Posts Tagged ‘Walter Scott’

Central hall for The Gathering (Outlander 4)

Repeating scene for Rent: the line of male tenants bringing money or barter to Ned Gowan (Outlander 5)

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve been asked to review an excellent book, Descendants of Waverley: Romancing History in Contemporary Historical Fiction by Martha Bowden. I have begun reading it; and, though Bowden does not instance Gabaldon’s Outlander (nor for that matter Graham’s Poldark), I realize the Poldark and Outlander novels are two of the many-great grandchildren of the Waverley novels.

Nineteenth-century edition

A Penguin

For Gabaldon this is by way of DuMaurier, who also indulges centrally in romancing, allusive textuality, and fantasy myth-making.

The Civil War politics of this novel makes it link as well as the time-traveling of DuMaurier’s The House on the Strand

King’s General centers on a heroine (she is the subjective presence) who is crippled and must stay in a wheelchair thereafter due to an incident involving the wild ferocity of her lover, Rashleigh, in battle

I don’t want tonight to dwell on these artful and literary elements, but rather something more obvious: Episodes 4 and 5 of the mini-series cover a sliver of Gabaldon’s book, Outlander (Chapters 10 and 11, Oath-Taking and Conversations with a Lawyer) with intense elaboration so as to build a picture of a rich Scottish cultural world worth living in, and its many pleasures for men and women alike. Gabaldon and this mini-series show how the English colonialist armies, and resulting Scots and English protection rackets impoverished a subsidence people, and sought to exploit, kow, and punish them at every opportunity.

Scottish farmers homes burnt, crops destroyed (Rent)

This is the post-colonial tapestry of the series that allures and interests me. Though I’ve put the first two of my blog on the first season on Outlander on my general cultural blog (Sassenach, and Castle Leoch and The Way Out), I feel these two episodes belong with 18th century matter. There is little movement forward of the story; instead what we get a dramatization of the reasons for Culloden, and how it came about. All Scott’s Scottish history Waverley novels center in some aspect of the Scots rebellion, dwell lovingly on its traditional culture, and if they come out on the side of progress, toleration, enlightenment (reason, “scientific” or probablistic explanation). Gabaldon differs mostly through the heroine’s perspective which is to try to stop this disaster for the Scots from happening. Through flashforwards (we could call Claire’s memories), we learn from Claire’s 20th century husband, what happened at Culloden.

Claire (Catrionia Balfe) and Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies) on the field of Culloden (Rent)

The film-makers take Gabaldon’s anti-British point of view on board and make it stronger

The band come across two crucified (tortured) dead corpses of Scotsmen

What I enjoyed was the loving recreation of Scots culture for two hours, and threading through these of continuing slow development of a friendly and trusting relationship between Claire and Jamie (Sam Heughan): where she keeps him company, tends to him, and he in turn rescues, tries to understand Claire who he stops from a wild impossible escape to nowhere:

Jamie: “How far did ye think ye’d get, lass, on a dark night with a strange horse, with half the Mackenzie clan after ye by morning?
Claire: “Won’t be after me. They’re all up at the hall. And if one in five of them is sober enough to stand in the morning, let alone ride a horse, then I ‘ll be most surprised.”
Jamie: “Running away on a whim just because the men are drunk? On a whim?
Claire: “You know I’ve wanted to leave here for weeks. And I know exactly how many sentry posts surround the castle. And I know how to make my way through the forest and find the road back to Inverness.”
Jamie: “Well, that’s a very sound plan, Sassenach — Or would be, did Colum not post extra guards through the woods tonight.”

There is a real lyricism in their relationship with seeps across the episodes. It’s hard for me to capture that: it has to do with the feeling generated between the two, the words used, gentle and yet reaching out, and how the camera captures them talking and their body stances when in the same area. In these episodes this extended to Claire and Ned Gowan, Claire and her first meeting with the British officer who was disguised as a working person in one of the Scots villages (but turns up at the end offering to take her back to England in effect, rescue her from this Highland culture), and Claire with the women. With Dougal the atmosphere is testy and aggressive; by contrast with Frank her husband, their is a quiet blandness that is secure and feels peaceful but does not seem to go anywhere. In the 1940s scenes she is ever walking away or smiling enigmatically as he talks on ever so kindly but no poetry in it.

Many details are added but none contradict the thrust of the novel. My favorites are the conversations of the witty, thoughtful lawyer, Ned Gowan (played exquisitely well by a favorite actor of mine, Bill Patterson), with Claire. He may appear to tell her much, but only confirms enigmatically when she is beginning to see: she had thought Dougal MacKenzie (Graham McTavish) was sluicing off money for himself (a second extraction from the deluded tenants) when he is gathering funds for an envisioned coming campaign. As when they speak a John Donne poem together:


Claire: Absence.
Absence, hear thou my protestation against thy strength, distance, and length.
Do what thou canst for alteration
BOTH: For hearts for truest mettle.
She: Absence doth still and time doth settle.
He repeats: Absence doth still and time doth settle.

The verse also functions to let us know Claire is still missing Frank, longing to re-join him in the 20t century.

I’ve suggested the dramaturgy of Outlander is so much better than many of the episodes of the new Poldark and studying the scripts for these episodes has suggested to me why: Gabaldon’s film-maker trust her text. They feel no need to fill it out, to change the characters, to complicate the action by having parallel lines of stories, all quickly juxtaposed, lest we get bored or restless. They luxuriate in the text. There is time to develop the contradictions in relationships: it is humiliating to Jamie to have to strip his shirt off as an exhibit to seduce people into giving money, and his uncle must tear it off the first time; when Jamie threatens not to participate, the uncle threatens and pulls rank.

Time is taken out to develop a “sub-palate of colors: for example, while on the road the color of the sky is white, the land pastel, all softened shades to create a mood of quietude in the land and sky. And the characters emerge inside the patterns:

Jamie addresses Claire against backdrop of tree designs


More than once Claire voices how much she likes the culture even though it is so masculinist — she is forced to listen to continual male boasts about crude sexual prowess (they do this at her).

Gabaldon and her writers after her are comfortable in making Claire in continual danger: when she tries to escape from the gathering she is stopped twice by men seeking to rape her; when Jamie sleeps outside her door to protect her, his action is not superfluous. It ought to be troubling that Horsfield and her crew are far less comfortable with Graham’s transgressive women, and turn them back to domestic creatures (see Scripts & Problematic parallels). Gabaldon has no cruel vindictive women — which slant is added on to the Poldark snobbish women by Horsfield — and no salacious sluts; Horsfield unlike Graham and the 1970s writers find no excuse for promiscuity on the part of a woman.

The feminism here is again in Claire’s casual relationships with other women: in these episodes of Scottish highland culture, she seems to enjoy herself with the women even when they soaking dyed cloth in heated piss


She as yet is willing to help Leoghaire attract Jamie (though female rivalry over the hero will come soon and be as strong as we find in Poldark) and this is used to bring out beliefs in love potions.
And she is deeply useful from her experience as a nurse in WW2. When during a boar-hunting in the Gathering, one man’s chest and thighs are severed by a boars tusks, and he lays dying in his chieftain Dougal’s arms, it is Claire who thinks how to ease the death by prompting from him memories of boyhood, home, and the beautiful places longing to live conjure up:



Claire: “Geordie tell me about your home.”
Geordie: “It’s near a wide glen, not far from Loch Fannich.”
Claire: “What’s it like there? I’ll wager it’s beautiful.”
Geordie: “Ah, ’tis.”
Claire: “In the spring Yes?”
Geordie: “The heather’s so thick, ye can walk across the tops without touching the ground.”
Claire: “That sounds lovely.”
Geordie: “Wish I could be there now.”
Dougal: “Oh, you’ll be there soon, lad.”
Geordie: “Aye. Will ye stay with me?”
Dougal: “Aye.”
Claire: “Yes.”
Dougal: “There you are.”
Claire: “There.”

In a scene directly afterwards when he visits her “surgery:”


Dougal: “You’ve seen men die before and by violence.”
Claire: “Yes. Many of them.”
Dougal: “Ye’ve done a fine job here as healer. Mrs. Fitz would have ye sit for a portrait if it was up to her. And, uh, I wanted to thank you personally for what you did for poor Geordie up there on the hunt.
Claire: “In truth, I did nothing. I wish I could have helped him.”
Dougal: “Ye did. Ye took him to a peaceful place, and that’s all any of us can ask when we pass …”


He then requires her to come out on the rental journey with the band. She earns her place as strong, pro-active, competent woman who in effect competes with men in all areas — but sex. She is more than the token woman taken on the road.

Riding out (The Gathering)

And of course, as I’ve said, in the over-voice, female perspective, control of the movement in time.

As the confines of the castle walls faded behind me like a bad dream, I took my first full breath in weeks. I had no idea where this journey would lead me, what opportunity might present itself. I could only hope it would bring me closer to the standing stones of Craigh Na Dun. If so, I was determined to reach them, knowing this time I must not fail.


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Modern photo of Beachy Head, England

Dear friends and readers,

A fifth blog report on this year’s ASECS meeting in Cleveland. Centlivre. Three panels, two very early morning; one very late afternoon. Susannah Centlivre’s plays on gambling, addiction and marital and civil liberty speaks to us today so too the sources and power of Smith’s melancholy vast poetry. The gothic strange work of several later 18th century women writers is explained & defended.

Folger production of The Basset Table: Valeria (Emily Trask) and Ensign Lovely (Robbie Gay) bond at Valeria’s lab table, where they share a discovery about worms.

An early morning session on Susannah Centlivre on Friday, 8:00 am (87, “A Woman’s Case”) surprised me by how good it was. Only recently have I had the opportunity to see one of Centlivre’s plays staged; it was so much better than than it had read, I realized I had not been giving them an adequate reading at all; these papers found Centlivre adumbrated humane understandings of addiction in the areas of gambling and alcoholism for men, and explored in a modern way the problem of personal or civil liberty.

