressing interest), even though I have a respondent, it may be my panel will be cancelled. I did contact the person organizing the conference schedule and she assured me that something would be done to avoid the conflict if one did arise. The schedule is not engraved in cement, not anywhere near final as yet.

But heigh no, Carry on Cleo (Amanda Barrie)


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William Hahn (1821-87), Sacramento Railroad Station (a small portion of this forms the cover picture for Klippert’s edition of Hubback’s letters from Calfornia.

Dear friends and readers,

This is a continuation of my previous blogs on Catherine Hubback’s writing, and what her and Austen’s other gifted niece, Anna Austen Lefroy’s sequel, fiction and relationship with Jane Austen can tell us about Austen and her writing.

I’ve now finished reading Zoe Klippert’s edition of Catherine Hubback’s letters and while it is a sound first step in learning about this second gifted niece of Austen and her writing, it is only a first step, and (alas) the book shows some peculiarities can be explained only as the result of some family control exerted on the editor to stop her from telling the full story glimpsed here. Even with Klippert’s introduction, notes and reachable bibiography, without Alice Villasenor’s Women Readers and the Victorian Jane Austen two chapters, one on Hubback and the other on Anne Austen Lefroy’s daughter, Fanny Caroline Lefroy and her articles on Austen (Temple Bar 1880s) and memoir, I would not have been able to see een as far into The Younger Sister or these letters.

The letters just cover 5 years and there are not many of them. Like so many women’s letters, these are what survived. They are only one side, mostly Catherine’s letters to her oldest son, John, with a few to his wife, Mary; the book is not thick. We can pick up much about the realities of Catherine’s immediate life in California from the letters here which are do not seem to be censored, scissored. That is true. They make sense. The letters are lively, witty, contain astute pictures of American life and type people, ways of life, places. We also see strains in Catherine’s family, between John and the mother and John’s wife. But not much more. This son John left an enormous memoir which was only privately printed and is hard to get hold of. He (John) and his daughter, Edith, wrote the JA’s Sailor Bros and she wrote 3 sequels to Austen’s books, wherein all of them feature a heroine who feels like an exile. So much remains to be elucidated

The introduction to the letters is weak. The barest outline is told; we are not told how Catherine’s husband came to have a breakdown, or what were the circumstances; much is omitted from the life which would be easy and natural to tell. The list of characters in Catherine’s life is bare too, odd. Many people are left out who count (we could at least have had all her siblings) and we are not told why. Fanny Sophia Austen is presumably included so that Klippert can be sure we understand who it was that destroyed the correspondence of Jane and Frank Austen, but I found more helpful information about Hubback’s life and the information about Fanny’s destruction of Jane and Martha Lloyd’s correspondence in Villasenor’s redaction of Fanny Caroline Lefroy’s papers.

It seems to me the explanation for the thinness of the book is at least twofold. First Catherine’s branch of the family feel from the gentry. All three of Catherine’s children (including the son who remained in England) left the cozy landowning navy-clerical appointments-patronage world of the Austens, to find and create work in the business world of the UK at the time, to become selling travelers for firms. This probably because they couldn’t get anything from the family by this time. All the money the Steventon Austen branch of the family had expected first from James Leigh-Perrot, and then from his domineering stingy wife, Jane Leigh-Perrot (yes the one who stole the lack) went to James-Edward Austen-Leigh. There was anger for a while because Frank had been promised the property too, but he displeased the harridan aunt by his marriage to Martha Lloyd (isn’t that interesting) and she instead did give him a payment of 10,000 pounds, with which he was able to buy Portsdown Lodge. Southam mentions this; Mary Austen Austen in her biography of her father, James-Edward Austen-Leigh does; Tomalin at the close of her biography of Jane Austen. Villanesor suggests that Robert Watson’s anger about his lack of inheritance from Emma’s uncle and aunt is a reflection of Frank’s expectations and dependence on help having been thwarted.

Frank had 11 children and that’s a lot to provide for. George Austen had had tenuous patronage; after all Hastings was not the legal father of his niece, Eliza de Feuillide Austen, his sister, Philadelphia had been Hasting’s mistress for only a short time (between his first and second wife) and all were long dead. Catherine’s husband broke down and was put in an asylum, and she had to return to live with her father for some years. Except for John (the eldest) who eventually became stable in one place in the UK, the two sons and their families all moved around continually. Many people in the US did. Catherine Hubback notes (what both Trollopes saw and mention and is found in Wm Dean Howells, Mark Twain, anyone who describes 19th century American life, including Anthony Trollope) how in the US many middle class people lived in boarding houses. It was a frustrating life for married women with families. Edward, her eldest, ended a draftsman for a lumber company, the younger brother, Charles, became a woodchopper and eventually moved in with his older brother. Charles and his wife had had six children, she died after the sixth, and all dispersed. Tomalin at the close of her excellent biography of Jane shows that other members of the Austen ended up impoverished and below the gentry, but this is not the image the family left today wants for themselves.

Catherine Hubback does remind me of Fanny Trollope in her strength; as long as she was alive the sons didn’t do too badly — though again she needed her father’s help who himself lived in Chawton house on Edward’s lcuk and largess. She did present herself as widow in the US (and was at risk of chatting up in one incident she tells). She worked herself and gave, and shortly after these letters contracted pneumonia. She died and was buried in Virginia. I find myself much admiring her, but have learned that people want rather to identify with high class status than someone struggling and surviving as best she can as she loses class status. Among the stories Catherine was willing to tell was that some of the letters Cassandra destroyed were her “triumphing over the married women of her [Jane’s] acquaintance, and rejoicing in her own freedom” and were “most amusing” (Tomalin, 281).

The second area of Catherine’s life and works that could make those who control her papers uncomfortable is her novels mirror the real lives of the Austens which Jane reflected mostly indirectly. The titles reflect the realities of the family, an older wife and younger husband, a wife’s sister married, exile from security. Except for The Watsons Jane kept to a milieu higher than the one she grew up in or lived later when her father died. She avoids too close a literal mirroring in her other books. Her loss of Lefroy is seen through Jane Bennet’s near loss of Charles Bingley say; the three women’s distressed circumstances in the ejection from Norland Park and settling in Barton cottage and so on.

Hubback’s Younger Sister cries out for a decent edition, and from what Klippert says diplomatically about Tamara Wagner’s essays on Hubback for the Victorian Web, they show a lack of real knowledge and have errors of fact (they are again thin like her essay on Sherlock films). It’s curious how hard it is to get Volume 3 of Younger Sister; the other two are easy to get, but without volume 3 the story doesn’t make sense, and I was able to get a copy only through a friend who managed to xerox a rare library copy. I suggest the relatives today are controlling access to this.

It’s a case of a minor Victorian woman novelist not getting her due as yet and nothing being done because of the dead hand of family control together with the reiterated idea (flung at to dismiss women’s writing) that Hubback’s work is not worth it, very minor. Until Elizabeth Grant Smith’s journals (the Highland Lady) were published whole, people said that of her, they no longer do. To read Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun’s (the artist) full journal is a revelation; the truncated abridged and censored one still on line makes her seem like a facile fool; far from it, astute, witty, a real businesswoman who avoided the guillotine (unlike Eliza Austen’s husband who seems to have run into it) and made a success of hard life of traveling and painting and selling her pictures as far away as freezing St Petersburg.

It’s with these women that Hubback’s still thwarted fate should be seen. They, Julia Kavanagh, Geraldine Jewsbury are coming into print and beginning to be discussed candidly and their works available and treated with respect. Paradoxically, the reason often cited for our paying attention to Hubback at all, her relationship to Austen gets in the way of our paying attention to her.

She is an ignored source for Austen, another real source, and a worthy writer and woman for study in her own right. Her Younger Sister may be considered a historical novel, an imitation of 18th century novels and insofar as she does this, this is part of the reason for the text’s success. In this The Younger Sister reminds me of Valerie Martin’s Mary Reilly whose success is the result of a skilled imitation of later 19th century prose and subjective novellas.


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