Archive for March, 2013

Excellent Letters; & I am sure he must be an excellent Man. They are such-thinking, clear, considerate Letters as Frank might have written …

Aunt Jane (Olivia Williams) and Fanny Austen (Imogen Poots) conspiring
(Miss Austen Regrets 2008)

Dear friends and readers,

Another two weeks, another letter. Two days have passed since the last letter, and we have an even more snowy journal letter. It consists of four entries over 4 days; she begins on Saturday, and for the next three days, the day she sits down again is underlined: Sunday, Monday,Tuesday. This time it’s confusing to go strictly chronologically (close read in the order of the letter) as the letter is disjointed, moving back and forth associatively and according an immediate stimulus; but to go thematically altogether loses the sense of context. So I move back and forth.

Topics include: personal relationships that count, two court cases, snowy weather, literary remarks. This is interwoven with telling of social visiting (or entertaining the courted Fanny Austen Knight), theater going, visits, walking, shopping and clothes.

Here is the full text.

The particular interest of the letter is Henry is reading Mansfield Park and Austen watching him keenly; he tries to please her. She has begun Emma; Emma is on her mind and we see her going to the theater where she sees plays that influenced her conception and shows familiarity with a number of actor and singer’s careers; Robert Wm Elliston, Edmund Kean, Catherine Stephens.

Robert Wm Ellison

It may not be a coincidence that she named her secondary heroine, Miss Smith, after seeing a Miss Smith on the stage.

Young men are courting her niece, Fanny, and she must stand by, be chaperon, facilitator, watch Fanny make choices she would not make, go out in the snow to keep Fanny active. Edward is involved in two court cases and writing a woman friend. She is famously unimpressed by Byron’s Corsair and plots her and Cassandra’s movements around what they surmize Henry wants and, together with Madame Bigeon, are sure to get raspberry jam for him.

I am again close reading with Diana Birchall.


Ford Madox Ford, The Corsair’s Return (1870): Pre-Raphaelite painting of an episode from Byron’s The Corsair

We might compare this rapid getting down of journal entries, to be sent to her sister, to Frances to her sister, Susan. The comparison falls down here, though, as I do not recall Fanny Burney ever apologizing to Susan for writing to her or deprecating her anger or scolding for writing too much. “Do not be angry with me for beginning another Letter to you.” Jane and Cassandra’s relationship is still fraught with opposing attitudes and needs.

Diana remarked: “It is two days since the last letter, and Jane Austen is still at Henrietta Street. And she begins with one of her most famous sayings: ‘I have read the Corsair, mended my petticoat, & have nothing else to do.’ This is usually taken to mean that she was not overly impressed by Byron, and we can easily imagine it would have been a very Sir Walter Elliot/Admiral Croft situation (“reciprocal compliments, which would have been esteemed about equal”).

Since the poem quickly became well-known and was seen as seethingly exciting & lurid, Austen is making a statement by making it the equivalent of mending her petticoat. Maybe Austen senses what others feel are false titillation while they sit in their secure parlors.

Diana: “Nasty weather, “Thickness & Sleet,” and “Getting out is impossible,” but yet social life goes on. Young Wyndham Knatchbull accepts an invitation and is thought of as “he may do for Fanny,” but she will later marry his older brother, whose wife will die first. They are to see friends, Mrs. Latouche and Miss East, and to avoid Miss Harriet Moore, friend of Henry’s. A domestic detail: Henry is out of Raspberry Jam, Madame Bigeon offers some – so will Cassandra bring a pot when she comes?


They are expecting and on Sunday considerably after four o’clock Edward and Fanny arrive. For their sakes young Wyndham has been invited (for Fanny), they are stuck going to Mrs Latouche and [her daughter] Miss East in two weeks. She groans (half-dreading it already), and is not made more sociable by Miss H. Moore’s (Harriot’s note) apologizing for not returning Jane’s visit and says they (Henry and Jane) can come this evening. “Thank you says Jane” ” but we shall be better engaged.” Not keen on any of it as usual.

Edward (Pip Torrens) talking amiably with Jane (Olivia Williams (Miss Austen Regrets 2008)

In this letter we see that Fanny Austen Knight was the object of courtship by three suitors: Wildman, Wyndham, and Plumptre — not to omit the presence of George Hatton hanging around at a distance. She was an heiress, young, very conventional, pretty enough. What’s not to like? for a similar kind of male.

First, it seems that the niece did not share her aunt’s taste in men. We’ve seen this before and the first candidate is reacting to what happened before: Jane on Saturday: “Young Wyndham accepts the Invitation. He is such a nice, gentlemanlike unaffected sort of Man, that I think he may do f for Fanny; — has a sensible, quiet look which one likes.” Fanny had discouraged the young man previously, for on Sunday we read: “This young Wyndham does not come after all; a very long & very civil note of excuse is arrived. It makes one moralize upon the ups & downs of this Life … ”

As Jane turns away from, dismissed Byron’s Corsair with remarks on mending her petticoat, so on Sunday what appears to me her own disappointment — she would have enjoyed the conversation of an intelligent young man — is turn off by talk of clothes. I have determined to trim my lilac sarsenet with black sattin ribbon just as my China Crape is, 6d width at bottom, 3d or 4d at top. — Ribbon trimmings are all the fashion at Bath, & I dare say the fashions of the two places are alike enough in that point, to content me.” The “me” is underlined in the original. The whole utterance connects back. She, Jane, is content with this fashion, but not Fanny is what’s implied — just as Fanny didn’t want Mr Wyndham but Jane had looked forward to him.

But note Diana’s reading of the break aways in Jane’s later talk on the theater: “Then the inevitable topic of finery arises again, and it is amusing that a letter or two ago she was talking of how vulgar women are who wear veils, but as is only human, she now proposes to buy one herself! … More finery – lilac sarsenet, black sattin ribbon, China Crape, and the bon mot, “With this addition it will be a very useful gown, happy to go anywhere.”

Then on Sunday, the two Austens, Henry and Jane, waited until after 4. Imagine them watching clock as they sit and say read (Henry reading Mansfield Park) or write: Jane writing Emma and letter to Cassandra: a “grand thought” for her and Cassandra’s gowns (Cassandra not forgotten). The “roads were so very bad! as it was, they had 4 horses from Cranford Bridge [expensive]. Fanny was miserably cold at first, but they both seem well” — – No possibility of Edwards’s writing.” Now recall Austen has just apologized for writing again so soon, so it’s she not Cassandra who is expecting this writing. He’s had enough apparently.

The court case: Robin Vick (N&Q)explains that James Baigen, “the boy,” was 10 when he stabbed Stephen Mersh who did not die; James’s father was a yeoman farmer. Wickham who sent a letter advising a second prosecution against Edward’s view was a Rt Honorable, served on the Grand Jury under Sir Wm Heathcote for 1814 summer assizes (he’s in the DNB, diplomat, gov’t minister), recently retired a few miles from Chawton. There was no second prosecution. Chapman though there was but the later trial Austen mentions is of her brother, Charles, a court martial.

We may speculate it was two boys fighting; it’s obvious the right thing is to let him off; he’s 10 and prisons were terrible places (you could get a disease; you had to have money for food). We don’t know how old Mersh was but he was okay at the time of the trial. Mr Wickham’s letter which so entranced Jane might have been a philosophical punitive point of view (from which perspective hard to say). Wiser heads prevailed. Quietly again and again we glimpse a Tory/conservative Jane (imperialist, anti-Rousseau new ideas about children). Austen calls him and “Excellent Man” and says just such a letter would Frank have written. It might be he concedes a humane point of view well. Frank I recall was a flogger to the point he was warned he had better restrain himself.

“Excellent Letters; & I am sure he must be an excellent Man. They are such thinking, clear, considerate Letters as Frank might have written.” Were I Marianne and this an utterance by Elinor I would find her cause for starting to ask about the state of my interlocutor’s heart. Frank’s letters (those left) are simple and direct; he’s another “not clever enough to be unintelligible” so Austen would like that, and he is often humane when he writes — he remarkably writes eloquently against bombing as particularly vicious (you don’t risk yourself, you kill non-combatants who don’t have a chance against you) which is however the opposite of what Jane’s admired Paisley advocated.

There is one cross-out — it’s a reference to a Bridges named Edward. So here we have this antagonism to Edward Bridges again, this needling souring of a romance once he married his “poor Honey” (Austen’s famous nasty slur) and then seemed to show up as a flirting man to Jane. In context “Edward is quite [About five words cut out]” is not a reference to Austen’s brother but the party coming.

Frank an excellent man through and through and Edward Bridges a grating annoyance.

Frank as reflected in Jane’s Persuasion (Ciaran Hinds as Wentworth talking of Benwick to Anne Elliot)

Bridges as seen in Miss Austen Regrets: from Nokes’s reading of the letter via Gwynth Hughes’s script (Hugh Bonneville as Bridges)

So much for the aunt’s imagined male love life.

Because Edward and Fanny have come there is therefore much theater-going, visiting and visitors, which requires fixing clothes and shopping with local news from Edward and his worries over a coming lawsuit seeking to unseat him from Godmersham, indeed take all his income. Looking ahead thematically to the other court case mentioned later in the letter: Austen was not correct as Edward did not escape the lawsuit; his opponents did not “knock under” easily but had to be paid a cool 20,000 pounds before they would go away. Before Wyndham’s letters arrives, it is good to see both Edward and Jane agreed on not prosecuting the boy further. I note Edward is friendly first with Fanny Cage and now Louisa. He keeps writing to Louisa. I take it he did think about remarrying, but 11 children and one dead wife was enough (as we are told in the family hearsay)

Diana on Sunday: “Some observations of Fanny, how she liked Bath, the play, the Rooms, the company, the accounts of Lady B. After a break, Jane writes, “Now we are come from Church, & all going to write.” She continues, remarking that everyone has been in mourning (for the Queen’s brother), “but my brown gown did very well.” Another mention of General Chowne from the last letter, “he has not much remains of Frederick,” she says, belaboring the joke that probably refers to his playing that part in Lovers Vows. Young Wyndham makes his excuses after all, and Jane exclaims mock-melodramatically, “It makes one moralize upon the ups & downs of this Life …

Back to domestic matters – buttonholes, travel (Cassandra will travel post at Henry’s expense), a rise in the cost of tea, and inquiries about the Mead and a cook. Then she moves on to Monday …”


Temple of Bellona, kew Gardens, London in winter

In numerous passages in this letter Austen registers the state of the snow.

Sunday as they wait: “Getting out is impossible. It is a nasty day for everybody. Edward’s spirits will be wanting Sunshine, & here is nothing but Thickness & Sleet; and tho’s these two rooms are delightfully warm I fancy it is very cold abroad.”

Monday: “Here’s a day! The Ground covered with snow! What is to become of us?– we were to have walked out early … Mr Richard Snow is dreadfully fond of us. I dare say he has stretched himself out at Chawton too.”

Gentle reader, have you ever been on a vacation or holiday with people about whom you are kind of burden you must entertain and the weather gets in the way. What shall she do with Fanny who wants thrills and people. Go out anyway. And close reading has turned up another negative use of Richard. I should add that to my blog on negative Richards in Austen’s fiction and non-fiction (from clergyman to Dick who if the Musgraves had any sense they are better off without)

They went as far as Coventry anyway but that was it; they had to put a visit to Spensers off: “It was snowing the whole time”.


becoming jane henryblog
Henry Austen (Jo Anderson) takes his sister, Jane (Anne Hathaway) to the theater (Becoming Jane, 2007)

It’s in this section we again have signs of this awkwardness between her and Henry or Henry and everyone. He does not say what he wants to do. They cannot just ask him it seems. They must listen carefully for hints. Now Jane realizes by this “careful listening” that Henry really wants to go to Godmersham for a few days before Easter & has promised to do it.”

This being the case Cassandra need not worry she’ll have to stay in London after Adlestrop and she must hurry to come. Indeed it might work out easier if she Jane does not return from Streatham to meet with Cassandra to go home to Chawton but rather Cassandra can join her at Streatham.

Such a “great comfort” to “have got at the truth.” Really? She means temporary relief.

They are very chary around this prickly Henry. And she falls to working out that Henry cannot leave for Oxfordshire before the Wednesday which will be the 23rd — we are talking two weeks ahead and more and he is a mercurial man. That I do agree, mercurial is the word for him (reminding me of Henry Crawford in these movements of his). If he does, they will still not have many days together. It seems she would like to enjoy London with Cassandra and this is not something the sisters are openly willing to admit. They are to be used by others first.

Henry is meanwhile omnipresent as he is in all the letters — coming down the stairs — where she lives with him. She’s intently aware of his presence. Maybe he’s only mentioned twice, but we are to recall (as Cassandra would) that Gen Chowe is a Tilson, and therefore Henry’s business partner. He makes the second directly literary remark of the letter:

— Henry has this moment said that he likes my M.P. better & better; he is in the 3rd vole. — I believe now he has changed his mind as to foreseeing the end; — he said yesterday at least, that he defied anybody to say whether H.D. would be reformed, or would forget Fanny in a fortnight.

Jane pleased; he’s gotten the point. The novel is built on real life contingency, and Henry from all we’ve seen no one to trust at all. Despite her fears that the first part of the novel, the play acting, would be seen as far more entertaining, Henry has in fact liked the courtship and ball part and Portsmouth too. he says “better and better.” That must have pleased her too.

No raspberry Jam for the master of the house says Mme de Bigeon. Cannot Cassandra bring a pot? She is still recording Henry’s state of health as dubious: as he comes down the stairs, “seems well, his cold does not increase.”


Edmund Kean as Shylockblog
Edmund Kean (1787-1833) as Shylock

Austen jumps about as usual (writing associatively) and when Henry comes over “just this moment” to make his remark about MP which means he’s reading it while she’s writing this late Sunday entry (late in the evening we must imagine) her mind reverts to “Kean” who “I shall like to see again excessively, & to see him with You too; it appeared to me as if there were no fault in him anywhere; & his scene with Tubal was exquisite acting.”

So she’s moved by the man’s loss of his daughter. This is a new attitude (I did talk today of how there is no monolithic 18th century).

Sarah Smith Bartley by Samuel Lane

We were quite satisfied with Kean. I cannot imagine better acting, but the part was too short, & excepting him & Miss Smith [Sarah Bartley], & she did not quite answer my expectation, the parts were ill filled & the Play heavy. [We were too much tired to stay for the whole of Illusion (Nourjahad) which has 3 acts;-there is a great deal of finery & dancing in it, but I think little merit. Elliston was Nourjahad, but it is a solemn sort of part, not at all calculated for his powers. There was nothing of the best Elliston about him. I might not have known him, but for his voice.-

Diana: “A spirited discussion of an evening at the theatre; about Kean she says enthusiastically “I cannot imagine better acting,” but apart from that “the parts were ill filled & the Play heavy.” They were too tired to stay and see another spectacle, “the whole of Illusion (Nourjahad) which has 3 acts; – there is a great deal of finery & dancing in it, but I think little merit.” Theatrical evenings must have been lengthy! She writes animatedly of the actor William Robert Elliston. “Elliston was Nourjahad, but it is a solemn sort of part, not at all calculated for his powers. There was nothing of the best Elliston about him. I might not have known him, but for his voice.” Jane Austen has seen him before, more than once; and we may satisfy our curiosity on the subject because the “Austen Only” blog has an excellent piece on him and what Jane would have seen and known.

