Archive for the ‘blank’ Category

To translate seemed to me a beautiful thing to do — Victorine de Chastenay on her beginning Radcliffe’s Udolpho

La Coeur et la raison: title of Goubert’s translation of S&S, so the allusion is to Pascal’s La cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît pas [The heart has its reasons, that the reason doesn’t know]

Dear friends and readers,

I send along a brief review of Helen McMurran’s significant book. Her argument implies that creative and attentively alive linguistic translations as well as translations that paid close attention to changing the text to something acceptable to the targt culture were at the core of the spread of the novel across Europe.

Next up will be a two part evaluative review of Pierre Goubert’s study of Jane Austen: he finds out the traits of her mind and character as shown in the books and letters, and has himself written one of the powerful accurate translations of her book into French: La Coeur et la Raison, a translation that enables me to approach Austen’s text afresh the way Ang Lee’s great film adaptation (1995), together with Davies’ 2008 imitation also function. Goubert is much closer in spirit to Austen.

Then I’ll return to Austen’s letters, probably beginning with just Letter 95 (Jane from Henrietta Street, to Cassandra, at Godmersham, 3 Nov 1813).

What troubles me about the reviews of this book is most reviewers seem not to have bothered to read carefully enough to present its arguments about translation or simply (as usual) don’t care about translation studies to see its significance. Her views are consonant with David Bellos which a recent review of Virginia Woolf’s collaborative translations from the Greek with S. S. Koteliansky show hardly anyone takes into serious consideration. The writer found her alterations of Koteliansky deeply effective but had to dismiss it as not accurate, so wrote a muddled even puzzled account of the Hogarth project.

McMurran’s book is presented as having dual purpose: it also explains how novels spread and that was probably what attracted reviewers and a publisher as it’s what was mostly discussed by the reviews I read. The images in this blog are of translations of Austen into French from her own era. See Francophone Jane for listing.

This is Isobel de Montolieu’s translation: it contains her preface, a short life, and the whole of her text.

McMurran traces the history of translation in the 18th century. She argues that translation in the 18th century either refused to obey the norms of earlier translations which meant to obey the norms of classical culture as if it were universal; translations were also original (or idiosyncratic, depending on your perspective) in how they obeyed the target language’s literary norms (3). An influential study by Venuti divides translation types into domesticating or foreignizing. She says this division fails to take into account another way of thinking about translation. Before the 18th century the point of translating a text was to transmit it, and often the original and translated texts were used as learning tools.

Foreign language at the time was taught by method like Latin: silent, translating; in school texts we see words placed against one another as equivalents (9). (For my part I think this kind of study still essential in learning a new language.) You were transmitting the Latin and Greek (through Latin); your purpose to render and transmit; you produced what was understood and re-valued in original; you are engaging with, imitating, bringing up to date revered originals. There were classicists who did argue that a given text was not translatable, by which they meant it was necessarily at as good as the original. Such an argument would never be made when it came to Malory’s translations of 5 French romances into his romance epic of Arthurian Tales because the French texts were not respected (often not known). But it was applied in the case of Homer and Virgil especially. Now putting them into vernacular meant you were supposed to convey the essence of the author as you filtered it in your idiom. So Johnson complains that Pope loses the wild savage essence of Homer.

This Archipoche edition gives the complete and unaltered early 19th century translation of Austen’s MP as Les Trois Cousins by Henri Villemain.

In the later 17th century the historical sense was beginning to emerge, just glancingly but it was coming. People became aware that older texts were from another time and culture and the distance between themselves and this earlier time. They begin to update texts. The most infamous examples are the Shakespeare alterations in drama. 18th century scholars continue to see the much revered texts as partly timeless — not wholly as the verse imitations by Pope of Horace and Johnson of Juvenal show. But they never see the texts written in their own time as timeless. When they translate texts in their own time, they are not reviving or renewing. Translaters begin to see themselves as enriching their own readerships of their particular nation and language by translation. Literary translation becomes a transnational exchange; texts are seen as representative of a nation

Think of the difference between Curtius’s European Literature and Latin Middle Ages and Auerbach’s Mimesis

A very important sub-argument of this book is that translation in the era was not seen as hackwork. She has a long section showing simply that most translations we have were done of out love of a text, interest in it. Yes there were hacks, but they are in the minority because so badly paid. She suggests this sort of motive persists to our time.

