Dear Meister and Board Readers,
I have so enjoyed reading this bulletin board! Thank you for the hours of entertainment. I do have a question, which undoubtedly comes from my vast ignorance of Jane Austen's background and writing history. It deals with Northanger Abbey (I'm sorry, I'm very new at this and have no clue how to italicize or underline doing this). Why was the original title going to be Susan? The main character's name is Catherine, not Susan. I have always wondered about this. I can readily understand First Impressions (the best title for P&P) and Marianne & Elinore (or is it Elinore and Marianne?), but Susan just makes no sense to me.
My objection is about something you said in your attack of Emma Thompson's S&S. While I do not agree with all your opinions about the flawed movie, this deals with facts, not opinions. You say, "Incidentally, it is not true that the Dashwood sisters had been raised at Norland, their immediate family had been in possession of the estate for only a single year before they lost it again." (Sorry if someone had already corrected you on this - I saw no evidence of it as I perused all the back chatting.) In reality, JA says in S&S, "But her death [the sister the uncle had had living with him], which happened ten years before his own, produced a great alteration in his home for to supply her loss, he invited and received into his house the family of his nephew Mr. Henry Dashwood, the legal inheritor of the Norland estate, and the person to whom he intended to bequeath it." That means that Elinore was 8, Marianne was 6, and Margaret was 2 when they first went to live there - over half their lives before they left.
Keep up the good work!!
Jane Austen changed the title from 'Susan', because she changed the heroine's name after having the manuscript retrieved from Crosby in 1816. She wrote to Fanny Knight, in early 1817, 'Miss Catherine is put upon the Shelve, and I do not know that she will ever come out. But I have something ready for publication which may perhaps appear about a twelvemonth hence'. (Persuasion). These two novels were published at the end of 1817, in four volumes, together with Henry's memorial notice of his sister. I would guess, (and this is all we can do), that she changed the name because she changed the book. It may have been to avoid confusion with 'Lady Susan', written c. 1793 - 94, but there is no evidence that the latter was ever intended for publication.
Park Honan gives an interesting aside to the fact that Crosby did not publish 'Susan' -they advertised it in 1803 as being 'in the press', at the same time as they were promoting 'moral' literature against attacks being leveled at modern fiction. Mrs Radcliffe was one of the English novelists that they stated could be read 'without harm'. Honan postulates that, 'as Crosby & Co had a financial interest in Mrs Radcliffe and included 'Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe, 4 vols. as among the most approved modern novels they sold', they may have hesitated to publish at the same time a work that was a satire upon the novels of an author in whom they had a financial interest.
It does seem odd that the firm would go so far as to advertise the work, and then simply drop it for no reason.
No one has an explicit explanation for the original title of Northanger Abbey. Everyone assumes that Catherine Morland's original name was "Susan". Maybe Jane Austen was contemplating revising and publishing Lady Susan--that novella that had been languishing in her desk since she was a teenager--and didn't wish to confuse matters with a second use of the same name. That is merely a guess on my part. Susan was retrieved from the original publisher by brother Henry Austen who carefully negotiated things by returning the ten-pounds advance that Jane had received. Jane had remained an anonymous writer throughout her life, but after his negotiations, Henry could not resist telling his adversary that oh by the way, the manuscript he had not bothered to actually publish was written by the author of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Henry's parting shot!--I love it.
The point I was trying to make about the Dashwoods is that almost as soon as they gained control of Norland, they lost it again due to the untimely death of the father, so the second half of my statement is correct. However, as you say, the first half of my statement is not a good way to think of things and that part must be corrected. I am very grateful to you for pointing this out and I will make the modification. Please pass on anything else you have noticed. And, we all want to read your defense of Emma Thompson.
I run everyone's submission through a spell check and add italics and underlines. You can make these additions yourself by including HTML codes. I would never ask you to do that, I merely point to that information. "HTML" is something you can learn by buying a book and devoting about half-an-hour's study. It is the basis of much of what you see on the Internet and stands for "hyper-text markup language". I will also do some minor editing of a posting in response to an e-mail; although, I would never change the meaning of the original posting.