I’ll add that Nourjahad would be one of these oriental allegories, perhaps ultimately from Francis Sheridan. Kean was in temporary decline by this time. We see in the life Diana said how hard life was for theater people. Theater was a many-hour experience, with the first play, afterpieces — often mocking. She did not like the performance of MofV except for Shylock, “heavy”.

Catherine Stephens

On Monday they went again and saw “The Devil to Pay” a comic farce. “I expect to be very amused. — Except Miss Stephens [later Countess of Essex], I dare say Artaxerxes will be very tiresome.” so she saw Dora Jordan who was said to be inimitable in farce (Coffey’s Devil to Pay). She’s not keen on the pantomime or famous clown cited by LeFAye, but now likes the actress she expects to see best.

Penny Gay and Paula Byrne in their respective books about Jane Austen and the theater have written about this farce and the comedy. Gay provides a picture of Dora Jordan in the role (p 21). Remember she was then living with the prince and often pregnant; so this is idealized. Bryne goes on about Jordan and makes much much more about Austen’s remarks on the play here. I see nothing in Austen’s letter to justify saying that she is using her time at the theater as a point of reference. The point of references are the people around her who matter to her, their strong concerns (next time Fanny and her beaux) and hers (her book which Henry is reading, Edwards’ problems and doings, with Frank as our star to aspire towards).

The last reference to the theater is on Farmer’s Wife by Dibdin which again has Miss Stephens, the entry is Tuesday . Read the lines: Austen is going to see Miss Stephens and does not think the interest she feels warrants a Box which Henry wants:

Mr J PLumptre joined us the later part of the Evening — walked home with us, ate some soup, & is very earnest for our going to Covent Garden again tonight to see Miss Stephens in the Farmer’s Wife. He is to try for a Box. I do not particularly wish him to succeed. I have had enough for the present.

Mr J. Plumptre is one of the suitors vying for Fanny’s hand. Wildman, Wyndham, Mr Plumptre. He was the suitor used in Miss Austen Regrets as he did get further and they were serious for a while — we will see this in Austen’s later letters. Plumptre clearly wants to go to the theater to be with Fanny and he is getting a box to please Fanny and her family. As the article cited by LeFaye in the notes will tell you it’s not The Farmer’s Wife that influenced Emma, but The Birthday which is a translation from Koetzbue anyway, not a farce either.

Byrne does deal with The Birthday, but Margaret Kirkham’s section on Emma on both Barrett’s burlesque novel, The Heroine, and Koetzbue’s play and Dibdin’s free translation is much more to the point. See JA, Feminism and Fiction

Dora Jordan as Rosalind by John Hoppner

Not to say that Dora Jordan is not of real interest as a performer and for her life story as a woman of Austen’s time (see Claire Tomalin’s excellent biography). She worked very hard, lived well for a short time, very well, but she was providing the ready money, and then she was dumped, was badly treated at the end, her children taken from her. She had no rights that were respected at all. But Austen does not mention her name. It’s Miss Smith who disappoints her and Miss Stephens whom Austen says goes to the theater for — as well as Edmund Kean.


From Diana’s conclusion: “By a little convenient listening,” she tells Cassandra candidly, “I now know that Henry wishes to go to Godmersham for a few days before Easter, & has indeed promised to do it.” This gives Cassandra fore knowledge, so she and Jane can better contrive and make plans. “It is a great comfort to have got at the truth,” says Jane. A very clear glimpse of what maneuverings and uncertainties surround their movements.

Now who gave her the ermine tippet? “You cannot think how much my Ermine Tippet is admired both by Father & Daughter. It was a noble Gift.” Father and daughter being Edward and Fanny I suppose.

A knitted tippet for ladies

A brief mention of the lawsuit Edward would become involved in, not amounting to anything yet. In the next sentence she anticipates seeing The Devil to Pay, and expecting to be very much amused. Artaxerxes she dares to say will be tiresome. More finery – “I have been ruining myself in black sattin ribbon with a proper perl edge; & now I am trying to draw it up into kind of Roses, instead of putting it in plain double plaits.” This has to do with Caps, very fancy affairs at that date.

Now she hastily and effusively thanks Cassandra for a letter, and passes on news and messages from Edward – he is amazed at “64 Trees,” and gives directions about a Study Table that is to arrive at Chawton. The evening has been rather tiresome: “Mr. Hampson dined here & all that,” and she was “very
tired of Artaxerxes,” as she thought she would be, though “highly amused with the Farce, & in an inferior way with the Pantomime that followed.” Mr. Plumptre wants them to go to Covent Garden the next night to see Miss Stephens in The Farmer’s Wife. “He is to try for a Box. I do not particularly
wish him to succeed. I have had enough for the present,” Jane Austen finishes.

Her appetite for plays and London is evidently not insatiable.


Fanny and Mr Plumptre (Tom Hiddleston) dancing at Godmersham, Jane in background (Miss Austen Regrets 2008)

If you go through the thread of just this you discover that much of it is the result of trying to entertain Fanny amid the persistent snow and the mentions of clothes come up either as a way to turn away from the disappointed romancing (Jane is the one sometimes disappointed as when Wyndham doesn’t come) or fill out where she is bored or to address Cassandra.

skating lovers after Adam Buck 1800blog
Skating Lovers, around 1800

So Jane is not only trying to satisfy Fanny but is soothing Cassandra whose letter arrives the very moment they return from the theater and she hastens to thank her. So good of her, “Thank you thank you.” Casssandra home with Cassy with those fleas. There might seem to be a disconnect here because at the opening Jane is so worried lest Cassandra get angry at her writing. But there is not.

What we have in Austen in this letter is someone trying to please others. No wonder she didn’t get to write as much as we’d like (or she would have).

In this letter the underlying temperament is closer to Fanny Price and Anne Elliot than many would be willing to acknowledge … she is trying to get out of the time there what she can. She likes Miss Stephens, she likes Kean, she likes the landscape. She does not tell us about her writing Emma – that’s hers to keep unspoiled. She is working with Madame Bigeon and Cassandra to supply Henry with raspberry jam.

There Jane did not have to produce acquaintances, she could make them up. There her satire could make her powerful — within limits for after all the NA manuscript was not returned. I sympathize very much.

Olivia Williams as Jane Austen taking deep pleasure in seeing her books


in the prince’s library as laid out kindly by his librarian, Mr Clark (Miss Austen Regrets 2008)


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The 9 Living Muses by Richard Samuel (1779).

What’s in a pseudonym? I’ve discovered that Frances refers to herself as Francesca Scriblerus — and more than once. In the first context Burney (at the time, 1778) is inserting herself into the male satirical culture: in a letter she mocks and distances herself from Bluestockings who are said to be authorities and commenting on women she, Burney, has met and commented on. Gossip gets about.

We might think of Burney’s (dangerous, insulting her father and Crisp thought) turning the Nine Muses into Witlings as her form of Dunciad.

Recent production

In 1809 Austen used a pseudnoym too. She signed herself MAD, Mrs Ashton Dennis. In context her letter is written in hot indignation to the publisher holding onto a fair copy of NA as Susan. In contrast to Burney, the awkward insider, Austen is the outsider, she who cannot get published, writhing figure excluded from the popular publications that the Scriblerians had trashed.

Austen’s whole career may be seen as that of a woman battling with ridiculous windwill heroines. She turns Lennox’s Female Quixote

Illustration to an edition of Lennox’s Female Quixote: Arabella deluded

into Love and Freindship:

Joan Hassall illustration (1973)

Francesca Scriblerus and MAD did not see themselves as writers of romance. When we satirize though it has many motives, and one of them is to feel powerful over those who alienate us. It has it real limits. Frances was not permitted to stage or even share The Witlings. The publisher wrote a sneering threatening letter and the NA manuscript was not returned until years later when Jane’s brothers turned up and paid the man back his ten pounds.


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Frances Burney by her cousin, Edward Francesco Burney (c. 1784-85)

Friends and readers,

My subjects: We ought to be calling “Fanny Burney” Frances D’Arblay with Burney in parenthesis because of the long mistakenlly Anglo nomenclature — the choice of “Burney” privileges her English family and Anglo-side; a review of Thaddeus’s Literary Life (good on criticism, but presentist; excellent article by McMaster on Camilla, and Kathryn Kris’s insightful article on Frances as having a disability: the article has needed explanatory power.

It’s time to confide something: it’s not just the reading over the past two weeks that has brought to the surface my conviction that we ought to be calling Fanny Burney Frances d’Arblay; rather seeing that Burneyites are still fighting over this, and coming across different ways of referring to Miss Burney, I decided I might as well stop this discretion which has made me chose the half-way house of Fanny Burney D’Arblay. I agree we can no longer call her Madame d’Arblay, the name she apparently choose for her memoirs as brought out by her niece, Charlotte Barrett. Certainly we’re not going to go around referring to her as “Frances Piochard d’Arblay, otherwise La Comtesse veuve Piochard d’Arblay,” the way she signed herself in her last quarter century of life. But the great happiness of her life began at her marriage, she called herself d’Arblay ever after, she chose Frances for public life. Burney in parenthesis preserves the tradition of her as Burney for scholars. I suggest it was chosen to make her sound English and differentiate her from French women writers and emphasize her family and father. Since then there’s been readers calling themselves Burneyites and using the parenthesis keeps them in the picture (they would not want to be D’Arblayites and it’s too late anyway); it does preserve the link central to her life of her brilliant clan.

You think I’m mad. Have a look at the Burney Centre website at McGill. I am morally persuaded that the Burney team did not go on to do a 6th Early Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney when Lars Troide retired because they wanted to change her name. They skipped the two years and renamed what was to be the 7th in the set as The Court Journals and Letters of Frances Burney until 1791, when Joyce Hemlow’s later 12 volume Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney begins. They will then return to the end of the story of George Owen Cambridge’s ambiguous romancing of Frances Burney and the tragic misery of the lead-in to her taking up the position of Keeper of Robes for Charlotte, queen of George III, to be called Additional Journals and Letters of Frances Burney. In the introduction to my Vol 5 she is no longer called Fanny even if the title of the volume to be uniform is Early Letters and Journals of Fanny Burney. She is Frances (Fanny) Burney.

But it’s hypocritical to leave off the last name she wanted too. I suppose the Madame d’Arblay grates as the Victorian icon, but we can drop the Madame as is nowadays done for 17th through 19th century French gentry women of letters. Fanny Burney d’Arblay is contradictory. I have discovered here and there a simply “Frances d’Arblay” in my reading.

And we might as well admit she loved big hats. When she does not have a big hat on in her portraits, she wears a wig and her hair piled so high, it’s like a crown.

Frances is also drawn by her cousin in a straw bonnet: these from The Duchess (Keira Knightley and Hayley Atwell, Georgiana and Bess Foster)


From Juniper Hall: the layout of the world that allowed Frances to create a life she liked

The last couple of days I more or less finished Janice Farrar Thaddeus’s Frances Burney: A literary life, read again in chapters and essays and other books, most notably the best essay I’ve read on Burney in a while: Juliet McMaster’s “The Silent Angel: Impediments to Female Expression in Frances Burney’s Novel,” Studies in the Novel, 21:3 (1989):235-252. I thought I’d report on these tonight — to help my thinking.

Thaddeus book has value: she does situate Frances Burney in the context of recent literary critical traditions, and for each of her sections she briefly reviews the critical outlook for each novel or phase of d’Arblay’s existence. Since Joyce Hemlow’s restoration of Frances Burney’s life and later papers, the feminist movement has rescued Frances; some of the finest essays and work on her has been by feminists. It begins in the 1970s with Rose Marie Cutting’s “defiant woman” and her revaluation of The Wanderer.

Alongside this is the supposed apolitical criticism. The first stage (Hemlow, Sherburn, Hester Davenport, Patricia Meyer Spacks, Kate Chisholm): This gives us a Fanny who enacts a conduct-book woman. “The fear of doing wrong” is what controls her behavior. In her Imagining a Self, Spacks was able to use a reading of the dynamics of fear in Burney to elevate the value of the novels over the journals and diaries, take The Wanderer seriously: “more clearly [much more] than the letters and diaries, the novels betray her anger at the female condition.” She was unable to “integrate her deep perceptions of the female condition into a believable fiction and instead set up fiction as a debate between defiant insightful women and silent exemplary conduct-book heroines who suffer a helluva lot.

Second stage is a double Burney emphasizing the violence underlying the controlled surface. Now it’s fear responding to outside forces. Repressed desire also creates narratives where the point of view that matters comes out indirectly — in the masculine” Mrs. Selwyn, the outspoken Mrs. Arlbery, and the rebellious Elinor Joddrel. In the novels “volcanic spillage produced when female desire is yoked to the service of female propriety.” Here we have Julia Epstein and Kristina Staub’s books.

Third stage might be called finessing it: the many-sided Burney, “protean, wildness, striking sudden ranges (especially in the fiction), repressed undersides, we get not just “comic individual aberration,” but grotesque and macabre symptoms of society’s own perverseness.” Claudia Johnson, Margaret Anne Doody (the best), Barbara Zonitch; a way of reading the plays (Barbara Darby)

Thaddeus says the task now (hers) is to bring all three Burneys into one: the one fearing to do wrong, the one repressing rage, the one unleasing it. Having now read her book I have to say while she does in each of her chapters try to justify all outlooks, her real thrust is to show us a 20th century strong careerist: her opening story exemplifying d’Arblay through D’Arblay’s winning out over a customs officer and keeping her manuscript through nuanced manipulation and tenacity says it all. Frances as businesswoman recurs repeatedly.

In her urge to make d’Arblay “like us” Thaddeus’s occasionally absurd: she declares how Frances must’ve love her husband’s poem, “Happy Fingers” (published only in the 21st century) about the joys of mutual masturbation (pp 111-12). It was found among papers apart from those Frances controlled. If this poem tells us how the pair managed not to have any more children after the birth of one son (Frances was 42 and could presumably have gotten pregnant a couple more times), it’s egregiously obvious she would have been mortified to see this written down. She might have just pasted it over as in his handwriting; OTOH, she burnt and cut and destroyed papers by her beloved sister, Susan and her father (there though I’m with Doody and see repressed hatred even, a desire to wipe out the small mean mind of the man who had shown an endless willingness to allow her life, writing career, emotional needs to be crushed).

