Archive for January, 2013

A crucial moment in all 6 S&S films: Elinor (Nora, Camille Belle) and Marianne (Mary, Alexa Vega) told they are disinherited and must leave what was their home (From Prada to Nada 2010)

Dear friends and readers,

A quick note to say my blog-review of From Prada to Nada: Making A Case for Spanish-American Culture, has been revised to conform to scholarly citations and published in the Media Reviews of the British Society of Eighteenth Century Studies (BSECS).

From Prada to Nada, BSECS, Media Reviews

This was nearly a month ago and I know I should have announced it much sooner.

The matching still to the above: John (Gabriel Dominguez, Pablo Cruz) and Fanny (Olivia, April Bowlby) Dashwood inform the sisters, she callously, he ashamed

A more recent careful study of From Prada to Nada is showing me that the film-writer and director made an integral use of Lorca’s House of Bernardo Alba in the film, and it’s also a means on commenting on the repressed sexuality of Austen’s S&S. There are several musical intertextual allusions which links the movie to Spanish culture films and also comment on Austen’s book — about sexual awakening and disillusionment we recall.

I mean to read the play and report back.

This morning I learned of a recent good Portuguese (Brazilian) translation of Northanger Abbey:

Jane Lucia Ferreira Paiva, recomendo esta tradução de Lêdo Ivo que foi publicada pela Francisco Alves e é mais fácil de achar, veja a capa: http://bibliotecajaneausten.com/2010/01/a-abadia-de-northanger/Jane Lucia Ferreira Paiva, recommend this Lêdo Ivo translation which was published by Francisco Alves and is easier to find, see the cover: http://bibliotecajaneausten.com/2010/01/a-abadia-de-northanger/


Read Full Post »

Dear friends and readers,

So 200 years ago today precisely Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was finally published. This 17 years after her father first sent it out for publication when it was an epistolary novel called First Impressions; this after probably at least 2 wholescale revisions and one “lopp’d and chopp’d.” On the 29th she wrote to her sister: “I have got my own darling child from London,” and asks whether there are hedgerows in Northamptonshire because she was ever anxious about the literal verisimilitude of her portraits of settings and was writing Mansfield Park.

It really is not clear that the text had been improved. But it was given to the public in its truncated state. Since others are celebrating this day by imitating Bloomsday: where Joyceans read aloud as much of Ulysses over the course of a day as anyone could stand, so people were reading P&P today, perhaps with greater ease.

I’m thinking its wide dissemination, its licensing other texts by women might serve as an aspect of why we remember this day. Austen’s texts provides sociological events — on TV starting with the 1995 BBC/WBGH Pride and Prejudice. This Sunday, Downton Abbey (built partly out of the initial situation of P&P, a man with too many daughters and not enough money to support his estate) dramatized the centuries-old profound pain and death of women of women in childbirth in the story of the third daughter, Sybil (Deborah Findlay-Brown). Not very shocking any more, but once upon a time showing parturition in this way was taboo.

Well the first text to depict the realities of an abortion may also be said to have been authorized by Austen’s P&P. Rosamund Lehmann’s The Weather in the Streets. The careless hero, married, indifferent to a coming child of his mistress (a term Olivia cringes at), Olivia ends up having her abortion alone. She must not have a child or she’ll be out of a job forever, “ruined” if found out. (Like Ethel in DA.) We are spared none of the banal sordid details, including her time in the bathroom when she returns to the flat afterwards.

To support herself or just by chance during her ordeal Olivia reads Pride and Prejudice while recuperating from her abortion. We as readers are left to take this as ironic or read it as straight (she really takes comfort in the romance figure of Mr Darcy, all teh while knowing better). In Pilgrimage, another courageous novel, Dorothy Richardson’s powerful cyclical novel no one reads aloud over the course of a day dares to hint at an abortion by its heroine, Miriam, who also favors Austen’s novel. And Miriam, like Elizabeth Bennet, is visited by an older authority female figure, the cad married lover’s mother, who comes to persuade her to give him up, only to have Miriam not only refuse but give away she’s pregnant, upon which the cad married lover’s mother breaks down and flees. This is replicated in The Weather in the Streets, and of course it all descends from Elizabeth standing up to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, though Austen probably read such scenes in Smith and Radcliffe (more explicit and radical) earlier. In Invitation to a Waltz, Lehman’s heroine declares Austen is one of her favorite authors.


Lehmann wrote one of the great novels of this century by any gendered-person and by women: The Echoing Grove (badly titled, the title chosen by her publisher). The story is of two sisters, both aging: Madeleine, now a widow who lives alone, and Dinah, also a woman whose husband is dead (he died in WW2 fighting in the International Brigade in Spain). Dinah has come to visit Madeleine, an attempt at a reconciliation after an estrangement of perhaps many years. Madeleine has a grown daughter, one Clarissa, who loves cooking and has not yet appeared. There is a dog, Gwilyn. So another of these novels centered in women’s lives.

Early in the story we discover that the two heroines who are sisters were rivals for the love — or perhaps lust is the better word — of the husband of one of them. Madeleine’s husband, Rickie Masters, became the lover of her sister, Dinah, and Dinah became pregnant by Rickie and gave birth to a stillborn infant. This paradigm is suggested in the first chapter (why they became estranged) and the still birth is recounted early in the second.

Two women closely vying, rivals, for the love of a man: sometimes wife and mistress, sometimes two girlfriends, sometimes mother and daughter; in non-western cultures, two wives, and sister non-married and wife. As I recall Penny Richards (the moderator of WWTTA at the time) suggested this paradigm was central to women’s novels frequently and came out of the structure of our male hegemonic societies.

Lehmann treats this woman-on-woman relationship with great and intense power. We see how central is who or what a woman’s mother is and how she treated her daughter is central to the daughter’s personality and outlook and expectations and goals, for Madeleine and Dinah’s mother has recently died (as well as Madeleine’s husband, Rickie) and this brings the two women together — to divide the inheritance or at least discuss their futures. They visit the room of Madeleine’s grown unmarried daughter, Clarissa, a place which shows Clarissa gathering her history out of artefacts and sites of memory. Clarissa does not want to create a home apart from the house her mother lives in or the things she’s taken from her mother’s history, her two brothers, and her grandmother. An allusion to Richardson’s heroine? probably. And Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway.

The inward style allows Lehmann to move back and forth in time swiftly and the use of nuance and subtleties bringing out a depth of passion to the surface as what is there if only we will look reminds me of Elizabeth Bowen and (more recently) Elizabeth Jane Howard (The Long View anyone?). “The lineaments of ungratified desire.”

I could cite women writes endlessly here. Annie Ernaux reading Lehmann’s Dusty Answer is my most recent. A friend reading Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend discovered the book that counted for that pair of women was Alcott’s Little Women.


Unfortunately the film adaptation, The Heart of Me, turns the story into something misogynist with the wife (Olivia Williams as a sterile witch-like frustrated women) and her sister (Helene Bonham Carter) a self-indulgent mindless Marianne. But it’s telling that Carter played the Marianne role in E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End, where we find Emma Thompson in the Elinor role.

Olivia Williams

It’s not a coincidence that Williams also played Austen in Miss Austen Regrets. The general culture at large has a strongly ambivalent attitude towards the intellectual self-sufficient self-controlled woman. All these part of the general legacy of Austen and the specific trajectory inherited through her novels.

200 hundred years ago today,


Read Full Post »

Swift’s Battle of the Books

Dear friends and readers,

Nearly a month has gone by since Jim and I returned from the MLA and tonight is the first chance I’ve had where I have time and energy and there is a space on this blog to transcribe some of what was said at the 18th century sessions. But now going through my notes I’ve discovered that although I went to about 5 sessions which focused on 18th century matters wholly, 3 of these were either too detailed so that I couldn’t get the history or theoretical point of view down accurately enough even to give a gist of the talk. Sometimes there was insufficient concrete content (information and specific insight) to lend itself to summarizing. The two I can report on here were on literature, and both occurred on the very last day, Sunday morning just before it was time to rush back to the train to go home. A third (I’ve put in the comments) session (Friday afternoon) I can record a telling idea about transitional attitudes towards dress in eighteenth century celebrities.

The reality is that although this MLA was described as being more open to older literary designations, the kinds of papers given in most of the sessions I attended were often post-modern, somewhat theoretical, about book history or globalization: one of the sessions on the 18th century, was chock-a-block filled with information on the history and economics of slavery in the US colonies in the 18th century, economic and political history. I wish I could have taken sounder notes for I heard some things said which suggested to me a certain complacency about slavery (analogous to complacency about people losing jobs, starving, trafficked today), or I heard a sound critique of the 18th century economic banking and philosophical laissez-faire (this time a humane point of view which could be used analogously to understand what is happening in our world today).



So I was glad I got up early enough to make the 8:30 am session (Sun, Jan 6th, No 682) called “Scriblerians at Three Hundred” because I could take in what was said readily and learned that the existence of a Scriblerian Club was not a myth although the way it manifested itself among its participants was not quite as had been envisaged originally by George Sherburn.

Judith Hawley’s “The Metamorphosis of Martin the Scribbler, 1723-1800,” came first. She began by describing Kerby Miller’s edition of the works of the Scriblerian Club and then an essay by Ashley Marshall, “The Myth of the Scriblerians,” BJECS 31 (2008):77-99. Prof Hawley suggested it was true that the group never meant to publish a Memoirs like Kerby Miller’s. She cited Dustin Griffin who wrote that the individuals continued to write and to keep in touch with one another after the group was spit but that the Club was an idea invented by Sherburne. Hawley countered that what happened among them (the writing of several works prompted by their meetings and outlook) was a fluid contingent process. It was Pope who published the works of Scriblerius in Volume 2 of his complete works. Pope kept the project in mind and tried to publish a memoirs. He had a definite aim to ridicule false taste and false learning. The book was to be called The Works of the Unlearned.

We can capture what happened by looking at an “avante text,” the kind of text people put together previous to publication: hints written down, letters, single collaborative works, short pieces. Martin Scriblerius was an invented character who stood for a group of ideas sometimes referred to as “lucubrations” really obscure half-understood notions. The word was intended to make fun. When Swift left for Ireland and both Parnell and Gay died, Pope carried on with the point of view himself. They were all going against aspects of the mainstream culture.

Hawley identified three attempts. 1727-32 Peri Bathous, Gulliver’s Travels, Beggar’s Opera and the first Dunciad (1729). These were interrupted (so to speak) and made difficult for Pope by copyright and other kinds of quarrels, with Curll. 1737 was the second attempt. Curll had published an unauthorized edition of Cromwell’s letter (a friend of Pope) but Pope himself used sleazy and dishonest methods to get what he wanted into print. Then finally in 1741 Volume 2 of Pope’s Works (to do which he had had to play a trick on Swift. There were man lies and evasions along the way of all the publications, and not everything each man published fits into the perspective. The farcical play, Three Hours after Marriage was published 1717, and of course Pope published elegiac poetry, Swift political Irish satire, Gay his Trivia and Fables.

You might say that if there is a myth it was begun by Pope in the 1730s; not by Sherburn in the 1930s.


ILeana Baird turned her attention to “Scriblerians in the Public Sphere.” She suggested that the origins of the club can be traced to Pope, and it was one of many clubs in the era. It included Pope. Gay, Parnell, Swift, Arbuthot and Robert Harley (Earl of Oxford). In January 1714 they met in Arbuthnot’s rooms and invented a character who epitomized the qualities of the people and kind of writing they reprehended. She saw the big publications as the Peri Bathous (a parody of Longinus), the Dunciad. The 1741 publication enabled the recognition of Martin, this character, presented as engaged in all sorts of projects, mathematical, science; and writing against liberty and for corruption. Volume 2 of Pope’s Works is an important text to study to get at the undertones of the era.

Then other people began to publish imitations, only some of which shared the original group’s attitudes. (Not that there were all that homogenous.) Among these remembered today are Fielding’s Author’s Farce by H. Scriblerus Secondus, The Tragedy of Tragedies, the Grub Street Opera. She described oddities like “the Old Woman’s Dunciad” by Wm Kendrick whose purpose was to improve language. The Scriblerus name appeared on 841 works (she said). There were also people writing in the vein, e.g., Laurence Sterne in Tristram Shandy and coffeehouse culture of the era.

Pope’s grotto: from Maynard Mack’s The Garden and the City, a romantic perspective is taken

Matthew Reilly’s paper was also a response to Ashley Marshall’s argument but he focused on a specific episode where the Scriblerians made fun of the orientalism of the era. He also discussed a conscious revival of the Scriberian point of view between 1930 and 1963. Sitwell wrote a book which attacked the then romantic point of view in biographies of Pope; he found its Wordsworthian ideals a bore and at the time a number of British critics praised it: Tillotson, Ault, Eric Blair (Orwell).

The situation morphs to where Wyndham Lewis mocks Sitwell; she is a subversive playing with literary history. The idea could be used to attack other groups as pious bores or elitists (Bloomsbury crowd). McLuhan used the attitude. Reilly felt Nabokov wrote the last Scriblerian texts (Pale Fire). Since then there have been revivals of fueds over Pope’s Scriblerus canon, with sometimes the faultline being US (where the romantic view became prevalent) versus the UK.

Helene Deutsche’s was the last paper. She focused on Swift and argued that Said had worked for a long time on Swift as an embattled critic against fatuity; Swift became a kind of model for Said; both exiles, estranged. She went through Said’s papers at Columbia and found Said fascinated by Swift’s intellectual conscientious troubled conservatism. Swift stood in his mind for someone who made scholars uncomfortable; as a presence Swift haunted Said. Hope can come from enraged despair. She brought out other collocations; a Shakespearean scholar who reads Blake for compensatory refuge.

Pehr Hilleström (Swedish artist, 1732-1816) A Maid Taking Soup from a Cauldronblog
Pehr Hillestrom (1732-1816): A Maid taking Soup from a Caldron

The second wholly 18th century session I can report on for that morning (Jan 6th, Sun, 713) was Victoria Warren’s “‘Delight and Instruct;’ Restoration and Early 18th century Entertainment. Catherine Keohahn told us about her attempt to teach a class of students about specific political tracts and stories of Defoe and Swift. The students had to understand the contemporary references by reading historical background and then allegorize the material to see how the specifics related to family and state. When they did that, they could see how these works related to their own lives and political situations today.

Marta Hess’s paper was on 18th century cookbooks. In 1730 Eliza Smith published The Compleat Housewife. It went through 16 editions and was a kind of “accomplish’d gentlewoman’s companion.” Every effort is made to be useful, not to talk down, to refer to books the audience would respect and to help the potential reader try to elevate her status and what she was doing. In the same year Carter produced a cookbook where the strategy is to promote herself as sophisticated and worldly. Carter helps her reader to impress people; she flatters, makes her readers feel important, tells of famous people who did this or that. A 1932 cookbook envisages a big household; it’s aspiring, & tells of dinners with 36 dishes. The 1759 The Ladies’ Assistant in the Economy of the Table is filled with recipes & costs as well as evaluations of the recipes in other books. Hess remarked on how recipes which resemble modern ones have different titles: Four Knights of Windsor sounds like French toast.


Victoria’s paper was about Restoration comedy in general with her focus on Ravenscroft’s London Cuckolds;. After describing the specifics of the play (which I have seen done in London in the 1980s), Victoria wanted us to see that the play is a sexual romp, blithely indecent. Its satire on middle class London citizens, its aristocratic heroes and unchaste heroines are found in many other similar plays of the era, from Dryden’s to Durfey’s to Behn’s. Basically she undercut the kind of solemn sociological and politicizing readings (political moralizing) that so many critics use to justify our reading and watching these plays. Hers was a refreshing paper.

John Richetti’s was on the difference between what’s popular and what almost despite itself rises above what draws a wide audience (which does not want any disturbing ideas or feelings). He compared verse by Ned Ward and Swift and by reading the verses themselves demonstrated that Swift’s language has a deep scabrous feel, a primal energy, incisive verse that makes it rise above the merely lubricious bawdy that Ward purveyed. We can find the same kind of strong genius in Pope’s verse, high vileness (so to speak), extraordinary intensity, mythological. It was very enjoyable to listen to Prof Richetti read aloud the poems he had chosen.

For Celebrity Dress, see comments.

Mrs Mary Robinson by George Romney

I wish I had more 18th century sessions to report on, for in the other sessions I can report on there were only occasional references or perhaps an individual part of a paper on some 18th century topic. There were 2 sessions on Austen but both conflicted with something else I was going to. (Over on Ellen and Jim have a blog, two is where I’ll report on papers and sessions on modern, 19th century & American texts as well as modern film.) I like to write up what I read, what I see, where we go because then I can come back and read what I once knew and re-remember it. When I don’t write up what I heard it quickly becomes blurry and more than half-forgotten or misremembered and then in a real sense lost to me.


Read Full Post »

Modern drawing of typical rural vicarage like Deane house, not far from Steventon, from Les Nombreux mondes de Jane Austen, Isabelle Ballester

Dear friends and readers,

Some sad news for me: my proposal to do a paper on Anne Radcliffe in French translation, with the emphasis on Victorine de Chastenay’s Mysteres d’Udolpho was turned down for the coming Chawton (this July) festival of 18th century women writers of Austen’s era. I’ve put the proposal on line: “To translate seemed to me a beautiful thing to do: Translation as Matching Creative Act”. I’ve at least done myself that much justice.

I’ve decided to rejoin the American Literary Translators Association of the US I belonged to in 1989-1990, and take the proposal in an altered form (not centered on the later 18th century and women writers as it is now) to a conference on translation studies or an 18th century conference which has a panel on how the novel in the 18th century was disseminated. Through translation. In the meantime (tomorrow or this weekend), I’ll put the proposals on line and link them in here. I’ve found one way not to lose sight of my written work meant for perusal by others or publication, is to put it on-line. I get to share it with others and not lose track of it myself.

I had also again become interested in studying Jane Austen in translation and was perplexed about which direction to go in. I find that close study of the same text in two languages where I know one by heart (so to speak), English, and a good French text (where I’m competent to read at any rate) teaches me so much about a text and its culture. I may in the months ahead study Radcliffe’s Romance of the Forest against Soules’s La Foret ou l’Abbaye de Saint-Clair or another of the Austen Francophone texts. I’m especially interested in Isabelle de Montolieu’s. I might like to do that and just read Chastenay’s 3 volume memoirs, which I’ve not yet read. The truth is I had gone past Chastenay’s first into her second volume of Udolpho and actually have enough for a paper on comparison of the two texts now. What I was doing was trying to ascertain if as a woman she translated Radcliffe differently than the others who have translated Radcliffe into French which in French have been otherwise all men.

Montolieu was reprinted

In thinking about this I got up a list of books of Austen in French translation readily available and those I own for future use. This is not to be taken as any kind of definitive list, only a list of the earliest translations of Austen into French and the most recent which are readily available. I put it here in the same spirit as my handy list of the year of Austen’s novels first publication (along with the years a first full draft was produced where we know that). It’s a checklist for myself (and now others interested in this area of study):

Sense and Sensibility

Montolieu, Isabelle de, trans. Raison et Sensibilite. 1 volume. typed. Bookss LLC! Classics Series, Memphis, USA 2011. ISBN 981232895411. 1815

Montolieu, Isabelle de, trans. Raison et Sentiments, revue par Helen Seyres. Intro. Helen Seyres. Paris: Archipoche, 1996 ISBN 9782352870173 Originally titled Raison et Sensibilite 1815. It’s almost the same text as above; names back (Maria now Marianne, Emma now Margaret) changed and corrections.

Privat, Jean, trans. Raison et Sentiments. Note biographie de Jacques Roubaud. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1979 IBSN 2264023813 1979

Goubert, Pierre, trans. Le Coeur et La Raison, trad, intro. notes Pierre Goubert. Oeuvres romancesques completes I, Paris: Gallimard Pleiade, 2000 ISBN 207011323X 2000

Pride and Prejudice

Perks, Eloise, trans. Orgueil et prevention. 1 volume. typed. Books LLC, Classics Series, Memphis, 2011ISBN 978-123256125 1822

Anonymous, trans. Orgeuil et prejuge. 4 volumes. Geneve: J. J. Paschoud, 1822. In Bibliotheque Nationale de France, all 4 volumes in pdf. 1822.

Leconte V and Ch. Pressoir, trans. Orgueil et prejuges. Preface by Virginia Woolf, trans. Denise Getzler. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1979 IBSN 2264023813. First published Librarie Plon, 1932

Privat, Jean, trans. Orgueil et Prejuges. Paris: Archipoche, 2010. ISBN 9782352871682. n.d. (1970s?)

Pichardi, Jean-Paul. Orgueil et Prejuge, introd. Pierre Goubert, notes Jean-Paul Pichardie. Oeuvres romancesques completes I, Paris: Gallimard Pleiade, 2000 ISBN 207011323X 2000

Mansfield Park

Villemain, Henri, trans. Mansfield Park, ou Les Trois Cousines, revu, completed by Helen Seyres. Paris: Archipoche, 2007 ISBN 9782352870227 Originally titled: Le Parc de Mansfield, ou les trois cousines. Paris: JG Dentu, 1814

Getzler, Denise, trans. Mansfield Park. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1982 IBSN 2264024704 1982


Anonymous translator. La Nouvelle Emma, ou Les caracteres anglas du siecle. 3 of 4 tomes, the 1st in print, the others available at the BNF as pdf. Paris: Harchette Livre, n.d. Text from Bibliotheque Nationale de France; one printed volume, two pdf files. 1816.

Salesse-Lavergne, Josette, trans. Emma. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1982 IBSN 9782264023186 1982

Seyres, Helene, trans. Emma. Paris: Archipoch, 2009. ISBN 9782352871224 1997.

Northanger Abbey

Ferrieres, Hyacinthe de Ferrieres, trans. L’Abbaye de Northanger. Paris; Pigoreau, 1824. In Bibliotheque Nationale de France, all 3 volumes in pdf. 1824

Feneon, Felix, trans. Catherine Morland. 1898-99; Paris: Gallimard, 1945. 1898-99

Salesse-Lavergne, Josette, trans. Northanger Abbey. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1996 IBSN 2264023805 1982

Arnaud, Pierre. L’Abbaye de Northanger. introd., notes Pierre Arnaud. Oeuvres romancesques completes I, Paris: Gallimard Pleiade, 2000 ISBN 207011323X 2000


Montolieu, Isabelle de. La Famille Elliot; or, L’Ancienne Inclination. Paris: Nabu Press, 2012. ISBN 9781273394805. With original preface, 18th century book xeroxed on larger pages. 1821.

Belamich, Andre, trans. Persuasion. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1980 IBSN 2264023805 1945

Lady Susan

Salesse-Lavergne, Josette, trans. Lady Susan. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1996 IBSN 2264023805 (from Margaret Drabble’s text) 1980

Goubert, Pierre, trans. Lady Susan, introd., notes Pierre Goubert. Oeuvres romancesques completes I, Paris: Gallimard Pleiade, 2000 ISBN 207011323X 2000. Reprinted without introd. or notes: Paris: Gallimard Folio, 2000.

Les Watson

Salesse-Lavergne, Josette, trans. Les Watson. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1996 IBSN 2264023805 (from Margaret Drabble’s text) 1980

Pichardie, Jean-Paul, trans. Les Watson. introd., notes Jean-Paul Pichardie. Oeuvres romancesques completes I, Paris: Gallimard Pleiade, 2000 ISBN 207011323X 2000


Salesse-Lavergne, Josette, trans Sanditon. Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1996 IBSN 2264023805 (from Margaret Drabble’s text) 1980

Amour et Amitie [Love & Friendship]

Goubert, Pierre, trans. Amour at Amitie., introd., notes Pierre Goubert. Oeuvres romancesques completes I, Paris: Gallimard Pleiade, 2000 ISBN 207011323X from Chapman I assume) 2000

Histoire de l’Angleterre

Goubert, Pierre, trans. Histoire de l’Angleterre. introd., notes Pierre Goubert. Oeuvres romancesques completes I, Paris: Gallimard Pleiade, 2000 ISBN 207011323X 2000

The essays or books to read about the history of Jane Austen in translation which includes more items are:

Valerie Cossy, Jane Austen in Switzerland [i.e., in Swiss French]: A Study of the Early French Translations. Geneve: Slatkine, 2006.

Bour, Isabelle, “The Reception of Jane Austen in France,” from The Reception of Jane Austen in Europe, edd. Anthony Mandel and Brian Southam. Continuum.



Brief historical perspective:

In a nutshell, for much of the 19th century after the first flurry of intense interest and translation of Austen into French (and as a vehicular language, her spread into Europe), Austen texts did not sustain themselves as popular or as material for elite study. They were seen as “too English,” too much a spinster’s romance, or too much a woman’s novel (George Sand was also excluded from the French curriculum while Balzac was worshipped).

In the later 20th century the popular mid1990s films prompted a renewed real interest in Austen from a popular audience, and this gave rise to a few academic studies as well as fine translations. Pleiade came out with a beautiful edition of the three supposed “Steventon” or novels first written 1795-99, together with Lady Susan, History of England and Love and Friendship. This was thus a “Steventon” & Bath volume rather than a first three published novels volume (which would have included Mansfield Park, a major challenge).

The flurry and whatever increased respect for Austen resulting from the academic studies didn’t sell enough books, for the Pleiade people did not go on to Volume 2, or at least there’s no sign of it.

During this time and again since the 2007-9 movies there has also been an attempt to reprint the older and first translations. One can see signs this is facing too, such as only one volume of the 1816 Emma, the quick falling of print of the Archipoche set.

What I hope to do in the next few weeks and then months is post a good synopsis of one fine study of Austen: Pierre Goubert’s JA: Etude Psychologique de la Romanciere, which is so good in itself I fully expect his translations to be wondrous. Perhaps others (Ballester cited above, Catherine Bernard’s JA: Pride and Prejudice: Dans l’oeil du paradoxe and the older Jane Austen by Leonie Villard) and emerge with an idea of Austen as found in Francophone readers.

Then I’ll do the same for Austen criticism in Italian (Beatrice Battaglia’s La Zitella Illetterata: Parodia e ironia nei romanzi di Jane Austen) and look at little at a recent translations of each of the six best known novels to see how they reflect a view. I’ve more time to translate Elsa Morante’s Italian poetry to her cat through a French intermediary vehicular language.

Francophone Charlotte to follow. I’ve become aware the published list of French translations of Charlotte Smith’s novels is incomplete: Isabelle de Montolieu did one of Smith’s Solitary Wanderer tales so I’ll also put together a list for Smith in French. Smith was herself so influenced by the French, as I hope to suggest in my etext edition of her Ethelinde (even if the influence is seen more in her Emmeline, Desmond, The Banished Man and Montalbert.

The above will be threaded in with my reports from the MLA on eighteenth-century topics, and the usual cultural life-writing, and novels as we imagine them today.

A somewhat misleading map because French is also important as a vehicular language in Africa, the Middle East; it omits Louisiana too (a secondary place).


Read Full Post »


Dear friends and readers,

A brief blog to let you know about my other reading among women which is not 18th century (even conceived of as very long). And to recommend yet another author.

She may seem to emerge more from the Rousseau part of the 18th century, the subjective epistolary urge, but as a woman writer, especially in the way her art fits l’ecriture-femme, Annie Ernaux belongs to our terrain. Her predecessors include the French women memorists of the era, the letter writers — and I’ve fallen in love with her writing. I’ve been reading about women who write in this way all my life whenever I come across any; they tend to be European and English (Iris Origo, A.S. Byatt, in some moods Margaret Drabble, as a scholar and non-scholar Anita Brookner) more than American. And they are common in Italy (Elena Ferrante [see also James Wood], Elsa Morante, Natalie Ginzburg), and France, Annie Ernaux. Ernaux seems to me very like a previous favorite, Chantal Thomas.

I began reading Ernaux because I was attracted by a brief essays by Michael Sheringham on her Ecrire la Vie and L’Atelier Noir, which is (happily) online for the public. A friend on WWTTA wrote:

Annie Ernaux is a fascinating author, from a working class background. She wrote a lot about the cultural differences between her family and herself: her parents encouraged her to attend a private school, but she was very different from the other girls, what with parents who owned a café-épicerie in the poorer part of
their small town in Normandy… (esp. in La place).

I find that Annie Ernaux writes beautifully and expresses her inner struggles very well. She has been criticised for not concealing enough, for being too crude at times (in Passion simple, for instance), but I think that’s what makes her work so powerful. She writes about the shame she felt around her parents, the shame she felt about herself. In one of her books she writes about her
experience with abortion, back when it was against the law in France (in L’évènement). In another one, she travels back in time and in place to try and decipher her mother and their relationship (in Une femme which somewhat mirrors La Place which was written shortly after her father’s death and explores similar themes).

I carried on loving it because I’ve discovered she writes about being a girl with no shame, with vivid interest, with even pride. I find those who automatically nowadays praise a girl for being “a tomboy” deny women as such. Austen said of novelists: “we are an injured body,” who will speak up for us if not us. And all the above women write as women, look to the threads which came out of girlhood.

Here are just a few notes: The style is very plain and simple. The discontinuous nature of the utterances reminds me of Jelinek but Ernaux is comfortable with herself; on the other hand, she need not go on and on like Anais Nin; she need not shock for shock’s sake.

I enter into Arnaux’s tone, even her memories, books she read (presumably when young in French translations). I didn’t expect a French woman to react to US “tribal” events (9/11) the way UK and other English readers do, but she does. The books she likes I see I like; and the whole attitude of mind is congenial. I was chuffed to see references to Gone with the Wind and wondered if she had read the book in the French translation — available in a a 3 volume paperback with stills from the 1939 movie, Autant en emporte le vent

One of the central themes of the book is how hard it is to get back to the past. How our memories are fake, not real, intermixed with what we have been told, and so the opening section is fragments of what comes into her mind purely as she thinks back to the past. What images especially. Among these

celle de Scarlett O’Hara trainant dans l’escalier le soldat yankee qu’elll vient du tuer — courant dans les ruses d’Atlanta a la rechercher d’un medicine pour Melanie qui va accoucher …

[that of Scarlett dragging along the stairs the Yankee soldier she has just killed — running through the streets of Atlanta in search of a doctor for Melanie who is about to give birth …]

Except it’s not Scarlet who drags the body; it’s Melanie. I wondered if she knew that she was misremembering and what other mis-memories that nonetheless are the meaningful ones for her. I have a still of Leigh as Scarlett on the stairs holding a gun looking a the soldier walking up. So the communal memory is of Scarlet’s actions not Melanie’s and we forget to attribute to Melanie her heroism.


I cannot find a still of Olivia di Havilland, all steel-grit dragging that body, telling Scarlett what to do next. I have to re-watch the film and snap a still. But like Nancy Drew in her 40s through 60s incarnations, Mitchell’s GWTW’s book crosses nationalities, races, ethnicities. I had students from Nigeria who had brought a copy of the book from Africa.

Like Liv Ullman in a recent Bergman film who sits with photos to remember the past, so then Ernaux turns to photos. She knows they are as misleading and these are intermixed with more fragmants.

She is collecting up her memories, as memories are what we can use to console and make up for our loss. Method: First photo of her as a child comes early; we return to it. It’s taken during WW2; she was born in 1940. She moves forward to talk about how no one wanted to remember much about the War and then deviated into her fragments and now is back with her photos.

I also to remark on the light ease with which she tells what were to me devastating sexual experiences. She says she felt guilt and she retreated but the feel is of acceptance of self. I’m talking about where she says (ever so lightly and impersonally) how she opted for fellatio in order to avoid worse (buggery) when she was with a guy. Neither risked pregnancy so they had that. We get an image of her with sperm in her mouth. Yuk but what happens. Naomi Wolf goes over the same kind of experiences in her Promiscuities, but cannot manage this savoir faire at all. Nor I. She only speaks of the melancholy of her spoiled girlhood.

I liked the device of the school picture for putting together her transition from girlhood to adolescence. How they were all looking out, looking alike, side-by-side but never telling one another who they were. She is unashamed to admit her loves, what a car means the freedom of it. How she took pride in her hair styles. She says that they were given impressions which made them suppose their lives were such as Marianne de ma jeunesse, but the point is this was false, a false imposition. I didn’t read that one but others like it I imagine.

I was again pleased on how she lit on an author I like. Rosamund Lehman for her listed with the (respected) likes of Milosz, Apollinaire. She names Poussiere by which I suppose she means Dusty Answer. I have written about Lehmann as one of the great powerful authors for women of the 20th century; this one is one of her earliest and I did not read it, but the one that so irritated Q.D. Leavis it became the focus of one of her hatchet jobs on women authors. I now long to read it. See my Post WW1 novls by women.

I found myself comparing her to Elfriede Jelinek who we have also tried to read on WWTTA. Like Wolf Jeninek cannot be light. Ernaux is so much less in a rage: Jelinek in comparison is harsh, jagged, with visercally ugly imagery and graphic sex that feels like an assault. And yet they are on about the same things, with Ernaux not mincing words deliberately.

I also keep thinking of Chantal Thomas’s La Vie Reelle des Petites Filles (Real life of Girls) I am wondering if parts 3 and 4 of Les Annees correspond to Thomas’s Comment supporter la liberte (badly Englished as Coping with Freedom), what decisions to make, how to live as a young man confronting life independently for the first time, and if Passion Simple corresponds to Souffrir, from which I quote: “Aussi triste qe soit un livre, it n’est jamais aussi triste que la vie”. I was exhilarated Chantal’s scholarly book on the cruel scandals heaped on Marie Antoinette and her novel, Farewell My Queen. It’s a sort of imitation of the fictional memoir-novel, which were written by women of the court close to Marie-Antoinette either before, during, or shortly after “the Terror.” In both the original French and Moishe Black’s lucid and elegant translation, the writer is enacting for her reader, providing a sense of what Talleyrand meant when he said “those who were born after the revolution could not know the sweetness of life”. (Well words to this effect in French). Thomas and Black’s texts both convey to the reader a deep-musing beauty and grace in the midst of stillness (the hierarchical world of distrust is there and it’s cold, keeps everyone in place and at a distance, at least from this subordinate woman reader’s position).

