Northanger Abbey: Volume I, Chapters 6 - 7

To Austen-l and Janeites:

Re: NA to Sanditon: Burney's Camilla & The Wanderer

Thorpe's allusion to Camilla certainly exposes his coarseness and stupidity, since the scene her refers to comes very early on in the novel and is crucial to the plot: while playing at see-saw, poor bumbling Sir Hugh injures one of the children, and in compensation makes her his heiress, thus twisting several lives out of shape. With generous intentionshe causes an extra- ordinary amount of damage. But I think Thorpe's disnmissal of Camilla goes beyond a specific reference to a specific scene. In the months after Jane Austen read Camilla (her name appears in print in the novel on the subscription page) she makes several references in letters to Cassandra about the people she is meeting,and whether or not they appreciate Camilla as much as Jane and Cassandra do. Appreciation of Camilla becames a sort of character test (maybe some would say trial-by-ordeal). At the recent JASNA conference I linked Thorpe's allusion with the later allusion in Sandition to Camilla. I like this thread of Camilla running right through Austen's novels from NA to Sanditon.

Elaine Bander

NA: More on John Thorpe and Camilla: John Thorpe says more than once and most decidedly that "it's nothing but an old man's playing at see-saw and learning latin; upon my soul there is not" (Chapman, I:7, 49). Chapman's note takes you to a relevant pair of chapters while according to Marilyn Butler's notes in the Penguin:

"the lovable but foolish Sir Hugh Tyrold, Camilla's uncle, moves to be near his brother's family, and is kind to the children. His effort to educate himself by learning Latin come to nothing, and he drops his little niece Eugenia from a seesaw so that she is crippled for life (Penguin, p 225 n34).

Why does he repeat Thorpe repeat the reference twice? Does it puzzle him? Does anyone who has read _Camilla_ and remembers this scene have any thoughts about this allusion as it relates either to Austen's reading of the book or her depiction of Thorpe or a novel-reader like him?

Ellen Moody

Jill Spriggs responded:

Sir Hugh was the cause of both Eugenia's crippling deformity and her scarring from smallpox. He tried to be a conscientious guardian, but through a misguided wish to always make the children happy, made serious errors in judgement. He exposed the children to smallpox by allowing them to visit a fair, against the injunctions of their mother, "She charged me not to let Eugenia to stir out of Cleves, because of the smallpox ...". Eugenia would be the most in danger because "The extreme delicacy of the constitution of Eugenia had hitherto deterred Mrs. Tyrold from inoculating her ..." Sir Hugh, wishing to be extra protective of Eugenia after the disastrous outing (manifestations of the disease had not yet appeared), didn't want Eugenia to be in danger of falling from the seesaw. "Sir Hugh feared committing the little Eugenia, for whom he was grown very anxious, amongst them, till the repinings of the child demolished his prudence." To insure her safety, he insisted that she sit on his lap. " ... no sooner was Sir Hugh elevated, than, becoming extremely giddy, he involuntarily loosed his hold of Eugenia, who fell from his arms to the ground. In the agitation of his fright, he stooped forward to save her, but lost his equilibrium; and instead of rescuing, followed her." In other words, he fell on top of her. My favorite part of this book is the beginning. I felt compassion for the poor bumbling, good natured Sir Hugh, who just can't do anything right.

Jill Spriggs

So too Sallie Knowles

Re: Camilla & NA

I meant to respond earlier to Ellen's questions, but work tends to interfer with my fun emailing.

Every so often, while reading Camilla and the other Burney novels, something will pop out at me as similar to Austen in a vague sort of way. My usual reaction is to think JA wrote the scenes much better than FB. This is my own personal prejudice.

I've been trying to think of threesomes in Camilla that are similar to those cited by Ellen from NA and MP, but all I could think of are the scenes when Edgar overhears Sir Sedley and Camilla after Camilla has accepted Edgar's marriage proposal and, recently, when Eugenia overhears Melmond being an idiot with Indiana. Neither Edgar nor Eugenia are an integral part of the scene but are deeply affected by what they overhear.

As for a John Thorpe type, I think Lionel and now Clermont would feel right at home with John. They all boast without having anything much to boast about, they're all vain, again without much reason except I suppose for Clermont's physical attractions, and they're all stupid or put on a pretty good imitation of stupidity.

