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Posts Tagged ‘French revolution’


Natasha McElhone and Jodhi May as Mary and Anne Boleyn (2003, BBC The Other Boleyn Girl, written and directed by Philippa Lowrthorpe)

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve just been watching the powerful 2003 BBC film adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl, written & directed by Philippa Lowthorpe, with (most notably or memorably) Jodhi May as Anne Boleyn, Steven Mackintosh as George Boleyn, Natasha McElthone as Mary Boleyn and Philip Glenister as William Stafford. This is part of the term’s work I’m doing with a class in order to delve with them Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall as a A Fresh Angle on the Tudor Matter. Anne Boleyn is presented far more sympathetically in this movie than in Philippa Gregory’s book; we are allowed to understand how Anne came to be so ambitious, angry, rigidly vindictive, envious — if indeed she was all or any of these things: we must remember this is the same woman who worked with Thomas Cranmer and her brother to spread an evangelical Catholicism among many people. The one non-fictional historical text to do real justice to Anne Boleyn is still The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives.

Anne Boleyn gets such a hostile interpretation so often, that I can’t resist putting onto this blog a proposal (which has been rejected) I wrote for a panel on feminist approaches to the work of Henry and/or Sarah Fielding, for the upcoming ASECS conference in Denver, Colorado. One third of it was to have been on Anne Boleyn as a figure in mythic, literary, film, feminist, and anti-feminist writing.

Anne Boleyn, Jenny Jones, and Lady Townley: the woman’s point of view in Henry Fielding

I propose to give a paper discussing Anne Boleyn’s self-explanatory soliloquy at the close of A Journey from this World to the Next, Jenny Jones’s altruistic and self-destructive constancy to Mrs Bridget Allworthy across Tom Jones, and in the twelfth book of said novel, the character of Lady Townley in Cibber and Vanbrugh’s The Provoked Husband as she fits into a skein of allusion about male and class violence and marital sexual infidelity in Punch & Judy and the Biblical story of Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 11:30-40). I will argue that the Boleyn soliloquy is probably by Henry Fielding and fits into Fielding’s thinking about women’s sexuality, and other female characters’ soliloquies in his texts; that Jenny’s adherence to a shared set of promises parallels the self-enabling and survival behavior of other women, which is seen as necessary and admirable in a commercial world where they have little legal power. I will explicate the incident in Tom Jones where Cibber and Vanbrugh’s play replaces the folk puppet-show to argue that these passages have been entirely misunderstood because the way they are discussed omits all the immediate (what’s happening in the novel) and allusive contexts from the theater and this Iphigenia story. I will include a brief background from Fielding’s experience and work outside art. I will be using the work of critics such as Earla A Willeputte, Laura Rosenthal, Robert Hume, Jill Campbell, and Lance Bertelsen. I taught Tom Jones to two groups of retired adults in a semi-college in the last couple of years and will bring in their intelligent responses to a reading of this complicated book in the 21st century. My goal is to suggest that Fielding dramatizes out of concern for them and a larger possibly more ethically behaved society the raw deal inflicted on women by law, indifference to a woman’s perspective, and custom.

These are the three areas I was going to show Fielding’s brand of feminism through. They are merely sketched here; I was going to do much more research for each:

In the case of Fielding’s Anne Boleyn, she speaks at length to justify her entry into peaceful oblivion or Elysium this fiction, to the judge Minos, who stands guard over the gate. She explains how she came to withhold sex from Henry VIII for so long, then as his wife treat him shrewishly and domineeringly, and finally (only perhaps) betray him with other males at court. She never loved him. It was a relationship coerced by her family. Fielding believed woman will willingly have sex with men when they care deeply for a man as a center to build a new family around (such a woman might not demand marriage first), but they won’t or are very reluctant to have sex when they do not love the man who wants or has married them. Who then did Anne Boleyn love? Henry Percy. They were betrothed, their love consummated directly after the wedding was over, and then they were dragged apart by Wolsey’s disapproval (he wanted to use Anne another way), and forced to deny what had happened. Fielding gives Anne a long poignant soliliquy. It echoes the opening section of Amelia by Miss Matthews. There is no reason to believe this is by Sarah Fielding; she has not the psychological acumen nor would have made this type of male-oriented love.

