Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for November, 2012


Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732-1806), A Young scholar (1777-78) — there is no good authoritative picture of Radcliffe, but she was a reading girl

Dear friends and readers,

As part of my translation study project, I’ve read Pierre Arnaud’s famous study of Radcliffe. I’ve started it several times, but never got past the opening biography and initial reading of Radcliffe’s life. I can now say this reading, for which the book is known, is its weakest place; it’s an insightful and (until Rictor Norton published his Mistress of Udolpho), the most informative original book. It still has a lot to enable the English reader to see that we won’t find elsewhere, partly because he writes out of the French tradition. I thought I’d write a summary-review because the book has not been translated nor is it like to be.

It’s not a reflection on his scholarship that this book has not been translated. He wrote three good articles on Radcliffe, one biographical one on her husband; he translated Austen’s Northanger Abbey with a good introduction and notes) for the recent brilliant Pleiade edited by Pierre Goubert, and recently edited a good translation of Radcliffe’s Romance of the Forest, Les Mysteres de la foret, translated by Francois Soules (for folio classique) If you can read French, it’s written concisely, lucidly, and in suggestive phrases.

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

Kenilworth, 1814 illustration (visited by both Radcliffe and Austen — and many others)

The first chapters take the reader through Radcliffe’s life. As what Arnaud as to say is found in Norton’s book I won’t repeat it just confine myself to saying Arnaud was the first to emphasize how Ann Radcliffe spent a couple of formative years in her maternal uncle Thomas Bentley’s home. Ann’s mother was Ann Oates, and Arnaud tells of how Bentley married Ann’s mother’s sister (1754), Hannah, how the aunt and a baby died (1759), and how another aunt, Elizabeth, came to live with the man and acted as a mother-aunt to the frequently visiting niece. Ann Radcliffe seems to have visited Bentley’s fine home (Turnam Green) and shops until 1772 when he remarried, and she rejoined her parents in Bath where her father acted as tradesman for Bentley. We learn of the father’s connections to the famous learned surgeon, Samuel and then Richard Jebb, and Bentley’s close partnership with Wedgewood. We are led to picture an adult home and work-life that’s intellectual, artistic, genteel, aspiring, a milieu of intelligent liberal people — in Bath too where she may have gone to Sophia and Harriet Lee’s school. (There is no proof of this, and Ann does not seem to have been the sort of girl who would thrive in girl groups). At age 23 she married in Bath a rising journalist-translator, William Radcliffe, a strong liberal type, who became editor of the English Chronicle and the young couple lived in London.

All good. He then argues, following some European critics (Marthe Robert, Romans des origines et origines du roman; Roger Caillois, Le coeur du fantastique, aka the heart of the fantastic) that the fantastic comes out of the depths of a personality, and that they lay a personal story bare through their dreams; for Radcliffe he thinks each of the novels constitute a step in a series of ever-expanding confessions. Her characters follow an internal logique she is acting out and provide the lines of trembling force that her novels trace.

But, as many besides Arnaud have demonstrated, the power and texture of Ann Radcliffe’s fiction suggest a deep and lasting trauma of some sort shaped the girl. There are obsessive repeating patterns of sexual violation, anxiety, paradigms of near rape, murder, and yet a deep discomfort with confronting sexuality. Radcliffe is actually unusual for an English female writer for writing more or less openly about family dysfunction, violent and abusive husbands and uncles, at the same time as she offers no direct clue how the implied author might have had any experiences like these as she uses very general archetypes in gothic settings.

Theories abound. The fictions repeatedly show a young girl harassed and near-assaulted by a father-uncle figure, not protected by a jealous mother-aunt. Norton suggests that Radcliffe may have been abused by her father, and sent to live with an uncle and aunt; there does seem to be strong antagonism as well as tender pity for the (sometimes jealous) mother-aunts in her novels. Leona Sherman thinks Radcliffe may have reacted by avoiding sex when she was older and keeping her husband at a distance from her (later in life when she ceased publishing she lived separately in Windsor). Arnaud finds six basic characters throughout the fictions: Uncle&seductor/Mother/aunt-governess/stepmother, harsh/young hero; also a continual doubling. Like others, he suggests the characteristics of the heroine closely resemble those the implied author has. He believes that Radcliffe was molested by her uncle.

I don’t think the theory is crazy. My take is she may have been a victim of sexual or psychological-emotional abuse from her father. It need not have been physical though there is this shattered presence in the books. Then her mother did not protect her — the books show a mother-aunt who is often hostile or helpless. Her uncle (and perhaps aunt) also did not take her side when she tried to tell them (again characters like this recur in the fictions), no one did. Her husband became everything to her and she escaped into her fictions and reading; her way of coping was to lose herself in her calming visions, and to become absorbed in the past, the architecture and customs and then write critically about that, pour her then controlled feelings into that.


Henri Fuseli, The Silence


One of the covers for the many editions of Udolpho over the centuries: wholly appropriate

The problem with this early section of Arnaud’s book is he spends equal time and space on the first slender effort, The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne as he does on all the other 4 novels (Sicilian Romance, Romance of the Forest, Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian). Doubtless it’s easier to show on the basis of what is an outline of what’s to come on a simple short pattern, but it’s in the nuances and thorough build-up of imagery and experience in the text that the power of the text calls attention to deep troubling feeling. That’s where her genius comes in, not her plot-design stories.

He’s not alone in over-speaking about Athlin and Dunbayne. The recent Oxford paperback edition by Alisan Milbank’s contains an introduction where were what she says being applied to the Romance of the Forest or Udolpho or her travel life-writing book, A Journey Made in the Summer of 1794, it would be appropriate and accurate. Here it’s ove-rspeak for the particular text, giving a false impression of more greatness than was shown originally. This does a real disservice to an author because a reader told this about this novel and then reading it, might not go on for another. (The same kind of over-speak is found in Walter Scott novel criticism.).

As I say the actual biography is worth reading in the way of Aline Grant’s early study for the particular comments he makes as he goes along on this or that aspect of Radcliffe’s life or the people among whom she grew up and where, but once the reader gets past this opening connected reading of the novels, the book becomes pure gold — with one more reservation. Arnaud has not read Radcliffe’s travel book, Talfourd’s long memoir of Radcliffe’s life which prefaces the posthumous romance, Gaston de Blondeville and excerpts from the travel book. Thus Arnaud does not know how many long learned books of architecture and history went into Radcliffe’s creation of her castles and landscapes. He does know she means her history seriously and took anecdotes from Pitaval’s Causes Celebres (not the same as are found in Charlotte Smith’s Romance of Real Life), but does not take her grounding in stories of ravaging injustice particularly to women seriously enough and misses an important dimension of her work. I realize I am sounding a limitation again; alas, this is a common one only recently being overcome (I hope to write a separate blog on some studies of Radcliffe’s Journey book which I didn’t include in my paper, The Nightmare of History in Ann Radcliffe’s Landscapes

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

Furness Abbey, Cumbria (modern photo of ruin described in her 1794 Summer Journey)

So, returning to the sections of the book on The Sicilian Romance, Romance of the Forest, Udolpho and Italian, and the third section of his book, Arnaud shows us that Radcliffe is interested in terrors that have a real basis, not superstition, explores apprehension (rather than anxiety) (p332). Again and again what is terrifying really is happening or really happened in the past. Sometimes while the heroine is in the castle: Montoni’s murder of his wife, her aunt.

In The Romance of the Forest and Udolpho, she traces a process of psychological disintegration of the heroine, brought on by gradually increasing terror (p 338). She has smaller trajectories where we trace this in little for another heroine or inset story or the older woman in the novel.

He concedes that by elucidating what in the original terror was unjustified superstitution, she grates on the reader, makes the reader feel a dupe and then the reader gets back, is unwilling to read another (p 340), but he suggests she does this to put out a false trail, to deflect us from thinking about the real terrors we’ve experienced or our attention from her. He thinks that she understood the source of her anguish and consciously wrote to exorcise her miseries (p. 349) I agree & argued this in my paper on her Nightmare Historical Landscapes. I’m not sure she is conscious of this, for in the famous incident of the wax figure she includes a footnote telling us the historical source for the anecdote. Her worry seems to be not that we will pay attention to her, or to make us pay attention to fantasies but concern we are not getting that she is historical.

I agree with him (and this is Battaglia’s view too), that The Italian disappointing because it makes least use of superstition and unexplained ghosts, the Italian, and is the book going most in the direction of detective-mystery, “Le roman policier” (p 343). This book is particularly is anti-Catholic church in thrust. He acknowledges she is attracted to the beauty of the ritual, but not the obliteration of the will of the individual (seen in the prison scenes).

He grants her that she read enormously, including philosophy (only he is at a loss to cite more than the usual suspects of Burke and Gilpin), points out that at the close of her career in Gaston de Blondeville she admits by logic there is the possibility of spirits appearing to people (p 348). Her tone (he thinks) becomes less didactic in this last book too. But one can see in the other books that she does in part believe in the possibility and dreads the power of her own emotional life (p 349). I wish he had devoted a whole chapter to Gaston.

He does miss the footnotes to some of these explained incidents where she says she got the anecdote from history and that generally these show women victimized egregiously. In this she is showing us another version of victimizing that she didn’t know but was attracted to notice. Arnaud is innocent of all feminism or feminist thought and scholarship. he does not see how violence disturbs her, how aware she is of it as a basis for social order. This she shows in her travel book.

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

J.M.W. Tuner, Buttermere Lake, with Cromackwater, Cumberland

The last and fourth part of Arnaud’s book is how her books are a hymn to nature. he begins with development of realism in the 18th century and its techniques. Gainsborough is instanced. In the period there was also a development of a beautiful naturalistic poetry — Thomson, Cowper. Readers of Radcliffe did think she had been in the Pyrenees (as Catherine Morland imagines). Perhaps Radcliffe meant to introduce into the novel what beloved poets had done for verse.

Arnaud says that we should answer why she made these landscapes so central. Other novelists include them (e.g., Charlotte Smith) but why go on to make them central. My answer: it’s part of the calming therapy. This exquisitely observed architecture drawn from her reading is hard absorbing work for her. She made such trips, she studied travel books with their engravings; he goes over her extracts from her travel books to show her working up her dream image from what she is seeing and imagining music to go with it (p. 355).

He suggests the enthusiasm she felt for nature and beautiful real landscapes came from evolution of art in this epoque. I’d agree. Again he begins with the problem of a demand for the didactic; genre or everyday scenes were a minor genre; gradually they took over as the most popular. Again the problem here is Arnaud thinks what she studied were simply engravings and he leaps beyond Gilpin to what is often said about Radcliffe because she does cite the names of Claude, Salvador Rosa and a few others. He has gone into what he can find were her sources for her novels; for example her notebook tells of her visiting Belvedere House. Much though is sheer guessing. If he had read her travel books, he’d find she has carefully studied architectural and travel books with their depictions of buildings, their histories, a region, the customs and laws of the place. All he can end up with is quoting the insights of great critics on say Claude; instead if one reads some of these studies, one discovers for example a sharp critique of monastery life which her recreation of the place makes visible, a serious reading in travel culture books.

There is no need to guess. Read the 1794 journey with all its citations, and today since we have the net and ECCO we can follow her. This is beginning to be done. See particularly the Italian journal, La Questione romantica, Viaggio e Paessaggio (many essays are in English — some in Italian and/or French too), Autunno 2003/Primavera 2004.


Catherine (Felicity Jones) is telling Henry and Eleanor Tilney (J. J. Feild and Catherine Walker) this is just like the Pyrenees (2007 Northanger Abbey, scripted Andrew Davies)

She read a lot, she did not socialize at all, not even a little bit it seems. If she had a circle of friends, they were people no one today knows about. And she filled time with these learned tomes. Then when she could she traveled to some comparing her memories and maps with what she saw. The problem was again her anxiety and fear (whatever happened to her when young) and probably she was right to turn back when she saw that her husband and she were searched as if they might be enemies and might have found themselves clapped in prison. So she never got to Italy; she did see a great deal of Germany, of that part of France that abuts, of Holland, Belgium and then traveled where she could locally. She did a great deal with what was available to her.

Arnaud say that Radcliffe took details from Burke and Gilpin and applied them for her own use. For Burke terror an end in itself; for Radcliffe it’s used to prompt sublime feelings. Gilpin insists on the importance of composing your scene. He thinks landscapes not perfect unless they have an abbey or castle. An old one or one in ruins have been integrated into their environment (p. 366) Architecture is so central to her descriptions — and books too (p. 366) Arnaud says she used Gilpin’s commentaries and we see that her pictures are in effect interwoven with commentary.

But he is right to say that her originality is in how she applied what she read (p. 362). He concludes she works with the eye of a painter and poet; writes romances that way. I think it’s more than that: she writes with history in mind, and a political point of view, mildly reformist maybe but real enough for that. And these shape her content.

He finds in her a real knowledge of aesthetic treatises and currents in the era and says this is uncommon among her English contemporaries (p. 369). He says that nature and the supernatural occupy a bigger place gradually as she becomes less moralizing in each book (p 369) He feels there is a rhythm that moves from terror to landscape/relief nor are there quick transitions where something is suddenly dropped p 370. She will frame an encounter between characters carefully, such as Elena and her father (p. 371). The landscape is a state of the perceiver’s soul (p 371). That Pierre de la Motte in Romance of the Forest can experience depth of emotion in nature shows he has some good qualities (p. 371)

Radcliffe’s descriptions themselves have a symbolic value. Her Nature permeated with a divinity (p 374). He discerns a pantheism (p 375) carefully put so as to stay within apparent confines of Christianity. For her this also provides a corrective to Catholicism, to punitive ideas and doctrines, to fearfulness. He remarks he says her published books are never set in the UK; he has not read the travel book, one quarter of which is in the lake district, Cumberland and Scotland too (p 377). He sees in her yearning a desire to return to her father but he does not press that (p 378) He is unaware she was interested in geology, goes to look at Druidic stones as realistic remnants of what the earth once was (as this was not estoric as Marjorie Hope Nicholson showed in her Mountain Gloom and Glory).


A contemporary print

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

To conclude, Arnaud says Radcliffe’s initial appeal was she comes out of the same zeitgeist as Sade, Lewis, romantic poetry: a reaction against but coming out of Enlightenment. For readers profoundly shaken or encouraged by revolution, she offered to 19th century readers a fearful and a usable past, takes them into her urge into oblivion, peace, reverie, a movement into fantasy, which however populated, is not as frigthening as the spectre of the future. I’ve had students who came from Southasia and Asia tell me that the terrified flights of her characters reminded them of experiences they had with their parents fleeing a revolution or fascistic military tyranny. I enter into her Emily’s Udolpho far more fully than I do Austen’s Emma’s Highbury.

For myself I’d like to add that going into Italian as well as French books on both Radcliffe and Austen can give us new ideas, new perspective, a fresh methodolgy or outline distinctive from the Anglo-American and mean to share a few of these (e.g., Pierre Goubert and Beatrice Battaglia on Austen, translation studies of Charlotte Smith, more on Radcliffe) with my reader here in this blog.


