6/17/99 The Meister - women, property, and inheritance in Jane Austen's time

This is an entry from the Woodsforde Diaries. It is dated January 13, 1769 (Jane Austen was born in 1775). The good Parson's mother had recently died; also, it is important that you know that the husband and father was still alive.

13th. The Estate at Almsford late my dear Mothers, which she left between Sister Jane, Brother John and myself, was this day divided between us, by Dr Clarke Senior, Mr Robin White and Painter Clarke of Cary, who went all over the Estate this morning with me, and Afterwards put it into the three undermentioned Lots.

First Lot

The Mansion House, Garden & Walk & Barton. The Great Old Orchard, the Pear Orchard, The Milking Barton, Druids and Pond Close

Second Lot

Newports and Shearandgo, Eyles's Paddock, Upper Longlands and Lower Longlands.

Third Lot

The Farm House, Garden, Barton & outhouses, and the Orchard behind the Farm house--All the Poor Houses--Worthies, Little Field and West Field.

The above were put into a Hat after Dinner and were drawn as underwritten. Sister Jane drew first, and she took the second Lot, I drew next and took the 3rd Lot, Brother John drew last and took the 1st Lot. These were present when we drew the Lots Dr Clarke Senr, and Mr Robin White, Painter Clarke, Mr James and Richard Clarke, & Brother Heighes. It was done very fair and honest on all sides. Dr Clarke, Mr White, Painter Clarke, & Brother Heighes, & Son Willm, Mr James Clarke, Sister Jane, and Brother John, all dined with me at Lower House. I gave them for a dinner, a Surloin of Beef roasted, a boiled Chop and Greens & a plumb Pudding. Brother Heighes, & his Son, and Sister Jane supped and spent the Evening with me, the others went away in the Evening about six, being Clubb Night at Cary. Mr James of Allhampton was with me in the Afternoon to offer me more Wood, but it is very small Stuff, therefore would have but what I ordered before.

I have reproduced for you the good Parson's spelling of "plumb" and "Clubb".

6/18/99 Ray Gdog Gdo - Heather, get out your salt

Dear Folks,

Ash’s concern as to whether I will be OK while in England and Cheryl’s words of travel advice are both appreciated and needed. Whereas I certainly could never be accused of being an ugly American, I do have a real problem while in England. My problem is that I try to talk with an English accent and lace my conversation with English type expressions like "Cheerio", thereby entertaining both the English and whoever might be traveling with me. What gets into me I do not know.

I am enjoying the Persuasion based posts being made now as that is to be the main Jane Austen work to be discussed at the seminar to which I am going. I would agree that Persuasion is the most satisfying of all our Lady’s novels as she presents us with two characters who are worthy of each other. I have never been happy with Elizabeth and her efforts to convince herself that Darcy is not a snob of the highest order. In order for the plot of P&P to play out we have to find ourselves going along with Mrs. Bennet’s line of reasoning, namely that Darcy is a jerk and a snob, but hey, he’s rich and he did help out with the Wickham mess. In S&S Marianne and Col. Brandon are surely mismatched, and what the hell did Elinor see in Edward? Who in their right mind (and with money) would want to marry Emma? Fanny and Katherine don’t have enough gumption between them to stomp on a roach.

The fact that Persuasion is both the most satisfying and last of the novels must lead us to wonder to what heights our Lady could have led us to if she had lived.

Now for some more southern stuff.  Yes, BKB I was born and brought up in Atlanta back in the days when it was a real southern city, full of grace and charm.  I left Atlanta in the mid fifties, moved to Savannah, and have been moving to progressively smaller and smaller towns ever since. Now I am in a town of 5,000 souls located 250 miles south of Atlanta. I know of Pilgrim’s in Atlanta but have never eaten there due to my vow never to eat anywhere where collards or greens of any kind are served. Not only have I never eaten at Pilgrim’s, I have never read Gone with the Wind, Lord knows I have tried.

6/18/99 Julie Grassi - [banya@onaustralia.com.au] Collards

Dear Ray,

You had better start eating your greens, Ray. Scurvy is obviously beginning to rot your brain. Why, pray, does one have to agree with Mrs Bennet's line of thinking?  Her creator certainly didn't. Elizabeth does not have to convince herself that Darcy is not a snob - in the early part of the action, at least, he is, and freely admits as much himself, after their engagement. 'As a boy I was encouraged, almost taught, to be arrogant and overbearing - to wish to think meanly of the worth of others in comparison with my own, and to care for none outside of my own family circle.'  He then acknowledges that Elizabeth has taught him to think differently, to realise 'how unworthy were my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.' Elizabeth, on the other hand, has to realise that her wit and tendency to quick, facile estimations of people, are liable to lead her into embarrassing error.  And of course, at bottom, Darcy is shy.  That does not excuse his arrogance, but may go some way to explaining how it developed.  Think of the comments made of Darcy, to his face, by his young male friends:  Bingley: 'I declare I know of no more awful creature than Darcy in some circumstances, especially at his own home on Sunday evenings, when he has nothing to do.'  'Elizabeth, perceiving that Darcy was somewhat offended, checked her laugh.' (Remember at the end of the novel? - 'Elizabeth longed to observe (to Darcy) that Mr Bingley was a most valuable friend, and easily directed, but remembered that he (Darcy) had yet to learn to be laughed at).   Darcy's cousin, Fitzwilliam, when Elizabeth asks why Darcy would not exert himself at a public place 'I can give you the answer, and without any reference to him: it is because he will not give himself the trouble.'

In short (well, not short really, but I'm trying) the novel is not about the acquisition of a fortune at all, but about two characters, very different in temperament and experience, being forced by events traumatic to both of them to look at themselves and their behaviour and beliefs, and in so doing gain insight and maturity.  I've said before, had Elizabeth accepted Darcy's first proposal the marriage would have been a failure - their estimations of themselves and of each other were inaccurate, immature and self-centered.  They are different people at the end of the novel.

I read Gone With The Wind in three days when I was thirteen or so (under the desk in maths class, partly), and have never forgotten the impression it made.  Mitchell fascinates me. Apparently not a particularly well-educated woman, she makes references to German literature and opera, to Shakespeare, to Italian history, and, from what I can gather from subsequent reading, is also accurate in her historical references to the war and the political issues of the reconstruction period.  Not bad for a first-time effort!  You will have to remember though, Ray, that she is writing of what to me is a landscape as alien as that of the moon - I'd never heard of the Civil War until I read the book. I presume that was not the case for you?

6/15/99 Cheryl - News

Dear Julie and Ray,

Congratulations to Julie and her husband!!
P.S. What's so frightening about dental XRays?

I can't help but imagine the poor Brits behind their barbed wire fences, wearing their civil defense (ARP??) hats, waiting for this year's American invasion. Even world weary travelers like Ray can use a few helpful hints, so here are mine (based on admittedly limited personal experience) for your trip.

6/15/99 Julie Grassi - [banya@onaustralia.com.au] Anne's Persuasion

Dear Heather,

As to the question of whether Anne was violating duty by accepting Captain Wentworth's second proposal, she in fact answers that question herself, when Wentworth asks her whether 'I may not have had a greater enemy than that lady (Russell)?  If I had written to you when I came ashore in the year - (can't remember), with a few thousand pounds, would you have answered my letter? Would you, in short, have renewed your engagement?'  'Would I!' exclaimed Anne.  Wentworth goes on to explain that he had wanted to contact her then (a year or so after their original engagement was broken off), but had been prevented by anger and wounded pride.  And so, '[he] must learn to brook being happier than [he] deserves.'  Anne felt she was doing the right thing in allowing herself to be persuaded by Lady Russell and the Elliots that the engagement was 'a bad thing, incapable of success and hardly deserving of it.'  But I don't think she felt it necessary to submit for ever, as evidenced by the above conversation.  This is a point that is often discussed, also, regarding Jane Eyre.  What would she have done if, having found Mr Rochester, she also found the wife still living?  The answer is that she made her choice when she went to find Mr Rochester, after hearing him 'call' her.

I don't think that Jane Austen was advocating abject, self-denying adherence to the wishes of others, a kind of miserable, martyred self-denial.  She frankly comments that Fanny Price, lurking in the undergrowth with her headache after cutting the roses, was suffering from pain of mind as much as of head, and had been struggling against feelings of 'self-pity and neglect' for some time. I sometimes suspect that Fanny irritated Jane Austen as much as she irritates most people, at some time or other.  To return to Anne:  had Captain Wentworth indeed written to her when he first returned to England, the strength of their mutual attachment would have been proven, Wentworth's predictions of his good fortune would have been realised, and Anne Elliot would have been of age. She acknowledges that duty would have been satisfied, and she would have regarded herself as free to make her own decisions.