Welcome to the community,
Dear Meister and Board Readers,
I'm sorry to be such a bother with my endless questions! I have accessed the text of part of JA's letters on the Internet (having unsuccessfully tried to find them in the limited bookstores available on the high desert), and a question I've had for a while has been buzzing about in my brain with even more force - with all the names that JA borrowed from family and friends (Elizabeth, Jane, Mary, Henry, Willoughby, Gardiner, Musgrave [into Musgrove] to name just a few), why do you think she never used Cassandra's name? Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I always see Cassandra's and her relationship much like the loving and fervent relationship between Lizzie and Jane or (to a lesser degree) between Marianne and Elinor. Could Cassandra not have cared to have her name in a book?
Okay, I NEVER said that I had a defense of ET. I ONLY said that I didn't agree completely with your attack! Come on -- I know the film was extremely flawed, but I am very grateful to it. It brought me to read JA, and I can't be more grateful for anything. I do not agree completely with your interpretation that JA did not write comedy. If by that you're meaning sitcom-type comedy, then I do agree. But what first attracted me to her was the fact that I laughed out loud reading her books (starting with S&S). They're funny! They're sarcastic! They're fabulous! I always recommend them by mentioning her humor. I think it's hilarious. Her way of looking at the world and seeing the absurdity in it and making it very plain that she sees it is amazing to me. I always hear the criticism of her that she can't be making fun of fashion and stuff because she participated in them. I think people who think that are missing the point -- she knew she did it, she just saw the absurdity at the same time.
Thank you very much for putting all the entries through a spell-check
-- worst speller in the world here doesn't really want all the well-read
people at this site to know about it!!
I find that preference of a Jane Austen novel depends on mood. One of my Penguin editions of 'Emma' describes it as 'the most fiendishly difficult of detective stories', and that is very true. Returning to this novel, as if for the first time, with a 'blank slate', so to speak, really shows the truth of this statement - I think it is harder to appreciate its truth on a first reading. Extaordinary how Jane Austen achieved this, over a century before the genre was invented. But you asked me about 'Mansfield Park'.
I have actually found some very interesting technical points about the construction of this novel. Did you know, for instance, that Jane's father had the management of the Antigua estate of one of his patrons, and that this gentleman on one occasion took his spendthrift son with him on a voyage to these estates - 'to disengage him from some bad influences in England?' Only in this case, the young heir in question was eventually disinherited. A great many of Jane Austen's 'jokes' and literary points can only be appreciated by reading good biographical history, and by studying her (extant) letters. I use brackets to emphasise the point that all of Jane's correspondence was so heavily edited that, as you say, we can never hope to know the woman from reading her letters. One can, however, hear her voice, so clearly - 'good writing should be like conversation, and so I have been talking to you as fast as I can for two pages'. And my personal favourite, about the lady 'brought to bed of a dead child - I assume she happened to catch sight unawares of her husband'. I caused a furore in the nurses' station one day by saying, in respect of a dying woman -'tell her family not to invest too much money in Mothers' Day presents!' This kind of comment, I believe, does not reflect a lack of caring, but rather a protective device to protect caring people from their own emotions. One knows that Cassandra would have laughed, and not for one minute have thought Jane lacking in compassion.
'Mansfield Park' has a lyricism and a rhythm to it - I like to read it slowly. I have the 'picture' of the house, the grounds, the sunny weather during which the young people went riding ' a party of young people is always provided with a shady lane on a hot day' (I am a rider myself). I find it the easiest of all the novels to visualise.
Jane's portrayal of the Bertram children had some echoes in her feelings about Edward Knight's boys, especially Edward and George. She and Cassandra both worried that they were spoiled and indulged. Cassandra wrote to Phila Walter in 1812, 'I hope those young people will not have so much happiness in their youth as to unfit them for the rubs, but with so indulgent a father and so liberal a way of living I am aware there must be some danger of it'.
Jane wrote in October 1813, while staying at Godmersham' 'I wrote of my nephews with a little bitterness' ......George and Edward took Communion at church - but now, 'these two boys who are out with the Foxhounds will come home and disgust me again by some habit of luxury'.
Mr Honan makes an interesting comment, 'She transferred no-one she knew into 'Mansfield Park', but she meant to reflect the failure in Tory families to train their children as responsible inheritors.'
And here's another interesting 'in' joke (in if you lived in the nineteenth century, that is) - Fanny Price is mentioned as having a copy of Crabbe's 'Tales' among her books - Fanny Price was the name of Crabbe's 'meekly firm' heroine in 'The Parish Register'. Jane Austen was always making jokes about Crabbe, and said once that she wanted to marry him.
Jane became a more seriously religious person later in life, and I am hunting some references about her feeling on Evangelicism, about which she wrote to Fanny Knight (or it may have been a conversation Fanny recorded, I can't remember). I think these feelings are also echoed in M.P.
Oh, dear, oh, dear. I actually find it very difficult to discuss these novels, because they are a part of my heart and my soul, and have been for over thirty years. I dislike quantifying, qualifying and justifying. They just are - and why would I want to waste time trying to justify that to people who don't understand already?
I believe you and admire your intensity. I would never ask you to waste your time, but I will make one request--please don't write a poem about me.
You said a number of very interesting things in your posting. I have a few comments: It seems to me that Deirdre Le Faye gives the small pox to Mary rather than Martha. Also, Henry became a evangelist minister in the last part of his life. JA, naturally enough, had some hard things to say about the breed early in her life but did seem to soften as time went on. Perhaps she and Henry were entering into a kind of co-dependence.
Yes, indeed. James Austen's first wife was Anne Mathew, grand-daughter of the Duke of Ancaster, whom he married in 1792. She was five or six years older than James, and died in 1795, on May 3. Her death was very sudden - James found her unwell after dinner, administered 'an emetic' and called for the doctor. Anne was dead before the doctor arrived. This gentleman said he knew of 'some internal adhesion of the liver', which may have ruptured and caused her death. Their daughter Anna (later Lefroy) was sent to the parsonage under the care of her grandmother and aunts.
James married Mary Lloyd in 1797. Mrs Austen wrote to Mary before the wedding 'had the selection been mine, you, my dear Mary, are the person I should have chosen. I look forward to you as a real comfort to me in my old age when Cassandra is gone into Shropshire (she was then engaged to the Rev. Mr Fowle), and Jane - the Lord knows where'.
There were later frictions between Mary and her sisters-in-law - Jane criticised James once in a letter to Cassandra, saying that it was a pity that the company of so good and clever a man did not give more pleasure, but that his opinions were 'too much like his wife's' (among other faults), but Mary was with her when she died, and Jane then said 'you have always been a kind sister to me, Mary'. These would sound to me like normal and inevitable family frictions, kept in perspective by underlying goodwill.
As to 'Mansfield Pard' versus 'Emma' - I have never really felt the need to be comparative about any of the Austen novels. My favourite depends very much on my mood. The only proviso is that I differ from most people in finding 'Sense and Sensibility' the most immature of the novels. where most people would say that of 'Northanger Abbey'. But to me, there is a clumsiness in the construction of S&S which grates.
I want to say a little about Mansfield Park, but need to do some digging first. Give me a couple of days to get off night duty, and all shall be revealed!
Deirdre Le Faye [LeFaye-89] suggests that there was more than just the normal family friction in Jane's relationship to Mary. You can see a photograph of Martha Lloyd in Tomalin's new biography [Tomalin-JA]. Yes! that is a PHOTOGRAPH. This is the woman who was living with Jane Austen when she put the finishing touches on her first three novels and composed her last three; Martha was there and you can see her correct image. Of the eight Austen children, only George and Jane never had their likeness taken by a professional painter, photographer, or silhouette maker. Did you ever notice that Jane is the only member of the family who was never given a middle name? Actually, we don't have a clue what Jane Austen looked like. There are plenty of contemporary descriptions of her appearance, but Tomalin gathered them together and demonstrated that they are perfectly contradictory--nullify each other. No one in the family gave Cassandra's water color much credit. Tomalin's biography really is excellent: She does the courageous thing and admits, at the end, that we know precious little about Jane Austen, the person, as well. I like that--it's none of our business--and, besides, I am now free to imagine almost anything--and I do.
Martha Lloyd is, I believe, a great and important mystery. One of the family biographers--Jane's great grand nephew I think--claimed that Jane and Cassandra were disappointed when they heard of Francis's first marriage because they had intended Martha for him. No other biographer, that I know of, has ever confirmed that. As you say, that intended marriage did take place but not until Martha had passed her sixtieth birthday. In any case here is a woman who was an intimate of Jane Austen for nearly Jane's entire life, lived with Jane Austen during her productive years, and I seem to be the only person who has ever been interested in knowing a lot more about her. Biographies of Jane Austen are no help. You would have thought that the biography of Francis [Sailors], written by his grandson, would have something to say about her. NOT.
How many times have you read Sense and Sensibility? I ask that because my reaction after my first reading was exactly--I mean EXACTLY like the one you expressed. My attitude completely changed after the second reading. I now consider it one of the best novels I have ever read. I say that even though the only male character done with the thoroughness we expect from JA, is Willoughby. Of course, he is done extremely well.
Is the photograph of Martha one of her as a rather elderly lady, seated, with a small dog on her lap? I have a copy of this photograph, as it is in Park Honan's biography. Apparently Martha had suffered a bout of smallpox as a child, and had a badly scarred face, but this does not seem evident in the photo. Perhaps the scars mellowed with age. I have ordered the Tomalin biography, and should not have to wait too long for it.
How many times have I read 'Sense and Sensibility'? Probably in excess of twenty, over the years. At any rate, on checking my shelves I have found three paperback editions, falling to bits, held together by rubber bands. I'm afraid I find some of the characterisation clumsy, and lacking the subtelty of construction evident in the other novels. Too much extremism - comparatively speaking, that is. It seems to me to have more in common with the juvenalia than with her later works - though I am aware that most people would say the same of 'Northanger Abbey'. But there you go.
Now I am going to inflict something on you that you will not like - well, not at first, anyway. Just read the essay that I am enclosing. It is entertaining for its own sake, but it also throws an interesting perspective on an author who shall remain nameless, for fear of making you pull the plug on your computer. Enjoy.
Firstly, you are a little astray in some of your assumptions. Miss Fairfax is never spoken of as being a paid companion to anybody. Col. Campbell took on responsibility for her upbringing and education out of gratitude to her late father. "The plan was that she should be brought up to educate others, the very few hundred pounds left to her by her father making independence impossible.' She resolved that one-and-twenty should be the period. With the fortitude of a devoted novitiate, she had resolved at one-and -twenty to complete the sacrifice, and retire from all the pleasures of life, of rational intercourse, equal society, peace and hope, to penance and mortification for ever.
The good sense of Colonel and Mrs Campbell could not oppose such a resolution, though their feelings did. As long as they lived, no exertions would be necessary, their home might be hers for ever, and for their own comfort they would have retained her wholly but this would be selfishness: what must be at last, had better be soon'. ....But for the present,....'they must forbid her engaging in duties, which, so far from being compatible with a weakened frame and varying spirits, seemed, under the most favourable circumstances, to require something more than human perfection of body and mind to be discharged with tolerable comfort'. Now, of course, you, in 1998, have your own views on governessing, but those words give Jane Austen's view of the profession in 1816. And she was there.