It’s certainly true of Feneon’s Catherine Morland for Northanger Abbey which by chance, talent, perhaps spiritual affinity made this anarchist’s French text a genuine match for Austen’s:


The historical sense changed the way texts themselves were viewed in histories of the novel. Early histories of novel, starting from later 17th century just assumed earlier novels were written out of a universal impulse to tell a love or adventure story. They would connect texts across centuries and make no effort to discover if there was any author of the particularities of a time or place. De Sade’s history is the first person to look at circumstances and say the one romance comes from one culture and time and another from another. Scott developed this into an important insight: he was the first to begin to look at texts as forming national identity. Watt sidesteps all this to begin with new definition of novel that takes us back to universal aesthetic impulses (divided into neat binaries). But he too (McMurran does not say this) begins with this assumption there was something new in the 18th century which made a break with the past.

McMurran’s book may be a companion to Moretti’s Atlas of the Novel, showing us how much novels at the time represent an interaction between the French and English. But more importantly it’s an application of Bellos’s perspective on translation.

An anonymous 1816 translation of Emma, included in Valerie Cossy’s JA in Switzerland

McMurran tells us how trawling through catalogues tells us so little about the books — how nebulous and hard it is to make any sense of these catalogues, first pages, what little information is available and paratexts — and erects it into an understanding of the era as polymormous, as being indifferent to who the author was as they could not know. It was not until much later that it was admitted texts were changed to suit a political point of view, to sell to the taste of a public. Cossy’s book is an attempt to delve the people who produced the French translations of Austen, their political and personal views, and that of their immediate audience. It takes a long book to analyze just a couple of Austen’s translations (Montolieu, excepts from Pride and Prejudice) this way.


This is Eloise Perks’s 1822 text unchanged

She then moves into the translations themselves. It’s interesting to see (from what evidence we do have) that in the early parts of the 18th century 30-35% of fiction read in the UK were translations from French, but as century wore on less and less translations, there were more indigenous English texts in the UK. In France the proportions move the other way: little translation from the English until mid-way and then a flood of English texts translated into French begins, but these English texts were (it’s important to recall) naturalized, made to reflect French aesthetic and moral ideals.

This is Isobel de Montolieu’s text unchanged; unfortunately Helen Seyres has altered Montolieu’s text (as well as title, to Raisons et Sentiments) for Archipoche, making the reprint worthless

McMurran then turns to “rendering practices” in prose fiction. She explains that she ascertained what 18th century translators did when they departed from their text. Well it depends and was individual, but two common resorts are amplification to make more vivid, or condensing to make more forceful. I’ve found that later is typical for the two good male French translators of Radcliffe, Soules and Morellet (and sometime also for the poorer ones, Moylin and Fourier, but they might do that for anyone). Amplification allows for change of perspective such as we see in Smith’s Prevost and condensing such as we see in Chastenay’s Udolpho.

Behn then studies Eliza Haywood’s translations. I did not know that Haywood translated a lot (as did Behn) and I cannot resist thinking both did it for money. Haywood looks to heighten the impression of the text. My respect for her went up when I learned that that she translated Boiguibert’s Marie Stuart, Reyne d’Escosse, Nouvelle Historique, Mary Stuart was an attraction to Madame de Lafayette too (in her Princess de Cleves as the wife of Francoise). Haywood wrote about her methods justifying them Apparently many have thought her Mary Stuart an original book; she also wrote a fictionalized biography, The Life of Madam De Villesache, but this one she presented as a translation.