The happy out come of Fielding’s novel, Tom Jones, is the result of Jenny Jones having kept a promise, a pact she signed to with Miss Bridget Allworthy who had a love affair with a young clergyman, Will Summers, who dies before they can marry. The outcome of the book depended on these two women’s promise and contract whereby Jenney offered to present herself as having become pregnant outside marriage to enable Bridget Allworthy to keep her illegitimate baby under her blind and rigid brother’s nose. Mr Allworthy continually scolds lower class people (Partridge) and women for having sex outside marriage: he predicts dire things; he says it dehumanizes them, they become animals. In fact in the novel, only through having sex secretly or for money can most of the women survive. Tom is suddenly lifted up from being a victim of capital punishment or transportation to the liberty of a gentleman because (it is discovered when such a legitimate heir-type is needed) because he is found on the spot to be a bastard nephew of Mr Allworthy.


Joyce Redman as Mrs Jenny Jones Walters (1966 UK United Artists, Tom Jones, directed by Tony Richardson, written by John Osborne)

Fielding’s Tom Jones plays a part in my third example of Fielding’s empathy with women. I separate it out as it is a bit more complicated even in a sketchy outline.

At first we assume we (and our favorite friends) are going to watch on the street or in a countess’s public rooms in her house, a puppet show of Punch and Judy (Book 12, Chapter 5). A puppeteer at said inn after Upton refuses to use his puppets to put on a Punch and Judy show because it is “idle trumpery” and “low.” Instead he has his puppets perform a “fine and serious Part of The Provok’d Husband.” Much of Book 11 is taken up by Mrs Fitzpatrick’s story of how her husband married her for money, took her to Ireland, had a mistress, abused her; she is likened to a “trembling hare” fleeing him and his servants. Men were allowed to lock up their wives; they could beat them; a woman was supposed to obey, and people did marry for money sheerly (it was the only way to become rich if you were not born to it). Harriet tells Sophie her “companions” were “my own racking Thoughts, which plagued and and in a manner haunted me Night and Day. In this situation I passed through a Scene, the Horrors of which cannot be imagined …” – a childbirth alone, and childbirth in this period was a hard ordeal often ending in death (Book 11, Ch 12, p 320).

Vanbrugh and Colley Cibber’s The Provok’d Husband is a play which runs on lines similar to Fielding’s own The Modern Husband and is a companion piece to Vanbrugh’s The Provok’d Wife and one of Cibber’s plays about the same brutal male character called The Careless Husband. Repeatedly we find ourselves concerned over a couple who treat one another as commodities; they live in an adulterous world and to find any status, compete with one another over everything, including adultery. There’s a scene between Lord and Lady Townley where she says he is so abusive she will leave him and he replies, leave this house madam, and you’ll never come in again and I will give you no money whatsoever. She is subject to him. At its close there is a moving dialogue between husband and wife where she reasons with him – oh she’s had a lover but so has he had a mistress: “what indiscretions have I committed that are not daily practiced by hundred other women of quality” (II: 675).

No critic I’ve read mentions the Punch & Judy is misogynistic farce — and clearly the play substituted stands up for women’s rights (however ironically). Right afterward the scene we hear the landlady’s maid defend herself from being beaten by her mistress on the grounds that her betters are not better than she; “what was the fine Lady in the puppet-show just now? I suppose she did not lie all night out from her husband for nothing” (p 563). As the characters talk, the landlady remembers when good scripture stories were made from the Bible (as opposed to either Punch and Judy or The Provok’d Husband), and she refers to Jepththah’s rash vow? (p 564). Jephthah vowed to sacrifice his daughter on return from battle if God would only give him a win (it’s an Iphigenia story, note p 946). Before he sacrificed her she sat around bewailing her virginity. The idea is she wouldn’t have minded had she had sex, married, had a husband.

Partridge is one of the few companions on this road to prefer the play to the farce. Partridge told the cruel story of the London hanging judge, is himself an abused husband. Once they get off the road, we find ourselves in the story of Lady Bellaston, a female libertine who hires males for sex, but is herself deeply unwilling to marry for then she will be subject to a master. The chapter ends with the gypsy incident (where a husband uses his wife to decoy a gull) and Jones going off to mouth his muff — which stands in for Sophia’s vagina. There is a curious wild hilarity behind this final moment, something I’ll call uncanny. I was going to show Fielding is our puppeteer showing us how women get a raw deal from men, and is not as indifferent to violence or delighted with violence as is sometimes supposed.


