Sunday, 11 November 2007
Monday, 3 September 2007
It is during the significant turning point of Persuasion’s storyline, the visit to Lyme, that the accidents of Uppercross come to a head, and where the strands of the web holding Wentworth close to Louisa Musgrove and away from Anne shift and snap in their course. The visit to Lyme heralds the closing of the country setting and the opening of the
The climax of the bond between Louisa and Wentworth, a frenzy of school-girlish admiration on her side and careless enjoyment on his, comes in the form of Persuasion’s most significant accident, Louisa’s near tragic fall on the Cobb at Lyme. The intimacy between Wentworth and Louise is child like and during their walks around Uppercross ‘he had had to jump her from the stiles’ as ‘the sensation was delightful to her’. From the steps on the Cobb Louisa insists Wentworth catches her, which he does, but a second, too precipitous jump leaves her seriously injured, concussed, unconscious for a period and bedridden during a long convalescence at Lyme. Louisa’s accident puts crucial developments into motion, realizations and reactions that pull Wentworth away from her and towards Anne:
…he had seen everything to exalt in his estimation the woman he had lost; and there begun to deplore the pride, the folly, the madness of resentment, which had kept him from trying to regain her when thrown in his way
Louisa’s obstinacy in jumping despite warnings of danger and Anne’s quick thinking and sensible reactions to the emergency, his feelings of guilt and responsibility and the group’s assuming there to be agreement between himself and Louisa force Wentworth to analyze his actions of the past few weeks, and to acknowledge his obligation to Louisa even while he confronts the reality that he is still very much in love with Anne, but honor bound to Louisa.
But as Louisa recovers she begins to fall in love with, and to be loved by, Captain Benwick. Benwick’s fiancé had died the previous summer while he was at sea, an accidental chance that left Benwick broken hearted and in need of healing himself. And though he could not be at the sickbed of Fanny Harville, he could be by Louisa Musgrove’s. The quiet, nervous girl that Louisa emerges as is the patient that Benwick can nurse, and the bookish, intelligent and kind Captain is exactly the man to now capture her heart. The news of their engagement frees Wentworth of any obligation and propels him to
To be continued.
Saturday, 25 August 2007
I must humbly ask that my dear readership, parva sed apta, stand by me with angelic patience while I take yet a little more time off from writing. After more than twelve months of worry, of fussing about with paperwork, of pushing forward blind and not really knowing where were going and lamenting not having a lawyer, I've recently been notified that next week I am being granted my Canadian residency, for as some of you already know I'm Australian and married to a Canuck. My residency will finally allow me to work, study and leave the country. Though I'm just across the border in Vancouver I haven't been able to visit America in almost two years and I'll tell you, the stores in Seattle that carry Tom's Shoes and Ethiopian coffee beans and competitively priced liquor are not going to know what hit them. Me. In a caffeine fueled, Tom's wearing shopping frenzy with my Seattle based sister in law. (Hi Dieringers!)
But that's for later. Right now I need a little time to prepare for my entré into Canadian Residency. I'll still be manning Old Grey Pony as before when I've gotten myself organized. In the meantime, here's a few points of interest.
- Many Books is a fantastic resource from which you can download many books in PDF, eBook or iPod Notes format, and from where I just acquired some long desired works of Elizabeth von Arnim.
- Many readers of Jane Austen's novels and short stories enjoy a dive into the dubious world of Austen film and TV adaptations and I'm not immune to an occasional dip myself. I have seen every, and I mean every, adaptation and the only ones I can recommend unreservedly are Persuasion 1995 (Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds) and Northanger Abbey 1986 (Peter Firth and Katharine Schlesinger).
- It has nothing to do with Austen but I think Indexed is adorable. Enjoy.
Back in a week or so.
Thanks for reading.
Friday, 17 August 2007
Tuesday, 14 August 2007
c. 1765 - 1815
One of the most scandalous relationships of Georgian England was the devoted alliance between Emma, Lady Hamilton and the hero of the nation, Horatio Nelson. Like any public and unconventional woman, an inordinate amount has been written about Lady Hamilton, much of it unflattering and most of it untrue. The daughter of a Blacksmith, Emma, born Amy Lyon in Cheshire circa 1761-5, at the age of sixteen or seventeen was a most ravishingly beautiful girl who had become the full time mistress of the Hon. Charles Greville in London after having been very lately abandoned pregnant by her former lover Sir Harry Fetherstonehaugh. Before her entry into the demi-monde
During the five years she lived with Greville, Emma sat more than 100 times for the painter George Romney. Though a majority of these sittings were by Romney's obsessive desire, many of them were commissioned by Greville and it was the cost of these portraits that helped contribute to the massive personal debts that forced Greville to give Emma up in 1786 in search of a wealthy bride. Greville sent her to
As Lady Hamilton Emma was literally the toast of
Roman history, that became famous and much admired in Europe by many, including writer Johann Wolfgang Goethe and composer Joseph Hadyn, other artists and academics and many of the members of parliament, of royal families and of aristocracies within Sir William's vast and varied ambassadorial and scientific circles.