From Edith Wharton’s female gothic-ghost story, “Afterward”: the walk on the parapet; Wharton is a daughter of Radcliffe

Ellen

Read Full Post »

I was particularly disappointed at seeing nothing of Mr Crabbe. I felt sure of him when I saw that the boxes were fitted up with Crimson velvet … & I must say that I have seen nobody on the stage who has been a more interesting Character than that compound of Cruelty and Lust [Don Juan, even in a farce].

The little girls teeth I can suppose in a critical state, but I think he [the dentist] must be a Lover of Teeth & Money & Mischeif [sic] to parade about Fannys. –- I would not have had him look at mine for a shilling a tooth & double it. –- It was a disagreable [sic] hour …

We then went to Wedgwoods where my Brother & Fanny chose a Dinner Set. — I beleive the pattern is a small Lozenge in purple, between Lines of narrow Gold; — & it is to have the Crest — from the close of 16 September, after dinner — J. Austen


Wedgewood china: the set of Wedgewood china bought by Edward and Fanny Austen during their London visit

Dear friends and readers,

Austen reading Crabbe, suggesting dates with him at the theater, dentists there for the money, shopping. Warren Hastings sends her a note praising P&P. For this week we have two separate letters, but the second was written after dinner and on the same final day as the first. In truth, Jane Austen was keeping a journal (in effect) while in London and sending Cassandra installments.

Jane has been with Henry in London on-and-off since April when she came as Eliza was dying (see letter 85, 24 May 1813); she went home to Chawton during the summer precisely during the time his trip to Matlock with his nephew occurred (and her letter to Frank was written from Chawton, 86, 13 July 1813) and then returning with Edward and his daughters when Henrietta St quarters is set up. They are keeping him company for this first stretch of his widower period, even if business demands (probably good for him) that he run about all day and travel here and there. She’s there when he returns and then she’s there with his familiar brother and nephews and nieces. On and off it’s a 6 month stretch thus far. She keeps him company, goes out with him, is there as he begins to make his move from Sloane Street and again as the life of Henrietta St (above his shop as it were) begins.

These letters are of interest for their vignettes of the life a woman of her type (gentry, upper middle class) would live while in London. Jane reports, delightedly, the high praise P&P was garnering (including a written note or letter from Warren Hastings), and her attitudes toward this, some allusions or uses of language which remind us she’s writing MP and may have begun Emma, and we get some insight into her attitudes towards the theater (Don Juan in particular), dentistry (she is sensible), shopping and servants. She may be reading Crabbe’s poetry.

On the subject of the way Austen presents Henry’s behavior in her letters after Eliza’s death, in his close study of Austen’s letters and novels Pierre Goubet (JA: Etude psychologique de la romanciere) points out that Elizabeth Austen died 8 October 1808, and within 2 weeks (Austen’s letter 59, 16 October 1808) she is already talking of how Fanny, the daughter should “soon” we may hope exert herself by duty out of grief. Edward she gives up on for now, but observe in the very first sentence she is saying Edward will (she hopes) soon moderate: Edward’s grief must be terrible … these are too easy days indeed to think of moderation.” But she is thinking of it. Her lack of affliction is often put down to Austen not liking Elizabeth. I’d put down her concession to Edward because of 12 children, also he caused the pregnancies (and in another letter it’s suggested he did not remarry because he didn’t want to put himself or any woman through that again), but Austen’s behavior and tone is very like that of her towards Henry upon his grief.

Austen is glad to think Henry bouncing back not because she values bouncing back quickly so much but because that’s the way she behaves. Emma Woodhouse makes a point of saying to Harriet you do what you can for the poor, to feel bad beyond this is useless. Let us dismiss it from our minds now. And Austen backs her up by her language letting us know Harriet has been posing to be charitable and feelingful anyway. “Oh dear yes.” Where there is a change is for Anne Elliot in Persuasion. Benwick no. His grief is presented as partly self-fed, like arianne; anyway he gets over it rather quickly once a new target is presented.

This mentality of Austen’s is an element in her make-up I have not pointed to before. You may justify it or not. A tight reign on one’s experience of loss and an expectation all around her should try to do likewise. Only this way can we have an interior peace and not be over-run by our strength of feeling (those of us who do have that). Harriet must put aside her grief or others will see her vulnerability, respect her less and she will be less safe from other people.

******************
87: Wed-Thurs, 15-16 Sept 1813, from Henrietta St, Wednesday … 1/6 past 8 [she records when she began the letter]


Miss Austen Regrets: the movie dramatizes a later visit to Henry by Jane (and has just Fanny there), but it captures something of the atmosphere of Henry’s flat

Here I am, my dearest Cassandra, seated in the Breakfast, Dining, sitting room, beginning with all my might. Fanny will join me as soon as she is dressed & begin her Letter. We had a very good journey — Weather & roads excellent — the three first stages for 1 (shilling) 6 (pence) & our only misadventure the being delayed about a qr of an hour at Kingston for Horses, & being obliged to put up with a P’ belonging to a Hackney Coach & their Coachman, which left no room on the Barouche Box for Lizzy, who was to have gone her last stage there as she did the first; — consequently we were all 4 within, which was a little crowd; — We arrived at a quarter past 4 — & were kindly welcomed by the Coachman, & then by his Master, and then by William,l & then by Mme Perigord, who all met us before we reached the foot of the Stairs. Mde Bigeon was below dressing is a most comfortable dinner of Soup, Fish, Bouillee, Partridges & an apple Tart, which we sat down to soon after 5, after cleaning & dressing selves & feeling that we were most commodiously disposed of. — The little adjoining Dressing-room to our apartment makes Fanny & myself very well off indeed, & as we have poor Eliza’s bed our space ample every way. — Sace arrived safely about 1/2 past 6. At 7 we set in a Coach for the Lyceum — were at home again in about 4 hours and 1/2 — had Soup & wine & water, & then went to our Holes. Edward finds his quarters very snug & quiet. — I must get a softer pen. — This is harder. — I am in agonies. — I have not yet seen Mr Crabbe. — Martha’s letter is gone to the Post.

I am going to write nothing but short Sentences. There shall be full stops in every Line. Layton and Shear’s is Bedford House. We mean to get there before breakfast if it’s possible. For we feel more & more how much we have to do. And how little time. This house looks nice. It seems like Sloane St moved here. I believe Henry is just rid Sloane St — Fanny does not come, but I have Edward seated by me beginning a Letter, which looks natural.

Henry has been suffering from the pain in the face which he has been subject to before. He caught cold at Matlock, & since his return has been paying a little for past pleasure. — It is nearly removed now, — but he looks thin in the face – -either from the pain, or the fatigues of his Tour, which must have been great.

Diana: “The journey: we may notice that she is starting to use the language of Emma, for her description of the coach, with 4 within, “which was a little crowd,” is rather like what she will have Frank Churchill exclaim about: “A crowd in a little room — Miss Woodhouse, you have the art of giving pictures in a few words. Exquisite, quite exquisite!” After being welcomed by another crowd, this time of servants, the “comfortable dinner” with its apple Tart, sounds extremely Hartfieldian. Yet there is a sad note amidst the coziness: “as we have poor Eliza’s bed our space is ample in every way.”

We really had not emphasized enough this is a diary and that for a long first bout Edward is sitting next to Austen, reading over her shoulder perhaps — in this part of the letter we see him react directly to what Austen has just written down.

Miss Austen Regrets uses a later one of Jane and Fanny’s trips to Henry’s flat (1914 when Henry finally fell ill and Dr Hadden, an apothecary was called in). The film succeeds in recreating the atmosphere of this and the next letter (except the father was left out), the companionableness with the servants, a milieu rich and redolent of French culture partly because of Mme Bigeon’s presence. They traveled from Godmersham in style — because Edward is there — and Jane does not really like to “put up with a hackney coach.” One niece wanted to be on the barouche box. Jane pays attention to the servants, we get the French food. The time together in the room captured very well in the film The relationship between Fanny and her aunt was encouraged by Edward. They went out to the Lyceum and saw a play. As usual we are not told what she saw. It often really seems not to have mattered to Jane Austen (though she does offer one real insight into Don Juan later in this letter).


A mid-20th century edition which contains all George Crabbe‘s poems that Austen alluded to in her novels (though not all that she read)

For years I’ve quoted Austen’s joke about how she’s Mrs Crabbe, or is willing to be as a serious joke about how much she loved the poetry, how she felt Crabbe was a fellow spirit, which the family wanted to dismiss altogether: it at least shows how much Crabbe’s profoundly pessimistic verse set in the lower orders of their day meant to her. David Selwyn shows a poem from the Parish Register tells a closely analogous story of an orphan Fanny Price, with “Procrastination in The Borough having a darkly ironic parallel moral as Persuasion (JA and Leisure, 203-8). So perhaps she was reading Crabbe while in London just as she was writing MP. The family tries to downplay this remark, perhaps because in this small world of the gentry it was known that Crabbe came to London to nurse his dying wife, and the joke (a little later) about being willing to replace her but not take her children is in questionable taste. Halperin’s comment about Austen’s detachment in the letters is germane here. So her too hard pen, Crabbe and then Martha. That she loves Crabbe makes a natural association to Martha to whom Jane was so strongly attached still.

A parody of simple style. Perhaps Austen has been bothered by someone who told her that her novels (or her letters) have too involved sentences, too hard to read, or challenged to write this way, so she deflects this by making fun of it and “writing in short sentences. This is another place where we may take it her authorship of S&S and P&P was getting about. Layton and Shears was a millinery establishment at 9 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. After the death of his wife, Henry Austen moved into chambers … Bedford House? a square.

Henry’s pain in his face. He had been traveling. He is also characterized as very thin (lost weight), looking tired. He’s suffering still from the death — and the tensions of his occupation. He’s not a gentleman like Edward who can sit beside the sister and write letters – or pretend to (Jane’s idea). Henry has thought that without Eliza he ought to save and so moved. Moving is traumatic. And probably the strains of this business where he is really making money by floating the aristocrats he had to cultivate and endure count for something. Perhaps he know how tenuous his business was. (In the next letter an important partner-associate dies.) His surface nonchalance was a sort of performance accepted by the family as easy to take; this also later made it easy to blame him. Let’s recall Sir Thoma coming home from Antigua: fagged, weary. The illness that was to come in next year’s visit was the result of letting himself get run down.


Drawing of 18th century phantasmagoria — these were shown at the Lyceum

Lady Roberts is delighted with P&P — and really was so as I understand before she knew who wrote it — for, of course, she knows now. — He told her with as much satisfaction as if it were my wish. He did not tell me this, but he told Fanny. And Mr Hastings — I am quite delighted that such a Man writes about it. — Henry sent him the Books after his return from Daylesford — but you will hear the Letter too.

Let me be rational & return to my two full stops.

I talked to Henry at the Play last night. We were in a private Boxe — Mr Spencer’s — Which made it much more pleasant. The Box is directly on the Stage. One is infinitely less fatigued than in the common way — But Henry’s plans are not what one could wish. He does not mean to be at Chawton till t 29. — He must be in town again by Oct 5 . — His plan is to get a couple of days of Pheasant Shooting and then return directly; his wish was to bring you back with him. I have told him your scruples. — He wishes you to suit yourself as to time. And if you cannot come till later, will send for you at any time, as far as Bagshot. — He presumed you would not find difficulty in getting so far. I could not say you would. He proposed your going with him into Oxfordshire. It was his own thought at first. I could not but catch at it for you.

We have talked of it again this morning (for now we have breakfasted), and I am convinced that if you can make it suit in other respects you need not scruple on his account. If you cannot come back with him on the 3d or 4th therefore, I do hope you will contrive to go to Adlestrop. — By not beginning your absence till about the middle of this month I think you may manage it very well. But you will think all this over. One could wish he had intended to come to you earlier, but it cannot be helped. I said nothing to him of Mrs H[eathcote]. & Miss [Althea] Bigg that he might not suppose Difficulties. Shall not you put them into our own Room? This seems to me the best plan — & the Maid will be most conveniently near.

The delighted tone of the letter comes from the praise of people like Lady Roberts and Warren Hastings. She will mentions Hastings’s praise and letter (to her? again (in connection with Eliza): she just can’t get over it that such a man should like her book. Not only was he intelligent but powerful; that he should take the time to write about it. This letter too Cassandra destroys (!) We see another psychological reason for her not wanting others to know it’s her. She wanted to listen in, free also of any accountability and involvement, need not be afraid what anyone will think of her. Her delight the stronger when she can have this feeling too. We can see just how “top of the world” all this is to Jane by the last remark: “Let me be rational & return to my two full stops.”

This is another Henry letter. His presence is just everywhere, repeatedly coming back, on her mind, even if during the day he is off to work and she says she is “not seeing much of him.” The subject is again this business of the difficult these two now grown women have of going anywhere. Cassandra needs Henry to take her to Godmersham and he has his own schedule to worry about first. His plans take precedence over any help he might offer his sister. He will of course send for her any time but note the dates he insists on. Surely she can get to Bagshot by herself. (Maybe she could; maybe he gets irritated with all this fuss about their class position, and threatened chastity alone — it could be that.) Note how tactful Jane tries to be. She is not frank with him. “I could not but catch at it for you.” He’s the man, she’s defers. She brings it up again in the morning (making me remember Lady Middleton reminding Sir John six times a day). So she now hopes Cassandra can contrive Adlestop. (Maybe she should walk, get wings, or maybe just take a public vehicle.) They also want him to visit but fear if they say their good friends the Biggs are going to be there, he’ll not come.

And then their arrangements for their single women friends. Means a lot to them. Austen does delight in a box, so “much more pleasant.” Mr Spencer one of Henry’s friends who live in the finer part of London (see LeFaye for addresses)

Oh, dear me, when I shall ever have done? We did go to Layton & Shear’s before Breakfast. Very pretty English poplins at 4.3-Irish at 6.0 — more pretty certainly — beautiful. — Fanny & the two little girls are gone to take Places for to-night at Covent Garden; Clandestine Marriage & Midas.” The latter will be a fine show for L. & M.[the younger nieces] — They revelled last night in Don Juan whom we left in Hell at at half past 11. — We had Scaramouche & a Ghost =- and were delighted; — I speak of them; my delight was very tranquil, & the rest of us were sober-minded. Don Juan was the last of 3 musical things; — Five hours at Brighton, in 3 acts – -of which one was over before we arrived, none the worse — & The Beehive, rather less flat & trumpery.

I have this moment received £5 from kind, beautiful Edward. Fanny has a similar Gift. I shall save what I can of it for your better leisure in this place. My: Letter was from Miss Sharpe. — Nothing particular. — A letter from Fanny Cage this morning.

Shadwell’s Libertine is a serious play, dealing with the amorality and libertinism (behavior supposed to be based on atheism) of a macho male promiscuous aristocrat. Perhaps Austen had read Shadwell. Here it’s a question of a farce adapted from Shadwell. I wish for her sake that she had for her own sake have seen Mozart, for it’s there the character is fully laid out in the way she grasps. This also gives us some insight into perhaps the way she would’ve seen Lovelace and thus Henry Crawford (partly modeled on such a figure as Fanny’s scene with Sir Thomas has elements in it of Clary refusing her father).

