The Voices of Men in Praise
Of Jane Austen
Messages c. July 7, 2002


Dear Voices,

Ray Mitchell posted at this site sixty-three times from February 1999 through May 2000. As you will see, it was a sad day for us when Ray moved on to better and bigger sites. You can link to all of his posts from this place in the names index. The quality of his postings far exceed my own, so I will excerpting from that list in a series of posts. Here are the first ten from my list.

The best are yet to come.

Dear Ash,

Geez, I miss Ray!  Those posts are very good and the best is yet to come, you say?  Wow!  Ya'll had some great conversations back in those days.  Of course, I can't just read one post, I end up reading around each one.  What amazes me the most is how much we think alike on a lot of subjects.  Again, thanks for going to the trouble to sort through all those posts.

Dear Voices,

I now find that we need to define our terms in order to understand one another.  I used 'hen-pecked' which means (in the dictionary) to subject (one's husband) to persistent nagging and domination - I guess that is one kind of power.  That is also my understanding (and Ash's) and it is 'less than charming'.  I can't think of any hen-pecked men in JA at the moment.  And yes, a policeman stopped me once for running a red light and he only gave me a warning, but I hasten to assure you that I merely told him it was bad judgment on my part.  I don't remember saying anything "charming".  It wasn't my Southern accent either; we were both Southerners.

I had never heard the term "whipped" used as you defined it in the sense of "charmed out of your senses and habits".  I had no idea that was possible.  Where have I been?  It appears to be another form of 'power'.  I thought I knew what "charm" meant, but just in case, I checked the dictionary which says: "a quantum characteristic of subatomic particles that accounts for the unexpectedly long life time of the J/psi particle, explains difficulties in the theory of the weak force, is conserved in interactions involving electromagnetism or the strong force, and has a value of zero for most known particles."  [Yes, it really says that; there is no way I could make all that up!]  That definition does not seem quite right for our purposes.  So I looked again and found: "a trait that fascinates, allures, or delights and a physical grace or attraction" which sounds like the power we are talking about.  It is funny how you 'know' what something means in your mind but never bother to put it into exact, precise words.  Someone also forgot to tell us Ladies that Men could be "charmed out of their senses".  I have seen men make comments about purely physical attributes, but it did not drive them out of their senses that I noticed.  However, this charm that ' fascinates, allures, or delights' can be used and manipulated for selfish or unselfish purposes.

In order to put some faces on these terms, let us sort out some 'charming' characters.  But first, there was another 'coincidence' (and some examples of power) since I last addressed this subject when I stumbled across Vanity Fair (BBC-1990) in the library a couple of days ago. I found everything said about it in the review at IMDb to be true.  Andrew Davies wrote the screenplay, enough said.  Sylvestra La Touzel (we may remember as Fanny in the older version of Mansfield Park) portrayed Lady Jane Crawley and astonished me with this remark upon finding her husband's arms around Becky: "Righteous obedience has its limits."  Nobody ever said that before in my presence.  I had to stop the tape and write it down.  To think that Thackeray wrote that 150 years ago!  It is a shame that the Church doesn't see that.  Over all, it was very well done and I enjoyed it, even though the scheming of Becky became tedious with her financial ups and downs.  I fell in love with William Dobbin - well, see, there you go; he 'charmed' me to pieces. He had what it takes to get my attention - honor and constancy, while John Osborne who was wild and carefree (read having a good time) did not appeal to me at all.  To me, he was not charming, just foolish, but to another person (Becky Sharp) he might be quite an attraction.

There are men and women who are charming, and it can be good or bad depending upon how it is used by both sexes.  For the bad side look at Wickham, Lady Susan, Scarlett and Becky Sharp.  They appear to be able to charm fools (goodness! I sound like Mr. T), or rather, I should say, people who are not quite paying enough attention, and then sometimes find out different later.  With reference to this group, they have the appearance of charm, but use it for their own selfish purposes.  Charm used in a nice way can be seen in Lizzie, Jane, Bingley, Melanie Wilkes, and Amelia Sedley, to name a few who may be construed to have a tinge of selfishness because of concern for themselves, but do have a concern for the happiness of others also.  So Bree is correct in that it varies with the individual and how it is used.  BTW I did not know I was doing a "polemic"; I had to look it up to make sure I wasn't doing something nasty!  I get a kick out of learning new words.  And I think Bree hit the nail on the head with: "certain types of both men and women can exert amazing power over the opposite sex because of their sex appeal and charisma, but I wouldn't say that an axiom can be written either way."  It goes both ways.  Just look at all the girls who swooned over charming Elvis, etc.  I would have married him myself in those days, but now that I know the real person, no thank you.  It seems that "charm" is one of those things like "first impressions" that we should recognize for what it is.  Scarlett aside, true Southern charm, the nice kind, is something we have and do unconsciously - it just is!