IF this is Thomas coping, she is more than a little anorexic; but I love the photo for its colors, the shadows, her smoking; it puts me in mind of Stephanie Audran as Lord Marchmain’s mistress in Brideshead

Ernaux is better, more full, containing more phases. As the above suggests, Thomas cannot resist a certain pomposity, OTOH, Thomas is more quotable, more Proustian (rich prose) and makes these axiomatic kinds of “pensees” in the French tradition. But Ernaux captures the kinds of thoughts that goes through one’s mind.

For those who can understand spoken French, here’s an audio adaptation of the first section of Les Annees.


Read Full Post »

Dear friends and readers,

Let’s begin with a beautiful reading aloud of a poem once one of my favorites (I’d read it again and again): Anne Finch’s The Tree:

The Tree:

The picture is by Joseph Farrington (1747-1821), The Oak Tree, the musical group, Epping Forest, and here’s the text for you to read along as you listen:

Fair tree! for thy delightful shade
‘Tis just that some return be made;
Sure some return is due from me
To thy cool shadows, and to thee.
When thou to birds dost shelter give,
Thou music dost from them receive;
If travellers beneath thee stay
Till storms have worn themselves away,
That time in praising thee they spend
And thy protecting pow’r commend.
The shepherd here, from scorching freed,
Tunes to thy dancing leaves his reed;
Whilst his lov’d nymph, in thanks, bestows
Her flow’ry chaplets on thy boughs.
Shall I then only silent be,
And no return be made by me?
No; let this wish upon thee wait,
And still to flourish be thy fate.
To future ages may’st thou stand
Untouch’d by the rash workman’s hand,
Till that large stock of sap is spent,
Which gives thy summer’s ornament;
Till the fierce winds, that vainly strive
To shock thy greatness whilst alive,
Shall on thy lifeless hour attend,
Prevent the axe, and grace thy end;
Their scatter’d strength together call
And to the clouds proclaim thy fall;
Who then their ev’ning dews may spare
When thou no longer art their care,
But shalt, like ancient heroes, burn,
And some bright hearth be made thy urn.

Good news. My proposal for a panel for the next fall conference (November 2013) in Philadelphia has been accepted. It’s one I enjoyed doing which will take me back to the poetry I used to read a great deal, still love, the poetry of retirement, especially those written in the meditative style. I spent hours yesterday rereading poetry by Anne Finch and a paper I wrote about her and Mary Wortley Montagu as sister poets.

Here’s the description of the conference’s theme: “Retirement, Reappraisal, and Renewal in the Eighteenth Century”, from which I cull:

Retirement … had then and continues now to have resonances in [disparate] fields [and] almost invariably leads to many open-ended questions. Retirement from what or to what, or more simply, what next? Is retirement even possible? Is retirement an end in itself, a momentary pause, a strategic withdrawal, an evasion, or a new beginning? Is retirement a necessary fiction, and if so, necessary for whom? Is retirement enough to hope for, or is there something more to be wished?

Here’s what I came up with:

CFP: The Retirement Poem

It’s telling that one of the most frequently-written kinds of poems in the century and one half where the social role of the poet was seen as central to the writer’s ethical function is the retirement poem. Its aesthetic conventions vary as it mixes with Horatian imitations, Georgics, and pastoral, and friendship and nature poetry, or the act of retirement (or contemplating it) turns into groundwork for political statements (from exile), and court satire. It may arise from life experiences like depression, the death of someone, or destruction of a way of life that meant a lot to the poet and now seems irretrievable, or reactive defiance when ambition, a path to advancement has been thwarted, blocked. Paula Backscheider finds the poet’s gender leads to characteristic fault-lines in retirement poetry. The male poem explores a political terrain; they may be country house estate poems which while ostensibly exemplifying a useful virtuous life carve out space which projects power, what one should do with wealth. Female poems show the poet re-creating herself in a counter-universe, where the poet has time and follows “reason” (individual judgment), learning, memory; these poems are often visionary. There are many other fault-lines, genre is one, purpose another: the poet seeks to renounce or denounce social authorities, is reappraising a life, seeking renewal, or health. To try to promote a coherent discussion I call for papers which seek fault-lines in retirement poetry, shaping elements either in the poem, its context or era (including who is the poet), genre, themes, imagery, which seem to lead the poet into taking his or her text(s) in a specific direction.

An Image:

Nicolas Lancret (1690-1743): Afternoon: Backgammon

The organizers liked it very much.

What I’d like to do is also write an deliver a poetry on Anne Finch, return to her poetry and write about how she used the poetry of retirement to work out a modus vivendi for herself that she could live with: she had to give up ambition when she saw its price and milieu to find peace. Often people speak of her poetry as coming in two types: the satirical, fables, pindarics, which analyze her depressions and argue for the perspective she took on life as ethical; then there is the romantic and visionary, the half-mad and allegorical-poetic in retreat. I will show these are really one body of poetry, just different genres, which forms are made too much of, some of which (Wordsworth was right) got in her way, prevented her from expressing herself from a deep level which finds its own form. And will go against the fashion for preferring her more analytical and feminist complaints, and return to an earlier view, suggesting her finest poetry remains the romantic lyrics, the landscapes (inward and outer), picturesque and wild. The Tree is a good example of what I mean. Many of her poems are not well-known, not in the one supposed standard edition of her poetry, which leaves out a lot of them. So here’s another, dwelling on Eastwell Park, as her Arcadia, the abode of poetry. Invocation to the Southern Winds.

And I’ll be biographical, which I think one central way to read literature. It gets us to the core. As when I finally wrote frankly about rape in Clarissa, why the book was and is so important (to me too), so writing about this center of Anne Finch (much of which I do have scattered on the Net) will be deeply satisfying. Pure happenstance the society’s topic of retirement coincides with the year I’ve retired from teaching for money (though not reading, writing, studying, going to conferences or anything else).



Read Full Post »

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. —Catherine, or the Bower

… convinced that much of the evil lay in her gum, I persuaded her to attack the disorder there. She has accordingly had three teeth drawn, and is decidedly better, but her nerves are a good deal deranged … Sanditon

Friends, Austen-devotees,

I just lost another tooth today. Down to 10 on the bottom and 3 on top. I was shaken, but not deranged. Why? I kept Austen in mind. I made an appointment for a cleaning because I knew a middle tooth on the bottom (#24) was loose and had had it at long last (very grey where my tooth sat in my gum). The dentist took x-rays and as usual (remember I’m 66 and it’s been every child a quarter of a mouth), wanted to take 2 more (#s 23 & 25). The attitude of dentist’s towards the old person’s teeth needs improvement. They think what they offer will be better. (Doctor to patient: Let us take out those adenoids now; they are only going to give you trouble later.) But while I didn’t need Austen’s Susan to direct my conduct, to remember her amused me. I said I would stop at one today as drawing three would “a great deal derange my nerves.”


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. That may be what’s happening to the black man sitting on the couch. The white woman hovering over him might be pressuring him to go ahead.

Less funnily and rightly sceptical: I love the scepticism of this.

From letters 87 and 88, Wed-Thurs, 15-16 Sept 1813

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.

The poor girls and their teeth! I have not mentioned them yet, but we were a whole hour at Spence’s, & Lizzy’s were filed & lamented over again & poor Marianne had two taken out after all, the two just beyond the Eye teeth, to make room for those in front. –- When her doom was fixed, Fanny Lizzy & I walked into the next room, where we heard each of the two sharp hasty Screams —- Fanny’s teeth were cleaned too-& pretty as they are, Spence found something to do to them, putting in gold & talking gravely —- & making a considerable point of seeing her again before winter; —- he had before urged the expediency of Lizzy & Marianne’s being brought to Town, in the course of a couple of Months to be farther examined, & continued to the last to press for their all coming to him. —- My Brother would not absolutely promise. —- The little girls teeth I can suppose in a critical state, but I think he must be a Lover of Teeth & Money & Mischeif to parade about Fannys. –- I would not have had him look at mine for a shilling a tooth & double it. -– It was a disagreable hour

Today’s dentists don’t value biological teeth the way they ought to (they are ever willing to file them down, re-color them, cap them) because they make money off of cosmetics and making substitute magazine-looking teeth. Orthodonists fleece (complicit I agree) parents. They will pull a perfectly healthy tooth in order to make a mouth “look right” in child.

When Austen went to the dentist, she said she would not let him near her for a shilling a tooth. Today cost me $163 for everything (that’s with a reduction because she is a dentist associated with Kaiser). I remember when I used to pay $5.00 for a pull from a dentist in Brooklyn in the early 1970s. He did all the dentist did insofar as “extraction” (her term) is concerned.

Don’t get me wrong. I do like my dentist. She is not a disagreeable woman, and she is a Kaiser Dentist so I was not charged $700 (which is the sort of price I was paying in the 1990s when I had to go privately). Her dental hygienist who deep-cleans my teeth (ouch!) works as gently as he can, means very well. Both are there of course for the money. What they really wanted to do when I showed up was extract all my teeth, do “deep scaling,” put in implants, bridges for (with insurances) minimum for me of an estimated $20,000. What I have are modern partial dentures which stay in through the way the plastic puts pressure on my gums: $2000.

Oh the blood and pain people endure to look “middle class,” i.e., socially acceptable today. And gentle reader, remember implants don’t always “take.”

I’ll go one better than Austen: you couldn’t pay me to allow them to do what they wanted to. Or you’d have to pay me huge sums.

You will say I am anachronistic. Jane Austen would not feel today about dentistry the way I do. I am not so sure.


Read Full Post »

I admire the Sagacity & Taste of Charlotte Williams. Those large dark eyes always judge well. — I will compliment her, by naming a Heroine after her — Tues Oct 12th.

Edward has driven off poor Mrs Salkend. — It was thought a good opportunity of doing something towards clearing the house — Thurs, Oct 14th

I should be most happy to see dear Charles, & he will be as happy as he can with a cross Child or some such care pressing in on him at the time … They had a very rough passage, he would not have ventured if he had known how bad it would be — Thurs-Fri, Oct 14th-15th

Charles Austen, 1796, in his lieutenant’s uniform

Fanny Palmer Austen, his wife, perhaps around 1807 when they married

Dear friends and readers,

A genuine “In continuation.”

We could call this letter more of the same, except, alas, it is much sourer than earlier in the week, and I cannot dispute Diana Birchall’s general assessment:

Let me say right up front that if I had to pick one, I believe this is the letter of Jane Austen’s with the highest number of nasty sniping comments. Some are famous. If we counted, there’s quite a total!

