The Voices of Men in Praise of Jane Austen
Messages on the Bulletin Board - c. Jan. 8, 2001
Ashton: 20,000 souls is the figure given by Fanny Trollope and confirmed by the introduction. I believe Cincinnati was the hub of an all-water route from New York to New Orleans as well as a having a large manufactory. Being the hog capital was no small thing either, salt pork being the major staple of American preserved meat.
The biographical information from my posting comes from the introduction, no mention of the Trollope family's ill-fortune (excepting illness) is found in Fanny's book. Fanny may have arrived in the US during a resurgence of anti-British sentiment anyway. Captain Hall had just published his book about travels in the US, and apparently it wasn't very flattering. Also, some English parishes had concocted a scheme to reduce its poor lists by purchasing packets to America for their unemployables.
No doubt the actual number was quite small and the press played things up a bit, but even Fanny admits "some truth" to the claim and wonders why such people weren't sent to sovereign British territory in Canada.
Nonetheless, Americans' dislike for Fanny Trollope's books was not without foundation. Even her most reasonable observations are colored by what appears to be at the very least, a willful ignorance of the American character, if not a deliberate attempt to misrepresent it. Throughout four years' residence, Fanny insists on believing that the foundation of American government is based on the concept that all men are equally educated, equally intelligent, equally moral, equally ethical, equally polite, equally religious, equally everything. And she continually provides the reader with examples proving how untrue this "American ideal" is.
But I promised Urban legends, among other things. It's rather interesting to track down the beginning of these stories, this one seems peculiarly American, and I've read a variation in a collection of Colonial stories. The wilderness family that built its house on a nest of...baby alligators, just for a change from rattlesnakes. All but one member of the family perished, the father jumping out the window to get help, only to return later to find everyone eaten. This story, of course has morphed into the "baby rattle snakes in the playland at McDonald's" story of modern times.
" 'Servants' and 'Domestic Help' "
"...it is more than petty treason to the Republic, to call a free citizen a servant. The whole class of young women, whose bread depends upon their labour, are taught to believe that the most abject poverty is preferable to domestic service. Hundreds of half-naked girls work the paper-mills, or in any other manufactory, for less than half the wages they would receive in service but they think their equality is compromised by the latter, and nothing but the wish to obtain some particular article of finery will ever induce them to submit to it."
"I might occupy a hundred pages on the subject, and yet fail to give an adequate idea of the sore, angry, ever wakeful pride that seemed to torment these poor wretches ... One ... was a pretty girl, whose natural disposition must have been gentle and kind; but her good feelings were soured, and her gentleness turned to morbid sensitiveness, by having heard a thousand and a thousand times that she was as good as any other lady, and that all men were equal, and women too, and that it was a sin and a shame for a free-born American to be treated like a servant." (The girl was upset at being required to take her meals separately from the family.)
So begins a section in which Fanny details the difficulty of "getting help" as the locals call it. She found that no young woman would engage by the year -- weekly was the best she could find. She cannot begin to conceive why a girl would rather work six regular days a week for weekly wages than 24/7 with one Sunday off a month, wages paid on the quarter. When she did find a young woman who was "... an excellent servant, and performed more than was expected from her; moreover, she always found time to read the Bible several times a day ..." this servant was dismissed on the report of an unknown lady, who heard through a third party that the girl was "... the most abandoned woman in town ..." The girl was fired without even a hearing, and what appears to be an offer to work off a $3.00 advance was rejected. Despite all her emancipation talk, there's no indication that Fanny Trollope tried to hire anyone from "Little Africa" that part of town occupied by freed and runaway slaves.
To be fair, probably the underlying problem was that the Englishwoman had never encountered a situation in which jobs were so plentiful everyone could pick and chose as they liked, and therefore she could never understand why the American girls would not show the proper gratitude for the favor she was bestowing upon them by offering them work.
Later, while traveling to Maryland, Fanny remarked upon the
"... sedulous attention which in this country distinguishes a slave state. In making this observation I am vary far from intending to advocate the system of slavery; I conceive it to be essentially wrong ... [but] I never failed to mark the difference on entering a slave state. I was immediately comfortable, and at my ease, and felt that the intercourse between me and those who served me, was profitable to both parties and painful to neither."
The author sees nothing in this statement that could be construed as an indictment of the British class system, nor does she, even for a moment, think of refusing to stay in a house run with slave labor. What to do about slavery is a question she never answers, her opinion was that
"To emancipate them entirely throughout the Union cannot, I conceive, be thought of, consistently (sic) with the safety of the country; but were the possibility of amelioration taken into consideration of the legislature ... the negro population ... might cease to be a terror and their situation no longer be a subject either of indignation or of pity."
From the text it appears that (at the time) her major objections to slavery were the selling of slaves down river and ownership by the "lower classes,"; who didn't know how to treat a servant properly (?!) I think her belief was that slavery should be abolished, but that blacks should be confined by law to domestic service.
Some other things Fanny didn't like about Americans:
It's rather interesting, but Fanny Trollope shows the exact sort of boorishness that Americans traveling later in the 19th century were accused of. Specifically, she is terribly upset that things in America weren't done the "proper" way (exactly as in England) and absolutely incensed at American bullheadedness in refusing to see that the English way was better.
As a modern American, I would say what annoys me most about Fanny Trollope's pronouncements are, first of all, that she blames every fault of the Americans on the lack of king, an aristocracy, and a state religion. In her mind, the Americans as individuals are not held responsible for their own lack of whatever because, being of the lower classes, they can't be expected to have the reasoning capabilities or the moral fiber to make proper decisions without the monarchy and all its "benefits." Isn't this belief exactly what made slavery possible? Secondly, it's difficult to believe that she was as truly ignorant of conditions in her own country and Europe and she pretends to be. Admittedly, her book was about America, not England, but I find it hard to believe her claim never to have encountered the sort of poverty, drunkeness, and oppression of women at home that she found in America.
To boil it down, my main accusation against Fanny Trollope is hypocrisy, (and strange resemblance, in my mind, to Miss Lucy Steele.) I read the introduction after I finished the book so it didn't color my impression of the author at all, but somehow I knew she was of the lower-than-gentleman class. Something to do with the way she takes great pains to make sure the reader knows she speaks French, has been to a number of hit plays with the biggest stars, traveled to Paris (no mention that it was at her friends' expense), and is appalled by bad grammar. To top it all off, she calls her husband "Mr. T." What more proof do we need?
Dear Ashton and Cheryl,
In 1850 there were 6 cities in the U.S. populated by over 100,000 people: Boston, New York, and Philadelphia are easy to guess. The other three are Baltimore, Cinncinnati, and New Orleans. Seventh biggest city: St. Louis. The rivers dominated commerce, in those days.
Dear Mr. A. Dennis,
Most of the time there is nothing I feel I need to add to this site, however, regarding Darcy's Panic of some months ago I must add a few words. Upon rereading P and P, I could now see what you were trying to get at. You mean the kind of panic like stage fright. Knowing exactly what will occur and not being any less anxious. J.A. has her character looking sure, however we don't see his sweating palms. I however have become rather attached to Darcy waving his arms about and screaming marriage.
A non sequitur - Benjamin Whitrow who plays Mr. Bennet also has a credit for the movie "Chicken Run"
And can anyone suggest how I may go about finding information on the newspapers printed in J.A.'s time?
Do you - I mean, do you really love Darcy?
Your question about the newspapers is a good one - no, it is an excellent one. I don't know the answer. Maybe you could link to the British Museum, which, I think, is actually a library. Or, go the index, scroll down to "Jane Austen's time" and "reference and search - online ", and there you will find a number of links to Regency-period web sites. Maybe one of them will help. Good luck, and keep us posted. If nothing else, I would like to provide a link to a place like that. Even better, We all would love to have you read the morning papers to us.
Do you really love Darcy? Oh, blubber!
Six weeks and a fried motherboard later, we have rescued our computer from the evil clutches of the computer repair people. Contrary to their promises, they did not get with Dell computers and reinstall our original software, but we're limping along as best we can. I'm quite proud of myself, having managed to coax our email and printer back into existence.
I'm afraid it will take me a few days to get caught up, but I'm enjoying the Northanger Abbey discussion very much. Again, I have to cite what I see as a fundamental disagreement over Jane Austen's humor. There's a difference between, say, that nails-on-chalkboard funny scene in Pride and Prejudice when Mrs. Bennet visits Netherfield and nearly shames Elizabeth to death and the "ministry of funny walks" skit from Monty Python. I don't know about anyone else, but my teenage years were a whole series of "Netherfield incidents." I couldn't hope to make them both funny and eternal as did Jane.
I just wanted to mention that I asked for and received Fanny Trollope's Domestic Manners of the Americans for Christmas. I don't know whether I'm more amused or ashamed to admit that a book published 165 years ago put me into an enormous snit for several days. Fanny Trollope lived in America for almost four years -- from about 1828-32 -- and hated all but about 5 minutes of it. Her reason for coming to the US was simple: her husband was in the process of bankrupting the family and they had been forced out of the family home ala Sir Walter and Elizabeth. Fanny and her husband apparently didn't get along and eventually she left for America with the three youngest children, ostensibly to lay the ground work for one of the sons to go into business in the US. (Her finances were apparently undertaken by a man who traveled to the US with her.) The fact that they could live much cheaper in America, and, at the same time she could avoid being held legally responsible for her husband's debts never crossed her mind, no doubt. Fanny, born in 1779 was a contemporary of Jane Austen, and with that for an excuse, I'd like to write a little bit more about her book and attitude toward our ancestors in the near future.
I hope everyone had as much luck getting the books they wanted for Christmas
as I did (I also got The Friendly Jane Austen which wasn't the book I
thought it was, but I still enjoy it and the facsimile edition of Jane's
History of England) and had a good New Year. The Third Millennium
of the Christian era has arrived and for an evening's amusement I suggest
everyone visit those few remaining Y2K sites then check to see whether or not
the magnetic pole has reversed in their area.
Just a note to say I'm glad your computer is on the mend. At present I am in the middle of The Mysteries of Udolpho. I am enjoying it and when I finish I'll make a report in view of NA. (I'll probably have to read NA again, since my memory is so poor!) I am making notes on "Udolpho" to keep the story straight. BTW have you read it?
I haven't heard from Laurie, but I went ahead and started "Udolpho" and now I
can't put it down. Laurie, you may have a treat in
I was grieving because I thought we had lost you. It is good to have you back - except you aren't talking smack on the Python are you? It's weird, but I think that I can remember all the Python skits - remember the dead-parrot skit?
I can give advice on the matter of English tourists. This is too late for that trollope, but the first thing I do is test them - if they can't understand that we have our own language, or if they haven't learned that we were never part of the Commonwealth, or if they insist on saying "War of Independence" rather than "American Revolution", then I try to convince them to make an excursion to south Boston.
Fanny Milton was born in 1779, four years after Jane Austen. She was the daughter of a Bristol clergyman, granddaughter of a saddler. At the age of thirty, she married Thomas Trollope, a Bloomsbury barrister. Trollope was the youngest son of a baronet. He was to receive a large estate in Hertforshire upon his elderly uncle's death, and the couple were unable to resist the temptation of living beyond their means. The uncle, though (apparently) in his 70's, took a young wife and produced an heir. The Trollopes were forced to give up the new house they had built and move into a small farmhouse on an estate Thomas had leased. Further financial setbacks forced another move, but even then, they were unable to keep up the terms of the lease. In 1824 their son Arthur died and the Trollopes became estranged. Fanny turned to her friends Julia and Harriet Garnett and Fanny Wright, a young heiress and intimate of Mary Shelly. Miss Wright had struck upon the idea of educating slaves along side white children and convinced Fanny, through her son Henry, to join her in America.
They sailed for New Orleans in November of 1827. Then up the Mississippi to "Nashoba" Miss Wright's utopian community. The property consisted of three unfinished log cabins in the middle of a Tennessee swamp. Fanny Trollope lasted for two days, then left for Cincinnati, a thriving city of approximately 20,000. Miss Wright gave up a few months later, but to her credit, sailed the slaves to Haiti and freedom. She then returned to the US and did the lecture circuit, speaking on women's rights and atheism.