This real interest in French reminds me of Aphra Behn’s really fine work in French which only recently has gotten some attention (mostly libertine love poetry).

Quite career for Eliza Haywood as a translator. What’s interesting is how she deviates from her texts. Most of the time I dislike her fiction intensely (even her more domestic later fiction) which I find sarky and heartless or crudely didactic — it matters to me what her strength is exercised for; but here she emerges with a certain humanity. I did not know she translated a good deal of Prevost’s Memoirs of a Man of Quality; this is astonishing really.

McMurran then has a matching section on La Place as a French translator of English texts; his translation of Oroonoko influential; he sympathizes intensely with the African characters as native Caribs in a history of Imoinda; he manages to go outside a Eurocentric view of these characters according to McMurran.

About mid-point in her book the cross-channel emergence of the novel becomes her topic. Again she sees translations as central; part of this was the emergence of the nation state, for the first time the idea a language is not easily translated into another because of cultural differences is voiced regularly. McMurran loos at de-nationalizing strands too and turns to look at Richardson’s novels in translation.

It’s here I left off, but will return eventually, but again I interested to see a new perspective (so many have studied Clarissaand Richardson in translation you see). The new perspective informs Robert Frail’s more recent enquiry into transation, A Singular Duality which again is defeated by reviewers who remain wedded to the idea a translation is first and foremost a crib of a specific text. See Gillian Dow. “A Singular Duality: Literary Relations Between France and England in the Eighteenth Century (review).” Translation and Literature 17.1 (2008): 127-131. Project MUSE. Web. 26 Feb. 2013. .

The modern Pleiade texts

McMurran begins with the idea that a national cosmospolitanism characterized the outlook of readers and translators alike in the 18th century; people read the second language of either English or France while they were in Europe. As there was intense hostility between France (and hence French and French book) and the UK (books in English) so there was also intense admiration. This too describes some of the motives for translating central to the function and nature of translated texts in the era.

A still from Victor Nunez’s Ruby in Paradise, an appropriation of Austen’s Northanger Abbey: the image resembles a common motif in women’s painting (e.g., Jane Freilicher).


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Edward Ferrars (Dan Stevens) upon seeing Elinor Dashwood (Hattie Morahan) in the library (2008 JA’s S&S)

Dear friends and readers,

Having returned to one of my chapters towards a book on Austen films, working title: A Place of Refuge, where I’m placing the accented Indian Austen films in a global context, I’m thinking about Andrew Davies’s Austen movies in a fuller context of his own filmic work and novels too.

To begin with, a list:

Davies’s films

Seven of the above are Jane Austen movies: Davies has scripted more of them than any one else. One, the 2007 A Room with a View, from E. M. Forster’s novel, as yet unrecognized as a rewrite of Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Davies was a crucial contributor to the two Bridget Jones movies, like the 1995 Pride and Prejudice, were so commercially successful that they became significant much-discussed sociological events. All seven are revisionist re-tellings of Austen’s novels dependent on his sharply perceptive engagement with the texts.

Elinor (Hattie Morahan) coming into the library, she returns Edward’s gaze

With their Austen matter producing recurring motifs, these seven films form a consistent fabric whose underlying patterns are found across and actuate Davies’s huge corpus. I have tried to write about some of these, especially romance, since Sarah Caldwell’s otherwise excellent study (Andrew Davies marginalizes his romances. As a script-writer of all these various mini-series, Davies is of enormous importance in shaping how modern viewers will see many 19th century and Neo-Victorian novels too.

Rosamund (Trevyn McDowell) showing Lydgate (Douglas Hodge) her Keepsake album: “Beautifully idiotic” he pronounces (Middlemarch)

Molly and Squire Hamley (Justine Waddell and Michael Gambon) and read Roger’s letters from Africa (Wives and Daughters)

Davies’s movies include a considerable body of melodramatic romance, and a number of predominantly satiric films whose crowded scenes explore capitalism and class structures, wars and political regimes, specific regions (where the story is set) and niche worlds: academic, medical, journalistic (the writing career), archaeological, parliamentary, commercial, financial, and (continually) familial. At least half of these are TV mini-series, and, often of pre-mid-twentieth century books, much is adaptation that functions to speak to our own era in the manner of historical fiction. Yet varied as they are, and products of team-work, most of these films may be studied as complicatedly artful film that dramatizes and pictures Davies’s individual consistent world view, one which exposes realities of human desires (especially sexual) and losses that matter in a sensitively intelligent way, to, in so doing, question the soundness of our sexual and social, and by extension, political and economic arrangements.

If you study the plot-design of many of Davies’s melodramatic romances other than those based on Austen you repeatedly find a story of one or more significantly vulnerable heroines caught up in a jealous rivalry, often Oedipal between two men. One of this pair or another male character is susceptible to abjection or (startlingly conversely) seemingly coolly malevolent and/or contemptible. An agon which may take the form of a dark night of self-examination, or cowardly flight or long siege of drunkenness (not always on-stage), ensues. We experience an unusual triangulated quest for identity because most of the time Davies’s males do not end up clearly in charge, but rather dependent on the strength (or money) of heroines whose favor they have had to actively solicit and who seem free actively to choose or reject them.

The continuum includes male types outside Austen’s range, from the tragic (e.g., John Leigh played by Kevin McNally, 1984 Diana), to the psychopathic (Henry Kent played by Michael Kitchen, 2005 Falling), but who nonetheless function in the stories in ways that connect them to the lighter variants within Austen’s range, from introspective sensibility figures, strong depressives (Colin Firth as Fitzwilliam Darcy, Dan Steevens as Edward Ferrars), to shallow and (for a young girl) dangerous cads (Raymound Coulthard as Frank Churchill, Mark Dymond as Captain Frederick Tilney).

From the 1984 mini-series Diana Jan (Kevin McNally) watching Diana

Diana bathing (Jenny Seagrove)

From the earliest of his films (when it was even discreditable to do so), Davies’s scripts called for frequent use of flashbacks for both male and female characters to show us the inner evolution of characters during the story: we are confronted with memories, dreams and fantasy, dramatized moments from the past, sometimes with the image of the past having the present older character doing the dreaming turning up in place of the younger person who was there at the time. Continuity and strong emotions are kept up by much voice-over and pulsating non-diegetic music.

In the five Austen movies written wholly by him, and in a number of romance movies not from Austen but from a text susceptible to transformation into a women-centered movie close in mood, perspective, character types to his Austen set (e.g., 1999 Wives and Daughters, 2004 He Knew He Was Right, and 2007 Fanny Hill), we find a continual balancing counterweight of movement-images or sequences of scenes placed across the movie (yet not closely plot-driven) which dramatize aspects of intimate supportive and/or false women’s friendship (sisters, potential sisters-in-law, cousins, friends, maternal or governess figures), interwoven with the Oedipally-understood heterosexual romance plot-design.

Many Davies’s movies, including political and satiric movies and thrillers, manifest an equivalent male counterbalance: intertwined second stories dramatize ambiguous homoerotic male friendships (1992 Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, 2001 Othello and The Tailor of Panama [Andy and Harry unexpectedly go dancing in a gay bar], 2005 Bleak House [Sergeant George and and Phil Squod], 2008 Little Dorrit [Miss Wade and Tattycoram], 2009 Sleep with Me). Further movies dwell on the absence of this psychologically-needed relationship (a mother, a distanced father) as central to the movie’s tragedies (Wives and Daughters and the 2005 Bleak House).