I have only one example at my fingertips where Jane uses the word "power".  It is in Pride and Prejudice Chapter 32 where Charlotte is thinking to herself about Lizzie and Darcy: "...for in her opinion it admitted not of a doubt, that all her friend's dislike would vanish, if she could suppose him to be in her power."  I am still in a quandary about that, because Jane must have known something I don't know which it the topic of discussion here.

The bottom line is that Jane knew, and it behooves us to find out!  At least I am beginning to search it out.  With what all the Meister said, it is now a whole new ball game.  As large as I thought my world was, I think it is still too small, or to put it another way, we are a work in progress.

Dear Linda and Bree,

What a revoltin' development dis is!

I thought that you and Bree had me in your power and were conspiring to slowly drive me nuts; but, just to make sure, I asked my wife if she knew what "whipped" meant and found her as clueless as you two. So, either this conspiracy is more wide spread than I thought at first, or there is some kind of gender divide here.

First of all, Linda has hired the wrong consultants—she sought the council of her daughters when she should have asked their husbands. Or, she could have asked any teen-aged neighbor boy and obtained higher quality service. I have thought about this and have decided that my original definition, "to be charmed out of senses and habits", to be excellent even if I do have to say so myself. Think of "whipped" not in the sense of physical abuse or punishment; rather, in the sense of defeated or conquered. The term is actually the second part of a hyphenated expression, "_______-whipped", which is offensive to women.

The best example of "whipped" in the novels is John Dashwood and his wife of S&S. The novel begins with their conversation which is that of a "whipped" man. Fanny Dashwood does not brow-beat or hen-peck him, she simply uses her power over him to overcome his sense and good habits. The best example of a "whipped" man in Jane Austen's life is her brother James. In her letters to Cassandra Austen, Jane complained bitterly about the fact that James had only the opinions of his second wife, Mary. The delicious irony there is that Mary is the granddaughter of the woman that some think was the model for Lady Susan.

Dear Ash,

What you did is let the cat out of the bag!  I found out all about that odious term!  I will agree with your examples of James' second wife, Mary, and Lady Susan; I have some reservations about Mr. John Dashwood.  The bottom line is that I wish I had known this some 30 years ago!  You used the term "charm", but there seem to be other words that could be used as well, such as "blackmail" - well, going by what my teen-aged neighbor boy said.  I don't know why he looked at me so funny when I asked him about it.

For sixteen nights and days he raved,
But on the seventeenth he burst
Into the arms of Judas Priest,
Which is where he died of thirst".

"No one tried to say a thing
When they took him out in jest,
Except, of course, the little neighbor boy
Who carried him to rest.
And he just walked along, alone,
With his guilt so well concealed,
And muttered underneath his breath,
'Nothing is revealed.' "
                - Dylan

I can't imagine why "blackmail" was introduced into this discussion and "charm" was dismissed?!

Dear Ash,

I think I missed the boat again.  I should not have used the term "blackmail".  "Charm" is quite acceptable.  I am beginning to see that this subject has ramifications I have not yet explored.  I shall have to consult with Miss Austen.  BTW "charm" is not a prominent word in my Southern vocabulary.  I don't mean to say 'non-existent', just not prominent.

Dear Ashton,

The fact that men can be led around by a certain part of their anatomy doesn't really make women all that powerful.  After all, how smart can the male gonads be if they're fooled by the likes of Lady Susan and Mary Crawford?

I'd be fascinated to hear your theory of how Marilyn Monroe affected US foreign policy during the Kennedy administration.

If women had as much power as you say, kitchen counters would be 6 inches lower, tool handles would come in something besides king kong size, map symbols would actually make some sort of sense, and teenage males would be locked in their rooms from the age of 16 to 25 unless there was a war on or sod to be cut.

From the Meister: It is perfectly obvious that Marilyn Monroe had absolutely nothing to do with US foreign policy—she would never have allowed that Bay of Pigs fiasco, the escalation of the arms race, nor the escalation of our involvement in Vietnam. Incidentally, have you heard that Condoleezza Rice was the architect of our war in Afghanistan? And, that she had to overcome Colin Powell's objections in order to sell the plan to Bush?

You didn't seem to notice that the boys were undergoing growing pains of their own. Well, that should be no surprise—boys are more sensitive than girls—boys think with their hearts. That is why they are so vulnerable to the "whipped" disease.