Shopping: she has the money to buy pretty things, but is still limited. They go to a fashionable milliners. Jane notes exact prices She admits the more expensive is “more pretty certainly — beautiful.” But if she bought we do not know. Let’s recall she said that Edward was sitting next to her while she is writing. Perhaps looking over her shoulder. So she this moments get 5 pounds from him. He knows she didn’t buy. and he gets a “kind, beautiful.” if anyone is reading this, notice he’s there. This is a dramatic letter written to the moment with Edward next to her acting in response; she’s using the letter to tell him too.

Two more women friends. How I wish we had that letter from Miss Sharpe too (along with Hastings’s note). Then the paragraphs about the play and how different was Austen’s response to that of her young female relatives (see above).

I should say to anyone who’s not read it Colman and Garrick’s Clandestine Marriage is a very good play, still done today; I’ve seen it twice and my younger daughter loved it. It’s worth reading as a real text to read; the mode is like that of P&P — depth of feeling within comic caricatures; I’ve seen the actress who played the squire’s sister in the version I saw also hit off Mrs Bennet brilliantly in a (otherwise poor tepid) play version of P&P.
Midas, an afterpiece, the traditional fable updated.

4 o’clock.. — We are just come back from doing Mrs Tickars, Miss Hare, and Mr Spence. Mr Hall is here; & while Fanny is under his hands, I will try to write a little more. Miss Hare had some pretty caps, and is to make me one like one of them, only white sattin instead of blue. It will be white sattin and lace, and a little white flower perking out of the left ear, like Harriot Byron’s feather.” I have allowed her to go as far as £1-16. My Gown is to be trimmed everywhere with white ribbon plaited on, somehow or other. She says it will look well. I am not sanguine. They trim with white very much.

I learnt from Mrs Tickars’s young Lady, to my high amusement, that the stays now are not made to force the Bosom up at all; — that was a very unbecoming, unnatural fashion. I was really glad to hear that they are not to be so much off the shoulders as they were.

Going to Mr Spence’s was a sad Business & cost us many tears, unluckily we were obliged to go a 2d time before he could do more than just look: — we went I at 1/2 past 12 and afterwards at 3. Papa went with us each time — &, alas! we are to go again to-morrow. Lizzy is not finished yet. There have been no Teeth taken out however, nor will as I believe, but he finds hers in a very bad state, & seems to think ill of their Durableness. — They have been all cleaned, hers fled, and are to be filed again. There is a very sad hole between two of her front Teeth.

Austen went to a hair-curler, hated it, but was silenced by “my companions” who admired it. It was in the midst of these (artificial) curls that the bit of velvet went (so what is done to actresses in 18th century costume dramas is just what was done then). The real adventures in pain in this era of going to a dentist, but dentistry had taken its first steps into modern treatments (including cosmetic and unnecessary early pulling of teeth): did you know rich people paid poor people and some masters and mistresses pressured their servants into having their teeth pulled so they could have them put in their mouths. Eighteenth-Century Life 28.1 (2004) 21-68. They go twice, the pain being too much to take all at once. (A favorite quote from her Catherine or The Bower:

I wish there were no such things as Teeth in the World; they are nothing but plagues to one, and I dare say that People might easily invent something to eat with instead of them. —Jane Austen, Catherine, or the Bower

Gentle reader, you thought push-up bras are a modern invention. Think again and I’ll quote this passage twice: “stays are not now made to force the bosom up at all”. I’m glad to say Jane Austen disliked that too but does not seem keen on the recent fashion of looking flat-chested; however she makes do with the idea that the corset will at least be more comfortable.

A favorite line often quoted out of context is Austen remembering what Harriet Byron wore to the masquerade and seeing herself as looking like Harriet. Equally interesting are all the remarks on the family.

Mr Hall is a hairdresser who comes to the house. Very expensive. Miss Hare a milliner. Austen knows she is old and age will not be hidden by girlish ornament. Not fooled. And today dentists too do make-work and in my experience don’t respect one’s real teeth that much. So they made their money making replacements then too. Edward goes both times. To pay maybe. He would have the money himself. Or to make sure not too much was done to them. Maybe to protect them? Doctors were not yet the gods who decreed expensive treatments just like this and then parents pay (like today).

This not seeing much of Henry. I have just seen him however for 3 minutes, & have read him the Extract from Mrs F.A’s Letter — & he says he will write to Mr F A. A. all about it, & he has no doubt of being attended to as he knows they feel themselves obliged to him. — Perhaps you may see him on Saturday next. He has just started such an idea. But it will be only for a couple of days.

Thursday morning 1/2 past 7. — Up & dressed and downstairs in order to finish my Letter in time for the Parcel. At 8 I have an appointment with M de B[igeon]. 12 who wants to show me something downstairs. At 9 we are :set off for Grafton House & get that over before breakfast. Edward so kind as to walk there with us. We are to be at Mr Spence’s again at11 & from that time shall be driving about I suppose till 4 0′ clock at least. We are if possible to call on Mrs Tilson, Henry’s partner’s wife.

Mr Hall was very punctual yesterday & curled me out at a great rate. I thought it looked hideous, and longed for a snug cap instead, but my companions silenced me by their admiration. I had only a bit of velvet round my head. I did not catch cold however. The weather is all in my favour. I have had no pain in my face since I left you. We had very good places in the Box next the stage box-front and 2nd row, the three old ones behind of course. — I was particularly disappointed at seeing nothing of Mr Crabbe. I felt sure of him when I saw that the boxes were fitted up with Crimson velvet.” The new Mr Terry was Lord Ogleby, & Henry thinks he may do; but there was no acting more than moderate; & I was as much amused by the remembrances connected with Midas as with any part of it. The girls were very much delighted, but still prefer Don Juan — & I must say that I have seen nobody on the stage who has been a more interesting Character than that compound of Cruelty and Lust.”

At first she doesn’t bother say what play she saw. It’s really not important to her until the others begin to speak of them and then we learn it was a part farcical adaptation of a Don Juan play by Thomas Shadwell (the last of 3 musical things — so the theater really souped up whatever it was they saw — the equivalent of watching commercial TV today). She only begins to talk of what they saw when Fanny and her sisters come home and start to spout what she does not agree with. For once she here bothers to offer a sound view — she is for once not involved, her own pride satisfied for a time. She was herself bored at the Don Juan when they went the first time (the way it was done, which delighted the mindless). Here she does drop a real view: she’s seen “nobody on the stage who has a more interesting Character than that compound of Cruelty and Lust.”

Mr Hall is a hairdresser who comes to the house. Very expensive. Miss Hare a milliner. Austen knows she is old and age will not be hidden by girlish ornament. Not fooled. And today dentists too do make-work and in my experience don’t respect one’s real teeth that much. So they made their money making replacements then too. Edward goes both times. To pay maybe. He would have the money himself. Or to make sure not too much was done to them. Maybe to protect them? Doctors were not yet the gods who decreed expensive treatments just like this and then parents pay (like today).

Henry may be at work during the day but he is never far from her mind. Three minutes snatched (like some wife darting out as her husband rushes off) to read aloud to him an extract from Frank’s wife’s letter. So something important there which Henry acknowledges and promises to attend to. LeFaye thinks it might be Francis Motley but whoever it is, Henry is prepared to pressure the person to do what’s wanted. As this line is not often quoted I’ll quote it separately here: “he has no doubt of being attended to as he knows they feel obligated to him” Jane has to make an appointment with Mme de Bigeon in order to get to see her.


In Miss Austen Regrets Jane (Oliva Williams) talks with Mme Bigeon (Sylvie Herbert) over a fire late at night

Dentist again.

The theater. Again the possibly distasteful jokes about Crabbe. Maybe Austen didn’t know his wife was dying: she says she was expecting to see him at the theater because “the boxes were fitted up with crimson velvet”(maybe she has a specific line in mind as she often does for Cowper, showing a real working knowledge). Apparently Austen made some personal application to Midas: LeFaye declines to guess; I’ll guess it had something to do with how poor she was — she no longer feels so poor or dependent and refers to her money in this letter both directly and indirectly (when she’s spending). The pain in her face now gone. Was it sympathetic for Henry’s pain? And the trips to the theater, once again to see Don Juan, with some intelligent commentary: She watches for decent acting. She observes that the older people give way, the better seats to the young and more enthusiastic (or determined).

The last part of the letter has to do with their plans for leaving Henry: Edward’s pressuring him to come to Godmersham — he didn’t need much pressure before when Eliza was still alive — curious that, but maybe business is pressing. She speaks of Henry coming to Cassandra briefly. Alton was where one of his stores (so to speak) were so he could drop off at Chawton from there. More on her books probably about proofing for the 2nd edition; shopping and Henry’s business activities (and things are not going that well) — with sudden jumps to Hastings and Eliza. Then three paragraphs about the miseries of Bath. I read just the other day some article insisting that Nokes was right and Jane Austen loved Bath. The author cannot have read her letters with any attention.

Distributing books, shopping, Henry’s business:

I heard Edward last night pressing Henry to come to Godmersham & I think Henry engaged to go there after his November collection. Nothing has been done as to S&S. The Books came to hand too late for him to have time for it, before he went. Mr Hastings never hinted [underlined, emphatic] at Eliza in the slightest degree. Henry knew nothing of Mr Trimmer’s death. I tell you these things, that you may not have to ask them over again.

There is a new Clerk sent down to Alton, a Mr Edmund Williams, a young Man whom Henry thinks most highly of — and he turns out to be a son of the luckless Williamses of Grosvenor Place. I long to have you hear Mr Hastings’ opinion of P&P. His admiring my Elizabeth so much is particularly welcome me to me. Instead of saving my superfluous wealth for you to spend, I am going to treat myself with spending it myself. I hope at least that I shall fin some poplin at Layton & Shears that will tempt me to buy it. If I do. it shall be sent to Chawton, as half will be for you; for I depend upon your being so kind as to accept it, being the main point. It will be a great pleasure to me. Don’t say a word. I only wish you could choose too. I shall send 2o yards.

In context again it may be that Henry was carrying books to specific people. She is just tickled pink over Hastings’s note. Since Henry visited Hastings as a person attached to Eliza, the silence was deafening. I’ve said this before but left out that last sentence. In the case of S&S Austen is answering Cassandra, here about Trimmer, Eliza and Hastings she brings the topic up herself. This might not be liked. They are not to discuss Eliza at all. So she explains why: she knows her sister wants to know.

Trimmer’s death. A serious loss for Henry. An important partner, a family with money and connections. He doesn’t want to be lending money unless he’s got some and he was (remember this) the 4th son with nothing but what’s left from Eliza’s dowry. That’s the sort of thing Hastings did not want to hear about.

The new clerk. The “luckless Williamses” are connected to the Biggs. The sense is this young man will bring nothing (no funds, no connections)

She goes on about Elizabeth in P&P. For each novel in her mind she is writing a heroine’s text and it’s that heroine who counted for her as she wrote. That’s what she thought about. The heroines is the central element in each book. Her character as conceived by Austen makes the novel what it is.

Then the moderately rich lady wants to give her sister a present. She herself has no expenses for real — no rent, no money for daily transportation, no children, nothing so all her money is “superfluous” –meaning that it’s disposable income would be our phrase.

Now for Bath. Poor F[anny]. Cage has suffered a good deal from her accident. The noise of the White Hart was terrible to her. — They will keep her quiet, I dare say: She is not so much delighted with the place as the rest of the Party; probably, as she says herself, from having been less well, but she thinks she should’ like it better in the season. The Streets are very empty now, & the shops not so gay as she expected. They are at No. 1 Henrietta Street, the corner of Laura Place; and have no acquaintance at present but the Bramstons.

Lady B. drinks at the Cross Bath, her son at the Hot, and Louisa is going to Bathe. Dr Perry seems to be half starving Mr Bridges; for he is restricted to much such a Diet as James’s Bread, Water and Meat, & is never to eat so much of that as he wishes; — & he is to walk a great deal, walk till he drops, I believe, Gout or no Gout. It really is to that purpose; I have not exaggerated.

Charming weather for you & us, and the Travellers, & everybody. You will take your walk this afternoon & … [end of letter missing]

Fanny Cage was another spinster friend. Noise just terrible. Austen does not like noise any more than Fanny Price .The rest of her party so delighted, but not she. Yet making the best of a bad situation politely: “she thinks she should like it better … ”

Reduced to the Bramstons says Austen. LeFaye tells us these were west country people, and she quotes a letter which shows the lead female to be “an artful worldly woman, with a notable self-sufficient capacity” (networker, performer eho thinks the world of herself and that she does not need anyone) and very stupid son (“blockhead”)

Bath is where sick people went and they found there doctors who could do nothing for them.

But charming weather for them and then Jane went onto another topic and we are confronted with Cassandra’s scissors. There was something there that to Cassandra’s mind that was revealing of what must be kept hidden.

For Letter 88 (Wednesday after dinner), see comments.

Ellen

Read Full Post »


Laura Knight (1877-1970), Flying a Kite in the Open Air (1910)

Dear friends and readers,

I promise no false piety though we are not in the doleful dumps either. As witness my choice of picture and exhilarating foremother artist.

We are planning an ordinary day, the difference will be a turkey at 6 instead of say a chicken at 7. Champagne in lieu of wine. Since there are just the three of us, baked potatoes and buttered baked brussel sprouts, with that will be way more than enough. Izzy goes to the latest Bond movie, I’ll read about Anne Radcliffe and Jane Austen in French (to understand how French people see them) and maybe maybe just start a translation of Radcliffe by someone other than Victorine Chastenay. For context and then comparison for a possible coming paper if my proposal to present a paper on Victorine de Chastenay’s French translation of Udolpho is accepted for a coming Chawton conference. Maybe I’ll watch a movie too, From Prada to Nada, the latest film adaptation of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Spanish, the free type (set today). Jim, well Jim will potter about with cats, read on the Net, and if his knee is up to it, walk a little with me on this beautiful November fall day.

Where was I? Ah, Thanksgiving. Did you know it was invented and pushed by a woman? Sarah Josepha Hale

Hale, a young New Hampshire widow with five children to support, moved her brood to Boston and, in 1828, became editor of Ladies Magazine, the nation’s first such publication.

“Editor” is not truly accurate, for she also wrote almost everything in the magazine during its early days. She turned it into the century’s most successful periodical — even after a new owner named it for himself, dubbing it Godey’s Lady’s Book. Along the way, Hale’s editorials crusaded for many things, especially female education and an annual day of thanksgiving.

She still was writing editorials in the 1860s, when Lincoln accepted her idea during the somber days of the Civil War; and so the holiday’s genesis was political, a definite Yankee PR move, and it took a while for Southerners to accept the notion. Our national mythology therefore slowly reworked itself, skipping Lincoln and Hale, and focusing instead on 1621 and the Pilgrims.

But Plymouth was not the first colony. Another piece of women’s history: did you know that Jamestown was the first colony, set up by these gentlemen types who brought along lower class women as their sex-partners:

The capitalists who owned the Jamestown enterprise found these women in London’s prisons and brothels, brought them to Virginia and literally sold them to the highest bidder.