Amanda Ooms, from the extraordinary werewolf film

If we add to these, movies which substitute homosexual for heterosexual romance (2002 Tipping the Velvet, 2006 Line of Beauty) or include episodic homosexual romance and incestuous familial relationships (1996 Emma and Moll Flanders, 2007 Fanny Hill), movies which depict naturally indifferent or hostile mothers and protective mother-governess figures (1984 Diana, 1989 Mother Love, 1995 Pride and Prejudice, again Moll Flanders, 1996 Wilderness, 1998 Vanity Fair, again Little Dorrit), we see the Davies’s Austen films belong to a set of movies which insist on the centrality of friendship in people’s lives, break the ban on dramatizing the ubiquity of homoerotic relationships, and look equally at loving support and fierce incestuous possessiveness and rivalries within families.


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Dear friends and readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Friends, Austen-devotees,

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


Did you know rich people paid poor people and some masters and mistresses pressured their servants into having their teeth pulled so they could have them put in their mouths. Eighteenth-Century Life 28.1 (2004) 21-68. That may be what’s happening to the black man sitting on the couch. The white woman hovering over him might be pressuring him to go ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Charles Austen, 1796, in his lieutenant’s uniform

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

Dear friends and readers,

A genuine “In continuation.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and Charles and Fanny’s visit.


Charles Austen, 1810

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

1779 Charles Austen born

1791 (July) Charles matriculated into Royal Naval Academy

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

1797 year of many mutinies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bermuda, 1805-1810

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1846 Charles made a Rear-Admiral

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

And then Friday:

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

A photo of Godmersham today from the rear

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


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Dwight Enys and Caroline Penvenen marry; shot on location
at St Winnow Church, the River Fowey, Cornwall 1977-78 BBC Poldark

Dear friends and readers,

This is to announce a new Winston Graham and Poldark website. I’ve wanted to do this for a couple of years since my blog postings, first the Poldark novels, then on Winston Graham and Cornwell, then on historical fiction, especially 18th century and Cornish, and then on Winston Graham’s other novels — began to mount up.

I had first to ascertain that I was not duplicating what someone else had done. I explored the two online Winston Graham websites and discovered they are commercial, set up by Pan Macmillan; the purpose is to sell books and there is no information on Graham’s life, very little about the individual books, or historical or Cornish fiction. There are 3 factual wikipedia articles (on Graham, more briefly on the Poldark novels and on the mini-series) and I found one excellent account of the first series of Poldark films (1975-6), but these leave much room for discussing this worthy body of work (but see comment on an online literary society).

Graham reminds me of Trollope: both have legions of readers; Graham’s Poldark novels have never fallen out of print, yet they are neglected by academics & magazine people alike. I am doing what I can (adding my mite) on the Net to end that. I’ve written one paper, intend to write more, perhaps papers, or an article intended for serious readers who are yet not academics, and maybe even a fiction of my own. I just love many of his characters and his English style progressive stance, his descriptive abilties, his accurate portrayal of Cornwall circa later 18th into early 19th century.

So I’ve put together what I have made so as to share.

The Poldark series and other fiction and non-fiction by Winston Graham

accompanied by a working bibliography.

I know I’ve put most of my blogs on Graham on my Ellen and Jim have a blog, two blog. All the more reason to alert those interested in the 18th century, in feminist writing (even by men) and historical fiction. Graham imitates Austen scenes: in Ross Poldark, the rivalry for musicianship beween Demelza and Elizabeth at the close of the book recalls the rivalry of Jane and Emma in Emma; in Demelza the way the doctor-surgeon, Dwight Enys is confronted by Caroline Penvenen’s wealthy uncle and holds his own is a counterpart of Elizabeth versus Lady Caroline de Bourgh.

I hope eventually to extend this site to include more historical novels set in the 18th century which have a strongly progressive point of view, more Cornish fiction and to write more on the film adaptations of these and Graham’s Poldark novels. There is more but these must suffice for a short blog.

Jill Townsend as Elizabeth Chynoweth Polkark Warleggan, quietly desolate, bearing up, awakening to a full realization of what a cruel ruthless man she has married (1977-78 Poldark)


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

Dear friends and readers,

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


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

Two or three important Tuesdays:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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