Dear Ashes and Sackcloth,

You're not really REALLY suggesting that Condoleeza Rice's rise to power is due to her ability to keep the other cabinet members sniffing after her like a pack of unfixed dogs are you?  Are we talking about the great power you allege women attain by keeping their men "whipped" or are we talking about the sort of power an intelligent, determined, ambitious  woman can gain, and which no one is disputing?

I wouldn't even dispute that there have been a number of women in history who have enjoyed both types of power. Cleopatra for one, and Margaret Mead, who I've read (in more than one place) could have her choice of sexual partners well into her 60's. Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Elizabeth I etc. etc. etc.

What I do dispute is whether Lady Susan's power over the "contemptibly weak" is good for anything more than stroking one's ego.

From the Meister: Oops! I wasn't careful about context was I? No, I did not intend what you correctly point out that I might have been inferring. As you know, I have predicted that Rice will be the first woman President of the US—in spite of her recent association with that second-place, Northern California University. I like her—and will vote for her—because she gives the impression that she is not a woman first, nor an African-American first; rather, first and foremost, she is the National Security Advisor. For that reason, I have confidence in her and, yes, I feel more secure.

Dear Austenetics,

Whilst reading S&S last week, I noticed a wee apparent glitch.  In the scene where Les Femmes Dashwood were awaiting Col. Brandon's arrival, they saw a horseman.  It's the Colonel.  No, it doesn't look like the Colonel.  It turns out to be He-who-walks-on eggs.  They/she run out to greet him.  Edward hands his reins to the/his servant.

What servant?  EF was riding alone, or at least no mention was made of another rider.  Did I miss something: were servants stationed about the perimeter, etc?  Did Tom (?) the manservant loll around, ready to outrace the ladies to meet any arrivals?  Or did JA simply nod in this tiny instance.

Dear Jim,

Without rereading the entire book, I found one such scene as you describe at the end where EF returns to woo Elinor after he is no longer attached.  In that scene there is no servant to hand the reigns to.  So unless you are speaking of another scene Jane did not nod.

Dear Linda,

"Amongst the objects in the scene, they soon discovered an animated one; it was a man on horseback riding towards them. In a few minutes they could distinguish him to be a gentleman"

Then after an bit of "It's Willoughby...No, not tall enough...yes it's him..." (Marianne in raptures, etc.)

"and she turned round with surprise to see and welcome Edward Ferrars.

He was the only person in the world who could at that moment be forgiven for not being Willoughby; the only one who could have gained a smile from her; but she dispersed her tears to smile on HIM, and in her sister's happiness forgot for a time her own disappointment.

He dismounted, and giving his horse to his servant, walked back with them to Barton, whither he was purposely coming to visit them."

Maybe this servant is the same guy in the BBC/A&E P&P who was leading Mr. Darcy's horse after Darcy's swim, even though no one knew that Mr. Darcy was coming that day.  Handy guy.  Good help was apparently easier to find in those days.

Dear Jim,

I found the passage in Chapter 16 and read 'around' it to come to a conclusion.  Beginning with his meeting the ladies, he dismounts then walks back to Barton with them.  Evidently this servant took the horses somewhere because in Chapter 18 Edward says:

"I am going into the village to see my horses," said he, "as you are not yet ready for breakfast; I shall be back again presently."

The next paragraph uses the phrase "in his walk to the village" which lets me know that there were no horses at Barton (seems like somewhere mention was made that Barton had no stable).  By that time I was assuming that a 'gentlemen' rode with a servant, but in her day everybody knew that fact.  The servant took the horses back to the village where he stayed at an inn and looked after the horses.

This is the conclusion I had arrived at, but I double checked with the S&S archives at RoP and found that others had also.  Dear Jane simply did not waste any words on things that were unnecessary to her though it does leave us with some questions.  It is a good question, and I am glad you asked for I missed it.

Reference: 7/11/02

Dear Cheryl and Ash,

Never mind how Marilyn Monroe affected US foreign policy because I don't have to tell either one of you her purpose in the association.  She did not have the wits (brains) of a Lady Susan.

There are two kinds of beautiful women; those who use their beauty to gain power and those who don't.  It behooves us to not lump them all together.  Let us not forget the 'differences in situation and temper'.  Just as I am now going to take the Meister to task for his statement about 'boys think with their hearts'.  From the statement itself one could conclude that ALL boys do that.  I hardly think so.  SOME may be that way, but in MNSHO those who do are as scarce as hen's teeth.  Or either I have been looking in all the wrong places.  'Who has power over whom' is a larger subject than we have covered.  Not to mention the use of the word 'charm'.

Since I have previously stated that 'charm' is not a prominent part of my vocabulary I need to expand on that aspect of 'power'.  According to the dictionary, 'charm' means 1) a power of pleasing or attracting as through personality or beauty. 2) a trait or feature imparting this power  3) charms, attractiveness:  example: to succumb to feminine charms.

I just noticed the use of the word "power" in those definitions which is surprising to me.  I never considered it a "power".  It just "was".  Then there is that definition of "charms" which is bothersome.  "Attractiveness" I can understand, but then it continues to say in the example that there is the possibility to 'succumb' to such charms as attractiveness, in other words that beauty has a power to impart, which is what Ash is saying.  I guess I can understand that but with reference to us women being 'charmed' by the likes of movie stars, or a person of the opposite sex who appeals to us.  We use the words 'has a crush on' NOT 'charmed by'.  But really those 'crushes' are simply that the female is charmed (by definition) by a male, come to think of it.  Maybe that's why we seldom if ever use 'charm'; we use 'crush'.

What this discussion all boils down to is this:  it will be a part of my research into women's behavior with regards to men (and vice versa) and knowing the difference between first impressions, crushes, infatuations, charmed by, etc. and KNOWING WHAT TRUE LOVE is!  Miss Austen knew; we should know!

Reference: 7/11/02

Dear Cheryl, Linda and Goulashton,

These postings could make a body sit up in its coffin and guffaw!  Thanks!  I so so so agree with Cheryl about women's power!  If, I say IF, we had such power, auto mechanics would talk to us as though we had a brain and charge us the right price (well, in all fairness, some of them do, even if we aren't having an affair with them).  But I would bet there are few American women alive who haven't been reamed on occasion by Gus-of-the-Black-Fingernails.

Sorry Goulashton, men don't think with their hearts.  At least not for more than half an hour.  They think (and I say this with the most charitable intent, because they can't help theselves) with their *****s.

Take young Reginald De Courcy [Jane Austen's Lady Susan].  His first appearance in the Lady Susan Letters gives us a picture of a savvy, if young, man-about-town.  He writes:  "I congratulate you and Mr. Vernon on being about to receive into your family the most accomplished coquette in England."  He knows her reputation you see, he is forewarned.  He further says:  "I long to see her, and shall certainly accept your kind invitation, that I may form some idea of those bewitching powers which can do so much - engaging at the same time and in the same house the affections of two men who were neither of them at liberty to bestow them - and all this without the charm of youth."  You see?  He knew what to expect, yet this selfsame De Courcy came THISCLOSE to marrying said coquette without the charm of youth!

I DARE you to post this, Ashton:  to wit, and I admit it is a slight paraphrase:  Let me tell you something about men. They draw women like flies.  They treat women like flies.  And their brains are in their flies.  With love,

Dear Lovely Bree,

I  will try to stop laughing long enough to say, "I concur"!  I really needed a good, hearty laugh!

You have said in plain English what I was trying to say so politely and civily, not that you are not polite and civil.  I love your version (and Cheryl's) better!  You have proven my point about us lumping all people together in our descriptions in contradiction to the Meister's implied "all".  Fortunately for us, our Dear Meister is not one of those you so vividly describe or else how could he possibly love our dear Jane so much.

I did want to ask if you or Cheryl or anyone else had read or heard of the author Marietta Holley or a book titled: The Right Women by Elinor Burkett?  I have recently discovered both and am fascinated.

Ash:  I know you as being a caring and sensitive man, so be assured that Bree's words are not meant to describe you!  She is only describing those whom you overlooked.  You see, we of the fairer sex have our Lady Susan's to bear.  I am sure that you do not think us all to be like her.


From the Meister: Where, exactly did I use "all"? I mean, where did I over-generalize to that extent? Am I to ignore a generalized insult to my sex because I am told I am an exception? Does my respect for Jane Austen suggest that I am willing to do that? Where am I?

Dear Personality ClAshton,

Do not see insult where humor only is intended!  I did say that the 3-line bon mot you were valorous enough to post was not mine.

However, there have been some honest, admirable men I have known who have admitted that it is, more or less, the truth.  It might give some women a temporary power over them, but in the long haul, men have the advantage, because their emotions are not raked over the coals as women's are.  At any rate, when all is said and done men seek to conquer, women seek to connect; that is the source of the gulf between us.  Having said that, I bow out of this conversation.  I KNOW Ashton you are too sophisticated and far-seeing to take any of this as an insult to your sex!

Dear Bree and Linda,

Actually, you deserve to have the last word; unfortunately, I must use it to apologize to both of you. Lord knows, nobody jokes more around here than I do myself so it now seems incredible to me that I should have acted so ill tempered. I am very sorry and I will do better next time.


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