The winter after the women arrived, the truly dark days of 1609-10, was called the “starving tyme”: Out of approximately 500 Jamestown colonists, some 450 died. Captain John Smith’s records even report that one man “did kill his wife…and had eaten part of her before it was known, for which he was executed” … in a culture that claimed to protect women, they suffered disproportionate hardship. Of the 104 people aboard the Mayflower, just 18 were adult women — at least three of whom were pregnant when they ventured into the unknown in autumn of 1620. By the end of their first terrible winter, 14 of those 18 women were dead.

This 78 percent mortality rate compares with 40 percent for Plymouth’s men, and just 16 percent for children; during an era when childhood deaths often were higher than that under perfectly normal circumstances. Given women’s generally greater survival rates in crises, the probability is that the Mayflower women literally starved themselves to death so that their children could eat.

Plus ca change, moins ca change? Let’s hope not. We had such a beautiful win in congress in the US this year, 14 women, and just about all pro-women progressive initiatives passed, pro-marriage for LBGTQ people.

Why, then, is Thanksgiving so firmly associated with Plymouth? asks my source,
Doris Weatherford?

Not only Hale, but also and especially the tens of thousands of teachers who were educated in Massachusetts, beginning with the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary that Mary Lyons established in 1837. Its graduates and other New England schoolmarms went West to one-room schoolhouses, where they taught the Pilgrim version of history.

Still, Thanksgiving was not an official holiday until Franklin Roosevelt ensured it during the Great Depression — and he set the permanent date of the fourth Thursday in November not because of any historical or religious meaning, but as an inducement for early Christmas shopping. The Pilgrim women who gave their lives for the nascent nation, ironically, did not recognize Christmas, considering it much too merry.

Life in Plymouth was actually very hard:

The sadness began while still at sea, when Elizabeth Hopkins’ son, Oceanus, died soon after birth. Susanna White delivered another boy, Peregine, while the ship lay at anchor in Cape Cod Bay. Mary Norris Allerton’s child also was born aboard the Mayflower; he died in dark December and she in February.

The Pilgrims did not begin to build on land until Dec. 25 – a date of no significance to them – and still were living on the ship when Dorothy Bradford went overboard and drowned in the icy water on Dec. 7. Although her husband, Gov. William Bradford, and his fellow patriarchs tried to explain it as an accident, anyone who has seen the high-walled deck of the ship’s replica at Plymouth knows that it likely was a suicide.

Like other Pilgrim women, Dorothy Bradford came from a fairly affluent English family. These women were not the Jamestown impoverished, but instead were accustomed to comfortable homes and servants. They were not sickly when they left Europe, for they had access to medical care in London and later in Holland, where they lived prior to making the final voyage. It was the passage, on the windy Atlantic of approaching winter, that weakened them.

Now they found themselves living in a 20-foot square communal building, “as full of beds as they could lie one by another.” In the bitter cold of Massachusetts, their food supply ran out and everyone was too sick to seek more. Death visited almost daily in February and March, with evening funerals under the cover of darkness, lest natives see the diminishing numbers of the newcomers.

Four adult women and 11 girls remained alive when spring’s light again appeared. Because they were so greatly outnumbered by eager males, there was a great deal of pressure for girls such as Priscilla Alden to reach “marriageable” age. The only unmarried adult female survivor, Susannah White, became a bride again just 11 weeks after her husband’s death. Fertility dominated women’s lives and the governor wrote that as soon as the ground was warm, that this tiny remnant of females “went willing into the fields and took their little ones with them to set corn.”

So we remember these real heroines of the 17th through 19th century — pre-contraception alas. And I move to the 20th century to celebrate another, post-contraception and what a difference it makes. Foremothers bought us Thanksgiving and I add what a 20th century woman can now contribute.

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

Laura Knight, Self-Portrait (1913)

Laura Knight (1877-1970) (born Laura Johnson) rates a paragraph in Germaine Greer’s The Obstacle Race as one of the many women painters who became part of a long-lived team, man and woman (often man and wife), and ended up allowing the husband to dominate the relationship. In Knight’s autobiography, The Magic of a Line Knight wrote:

The broadcasting of talent in the fine arts is not nature’s daily practice. Harold Knight was one student whose work leaped beyond all others … Whenever possible I fixed my easel close to his; if he started the drawing of a head first blocking in the outline, I did the same; if he first of all drew detail of an eye, I copied that method — though never to attain his subtle realization of the whole head.

So (says Greer, Laura treated Harold as “a greater genius than herself,” even though Laura’s career progressed far more than his. She would “defer” to him in matters of taste, praise his wit and (silent) wisdom. She said he was the controlling influence in her life even if in the end she had to differ: in her autobiography she admires his “building up of dense images,” while she relied on the “magic of a single line.” Perhaps she was tactful? She did (says Greer) achieve “the almost impossible, a long happy married life with
another artist and the realization of an independent artistic career.” Greer reprints a powerful depiction by Knight, The Nuremberg Trial (1946), a commissioned work where we look down at four rows of people watching what’s happening, with two of them involved (with papers in front of them). Quietly grim and intense.

Not Summertime, Cornwall whose limpid summer light and deep rich
colors suggest a kind of paradise. The picture made me remember Ladies in Lavender where the two aging women have their home in Cornwall, and we see them walking by the sea many times. Knight is also remembered as a Cornish artist, because she painted so often in Cornwall.


Lamorna Cove


China Clay Pit (1912)


On the docks

Laura Knight was a “Dame”. One online blurb declares: Laura Knight “was a leading artist in the first half of the twentieth century. She also became the first woman artist to be elected into the Royal Academy since the first female members Angelica Kauffmann and Mary Moser. During her lifetime, she was praised for her lively scenes of the circus and the baler but she now receives more praise for her landscapes. Knight served as an Official War Artist during World War II and she also traveled to Nuremberg in 1946 to record the War
Criminals’ Trial.” Harold Knight gets a mention where she is called “wife of Harold Knight, a portrait painter (1874-1961), so maybe he made money that way.

I’ve long loved and admired her work, and especially now that it’s Cornwall she turns to. She is also cheering for this day. I’d not done a foremother artist in so long ….

Ellen

Read Full Post »


Jane Austen writing — as imagined and drawn by Isabel Bishop (1902-88)

Dear friends and readers,

Doubtless you will remember how last spring, early and late I was examining the later manuscripts of Jane Austen (using diplomatic transcripts, the online Jane Austen manuscript site), reading about the study of manuscripts in and of itself, and some subsets of Austen’s letters (those to her niece, Anna) — all with a view to writing a review for ECCB: The Eighteenth-Century Current Bibliography. When I sent the editor the final copy, she praised my piece strongly and promised it would be published this coming spring. I’ve heard nothing else since (nothing unusual in this as it can take a couple of years) but I’ve decided not to wait, especially since I attended a couple of book history sessions at the recent EC/ASECS where I heard a discussion of other new and expensive series by Cambridge of classic books already published within the last 50 years as equally contradictory, not seriously published with all the variants, really almost wholly reliant on earlier scholarship, over-priced.

This copy has all the references, notes and bibliography: Jane Austen’s Later Manuscripts in the Cambridge Edition


Facsimile of first page of manuscript poem, “When stretched on one’s bed” (about a migraine headache, a “fierce throbbing head”)

I can here also link in some of the thinking and documents that lie behind my brief essay-review, for it is a sort of essay. Here is a study of modern manuscripts (how to classify and approach them — Austen’s would be considered modern manuscripts), a chronology of the ms’s, and materials on Anna Lefroy and Catherine Hubback as Anna is a central voice (insofar as anything is) in the “Jane Austen’s theory of fiction” section of the book, ad Hubback is important for what she can tell us about The Watsons:

Jane Austen’s unpublished writing: the manuscripts, a chronology of writing

Jane Austen’s unpublished writing in context, or Jane Austen her own Vanity Press: Donald Reiman’s The Study of Modern Manuscripts


Anna Lefroy when still a young woman

Jane and Anna Austen in collaboration: Jane Austen her first sequel (Sir Charles Grandison, the play)

Austen’s letters to Anna Lefroy: No 103, a life of Anna, and Anna’s continuation of Sanditon

Jane Austen’s poems and letters to Anne Lefroy: No 113, and “Sigh, Lady, Sigh … ”

Catherine Anne Austen Hubback’s The Younger Sister: a fine and telling sequel to Jane Austen’s The Watsons

An Englishwoman in California: Catherine Anne Hubback’s letters


Catherine Hubback

Perhaps putting all this online and in one place will help someone who is deciding what editions of books which contain reprints in some form of the later manuscripts to buy or take out of the library.

Ellen

Read Full Post »


Frontispiece for Phillis Wheatley’s poems

Dear friends and readers,

In this second of a two-part report on the EC/ASECS conference I attended a couple of weeks ago now, the themes of the papers and talks seem as much about what gains respect as what incurs infamy.

Papers and talks were on ways writers were pressured into presenting themselves in order to be heard at all, surprising underlying punitive and/or emotional patterns which are still with us; the difficulty (impossibility it seems) of breaking out of stereotypical expectations, frustrating publishers. Since two of the panels I went to were chaired by Eleanor Shevlin and were about book history, I also summarized a paper she read aloud to the Washington Area Print group last week on the publisher William Harrison.

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

From a 2007 film adaptation of Justine

The session I chaired on Saturday (9:00-10:15 am) was originally intended (by me) to be about actresses, but as my call for papers turned up but one possible paper and I found I was not able to write a paper myself after all, I contented myself with the publication of my review of Felicity Nussbaum’s Rival Queens, and widened the scope of “R-e-s-p-e-c-t (yes I had Aretha Franklin’s famous song in mind) to include women in all working occupations and all ranks: “For actresses, women playwrights, working women, fictional heroines, and even aristocrats respect and favorable reputation matter.”
I’m delighted to say truthfully all three papers were excellent (I took more notes than usual) and the talk afterwards stimulating.

Kate Novotny spoke on “The Ethical Quicksand of Sade’s Justine: or, How to Win Readers and Offend People.” Mr Novotny went over the text, conventions and rhetoric of Sade’s Justine to show how Sade mediated his book’s shocking content in order to persuade his reader to listen to his philosophical point of view which (among other things) justified violence. His rhetoric relies on the similarity of his story to Richardson’s Pamela and other tales of virtuous lowly girl makes good. Justine is a satire on Richardon’s piety. Kate went over the text of Justine slowly, showing its use of familiar motifs. Lulled as it were, once we are reach the orgy, the fundamental nature of the text is an egoistic misogynist ethos. The strongest person is the best person and can or will not be controlled; one implication is that it’s a mistake to give women a voice at all.

In contrast, Sarah Hastings’s paper, “Vows, Whores, & Signs: Women and Words in Behn’s The Feigned Courtesans and The Rover shows Behn’s comedies hinge on a critique of mores that prevent women from exercising their power. Behn intermingles women who enact normative roles of virtue and who are prostitutes, gypsies are aligned and actresses identified with prostitutes. Failed servants survive through prostitution — indeed only through sexual flexibility can women survive at all, marriage being an exploitative commercial contract whose crux is a sexual-familial bargain. We see the mask of the courtesan allows her to enact agency and be pro-active on her own behalf; she is better off than the relatively helpless women who obeys norms of virtue. Women want to flee the world of men, be free from male control. Her stories foreground anxieties about marriage. Behn’s women want marriage to be partly based on compatibility (love). Tellingly Angelica Bianca is the only real courtesan in The Feigned Courtesans and wants to de-commodify herself; Helena wants a constant husband (while Willoughby wants an open marriage for himself). Behn’s plays reflect the world outside them too. Ms Hastings gave a brief history of the laws concerning prostitutes (made illegal under Henry VIII) and suggested an infinite series of steps exist between respectability and being called a whore; the class the woman belongs to affects how she is seen too. Women were treated as interchangeable objects. Market savvy women exploit these gradations and contradictions. During the civil war too there seemed to be a surfeit of women in civilian society, yet changes in customs which favored women.


From a 1986 production of Behn’s The Rover

Katherine Kittredge’s paper, “No Shame in Patchwork: Didactive Depictions of Laboring Class Girls” came out of her work on child poets and children’s literature in the long 18th century. Mr Kittredge asked how are laboring girls depicted in the 18th century? The improbability of Pamela not only gave rise to parody, it was felt not to be the strongly corrective narrative needed to train working class girls to accept their place and condition. The most famous of the didactic stories for girls was Goody Two-Shoes, the story of an itinerant orphan teacher who becomes respected and later marries up. Much harsher is the History of Susan Grey where an orphan becomes a washerwoman; when a captain goes after her, she is unjustly fired, flees, and dies a horrible death. We see the vulnerability of such a girl; ambition is dangerous; education and gentle behavior cannot change your status. In another story, the mother so busy with so many children that she can teach them only the catechism and her older daughter cannot be spared to attend school. Interestingly, in such stories we do not find upper class women teaching; the roles modeled insist on plain clothing, mending one’s clothes, and if the girl has fewer that suggests she will be safer: one good calico say and two other outfits. (She is not trying to get above herself.) Sewing or making clothes becomes a skill that creates community among women. These are proto-adult narratives that teach the girl that a laboring girl will never pass, they have an underlying paranoia that everyone is watching and punishments meted out. Later on in the century other standards than home-made few clothes replace these; now the girl has to be careful lest she make herself ridiculous because she has access to consumer culture.


Samantha Morton as Jane Eyre (1997 film)

The discussion afterwards was very interesting. One French scholar debated whether Sade had a discernible or consistent philosophy in Justine. Late on I thought of the Comus-like debate in Sade’s Marquis de Ganges but do not know if there are such passages in Justine. After all the papers all stayed within the 20 minute limit. I remembered Germaine Greer’s two part chapter in her Slipshod Muses where she argued that we have very few documents on Behn and suggested that much that has been said about her in biographies has no foundation. Greer thinks what evidence we have suggests Behn lived partly as a kept mistress and her playwriting was a way to help her make ends meet, not something she could really survive on. Thus her plays mirror her life’s experience. Ms Kittredge’s children’s stories anticipate Bronte’s Jane Eyre who has (we recall) only 3 dresses, two grey plain ones and one grey silk; she resists Rochester’s attempt to make her play a role above her status; she becomes a teacher, and she is rewarded for her selflessness. Even 20th century novels for women reflect these didactic “good girl” patterns: in Winifred Holtby’s socialistic radical South Riding, one of the heroines is very intelligent and her parents cannot afford to send her to school because her mother having too many children needs her at home. She is rewarded for her self-sacrifice when someone comes across with a scholarship for her; her great wish is to become a teacher like the primary heroine of the book.


Sarah Burton (Anna Maxwell Martin), the working class girl as teacher with her pupils behind her (2011 South Riding, an Andrew Davies’ product)

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

Edward Young (1681-1765)

Eleanor Shevlin chaired two book history sessions. The mid-morning (10:30-11:45) had three papers whose particular topics — a woman poet, a bluestocking and saloniere who wrote letters and Richardson — were areas I’d worked on.

