10/28/99 Laurie - [l_mease@hotmail.com] Politics in the novels

Dear ladies and gents,

I am currently doing research about the rise of women in politics for a paper for my AP Government class and have come across a lot of books on the topic of politics in the novels of Jane Austen.  You'll have to excuse my relative ignorance of British politics during Austen's era, but where exactly do these politics crop up?  I obviously don't mean every instance, but a few examples would be helpful.  I would use this topic for my paper but my teacher says that our topics must be on American government.  (And by the way, this teacher does at times wear tweed).

Where have I been?  A better question would be where haven't I been.  Fall of the senior year is a very busy time.  Between work, school, and filling out college applications, I've been lucky to sleep, much less have time to get on the Internet.  I'm still trying to catch up on some of the recent posts on the board but I haven't gotten too far yet.  I also haven't started rereading Mansfield Park yet.  I'm still halfway through the third Harry Potter.  I would strongly recommend the series, especially if you know kids around 9 or 10 years old.  They're cute.  I'll try to get back here more often - that is, if things ever slow down.

10/28/99 Cheryl - catching up some

Dear All,

Back home, and finally able to get into Male Voices (has anyone else had problems with the server not responding?)  I picked up a Dover Thrift edition of A Vindication of The Rights of Women so I hope soon to have a clue as to what everyone's going on about. I also bought a used paperback of one of the Jane Austen mysteries which I may get to someday.  I always try to keep a supply of airplane/waiting room books around the house.

I'd like to comment some (more) on the question of Mary and Henry Crawford.  First of all, I must correct Ashton when he says Mary speaks disrespectfully of the clergy after learning that Edmund is to take orders. She does no such thing (at least inside the house.) Her comments are before she finds out.  Afterwards she says:  "If I had known this before, I would have spoken of the cloth with more respect," then "turns the subject."  Later, of course, she has much, much more to say to Edmund on the subject of his chosen profession.  I can't really blame Mary for letting Edmund know what she thinks of his choice, even though her reasons for disapproving of it are selfish. It's very much the normal pre-marriage bargaining that goes on between all couples.

My own opinion about the Crawfords is ambiguous and I have to ask everyone else whether that's the case for them.  What is the difference in Jane Austen's writing that makes me dislike Wickham and Mr. Elliot, but not Henry Crawford?  Is there any objective difference between their crimes? Not to say that I excuse his behavior in any way, I don't buy into that "hate the sin but love the sinner" crap.  This is what tempts me to say that Jane Austen fell a little in love with Henry Crawford herself and it shows.  Or maybe she was just even more brilliant than I know. Any comments?

From the Meister: John and Julie have had some problems
with the server and I had my first this morning (8:00 am PST).
Things seemed OK a half hour later. I think the problem is
with the server.

10/28/99 John - Lost in Translation

Dear Julie,

Translation may come in bits and pieces.

First, on the question of the penalty paid by Henry Crawford for his involvement with Mrs. Rushworth.

The penalty was very large: he lost his chance of marrying the only woman whom he deeply loved emotionally and rationally;  he lost the society of Mansfield Park;  he lost the acceptance of some other parts of English society;  and he lost an enormous amount of money (He had to pay all the court costs of Rushworth's suit for damages, the damages themselves, and the costs of Rushworth's appealing to Parliament to enact a bill of divorcement to end the formal part of his marriage.)

Jane Austen expresses some regret that Maria Bertram could not continue in society on at least the same level as Henry Crawford, but is not losing any sleep over Maria's situation. In Jane's eyes, Maria has very seriously offended her God, her religion, her family, and society. Both the men and women in England would be outraged by her actions because of its attack on marriage. There was plenty of hanky panky going on (the Crawford's uncle, for example) but a scandal of so sensational a nature could not be forgiven, the Prince Regent and his friends being a different kettle of fish--although I think that Jane Austen was censuring his behaviour, too.

10/28/99 John - The Prettiest, Silliest, Most Flirtatious

Dear Ashton,

Somewhere I read that Mrs. (Mary Russell ?) Mitford had written that Jane Austen had been the prettiest, silliest, etc., girl that she had ever seen in her life. I can't find the citation. Any ideas? It may be in the same place where Mitford said, "but now everyone is afraid of her."

10/27/99 John - World Conkers Championship

Dear Voices,

The World Conkers Championship was held recently in ASHTON, Northhamptonshire, merry old.

I wanted you all to know because it seems that Ashton was keeping it to himself.

From the Meister: I was hurrying to
tell everyone when someone conked
me and called me a "muggles". - ? - Or
was it a Jabberwok? I am not thinking
so clearly at the moment.

10/24/99 Laurie - [l_mease@hotmail.com] Harry Potter

Dear ladies and gents,

I'm back!  I know this is a little off the subject, but has anyone read any of the Harry Potter books?  I have and I think they're adorable.  They're not Jane Austen, but they're good light reading.  Meanwhile, I'm getting ready to re-read Mansfield Park in preparation for the movie coming out.  I hope they don't wreck the story too much, but I have a sinking feeling from what I've heard about the movie that they will.

From the Meister: Where have you BEEN? We missed
you. Just for that, you are required to post your reading
notes from Mansfield Park.

10/27/99 Ray Mitchell - A bunch of Muggles

Dear Laurie,

Being a graduate of Hogwarts myself, I am a great fan of Harry Potter. I don't hold out much hope for the Muggles on this site. They do not seem to have a clue. Be sure and say hello when and if we should ever meet on platform 9 3/4, or better still, send me an owl.

For those reading this and not understanding one word, what can I say but that you have not read Harry Potter and are clearly Muggles who do not stand a chance of having an intelligent conversation with either Laurie or me or any other kid in the world.

10/28/99 Laurie - [l_mease@hotmail.com] Re: A Bunch of Muggles

Dear Ray,

Hear, hear!

10/21/99 Ashton - Lovers' Vows or The Love Child

Dear Folks,

I have a very old edition of The Oxford Companion to English Literature. It has this to say about

"Lovers' Vows, A play by Mrs. Inchbald, adapted from Das Kind der Liebe of Kotzebue, acted in 1798."

"Baron Wildenhaim has in his youth seduced and deserted Agatha Friburg, a chambermaid, and married another woman. Agatha, when the play opens, is reduced to destitution, in which state she is found by her son, Frederic, a young soldier, who now for the first time learns the story of his birth. To relieve his mother's needs, he goes out to beg, and chances upon his unknown father and attempts to rob him. He is arrested, discovers who the baron is, reveals his own identity and his mother's, and finally, with the aid of the good pastor Anhalt, persuades the baron to marry Agatha. The baron also consents to the marriage of his daughter Amelia with Anhalt, abandoning the projected marriage with Count Cassell which he had at heart."

"The play would be of little interest but for the place it plays in the story of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park.

I am not certain, but I think the German title translates as The Love Child.

Mansfield Cast
  • Anhalt......... Edmund Bertram
  • Agatha......... Maria Bertram
  • Amelia......... Mary Crawford
  • Frederick......... Mr. Crawford
  • Count Cassell......... Mr. Rushworth
  • various......... Mr. Bertram
  • Baron Wildenhaim......... Mr. Yates
  • prompter......... Fanny Price

The Oxford Companion has only this to say about

"Inchbald, Mrs. Elizabeth (1753-1821), nee Simpson, was a novelist, dramatist, and actress. She is chiefly remembered for her two prose romances A Simple Story (1791) and Nature and Art (1796). Her most successful comedy was I'll tell you what produced in 1785. She edited The British Theatre, a collection of old plays in 1806-9. "

However, Mrs. Inchbald must be given a more significant mention at this web site because of her involvement in the life of Mary Wollstonecraft. If you will refer to Claire Tomalin's biography of Mary Wollstonecraft, you will learn of this involvement. Inchbald was Mary's chief rival for the affections of Godwin and dropped her friendship after Mary and Godwin were married. Tomalin also reproduces a portrait of Inchbald.

To this point, the only posting we have on Lovers' Vows is that of John Stewart's on 3/18/98. Notice that Crawford and his sister play characters that have the same father. Stewart's posting is a bit cryptic, but it seems that he is saying that, at some point, Frederick and Amelia are lovers. I will try to find the play and do some editing here in order to sort that out for you.

As is often the case, you will find a good deal of detail and compelling interpretation in Honan's biography. I will try to quote some of the facts about Lovers' Vows without passing along Honan's own interpretations and speculations.

" Kotzebue had aimed his politically liberal [play] at stiff, inhumane mores of German society, before it was translated by the former London actress Mrs Inchbald in 1798. Its praise of feeling as against tradition aroused the Anti Jacobin, but the Lady's Magazine admired the play for heartfelt correctness. It went into twelve editions by 1799, and had six productions at Bath while the Austens lived there. ... In the novel [Jane Austen] assigns her characters roles in Lovers' Vows that predict several of their fates. ... There is a fine maudlin scene in which the mother Agatha hugs and fondles her son. (Henry and Maria rehearse it often.) ... the 'Remarks' in which the translator [Inchbald] claimed Lovers' Vows struck a blow at the crime of seduction. These 'Remarks' had offered an implicit comparison between the moral efficacy of theatre and pulpit. 'And surely', Mrs Inchbald had claimed in a defence of Lovers' Vows, prefacing her 1808 edition of the play, 'as the pulpit has not the eloquence to eradicate the crime of seduction, the stage may be allowed to prevent its most fatal effects.' Mrs Inchbald also said that harsh criticism of a parent is wrong, since if a child should strongly condemn a father 'all respect is lost, both for the one and the other'. ... "

10/22/99 Anielka - [anrice@perth.ssa.slb.com] Did you say Mary Wollstonecraft?

Dear Ashton,

I hate to point this out but when I proposed my idea that Mansfield Park was in fact loosly based on a biography of Mary Wollstencraft I seem to remember invoking your scorn and derision. This information would rather point to the further invlovement of Ms. Wollstonecraft with the workings of Our Lady's mind when she wrote Mansfield Park, would it not?

10/22/99 Ashton - On breeding

Dear Anielka,

If I subjected you to any "scorn and derision" whatsoever, then I am very, very regretful. I can only say that this was an indication more of poor breeding than of my intent. I am willing to go on record and say that your idea that Fanny Price might be a Mary Wollstonecraft is a good one. My real intent was to say that while the conditions under which Fanny were raised might well have bred a Mary Wollstonecraft, they did not in this case. Fanny Price is no Mary Wollstonecraft: Fanny does not explicitly (or implicitly) advocate the violent overthrow of hereditary rule; she does not prefer the company of atheists (on the contrary); she is not a promiscuous bisexual; and Fanny is nothing like a suicidal neurotic.

10/23/99 Julie Grassi - [banya@bigpond.com] Fanny Wollstonecraft

Dear Sir,

A little bisexual promiscuity might have done Fanny some good!

From the Meister: Huhh? What? Well - OK -
perhaps you are right. - ? - Except, how can
you be so sure? What is your basis for this?

10/23/99 Anielka - [anrice@perth.ssa.slb.com] MP theory

Dear Ashton,

Pray do not leave-off the scorn and derision. I enjoy it immensely so have no regrets. You are right about Fanny. However it is Mary Crawford that I rather had in mind. She most certainly shows a preference for atheists (horror at Edmond's proposed ordination) and, if not actually a promiscuous bisexual herself, well, she certainly talks like she knows a few  her speech is littered with double entendres. The name is right, her obsession with Fanny is evident (Fanny Blood being the object of Mary Wollstencraft's attentions). Mary W was also rather attached to Richard Price. (Why did JA not like the name Richard?) However I will give you that Mary Crawford is not a neurotic suicidal.

10/22/99 Thomas - [doochoi@aol.com] Introduction

Dear Julie Grassi,

Hi, the co-host of the next World Cup is South Korea (and Japan). The World Cup is a worldwide football (soccer) tournament. The last Cup winner was France.

Anyway...I guess I should have made introductions before... I'm Thomas. I come from far away. I like Jane Austen novels. The order in which I like her novels are: 1) P&P   2) Emma   3) Persuasion  4) S&S   5) Mansfield Park  6) N&A. I have not read her uncompleted works, and I don't think anyone should (much controversy over this stance). I think reading a writer's incomplete work is similar to peeking into someone's room while that someone is only half-dressed. But that's only me. I digress...

To sum up my appreciation for Austen, I would like to say, "A lot of books make me laugh, but only Austen novels make me smile."

10/23/99 Julie Grassi - [banya@bigpond.com] Introductions

Dear Thomas,

Well, which is it?  I'm far away, too - so far away that there is no fear of my turning up on your doorstep.  If you live in South Korea, you will no doubt be fascinated to hear that, for the first time, you can now legally watch North Korean television, which I am told is some of the most boring on earth, though North Korean radio is still illegal.  Perhaps the government is afraid the population will expire from terminal tedium if it is allowed open slather in this regard?

My favourite Jane Austen novel is whichever one I am reading at a given time - not that I really need to read them any more, as I pretty well know them by heart.  I reckon we should start a board competition - which novel does this line come from?  I would back myself in, but Sense and Sensibilty would have to be excluded, I'm afraid, as I don't know it as well as the others.

Have you read any biographies, or any of Jane Austen's letters?  If scruples hold you back on the latter, you should nevertheless try some of the former, though her letters are great fun.

10/22/99 Ashton - Well, for one thing ...

