September 9, 1999
Re: S&S and The Romance of the Forest
For those interested in literary analogies (sometimes called intertextualities), I have come across a portrait of a male in Ann Radcliffe's The Romance of the Forest who is closely similar to Austen's Colonel Brandon. The archetype is brilliantly intuited and filled out by Alan Rickman in the recent Miramax film. In the last third of The Romance of the Forest, we move into a sentimental romantic idyll which presents the moral ideals of the tale and swirl around Monsieur Verneuil; after Marianne's illness in Austen's Sense and Sensibility we have a Johnsonian Rasselas interlude; after Marianne's illness in the film S&S, Brandon (Rickman -- the stars carry resonance) gives Marianne (Kate Winslett) a piano and we have the scene where he reads aloud to her: from Spenser's Faerie Queene, Book 5:
What though the sea with waves continuall
There is an essay which argues that The Romance of the Forest was not only influential on NA, but also S&S. It doesn't mention a minor character called M. Verneuil. He falls in love with the secondary heroine; he is a much older man than she; well-educated, melancholy, has had bad personal troubles when young; was once a solider, even fought a dule, and is called a man of sensibility. He also has a lovely estate he takes good care of. I know Isobel Armstrong has other candidates for analogies, but I think M Verneuil is even closer in the mood he projects in the book.
Pierre de La Motte is a Willoughby: he is driven to be mercenary, has been wild, but is guilty in the same half-way as Willoughby, and closely involved with the chief heroine as her protector. I doubt Austen had La Motte in mind when she drew Willoughby; rather Austen and Radcliffe were working out of the same tradition and using the same fundamental types as outlines for their characters.
Adeline contains in her the doppelganger figure of Elinor and Marianne.
There are equivalent treatments of secresy and sickness, family avarice and repression, landscape versus corruption.
NB: A student in my class wrote the following essay-journal which has been much influenced by my reading of S&S in terms of The Romance of the Forest and vice versa: