The Voices of Men in Praise of Jane Austen
Messages on the Bulletin Board - c. Jan. 23, 2001

Dear Voices,

I added Udolpho to a book order that was sent off on Sunday, so I hope to have it by the end of the week.  You may have to bear with me for a few days though ... the Flower and Garden show is the weekend of the 10th so most of my time between now and then will be spent writing down this year's wish list.  I will also add that I haven't been deliberately shirking my duties, it's just that we now have an eight-month-old puppy that my husband brought home in a moment of weakness, and she requires a whole bunch of exercise.  (I, on the other hand, require a whole bunch of ibuprofen.)

Before the great computer fiasco, I had been working on something for the "Passionate Pages", which fits somewhat into the discussion on familial advice. My view is that in Persuasion, JA illustrates the fundamental difference between the ideal husband and the ideal son-in-law. Frederick Wentworth is handsome, virile, and passionate -- "dangerous" is used in the text.  I can equally sympathize with Anne's being smitten and Lady Russell being appalled.  What's almost equally fascinating (to me if no one else) is that Persuasion is pretty much the only Austen novel in which the mother/daughter relationship evolves in any way. Actually, it's pretty much the only one in which any parent/child relationship evolves "on camera" so to speak. Right?

From the Meister: I thought that Lady Russell
was only appalled at his lack of money?

I recently speculated that Elizabeth Bennet is not unlike a minor character, Charlotte Grandison, in Samuel Richardson's The History of Sir Charles Grandison. I want to support that speculation with this posting. Incidentally, I should say that Richardson may have struck a chord in the English psyche with this character; I say that because, for example, Charlotte also reminds me of Fanny Burney's Mrs. Selwyn in Evelina. - My guess is that many more such echoes could be found in the literature of England (and the United States.) And - who knows? - there may have been a literary model for Charlotte Grandison.

First of all, there are the similarities in situation. Charlotte Grandison also had had her disappointment with a first love, a man remindful of Wickham. Also, both Charlotte Grandison and Elizabeth Bennet have the benefit of female influences that attempt to rein in their friends. In the case of Elizabeth Bennet, the sensible influence is her sister, Jane Bennet; while, in Charlotte's case, the novel's heroine, Harriet Byron attempts a similar service. Incidentally, in the first volume, Harriet - yes, not Charlotte - receives two marriage proposals that may remind you of those of Mr. Collins and Darcy made to Elizabeth Bennet.

One can make too much of that kind of similarity, more to the point is the similarity in the nature of the two female characters. Charlotte Grandison is very, very witty and very, very bright; but she, like Elizabeth Bennet, sometimes goes beyond the pale. Either woman can get away with what would be a transgression by someone else; she could do that because of her wit and attractive appearance. The characters in the novel who would defend Charlotte, try to explain away about her "vivacity" and emphasize, instead, her considerable good qualities. In fact, there are a large number of worried references to that word, "vivacity", by Charlotte's friends and family. With that in mind, read this from Chapter 29 of Pride and Prejudice: Mr Collins is in the middle of his proposal to Miss Bennet when he begins to praise Lady Catherine.

" '... Allow me, by the way, to observe, my fair cousin, that I do not reckon the notice and kindness of Lady Catherine de Bourgh as among the least of the advantages in my power to offer. You will find her manners beyond anything I can describe, and your wit and vivacity, I think, must be acceptable to her, especially when tempered with the silence and respect which her rank will inevitably excite... ' "

Yes, Mr. Collins had, on several occasions, come to feel the sting of that "vivacity".

Jane Austen placed another example of Elizabeth's vivacity in Chapter 33. Our heroine is in a private conversation with Colonel Fitzwilliam when Elizabeth makes this remark about Darcy.

'... I do not know anybody who seems more to enjoy the power of doing what he likes than Mr. Darcy.'

'He likes to have his own way very well,' replied Colonel Fitzwilliam. 'But so we all do. It is only that he has better means of having it than many others, because he is rich, and many others are poor. I speak feelingly. A younger son, you know, must be enured to self-denial and dependence.'

'In my opinion, the younger son of an earl can know very little of either. Now, seriously, what have you ever known of self-denial and dependence? When have you been prevented by want of money from going wherever you chose, or procuring anything you had a fancy for?'