Cincinnati was still in many respects a frontier city, and it was the hog capital of the US. Pigs roamed the streets and were the only refuse disposal. The streets were bare dirt and without any drainage system, malaria was still a killer along the Ohio. Socially, Fanny Trollope found herself in the position of being neither fish nor fowl. She had no letters of introduction to the old established families from Boston, Philadelphia, New York, or Charleston and was not allowed into the best houses. Yet she conceived for herself a natural superiority over Americans and seems quite surprised when the ill-educated backwoods farmers and local "nabobs" (to borrow Mark Twain's term) failed to tug their forelocks or curtsey. The Cincinnati "in" crowd found her ridiculous and unbearable.
"...Timothy Flint, whose friendship Fanny Trollope had greatly valued later wrote that the Englishwoman had owed her 'uncurteous' reception in Cincinnati to the 'habit of the ladies there of estimating people according to their show and dress. Had she come with numerous letters [of introduction], and been an elegant figure dressed in the most approving fashion, there is no doubt that she would have made her way in every circle.' Instead, she struck the curious Cincinnati residents as 'a short plump figure, with a ruddy, round Saxon face of bright complexion, ... of appearance singularly unladylike, a misfortune heightened by her want of taste and female intelligence in regard to dress, or holding herself utterly above such considerations.'
'My dear,' one woman is reported to have said, 'she never could get in. Her manners were bad and she had no refinement. After seeing how she behaved in market no one could think of asking her inside a drawing-room.' "
There were also other problems. Her financial support was undertaken by a French artist, Monsieur Hervieu, who had accompanied her to America, and this relationship produced much speculation. Her greatest friend in the US, Miss Wright was not only a radical, but her attempt to teach slaves to read was a criminal act in much of the South.
Fanny had further reasons to dislike Cincinnati: her intention to put her son Henry into business brought even greater financial ruin on the family when she conceived and designed a bazaar "... providing exhibition, lecture and reading rooms, a theater, rotunda, coffee house, and stalls to sell miscellaneous goods." It was, by all accounts a hideous building, and badly built by unscrupulous contractors (those who didn't take the money and run, that is) Greek columns, arabesque windows, Gothic battlements, and a Turkish done. No doubt it was designed with the Brighton pavilion in mind, but it was labeled "... the great deformity of the city ... preposterous." (Captain Marryat) Fanny's friend Timothy Flint called it a "Turkish Babel." The whole thing only lasted a few months after which Henry Trollope fell ill with malaria and was ordered back to England. Thomas Trollope refused or was unable to pay his passage back so Hervieu came once again to the rescue. He also moved Fanny and her two remaining children to Maryland where she stayed with Anna Garnett Stone, older sister of Julia and Harriet.
The remaining year or so was spent at Stonington in Maryland and traveling. Fanny visited Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York, and Niagara Falls. The eastern cities, if not their citizens were more to her liking. Almost alone of all travel writers of the time, she admired Washington DC, and thought the Capitol a grand building. Her great love though was reserved for the 'Alleghany' mountains and Niagara Falls, particularly the Canadian side where proper bowing and scraping was observed. She then sailed for home and became the toast of London when Domestic Manners of the Americans was published.
Coming next: Urban Legends, beefsteak and degeneracy, the Great Awakening, slavery versus "domestic service" and a surprising look into the class differences of the Regency.
Good stuff! - go for it, Cheryl. If you move back a bit, to before 1817, that would be perfect; however, we will be glad to have anything you can tell us.
Was the population of Cincinnati really 20,000 in 1830? That sounds too high to me. But, there were some canals leading out of Ohio then, and so maybe Cincinnati was located favorably in that regard. I know that Ohio was quite a magnet for migration, because a main branch of my wife's family was contemplating moving there, about then, from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. They were Church of the Brethren, a group who made the Puritans seem like wild and crazy guys. In fact, the patriarch made a visit there and returned home to tell everyone that Ohio was definitely the place - there were already a lot of Brethren there. The matriarch was disappointed because she had relatives in Tennessee. Well, this is a man's world, so the family was packed up in wagons and moved to Tennessee. (Their wagon is on display in a Tennessee museum.)
That was the branch of my wife's family culminating in her father. Her mother's side was potato-famine, Tammany-Hall, Irish-Catholics. The parents met in a bar in northern California (obviously, neither was religious.)