Thaddeus cannot bring all three Frances’s together (she opts for Frances), for she basically skips the journals and letters which she appears not to value. She has a long separate chapter just on the admittedly dreadful as dramas plays — which she says Frances wrote because she knew such writing when successful brought in more money. Did it? The life-writing is important for historians (p. 101). She will admit Frances “theatricalised” her dialogues in her journals (p. 52) but then treat them as literally factual documents. For 23 years after her husband’s death as she rewrote the manuscripts, she was revising facts. I suggest the passionate interjections of this prose (e.g., pp 321-22) are a woman re-living as heroine’s agony and heroism the prosaic realities of her life. Thaddeus “may trust” her as she catches each coach seconds before it leaves because she finds the value of the journals can be only in their historicity and say her behavior examples of courage in the face of hazards unspeakable or daily (p. 223). The truth is she was romancing, creating the elegiac, the satiric, the people all around her adulating her and transparently making up to others (Mrs Delany before the Duchess of Portland).


Said to be an unknown lady dressed as Evelina by John Hoppner (1758-1810)

I’m giving the jist of Juliet McMaster’s “The Silent Angel: Impediments to Female Expression in Frances Burney’s novels,” Studies in the Novel, 21:3 (1989):235-252

McMasters says “To examine Burney ‘s concern with expression, I find, is to arrive at a further feminist reading. For the impediments to expression that she presents with such variety and vividness in her novels are peculiar to women, and a source of agonizing distress to each of her heroines … their fables have dramatized the injustices which by good fortune they survive.”

Burney “won’t make her heroines feminists, or overtly be one herself. Instead she creates heroines who suffer under the social sanctions that maintain women’s subordination, and are conscious of them as disabilities; but like their author they abide by them …”

From the Early Journals and Letters:

O! how I hate this vile custom which obliges us to make slaves of ourselves! … [my ellipsis] Yet those who shall pretend to defy this irksome confinement of our happiness, must stand accused of incivility,?breach of manners?love of originality,?and… what not. But, nevertheless… they who will nobly dare to be above submitting to chains their reason disapproves, they shall I always honor if that will be of any service to them …

From McMaster:

Her heroines are not authors, but they too are made to feel guilty about self expression. Propriety and their authority figures declare that they must never tell their love, even though their happiness and often that of the men they love depends on their declaration. They abide by the prohibition, but it takes its toll in their emotional stability, and produces severe distress, neurosis and even madness. There are other reasons, too, for their silence. Often they must withhold explanations of their behavior, even when revelation is crucial to them, in order to shield some third party (always a male, and usually a brother); or they dare not speak for fear of provoking male violence (usually a duel). These are the typical ordeals of Burney’s heroines. Their lips must be sealed, and because of the men. One aspect of Burney’s growing sympathy with the silenced woman is her progressive disenchantment with male authority …

The text that most makes McMaster’s case is Camilla:

In Camilla the hero, Edgar Mandlebert, intends to be, like Lord Orville, both lover and moral guide. But the emphasis shifts from his pleasure in promoting Camilla’s right conduct to his desire for her unquestioning obedience for its own sake. By the end of the novel he has more need to reform than she; and he must finally admit that his conduct has been “a fever of the brain, with which reason had no share.”11 The novel presents besides a whole array of defective authority figures of the older generation, including Edgar’ s mentor Dr. Marchmont, a bitter misogynist, the absurd pedant Dr. Orkborne, and one female, the spiteful governess Miss Margland …

Between the writing of Cecilia and Camilla Frances Burney experienced for herself, and in an acute form, a relationship in which expression was painfully inhibited: The young clergyman George Cambridge paid her marked attentions; Frances responded, and everybody expected them to make a match of it. But, for whatever reasons, he failed to exercise his male prerogative of choice. Agonized under the scrutiny of curious onlookers, Frances had to act as though she didn’t care, and treat him with a proud aloofness, as Cecilia treats Delvile. According to her biographer, Joyce Hemlow, the situation was painful on both sides, torture” on hers. A timely explanation on the state of their feelings would no doubt have cleared the air and eased them both. In her next relationship she resolved to be less inhibited by convention and the spectators.15 This change in her position informs Camilla, which is a long and bitter consideration of the burden of silence imposed on the woman. Too long, perhaps. Some modern readers have been apt to agree with Jane Austen in noting a certain laboring to “keep [the lovers] apart for five Volumes.”16 But Burney is giving full treatment to this particular female difficulty.

For the woman in love, according to Camilla’s father, mere silence is not enough. She must guard against any inadvertent revelation, by any sign whatever, for “There are so many ways of communication independent of speech” (p. 360). Such a policy must involve an elaborate cover-up amounting to deceit. Self expression is so far from being approved that Camilla is exhorted to “struggle then against yourself as you would struggle against an enemy” (p. 358).

Agonies of silence and body repression.

McMaster does falter over The Wanderer, for manifestly the woman who argues for liberty, Elinor, is castigated and the silent woman, Juliet, rewarded. She writes:

If the fable of The Wanderer rewards Juliet’s terrific obscurity, the rhetoric allows Elinor the best lines. And in fact the two positions are almost evenly balanced as two ways of looking at the same problem; so much Burney signals by the similarity in their names, Elinor and ‘Ellis’ (as Juliet is called for most of the novel).

She instances Austen’s similar balancing of Elinor and Marianne and says it’s enough to give the position of liberty a “sympathetic hearing.”

Here, having tried to read the book, I’m not convinced: too much weight given to similar sounding names and what Austen did in her book will not prove D’Arblay did it in hers.

I also know that for long stretches Burney’s books after Evelina are flat, have (to quote John Dussinger) “a machine-like smoothness that deflates the emotion it attempts to describe.”


View of Fauconberg Hill in Cheltenham: Majesties taking an airing; Frances’s room at the top of the building; the stairs at the bottom where she and Stephen Digby would sit talking

There is a solution of sorts. As I say, the value of Thaddeus is how she reviews the criticism repeatedly. At one point she quotes Kathryn Kris who in “A 70 Year Follow-up of a Childhood Disability: The Case of Fanny Burney” (The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, ed. ASolnit, R. Eissler, P.Neubauer, 1938) argues that Frances’s life-long compulsion to write is a product of a temporary childhood disability, a dyslexia until she was 8 where she couldn’t learn to read or to write. Kris sees “a life-long propensity for shame and cognitive disorganization” (p. 17, 229, n36).

Of course Thaddeus rejects this; she’s not have her tenure material have an actual disability — just as the Austen scholars and Janeites are not having their heroine have Aspergers traits. The dislike and shame before a disability suddenly flares before us.

There is much evidence for a cognitive disconnect and disorientation. Having read Hester Davenport’s convincing description of Burney’s behavior at court where a parallel maybe seen between her loss of Stephen Digby and her loss of George Owen Cambridge — and it’s not the easy one they never wanted her because they were such snobs (even Rizzo likes this one). Rather she couldn’t connect to them. She couldn’t see what was in front of her and didn’t know how to respond, to reciprocate. Cambridge later in life grew close to Frances and was an active mentor and patron of her son, providing for him the one decent position he had. Digby asked Miss Gunning to marry him only after Fanny refused to visit his family and many years of courting; after she died, he came back. She then froze him off.

Explain her blindness in front of her father. How her books do not come alive; that the characters are often despite her pellucid analytical efforts two-dimensional exaggerations. I will next week obtain this book from the GMU library.

Cela suffit.


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b Walter Launt Palmer1854-1932) Sunshine and Snowstorblog
Walter Launt Palmer (1854-1932), Snow and Sunshine (1909): we have several snow-y letters coming up

Dear friends and readers,

A snowy letter. So is the next.

Three months have passed, and according to LeFaye and the evidence of this letter itself Jane did visit Henry in late November after all. We will recall by early November she had been eager to go for 3 weeks, apparently she did go after all and LeFaye thinks one thing she did was contact Egerton over the coming publication of MP in May. We have no letters from this time, no sign of it anywhere, and no mention by Jane. Henry and Jane are clearly getting along but why the letters were destroyed we can only guess. At any rate she went home and did not return until spring.

In this letter Austen appears to have the proofs of Mansfield Park — or at least a copy for Henry to read. She is reading The Heroine, and presumably in the throes of early composition of Emma. She goes to the theater to see the great Kean, enacting Shylock in a new psychologically sympathetic way. She visits with Henry’s friends. She hears from Cassandra: poor Cassy stayed at Chawton after all – and was de-flea-ed. Jane discovers she is without her trunk of small clothing items so she must borrow or re-buy.

After reviewing this letter (with Diana Birchall), I attempt a comparison between Burney’s journalizing letters and Austen’s — this comes out of my reading of Burney the last month or so.


Farnham, 19th century print

Diana went over Henry and Jane’s itinerary according to the map:

“A gap in letters of three months. We left her at Godmersham in November; Christmas is long past, she has gone to see Henry, and is staying with him in Henrietta Street. She has just arrived: Cassandra was wrong to think of them at Guildford last night, they stayed at Cobham. Cobham is 20 miles
southwest of London, and 10 northeast of Guildford, which shows us their route from Kent. Earlier they went through Farnham, which gives a picture of their mode of carriage-traveling, from village to village. Everything at Cobham was comfortable, and it is pleasant to think of the party sitting down to a “very nice roast fowl.” We don’t know why she could not pay Mr. Herington (a Cobham grocer, Deirdre guesses)”

I too was happy for Henry and Jane they “had a very nice roast fowl” (she likes to eat), “very good Journey, & everything at Cobham was comfortable,” but it would seem to have detracted from the atmosphere that she could not pay her bill. What bill was this? I assume Henry paid for the food and lodging. It was over £2, the amount sent by Mrs Austen which is now returned as useless. So she’s not a rich lady, is she? Why is Cassandra to “try her luck?” Is there some dispute over the amount? So we are still in the Bath world of tiny amounts — people made fun of the 1995 S&S film for having Emma-Elinor worry over the price of sugar and meat. It was true to Austen’s continuing experience.

But they did not begin reading until later, Bentley Green not far from getting back to London. Is it a proof of MP he has? If so, how do they have it? It is improbable that it’s a copy for selling, for then it would be put on sale. A MS? not likely as the revision process would make them a mess unless this was a copied out fair copy. Sigh. (Partly over the idea that this fair copy was not saved if it was one.)

Anna Massey as the scolding Mrs Norris (1983 MP)

“Henry’s approbation hitherto is even equal to my wishes; he says it is very different from the other two [P&P and S&S], but does not appear to think it at all inferior. He has only married Mrs. R[ushworth]. I am afraid he has gone through the most entertaining part. – He took to Lady B[ertram] & Mrs. N[orris] most kindly, & gives great praise to the drawing of the Characters. He understands them all, likes Fanny & I think foresees how it will all be.”

Angela Pleasance as the self-absorbed Lady Bertram (same production)

People talk to please. Henry says he foresees how it will be to please. He sees (Austen says it was kind in him) that she labored hard over Lady Bertram and Mrs Norris — so we see how the hard comedy of the novel is what she is conscious of. For Fanny-haters, note she is pleased he “likes Fanny.”

Her doubt in herself is seen in her comment on Henry’s reading, but more than that is suggested by her her comment: “I am afraid he has gone through the most entertaining part.” If you go to my calendar, you will find the calendar of the book shows what we have falls into three distinct parts:

1) Sotherton, the play, 2) the aftermath of Henry breaking off and then Mary stuck there, he returning to fall in love with Fanny, her growing up and ball, and the proposal, with the 3) last section in Portsmouth that forms an sub-epistolary novel suddenly not fitting the 1806-1809 calendar of the rest of the novel at all, but one for 1797-98.

My calendar shows (like as several other studies before me have done) the play sequence was written at a different time from the courting, and the real result of the play, Henry and Maria’s encounter in London and elopement part of the text written at the time the play was written. So the middle section (Henry going off, return, Fanny and Mary’s difficult friendship, his courting and falling in love with Fanny, the Ball, the trip to Portsmouth) are later interwoven stories filling the book out to 3 volumes and making it into a conventional novel about a nearly coerced marriage (between Henry and Fanny) which was luckily avoided.

Austen here shows she thinks the earlier material will be much more entertaining for her reader. It’s brilliant, the play within the play, the salaciousness, the investigation into the nature of love and marriage in Inchbald’s Lovers Vows as in the speeches rehearsed by Edmund and Mary, maybe too she liked the Sotherton sequence leading into it.

Diana’s comment: “If he foresaw all that, he had the cleverness of a Frenchman or an elf, because people have been debating for two centuries about alternate endings to MP!”


Diana: Austen adds that she finished The Heroine last night and was very much amused; she wonders James did not like it better. . This is a novel by Eaton Stannard Barrett, an Irish lawyer and poet. The subtitle at the time JA read this was “Adventures of a Fair Romance Reader,” and was changed in a later edition to Adventures of Cherubina.

My commentary: The Heroine by Barrett was an influential book on other books beyond Austen’s, Austen used the previous text from MP to help her give structure and patterning to Emma. See my Barrett’s The Heroine. The Heroine is a deeply conservative, nay reactionary text in the tradition of Cervantes’s Don Quixote (as pointed out by Gary Kelly among others)

I’m not surprised Austen’s oldest brother, James, didn’t like it. He writes sensitive melancholy landscape poetry.

I leave those who are interested to read the plot-outline of The Heroine and how it parallels Emma’s (destructive finally) friendship with Harriet and how Cherry-Emma learns a lesson and to depend on the sensible male Stuart-Knightley.

What it’s not is a parody of Radcliffe. There are allusions to Radcliffe’s book but what is sent up is not her style rather the outlook which makes important the heroine’s sensitivity and the whole exploration of sex is dismissed. From my blog:

“The text is presented as a series of letters from Cherry to an unnamed correspondent and begins as a transparent parody of Pamela. The style is nothing like Radcliffe; the prose is simple and direct. These really could be renamed Chapters as there is little use of epistolarity, but the mode combined with the obvious caricatured presences does has the effect of ironic distance.”

Austen is ever the partisan and just cannot see what is in front of her if she is herself involved — or she refuses to (as in the case of Byron in the next letter where she seems to shut her mind, snap it goes.) She is endlessly jealous of Radcliffe as a rival. Barrett is burlesquing many books, and the kind of attack he mounts would also skewer her Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park too. He is at his funniest when at the opening when he alludes to politics of the day (as in the idea that while other characters can appear in his hell, Junius remains invisible). Again my blog:

Barrett is enormously well-read in romance; my edition by Sadleir includes pages and pages of allusions from major (Goethe’s Werther) to minor and popular books (Children of the Abbey). If anything Radcliffe is a minor presence in his book; he may be thinking of her when he writes against “impassioned sensibility … exquisite art … depicting the delicate and affecting relations between the beauties of nature and the deep emotions of the soul” that seduce female readers sexually (“voluptuous languor”), but his text is far more like Walpole’s Otranto. Barrett’s hostility to the gothic, though, is undermined by his fascination with it — though he does not go so far as to enact it quite in the way of NA.

