Posts Tagged ‘theater’

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717)

Dear readers and friends,

Back from this year’s EC/ASECS (its 50th anniversary) at Gettysburg, I’m re-filled with enthusiasm for all things long 18th century, and return with new topics to think about, new perspectives, and old interests made new. Among the highlights for me of the evening and two days, was a guided visit during the long lunch on the first day through a Maria Sibylla Merian exhibit at the Schmucker Art Gallery on the Gettysburg campus, made richer by a lecture given later that afternoon by its professorial curator, Kay Etheridge. I heard that first morning intriguing papers on theater which attempted to get beyond the relics, remnants, remains in the form of verbal texts, costumes and setting to convey to us today what the experience of the theatrical representation might have been like in concrete breathing, noisy, living details. What are our aids today and were used in the 18th century to capture the fleeting presence performing in our memories.

Of course I was deeply engaged by the panel I chaired where we were once again immersed in Samuel Johnson (with a little bit of help from Boswell), and in the panel dedicated to Jacobitism where I gave my paper where themes of colonialism, migrancy, and religious-political conflicts emerged. But in this first of two blogs on this conference I will just write about the conference’s first panel on theater, the group trip to the Art Gallery and talks on Maria Sibylla Merian. As with last and a couple of years previous the views I offer and accounts of papers are necessarily partial since I could attend but one panel at a time, and my summary reports are imprecise, and omit much because my stenography is not what it once was.


A frontispiece from Bell’s British Theater

I was fascinated by the first panel on theatrical history (Friday morning, session 1, 9-10:15), chaired by Matthew Kinservik. One of the central questions coming out of Jane Wessel’s “Samuel Foote’s Strategic Ephemerality” was the problem that the theatrical experience disappears as it is acted. How do you know, study, understand performances before there were moving pictures (photography, movies, films, DVDs, video, digital YouTubes). Jane said professional enacted mimicry; that they looked in the scripts to enable imitation. Diaries, journals, and news descriptions constitute snapshots; you puzzle over what is meant by the familiar “character performed with additions.” Her paper attempted to get beyond the notion that ephemerality means loss: performances can escape censorship, others could not control what was immediately represented; you were as much going to see the performer as the work; the performed was the work. She showed evidence of Foote attempting to lure people using print. She read a footnote telling the reader which actors or actresses were imitating which.

Aparna Gollapudi’s “Theater in the Reading Closet: Bell’s Frontispieces” attempted to uncover what literally happened, live performances and audience response similarly. She discussed the texts, pictures, paratexts (like frontispieces) that circulated after a performance. The pictures do what they can to bring into people’s “closets” (rooms, homes) actual experiences of the stage. But they also are fanciful and illustrate what the audience might like to dream could epitomize the action or character but is in reality not possible for stage action. She showed a favorite print of a scene from Cibber’s Careless Husband which in the script occurred before the play began (two principals having sex); a moral play like Steele’s Conscious Lovers is accompanied by a picture which is not moral, but comic, leering, hinting at sexual availability. The frames outside the print have playful vignettes. Sometimes an actor is pictured in roles never played; substitutions like this abound as celebrity culture does its work. Illustrators were a kind of play critic, a reader of inner dreams of what did not happen.

Matthew’s “Charles Macklin’s Career as Theatre Manager” was about how the written records do not begin to record Macklin’s varied remarkable work for decades on the stage.

John Conde’s 1792 engraving of a painting of Macklin (from John Opie’s painting)

Macklin was not just an actor and playwright; if you pay attention to who is on the stage, who is involved in the acting, staging, presentation, you discover that for 30 years (1740-72) he acted, taught (he had in effect an acting school at a coffee house), deputy managed the most popular famous plays and actors (Garrick, Foote) too. He was one of those who could make up for the incompetence and parsimony of Fleetwood. He lectured on acting. As the novelty of some of what he did wore off, he behaved in less dignified ways, he found himself ridiculed. It seems one problem Macklin had was he angered people, another he had no money of his own to invest.He was a bankrupt in the 1750s, but went to Dublin and became a partner in the Crowe St Theater competing against Smock Alley. He got into disputes with Barry. In London his expertise in great acting roles (Shylock, Macbeth) was recognized by Colman. But his paper trail is through the courts: his Love a la Mode was so popular he declined to print it and would sue people for performing it.

In the general discussion afterwards people talked of those who could do shorthand and would take down quaker speeches and found that publishers and other people went after them to stop. As a stenographer who could once upon a time take down every word people said at a meeting, this interested me. I have experienced many different reactions to and uses of my ability to do this: early on, a lawyer I worked for used my work to his advantage in negotiations; later on as a graduate student in committee meetings I curbed myself rather than become too involved. They also talked of the terms of legal suits.

A second topic I started was about (I suppose) celebrity. I said that on face-book I noticed YouTubes put on of incidents in serial dramas that never occurred. I eventually learned these sorts of re-doings of bits of videos in order to change the scene (usually to make it more sentimental, more erotic, sometimes to make fun of something) are common. Many focus on a famous or admired star. No one but me appeared bothered about this. I suggested this sort of falsifying (as I see it) is the modern version of fanciful illustrations of theatrical scenes and actors in the 18th century.


Pear Blossom?

I wish I could do justice to the talk by the graduate student-curator who took a group of us through the exhibition — together with an art history professor. I came away with a slender catalogue paperback, Artful Nature and the Legacy of Maria Sibylla Merian, where the major pictures in the gallery are reproduced together with essays by the students on Merian’s life, science, the social norms of her class as well as the work of three other naturalists of Merian’s era.

From Merian’s Metamorphosis Insectorum Surianemensium (she went to Surinam)

I was able to take down some of what Prof. Kay Etheridge (biologist) told the whole conference in her talk in the afternoon. Merian was the daughter of an middle class artist, Matthäus Merian the Elder, and was highly educated. Her father died in 1650, and in 1651 her mother remarried Jacob Marrel, the flower and still life painter. Marrel encouraged Merian to draw and paint. While he lived mostly in Holland, his pupil Abraham Mignon trained her. She married Marrel’s apprentice, and had two daughters, but eventually separated from him. She gave drawing lessons to the daughters of the wealthy and this gave her access to their gardens; she collected specimens, insects, studied botany, and devoting herself to her art and studies, she produced pattern books, and became a much respected scientific illustrator and then naturalist; she was among the first to study insects directly. Prof Etheridge went over (as far as she could) the steps Merian might have taken as she gained expertise. What was remarkable was she put the life cycles of insects together with plants. She wrote, engraved, published remarkable books, financing herself to go to Dutch Surinam. She talked to the indigenous people and to enslaved people and wrote about their desperation (how the women cared deeply for their children and would even kill them rather than see them grow up into an enslaved person); an indigenous woman accompanied her home. Her images tell ecological stories and Prof Fletcher showed how. We can see great cruelty in nature in some of what is observed in many of these illustrations.

Among the famous and wealthy who wrote or commemorated her: Alexander Humboldt named a flower after her; Hans Sloane collected her work; Tsar Peter; she was imitated by many major and minor scientific illustrators. Popularizers spread her work, e.g., Friedrich J. Bertuch in his picture books for children, attempting to teach a scientific way of seeing the world (published between 1780 and 1839); in English she cited Oliver Goldsmith. She talked about the 18th century naturalist, horticulturist, and illustrator Mark Catesby (1683-1749) best known for witty books based on his observations in the Carolinas, Florida and Bahama Islands. Catesby’s work is included in the exhibit.

The Gettysburg art gallery had another exhibit, the work of Andrew Ellis Johnson and Susanne Slavick dwelling on the present humanitarian crisis around the world; it consists of images, chosen poetry (a psalm by Wislawa Szymborska), essays (one by Suketu Mehta), commentaries on politics. historical incidents. I took home the catalogue for this too. It includes Warsan Shire’s


no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten …

For the rest and about Shire, click here.

New butterfly named after Merian (Smithsonian Museum page)


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Those who come to this blog regularly know I’ve written about Chris Brindle’s musical play of Jane Austen’s Sanditon completed by way of Anna Lefroy’s extension before, and of an available DVD. Well here is a reminder that the performance is now 11 days away (!) in London, at the “other place,” Victoria, in London, Friday, July 26th, 8 pm.

Once again the poster:

Just below (as prelude) the song “Dishonoured’ in rehearsal. In this version of events Mr Tracy manages to bring down the Bank of Eastbourne, from which Tom Parker is borrowing money to pay for the land he is buying from Lady Denham, and where Lady Denham has all her money on deposit. Because of this Lady Denham is outraged that she cannot afford to buy a new coach. Thus

A narrated concert version of a proposed full stage production. They are using a small stage in a cabaret like environment. Lovely and rousing songs, a remarkable contemporary story, intriguing colorful characters, some originally invented by Austen. See also for more information, pictures, music https://twitter.com/brindle_chris

I wish I could go …


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A 2017 production of Etheredge’s Man of Mode

A painting of an unknown young woman in the Berger Collection, Denver Art Museum

Friends and readers,

I held off writing about the rest of the autumn EC/ASECS conference separate sessions this past fall at the East Central, American 18th century society, a regional group (for a brief account and link to my paper on “Intertextuality: Charlotte Smith, Prior and Crabbe in Persuasion”), I held, I say, off for so long that I have lost my stenographer’s pad of what my now slow weak fingers and clumsier hands can capture. So I have determined not to wait so long for transcribing what was I able to take down, from the ASECS (American 18th century Society) conference I went to three weeks ago, March.

For the rest of the EC/ASECS I’ve described what the trip ordeal was like and what I saw of Denver in my Sylvia II blog Afterpiece (scroll down, not too far) and the two panels, Factual Fictions and Fictional Facts, one of which I chaired, and in one of which I gave my paper on the historical fiction of Winston Graham. Now I can offer a summary of the keynote lecture.

Matthew Kinservik on Etherege’s “Man of Mode and Its influence on 18th century comedy” has just been published in the March issue of the Intelligencer this year too. He asked why such an “oddly unfunny play” should have been such a hit and deemed representative of the finest intellect, controlled emotionalism, and satiric nature of comedy in the Restoration era. He explicated Steele’s adverse response and Dennis’s defense of the play. From close reading this debate Matt demonstrated that The Man of Mode survived as a period piece, highly artificial, a throw-back to an earlier era, historically acceptable, in which a central (no longer socially admired) aristocratic type, Dorimant, does whatever he wants and is made acceptable by the hypocritical codes of England “of the past.” It was therefore seen as safe, non threatening, and as a flattering view of the Restoration — all the while presenting sex-antagonism, on a bedrock of spite, as a serious exposure of earlier (still ambiguously attractive) norms. Etherege’s text emerges as even then (the early 18th century) the darker play it feels like and must be played for today. Perhaps I should have mentioned that of two of the plays performed in the Blackfriars theater next door to our conference while we were there, one was The Man of Mode — so after Matt’s paper we had quite a frank discussion and dispute over all sorts of aspects of the production, which used costumes that combined 21st century motifs with later 17th century ones.

Walking in the Wood (Davies’s 2007 NA)

Onto ASECS, Denver:  I link Matt’s lecture/paper to a Thursday afternoon session on “The Eighteenth Century on Film” (a NE/ASECS panel) where the topic was TV movies mostly, popular social art of our own time, using texts either from or based on 18th century history. Sarah Schaefer gave a paper (and did a power-point presentation of on the openings, framings (paratexts) of Black Sails, Outlander, Poldark and Westeros, Westworld and Games of Thrones were all brought together.

Poldark paratext (2015 — the oceans of the world gazed at)

Outlander paratext (2015 — linking 18th to 20th century world)

She argued the point of the images was to build a global world in which we see geopolitical tropes at play. Poldark is the most heritage-like of the costume drama films she covered; in Outlander the fantastical leads to a historical setting. In these liminal vast pictorial spaces we enter foregroundings of humanistic feelings and themes. Emily Sferra spoke on Andrew Davies’s 2007 adaptation of Austen’s Northanger Abbey: she criticized the film for making Henry as teacher of needed moral lessons to Catherine instead of allowing Catherine’s movement from a naive response to gothic to a mature understanding of how true terror, oppression, cruelty enters our lives. She felt Davies had lost Austen’s peculiar satirical tone. The movie also pleases the male gaze and desire (say) to look at other males as JJ Fields is sexy in an elegant artificial way. I add that in that this interest in the male body and beauty Andrew Davies’s NA then resembles the movies Sarah Schaefer was discussing. Zoe Eckmann made a case for regarding the depiction of female sexuality in The Favourite as liberating for the 21st century female gazer; she saw it as satire presenting women as aggressors. It overturns the way we expect women to behave submissively; audiences don’t care about historical accuracy.

Emma Stone as Abigail Masham

Rachel Weisz and Olivia Coleman and Lady Churchill and Queen Anne

The audience for these papers turned out to be people who had watched precisely these film adaptations with real care and investment of themselves. I presented an argument against Zoe’s view (made in my blog-review a couple of months ago: “Repulsive, obscene, gut-level anti-feminism”) and then the conversation became as lively as the one over Matt’s paper and the production of Man of Mode that audience saw. I wish I could remember all that was said, we went way over time ….


On Friday early morning, I again found myself able to take down what was said about Gilpin and his relationship to other landscape gardeners and illustrators on “The Landscape Garden in the Eighteenth Century” panel. Elizabeth Mjelde talk on Gilpin’s work at Stowe began unexpectedly in Sri Lanka where she located evidence of the global impact of Gilpin’s work in an English officer’s private commonplace book about seeking new sciences for transforming the landscape, exploring it, testing it. In a place where harsh colonialist practices were the norm, here are dialogues and pictures about one’s duty to keep the desire for retirement, and another way of life “in its place.” Dana Gliseman’s paper was about the intersection of literary and artful imaginative terrains (descending from Gilpin) with concrete literal places. The ha-ha comes from a desire to make a trompe-d’oeil. I think she meant to suggest that the central concern with sexual reproduction (marriage, sexual transgression) found in characters in novels otherwise highly pictorial and picturesque show a linkage between landscape, the natural world and moral meaning.

Villa Medici, Fiesole

I assume others like me when we moved from these papers citing the usual English novels (Tristram Shandy, Sidney Biddulph, Mansfield Park), to Felix Martin’s remarkable talk on the development of landscape art (JW Turner), then schools of picturesque and classical architecture, parks which are genuinely global, rooted in documentable history, and finally considered philosophical aesthetics — were bowled over. Mr Martin was himself an architect who has studied in Italy, Dublin and the Warburg Institute and he brought a wealth of slides to enable us to journey through time and space and end on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesen (his own country seat in Wisconsin), landscaped houses, and those of followers of his work. He went over different architectural schools as seen say in Blenheim and the Medici gardens in Fiesole, Castle Howard (familiar to some of us as Brideshead in the movie). He moved from the writing of Shaftesbury to Blake, to modern landscape design in Arizona. As Olmstead had come up in the panel I chaired where there was a paper on the later Gilpin-rooted influences on environmentalism, so Olmstead came up again as against false pomposity and for a cosmopolitanism that builds with local geography and flora in mind. The Denver park is an Olmstead creation.

Wright’s creations in Taliesen restore the landscape


Prometheus Painting by Prince Hoare

I’ve two more papers to report, one from a Friday mid-morning panel called “Picturing the Stage,” the other the key note address of the conference by Melissa Hyde on women artist of the era, especially two almost unknown Frenchwomen, much of whose work seems to have disappeared. Mark Ledbury’s “Painter, Playwright, Entrepreneur: Prince Hoare in 1790s London told the remarkable story of a man whose father had been a painter, and who somehow went to good schools, learned several lagnauges, got himself to Rome where he was supported and befriended by radical talent and rich people (Fuseli, and the Cortellini family) who was continually re-inventing himself, and turned to acting, to writing plays (one farce out of a tragedy), left a book of fascinating essays about his own era from an artistic and theater man’s point of view called The Artist. He asked why is this man forgotten and the answer he came up with is “art history” is still plagued with and organized around (money given) the respectable known canon

Marianne Loir, Portrait of a Gentleman reading

The title of Melissa Hyde’s “Ambitions, Modest and Otherwise: Women and the Visual Arts in France,” emphasizes the perspective of her talk: the struggle of women artists to find time and space and materials to paint with, to find clients to paint for, to have them recognized, their name known and talked about. Women artists had the problem unreal depictions of the female body were used as a matter of course to embody “the glory and fame” denied most women whose bodies did not at all look so well-fed and fecund. She discussed French 18th century women artists and learned women whose names have come down to us, whose rare but nowadays sometimes re-printed books are known, findable, in print even. She contrasted the famous successful Vigee LeBrun (with brilliant memoirs to make her presence understood). The first woman is Marianne Loir, who died age 28. She painted Jean-Francois de Troy; produced a portrait of Madame de Chatelet. she never married and appears to have lived independently, alone for a while and also with a sister. Francois Hubert was her teacher; Prof Hyde showed us images Loir made of women as young girls, society ladies, ordinary unidealized people. Prof Hyde was forced to start her lecture late (an unnecessarily prolonged giving out of prizes ate the time up), and I had to rush away to my panel, so only heard of the beginning of Mme Lusuler’s career (I am not even sure I have her name correctly): she painted men, a “boy with a violin,” psychologically revealing portraits. She was well-connected, studied with academy teachers, received an “eloge” in two columns


I had to leave on Saturday sometime mid-morning at the latest so missed a panel I would have loved to hear, “Marriage Rites and Marriage Wrongs: Feminist Thinking, especially a paper Condorcet: “One injustice can never become a legitimate reason to commit another (on women’s suffrage and marriage reform) by Guillaume Ansart; “Domestic Tyranny and Civil Slavery: Marriage in Catherine Macauley’s History of England” by Wendy Gunther-Canada;” Louise d’Epinay as a site to study the need to reform marriage and the state through education.” There was in the early morning a panel on health and disease in the 18th century chaired by Chris Mounsey (he chairs excellent panels on disability). But I did the wise thing in leaving at 9 am or so: given plane delays, airport troubles the trip took me 9 hours, and I needed to be home on Sunday to work towards my teaching, to drive Izzy to ice-skating, to say nothing of resting myself.

Unknown little girls in the Berger collection — each girl has a symbolic toy

I also did not attend a panel I could have: at 9:45 on Thursday morning, chaired by Benedicte Miyamoto, four papers on artists: three enjoyable sounding papers were Sarah Bakkali, “The Portfolio as Portable Museum: Disrupting French Collecting Practices,” Cristina S. Martinez’s “The Removal of Poussin’s Sacramento from Italy: smuggling, displacing cultural property and developing copyright,” and Louisiane Ferlier’s “Royal Society: Classifying the Collections then and now,” which Benedicte followed up with a visit for her panelist at the Denver Art Museum were they viewed the Denver Berger Collection. I know about this (noticed it) only because this Friday night I went to Eleanor Shevlin and Sabrina Baron’s Washington Area Print group’s talk by Benedicte (on her study of marginalia and reading practices in artistic manuals) and afterwards their dinner (or supper) at a local Thai restaurant. She and I got to talking of the conference we found we had both attended, and she told me of this panel (which I had missed) and showed me the above picture on her cell phone. Another graces the top of this blog.

I did not mention in my blog on my panels what a good time some people in the hotel appeared to be having on Friday evening. There was a concert on harpsichord and flute by two 18th century women musicians, Elisabetta de Gambarini and Anna Bon, both of whom seem to have had a hard life (one included beating by a husband): I attended this concert, quiet and unassuming and lovely. A film was shown in another part of the hotel. There was another concert in another venue further off (you needed to get a cab). People were drinking and began to play Dungeons and Dragons it was said — in 18th century costumes?

I did see some old friends (had coffee with them), and made some new acquaintances; got myself used to eating breakfast out of Starbucks (they have good coffee and yummy croissants) and hoarding snacks in my room. I took home a new edition of poetry by Charlotte Smith and bought on a discount when I got home two more biographies (of Catherine Clive and of Charlotte Lennox). I went to an enjoyable Burney dinner Friday evening, which dinner lasted until well after 10, and afterwards up to bed. I have still not tried to master putting on or changing the channels of any of the buttonless TVs in these fancy modern large hotels. It is still just that too much to ask. I worry the programs will be awful and I will not be able to turn the thing off.

And so ended another conference for me, not just this past Friday night but also in the act of writing out, and remembering what happened and some of what was said that I was able to join in on.


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Dear friends and readers,

It feels wrong to have an Austen reveries blog where of late I so rarely post on Austen herself: yes, she’s a cynosure, sign under which women’s art, l’ecriture-femme, women writers may find sympathetic hearing; yes, if she be not an 18th century writer, I know not where an 18th century writer is to be found. But since I finished the reading and discussion of Austen’s letter and at least the opening of the Austen papers, I’ve not found much occasion to write something useful or (one of my goals for this blog) insightful on Austen’s texts. I hope to remedy this a wee bit tonight.

This week I went to a splendid lecture at the Smithsonian museum by Deborah Lutz out of her book, The Bronte Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects, which reminded me of the methodology of Bryne’s finest accurate book on Austen where she finds 18 small (and larger) objects to dwell on: The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things. When I asked a couple of questions and commented on Lutz’s lecture, as did many others (she was generous enough to stay for a full half-hour and addressed herself sincerely to the questions), she confirmed that the core idea of her book, what shapes its presentation, was Byrne’s book. She also credited Claire Harman’s Jane’s Fame, for her sceptical outlook over the Austen’s family’s attitude towards her published writing. I can confirm all three are lucidly written, perceptive, and the first two especially offer a wide range of the sense of life of the era through material objects and intimate doings and norms.

Lutz talked of museums as places which preserve relics secularly conceived. In this pre-photography period where death was so ubiquitous, and paper so expensive, people turned to objects to preserve the life they had loved and made theirs meaningful. Her lecture was thus about death, and how the Victorians did not flinch from body parts even if an increasing number of people lacked a religious sensibility. Lutz discussed how Charlotte specifically but Victorians in general meditated the relics, scrapbooks, drawings, relics they all created. It was a lecture about death, Victorian ways of accepting and living around and through the omnipresent reality, especially strong in this family. Gaskell thinks we are centrally taught about life through death.In the Brontes’ case they preserved plants, flowers, the person’s hair, hand-written lines of poetry, small furniture, the dogs’ collars. Charlotte was a superb visual illustrator and they preserved her drawings of the places they had been and objects acquired. Byrne concentrates on objects found in the novels, and especially how they were acquired by the Austens in life and related to what they were doing then and are transmuted indirectly into the novels. It is a deeply secular book as befits Austen somehow. Things here and now and found in the novels as allusive objects. The opening phase of Harman’s book is similar: how do we relate what we read what’s in the family poetry, memoirs, with what we know literally of Austen’s life at that point. She shows how little respect Austen had at first, how her brother was jealous, and how the legacy grew from James-Edward Austen-Leigh whose book she rightly concentrates on.



I’ve been thinking about Austen’s relationship to the theater of her time — you could call this another aspect of the real life and things surrounding Austen (not so much the Brontes who lived so far off from the “center”). Are there not enough playbooks to pile them up readily on tables in Mansfield Park? Marianne Dashwood has a TBR pile. Anne Eliot a veritable library of life-writing and texts to help one through grief and depression, to rebel with? We must remember the novel did not become ubiquitous until near the end of the 18th century. People read sermons, they read texts to help with emotionally distraught states designed as ways to resign yourself religiously, to cope with death. For entertainment and subversion, throughout the 18th century people continued to read plays the way we might today read a novel. The wealthy in great houses acted them out. Mid-century the novel was just emerging as a popular form and circulating libraries would not have a substantial stock until later in the century. Respectability came with Scott and later for women Austen and her followers. The unspoken reality of plays was their lack of respectability didn’t matter, was their raison d’etre. These books of plays were often several single plays bound together. You can find them in research libraries. I own a 5 volume set — beautifully done — printed in 1804. It has learned essays at the opening of the 2 volumes of comedy (on comedy), the 2 volumes of tragedy (on tragedy), and 1 volume of farce, burlesque and opera (ditto for 3). The volume of comedy is about 1/3 from the restoration and early 18th century.

Mrs Siddons as Southerne’s Isabella with her son as Isabella’s child (Wm Hamilton)

It’s probable Austen read this sort of thing, that her father had versions of it in the library. Let us recall the recorded reality that among the gentry people acted out amateur plays. I’ve always wondered what they did for individual scripts – – someone had to copy parts out. A guide to what people were willing to discuss and quote are two books which record what plays people did.I really recommend reading (for fun) Robert Noyes’s The neglected muse &Thesian Mirror. The neglected muse is about Restoration and 18th century plays played; Thespian Mirror is sheerly Shakespeare. He has taken into account people did the revisions that were popular (Garrick’s where Romeo and Juliet wake up first and then die; Tate’s Lear). He’s read about 900 novels and tells the stories of productions in these novels, or quotations found in them, allusions, but mostly productions. Edgeworth has her characters in Patronage act out Aaron Hills’ transation of one of Voltaire’s popular plays — that reminds us that people read and watched French (and Italian too) drama in translation (when they were translated). In the 1790s books of German plays were translated: the Folger has a whole bunch of these, and I’ve read in them. Much better translation of Lovers Vows than Inchbald’s by a man named Thompson. Also plays made out of novels in the 1790s were available: there’s two from Radcliffe, one from “Monk” Lewis.

Mrs Young as Hortensia

The way to gauge what Austen might really be alluding to is to see the plays she openly cites: look at the ones cited in MP: the interesting thing is how many come from the later 18th century, and how many are mixed (tragi-comedy). Tom wants to do The Heir at Law: there Austen is alluding to his unfitness because the play has an unfit heir. We can adduce Shakespeare here and there because of Austen’s explicit remarks about her reading and what she thought English people read at the time. She avoids the ribald. We are told by family records the Austens in their barn preferred comedy – -these pseudo-oriental harem nonsense, but that James loved tragedy and sometimes won.


While the Noyes’ volumes might be superior for the purpose of understanding the full milieu of Austen’s reading and dramatic allusions, Paula Byrne (again) and Penny Gay’s books on Austen and the Theater jump directly from Austen’s allusions to plays in her letters and what there is in the novel (as well as speculation); the problem here is they do sometimes go on about a play they have little solid evidence in the novel for because they’d like to believe this play is alluded to. They use Austen’s letters — overread them. All you need is one reference and Byrne acts as if Austen memorized the play just about. But as histories of drama gone to, read, familiar in the period, they are useful concrete descriptions of the milieu.

What we do see is the gradual censoring of the ribald, a growth in proto-feminism, at least more strong women in strong roles. There were women playwrights at the end of the era and some of Austen’s comments in her letters and allusions ferreted out by Byrne and Gay show she did favor these in her reading or had read them (like Hannah Cowley’s play).
That Austen read and alluded to drama is so and that allusions are there is so if you base your suppositions on what Austen clearly says (she has no reason to hide the sort of thing she alludes to — she wants her readers to understand her) or alludes to, and her letters if used with discretion are helpful. Also records of what was played in London, Southampton, Bath while she or relatives were there.


Last the early translations, another way into Austen’s texts: the Francophone world of publishing and the Anglophone were in continual exchange. In London French texts are continually published; English novels are translated into French language — and culture — continually (and find their way to Italy, Germany, even Russia). I rejoice to say the early French translations of Austen’s texts are now all available now in good texts for a reasonable price.



Some are typed books.  LLC Classic series from Memphis offers the whole book typed, proof read carefully, and evenly distributed from page to page in three columns (rather like Book-of-the-Month club used to do in the 1950s).  I have two copies of two different hard-to-buy books among my Jane Austen library of this type. One is Isabelle de Montolieu’s French translation of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility — if you buy the commercial copy you will find it’s been doctored, changed by a modern translator to come closer to Austen — which kills the value of the book. The typed version of Isabelle de Montolieu’s Raison et Sensibilite does not include her even more invaluable preface. It was reprinted by Gilson in his magisterial bibliography of 1998. You can purchase a similarly typed version of the early 19th century French translation of Pride and Prejudice by Eloise Perks (1822), Orgueil et Prevention; said by those who have studied the issue the best of the contemporary translations.

Some are facsimiles of varying quality. I cite the ones which are readable, include the complete text, reliable.


There is a facsimile of the French translation of Isabelle de Montolieu’s Persuasion, La Famille Elliot ou l’Ancienne Inclination, and I rejoice to say it includes her invaluable preface – she explains her choices, tells how Austen was regarded by a serious French reader of women’s books at the time. It’s not beautifully done; it looks like someone just put the book down on a scanner and the pages are smaller than the white page alloted to each but you can read it. ISBN 9781273394805 Elibron does a much better job at this — I love Elibron facsimiles.


For Mansfield Park, Hachette has produced a beautiful three volume set from la Biblioteque Nationale de France: La parc de Mansfield, ou Les Trois Cousines, translator Henry Vilemain. ISBN 9782012570368


For Emma there are the beautifully done volumes by Hachette: La Nouvelle Emm, ou Les caracteres angelas du siecle. The translator is unknown. You can now also buy an FB edition, one volume, La Nouvelle Emma, all four volumes in one, beautifully typed ISB 9781503193185.

And for Northanger Abbey, I have the 1946 reprint by classiques Garnier of the very best translation into Frenc of an Austen text that exists:  Felix Feneon’s Catherine Morland, done from prison (he was an anarchist and came closer to her spirit than anyone else ever has). See my essay focusing on this brilliant translation in the context of translations of Sense and Sensibility.

CoverLiteraryChannel (Medium)
Another excellent volume I’ve described in earlier blogs


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Kate Eastwood Norris as Mary with Nancy Robinette as Hannah Kennedy, her beloved nurse

Dear friends and readers,

This past Saturday Izzy and I were riveted into intense watching and listening at the latest production of Peter Oswald’s translation of Schiller’s Mary Stuart at the Folger. As I discover Izzy and I (with Jim) saw precisely this play done before, and here in DC, by the WSC company when it was in Arlington, I won’t go into detail but to say it’s praiseworthy for much the same reasons as the WSC and London productions before it. This translation and its director, Richard Clifford, has once again strangely, considering that Mary Stuart was no rebel against state power, and as to her political machinations anything but virtuous, well-meaning, selfless, and Elizabeth the admirable controlled person genuinely seeking the interest of the people in her state as her best support, turned this famous execution into a parable where Mary stands for framed victims of ruthless state power, while Elizabeth, however sympathized with, a tortured jealous female tyrant. When in January 2013, we three saw the HD Met production of Maria Stuarda, Joyce Didonato became this poignant figure with whom the audience is urged to identify, the emphasis focused on worlds of prisons, and executions deliberately turned into savage spectacles. I was then moved further to point out how since Schiller, Scott’s Kenilworth and Abbot and Monastery, and a series of movies since were moving into new distortions so that Elizabeth is now becoming the compensatory glamorous victim by virtue of her love for Leicester and Essex and their betrayal of her and I wrote about the Cate Blanchett films with Joseph Fiennes as the young Leicester, and for part two, Barbara Flynn as an aging evil Mary.

Is it probably true to say the modern audience which might care that what happened between Martin Luther King and President Johnson at Selma is misrepresented by the recent otherwise good (if pious) movie, does not care that what these two women were in life? If so, that’s a problem in itself, as it suggests we don’t care about the few powerful women who rise to prominence in history. But if a feminist complained that once again women are ultimately being judged as sexual creatures, and that is the source of the antagonism to Elizabeth and refusal to see her as the powerful effective ruler, the reply could or would be, but see how central are the women, how respected and treated with dignity and concern and allowed to be moving psychological portraits. And the performances of just about all the actors was stunningly good, and as the women have been praised elsewhere strongly, I’ll single out Louis Butelli as Sir Amias Poulet who was Cassius in this company’s recent Julius Caesar, and Paul-Emile Cendron as the utterly untrustworthy, half-crazed religious fanatic, Mortimer. It is curious how other types from this era seem to re-fit our own. Why hold out? Two people on my Under the Sign of Sylvia I blog said they had and regretted it.

Holly Twyford as Elizabeth with her advisors

I think perhaps because of the quieter costumes and complete lack of distraction at the Folger (just a somber background prison, little furniture, lights used to suggest the wood) this time though I also found myself wondering how the audience felt watching it; they were an intelligent group; how did they take it? If we want to have plays about our modern militarist security states, surely we could write more directly about them? Surely many were watching this drama to watch this female rivalry. It’s known that Eastwood Noris and Twyford are partners in life and are planning a wedding this summer and I heard audience members discussing that. For me it was also an opportunity to watch 18th century dramaturgy because the play clearly descends from the she-tragedies of the 18th century and Dryden’s formulation that admiration should be part of the tragic emotion. As Izzy and I were walking away, we talked of the biographies of Mary Stuart we’d read and she said that the recent one by Fraser showed that Mary had to marry, that once she was forced out of France, she found herself surrounded by in effect gangs of male thugs in Scotland, and it was her regent, John Murray who handed her over to Elizabeth and was ultimately her triumphant enemy. She was thinking of the real Mary Stuart’s life, failed alliances and political military contexts.

Probably I was also led to think this way this time because recently I’d read a fine essay by Sabrina Baron in Leggott and Taddeo’s Upstairs and Downstairs: British Costume Drama from The Forsyte Saga to Downton Abbey. In Baron’s “Desacralizing the icon: Elizabeth I on Television,” she surveys the large number of films featuring the character or figure of Elizabeth I throughout the 20th and into the 21st century. Baron suggests her icon in in the Renaissance era was manipulated to present an transcendent female figure effectively doing what men did, a kind of male in hieratic female dress; in the 20th century she is “a sexualized female stereotype who failed at love and motherhood and did little of consequence.” If you look at her time, you see to many Elizabeth was a mystery, a curiosity, an anomaly, not an abomination. What she proceeded to do gradually was showcase her virginity, insist on it as what wedded her to England. In 1596 an order was issued that all unflattering portraits of the queen should be destroyed. As a consequence a very few depictions of Elizabeth for real in her later years have survived. What was one to do with this unmarrying, unreproducing, later undesirable woman. Her relationships with Leicester and Essex (and others) so romanticized were in the real era about their desire for financial favor, and political preferment. So you did not present her as a woman once she got older. Baron sees both ploys as erasure, and the modern reversals as revenge.

They had witty exchanges

Baron’s essay is so chock-a-block with so many films (she also covers some cinema) and details I can just offer a few. She covers US films, especially the influential Bette Davis and Errol Flynn. I was startled to discover the second BBC film about this queen was an adaptation of Kenilworth and starred a very young Jeremy Irons as Leicester and Gemma Jones as Elizabeth. Scott was first adapted in in 1956 and then 1967. Both videos were alas wiped out. Irons returned in the same role on HBO in 2005 in a wildly popular version of Elizabeth the Queen, with Helen Mirren (Hugh Dancy the Essex). A sad fall away from Jane Tennison. Alessandra Stanley (who wrote a sequel to GWTW) was a rare critic to dare to show how it wallowed in painful pity for this aging woman — none of her public successes made much of, hardly mentioned.

Blackadder’s rendition of Elizabeth had an actress dressed up absurdly as a kind of wooden doll with wig, but to me this parody is no improvement.

I never have seen a drama of her earlier years when as a young woman she overcame a number of attempts to kill or assassinate her, remarkably came to power (to Catholics, the illegitimate Protestant daughter of Anne Boleyn) and then stayed there, effectively, with few wars, none on her soil. For this you must read good biographies, and the one I remember best is the older Elizabeth Jenkins’s Elizabeth I.

Said to be a portrait of Elizabeth when a princess, well before her sister, Mary came to power

Known to be a portrait of Mary when age 12 by Francois Clouet


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An illustration to Tam O’Shanter

Dear friends and readers,

A third and final blog on the EC/ASECS conference which I thought I had less to share than I do (1st, 2nd). There really was a wealth of new insights and (for me) new or different information on a variety of 18th century topics, beyond the night of Shakespeare Restored, the Winterthur museum, and a late evening of reading of poetry aloud the first night. All that in itself a pleasure (the conference’s subject, along with leisure and entertainment).


I did go to two panels of the more traditional type, with papers on major figures, major works, using close reading and historical approaches.

Robert Burns (1759-96) by Alexander Nasmyth (1787): best known portrait

My favorite paper was second on a panel on the Scottish enlightenment (Friday, mid-morning) was by Carol McGuirk, a moving autobiographical and thematic exegesis of Burn’s “Tam O’Shanter” (with English transliteration), which is often looked at from the angle of Burns’s use of mock-heroic conventions. Ms McGuirk showed us that Burne=s was revisiting his relationship with his father. It is his first known extended work, a strange intense poem where he looks back to scenes of his early childhood and adolescence. The scene of witch-nanny brings us back to Burns when young, from which there was a long-lasting estrangement between Burns and his father. Burns had gone to a dance when forbidden; this was seen by his father as a solemn breaking of the fourth commandment, and from this instance of rebellion Burns felt his father took a dislike to him, which led to his later rebellions, especially when the paternal dislike developed into a fear for Burns’s soul. The Victorian editor of Burns’s work softened an anecdote Burns’s sister told where the dying father denied he’d see his son in the afterlife. The poem has been misread as about retributive justice, but is rather a deft depiction of an old central psychic wound, about a life-altering conflict. The narrator is caustic but this is not a poem advocating prudent conformity; the thrust of the poem is on the side of tolerance as the poet faces the residual power of memory to hurt again. Ms McGuirk reminded everyone that Burns’s wife Jean was a woman who accepted and tolerated Burns’s flaws and suggested in the poem Kate stands in for Burns’s father. Tom’s experience is a painful memory. Alluded to figures in the poem include Margaret Thompson who Burns said distracted him from his trigonometry studies and whom he remembered with deep affection; he visited her and sent her a copy of this poem.

Arthur Murphy (1727-1805) by Nathaniel Dance (1777)

I slipped off to another panel I had longed to hear too (going on at the same time): Samuel Johnson. Unfortunately I missed the first two papers, and came in only at the middle of the third and a discussion of all three afterward. A. J. Schmidt’s paper (2nd) had been about Johnson’s attitude towards the American colonies and touched on the Hudson river and empire, and as I came in Jane Wessel was talking about how and why although Murphy defended literary property rights (against booksellers) he also defended the right of an author to imitate, adapt, use and said this was not plagiarism. Murphy was arguing for a modern low threshold definition of originality: the expression of the idea is protected not the idea itself. In an essay on the “Genius of Fielding” Murphy had urged that complete invention is a myth, and what was central to the new work was the establishment of an authorial persona. Murphy himself adapted and transferred plots and other elements from other people’s plays to his own, and cited his own name on his later adaptations. John Radner further elaborated on his argument that for Johnson hope is less related to despair than a forward-looking vein of nostalgia; the future is seen with anxiety; morally we need to spend well the present time, not try to escape it. (I remembered how Johnson tormented himself over his waste of his gifts and time.) It was mentioned that Murphy had apparently met Johnson after Murphy had accidentally plagiarized Johnson, and the similarities between one of his own plays and one of Sheridan’s had made him wonder if Sheridan plagiarized him. (So Murphy’s spontaneous thinking belies his theory.) Johnson’s defense of abridgements and his own imitations supported Murphy’s outlook too. Anna Foy talked more about how Johnson praised James Grainger’s Georgic, “Sugar-Cane” as a new original poem though derivative; Grainger brought into poetry new images and refreshed the reader’s mind; Gilmore’s book on Grainger’s poem, The Poetics of Empire was mentioned.


A photograph of a contemporary actress as Nell Gwyn delivering one of Dryden’s satiric epilogues sending up he pious character she had just acted

Late on Friday afternoon, the plenary lecture which preceded Shakespeare Restored was appropriately about 18th century audience’s tastes. In “Hamlet with a Hornpipe,” Diana Solomon (who has published a book on 18th century prologues and epilogues), suggested the 18th century general preference was strongly for comedy, and audiences especially seemed to have enjoyed the disruptive effect of mockery interjected into serious texts. Comic scenes may have been controversial or forbidden under strict “rules,” but audiences liked a mixed experience, with comic entr’actes between acts of tragedy (even), lively comic dances, and ridicule framing or joking parts of plangent and poignant nights. A pantomime might follow an anguished suicide scene in a proto-feminist she-tragedy (say about rape). These were often short disconnected spectacles. She cited many many kinds of disruption and burlesque. Some statistics: after 1760 plays by dead writers predominated, only 10 were new; out of 371 performances 20% were tragedies, with comic after-pieces a must. She conceded there were those who decried this situation. Addison was one of those who decried these practices, and often they were treated as guilty pleasures (not much discussed). Cibber said he included gross derision (cross-dressing) “against my conscience.” Perhaps some found graphic distress too hard to take (she instanced Johnson’s response to the dreadful murder scene in Othello, the despair of Lear). Should we look at these entracts as curative, the epilogues as a form of release? The discussion afterward was fun. People talked of how we watch TV today: continually changing channels, having more than one program on the screen at a time; how a row of disconnected commercials is part of most people’s experience of whatever program they are watching, and they don’t seem to object over-strenuously. It is true that certain things were not mocked: nobility or the aristocracy as such; religion.

The last panel and last two papers I heard on late Saturday afternoon into evening questioned the extent of debauchery claimed as experienced by John Wilkes, Charles Churchill and the Hell-fire club. Kevin Knott’s very long paper, “Necessary Lies: Sodomy Hysteria and the Heroic Grotesque in Charles Churchill’s The Times and David Garrick’s The Fribbleriad” opened with Hazlitt’s comment on the pleasure of hating, and how mockery of exaggerated disgusting versions of transgressive behavior were used as to attack and satirize and erase homosexuality. He went through Ned Ward’s writings, Molly-house culture, how Garrick tapped into cultural prejudice against effeminacy (for his own theatrical needs), sought to titillate, encourage violence (at least in emotion), discipline by hostility (turn what was feared into the abject). He went over a number of texts psychoanalytically (the persistent fear, oppositional ideologies), quoting Byrne Fone, Rictor Norton. Churchill used viotriolic discourse to disrupt the social order; a public display of a venomous nature was a mode of outing. He quoted private ugly letters by Wilkes and Churchill which seem to suggest that yes debauchery went on.