I suggested something had occurred to grate on Austen’s soul viscerally, and she just can’t stand the intrusion of so many “stupidish” (in both senses of the word), “ill”-dressed and “very plain” people who wear far too many “flounces:” “You must really get some flounces” (to Cassandra). A momentary relief:

We have got rid of Mr Mascall [who ate all that butter in the previous letter] however; — I did not like him either. He talks too much & is conceited — besides having a vulgarly-shaped mouth … [italics hers]

Everyone is very “wearying” and not only are “Mr and Mrs Moore & one Child” coming (on top of all these others) but it seems “Charles and Fanny” are coming “in October” as

if they come at all … in October they must. What is the use of hoping? — The two parties of children are the cheif Evil. To be sure, here we are, the very thing has happened, or rather worse, a Letter from Charles this very morning which gives us reason to suppose they may come today. It depends upon the weather, & the weather now is very fine. — No difficulties are made however & indeed there will be no want of room ….

Still she does not want them. Beyond the frustration of not writing enough, perhaps not reading enough:

The Comfort of the Billiard Table here is very great. — It draws all the Gentlemen to it whenever they are within, especially after dinner, so that my Brother [Edward], Fanny & I have the Library to ourselves in delightful quiet …

she does seem exasperated with Edward Bridges and his “motley crew,” which she returns to as a kind of suppurating sore. Mr Lushington is still available “for franking,” and he was nearby enough to write the address of this letter.

I was going to open by saying, let’s be frank for once: what we have are letters written to and saved by a narrow woman without general insight and no interests outside her family (i.e., Cassandra), who saves passages which condemn Jane (as when Jane laughs at a maid harassed by her nephews) and destroys the ones which exonerate her, but after all it’s Jane who wrote it. And the spirit coheres with her usual dislike of unknown company, possible boredom, snubbing, (justified I should concede) distrust of others’ motives and preference for going where there will be nobody (countryside which is not valued hypocritically).

I have indeed brought over from Tuesday a line I overlooked in my last blog: Charlotte Williams (about whom LeFaye seems to know nothing), who Austen was so taken with, she remembered her when she sat down to begin Sanditon — unless this the line may be taken as suggesting notes towards Sanditon had not already begun. I did in my last quote some of the famous bleak and bitter ripostes in this letter, only saving her unusual lack of sympathy for a single woman turned off, and in my last emphasized the coquetry with Lushington, Hatton and (antagonistically) Edward Bridges.

What’s left? cross remarks which I’ll spare the reader; that he “Brown Bombasin” was “much admired;” that although Cassandra has been sending details of Chawton house, Edward wants more (he “wants to be expressly told that all the Round Tower &c. is entirely down, & the door from the Best room entirely stopt up; — he does not know enough … “); a moment of relenting over Miss Benn (whom she does keep a kindness for), which spills into the genuinely comedic:

Have you done anything about our Present to Miss Benn? — I suppose she must have a bed at my Mothers whenever she dines there. — How will they manage as to inviting her when you are
gone? — & if they invite how they will contrive to entertain her? — Let me know as many of your parting arrangements as you can, as to Wine &c. — I wonder whether the Ink bottle has been filled. — Does Butcher’s meat keep up at the same price? & is not Bread lower than 2/ 6. — Mary’s blue gown! — My Mother must be in agonies. — I have a great mind to have my blue gown dyed some time or other — I proposed it once to you & you made some objection, I forget what. — It is the fashion of flounces that gives it particular Expediency

and Charles and Fanny’s visit.


Charles Austen, 1810

Charles appears least of all the brothers and sisters in Austen’s letters. When last seen he was an eager dancer at parties (both the uniform and this eagerness reminding us of William Price, Letter 17), and his sister enjoyed that. We saw him asserting himself tenaciously, stubbornly to be promoted just as rapidly as his older brother Francis, and Austen was not unsympathetic (e.g., Letters 14,15, & 18, 1798-99). We did hear when he was married (but no one went and the remark easy to overlook), and then light passing remarks about how hard-up he and Fanny were, living on board ship, and references to their problems in managing when they came on land in England, and their children insufficiently disicplined, but when we think of Frank (poems to him upon his liminal transitions), Edward (many and varied) and even Henry (not as sympathetic or understanding as we might wish her), we realize in comparison Charles seems hardly on her mind.

I suggested that we get some insight into her distancing herself from her brother in the telling flat announcement of Fanny’s death in yet another childbirth (Letter 107, 1807). The family did not approve of Fanny as a colonialist who brought nothing even if the daughter of a former attorney general (details in LeFaye’s Family Record, 143), a dismissal which comes out very distastefully when Charles remarrried, and chose her sister. Mrs Austen: “I am now very glad that his residence is at such a distance” (LeFaye, 138).

LeFaye says the remarks show their disapproval of his ignoring the Married Wife’s Sister Act (it was forbidden), but the content of the remarks gives the family’s real feelings away: Harriet is vulgar; “to elegance she has no pretensions.” Neither did Fanny living aboard ship with her husband, giving birth there, bringing up children (see Deborah Kaplan, “Domesticity at Sea: the example of Charles and Fanny Austen,” Persuasions 14 (1992a):113-22). The complaints about his children fit in here. He gets insufficient respect, if from Cassandra at any rate (it’s to her letters expressing worry over how Charles and Fanny will manage, that Austen’s brief remarks are addressed).

If any one doubts that Austen’s attitude is shaped by an idea that the Palmers are inferior, read her comment on the child being “so Palmery:”

I talk to Cassy about Chawton; she remembers much but does not volunteer on the subject. — Poor little Love — I wish she were not so very Palmery — but it seems stronger than ever. –I never knew a Wife’s family-features have such undue influence. –Papa & Mama have not yet made up their mind as to parting with her or not-the cheif, indeed the only difficulty with Mama is a very reasonable one, the Child’s being very unwilling to leave them. When it was mentioned to her, she did not like the idea of it at all. — At the same time, she has been suffering so much lately from Sea sickness, that her Mama cannot bear to have her much on board this winter. — Charles is less inclined to part with her. — I do not know how it will end, or what is to determine it. He desires his best Love to you & has not written because he has not been able to decide.- They are both very sensible of your Kindness on the occasion. — I have made Charles furnish me with something to say about Young Kendall. — He is going on very well. When he first joined the Namur, my Brother did not find him forward enough to be what they call put in the Office, & therefore placed him under the Schoolmaster, but he is very much improved, so goes into the Office now every afternoon — still attending School in the morns …

Kendall was a volunteer first class. No matter how Palmery Austen found the child it’s clear that life at sea is not healthy for her. The modern norm would leave her with relatives.


So let us situate this visit to Godmersham in the context of Charles’s whole career (I’ve culled this chronology from several sources, Sailor Brothers, Kaplan’s article on Charles and Fanny at sea in Persuasions most prominently):

1779 Charles Austen born

1791 (July) Charles matriculated into Royal Naval Academy

1794 Charles goes to sea; served first in Daedalus, first as Volunteer (?),then as midshipman (he is there as midshipman while Francis is on Glory); then on Unicorn, both ships under Captain Thomas Williams, at time of capture of La Tribune; June 8, 1796. Now Captain Thomas Williams was husband to Jane Cooper, an
Austen cousin. Last in the Endymion

1797 year of many mutinies

1797 December Charles promoted to be a Lieutenant, serving in the Scorpion, under command of Captain John Tremayne Rodd; chief event the capture of the Courier, a Dutch brig carrying 6 guns. He gets restless, agitates for removal.

1798 Nelson sails from England and joins St Vincent at Cadiz; goes on into Mediterranean. French seize Malta and British blockade it.

1798 1 August: Battle of Nile, Aboukir Bay, British victory cuts off Bonaparte in Eygpt; Turkey declares war on France; Nelson establishes himself off coast of Palermo, Sicily. Rear-Admiral Perrée had served in immense fleet which Bonaparte took to Egypt; most seniors killed or captured; he takes charge of remaining frigates, anchored at Alexandria, blockaded by Captain Toubridge (Sailor Brothers 78)

1798 December: Letters from Jane to Cassandr in which we learn:

Charles: George Austen writes to Dayshto desire Daysh inform him when Commission is sent (pushing it); Charles writes to Lord Spencer himself 28 Jane announces Frank is made, rank of Commander for Peterel sloop, now at Gibraltar; letter from Daysh announces, confirmed by friendly one from Mr Matthew transcribing one from Gambier to General; India House taken Charles’s petition into consideration (says Daysh), Lieutenant Charles to be removed to Tamar frigate

1799, January: Charles at home, not pleased with existing arrangements; leaves on 21st for Tamar in the Downs; only gets as far as Dean Gate because coaches full; calls on Daysh the next day to see if Tamar has sailed or not; he does get off, writes a few days later to say he is Second Lieutenant on Tamar; also in Downs was Endymion, and in February or 3 weeks later Charles appointed Lieutenant to this frigate in which he saw much service, chiefly Algeciras, under Thomas Williams once again

1799-1800: Endymion serves in Western Mediterranean too; attacks Spanish gunboats off Algecrias and captures privateers, including La Furie, from which Charles’s prize money is £40. Scipio in a violent gale captured, Charles and 4 men capture it, Le Faye, Family Record 111. Captain Thomas Williams is replaced by Philip Durham, Sailor Brothers, 91

1800, autumn: Endymion returns to Gosport, and Charles awaits new duties; Jane is to make shirts by the half dozens, 1 November 1800

1800 1 November: Jane to Cassandra reports on Francis’s activities as described by him in a letter:; Charles on the Endymion, ‘waiting only for orders, but may wait for them perhaps a month’, LeFaye, JA’s Letters, 1 November 1800, 52; Sailor Brothers, 95

20-21 November, Thurs-Fri: Charles came home on previous Tuesday; they walked to Deane and he danced the whole evening & is today no more tired than a gentleman ought to be, she got another letter from Frank dated 2nd of October (see above), LeFaye 60, Sailor Brothers, 96-97

1801 11 February: Jane to Cassandra reports on a letter received from Charles written 7 February: Charles coming from Lisbon on Endymion with Captain Boyle who reports he has not seen Frank, Captain Inglis [he had been a lieutenant in Penelope, distinguished himself in capture of Guillaume Tell] at Rhodes going to take command of Peterel; supposes Frank will arrive in England in about 2 weeks with dispatches from Sir Ralph Abercrombie; Charles surprised they are to leave Steventon for Bath ‘of course’, but will visit once more while place still theirs, LeFaye, Lets, 79-80; Sailor Brothers, 104-5

1803, after May 18: Charles reappointed to Endymion, served with distinction (until October 1804 when given command of Indian sloop): Captain of Endymion is Paget, prizes caught while Charles on board, the French corvette Bacchante on 25 June 1803, Sailor Brothers 123

1804: Charles Austen in Bermuda assigned to North American station, main duty as captain of Indian under Admiral John Warren is to prevent neutral countries from trading with France, DKaplain, Persuasions, 14, p 115; it would seem that from 1804 to 1810 Charles was basically stationed in North America whenever England was at war, Sailor Brothers, 205

1805, 23 April: Jane to Cassandra, from Gay street: they visit Lord and Lady Leven, are almost shownaway, then lied to about Lady: but theyare Charles’s friends so this ordeal must be endured, Le Faye 105

1807, Charles Austen in his late twenties marries Francis Fitzwilliam Palmer, daughter of Attorney General of Bermuda, in Bermuda, DKaplan, Persuasions, 14, p 115; Jane Austen mentions him in her letters

1808, the Indian Charles’s ship captured La Jeune Estelle, a small privateer, but work unprofitable as regards prize money, Sailor Brothers, 207

1808, 24 December: Charles to Cassandra, quoted in Sailor Brothers, 209-10: tells same story of almost capturing ship; to this he adds death of 12 men; he expects to sail on Tuesday for St Domingo.

1809, 24 January: Jane to Cassandra about a letter she has received from Charles; written at Bermuda on 7 & 10 December; he took a small prize in late cruize (La Jeune Estelle), a French schooner laden with Sugar, but bad weather parted them, and he didn’t get the prize his cruize ended Dec 1st, Le Faye 169

1810, Charles gains post rank as captain of Swiftsure flagship to Sir John Warren, Sailor Brothers, 207; he stayed there but five months, 210.

1810, 28 May, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Bermuda, Fanny Palmer
Austen to her sister: she and husband arrived there today

Bermuda, 1805-1810

1810, September: Charles takes command of Cleopatra and brings her home in April 1811, after he had been gone from England 6 and 1/2 years, Sailor Brothers, 210

1811, 25 April: Jane to Cassandra hears from Captain Simpson who had heard from another Captain just come from Halifax: Charles bringing Cleopatra home, she was probably in Channel by now, Le Faye 184

1811, November: Charles appointed to Namur, as Flag Captain to old friend, Sir Thomas Williams, now Commander-in-Chief at Noire, his job is to supervise naval recruits in Thames and eastern ports, to man warships being readied for action, Sailor Brothers, 211; DKaplan, Persuasions 14, p 115

1812, early in year: Fanny Palmer Austen expresses insistent cheer, hyperbolic unreal praise, DKaplan, Persuasions 14, p 115; Cassandra in Austen Papers calls them rather ‘very tolerably comfortable’

1813, 3 July: Jane to Frank, Let 86 in Le Faye; referring to his occupations in light way as form of sightseeing when it comes to Sweden; refers to lessons about Sweden they must have shared as children; at this time Charles and his wife Fanny at South End, Sailor Brothers, 233-38

1813, September: according to Hubbard while Jane writing her letter to Frank, Charles aboard the Namur with his wife and two small children, Sailor Brothers, 250

1813, 25 September: Jane to Frank, thanking him for his, said to be very full, Let 90 in LeFaye: he has said how poor people are in Sweden, how Mecklenburg is the fashionable bathing place, cost of food; she is at Godmersham for two months; Charles and Family are coming to Godmersham in October; Mary Gibson Austen had invited her to deal; she is sorry she cannot come but Jane avers Mary Gibson Frank is aware of improbability of her being able to get to Deal,

1813, October: Fanny Palmer Austen to a brother-in-law: difficult to hire and retain female servants, DKaplan, Persuasions 14, 117: she is at home and not looking forward to going to sea again; calls herself spoilt for last 3 years

1813, 14-15 October: Jane from Godmersham to Cassandra, Le Faye No 92, includes a long description of Charles (a letter of September 23, includes details of their plans to come from Fanny Austen [Knight]; ‘a very rough passage’, Charles and Fanny look well, the daughter Cassy ‘extremely thin and looks poorly; talks about having Cassy with them at Chawton Cottage as Aunt Cassandra wants her, Sailor Brothers, 250-54

1813, November: Fanny Palmer Austen insists how cozy it is to sleep with infant next to her; meanwhile other daughters sent to live in England with relatives to escape months of harsh weatherand rough seas, DKaplan, Persuasions 14, 118

1814: Fanny Palmer Austen to sister Esther in Bermuda: unhappy at
separation from Harriet, daughter in London living with Palmers; servant more a plague than anything; long given up planning occasions; pregnant in winter of this year with fourth child; she hides her discomfort from her husband, DKaplan, Persuasions 14, 118

1814, 6 September: death of Fanny Palmer Austen; a few weeks later the newborn baby dies too, Le Faye, xvii

1814, 26 December: Charles and Jane Austen at Winchester with Mrs Heathcote and Miss Bigg, Le Faye, xvii

1815: Charles’s diaries show him to have been grief-striken and lonely when his wife died in childbirth a few months after 1814 letters to her sister, DKaplan, Persuasions 14, 120

1815, 2-16 January Charles and Jane Austen at Steventon; visit Ashe and Laverstoke, Le Faye, xvii

1815, after January: Charles appointed to more active post, Phoneix, heads for Mediterranean, leaving children in London under care of sister-in-law, Harriet, DKaplan, Persuasions 14, 120

1815, March: Napoleon escapes Elba and war resumes; Charles is sent as captain of Phoenix with Undaunted and Garland in pursuit, 266 organizes a blockade of Brindisi; from here occurred his pursuit of a Neapolitan squadron in Adriatic; Sailor Brothers, ; poignant letter shows him dreaming his wife alive again; DKaplan,
Persuasions 14, 120

1815, 6 May: Charles to Jane Austen: he is kept busy with Greek pirates in the Archipelago until his Phoenix lost off Smyrna in 1816 after which he was returned to England,

1815, November, LeFaye No 128, Jane to Cassandra: she is grateful for a sight of Charles’s letter to Cassandra, Sailor Brothers, 261-62

1817, 6 April: Jane to Charles when she is a couple of months away from death, Le Faye, 157; Sailor Brothers, 270-71; he is living in Keppel Street

The rest of Charles’s career as told in Sailor Brothers, 274-81, and corrected by reading letters.

1826: Charles on West Indies station, employed for 2 years suppressing slave trade;

1828: Charles: stationed on board Aurora as second in command he again appointed Flag-Captain to Admiral Colpys in Winchester same place

1830: Charles invalided home as the result of bad accident and stays at home until 1838

1838: he is appointed to Bellerophon still just a Captain after 30 years of service; took part in bombardment of Beyrout forts at Acre; also stationed in a neighbouring bay, gauring the entrance of the pass by which Commodore Sir Charles Napier advanced up the Lebanon to attack Ibrahim Pasha’s army and Egyptians (it seems to have been British policy to intervene militarily to prevent alliances they feared would end up counter to their interests); Charles’s diary quoted to tell of his ship’s participation at Acre. Charles awarded a Companionship of the Bath for his part in this campaign

1846 Charles made a Rear-Admiral

1850 Charles appointed Commander-in-Chief on the East India Station; at 70 then he leaves England in P& steamer Ripon for Alexandria, crosses desert to Suez. In a series of battles which were the result of an attempt to stop the Burmese from exacting sums from people attempting to travel and trade on Rangoon, Charles forms part of naval expedition (there was an army) on the coast of Burma by end of March

1850, March: Charles now shifts his flat from Hastings to Rattler at Rincomalee in Ceylon, and proceeds up mouth of Ceylon river

1850, 3-14 April: Rattler with two more ships and troops attack Martaban and capture; took a place held by 5000 me, move onto Rangoon, Rattler on outlying stockades; cholera set in and Charles now ill; he goes to Calcutta where he appears to recover

1850, September – October: war resumes, Charles now on steam slop Pluto takes men up channel of Irrawadi; he waits in unhealthy region for 2 weeks for main boyd of men; last notes on October 6: ‘Received a report that two steamers had been seen at anchor some miles below, wrote this and a letter to my wife’; dies October 7. Whole area eventually became British

It’s worth it to direct the reader to an online description of Charles’s

We see him behave with compassion toward the abducted people (i.e., now enslaved people). While this might have been a legal requirement, we see the man had a heart. This is a man acting out of his own strong bent.

The capture of La Jeune Estelle, a slave ship (print)

And here he is gaining a prize: Sheila Kindred, “Charles Ausyen’s capture of the French privateer, La Jeune Estelle, Jane Austen Society Report (2006):50-53.


And now for Jane Austen at Godmersham on Thursday, 1813, greeting them:

By her own desire Mrs Fanny is to be put in the room next the Nursery, her Baby in a little bed by her; & as Cassy is to have the Closet within & Betsey William’s little Hole they will be all very snug together. — I shall be most happy to see dear Charles, & he will be as happy as he can with a cross Child or some such care pressing on him at the time.– I should be very happy in the idea of seeing little Cassy again too, did not I fear she would disappoint me by some immediate disagreableness. —

It does seem singularly disagreeable in Austen to judge the little girl by some standard of bad taste. This is the idea these Palmers are vulgar?

And then Friday:

They came last night at about 7. We had given them up, but I still expected them to come. Dessert was nearly over; — a better time for arriving than an hour & 1/2 earlier. They were late because they did not set out earlier & did not allow time enough. — Charles did not aim at more than reaching Sittingbourn by 3, which could not have brought them here by dinner time. — They had a very rough passage, he would not have ventured if he had known how bad it would be. — However here they are safe & well, just like their own nice selves, Fanny looking as neat & white this morns as possible, & dear Charles all affectionate, placid, quiet, chearful good humour. They are both looking very well, but poor little Cassy is grown extremely thin & looks poorly. — I hope a week’s Country air & exercise may do her good. I am sorry to say it can be but a week. — The Baby does not appear so large in proportion as she was, nor quite so pretty, but I have seen very little of her. — Cassy was too tired & bewildered just at first to seem to know anybody-We met them in the Hall, the Women & Girl part of us — but before we reached the Library she kissed me very affectionately — & has since seemed to recollect me in the same way. It was quite an evens of confusion as you may suppose at first we were all walking about from one part of the House to the other — then came a fresh dinner in the Breakfast room for Charles & his wife, which Fanny & I attended-then we moved into the Library, were joined by the Dining room people, were introduced & so forth. — & then we had Tea & Coffee which was not over till past 10 —

A photo of Godmersham today from the rear

There are a number of better impulses here. For the conclusion see comments.


Read Full Post »

Sackree does not at all approve of Mary Doe and her nuts — on the score of propriety rather than health — She saw some signs of going after her [Mary, a servant] in George & Henry, & thinks if you could give the girl a check, by rather reproving her for taking anything seriously about nuts which they said to her, it might be of use. — This of course between our three discreet selves … Mon, the 11th

Edward Bridges’s friend is a Mr Hawker I find, not Harpur. I would not have you sleep in such an Error for the World … Everything of Love & Kindness — proper & improper must now suffice … Tues, the 12th

Stephen Rumboldt-Lushington, who appears in Austen’s letters during this visit to Godmersham

As played by Olivia Williams and Tom Goodman-Hill, Jane meets the literary Lushington who quotes Crabbe at her (Miss Austen Regrets 2009)

Dear friends and readers,

Two long letters, a journal really sent Cassandra, just stuffed with diurnal detail and (today) obscure people from the Austen milieu, about whom Austen seems to say the least “alienated” (on Austen-l, the words were “sour,” “sniping, “resentful” that they were there) caused a large number of postings, debate over whether Austen had Aspergers traits, and much half-puzzled deciphering. We spent three weeks (four if you include the week break for New Year’s). She had been at Godmersham since September 24th (see letter 90) and would stay at least until November 3rd, after which he returned to Henry’s home in Henrietta Street, for another stay.

As they are very long and so replete I will treat them in two blogs as one long journal piece. The next 4 differ in tone as half of 93 is a letter by Lizzy, or Elizabeth, one of Edward’s daughters, the niece who writes the PS to letter 91 because she wanted to write a letter of her own inside Aunt Jane’s letter and is finally permitted to. All three (93, 94 and 95) are addressed to Cassandra at Henrietta Street, not Chawton and there is a corresponding change of subject matter and tone.