Austen also enjoyed The Female Quixote where the heroine is similarly taught a lesson against reading women’s romances and how she must depend on sensible men. FQ is exquisitely funny when it parodies later 17th century French heroic romance, but it has nothing to do with the gothic; about a third of the way into the book Charlotte Lennox can no longer keep up the burlesque, and her text becomes a domestic courtship romance.


Arnaud the sleigh 1776blog
A. d’Arnaud, The Sleigh. 1776. Image @Marie Antoinette’s Gossip Guide

Back to the trip where Diana enjoys the line: “I was very tired, but slept to a miracle, & am lovely today.” I agree Jane is luxuriating and the allusion to Mr Knight (rich, he left Godmersham to Edward let’s recall) is to the rich way she feels herself traveling. “Bait” means to refresh the horses. They are wiped down, allowed to rest, given water. The next passage shows us they went on with the same pair.

They arrive, the upper servant, Mr Barlowe, knows his place, Austen unpacks, sends out letters to friends with the letter P (I feel like Mrs Jennings because LeFaye is no help. She does not like the Papillons, makes fun of them. My guess is single women of the type she has been visiting and visited by in towns she stays at for years.)

It is snowing. – We had some Snowstorms yesterday, & a smart frost at night, which gave us a hard road from Cobham to Kingston; but as it was then getting dirty & heavy, Henry had a pair of leaders put on from the latter place to the bottom of Sloane Street. His own Horses therefore cannot have had hard work

I like that Jane is aware of how the horses did suffer. Though they did not change horses, he paid for two more to pull them. She remembers there is a slaughtering colonialist war going on in Portugal and Spain — though she does not use this term she does show interest in it again and again throughout the letters though her reactions are not exemplary (how wonderful we know so few who are dead, her attack on that general). For those who don’t know about this war it was deadly and had slaughter after slaughter; Goya’s paintings and famous May 2nd comes from it. (A busy year Diana puts it — so too this year in Syria and Afghanistan — the latter a real equivalent. Bigland’s book (see letter 90) read aloud by Jane by the way includes a large section on European politics; and the stuff on Paisley connects too.)

So I take the unusual explicit reference to the weather (but remember the last letter registered the cold) as part of her awareness of the world around her. Horses overworked in the wretched raw March snow, men dying still not so far away.

Her “veils” reference is not so decent. She is making fun of how lower class people are getting above their station by wearing fancy hats with veils. She watches for them and takes pleasure in the women’s attempts to get above their stations because she feels so secure in hers.

All this brings to mind some worry Cassandra had yesterday and Martha Lloyd. Not exactly rich and easy Martha’s life (as we’ve seen) — that’s the association. Austen’s letters move by association. Jane hopes Martha had a pleasant visit to them or somewhere else and thus Cassandra and Mrs Austen could sit down to their beef-pudding without too much guilt. This cold and train of thought brings on the misery of the chimney sweep to her mind. She says she will think of his cleaning the chimney in Chawton tomorrow.

About the end of the first page, she turns her attention to London. Crowds are enormous for Edmund Kean. It’s probably worth it to say a new style of acting was coming in: not so much more naturalistic, but more willing to open up the inner vulnerable psyche. That’s what Mrs Siddons and it led to Shylock being presented no longer as this comic or vengeful villain, but a sympathetic outsider. This was only the beginning, but it was important. You can see a reflection of this in Scott’s Isaac of York in his Ivanhoe.

Diana comments:

“A good play for Fanny. She cannot be much affected I think,” she comments. Fanny is now aged twenty, and I suppose Aunt Jane is looking out for her, to see that the impressionable girl won’t take in anything she shouldn’t – which is pretty rich coming from someone who’d been reading Les Liaisons Dangereuses when she was several years younger than Fanny!”

I don’t see what one text has to do with the other> Why Fanny cannot be much affected by this play and therefore it’s good for her to watch is a puzzling statement. If Austen means to suggest she is aware Fanny is not exactly a sensitive original type when she watches a play then why is it good for her to watch this one? It had not yet been interpreted to be anti-bigotry.

Mrs Perigord was Madame Bigeon’s daughter who had left her husband (probably over his abuse of her). She cannot have much money so it’s important that Austen pay this bill for a willow for hat-making and she does. Muslin was delicate material and Austen has not yet allowed it to be dyed although “promised” by others several times. She probably means she wouldn’t let them. Why are people wicked for dying cloth? It may be a joke, word play as Diana says, with the underlying idea that white is pure:


“Now comes another quote I love, and it is rather startling to see it in context of a fairly prim and prosy paragraph; we are suddenly moved to remember that the maiden aunt is Jane Austen, capable of anything. For Mrs. Perigord has come, bringing some Willow, and she mentions that “we owe her Master for the Silk-dyeing.” Jane, however, protests that her “poor old Muslin has never been dyed yet,” despite several promises. And then she says: “What wicked People Dyers are. They begin with dying their own Souls in Scarlet Sin.” This can only be written for the pleasure of the word play, the fancy.”

I don’t get it as dyes come in all sorts of colors.

In the evening Austen tore through The Heroine and Henry read more of MP “admiring Henry Crawford” only “Properly” “as a clever pleasant man.” This does sound priggish — she is saying that he does not admire Henry Crawford as a rake or cad who uses women (the way a man might).

The last sentence suggests that Austen is telling only the good things that are occurring or occurred that night or over the days: we have seen many times that Cassandra wants upbeat stories and what is not upbeat given a virtuous turn or told not at all. This is the best she can produce about their evening is another way of paraphrasing this.

And now a paragraph about Henry’s friends and business associates who naturally are invited — and just as naturally may well refuse. Performative behavior is nothing new.

I suggest by-the-way that Fanny Price and Henry Crawford would not do as partners because Jane does not herself find Henry that congenial nor he her. That’s (Jane and Henry Austen’s relationship) an undercurrent in the novel. All her novels are rooted in her life-story. She is attracted to Henry, he is amusing, but her dream life declares it would never do. — unlike dear Frank.

Austen does not expect John Warren and his wife actually to come. The implication of the next sentence is that she at least (and maybe Henry) regards this socializing as an affliction. It’s said in a jok-y way: “Wyndham Knatchbull is to be asked for Sunday, & if he is cruel enough to consent, someone must be sent to meet him.” The Knatchbulls were upper class people and Wyndham a learned man from Oxford (in Arabic no less). Fanny Austen Knight would marry into this family and become a Lady.

From The Loiterer I’d say Henry was a reader and fit into Oxford so I assume this joke is for Austen’s benefit who is not keen on social life. Then Kean mentioned with a sarcastic voice, as if she’s repeating other people’s cant. I do think LeFaye guess may be right: that Henry’s friend may have played in a performance as Frederick. I think it’s the MP Frederick referred to, so it may be that the friends joked that Tilson or Chownes was a Frederick-Henry Crawford type (rakish).

At the end of the paragraph we see Austen still cannot get over being someone who moves about in her own carriage: she is to call upon Henry’s friends this way: “Funny me.”

The next fortnight tickets for all good seats gone at Drury Lane but Henry means to buy ahead for when Cassandra comes. He does seem to like Cassandra; she was his choice when he was ill.
A pathetic vignette occurs right after a mention of Sarah Mitchell who LeFaye has discovered had an illegitimate child. So a servant whom Cassandra has had to hire (and didn’t like this at all): Jane wonders what “worst thing” has been forced upon Cassandra.

Well Cassy springs to mind. Let us recall how badly Cassy did not want to be left with her Aunt Cassandra. Well she was left and is apparently treated as someone with fleas. No wonder she was not keen to stay. I feel for the child who had wanted to be with her parents. There are not many beds at Chawton we see and she got her aunt Jane’s.

Then Austen answering some joke about grotesque looking people; Austen is alive to people’s bodies and she says she has not seen anyone in London with quite Dr Syntax’s long nose or as montrous as two figures in a comic afterpiece burlesque.
The whole paragraph is to me distasteful, unfeelingly jocular.

And so the evening comes to an end.


A still extant modest 18th century trunk

The following morning she reports her trunk has still not come. A loss of her clothes could not be a small thing to Austen. Apparently she did not bring a second set of small things with her in case the trunk was lost or stolen, and now she may have to borrow “stockings & buy Shoes & Gloves for my visit,” but she says (ironically) that by writing about it this way (berating herself for her foolishness) that will make the gods relent and it will show up. There’s nothing the gods like more than people admitting to learning lessons

There’s a decidedly irritated undercurrent here starting with the mention of the “Warrens, or maybe it goes back to where Austen admits she is not telling what happened in the evening that was not good.

Lady writerblog
19th century drawing of a “lady writer”

I’ve been reading Burney’s diaries and journals and thought I’d end today’s offering with a comparison. Austen’s letters contrast to Burney’s journals which are far more formal, self-conscious, fictionalized in part. Austen is immersed in life and reflecting it in her words. In some ways I much prefer Austen’s though concede the general public would find Burney’s “more entertaining” to use Austen’s diplomatic phrase

It’s sometimes said that Boswell’s Life of Johnson, huge as it is, once you see all Boswell’s journals emerges as an interlude where a secondary hero takes the stage, but it is no different in feel or outlook from the rest. I suggest that Fanny Burney’s novels — huge as 3 are — and her plays too — might be considered as interludes, special episodes in the 50 volume book that was her life. It’s easy to discover there’s a preface to Cecilia not printed in the present editions, but found in the diaries and journals, a previous partial manuscript of Camilla extant in the diaries and journals; you might say the novels spill over into the journals or the novels spill out. The plays are notoriously life-writing spilling out expressionistically. Burney saved the drafts of her plays.

By contrast, Austen’s novels not interludes or continuations in a new spirit within her epistolary writing; I have (I think) demonstrated that both S&S and P&P were originally epistolary (and so have others) and think parts of MP were epistolary, but they are no longer. The novels do not spill out of the letters, anything but … at least as we now have the letters. Once her book was published, Austen did not save her drafts. Perhaps she had only one fair copy or two at most and Burney had many more. Burney appears to have been given so much more time and liberty to write.

One problem we are having reading these letters is Austen is journalizing just as surely as Burney, loving to put down her life. But Austen appears not to have had as much time to work out her vignettes, she gets them down rapid-scapid. Austen died young and when Burney’s husband died (November 1817, a few months after Austen), she worked for 23 further years elaborating her 50 volume + work.

That Austen is aiming at the sort of thing Burney was but didn’t have the time or life span to work it out expresses one we have such trouble going over these letters. It’s like we have drafts of letters. And of course our editor is not only not up to it, she doesn’t want to help us for real. I had really meant to go through this letter thematically not chronologically (section by section), but it seems to me demand the step-by-step or sentence-by-sentence approach. I will however as in the previous two letters reprint the text in the comments.

An interesting parallel: Austen has one beautiful fair copy of a text prepared as if a presentation copy; clearly she wanted Lady Susan to last. So Burney did precisely that with one of the plays her father and “Daddy Crisp” repressed (Witlings?)

Of course it might be Austen poured herself into the novels while Burney poured into the life-writing. We don’t know this for sure as we are missing the majority of the letters and all but a few drafts.

I was amused to discover in A Scribbler’s Life, a one volume excerpt from the 40 volume set (before the court journals came out and emphasizing the earlier years) that Burney as a girl would “always have the last sheet of my Journal in my pocket, & when I have wrote it half full — I join it to the rest, & take another sheet.”

These pockets are great bag-like things inside one’s skirt — no need for a handbag and reticule just for show.

The niece who described Austen at Godemersham in the visit we’ve just read about (her hair long and black) also said that she remembered Austen walking about with her writing desk at Godmersham. It is somewhere in the family papers.

A comparison: for both the life of a courtier is a death-in-life.


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Funestes ont été pareilles dispersions et pareil abandon (Emile Lauvrière, Brève histoire tragique du peuple acadien, Paris 1947)

Dear friends and readers,

Every once in a while I read a book, do a review on it, which requires much reading in books I’ve never gone into before, and I come away with a new perspective that enables me to see much that I had been reading before or studying in a new light, from a point of view that I hadn’t considered before and opens up whole new ways of looking at books and art and life too.

Such a book was Christopher Hodson’s Acadian Diaspora, which has had a (mildly) transformative effect on me, not so much for itself, but for the whole outlook it belongs to, the set of books, I had to read to understand it, including the Cambridge Companion to Post-Colonial Studies, ed Neil Lazarus. So you can imagine how chuffed I am to see it in print — it’s just been published in the (18th century periodical) The Intelligencer. From my restatement of one of the many insights of Hodson’s book:

Hodson thoroughly undermines the argument that we can explain what happened to the Acadians before and since 1755 (and by implication that of other peoples so dispersed) by examining their technological know-how (referred to as level of “sophistication” or “civilization”), willingness to work hard, or cultural norms (family values, religion, particulars of an ethnicity). Once people are dispersed, displaced, divided up, we see how easily people’s cultural norms, their local social capital (to use Bourdieu’s term), sentimental ties dissolve, or are bypassed … We see how technological abilities are blocked or made counterproductive … Hodson demonstrates that for individuals and family groups with only small or no property, no connections they can call on to enable them to overcome local exclusionary customs, and no military to support them, the ability to control their circumstances and future is extremely limited (169-71). He shows that “ordinary people’s safeguards” are long-standing and recognized commercial and familial relationships and also known and understood local economic environments that cannot be misrepresented to them ..

If you read the review, you’ll see summaries and references to the central books I read — much worth reading. I particularly enjoyed Marie-Therese Humbert’s epistolary La Montagne des Signaux:


Margaret Saunder’s Rose of Arcadia:

(try to glimpse the lovely later 19th century painting),

and the French history of the Acadian “derangement” by Emile Lauvrière. Very important was an early “straight” history of Trinidad by V. S. Naipaul, The Loss of El Dorado which in context (for me) read like a more imaginative passionate version of Acadian Diaspora. The same motives, the same savagery (barbarity), the same delusions led to analogous disasters and cruel societies on the coast of Latin and South America. Both encompass colonialism across a wide swath of the earth during the long 18th century and then focus in on specific concrete instances (some of these overlap). Naipaul’s begins with Ralegh’s Discovery of Guiana.

I didn’t, though, mention one I will probably continue to cherish, V.S. Naipaul’s The Enigma of Arrival and only mentioned in passing his The Loss of El Dorado. I’ve been wanting to write to tell of my new discovery and sudden real love for at least one side of V.S. Naipaul’s writing but have not known quite how to do it. The content of Enigma of Arrival, its subjective outlook made it tangential to my review-essay. That’s why I never mention it, let alone describe it, and and yet it centrally helped cause my new understanding and the use I can make of the post-colonial point of view in my writing and thinking.



