Friday, 13 July 2007

Austen and the Picturesque. Part Four Concluded.

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 Mansfield Park. In a rage for ‘improvements’ Rushworth bores the Mansfield company with talk of instigating some at Sotherton. "Your best friend upon such an occasion," Maria Bertram advices succinctly "would be Mr. Repton, I imagine", an especially absurd plan, for Repton designed landscapes very well, but never physically built them, not being a gardener himself. Though he charged ‘five guineas a day’, his designs were often not followed since a gardener would have to then be brought in to implement them.

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.

1 comment:

Ms. Place said...

Thank you for this post. I have always liked Marianne, for she reminds me of my younger foolish self. Her romantic flights of fancy were once my flights of fancy. We know that as Colonel Brandon's wife, she will grow to become a more sensible and mature women. But I doubt she will ever quite lose the romantic streak that made her so attractive to Colonel Brandon in the first place.

As for Jane's opinion about those who thoughtlessly follow fashion for fashion's sake, you have given me a new perspective.