Mrs Francis Abington as Miss Prue in Congreve’s Love for Love; she played Lady Townly in Vanbrugh and Cibber’s Provok’d Husband

As I said, my proposal was rejected, which I heartily regret because beyond my initial focus on Anne Boleyn, the first and last third parts of my argument are original, go against the grain of consensus about Henry Fielding, and it would have been fun to discuss the frank disillusioned drama of the 18th century stage.

Another though was accepted, on topics I’ve often written about here: historical fiction and Winston Graham’s Poldark novels. This time I will talk about the art of blending fact and fiction:

The Poldark Novels: a quietly passionate blend of precise accuracy with imaginative romancing

While since the 1970s, Winston Graham’s 12 Poldark novels set in Cornwall in the later 18th century have been written about by literary and film scholars as well as historians because of the commercial success of two different series of film adaptations (1974-1978; 2015-2019), very little has been written about these novels as historical fictions in their own right. They emerge from a larger oeuvre of altogether nearly 50 volumes. Most of the non-Poldark books would be categorized variously as contemporary suspense, thriller, mystery or spy novels, with one winning the coveted Golden Dagger award, and others either filmed in the 1950s, ‘60s and 1970s (e.g, The Walking Stick, MGM, 1971), or the subject of academic style essays. One, Marnie (1961) became the source material for a famous Hitchcock movie, a respected play by the Irish writer Sean O’Connor, and in the past year or so an opera by Nico Muhly, which premiered at the London Colosseum (English National Opera production) and is at the present time being staged at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Some are also set in Cornwall and have been the subject of essays on Cornish literature. But a number are also set in other historical periods (early modern and late 19th century Cornwall, Victorian Manchester) and Graham published a non-fiction history of the Spanish Armadas in Cornwall. His historical fiction is usually identified as verisimilar romance, and he has been given respect for the precision of his archival research and his historical and geographical knowledge (especially of Cornwall).

It is not well-known that Graham in a couple of key passages on his fiction wrote a strong defense of historical fiction and all its different kinds of characters as rooted in the creative imagination, life story, and particular personality (taken as a whole) of the individual writer. He also maintained that the past “has no existence other than that which our minds can give it” (Winston Graham, Memoirs of a Private Man, Chapter 8). I will present an examination of three of the Poldark novels, Demelza (set 1788-89, so the fall of the Bastile is woven in, written in 1946); The Angry Tide (set 1798-99, year of the Irish and counter-revolutions in France, strong repression in the UK, written 1977), and The Twisted Sword (set 1815, partly a Waterloo, written 1990), to show Graham deliberately weaving factual or documentable research with a distanced reflective representation of the era his book is written in. The result is creation of living spaces that we feel to be vitally alive and presences whose thoughts and feelings we recognize as analogous to our own. These enable Graham to represent his perception of the complicated nature of individual existences in societies inside a past that is structured by what really happened (events, speeches, mores that can be documented) and an imagined space and credible characters who reach us today.


Elinor Tomlinson and Aidan Turner as Demelza and Ross Poldark (from the first season, 2015 BBC Poldark, scripted Deborah Horsfield)

This is my third paper given at an ASECS conference.

The first was just on the books and it was EC/ASECS (“Liberty in the Poldark Novels: ‘I have the right to choose my own life!'”) and the second at a LA, ASECS, on the two TV series (“Poldark Rebooted: Forty Years On”).

I’ve been watching the fourth season of the 2015 Poldark series once again, and will be blogging about it here soon. I’ve never been to Denver, so now I’ll see a new city for me. Winston Graham and his fiction and characters no longer need vindication but I shall try to make the books more genuinely respected as well as both film adaptations (the one in the 1970s and the one playing on TV these last four years).

Ellen

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HUbertRobertgardwenitalianvilla
Garden of an Italian Villa (1764)

Catalogue: “the overall spacial fluidity [remarkable] slightly syncopated … the space offers the surprise of a tree-framed aperture at the top of the steps on the left, and easily accommodates the irregular perspective … recalls landscapes of the German artist Friedrich Reclam … “

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The Artist in his Studio (c.1763-65)

“The ideas that ruins awaken within me are grandiose. Everything is annihilated, everything perishes, every thing passes out of existence; the world alone remains, time alone endures. How old this world is! I walk between two eternities. Wherever I cast my eyes, the objects surrounding me speak of an end and make me resigned to that which awaits me … ” (– Denis Diderot after seeing a now lost Grande galerie eclairee du fond by Robert)

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A loggia in the Villa Medici

Dear friends and readers,

Hubert Robert is such a favorite artist with me that I braved intense heat, a long trip on the Metro for a second day (see first), a crowded city a couple of days after the exhibit opened. I worried lest Metro service get worse, and didn’t trust them to resume regular service on the lines I use in time to see the exhibit.