Given the choice between Isabella and Indiana as a morning's companion, I'd take Isabella any day of the week. She's not stupid, and Indiana definitely is, so she'd at least be pleasant company as long as you didn't trust her near your husband or boyfriend. I don't think Isabella is vindictive either, and Indiana is to her fingertips. She only encourages Melmond because he's engaged to Eugenia and her vanity and pride are dented. I almost wrote hurt, but I don't think she's capable of being truly hurt; not enought heart. Or as Sabrina tells Linus in the latest version of the movie Sabrina, "You're known as the only living heart donor." or words to that effect. That's Indiana and Clermont.

Ellen's right that Camill "...stays within the purview of the genteel upper class world." which is why the introduction of the poor man and his children who need Camilla's financial help seemed thrown in by FB merely to plunge Camilla further into debt. Since Camilla's all ready poor, I'm not sure what the reasoning was on FB's part.

I'm not sure though that the upper class play mean jokes on each other in any of these novels. It seems to me they join together to annoy, persecute, hassle the classes beneath them in some way or another. Dr. Orkborne is not really in the same class as Clermont and Madame Duval didn't start life in the same class as the Captain. I think they go for those who can't fight back, which makes them all the more despicable to me.

I think Nancy makes a good point about the reading public FB wrote for in the late 18th and early 19th century. They probably loved having a nice long book (5 volumes) that would take them through many a boring evening. At least those who had nothing else to do and little internal resources. I can imagine JA reading them often, for lack of much else to read and liking them, but also mentally editing them into much better books which she then wrote. That, for me, is why some parts of them sound like something JA would write or did write; those flashes of familiarity.


Re: NA: Another Allusion to Camilla

Kelly Hurt asked me if I understand what Austen was alluding to when as the narrator she says:

"The advantages of natural folly in a beautiful girl have been already set forth by the capital pen of a sister author; and to her treatment of the subject I will only add, in justice to men, that though to the larger and more trifling part of the sex, imbecility in females is a great enhancement of their personal charms, there is a portion of them too reasonable and too well informed themselves to desire anything more in woman than ignorance" (1995 Penguin, Ch 14, p 99).

This time, like Chapman, Marilyn Butler simply identifies the book and chapter and character referred to: Camilla, a character named Indiana" (Book I, Chapter vi, pp 96-101). Butler says no more. So I assume that as narrator Fanny Burney must remark with reference to Indiana something to the effect that to "the larger and trifling part of the sex," here meaning men, "imbecility in females is a great enhancement of their personal charms." Austen is ironically "correcting" her predecessor. But I wonder if anyone can tell us more about this passage.

Mrs Allen's imbecility does not enhance her charm to Mr Allen; most of the time he seems supremely unaware of it. Nor does Mrs Bennet's imbecility enhance her charm to Mr. Now Tom Bertram gets a kick out of Lady Bertram--but the joke's on him: she's no imbecile.

There are a large number of references to Camilla in Butler's notes (e.g, see p xlvi, n 11). I haven't counted them but maybe there are as many to Burney's Camilla as there are to Radcliffe's Udolpho.

I am increasingly seduced by Elaine and now Elvira's comments on The Wanderer into wanting to at least try to read The Wanderer and by Elaine's comment that it was Camilla that Austen alludes to throughout her career.

Ellen Moody

From: Nancy Mayer

I have a copy of Cecilia and my library has Camilla but I have not seen a copy of The Wanderer lately.

I looked up the reference given for the majority of mankind liking idiocy and could not find it in my copy of and Oxford editon of Camilla. Chap. VI of Book one in my volume discusses Indiana's dislike of learning and how Eugenia is given the lessons instead but i did not see a reference to that particular phrase. The comment was made "{the tutor}exerted all his alacrity in his power for accepting his new pupil; not from any idea of preference; FOR HE CONCLUDED THAT INCAPACITY OF INDIANA TO BE RATHER OF HER SEX THAN OF AN INDIVIDUAL. ( sorry to shout but thwe mail does not want to accept ordinary underlining and italics.) Earlier some mention is made that the girl will ruin her chances of making a good amrriage if she is learned. This might be what JA turned to the statement that some men appear to prefer imbecility


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