As in the case of Letters 87, 88, and 89, Gwyneth Hughes dramatized scenes from the two letters, especially the Edward Bridges’ thwarted romance, and Jane’s enjoyment and irritation at the county house socializing expected (demanded) of her. I surmise that beyond being kept from her writing and expected to pretend to enjoy wasting time with the dull and petty, something is grating on Austen’s nerves, but what it is we cannot know. Many of the sharper detached comments are well-known, minus their context:

Only think of Mrs Holder’s being dead! — Poor woman, she has done the only thing in the World she could possibly do, to make one cease to abuse her. — Now if you please, Hooper must have it in his power to do more by his Uncle. — Lucky for the little girl! — An Anne Elkins can hardly be so unfit for the care of a Child as Mrs Holder

The context is Phillipa Holder (the dead woman) had been the widow of William-Thorpe Holder. Anne Elkins had just married Philippa’s oldest son so she would take over the care of Philippa’s grand-daughter. A hard comment to say the little girl was lucky, but Austen did not flinch from truths. The heir to the property, James Thorpe Holder (brother to William-Thorpe) could now help these people (with Philippa out of the way?)

But the revelations about treatment of servants are not well known — such as Edward’s sacking a long-term servant and Jane saying “good riddance” (in effect) or that when two of Edward’s sons had been harassing (testing they might call it) a young maid with salacious double entendres (nuts = testicles), Austen’s agrees that the way to deal with it is to scold the already anxious vulnerable frightened maid that she is not to take such joking seriously.

Nor Austen’s apparent attraction to yet another young man: Stephen-Rumboldt Lushington:

Mr Lushington goes tomorrow. — Now I must speak of him — & I like him very much. I am sure he is clever & a Man of Taste. He got a vol. of Milton last night & spoke of it with Warmth. — He is quite an M.P. — very smiling, with an exceeding good address, & readiness of Language. — I am rather in love with him. –I dare say he is ambitious & Insincere.– He puts me in mind of Mr Dundas. He has a wide smiling mouth & very good teeth, & something the same complexion & nose. — He is a much shorter Man, with Martha’s Leave.

The running joke of this letter is that Austen is looking forward to, enduring Mr Lushington because he can frank this letter, but it’s clear a flirtation between this literary man and woman has been going on once again (see letter 90): the letter’s first sentence says this and the last two words declare it has gone for free, signed by Lushington. She’s still taken by George Hatton and insists “there is no truth in the report of G. Hatton being to marry Miss Wemyss. He desires it may be contradicted.” The only male who she is flirting with and does not look over her shoulder is Edward Bridges, perhaps because he is busy with his friend, Robert Wigram, about which Jane is continually complaining, viz.,

I wish there were no Wigrams & Lushingtons in the way to fill up the Table & make us such a motley set. — I cannot spare Mr Lushington either because of his frank, but Mr Wigram does no good to anybody. — I cannot imagine how a Man can have the impudence to come into a Family party for three days, where he is quite a stranger, unless he knows himself to be agreable on undoubted authority. — He & Edward Brydges are going to ride to Eastwell

Edward only brought this son of

a great rich mercantile Sir Robert Wigram with him so he could ride free in Wigram’s gig and not be alone and Godmersham would be the cheapest and pleasantest way of entertaining himself and his friend … Mr W is about 5 or 6 & 20, not ill-looking, & not agreable. — He is certainly no addition. — A sort of cool, gentleman-like manner, but very silent.

Anyone would think Jane was jealous or spent the time having semi-antagonistic lover’s quarrels with Bridges, though she may be acting this out for Martha and Cassandra’s benefit at whom some of these remarks are aimed. Throughout the letter there is flirting,
gibes, a kind of antagonistic coquetry at Lushington and Bridges (with a moment taken out for George Hatton too).

The thorny Austen of these letters is not unknown, but not the coquet. In recent years John Halperin’s biography and some scenes in Gwyneth Hughes’s Miss Austen Regrets feature Austen mocking and needling others (e.g., Rev Mr Papillon) and terribly earnest with Bridges. No one captures this vividly acidular improper woman, the one who wrote the Juvenilia, Lady Susan and Sanditon.

An advertisement for the Basingstoke races

91, Mon-Tues, 11-12 Oct 1813

She begins:

You will have Edward’s Letter tomorrow. He tells me that he did not send you any news to interfere with mine, but I do not think there is much for anybody to send at present. We had our dinner party on Wednesday with the addition of Mrs & Miss Milles who were under a promise of dining here in their return from Eastwell whenever they paid their visit of duty there, & it happened to be paid on that day. – -Both Mother & Daughter are much as I have always found them. — I like the Mother, 1st because she reminds me of Mrs Birch & 2dly because she is chearful & grateful for what she is at the age of 90 & upwards. — The day was pleasant enough. I sat by Mr Chisholme & we talked away at a great rate about nothing worth hearing. — It was a mistake as to the day of the Sherers going being fixed; they are ready but are waiting for Mr Paget’s answer. — I enquired of Mrs Milles after Jemima Brydges & was quite greived to hear that she was obliged to leave Cantr some months ago on account of her debts & is nobody knows where.-What an unprosperous Family! – –

She opens with Edward; they read one another’s letters, and Austen has become closer to Edward and likes him better since Elizabeth’s death — remember the comments (more than one) how a spouse affects another spouse adversely or favorably. The details are all about single women one of whose company reminded Jane of a woman she liked: Mrs Birch because she is chearful though old and not rich (anticipating the fictional Mrs Smith). Austen is on the side of self-control and acceptance as wisdom.

Jemima Brydges. We don’t know why she went broke and disappeared, but a good guess is that she was unmarried; one sentence gives enough to see the personal catastrophe of yet another single woman. Perhaps Edward Bridges is on Austen’s mind. Diana Birchall commented:

The Jemima Brydges of LeFaye’s notes, this girl’s mother, died 1809 … the Jemima Austen refers to, died unmarried in 1818. Deirdre does not give her birth date, but as her brothers and sisters were born in the 1840s she must have been in her late 60s when she died … it is four years after her mother’s death … Jemima’s older sister was Anne Lefroy, Jane’s friend who died in a horseback accident in 1804, so perhaps the “unprosperous” comment relates to Anne.

Tom Hiddleston played John Plumptee, earnest suitor for Fanny Austen’s hand in Miss Austen Regrets

On Saturday soon after breakfast Mr John Plumptree left us for Norton Court. — I like him very much.– He gives me the idea of a very amiable young Man, only too diffident to be so agreable as he might be. — He was out the cheif of each morning with the other two-shooting & getting wet through. — Tomorrow we are to know whether he & a hundred young Ladies will come here for the Ball. — I do not much expect any. — The Deedes cannot meet us, they have Engagements at home. I will finish the Deedes by saying that they are not likely to come here till quite late in my stay — the very last week perhaps — & I do not expect to see the Moores at all. — They are not solicited till after Edward’s return from Hampshire. Monday, Nov: 15th is the day now fixed for our setting out. — Poor Basingstoke Races! — there seem to have been two particularly wretched days on purpose for them; — Weyhill week does not begin much happier. —

Plumptre: Jane really likes him and it’s clear Fanny really doesn’t. He’s a kind of Edward Ferrars, Edmund Bertram, Colonel Brandon: Austen likes his seriousness, his intelligence, his sensitivity his high ethics. In the later letters we will see these characteristics bored Fanny and she was willing to countenance him because he was a good match and as religious her relatives approved of him. A ball at Godmersham (so in Miss Austen Regrets showing everyone dancing upon first night’s meeting is accurate as far as it goes)

Who came and who went and we see that the Basingstoke races bore Jane. Two days before she died she wrote a poem mocking people who go to such things. She knew she’d be bored at that fair in a previous letter and got out of it. IN the poem she wishes bad weather on them and here she is ;half-glad they had bad weather: “Poor Basingstoke races! — there seem to have been two particularly wretched days on purpose for them … ” Nature on purpose thwarting them.

We were quite surprised by a Letter from Anna [Austen soon to be Lefroy] at Tollard Royal last Saturday — but perfectly approve her going & only regret they should all go so far, to stay so few days. We had Thunder & Lightens here on Thursday morns between 5 & 7 — no very bad Thunder, but a great deal of Lightning –It has given the commencement of a Season of wind & rain; & perhaps for the next 6 weeks we shall not have two dry days together. — Lizzy is very much obliged to you for your Letter & will answer it soon, but has so many things to do that it may be four or five days before she can. This is quite her own message, spoken in rather a desponding tone. —

Then Anna — now visiting in-laws and of course the relatives approve. They only regret she and Ben have to go so far and plan only to stay briefly. Jane so obtuse sometimes when she is not sympathetic. I see a girl glad to get away from home and glad for a longer trip with her boyfriend. An effective bit of description, showing how alive Austen was to natural world and appreciated hard winter too. Diana “And for a moment Lizzy, overwhelmed and guilty at not being better organized, rises before us, so very human.”

The next section of Monday’s journal I’ve gone over. The story of the maid servant harassed by Edward’s sons. George, born 1795, and Henry, born 1797, just the right age to go over a maid born in 1796 (LeFaye’s note). Austen’s rush ahead then divides into topics: First Austen as a snobbish Emma enduring a Mrs Elton:

Mrs Britton called here on Saturday. I never saw her before. She is a large, ungenteel Woman, with self-satisfied & would-be elegant manners.

Then more passages about Edward Bridges, this time reported coming with a Mr Harpur a neighboring clergyman, and Mr R. Marshall to go shooting, Mr Lushington too and another ball, the Ashford to come, the ball makes her think of the nephews, George and Edward again:

As I wrote of my nephews with a little bitterness in my last, I think it particularly incumbent on me to do them justice now, & I have great pleasure in saying that they were both at the Sacrament yesterday. After having much praised or much blamed anybody, one is generally sensible of something just the reverse soon afterwards. Now, these two Boys who are out with the Foxhounds will come home & disgust me again’ by some habit of Luxury or some proof of sporting Mania — unless I keep it off by this prediction. — They amuse themselves very comfortably in the Evens=-by netting; they are each about a rabbit net, & sit as deedily to it, side by side, as any two Uncle Franks could do …

IN the notes LeFaye seems to miss that two of Edward’s sons have been harassing the maids: The equivalent in US life in the 20th century is boys in high school handing girls photos of girls naked with the absurd egoistic expectation the girl will be aroused; at any rate signalling to her somehow and watching to see “how far she’ll go.” Yuk. But Cassandra did not and has destroyed a letter inbetween 90 and 91 where Austen blamed these young men sharply. This is a good example of where Cassandra saves what makes Jane dislikable and destroys what might have mitigated this letter or made her decent to the maid. The letter where Jane let her nephews have it (apparently) for their reprehensible behavior can be atoned for only by saying they went to church to the sacrament. To Cassandra all that counts are these selfish, lazy stupid young men. The maid doesn’t matter. The result: the only passage that has survived clearly is where Austen looks like she’s condoning exploitation and has no feeling for the maid.

Austen’s note on Brunton’s Self-Control I covered in an earlier letter when Austen showed that she saw she had a rival in Brunton who as aiming at some of the same kinds of writing and audience that Austen had in mind. Here we can remember she is just now also writing Mansfield Park (not mentioned at all) and may have begun Emma and may have been comparing her own art with Brunton’s and seen that Brunton does not have this original grasp of realism she is working so hard to get. She finds it nowhere in the novel and maybe it’s not..