I'm surprised that nobody has asked about Jane Austen's attitude to men's duty?  I was thinking of the question as it related to Anne Elliot, but Jane Austen is no less compromising when it comes to her male characters.  'A man can always do one thing if he chooses, Emma, and that is his duty.'  Said Mr Knightley of Mr Frank Churchill, and he later criticises said Mr Churchill for comparing himself with his father, Mr Weston: 'Mr Weston did not possess one happiness that he had not earned.'

And she really gives Mr Willoughby rat week!

6/15/99 Cheryl - Anne's growth

Dear Heather,

Heather: excellent posting.  I think there's a second kind of growth that's explored in Persuasion and that's the growth of relationships, especially the parent/child.  The relationship between Anne and her substitute parent Lady Russell changes enormously between Wentworth's first proposal and his second.  Over the years Anne has learned that no matter how well meaning a parent, they aren't infallible in opinion or judgement.  Lady Russell learns that Anne has grown up to be her equal (and sometimes superior) in understanding.  I think every mother/daughter in the world has had to face this and that JA carries it off marvelously.

On the other hand, Sir Walter and his favorite daughter remain perfectly static as the world turns around them.

"It was so with Elizabeth, still the same handsome Miss Elliot that she had begun to be thirteen years ago, and Sire Walter might be excused, therefore, in forgetting her age, or, at least, be deemed only half a fool, for thinking himself and Elizabeth as Blooming as ever, amidst the wreck of the good looks of everybody else  for he could plainly see how old all the rest of his family and acquaintance were growing.  Anne haggard, Mary coarse, every face in the neighborhood worsting, and the rapid increase of the crow's foot about Lady Russell's temples had long been a distress to him."

It reminds me  a bit of Bilbo Baggins and the Ring.  Except Sir Walter's magic talisman is his title and his self conceit.  Of course it can't save him from the changing times, a new world where a man's actions and duty to his country count as much as who his father was.  No doubt Sir Walter believes himself to be fighting the good fight to keep everything as it was when he was a boy.  In this he's a lot like Sir Thomas Bertram, except of course, that Sir Thomas if fighting for all that was best of the old ways:  personal responsibility,  duty to one's family, and community substance over form.  While Sir Walter -- well, let's just say that he's one of those people who would have visited Maria and Henry Crawford had Sir Thomas been persuaded to let them marry.

6/15/99 Julie Grassi - [banya@onaustralia.com.au] Reptiles as a form of population control

Dear Ray,

'Poke Salad Annie,
The 'gators got your grannie,
(Chomp, chomp, chomp),
Everybody says it was a shame,
'Cause her momma was a-working on a chain gang,
(A mean, spiteful, straight-razor toting woman!)

Sound familiar?

To maintain some sort of context, I suppose I could suggest you sing that at Winchester, but I suspect you would earn yourself the right to make an inside expose of the state of Britain's mental health institutions!

I can only justify the above by supposing myself to be still under the influence of dental anaesthetic.

6/16/99 Julie Grassi - [banya@onaustralia.com.au] Fries not spoken here!!!!!

Dear Cheryl,

As you know, in Australia we do not have french fries. McDonald's has french fries.  In Australia we have chips, and bloody good eating they are, too. We also have tomato sauce, ketchup being unknown.  I can't imagine any traveller in this country having to provide their own tomato sauce, as people here put it on everything, scrambled and fried eggs included (God, I can't bear to look!).  I haven't read the books you mention, but will, with great pleasure, if they concern cookery, as it is another one of my vices.  I reared my children almost exclusively on Asian cookery, and am in an Italian phase at the moment. Italians are a most economical race, and they, along with the French (who have whole shops called 'charcuterie' which sell nothing but pig bits) know about all there is to know about pigs, either on their trotters or on a hook.  I still remember my father-in-law being called in by local families to slaughter and dress the family pig - there was nothing but the hot water left at the end of the day.  In fact, the ritual was very similar to entries described in my 'Shopkeeper' book, and my 'Woodforde.'

Would you like a lamington recipe?  Just say the word.  I can do you a nice pavlova as well, if you would like.

How does anybody possibly manage without Tim Tams?  Do you know they come double-coated these days?

6/16/99 Cheryl - Chips and crisps

Dear Julie,

Although "no worries", "trashbin" and "bash" still creep into my daily vocabulary, "chips" is one I never got the hang of, sorry.  Many moons ago, when I was there, tomato sauce was a definite rarity.  One could purchase it at McDonalds or Hungry Jack's (Burger King to us), but it was no where else to be found.  Of course, we couldn't get mustard on our burgers either, but that's another story.

A lamington recipe would be lovely, thank you, my copy of the CWA cookbook having disappeared in one of our moves.  You can skip the pavlova though.  Meringue is meringue. I don't even put it on creme pies. Neither Food in History or Abomnidible Cow, Sacred Pig are cook books, they're anthropological studies about food and foodways.  I would recommend something called A Taste of Ancient Rome which is a cookbook, and a mighty interesting one too.  There's also a book called Travel in the Ancient World which has some fascinating chapters on restaurants of the Greek and Roman era.

We eat mostly curry or bbq in my house, with the occasional feast of fried chicken. Although this year,  it's been augmented by a gift of venison.

Double-coated Tim Tams eh?  Just one more reason to emigrate some day.

6/17/99 Julie Grassi - [banya@onaustralia.com.au] A trashy one, really

Dear Cheryl,

We have rubbish or garbage bins in Australia, never trash.  Such a subtle race.  I can't imagine how you came to find tomato sauce a rarity in Australia:  we've even written songs about the foul stuff, viz:

'Hot pie and tomato sauce,
Same again for the second course,
From Perth to Sydney we all endorse
Hot pie and tomato sauce!'

Of course, if you were asking for ketchup all you would have got would have been advice re goanna oil and bunyip factories.

Lamington recipe to follow.

From the Meister: Things from BBC always appear a bit later
on our PBS; when I finally hear that ditty, will "sauce" rhyme
with "course" and "endorse"? I have been trying and trying to
imagine something that I could add to all this discussion of
food and then I remembered that Julie taught me that the term
"to snog" means "to eat popcorn". So there is that and the only
other thing I can do is mention my favorite book on food (the only
book I have read on the food) A. W. Crosby's The Columbian
. Has anyone else seen that? - and enjoyed it?

6/16/99 Julie Grassi - [banya@onaustralia.com.au] Addendum: Scarlett and Granny Clampett

Dear Ray,

Now, an open question of great importance.  I enquired about 'hominy' when somebody mentioned it on my Goat list, and a kind lady has offered to send me a tin (although she calls it a can). What do you reckon?  All I know is that young Wade Hampton Hamilton turned up his nose at it when Scarlett fed it to him in the darkest hours of the Civil War (well, not the darkest, really, as they really belonged to Miss Melly in her travail).  I seem to remember Granny Clampett mentioning such fare, mixed with economical cuts of hog jowl?

And if anybody gets sick of me stirring the Southern possum, I can quickly be put in my place by mention of the word 'vegemite'.


6/16/99 Ray Mitchell - [grm34@mailcity.com] At last a southern food I can both talk about and eat!

Dear Julie,

Ah, GRITS. At last you have stumbled on something I love to eat. Hominy which is not yet grits is corn soaked in lye. It swells up (who indeed would not?) and is canned up for those who are not of a mind to make their own hominy. The corn swells up to about the size of a mothball. It is warmed up in a saucepan and served hot. So, what you will get from your friend is indeed acan of hominy, Now, grits are another thing and they are what you read about people in the south eating. The term "hominy grits"(which by the way is never used in the south) came into being I guess because grits are hominy which is ground up and dried. So grits are made of what looks like corn meal ground up very fine. It comes in bags (or sacks as we say in the south). It is cooked one cup of grits to three cups of water) for breakfast and is usually served with butter on a plate, never in a bowl. Grits are a side dish even though some mothers throw in a raw egg and some cheese to make a one dish neal of it.

Talk about "duty" and women, there are two terrible things a southern woman can do. The first is to make her grits too runny, the second is to make them lumpy. Properly cooked grits have about the consitency as thick as that of oatmeal and are snow white in color.

To further prove that I know what I'm talking about here, I must report that grits can be purchased in small envelops (instant grits)--even rats will not eat them; quick grits which take about five minutes to cook; and, lastly sure-enough grits which take a least an hour to cook. Quick grits are thought to be suitable in this day and time, but instant grits are beyond the pale.

What you need is a one pound sack of quick grits. For years we had to keep one of my aunts who had moved north supplied with grits by mail. Now so many people from the south have moved north (thereby raising the intelligence level of both the north and the south) that my CT (Connecticut) daughter can get grits in the store up there.

Send your address and I will send the grits at no charge gift from the south.

6/17/99 BKB - Grits

Dear Ray,

I, too, love grits. I even came up with my own way to prepare them. Instead of water, I cook them in milk, which gives them a sweeter, creamier consistency. In the old days, before I turned vegetarian, I used to serve my milk grits with tiny patties of sausage (each about the size of a teaspoon) arranged around the edge of a plate in a circle. Hearty eating!!

Are you from Atlanta? If so, have you ever eaten at Pilgreen's? They have the best fried chicken on earth.

6/16/99 Julie Grassi - [banya@onaustralia.com.au] Crises of conscience(s) vs confidence

Dear Heather,

I want to contribute to your comparison of the Misses Woodhouse, Anne Elliot, and Elizabeth Bennet. The maturity and hard-won self-confidence of Anne Elliot are qualities in no way expressed in those of Emma Woodhouse and Elizabeth Bennet. Indeed, the humiliating realisation of her own niave assumption of superiority over, and subsequent arrogance toward, her fellow-creatures, forms the crisis in both Emma and Pride and Prejudice.  Emma finally knows herself:  'with what insufferable arrogance had she supposed herself privy to the secret of everybody's feelings: with what impardonable insolence had she proposed to direct their lives.'  Elizabeth Bennet's self-knowledge is not acquired with such brutal abruptness, but by way of painful steps: when she finally, after reading Darcy's letter, was obliged to acknowledge her own failings:  ''How despicably have I acted?  I, who have prided myself on my discernment! I, who have ... gratified my vanity in useless or blameable distrust.  ... I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned.  Till this moment I never knew myself."

Anne Elliot never suffered such a personal denoument: I suppose that is the point in which Persuasion differs from all of the other novels.  Catherine Morland after having her murderous fancies so humiliatingly perceived by Henry Tilney; Marianne Dashwood on being confronted by the contrast between her own and her sister's conduct; Emma Woodhouse and Elizabeth Bennet - all are subjected to a similar fiery and humiliating ordeal of insight.  Fanny Price is a different creature from any of the others, and I feel a chill every time I read the words, 'My Fanny must by this time be very happy' - happiness augmented by the fact that 'Edmund suffered, and continued to suffer'.

But Anne Elliot begins and ends her story possessed of self-knowledge and self-esteem, which only ripens with her acquisition of confidence and maturity - 'with manners as consciously right as they were invariably gentle.'

6/16/99 Ashton - And now, a little something completely different

Dear Gang,

I will now attempt to explain the Jane-Austen passage I quoted on 6/13/99. Prepare to be amused but not educated.

I believe that everything that we write is autobiographical - everything from novels to shopping lists. How can it be otherwise? I search for Jane Austen in her novels. She was very tricky and sometimes hid in minor characters, or in two characters, and not always as a female character. I once compiled a set of first-hand descriptions of Jane Austen and discovered that our Lady was more like Darcy than Elizabeth Bennet. (But, she was a little bit like Elizabeth Bennet.) Similarly, I see her situation as that of Captain Wentworth's. The purses of both Jane Austen and this creation of hers had been found wanting, at an early age, for a certain matrimonial match. And both had become wealthy by using their merit and ability - the one as a successful author and the other as a great warrior. I believe that the "Anne Elliot" in Jane Austen's life was Tom Lefroy - again, the gender is inverted to protect privacy as much as possible in this format. Jane Austen was dying as she completed Persuasion, (she would never know that her accomplishment would dwarf any Naval man's). That little speech of Anne's - the one I quoted - is written to Tom Lefroy. Jane Austen is telling him that she understood that he had his duties and obligations that must be met. And, nearing her death and with this passage, Jane Austen tells Tom Lefroy that she forgives him.

6/17/99 Heather Swallow - [hms@blakes.ca] Tilting at windmills

Dear Ash, Julie,

Your explanations on that somewhat disruptive passage in Persuasion will have to do, just because the only other explanation I can come up with is that our Lady erred when she insisted that women's duty to others is paramount, and then let Anne walk away from it without any concrete reason for doing so except maturity and a sense that she had paid her dues.

There's something still unsatisfying in our attempts to explain this passage, but I love Ash's "message in a bottle" theory.  I wonder if it ever got to the shores for which it was intended?  Messages of this type rarely do.  Generally they end up on a beach in California.  It seems fitting that Ash should have discovered it.  Anyway, I've heard much more bizarre theories about various and sundry things in my six years at university.  I offered many of them.

Sorry, Ash, that I did not detect the sincerity in your query.  Ever since you told me that the OED is full of spelling errors, which actually gave me pause, I have taken everything you say with a grain of salt.  I use a teaspoon of it when reading Ray's postings, however.


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