Jim May spoke first about the frustrations he’d experienced working on a half-volume for the Cambridge edition of Richardson’s complete correspondence. Prof May has been working for many years on Edward Young and his part was to edit the 28 Young-Richardson letters (6 from Richardson). He gave a brief history of the publication of this correspondence. Richard Phillips had bought Richardson’s letter ms’s, and commissioned Anna Barbauld to edit the papers inside 3 months (!) Peter Sabor has counted around 600 letters from Richardson and Barbauld included about 1/4 of these; she conflated, abridged, eliminated substantives. The texts are hard to read. Foundational work was done in the 20th century by Henry Petit and Harry Forester; it would be very hard to improve upon them. PRof May handed out a xerox of letter by Mary Hallow, Young’s housekeeper who had a close relationship with Young. The problem is Cambridge’s policies which do not include information on punctuation, variants and have other restrictions so hat Prof May will intends to publish an essay which includes the notes not permitted in order to get the material he has added.


Elizabeth Montagu (1718-1800)

Eliza Child’s paper on Elizabeth Montagu’s “Letters from the North: Marriage, Power and Coal” was fascinating to me. I had known Montagu was involved in her husband’s mines (a central source of their great wealth), but not how active, how interested in industry, genuinely knowledgeable and (for her time) benevolent or at least just to the workers. It was another outlet for her imagination, altruism, sensibility. She chaffed at the limitations her husband imposed on her. Ms Child told us about Montagu’s entrepreneurial activity at Denton, a mining community; she had the confidence to persuade her husband to risk capital expenditure. Sections from Montagu’s candid letters were read aloud (she does not want to “lose” money “merely to avoid a little trouble”); her husband was more cautious (we heard her urging him “to act”, that he got “angry” but when “money came into his pocket” is gratified). She had hoped to be seen with Voltaire and Johnson in her “Essay on Shakespeare”; here she could be socially useful. She enacted fair hiring practices (contracts were short-term), opposed fixing prices (cabals), broke ranks with their peers over these issues. Her sister, Sarah Scott’s Sir George Ellison, is a model of benevolent capitalism. She also had effective charities: set up schools, gave material assistance to children to learn to read, for girls to knit and spin. These letters can provide a conterpoint to how women are often depicted in the 18th century novel where we often find them victimized by wealth.


Felicia Hemans, recent edition of her poems and letters

Alex Grammatikos spoke on “The Nothingness of Fame, At least to Women: Felicia Hemans and the Price of Celebrity.” Mr Grammatikos’s paper showed how Hemans was gradually pressured into presenting herself in the most conventional poetess sort of ways because she saw that not to do so left her vulnerable to criticism for her private life: she separated from her husband after having 5 children by him in 5 years; she turned to her mother who took care of the children while she spent her days writing and reading. She was also ignored or seen as inferior to the male poets. When she presented her work as that of a women of sensibility (and wrote poems to suit) she was successful. In her letters we see her say that she has no friends to help her promote her work as an author. She tells one correspondent how her previous poems were not successful because their subject was “not to be seen from a female pen.” She read reviews which focused on her femaleness and she redirected her career. There was a considerable gap before she could get a book of poems published again and when she did, she writes in the sentimental vein (“Records of Women”) for which she became famous. Mr Grammatikos felt Hemans resented this identification and Byron’s mockery of her as a “he-mans” was grating. But there was no breaking out of these stereotypes. So the phrase “nothingness of fame” was hers and refers to her sense of her true selfhood as lonely and suppressed.

Once again the talk afterwards was very interesting. I regret I was not able to get most of it down because so much was give-and-take. I can remember best what I contributed which was that I reviewed a Cambridge edition of Austen’s later manuscripts (which is supposed to be published this spring) and found the edition to be a missed opportunity; the choice of documents showed the series had not been thought through (so one had “everything else” including early manuscripts and not all the late ones); it was said to be for students and yet the price was outrageous and notes veered between minute erudition and high school-type explanations; it was basically a reprint of Chapman without Chapman’s apparatus.

There were two more lively talks (Phillis Wheatley, Kathy Temple on William Blackstone’s Commentaries); another session from which I briefly summarize 2 papers, and on November 9th (a few days later) Eleanor Shevlin’s paper on “The Making of the English Novel,” the role of periodical subscription magazines and newspapers; for summaries of all this see the comments.

Ellen

Read Full Post »

If I am a wild beast, I cannot help it, with Henry, Mon, 24 May ’13

There is another female sufferer on the occasion to be pitied … I hope you continue beautiful & brush your hair, but not all off, to Frank, Tues 6 July ’13


Huet-Villiers portrait of Mrs Quentin (as later engraved by Wm Blake, the original that Austen saw is lost)


Samantha Harker as Jane Bennet (1995 BBC P&P): probably closest in physical type of Janes thus far, in typical overt expression — and green ribbon

Dear friends and readers,

Two weeks have passed since I last wrote about Austen’s letters (see letters 81-84). Jane is still in London with Henry, both looking forward to going back to Chawton; once at Chawton, she writes at length to Frank in the Baltic, a rare letter to him to have survived.

The first, to Cassandra and mostly about Jane’s continuing distraction of and her relationship with Henry in London as he prepares to move and adjusts himself to Eliza’s death and his widower’s life, has been quoted repeated and made the centerpiece of interpretations of Austen or her characters because of two visits to two exhibitions, where Austen looks for and says she finds one image of one of her heroines from P&P; Austen’s reluctance to go to a party and socialize with people aware she has written S&S and P&P; and Austen’s self-conscious “parading about London in [Henry’s, more probably Eliza’s] Barouche.”

The second, to Frank, our first to him to have survived for a while (all we have left thus far are her two to him upon their father’s death, and her two poems celebrating a new marriage and new home. He is captaining a ship in the Baltic sea and she writes as companionable, reassuring, and locally descriptive letter as she can. Here attention has been paid to Jane Austen’s gathering precisely the right information for her MP, a paragraph asserting Henry seems no longer grieving at all, and a PS paragraph of her avidly keeping track of what money she has made thus far.

Taken together, the two have much to show about three of Jane Austen’s brothers: Henry, Edward (who figures in letter 86), and Frank. Austen’s life at Chawton is emerging. Yet again she identifies with a marginalized nearly homeless woman, Elizabeth Leigh-Thomas.


Ciaran Hinds as Captain Wentworth: he has a beautiful amount of hair (1995 BBC Persuasion)

********************
No 85, to Cassandra, Mon 24 May ’13, From Sloane Street to Chawton.


J. J. Feilds as Henry Tilney (2007 BBC Northanger Abbey)

Four days ago Jane had taken her several trips with Henry around the near-by countryside. Jane continues this mostly cheerful upbeat manner, all activity she (“I then walked into No 10 [Henrietta St], which is all dirt and confusions”) She has Cassandra in mind and her content says she is “very much obliged” to Cassandra for wrting to her because Cassandra must have “hated” this sitting down and writing. She had had a worrying morning. What this is we are never told but it’s in Jane’s mind:

I am very much obliged to you for writing to me. You must have hated it after a worrying morning.-Your Letter came just in time to save my going to Remnants, & fit me for Christian’s, where I bought Fanny’s dimity. I went the day before (Friday) to Laytons’ as I proposed, & got my Mother’s gown, 7 at 6/6. I then walked into No. 10,’ which is all dirt & confusion, but in a very promising way, & after being present at the opening of a new account to my great amusement

Cassandra’s letter did spare her some shopping. She is glad to have shopped less, not more. Now she didn’t have to go to Remnants. The day before Cassandra’s letter arrived she had gone already, to Layton’s as she had proposed. As in the last letter it is a question of buying mourning, this time for the mother.

I take her amusement at the opening paragraph to be her sense that this is absurd because she has herself so little money, has spent a life of tight budgets (for her to be opening a new account!). This connect forward to the close of the letter where in a much quoted phrase she feel a curious triumph (somehow inculcated by the very physical experience of high up in an open carriage (Fanny Dashwood and Mrs Elton understandable in their exultations)– only Jane is actually saying that this is not her, this temporary elevation is not something she “has a right” to. A curious phrase. Most people in rich cars go about in them because they have money, money they often did not make. The idea here is her lack of self-importance and this does connect back to her unwilling to be made a possible show of.

I had great amusement among the Pictures; & the Driving about, the Carriage been open, [sic] was very pleasant. — I liked my solitary elegance very much, & was ready to laugh all the time, at my being where I was. — I could not but feel that I had naturally small right to be parading about London in a Barouche. —

Then the famous passage: Jane picked Henry up from his office, and they went to an Exhibition of apparently 3rd rate pictures. The weather was bad. The collection not thought by others to be good and Austen says simply it was poor. For most people today Huet-Villier’s portrait is not exactly attractive (it was first identified by Martha Rainbolt, English Language Notes, Dec 1988, 35-42). A complacent heavy face, surprisingly not blonde, but big. Big women, large, fecund, obviously eating were admired; it was a class inflection but the type is still seen and admired (Maggie Smith, Emma Thompson, Patricia Dodge, Samantha Harker)

Henry & I went to the Exhibition in Spring Gardens. It is not thought a good collection, but I was very well pleased-particularly (pray tell Fanny) with a small portrait of M” Bingley;” excessively like her. I went in hopes of seeing one of her Sister, but there was no M” Darcy; — perhaps however, I may find her in the Great Exhibition’ which we shall go to, if we have time; — I have no chance of her in the collection of Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Paintings which is now shewing in Pall Mall, & which we are also to visit. — Mrs Bingley’s is exactly herself, size, shaped face, features & sweetness; there never was a greater likeness. She is dressed in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I had always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her. I dare say M” D. will be in Yellow. — Friday was our worst day as to weather, we were out in a very long & very heavy storm of hail, & there had been others before, but I heard no Thunder.


Sabrina Franklyn, the sweetest of the Janes (1979 P&P)


Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennet (Wright’s 2005 P&P), the sexiest and most knowing

I do not know why there the “no chance” of seeing Mrs Bingley in Joshua Reynolds studio: he painted many an upper class flattered icon of luxury and wealth and fecund femininity Looking at Jane’s words they are very general, no specific trait, only that the painting shows a woman in white (upper class women liked to wear white it showed their wealth and servants — Mrs Norris is resents that Fanny is in white) with green ornaments. Green a pastoral color? spring like. Perhaps that prompts yellow? I don’t know. Were brunettes through to look good in yellow — Elizabeth is said to be much smaller and traditionally taken to be darker (not dark, just darker more brown in her hair).

Note that the tone of the section make the next day just as important as well as a locket where four important words are Snipped away!

Saturday was a good deal better, dry & cold. — I gave 2/6 for the Dimity; I do not boast of any Bargains, but think both the Sarsenet & Dimity good of their sort. — I have bought your Locket, but was obliged to give 18 for it — which must be rather more than you intended; it is neat & plain, set in gold. [Four or five words cut outJ; — We were to have gone to the Somerset house Exhibition on Saturday, but when I reached Henrietta Street Mr Hampson was wanted there, & Mrs Tilson & I were obliged to drive about Town after him, & by the time we had done, it was too late for anything but Home. — We never found him after all.

Hampson is this tiresome Walker connection. Eliza may appreciate her Walker connections but in Jane’s previous letter, no sense of this. Only that Hampson is wanted for some business reasons – a relative, and in this period bankers went where they could. She drove about with Mr Tilson seeking this guy for business reasons.

And they never found him after all.

Note Henry didn’t go. He’s being spared. He’s enough to do, moving.

And now Jane is interrupted because Mrs Tilson comes over all excited about this party she and Mr Tilson have got up. Jane Auasten is ironic here: Jane is laughing at the Mrs Tilson’s disappointment and shows us just what she thinks of this kind of ambtious social life. Just think of it, Jane’s cousin Carole is now Mrs Tilson’s sole dependence to go to Lady Drummonds. How low can Mrs Tilson go? So everyone should read the whole thing:

— I have been interrupted by Mrs Tilson. — Poor Woman! She is in danger of not being able to attend Lady Drummond Smith’s Party tonight. Miss Burdett was to have taken her, & now Miss Burdett has a cough & will not go. — My cousin Caroline is her sole dependance. — The events of Yesterday were, our going to Belgrave Chapel in the morns, our being prevented by me rain from going to evens Service at S’ James, Mr Hampson’s calling, Mr Barlow & Phillips dining here; & Mt & Mrs Tilson’s coming in the evenimg a l’ordinaire. — She drank tea with us both Thursday & Saturday, he dined out each day, & on friday we were with them; & they wishus to go to them tomorrow evens to meet Miss Burdett; but I do not mow how it will end. Henry talks of a drive to Hampstead,” which may :aterfere with it.-I should like to see Miss Burdett very well, but that I am rather frightened by hearing that she wishes to be introduced to me. — I am a wild Beast/ I cannot help it. It is not my own fault. — There is ao change in our plan of leaving London, but we shall not be with you before Tuesday. Henry thinks Monday would appear too early a day. There is no danger of our being induced to stay longer.

The big event is in a list of diary like (minutiae) events. What did they do on Sunday? well they went to Belgave Chapel, but it rains so no evens service. Finally Henry and Mr Tilson got to see Mr Hampson Whew. Now Mrs T came to tea on Thurs & Sat while Mr T dined out each day and then on Friday Jane and Henry were with them both.

They are enacting duties, business duties and it’s wearing. It’s expected they go with the Tilsons and she does not know how the latest suggestion will end. I note the meeting which is usually presented as set up by Henry is not set up by the Tilsons and he is clearly as reluctant to go as his sister. In the previous letter of their trip Henry says only that he “found it too warm and talked of its’ being clsoe sometimes,” it is Jane who enjoyed herself very much. It was his plan to go to the Exhibition the next day; he is setting up activities. Also leaving the home he and Eliza had set up as soon as possible. Without Eliza he sees no need to keep up a social residence on its own so will live above the quarters of his store (so to speak). Or maybe he wants to get away.

This social event was not set up by Henry but the Tilsons: “they wish us to go tomorrow evening to meet Miss Burdett. ” Tilson was a business partner of Henry; perhaps he’s networking; the Tilsons are also said to have been evangelical (but that has no play here). The person that the Tilsons suggest that one person longs to meet Jane: Miss Burdett. Not a literary lady. LeFaye tells us the woman was a member of a rich and radical family and later did not like MP as much as P&P. Does anyone at all know why Jane should find her formidable? In the letter she is characterized as someone who was to have taken Mrs Tilson to Lady Drummonds but now she is coughing and will not go. Alas, Mrs Tilson will now not be able to go. Oh dear oh dear. It’s clearly insinuated that Miss Burdett she knows that Austen is an author, the novelist, and is intensely curious about this “lion” (from P&P) of the season? There is nothing in the letter to say that Henry told. Further henry’s plan to drive to Hampstead would interfere with this social setting. He’d prefer Hampstead and perhaps Eliza’s grave or simply another pretty trip together — if it doesn’t rain so hard and is not so warm.

Henry’s next sentiment is that he feels “Monday would appear too early a day” for them to leave London. Not that he thinks it is. Says Jane of this: “there is no danger of our being induced to stay longer.”

Why does Austen liken herself to a wild beast and say she can’t help being one. All sorts of suggestions to have been made. Diana: “she feels she is being exhibited like an animal in a menagerie, and “it is not my own fault” means that Henry has spread the secret so that she is becoming a celebrity rather against her will.”

Only there is nothing here about Henry doing this. It’s the Tilsons. For my part I also feel she felt she didn’t have the performance manners; she wouldn’t have hacked the kinds of behaviors demanded in such a show-offy “ton-ish” setting. She is not of the ton. Fanny Burney didn’t like the “ton” either. She’s not polished is Jane’s meaning and she’s glad she’s not polished. What Jane does not want is a loss of face in the immediate sense. She does not want to go down in prestige by having been treated without the usual respect accorded a gentlewoman. Someone ogling her would take away what is a class respect. It’s a loss of deference to her she is intent on preventing.

Then how Henry would like to go back on Monday but it would appear to early so they must wait for the next day, but not to worry Cassandra: “there is no danger of our being induced to stay longer.” Henry wants to return to Hampshire with Jane as soon as possible.

Austen turns to their travel arrangements, and Henry’s moving. It’s just a thicket of social nuances which are being assumed and she’s trying to manipulate to her and Cassandra’s credit. This intense consideration for each move in life is something I am glad I do not live by. These nuances are interspersed with again this attention to saving the smallest expense. This is what I take the references to Mrs Hill (a tradeswoman?), and the Hoblyns to party be about. Money and games of social prestige. (I’m glad I don’t live this way, to avoid it you must avoid social life).

— I have taken your gentle hint & written to Mrs Hill.- The Hoblyns want us to dine with them, but we have refused. When Henry returns he will be dining out a great deal I dare say; as he will then be alone, it will be more desirable; — he will be more welcome at every Table, & every Invitation more welcome to him. He will not want either of us again till he is settled in Henrietta St. This is my present persuasion. — And he will not be settled there, really settled, till late in the Autumn-“he will not be come to bide”, till after September. — There is a Gentleman in treaty for this house. Gentleman himself is in the Country, but Gentleman’s friend came to see it the other day & seemed pleased on the whole. — Gentleman would rather prefer an increased rent to parting with five hundred G at once; & if that is the only difficulty, it will not be minded: Henry is indifferent as to the which.

Perhaps Henry would prefer not to have his sisters there (as a drag? these two old maids dressed much older than they are? and his sisters): he will be more welcome without them and he will welcome the invitations more. He will not want them any more until he’s settled in Henrietta Street. In part she’s being realistic. My sense of the passage is that Jane also assumes that once she is gone Henry will dine out and then it’s time enough for him to accept an invitation from the Hoblyns. Right now he does want to dine in and with Jane. So it’s quite not that self-mortifying or saying she’s nothing.

The use of Frank’s phrase as a child is telling. Jane extends its original meaning now to mean the person is comfortable. This shows how she can read a subtext from a child – and Frank’s again, in a loving poem to and about him. Actually the words as given us are hers, not his. The implication in the poem might be something she attributes to the child Frank. I suspect that’s so. Henry will not be comfortable until autumn. Only then will he want his sisters back. He wants Jane there now as a distraction and company.

So he is in an emotional state, one which reaches down to his depths. And yet the one thing averred of him by Jane in this section is “he’s indifferent”which money arrangement the new tenant goes for. It’s a matter for the tenant of paying the money all at once upfront or bit by bit as increased rent. Either way says Henry. It seems to me he just wants to get out — away from memories. But that’s not what Jane says. I feel she is deliberately turning away from the man and not entering into his case — instinctively, intuitively at a distance from what is happening in front of her.

Why should Henry move to Henrietta Street? because he too wants to save every expense and after all he is not into making a show that much. I do take it he and Eliza lived the way they did — in upscale apartments — because it was necessary to her self-image and to the kind of entertaining she wanted to do. She had the money from Hastings, her father now. We do see all the Austen children do not care that much about show when it comes down to it, which is at odds with this intense consideration for jockeying for position in social life.

— Get us the best weather you can for Wednesday, Thursday & Friday We are to go to Windsor in our way to Henley, which will be a great delight. We shall be leaving Sloane St about 12 –, two or three hours after Charles’s party have begun their Journey. — You will miss them, but the comfort of getting back into your own room will be great!-& then, the Tea & Sugar!-

She begins with a yet renewed-again longing for great weather to enjoy another journey. Austen loves to wander about in landscape — it’s something you find marginalized women who are given no direct daily responsibility can feel. It’s natural. She satisfies a certain safe lust for seeing new things and people and in the passage her love for landscapes. She gets what she can out of life.


Mismarried to Mr Collins in the 2009 Lost In Austen, Morven Christie as Jane Bennet tells Mrs Bingley: “we must not reproach ourselves for unlived lives.”

It seems that Charles is with Cassandra. Note Jane’s attention to time: she and Henry will leave 2 or 3 hours after Charles and his family leaves, Cassandra will miss them but she’s given up her own room for them and now she will have privacy. There’s a suggestion here too that while Charles and his family were there Cassandra controlled the amount of tea and sugar meted out. This is another instance where Charles and his family hover just out of sight but Jane does not pay much attention to them in the letters we have. (My gut feeling is she was not keen on her sisters-in-law except for Eliza and now she’s replaced her — I’m being a bit brutal here but then so is Jane Austen.)

Back to Godmersham and Chawton:

I fear Miss Clewes is not better, or you vt1 have mentioned it. — I shall not write again unless I have any unexpected communication or opportunity to tempt me. — I enclose Mr Heringtons Bill & receipt.

Miss Clewes is another of these unfortunate governesses: “I fear Miss Clewes is not better, or you would have mentioned it.” Notice how Austen repeatedly enters into the cases of other single women, especially marginalized ones and especially more governesses at Godmersham. What a misery life must have been for a such a woman there is what comes out to me. Low in status, so many children, expected to keep them in order and yet not given real authority, they disliking her for it instead of the parent who decrees it. As Jane says in The Watsons better anything than this except marrying without love — which is the other alternative.

The second paragraph is again intensity over bits of money. Mr Herington was the man she talked to about the currants in their garden. She does like to write but will not have another opportunity

I am very much obliged to Fanny for her Letter; — it made me laugh heartily; but I cannot pretend to answer it. Even had I more time, I should not feel at all sure” of the sort of Letter that Miss D. would write.

The letter to her from Fanny which is destroyed. We cannot know what was in it — it may have been an awful wooden thing. Austen herself does not write letters for her characters in the present texts most of the time except to comically expose them. It shows when Austen has not personated a character that way she is not brought them alive as yet in the way of others. That’s interesting because the story told of Georgiana is the lurid elopement plot. People filming the book have trouble with the character of Georgiana and make her over-sweet because she is not fully realized in the book. Austen knows this. She’s not bothered. She has these caricatures and less than 3 dimensional presences. Writers of novels often do.

Miss Benn — I had almost said Miss Bates — not forgotten:

I hope Miss Benn is got quite well again & will have a comfortable Dinner with you today —

And finally back to these London pleasures which Austen does triumph in, carriage, pictures. His sending 3 dozen of claret and wanting Edward to know is showing off to the rich adopted brother. Austen though undermines that. It’s cheap stuff. Maybe he’s showing off that he does not care as much as Edward too.

We pay attention to the wisps on Elizabeth and Darcy but notice now that there is a word omitted. Some word that Cassandra felt she just has to censor. Was it a reference to sexuality? Austen seems to be complicit with male possessiveness and jealousy here and even exult in it for her heroine. I’m interested though in Austen saying apart from that she enjoyed looking at the pictures. In the previous passage she recognized the poorness of what she was seeing; here she recognizes there is really something worth seeing. Her jokes about her heroines being there or not are jokes. She intersperses herself into these prestigious shows this way but does not forget reality. I like that she has a taste that’s alive to silly drek (upper class overweight women flattered by these portraits) and to something better.

We have been both to the Exhibition & Sir J. Reynolds, — and I am disappointed, for there was nothing like Mrs D. at either. — I can only imagine that Mr D. prizes any Picture of her too much to like it should be exposed to the public eye. — I can imagine he have that sort [of omitted] feeling — that mixture of Love, Pride & Delicacy — Setting aside this disappointment I had great amusement among the Pictures; & the Driving about: the Carriage been open, [sic] was very pleasant. — I liked my solitary elegance very much, & was ready to laugh all the time, at my bewhere I was. — I could not but feel that I had naturally small right to be parading about London in a Barouche. — Henry desires Edward may know that he has just bought 3 dozen of Claret for him (Cheap) ordered it to be sent down to Chawton. — I should not wonder if we got no farther than Reading on Thursday even — & so, reach Steventon only to a reasonable Dinner hour the next day;-but whatever I may write or you may imagine, we [continued below address panel] know it will be something different. — I shall be quiet tomorrow morns; all my business is done, & I shall only call again upon Mrs Hoblyn &c.-Love to your much [redu]ced] Party.-Yrs affectinately,


Joe Wright’s 2005 Miramax P&P creates a Keira Knightley as an Elizabeth is who glad to make herself all Mr. Darcy’s (Matthew MacFayden)

Then her half-uncomfortable triumph in a carriage which she feels she has no right to. Reading was a central stop (a good book on The road to Reading by Diane Philips — quick recommendation here).

Finally the last line or so. I like the tone her. I don’t often really like the tone of these letters – the tone of mind is shaped by Cassandra’s presence. But here we have: ‘”I shall be quiet tomorrow morning; all my business done, & I shall only call again upon Mrs Hoblyns &c

That last phrase does detract. After all not such a quiet morning. She has to do this socializing, but she will have a little time to herself. She wrote her novels in the long mornings when she had them.

****************************
No. 86, to Frank, Sat-Tues 3-6 July 1813, Chawton to HMS Elephant, Baltic


A map of Rugen

What a change from the letters to Cassandra — anyway for the most part. The basso continuo of this letter is an open and (as Diana Birchall says whose words are in quotation marks) “most heartfelt way that displays strong feeling” throughout. It’s been 4 months now since Eliza’s death, a full summer, and the immediate sense of continuing vital loss of the first weeks has diminished considerably.

It is indeed “a handsome letter” and shows that Austen did indeed follow politics, could effortlessly recite off names and events. Were we to have the 3 packets, it might well be that the letters to Cassandra would seem the strained, strange ones. Jane talks of what’s happening in the world today, shows real knowledge of it. Why should she not? The way she brings together three different people and then moves on to Elizabeth shows her to have been read in history and travel books. She never speaks of this to Cassandra for it’s of no interest to her and Cassandra early on let Jane know Jane should write to Cassandra what Cassandra wanted to hear — and didn’t mind making these ultra feminine letters of shopping, catty gossip, but also these indirect vibes, guarded barbed statements, and sudden (frank enough — something she does not write to Frank) of her shared outlook with Cassandra on endlessly pregnant women.

Indeed there is no need for close reading in this letter — at least most of it — except in the sense of information so that we may understand it. You need to know all the details of the Austen-Leigh inheritance and know the reality of what Aunt Jane Leigh-Perrot was like to realize “vile compromise” is our Jane mimicking, repeating the typical words of her aunt, resentful that she didn’t get that property but had to be content with a mere 24,000£ and annuity of 2000£ She wanted that property too.

You have to know from elsewhere (letters are life-writing not self-contained novels) about this time Edward took his family to from Godmersham and lived near the Austen sisters for 5-6 months. This you get if you read Margaret Wilson’s book on Fanny Austen for there are annotations in Fanny’s diary of this time living near her Aunt Jane.

It’s a loving letter, and yet she is slightly afraid to offend him. Frank was literal — as we have seen not one for landscape, at the same time sensitive, and while she used his ships allusively (Wm is partly Frank, Edmund Bertam partly Frank, but also James Austen) is willing to erase immediately upon being told it displeases him. It’s hard to say I admit if she is not this way with other relatives, as a rare early draft of Persuasion tells us how upset she was when her mother disapproved of the ending of Persuasion as somehow reflecting adversely on older women, mothers — it might be an earlier version did not have Anne so strongly justifying Lady Russell.

There is no exertion here as it’s all so direct. It makes me remember how she has her Emma (at the close of the book where she most identifies with her heroine) say how she loves openness. Even the rhythm is different, no all thing jumbled together as swift as she can do, but sitting there taking her time, luxuriating as one does when one writes a letter to a friend and pretends one has him or her right there. Bachelard talks of this in his book on reveries (the section on epistolary writing). The parallel is Austen’s Fanny Price sitting down to write to William.

Behold me going to write you as handsome a Letter as I can. Wish me good luck. — We have had the pleasure of hearing of you lately through Mary; who sent us some of the particulars of Yours of June 18th (I think) written off Rugen, & we enter into the delight of your having so good a Pilot. —

I often find the Hubbacks’ JA’s Sailor Brothers more useful for situating Frank vis-a-vis Jane than Brian Southam’s JA and the Navy because Southam organizes by theme while the Hubbacks’ do by year and by the end resort to using and then printing Jane’s letters as the core of what they seek to elucidate. So in the Hubbacks’ book (pp 229-31) we learn the details of Rugen while in Southam’s (p 116) we are taught about Sweden’s importance: Copenhagen was a place people sailed in and made money (whence Mary Wollstonecraft went to Sweden to do some business for Gilbert Imlay). I won’t copy out Frank’s entries here, as the Hubbacks do in their book and I leave it to those interested to read just a piece from them just below. The Hubbacks say Jane’s letter was spot on refreshing for Frank both because of its appropriate details of history and turn to the English countryside.

For the rest of the letter, see comments.

Ellen

Read Full Post »


Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth (John Singer Sergeant) — this is the kind of image many recent studies of actresses want to make dominant


Geraldine Somerville as Daphne DuMaurier (in the film Daphne 2007, written by Margaret Forster, directed Claire Bevan) — the reality captured is a lot more ambivalent and complicated)

Dear friends and readers,

Tonight I watched a great film, She’s Been Away, and put on line my review of Felicity Nussbaum’s Rival Queens: Actresses, Performance, and the Eighteenth-Century British Theater (just click), the culmination of a couple of months (at least of work). The review appeared in the most recent issue of The Eighteenth Century Intelligencer, just before the meeting last weekend of the EC/ASECS in Baltimore.

At one time I would have been simply very proud of it: I know it’s excellent, and admit a high point of said conference for me occurred when a senior male scholar whom I very much respect came over to me and complimented me on it. He never appeared to see me before, but in our conversation, especially when he said to ignore if anyone is “snippy” to you about it, that he knew something of me (had observed me). Silly? I couldn’t help it.

I’m no longer simply proud because I know to tell the truth about books is not something most scholars do, nor reviewers for that matter. They are there to compliment their friends, do what will elicit reciprocal favors; not only do you not make friends this way, you alienate people. (They worry you’ll write about their book or essay that way.) I tried hard to be even-handed, balanced and the first five paragraphs praise and describe much that is of value in the book: I called it “stimulating, provocative,” and hope I conveyed how much information, and insight it conveys. By following it, and reading a sample of what Nussbaum had read I learned much not just about actresses, but the conversation that surrounds them today: one that (I regret) has more than occasionally turned feminism (as Gail Dines has said) into essays that seem to value any any act of any woman gaining whatever power (influence counts), money, glamor she can, and turn away from a genuinely reformist social movement for all women together. Celebrity studies seems often to be similarly amoral.