Modern photograph of 18th century print of Medenham Abbey

Jack Fruchtman’s presentation, “‘Was it all true or made up? Hell-Fire, Tory Politics,and Aborted Reform in 18th century Britain was a similarly complicated text. He first surveyed a group of aristocratic politicians regarded as radical who were themselves involved in transgressive behaviors with infamous members of Francis Dashwood’s circle (among these Bolingbroke, Frederick Prince of Wales, John Montague, Lord Sandwich, George Bubb Doddington, famed obese man) or very much in opposition to them (Walpole). See the Wikipedia list of people, with Hogarth’s depiction of Francis Dashwood as a parody of St Francis. Mr Fruchtman showed slides of the mansion in which the orgies and uses of prostitutes were said to have occurred (said to have been 12 inner circles in Medmenham Abbey), how much money these people had as income, how they dressed, heir libertine doctrines; he named individuals from several walks of life (archbishops involved), told of their lives, their relationships to kings and princes (Lord Bute). Hogarth hated admiration of such people and his art was effective in characterizing these people for many people. Unfortunately I had to leave because the clock turned 5 (like Cinderella at midnight — I was driving home with a friend) so missed out on specific political legislation some of these people urged (increases in taxes, Wilkes’s famous No 45 North Briton). Mr Fruchtman though was moving towards scepticism: that in his words in an email to me “We will never know for certain whether it was all made up or real. The evidence was destroyed or lost so all we have are second-hand accounts like those of Walpole and Wilkes.”

dashwood gates
the Abbey is now private property and people photograph the Francis Dashwood gate which allows a glimpse of the building

While listening to Mr Knott I thought about modern day uses of snark in newspapers and on the Net. I also wondered and took down scattered notes to the effect that perhaps Wilkes and Walpole’s accounts of the Hell-fire club were fabricated for political and personal reasons. There was a patness in the descriptions of the cells — it all seemed so archetypal. What I had wanted to ask about was a parallel in stories told of Madame du Deffand and the French Prince Regent, Duke of Orleans (to put it in the English form) when she were young and “said to have been his mistress.” I remembered coming across a passage of salacious innuendo which suggested nefarious goings-on in the grass at Sceaux late at night — everyone very drunk and some naked. Now that had a feel of reality,but by the time it reaches the public written down the text has been shaped by a temptation to make it more shapely as well as certain. Some people want to deny such things occur and others want to build them up.

Angora cats were popular subjects for paintings at mid-century: these two were said to be owned by Madame du Deffand, late in life blind, living alone, but bravely writing on (to Walpole, to Voltaire) and holding salons


Next year they meet at West Chester University (Pennsylvania), and the topic is “Networks.” I’ve thought of a topic for a CFP: “Forging Connections among non-elite women:” it is a truth once universally acknowledged that the way societies have organized themselves isolates the average women; they may socialize within the space they find themselves in with their families and friends, but there are enormous pressures and social and economic constraints keeping them from reaching out to people beyond where chance has thrown them. Thus the writing of poetry, novels, plays, and especially memoirs by women become ways for the average woman or women below the gentry, working class women (some wrote poetry, many could read) to dialogue with other women; they also beat time and space by writing and receiving letters; by visits to others; by attempting to travel and write about it; if they had the funds, go to a spa or town where there was a public life they could enter into, someone’s salon they could attend; or perhaps run a shop where they would not be under the monitored control of the house servant class. We can have papers on the elite (married or connected to powerful men, with access to large funds) but how did they address the shared question of being a woman, given that the salon and the “behind the curtains” operator may be said to support the male hegemonic order by not trying for her own position, salary, independence but supporting his and that of hegemonic families. I’ll invite papers on this subject.



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Ellen and Jim Moody as servants in Love’s Last Shift (1972-73 production at the Graduate Center, NYC)

Dear friends and readers,

You may not have heard of this kind: salacious comedy. Well Jeremy Collier certainly did. He called it smut — in the case of LLS probably unfairly. The play is about a rake who reforms, and is sometimes said to herald sentimentalism. The text is on-line in various forms. (Two dissertations; an intelligent older article: “Equivocation” by Paul Parnell.) Vanbrugh’s reply was to write The Relapse in which the hero does just that.

The play has been seen as a bellwether and there is on-line a surprising amount of commentary on it. Myself having read much better Cibber in later years, e.g., especially The Constant Husband which really centers on a brutal one whose brutality of stance and emotion escapes Cibber, I’d call LLS hard comedy in disguise. I read it through last night and the most interesting character is the theatrical novelty (at the time), Sir Novelty Fashion, presented as utter fop, but (I’ve always thought) a way of introducing transgressive sex, especially gay males as fops.

Tellingly — if you want to think about the mysteries of how the history of literature proceeds — this particular play did not last the century; that is to say, if you look at what plays were bound into collections and rented at circulating libraries, what reprinted, what played on stage, this one fell from the repertoire. The Relapse stayed a while, and other of Van Brugh and Cibber’s plays (often with Anne Oldfield in a leading role) remained until near the end of the century when sensibility and currents repressive of sex made them impossible to play. It affected the stage partly because of its crassness is my guess (it was “available” to all).

This is by way of remembering: I’ve just reread the play; for our mostly silent parts I had remembered only that we were a pair of promiscuous servants, amoral, had few lines and lots of stage business. Unless memory is fooling me (which she may) I realize we did not do the whole play; Byrne Fone, the director produced a cut-down text (rather like the Aural/Oral experience we have at our East Central Regional group of the American 18th century society). I remember as a climax of one of the acts, I fucked on the floor with was whoever he was (a kind of climax in the sub or lower plots); at another that Jim as servant was a successful sly cheat at cards. Jim is 24 there and his expression is an acted one: it’s put on as part of the character, and reminds me just now of Rob James-Cellier’s playing the footman Thomas (a similar faux hauteur put on) in Downton Abbey. I’m 26 there and trying to smile knowingly.


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

Dear friends and readers,

A snowy letter. So is the next.

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

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

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


Farnham, 19th century print

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

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

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

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

Anna Massey as the scolding Mrs Norris (1983 MP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diana comments:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so the evening comes to an end.


A still extant modest 18th century trunk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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1983 MP: Edmund arrives in London, visits and walks with Mary Crawford

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve some new findings on the composition of, and internal dating in, Austen’s Mansfield Park and I think them important. I’ve discovered that the movement of time of the novel where Fanny goes to Portsmouth starting just around the time Edmund returns to Mansfield and writes to Fanny to tell her of his failure with Mary in London, and we get the first inklings of the development of a genuinely adulterous liaison between Henry and Maria, makes sense only when put onto a grid of the 1797 calendar. Chapman pointed long ago that for the Portsmouth section of the novel to make sense, the date for Easter must be April 16th, the latest date during the time Austen was an adult and writing her novels and that occurs only in 1797.

What I discovered is there is a phase in the book where (probably this happened by chance but Austen used it) both 1797 and in 1809 work coherently or accurately at once: the day Maria and Henry met at long last again at Mrs Fraser’s party, March 14th, was a Tuesday in both 1797 and 1809. The next day and month we are given, a Monday in very late March, works out to March 27th and in both 1797 and 1809 that day was a Monday.

1983 MP: Henry and Maria kiss (in the 83 film Maria’s house-warming party and Mrs Fraser’s later party are conflated to become one)

In other words, for a short while in the novel both calendars work out with the dates and happenings Austen specifies. She then moves into 1797 wholly. You can see this clearly in my online calendar starting with Fanny’s receipt of Edmund’s letter from Mansfield (the sixth full or partial text of a letter in the novel. I quote just the opening entry and leave it to those readers who are interested to look at what follows:

Resumption of determinate time consistent with all that has gone on previously and fitting into both 1809 and 1797

Mar 25th-26th, Sat-Sun: *5th full text of a letter*: Edmund to Fanny: “7 weeks of the two months very nearly gone:” He was in London “3 weeks,” which in 1809 brings us back to Feburary 25th, but no sense that he saw anything untoward either at Feb 28th or Mar 14th parties in Wimpole Street. He speaks of returning after Easter which would be April 2nd in the year 1809, but April 16th in the year 1797. (Penguin MP III:13, 390-93, Ch 44)

The novel begins to be solely in 1797 (the transition made) when Fanny receives the first of Lady Bertram’s letters reporting Tom’s illness, and Edmund immediately leaves for London to nurse Tom. The weeks of phases of Tom’s illness, including Tom’s home-coming and one-week relapse, Fanny’s reading about this in Portsmouth over a few weeks, and Easter. Again I’ll just quote from my calendar where this begins:

Mar 30th-31st, Thurs-Fri: “Within a few days from the receipt of Edmund’s letter, Fanny has one from Aunt Bertram.” “An express earlier in the day apprised them: “a few hours before”: Tom is ready to allow a physician to send a letter to Mansfield.