Dear Thomas,

When Jane Austen was writing Emma, our Lady told family members she was creating a heroine that only she would like. Indeed, I detested Emma Woodhouse at the first reading. My attitude changed only after I took the trouble to read Romance of the Forest; it was only then that I better understood Emma and came to love her as much, perhaps, as did her creator.

For those reasons, I greatly prefer the Kate-Beckinsale version of Emma. That is no surprise for another reason - the screen writer for that version was Andrew Davies who has a record of trying to reproduce the intent of authors' for the screen. Incidentally, you can see Beckinsale in two other excellent films, Cold Comfort Farm and Brokedown Hotel. Davies was the screen writer for the Jennifer-Ehle version of Pride and Prejudice and it is rumored that he is currently involved in a new production of Northanger Abbey.

I would be interested in your opinion of the portrayal of Harriet Smith; there are quite contrasting interpretations in the two versions associated with Paltrow and Beckinsale. Which do you prefer? Personally, I throw in with Davies on this one.

10/23/99 Thomas - [doochoi@aol.com] Emma A&E

Dear Ashton,

You're right. I did forget that Austen did create a character "only she could like." But my main problem with Emma A&E had less to do with Emma than portryal of Knightley, Elton, and Harriet Smith. As to your question of my thoughts on Harriet Smith, I much prefer the Emma96 Harriet Smith to A&E version. Here's why. I dismiss Emma's great opinion of Harriet Smith, because I think Emma needed someone to fill the void of Ms. Taylor, and thus it cast anyone with a better sense than Ms.Bates in a very good light. Instead I turn to Mr.Knightley's and Robert Martin. Mr.Knightley thought Harriet a silly little thing ("to a sensible companion he could not do worse.."), and if his opinion of her improved a bit toward the end, I believe the improvement was motivated by pity. Robert Martin, a sensible, yet very inexperienced and unsophisticated farmer, was captivated by Harriet. So as regards to Ms.Smith, I'm looking for a girl that would seem a silly cow (a plump and pretty one) to a discerning gentleman, but a girl who has enough flair and vivacity to captivate a willing farmer. Emma96 Harriet Smith, I think, comes close. She captures the silliness, while maintaining enough of the kindheartedness and girlish charm, although I think the silliness was overdone. Emma A&E Harriet does not possess the vivacity (the girlish giggle that Emma later cures her of) to justify Robert Martin's infatuation. I like to think of Harriet Smith as a high school girl whose charms work only against high school boys. But there has to be some charms to speak of, and A&E Harriet has none. WE ARE dealing with a girl who falls in love with 3 men in less than a year.

I would love to hear your reason for preferring A&E Harriet.

10/24/99 Ashton - Emma A&E and Emma96

Dear Thomas,

As you know, I have made an extensive comparison of the Paltrow version of Emma ("Emma96") with the Beckinsale version ("Emma A&E"). Your questions have led me to expand my thoughts on the two films and I will try to express those thoughts here.

I have to preface my remarks with my current idea of the social conditions in Jane Austen's times. I speak with much conviction and no authority, but I believe that others have a tendency to look back at those times through the lens of the intervening Victorian period in England and allow that lens to distort beyond any useful sense of reality. I also think that others tend to take the conditions of pre-Revolutionary France and superimpose them on Jane Austen's neighborhood.

OK, here goes. I believe that the English class structure of Jane Austen's time was far, far more nebulous and flexible that it would be fifty years hence. For one thing this allowed for upward social mobility. Jane Austen's father did not begin life as a "gentleman" but all of his healthy sons would certainly earn that distinction. Think about that. There are many examples of upward mobility in the novels. Bingley was clearly a gentleman, but his father was not. There are the examples of Captain Wentworth and Elizabeth's uncle Gardiner. There is only so much room at the top so that downward mobility must be associated with the upward. These mobilities are sometimes determined more by chance than by merit. Frank Churchill (and one of Jane Austen's own brothers) is upwardly mobile in that sense. The best examples of a downward trend are the situations of Miss Bates and Miss Fairfax in Emma. In fact, there is much about social mobility in Emma and that fact is the basis for my reply to your questions.

My final preambles deal with the classes themselves. Mr Martin is a tenant farmer and, it seems to me, that if we apply all the current meanings, that would lead us to believe that he was an ignorant peasant. He is portrayed that way in Emma96. Nothing could be further from the truth - as I currently understand it. If Darcy and Knightley are like our CEOs, then the Martins of that time were like middle managers. They were relatively well off, and they had disposable income and a sound education. Remember that Harriet met the Martin sisters at a boarding school - not the kind of school that a true gentleman could admire, but a boarding school nevertheless. THIS sense of Mr Martin's situation is far better conveyed in Emma A&E, in which Martin is portrayed as alert, brooding, and slightly resentful - if always correct - rather than as the country bumpkin of Emma 96.

Miss Bates is not the ridiculously silly clown of Emma 96, she is the painfully self-conscious woman of Emma A&E. Miss Bates is nervous and conscious of the declining status of her family and that makes her talk too much and it makes her obsequious. She is properly an object of pity because social and economic forces beyond her control are dragging her family down. She is far more concerned about her niece than about herself in this regard, and does too much to keep Jane before the notice of the gentry. Knightley and Mr Woodhouse clearly see and understand all this, but Emma can only learn it in the aftermath of those terrible events at Box Hill. Poor Miss Bates! Poor Emma!

Finally, what is to be said of the portrayals of Harriet Smith? In Emma96, Harriet is a silly cow. She is inherently limited in intelligence and taste - much as Mr Martin. To me, this is like a biological justification of the class system - the sensitive and intelligent at the top and the lesser species at the bottom. I am sorry, but that is the way I see things portrayed in Emma96. Miss Bates is a silly boor and is only getting what she deserves. (I was in a theatre when I first saw Emma96, and part of the audience laughed when Emma delivered her insult up on Box Hill.) Emma A&E is closer to Jane Austen's view in my opinion. Harriet's education is inferior to Emma's; she has had fewer good influences; and, to be sure, Emma has the superior confidence and courage. However, the A&E Harriet is every bit the match of Emma in grace, beauty, and common sense. There is much merit portrayed in this Harriet. This makes good sense to me because it justifies Emma's interest in Harriet and lends credence to Knightley's eventual judgment that Harriet's qualities were superior to those of some acknowledged gentlewomen, such as Mrs Elton for example. And, of course, the A&E Jane Fairfax is portrayed as Emma's superior. Bravo.

10/26/99 Thomas - [doochoi@aol.com] EmmaA&E and 96

Dear Ashton,

Thank you for your illuminating comments on the subject...although I happen to disagree with them. I have often wondered why it seems a given fact that Jane Fairfax is considered Emma's superior, and Harriet at least her equal. I don't think so. Much good is said of Jane Fairfax, but what evidence is there to support all the good things said about her? She is accomplished to be sure, and sings a mean tune, and says elegant things, but do we actually know any good of her? Emma is often blamed for not cultivating a more intimate relationship with Jane Fairfax, but let's not forget that neither was there any effort on Jane's part to do so. All I know of Jane Fairfax is that she seems to be good to her relations (and her relations worhip her), and she gets secretly engaged to Frank Churchill. I have often wondered what was the necessity of Frank's distasteful charade; if the intent is to keep secret an admiration of a woman, why does one need to pretend that one likes another? And why does a woman of Jane's moral character bear that sort of treatment? Would she have borne such treatment from any other man than the heir of Enscombe? Unlike some people (including Austen herself), I liked Emma Woodhouse from the first, and I continue to think that she is one of the most charming characters in all of literature. Emma is in a situation where she could have turned out very badly--power, wealth, beauty, no parental guidance--but she turns out very good, good enough to admit at the end, that she had behaved badly. And as for her despicable class-consciousness, well...gentlewomen don't marry tenant farmers, they marry gentlemen with land or wealth (Knightley, Bertram, Darcy, Wentworth, Brandon...except Ferrars), and I don't think we can blame Emma for wishing and supposing that her associates do the same. On a final note, I think Emma's situation is similar to that of Elizabeth Elliot. The differences are clear.

10/23/99 Anielka - [anrice@perth.ssa.slb.com] Recommended viewing

Dear Thomas,

For truly awful Jane Austen viewing, may I recommend the old BBC version of Persuasion? I am not a woman given to any sort of physical violence but I do have to restrain myself from muttering "please, please, someone push her off some steps" every time Louisa Musgrove opened her mouth. The director must have said "play it as terminally silly" to this particular actress. Also Ann Firbank (?) as Anne is so old that I assumed that they had put Lady Russell on the cover. She starts the film looking about 45 and manages to work it down to looking around 36ish when she has cheered up and scored with Frederick. Other than that (oh, and the terrible costumes), it's quite good.

It's Kate Beckinsale, by the way. Daughter of a fellow-Nottinghamian John (was it John??) Beckinsale who played Godber in the 1970's BBC comedy series "Porridge" alongside Ronnie Barker.


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