I am looking over Self Control again, & my opinion is confirmed of its being an excellently-meant, elegantly-written Work, without anything of Nature or Probability in it. I declare I do not know whether Laura’s passage down the American River, is not the most natural, possible,every-day thing she ever does.

Olivia Williams as Austen passing the night walking in the grounds of Godmersham; the next morning she is writing again (Miss Austen Regrets)

The second part of the letter was written Tuesday, and perhaps in response to a long letter from Cassandra (42 lines in one page though LeFaye has it as 36), Jane’s is thick with references to people and events, reading, all crowded together. Here is the whole text and I will summarize only a few, the most salient elements:

Dear me! What is to become of me! Such a long Letter — Two & forty Lines in the 2n Page. — Like Harriot Byron I ask, what am I to do with my Gratitude? — I can do nothing but thank you & go on. — A few of your enquiries I think, are replied to en avance. The name of F. Cage’s Draws Master is O’Neil. — We are exceedingly amused with your Shalden news — & your self reproach on the subject of Mrs Stockwell, made me laugh heartily. I rather wondered that Johncock [the butler] the only person in the room, could help laughing too. — I had not heard before of her having the Measles. Nrs Heathcote & Alethea’s [sisters] staying till Friday was quite new to me; a good plan however — I oould not have settled it better myself, & am glad they found so much in the house to approve — and I hope they will ask Martha to visit them. — I admire the Sagacity & Taste of Charlotte Williams. Those large dark eyes always judge well. — I will compliment her, by naming a Heroine after her. — Edward has had all the particulars of the Building & can read to him twice over & seems very well satisfied; — a narrow door to the Pantry is the only subject of solicitude — it is certainly just the door which should not be narrow, on account of the Trays — but if a case of necessity, it must be borne. –I knew there was Sugar in the Tin, but had no idea of there being enough to last through your Company. All the better. — You ought not to think. This new Loaf better than the other, because that was the first of 5 which all came together. Something of fancy perhaps, & something of Imagination. – Dear Mrs Digweed! — I cannot bear that she should not be foolishly happy after a Ball. — I hope Miss Yates & her companions were all well the day after their arrival. — I am thoroughly rejoiced that Miss Benn has placed herself in Lodgings — tho’ I hope they may not be long necessary. — No Letter from Charles yet. — Southey’s Life of Nelson. — I am tired of Lives of Nelson, being that I never read any. I will read this however, if Frank is mentioned in it. – -Here am I in Kent, with one Brother in the same County & another Brother’s Wife, & see nothing of them — which seems unnatural — It will not last so for ever I trust. — I should like to have Mrs F.A. & her Children here for a week — but not a syllable of at nature is ever breathed. — I wish her last visit had not been so long one. — I wonder whether Mrs Tilson has ever lain-in. Mention it, if ever comes to your Knowledge, & we shall hear of it by the same post from Henry. Mr Rob. Mascall breakfasted here; he eats a great deal of Butter. — I dined upon Goose yesterday — which I hope will secure a good Sale of my 2d Edition [of S&S]. — Have you any Tomatas? — Fanny & I regale on them every day. — Disastrous Letters from the Plumptres & Oxendens. — Refusals everywhere — a Blank partout — & it is not quite certain whether we go or not; — something may depend upon the disposition of Uncle Edward when he comes — & upon what we hear at Chilham Castle this morning — for we are going to pay a visit

Much that is here is a continuation of what we’ve seen elsewhere of

1) the very down-to-earth indeed hard scrabble existence in some ways of the Austen’s;

2) the in-jokes: isn’t it amusing the butler laughed too. Normally invisible you see. And Austen’s unusual detachment: she mentions measles after a joke when it was a a virulent killer disease in this era

3) the marginalized women alone: Miss Benn is not after all be to be homeless; Austen hopes her friends, the Biggs will remember Martha (this is a hint to Cassandra to remind them if they do

4) her reading and interest in literature kept to the margins. She makes a joke of her narrow partisanship: she will read Southey’s life of Nelson only if her brother is mentioned in it. He’s not. Nelson himself (of course Deirdre would tell us this) praised FWA. Everyone was reading Southey and the life is very readable. Frank of course all to her.

She mentions the then growing common opposition of fancy and imagination. Until later in the century people, writers, philosophers opposed reason and judgement to fancy and the imagination and on either side of the equation the terms were interchangeable. Among those who began to distinguish these faculties of the mind: Reid, Kames, Hartley. Johnson is among those who still see in imagination much danger: delusion, that way madness, egoism, and Austen reflects this in her portrait of Marianne Dashwood. The phrase suggests she has been reading about poetry but who is not clear.

5) The jokes about lying in: Mrs Tilson is Henry’s business partner and as Henry goes to their parties even when he doesn’t want to (as we saw in one letter), he makes it his business to be seen to know when new babies arrive.

6) family troubles: that after the Southampton debacle and Mary Gibson Austen decamped, she kept away from Austen and her husband’s female relatives

7) Austen’s unwillingness to waste time in dull social life so that when she’s forced she mocks it.

It is probably unfair that those who do remember Mascall, remember him as a man who ate “a great deal of butter.” There are again more sharp mentions of Bridges (I don’t quote them all), and then this passage where we see Edward working away at maintaining his properties:

My Brother desires his best Love & Thanks for all your Information. He hopes the roots of the Beach [sic] have been dug away enough to allow a proper covering of Mould & Turf. — He is sorry for the necessity of building the new Coin [corner] — but hopes they will contrive that the Doorway should be of usual width; — if it must be contracted on one side, by widening the other.- The appearance need not signify. — And he desires me to say that your being at Chawton when he is, will be quite necessary. You cannot think. it more indispensable than he does. He is very obliged to you for your attention to everything.-Have You any idea of returning with him to Henrietta Street & finishing your visit then? —

Hundreds of fragments of pottery and crockery found at rectory site

This close and Edward’s attention to the particulars of the building, doors, and places for sugar and bread at Chawton can allow me to refer the reader to an excavation going on at Steventon as a way of learning about the Austen family. Continued in the comments.


Read Full Post »

Emma (Romola Garai), Mr Knightley (Jonny Lee Miller) and Mrs Weston re-hash once again why Jane allows Mrs Elton such liberties (2009 BBC Emma by Sandy Welch)

Dear friends and readers,

A line of thought coming out of my Downton Abbey blogs this week (Season 3, Part 1, and Part 2 and a session I went to at the MLA devoted to TV serial drama (one of the most original of all those I attended at the conference). Is Austen’s Emma Downton Abbey’d, Victorianized, Trollope’d through serial films; to the extent this happens, what does it reveal about Austen’s texts when we look at how it’s done, where the Austen text (as it were) resists this treatment and where it lends itself to it.

In the MLA session Austen’s Emma came under discussion. Why? Because to film that novel as a serialized drama necessitates changing its basic tight structure. Among Austen’s novels, the one with the most artful structure and control is Emma, with its three time entry of Mr Knightley’s point of view at specific points in the narrative, its use of seasons, one year and so on.

The art of serialization requires (among other things): stasis and cyclical repetition for psychological and social development. You hold back what happens so as to lengthen it out and you repeat it in different variations. It’s also the way time is passed; one of the pleasures of these “texts.” (See my Aesthetics of Soap Operas explained and defended.) The 1972 and 2009 Emmas are both mini-series, and they have striking changes in structure and layout from the novel which changes the affect of them. I took down the details the person then cited and will have them in a blog when I get to my notes so you have to take this comparison on faith or just remember for yourself.

Mr Knightley (John Carson) and Emma (Doran Goodwin) share a laugh at Emma’s expense at something that has happened — this film too uses re-discussions as a way of making interwoven stories (1972 BBC Emma by John Constanduros)

But even just thinking about it you can see this in the 1995 P&P especially where a relatively tight book is turned into a structure which can perpetuate itself and spin out and bring characters in and out and have central ritual scenes with repeating crises. Endless dinners, walking discussions, spun out mini-back-stories which are imagined as taking place between chapters in the books, flashbacks while characters read letters. It’s part of the way the novel is changed into something spectacular.

Mr Darcy’s (Colin Firth’s) quest for Lydia (a long spun out story interwoven with other re-worked material (1995 BBC P&P by Andrew Davies)

The point was of the paper I heard was books like say Trollope’s lend themselves to, are almost in effect themselves serial dramas (roman fleuves — I deal with this in the last chapter of my book on Trollope on the Net) with their cycling in and out characters, multiplots, repetitions, lend themselves to serial drama. (Te person’s paper was on the Barchster novels and the 1990s BBC mini-series Northern Exposure which found that it couldn’t center on one character and keep going but had to present a community and group of characters so the central actor sued them.)

I’d add that Dickens seems to have fought against installment divisions: his often are slightly cock-eyed, meaning he deliberately starts a new thread as a last chapter, does not have all three chapters for an installment one thread, at least in Little Dorrit; but his books nonetheless still lend themselves to seralization. Davies has had startling successes with his two dramas, and the 1980s has a number of brilliant Dickens mini-series.

This might be an interesting and a fruitful perspective to take on longer 18th century Victorian novels too as well as Austen’s. How well do they fit serialization? For example, almost all the S&S movies have been mini-series and those not mini-series (I have found it has a cyclical structure). S&S lends itself to serialization because of the centrality of the journey in the novel: the Austen women are (to use modern language) dispersed from their original place and move about. It’s not a novel where time passes — as Mansfield Park is, a novel which much benefits from the 1983 serialization by Ken Taylor. That it was originally an epistolary novel as was P&P can also account for the serialisation fit.

Instead of beginning with the novel and looking at the film from the novel’s art; begin with the film and look at what serialization does to the novel.

Novels like Richardson’s epistolary Clarissa and Fielding’s controlled picaresque Tom Jones lend themselves to TV serial dramas. The 1997 BBC Tom Jones is a superb and fits the form. The problem with the 1991 BBC Clarissa is the model seems to have been classical structure and it was way too short; it really needed something like 6 episodes since Clary itself as an epistolary novel shows many serial characteristics. The strength of Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon is its long and he treats his film as as series of interwoven dream sequences.

Yet paradoxically (I didn’t get a chance to say this in the session) the tightly-structured localized Emma lends itself to the 1972 Emma and 2009 Emma, which are closer to the book than say the recent 2010 Aisha which itself is long enough to seem serial. That’s because they are transpositions with hinge-points, central characters, and themes kept. The Indian film is analogous in type, is very long and has songs and dancing, but when it does follow some core elements of the book — the Mr Knightley and Emma discussion-type scenes — it suddenly connects back to Austen.

Aisha-Emma and Arjun-Knightley go out for a run

They re-hash companionably too

Both singletons, the two 1996 Emmas, especially McGrath’s present themselves as transpositions. In the McGrath it’s the wholescale change in mood, with Emma functioning as narrator writing a diary that accounts for the distance. Davies’s play is a transposition but when he turns to end his film-story, we are given a harvest scene — more like a regional novel (say early Hardy) and belongs to the ritual get-together of soap opera aesthetics.


One of the charateristics of soap opera form allows Davies to bring back Harriet and Mr Martin’s intense happiness — the precious relationship almost lost, an emphasis which runs counter to Emma’s idea that Harriet could and would have married anyone.

A few scattered (joke alert) thoughts.

Any readers who know of good TV scholarship or articles on serialization as such, please to cite them?


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »