Volume 1, Book 1, Chapters 1- 6

The Inimitable Miss Larolles; Cecilia and The Witlings; Morrice as Dr Burney; Fanny Burney's years at Court; "Immense must be the sacrifice of Time & Feeling..."; Mr and Mrs Harrel; A Sketch of High Life; Doing Time At Home; "One never thinks of talking to a woman ...": Analogies between Burney's Cecilia and Austen's novels; Evaluating Evelina v. Cecilia>; An Assembly; A Breakfast

Date: Sun, 7 Jun 1998
Reply-To: Jane Austen List
From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: CeciliaZ, Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 1

" ' Peace to the spirits of my honoured parents, respected be their remains, and immortalized their virtues! May time, while it moulders their frail relicks to dust, commit to tradition the record of their goodness; and Oh, may their orphan-descendant be influenced through life by the remembrance of their purity, and be solaced in death, that by her it was unsullied! ' "

Once again we have an orphan heroine, but this time without a Rev. Mr. Villars to guide her. In Cecilia we will find a young woman beset by guardians, chosen by her uncle with the best of intentions, but each of whom has their own agenda which does not necessarily coincide with our Cecilia's interests. 10,000 pounds was the fortune left by her parents, but the inheritance from her recently deceased uncle the Dean of __ (hereafter to be known simply as the Dean) was far grander, " ... and estate of 3000 [pounds] per annum, with no other restriction than that of annexing her name, if she married, to the disposal of her hand and riches." In the book this condition was portrayed as a minor incumbrance, but as we shall see it will cause much trouble.

The Dean was afraid to leave the guardianship of so rich an heiress to only one person, so he gave Cecilia three guardians who were to mutually look after her welfare until she reached the age of her majority, which would be less than one year. She was to live with one of these three, and after short period of mourning, she was instructed to commence her new life, compelling her to leave " ... an aged and maternal counsellor, whom she had loved as a mother, and to whom she had been known from her childhood." If the Dean could had seen fit to allow Cecilia to remain with Mrs. Charlton, we would have had a very different book.

The first of Cecilia's guardians, Mr. Harrel, had been chosen because he was the husband of the best friend of her school days (BTW, has anyone seen what the Christian name of Mrs. Harrel is?). Unfortunately, he had not inquired deeply into the character of the man into whose care Cecilia would be given. " ... he had little personal knowledge of him, but was satisfied with the nomination, because acquainted with his family, fortune, and connections, all which persuaded him to believe without further inquiry, that it was more peculiarly proper for his niece than any other he could make." Mr. Harrel met Cecilia at the home of Mrs. Charlton, and accompanied her to his home in London.

On the way to London they stopped at the home of Mr. Monckton, who we will hear much more about in the course of this book. I guess his age to be in the late twenties or early thirties; he had been married for ten years to a woman who had been sixty-seven years old at the time of their union. He was a handsome man, of good birth, but a younger son, so he had married a very wealthy woman with a " ... disposition ... far more repulsive than her wrinkles." He was disappointed to find " ... her health was good, and her faculties were unimpaired; eagerly he had watched for her dissolution, yet his eagerness had injured no health but his own!" Since Lady Margaret obviously had no intention of dying any time soon, Mr. Monckton diverted himself with "expensive amusements of the metropolis, or spent in the country among the gayest of its diversions." Mr. Monckton, having been "intimately connected" with Cecilia's uncle, had spent time with Cecilia through her childhood, and it was in his home that she learned what she knew of the fashionable world and its manners, preparing her better for her residence in London than Evelina had been. Mr. Monckton had visited the Deanery more than Cecilia had him, because Lady Margaret was instinctively jealous of the lovely child.

Mr. Monckton's visits did not act favorably upon his disposition. Cecilia became everything he had wanted in a woman; she was intelligent, beautiful, of good birth, and most importantly, heiress to a huge fortune. Much did Mr. Monckton regret the impetuous greed of his youth; he was tied to a tiresome old woman when this very tempting morsel was ripe for the picking. If he could only have kept her in the country, within his supervision, he could have eventually won his prize much more easily. With Cecilia's removal to London, " ... he foresaw that numerous rivals, equal to himself in talents and in riches, would speedily surround her; rivals, too, youthful and sanguine, not shackled by present ties, but at liberty to solicit her immediate acceptance." Mr. Monckton would have to do some fancy stepping to keep himself in the running for Cecilia's hand.

Jill Spriggs

Jill Spriggs wrote BTW, has anyone seen what the Christian name of Mrs. Harrel is?

I do receive Austen-L in the digest form, so forgive me if anyone else has responded before me, but in Chapter 4, Cecilia addresses Mrs. Harrel as Priscilla (on page 30 of my OUP edition.) Hope this helps.

Leila Dooley
Carlsbad, CA

To Austen-l

June 9, 1998

Re: Burney, Cecilia, I:1-6: The Inimitable Miss Larolles

"She could not do so ['place herself much nearer the end of the bench than she had been before, much more within reach of a passer-by,' i.e., Captain Wentworth], without comparing herself with Miss Larolles, the inimitable Miss Larolles; but still she did it, and not with much happier effect; though by what seemed prosperity in the shape of an early abdication in her next neighbours, she found herself at the very end of the bench before the concert closed. Such was her situation, with a vacant space at hand, when Captain Wentworth was again in sight... (Persuasion, Chapman Oxford ed., II:8, 189)

When I at long last encountered "the inimitable Miss Larolles," I think I was as much struck by Austen's reference to the parody of pretense and delightful unconcern with what other people are thinking--and such "perfect unconcern" frees people to act--of which Miss Larolles is only partly made, as I was by Austen's sense of the pathos of the figure. The fact is Miss Larolles spends her life seeking what is not worth having and most of the time after strenuous efforts is thwarted anyway. Her life is just one distress after another: you plunge into crowds and are are just about "half squeezed to death" (shades of Catherine Morland and Mrs Allen at the opening of NA?); you go to an auction to buy your humiliated friends' effects, and you fail to get any of her trinkets ("I was kept in an agony all morning"); people show up with the same trimming on their gowns; others fall ill and come close to death, and what good does it do you? you make heroic efforts for tickets, heroic, and where does it all lead.... Alas....

I submit we may measure a growth in depth of understanding and complexity of allusion by comparing the thin portrait of Lady Louisa Larpent (Lord Orville's sister) and this one of Miss Larolles. In the former case Burney saw nothing but asinine snobbery, affection, mindlessness, combined of course with a curious bent towards masochism when it came to her finance; in this latter she sees far more deeply into the figure of the female fool and brings home to us not only the absurdity, the ridiculousness of such a life, but the pathos and melancholy of it. Austen caught this new train and brought it into her Persuasion.

I would like to agree with Andrea that Cecilia is hard to read. It's not hard because the words or concepts are hard; and certainly we have similiar incisive dramatic scenes, which have a theatrical flair. It's hard because the technique has changed and because the mood is complex. To characterize this mood is difficult, but I would say it's a compound of saturnine disillusionment, savage satire which is frank about the corrupt motives driving people, and sadness over the spectacle of how most of the characters waste their existence in pursuit of what won't make them happy because they are actually not capable of being happy in any real sense. These characters don't even ask themselves the question, what will make them happy until they make some horrible irretrievable step--such as Mr Monckton's marrying an aged mean-spirited woman who now makes his life a misery because she both loathes him for marrying her for her money and is jealous lest he leave her for a younger woman. This story belongs in Austen's Lady Susan. The difference is when Austen reaches this kind of material she turns away, ends the book (when Lady Susan reaches London, has her affair with Manwaring, and marries sheerly for money a man for whom she has an active distaste). Burney makes Monckton something of a hero.

There really is no conventional pious morality here, but rather an attempt to present life as it really is lived in all its paradoxical ugliness--and beauty. For the surface of the text is elegant, and we do have a group of remarkable misanthropes, melancholy types and more or less admirable people, of whom we have only met thus far Mr Gosport, the unnamed man Steve Durning mentioned, and Cecilia.

The second element that makes this book hard to read is it is strongly influenced by the character sketches and psychological journalism of the day especially as it was practiced by Dr Johnson. In Johnson's Ramblers, Idlers, and Adventurers, he often will present types whom he analyzes savagely to bring out each fold in the given types mind so as to make us grimace and identify. On another list I am on where a group of people are reading Vanity Fair, one man quoted a great line from Swift about satire: it "is a glass in which people see everyone's face except their own." Johnson wants us to see our own face; so does Burney.

If we are not used to the abstract language of psychologizing and moralizing, nor what they are aiming at, we find ourselves puzzled and not getting it. This novel does not work like a modern novel. The narrator does not meditate a scene, but presents types and portraits in which the criticism of life is located. We don't look to Burney's mind (the way we do Austen's), but to her wit as she presents stylized materials. The portraits are also harsh. As she lets Mr Morrice have it for his sycophancy and affectation, so she lets Miss Bennet have it. What Austen would have noticed (if she read this portrait as she read Miss Larolles) is the pathos of a life like Miss Bennet's--as the slave of woman as mean and vengeful as Miss Bennet would be could she take revenge on a world she has allowed to manipulate her in this way:

"Miss Bennet, the lady, was in every sense of the phrase, the humble companion of Lady Margaret [the rich old woman Monckton married in the hope she would soon die]; [Miss Bennet] was low-born, meanly educated, and narrow-minded; a strange alike to innate merit or acquired accomplishments, yet skilful in the art of flattery, and an adept in every species of low cunning. With no other view in life than th eattainment of affluence without labour, she was not more the slave of the mistress of the house, than the tool of it's master; receiving indignity without murmur, and submitting to contempt as a thing of course" (Cecilia, ed Oxford, MADoody and PSabor, Ch 2, p. 11).

Note the single "t." So too do Austen's Bennets spell their name.

To read the above takes some intellectual effort. Burney's mind works like a gladiator and you have to consider the moral contained in each of the phrases as well as what you might infer from the whole. It is rich in substance and complex in emotion.

We are also to consider how it fits into the story. Burney wants us to see that Miss Bennet has chosen her fate. She need not have sold herself in this way. At least so thinks Burney.

To return to Miss Larolles. There are problems with her presentation because Burney has a mind which moves into antitheses. We have Miss Leeson who presents a series of opposite absurdities. This is not realistic. But it's not supposed to be. Johnson does this all the time: looks at the world from the viewpoints of psychologically counterpointed types. On the other hand Miss Larolles is allowed to develop though dramatic narratives which Miss Bennet is not given. I think Burney needed to offer up less portraits and develop each of her characters more individually. Instead of 3 guardians, give us two; instead of 5 or 6 young men chasing Cecilia, give us two. It's hard to remember all the portraits, but I suspect we were not supposed to keep any in mind but those who turn up in the story later. Think of the text as a gallery of portraits and a prose version of Pope's poetry which also works through portrait and antithesis and intense psychologizing through abstract moral words.

Ellen Moody

To Austen-l

June 3, 1998

Re: Cecilia and The Witlings

Nancy Mayer wrote:

I had always thought that Burney objected to Fanny's play more because of the public nature of presenting the work. Alpha Behn's reputation was not one to make people look kindly on a female playwrite. We may not see a difference between being a published author and being a play write but I received the impression that there was a difference in the perception of these in Burney's time-- at least in the minds of Crisp and Fanny's father.

Nancy Mayer

I agree it could be that the reason Burney's play was censored was that it was a play and not a novel. The problem with this as a theory is that the two "fathers" at first encouraged Burney to write a play; both were interested in the money, and a good deal of money was to be earned quickly on the stage. It was only after they read it that they objected. So it seems it was to something in the specific play itself they objected to. Now the play is a satire on learned ladies. I have read that various critics have noted this or that similarity between a given woman character in The Witlings and the bluestockings of Burney's own day. Burney herself said she was one of them...

I have begun this week's reading and it strikes me Mr Morrice is a quiet satire on Burney's own father. There is no sycophancy, nothing he will not run out and do to curry favor. And favor is what he wins. The "friendship" of his patrons was a sine qua non of Burney's career; he hailed from the apprentice classes. Thus he would be agonized at the thought his daughter might just offend one of his patronesses. Never mind if the portrait was really Mrs Montague or not; if she thought it was, that would be enough to hurt his income or prestige or connections.

Ellen Moody

To Austen-l

June 8, 1998

Re: Morrice as Dr Burney

I had pointed out that Morrice is a portrait of sycophant, that Mrs Thrale captures just such a man in her satire on Charles Burney in Doody's biography of Burne, and that Morrice might be a portrait of Charles by Fanny.

To Ursula and others in the Burney group:

The reason Dr Burney is not viewed with sympathy from the point of view of literary critics is they are looking at him through the perspective of Fanny Burney's traumas, through the documented stories of how he forbad her to publish this work which she loved, or coerced her into five years of living-death at a court and would not give her permission to leave it until many friends had given him irrefutable evidence she was self-destructing, or would not countenance her marriage to a man with whom she produced a boy who was the joy of her existence and with whom she led a happy life. They also come from descriptions of his behavior as recorded by Burney herself and other friends which show him to have been a man who lived by currying for favor and spent a good deal of time making up to others and presenting a conventional face to the world at whatever cost to the people around him and himself.

Of course one must eat. He had a career and gifts of his own. In a world of place and connection this was the only way a man from the people like himself could get along and succeed. And succeed he did. One just wishes that at least as recorded by others he did not appear to make love to this aspect of his employment.

We might equally of course say why did Burney not break away? Why obey? We have had (in effect) this argument over Anne Elliot's obedience to Lady Russell. Burney goes Anne Elliot and other women one better by prefacing her books with lyrics of abject adoring love combined with groveling apologies and gratitude that he countenanced what he did countenance. The modern reader prefers the sardonic quality of Bronte's response to years of repression and the world's view of women as baby-machines, objects for family's to aggrandize themselves by, satin-stitch makers.

I take the view Burney's poems are a form of cover-up for herself, disguise because in fact she did finally break away, she did write books, she did publish some of them. In her fictions we find portraits of her father which express her ambivalence to him. Shall we pretend Mr Morrice is not there? Dr Burney is long dead. Who are we hurting by bringing forth the parallel between Morrice's sycophancy and Dr Burney's, Cecilia's embarrassment and Mrs Thrale's sly triumpj. If we cannot talk about these lest we sully Dr Burney, we will find repeating the same injustices Burney herself suffered. What kind of Victorian ideal is it to say we should not see the connections, or not present them?

There is a deeper problem here. Burney herself censures herself. She will only look so far explicitly or consciously. She chooses an older male as Evelina's confidant instinctively in the service of a repression. Even in her diaries we have records which blaze forth hatred, anger, violence, protest, stories of sexual harrassment, but she herself never explicitly analyzes the values underneath these in the slightest. She notices them--else how write of them? In these omniscient fictions what we get are long Johnsonian sardonic analyses of the motives and behaviors of somewhat shallowly seen types, but the types are based on real people or kinds of people. What shall we talk about if we don't say who these types are? It is silencing her again not to talk of what the sardonic explications (which are missing in the diaries) are aimed at. Do you want us not to see what is in the fiction? All of it. I believe I have done justice to what is presented as good and worthy and beautiful in her portrait of Villars, but there is also much to see whose effect could be pernicious. Evelina is a fairy tale with a Greek romance ending. Cecilia strikes me as an attempt to be more truthful.

Yet more. Burney felt her gifts wers stymied. They are considerable. There are many reasons for this, but one is her fear of the world as embodied in her father who appears in Cecilia, Camilla, and probably The Wanderer (I have read less into that one and less about it). He did get in her way. I rejoice she didn't get in his, and he fulfilled himself. She celebrated him, wrote his biography, spent years of her existence in his service as a girl, mature and then older woman. Shall we not free her now? I repeat he is dead. Freeing her means freeing ourselves too because by understanding her fictions at their deeper level we can understand ourselves. We do this for Austen. Shall we not for the lesser artist? One might say to those who write so cynically of Austen's family, no-one took from Austen her time, no-one forced her to earn a living as a governess; she was never led to burn her papers. When we talk of Burney as he appears in his daughter's fictions we are really talking for the sake of other women besides her who did not have the freedom or boldness of Austen--for in her canny quiet way Austen was far bolder than Burney.

Who do we protect when we don't talk frankly about the very long dead. Think about it. Does musicology like idols? Surely it too would be better off to tell the truth about things? It is not threatened by Fanny Burney so much as whatever is its own politics and insularity--of course I don't talk here of salaries or what the world may respect people for, but of genuine achievement in music and scholarship (beauty, truth and all that). I am not one who believes the truth will set us free, but would you not agree that in academia we are in no danger of having too much put out there any time soon?

Let us read Fanny's books and say what is in them--or why bother with the exercise at all? We will be saying plenty of good things about the male characters in the book who represent aspects of Burney's character, but I stand for telling the whole portrait--for her sake. I have myself really felt for her when I have read those portions of her diary which take place in court. She was courageous, brave. I was attacked on this list for publishing her description of a masectomy without anaesthesia; I don't regret publishing it here; I would do it again. The same motives lead me to want to talk of what's in her fiction. Justice to her.

Ellen Moody

Re: Burney's years at court

I had written that Burney's life at court was a living death for her from which she literally almost died. This was objected to

In response to Juliet,

I have now read a few biographies of Burney plus a three-volume set of her diary and letters. She was indeed coerced into accepting the position at court and by her father. Of course her age, need of financial support, lack of a husband, and her own susceptibility to finding herself among the aristocracy played a role in her accepting the position. But she didn't want it, and would not have taken it but that she was pressured into it.

She did almost die. She had what would today be called a psychosomatic illness. It was reported to her father and he would not agree to her giving up the position. Only after many urgings upon him by various friends did he agree. One can say he saw in the position security for her. He did not think her books amounted to any permanent position. One can say she had the time to write in her diary, but the entries for these years are painful. Also she could never have married. This marriage brought her deep joy.

I would agree that Burney herself never wrote in print directly anything which can be considered critical of her father. In fact she spent years commemorating him. But in the imaginative realm she allowed herself to present him fairly, sometimes in one figure who is satirized, sometimes in another towards whom she is ambivalent. An instance of the former is Mr Morrice, of the latter is the Rev. Mr Villars.

A living death is not too dramatic if we take her gifts as an imaginative writer seriously. I do. She also could never have married, gone to France, had her boy. She loathed the woman who was put over her. It's truth she never openly blames the queen for the intense exploitation of all the minutes of her day nor the control and repression they demanded. But there are entries in which she presents herself as driving herself to bleeding rather than cough and disturb the queen.

To repress ourselves and not talk of what's in the novels and what is in the diaries is to silence her. I would agree that Dr. Burney was not the villain; he himself was someone caught up in a repressive, hierarchical, hypocritical society. He would have said he did what he had to do. He was apparently a very affectionate man. Not a small thing in a hard world. Burney was in fact very hard on his second wife because she was overt in her demand her step-daughters obey the conventions. Burney's sisters are fascinating cases: one died, apparently had a husband who beat her; another ran away with someone. Women did not have it easy in the 18th century. The point of reading Burney is she brings some of this out in a graphic visceral and autobiographical way Austen doesn't.

Ellen Moody

To Austen-l

June 10, 1998

R: "Immense must be the sacrifice of Time & Feeling..."

Once again, I was arguing for the right to bring forward what is in Burney's fiction. I didn't want us to censure ourselves lest we say something which can be interpreted against Charles Burney. His daughter has the right to be heard in the imaginative realm where she was freer to speak than she was anywhere else. If we don't talk about the Mr Morrice's and Monckton's of the fiction, we might as well put the book away. I felt the cold hand of censorship coming down.

We are in Cecilia and the later novels going to see many portraits of males and females, and as the novel is often a form of disguised or transformed autobiography, many of these portraits are partial or close resemblances of people and types Burney knew. Through these portraits she makes her criticism of life. Austen does the same through her portraits of the narrow rigid older woman who bullies (Lady Catherine de Bourgh), humiliates (Lady Greville), poisons (Mrs Norris), misleads (Lady Russell) the heroine all the while using the values of the society as her front or excuse. I talk about Charles Burney in the same spirit as I would Austen's relatives. It's true the former was a musical genius and Austen's relatives just ordinary people, but they seemed to have played central roles in the imaginative lives of Burney and Austen respectively.

Burney's vision of the world is partial. All artists' visions are partial. But it is hers. She clearly respected elements in her father's character and of course admired his music tremendously. Whether he thought as well of her art is not clear. He seems to have looked upon it as a money-maker and connection builder. Novels were just not that respectable. I am with Doody in thinking that Charles Burney is in no danger of not being sufficiently well-thought of or respected. Until recently his daughter was ignored except for her diaries and letters.

It's true that at court and elsewhere Burney didn't starve. People outside the court probably envied her. This is always the way. We get a glimpse of the average woman or man's life in Evelina where we are told the story of the servant who substituted her daughter for Evelina. The servant was desperately trying to get her daughter into the tiny circle of leisure, education, comfort, beautiful things that the upper classes of England had. Outside that circle life was short, hard, and often brutal. Not to omit the repression of having to defer to one's masters and mistresses everywhere. But again and again one comes across in the memoirs of these upper class women how frustrating, isolated, constricted, and manipulated were their existences. This is particularly true of women in court circles.

We should remember how families reacted to court appointments for their daughters. They lunged at these. It was thought to be better than a husband. The family could use the place the daughter had to make connections. The daughter was expected to politic. I have come across the idea in the criticism that one of the reasons Burney let Fanny quit her job is she didn't network. She was lousy at it. She didn't get places for her family. Think of Chinese court life. The woman I have begun a biography on--Anne Finch--was made into a lady-in-waiting and she too loathed it. She got out by marrying. That was also an aim of her family. She became Lady Winchilsea. At court a girl could marry high. Fanny was herself a sensitive type--as was Anne Finch. Another of this kind was Margaret Cavendish who experienced great mockery but herself garnered for her husband the Duke of Newcastle. There is a sharp passage in one of Austen's letters talking about the self-sacrifice such a life requires which I think expresses quietly was I was trying to get out. She is here politic because she is talking to a court flunkey and it is bold of her to say to his boasts to her that one must pay with one's life for such advancement for oneself and one's family:

"In my opinion, The service of a Court can hardly be too well paid, for immense must be the sacrifice of Time and Feeling required by it" (Le Faye, p. 312, Letter 138D, Monday April 1, 1816)

For an artist writing is life. Take the writing away and you take away life. Court appointments prevented people from spending their time in any way but the most repressed kind of routines. It was servitude from the time of getting up to retiring to your room at night--when Burney turned to her pen. I can understand how Burney felt because a 9 to 5 job 5 days a week 50 weeks a year is intensely frustrating to someone who wants to spend a life in art. That's why artists take part-time jobs of all sorts. To get freedom to create whatever it is that is in them to create. I am on the side of those who talk about the kindness of Austen's family to her. They gave her space and time to breathe, to be herself, to write.

Burney's case reminds me of that of many upper class women today who talk about their oppression, glass ceilings, about the lack of respect they get on their jobs, and also other more middling women who are those who suffer from the high divorce rates, when they find themselves saddled with children and no husband and a small income. This is not that much hardship when we think about the lives of the average working class or lower middle class women who have to fight to work long hard hours in factories, who have to endure sexual harassment because the men around them are threatened by their presence, and who come home with tiny incomes which barely pay the rent. This itself is of course nothing to the starvation and destitution of millions of women in the third world. Today in the newspaper there were pictures of women in Ethiopia who name later children ugly names as a way of magically keeping God's wrath from them (their children die of disease and starvation as a regular thing). So yes Burney's position at court is like that of upper class women today, and both worlds are filled with women who would have looked upon her life as a great privilege, and wouldn't understand why she wasn't comfortable. She herself prided herself upon her class and position. Doubtless her father looked at it in this light.

But as Jane Fairfax says when she calls governessing a slavery, it is your perspective that counts, it's where you stand and what your hopes and dreams and desires are. I would liken Burney to Virginia Woolf; their outlook is that of a daughter of the upper classes. Woolf talks about family life as "the loathed house" the daughter seeks to flee. Burney didn't seek to flee her house. She only asked to be left alone in it.

It is also true she became very ill before she left her appointment and her father still would not let her go. He had hoped to get much by her appointment and it was hard for him to give this up. I am wondering if we will get anything in these later books of her struggle to marry a French emigre--a brave decision. I remember of how Johnson scorned and cut off Mrs Thrale when she struck out for some joy in her existence by marrying a paid musician. I want to see these things not look away.

I should say I can understand the older point of view which valued Burney's diaries and letters over her novels. It's a shame there isn't a uniform inexpensive abridged edition we could all read together. I fancy many people in our group would actually enjoy the diaries and letters more than the novels because of the connections they make you see between what is in the fictions and what in the real world of the later 18th century these mirror.

Ellen Moody

Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point.

Date: Mon, 15 Jun 1998
Reply-To: Jane Austen List
From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 2

With great reluctance I am removing my prodigal cat (missing for three weeks, returned much the worse for wear) from my lap to resume my posts where I left off last week, when I injured my hand.

In this chapter we have what I look at as a device used to reveal the personalities of some of the characters we will come to know better. It seems Mr. Monckton's home was on the way from Bury (someone who lived there would be "buried" in the country?) to London, for Mr. Harrel and Cecilia stopped there for breakfast enroute to her new home.

Mr. Monckton had a house full of guests for the Christmas holiday. An aside; before the Victorians romanticized Christmas, it was apparently not the family holiday it is now. Mr. Monckton seemed to have no relatives among his many guests, none of whom apparently had spent the holiday with their own family. Our first meeting was with Lady Margaret, who " ... received [Cecilia] with coldness that bordered upon incivility." Our heroine pitied her friend his ill natured wife, without realizing that jealousy was a large part of her antipathy.

Miss Bennet might have been called a "toad eater" in _Evelina_; her job was to dance attendence on Lady Margaret, who did require a great deal of attending to.

Mr. Aresby achieved the snazzy military uniform by enlisting in the low risk (of bodily harm) militia. He felt his gorgeous martial garb would render him what he longed most to be; irresistable to all of the female gender.

Mr. Morrice, of whom we will make further acquaintance in future chapters, and has been mentioned as a portrait of certain men close to Frances Burney, was a lawyer who " ... owed his success ... to the art of uniting suppleness to others with confidence in himself." I might add, an extremely thick skin. Odd that he was supposed to be a "rising young lawyer"; he seemed to spend very little of his time in legal pursuits.

It is also in Chapter II where we meet Mr. Albany, at first apparently an altruistic haranger, calling sinners to repentance, but in reality yet another leech seeking to fasten on the money of Cecilia, for his own, less than laudable motives.

The impetuous Mr. Belfield was next to appear upon the stage. " He had been intended by his father for trade, but his spirit, soaring above the occupation for which he was designed, from repining led him to resist, and from resisting, led him to rebel." Sounds like the sons of a couple of my friends. He tried the army (too much discipline), the law (too much work), and was at the onset of the novel one of nature's grasshoppers: " ... he lived an unsettled and unprofitable life, generally carressed, and universally sought, yet careless of his interest and thoughtless of the future ..." Sounding more and more like my friends' kids!

Mr. Morrice, with his customary chutzpah, appropriated the spot next to Cecilia that Mr. Monckton intended for himself and set to captivating her. In vain Mr. Monckton stood behind his chair, hoping to shame Mr. Morrice into relinquishing his spot. In vain, for this man had no shame. Mr. Monckton had to resort to trickery to get his guest to vacate the coveted spot.

Apprehensive of losing Cecilia as a possible future bride, he expressed a suspicion that the bright lights of London would soon obscure any memories of Bury. Cecilia replied that that meant that Bury would, therefore, soon forget her. Lady Margaret, hearing this, muttered audibly, " ' ... so much the better!' " Unsuspicious Cecilia was hurt, but not aware of the cause of her antipathy. Mr. Belfield and Mr. Monckton commenced a game of verbal sparring which, boring Captain Aresby and Mr. Morrice, they disrupted thoroughly with a shout of " ' A hare! A hare!' " upon which such noise ensued that it was only the fury of Lady Margaret that quelled the melee.

It was time for Mr. Harrel and his charge to leave, but first Mr. Monckton had to warn Cecilia against " ' ... sharpers, fortune-hunters, sycophants, wretches of all sorts and denominations ... ' ". He wanted first crack at the heiress himself.

Even the mysterious Mr. Albany had to get in his lick; " ' Alas! poor thing!' " as she entered the carriage with Mr. Harrel.

Poor thing indeed.

Jill Spriggs

Re: Burney, Cecilia, I:1-6: Mr and Mrs Harrel

Cecilia is left with this remarkable couple first. Mr Harrel is overspending, falling deeper and deeper into debt; his wife, Mrs Harrel seems to have no depths of feeling or understanding at all. She imitates what the world does without considering for a moment why she does it. This early phase of the story is partly built upon Cecilia's slowly awakening to the truth about her friend. They meet Robert Floyer, an appalling snob who looks at the world as so much merchandise he is determined to cheapen; his principal occupations are gambling, horse-racing and cards. I've no doubt he is based on real people at the time--and they are still with us today though in different versions. Cecilia cannot bear his conversation and when she tries to explain to her friend why, we get the following dialogue:

"Mrs Harrel, far from confirming her expectations [Cecilia thought Mrs Harrel would feel the same boredom and irritation and distaste], only said, 'I am sorry you don't like him, for he is almost always with us.'

'Do you like him, then, yourself?'

'Extremely; he is very entertaining and clever, and knows the world.'

'How judiciously do you praise him!' cried Cecilia; 'and how long might you deliberate before you could add another word to his panegyric.' (Cecilia, ed Oxford, MADoody and PSabor, Ch 4, p 35).

The point here is the differences in meaning Cecilia gives to words like 'entertaining and clever,' and how she regards someone who uses his knowledge of the world in the way Floyer does. I did not read the book beyond the opening phase this past winter and forget how it ended altogether from a first reading more than a quarter of a century ago, so I am in a way a first time reader. As a first-time reader then as I read this and watch Mr Harrel get deeper into debt, I suspect Floyer will be one of those who engineer some downfall which will take Mrs Harrel out of her beautiful house with its beautiful parties and beautiful people and bring her to something decidedly unacceptable to upper class society. I also suspect she won't appear to care in any deep way--as long as someone takes her in--while Mr Harrel will.

So beyond the plot of the three guardians Jill outlined, we have two more plots started up: the married Monckton after Cecilia; and the coming debacle of the Harrels with Cecilia's money temptingly available?

Ellen Moody

From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Volume I, Book I, Chapter III

The beloved playfellow of Cecilia's childhood had turned into a shallow, thoughtless materialist whose only concern was the pursuit of amusement. Priscilla (thank you, Nancy!) bears more than a passing resemblance to some teenage girls I know, with the exception that they are not wives and the managers of households. The first signal to Cecilia that she and her friend have differing tastes came when, immediately after the first tender reunion, Priscilla escorted Cecilia into a room with " ' ... some of my friends, who are impatient to be presented to you.' ... the apartment, which was spacious, lighted with brilliancy, and decorated with magnificence, was more than half filled with company, every one of which was dressed with gaiety and profusion." Not exactly the prospect I would hope for after a journey of seventy three miles, at that time.

Mrs. Harrel promptly introduced Cecilia to the huddled masses, but " ... since to her their names were as new as their persons, and since knowing nothing of their histories, parties, or connections, she could to nothing allude: it served therefore but to heighten her colour and increase her embarrassment." At least Cecilia was more fortunate than Evelina, in that as she acted for some time as hostess to her uncle the Dean, she was more able to " ... subdue the timid fears of total inexperience, and to repress the bashful feelings of shame-faced awkwardness ..."

Cecilia did make a couple of acquaintances that she would see more of later; the very talkative Miss Larolles, the silent Miss Leeson, and Mrs. Harrel's brother (to whom Priscilla bore very little resemblance of character) Mr. Arnott.

In Cecilia's initial meeting with Miss Larolles, we first see the acidic humor of which Cecilia is capable, and makes her a more palatable heroine to me than the self effacing Evelina. Miss Larolles shared an anecdote about a masquerade she was too late arriving in town to be able to get an invitation to. " ' ... about ten or eleven o'clock, a young lady of my particular acquaintance, by the greatest good luck in the world happened to be taken suddenly ill; so she sent me her ticket, - was that not delightful? ' ' For her, extremely!' said Cecilia, laughing. ... [Miss Larolles, again] ' And so, after all this monstrous fatigue, I was forced to have my hair dressed by my own maid, quite in a common way; was it not cruelly mortifying? ' ' Why, yes, ' answered Cecilia, ' I should think it was almost sufficient to regret the illness of the young lady who sent you her ticket.' "

Mr. Arnott, apparently in love with Cecilia since childhood, and too diffident to pursue her as an adult, seemed to be unable to converse with Cecilia on subjects other than days of yore. This will change.

It is also at this fete that we first meet Mr. Gosport, which from his name alone, we can see that this is no heavyweight. His conversation was perceptive than might be expected, in that he pointed out that he would be more amusing than either Miss Larolles or Miss Leeson, but in general the crowd that hung out at the Harrels' would weary one rapidly. At least they seemed to leave relatively early.

Jill Spriggs

Date: Mon, 15 Jun 1998
From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Volume I, Book I, Chapter IV; A Sketch Of High Life

I do hope that I am not giving my fellow Burney subgroup members a dizzy sense of disorientation by posting on last week's chapters; I do not wish to overlook them, believing them of great importance in the evolution of the coming chapters.

Cecilia was soon to learn that the previous evening was only a taste of the gruelling social whirl into which she was being sucked. The silly girl "arose with the light" to find that only the servants were up at that hour.

An aside; the fact that the servants were tidying from the night's revels made me think of Ellen's post about the long hours they kept. Surely the fact that the house was untidied from the night before would mean that at least these servants were able to go to bed earlier than their counterparts, the valets and lady's maids, who would have to stay up to undress their employers. Couldn't they sleep later than the downstairs staff, since their responsibilities would not commence until their charges were awake. OTOH, I am reminded of Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte, and how the governess was commanded to be up and about at some ungodly early hour, waiting for her students who had decided to sleep until noon. Could someone more in the know than I, illumine me?

At length Cecilia was joined by Mr. Arnott (still expounding on the delights of childhood) then Mrs. Harrel. While they were breakfasting, Miss Larolles joined them. The trio visited Miss Larolle's "ruinous" milliner, and after many thousands of words, succeeded in ditching, er, " ... attending this loquacious young lady to her father's house ... ". Looking forward to uninterrupted conversation with her friend for the rest of the day, Cecilia was dismayed that company was expected again that evening, even if, according to Priscilla, only " ' ... a very small party; not more than fifteen or twenty in all. ' "

Poor Cecilia; what an evening. One side her dinner companion the silent as the tomb Miss Leeson, on the other side the increasingly tiresome Mr. Arnott, again returning to scenes of childhood. Cecilia noticed that Mr. Harrel had not been seen the entire day, and was dismayed to find that her friend barely noticed. Her reaction when Cecilia accused her of being a "fine lady": " ' A fine lady? ... why what is it I do? don't I live exactly like every body that mixes at all with the world? ' "

The next morning, Cecilia, herself not "fine lady" enough to sleep until noon like her hostess, arranged her books in preparation for many hours of enjoyment. Miss Larolles again joined Mrs. Harrel and Cecilia for breakfast, with a new idea for recreation, getting ghoulish enjoyment from witnessing the sale of the possessions of a bankrupt lord. In response to the alluring prospect of getting " ' half squeezed to death ... ' " Cecilia replied, " ' That is an inducement which you must not expect will have much weight with a poor rustic just out of the country; it must require all the polish of a long residence in the metropolis to make it attractive. ' "

After, with much difficulty, persuading her friend to excuse her from this "treat", Cecilia had the leisure to ponder the months to come. Not a minute was unaccounted for (sound familiar to anyone?), never again would Mrs. Harrel know " ... the same retirement in which she had hitherto lived herself, when books were their first amusement, and the society of each other was their chief happiness." Cecilia was realizing that her uncle had made a mistake in naming Mr. Harrel one of her guardians. How great a mistake, she would someday realize.

One of Cecilia's guardians was an aristocrat, the third a careful man of business. The Dean was a kind man; " ... he had equally consulted her pleasure, her security, and her pecuniary advantage." Unfortunately, he was a total failure in his choices.

At dinner that evening, Cecilia made the acquaintance of Sir Robert Floyer, rude, conceited, and worse, a tiresome conversationalist, speaking of " ... horse racing, losses at play, and disputes at gaming tables, " and " comparative strictures upon celebrated beauties, hints of impending bankruptcies, and witticisms upon recent divorces." The future does not look bright for our heroine.

Jill Spriggs Re: Doing Time At Home

I would just like to add a small coda to Jill's posting on Chapter 4 of Book 1: "A Sketch of High Life." It struck me as I was reading it and even more so in this concentrated form how closely similar are some of the assumptions about "life in society" versus "life at home either alone or in the privacy of one's family and friends" we find in Austen and Burney.

The larger point of the chapter is to show us how time-wasting and boring, tiresome and irritating is life in high or even ordinary upper middle society. Conversation is at best shallow and frivolous and trivial, at worst it is competitive for competition's sake, mean-spirited, and nosy with a view to triumphing over someone else. I think of how Elinor is frustrated at the Middleton's; how Marianne says they have the cottage at too high a rent if they must spend their lives at Barton Park "being entertained." While in S&S the scenes are at their most abysmal, there are lines in all the novels, which suggest how boring and tiresome is the social round--and how time-destroying. Real individual satisfaction is from some occupation which fulfills a unique spirit's needs at home.

What an evening indeed.

I too don't know enough about the specifics of governess's lives, but I suspect the hours of total self-containment were long. It just comes to me that in Renaissance plays the lower servants are often presented as freer and happier than those who have their pride and self-esteem to worry about, those on the fringe of the family and who must serve them more intimately and directly over the long course of a day and evening. Perhaps we all need to read the Agnes Porter--or that poor Miss Weedon's diary. Now there was a hard struggle of a life.

Ellen Moody

To Austen-l

June 15, 1998 Subject: Evaluating Evelina v. Cecilia>

This is to thank Nancy Mayer for citing the chapter in Green's Courtship Novel on Burney.

Nancy quotes Green on Cecilia as follows:

"Burney's second novel, as critics have only recently begun to acknowledge, conveys a remarkable understanding of that troubled relationship between society and the female self." p.80


"Against this trenchant rendering of virually everything according to a monetary standard , Burney shapes as the novel's central concern the troubled consiousness of a young heiress facing conflicting duties to society and self." p. 81

The reader's attention is brought to the conflict between female autonomy and male consumerism.

It seems to me thus far that although Evelina is more entertaining, Cecilia is the better because the more mature one.

There is no comparison in the depth of understanding of what makes the world tick and the breadth of perspective attempted between Evelina and Cecilia. Last week I wrote about the distance between the portrait of Louisa Larpent in Evelina and the portrait of Miss Larolles here. Think of the difference between the one-dimensional fops and clowns of Evelina where nothing but surface manners is attempted. They really jump out of and could return to some Restoration or 18th century play. Mr. Monckton couldn't. Mr Morrice with his thick skin which enables him to ignore the mockery of those who noticed how eager he is to please. Sir Clement Willoughby is only seen insofar as he is a girl-chaser; compare this to Monckton, the attempt to move outward from this to a libertine in Belfield (who I suppose we will meet again but has only been presented as a portrait thus far, Oxford ed., pp. 14-6). Arnott is sympathetic and alive in a way that Orville never quite reaches because he is clearly weak by virtue of his circumstances and because no-one can force other people to think and behave as he does. In Evelina Burney seems to think an Orville can carry all before him; it takes much more than money to do that.

Another aspect of the maturity of the novel is the inclusion of someone like Mrs Hill. No-one like her appears in an Austen novel. We are told how irritating slow are the people who improve Edward and Elinor's cottage after they marry. We assume Elinor will pay them. But they never appear--nor their problems. Who does John Willoughby owe all that money to? We are shown who the Harrels fleece, and how it feels to them. We are made to think about why they can fleece them. Debt is now not just something which stops the gentry hero from marrying the genteel heroine.

What do we owe to society? What does an individual owe to another? These kinds of questions are brought out by the description of the auction and Miss Larolles's avaricious mindless response, by the story of the Harrels. If Arnott is morally right to pay Mrs Hill, we know if he keeps paying Harrel's bills, he will go bankrupt.

Thus this is a more interesting and mature novel in many ways and I am finding myself differently engaged by Cecilia than I was by Evelina.

Ellen Moody

To Austen-l

June 19, 1998

Re: Burney: Cecilia: I:V: "One never thinks of talking to a woman ...": Analogies between Burney's Cecilia and Austen's novels;

This is written in response to Jill's posting on I:V, The Assembly. I too find myself remembering incidents I have had in social situations with women which were strained, irritating, uncomfortable, or otherwise unsuccessful, either through my fault or theirs. I am finding myself thinking about Austen far more as I read this book than I did with Evelina until the end when I did see the analogy of Evelina and Villars to Anne Elliot and Lady Russell. In Cecilia I feel the analogies and contrasts everywhere and instructive. For example, I am not among those who would write about communities of women in Austen. I see as much "folly" and "vice" among women (to use the traditional satiric categories) as I do among the men in her novels, and her heroines have as much trouble with women characters as they do with men. It's clear Burney doesn't idealize women either.

But I think there is a sexual slant on the difficulties Cecilia has in getting along with men and women that I don't find in Austen. When Austen protests against how a male or female character behaves, it is often against a fault or inadequacy or false value we find equally in men and women. John Dashwood will say Marianne's price has fallen; this is another version of Fanny Dashwood's sneering at them. Frank Churchill pretends to deeper feelings than he has; so too Mrs Elton. Austen looks to what lies beneath the manners in a universal way. p>It seems to me in Cecilia's encounters with men and women thus far there is a strong sexual feel in the way the discomfort is presented. The women are not aggressive in the way the men are; they are merely spiteful or silly or guarded or with nothing to say (=stupid in the older sense of the word as well as the modern). In many of the dialogues with the men there are all sorts of sexual innuendoes. Consider these words as quoted by Jill:

[Sir Robert] 'Why, faith I don't know; but not much, I think; she's a devilish fine woman too; but she has no spirit, no life.'

'Did you try her? Have you talked to her?'

'Not I, truly!'

'Nay, then how do you mean to judge of her?'

'Oh, faith, that's all over, now; one never thinks of talking to the >women by way of trying them.'

'What other method have you adopted?'


Am I alone in finding something salacious here? One never thinks of talking to a woman by way of trying them :). If one doesn't try some other method, how indeed "go on?" Of course this punning may be unconscious with Burney, but does not the text light up when we see it there.

Jill is right to say Cecilia squirms when accosted by these men. But she is not accosted by the women. She is irritated by them; their faults are those associated with female vanity.

Now I don't say there is nothing universal and shared by the men and women. But I do think there is a continual sexual accent here I don't feel going on in Austen in the same way.

Ellen Moody

Subject: Cecilia, Volume I, Book I, Chapter V, An Assembly

Poor Cecilia once again was stuck with Miss Leeson, and was rebuffed after repeated efforts to initiate a conversation. I have found myself in this situation, and well remember how aggravating it can be. Years ago, when my husband was busily climbing the political ladder at his place of employment, I was in the position of having to entertain people not well known to me. One of these was the wife of a man my husband wanted very much as an ally in his endeavors. Several times I found myself in the position of being seated next to her at social functions, and at dinners at my home. She was silent as the tomb and responded to all conversational attempts with monosyllables. I excused her quietness as shyness, but dreaded being stuck with this stiff. Too bad I had no helpful Mr. Gosport to help me with conversational suggestions. On my own, years later, I happened upon the one sure topic of conversation guaranteed to open a flood of confidences. Just mention the problems with getting and keeping a good nanny, or the aggravations attendant with said household help, and she became a veritable geyser of chat. This possibility had never occurred to me because I am eccentric enough to believe that raising my own children is a good idea, but I happened upon it after hearing how she had just fired the third nanny in her infant son's sixth month of life. I guess that in certain crowds "the servant problem" is always a sure bet to insure long windedness.

A theme I see repeatedly coming up is that of the heroine, with IMHO a rather self righteous air, stating that she does not play cards, or have any desire to do so. As a person fond of gin games, or a rousing round of "Pay Me!" with a circle of good friends, I fail to understand just what about shunning card games insures moral superiority. Is it the contemporary equivalent of, when people discuss some recent television episode, some killjoy piously intones, "Oh, I didn't see that; I never watch TV." (an offense of which yours truly must admit)? I always hastily add, fearing to offend, "Of course, that means that I miss all the good stuff as well as the bad."

I admire Cecilia's self control, as she squirms under the intense scrutiny of Sir Robert. I myself would be tempted to stick my tongue out at him, or say something clever, like, "Take a picture, it lasts longer!" How he could possibly think this is a good tactic to take with a prospective bride, I have no idea. Of course, Cecilia did not know that Sir Robert was taking her rather for granted. Once again I find a contemporary parallel when I read Sir Robert's reasons for his course of action.

[Mr. Gosport] " ' But how do you like Harrel's Ward? You have taken a pretty good survey of her.'

[Sir Robert] 'Why, faith I don't know; but not much, I think; she's a devilish fine woman too; but she has no spirit, no life.'

'Did you try her? Have you talked to her?'

'Not I, truly!'

Nay, then how do you mean to judge of her?'

'Oh, faith, that's all over, now; one never thinks of talking to the women by way of trying them.'

'What other method have you adopted?'


'None? Why then how do you go on?'

'Why they talk to us. The women take all that trouble upon themselves now.'

Has anyone other than me noticed how much the course of romance has changed since my childhood, in the fifties and sixties? When I was a girl, only a girl that was "easy" (i.e., a slut) would ever dream of calling a boy on the phone. If a girl wanted to go to a dance, she must wait hopefully and patiently for someone to ask her, and much suffering occurred when a less desirable young man asked first. The Code dictated that one should go with the first who asks (sounds a bit like Evelina), and much angst resulted if the desired one asked after another had been accepted. The less scrupulous girls would come up with some feeble excuse for the less desired date, and hope violently that Mr. Hunk would call; this was a risky course, possibly resulting in no date at all. My, how things have changed. My friend who has four boys simply refuses to answer the phones in the afternoon and evening hours; call after call is from some breathy female voice, giggling and asking, "Is Eric there?", or worse, hanging up when an adult voice answers. To get hold of my friend I must call her at work. With my own three daughters, they always had to ask a boy out if they wanted to go to any high school dances; no young man I know of does that any more. Sounds like Sir Robert would fit right in at a contemporary high school.

I have not found the Supercilious type much in women of my own generation; maybe I have been fortunate. I have seen a lot of them in my mother's generation. Fond of bragging about their children or latest trips, or telling you about their latest operation in excruciating detail, they are the bane of any cocktail party. OTOH, they are very easy; only nod occasionally and you are free to let your mind wander free, to consider whether you should dig up that rose that has gone wild and replace it with another.

So much does not change; every person in this chapter I am still meeting, but less now that my husband is sick of this stuff and much prefers to stay at home. Thank goodness!

ill Spriggs

Date: Wed, 17 Jun 1998
Sender: Jane Austen List
From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Volume I, Book I, Chapter VI, A Breakfast

Imagine how surprised you would be if someone you met casually at a cocktail you were a guest at in, say, in Pittsburg, should show up as a visitor for you when you were visiting a friend in Philadelphia. This would be chutzpah indeed, but who is Mr. Morrice other than the Master of Chutzpah? He was an Artful Dodger conversationally, adeptly shifting from subject to subject and sentiment to sentiment, searching assiduously for one that would please. Mrs. Harrel and Miss Larolles remind me of the Branghtons in Evelina; ill natured and scorning to hide it. When Mr. Morrice spoke approvingly of the Monckton couple and Mrs. Harrel reacted with distaste, he quickly reacted by speaking ill of Lady Margaret's appearance. When Mr. Morrice spoke of Mr. Monckton's temperment as being severe and Cecilia reacted with indignation, he responded with, " ' Oh, there is not a more worthy man in the world! he has so much wit, so much politeness! I don't know a more charming man any where than my friend Mr. Monckton.' " The annoyed Cecilia resolved to give Mr. Morrice the Leeson treatment, but with a leather hided specimen like him, it was ineffectual. He simply switched his attentions to Mrs. Harrel, with better success. When Mr. Harrel entered the room, annoyed because Sir Robert was tardy for an appointment, Mr. Morrice raced off to Sir Robert's home to ascertain the reason, racing back again barely before Cecilia had opportunity of explaining her acquaintance with him. When assured by Mr. Morrice that Sir Robert would arrive " ... in two minutes ... ", Mr. Harrel questioned Cecilia about what she thought of Sir Robert. Of course she did not reveal her true feelings, but explained that they were insufficiently acquainted. After Mr. Morrice inadvertently elicited her true feelings, Mr. Harrel unhappily questioned, " 'Surely you can find no fault with him? he is one of the most fashionable men I know.' " as though fashionability were the most important criterion in selecting a spouse. I did like Cecilia's response; " ' My finding fault with him then, ... will only farther prove what I believe is already pretty evident, that I am yet a novice in the art of admiration.' "

After Sir Robert's belated arrival, the conversation revealed the extent to which the two of them were involved in gaming. Cecilia and Mr. Arnott regarded each other with dismay, but the regardless Mrs. Harrel was unimpressed.

Mr. Morrice, although unsuccessful in attaching himself to Cecilia, did succeed in rendering himself useful enough to the Harrels to cadge a dinner invitation. Just when did he find the time to practice law?

Jill Spriggs

Of Mr Morrice, Jill asks:

"Mr. Morrice, although unsuccessful in attaching himself to Cecilia, did succeed in rendering himself useful enough to the Harrels to cadge a dinner invitation. Just when did he find the time to practice law?"

In novels we are rarely shown people at work. We often only see them from the point of view of the lady who stays at home.

I laughed because I was reminded of John Sutherland's question about Pickwick: Just what did he retire from?

Ellen Moody

Date: Mon, 8 Jun 1998>br> Reply-To: durninghammond@erols.com
Sender: Jane Austen List
From: Steven C Durning
Subject: Cecilia

Two similarities between Cecilia and Austen's works: the ongoing satire of people with certain characteristics which they constantly display, such as Miss Larolles volubility; the heroine's being witty and willing to be critical of others, as when Cecilia says to Gosport, "Proceed next to stupidity; for that, in all probablility, I shall most frequently encounter."

Cecilia seems very different, too. Mr. Mockton's desiring Cecilia even though he's married--when do we see a married person desiring another woman in Austen? And the character without a name so far, referred to as "the man-hater"--what a strange character. It's as if some Regency version of an Old Testament Prophet should be hanging around the edges of this mostly foppish set of people. I wonder if Christopher Smart appeared somewhat like "the man-hater" to some of his 18th century contemporaries.

I find Cecilia a little tiresomely good, despite her wit. It doesn't help that so many men follow her around like tin cans tied to a dog's tail. All the more credit to Austen who again and again renders her heroines' goodness and likability without belaboring these qualities.

And one more thing. Fiction writers must have to choose how much time they want their readers to spend with negative, unattractive characters, and how much time with the characters we sympathize with. There must be some effective balance-point. I find the extent to which we must be in the company of the likes of Morrice and Captain Aresby oppressive, and find myself perking up whenever Gosport comes around, or Mr. Arnott.


From: Nancy Mayer
Subject: Cecilia

Why does Burney include episodes with rough, boorish people when JA does not? Is it a matter of the year in which they wrote? JA's Juvenilia which is closer in time to Cecilia than her major novels is also closer in tone to Burney.

Do these "rough" characters fulfill a need in Burney to strike out at the rules that have hemmed her in?

Is it a matter of class? JA was certain of her social place. The family might have been poor but like Elizabeth Bennet, JA considered herself the daughter of a gentleman.

The mixture of the too sweet, trusting, heroine who is buffeted by every wind, and the rough characters-- married men falling in love with her etc. does not, in my opinion leave a good taste in the mouth,

As usual I think the book is too long-- before I start. So far the writing has not given me any reason to change my mind. Evelina was quite acceptable for part of the first part and most of the last third; perhaps that is all I should read of this?

Nancy Mayer

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