Re Mrs Goddard: she was in a different social class to the protagonists of 'Emma'. Mr Knightley, when expostulating with Emma on her gentrification of Harriet Smith: 'She is known only as parlour-boarder at a common school ....... after receiving a very indifferent education she is left in Mrs Goddard's hands to shift as she can to move, in short, in Mrs Goddard's line, to have Mrs Goddard's acquaintance. ..... Until you chose to turn her into a friend, her mind had no distaste for her own set, no ambition beyond it'. Mrs Goddard may have been a widow, or she may, like Miss Sarah Hackett, who ran Abbey School, which Jane Austen attended in 1785 and 1786, have changed her name for professional reasons ( Miss Hackett became 'Mrs Latournelle', though she was neither a widow, nor French). Mrs Goddard was also self-employed and running her own business - answerable to no-one but herself. She did not have to ask permission to 'win or lose a few sixpences by Mr Woodhouse's fireside' - a governess would certainly have had to do so.. It is important to realise the difference between social position and wealth. Mrs Goddard was very likely much richer than Mrs and Miss Bates, but she was not their social equal. Mr Martin may have had an income not far below that of Mr Elton, but he was not the latter's social equal.
Now, for the completely different bit. Have you read 'Lady Susan'? There is reason to suppose that her character was inspired, or at least suggest, by that of Mrs Craven, grandmother to Mary and Martha Lloyd (later Mrs James Austen and Lady Frank Austen). A truly unpleasant woman, she used to beat, starve, and imprison her daughters, and, when travelling make them come with her as maidservants. They eventually managed to run away, and one of them married a clergyman and became Mrs Lloyd, mother of Jane Austen's friend and sister-in-law (Martha married Frank many years after Jane's death). I just thought that was interesting.
Lastly, don't assume that I 'celebrate' any ideas, industrialised or not, unless I tell you so. You will have an excellent chance of being wrong.
It's a coincidence that you should mention Lady Susan because I have been thinking about that recently. That is because I am going over Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. It appears that both books were written in about the eighteen year of the two young women authors. Apparently, each of these late-adolescent girls had a monster on her mind. Jane Austen was about 22 years older than Mary Shelley and Frankenstein was published the year after JA died in 1817. Lady Susan was published many decades after JA's death and only after a good deal of controversy within the family.
The novels make for a fascinating comparison. Lady Susan is unlike any other Austen character except, perhaps, Mary Crawford. (I always thought that and Claire Tomalin expressed the same view in her recent biography.) But Lady Susan is far more controlling and uses sex as a weapon and as a tool. I had read that some believe a relative of a neighborhood family had been the inspiration but you are the first to tell me that it was the Lloyds. I suppose that you know that Martha's sister, Mary, was the second wife of brother James. Biographers not associated with the Austen family tend to paint Mary as a bit of a villain herself but not of the same dimension as a Lady Susan.
You know how modern science fiction writers explain spacecraft moving faster than the speed of light--an impossibility--well, they have the spacecraft just do it. That is how Frankenstein (I mean Mary Shelley) explains his success at re-animation--he just did it. I actually find that more satisfactory than the obligatory electrical explanation always portrayed in films these days. I suppose that the film makers can point to the mention of "galvanism" in a preface Mary added in a later addition. Mary didn't write the preface for the first edition; for some reason, her husband did that. Percy should have butted out, the preface is the poorest part of the novel. Anyway, Mary's monster is more frightening than recent filmed versions because he is intelligent and articulate. Also, an innocent woman is executed for one of his crimes and that part of the novel is extremely affecting. There is this preposterous part where the monster learns to speak, etc. by spying on a family through a peephole over many months. It makes for a slightly comical image and reminds us of the extreme youth of the author. That said, I have to admit that it works--I can't explain it--but it does work somehow--for me. Here is my favorite line: Frankenstein is bemoaning his experiments and says "Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay." That was written 180 years ago. I can so conceive.
Mary Shelley shows none of the polish or art of a young Jane Austen, but her book is excellent. She is, by far, my most favorite Jane Austen contemporary--I don't much care for her husband--or her father. My copy of Frankenstein contains a chronology with this entry for Mary's twenty-second year: "...At this time Mary writes the semi-autobiographical Mathilda, a novella on the theme of father-daughter incestuous love which is not, however, destined to be published in her lifetime..." Have you ever heard about that? Poor Mary Shelley--poor Mary Wollstonecraft.
You once mentioned that your favorite JA novels were Emma and Mansfield Park; I have noticed that the very literate will pick Emma, but I cannot go there with you. I do like Mansfield Park and think about it a great deal. I would like to hear you views on that.
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