Although Emma was very beautiful, it was the way she could embody a character as an ideal and her eye for the visually artistic, the skills of a good model and a muse, that made her prized by many painters as a subject, including Vigée le Brun, Marie Antoinette's friend and principal portrait artist. The Neoclassicism of the Enlightenment and the European Republican admiration for Ancient Greece and
Emma first met Admiral Nelson briefly in August 1793 when his ship The Agamemnon docked in the
In 1800 the Hamiltons and Nelson returned to
Their daughter Horatia was born in 1801. Sir William, quite elderly by this time, died in
I sometimes wonder if the very public and well publicized scandal of Emma and Nelson had an impact on the way Austen chose to portray the navy, sexual misconduct and sexual misconduct within in the navy in
Emma Hart, later Lady Hamilton in a White Turban
The Hunting Library,
Monday, 13 August 2007
Residents of Vancouver BC may be interested to know that in January 2008 the East Vancouver Cultural Centre will be housing the Catalyst Theatre's very well received production of Frankenstein.
Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was published in 1818. The production is an original and faithful adaptation by Jonathan Christenson.
Photo by Photomagic featuring Tracey Penner
Friday, 10 August 2007
Little did I expect to come across The Greatest Podcast of All Time.
iTunesU features a brand new selection of free podcasts created and published by universities for their students and the Lit2Go (love the name) cast created by the University of South Florida is phenomenal and includes, among many others, a fantastic reading of Sense and Sensibility in the Group 9 collection and Northanger Abbey in the Group 12 collection. I don't know who the narrator is but his voice and his style of reading are excellent and it's very refreshing to listen to an Austen novel read by a male narrator for a change, and who is much more talented at reading than some of the actors narrating purchasable titles.
Lit2Go is very exciting and features many classics, too many to mention here but a quick look reveals several Georgian and Austen related works, including:
The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Castles of Athlin and Dublayne by Ann Radcliffe
Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
The Purple Jar by Maria Edgeworth
There are so many more and a quick special mention to the Brontë sisters, Sir Aurthur Conan Doyle, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Lewis Carroll and Virginia Woolf, as well as poetry and traditional readings and also another collection En Espaňol. Nice one, University of South Florida. If you do not have iTunes already, you may download it free of charge on the Apple website.
I'm going to have a good old browse through the rest of iTunesU and a blueberry muffin.
Thursday, 9 August 2007
The Trout Gallery Dickinson College, PA
A native of
Priestley’s contributions to education were as important as those to science. He was the first British educator to insist on the value of modern history as a subject and that a thorough understanding of history was necessary not only to worldly success but also to spiritual growth. Priestley was innovative in the teaching and description of English grammar, particularly his efforts to disassociate it from Latin grammar, and the founder of the first liberal arts curriculum. He communicated with Thomas Jefferson regarding the proper organization of a university and when Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, it was Priestley's curricular principles that dominated the school. No wonder it’s so awesome.
Priestley helped found the Unitarian church and was a supporter of the French Revolution, and due to his nonconformist views, in 1791 a mob destroyed his house and laboratory in
Tuesday, 7 August 2007
Anne Elliot and her two suitors Captain Wentworth and Mr Elliot, are traveling in a web of accidents and coincidences in Persuasion. This web puts them all in the same field, gives both suitors the advantage of luck and mystery, yet keeps them tangled away from Anne, struggling and gradually moving in their necessary directions, towards and away from her, as the novel progresses.
Wentworth is most strongly associated with luck and lucky accidents. At the time of his youthful engagement to Anne he had already 'been lucky in his profession’ and later Admiral Croft comments on his luck at having been assigned the Laconia by the navy, in which he had chanced to take enough privateers and war bounty to make him rich. Coinciding with his return from the war, his sister and brother-in-law the Crofts ‘accidentally hear’ of Kellynch Hall being to let while at Taunton, and thus the new tenants of Kellynch, Anne’s rightful home and the scene of her historic courtship, are the immediate family of her one time fiancé, and expecting Wentworth moreover to stay with them.
While Sir Walter and Elizabeth Elliot decamp to Bath, Anne embarks on a long visit to her married sister Mary in the adjoining neighbourhood of Uppercross and, given the sociable habits of the Uppercross family, the Musgroves, she is understandably uneasy at the prospect of socializing with a man whom she had been persuaded to break off an engagement with eight years earlier, who has improved with time while she has faded, and with whom she is still in love. But a Persuasion accident allows her to absent herself from the dinner party she was to first meet him again at, when her nephew suffers a bad fall from a tree. In order that the child’s parents may attend the dinner, she offers to stay at home and nurse the him, preventing a long, painful and public reunion for them both. A coincidence is discovered by Mrs Musgrove when she suddenly remembers that Wentworth was the one of the captains their son Richard had served under in the navy. Never much loved on land but having died at sea, the troublesome Dick’s association with Wentworth, who had encouraged him to write the only two letters that weren’t supplications for money that his parents ever received, gives a touchingly pathetic and grateful tinge to the already healthy Uppercross admiration for the captain. And at Uppercross, accidents and coincidences first seem to pull Wentworth towards Louisa Musgrove.
The occurrence of accidents is a dominant motif throughout the narrative and never more so than on the day of the young people’s long walk to
“…I wonder whereabouts they will upset to-day. Oh! it does happen very often, I assure you; but my sister makes nothing of it; she would as lieve be tossed out as not."
"Ah! You make the most of it, I know," cried Louisa, "but if it were really so, I should do just the same in her place. If I loved a man, as she loves the Admiral, I would always be with him, nothing should ever separate us, and I would rather be overturned by him, than driven safely by anybody else."
It was spoken with enthusiasm.
"Had you?" cried he, catching the same tone; "I honour you!"
Anne’s thoughts ‘could not immediately fall into a quotation again’ after this exchange, understandably.
Later on the Winthrop walk she accidentally overhears a conversation between Wentworth and Louisa. Having sat down to rest, ‘she very soon heard Captain Wentworth and Louisa in the hedge-row, behind her’, an accident which has two-fold significance. In one way, the exchange between Louisa and Wentworth draws him superficially closer to Louisa as he admires her strength of resolution in comparison to Henrietta Musgrove’s wavering about Charles Hayter, and by unmentioned proxy, Anne’s youthful wavering about him. But she also overhears Louisa tell him how she had refused her brother Charles' proposal a few years earlier too. Louisa wrongly speculates that Lady Russell persuaded her to refuse Charles Musgrove, leading Anne to assume Wentworth will now believe her to be completely without judgment for herself. And yet, ‘there had been just that degree of feeling and curiosity about her in his manner’ to pose the idea that he now begins to hope she might still be in love with him.
On the close of the Winthrop walk, the party comes across the accident prone Crofts in their gig and Wentworth, having noticed Anne’s fatigue, orchestrates a lift for her with them and Anne is driven home by the couple who unknowingly almost had become, and later would become her in-laws. And though on the drive they speculate on a romance at Uppercross for Wentworth, due to Mrs Croft’s precision, any other accidents here were avoided:
…by coolly giving the reins a better direction herself they happily passed the danger; and by once afterwards judiciously putting out her hand they neither fell into a rut, nor ran foul of a dung-cart.
To be continued
Thursday, 2 August 2007
Among novelists who have written more than one or two books, for me it is happens most often that I will like only one or two of a particular writer's works, and it is very rare that something about the writer's style or subject matter will make me very keen, obsessed even at times, to read all of their books, usually as soon as possible. This occurred most strongly for me with Jean Rhys, George Eliot, Henry James, Thomas Hardy, (indeed, this was very nearly a Hardy blog) Fyodor Dostoevsky and of course, Jane Austen. With one notable exception.
I read Emma first when I was about seventeen and at the time probably simply thought as it as my least favourite Austen book, shelved it for three or four years and never thought about it.
In a fit of boredom I re-read it again years later, that time with more respect for the character writing but still with no great attachment to it and I remember calling Emma something along the lines of a self important airhead as I finished the book. I read it too in my Eng Lit class days and though my appreciation for the story grew and my dislike of the central character dwindled it was still the least interesting work in my book, and I didn't enter into the stance held by scholars who articles I read in lit journals, that it was Austen's most complex work. At the time I thought it as light, relatively enjoyable but not significant reading.
Today, in the middle of reading Emma for the fourth time, I wonder how I could have been so blind. I'm astounded really that I never picked up on the depth of Emma before. Perhaps that it takes place in a inward looking, confined area squashed in with characters whom I could never like. Mr Knightley and Jane Fairfax are the most interesting and the reader's time with them is so limited, necessarily. I really can't put it down on this reading and am amazed that I disliked it so much before. I think perhaps it takes maturity to not misread Emma.
I'll be writing more about Emma once I've finished and I'm interested in your perceptions of the novel...
Tuesday, 31 July 2007
Previously attributed to Joshua Reynolds
Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter
Although forms of bondage had existed in West and Central Africa (and indeed in
In 1788 an autobiographical work, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, was published in England, and which set the precedent for anti-slavery literature written by former slaves themselves, which would have a profound impact on the abolition movements in the eighteenth century. Equiano was born in what is modern day
Among the tradition of slave narratives, Equiano's is considered a remarkable achievement since the autobiographical style was not a well-developed genre in the eighteenth century. His narrative has vivid details and is written in the picaresque style. Equiano provides a detailed account of his kidnapping, the unfathomable crossing of the
Thursday, 26 July 2007
“Very lucky--marrying as they did, upon an acquaintance formed only in a public place!--They only knew each other, I think, a few weeks in
What is Frank Churchill doing in Emma when he makes this statement at the Box Hill Picnic? Ridiculing the Eltons, whom this speech was about, and expressing his disdain for them? Carrying on the campaign of deceit in Highbury to hide his secret engagement with Jane Fairfax, which had also been formed on a few weeks' acquaintance in a public watering place, Weymouth, and having a private, ironic joke about it? Trifling with the affections of Jane Fairfax by insinuating that he might have tired of their engagement? He is doing all of these simultaneously and moreover, giving voice to an opinion generally held at the time about acquaintances formed in public, and especially watering, places.
Mr Knightley holds this opinion himself and expresses it in his succinct history of their engagement:
“He meets with a young woman at a watering-place, gains her affection, cannot even weary her by negligent treatment--and had he and all his family sought round the world for a perfect wife for him, they could not have found her superior.”
The point being of course that at watering places such as
It was unseemly undoubtedly of Jane Fairfax to agree to an engagement, and a clandestine one at that, with a man who's guardians it's known as a certainty will object to her poverty despite her excellent character and real attachment to their kinsman. The treatment she receives from Frank Churchill and Emma however, the irksomeness of Mrs Elton's attentions and the tediousness of Miss Bates', and the very uncomfortable notion that such a woman as Jane Fairfax should have to waste her life as a governess, more than makes up for losing her head by the seaside, no? On the topic of Mrs Elton, Austen gives her two portions of association, and rightly so. She hails from
Austen visited the seaside many times, and at many different spots, during her life. Impropriety by the seaside was on it's way to theming itself into an entire novel but Austen's last illness and her sad early death left her novel of a seaside town, entitled Sanditon unfinished
Tuesday, 24 July 2007
In 1747, several years after Charlotte Fielding’s death, he caused some scandal by marrying his wife's maid and friend Mary Daniel - he was condemned by every snob in
Fielding's writings became more socially orientated – among other things, he opposed public hangings. After having studied the law throughout his life, he was appointed to the bar in 1740 and he was made justice of the peace for the City of
Biopics that meddle with historical figures and bend the facts to promote their agenda drive me crazy. At the same time, I love a good historical film. I am not immune to enjoying historical inaccuracy. A movie like Amadeus for example puts a person like me in a bit of a jam. On one hand, it’s a phenomenal production in every sense. On the other, it’s a total fabrication and thanks to it, Salieri will probably always be thought of by every body who takes biopics to be factual, as the murderer of Mozart. Which is really unfair if you happen to be Salieri; and which leads me again and unequivocally for the last time, to Becoming Jane. God, that title is so syrupy it makes me queasy.
It is true that Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy had a short but animated flirtation, that they were very much attracted to one another, and that Lefroy disappointed her. A very brief non-mention of him in one of her letters three years after their acquaintance ceased shows that she had cared for him but there is nothing to suggest a grand love. (I’m pretty sure ‘non-mention’ isn’t passable as a word but I think it describes Austen's allusional style of letter writing better than, well, allusion. Caveat: allusional is also not a word kids.) In his old age Lefroy told his nephew that he’d had ‘a boyish love’ for ‘the writer Jane Austen’ but I can’t help but wonder that if she had not become famous by the time this remark was made, would he have even remembered the short flirtation of their long distant youth?
I call it shabby indeed to build these few scratchings of a month long flirtation into a love affair and declare that it was a talented writer’s greatest influence. Austen’s influences were clearly drawn from the world around her, for her books are full of lives, the way of people and the way of the world, not just courtships. Those lives are diverse too and not often romantic: glimpses into the never ending workload of servants, the grubby port dwelling Prices, Harriet Smith and Eliza Williams of dubious and undesirable birth, Eliza Barton in a spunging-house¹, Mrs Smith in poverty and crippled, Dick Musgrove, a troublesome half-wit son, the grasping, offensive, stupid John Thorpe and a long list of gamblers, seducers and idiots. Her works feature sailors and soldiers at war, allusions to political unrest, ambition of every nature and moral ambiguity. If love isn’t the sole feature of her books, how can it reasonably be called her sole influence?
If an ado really had to be made about her love life, which I cannot consider as necessary or desirable, Austen was disappointed likewise by a Mr Holder of Ashe House as well as Tom Lefroy. Austen had evidentially expected a proposal from Holder, had even written of her disappointment to her sister, of their being ten minutes alone together in the same room and yet her not receiving any declaration. Austen appears to have had at least three serious suitors, two of whom she received definite proposals from, and denied, but it has been, more realistically in my opinion, speculated that if Austen ever had strong feelings for anyone, it was for the third, and a very shadowy personage, the Nameless Clergyman. In the summer of 1801 the Austens holidayed in
It was fully expected by the Austen family that at the first opportunity the clergyman would offer marriage, and that Jane would accept….Instead of an early reunion with her would-be fiancé Jane Austen, according to Cassandra³, received soon after from his brother notice of his death
Anybody who has become friendly with someone while on holiday, promised to keep in touch, and then never contacted them again, will know that such friendships do spring up and fizzle out in life, and that sometimes, rather than inflict hurt, a person will lie to get out of an acquaintance or obligation. But the possibility of lying about a brother’s death however, even to get out of a reconsidered and cooled attachment, seems too extreme to be probable. But it is possible and we can’t reject the possibility of this notice being untrue. Some of Austen’s letters from this time, like so many others, were censored and cut up by Cassandra Austen after her sister’s death and no further mention of the clergyman, his brother or their name can be found.
This censorship took place to preserve Austen’s reputation, or image rather, as a contented, dutiful and sedate woman. This white-washed image was gobbled up whole by a society nursing a conservative backlash that would soon fully unleash itself during the reign of What it comes down to is speculation nonetheless, and a little too much to call something biographic.
What it comes down to is speculation nonetheless, and a little too much to call something biographic.
If a filmmaker were bent on producing an Austen love biopic, this tender history of a dead lover would seem far more likely material or at least be enough to discredit the notion of one young and immature man straight of college having an influence over the work of Austen for the rest of her life. Lefroy, I don’t doubt was focused on because, as he later became the Chief Justice of Ireland, there was plenty of information about his life to flesh him out and he happened to utter that claim to immortal association, of having had a ‘boyish love’ for her. The question of why a studio would make such a film can have at least two answers, and probably more. A feminist take would suggest that our society can’t handle the thought of a bold, intelligent woman becoming one of the greatest authors in the canon of English literature simply because she was brilliant, and must attribute the greatness of her works to the influence of men. A similarly cynical answer may be the most obvious: that thanks to the popularity of the screen adaptations of Austen’s novels, a love biopic about the writer herself, along with the bonus of permitting a usage of the carriages and corsets draw card, ever popular with the free spending female audience, is going to bring in buckets of cash, whether accurate or not.
¹A place of temporary confinement for debtors, kept by a bailiff, where debtors were sponged of all money they had on themselves, before being transferred to debtor's prison (Wikionary)
² Jane Austen's Lovers by John Halperin in Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. 25, No. 4, Nineteenth Century. (Autumn, 1985), pp. 719-736
³ Cassandra Austen, Jane Austen’s sister and chief correspondent.
Sunday, 22 July 2007
Although there is indecorousness at Uppercross, foolishness at Kellynch and snobbishness in
On the same trip to Lyme Anne Elliot twice briefly encounters a gentleman the party later learns to be Mr Elliot, the heir to Kellynch Hall and Anne’s cousin. His failure to properly attend the Elliot family, his marriage to a low woman and his disparaging remarks about Sir Walter and Miss Elizabeth Elliot had caused a breech between the baronet and his heir. Though reconciled for a short period with the Elliots in
To be continued
Thursday, 19 July 2007
There was without doubt a loosening of propriety within the society of watering places. These towns were public places, while the social activities of London houses and country estates were much more controlled and private in the main. In the country a person was in their private home, in London they were working the season, elsewhere they were on holiday. Acquaintances were made that would never have been made in the stricter regimes of London or the country, familiarities might be allowed and liberties may be taken that similarly could never have been anywhere else. If this seems surprising within the context of Georgian society, well, just think what people will do on holiday these days that they would never do at home. It's the same mindset.
Bath was a respectable, wealthy town famous for it's drinking water and healing baths and popular amongst the holidaying classes who were in need of restoration, or did not like or could not afford London for a couple of months. It's being cheaper and cheerier made Bath an ideal spot for fortune-hunters such as the Thorpe siblings of Northanger Abbey and the scene of Eliza Williams' acquaintance with Willoughby in Sense & Sensibility, who could live at less expense and worm their way more easily into hearts of genteel folk in the more relaxed society of Bath, than they could in London.
The chief attraction of Bath was the benefits the place had to one's health, and to ne're-do-wells no doubt the chief attraction was the bored wives, daughters and nieces of gouty gentleman more occupied with their own ailments than the pleasures of their womenfolk. But at the seaside there were even greater health benefits to be had in sea bathing and (oh god) drinking sea water, and most likely ladies who were even more unoccupied, since there were considerably fewer town things by the seaside to take up their time and interest. And there was sea bathing, and all the sensations and delight such an activity could stir up compared to the otherwise sedate experiences of a Georgian lady. It's no accident that so many improprieties occur at seaside resorts in Austen's novels.
Tom Bertram's gallivanting in Mansfield Park sees him idling in as many as three seaside places (as well as London and country houses) within the short time frame of the narrative. He races horses at Brighton, he makes the acquaintance of the fashionable and rather weak-headed Yates at Weymouth, who later persuades Julia Bertram to elope with him, and in telling a story of a visit to Ramsgate he gives a description of the kind of impropriety tolerated in watering places. He forms a new acquaintance on the pier, an inappropriate beginning in itself. Mrs Sneyd is 'surrounded by men' and the two Miss Sneyds are left to the company of other strange young men. Moreover, it transpires that the youngest Miss Sneyd, though 'perfectly easy in her manners, and as ready to talk as to listen' and not demurely attired, is not even 'out' in society. An unseemly piece of mismanagement, as 'Miss Augusta should have a been with her governess'. In other words, she was but a child being made available for the pleasures of men, not unlike Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Georgiana Darcy, Lydia's predecessor in the schemes of Wickham, was taken to Ramsgate by his co-conspirator Mrs Younge, in order that he may gain access to her while she is unchaperoned, unwatched and without guidance, and be persuaded to elope with him. Ramsgate is a natural choice here, the quieter, more isolated town means fewer eyes on such a wealthy and young lady. Wickham of course fails at Ramsgate with Georgiana due to the lucky arrival of Darcy. Later however, to really seal the deal of Lydia's seduction, Wickham has as an advantage the largeness and the careless, mindless, raffish, rakish society of Georgian party central: Brighton.
Wickham wasn't the only one sexing it up at Brighton, for the town was the darling of the most oversexed personage of the era, Prince George. Throughout the prince's patronage, especially during the Regency, Brighton was the most decadent, amoral real society in the land. I say 'real society' because the demi-monde, the world of courtesans and mistresses, was a thriving one but not 'society' as such. Soldiers, sailors, courtiers, nobleman, fortune-seekers, pleasure-seekers, money, fashion, familiarity, balmy summer eves and the invigoratingly fresh and salty air...Brighton was a dangerous place. As Austen well knew, for it becomes the scene of Lydia Bennet's licentious flirtations with many an officer in Pride and Prejudice, of Wickham's hedonism and of their elopement together. An elopement even that does not pass honorably with a chaste wedding in Scotland but ends in seduction, and then concealment in London. Brighton, in Mansfield Park comes after the wedding rather than before it. The Rushworths honeymoon in the town with Julia Bertram in tow, an odd place and an odd arrangement unless you consider than the new Mrs Rushworth is likely to want to spend a little time with her tiresome husband as possible. When Sir Thomas sardonically states that his daughters 'have their pleasures at Brighton' he alludes to such pleasures as would not be tolerated at Mansfield.
To be continued...
Tuesday, 17 July 2007
Young Woman Ironing
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Friday, 13 July 2007
For the beginning of Part Four please see below.
“I like a fine prospect, but not on picturesque principles. I do not like crooked, twisted, blasted trees. I admire them much more if they are tall, straight, and flourishing. I do not like ruined, tattered cottages. I am not fond of nettles or thistles, or heath blossoms. I have more pleasure in a snug farm-house than a watch-tower,- and a troop of tidy, happy villages please me better than the finest banditti in the world.”
- Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility
Marianne’s appreciation of the Picturesque isn’t merely an exercise in fashionable sentimentality. Although her demonstrativeness is revealed to be affected, Marianne’s feelings are genuine; her real sensibilities as well as her sense prevail in the novel. While Austen uses the Picturesque to highlight Marianne’s emotionalism, she also uses it to remind us of her real taste and intelligence underneath her often self-absorbed and foolish actions. Edward and Marianne hold intelligent discussions about landscape and the narrative hints at ‘old disputes’ between them, indicating a history of thoughtful debate. The jargons of the Picturesque are not merely hollow words when used by Marianne:
"I am convinced," said Edward, "that you really feel all the delight in a fine prospect which you profess to feel…”
Marianne’s actions of course and even her language at times borders on the absurd, and Austen associates the Picturesque with the absolutely absurd Rushworth in
Throughout her works Austen never criticizes the Picturesque per se but she does criticize the fashion for it. Like the subject of any fashion, there is nothing wrong with the Picturesque, what Austen ridicules with it, as she does so often, is the blind following of a trend without reason, honesty, learning or a consultation of real personal taste.
For Parts 1 - 3 please see the Austen and the Picturesque tag.
Thursday, 12 July 2007
In Sense and Sensibility Marianne Dashwood’s ‘passion for dead leaves’ is more than a romantic appreciation of Picturesque nature, it’s a declaration of the ideals that she has adopted. Decaying beauty is a phrase that could be used to describe Marianne herself for a good portion of the narrative, as well indicate her tastes. Her character is sound; she is ‘sensible and clever…generous, amiable, interesting’ but her demonstrative emotions and her actions are fueled by Romanticism, and often conjure affectations that, she acknowledges in the final chapters, go against even her character. Her sensibilities are fed by ill judged but popular sentimental notions and propped up by her will to embody the Romanticism of the poetry she reads and the decaying beauty of the Picturesque she so admires. These sensibilities, likewise the Picturesque, invoke drama.
When Elinor pokes fun at Marianne’s first conversation with
"You must not enquire too far, Marianne; remember I have no knowledge in the picturesque, and I shall offend you by my ignorance and want of taste if we come to particulars. I shall call hills steep, which ought to be bold; surfaces strange and uncouth, which ought to be irregular and rugged; and distant objects out of sight, which ought only to be indistinct through the soft medium of a hazy atmosphere.”
Marianne laments that ‘every body pretends to feel and tries to describe with the taste and elegance of him who first defined what picturesque beauty was’, ‘him’ being William Gilpin in his series of essays on the Picturesque, a devotion to whom Edward also notes when he declares that is she were rich, Marianne ‘would have every book that tells her how to admire an old twisted tree’ and indeed, on the sister’s journey to London, ‘any object of picturesque beauty within their view drew from her an exclamation of delight’
Part Four is to be continued
Wednesday, 11 July 2007
There are a small handful of Jane Austen related podcasts presently available through iTunes. Among the Austen podcasts however I can only honestly recommend one, but I do so warmly and whole heartedly.
The majority of the present Austen podcast selection is rather mediocre but in the Higher Education category of podcasts there is a unabridged recording of Pride and Prejudice read by Catherine Byers. There is no listing of who the book is read by in iTunes, so I didn't know the name of the narrator until I downloaded and started to listed to it. I wasn't familiar with Catherine Byers so I looked her up and it turns out that she is an actress well known for narration, has recorded more than 500 works over 26 years and was honored with an award for her work in narration. Her reading of Pride and Prejudice is superb. She has an excellent voice and is an expressive and talented narrator. This reading is better than many purchasable titles and it's available free of charge in the podcast section of your iTunes online store. If you do not have iTunes already, you may download it free of charge on the Apple website.
Tuesday, 10 July 2007
The Big Three of the Napoleonic Wars: Well, Nel and Nap. Part Three.
Napoleon I of France
15 August 1769 - 5 May 1821
Napoleon Bonaparte was born to a minor Corsican noble family – the Buonapartes - in 1769, not long after the island became the property of
Despite devastating naval defeat again by the British at Trafalgar (1805), for the next eight years Napoleon dominated Europe, fighting and defeating a range of alliances involving combinations of
Napoleon had one final adventure in 1815. In less than one hundred days he had secretly returned to
Saturday, 7 July 2007
There's been some silly talk in the media about Sense 08 rolling in a replacement for the (apparently) much talked of 'wet shirt scene' from Davies' Pride and Prej. Sigh. That's all I can do when read such dribble. My closest friend and I loved that production when we were teenagers. We watched it many times over, we probably knew the entire script by heart. My mum bought me 'the making of' book for my birthday. I was into it. But never once, not even as a sixteen year old, did I rewind and replay said scene or even think about it after it had passed. I never met anyone who gushed over it. I suspect it was obsessed over more in the media and in other books than in real life. There is of course a book in which it, and poor Colin Firth, actually play a part in the storyline, but so much do I dislike the BJ books that I can't even bring myself to type the words.
But I digress. Scenes involving dueling, seduction, rainy wood chopping and (apparently manly) horse riding are being speculated as there to up the sex appeal. I just find this kind of lurid speculation so boring. Davies knows what he's doing, he's at the top of his game, and gossip about shirtless men just takes away from the amount of research and work that goes into these productions, for the sake of a few sexy minutes.
Not that wood chopping and dueling aren't sexy. They totally are.
I'm very, very glad that the duel between Willoughby and Brandon, and the seduction of Eliza Williams feature, as she especially is such a crucial part of the book's storyline. Plus I just love a cinematic fencing duel. I can't help it. The Princess Bride and Dangerous Liaisons. I'm all about it.*
"The novel is as much about sex and money as social conventions. This drama is more overtly sexual than most previous Austen adaptations seen on screen and gets to grips with the dark underbelly of the book", states Davies in a BBC press release, and I think that says it all, really. I'm rather excited about this production and I believe it may well turn out to be a classic of BBC adaptations. The cast includes David Morrisey as Brandon, Dominic Cooper as Willoughby and newcomers Hattie Morahan as Elinor and Charity Wakefield as Marianne.
*It's just occurred to me at this later stage that this is most likely a duel with pistols. How daft that I just assumed it would be fencing.
Wednesday, 4 July 2007
The Picturesque and the Gothic are intertwined in Northanger Abbey, and the limits to which these notions are stretched is a motif sustained throughout the narrative. Austen offers up the Picturesque as a testament to the real feelings of the younger Tilneys, as opposed to the false ones voiced by General and Captain Tilney and the Thorpes. The direction the story takes is dependent on the actions of the Northanger sibling sets: the Morlands, the Thorpes and the Tilneys, the motives and actions of brothers and sisters are central to the narrative. The different ways in which the Picturesque is associated with the Thorpes and the Tilneys emphasizes the great differences in character and sincerity in the opposing siblings. Similar to how their response to Gothic novels delineates a marked difference between Eleanor Tilney and Isabella Thorpe; Eleanor reads a novel like The Mysteries of Udolpho as enjoyable fiction while Isabella seeks to emulate it’s flighty melodrama, so too does the different ways in which Henry Tilney and John Thorpe are linked with the Picturesque present the disparity in intelligence and naturalness between the two men.
This disparity is keenly demonstrated in the two separate excursions Catharine Moreland is taken on by the different siblings, on the inappropriate jaunt in the carriages with the Thorpes, and the more decorous, and more fulfilling, country walk with the Tilneys. John Thorpe, when trying to persuade her to give up this prearranged walk with the Tilneys in favour of the carriage outing with himself, her brother James and Isabella, plays on Catharine’s gothic leanings by proposing to lead the party as far away as Blaise Castle:
"The finest place in
miles at any time to see."
"What, is it really a castle, an old castle?"
"The oldest in the kingdom."
"But is it like what one reads of?"
"Exactly--the very same."
"But now really--are there towers and long galleries?"
As Austen well knew,
In opposition to John Thorpe’s folly, the truly warm, good hearted dispositions of Henry and Eleanor Tilney make a calm inclination towards the Picturesque very natural, essential even, to differentiate them from every other protagonist, and make them the emotional and imaginative equals, or superiors, of Catharine. There are none but the Tilneys who share Catharine’s romanticism. The Moreland parents and James, while excellent, are people of ‘useful plain sense’, ‘good temper’ and ‘very respectable’. Mr Allen, like the Morelands, is sensible, wise and unimaginative. Kindly Mrs Allen only has the latter in common with her husband but her good nature is an unemotional, soothing balm. But the Tilney’s romantic awareness is en par with Catharine's, and it is contrasted most strongly with the utterly unfeeling characters of the piece: the heartless and deceitful Thorpe siblings, and those stone cold Montoni* villains, General and Captain Tilney.
On their country walk, Austen tempers Henry Tilney’s interest in the Picturesque to an appreciation of natural beauty, that different way of seeing beauty in the natural landscape that was the original, more educational aspect of the notion:
They were viewing the country with the eyes of persons
accustomed to drawing, and decided on its capability of
being formed into pictures, with all the eagerness of real
On Catherine expressing her ignorance and a desire to learn to draw, ‘a lecture on the picturesque immediately followed’. This ‘lecture’ isn’t an ecclesiastic enthuse for the contrite but a real exercise in teaching and learning:
He talked of foregrounds, distances, and second
distances--side-screens and perspectives--lights and
Though intelligent and reasonable, Henry must not be immune to the emotional pull of the Picturesque, and Austen undercuts his sense with a little sensibility, by allotting to him the poetic romance of ‘a piece of rocky fragment and the withered oak’.
The way the two men are differently associated with the Picturesque yields an accurate portraits of their characters – one clever with the capability for feeling, even romanticism, the other unfeeling, devoid of taste, and foolish. Austen offers a parting shot at the shallow end of the Picturesque, on the point of the General’s dry tour of the gardens at Northanger Abbey. Henry Tilney is absent and without him there to instruct her, Catharine is aware she ‘should not know what was picturesque when she saw it’. This little piece of self awareness coyly suggests that enthusiasm without education may lead to, among other misfortunes, the building of tacky fake castles in your garden.
*Montoni is Radcliffe’s villain in The Mysteries of Udolpho
To be continued
Tuesday, 3 July 2007
Georgian Item of the Week Presents:
The Big Three of The Napoleonic Wars: Well, Nel and Nap. Part Two.
Vice-Admiral Horatio, Lord Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson
29 September 1758 - 21st October 1805
Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson
Lemuel Francis Abbot
National Maritime Museum, UK
In April 1801 came the Battle of Copenhagen. At that time, the Baltic was a vital source of trade and maritime supplies for
1805 brought the most famous naval battle in
*This name is so memorable that I've often wondered if Austen, who must have known the life story of the nation's living legend, borrowed Suckling for the bragging, affected Mrs Elton's so amusingly named relatives in Emma
Monday, 2 July 2007
Much like the fashion for Gothic novels, the rage the Picturesque, though not unsound in itself, rose to melodramatic and silly heights, as at Knight's residence Downton Castle for example, where 'large fragments of stone were irregularly thrown amongst briers and weeds, to imitate the foreground of a picture'. Austen represents the ideal has having qualities verging on the absurd, in Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, and even as dangerous in Sense and Sensibility, by associating the Picturesque with the exaggerated, emotion-driven and almost deadly sensibilities of Marianne Dashwood.
In Pride and Prejudice Austen touches but lightly on the ideal, in a short exercise in ridicule. When Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst oust Elizabeth Bennet from a walk with Darcy by positioning themselves in a way that monopolizes a garden path, Darcy tries to offset their rudeness by inviting her to continue with them regardless. Elizabeth replies 'You are charmingly group'd, and appear to uncommon advantage. The picturesque would be spoilt by admitting a fourth', indicating the enthusiasm for scenic objects grouped in threes by expounders of the ideal. This clever remark hints at the absurdity of Picturesque fastidiousness and casts that aura of silliness onto the trio, leaving the charming group, and The Picturesque, looking somewhat deflated.
To be continued