'These are home questions--and perhaps I cannot say that I have experienced many hardships of that nature. But in matters of greater weight, I may suffer from the want of money. Younger sons cannot marry where they like.'

'Unless where they like women of fortune, which I think they very often do.'

'Our habits of expense make us too dependent, and there are not many in my rank of life who can afford to marry without some attention to money.'

'Is this,' thought Elizabeth, 'meant for me?' and she colored at the idea; but, recovering herself, said in a lively tone, 'And pray, what is the usual price of an earl's younger son? Unless the elder brother is very sickly, I suppose you would not ask above fifty thousand pounds.'

He answered her in the same style, and the subject dropped. ..."

I wouldn't quarrel with Elizabeth's understanding, but I do find her manners interesting in this instance. But, believe me, these are the sort of thing that Charlotte Grandison might have said. - "Vivacity" from a beautiful mouth, but rude impertinence from others.

My last example is from Chapter 43. Elizabeth is visiting Pemberley with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner. Our heroine had been informed, by Darcy himself, that his sister had nearly eloped with Wickham from Ramsgate the year before. The Uncle asks the housekeeper

"... 'Is your master much at Pemberley in the course of the year?'

'Not so much as I could wish, sir; but I dare say he may spend half his time here; and Miss Darcy is always down for the summer months.'

'Except,' thought Elizabeth, 'when she goes to Ramsgate.' "

If Elizabeth was proud of her muted witticism, the feeling would completely have left her in a few days when she received a letter from home with the information that her own sixteen-year old sister had gone down that very same road.

Well, I have focused on less fortunate aspects of this kind of "vivacity", and that is not a good picture of my complete view of these fictional women. I love Charlotte Grandison far, far better than any other character in her novel; and, of course, I am in love with Elizabeth Bennet.

Does anybody have any information or pictures of Elizabeth Earl who plays young Julia in the film Mansfield Park?

Dear Jason,

Here are some links I found by linking through "Mansfield Park" on the IMDb site:,+Elizabeth+
Image gallery
Page 1 of gallery
Page 2 of gallery

When you get to the pictures it appears that they "sell" access to the enlargements. Hope it helps.

Dear Janeites,

I've been reading Owen Wister's The Virginian written in 1901. It is a novel that is pretty much the template for most Western novels since that time. It is the novel from which the famous line, "Smile when you say that," is based. The actual line is "When you call me that, smile."

So what's that got to do with Our Dear Jane? Simply the relationship between the Virginian and Molly the schoolmarm. In the novel the Virginian takes a fancy to Molly, who is a cultured Easterner, at first sight, but Molly is determined to have nothing to do with this uneducated cowboy. She is, in a sense, a female version of Darcy. The Virginian is below her social class and she, at first wants nothing to do with him. But the Virginian is also like Darcy in that he is a man of honor and duty, and one who values his reputation. In a sense, the romance in the novel is one aspect of Darcy courting another aspect of Darcy.

Jane Austen is mentioned in the novel. While the Virginian is trying to educate himself Molly gives him two of ODJ's novels (P&P and Emma) to read. He returns them to her later unread, preferring Shakespeare and Walter Scott.

The novel, by today's standards, is problematic concerning its attitude toward Jews and Blacks, but Wister (an Easterner) was a product of his times and not an exceptional product. He wrote one good novel about the West and the rest just kind of fell off the map. It's not a great novel, but it's a good novel. I would also add that it's probably a man's novel because of the dialogue and relationships between the male characters. It's a man thing.

If you want to get the man in your life to start reading Jane Austen novels I would suggest that you have him start with The Virginian. Then hand him P&P and say, "It's kind of like The Virginian without horses." And make sure that you smile when you say it.

Dear Dave,

Wister actually mentions ODJ!  Now you have my curiosity up about The Virginian.  I did see the TV show which, I now realize, probably did not reflect the written word.  No wonder we have such prejudices against the books from which movies are made.  I will put that on my "to read" list.

I still want to hear some recommendation (or not) about your adventures with Jeanne La Pucelle (I looked that up and found Joan of Ark) and the Confederate clergymen (your post of 12/24/00). I found one book called The Pulpits of Dixie by Harry S. Stout.  Is that the one?  It still amazes me what we "didn't" learn in school!

I finished Udolpho and have started Northanger Abbey again.  It looks different now.  In the first few chapters Jane actually sounds (as we say in the South) "sassy".  I have had a problem understanding the word "irony" (which everyone uses to describe her work) ever since I started really studying JA .  Where I come from we don't use "irony", we say "make fun of" a lot.  You have to understand what we really mean, because, on the surface it may seem derogatory, but we do not necessarily mean it that way.  When I apply those words instead of "irony",  I understand it.  Such differences in our language!

Thanks for the report.

From the Meister: I wonder, do you think "sassy" derives from
"saucy", which is the word that Jane Austen might have used?

Dear Meister,

I think you may be right!  My dictionary has the word "impudent" in one of the definitions for both "sassy" and "saucy".  Now that I have looked it up and noted the similarity I better understand what Jane means when she uses "saucy".  So many times, I have noticed that we Southerners (I don't know about other peoples) use words which have a meaning we understand, but others don't.  Case in point:  "Down the road apiece."  I "understand"  exactly how far that is, though I find it hard to put an explanation for it into words.  Thanks for bringing those words to my attention.

Dear Folks,

Things change - one must understand that and try to learn some things in order to properly understand novels written two centuries ago. (One does not have to understand so very much in order to read Jane Austen novels.) In this posting, I will point to some odd things of that nature in Samuel Richardson's The History of Sir Charles Grandison - things that are interesting, and things that "date" the novel.

Richardson's dates are 1689-1761, while those of Jane Austen's father are 1731-1805; so, we can think of Richardson as from the generation of the grandfather or great-grandfather of our Lady. As will become clear, things changed in those two or three generations.

First of all, in Jane Austen's generation - as well as in mine - the words, "Miss" and "Mrs.", distinguished a women's marital state. Not so to Richardson: in that remote time, the words could indicate marital status, but were also used as the equivalents of "Master" and "Mr."; I mean to say, that the words also distinguished the maturity of women. So, for example, Sir Charles's maiden aunt was known as "Mrs. Grandison", because she was mature, even though a woman who had never married. This convention had changed by Jane Austen's time; so, it was not "Mrs. Bates" but "Miss Bates" we all know. (I think that feminists missed a good bet with that "Ms."-thing; I mean, they might have reverted, instead, to this early eighteenth-century convention.)

Next, let me introduce you to a new slur; this time, one that was applied to a social class. The pejorative term was "cit", which was derived from "citizen." The slur implied that a person was an - ugh - tradesperson. Here is an example of its use. Charlotte Grandison was in company with her new and beloved sister-in-law, the Harriet-the-heroine Byron that was. They were sharing the table with Charlotte's least favorite cousin and his new wife. The profligate cousin had married the woman, a rich wine-merchant's widow, for her inherited wealth. The woman was delighted to have married into the aristocracy, so we are glad that she did not hear Charlotte refer to her as a "cit widow." Harriet, once again, was shocked by Charlotte and admonished her, once again, and took particular notice that it was an especially inappropriate slur in England, which, after all, was a trading nation. Incidentally, Richardson was a printer, a carpenter's son, and, so, was a "cit" himself. We must imagine him on Harriet's side.

The irony is that while this term was an insult in 1754-5 England, it became a salute in the Revolutionary France of 1789.

There are a whole lot of other things that are not interesting; for example, the room you and I call a "study" was then called a "closet", etc. etc.

My last observation is on the feminine attitude toward marriage ceremonies. Apparently, things were the exact opposite of today's: the women of this novel were absolutely opposed to a large, public display, and always held out for small private ceremonies (they called "solemnities") held, preferably, in private chambers. However, in all cases, the family men had their way, which was for large church weddings held in front of the extended family, dependents, and dependent families. Men are pigs!

Dear Voices,

I liked Udolpho.  Don't ask me why. I just do (it would take too much effort to explain).  I was moved by it, so much so, that I bought my own copy to mark up, since I have 5 notebook pages of notes to transcribe.  Judging by what others said about it, I was prepared to dislike it.  Anyway here is what I found.

I posted previously that Radcliffe used the term "first impressions" at the beginning.  I was almost to the end when I realized that the entire book was a study of "first impressions"!  [Has anyone else ever written about this?]  Now I know why our Dear Jane wanted to use the title "First Impressions".

In the beginning Emily's Father admonishes her "to resist first impressions" and to acquire that steady dignity of mind, that can alone counterbalance the passions.  The "story" is a contrast between Emily who follows her Father's advice and Signora Laurentini who is allowed to follow her "passions" and ends up as "a dreadful victim to unresisted passion."  Obviously enough, the consequences are not surprising - Emily ends happily married and the Signora dies after living a repentant but miserable and anguished life.  [It's as if Radcliffe never heard of the saving grace and forgiveness of our Lord.]  There are a lot of other references to "first impressions".

To sum up, we find in the second chapter from the end:

"... the awful lesson, which the history of the nun [Laurentini] exhibited, the indulgence of whose passions had been the means of leading her gradually to the commission of a crime, from the prophecy of which in her early years she would have recoiled in horror, and exclaimed - that it could not be! - a crime, which whole years of repentance and of the severest penance had not been able to obliterate from her conscience."

Ash, you said in your post of 1/05:  "First let me say, that it is a bit shocking how many times Jane-Austen words and ideas appear in Grandison."  The same may be said about Udolpho.  Here are just two instances:

Emily's position after Valancourt's proposal to elope is similar to Anne's when she broke off her engagement with Frederick:

"After a few minutes, she drew a deep sigh, and began to revive.  The conflict she had suffered, between love and the duty she at present owed to her father's sister; her repugnance to a clandestine marriage, her fear of emerging on the world with embarrassments, such as might ultimately involve the object of her affection in misery and repentance  - all this various interest was too powerful for a mind already enervated by sorrow, and her reason had suffered a transient suspension.  But duty, and good sense, however hard the conflict, at length, triumphed over affection and mournful presentiment; above all, she dreaded to involve Valancourt in obscurity and vain regret, which she saw, or thought she saw, must be the too certain consequence of a marriage in their present circumstances; and she acted, perhaps, with somewhat more than female fortitude, when she resolved to endure a present, rather than provoke a distant misfortune."

Valancourt's second proposal elicits a response in Emily similar to Elizabeth's actions when she received the second proposal from Darcy:

"... while Valancourt threw himself into a chair beside her, and, sighing heavily, continued silent, when, had she raised her eyes, she would have perceived the violent emotions, with which he was agitated.

Also, there is a "Mr. Collins" in the person of Count Morano who will not let up in his pursuit of Emily.

The "horror" Radcliffe explains away in the end as natural occurrences.  Jaded as I am with modern "horror" movies, etc., I found that I did not get overly excited about her "horror".  I have read a little about her and I would like to explore some of her other books.  But first, I want to read NA again now that I have read Udolpho.

Radcliffe did get a little long winded with her descriptions, but I did enjoy the book and got goose bumps several times, not from the "horror", but from the real purpose for telling the story. IMO the "story" was gift wrapping for the "lesson".

Laurie, I hope you do get to read it, and "Thank you!" for suggesting it.  It probably would have been years before I "got around to it"!  Now, after all that the Meister has posted about Grandison I want to read that also.  I am trying to find a copy to purchase, but no luck yet.  I may have to settle for reading the library copy.  I do heartily recommend reading Udolpho!

It took me a while to get this posted because my kids gave me a surprise birthday party and I am just getting over the shock.  It really was a surprise!  I should have left my "Jane Austen wish list" lying around!

Dear Linda,

Thank you; I think I must have formed the wrong impression of Mrs. Radcliffe, and you are doing much to correct that. I can only contribute some links that you or others might find useful. First of all, there is this link to Mrs. Radcliffe's biography. That impressed me and convinced me I had rushed to judgment. She also included original poems in her novels and here is a link to a collection of those.

I found those links at the web site maintained by Jack Lynch, the site he nicknamed "labor of love", but is better known as Eighteenth Century Resources. See especially, his page of links to E-texts of 18th Century Novels.

Have you compared your impressions with those of Cathy Decker? Incidentally, should you ever choose to pursue the women writers that preceded Jane Austen, I should think that Ms. Decker's site would be an excellent resource for you. Of course, one should mention Churchyard's excellent page on the literary allusions in Jane Austen's novels.

If you would take a hint from me, you might pick up something by Maria Edgeworth. I believe that Edgeworth was our Lady's favorite author in the last years of her (JA's) life, and that is a little wonder - Edgeworth wrote beautifully. Yet, somehow - by some mysterious quirk, Edgeworth failed to write a single good novel. - It's hard to explain - maybe this is another of my mistaken impressions.

My first impressions of Ann Radcliffe, I thought, were guided by the way that our Lady treated of those novels in Northanger Abbey and Emma. I read only one Radcliffe novel and that was Romance of the Forest because that is the one that Emma so emphatically imposed on Harriet Smith. I did not much care for it and thought my first impressions confirmed. Do you think I have misinterpreted Jane Austen's intent? On the other hand, perhaps it was Radcliffe's religion that put off our Lady. What say you?

I am very glad that you will read Grandison; I very much need for someone to check my thinking on that novel. My fear is that you will not thank me for the exercise - remember, most people hate reading it. It takes a great love for Jane Austen to sustain a reader in that effort. I have found used copies for sale on the Internet starting at about $350. I saw one leather-bound, used copy for about $2,500 - put that on your "wish list." Happy Birthday!

Dear Ashton,

I slowed down today to watch one of my taped "chick" movies, Falling in Love, with Robert DiNero and Meryl Streep.  After it was over it struck me that it was a perfect example of what I had discovered about "first impressions" in "Udolpho".  The movie was what Radcliffe had warned us not to do.  Her advice was to NOT  blindly  follow our emotional impulses (first impressions, inclinations, feelings), but to temper those impulses with our duty and common sense.  Streep and DiNero went with their impulses and ended up divorcing their spouses (breaking their vows); and two children thereafter had to live in a broken home (where was their "duty" to those children?).

Questions to think about:

The movie reminded me of that generation whose motto was "if it feels good, do it!"  This contradicts Radcliffe ideas.  Now, please, don't kill the messenger, I am just passing on her advice.  It is something to think about.  Speaking for myself, I am just the same as Streep and DiNero in the "thoughtless" department.  I guess I am never too old to learn.

Now, after all this "heavy" stuff, have you heard any good jokes lately (or bad ones for that matter)?  I need a good laugh!

Dear Linda,

I am very pleased with an online bookstore,; I am able to find things there that are available nowhere else. In particular, I just purchased

Tomalin, Claire Shelley and His World, Scribners, 1980

I have been looking for that book for two years now, and finally found a used copy at alibris.

I like Tomalin, as is clear from my References page (see [Tomalin-JA], [Tomalin-MS], [Tomalin-S], and [Tomalin-MW]). That is not to say that I always agree with her judgments - on the contrary. For example, I almost never accept her views of our Lady's novels. Still, I admire the woman's writing and overall good sense.

Your remarks about Falling in Love reminded me of this book because of the advocacy of Shelley and his wife - wives - for free love. It seems obvious to me that Percy and Mary Shelley provide excellent examples of just exactly why that approach can never work. (That is a bummer because free love sounds like fun to me.) Mary was all for it when she was the outsider and Shelley was married to someone else (Harriet Shelley). But, when she was the alpha female and mother, and when Shelley started porking her step sister (Claire Clairmont), Mary got all proprietary. Shelley became depressed at Mary's newfound unreasonableness and at Harriet's suicide (Harriet killed herself in an advanced stage of pregnancy with another man's child.) Poor Percy Bysshe - women! - you can't live with them and you can't live without them! - without a whole bunch of them. That darn Mary was also going against her own parents' advocacy of free love, which supports my view that Mary Shelley evolved to reject a number of radical prescriptions that were her birthright. Claire Tomalin ommitted that view of things - an oversight on her part I guess. Still, I highly recommend her book to you; it is short and sweet, and Ms. Tomalin selected a large number of interesting illustrations.

Dear Honorable Meister,

And I got it!  I am still laughing, and will be for awhile!  That is a classic, and I might even read the book.  OK, I will read it!  Just for variety ... Hmmm ... what was that about "variety being the spice ... oh, never mind!


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