I regret it because the actresses the writers bring into the canon of remembered culture were often fine, good women working not just for themselves but other people and since the mid-19th century some of them consciously and effectively for all vulnerable exploited people, especially other women as a group. I count Helen Mirren as one of these.


Helen Mirren, a Robert Maxwell photo

They include directors, producers, writers, an array of costumer and production designers, entrepreneurs — all of which roles were instrumental in raising the status of the actress by the later 19th century. I know the screenplay writer of a BBC film is a central force in its realization, and much admire the work of Sandy Welch and Anne Pivcevic:


Sandy Welch


Anne Pivcevic, director, producer, writer for the BBC

So I’d like to do more, read, write, perhaps someday finish that etext edition of George Ann Bellamy I started. Catherine Clive is one of my favorite people; Sandra Richards’ book a favorite.

Tonight I watched a very great TV movie, She’s Been Away (director Peter Hall, written by Stephen Poliakoff), the story of a young woman institutionalized basically for misbehavior 60 years ago, and thus destroyed, and how her presence when brought home by nephew since the alternative for her is the streets prompts this nephew’s wife, a young woman in her 30s finally to act out a rebellion – which endangers her life directly (and her pregnancy) and really gains nothing for her, but the important friendship of the first. She also brings the first out of her carapace insofar as the aged women is capable. Both angry, the older much more justifiably, the play explores their thwarted lives and lack of choices. It’s played by Peggy Ashcroft and Geraldine James, I can’t recommend it too highly: it was they who made it the powerful experience it is. James stole the movie by the second half. It was much harder to convey the broken stilled old woman whose life has simply been ‘taken from her,” as Ashcroft says quietly in her last moments as she watches James’s husband (James Fox) storm up the hall towards them (indignant). James is still acting up, acting out. In order to convey these women’s real sense of themselves, and perspective, and how they are really used by their society, the film moves away from realism into a semi-wild haunting sequence in the London city landscape of cars, supermarkets, a hotel and finally a hospital. That year (1989) they played together in The Jewel in the Crown, very different types, James the good (and strong) young woman heroine, and Ashcroft, the tragic victim older woman.


Geraldine James, Peggy Ashcroft meeting outside their overt costume roles


Ashcroft in her prime as Duchess of Malfi

No one picked up my call for papers on actresses for this conference. I was not entering into this upbeat Nussbaum mindset which sees actresses as acting analogously (and therefore praiseworthily) in was ambitious successful academic career women do. I’ve discovered even prostitutes are written about in this vein (e.g., in some of her chapters Kristen Pullen, Actresses and Whores). In the 18th century and throughout much of the 19th the life of the actress (let alone prostitutes) was very different, not analogous at all with the 20th century teacher-scholar at all.

Ellen

Read Full Post »


Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), Le Reveur, or the Ruines of the Oybin Monastery (1835-40), this image appears with Emmeline in an essay on the novel

Dear friends and readers,

Over the past couple of months I’ve read the first and last of Charlotte Smith’s novels, Emmeline, or the Orphan of the Castle (1788) and The Young Philosopher (1798). Inside those 10 years she wrote 8 more, one, the 2nd, Ethelinde; or the Recluse of the Lake (1789) I’m hoping to make an edition of. I wrote about it here, as well as her translation from Prevost, Manon Lescaut, or the Fatal Attachment (1786), her abridgement, translation, adaptation of Pitaval’s Causes Celebres, as The Romance of Real Life (1787), and her later gothic, Montalbert (1795), as part of other projects, papers, or simply I wanted to read them because I like her writing.

Emmeline is remarkable for its powerful whirling around a group of characters who directly represent herself from different angles, and her frightening violent, irresponsible, utterly egoist, half-wild inconsistent husband, both when they first wed, and as she had come to know him by 1787 when she finally left him, taking her still living 9 children with her (she had had 12), and writing to her publisher that “his temper been so capricious and often so cruel” that her “life was not safe” (Smith to Joseph Cooper Walker, 9 October 1793). At first (age 16), she had spent extravagantly with him, but quickly came to see what a meaningless drone he was; she seems not to have been able to fend off his sexual demands and had 12 children by him; he used up his inheritance, embezzled moneys, ended up in a debtor’s prison, to which she accompanied him; later she obeyed him and went to live at a remote chateau (like a gothic heroine) in France where she nearly died of another childbirth. He had mistresses in front of her and finally she left him for good.

Some might say a novel which is so filled with such autobiographical painful issues cannot be good; I disagree. The greatest art comes out of an artist returning repeatedly to their life’s core issues to address these in large meaningful ways.

Her life of hardship, penury, continual tragic deaths and disappointment is also treated on the Net. Omitted is an incident (told by Antje Blank in the Literary Encyclopedia) that when Smith had already had a number of children by Benjamin Smith, she did meet a man whom she loved and could possibly have lived a fulfilled life with but she parted from him because she thought living with him would do her children harm.

In The Young Philosopher she presents the autobiographical material more indirectly, provides a wild, whirling, indeed exhilarating series of agonized adventures for a pair of outcast heroines and strong good thoughtful men as heroes (one an original thinker, the other determined to live his life according to his own evolved ethical standards) in order (it seemed to me) try out how far the philosophical ideas of various Enlightenment figures provides guides for understanding or life.

Since Emmeline was her first novel, and for its time so original and sold widely and ever since has been one of those by Smith readers read (and thus it came back into print in the 1970s in an Oxford edition by Anne Ehrenpreis), Emmeline has a full wikipedia article with a complete summary of the story, characters, and themes.

The Young Philosopher is only treated briefly as “a final piece of ‘outspoken radical fiction’. Smith’s protagonist leaves Britain for America, as there is no hope for a reform in Britain.” The novel is often left out of detailed treatments because it came last. There is, however, an excellent chapter on The Young Philosopher in Eleanor Ty’s Unsex’d Revolutionaries. The core story (presented as substory at first) is about Laura Glenmorris whose mother disliked her and who eloped to marry an unacceptable highlander; when Laura is deprived of his presence & protection, she is hounded by his relatives who destroy her newborn son (his heir); her daughter by him, Medora, is already grown and she has a series of parallel despotic, exploitative, and violent experiences, both in the Highlands and in London from which she seems to emerge the stronger. The framing story is of George Delmont, a younger son (though not young), the philosopher of the book whose brother takes advantage of him; Delmont’s experiences occur mostly in provincial society and London; he is the sober thoughtful caring man who occurs repeatedly in all Smith’s books, a dream figure for her of the good man she was not permitted to have a worthwhile life with.

Most salient: Emmeline makes clear why it was so necessary if you had an illegitimate child to hide the fact. The inheritance laws and desperation for any property at all by genteel people (there were no jobs but through patronage) was what made this imperative. If it should get out that Adelina, now coercively married to Trelawny, had had a child by someone else (Fitzgerald), immediately Trelawny’s family would be on top of her to discover if it was someone else’s and then spread nasty rumors, go to court if they had to, to secure the property away from her. Her brother can claim the child as his because he is a second son: no one cares. The Young Philospher makes clear how the legal system and customs render the strongest woman helpless when someone wants to take her property, abuse her body or her mind (a family or husband can put a woman away and this is one of the threats the heroines in The Young Philosopher endure).

I try to suggest the journey that occurred between them, keep to autobiographical and literary contexts. They have flaws But the first keeps a heroine who has a baby out of wedlock central; the second occurs in Scotland, is exhilarating, looks back to Lee’s Recess.

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

Carleton Watkins, The Three Brothers (1865-66), the photo is on the cover of the Broadview Press edition of the novel by Lorrance Fletcher, which I recommend

The two most interesting characters in the Emmeline are Adelina (see below) and Delamere who falls in love with Emmeline at first sight, immediately thinks he has a right to woo her, and because he is heir to a wealthy fortune and she a poor (probably illegitimate he thinks) cousin of his must accept him. He spends the whole of the novel either pursuing her demandingly, or, when he thinks she has been unchaste, castigating her harshly. As a character he is often mentioned in other novels of the era, but not always negatively, often as in a handsome suitor perhaps misbehaving in some way, handsome, rich, debonair, (like Darcy an eligible candidate). This is utterly to misunderstand the book, to ignore Smith’s whole perspective.

Among Austen’s marginalia to her History of England is a comment that suggests Austen saw that Delamere is not an ideal hero:

Though of a different profession, and shining in a different Sphere of Life, yet equally conspicuous in the Character of an Earl, as Drake was in that of a Sailor, was Robert Devereux Lord Essex. This unfortunate young Man was not unlike in Character to that equally unfortunate one Frederic Delamere. The simile may be carried still farther, & Elizabeth the torment of Essex may be compared to the Emmeline of Delamere.

In Sophia Lee’s Recess, Essex is a tyrant, irrational, a bully and he destroys the sanity of Elinor (Matilda’s sister, Mary Queen of Scots’ twin daughters; in the fiction, they lived to adulthood). Now since the young Austen seriously presents herself as idealizing pro-Mary, it may be she has fallen for the romance of Essex.

Delamere very much reminds me of Leonce in de Stael’s Delphine: one of these aristocratic older males who has been taught he is just a God on earth, needs answer to no control, can do whatever he wants; if he’s thwarted, he becomes enraged. Such a type and presentation is found in Montbrillant by Louise de D’Epinay. Stael and Epinay almost or just about say the only way you can stop such people’s behavior is to guillotine them. They will not accept the revolution, not accept their diminished status or a give away of any of their wealth or uncontrolled power but will fight to the death to keep it, do anything necessary to punish anyone who challenges them or takes anything at all from their power and status.

This was a type encouraged in the era by the primogeniture system in the ancien regime. One of Hubert Robert’s patrons (Comte d’Artois) grew up at first to be sensitive, a reading boy and was deliberately corrupted and changed into this type as a necessary linchpin of the system. In our time many boys are taught to be competitive, encouraged to develop aggression, even bullying propensities rather than risk they’ll be “effeminate” (read homosexual). Those who won’t or can’t behave this way suffer inwardly a lot.

One real flaw of this book — which reminds me again of Austen’s S&S. (Like Austen’s S&S, Smith’s Emmeline begins quietly, drily.) The chief male is not given enough inner life. We never see into Delamere’s mind so it’s hard to grasp what is probably meant as a partially sympathetic portrayal. Delamere is the badly educated heir, not controlled enough, given too much leeway to his passions. I’m beginning to think Delamere is a portrait of Mr Smith when young. Some phrases referring to someone who has no control over himself and inflicts himself on others, spending spending spending are surely memories of her husband as she first saw and still experiences him.

There seems an unsureness which harks back to Smith’s Manon. It really is not clear if Smith is on the side of the young couple as lovers — so the Emmeline does yearn to marry this eligible heir — or, are we to think of Emmeline as sheerly harassed. Delamere’s father wants to prevent the marriage sheerly on the basis of Emmeline’s poverty and lack of rank. The sequence which imitates Clarissa where Emmeline goes down to the garden and is abducted by Delamere is written with an unsure focus.

I couldn’t disagree more with Mary Wollstonecraft who decries the presentation of Adelina: Adelina is daughter of Lord Westhaven, an ideal male type in the novel (non-violent, chivalrous, enlightened) who marries Augusta Delamere. Wollstonecraft inveighs against developing empathy for once Adeline is discovered to be pregnant with Delamere’s friend, Fitzgerald’s child. She fled her abusive husband; Fitz-Gerald and Adeline fell in love and did the natural thing. The story of Adelina – “infamous” with the word having its central connotation of sexually transgressive — is one of the best things in the book. Instead of hoisting her off the stage, for having gotten pregnant by a man other than her horror of a coerced husband, Trelawny (who gambles as impulsively as Smith’s father and husband) Smith has the courage to make Adelina a secondary heroine.

The story of the circumstances which led to Adelina’s marriage like that of Mrs Stafford is a mirror image of Smith’s. So Adelina is a Mrs Smith who got another chance. Fitz-Gerald was not the good man he should have been but he is decent enough and offers some affection and stability, both qualities needed desperately by Adelina.
The book is filled with mirror images of Benjamin and Charlotte Smith’s very first years when she did not see clearly how amoral he was as yet, how she would pay for his reckless utterly selfish behavior, his bad business deals, his gambling. There are also memories of Smith’s father’s marriage, and his shunting a 15 year old Charlotte Turner off to Benjamin Smith when his second wife did not like his daughter.

Mrs Stafford is the most obvious: she tells the story of her life which parallels the Smith’s precisely, including the trip to France (omitting his violence and adultery); juxtaposed to this we watch the utterly spoiled Delamere. She’s retelling her story obsessively in her first novel, for Emmeline and Adelina walking along the shores are both Mrs Smith.


Friedrich, called A Monk by the Sea: its sublimity and picturequeness visually captures the feel of Smith’s Emmeline at moments

During these walks (indulged by Godolphin too), Smith’s characters utter great poery (Broadview Press edition, p 408). This poem is attributed to Adelina as she wanders along the shore. In it Smith expressed the anguish of her memories of sex.

Sonnet XL

FAR on the sands, the low retiring tide,
In distant murmurs hardly seems to flow,
And o’er the world of waters, blue and wide,
The sighing summer wind, forgets to blow.
As sinks the day-star in the rosy West,
The silent wave, with rich reflection glows:
Alas! can tranquil nature give me rest,
Or scenes of beauty, soothe me to repose?
Can the soft lustre of the sleeping main,
Yon radiant heaven, or all creation’s charms,
“Erase the written troubles of the brain,”
Which Memory tortures, and which guilt alarms?
Or bid a bosom transient quiet prove,
That bleeds with vain remorse, and unextinguish’d love!

Smith attributes similar poetry to the good melancholy hero in Montalbert. What these novels testify to is not a real lover (which she deprived herself of), but Smith’s desire for one. How she felt cut off forever from any personal happiness. How in dreams she gave herself ideals and then put them into her novel. Volumes 3 into 4 has sequences of landscape which embody these sorts of feelings.

Adelina’s story is partly undermined by all the hysteria by others over her, how she is ostracized and how ashamed and self-berating she is. This is mot really true to the way people really behaved: they made do; the unwed mother remarried if she could (based on her looks and original status). This stigmatizing makes the portrait less worth while (to put it minimally).

Readers have expressed surprise that Emmeline does not marry Delamere — again that’s to misunderstand the book. Emmeline’s turn to Goldolphin is slow and justified and developed slowly. Emmeline dreads marrying Delamere by the time she meets Godolphin (Lord Westhaven’s brother). So Emmeline anticipates or is parallel with S&S as Willoughby was a bad choice for Marianne (though she didn’t see it) and she is paired off with the genuine man of sensibility and intelligence, Brandon; so Delemare is a very bad choice for any woman, and Godolphin is the parallel with Brandon.

In the character of Godolphin, with whom Emmeline finally ends up (married), Smith achieves the type of man that the film adaptations of S&S and recent readings of S&S want Austen’s Brandon to be. Smith really meant us to see a highly ethical, deeply emotional man of sensibility and high intelligence, moral, in love with the heroine out of deep seated urges (see in Oxford edition, pp 272-84). Alan Rickman is indeed perfect for the role.


Alan Rickman as Brandon first coming upon Marianne

Tellingly, David Morrisey is not: for example, in Emmeline Godolphin does want to challenge Fitzgerald, duel with him and it’s made plain in order literally to kill him, but is persuaded out of it. We are told in 1995 that Rickman fought Willoughby but we never see it; the passionate brutality of the 2008 duelling scene is felt and then abjured in Emmeline and (in truth) kept out of Austen’s alive text. The books — Emmeline and S&S when compared illuminate one another.

Scott’s comments against the prudence of the love affair between Emmeline and Godolphin suggest that he cannot have read this novel carefully. Again the film adaptations of S&S are more like this than S&S. Godolphin loves her and she is falling in love with him. There is nothing particularly prudent or mercenary about their love affair. As for Delamare, he is presented as the worst person possibly any woman could marry. On the supposition – a rumor suggested by the Crofts after Delamere’s fortune through his sister — that Emmeline has been unfaithful, he leaps to believe this and becomes fanatically jealousy and abusive. How could Scott suppose this is a love story? only by not having read the book perhaps — or not carefully.

In the later parts of the novel, the story of Mrs Smith begging money, negotiating is powerful. It’s not quite believable that Montreville, Delamare’s father could himself want to help and be so easily turned off. Such a man would not be, but Smith wants to whitewash Delamere’s father to make Delamere and his mother worse. Montreville also has traits and parallels with Smith’s father and this shows she wanted to have a positive view of her father. So they go to rural France where Smith produces her sea- and landscape pieces and continues the parallel of Mrs Smith following Mr and finding him anything but repentant or grateful.

I am ever puzzling how Mrs Smith (as Stafford) just let her husband continually impregnate her. If he was such a physical brute, that’d be another reason to keep away in whatever way she could. Had she no one to turn to for a bed? Perhaps not. Restif de Bretonne’s daughter fled her husband beaten in the middle of the night to sit half naked on a stair and some neighbor actually came out and demanded she return to the monster because she was his wife. (See Ingenue Saxoncour). We see when Edward Austen comes home from a journey, he can wake his daughter up, get into bed with his much-impregnated wife and proceed to inflict himself on her again.

At the close of the book, we learn all about Emmeline’s mother at last — like many a gothic. Emmeline’s mother was married to her father and she is an heiress! Here Emmeline and her mother’s exemplary behavior, this incessant use of secresy to keep the plot turning and turning without resolution becomes very tiresome. And all these men wanting Emmeline. Campion disliked James’s Portrait of a Lady rightly: who wants all this harassment. The extreme emotionalisms of the text are absurd. She had this in Ethelinde too. It’s absurd and surely she knows it.

All that saves the book is the sense I have that these “courtships” are a form of harassment. At moments too Smith throws out this or that new little life, another woman, another form of abuse suddenly told, e.g., the woman Godolphin picks up on his boat trip (who arouses Emmeline’s jealousy).

At the close of Emmeline, Smith metes out poetic justice to everyone. I can see that the way to get rid of the “problem” of Delemare will be solved by himself: he will die after he challenges one of the other males who crosses his obsinate ideas about what he is deserving (every single appetite) and respect he demands (ludicrous). Delamere is not only a version of Smith’s own husband but stands for what this society makes of its most privileged men: unreasoning tyrants who ruin the lives of all they inflict themselves them whether explicitly or implicitly. Everyone cares so much about this guy too. Is Smith sufficiently aware of this? I don’t know. In Caleb Williams Godwin was. Doubtless Mrs Smith wishes Mr Smith could be got rid of this way. It was her only hope.

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

J.M.W. Turner (1776-1851), Dumblain Abbey, Scotland

The Young Philosopher starts strong with a quotation from Sarah Fielding’s Art of Tormenting (a book published by Broadview nowadays and actually by Jane Collier) and we get a powerful series of scenes: Dr Winslow is trying to get his wife to leave one place to get to another where they have been invited. We experience her procrastinations in favor of feeding her vanity with nasty gossip from friends. The family with their ward and servant get caught in a storm on a wasteland part of the landscape and land in the house of a younger son of a younger son inside a wealthy family clan, George Delmont. (It does in outline curiously remind me of Sanditon with its overturned carriage and slow movement into the families we are to be interested in.)

Then there is something of a muddle in the way the family line is presented: my feeling is this is due to Smith not being able to be forthright about the autobiographical material here: the oldest male has managed to disinherit his brother (father to George) by unexpectedly marrying his wife’s sister; that is, George’s aunt. Charlotte Smith was excluded from her father’s care when he and her aunt colluded in her marriage to Benjamin Smith; later her aunt married Smith’s husband’s father.

We then get a portrait of George who is emerging as the usual good man in Smith. We see the perverse nature of schools and how the values instilled just about everywhere are actually awful, with an opposition of the mean cold calculating older brother, Adolphus. George’s ward Miss Goldthorpe, plays a role in a coming romance; we have an older harridan woman figure, Mrs Crewkhern — a type found in women’s fiction of this era (Austen’s version is say her Lady Catherine or Mrs Norris). Mrs Crewkhern is the type of the woman who inflicted false values on the Miss Goldthorpe. A letter follows where George explains his views to Miss Goldthorpe (why he is teaching her independence) against those of Mrs Crewkhern.

George’s reading and his values are the focus on this early part of the novel — we are to ask, how will he do in life?

For more on The Young Philospher, see comments.

Ellen

Read Full Post »

Friends,

We all joined — all us 18th century people. Écrasez l’infame! Join in. Vote for liberty, equality, fraternity, sisterhood — for justice, decency, for caring for others, for making sure our small precious stakes — be it money, the small investor, or their life savings and social security, or their health care, are not turned over to today’s 1% to make them richer than ever. Voted for sexual & social liberty, for good education for all and widespread knowledge of science, humanities, social knowledge. Voted for the man who kept us from a depression and will not deprive us of Sesame Street!

I could not find a good YouTube for a song for today, but the sentiments of this alphabet song are those of the Enlightenment: let us be faithful (constant) to friendship and forever free (for an open egalitarian society):

Herry (SPOKEN): Hey, Oscar, Cookie, Grover! It’s time to sing the song about the letter that comes after “E”!

Oscar: I don’t wanna do this icky, crummy, lovey-dovey old F song!

Cookie: C’mon lets all sing together.

Herry: All those words that start with the letter F!

All: (sing)
Four furry friends. Frolicking fellows.
On Friday afternoon. (afternoon)
4 furry friends, frankly affectionate,
They sing the future soon. (future soon)
Faithful, fearless, friends for forever.
Fabulous, fun, family.
4 furry friends, faithful together.
Fun-filled, and forever free. (ever free)

Herry (SPOKEN): F is the letter that brings us together.
F is fun. F is famous.
And together our friendship will forge forward.
Thanks to that fantastic letter F.

All (SING): Four furry friends, faithful together.
Fun-filled, and forever free. (Ever free!)

Oscar: Boy, I really hated that!

Besides which “F” is a very special letter for Jane Austen (as Elinor Dashwood, Fanny Price, Jane Fairfax, Anne Elliot, not to omit Elizabeth Bennet [Fitzwilliam Darcy]).

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

At 1:00 pm, 11/7: Joke alert: on BBC America someone remarked early in the evening that the “colony was [he feared] dysfunctional.” Well the colony is okay for now after all.

Jesse Jackson summed up what happened very well: the intense and overt effort to suppress the vote boomeranged. There was a huge turnout; people were willing to go through intimidation, long lines, were able to overcome illegal demands they produce unnecessary IDs, the NAACP and others did send out watchers. Then Romney blew off African-Americans, women, the elderly, college young adults, the poor, Spanish people, and immigrants. Who is left? Not enough to win.

A picture from the campaign:

Ellen

Celebrate tonight, he said, and then tomorrow do not be passive, we will be all for one and one for all and work hard for all we want.

Ellen

P. S. Every single progressive woman won, every single one who ran: Tammy Baldwin, Tammy Duckworth, Elizabeth Warren, Claire McCaskill (whose opponent said women’s wombs shut down if the rape is real, and called her a dog who fetches), Heidi Heitkamp, Maizie Hirono, all 14 of them.

Read Full Post »


Romola Garai as Gwendoleth Harleth in Daniel Deronda (2002 scripted Andrew Davies, directed by Tom Hooper, George Eliot’s 19th century then contempoary masterpiece) — Garai is found in historical films from all sorts of sources

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve been meaning to report that I’ve written twice more about Winston Graham’s Poldark novels: a new slant and real qualifications about what I said the first time round on his second quartet, or, to put it another way, Upon rereading The Stranger from the Sea and The Miller’s Dance; and then Rereading and Outlining The Loving Cup and The Twisted Sword. I then linked both blogs to my Winston Graham mostly Poldark website.

I’m almost there with a second reading of Graham’s Bella, which I’ve discovered almost makes a central use of history: both about the discoveries and importation into the UK of great apes, the training of singers and the nature of a career on the stage at the turn of the 18th into the 19th century and how the frequent pretense of legitimacy for children born to mothers whose fathers were not their claimed legal fathers and bigamy existed in tension with the family-patronage, private property through primogeniture systems of the era.

I tried to write about the centrality of history in the later Poldark books at their society message board or facebook site said to be about these novels, the first two mini-series. But unhappily have discovered myself thwarted on both sites. There has been no serious talk about these books ever on either it seems (nothing scholarly, nothing academic) and the people are not used to it. I wrote of the hybrid nature of historical fiction (part actual history which can be trusted), of the particularly disquieting use of unconventional transgressive sex in the books. Clowance sustains a bigamous relationship; another how all 12 novels imitate 18th century novels’ plot-designs, type scenes and characters and themes while presenting tactfully realistically psychological support, then adjusting to today’s norms in popular visual media — as 18th century films imitate one another.


Garai as Barbara Spooner Wilberforce’s wife in the (since Mrs Siddon’s portrait in upper class lady’s clothes) signature Gainsborough studio hat, an extravaganza (from 2006 Amazing Grace)

Quickly a petty tenacious bully resentful of my (to her) apparently offensive (I can never figure out what’s offensive) postings on the facebook was able to delete my last posting on the message board on the grounds it was off-topic. Ah, I then realized that the playful pseudonyms which seemed so delightful to me also can allow non-accountability. “Nampara Girl” used the same paragraphs as Karen Knight on facebook so was none other than the woman in the other bit of cyberspace who managed to sneer at me and impugn my character when I said I would no longer post — “what you don’t want to be challenged?” says she in this self-righteous tone. On the facebook page I spoke back forthrightly saying she had written an insinuating (I didn’t use the word snide) remark when I had never said anything about her character and was attacking my honesty and sincerity. So she was getting back. All I could do then on the Literary Board was point out I was on topic, describe the nature of her behavior, motives and power and (so to speak) walk away.

Positions are all in cyberspace communities. Who can control, censor, withhold, delete a message. At core (as can be seen in Austen studies, in various cult groups), it’s virtually impossible to wrench a body of writing out of its popular readership’s use of it. Winston Graham found this when he tried to persuade the larger indifferent public that the 1996 film adaptation of his book was a worthy new start for filming the later books; he writes in his Memoirs of a Private Man that he could not get beyond the vilification of the new film by the cult tenaciously wedded to the 1970s mini-series. An important social lesson about how what one writes is taken from you once you put it out in the social world and encountering intransigent cult readerships.

So the dream of doing a genuinely historical handbook (a la Patrick O’Brien books) is out. If I’m to write about this I must stick to blogs and my website for now, but eventually (or again) look out for panels and groups who study historical fiction and then how how the Poldarks enact and brilliantly transcend the two also. And I can try my historical fiction of Elizabeth’s Story. A third outlet is to try to write something on the novels in the semi-popular essay kind for History Today. Here I know no one (a usual situation for me) and experience in publishing articles shows me the truly “blind article” submitted and chosen is a myth.

I set aside a unit in my library, a shelf all their own for historical fiction and women’s historical fiction. I repeatedly have trouble remembering my books since I often do not recall the author or even the exact title of the book, but simply that it’s on the subject of historical fiction from this or that angle.

Right now these are:

Beasley, Faith. Revising Memory: Womens’ Fiction and Memoirs in Seventeenth Century France.

Bird, Stephanie. Recasting Historical Fiction: Female Identity German Biographical Fiction.

Fleischman, Avrom. The English Historical Novel: Walter Scott to Virginia Woolf.

Groot, Jermone de. The Historical Novel.

Harman, Leah. The Feminine Political Novel in Victorian England.

Hughes, Helen. The Historical Romance.

Keen, Suzanne. Romances of the Archives in Contemporary British Fiction. Also her “The Historical Turn” in James E. English’s Concise Companion to Contemporary British Fictionn.

Looser, Devoney. British Women Writers and the Writing of History, 1670-1820.

Lukacs, George. The Historical Novel.

Regis, Pamela. A Natural History of the Romance Novel.

Sanders, Andrew. The Victorian Historical Novel, 1840-80.

White, Hayden. The Content of the form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation.

Zlotnick, Susan. Women, Writing, and the Industrial Revolution.

Graham writes about his use of historical fiction in his Poldark’s Cornwall and I’ve discovered that other historical novelists write about theirs. He identifies three types and my friend Nick added a fourth. Graham does not as some woman have write history books as personal travel writing, a subject I’ve never seen treated in any essay. Of possible interest too are studies of historical films: Pam Cook, Fashioning the Nation: Costume and Identity. David Ellis, Hollywood’s History Films, Andrew Higson, English Heritage, English Cinema. History writing is ever sliding off into writing about people in costume, writing political novels (you are looking for a usable past for the present).


Garai as Sugar in Crimson Petal and White (from Michael Faber’s 20th century neo-Victorian novel) – this one I note has that strange thing done to it, bits pulled out and re-strung to highly romantic music which sentimentalizes the mood & degrades the film’s meaning

As you can see, I am especially interested in how women writing historical fiction has changed its nature, downgraded its respectability — by the injection of romance and feminist thought in which Graham participates by the way and also various mystery-suspense motifs and formula. In rewritten novels as projecting the history of a previous era. Again these later are seen far more heavily in the last 5 novels (almost not at all in the first 7). I am also interested in the serious use of film for history and how its costume aspects make it relevant to us today, speak to us today. I’ve this past months been steadily watching first all 26 hour long episodes of the 1967 Forsyte Saga and now I’ve just finished Part 8 of 13 parts of the 2002 version. For each one making summaries and saving stills.

So that’s where I am tonight. Tomorrow we are going off to the annual East Central 18th century conference, our 11th, this one in Baltimore, the Inner Harbor and I hope to come back with much to tell of what I heard and learned.


Garai, the much (unfairly) punished & poignant Briony in Ian McEwan’s 2007 Atonement (anti-Clarissa rewrite of Richardson’s Clarissa)

Ellen

Read Full Post »