Seven or eight rooms filled with paintings, drawings, watercolors, an area for sketchbooks take you through the phases of Robert’s impressive career(click on one hour podcast art evaluation as biography to the right). His life takes you through an outline of the history of France: the ancien regime as experienced by the young man lifted well above his original station (his parents were servants in an aristocratic house) in Rome, and shoring up material for later years:

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The Colisseum

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Loggia at Villa Madama (c.1760)

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This painting of the gardens at the Louvre from later in Robert’s career (post-1790) can also stand in for a room of gardens (pre-1790)

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The Bastille in the First Days of the Demolition (1789)

Catalogue: “the painting … shows a setting sun illuminating the exaggeratedly huge fortress as it looms against an orange-tinted sky, seems to admirably capture the extraordinary surge of feeling that would lead in just a few weeks to the building’s total destruction …”

Then suspect for his associations and thrown in prison, almost executed,

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An inmate at St Lazare

Catalogue: “the identity of the man … is uncertain … [this is] a portrait of a cell with its spartan furnishings, augmented by such comforts as a couple of books, a somewhat ornate chest, and a small mirror. Hanging prominently on the wall is a hat with the tricolor cockade … [this sort of symbol had become] a kind of camouflage, simply to fit in and to avoid problems.”

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Women bringing in food at St Lazare

lucky release, and later career this time patronized by the state, involved in the transformation of the Louvre

Hubert Robert Tutt'Art@

The exhibit concentrated on and brought out beautifully the quiet learned and contemplative aspect of the man’s work. You are told how successful he was from a very young age, how hard working, how serious, how he loved to socialize (Vigee-LeBrun doubted he ate at home more than three times a year), how many real friends he had, and that he was certainly good at networking too. I thought to myself he was as much a survivor as Talleyrand or Madame de Genlis.

One of the striking things to me about the exhibit the day I went was it was not crowded. It’s well advertised and large, just the sort of thing that usually draws a crowd. It was a Sunday afternoon; elsewhere I saw lots of people hurrying, scurrying, peering close up. Instead there were people I’d call reading and academic types sitting at a distance from pictures, at the center of a room contemplating what they were looking at. No one stood in my way. However successful in his lifetime, Robert’s is not a popular art. It is not aggressively aimed at the viewer; nothing exaggerated in the psychology of the figures. Tellingly, Robert seems to have done hardly any portraits of recognizable people close up.

I bought the exhibit book (a few essays, a thoroughly detailed chronology, catalogue raisonne) although in hardback (a slight sale) when I was told there would not be a paperback. It disappointed me in how studiedly neutral and unanalytic the essays were. I wondered why. There is fine review by Phllip Kennicott, “Stroll ancient Rome with Hubert Robert as tour guide,” which ends perceptively on the mood the exhibit stirs in a receptive viewer (Washington Post).

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hermitprayimginruins1760
A Hermit praying in the ruins of a Roman temple (1760) — one of his many many capriccio

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Detail from A Hermit in a Garden (c1790 — not in the exhibit)

So a few thoughts. The exhibit emphasized the capriccios, how much that we see is learned fantasy. His art is also playful, comic, with unexpected salaciousness (which I doubt Austen would have liked and might have complained about to Cassandra). He can pander to patrons. Take the Hermit in his Garden: it’s an illustration of an incident from La Fontaine’s “L’Ermite”, itself from an anti-feminist medieval bawdy tale. A friar lusts after a girl, tricks her deluded mother into leaving her daughter with him, impregnates the girl who just loves the experience (see Joseph Baillio, A Hermit in a Garden: A new acquisition for the Speed Art Museum, 2001). Study the Laundress and Child:

laundressandchild
1761

There is something very mean in this fall of Madame du Barry — she was guillotined later; some of his patrons had resented her because she was lower class: “How the mighty are fallen?”