Emma Ingrisani’s “‘If He Has Lost his Money, this News will break his Heart:’ Sentiment and Vice in Centlivre’s The Gamester claimed this play showed real sympathy for gamblers. Centlivre shows Valere’s gambling to be compulsive, but the qualities that led him to be addicted to gambling make him appealing. In gambling Valere experiences sublimity, he’s attached to gambling and feels himself magnificent; & the point is made that the man of feeling is not moral so much as someone who enjoys his emotions and is attuned to the emotions of others. The culture of sensibility alters the play’s criticism of gambling. The play is suggestive of an inner world in the characters, and seeks to explain supposedly abnormal impulses. The play’s conservative sexual politics parallels a sophisticated economic and social world. Angelia knows his faults, wants to marry Valere anyway as his dangerous masculine sexuality appeals.

In Aparna Gollapudi’s “The ‘Itch to Play:’ Gambling as Addiction in Centlivre’s The Gamester and The Basset Table are companion pieces. The male in The Gamester is an early prototype of an addict; the fame in The Basset Table cannot be an addict as such because as a woman she is unfree, bound to the will of others and thus does not have autonomy in the first place. Ms Gollapudi suggested the Enlightenment adumbrates the idea of an addict out of its concept of an ideal man of reason. Gambling is still considered a vice or sin, where we look at it psychologically (or chemically): the individual has lost control. In most plays we see gamblers play because they want to, not because they feel compelled to. The full idea of addiction (self-enslavement) comes in the later 19th century when people observed opium addiction. Ms Gollapudi cited much earlier treatises where drinking is shown to have an element of inner compulsion; Trotter: the drunkard is driven by cravings despite his intentions, irrationality, not for profit, unthinking pleasure, fueled by a failure of the will. Benjamin Rush gambling a disease or palsy of the will. Cotton’s Compleat Gamester is someone obsessed, with a deep-seated need, uncontrollable. Valere is exhausted in the morning; he earnestly vows to stop gambling, but he is at the table again soon after. Lady Sago is wasting her husband’s money, wilful and she and others are shocked into reform by showing them parallels with sexual complaisance. In the tradition of such plays, the male threatens financial harm to his family (e.g., Holcroft’s play); Lady Towneley chooses an irrational ideal of pleasure (Vanbrugh). Centlivre’s plays present a modern individual self in her depiction of gambling.

Lady Lucy (Katie deBuys), Sir James (Michael Milligan), Mrs. Sago (Tonya Beckman Ross), and Ensign Lovely (Robbie Gay)

Jennifer Airey’s “‘I must vary shapes as often as a player: Centlivre and liberty on the English stage” took up Centlivre’s defense of the stage against Collier’s criticism it’s immoral. In A Bold Stroke for a Wife, Colonel Feignwell frees Anne Lovely through his masquerading; the females help one another by using disguises too. Feignwell also defends his militarism as supporting the Hanoverian world which provides liberty for the subject; Anne Lovely shows us the right of women to resist male domestic tyrants who claim a power over individuals they do not deserve. Anne Lovely says her right to chose her dress (not to wear quaker clothes) is an aspect of her liberty, freedom of movement. She is justified, and enters a new contract with a better master; but her freedom goes only so far. The play’s parallel argument is that children are obliged to obey only when parents use authority reasonably. The older guardians are utterly destructive, selfish, obsessive. Underlying the action of masquerade is the idea that through acting one can save oneself. Ms Airey felt the play’s presentation of good sense and romantic fidelity in the central characters disconnects actors from the charge of prostitution (selling themselves).

Misty Anderson was the respondent and said that in Centlive liberty is a core value. She summed up Ms Ingrisani’s paper thus: emotional susceptibility is not entirely negative (gambling is an emotionally drenching experience). The depiction of the gambler is part of the history of the depiction of the reformed rake: excess is turned on itself but it “re-inscribes” [makes visible?] uncontrollable passions. Ms Gollapudi’s paper: more psychological terrain, makes a powerful case for considering the history of the invention of addiction (we move from Hogarth’s disease of the will to Methodist’s brain-searing). Gender gets in the way as Lady Reveller cannot be a slave as she is not free & in the end is indistinguishable from social norms; Valeria is obsessed with science; her character is just not convincing. Ms Airey’s paper: acting itself part of the agenda for liberty; a provisional self challenges patriarchal power and belongs to Butler’s discourse of the self as performer, re-assembling the self for social life.

2005 Bold Stroke for a Wife: Illinois Wesleyan University

Ms Anderson seemed though to object to the empathy and idea that rebellion gives liberty and pleasure: what do we do with actors around us who act with less liberal tendencies? Ms Ingisani defended the breaking out; but, asked Ms Anderson, is not this a risk, a danger making someone susceptible to a conservative person’s resentment? Valere is a psychological portrait but we see he’s a victim to an economic system. To Ms Gollapudi’s paper, MS Anderson said the will is not something individual, women can realize themselves through social manipulation; we don’t believe men have self-mastery (or autonomy) either. Ms Airey wants to show Centlivre defends the theater as a place of moral reformation.

Ms Anderson then asked what is the difference between Behn’s and Centlivre’s characters. Centlivre claims liberty through enacting performance; Behn’s characters perform hedonism plainly, not an act. Centlivre’s characters exist in a deeply unjust situation where you choose one trap over another; we can see some freedom if we see that signing a contract does not enslave us ontologically.

It was a brilliant response, show-offy too. My demur (which I voiced in the discussion afterward) is that if you obey the social conventions these will prevent you from enacting radical freedoms which may over-ride and erase contracts if the whole society agrees eventually to change. To worry about the risk of vengeful conservative people about you, made me think of Marianne Dashwood’s reply to Elinor who claimed freedom of understanding even if her behavior was under subjection that this ends up in subservience. And in another dialogue that “we are all offending every moment of our lives” no matter what we do (S&S I:13 & 17). The compromise Ms Anderson suggested ends up in supporting the establishment, not changing it and keeps everyone unfree.

Would it were that every session I ever went to at a conference came near the interest of this one.


Again at 8:00 am, now Saturday morning, a really worthwhile seesion on Charlotte Smith’s poetry (which I love (155, “Unromantic Charlotte Smith”).

Charlotte Smith by George Dance

Regulas Allen (“‘Rightly to spell of every herb hat sips the dew: Chaos and classification in the poetry of Charlotte Smith”) found the pervasive theme in Smith’s poetry is displacement, exile, a failure of boundaries, mourning over disorder, nothing can be securely in a place. She approaches plants in a scientific spirit, telling the species of plant, categorizing them using Linnaeus to try to impose an order on chaos which the notes to the poems continually undermine. In her life she knew continual disasters from the time of her marriage; abject terrorizing powerless misery as a women with a violent ruthless failure of a husband. She remembered her childhood as a time of wealth, innocence, contentment; her refusal to relinquish her class pretensions meant she had to make large enough sums of money to support gentility and a good future for 9 children too so she had to write for publication continually. She produced 10 novels and many editions of poetry. Her apparently learned study of Linneaus, geology (Erasmus Darwin), botany, her notes at the bottom of her texts, were not done to show off but as a way of finding order in nature. She’s not plagiarizing but situating her work in time and against the savagery of society (as in footnotes telling of pirates brutality).

Written Near a Port on a Dark Evening

Huge vapors brood above the clifted shore,
Night on the ocean settles, dark and mute,
Save where is heard the repercussive roar
Of drowsy billows, on the rugged foot
Of rocks remote; or still more distant tone
Of seamen in the anchored bark that tell
The watch relieved; or one deep voice alone
Singing the hour, and bidding “Strike the bell.”
All is black shadow, but the lucid line
Marked by the light surf on the level sand,
Or where afar the ship-lights faintly shine
Like wandering fairy fires, that oft on land
Mislead the pilgrim-such the dubious ray
That wavering reason lends, in life’s long darkling way.

Her poetry has a continuity. In the sonnets and Beachy Head we find traumatic displacement, or geographical violent shifts, corpses adrift in tides, emblematic landscapes of despair. She finds deep-time geology registered in a Middleton churchyard; couples cruelly parted; if she presents a shepherd she looks at the ground he walks on, many presences sleep unremembered there. In her Emigrants we find a French lady and her children, a female exiled from her husband, born to affluence; the channel waters, England and France dissolve into one; in Beachy Head the cliffs register the sudden violence of time, shells high up show continental shifts; it ends on a hermit in a sea cave who tries to make his place but cannot. Late in life the botany and zoology of her Rural Walks show her turning to order, contrasting what has been learned in the new science to peasant cultures she has known. It’s an escapist pursuit, a resource for someone sick at heart, provides calm to a wounded mind. She does not just think of herself and hers: her poetry is about the instability and harshnesses of experience for others too.

Greta River Bridge by John Sell Cotman (1782-1842)

Ruth Knezevich talked of “Charlotte Smith’s “Antiquarian Pursuits in Beachy Head.” Ms Knezevich wants to understand the history and philosophy we find in this poem. The narrator’s literary voice presents the past tangibly by narrating a history (including going back to a castle of Stephen of Blois) that reflects the invasions and evolutions across the island (with relics) and the globe. People are in a local place but that’s the micro-level. She records names, places, events that make a wider perspective. We are invited actively to participate in the geological landscape and history. Her use of annotations is innovative; she distinguishes botany from Shakespearean perspective. She uses them to authorize her text and embed it in the writing of her era. The poem ends in brief rhapsody. She can be distinguished from romanticism by her concrete particularism and brings out the duality (intertwining?) of history with a literary voice. She wants her text to be respected, with her roots in 18th century traditions which go back (as in Warton’s history of poetry) back to the middle ages.

Lisa Ottum also discussed “Unromantic History in Beachy Head.” In her own era Smith was attacked for imitation; in our time Beachy Head is seen as central and romantic. Ms Ottum saw the poem as part of a debate about history’s effects, moving from past the cliffs to Asia, from the countryside to pre-historic time, from geology to cosmopolitanism. Smith has read Fergusson and Kames, Hume and Gibbon, and followed the changes in historical writing. She looked to the past to understand the present, to private life too, seen in larger social movements. Historians wanted to learn about manners and customs of people as well as statecraft. In Beachy Head she could find a proximate perspective to bring the moral imagination to bear. The poem is preoccupied with departed happiness which is fleeting, unsustainable. She uses temporal shifts in perspective, with a surplus of emotion. All things will collapse away into nothingness; after contemplation of large disasters, she has smaller pictures of cottages. The mind then rests on local peaceful moments. The poem draws on Cowper’s Task, anticipates Mont Blanc, where mediating power of the poet copes with vast powerful teaming worlds.

A cover illustration for Radcliffe’s Udolpho: in prose she too register the cataclysms of time and history

We had a fine discussion afterward. It ranged from asking what were Smith’s sources to when the people first encountered Smith and what editions they first saw her work in. I asked if she was influenced by Scott’s Antiquary and we talked of his Old Mortality and Scott’s use of history, chronicles and antiquarianism. What geology did Smith read? I thought of the poets and text of Marjorie Hope Nicolson’s Mountain Gloom and Mountain Glory. We discussed when Smith was first identified as a romantic (by Wordsworth, and again in the 1970s), the long period where most of her works fell out of print and no one discussed her. What a change since the mid-1980s and the feminist movement which was essentially responsible for bringing her back.

For “Women and the late 18th century gothic, see continuation in comments.

The novel has a famous scene of a wild hurricane flood over a vast cliff (mocked by Austen in her letters — but recalled)


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Colosseum, Rome, 1798 — Marmion has scenes like this

Ought I to be very much pleased with Marmion? — as yet I am not. James reads it aloud in the Evening — the short Evening — beginning at about 10 & broken by supper . . . [see my excursus in a comment]

Dear friends and readers,

This is another journal-letter, rather like the previous (52), only longer. Jane is still at Godmersham: she can enjoy summer at Godmersham, with Cassandra holding down the fort in Castle Square, with Mrs Austen and Anna Austen by Cassandra’s side. Jane Austen is intently alert to the difference between the luxurious existence of Godmersham and her own at Bath and Southampton and probable future (the Southampton menage would not keep up) and that her and Cassandra’s life tasks include taking care of and visiting old women alone and minding children.

This letter too is filled with specifics of people’s lives, some of which are not fully explained because we are expected to know the assumptions (as, for example, that Mr and Mrs Moore are watched acutely by Austen because, apparently, she and the rest of this clutch of Austen people and friends have been told that they don’t get along well, and perhaps that Mr Moore is even violent to Mrs Moore, a bully, off-stage). Sometimes statements are not fully explained because Austen does not fully explain this kind of thing, as her apparent lack of pleasure in Scott’s new wildly best-selling or at least read poem, Marmion, read aloud each night by brother James: this is indeed in character for him, and we see his wife cannot or does not stop all his reading loves. Each sentence is really loaded with this kind of thing. And just about nothing that we can see has been censored. Plus no letters are omitted.

So this is the kind of letter of which Cassandra totally approved and thought others could be allowed to see and read. No surprise really that on first blush it seems dull and certainly nothing unconventional can be seen. We have a whole series of these here, all longish.

We learn a lot about Austen from it and not superficial things either precisely because she epitomizes her life do intensely; it’s rather like reading the first couple of paragraphs of a rich novel and seeing how the passage (in an Arnoldian spirit) is the book in miniature, anticipates it. Not all learning is of her subjectivities and how she spends a social day — indeed read with care, we see that she spend 2-3 hours alone her apartment (that is her room and) each morning after breakfast — this is writing time, and given her intensity with no phones ringing, no internet, no chores, she could get quite a good deal done (written). We learn that Mrs Knight gave Austen money (the fee, the regular allowance) and this makes Austen feel better she says, pays for her pelisse.

It’s a letter of sight-seeing and visiting as a prime good thing to do for a social life. We also glimpse Austen trying again to form the small group of especially congenial women living together, one which includes Martha and Miss Sharp, the latter whom Austen manages to visit. They were even looking and found one Rose Hill Cottage, but it was beyond their means.


Christ Church, Canterbury, 1798 by Turner

As the letter opens, it’s a continuation of the previous. Jane implies she cannot imagine Mary Lloyd Austen would have written down the particulars of the visit to Canterbury for real, much less those which would be likely to interest Cassandra. So she, Jane, will first talk of it.

Harriot continues affectionate in the way she was at Goodnestone in 1805 (letter 46). They walked together to call on the matriarch elderly Mrs Brydges. Louisa and Elizabeth to Mrs Milles: these are charitable visits in effect. The younger unmarried women pay respect to and keep company the elder widows. White Friars is a mansion at Canterbury and there is Mrs Knight who is giving Jane an allowance each year; there’s no guarantee and it may be withdrawn at any time, but it does seem from previous letters and this one that Jane genuinely liked this woman, saw good qualities in her so
beyond her giving Jane money (a sign of this benevolence), Jane really had no trouble praising her, enjoying her company. “Gentle, kind and friendly” are as positive words as one gets in the Austen idiolect. Mrs Knight also asked after Cassandra and Mrs Austen.

Mrs Baskerville is someone who sells perfumes or does your hair; fifteen minutes into Jane and Harriot’s visit to Mrs Knight, Elizabeth and Louisa rushed (“hot”) from Mrs Baskerville and then in 5 minutes Mr Moore himself. It’s clear from Austen’s language that she has been told very adverse things about Moore; nonetheless Austen cannot pretend to dislike him after one visit, even if Mary Lloyd Austen (or Mary Gibson Austen) does. He’s a gentleman in manners but “not winning.” Not appealing, not trying to appeal. And then the sentence (brief) Arnie made a lot out of: “He made one formal inquiry after you.” That does suggest constraint on his part and signalling Cassandra should be constrained in turn.

Austen then comments on Mr and Mrs Moore’s little girl who she compares with the present “idol” of the immediate family at Southampton: Frank and Mary Gibson Austen’s child, a Mary Jane likened to Mr and Mrs Moore’s little girl: very small, very pretty, delicate, nice dark eyes, Mary Jane’s fine color

Austen does not like to hear the egregious over-the-top praise people give to infants. Harriot does not overdo the ecstasy: “Harriot’s fondness … is just what is amiable & natural & not foolish.”

There is an older girl from a previous marriage, just like in James Austen’s case, a Caroline and Austen finds her “very plain.” (Who is she to say? but never mind). Then a switch of topics: Edward is magnanimous about providing rides. He will take Jane to Southampton in order for him to visit with his mother and other sister. He offers to ferry Jane to Southampton so he can visit with his mother and Cassandra and hopes to spend “a whole day with you,” and bring his namesake son. She worries Cassandra will need more bed for the two and tells her the date to be ready by: July 8th to reach Southampton on the 9th.

Two, more significant passages:

This morning brought me a letter from Mrs Knight, containing the usual Fee, & all the usual Kindness. She asks me to spend a day or two with her this week, to meet Mrs C. Knatchbull, who with her Husband comes to the W Friars to day–& I beleive I shall go.-I have consulted Edward–& think it will be arranged for Mrs J. A.’s going with me one morning, my staying the night, & Edward’s driving me home the next Evening.-Her very agreable present will make my circumstances quite easy. I shall reserve half for my Pelisse.

White Friars, Kent, 1786

You give twice or twice as much when you give graciously and make the recipient comfortable. Nonetheless, Jane must now spend a day or two with her, and meet Mrs C. Knatchbull. The name is that of the man Fanny Austen Knight married. Mrs C K seems to be the widow of Knight II, living with and near Mrs Knight. Another older woman. Certainly plenty of models for Miss Bates.

The a reference to the Bigg sisters, usually slightly fraught these,
memories of the refused proposal coming in here.

I hope, by this early return I am sure of seeing Catherine & Alethea;­& I propose that either with or without them, you & I & Martha shall have a snug fortnight while my Mother is at Steventon.

We see this dream group and life Austen wanted: the group of tightly knit relative/lover women: Jane and Cassandra, Martha –
they are missing only Miss Sharpe.

I like Jane’s truth-telling about what it feels like to adults to endure children a good deal; they have to stretch themselves. Mary does find herself independent of her children: “We go on very well here, Mary finds the Children less troublesome than she ex­pected, & independent of them, there is certainly not much to try the patience or hurt the spirits at Godmersham.”

Then a curious passage: Austen will “initiate Mary into the “mysteries of Inmanism.” The poor old Lady is as thin & chearful as ever, and very thankful for a new acquaintance otherwise (pp 129-30) Jane had brought Elizabeth and Louisa before.

What Austen means by initiating Mary into the mysteries Inmanism. They are imitating acts of kindness practiced by the children of Godersham — in the way of children they took it into their heads to regard visiting an old poor widow allowed to live in a park-keeper’s cottage as an adventure or treat (LeFaye p 589 note 5). So it’s visiting someone who is crippled and lives alone a deprived existence. Uneducated unwanted by anyone for real poor single women are what Jane and Cassandra fill their lives with. It’s better to do this than do nothing and theirs is an analogous case.

It reminds me of a visit in Brideshead Revisited to a nanny, very old lady allowed to live in an attic in the house. Maybe because the old woman seems to live this innocent life to those not identifying with her. Maybe such women were kept innocent by the culture, simpletons.

I take it there is a real deeply gratification to serving others, including very elderly single ladies. There but for the grace of luck and time and place go I (Austen identifies with Miss Smith.)

Austen then remarks on the friends & acquaintances (and she is also even handed towards servants who are people too) she saw while at Canterbury whom she assumes will please Cassandra.

I find John Bridges grown very old & black, but his manners are not altered; he is very pleasing, & talks of Hampshire with great admiration.-Pray let Anna have the pleasure of knowing that she is remembered with kindness both by Mrs Cooke & Miss Sharpe. Her manners must be very much worsted by your description of them, but I hope they will improve by this visit.­ Mrs Knight finishes her letter with “Give my best love to Cassandra when you write to her.”-I shall like spending a day at the White Friars very much.-

So Austen visited her long time close friend, now a paid companion, Miss Sharpe. She wants Anna to know they remember her with kindness — so we see in an earlier visit how Anna had become part of this circle. Apparently Cassandra was complaining of Anna’s manners and Austen again quietly taking Anna’s side: Anna will get better; in the meantime with Mrs Knight sending love in a postscript.

Anna Austen Lefroy, early young womanhood

The last part tells of the breakfast before in the library), of how the others were hot and complained, but that she and Louisa can feel “alike as to the weather, & are cool & comfortable.


1996 Emma: Mrs Elton picking Strawberries at Donwell

What we are seeing here is a group of people who have little work to do; they are people of leisure looking for how to fill their days. The rest of the party stay pleasantly at home and are “quiet and comfortable” – that’s how Jane sees it. She speaks of “merriment” at dinner between Edward Louisa, Harriot and herself.

Wednes­day– The Moores came yesterday in their Curricle between one & two o’clock, & immediately after the noonshine which succeeded their arrival, a party set off for Buckwell to see the Pond dragged.

Five of the males (Edward & James Edward, James, John Bridge driving Mary go with the Moore to see the pond dragged.

Here is this odd passage about Mr Moore: Austen watches him and Mrs Moore intently; Arnie might be right in this: he was seen as an eligible match. Maybe the stories about him that are apparently so negative are the way the women around reconciled themselves to his having married someone else. Mr Moore was expected to talk more; Fanny told her Mr Moore did not act like his usual self “our being strangers made him so much more silent and quiet”. She would not have watched but that she was given a reason. All she can see is Mr Moore’s “manners want Tenderness — & he was a little violent at last about the impossibility of her going to Eastwell.” That is he won’t let his wife go to Eastwell (a lovely house and landscape owned by the Finches). They are all intently watching this couple” Mary is “disappointed in her beauty,” James “admires her and finds him conversable.”

My guess is they have been told he is a cruel man to his wife and there has been evidence of this in public — bullying and controlling where she goes to in front of the others.

It was the Moores who took her answer to Mrs Knight: yes to the money she’s to get and yes she’ll come and visit. Jane says she has no trouble in answering – pretending now that she is rich:

I wrote without much effort; for I was rich — & the Rich are always respectable, whatever be their stile of writing.”

Then a plan for the next day and the following Tuesday — more of the same. Says Jane summing up “These are our engagements; make the most of them.” Think of the life of Emma Woodhouse, and we see a resonating line (this is June too): “I want to hear of your gathering Strawberries, we have had them three times here.”

Jane imagines Cassandra fills up with this kind of thing despite her refusal to pretend to feelings she doesn’t have and determination to remember Goodneston is a foarm.

Mr Waller is dead, I see, — I cannot grieve about it, nore perhaps can his Widow very much — Edward began cutting Stfoin on saturday and I hope is likely to have favourable weather;-the crop is good.- There has been a cold & sore throat prevailing very much in this House lately, the Children have almost all been ill with it, & we were afraid Lizzy was going to be very ill one day; she had specks & a great deal of fever.-It went off how­ever, & they are all pretty well now.-I want to hear of your gathering Strawberries, we have had them three times here.-I suppose you have been obliged to have in some white wine, & must visit the Store Closet a little oftener than when you were quite by yourselves.-

There’s a little teasing here: she means that Cassandra will present herself as self-sacrificing, forced to gather strawberries and eat them and have wine with it. But really she is delighted to do it with the excuse of a guest beyond her mother (Anna):

One begins really to expect the St Albans now, & I wish she may come before Henry goes to Cheltenham, it will be so much more convenient to him. He will be very glad if Frank can come to him in London, as his own Time is likely to be very precious, but does not depend on it.-I shall not forget Charles next week.-

A sudden rush together of details about the brothers.


Netley Abbey, Hampshire, old photo

Then Austen has a letter from Cassandra and we get the usual repeat of extravagant praise — couched in quieter language It may be half-mocking as Diane says and Austen notes Cassandra’s very long sentences critically.

& now to my agreable surprise I have to acknowledge another Letter from you.-I had not the least notion of hearing before tomorrow, & heard of Russell’s being about to pass the Windows without any anxi­ety. You are very amiable & very clever to write such long Letters; every page of yours has more lines than this, & every line more words than the average of mine. I am quite ashamed-but you have certainly more little events than we have.

Have they agreed to fill their letters with this kind of trivia? I am not the only one to come to the conclusion that the swapping back and forth was their way of making themselves useful, one to sit with the mother and the other to help Elizabeth with her children.

Its a joke that one can hear of someone walking by a window without anxiety as if it were an earth-shaking event. The nothingness of their lives is felt here. And now Jane does break down for a bit:

Mr Lyford supplies you with a great deal of interesting Matter (Matter Intellectual, not physical)-but I have 1 nothing to say of Mr Scudamore. And now, that is such a sad~ stupid attempt at Wit, about Matter, that nobody can smile at it, & I am quite out of heart. I am sick of myself, & my bad pens.-I have no other complaint however, my languor is entirely removed

Something is driving her to pretend to accept all this. An agreement with Cassandra?

Now something that might have mattered does come to mind: Scott’s Marmion, but Austen does not like it. It’s James who reads it aloud, the family poet. I’ve tried Marmion and find it dull myself. It’s in ballad stanza, very conventional martial kind of story. I’m not surprised Austen doesn’t like it. Diane talks of how different a writer Austen is from Scott; she did like the novels but the poetry was and is poor and Austen see through the fashion for it here. The cant. She might do also because she’s jealous. And yes we see here how Austen feels these long long days — exquisite wastes of time as she wades through and then the evening when they read too short, and then she is frustrated to listen to Marmion. Scott is published and she not and she does _know herself his equal_ even if no one else does.

Then Austen turns half-mockingly to Cassandra’s letter for her to have matter. (This does remind me of myself sometimes). Again one of these distant Austens was visited. “I am glad of your various civilities have turned out so well & most heartily wish you Success & Pleasure in your present engagement.” Jane says she will think of Cassandra at Netley tonight and tomorrow too.

Maybe it was this kind of validation of Cassandra’s existence that made Jane mean so much to her. Who else would do this? Profess even half-mockingly to care?

Netley is a picturesque ruin people in Southampton went for visits to (LeFaye p 613). Again how people of leisure and taste spend their days.

If the stawberries remind us of Emma, so the news of Mrs Powlett anticipates Mansfield Park. It’s a newspaper item about a woman eloping from her husband with another man. The news story as quoted by LeFaye shows the leering language of a nasty shallow mind being fed. Jane Austen calls it “a sad story” That she takes the sex outside marriage seriously as a transgression is suggested by her association: she saw this woman taking the Sacrament “the last time that you and I did …”

Everyone gossiping about it; it was in the Courier, Austen says (but LeFaye can’t find it there) and Mr Moore guesses who is the man.


Jane Austen (Olivia Williams) writing at Godmersham

“Yes, I enjoy my apartment very much, & always spend tow or three hours in it after breakfast — the change from Brompton quarters to these is masterful as to Space”

Here’s where we may glimpse her writing: at last. I admit to me some of these letters are a kind of wasteland and I think to give it up, and then I come across a detail here or there which gives insight into the core matter of the novels (where the stories and characters come from) or Austen’s attitude towards her fiction or some serious comment about life. Here is when she writes. We learn at some point Jane stayed in Brompton and it was very cramped and she did not forget it; the experience makes her appreciate Godmersham’s easily available amenities even for her.

Then the line which shows her awareness of Caroline and anticipates Fanny Price. I still think that the line disparaging Caroline is for Cassandra’s benefit, no Jane denies Cassandra’s imputation that Jane finds Caroline more engaging precisely because Caroline doesn’t fit in and is “more plain” than her cousins: and “not so headstrong or humoursome” as they are.

Here are the Bertrams too. Cassandra was right even if her teasing and very different attitudes (thick skinned) leads Austen to deny her own as we see them in MP.

A kind of strained existence going on underneath here.


The Godmersham children, Fanny Austen Knight (Imogen Poots) at center (2008 Miss Austen Regrets)

Her brother [James Edward] is to go with us to Canterbury tomorrow, & Fanny completes the party. I fancy Mrs K. feels less interest in that branch of the family than any other.

Mrs Knight doesn’t care for James and Mary’s children, but then underneath she may not care for them (selfish) , but Jane says “I dare say she will do her duty however, by the Boy.” Jane means that Mrs Knight will still leave James-Edward money. Note nothing for Caroline.

His Uncle Edward talks nonsense to him delightfully-more than he can always understand. The two Morrises are come to dine & spend the day with him. Mary wishes my Mother to buy whatever she thinks necessary for Anna’s Shifts;-& hopes to see her at Steventon soon after ye 9th of July, if that time is as convenient to my Mother as any other.-I have hardly done justice to what she means on the subject, as her intention is that my Mother shd come at whatever time She likes best.-They will be at home on ye 9th

How good of Mary to allow Mrs Austen to buy clothes for Anna. We see how Anna is under the thumb of this stepmother. The others are afraid to buy needed things for her.

I always come in for a morning visit from Crondale, & Mr & Mrs Filmer have just given me my due. He & I talked away gaily of Southampton, the Harrisons Wallers &c. – Fanny sends her best Love to You all, & will write to Anna very soon.-

Crondale is another village close to Godmersham and the Filmers had a seventeenth century house there. Again the picturesque poetic place is one Jane’s relatives think she will like to go to and the Filmers speak of Austen’s taste for this with respect. People try not to insult her. And we have another male talking gaily with Austen of the place and doings at Southampton — teasing and gossiping.

The privileged oldest girl at Godmersham Fanny sends love to Cassandra and promises to write to the very unprivileged girl at Steventon and Southampton — Anna. What a sad life Anna did live. How glad she must have been to marry — only to find endless babies, and genteel poverty and its frustrations and enclosure as a married woman her lot.

Austen has a PS in which she teases: Oh she longs for news from Bath and the Perrots. Right.

But she is also serious, a final detail that matters: Rose Hill cottage. Cassandra has found a place she and Austen and maybe Martha could live together. They have not given the dream up. “I am almost sorry that Rose Hill Cottage should be so near suiting us, as it does not quite.” Almost doesn’t win the race. She is almost sorry it doesn’t suit because it’s doesn’t quite. She does not put statements in positive form does she? The meaning is it hurts to know of the place because it almost would have done.

Chawton is a year away. We see Edward growing older and being more decent in this letter let us remark too

There is no Rose Hill Cottage anymore, but here is an 18th century cottage (said to be used by smugglers), renovated and for rent, Hampshire (modern photo)

Letters 43, 44; 45, 46, 47, and 48, 49, 50, 51, and 52.


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