The Enigma of Arrival has no central story line that quite makes sense, and its individual anecdotes of the lives going on around our narrator are not individuated, often the people are not named, only the outlines of their fates and some sense of the meaning of these fates told. It’s partly autobiographical, partly fictionalized: a writer brought up in Trinidad, of Indian ancestry, comes to live in a cottage not far from Stonehenge on the English Salisbury plain — where to him it seems cold and to snow a lot. His stories of getting used to England reminded me of my experience: of cold, yukky, pub drinking and music, and how I went from a dreamy reader of English books to a stranger wandering about to being at home in England, finding an identity I was given that I could live with there, in Leeds especially. it was one where I was left alone to join in with others or not, given a lot of individual social liberty.

The Enigma of Arrival is a deeply meditative book which through memory and imagination takes us back to neolithic time in the UK, through to the hardships of Elizabethan and 18th century history in Latin America and India, and fast forwarding to the moment in the mid-20th century when the narrator is taking his walks and interacting with his neighbors (workmen and others in cottages) and landlords. I identified with his quest for an identity different from the one imposed on him, his attempt to read and write and re-form a history he could endure to place himself against. Of course that’s what I did too when I came to England. He is telling us of how he became sort of English, while remaining at-home nowhere like all around him, and yet rootedly local. Funny, poignant (sometimes tragic as people kill themselves) with people half-mad the way they are in life. Writing strengthens him. Me too. I’ve felt the way he does when he’s up in planes and landing here and there on the earth.

In these meditations he made post-colonialism a new vital area of understanding for me, one I now see which relates us all to one another today — as the US gov’t acts out the latest elites’ will.
When do we arrive? when we reach a landscape, how do we become part of it, its past, a part of its people? when we begin to understand what? He says he leaves South Wind unread for a long time: it’s a book of conversations on an island off Italy by ex-pats. Gradually he feels he contains in him the worlds he creates and reads, and it’s not that there is no love between people for real (as Rushdie mistakenly thinks, a sad pastoral); rather that all of the characters and our narrator are seeking love and meaning and he finds it by seeing back in time and across in space to find stories like his (and mine and yours) everywhere.

The calm achieved he talks of is one I’ve found in Trollope. I’d like to think the Mr Harding of the book, a boarding house manager, is an allusion to Trollope. Much more likely Naipaul chose the name for the reason Trollope did: it’s quintessentially English.

The Acadians were chased all over the Atlantic; they are us too.

I’m happy to put a copy of my review on my website.


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Dear friends and readers,

When I finished this book I found I was enjoying it in the way I had enjoyed reading Burney and about Burney when I first read her — when I was 18 and reading a 3 volume version of her diary taken from Charlotte Barrett’s edition by Austin Dobson. I felt strongly sympathetic to Fanny especially in the last sad and deeply felt entries. So I thought I’d make a blog recommending it even if it is no longer a new book for most Burneyites or people interested in the area or women’s studies.

I write to recommend Davenport’s book on Fanny Burney d’Arblay at the court of George III. It’s one of the new books (for me) I chose for my reading towards my review of Volume 5 of Fanny’s early journals. From her book emerges a perspective on Fanny’s 5 years at the court I was unaware of and suspect has not been sufficiently emphasized in the reviews; of those who take the older or “first stage” view of Fanny in the modern scholarship (as Janice Thaddeus puts it); hers is a convincing and appealing portrait of Fanny as a women who did follow a conduct-book set or norms. I then try to explain why Davenport was able to made me feel warm towards Fanny as I had not done for quite a while, revivified in me the liking for Fanny I used to have when I first read Fanny’s journals when I was 18.

What’s original is the idea that two relationships Fanny had while Keeper sustained her and it was when they vanished, she became psychosomatically ill, unconsciously pushed herself into death rather than remain at court, and thus roused her friends and family to help her free herself of her life in perpetual service to the Queen. The first was Mary Delany, who was (it seems) largely responsible for Fanny getting the position in the first place. Fanny lives for these meetings she has with Delany, a woman of genius, an artist like herself, and when Delany dies, Fanny is devastated.

Paul Sandby’s romantic picture of Windsor Terrace (one of the king’s houses) at night

The other was the courtship of Stephen Digby, the trajectory of which, ins and out, nuances and outward events, Davenport traces with care. Fanny really thought Digby loved her, felt deeply congenial with him, was thrilled by the high status (though careful to avoid being snubbed by his family, which attitude he didn’t understand and so was hurt when she did not come to visit the family castle when the Royal Family stayed nearby); nothing anyone could hint or say (particularly her man servant, Jacob Column, who detested Digby) could rouse any fundamental distrust.

Stephen Digby by Joshua Reynolds (date unknown)

Further, as told by Davenport by no means was Digby all hypocrisy which I gather is becoming the consensus point of view. It’s said that like Cambridge, Digby never seriously considered marrying Fanny. The time he spent with her over several years belies this. Digby was really engaged emotionally and genuinely tempted and only towards the very end when perhaps they had had too much of one another without marrying and they had some misunderstandings, did he turn to Miss Gunning with finality. Digby was like George Owen Cambridge who similarly is presented as on and off again by Fanny: intelligent enough, sensitive, melancholy, just enough alienated form the stupidities and irrationalities of social life. From this point of view the relationship did not move into marriage because Fanny couldn’t act on what these men offered, did not know how to cope, only the overt direct, ceaselessly emotional d’Arblay could capture her.

It was not long after he disappeared Fanny’s condition turned deadly.

It was not that she did not value serving the king and the queen; again as told by Davenport and shown in Fanny’s own words, she clearly did. But it was a distanced relationship demanding self-effacement and repression on her side which was utterly stifling to her deeper private self, the one Proust so famously said was the important “true” self. Madame d’Arblay and Monsieur Proust where they count for us and for themselves live in the same terrain here.

Trial scene of Warren Hastings: Fanny a major witness during and after her time at court

Which leads me to the second perspective, one which shapes this book: Davenport makes a strong case for regarding the 5 years at court not as a loss but gain. For 5 years of work, Fanny gained 55 years of pension which enabled her to marry; the queen was centrally instrumental in providing Fanny’s son, Alexander, with a Tancred scholarship to Cambridge. It helped her brother, James, become an Admiral after years of being passed over (just before he died). The years brought her into contact with fascinating events and a made her into a independent woman (even if as a court servant) who was given fine quarters, servants, and a good deal of free time to write even if hardly any day was completely free of a schedule of tasks. She stays in fine places, has a summer by the sea. Meets interesting people. Everything she wrote testifies to how much she valued the position, the royal family; she learned to be a polished fine lady there. There is no proof she would have written another novel during the five years, and if she had, would that have been valued for more than adding another line to a biography.

Kew — another of the three houses Fanny lived in, from 1735 print in Dugdale

What Fanny has been valued for and made her written about is her time at court and connections. Her way of weaving her own life in with the signal events she saw close up makes them alive. Would five years more of tea-drinking, visitings, and bluestocking gossip have been better?

I realize this resembles the kind of justifications one comes across of governess servitude for poor gentlewomen, but in this case she is not just a governess of children in an obscure household. Further, Davenport is clever or sound enough to do justice to the other nowadays conventional standpoint and a much more critical one: Fanny did rightly feel imprisoned without air to breathe or anything to live for because cut off from her family and friends and close emotional ties; she was isolated from her status and the court atmosphere, one of intrigue which she tried to keep away from (as beyond her). That such a job could destroy someone like her, especially subject to the bullying of Mrs Schwellenberg. The Queen was capricious, not open, Fanny didn’t dare small talk. She was not of high enough status to get any extended vacations to visit friends and family.

Davenport does not dismiss the conventional ambitious perspective either. Novelists were not respected, especially not women. In the first phase (earliest) Fanny was Keeper of the Robes, she may have been buoyed by the prestige and hope she could actually perhaps help her family, and compensated a bit by her beautiful quarters, servants, periods of free time. Fanny was respected. Davenport’s insinuation that Fanny was exaggerating her misery does slide us into her strong pro-monarchical stance (at moments unself-consciously idealizing). She does see how the queen controlled her daughters so much that they led infantile lives and some were never permitted adult independence, but the year 1789 is described simply as filled with “terrible” events. Everything about the revolution is quickly deplorable. Davenport is a partisan for Hastings, like Fanny, turning him by implication into a benign misunderstood scapegoat — when he was a tough, controlling, exploitative man (he likes to take his lower colleagues’ wives).

Clare Harman identifies this as a portrait of Fanny in later life — after 1812 say.

Why did I finish and find I’d enjoyed it so? The portrait makes effective emotional as well as practical sense of Fanny’s whole life, the time before the court, and importantly the time after when Fanny did all she could to maintain her court ties and the royal family when it could reciprocated. Davenport’s book includes an opening chapter about Fanny’s life and family before she entered the queen’s service (a sort of prologue) and several chapters about her life afterwards. Like Clare Harman, Davenport does justice to Fanny’s later years. The journals from the later years are quoted to great effect: Fanny did become warmer, less inclined to laugh at people. I remembered the moving passages when Fanny’s husband, close siblings, and then her son predeceased her. I agree with her Fanny’s face in John Bogle’s portrait with its wistful “amused quizzical expression,” not a beauty, slightly pursed lips, a “marking” face is that of an individual not a generic beauty with great hat.


I’ve one more book to read, Janice Thaddeus’s Literary Life before I return to Volume 5, skim, outline it and write.


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Fanny Burney as painted by John Bogle in 1783

Dear friends and readers,

Since sometime in January when an editor contacted me with an offer of Vol 5 of The Early Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney (ed. Lars Troide and Stewart Cooke, 1782-83), for me to review, I’ve been reading Burney’s fifth volume and dipping into other of her diary and journal volumes as well as her novels and reading critics and scholars about her and a number of the central people she dramatizes or writes to in this volume. In a few days I’m going to force myself to write the review. I say force because I’ve not come to any conclusion about what perspective to take, or even quite what is my stand on central issues of Burney studies, even though I’ve written quite a lot about her, both conventional publications and on the web.

Since it’s a case of her non-fiction writing, the first question is how fictionalized are the journals? It’s not a question of what happened, but rather the emphases in the presentation, changes of detail (which would be important) and Fanny’s biased and self-defensive understanding of what happened. I incline to Claire Harman’s view that Fanny Burney’s preternaturally strong memory is a myth. “Self-conscious, attention-grabbing” vivid reconstructions of what she remembered mixed with imagination, her 24 volumes represent “creative autobiography.”

I realize this is not a popular stance among faithful Burneyites and in the volume at hand which represents the young Fanny, the way say George Owen Cambridge half-courts and keeps away from Burney is so puzzling and enigmatic, so half-shown, filled with things not susceptible to explanation beyond that it happened, her text here is in fact a reflection of what was said and done.

George Owen Cambridge (1756-1841)

It’s also true that while in some cases what we know of a happening otherwise recorded only by Fanny belies her account in others the two cohere. Still so much is retrospective and partisan stories of fabulous “tape-like” memory (decades later) arouse common sense scepticism. Of course part of the reason for this continued adament idea (especially in Troide) that the diaries are transcripts of reality has been their value has been their factual nature, their authenticity and it’s hard to give that up — even if only in part.

Clare Harman says she wants to unpick the layers that went into Burney’s journal and letter writing, but how does one do this when for the most part Burney is the only witness of her scenes and thoughts.

The second question is what makes her writing valuable, and inevitably since they are distinct, are the novels where her greatest genius and interest for content lies or are the journals and letters. I used to say I was one of those who preferred the life-writing, but now that I’ve read so much more of it, I see many flaws. She misrepresents people (blind to them and especially some close ones, like her father), her retrograde political views (or sometimes no political understanding beyond narrow partisanship) get in the way of her describing what she sees (Hastings’s trial, riots); her fiction becomes increasingly stilted as she ages.

OTOH, her non-fiction writing is one of the most vivid and sheerly alive word styles I’ve ever come across. As Patrica Meyers Spacks says, the novels are what betray her anger at women’s position and condition; her protesting women may be castigated or punished, but these women characters say and experience feels true and just, is expressed eloquently, concisely, pithily. Her saturnine meditations are as complex as Samuel Johnon’s. Relatively trivial events occur in the life-writing, crucially significant and understood to be so in the fiction.

Margaret Anne Doody says we must try to be adequate to the depths of apprehension and complicated thoughts in Burney. From my attendance at the recent day-long Burney conference I know readers of Burney value her hard comedy, the mockery and raucous burlesques, and don’t flinch at her anti-feminism; also valued are her critiques of capitalism vis-a-vis women: FB and the Marketplace, Love and Money.

Miss Austen as subscriber to Camilla, perhaps the first time her name appeared in print


What are the central topics and people of Volume 5. It covers her correcting Cecilia, writing its fair copy and its publication; Burney’s reporting on and reaction to the wild screams of praise everyone seems to shower her with (much of it hardly sincere or thought out for real).

Recent edition

This is oen of Hester Thrale’s view of Cecilia whic she did not send Frances:

Her new novel called Cecilia is the Picture of Life such as the Author sees it: while therefore this Mode of LIfe lasts, her Book will be of value, as the Representation is astonishingly perfect: but as nothing in the Book is dervied from Study, so it can have no Principle of Duration — Burney’s Cecilia is to Richardson’s Clarissa — what a Camera Obscura in the Window of a London Parlour, — is to a view of Venice by the clear Pencil of Cannaletti.

But equally she also sent ecstatic praise and enjoyment that can hardly have been faked (Vol 5, pp 48-52:

Such a Novel! indeed I am seriously & sensibly touched by it, & am proud of her Friendship who so knows the Human Heart … This Letter is written by scraps & Patches, but every Scrap is Admiration & every Patch thanks to you for the Pleasure I have received … Had I more Virtue than Cecilia I should half fear the Censures of such an Insight into the deepest Recesses of the Mind

(I’ve been reading the Blooms (editors) on Hester Thrale Piozzi; also Spacks, Norma Clarke, MacCarthy, Clifford)

What money she did or did not get for the book.

Her family including her sister, Susan’s marriage. Her cousin Edward’s attraction to her. Her very ambivalent relationship to Hester Thrale by this time a widow in love with Piozzi. Burney does seem to me to lie to Hester Thrale and give her hateful daughter, Queeney, an advantage.

Hester Thrale Piozzi (1790s, by George Dance)

Johnson as a burden she feels loyal to: he is very old and sickening, dying and, unwilling to suffer fools (irascible), ostracized, often alone. Visits with the bluestockings, with Burney signaling out Mrs Vesey as absurd, Anna Barbauld as dull.

Betty Rizzo gives solidly persuasive corrective analyses of a number of the women who feature in Volume 5, including Mrs Elizabeth Vesey, Mrs Mary Delany, Mrs Montagu.

Mrs Elizabeth Hancock Vesey

The meeting with and first intense friendship with Mrs Mary Delany and intense hostility of Delany’s niece’s daughter who edited (expurgated, censored) Delany’s autobiography and letters.