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She did not go gentle into that long night but fought ferociously on the guillotine scaffold

It may be that Robert never tired of company whose variety he never found uncongenial, but over a lifetime of long working hours, weeks, months, years, the pictures he produced focus on moments of stillness, solitude, study, vulnerability, people at work.

HubertRobertFountain
The Fountain focuses on a disabled man

He doesn’t just juxtapose ordinary people going about their lives in these ruins as counter cheerful images, the wittiest of which may be the famous Ponte Salario whose upper center in woman trying to rescue her cat:

PonteSalarioHRobert

womanandcat (Mobile)
I hope through the blur the viewer sees how she’s risking toppling herself down as she reaches out

He pays attention to poor and middle class people: the first is about the woman and her child in the Roman landscape:

HUbertRobertwomanandchild

Catalogue: “the speed of the execution is especially evident here in the quick nervous delineation of the tree that takes up most of the page. In many ways it is a more intricately wrought ornament to serve as a framework for the two figures walking through the countryside than a product of nature … composed with great ingenuity and spirit … “

amolfwatermill
Not in this one but others have people bathing tired feet

Catalogue: that he chose to draw such modest places is stressed.

This fantasy Fountain at Vauclause combines sublime mountains with small Chardin-like figures:

fountainvauclause,jpg

This is a wild concatenation of images, and meditation on Poussin

Hubert Robert – private collection. Title: Le pont sur le torrent. Date: mid 1780s. Materials: oil on canvas. Dimensions: 416 x 616 cm. Auctioned by Christie’s in New York, on January 27, 2007. Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hubert_Robert_-_Le_pont_sur_le_torrent.jpg. I have changed the contrast of the original photo.
Le pont sur le torrent (mid 1780s).

He studied the materials from which buildings and cities were made:

HUbertRobertdenolition
Demolition of Houses on the Pont-du-Change (1788)

From Age of Watteau, Chardin and Fragonard: “fascinating social and historical documents, charting with considerable topographical and human detail major developments in urban renewal in Paris. The city appears in its dual identity of social space and human construction …. chaos and the temporality of human endeavour prevail … [when he makes the people puny in comparison he shows the still lingering influence of] Giovanni Piranesi [but it] unheroic and against the grain of the celebratory ….

It’s a mood and stance that connect it to this fantasy Remains of the Palace of Pope Julius

HUbertRobertporticoofjulius

which forms a pair unexpectedly with

villamedeicigentlemamsketching
Colonade and Gardens at the Villa Medici with Gentleman Sketching (c. 1759)

He is just so varied. Here is a rare sketch of his wife, Marie Suzanne Girouet-Roslin, “Madame Robert Sewing:”

madamerobertsewing

He often shows people creating art, involved somehow, and the charm here (there is no other word for it) is to see the people studying patterns for classical monuments while they sit inside one just going up as a ruin:

charm

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I like best the small unnoticed details, rich coloration and drawing, and figures of people who can’t be brought into anything schematic: first the old man, how he’s dressed, from the Garden of the Italian Villa (the first picture way above)

leftsideoldmamjpg

Then this small passage in one of his garden scenes — the original is much much greener, many shades of dark rich green:

leftsidegrottostatues

He draws Madame Geoffrin drawing for lunch:

RobertHubert-GeoffrinDrawingforLunchpainting

Many red chalk drawings were there and they are so appealing (hardly any watercolors though); some waiting to be “worked up” later into paintings; others curious visions in themselves, by no means all classical:

Thumbnail

I close on a portrait of Robert reprinted far less often than the robust figure Elisabeth Vigee-LeBrun caught earlier in life:

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Robert in 1799 by Jean-Baptist Isabey

Ellen

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bird
A scene on a Sevres portrait of 1764: a little girl and her pet parrot (from Dorinda Outram’s intelligent picture book, Panorama of the Enlightenment)

A sonnet by Mary Hays (to sleep, wishing for peace in oblivion):

Ah! let not hope fallacious, airy, wild,
Illusive rays amid the tempest blend!
No more my soul with varied feelings rend,
Soft sensibility—refinement’s child!
May apathy her wand oblivious spread
Steeped in lethean waves, with poppies twined,
And gently bending o’er my languid head,
To long repose beguile a wayward mind.
While keen reflection throbs in every vein,
Thy aid oblivion, vainly I implore!
This heart shall tremble with the sense of pain,
Till death’s cold hand a lasting peace restore.
Ah! say can reason’s feebler power control,
The finer movements of the feeling soul?
(1785)

