Posts Tagged ‘Samuel Richardson’

Anna (Hermione Norris) reading Clarissa’s letter telling Anna of her desperate need for some shelter as she’s pressured intensely to marry Mr Solmes (BBC/WBGH Clarissa, 1991)

Friends and readers,

I’m carrying on for the second day. For my second book of a 10 book list on what book influenced me most strongly — or, to echo the language used, as it makes sense in this case, what book had a [large] impact on me: Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa. Again I don’t have a cover illustration from the book I actually read, as in this case again there was no paper cover, and I read the 4 volumes of the unabridged third edition of Clarissa in the old Everymans. Mine were maroon.

I don’t understand why in the original meme people were (in effect) discouraged from saying why this book was meaningful. For me the fun is in thinking out why this or that choice. The self-learning as the ten days go by.


When I first read Clarissa at age 18 in a college course on 18th century English novels, I would read it 16 hours straight at a time. I found I couldn’t stop I was so intent. Just for coffee or say food or nature breaks. Then when I realized this savage egoist, Lovelace, was going to succeed in raping Clary, I began to feel intense nervousness and then when I got to his famous one-line letter to Belford, “The affair is over. Clarissa lives!” I was stunnted to think I’d missed it or we wouldn’t be told, but, no, the event was to be told in a flashback in a later segment of the book. So I had to read another 200 pages before I got to the humiliating aggravated assault and Clary going utterly distraught. That first experience was an abridgement, a Modern library blue book. Then as a graduate student taking a course in the 18th century novel, I did my talk and term paper assignment after reading the unabridged Everyman 4 volume set (I found it at the Strand in NYC). I decided to major in 18th century literature so I could write my dissertation on this book with Robert Adams Day as my advisor. Ever after I’ve been persuaded it had a central opening turning point for novels by women centering on women’s issues and subjectivity. I read so many epistolary novels, I love novels of subjectivity. When John Letts invited me to do a talk for the Trollope society at the Reform Club I wrote “Partly Told in Letters: Trollope’s story telling art.” (probably a high point in what may be said to be my career as a writer).

Years later (mid-1990s) I led my first reading group on the Net with a group of 18th century colleagues and lovers of reading on Clarissa in “real time” (following the calender in the book). After 2000 I finally had the nerve to write a deliver a paper at ASECS on rape in Clarissa, and then one on the masquerade motif in the 1990s film adaptation of Clarissa where I got to know the script-writer, David Nokes.  Hermione Norris became a favorite actress for me; I loved her and Clary’s friendship. I’ve read the unabridged Clary through several times, not to mention dipping in. As with S&S, I don’t forget the text. Of course I bonded utterly with Clary.

I’ll say simply too that sexual assault and harassment have topics of intense personal concern for me since my teenagehood.

Clarissa (Saskia Wickham) writing from the debtor’s prison (1991 BBC Clarissa, scripted David Nokes)

Diane Reynolds on WomenWriters@groups.io offered another way of “taking” or reading the “meme.” What books have been a revelation to you that made an impact or were important? Something you learned that changed your mind or you didn’t know before. These can come in adolescence or teenage reading — and sometimes much later too. once I got on the Net and made more friends and found I could reach more books and had a better idea of what was in them I had two stunning revelations: Mary Pipher, Reviving Ophelia: saving the selves of adolescent girls; and Naomi Wolf’s Promiscuities. I was about 48 to 50 when I learned that the horrible sexual experiences I had had with boys as a young teenager were in fact commonplace. What also no one told me was other girls were similarly harassed, fooled into acquiescing and then (for many) self-hatred and shame. Who knew? not me. I once tried to tell another girlfriend and she said, never tell anyone else this, and later another said to me, why did you tell X that? oh Ellen she went and told all sorts of people. Right; she belongs in the second season of the film adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale or some equivalent soap operas. So after that I didn’t try to reach anyone.

I still have these two books. They made me feel so much better. I felt such regret no one had given them or books like them to me at age 15 when I so sorely needed them. They didn’t change my life; not so much that it was too late to have reacted differently because my nature is the same today and I probably would just be able to retreat from that kind of abuse, which is what I learned to do (emulating Elinor Dashwood’s prudence and self-control). I would at least not have thought about these experiences the same way and would have known to blame the culture I lived in and all those colluding in it complacently.

Clarissa fighting back, insisting she wants to live the single life and to leave her be.

Clarissa was a self-help book. I was Clary and felt so much less alone reaching back in time. And I named my girl cat Clarissa, and now call her Clarycat, and she knows her name.


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Paul Sandby (1731-1809) The Magic Lantern

Dear readers and friends,

My second report on the papers and talks I heard at the recent EC/ASECS conference (see Money, Feeling and the Gothic, Johnson and The Woman of Colour). I’ve three panels, a keynote speech and individual papers to tell of. Of especial interest: a paper on hunger towers (the use of hunger as a political statement has reversed itself); on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (favorable!) and Mary Shelley’s Valperga, out in a good new edition; it’s about (among other things) a struggle between tyrannical autocracy and liberal democracy … just our thing …

1861 Illustration of Dante’s Inferno: Ugolino grieving over his starving dying sons

For the last session on Friday (Oct 28th), I went to the “Adaptation” panel chaired by Peter F. Perreten. Erlis Wickersham’s “Goethe’s Use of Traditional Hunger Tower Motifs in Gotz von Berlichingen. The historical background of the motive brings out the astonishing reverse use made of death through hunger today. Hunger towers were a visible symbol and reality that told people looking at them that the powerful family (or group) or political person has imprisoned someone so that he (or she) shall die a horribly painful death from slow starvation. Erlis said they were common in medieval landscapes. A very cruel form of murder. Perhaps one of the most famous examples is in Dante’s Inferno: Ugolino who was imprisoned with two sons and two grandsons. Schiller’s play is less complex than what happened historically, which was an instance of torture, of unspeakable inhumanity during the last days of the feudal system. Schiller alters this so that it becomes a chosen hunger strike. Schiller is showing us a new state of mind, a way of conveying a deep disapproval, a rejection of life as then lived. Kafka’s early 20th century story, “The Hunger Artist” presents a scene of people watching a man die for entertainment, a sort of paradigm mirroring aspects of humanity. The most recent example is found in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games: she depicts a grimly impoverished society, a dystopian culture. Those who win a primitive unfairly manipulated contest receive more food and comforts. Its heroine, Katniss Everdeen represents the strength of idealism. Hunger becomes a weapon against oppression, a defiance of the existing social order. Escape though seems to be impossible in this hunger-haunted world. Of course what should happen is ample food be supplied to all.

I had not realized the expressions on the faces of the actors in promotional shots for Hunger Games might suggest they are hungry ….

Sylvia Kasey Marks,”What did Playwright Arthur Miller do to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice?” Helen Jerome was the screenplay writer for the first of the film adaptations of Jane Austen in 1941, a fairly successful P&P. The typescript is in Texas. At the time Miller was between jobs, his greatest plays had yet to be written, and one way he made money was to write radio plays He does not seem to have known much about the 18th century or its texts, and he used this Jerome adaptation in 1945 to write an hour-long radio show. Sylvia felt Miller had not read Austen’s novel: he is unaware of Elizabeth and her father’s warm relationship, of the witty use of letters. Miller made many more changes, some silly (Lydia gets drunk on raspberry punch), and a few subtle cruelties here and there. Miller also panders. But the play has as its theme a willingness to reject the past; the characters say that they never told the truth in this house for 10 minutes. We need to have a ruthlessness against the past that holds us.

Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot grieving over her letters (2007 Persuasion, scripted Simon Burke, it’s just possible to see Persuasion as a breaking away from the past that holds us in its grip)

Linda Troost gave an insightful account of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I enjoyed her paper because when I wrote my blog I could not find one review or blog which took the movie at all seriously or praised it; most people could not get beyond its mockery of aspects of heterosexual romance, and seemed to regard the piece as inane trivia. I reviewed it as a flawed work (see my The Violent Turn), which attempts a mirroring of our modern preoccupations with violence as a solution to all our problems; there is some serious gothic: a deep disturbance over the human body, it whips up disgust with nature, and (as Frankenstein, the ultimate origin) has an obsession with death. Linda took it on its own terms, which she appeared to enjoy: Lady Catherine de Bourgh as a great warrior, Wickham’s desire for power, how Elizabeth saves Darcy. I was aware of how many scenes in the film still keep the pivot or hinge-points of the book,and how the costumes quoted other films, Linda brought out many jokes through intertextual borrowing from other films

The kind of breakfast scene so typical of Austen films

The familiar Darcy proposal to Elizabeth becomes a violent duel, complete with swords and axes

The day was over; there was a reception for Linda Merians, who had been the secretary of the society for so many years, speeches, drinks, and then I went to dinner at a nearby Asian fusion restaurant with a friend.


Wm Hogarth (1697-1764), The Distrest Poet (1736)

The early morning session, Bibliography, Book History, and Textual Studies chaired by Eleanor Shevlin was marvelous but I doubt I can convey why because the fun was in the minute changes people make to their texts, the interest complicated questions of profits from copyright, and one woman’s thwarted attempt to sell her book of letters for money.

Jim May discussed Goldsmith’s multitudinous revisions, big and small, in his poems “The Traveller and the Deserted Village.” Jim began with how in the Clarendon edition of Pope, the editors chose to use the earliest possible text, a pre-publication copy, on the grounds that incidentals don’t matter. He then moved to Arthur Friedman’s edition of Goldsmith which shows a feeling for a very complicated text. For Goldsmith writing was rewriting. He rewrote other people’s adaptations, translations, introductory material. He would revise and revise and revise his own texts. He would respond to critics by revising for the next edition. The problem for readers is they don’t understand Friedman’s system of annotation (Lonsdale’s is easier to follow). You can trace Goldsmith’s thought by paying attention to these small changes.


Nancy Mace asked if Robert Falkener was aanother music private or a principled revolutionary, bringing otherwise unaffordable music (sheets) to “the masses?” It’s a story of 18th century conflicts between open access and protection of private property (musician and composer’s profits). In 1760s we find Falkener’s name on harpsichords as a builder; then then begins to produce music sheets. Printers had preferred to use engraved pewter plates; Falkener recognized printing from movable type was much cheaper. Music had been selling for shillings and so many pence; Falkener sold his sheets for a penny a piece. Music trade brought suit three times and courts sided with plaintives. It was in 1777 music regarded as texts was covered by copyright. Falkener used arguments like Handel’s work had been in the public domaine, he raised the troubling question (by then) of monopolies. She looked at the case of Love in a Village which led to a series of lawsuits, claims and counterclaims (Bickerstaffe, or Walsh or Pyle)and finally the; court more or less sided with original or first owner. Meanwhile Falkener had lost but he carried on printing: 8 of the most popular sheets, from a popular operetta). The problem with claiming his purpose was to reach more people falls down when you realize these people could not afford even the cheaper sheet music.

Michael Parker discussed “the unknown career of Harriet Woodward Murray, a Maryland Woman of letters. Prof Parker edited the poetry of Edmund Waller and is now working on a biography, and in a letter by Alice Mary Randall he read of her friend, Harriet Woodward (1762-1840) who produced a book called Extracts. He then came across a 2 volume set of Extracts attributed to someone else, which he recognized from the earlier description. The book reflects the preoccupations and tastes of genteel American who is a great reader; she moves from gaiety to piety, to trying to help impoverished and African-American people. She includes Shenstone and poetry of sensibility, Shenstone himself had gathered poems by his friendsHe told of her parents, who she married, the planation where she grew up, where she lived later upon her marriage, her good friend, Catherine Nicolson Few (1764-1854). Harriet’s husband had lost a great deal of money, so Harriet wrote this book and Catherine attempted to get up a subscription list of 380 individuals for 456 copies, 156 of which were women. Frederick Green of the Gazette printed it. The friendship between the two women seems to have lapsed, and Harriet tried to sell the books herself. In fact few took their copies, mostly family members and the profit was $30. In this century most of the copies were destroyed by a descendant by mistake. The family was related to the family behind Daisy in Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby.

The room was full and there was a lively discussion afterwards — about American culture, the realities of selling books by subscription, did writers stay with the same printers? Nancy reminded us that music was a luxury business: middle class people learned to play instruments, and most money was made selling instruments. The audience did not care about the quality of the printed sheets. The composer had to sell his music through a fee; there were no royalties then.

Adolph Menzel (1815-1905), Staircase by Night (1848) — I felt an appropriate image for Wright’s poems (see just below)

Catherine Ingrassia’s keynote address, “Familiarity breeds Contentment: (Re)locating the Strange in 18th century women writers” was basically about how to go about changing the canon so we can bring in 18th century women writers hitherto not studied. The new technology and editions make it possible to study minor women writers for the first time: we can have the texts from ECCO and Pandora online. She had two lists of words: those signifying familiarity are pleasant; those signifying strangeness, hostile. The period saw the first editions by women of their poetry, first biographies; they were attacked too. But obstacles to a woman writing are many, from family obligations, to impoverished widowhood. To use the old anthologies is to repeat the same mistakes as often editors rely on a previous edition. Now we have tools to use like the Cambridge Companions to Women’s Writing: books which offer ideas on how to approach the texts we have. There were anthologies of women’s poetry, miscellanies by individuals, often writing in solitude without much opportunity to make money. Catherine read aloud to us poems by women of the 18th century, one a widow with 2 daughters, another by a spinster. She chose a poem about a battle, about Culloden (great defeat and slaughter), about a riot in Bristol; women wrote poems about widowhood, homelessness, hungry children, wives thrown into prison with their husbands (not male topics). Among the better known women mentioned were Mehetabel Wright (about the death of a new born child). I’ve written a foremother poet essay on her life and superbly strong verse. Catherine ended on Eliza Haywood as a good candidate for major treatment in a course, highly topical, daring in her treatment of same-sex relationships. There is a six volume set of her works; an Approaches to Teaching volume.

The discussion afterward did not turn on the question of the quality of Haywood’s work, but rather the problem that since in many colleges, there will be a course given in eighteenth century literature and/or history at best once every two years, which of the traditional authors should you eliminate so as to make room for Haywood? It’s not as if the canon which is so recognizable and familiar to us is at all familiar to the undergraduate, who you might like to attract to a study of 18th century literature, culture, art. It was then time for the business lunch.


It was at this point I found myself unable to take substantial enough notes to report on the afternoon consistently. So I’m going to conclude on noting for those like myself interested in three papers on women writers or artists, with brief summaries of three papers in the last session. Alistaire Tallent’s paper was on “Stranger than Fiction: How a Slanderous Novella Made Mademoiselle Clairon a Star of the Parisian Stage (I know how important these memoirs are for actresses’s careers and reputations — see my The Rise of the English Actress); Joanna M. Gohmann’s “Paws in Two Worlds: The Peculiar Position of Aristocratic Pets in 18th century Visual Culture” (especially as a cat lover I regretted not hearing this one) and Caroline Breashears, “Novel Memoirs: The Collaboration of Tobias Smollett and Lady Vane” (Constantia Phillips, Lady Vane’s life appears as an interlude or insert in Smollett’s Peregrine Pickle, utterly non-conformist, an instance of scandal life-writing).

Marguerite Gerard (1761-1837), Le chat angora — those familiar with later 18th century painting will be familiar with paintings of women aristocrats with their pets (not always accurately rendered, often placed in the position of a child or among children)

XIR64477 The Cat's Lunch (oil on canvas)  by Gerard, Marguerite (1761-1837); Musee Fragonard, Grasse, France; Giraudon; French, out of copyright
Another Gerard: The Cat’s Lunch


Mary Beale (1633-99)
, Portrait of a Girl with a Cat — the salacious ones are remembered but the appearance and accuracy of most (like this) testify rather to how animals were increasingly treated as companions to owners and their children

“Giving Voice to the Persecuted” (3:30-4:45 pm) was the last session, and chaired by Sayre Greenfield. Ted Braun gave a full description of Olympe de Gouges’s L’Escavage des negres, and its first production (deliberately played badly). He also placed it in the context of Gouges’s passionately-held revolutionary beliefs: it might fail as theater (it’s an excessively sentimental heroic romance), but not as an anti-slavery tract. Gouges asked direct resonating questions (how can we behave so miserably, deplorably to these people?!). She spoke on behalf of the oppressed, revealing the worst cruelties, asked for equality for women. For her efforts, she was reviled and guillotined.

Jennifer Airey’s paper, “A temper admirably suited to Enthusiasm: Sexual Violence, Female Religious Expression, and the Trial of Mary-Catherine Cadiere (1731)” was about a young nun who was probably taken gross advantage of by her confessor; she sued him for rape, he was acquitted and then accused her of witchcraft. She was using a relgious vision to give her cultural authority. It was a cause celebre, pornographic pamphlets, and anti-catholic propaganda appeared. Both people were in danger of fierce physical punishment. The real story ended in his death and her disappearance from the world’s stage; but Mary Shelley re-worked the story fictionally in her Valperga in the characters of Beatrice, an orphan who becomes a prophet, and Castruccio, a tyrant prince (see Mary Seymour, Mary Shelley, pp 251-53). After a prolonged sexual assault Beatrice goes into violent convulsions, and has visions which Shelley sees as empowering her. Shelley also flirts with heresy by suggesting an actively malevolent God.

An excellent new edition by Stuart Curran is reviewed in Romantic Circles — “the novel dramatizes a struggle between autocracy and liberal democracy that spoke to its era and now our own

Christine Clark-Evans’s “Colbert’s Negro/Negres Slave Mothers and Montesquieu’s Climatic Mothers: Motherhood in the Code Noir and Of the Spirit of the Laws,” was the last paper of the day. She spoke of the harsh treatment of enslaved mothers (no right to anything, least of all their children) who were abused concubines, forced back to work immediately after giving birth. Theories of mothers and motherhood (Roxanne Wheeler has a book on this) ignored. Montesquieu was against slavery and in his work said that only through vicious slavery could you clear the land and produce sugar at a profit; he described the horrible treatment of enslaved black women.

We stayed to talk though we had run out of time. Ted said one problem with her play is decorum deprives her slave characters of authentic voices. Jennifer suggested Shelley asks if nature is inherently evil, with God an incompetent adminstrator. Shelley’s Last Man we find God treated as love.

And so a fine conference ended.

One of the worst things that happens to Greer Garson as Elizabeth is she gets mud on her shoes and dress (this in 1941) — this is after all a Jane Austen blog


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Frances Abingdon as Prude in Congreve’s Love for Love by Joshua Reynolds

Dear friends and readers,

This is the 2nd of 3 reports on the papers I heard at the Nov 6th – 8th conference of the Eastern Region division of ASECS at the University of Delaware. I hope it won’t seem utterly narcissistic if I concentrate on the two panels whose papers were sent in response to my Call for Papers, or placed on my panel as closely connected; as I went to both, and took good notes on both, if I ignore them I will not have much more to say about the conference’s papers. So, to begin with, here’s the call for papers (and early thinking on this topic). For the record, including my own, 7 proposals were sent in, 6 became papers.


Charlotte Lennox, an engraving by Francesco Bartolozzi after a portrait by Joshua Reynolds

Charlotte Turner Smith by George Romney

The first panel occurred mid-Friday afternoon. The first paper was Sue Howard’s “Chronicling the Liminal State: Fictional and Non-Fictional Expressions of Married but Separated 18th century Women’s Experience.” Hers was a tale of two Charlottes, Charlotte Lennox and Charlotte Smith, both married, both mothers, both badly treated by domineering husbands (Smith’s a lot worse); they both supported themselves and their children by writing and both separated from these husbands but could not escape the husband’s rights, say in Lennox’s case to determine what schooling her children would have, and in Smith’s, his right to come and take all the earnings she had from her and beat her with impunity. Lennox was 30 years older than Smith. In the 1770s Lennox wanted to live with a friend and was thwarted; she wanted to try for a theatrical career, again thwarted. In the 1790s she wrote begging letters to her husband on behalf of her son. He would not support them; he tyrannized over her and yet took her earnings; they did not sleep together. True, he was not violent and did not intrude himself into her presence without warning her first. Ms Howard felt that Lennox handled her situation well by not allowing this private situation to become widely known; she used her novels to express her happiness and show the the vulnerability of women indirectly. Her last novel, Euphemia, an epistolary one, which takes place partly in the US, is the most open: Euphemia’s husband takes their son into the wilderness and loses him; she gains financial control, a separation from her husband, US laws were more favorable for women. Charlotte Smith’s was a devastating experience: her husband ended in a debtor’s prison where she had (it seems) to join him; he inflicted 12 children on her, had mistresses, threatened her life. She was fiercely frank about the autobiographical sources of of the misery of the older married women in her novels (surrogates for herself), and aggressively angry in her sonnets over the way the courts, the lawyers, and society in general treated her complaints and demands. Smith was criticized severely for her radical political opinions and presentation of a rape in Desmond. Ms Howard suggested that over time Smith was forced to write more indirectly, and that when she became more elusive her novels improved (she instanced Old Manor House, and The Young Philosopher).

Self-portrait of John Flaxman when young

Ann Denman Flaxman, painted by Henry Howard in 1797

Marie McAllister’s subject was the real correspondence between John Flaxman (1755-1826) who became a successful sculptor, draughtsman and painter, and his eventually bethrothed, and later wife, Ann Denman. they left love letters they wrote before marriage, a journal of their tour together. The love letters tell the story of a young couple where the girl’s parents are fiercely opposed to the marriage, because they felt his status was low and he would not make enough money. The letters read like a novel of the era; the lovers see themselves as tormented people; there are incidents of misunderstanding and she breaks off with Flaxman at one point. An uncle and aunt intervene, the couple are permitted to court at a distance, and eventually they do marry. The letters are poignant, melodramatic, show intense reveries; the language used is that of novels partly because they had no other language with which to encompass their emotional extremes. Ms McAllister quoted these letters to great effect. One cannot say this paper was about women living alone but it showed the mores and economic circumstances and social realities of the era.

Gemma Jones as Mrs Dashwood standing by the window of Barton Cottage (1995 S&S)

I have since revised my paper, “The Depiction of Widows and Widowers in the Jane Austen canon,” and sent it to Persuasions on-line to see if this Jane Austen periodical will publish another more detailed and somewhat differently focused version of the paper. I’ve also been encouraged to write a book proposal on the topic of The Anomaly and call for papers by someone at a well-respected academic press; at that time I will revise my paper so as to fit the topic more closely. What I wrote was a survey of the way widows and widowers are treated in the Austen canon: in her novels, in her letters, and what we see in the contemporary family documents. I have uploaded it to my space in academic.edu for anyone who wants to read it: The Depiction of Widows and Widowers in the Austen canon. A few snippets:

In a recent study of widowhood in the ancien régime, Bardet remarks the obstacle to understanding the condition of widowhood is what we have are sociological studies badly served by sources (7) … The Austen canon, her fiction, letters and contemporary family documents, mirrors these distortions and adds a few, but is valuable because of her strict adherence to social verisimilitude and the successful attempt of some later Austen relatives to save her relatives’ life-writing.4 Thus widowhood is as common as marriage in the novels: at least 19 widows , and nine widowers. …Her particular limitations must be noted. Her fiction depicts the genteel … she often refuses to believe people are ill and confronted with mental suffering she spits out mostly caustic and wry references … There is though a realistically enough rendered depiction of these circumstances and of the social mores and instinctive behavior shaping the reactions of the widowed to make visible probable conditions and their motives from the standpoint of how the afflicted characters cope and the social advantage or damage (and it is mostly damage) they or others close to them bring upon themselves and others. In her female characters, a fear of widowhood pervades the novels … while the widows we remember are well-heeled and menopausal, Austen has three widows in need of security, with children, in tenuous circumstances. Most of her widowers are an even eagerly marrying or marriageable bunch … a saturnine perspective contrasting or and confirming Austen’s unmarried and married women’s anxieties emerges: [three central widowers] are suggestively presented as having contributed to the early deaths of their wives … The fictions include central now widowed people who themselves make unwise remarriages, and the fiction’s plot-design hinges on how a new marriage is ruining the other central character’s lives (or so they feel)… Austen also pays attention to the relationship of the widowed with their children, and how the absence of a moderating parent influences the fate of these children …Several of Jane Austen’s wives and widows’ calamities parallel those of her great-great grandmother, Elizabeth Weller Austen who writes about the calamity she experienced and exposes the injustice of the primogeniture system … The letters of Jane around the time of Henry’s first wife’s death and for a year or so after need a thorough re-seeing to understand what is fully going on …The frequency of death in people’s lives from a young age in Austen’s era is not enough to account for her uses of widowhood or obsession with the deaths of women in childbed .. she delineates and attacks not just those who confront their disasters with strong sensibility to show the high price such people and their involved relatives pay for feeling and/or finding themselves in vulnerable places in the social and economic arrangements of the later 18th century.

See also Bereft: of Widows (in Austen), aging with poem on Jane Kenyon; widows as disabled.

Clarissa (Saskia Wickham) and Anna Howe (Hermione Norris) talking of a single life (1991 Clarissa)

The second or continuing panel occurred on Saturday morning at 9. In her “The Protestant Nunnery: Richardson’s Take on a Proto-Feminist Term,” Dashielle Horn discussed Astell’s A Serious Proposal to the Ladies (to advance their education, opportunities, improve their lives), mentioned Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall (there was not time to discuss it but its content is relevant), and went closely over Richardson’s proposal for a Protestant nunnery in Sir Charles Grandison. Astell was seeking to help women personally develop themselves; Richardson a solution to the problem of single supposed non-productive women. Astell thought a moral and practical education cold enable women to be fulfilled and useful. Sarah Scott develops a feminist Utopia. Richardson recognizes the plight of women: his Clarissa’s sees marriage bleakly and finds the single life preferable; the harsh severity and exploitation she meets with makes her want a refuge, but the presentation of a nunnery in Grandison seems in the service of controlling women, of serving society; the women are regarded as having failed in life.

Elizabeth Kemble in Southerne’s Oronooko

Elizabeth Keenan Knauss’s paper, “Unbounded: The Many Empowered Women of Thomas Southerne’s Oroonoko” presents women characters living outside the traditional roles of wife and daughter, and given ususual positions of power. Marriage, it’s suggested, is a kind of slavery; in this colony where there is a slave rebellion, women experience agency, e.g., the Widow Lackett. Other women characters are hunters rather than hunted; they choose their husbands; they would rather be an anomaly than lose their liberty. She interestingly told how the many female characters broke with passive stereotypes; Imoinda takes control of her situation by killing herself. The fantasy empowerments reveal where in life women have no power.

A young servant girl plucking a chicken (follower of Nicolas Bernard Lepicie, French, 1735-1784)

Lastly, Joanne Myers discussed Jane Barker’s vocation in her prose fiction. Only recently have Baker’s texts become available, and the interest has been her loyalty to the Jacobite cause. Ms Baker’s argument was that Baker achieved autonomy subjectively, from within by her commitment to her religion. The conversion experience is an assertion of selfhood and virginity the center of her strength. There is much ambivalence in the writing, suffering becoming beauty is pathological perhaps. Myers conceded that Toni Bowers has seen in this kind of intangible fidelity to self a pseudo-choice, a painful escape from life.

Judy Parfitt as Lady Catherine de Bourgh bullying Elizabeth Garvey as Elizabeth Bennet (1979 P&P by Fay Weldon)

Before and after both sessions there was much talk about the status of women who were without men. It was suggested that women lived in groups or with another woman or that a lady’s maid was of paramount importance to her as a protection, essential helper, and to give her more status. People thought that there were more women living without men than we realize. The problem of violence (by implication) rape was brought up: a woman without a man was a target for thugs. People were (of course) interested in women who were able to exercise power. Older women and widows were thought to be powerful; but my research suggested the powerful widow was rarer even than widows left a good deal of money. Some did carry on the business they had exercised with or by their husbands, but many sought to remarry. Since there were no papers on actresses, as a group they didn’t come up, but they do fit into the anomaly and they exercised power in building a career, in moving about when they had to, in creating a reputation. The fantasy element in books dramatizing women’s communities was talked about, women dressed up as as men, in breeches’ parts on stage; how in many novels middle class women were represented. Institutions were usually set up to control women, not help the individual “find herself.” There was little talk about the stereotypes of the era which depicted women alone hostilely and cruelly, and hardly any talk about the real emotions of such women living alone (whether widowed, or never married by choice or as a result of the society’s response to her, or separated); we did discuss how women who were beaten terribly were often still expected to carry on living with a husband.


Sad journey, by Raffaele Faccioli (1845-1916).
Italian painting of a widow forced to move with her child

Today I thought I’d read an essay on the legal status of single adult women, and found an essay whose title suggests the author was going to discuss the legal status of married and single women, but after a paragraph stating with that in theory the single woman had the same legal status as a man, and that this was not in practice true as women had no place in public law (they couldn’t hold office, couldn’t be on a jury, &c), the author said since marriage was the goal of the majority and most did marry, she would devote her essay to the legal status of married women. I judge that there were far more single unmarried adult women living alone, spinsters, divorced, separated, and widowed women than has been supposed. It was in their interest to keep themselves invisible: many may have lived quietly with other women; there has been startling little effort to discuss them as a group, which is going to be the start of my book proposal. This is fertile ground which could open up new areas of research and kinds of women’s lives.

Patricia Rutledge as Mrs Peachum (Beggars’ Opera)


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The Duke (Ralph Fiennes) raping the Duchess (Keira Knightley) and a moment afterward (Saul Dibbs’ and Amanda Foreman’s The Duchess, screenplay Jeffrey Hatcher 2008, one source for which is The Sylph, published 1778)


Our anonymous heroine witnessing one of countless rapes in Anonyma (2008), adapted from Marta Hiller’s A Woman In Berlin (first published 1945)

Dear friends and readers,

The last few weeks I’ve been immersed in two books which ought to be better known to English readers, Georgiana Spenser, the Duchess of Devonshire’s one novel, The Sylph, published anonymously in 1778, and the German diary now Englished as A Woman in Berlin and known to be Marta Hiller’s one book, also published anonymously 167 years later. They extend our understanding, our definition (if you will), the terrain of rape.

About four years ago I finally wrote the paper I should have written in 1980 (when I wrote my dissertation) on Richardson’s Clarissa; it took me 30 years to get to the point where I could discuss what riveted me when I first read Clarissa at age 18: “Rape in Clarissa,” which I subtitled from its heroine’s words, “What right have you to detain me here?”, surely not that you have raped me once? (it is that first rape that makes Lovelace assume he has the right to detain Clarissa).

In this recently thoroughly researched paper (if I do say so myself), I outline the two basic types of rape that most discussions of rape are subsumed under:

1) simple rape: an event where someone is compelled to submit to, or participate in, a physical sexual interaction which includes fucking, sodomy, fellatio or cunnilingus. Central is a loss of agency or control which occurs when the first onslaught is an event that goes well beyond the target’s expectations;

2) aggravated rape: a situation where the rapist uses extrinsic highly visible violence (weapons), where there are multiple assailants, a high degree of brutality and/or beating, or where there is no prior relationship between victim and rapist.

The problem is these definitions both demand the woman reject the sex, they both assume she has agency. All too often she does not. She cannot just say no. This is of course true of chattel slavery. But that condition is often ignored as now over with. In The Sylph and countless rapes in A Woman in Berlin, Georgiana and Hillers present two other all too familiar set of circumstances today where saying no is ignored: when a woman is married and cannot get out of the marriage; during war.

From the appalling experience of sex shown us from Georgiana’s POV on the first night of her marriage to the Duke

Georgiana Spencer’s novel was regarded as scandalous for many reasons; one not discussed is that in several scenes sex is forced on her heroine when she clearly does not want it; she has been insulted by seeing her husband with one of his mistresses; he has attempted to fool her into going to bed with Lord Biddulph, his fellow-rake, now a creditor; he has himself insulted and berated her when she does not hand over the rest of her jointure or refused to go to bed with this creditor once again. Her heroine, Julia, married of her own free will but in an arranged way, as an exchange of property and money between her father, Sir William Stanley, and after some months when she has been treated corruptly she clearly does not want to have sex with him, and it is forced upon her. In the scenes in the novel where Biddulph attempts to have sexual intercourse with her, had he succeeded might fall under the rubric of simple rape, except the situations have been set up by Stanley is Julia as payment for a debt. So they extend the definition of marital rape.



From a scene as the armies invade: the women flee into a basement; they are heckled as “Frau Hitler” and raped …

The nameless journalist heroine of Hillers’ book tells of the entry of the Russian armies into Berlin in late April 1945, and takes us into mid-June when the war is declared over. Yes there are countless (truly) rapes where women are beaten into complying, brutalized, humiliated, but there are as many where the women seem to comply, do not fight the men off and yet others where they allow one man to take over their body nightly in return for food and protection from ceaseless rapes by other men, but all the while writhing within, silently bearing it until the war situation comes to an end. This presented by Hillers as continuous rape. After the declaration of war new rapes occur less often, but the women are still answerable with their bodies. For weeks afterward they are driven like animals to do heavy physical labor by the occupying males (who while supervising, needle, heckle and try to get them to have sex with them in return for favors) for food. Sex slaves. In both sets of cases, the scenes are dramatized so that we shall see the woman complies at the same time as what is happening is rape.

Both books are the only books by these gifted women because both anonymous authors were excoriated (vilified) for writing them. For telling. The books show that apparent compliance is no criteria for saying that the act of sexual intercourse was not rape. The women are subject to their society which redefines these experiences of rape so as to by law declare them not rape (marriage) or by custom silence or shame the women who were subjected to them. While some of what the women think in both novels can be aligned to what a hostage is led to mouth when she finds herself the victim of hegemonic values which she takes on as a protection for her self-esteem, the physical acceptance of the act is accompanied by self-alienation, disgust, an intense desire to get away at the first opportunity. At the close of The Slyph Julia knows peace only when she returns home to her father. The anonymous heroine is relieved when her protectors (she takes on two) are gone, but she is immediately confronted by her continuing need for food, an incessant preoccupation in the diary and to return to a profession where she can be independent and eat, she attempts with others to recreate a press and write again, very stressful and against great odds (e.g., not enough paper).

In both cases a film adaptation has now been made. Saul Dibbs’s and Jeffrey Hatcher’s The Duchess (with Amanda Foreman as advisor) tell the story of the life of the Duchess using perspectives taken from Foreman’s and Georgiana’s books. For example, when one of Georgiana’s extravagant wigs were set on fire. (In the film she is drunk out of despair and collapses.) They blend easily as The Sylph mirrors a number of events known to have occurred in Georgiana’s life (sometimes represented in a reversal, as in the novel the Duke loses egregious amounts of money while it was Georgiana who lost extravagant amounts). Rape figures centrally in the film: Georgiana’s first night with the Duke is made to feel like a rape (she is his property); he rapes her after she finds him in bed with her paid companion-friend, Lady Elizabeth Foster (Hayley Atwell): the three stills above are taken from that scene where the camera shows us the rest of the house hearing her cries and doing nothing. We feel she is violated when her child by Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper) is taken from her. Little of this is discussed in reviews of the film; its genre, costume drama, frames it as romance and it’s easy to find stills of Keira Knightley in fabulous hats from it, often looking virginal. Here is a less familiar pair: the Duchess despairing and drunk just before her headdress is set on fire from a fallen chandelier:


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I regret to say the 2008 film, Anonyma, written and directed by Max Faberbock loses the value of the book. It has great power and that lies in the opening half-hour where there is recreated what it’s like to be invaded by an army in just these specific circumstances: you are in a city that is ruined by bombing, the people whose “side” you are said to be on have basically lost (Hitler’s suicide is announced about 40 minutes in). The POV is our heroine’s, Anonyma (that’s what’s she’s called) played by Nina Hoss. Faberbock and she and all concerned convey the terror and brutality — rape is what the women suffer hideously — brutal and ugly and slow: these rapes don’t happen all at once; there’s time for women to try to get commanders to stop the men and they refuse (“my men are healthy”). But rape is only one aspect of what’s experienced: filth, destruction, eating filth, destroyed houses, rooms, things, children hidden and sudden and quick deaths as people are simply shot or there is a barrrage of fighting with guns. Faberbock is very willing to use black screens to convey darkness. But what happens within the first 40 minutes is the film becomes a love story — as the diary never does. We are asked to believe our heroine overlooks the way the major who becomes her long-term bed partner refused to stop his men and other horrendous acts when she first met and appealed to him. The film vindicates masculinity conventions and beliefs about women (such as they do not mind rape when not accompanied by harsh beating or death).

From the close of the film where we are presented with a silent adieu between the major who was our heroine’s central protector-rapist

The way Anonyma is described on IMDB is so distorted as to be comical — it imposes this sentimental meaning on what’s happening ludicrously — Lore must save her people; she learns to rely on what she hated. Roger Ebert wrote an intelligent review; so too one appeared in The Guardian. Also I have come across nothing in the press which discusses the sex in The Duchess truthfully, much less any awareness of its debt to The Sylph. So the rest of this blog will be a brief account of The Sylph and A Woman in Berlin as rape stories.

There is much more one could say about both, I am treating them from this point of view as it is central to them.


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The first page of the first edition quotes Pope’s Rape of the Lock

The Sylph is a multi-voice epistolary fiction. Sir William marries Julia because he can’t get her any other way and by her letter we see that he is imposing on her values and norms which are a kind of violation of her feelings. He in short is not in love with our heroine — nor is she in love with him. She recognizes he is a stranger to her. when she gets to London, she is immersed in an amoral world and meets Lady Besford who urges her to have affairs, only be discreet: a mild version of Madame de Merteuil who in Les Liasions Dangereuses is enisted by Cecile’s mother to teach her daughter (recently it’s been recognized that Valmont rapes Cecilia the first time and controls her by blackmail — he’ll tell her mother — thereafter). Lady Melford is the helpless good mentor. Georgiana’s is an anti-libertine libertine novel, a critique of the adulterous disloyal world frankly presented. Early scenes with her husband (as Caroline Breashears wrote — she read with me and others) “the complexities and violence of the bed chamber.” A miscarriage is callously dismissed. Julia is taken as a sex object, impregnated, encouraged to have liasions discreetly so her husband can too. He returns from the opera which he attended with one of his mistresses and refuses to account for his long absence, insisting immediately on his marital rights which Julia now find distasteful because done with false words (hypocrisies). The Sylph is an anonymous correspondent who offers to watch and monitor her behavior — to the modern reader he feels like a stalker; there’s something insidious in his demands she reveal to him, a stranger, her inward thoughts. (Admittedly Julia-Georgiana does not take his presence this way, but agrees to subject herself to his judgement in order to protect herself.)

We have several inset stories. One is told early on by Julia’s father about his past and that of her mother. It is an exposure of the evils of primogeniture, marriages arranged sheerly for money. A story of Lord D who finds out his wife, Lady L, had taken a lover and challenges that lover to a duel and is killed by him presents duelling as murder in disguise. In another in-set story Georgiana makes it plain how rape can work. The aristocrat Montague tries outright to rape a lower middle class girl, Nancy; when Montague is thwarted, he removes her fiance by persuading Will to join the army, fomenting rebellion in Will, catching him deserting, and having him flogged — is it any different than say a court intrigue where the king or powerful man manipulates a lower courtier to allow his wife to go to bed with him? This is also a parable against flogging — against the terrible inhumane treatment of the lower classes. We are really made to feel how much flogging hurts.

As the novel progresses and Sir William gets deeper and deeper into debt he successfully pressures Julia to give up a proportion of her settlement (what she is supposed to live on in widowhood, and what could support them if he becomes a bankrup); it does no good, he is not grateful; he does not pretend even to love her — she no longer deludes herself his lust is love. Another sex as rape scene is implied and he returns to the gambling tables. On one level this is a portrait of unhappy marriage, what a marriage for sex and at a price ends end up in. As such, it may be an original novel — is there any other that in a middle class type novel shows this level of reality — deeply distraught and disillusioned young woman does not know where to turn. There is an allusion to Pamela Andrews as a pernicious book because it leads women to believe they can win a worthy man by withholding sex; we can also assume Georgiana was thinking of this central English novel. Julia finally encounters the Sylph at a masquerade ball and it becomes apparent he is a male who is after her too.

It is when she goes home thinking she is with Sir William she discovers he has sent Biddulph in his place in an attempt to delude her into going to bed with this man. William is then enraged with her for refusing Biddulph. part of the scene where Biddulph is disguised comes from the old canard that sex is the same in bed in the dark and it doesn’t matter what individual you are with. It’s an old bawdy joke, masculinist, and presented misogynistically in the Renaissance chapbooks and fabliau from the 15th through 18th century. Shakespeare uses it in Measure for Measure. We see it in comic plays where people jump into bed with the wrong people and have sex with them. Behn uses it. Since the conventions of verisimilitude are in play in The Sylph too, Georgiana does try to account for this by having Biddulph try to imitate Stanley’s behavior and Julia be puzzled. But she relies on her acceptance.

When Stanley comes in enraged and now demands that Julia turn over the rest of her settlement (jointure) he is particularly corrosive over her “prudery.” Stanley comes as close as he dares to offering Julia to Biddulph in lieu of the money he owes Biddulph: “I have but one method (you understand me) though I should be unwilling to be driven to such a procedure” (p 177). To do this break all norms for masculinity. Note he is willing to force sex himself on Julia anyway – no respect for her chastity, for himself as a proud male owning females, no concern for any pregnancy she might have. Let us acknowledge this is another form of rape – the selling of one’s acknowledged “woman” (wife) to another man and coercion of her. This motif turns up in novels otherwise not in imitation of one another: the wife in D’Epinay’s Montbrillant find her husband’s creditor in her bed and her husband waxing violent when she refuses to have sex with this man; in Edgeworth’s Leonora the vicious heroine plots to go to bed with someone to pay her debts (she is married). How common then was this? In Georgiana’s case it was she who was deep in debt so it might not be herself she is pointing to: her husband openly had Lady Elizabeth Foster, her companion so it seems reversed.

The novel is brought to an end when confronted with bankruptcy, and unable to cope with negotiations and an utterly (to his thinking) shamed life, Stanley kills himself and Julia returns home. If the novel had ended at this point we would have a very anti-marriage novel. Caroline wrote: “Moreover, it would be a convincing novel inspired by events in Georgiana’s own circle. In the introduction by Jonathan Gross, he notes that Lord Stanley’s gambling debts and suicide were inspired partly by the debts and death of John Damer (husband of Georgiana’s friend Anne), who shot himself in August 1775. Instead we have a sudden turn into idyllic romance, with Julia’s friend and sister marrying ideal young men and the Sylph turning out to be a suitor who had been rejected by her father because he had not the rank and money of Sir William. This is not Millenium Hall where the women built a life out of a female community together.

2005 edition, translator Philip Boehm

Continued in the comments: a parallel reading of A Woman in Berlin: first half; second half; denouement.


General thoughts placing both books in a woman’s tradition of books. For the 18th century:

Georgiana’s Sylph is a book much influenced by French novels and is a critique of the ancien regime too. If we posit there is such a thing as a libertine novel, (say — I came across this title this morning –, Crebillon’s Le Sofa, or Diderot’s Le Bijou (about a necklace’s adventures) — this one shows us the attitudes of the libertine novel and world, but is critiquing it. That is what LaClos claimed to be doing: he claimed he was not on Valmont or Madame de Merteuil’s side but exposed them to enable us to condemn them. This recalls Richardson’s writing outside his novel about Lovelace, and Georgiana’s Stanley and Biddulph are clearly modelled on Lovelace.

But it is Madame Riccoboni’s novels I call attention to where one heroine is raped while unconscious (drunk), another commits suicide; and most significantly in the decade after The Sylph: Isabelle de Montolieu’s Caroline de Lichfield is nowadays available in English translation on line is significant here. Isabelle de Montolieu did the astonishingly brave thing of showing a girl coerced into marriage refusing to go to bed with the man that night. It made open and clear in novels for the middle class that coerced marriage is rape. The man is a Colonel Brandon type (S&S is based partly on this novel I am convinced of it) and so does not force her, but he could. Montolieu punts by having his looks improved and them fall in love by the end (heroine betrayed by a Willoughby type). Trollope has heroines commit suicide rather than go to bed with a man distasteful to them, but he makes them so bad looking, and the women forcing it so sadistic, it does not seem ordinary as it is in Caroline de Lichtfield. The only other novel I know of that does this in the 19th century is Sand’s Valentine, and there the young man does try to force her. She throws him out and finds herself a pariah. Caroine de Licthfield is a 1780s novel — again after the Sylph, but not much after.

In both the 18th century and until today it is common for novels to be about women who fake rape; only very recently have women written about real rape (see my bibliography and notes for “Rape in Clarissa”).

As to Hillers’ book it belongs to European books written after WW2, often in the middle to later 1940s: all extraordinary, especially the journals by women (and men, Primo Levi’s for example) from Iris Origo’s War in Val D’Orcia, 1943-44 to Elsa Morante’s Historia, to Ingeborg Bachman’s poetry and Christa Woflf’s Cassandra and Four Essays. They were often either ignored upon first publication, or heavily criticized, framed by some aspect of the woman’s life. None of these are about rape, though Morante includes it. The European women’s books often rise to a level the UK people don’t — bombs are not the same as occupation (which as we know can bring genocides): I don’t mean to to be frivolous but I read the first Poldark novels coming out of UK in 1945 after Graham’s years as a warden on the beaches of Cornwall; Simone de Beauvoir’s is another extension of the kind of book WW2 prompted. Here are some reviews first published years later,


From Joseph Kanon:

That population was largely female and the dramatic events here are rapes — repeated rapes, group rapes, violent rapes, accommodating rapes. It has recently been the fashion to think of rape as a military tactic (as it was in Bosnia), but here it appears in its more familiar aspect: crude men seizing their spoils of war, as barbarous as Goebbels had promised. The most commonly accepted figure for rapes committed in Berlin during the first weeks of the Russian occupation is around 100,000 (calculated by hospitals to which the women turned for medical help). ”A Woman in Berlin” shows us the actual experience behind those abstract numbers — how it felt; how one got through it (or didn’t); how it brought its victims together, changing the way they saw men and themselves; the self-loathing (”I don’t want to touch myself, can barely look at my body”); the triumph of just surviving.

from Ursula Hegil:

A Woman in Berlin is an amazing and essential book. Originally written in shorthand, longhand and the author’s own code, it is so deeply personal that it becomes universal, evoking not only the rapes of countless German women in 1945 but also the rape of every anonymous woman throughout war history — the notion of women as booty. The book’s focus is not on the Nazi rampage across Europe but on its aftermath, when 1.5 million Red Army soldiers crossed the Oder River and moved westward. More than 100,000 women in Berlin were raped, but many of them would never speak of it. “Each one of us will have to act as if she in particular was spared,” Anonymous writes. “Otherwise no man is going to want to touch us anymore.”

Anonymous was an editor and journalist. Her voice is unlike most other voices from that period: She probes, refuses to look away. Nearly half a century ago, when her diary was first published in German, it challenged the postwar silence and all it concealed: guilt, lies, defensiveness, denial. . . .

The others hardly discuss the topic of rape; one is a slur, attempting to suggest the book is a work of ficiton. All life-writing is dramatized, shaped by themes and aesthetic considerations


The above are mostly in German; the last two by women discuss rape centrally, Linda Grant discussing “mass rape”; Cressida Connolly how the women talked together and coped with the situation by talking of it in ways unthinkable usually (undoable), as jokes; Joanna Burke tells us of a survivor.


Atina Grossman’s academic paper sets the book in the contexts of real documents from the time — showing by the way the book is non-fiction, telling an accurate truth as the author experienced it.


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Piero Longhi (1701-85), The Ridotto in Venice (1750s)

Dear friends and readers,

Friday, the second full day of the conference, was the longest and would have been fuller had I known how to get to the Hennage Auditorium, at one of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, for between the last session of papers for the day and the masquerade ball, John Styles gave a lecture on the foundling hospitals of 18th century London, how bits of textile were used to connect a mother and her new-born baby in the kept records, not that it was common for a mother to return to find a living baby to take home with her. Most of the time the impoverished women never returned and the babies died.

The poignancy of these lives as caught in these textiles (to my mind) connects to the state murder of a 12 year old African-Indian girl as told by Prof Roach (in the plenary lecture briefly summarized below). The Wm and Mary museum owns a large collection of these textile fabrics. I did hear him describe his lecture on Saturday when at the end of the day William Warner led a walk around the streets of Colonial Williamsburg and took us to the College of Wm and Mary where the museum is located.

From the 1991 mini-series, Clarissa: writing while in prison

The day began for me shortly after 8:00 when, as a continuation of what I had heard at the Richardson Society luncheon on Thursday, I sat down in a chair at a session where people were sitting in a circle and talking. Several papers had been written beforehand, circulated and the writers and readers were discussing these. So much better than papers being read aloud. The description of the papers was clear enough that I could follow what was said. Topics included: Jarrod Hurlbert’s paper on Clarissa’s reception in the US (where the texts were transformed into omniscient narratives in the 1790s). Elaine Phillips’s paper about the two rewrites of Clarissa that she likened these to fanfictions on-line today, where readers actively participate and re-shape fictions to fit their own world views; Byran Mangano on friendships in Clarissa as power struggles; Teri Doerksen’s paper on the problem of poetic justice in Clarissa; Marilyn Marie Holguin if Richardson had been influenced by Jacobean tragedy (mixed together with Christian doctrine); Christopher Fanning on the mad papers Clarissa writes after she is raped, isolated, and disconnected; after listening to Eric Drew’s remarks for first time in decades I had an impulse to reread Pamela (especially the near suicide scene at the pond).

What made the session stimulating was the talk about these theses; papers were discussed and ideas debated. Everyone seemed to know one another and the talk was companionable. People spoke of how Clarissa is about uneasy relationships, shows Richardson’s attraction to Catholicism; the dark fantasy about a (pyrrhic) triumph at its catastrophic close; intense identifications; tension between characters’ inner and outer worlds; how strength is in this novel not gendered, where we see a world of perpetual conflict in which animal passion is a powerful amoral force. I thought about how the pleasures of Richardson’s texts are imbricated with levels of pain.

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Hogarth: a detail from his depiction of people seeking the longitude (seen as “mad”)

A disability studies caucus was held in the next (9:45 am) session; in a crowded small room, there were 9 papers where the people poured forth complicated and interesting ideas inside 8 minutes each. Laurel Daen’s was on a woman whose art work led people to ask what disability means; is it also a strength? ought gov’t to intervene because people respond with alarm. Dana Glisermann Kopans talked of how mental disability was theorized in the era. Madness began to be seen as a disease rather than innate, but while there were no consistent findings, people wanted to imprison the so-called mad. Some people did fake disabilities; the problem for mental disabilities is these lack ocular and physical proof. Jason Farr discussed an 18th century poem by Mary Rogers showing what can happen when a profoundly deaf person is taught sign language. It included these lines:

When Britains’ Roscius on the stage appears,
Who charms all eyes, and (I am told) all ears
With ease, the various passions I can trace
Clearly reflected from that wond’rous face.
Whilst true conception with just action join’d,
Strongly impressed each image on my mind —
What need of sounds, when I plainly descry,
Th’expressive features and the speaking eye.

Greta Lafleur spoke of how disability and homosexuality shape a pathologized past. Both are positions outside reproduction which was thought essential for all people. Divorce cases bring out into the open some of this: Anne Marie Baum applied for divorce on the grounds her husband, George Miller, was impotent; he called her a whore, threatened her if she went public. The couple was not granted a divorce; it was somehow determined that his penis did work, so they spent the rest of their lives in connected hatred. No one saw Miller’s condition as a disability.

James Rasmussen, a German scholar spoke of stuttering, a speech impediment shared by Moses Mendelsohn and Johann Homen. No one understands why some stutter and why some outgrow the problem when there is a demand in public for rapid speech; this seemingly minor problem can build major emotional barriers as it was seen as a moral failure of the will. Here the sign is the disease or condition. Terry Robinson talked about people inhabit their bodies and how melodrama with its relentless highlighting of the body and putting before us social processes lends itself to portrayals of disability. Thomas Holcroft wrote a play about a deaf and dumb boy abandoned by his uncle; a friend tries to teach him to communicate his thoughts. French philosophes had invented versions of sign language (one was pantomime and gestural). Miriam Wallace worried lest in our efforts to stop the oppression of the disabled we find they are used ahistorically to justify the humanities; a disability is a variation; at the same time there is a limit to what help is provided this way. Cynthia Richards spoke last and movingly on disabilities inflicted on people by war experiences. Few want to be frank, to focus on the acute discomfort of what is done to the vulnerable animal body which collective consciousness denies.

Talk afterward included the need for a good definition of what is meant by disability, the importance of terminology; how we should look at where some of the words used came from; how able-bodied actors imitated disabled people and the problem of doing searches in databases.

Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), Elizabeth Farren (1790)

Before lunch I attended the session by the women’s caucus intended as a sort of preface to the coming evening ball. The papers augured well. Catherine Craft-Fairchild spoke on “Masquerade and female identity,” and traced eloquent and perceptive depictions of women in Maria Edgeworth’s Helen, Elizabeth Inchbald’s Simple Story and Catherine Maria Sedgwick’s American and didactic fiction. She felt that Edgeworth learned from Inchbald (who didn’t give us Miss Milner’s inner world); the characters of the first two novelists are dissatisfied with their realities. Nora Nachumi worried the concept of authenticity as replacing an older ideal of virtue as seen Hannah Cowley’s Belle’s Strategem, Inchbald’s I’ll Tell You What and Cibber and Van Brugh’s Provok’d Husband: she talked of how actresses justified their roles on stage as somehow authentic selves seen through a masquerade; if you outwardly conformed to conventional social life (Jordan did not) you could be an insider on the stage and achieve a modicum of power (e.g., Abingdon’s versatility) and make a small change in the way women regarded. Using the two different heroines of Inchbald’s Simple Story (gothic heroine, Matilda is authentic and thus naive and gullible), Jamie Smith traced how a resurgence of religion and gender panic in the later 18th century led to the decline of the masquerade which was an expression of what is repressed in everyday life; ritual became identified with paganism, Catholicism, self-indulgence, so its use for exploring unstable identities was lost.

John Hoppner (1758-1810), Dora Jordan as Rosalind (from Shakespeare’s As You Like It) (1791)

Discussion afterward included the idea that novels contain secret thoughts and can be places to perform a kind of authenticity. Jamie Smith suggested there are different levels of performance, understandings of it, and what you can do depends on who you are interacting with. Mary Trouille then said that given the structure of behavior, presented norms, in upper class 18th century groups it’s doubtful authenticity of any kind was possible. Catherine Craft-Fairchild rejoined that her women characters and real people were trapped in social performances; Nora Nachumi, that social control and anxieties about breaking code are ever there as people try to evade surveillance. Someone in the audience added that one could say that when you wear a mask you are not disguising yourself, but acting out an alluring image; most people at the same time do not expose themselves too fear lest they be too “found out.” You expect to be recognized, want to be.

Joshua Reynolds (1723-92), Mrs Abingdon as Miss Prue (from Congreve’s Love for Love) (1771)

For lunch I went into the bar had a whiskey and ginger ale with a small pizza and emailed friends through my iphone. Bars are friendly comfortable places and I was able to relax as I made needed contact with daughters at home and friends on-line.


The plenary lecture, by Joseph Roach, “Invisible Cities and the Archeology of Dreams” began with Italo Calvino, Marco Polo, and Kubla Khan, and the idea that it’s not possible to tell if the cities encountered are real. He moved between arguing that authors have intentions and we can ferret them out, but the truth is that in an effort to understand a previous era we can only look at what’s left (busts, costumes and descriptions of what happened in the playhouses, texts). He mentioned in passing the people who go to theme parks, or to see resurrected time capsules where they look at rebuilt versions of what once existed, and ended on a nightmare happening that is as characteristic of the period as anything else: Hannah, a 12 year old girl, perhaps autistic, part African, part Indian, hung for murder. She had to endure a sermon preached over her and seems to have behaved stoically in the face of a tortured death. Prof Roach quoted Antonin Scaglia on how in US history child-killing (execution) was not unusual. (What a horrific past lies behind the movement into twisted cruelties in the present US criminal justice “system” now allowed and made worse by uncontrolled capitalism.)

Eric Rohmer’s Marquise of O (1976): the Marquise leaving with her children, grieving at her parents’ ejection of them

“The Eighteenth-Century on Film,” one of the many last sessions of the day was not so grim or vatic. Oliver Wunsche spoke of the use of paintings in films through studying the relationship of Rohmer’s Marquise of O and Fuseli’s Nightmare (one series of shots in the film imitates Fuseli’s painting) and a Fragonard set of paintings (The Progress of Love). Greuze was another influence. His subject was how the camera eye in painting helps us understand our historical visions, basing some of his talk on Michael Baxandall’s Painting and Experience in 15th Century Italy (1972). Guy Spielmann and Joseph Bartolomeo gave papers on the many film adaptations of LaClos’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses and the 1991 BBC Clarissa (scripted by David Nokes and Janet Baron) respectively. The problem with both papers was ultimately they went about to compare the films against the eponymous novel, showing departures from fidelity (how the two differed in literal content), with the assumption that the novel’s vision was not only superior but the movie had the obligation to project either the author’s vision or some truth or reality of the 18th century. Prof. Spielmann was thorough in his continual see-sawing of how this movie departs this way and that that way and seems to have watched every filmic adaptation but one of this century. He kept asking what is a film adaptation and what is transformed but he never talked literally about the transferred materials and techniques used as metaphor (or filmic mirror, to use Kamilla Elliot’s phrase). Prof Bartolomeo went carefully over several places in the film where he objected to how Lovelace’s character seemed to him to have been simplified (made far more sinister than in the novel); he thought that while in the novel Clarissa does not know what is going on around her, since in the movie she does, she emerges as a deluded simpleton.

1989 Miles Forman’s Valmont: Valmont (Colin Firth, departed from LaClos’s conception to make the character appealing) and Cecile (Meg Tilly, not playing the character as an innocent at all) dancing intensely

From Cruel Intentions (1999), a free adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons, when it comes to love and sex, the usually manipulative and nasty Valmont (Ryan Phillipe) is tender and sincere; in this still a modern Tourvel (Reese Witherspoon), informs him, “it’s not about winning, Sebastian

The discussion afterward took the form of a real debate — though Prof Spielmann denied he was using the criteria of faithfulness; during the discussion period he said if movie-makers want to make a story about the 18th century, why do they go to these works? He seemed to be indignant over “misrepresentations.” (The answer is they are out of copyright and the film-makers are engaged by the works and want to make some comment about them, or bring them before an audience in ways that are relevant and appealing.) On Clarissa, I did identify myself as someone who had written and delivered a paper arguing for the excellence of the 1991 film (“How you all must’ve laughed; what a witty masquerade”), and suggested the place to begin talking about Nokes and Baron’s film is their vision (one which I think is about a nightmare of sexuality as experienced by many women in our present culture), how they saw the novel against our modern culture, how BBC filmic art was developing in the early 1990s. Prof Bartolomeo and I did agree that Nokes and Barron were much influenced by Mark Kinkhead-Weekes’s SR: Dramatic Novelist. Another woman in the audience suggested that if Lovelace seems exaggerated, there are ways in which Clarissa’s character is deepened and altered that make her more interesting to modern women in the audience. She also thought there was an enormous difference in the film of the Marquise of O and the 18th century painting, on the basis of how today the norm for women’s bodily size has become anorexic; there has been ontological out of cultural change.

Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) Plaisirs du Bal (1717)

It was then evening, the public sessions at the Lodge for the day were over and I went back to my room and rested. At about 8:30 I began to get ready for the masquerade. I wore a pretty beaded aqua blue dress that I had worn for my older daughter’s wedding that looked like a 1920s flapper dress (it has layers of silk), dark blue pumps, and at the door I bought a black eye mask with cat-like ears. I came along thinking I would stay for a short while and leave. Many said later they felt this. But like many I stayed and stayed and finally was like many others dancing the night away. Over 2/3s of the people came in some sort of costume; and of these about half in 18th century dress. Some people rented, others made their own costumes, still others put together what they could find in their wardrobe that gave the appearance of someone in the 18th century. It really was a party where everyone was having a good time. I’ve thought it was a loss when the banquet was given up as too expensive and not attracting enough people; the whopping success of the night (it lasted well past midnight and took in $14,000) is a testimony to people wanting to get together for pleasure. I neglected to take a photo of myself but many took photos and some of these may be accessed at the facebook page on ASECS Women’s Caucus Masquerade Ball.

1991 Clarissa: Diana Quick as the fake Lady Betty taking her mask, wig, and hat off

But the costumes also mattered; they made the experience have the curious excitement or slight theatrical thrill it did. I felt like I was in Burney’s Cecilia when people came over who were completely swathed in costume, including a mask and wig and I could not tell who they were until they spoke for a while. People I knew emerged as having different aspects to themselves both from knowing them before and also seeing them the next day back in their usual costumes (you might say). A friend wore a Venetian mask and monk’s outfit from head to toe; I saw a hunchback of Notre Dame. Some of the women were orange wenches. Couples came with the woman in a lovely sacque; one friend was a replica of Charles II, black curly wig, extravagant outfit, little dog and all; his wife had made an outfit which made me think of Pamela in high life.


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Temple of Concord at Green Park (for this and the other French engraved landscape I am indebted to Susanne Alleyn)

Dear friends and readers,

The second of two reports on the conference of 18th century scholars I attended 3 weeks ago at Philly. While “Retirement, Renewal and Reappraisal” comprised the central theme of the gathering, other themes engaged panelists. I heard a marvelous plenary lecture on the male classical ideal of retirement, attended three panels whose focus was women writers, women’s books, women’s issues (a festschrift for Betty Rizzo, violence towards women so retirement as recovery, re-evaluating retirement) and, in lieu of attending, read a couple of the papers on “the empty nest syndrome,” which brings together aging and women’s experience’s of (forced) retirement.

Give me Great God (said I) a Little Farm
in Summer shady, & in Winter warm
where a cool spring gives birth to a clear brook
by Nature slideing down a mossy Rock
Not artfully in Leaden Pipes convey’d
Or greatly falling in a forc’d Cascade …

— Mary Wortley Montague, Written January 1718 in the Chiosk at Pera overlooking Constantinople


The plenary speech on later Friday afternoon by John Richetti, “Retirement or Retreat” was particularly fine. He began by remarking that retirement was not understood then as it is now. Today if someone here were asked, “Are you retired?” that would be asking (if you are an academic) “if you have stopped teaching, but carry on doing everything else” (research, writing, meetings, civic duties). In the 17th and 18th century what would be meant might be, “Have you retired to the countryside? away from the world.” Two words are significant here. “Otium” means to be free from public duties, “negotium” is the Latin word for business. Defoe never sought otium for himself; otiose today implies a lazy nature, practically speaking ineffective behavior. People then honored the contemplative life. The puritan sensibility includes winning a good life (peaceful, moral) but distrusts not carrying on a battle against evil.

Prof Richetti then went over a number of key texts. Pomfret’s “Choice” was enormously popular, a banal poem about a wholly self-indulgent man whose women seem to be paid prostitutes. This type of poem is studied in the old-fashioned foundational text of Rostvig on “The Happy Man” where Pope is frequently quoted; his “Windsor Forest,” a sort of retirement community for the well-connected, central. By contrast, Dryden’s work (translations and original texts on this topic) shows a real philosophical perspective on contentment.

Prof Richetti then suggested that the era’s novels reject retirement throughout the long 18th century (and again in our 20th to 21st century books). In novels characters want to change their environment and circumstances. Robinson Crusoe lives in a world of expanding economic opportunity; he cannot stay still; he is too busy to fall into depression. In Fielding’s Tom Jones the hero is betrayed by the Man on the Hill. Tom Jones implies the man is utterly selfish and amoral. Tristram Shandy makes mocking use of the classical ideal of retirement. Rasselas meets failed hermits going mad.

In the course of the lecture, Prof Richetti discussed various individuals and comments about them. For example, Pope’s relationships with various writers: Bolingbroke acted out the happy man retirement trope for public consumption, but he had been fired, exiled for treason, and his reaction was misanthropy. Mary Wortley Montagu’s “Constantinople: Written in the chiosk at Pera overlooking the reality of Constantinople is in the classical mode of Pope’s, though her poem project how alone she feels. He mentioned poems that show disorder results from retreat (Mary Leapor’s Crumble Hall). Pope recognized in Defoe a different spirit: “restless Daniel” of the “unceasing movement;” but Swift carelessly (posing) snubbed him as “the fellow that was pilloried, I forget his name.” Prof Richetti talked a lot about Swift and his relationship with Stella: Swift in his verse jeers at women seeking retirement (in 20th and 21st day off), for he combines attitudes: leisure is unearned privilege, yet he celebrates retirement when he imagines it with Stella: they will built a private alternative of mutual affection and rest from the world; Stella herself has lived a worth while life, reliant on her self.

pont-neuf and the pump houseblog
Pont Neuf and the Pump House

In the discussion afterward, it emerged that Richetti felt the ideal for retirement as understood in the 18th century is possible for only upper class males, even though it’s a fiction. Female experience, he suggested, does not allow for retirement; it is too different (female friendship may part of a woman’s version of retirement) and impossible to fit in.

Print of ideal Scottish Drawing Room: all learning, making music together

Three women’s panels. At 8:30 Saturday morning, the “empty nest” panel had two remarkable papers. Rosemary Wake talked of the life of Beatrice Grant, apparently a cousin of some sort to Anne Grant: hers is the story of a woman who was quietly unconventional and when both her children left her and then pre-deceased her, turned to writing as an outlet, advice sort of books where she recreates the presence of her son especially. Frances Singh’s paper was filled with highly original research into the life of Jane Cumming, an illegitimate and mixed race Scotswoman the phases of whose existence show her to have been very hurt at how she was treated and to have taken a little understood revenge. Her experience and the accusations of sexual misconduct she accused two of her teachers of became the basis for Lilian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour.

At 10:15 am I attended Jan Stahl’s “Violence against Women, Recovery and Renewal.” Kristen Distel compared the memoir of Hortense Mazarin and her life after she escaped the abuse of her fanatically abusive and controlling husband to the depiction of Pamela and Mr B’s relationship in Richardson’s Pamela,and she discussed solutions for giving women independence and respect in Mary Astell’s work. The Duchess was forced to seem to retire, and the many miseries of her position formed part of the basis of Astell’s project to improve the education of women.

The other three papers were about books where female friendship is central. Tracey Hutchings-Goetz argued the important shaping relationship in Richardson’s Clarissa is that of Anna Howe and Clarissa Harlowe. They would like to escape the roles forced on them as women, and retire together as friends. Ms Hutchings-Goetz saw a parallel between Richardson’s fictional heroines and the real life lesbian relationship of Queen Anne and Sarah Churchill. Mary Harris discussed an American epistolary novel, Leonora Sansay’s 1808 Secret History; or the Horrors of St. Domingo: the back story of one of the heroines is of repetitive terrifying violent abuse by her husband. Finally Chloe Smith’s paper on Charlotte Lennox’s Euphemia, a 1790 epistolary novel provides a diptych of two friends’ perspectives: marriage brings hardship, male tyranny; they cannot choose for their children. The two women recuperate through their correspondence, but need men’s money to help themselves. Buried in this novel is a captivity narrative, recalling Behn’s Oroonoko.

Frances Burney (1785) by her cousin, Edward Francesco Burney — Betty Rizzo edited the 4th volume, 2nd half of the Early Journals

After lunch, there was book launch, a round table chaired by Temma Berg on behalf of a book she and Sonia Kane edited, Women, Gender and Print Culture in 18th Century Britain: Essays in Memory of Betty Rizzo. Eight women briefly described their contributions to the volume where ideally the writers had known Betty and could combine talk about their relationship with her and the shared topic of research. Sylvia Casey Marks discussed Sarah Fielding’s The Governess and paid tribute to Betty as a friend and scholar who wrote about unappreciated authors and books. Betty had given an assignment to Stephanie Oppenheim, a graduate student at the time, which led to Stephanie reading 100 issues of the London Gazette (1750-80) where one can recover the lives women led (travel stories), find bankruptcies they shared in and criminal cases. Beth Lambert discussed the published and unpublished letters of Gilbert Elliot (1751-1814) his wife, Maria Amyand, Lady Elliot (1752-1829); the family estate was Minto; Betty alerted Beth to an interesting love story the family had hidden, Elliot’s relationship with Ann Hayman, a lady at court. Mary Margaret Stewart, another of Betty’s friends, talked about how she and Betty corresponded about Lady Francis Coningsby whose mental troubles and distress led to her being treated as mad, and Francis’s relationship with her caregiver, Mary Trevor (whose letters were unfortunately not saved).

Three people did not know Betty but their interests coincided. Lorna Clarke had written about the lesser known Burney women writers, the whole artistic and writing environment in which they grew up. Frances Singh again talked of Jane Cumming and her relationship with her teachers, about which archival research is the only way to find out anything close to the truth. Lisa Berglund wrote about Hester Lynch Piozzi’s British Synonymy; Lisa said that fortitude is a feminine word (all its connotations and uses). Lisa had had an encounter with Betty on-line where Betty was seeking to work out some charades; later on she was able to move the woman known as Johnson’s great woman friend from the periphery of Johnson studies to a center of her own.

Beverly Schneller seems to have known Betty Rizzo best and gave a portrait of her character and career (the essay in the volume is titled: “A New and Braver Point to Make”) Beverly argued that Betty ran counter to aspects of academic culture and took risks, spending years researching unfashionable authors and topics. She was a scholar who disrupted things, who kept an open mind, followed her curiosity, found unexpected links.

Wybrand Hendriks (Dutch painter, 1744-1831) Old Woman Readingblog
Wybrand Henricks (1744-1831, Dutch): an old woman reading

There was a discussion afterward where people talked of their relationship with Betty and/or her scholarship and work. I mentioned that her editing of the 2nd volume of Burney’s early journals is far more thorough, detailed, and tells of incidents in a dramatic and candid way unlike what is found in the other volumes. I have a story to tell here too (which I didn’t mention in the session): after I came on-line on C18-l, Betty emailed me and said she thought she had met me on the steps of the New York Public Library when I was in mid-20s and at the Graduate Center. She said she had met this young graduate student whose conversation struck her and my photo on my blog made her think that young woman had been me. We then exchanged emails about ice-skating in the later 18th century: why women often didn’t do it and some beautiful sequences of ice-skating in Trollope and the early 20th century novel by H.E. Bates, Love for Lydia.

For the last session of the conference on late Saturday afternoon, two panels were combined under the topic of “Retirement Re-evaluated.” Three papers were on women’s novels. Aleksondar Hultquist discussed Eliza Haywood’s philosophical views on passion and reason as reflected in her novels: amorous inclination leads to knowledge: if you follow our passion, you teach yourself about yourself. Spiritual relationships cannot last, move must move into the body. In the novels, love plays out differently for men and women; ironically, the person who is more intelligent, capable of receiving a depth of impression is at greater risk for pain; love and friendship are positives for women in relationships with one another, with marriage is as generally not beneficial. By contrast, Michael Genovese gave a stimulating paper where he read Eliza Haywood’s Betsy Thoughtless against its grain and I can only indicate a couple of the insights he offered. He suggested that a wildly anarchic group of desires are resisted by the novel’s overt teachings: in reality Trueworth is sadistic, aggressive; Eliza enjoys giving pain to men; Betsy is supposed to be learning to choose sensible prudent men when what happens is she enjoys triumphing over male characters.

Catherine Keohane discussed Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall, an novel about exemplary busy retirements for upper class women helping the world’s female victims. The histories told bely what we see: in the world women are powerless, have no control over their lives, suffer. The novel means to offer an alternative to a life where the woman is not valued and is abused. The hall is a place of refuge which becomes publicly oriented, charity behind which the women make a new life for themselves. Rebecca Shapiro’s paper was on how dictionaries address women, specifically Robert Cawdrey’s which dwells on a vocabulary thought appropriate to women’s refined and leisured lives. She also suggested that by being included in the lexicography women gain a status and can seek a way out of the private sphere.

Antoine Watteau, The Signboard at Gersaint (1720)


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Darcy (Colin Firth) remembering as he’s writing (1995 P&P, Pt 4)

Elizabeth comparing parts of letter and what she remembers (1995 P&P, Pt 4)

Dear friends and readers,

I know I’ve written far too often about epistolarity in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: first showing that the original or UR-P&P (First Impressions) was probably epistolary, then outlining in a blog how some transitional chapters show the remains of Jane and Mrs Gardiner and Elizabeth’s correspondences, and finally, counting letters or sets of letters as found in the present P&P, all the while pointing to the curious pattern of important Tuesdays I’ve found in five of the six famous novels (the novel without this pattern is Northanger Abbey). I did the same for S&S and Mansfield Park: calendars and blogs.

Before I can try to publish my findings in an academic peer-edited journal I have to re-do my calendars for Emma, NA, and Persuasion and at least go over The Watsons and Lady Susan. I’m returning briefly to the topic tonight because on Thursday Isobel and I are driving off to the Jane Austen Summer Program at the University of North Carolina, and unless we get lost on the way there, I should be part of a panel on film adaptations while there on Saturday morning: Plenary Roundtable Panel on Jane Austen and Film Adaptation with Inger Brodey, Suzanne Pucci, and Ted Scheinman. Since the topic of the conference is Pride and Prejudice (as it’s supposed the 200th anniversary of its publication this year’s JASNA is also on P&P), I understand the film adaptations we’ll be discussing are those of P&P. I have wondered if that means all 10!. I doubt it (see list). The only one scheduled to be screened is Joe Wright’s 2005 Lawrentian piece.

Well to get into the spirit of the coming time, and — because I’ve thought I might submit a proposal for the Montreal JASNA about Mansfield Park on filmic epistolarity in the 1983 and 1999 heritage films, because I’ve just begun my pre-study for my Andrew Davies’s Televisual Trollope, and because I now think P&P was originally epistolary –, I reread the novel once again and watched Andrew Davies’ 1995 extravaganza looking at the film’s use of letters.

What fun the film is — how gay, how filled with a joie de vivre, vivid, emphasizing the aspects of the novel that have filled the hearts of those who love the book with delight: above all the dancing, the witty conversations, the strong eroticism. In the later parts (3-6) I love the use of resonant music (the horns especially) and figures seen in a landscape to suggest time passing. Davies chooses to emphasize female companionship, friendship and loss (as Charlotte and Elizabeth of one another) throughout his film:

Jane (Susannah Harker) at mirror (Part 1)

Lizzie (Jennifer Ehle) talking (Part 1)

Intense affection

Since I’ve been studying Julian Fellowes’s Downton Abbey, I recognize in both a visceral aggressiveness in the depiction of emotionalism. All out of a book hard in its frame of reference (money) and basic conditions for the foolish and disillusioned characters and their frequently desperate relationships. I find I can still read it in a lesson-teaching spirit even now — I read it for the first time at age 12. These are the film’s Elizabeth lessons: have some decent pride in yourself; if you try to come up to false values, you only expose yourself. Do the thing you own way and ignore the bullying of others.

Tonight though I’d like to stress one artful source of the film’s greatness is its filmic epistolarity. The paraphernalia this one comes with includes Sue Birtistle and Susie Conklin’s The Making of Pride and Prejudice, which shows how aware of this were the film-makers. Their book has a longish section on how the film presented Darcy’s letter, stressing the two voice-overs (the two women and Davies apologizing and defending this, revealingly) and justifying the reverse order (to placate the literal minded who remember that Darcy first discusses Jane and then Wickham; the film reverses this order). There was a fashion for several decades to avoid as intellectual and effeminate voice-over (Joe Wright still thinks so), likely to put off a mass audience, so a no no. These ideas are increasingly dismissed, and voice-over and flashbacks used a lot.

Elizabeth leaning into Jane’s letter at Lambton (Part 4)

But Darcy’s letter and Elizabeth’s reading of it is not the only letter to be presented with a real sophistication and use of filmic techniques which recreate the epistolary situation of the novel and make the film an exciting and interesting experience. One example: when at Lambton Elizabeth receives Jane’s letters about Lydia’s elopement, we get not only voice-over by Jane (Susanna Harker), but a series of interwoven flashbacks which include Elizabeth’s memories, with voice-over by Wickham (Adrian Lukis), and voices from the flashbacks which are allowed to linger as we look at Elizabeth’s face close up:

The home scene;

We also have also Elizabeth’s memories of previous letters, so suddenly interwoven is also a voice-over from Colin Firth, a split second if I remember correctly of voice-over by Miss Bingley (Anna Chancellor) so as to allow a flashback that occurred in a letter. Then Elizabeth sometimes speaks aloud in a half soliloquy briefly and then we get Jane’s voice-over again (as Elizabeth falls to remembering Jane’s letter right in front of her. The whole experience of the film just then is complicated and if you look at the textual source, you will find but two paragraphs by Austen which contain excerpts from the imagined letter by Jane and not much dramatization at all.

He has tried to imitate the underlying epistolary nature of the book to bring out its inwardness while keeping the surface of his film intensely active with dream-dramas. The very chapter that struck me at any rate (Vol 2, Chapter 3) where we have the remnants of Elizabeth and Jane’s letters passing between London and Longbourne, and Elizabeth and Mrs Gardiner’s letters (a long excerpt) are turned into a letter Elizabeth reads at a wintry window (from which nearby we hear the conversation of Mrs Bennet and Lydia informing us of Wickham’s desertion to Miss King), accompanied by a voice-over from Jane and dream-dramatized scenes of Miss Bingley’s strained visit, with stills which include Mrs Gardiner’s strained face too once Miss Bingley is inside.



At Longbourne and again in London Joanna David as Mrs Gardiner is the watchful intelligent face, listening to her sisters-in-law, taking everything in at the Christmas party, including Elizabeth’s infatuation — I am persuaded one of the correspondences that made up the original First Impressions was between Mrs Gardiner and Elizabeth:


All this contrasts sharply with how Davies continually makes very short scenes from dramatic conversational moments — except the most famous ones of the proposals, and the trip to Pemberley and even that keeps dialogue to a minimum so it goes much swifter than the Fay Weldon’s comparable 1979 P&P version. Yet he repeatedly takes a paragraph or so from Austen which is in letter form and elaborates enormously.

As I was watching this film tonight (“reading” it) I recalled Samuel Richardson writing about his different use of different voices and subjectivities in his Clarissa (and Nokes made wonderful use of filmic epistolarity in the 1991 mini-series): his technique permits a wonderful variety of sounds (voice, presences) which constitute the harmony of a Handel. When Darcy’s voice is heard after Jane and Elizabeth alternating with the occasional present tense of a voice in the flashbacks, Davies’s film has achieved the a Handelian disharmony.

Elizabeth (Elizabeth Garvie) reads Darcy’s letter (1979 P&P, Part 3)

She remembers Wickham’s (Peter Settelen) expression on his face differently suddenly

There is a strong intelligent use of epistolarity in Weldon’s 1979 film: voice-over is used, and strongly for the famous Darcy letter, but there is little flashback; it occurs in some short sequences; for example while Elizabeth (Elizabeth Garvie) “reads” aloud Mr Collins’s letter to Mr Bennet while Mr Bennet is from home, we hear the actor’s voice over, and the camera moves back and forth on the faces of Mrs Philips and Mrs Bennet as they listen irritatedly; we are seeing three way experience, with Mr Collins’s consciousness entering the minds of the listeners.

Elizabeth with her mother (Priscilla Morgan) and aunt (the genuinely funny Shirley Cain)

But such moments are far part, so there is no continuity of memory, reading, vivid dream-drama. Before Davies’s 1995 P&P, the only film to attempt filmic epistolarity this way was the 1983 Mansfield Park (much under-rated because the actor and actress who play the key roles of Fanny and Edmund were chosen for their ability to act not their beauty or stardom), and Ken Taylor who scripted it also kept the sequences strictly to the early time past of childhood in the movie and at Portsmouth where letters become so frequent as to make the book semi-epistolary.

Fanny (Sylvestre Le Touzel) writing William at sea

There is so much to be said of female narrators in the Austen films too, an area of filmic art related to filmic epistolarity, a kind of looser version unless it’s used to make a narrator within the film (as in the 1960s original Alfie film with Michael Caine), which remark shows how far I am straying from just Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and its filmic manifestations. For many of them, especially the appropriation rather than heritage kind, epistolarity is dropped. It is useless to talk of the sentimentalized screwball 1940 film which is so far from the original in mood and message, or the Punjabi Indian B&P (song and dance festival) similarly very distant. Much as I love it, Lost in Austen uses voice-over for present time ruminations and flashbacks are used to time-travel.

Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper) enters a book

The two Bridget Jones films include diary-keeping but the over-voice is used for continuity, while (suprisingly for those who don’t take into account how films meant to be widely popular eschew too much depth), You’ve Got Mail, with its conceit of emails, still uses the writing of emails as icing on the cake, piquant moments, not intrinsically and at length.

Katherine Kelly’s (Meg Ryan) fairy-tale pretty flat

No the P&P film which picks up on this rich element in Austen’s books and turned it to filmic use is Andrew Davies’s P&P. My study now (for the Trollope film paper) of Andrew Davies’s filmic art is showing me the source of this artful focus is the vulnerable male, here Darcy, whose original manifestations are found in Davies’s novel, Getting Hurt, and his first film without a source, A Very Peculiar Practice (Stephen Dakar). It’s not a coincidence that the longest agon of letter writing is Darcy’s and it’s his handwriting we see:



And it’s not an oddity that we have an added scene of Wickham expressing genuine regret to Elizabeth before she goes to Bath at choosing Miss King: Davies puts it he feels for the villains too, it’s rather he identifies with the desperate male who makes mistakes (as Wickham will with Lydia).


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Hubert Robert (1733-1808), The Louvre

Dear friends and readers,

A final blog on this year’s ASECS meeting in Cleveland. Two plenary lectures, one by Felicity Nussbaum defending 18th century tragedy by way of the salacious mocking epilogues associated with key actresses of the age; the other by Julie Hayes on French women moralists and marriage. Then a miscellany: a session on later 18th to early 19th century drama & novels, one on women’s attitudes towards Rousseau. Sessions on music: I went to one on 18th century opera as performed, now, in the 21st century. Tourism and art. Finally, most delightful, a session where people read aloud their favorite poems and for once revealed why they enjoyed them so much.

Elizabeth Pope Young (1735-9 – 1797), Countess Hortensia in Jephson’s Countess of Narbonne

Saturday, 11:30 to noon, In “Unaccountable Pleasures: the Subject of Tragedy,” Felicity Nussbaum began with the admission many of the plays of the era were poor; if tragedy is central to an era, how explain the aesthetic failure of tragedies when they were so popular. Radical shifts in ways of performing and the new central roles for women make for a different kind of drama: actresses made visible a new kind of bonding whose goal was to flatter and to enable their audiences to escape. She went over the careers of actresses, gave readings of several centrally popular 18th century tragic plays (not all today considered great masterpieces like Arthur Murphy’s The Grecian Daughter), read aloud numerous of the epilogues & and then explicated them and discussed how they were enacted to suggest they were meaningful as performed for their audiences.

One of the sessions, on Thursday, 9:45 am (18, “The 18th century repertoire) can be aligned with Nussbaum’s speech. All three papers were about the radical content of the plays of the 1790s; what unites them with the previous topic is on the face of it these have been seen as poor plays, rewrites of earlier plays or apparently naive recountings of earlier political events. Daniel Gustafson spoke of the rewriting of specific Restoration libertine plays (a revival where they were rewritten and famous Restoration historical figures brought before the public again, i.e, Rochester, Charles II); these manifest a preference for acting out contemporary (early 19th century) politicized ideals. Later plays have characters of lower rank; the earlier time of history is itself de-politicized. Daniell O’Quinn (quoting John Barrell) showed how plays got through the harsh repression and how performances through visuals, noise and a libretto yield comments on what is tyranny. Better plays — as Otway’s whose complexity was little appreciated — can tragically fail. Multiple complex intentions are mostly lost.

From a 2013 production of Sheridan’s Rivals (Emily Bergl and Matt Letscher) at the Vivian Beaumont in NYC

Roz Ballaster explicated the text of Sheridan’s Rivals as a prologue to looking at the interactions (so to speak) of the novel and drama. She went over plays which reworked other plays (Inchbald’s Married Man reworked Destouche’s autobiographical play of the same name); George Colman writes a play that is like an obsessed novel where no conflicts are resolved. We must not read the plays too much as imitations either. She pointed to texts which were read and not staged. The novel heroine is generally more active, more aggressive, more complex, but we get novelistic treatments of heroine in the theater (Southerne’s Isabella).


Madame du Chatelet at her work table by an unknown French artist

Julie Chandler Hayes first looked at the work of many 17th, 18th and 19th century women moralistsm then singled out 4 individual women and their works to treat in detail and then moved back to generalization. A mordant tradition of moralizing which differ from that of males which has little to say about childbirth or marriage, which women moralists discuss, often as a kind of slavery; they were given no or little choice. Women whose works she covered include: Gabrielle Suchon (1631-1703), Madame de Lafayette (1634-93); Anne-Therese de Marguenat de Courcelles, Marquise de Lambert (1647-1733); Madeleine de Puisieux (1720-98); Madame de Verzure (?1766); Marie-Jeanne de Châtillon Bontems (1718-1768) who translated Thomson’s Seasons; Marie-Geneviève-Charlotte d’Arlus (or Darlus), married to Louis-Lazare Thiroux d’Arconville (1720-1805), and wrote scientific works, translated, whose works have been attributed to Diderot; Emilie du Chatelet (1706-49).

While Prof Hayes discussed some themes as they appear in a few individual works or are of interest for one person, I’ve given just her heads of topic and what she discussed both separately and for the women as a group. SO: they discuss celibacy, companionate marriage, adultery (this was expected, people presented as taking a lover out of boredom, but then finding themselves in a morass of jealousy and resentment). The issue of parenthood is treated abstractly: before Rousseau motherhood is not a topic. More abstractly: unequal power relationships, egalitarian feminism; the necessity of submission, a pessimistic view of humanity, marriage as a perverted institution, hardly calculated to add to happiness of either person. Loss of liberty is central to the truth of marriage, especially for women.

Girls are victims raised with care in order that they submit to this life; boys are put into armies. The moralists say there are husbands who love their wives and wives who love their husbands, but it’s the husband who knows independence; for a wife to know liberty she must be a widow first. People shipwreck themselves for desire and ambition. Bleak depictions of social customs; she must obey him and his self-interest; he can make her unhappy with impunity. We see the interior of households, happiness not common among the lower class people either. Marriage not a natural state, an ideal of an unattached life. Some deeply poignant life stories hinted at: one woman lost her child at an early age and does not get over it. Some see a double movement between ambition (so you follow convenances) and personal identity.

There is little or no emotional refuge to be found in French women’s moralist writings. Novel took on further cultural analyses with its quest to understand human motivations and interactions. these are discourses of self-regulation. They have a profound sense the world they are allowed is not enough.

Portrait of Sophie von La Roche (1730-1807), Georg Oswald May (1738-1816)

Again I attended a session that may be aligned with this general lecture: Rousseau’s Emile (Friday, 11:30 am, No. 113). There were four papers. There were no surprises: Mary Trouille showed Rousseau advised educating women to serve men’s needs absolutely; his novel, Julie, ou La Nouvelle Heloise shows the tragic results; Kristin Jennings went over how 18th century German women responded to Rousseau as seen in their writing, her specific example the work of Sophie Von La Roche whose famous novel she compared to that of another German woman writer; Karen Pagani explicated an unfinished text by Rousseau, Les Solitaires which seems to be about whether a man should forgive a woman who has transgressed. The question (to me) seemed inadequate as the women in question was probably raped. Questions include whether the person should react with personal feelings (which seemed to lead to forgiveness) or do his or her civic duty and set an example. A fourth paper came from another panel: Avi Lifschitz had to leave early so he gave his paper on Rousseau’s Essay on the Origin of Languages in this session. I thought most interesting was Rousseau’s idea that words have a natural link with reality through their signing function; that the visual holds us, that language has lost its ability to persuade as it becomes more abstract, that it’s most effective when people say less. Rousseau was frank enough to show his imagined teacher and pupil acting out some of his theories and failing.

Giulio Cesare
2013: Metropolitan Opera: Handel’s Giulio Cesare

A session I and Jim enjoyed but I probably won’t be able to convey much about was “Eighteenth Century Opera in Production” (Saturday, 9:45 am, No 169). All four presentations used power-point, computers, screens, music, DVDs. Majel A. Connery discussed a recent production of Mozart at Salzburg which appears to have been 3 plays, all intended to reflect his life, his imagination trajectory, his work: she called it “meta-theater Mozart.” The plays were controversial among other things for the way they characterized Mozart’s inner life: wild, nightmarish, when reflective sad. Money (the lack of it) tears the hero apart. Everyone in simple symbolic costumes; the stage a huge box. Annelies Andries discussed what happened when the traditional aria of an opera is replaced by anther aria part of the opera but often left out. This happened in a production of the Marriage of Figaro with Cecilia Bartoli; the audience was apparently disappointed instead of reinvigorated with the apparently new perspective.

Danielle de Niese as Ariel (Enchanted Island)

Laurel E. Zeis’s’s “‘Persistent 18th century in two recent Metropolitan productions” was about elements of staging, kinds of voices, costumes, motifs, attitudes, practices, brought into the 21st century from the 18th century stage. I have a picture of some on this blog: the imitation of an 18th century stage in the recent Giulio Cesare. I wrote a blog about The Enchanted Island which was her central focus — and the use of boats on artificial water in the background appeared again in Giulio Cesare. Supernatural elements and computerized projection are found everywhere — though not Dryden and Davenant substituted for Shakespeare. Her suggestion that the “machine” for the Ring cycle was “very 18th century” because it changed the scenery in front of the audience, caused the players to come up front stage, & even dress in front of us was not all that persuasive, but her clips were fun. She talked of operas I’d not heard of (a Little Women), and pointed to unexpected 18th century elements in recently written operas like Nixon in China (a da capo aria).

Giovanni Piranesi (1720-88), Carceri V

Similarly, the strong tourism element of the four papers given in “Anglo-Italian Cultural Relations in the 18th century” (Thursday, 4:15 pm, No 71) were dependent on slides, and clips and photos, and I took few notes, just looked at lot. Suffice to say I especially enjoyed T. Barton Thurber’s talk on lasting impressions of Giovanni Battista Piranesi and British artists in Italy” and the pictures of Roman Antiquities discussed by Carole Paul. I was not able to stay for Jamie Smith’s Lady Mary Montagu and the Masks of Venice,” and unfortunately David Kennerley did not make it with his “Italian Prima Donnas and British Female Singers, 1770-1840”.

A little more on a poetry reading session and I’ve done.


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Windsor Castle, Henry VIII gateway (1775) by Paul Sandby (1731-1809)

Dear friends and readers,

A third blog on the ASECS at Cleveland, one which also continues a series I’ve been writing on Frances (Burney) D’Arblay’s life-writing. As with my previous, this is just on one session. The papers were so good I managed to take more detailed notes; the second half of this blog I dedicate to providing more context by summarizing a few recent papers which are overturning a perspective on Burney’s life-writing which prevented real analysis of what’s there from going forward: Burney (FBA) may be said to have written 4 novels, the 4 traditional ones (three very fat) and a 25 volume novelization of her life.

This is the conclusion I had come to after reading through the fifth volume of the Early Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney (1782-83), as edited by Lars Troide and Stewart Cooke, which I’m now going through slowly. As I realized in front of me were writing from at least six different sets of years, all intertwined, some obviously rewritten, interpersed with letters by others (saved by Frances or provided by an editor or editors), and accompanied by notes from different editors, I began to wonder what it was I had in front of me and how many people at different times wrote it.

The “bouleversant” perspective as outlined below allows for a whole new way of approaching the life-writing. It becomes possible to apply to it techniques hitherto reserved for the fictions. Many of our close reading techniques (coming down ultimately from I.A. Richards) depend on the idea the text is imaginative, creative, and the sites or conventions of character, setting, theme (&c) seemed inappropriate for history based on some kind of factual truth. Now we can for example, look at how Frances D’Arblay used epistolarity in her final arrangement of her books. The real problem in treating his massive new “fiction” will be it’s so large. Critics and scholars will necessarily have to deal with a couple of volumes or one phase of her life at a time.


Detail from Vermeer, A Lady Writing

The Burney Society session began at 9:45 and there were 3 papers. Lorna Clark’s “Burney’s Methods of Narrating the Court Experience”, a result of her long work on 2 volumes of the court journals, came first. A summary (as far as I could manage it):

Frances Burney (D’Arblay) is one of the UK’s great diarists; within a few years of her death, her life-writing began to be published, first by Charlotte Barnett, a sanitized censured abridged version of 6 volumes. Kate Chisholm expressed the traditional view that what they represent was the work of a reporter, a keen observer who witnessed so much.

A new preliminary view from Clark’s own work on 2 volumes is redefining the nature of the text, reshaping our view. Contrary to the view taken of her years at court, Ms Clark suggests that the most creative and crucial years of her writing years are those at court. Burney wrote more than at any other time. Dobson pointed out that the 5 years at court take up 2 1/2 of Barrett’s 6 volumes. If we look at our present 25 rescued ones, the court journals represent 25% (or 1/4). Though the court journals are presented as a chronological account written to the present moment (the phrase is first Richardson’s), that’s a fictional device. Burney wrote up her journals 12 to 15 months later; they are creative, diverge to make into wish fulfillment versions of what happened. She would hoard notes she made obsessively, compulsively. She was herself someone who loved spontaneity and found the obsessive control of the queen’s court killing. We can see how she built up her texts fro her reaction to a meeting with George Owen Cambridge (who she had fantasized about since 1782), which he instantly hastily retreated from. Burney evades this realty, streetches out the drama into several phases (referring later on to a heart-to-heart communication). She takes his avoidance as him conforming to customs, and hiding original serious intentions. It’s an artificially heightened, carefully crafted account. This process is repeated in her depiction of her encounters with rprosecutor, William Wyndham, at the trial of Hastings; she turns these into full-scale arguments about Hastings which she wins.

She has two people for her audience and critics of her court journals: her beloved sister, Susan Burney Phillips, and her close friend, Frederica Locke; these would arrive in instalments many months after the events had occurred. Susan would respond to the tale as if she didn’t know the present situation, but only in terms of what’s narrated, most of the time as if she didn’t know what was to come, as if it were a novel. Frances was actually producing a pathetic sorrowful text. She’d write of the early days of her relationshiop with Stephen Digby much later by which time Digby was already married. What we have is a memoir developed in tranquillity [using Wordsworth’s not altogether appropriate term here]; not something written to the moment where she doesn’t know what the future will bring. Claire Harman uses the phrase “super-retrospective:” we have someone not letting go of the past.

We see her doing this in 1812 where she tries to catch up to what’s happening. Frances echoes Boswell: she felt she could enjoy nothing without relating it. Again there had been 10 years where she was removed from relations and friends, this time interned in France.

If you compare the actual manuscripts to Barrett’s edition, you disover she sanitized in favor of the bland. Barrett removed the intensely effusive, the trivial and petty, some purely family news; some harsh criticism from Hester Thrale Piozzi, from the woman who married Goldsworthy (another courtier); pruned tediousness, repetition; anything too obviously egoistic. Barrett marginalized the male attention FBA made central to her stories. The summer at Cheltenham where the relationship with Digby (as a kind of Orville) is so central is cut entirely, including sentimentalized discussions, his reading of love poetry to Burney, lyrical passages of serenity, tender scenes of parting. All expunged. What FBA likes most to write about is what is removed. What appears to be a journal of George III’s illness is a journal of Digby’s courtship of FBA, which is structured as a romantic comedy in the vein of Evelina and Cecilia.

What we have is multi-layered complex re-structured life-writing
adrift in time, someone writing intensely while in isolation. The 5 years at court improved her technique enormously; she worked out something of a system for writing. After she was released from court, she quickly recovered from her depression. The court years were crucial, and what has been suppressed was we have here one of the UK’s great fictional writers masquerading as a diarist.

Ball at St James, 1786, Queen’s birthday

Elaine Bander’s paper, “Fanny, or a not-so-young lady’s entrance into the world,” was an account of FBA’s time at court from a perspective very different from that of Hester Davenport.

FBA entered the court at age 34; she was separated from her family, with no hope of marriage, her father delighted; Mary Delaney wanted FBA near her. Frances expressed her intense anguish to Susan alone; it was an exile from the country retreats at Chessington with “Daddy Crisp” where she had been so happy (a home free of the stepmother); at Mickleham with Susan, at Norbury Park with the Lockes. The ritual and customs of the court meant she had to devise strategies to get alert time to herself. the 1st year: a primary scene of battle was Mrs Schwellenberg’s tea-table. Visitors preferred to talk to Burney; FBA much preferred to spend her time with Mary Delaneybut was not able to. The way Burney survived was to sit there silently, which shocked Mary Delaney when Delaney saw it. Frances told Susan she tried to free herself by remaining aloof.

The 2nd year Burney renewed her resolve to make the best of her life; Peggy Planta (another courtier) told her they all longed to be free of the tea-table, but Delaney warned Burney not to try to make changes without the queen’s permission. In her earlier life Burney liked social assemblies, was eager to make new acquaintances; this delight in the world continued until 1784-86 when she begins to express frustration with the duties of social life. Burney began to find uncongenial the preoccupation with what’s expensive, dress and surveillance. These years saw the conflict with Hester Thrale emerge; Burney would not visit her in Bath, could not acknowledge that Piozzi was acceptable. So Hester Thrale Piozzi dropped Frances. George Owen Cambridge seems to be a real suitor, but he never declared himself. They enjoyed one another’s company sometimes deliriously; as years went on the relationship mutated; he was invited to parties and then for months he’d be absent. Frances felt the bluestockings watching her became insupportable.

So Frances began a campaign to extricate herself from her father’s socializing; she would say how tired she was. One 1784 letter shows her longing for quiet, to be by herself in the quiet, Norbury seems a refuge from George Owen Cambridge too. This new replacemtn for Chessington was lost when the Queen’s offer came; it would be 5 long hard years before she regained it.

Sandy, Windsor Forest scene

Geoffrey Sills’s paper, “Journalizing as epistolary fiction” carried the story to 1789, the year of the Court journal he is editing.

Building on Lorna Clark’s paper in the Age of Johnson on “Epistolarity in Burney,” he showed her characteristic techniques and moods as an epistolary narrator. Her writing and sending journals to Susan was more than therapeutic; she “aimed to enlist her readers’ sympathy, to reshape reality, not reflect it.” The journal’s real emphasis is the romance; FB ignores US and French revolutions, and the madness of George III mostly.

Lorna Clark tells the story of Digby’s courtship of FB. Digby’s family was socially well above Burney’s, but he was the 5th child in the family so not about to inherit a lot of money. His wife died; as he appears in the journal, he is pessimistic and melancholy when it comes to thinking about achieving happiness in life. Life resembles the “grotto of grief” in a Spectator paper of 1712. Burney’s taste did not always turn to the gothic; when she heard Walpole’s Myserious Mother read aloud, she declared it “truly dreadful” from “the atrocious guilt:” the play’s themes include incest between a son and mother, and Fb showed an indignant aversion to this “wilful” story. Another courtier, M. Charles de Guiffardiere (the queen’s French reader called by her Mr Turbulent) troubled her too with his sense of the depravity of human nature; he once grabbed her wrists to see what she was writing so she erased what she had.

The summer at Cheltenham enabled her to escape Guiffardiere and construct Digby as an ideal hero. George III’s illness figures as part of her romance. Digby burnt whatever papers he wrote; Burney presents him as a potential serious lover who stays in her room to escape the socially stultifying world; she records her emotional conflicts at night. By 1789 she was looking to Digby to rescue her; the possibility was remote; she was told about Charlotte Gunning but refused to believe Digby would marry Gunning; she insisted to herself he would remain unmarried except if forced by his family or Miss Gunning. But in December 1789 a letter from the queen with a wedding present for Digby forced her to face reality.

The several phases of her presentation of Hastings’s trial: Hastings had come to stand for ruthless colonialism; it had been expected that Pitt would stop the impeachment, but he did not. The trial lasted from 1788 for 7 years; a third to 2/3s of the peopele had died and the tide turned against making Hastings a scapegoat. Claire Harman compares FB’s recording to a transcript that appeared in the news; instead of seeing that she is miraculously getting down word-for-word just as the reporter, it could be she took the report and rewrote what she had. This enabled her to pose as a chronicle of the time; yet we know that she sent off some version to her sister & Fredy Locke quickly after the trial scenes were done. At the same time Susan was sending very long very well-written journal letters to Frances.

The texts are prisms, many sided narratives where you are locked into the stories, but once you go outside and have someone else’s take or evidence, it contradicts FBA. Charles Burney loved the second wife whom Frances claimed he never liked.


Sandby, Waterfall — a watershed

The discussion afterward was lively and provocative (I did think of Cecilia’s project in Book 5 of that novel to leave off wasting time with “undermining” people and read much more), but I thought instead of recounting what was said I’d cite a number of texts by the people giving papers and others which argue for the same or supporting points of view on FBA’s life writing.

Claire Harman’s literary biography on Frances Burney D’Arblay is the first book centrally to use the idea that the life-writing is brilliant imaginative rewriting and journalizing. This was very courageous of her because at the time Lars Troide was the controlling force of the editing staff and he insisted in his volumes and essays that the texts were all historical records, perhaps fixed a bit, but essentially history. He kept to the story of a miraculous memory and that line of argument dominated as did he for at least a decade. Harman’s is also a very enjoyable insightful book which unlike all but Hemlow does justice to Frances D’Ablay’s later years. Julia Epstein’s The Iron Pen had voiced the idea without elaborating.

Lorna Clark has three articles in this vein: “The Diarist as Novelist: Narrative Strategies in the Journals and Letters of Frances Burney,” English Studies in Canada, 27 (2001):283-302; “Epistolarity in Frances Burney,” Age of Johnson 20 (2010):193-222; “Dating the Undated: Layers of Narrative in Frances Burney’s Court Journals,” Life-Writing Annual 3 (2012):121-42. “Epistolary” goes over the use of epistolary techniques like those we find in Richardson, which partly accounts for the immediacy of the texts, as well as how the writing of the texts themselves becomes part of the story. “Dating the Undated” seems to me the most important because there Ms Clark from her long experience of editing shows how FBA wrote her narratives much later in time, sent them to Susan who responded as a good critic-novel reader; the two were collaborating in the re-writing of FBA’s life “in a way that answered her deepest needs.” A “turmoil” is continually going on beneath the surface of all her journals; in the court years she “remains deeply traumatized and fixated on the failure of her first love affair, and her rejection by George Cambridge. When she realized that Digby would not rescue her, she broke down altogether and began her campaign to escape through illness.

Earlier accounts include Ingrid Tieken Bouvan Ostade,”Stripping the Layers: Language and content of Fanny Burney’s Early Journals,” English Studies, 72:2 (1991):146-59. Remarkably because based just on a real reading of the first of Lars Troide’s Early Journals and Letters of Fanny Burney, Ostade comes to the same conclusions as Clark and all the others I’ve cited here. She carefully distinguishes the different layers which is helpful. Here I should not omit John Wiltshire’s “Journals and Letters” in the recent Cambridge Companion to FB, ed. Peter Sabor where based on 3 of Troide and Cooke’s EJL, Joyce Hemlow and her team’s 12 volumes and filling in with Ellis and Dobson’s editions from the papers and Barrett Wiltshire sees clearly that what we have is a many layered multi-voice fictionalized life-writing.

Paul Sandby, an untitled genre scene

I had high hopes for two further articles which disappointed me. One by Kathryn Kris, “A 70 Year Follow-up of a Childhood Learning Disability: the case of Fanny Burney,” The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 1983 (34):637-53, I thought might be of real help, from a psychoanalytical periodical, supposedly showing her compulsion to write the result of her 8 year dislexia and the humiliations it caused; it made a little stir in Burney studies, where people acknowledged she was “onto something,” but then anxiously hurried to deny FBA was disabled permanently or even at all. The essay itself was written in such a mild tactful it was almost useless. It didn’t convince because Kris was unwilling frankly to discuss FBA’s lifelong writing of her life as a fictionalized novel where much that we have is made up and starting with the court years written much later with the addition new habit of going back to earlier years and rewriting these to some extent too.

I also thought I’d like Linda Lang Peralta’s “Clandestine Delight: Frances Burney’s Life-Writing,” in Women’s Life-Writing: Finding Voice/Building Community (Bowling Green State University Press, 1997):23-43. Peralta’s idea — very reasonable — was that the persona or mood and attitude of FBA changed over time. I’d noticed this many times and know I prefer the later FBA, especially the woman who wrote the journal-letters of her time in Europe where she follows, stays near, and finally rescues her husband from Waterloo. Her later writing is more emotional, franker, more openly melancholy and yearning. But Peralta is taken by the work of Mary Field Belenky which purports to give a scientific documentary basis to Carol Gilligan’s book on a different psychology and development for women. The problem is it’s not scientific; Belenky claims too she did this working out with a team of women who wonderfully came to the same conclusions. It’s all Utopian (one can see that some of the women dominated over the others) and the schemes are too rigid and upbeat. The essay is good when it does into specifics, e.g., accounting for say Burney at the time she rejects Madame de Stael upon the advice of her father, but as a general account is not persuasive.

Among other things, what is happening is the Burney people are admitting that John Wilson Croker’s famous attack on Burney that it was impossible for her to have remembered so much, and the work was a fiction. Also the assertions of the few who had themselves witnessed the events told in the diaries or knew people who had and had told them something of them that FBA’s account was very far from an accurate record. We need to say that the value of the writing is in its imaginative realization.


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Frontispiece for Phillis Wheatley’s poems

Dear friends and readers,

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

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


From a 2007 film adaptation of Justine

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

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

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

From a 1986 production of Behn’s The Rover

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

Samantha Morton as Jane Eyre (1997 film)

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

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


Edward Young (1681-1765)

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

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

Elizabeth Montagu (1718-1800)

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

Felicia Hemans, recent edition of her poems and letters

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

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

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


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