Mary Granville Pendarves Delany when young

I’ve a good biography on hand, Molly Peacock, The Paper Garden, and one article, not very critical of Delany — Verna Linna, “A Passion for Botany, A Passion for Art,” Eighteenth Century Women, 1 (2001):203-35, accepting her complacency. My view: Delany was an artist, a scientist of botany in effect, a genius in a different area than Burney and thus they came together.

Above all throughout the volume George Owen Cambridge’s on and off again courtship with his father, Richard’s similarly enigmatic behavior. (Ive read Stewart Cooke on George Owen Cambridge twice now.) During the time of this diary one sister (or daughter) is dying. He really is leading her on. His father is clearly for it too. A problem in reading this one is it is very artful – as Austen’s is not. So I think she is showing us that there are several places where GOC is not as sensitive, perceptive as she and takes cant and coarser views of things. Edgar Mandlebert’s watching, scrutinizing, seeking to control Camilla as he distrusts her is Fanny’s reading of GOC’s behavior when it was she who watched, scrutinizing, wondered what GOC would be at. Hester Davenport’s analysis of Fanny’s analogous thwarted relationship with Stephen Digby, the king’s high equerry and courtier in later years shows how someone acting like GOC could tie Fanny up in knots, leave an indelible searing misery on her mind. Digby was very like GOC: highly intelligent enough, melancholy enough, sensitive too, just enough alienated from the stupidity and irrational demands of social life.

Burney does not make her irony or hidden views explicit. A rare moment is where she has presented what Soames Jenyns (introduced to Fanny) said he thought (so much at a loss because so many people about) and what she feels he really felt; “I dare say, if the truth was known, it was my silence & gravity that disconcerted him.” So you have to give her credit where she does not give it to herself explicitly. Her insistent detestation of discussing politics as if she had no opinion, but she does have one which comes out and Montagu tries to discuss it with her. Was it considered unlady-like or is this conservative reaction?

General issues throughout the volumes to consider:

Drury Lane, 1775 (modern version of older illustration)

No longer easy to tell which writing Burney meant as private (she and one other person) and which as semi-confidential (she within a group of select people). Whose eyes she meant something for is important, but then she did plan to publish after her death so it is finally everyone’s. I’ve read Peter Sabor and Lars Troide’s history of the earlier scholarship of the fiction and non-fiction

A comparison of Austen and Burney is fruitful:

Burney artful, Austen immersed in reality; Burney implicitly continually self-defensive, Austen partisan. Burney can write disinterested literary criticism, Austen can’t or won’t. Burney can talk about art disinterestedly including her own in critical terms of her era; Austen goes on and on about literal versimilitude and which characters she’s fond of, occasional pointer to themes. Burney has wonderful dramatic vignettes making sharp social critical points, capturing daily life. Austen’s vignettes capture her own reaction, personal private, bodily sense of people, emanates from the gut. Fanny enjoys while satirizing social life, Austen studies it from askance point of view.

Burney a town person, knows rich, famous, well-connected, real geniuses; Austen a country person and knows only her narrow circle, often fringe people. You never hear Burney mention servants or truly marginalized people when they are large elements in Austen’s life and non-fiction. Consider Madame de Stael introduced Burney to her husband, and it was Burney who ended the intimacy; Austen was too uncomfortable to meet Stael in the first place. Austen’s life more like Anne Hunters, Ann Radcliffe’s.

Austen left Mme Bigeon whose picture we do not have (Sylvie Herbert played the part in the film) £50

Burney has terrific editors, Austen the editor-as-family-friend, Deirdre LeFaye.

Males who mattered: for Burney, her father, Charles Burney; James Crutchley (perhaps an illegitimate son of Henry Thrale: Burney’s cousin, Edward Burney; George Owen Cambridge, Stephen Digby; Alexandre d’Arblay. For Austen: Thomas Lefroy, Samuel Blackall (?); probably Harris Bigg-Wither (about which proposal we know almost nothing), her brothers, but centrally it’s Frank; someone unknown, a clergyman met one summer season (though maybe this is myth); Edward Bridges, perhaps Charles Haden. Then women, Austen with perhaps lesbian leanings: Martha Lloyd; and then friends with Anne Sharp, Madame Bigeon. Close sister relationship: Cassandra. For Burney: Susan herself a fine perceptive writer too; then Maria (badly married), Hetty, Charlotte (and her daughter, Burney’s editor); outside the family, Mary Delany, Hester Thrale Piozzi; Anna Ord, Fredy Locke; she let her father ruin her friendship with Stael.


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Mother and child: Rekha Golub (Anita Kanwar), a prostitute and Manju Golub (Hansa Vithal), daughter of Baba (Nana Patekar, the film’s handsome brutal pimp)

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve just finished my paper for a coming ASECS conference, Diasporic Jane: images of displacement, exile and homelessness in the Austen films


where I successfully demonstrate the not so paradoxical truth that Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility when turned into a film has yielded a plethora of images of displacement, exile, and homelessness, and Austen’s matter fits today’s Indian and transnational cinema because of her character types, and gender and class norms (e.g., Prada to Nada; Aisha)

I begin here lest I need more justification that my Austen blog as a place where I discuss women’s art. I await Nair’s Austen film: she’s not done one yet, but I don’t doubt it’s coming. This is a blog on Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay, and some thoughts prompted by a couple of adverse poor reviews and one thoughtful long essay by Irving Epstein in this film in the context of others about street children and the realities of educating children and giving far more of them a decent chance to fulfill themselves for real in our culture. At its close I justify (with Epstein) showing films in classrooms and suggest they can reach many people in ways books alas don’t. My title alludes to a particularly egregious example of pseudo-thought and examination of serious gender and sexual issues in films about family life.

I’m not wrong to say Salaam Bombay is a stunning gem of filmic art. For storyline, the making of, Guardian contextual review, and imdb. Besides Salaam Bombay, so much that I see in film or TV looks like pap that I watched. It reminded me the worst thing about Hollywood’s dominance is its films replaces great local movies which tell real lives and truths with glamorized cotton-wool.

It’s the story of one streetchild — boy Chaipua (Shafiq Syed) — heartlessly ejected by his mother from their circus home, who survives, with vignettes and substories (sometimes disconnected) about how he manages this, mostly through the film with the help of a half-crazed drug addict, Chillum (Raghuvir Yadav) who dies near the end of the film and whose death, brought on by Baba, Chaipau revenges.

Chillum deteriorating badly

Perhaps it is most interesting as a study in dependency. Character after character begins as the dominant one in the relationship, the tutor say, and ends up the dependent. Perhaps this is a relationship of most concern to women as it’s what often happens to them in marriage.

We experience with Chaipua what he does, see what he sees. And with little vignettes of all the people around him. It ends with Chiapua, having escaped the orphanage (risking his life as it’s covered with barbed-wire and high walls), back in the streets alone, having been separated from the prostitute, Rekah, whom he tried help flee her pimp, Baba, when he shrugs off the loss of their daughter who she says was the center of her life. Rekah and Chaipau are parted from their suitcases too by a mindless crowd worshipping imbecilic looking statue. We see him sitting again on a wall as the film ends.

The most chilling scene of the film is one where on a terrace Baba makes Chillum dance frantically by hitting his poor feet (in rags of shoes) with a whip while Chillum has in his hands hot tea he and Chaipau are selling to others for money. Chiapua is befriended by the prostitute, Rehka, who loses her child to an orphanage where the people running it scorn her.

The authorities have the right and power to remove her child

The irritated official who has no intention of giving Rehka back her daughter

How indifferent the world is not only to these children but the women who are their mothers — the children are snatched away as in the Australian film on Rabbit Fences.

The vignettes of women are so telling; casually we see Baba who is tempted simply to throw Rekah and his little girl off a terrace, decide not to; he could have gotten away with this murder. Who would care? The violence of people to one another in India is startling in all the Indian films I’ve seen. The woman he lives with is intensely relieved; the child is her daughter and was terrified for the moment, some instinct told her how much in danger she was.

The film is filled with images of women and children, from brothel madams and young virgin prostitutes to more middling to glimpses of super-rich upper caste ones.

After a bought virgin girl has been punished for weeks, Baba comes in with kindness and gifts to seduce her into prostitution

Now seen by Chaipua on the way to a client

A pathetic moment: we see Chaipau paying a man to send letters home to his home; played by Irfan Khan (of Namesake and Slumdog Millionaire fame), we see that after the boy leaves, he pockets the money and tears up the letter. He cannot get the letter to the mother, the boy’s address is unreal:

I turn to the film criticism I’ve found. As with Gurinder Chadha’s Bhaji on the Beach, I was startled to find that academics loathe the film, are scathing about it!
For example, an attack direct called “Haraam Bombay!” by Rustom Bharucha, Economic and Political Weekly, 24:23 (Jun. 10, 1989): 1275-1279. Nair is accused of everything awful: complacency, voyeurism, appealing to our emotions without prompting analysis; using stereotypical stories of prostitutes, pimps, obvious scenes of cruelty — obvious. I wondered if the source of this is the perverted kind of nationalism which wants to deny all flaws to a culture, or simply misogyny towards women’s films. Nair has made since pandering films and that Namesake has its flaws (which it takes from those in Lahiri’s book), but she’s made great films too (Hysterical Blindness), and this seemed to me perverse at many points.

Not all were angry. Julie Gillespie shows that the Broadway music, The Secret Garden (1991), and by Marsha Norma (with many women in the crew) the movie by Agnieszka Holland, The Secret Garden has images very like those found in Salaam Bombay (“American Film Adaptations of The Secret Garden, The Lion and the Unicorn 20.1 (1996) 132-152).

The one I want to call attention to is by Irving Epstein, “Street Children in Film,” (Curriculum Inquiry, 29:3 [Autumn, 1999]: 375-388) is about how the filming of the children in Salaam Bombay resembles the filming of children in other street children movies. The other two are Kids, directed by Larry Clark, written by 19 year old Harmony Korine (a girl), and Pixote directed by Hector Babenco (probably Slumdog Milionaire too). Epstein writes that in all 3:

“the street” and “the child” become focuses of social criticism of three types of states: consumerist, authoritarian, and neocolonialist. In each film, street life is used as a metaphor for the way in which the state expresses its authority … the directors’ share gendered views of children and childhood innocence, and see the street as offering its inhabitants the
opportunities for pleasure and liberation, along with suffering and dependency …

I know that as a teacher I acted as an agent of the state and some of the worst aspects of my job were where I was acting out authoritarian behaviors to get them to do the work, with an implied promise that they would be justly rewarded outside the classroom too. Untrue I knew.

Epstein says

90 million children between the ages of eleven and fifteen … are forced into regularly contributing to the international workforce. Ten million children under the age of seventeen systematically exchange sex for money; millions of others, having been orphaned by the AIDS epidemic and displaced as victims of war, have turned to the streets for their survival. The existence of street children is not limited to the developing world, as the North American experience with homelessness attests …

Police brutalize and girls are regularly raped by those placed in positions where they are supposed to help them.

But we are civilized in the classroom, controlled and I tried hard to make it an ethical courteous compassionate social space. Street-life is an extension of the state, its brutality, its unacknowledged amoral hedonism. Both Kids and Pixote are also accused of gender stereotypes.

Epstein says that all three films present pessimistic conclusions regarding the potential amelioration of the suffering experienced by their characters in the streets and the institutions offered by the state; the adults they meet are corrupted, brutal or helpless to give them any permanent aid to improve their condition.

I’d add that although Austen has children centrally dramatized in Mansfield Park, and is in her letters resolute in her lack of interest in children until her nieces and nephews grow into early adulthood; nonetheless she is (as it were) theoretically centrally concerned with the education of children, because she had this idea that their upbringing made them the adults they are. She does not sufficiently take into account the history of a moment, the cultural milieu but looks to what went on between parents and teachers and children, siblings and those immediately in the household.

Maria and Julia are told by Mrs Norris that Fanny cannot help it if she is so stupid and cannot read a map (1983 MP)

As with The Secret Garden, Austen presents only an ironized refuge (private, expensive, class-based) as a solution and struggling and enduring otherwise.

Thinking about it, classroom cultures do not help much either; if softened inside the classroom, once the student leaves, he or she is thrown to those dogs (21st century capitalism, neo-colonialism, sexism, racism) again. Ideally teachers ought to admit that their authority comes from other sources and exists for other reasons than the curriculum of the classroom.

I see the power of the visual image as I see it in the Austen and all other movies I’ve been studying and just loving. Epstein suggests that maybe films can induce some lasting awareness and provoke and critique beyond being emotionally satisfying. He asks if we can do more and actually effect some good in active forms of social and political commitment.


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Fanny (Imogen Poots) and Jane Austen (Olivia Williams) having frisks at Godmersham — drunk and running about garden (Miss Austen Regrets 2008)

Dear friends and readers,

The second of the two letters we’ve discussed this month on Austen-l (see letter 95). Very long, written within 3 days of the first, it represents the actual rhythm of exchange, and is (further typically) filled with people of whom we know nothing and LeFaye is disinclined to give away; there are many tiny vignettes, if incisive still half-formed, so to close read is quite a job. On the first week Diana Birchall took us but 1/3rd the way in.

I’d like to try as an experiment a different way of proceeding than we have been doing lo these weeks, months, and years. I will for a change do a general reading zeroing in on themes — because I feel I am ready to see larger patterns now (having gone through 95 letters just about all by Jane Austen), and get them right as I was not when we began. I will scan the whole letter and place it into the comments for reference. As Diana remained faithful to our proceeding all along, she has the last word.

Gentle reader, if you feel you can, comment on this different way of proceeding and say which you prefer.

18th century print of Streatham

There’s Jane’s view of herself. It is clear she does not get many compliments and is inclined to think she is not valued, and is sceptical about all such utterances. Towards the end we get a strong statement about how she values Cassandra and the Bigg sisters. She likes being with them better than being at Streatham or Bookham (you can have these fancy houses you see). She says she can’t get used to seeing them in Henry’s carriage. What a view she has of herself. We saw how she couldn’t get over seeing herself in a carriage. She comes back to the weather several times. It’s apparently nice for November. She does this to say to Cassandra that she knows Cassandra is making the most of this in order to enjoy life as best she can. “I was in hopes of your seeing the illuminations and you have seen them.” It’s here an association comes which makes her remember Frank’s use of the past participle or country accent as a boy so fondly. I see an important undercurrent here, which leads me to …


Austen as reader and writer. From the standpoint of books Austen read and admired and her work as a writer: again there is the liking for Crabbe; she’s pleased that the conservative (anti-Jacobin is the phrase used) Elizabeth Hamilton admires her work sufficiently; she does not care if the people at Cheltenham really don’t like her books if they are willing to buy them (“a disagreeable duty”), still “so as they do it” makes her happy. She is working on the 2nd edition of S&S — those long mornings we’ve observed mentioned in other letters must be when it’s done. There is a reference to Madame de Sevigne which suggests that Austen had read her letters. She likens Mrs Hamilton’s relationship with her daughter to madame Sevigne’s with hers.

Cheltenham, the 18th century spa era … again highly idealized

Her brothers: She wants to visit Henry and he has been ill (she says we rejoice sincerely in his gaining ground), and she is aware that the illness is his anxiety and his state of mind for the past year or so (so since Eliza’s death), but it’s clear she is not certain he wants her around. She may see that she’s an uncomfortable person in some ways to have around (she does not like social life, is part of it only it “bits and starts” either because she’s snubbed as older, single, poorer), but she would like to go to be there. I don’t think this is ironic as she repeats the idea more than once. Note she has these plans 3 letters ago to go to Henry quickly but not stay long and has yet to leave.

She also is remembering language as a child that Frank used, with a kind of cherishing — again that strong love for him, which we’ve had some evidence comes from their childhood. The remarks people make about Frank as a boy all come from her passing phrases. He apparently would use the past tense participle when he should not and she imitates this several times even to ‘draved.” It may be she is also imitating his country accent. Poor Mary in the last part of the letter is a reference to Mary Gibson Austen. She was pregnant again. Frank is stuck in the Baltic. Jane thinks of this, and feels for Mary vicariously.

Bath, the River Avon

Edward and she have become quite companionable since Elizabeth’s death: it’s worth remarking that the sharp asides about his miserliness, possessiveness over land, egoism have stopped. She notes that he hates to be around sick people in a previous letter with respect to Lady Bridges. I remind everyone in a previous letter Lady Bridges and her doctor (Parry) and coming to Bath were mentioned and Jane said Edward won’t go to Bath now rather than be around sick people — even if Louisa is going (Edward has had a letter from her we are told at the close). The Lady B seen here is the same sick lady of the previous letter that Edward wanted to avoid, e.g., “Dr Parry does not want to keep Lady B at Bath when she can once move.”

Edward (played very well by Pip Torrens, MAR 2008)

But no sharp comments about Edward over this — earlier much earlier she made fun of his going to Bath for his health and again there is no mockery of this type of him any more. Perhaps the absence of Elizabeth made her like him better. There’s only “you may guess how Edward feels.” He wants to avoid this sick lady and will bring back Fanny Cage (who we must assume didn’t like being around the sick either.) Again I see in John and Fanny Dashwood aspects of this brother and (now dead, mercifully I expect Jane would admit to herself) sister-in-law. Lady B has money and status; as Diana remarks when Lady B wants to leave, she ups and does — unlike Jane who must wait on everyone else. (Anne Elliot’s powerless has its source here.) And Jane admires the decisiveness. I rather suspect she really was so frustrated in the time she had to waste with dullards; the irritation is not so strong as it once was.

Jane and Fanny look through window at men playing cards (MAR 2008)

Jane’s niece Fanny whom we have to accept was her favorite by this time is not too keen on the aunt just now. She favors the younger people around her and Mr Wildman. Jane enjoys running about with them outside the house, sitting in a row for fun — this is used in Miss Austen Regrets (2009) we see Olivia Williams just with Fanny drinking a lot and running about (to be scolded by Edward Bridges in the person of Hugh Bonneville). She does find companionship with Mrs Lefroy’s sister, Mrs Harrison, but note the repeated self-consciousness. She cannot resist praising people who are not eager over the concert (Lady B). She kids about Miss Lee who likes Crabbe and talks up a ball too much — perhaps the woman was pompous.

Yes Jane does not like over refined and elegant people – or laughs at them, or tries to. They irritate her probably because of her own lower status and it must have grated knowing herself to be so much more gifted and yet so undervalued for this.

Notice how she is often paired with Miss Clewes. This is the common way at Godmersham, Aunt Jane and the governess.

On people important to Austen, people who are not relatives: The Hattons (some of whom she has a relationship with) come and go and so do the Bridges. There is another mention of Edward Bridges with an enigmatic statement about why he keeps coming “for more reasons than one.” Apparently Austen did not like him by this time at all. We’ve seen this growing since the beginning of a previous visit to Godmersham. I agree with Diana that Austen at Chilham must’ve met Mr Breton (spelt here Britton), an intelligent man would make it a decent party (“the pleasantest party ever known there”) but note she does not say so. It’s curious how she represses this kind of thing — Cassandra would not like it?

Tomalin remarks how loathe Austen was to mention First Impressions in her letters. This is the same reluctance. Harman sees this as the result of her literary work not being valued by her society or her family enough — or her fear they would think she was getting too full of herself.

The Sherers are really gone — remember last week’s letter (this is the problem with taking such time over these) how she lamented they were really going. She likes Mrs Sherer especially. Perhaps this woman and Mrs Harrison valued her for real somehow the others did not — parts of her personality no one else responded to.

I think by this time she has become cool with Martha altogether. At Worthing might have been a high point for them, but life has intervened. Martha persisted in wanting to marry; is a poor dependent who must sell herself as a companion. They are apart too much and she expected too much of Martha. She expected less of Miss Sharpe and consequently the friendship stays easier — we lack many letters they apparently exchanged.

As will be seen I did this letter differently. I’ve deliberately picked out what is important here.

A costume used in the 1995 S&S film

Now for the minutiae which make up style and tone. In her first posting on this letter, Diana admired the sweep, concision of “very snug, in my own room, lovely morning, excellent fire, fancy me” — it shows a confidence with language found and way with words like Dickens’s in Pickwick Papers, the famous passage ending “sagacious dog, very.” Austen does the same thing with Mrs Elton only then the style is to send Mrs Elton up. I agree there is a feel of bitterness in her references to the Fowles’s buying her book reluctantly.

Authorship is not paling, but she has not the same first elan and ecstasy after 30 years waiting. It’s only human when you have felt your 2nd edition staring you in the face. The truth was she was not independent, far from it, not making anywhere near enough money to effect a life change.

She is though in the same letter genuinely pleased to be older, to be out of the “rat race” of procuring partners, and looking attractive to young men: “as I must leave off being young I find many Douceurs in being a sort of Chaperon. I am put on the sofa near the Fire & can drink as much wine as I like.” she does not want to be old but as time has enforced age upon her, she finds real compensations.

She finds some of her guests dull, but some she takes real pleasure in and there’s are these strong utterances:

“We had a beautiful night for our frisks.” Like lively horses.

“Dog-tired” the next day. (Why are dogs proverbally tired?)

“The shades of evening are descending, & I resume my narrative” is an interjection between a list of people’s names who might be a “a good ball next week, as far as females go.” Maybe the local area didn’t support assemblies, book circulating libraries.

Jane Austen no longer goes to balls to find male partners. Company, good female company is what she wants — and we see this in this letter from her enjoyment of Mrs Harrison, to her gratitude to Mary Plumptre whom Jane would hardly have known but “was delighted with me, good Enthusiastic Soul!” By contrast, men are “useful” (Mr Gibbs), provide carriages (Henry) or they are “unsteady” (Mr Paget). A rare sort of proto-feminist quip Diana overlooks: “what is wrong is to be imputed to the Lady — I dare say the House likes Female Government.”

Rex Whistler (1905-1944) painting bought by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Tritton at Godmersham is now in the possession of Mrs. Sam Hood (daughter of Mrs. Tritton)

Diana picks up on the quip about Sophia as “comer” (more comments on women) and how Jane disses the Hattons — she is always dissing them, if not the women, then George. This is not the first came and sat and went about them. They were above her socially, lived in far greater luxury, with a bigger library … but now I’m looking for phrases, style, tone that matter I am struck by this:

“Dear Henry! what a turn he has for being ill! & what a thing Bile is!” This attack has probably been brought on in part by his previous confinement & anxiety.”

She hopes it is going fast and then resorts to that time-keeping one sees in her novels: she will look for a good account from Cassandra on Tuesday, but since letters come on Wednesday she can’t hope for the letter written on Tuesday to arrive before Friday. I don’t know why a letter to Wrotham would make Henry feel better. Jane is concerned. When I read this passage and think of the undercurrents about him and his living over his business since Eliza’s death, I am not surprised at his later retreat to a plain woman and quiet curacy. He’d had enough.

Cassandra (Gretta Scacchi) at Chawton (MAR, 2008)

By contrast, Cassandra’s letter is “excellent sweetness … to send me such a nice long letter — it made its appearance, with one from my Mother, son after I & my impatient feelings walked in.’

Her impatient feelings have feet too. Diana ended on something not explained, well after she mentions her mother’s letter she writes; “How glad I am that I did what I did! I was only afraid that you might think the offer superfluous, but you have set my heart at ease.” This brings her back to Henry and her determination to stay with him whether he will or not, “let it be ever so disagreeable to him.” But she has not time or “paper for half I want to say.”

We cannot know what Jane did that she was so glad about and she thought Cassandra might find superfluous except it be her offer to visit Henry. In context it feels to me to be more about her mother. I take the above to be some of the more important tones and sharp memorable turns of phrase and minutiae in this letter.

For Austen’s text and Diana’s close reading see continuation in the comments.


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An 18th century chaise

Dear friends and readers,

It’s been more than a month since we discussed a letter by Austen, the last two 93 and 94, Austen at Godmersham, writing to Cassandra, with Henry, in Henrietta Street. We reviewed a remarkable letter by Lizzie Austen in which she shows herself alert to the abysmal life of the poor all around her as well as kept inside her family, sheltered, young; and two by Jane Austen where they went for a morning to Canterbury. It appears that despite all her offers to go to Henry forthwith, she is still waiting for some invitation and permission and Henry is still ill.

A general comment: there is in this letter a new note of real self-confidence. She is important to other people, regarded. The books are helping. She’s writing more of them. She is also being treated okay by everyone and the living at Godmersham and with Henry in London helps blot out the memories of their time in Bath where they were apparently genteelly poor and shamed. This letter includes her visit to a prison with Edward, much worrying over Henry, her cordial comments on a servant, about Miss Sharpe, how she appreciates intelligent praise of her books.

Since this is a long letter filled with minutiae, I will devote a whole blog to it, and another (tomorrow) to the following, 96, similarly textured. Here are again two voices, Diana Birchall and mine (along with Austen’s), providing rather different commentaries as we go.

Canterbury Cathedral from the cloisters

Jane opens with an enigmatic reference, which she returns to at letter’s end:

I will keep this celebrate birthday by writing to you, & as my pen seems inclined to write large I will put my Lines very close together … I shall be so glad to see you again, & I wish you many happy returns of this Day. — Poor Lord Howard! How, he does cry about it!

This is explicated by Janice Kirkland, N&Q 232:4 (Dec 1987): 477-78. Jane does not come out very well. Diana had written:

Jane is still at Godmersham – has been for about six weeks now, I think. A long letter, with a puzzle right at the outset. “I will keep this celebrated Birthday by writing to you,” she tells Cassandra. Whose birthday? Deirdre quotes Janice Kirkland as saying it’s Princess Sophia’s, fifth daughter of King George III. Well, can’t imagine why Jane Austen would care about such a minor figure, jokingly or not, but I’m not convinced. It could be the birthday of someone else, an author or other figure she admired …

I agree there is an intonation on “this celebrated birthday” which suggests weariness about the whole thing. Kirkland says the birthday is Sophia’s, but the sarcasm and ironies are directed at Lord Howard who was a courtier, Secretary and Comptroller to the Queen, his mother one of Charlotte’s Ladies of the Bedchamber, a proxy for a godmother for the the baptism of Sophia’s child. The reading in context by Kirkland amounts to Austen sneering at Lord Howard’s attempt to get a separate permanent allowance for the princesses which would have freed them from direct control of their mother. “Poor Lord Howard.” Doesn’t get enough money. This is exactly parallel to Austen who however did get an understood yearly allowance from her mother. You’d think she’d identify with the underdog but no … Here Austen reminds me of those who would deprive women who have stayed home all their lives and are entitled to a part of their husband’s pension or social security should he predecease them.

Austen then continues:

–I had but just time to enjoy your Letter yesterday before Edward & I set if in the Chair for Canterbury — & I allowed him to hear the cheif of it as we went along. We rejoice sincerely in Henry’s gaining ground as he does, — & hope there will be weather for him to get out every day this week, as the likeliest way of making him equal to what he plans for the next. — If he is tolerably well, the going into Oxfordshire will make him better, by making him happier. — Can it be, that I have not given you the minutiae of Edwards plans? — See here they are — To go to Wrotham on Saturday the 13th, spend Sunday there, & be in Town on Monday to dinner, & if agreable to Henry; spend one whole day with him — which day is likely to be Tuesday; & so go down to Chawton on Wednesday. — but now, I cannot be quite easy without staying a little while with Henry; unless he wishes it otherwise; — his illness & the dull time of year together make me feel that it would be horrible of me not to offer to remain with him — & therefore, unless you know of any objection, I wish you would tell him with my best Love that I shall be most happy to spend 10 days or a fortnight in Henrietta St — if he will accept me. I do not offer more than a fortnight because I shall then have been some time from home, but it will be a great pleasure to be with him, as it always is. — I have the less regret & scruple on your account, because I shall see you for a day & a half, & because You will have Edward for at least a week. —


“I had but just time to enjoy your Letter yesterday before Edward & I set off in the Chair for Canterbury – & I allowed him to hear the cheif of it as we went along.” What an amusing picture! Like Catherine Morland dancing in her chair all the way home. Godmersham to Canterbury is six miles as the crow flies; are we to suppose men carried the brother and sister swaying on poles the whole way? No; I’m guessing it’s horse drawn and perhaps something like this chaise: “chaise – from French chaise – -a chair; a two wheeled vehicle for two persons, drawn by one horse, and generally furnished with a hood that can be let down. A light weight vehicle, a seat on a framework with springy shafts.” Sounds about right. But don’t quote me. Carriages are not my field.

Cassandra has reported that Henry is improving rapidly, and Jane believes that his going into Oxfordshire (where he is to take up his post as Receiver-General) “will make him better by making him happier.” She then launches into Edward’s movements. To Wrotham, then Town, spending a day with Henry, and then on to Chawton.

Then Austen and Edward off in a chaise to Canterbury where she allows him to hear “the cheif of it as we went along.” I agree with Diana here that Austen shows concern for Henry, but why does Diana omit that Henry is and has been ill and is still ill, and the reason for this is emotional: Austen says he needs to get out, the promotion with its promised sluices of money (receiver general was a license to take money in effect as you took in taxes) and getting away from his place of business. That he chose to get away from where he had lived with Eliza. Months have gone by and he is still not well, unhappy, strained.

That’s what everyone does not want to admit. Not a shallow man and here Austen does show concern. Henry is in fact a real presence in this letter. He’s on her mind. She later says that she will be traveling on Henry’s money in effect, and at the end talks of how his carriage is being used by everyone. Who will want it next? She is alert (I believe) to this expense because his business is not going that well and he is not well and yet there they all are blithe and indifferent: “What a convenient carriage Henry’s is to his friends in general …” (p. 260. past the middle of the page — there are no numbered lines in these editions of LeFaye’s either) …

Map of Great and Little Bookham, Surrey

My scheme is to take Bookham in my way home for a few days s: my hope that Henry will be so good as to send me some part of the way thither. I have a most kind repetition of M” Cooke’s two or three dozen Invitations, with the offer of meeting me anywhere in one of her airings. — Fanny’s cold is much better. By dosing & keeping her room on Sunday; she got rid of the worst of it, but I am rather afraid of what this day may do for her; she is gone to Canterbury with Miss Clewes, Lizzy, & Marianne [Austen] and it is but roughish weather for anyone in a tender state. — Miss Clewes has been going to Canterbury ever since her return, & it is now just accomplishing. Edward & I had a delightful morns for our Drive there. I enjoyed it thoroughly; but the Day turned off before we were ready; & we came home in some rain & the apprehension of a great deal. It has not done us any harm however. — He went to inspect the Gaol, as a visiting Magistrate, & took me with him. — I was gratified — & went through all the feelings which People must go through I think in visiting such a Building. — We paid no other visits — only walked about snugly together & shopp’d. — I bought a Concert Ticket & a sprig of flowers for my old age. — To vary the subject from Gay to Grave with inimitable address I shall now tell you something of the Bath party — & still a Bath party they are, for a fit of the Gout came on last week.


Now we are told of Edward’s plans: to Wrotham, on Saturday the 13th, Sunday there, Monday in town and “if agreeble to Henry” with Henry. Edward too worried. That will be a Tuesday but no vibe there and then Chawton on Wednesday. Then several sentences of Austen’s desire to come to Henrietta Street if Henry will have her. Note that. She’s again not confident with him. (Later in the letter an enigmatic to Cassandra: she approves of the way Cassandra reacts to Mrs F.A. — that’s Frank’s wife, apparently acting up enough to keep her distance and Cassandra coping with this.) I count 12 lines (p. 258) over her desire to stay with Henry if he will have her, and then explanation she cannot stay more than a little while and guilt over that (she feels “horrible” given his illness and the time of year — dreary, leading to depression) but apparently she’s been gone from home and Cassandra too long. So it will just be 10 days because then she is not going to Cassandra for more than a day and one half. After all she “will have Edward for a full week.” (Before he goes for his time in Wrotham)

Photo of Nicholas Church, Great Bookham

Then off to Bookham, to the Cookes where she apparently was reminded about Fanny Burney D’Arblay’s grown son. This passage is of interest too. It shows Austen’s reluctance to socialize. Austen refers to “two or three dozens of invitations” and Mrs Cooke offering to meet Jane “anywhere in one of her two airings,” if Jane will just come. It may be and was that Fanny Burney spent long periods at Bookham, but Jane has to be shamed into it. It may be Fanny thought them “sensible, kind, good people”, and Jane does not register any dislike, but she is not eager at all. “My hope is Henry will be so good as to send me some part of the way thither.” She does not want to spend the money herself. It was probably the “most kind repetition” that drew her forth finally. (I cannot think Bookham was Highbury except if it be she did find it dull.)

Then we hear about Fanny’s cold and how she went to Canterbury with Miss Clewes (the governess). Diana quoted the bad weather and Austen’s worry Fanny was making herself worse; let me add the sentences also imply how much Miss Clewes loved going: “Miss Clewes has been going to Canterbury ever since her return,” by which Austen means talking about her journey over and over, reliving it.

Then we are back to Edward and Jane’s delightful morning for their drive there (when she was reading to him the chief of Cassandra’s letter). She liked it as much as Miss Clewes:
“I enjoyed it thoroughly, but the Day turned off before we were ready & we came home in some rain & the apprehension of a great deal.” In the UK the weather is ever uncertain and downpours common — or they were when I lived there.

Austen accompanied her brother as magistrate to inspect the jail – imagine what they saw and were told – in this letter she is not heartless in places she usually is. Allow me to jump forward to the trip into the jail. Alas, she is discreet and gives us so little to go on. But it is then not turned off with a joke. Instead she actually says she will “vary the subject “from Gay to Grave” because right afterward she did mention that they walked about “snugly and shopped”, she bought a “concert ticket and sprig of flowers” for her old age. She is aware then of the jarring juxtaposition of them out in the bright light and the suffering wretched half-starved, probably filthy people within, many not dangerous, some debtors.

While I’m at it, note in the later part of the letter how she treats servants as people:

I am glad William’s going is voluntary, & on no worse grounds. An inclination for the country is a venial fault. [she is remembering the satire of Pope and Johnson] — he has more of Cowper than Johnson in him, fonder of Tame hares & blank verse than the full tide of existence at Charing cross.

By association her next memory (I’m in the last third of the letter) is of Miss Sharp, the governess her friend who has been sending “flattery” through recounting how people “read and admire” JA’s books: “an excellent kind friend. I am read & admired in Ireland too.”Some of her bitterness and jeering surely comes from her not identifying with the upper class idle who make a great deal of themselves.

To return to her day in Canterbury with Edward let us hope he as magistrate was kind and decent. After that “no other visits,” buying the concert ticket, the flower as an old[er?] woman.


“This section speaks both of duty, and of genuine fondness for Henry, and may be partly what people who think of him as her “favorite brother” base their claims on. Certainly it would be hard to gainsay that she enjoyed his company, But Henry is only part of her scheme. She means finally to go to Bookham, where her godfather Rev. Samuel Cooke is the incumbent, having received “a most kind repetition of Mrs. Cooke’s two or three dozen Invitations, with an offer of meeting me anywhere in one of her airings.”

I can save everyone the trouble of looking up the Cookes, by simply if not very imaginatively consulting Deirdre. Rev. Samuel Cooke married Mrs. Austen’s cousin and exact contemporary Cassandra Leigh. Their surviving three out of eleven children were two Oxford-educated clergymen and a single daughter, Mary, who was an authoress. She was born in 1781, younger than JA, and her “Battleridge” was published in 1799. Interestingly, Fanny Burney knew the Cooke family when she lived in Great Bookham for some years, and liked the vicar and his wife greatly, describing them as good, sensible, kind people. Of the children, she thought rather less: “The eldest son, too, is a remarkably pleasing young man: the younger seems as sulky as the sister is haughty.” When Mansfield Park came out, the Cookes all thought very highly of it. Seems to me I’ve read that some people think Great Bookham was Highbury, but I have no opinion of that.

Jane goes on about Fanny’s cold, and how she has gone to Canterbury in “roughish weather for any one in a tender state,” with the governess Miss Clewes, and her sisters Elizabeth and Marianne. Jane and Edward, on the other hand, had “a delightful morning for our Drive there [see, it was a drive, as I figured], I enjoyed it thoroughly, but the Day turned off before we were ready…”

The visit itself is of great interest because this is when Jane Austen, rather surprisingly in the light in which she is usually viewed, visited a prison. Edward took her alone, and not any of his daughters, presumably because Jane Austen was past the age of tender girlhood, and a spinster of middle life was in certain ways treated more like a married woman than a girl. She shows she is aware of this by saying, “We paid no other visits – only walked about snugly together & shopp’d.- I bought a Concert Ticket & a sprig of flowers for my old age.” Aware of the awkwardness of changing the subject from a prison visit to frivolity, and then back to ill health, she acknowledges this with, “To vary the subject from Gay to Grave with inimitable address I shall now tell you something of the Bath party.”

Who made up the Bath party? Jane says:

The accounts of Lady Bridges are as good as can be under such a circumstance, Dr Parry says it appears a good sort of Gout, & her spirits are better than usual, but as to her coming away; it is of course all uncertainty. — I have very little doubt of Edward’s going down to Bath, if they have not left it when he is in Hampshire; if he does, he will go on from Steventon, & then return direct to London, without coming back to Chawton.- This detention does not suit his feelings. — It may be rather a good thing however that Dr P. should see Lady B. with the Gout on her. Harriot was quite wishing for it. —

The varying to Grave from this gaiety (not much) is the material about the Bath party and here our editor gives us almost nothing. Dowager lady Bridges and her doctor Parry. LeFaye’s appendix is like Deuteronomy. Who married and gave birth to who in that clan, nothiig to illuminate this passage. Lady Bridges has gout and is ill, her “Spirits better than usual” with the sense that usual is pretty bad. Austen then says she doubts Edward would want to go. The sense of the passage is he does not like to be around really sick people. If they have not left Bath when he is in Hampshire, he will go to Chawton from Steventon, skip Bath. But Austen says it was good thing that the doctor see the woman while she is ill and Harriot (remember her, Mr Moore’s wife with whom Austen walks) agrees.

Jane now remembers Mr Ogle and his panoramas.

The day seems to improve. I wish my pen would too. — Sweet Mr Ogle. I dare say he sees all the Panoramas for nothing, has free admittance everywhere; he is so delightful! — Now, you need not see anybody else. — I am glad to hear of our being likely to have a peep at Charles & Fanny at Christmas, but do not force poor Cassy to stay if she hates it. — You have done very right as to Mrs .FA. [Frank’s wife, Mary Gibson Austen] – -Your tidings of S&S give me pleasure. I have never seen it advertised. — Harriot, in a Letter to Fanny today, enquires whether they sell Cloths for Pelisses at Bedford House — & if they do, will be very much obliged to you to desire them to send her down Patterns, with the Width & Prices — they may go from Charing Cross almost any day in the week – -but if it is a ready money house it will not do, for the Bru of feu [sic] the Archbishop says she cannot pay for it immediately. — Fanny & I suspect they do not deal in the Article. —


Now comes Jane Austen’s “Sweet Mr. Ogle,” about whom she smilingly writes “I dare say he sees all the Panoramas for nothing, has free admittance everywhere; he is so delightful! – Now, you need not see anybody else.”

It’s surprising that by the time of the Fourth Edition of the Letters which I have in hand, published 2011, Deirdre did not know who Mr. Ogle was; for a good deal of material about him had appeared before that, for instance in the Jane Austen Society Report for 2010.

Mr. Edward Ogle was the Worthing builder who was the probable prototype of Mr. Parker of Sanditon; Jane Austen would have known him from the six weeks she spent in Worthing in 1805. I remember reading about him when I wrote my Jane Austen at the Seaside paper, and here is a very nice and informative blog report about a visit of the Jane Austen Society (Midlands) members to Worthing in 2011, with lots of background. After S&S, it’s back to buying pelisses, for which Harriot the late Archbishop’s daughter-in-law has no “ready money.”

Now I add to Diana’s comments: As she writes, the day improves and she wishes her pen would and as she looks up she remembers Mr Ogle and his panoramas. Now Diane has given all the material we need here; I’ll only add it’s apparent it costs to go into places and look at panoramas or travel to visit real ones and one of the values of Mr Ogle is when you are with him it’s “free admittance.”

That one does not have to see anyone else is the next remark. It could be her usual asocial reactions and she is saying after Mr Ogle and what he offers, one need not see anyone else. Or she could be turning to tell Cassandra she has visited enough, do not trouble herself. Here is where she says that Cassandra did right by Mrs F.A. (who hates to visit them or be visited – something LeFaye is perhaps incapable of seeing), but Austen glad to hear of having Fanny and Charles at Xmas. She tells her sister “do not force poor Cass to stay if she hates it.”

Cassy hates Chawton. Austen recognizes it could be hated. And that the child does.

Now she turns to Cassandra to ask some questions of her. Harriot in a letter to Fanny wants to know if they sell Clothes for Pelisses at Bedford house, please to send patterns, and widths and prices. Now if ready money is wanted, they don’t have it. The Archbishop’s brother says she cannot pay it immediately too.
Fanny and Jane suspect this is a lie and in fact there are no clothes at Bedford house.

Onto the Sherers, really going. She liked them.

The Sherers I beleive are now really going to go, Joseph has had a Bed here the two last nights, & I do not know whether this is not the day of moving. Mrs Sherer called yesterday to take leave. The weather looks worse again. — We dine at Chilham Castle tomorrow, & I expect to find some amusement; but more from the Concert the next day, as I am sure of seeing several that I want to see. We are to meet a party from Goodnestone, Lady B., Miss Hawley & Lucy Foote — & I am to meet Mrs Harrison, & we are to talk about Ben & Anna. ‘My dear Mrs Harrison, I shall say, I am afraid the young Man has some of your Family Madness — & though there often appears to be something of Madness in Anna too, I think she inherits more of it from her Mother’s family than from ours –‘ That is what I shall say — & I think she will find it difficult to answer me. — I took up your Letter again to refresh me, being somewhat tired; & was struck with the prettiness of the hand; it is really a very pretty hand now & then — so small & so neat! — I wish I could get as much into a sheet of paper. — Another time I will take two days to make a Letter in; it is fatigueing [sic] to write a whole long one at once.

Joseph has had a bed at Godmersham for the last 2 nights (their servant?) and Mr Sherer called yesterday to take leave. She did like Mrs Sherer we recall. The expectation of dining at Chilham Castle and who she will see and then one of Austen’s cruel remarks about Anna. She says what she will say to Mr Harrison if asked about Anna: she will say Anna is as “mad” as Ben and inherits it from Mary Lloyd Austen — who Austen dislikes. Thus will Mrs Harison “find it difficult to answer her.” She means to shut off conversation.

It’s apparent the Austen family is treating Anna sufficiently badly that the neighborhood gossip has gotten so bad people reproach the Austens.

Austen changes the subject to Cassandra’s handwriting: how pretty it is.Shame on Jane Austen for deserting her niece, at the crucial moment of marriage sometimes a choice can be made or avoided which makes or breaks a life. Anna’s was broken by he attempted escape to Bed. He made no money, and when he got a little, he died, and she lived in penury with too many children ever after.

It is very fatiguing to write such letters she then says (I’ll bet) and tomorrow she may have a letter from Cassandra about a visit to Streatham, about which see a continuation in the comments section. But first Diana’s comments here:

Halfway through the letter she says they are to meet a party from Goodnestone, which includes Lady Bridges (nee Hawley, to die in three years with a stillborn child), her sister Miss Hawley, Lucy Foote whose sister married one of the Bridges and was expected to marry another; and Mrs. Harrison. The latter was Mrs. Lefroy’s sister,aunt to Ben Lefroy, hence Jane Austen’s fierce burlesque of what she would like to say to her about the “Madness” of Ben and Anna. “That is what I shall say – & I think she will find it difficult to answer me.” So often does she describe Ben and Anna as unsteady and “maddish,” but at this distance it’s hard to discern if they really were a rackety and improvident young couple and Jane Austen was right to be concerned about them, or if she was being prudish, priggish, or what. We can only keep in mind that her material worries about their plans and comportment belong to a very different world and standard than ours.


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