Dear friends and readers,

I have been wanting to link in two review-summaries I wrote on a crucial decade of the 1790s but put on Ellen and Jim have a Blog, Two, because I thought its importance demanded I place the text on the blog where I have the most subscribed followers and daily hits & visitors.

http://ellenandjim.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/kenneth-johnstons-unusual-suspects-pts1-4/

http://ellenandjim.wordpress.com/2014/07/22/kenneth-johnstons-unusual-suspects-parts-4-6-coda/

There is also an excellent review by John Barrell, “To Stir up the People,” , London Review of Books, 36:2, 23 January 2014, pp. 17-19. Unfortunately it’s behind a pay wall except for the opening where Barrell refreshingly questions the usual presentation of Pitt the younger as having been a great (=worthy) prime minister. I link in his reply to an obdurate comment on his review.

I was hoping to make it part of another review-summary of a book on this era on Pitt the Younger, but have only managed to read Derek Jarrett’s Pitt the Younger, which has the merit of picturing the elitist and corrupt Parliament Pitt ran, his duplicitious politics, and why he seemed to be for reform early in his career as prime minister only adamently to destroy individuals, groups, and what liberties had been understood as allowed to all males under the British regime, putting in place harshly punitive and repressive laws, making sure the courts enforced these, and conducting a war whose purpose was to put back on the French throne the Bourbon regime. Pitt’s aim was to repress any reform of Parliament whatsoever. At one point Garrett describes the gargantuan meals Pitt and his buddies would eat (and drinks drunk) and a subsidence and starvation diet documented during the years of the wars abroad for huge number of people. There seems little about Pitt from the angle that exposes him; some time ago I wrote about David Powell’s spirited and important biography of Charles James Fox, Man of the People, and I can now recommend three more good particular biographies I’m reading just now as a result of Johnston’s book: Winifred E. Courtney’s Young Charles Lamb; Duncan Wu’s William Hazlitt: The First Modern Man, and Johnston’s own The Hidden Wordsworth.

rights
The Declaration of the Rights of Man, 1793: it begins: the purpose of society is the common good. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Also an essay which shows the results of the repression in the 1820s: Gerald Newman’s “Anti-French Propaganda and British Liberal Nationalism in the Early 19th Century: Suggestions towards a General Interpretation,” Victorian Studies, 18:4 (1975):385-418: Newman’s is essay about how anti-French feeling was whipped up into effective hegemonic control as they say and people (not Godwin, but people like him) were tried for sedition and some imprisoned, at risk of hanging; Hannah More (whose didactic pious novel Austen was nagged by Cassandra to read) turns up as someone who in her work overtly would connect Gallicism with sedition. Someone who goes out of her or his way to assert Englishness is showing patriotism to the present order — Austen does this. Newman’s essays puts a different spin on British identity vis-a-vis the French than Linda Colley’s (who seems to take what appears in surface media as the underlying reality). Jarrett’s The begetters of Revolution: England’s Involvement with France, 1759-89, which shows the real state of the continual interaction politically and ideologically between the two groups of people speaking & reading French and English.

Instead I’ll be content to use suggestive pictures of physical, economic and other changes in the era, and point to underlying veins of thought and feeling that produced the revolutionary ideas.

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From Rousseau’s Emile: we see Sophie too learning carpentry (to help Emile of course) — it pictures the interests of new education of the era

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One could try for a comfortable home, more kinds of clothes were available

At its core this transformation of values coming out throughout the long 18th century was an exploration of the self relativistically. Pope:

    Our depths who fathoms, or our shallows finds,
Quick whirls, and shifting eddies, of our minds?
On human actions reason tho’ you can,
It may be reason, but it is not man:
His principle of action once explore,
That instant ’tis his principle no more.
Like following life through creatures you dissect,
You lose it in the moment you detect …
    Nor will life’s stream for observation stay,
It hurries all too fast to mark their way:
In vain sedate reflections we would make,
When half our knowledge we must snatch, not take.
Oft, in the passions’ wide rotation tost,
Our spring of action to ourselves is lost:
Tir’d, not determin’d, to the last we yield,
And what comes then is master of the field …
(Moral Essay No 1)

deadsiegfried
Fuseli’s gothic watercolor of Kreimhild (Wagner’s Brunnhilde) seeing the dead Siegfried in a dream

and in a blog intended to emphasize women’s art, end on the little known Susan Evance who lived through this era. Three of her poems:

To Autumn

Mild pensive Autumn! How I love to stray
At thy sweet season through the woody vale;
And when the western orb’s declining ray
Tinges thy varied foliage, hear the gale
Of evening sigh among the lofty trees,
And watch thy mists obscure the mountain’s height;
While sportive swallows, tossing in the breeze,
Collect, preparing for their distant flight.
As lovely Autumn! on thy charms I gaze,
Thy soften’d charms which I so dearly prize,
A thrilling tender melancholy sways
My raptur’d heart, and tears suffuse my eyes.
These feelings, which thy pensive hours employ,
Who would resign for all the world calls joy!

To Melancholy

When wintry tempests agitate the deep,
On some lone rock I love to sit reclin’d;
And view the sea-birds on wild pinions sweep,
And hear the roaring of the stormy wind,
That, rushing thro’ the caves with hollow sound,
Seems like the voices of those viewless forms
Which hover wrapp’d in gloomy mist around,
Directing their course the rolling storms.
Then, Melancholy! Thy sweet power I feel,
For there thine influence reigns o’er all the scene;
Then o’er my heart thy “mystic transports” steal,
And from each trifling thought my bosom wean.
My raptur’d spirit soars on wing sublime
Beyond the narrow bounds of space or time!

Written during a Storm of Wind

Cease your desolating sound,
O ye furious winds! forbear
Every gust that swells around
Chills my shuddering heart with fear.

Ah! the thoughtless time is past
When I mark’d the rapid flight
Of each wildly rushing blast,
With romantic gay delight.

When in sportive frolic dance,
With the gale I skimm’d the plain,
Or would breathlessly advance,
Laughing at its fury vain.

Often too, in graver mood,
I have heard the tempest roll,
While a joy sublimely rude
Has possess’d and charm’d my soul.

But I cannot listen now
To the wild, the dreadful sound;
Sad I see the forest bow,
Mournful mark its groans around.

Fanciful I seem to hear
Ocean roaring in the storm:
And behold the bark appear,
Which contains a Brother’s form.

Hope had pictur’d scenes of joy
When he reach’d his native shore
Should the tempest these destroy!
Winds, in pity blow no more, (wr. 1807; pub. 1808)

In the Keats-Shelley Journal, IV (2006):199-225,”Female Poetic Tradition in the Regency Period: Susan Evance and the Evolution of Sentimentality,” Claire Knowles introduces her as a follower of Charlotte Smith, Mary Hays, Helena Maria Williams. In the above poems, heroine climbs high on a cliff and looks out across a windy wintry rocky landscape; she fears for her brother out at sea. She reminds me of William Lisle Bowles and I see Radcliffe’s poetic vein in her

“Sonnet Written in a Ruinous Abbey:” “I love to watch the last pale glimpse of day … Fancy, thy wildest dreams engage my mind.” Some of her poems present a real self, no wobbly assertions to defend, e.g., her “Sonnet to a Violet,” “Unseen, in wilds where footsteps never trod/Find unadmir’d, unnotic’d …,” and “So the scatter’d flowers of genius rise;/Thesebloom to charm — that, hid — neglected, dies”; and her “Sonnet to the Clouds,” “All desolate and gloomy is my heart./As could I but from this sad earth depart/And wander careless as the roving storms/Amidst your shadowy scenes — born by the wind,/Far would I fly, and leave my woes behind.”

No suspect she. She published Poems, selected for her earliest productions to those of the present year in 1808. Evance is careful to tell little of her private life, so beyond knowing she had a brother in the navy, and evinces socially progressive sentiments, we can glean she knew the author Maria Barton. She later wrote a poem for the princess Charlotte who died so miserably in childbirth, and (according to Knowles) married a Mr Hooper between 1808 and 1818. A line in a poem to Queen Charlotte suggests she had a child or children. So, in contrast to her better-known reformist sentimental female contemporaries, no one has as yet denied she existed; or suggested if she did, she was a sexually promiscuous, nor was she ridiculed or castigated. But then no one mentioned her: by being so careful, she was forgotten.

francis-towne.jph
Francis Towne (1740-1816): The source of the Arveiron (1781) whose work could have illustrated Evance’s poetry

Ellen

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