*sixth text of a letter* Back story given by narrator. Tom from London to Newmarket, drinking, fell, a fever, left to servants alone; “disorder” increased. Edmund to leave to fetch him immediately and bring him back; “too distressing” for Lady Bertram to lose Sir Thomas (perhaps implied that if Fanny were there it would not be?). “I will write again very soon.”

1983 MP: Fanny reading with Edmund’s over-voice telling of

Tom brought home

When you follow the days closely (including named days), you then find all the stated days of the week work out precisely the way they do in the parts of the novel keyed to 1807-9 — the point that for example when Edmund, Fanny, and Susan return to Mansfield we are told it was a “Thursday” and working out the calendar carefully from the time of the newspaper article and Mary’s letters, that’s May 11th which was Thursday in 1797. “May 11th, Thursday: arrive Mansfield Park. We are told it was full three months: William and Fanny arrived Tuesday, Feb 7th, and now Edmund, Fanny, and Susan return on May 11th, the Thursday

1983 MP: Homecoming with Susan

What this means is this epistolary section was written much earlier than the final version of Mansfield Park, well before the 1807-9 phase, probably around the time she first wrote up the section on the play-acting, for Henry and Maria’s final phase is a culmination of what happened during October. Slipped in-between is this other movement about Henry’s courtship of Fanny, the ball, her refusal and ejection from the Park. J.Walton Litz was right to suggest that the play-acting and this phase of the novel belong to 1797.


1983 MP: one of several sequences where we have flashbacks and incidents in present time told through voice-over of Fanny writing

Q. D. Leavis suggests the novel’s first draft was originally written as an epistolary novel. My careful study of the 1983 film showed me it uses more filmic epistolarity than any other Austen film until Andrew Davies’ 1995 P&P; it may have as much filmic epistolarity as this later film but it’s not that noticeable since it’s dispersed through the film. These filmic flashbacks reflect the meditative feel of the novel, its interest in memory and the past. Certainly one can’t dismiss Q. D. Leavis’s argument.

The Portsmouth section is itself rich in epistolarity features. What’s more it shows all the jagged edges and re-combinations we see in some of the P&P chapters: where we are given redactions of letters, summaries and paraphrases connected by the narrator. One can’t count all the letters as there are so many mentioned, and full correspondences, but we are given the same variety we find in P&P: some whole (it’s telling most of these are Edmund and Mary to Fanny as the thwarted lovers), some partial, some paraphrase, sections quoted. The reportage of events (like Henry and Maria’s love affair) are held off, and several skeins of narrative occur concurrently.

That there are so many women narrators in the Austen films, both free and faithful adaptation suggests the underlying epistolary foundation of Austen’s art.

Bridget Jones writing in her diary (near opening, Bridget Jones’s Diary, 2001)


As to Tuesdays, it depends on how one counts them. There are none, none until after the Mansfield Park Ball, and they don’t begin to mount up until we reach the Portsmouth section where they increase quickly up if you include all certain Tuesdays, not just the days that are named Tuesday.

Here they are, thus far:

1st Tuesday: is January 3rd, the day after Henry comes back from London with the three letters he has procured (he himself tells us it was a Monday), showing that he has gotten William his promotion. What’s special about this day? it’s the day he meant just to go and see Fanny and Lady Bertram for 10 minutes, and stayed an hour an one half, and returned to Mary to announce his astonishing determination actually to marry Fanny Price. Henry names Monday the day he left London for Mansfield (Penguin MP II:13, 276, Ch 31)

2nd Tuesday, January 10th: the day Edmund returns home unexpectedly to find and meet Mary at the Parsonage still (he had hoped to miss her) and admits to himself that he is still irresistibly in love with Mary: “I was within a trifle of staying at Lessingby [another] five or six days more.” (Penguin MP III, 3, 309, Ch 34).

3rd Tuesday, February 7, 1809, a Tuesday evening when Fanny and Wm come to Portsmouth: Four weeks later Fanny tells Crawford “I did not arrive here until Tuesday evening” (Penguin MP: III, 11, Ch 42) On this same Tuesday also Crawford traveled to Everingham — in order to be traveling the same day as Fanny Mary said

1983 MP: Mrs Price greets Fanny, Wm just behind (Part 5)

4th Tuesday, February 14th, Tuesday: her immense disillusionment complete at end of a week (Penguin MP III:8, 360-64, Ch 39) Fanny’s assessment of her home given as under this date. Even if not named Tuesday, it’s not a conjectured day. At this point in the novel it is operating day by day and sometimes half hour by hour, tick tock, tick tock

5th Tuesday, February 21, 2012: end of fortnight when Fanny realizes truth about Susan and resolves to buy a silver knife, has the open conversation with Susan, and after that joins a circulating libary — week reckoned as a fortnight from the time Fanny arrived, their relationship takes off — becomes very good.]

6th Tuesday, February 28, 1809: Tuesday, the night of Mrs Rushworth’s first party Feb 28th, “Tuesday”: Mrs Rushworth throws her lavish party, discussed in Mary’s letter letter above We have been told that Henry left for Evringham and that Edmund has arrived sometime before. Feb 16th, Thursday: Contains the *third text of a letter* 16th (Penguin MP III:9, 365-66, Ch 40)

7th Tuesday March 14th, 1797 the night of Henry and Maria’s first meeting once again at Mrs Fraser’s! (p. 386, told about on March 7th, Mary’s letter to Fanny after Henry returns

8th Tuesday, May 8th: “Nothing happened the next day, or the next, to weaken her terrors … Two posts came in … no refutation, public or private … no second letter to explain away the first … when the third day did bring the sickening knock, and a letter was again put into her hands … ” Edmund’s letter says he and father arrived in London two days ago, so May 7th. We are told they arrive at the park on Thursday, talk Sunday and those days are the 11th and 14th, so this is a Tuesday but cannot be said to be worse than the other days, the way it must be admitted the two Thursdays (the day of the ball and the day Sir Thomas berates Fanny after she says she means to refuse Mr Crawford) are as important as the day Henry determines finally he will ask Fanny to marry him.

This also seems to be day of Edmund and Mary’s final interview which makes him distraught. (sometime between arrival on Sunday and Tuesday evening letter): Edmund goes to see Mary; “a note from Mrs Stornaway to beg him to call.” Sir Thomas’s scheme for sending Fanny home via Edmund: “he had seen or conjectured his feelings, and having reason to think that one interview with Mrs Crawford had taken place … Edmund’s letter afterward; so too his distraught state: “He looked very ill; evidently suffering under violent emotions” (Penguin MP III:15, 413; Ch 46). He tells Fanny on Sunday, May 14th. (Penguin MP III:16, 421-26, Ch 47)

A narrow definition gives us three to five important Tuesdays — I’ve italicized these. More flexibility yields more Tuesdays but it must be admitted other days are as important or bad.


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