In 1830, it had only been a bit more than thirty years since the time that the American Army had fought an Indian war in the vicinity of Cincinnati (actually, in Indiana I think.) The Indians had been organized by the British, had annihilated an entire American army group, and then began a massacre of American settlers. The British were testing the American resolve, after the Treaty of Paris had ostensibly ended the American Revolution, and were trying to extend the influence of the Hudson Bay Company. This was during the time of Washington's administration (1788-96). The Indian attitude was perfectly understandable: they had never heard of the Treaty of Paris and would never have been a party to the ceding of their ancestral lands by a European nation to this neo-European nation. The Americans organized and defeated the Indian army, along with their British military advisors. The British-Indian alliance was then broken forever by an atrocious act. The Americans chose eight warriors at random, marched them to in front of a British fort, made them kneel, and executed them with tomahawks. The lesson was that, even at that close proximity, the British could not possible meet any commitments made to support the Indians in this "northwest territory" of the United States. The British never again were able to organize an Indian army, they removed their forts from American soil, and the Hudson Bay Company could only expand in Canada after that.
This is a tricky subject - this subject of familial advice on marriage. However, I am as eager as you might be to discuss it in the context of our lady's novels.
I suspect that we must consider the social and economic conditions constraining the English upper-middle class in Jane Austen's time. I suspect that marriage must have been a more important consideration then, because families were expected to support themselves. When your sister married, the newly allied family would supply either an augmentation or a drain on your family's resources. Actually, as I see it, the men were as dependent as women, and, as usual, I suspect that is a minority view. Remember that Jane Austen's time was at the dawning of the industrial period and so there were not anything like the range of professional opportunities as there would be, say, fifty years later. - Then, it was church or the military and not much else for a younger son who wished to remain a "gentleman." Think about Wickham, Colonel Fitzwilliam, Wentworth, and Edmund Bertram and the narrow range of opportunities open to them. Better yet, think about Jane Austen's own life - think about Tom Lefroy.
I also think that even the richer men like Bingley, Darcy, and Knightley were very restricted as to the set of women they might marry. My guess is that the latter two had to consider their on-going need for infusions of capital to repair or replace their infrastructure (the homes, fields, and equipment of their tenants - the roads and other arrangements for transporting the tenants' produce to market - etc.) The clearest way might have been the infusion brought by a bride's dowry. Set against all this would have been the young man's inclination. Little wonder that so many others, close to the man, would have involved themselves in the decision. Bingley was closely questioned by his sisters and best friend for his interest in a young woman with little dowry, a clearly avaricious mother, and no very apparent regard for him. Need we really wonder about that? Of course, they were wrong in the third part, but Jane Austen makes it very clear that they were making a reasonable estimate. As for Darcy, his beloved mother's sister, Lady Catherine, made very clear to him that his duty to his estate and family lie in the infusion of capital that only an heiress could bring with her. Of course, the heiress she had in mind was her own daughter, but that doesn't mean that the advice was not sound. Darcy would take the only course open to a man of spirit, he married Elizabeth Bennet - he followed his inclination.
Elizabeth Bennet, herself, acknowledged the constraint on men. When Wickham throws her over for a minor heiress, Elizabeth is philosophic and acknowledges that "handsome young men" require money to live on as much as the plain ones.
The restrictions and pressures on women of the gentry were no less - and, I say no more - than those on the men. Elizabeth Bennet is closely questioned by her Aunt Gardiner on her imprudent fancy for Wickham. If anything, Elizabeth's reply indicates that such advice is needed - it appears that Elizabeth is about to make the blunder that our Lady would reserve for the mother of Fanny Price. I am not saying that all familial advice is good advice - not at all. Elizabeth is also pressured by her mother to marry Mr. Collins, and then by her father to not marry Darcy. - enough said. And, then there was the terrible advice given to the young Anne Elliot to break her engagement to Wentworth. However, my attitude is exactly that taken by Anne eight years later when she defends the principle of family intimacy and advice. Do you remember that?
Your parents and mine were of that generation formed in the depression, and I think the culture of family mentoring and responsibility was shattered then - not passed down to us - and can be regained only through conscious effort. In order to make progress, we may have to move backwards. So, maybe a thorough discussion of these things in our Lady's novels will be a service. In any case, it should be interesting. - Let's do it!
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