Volume 2, Book 3, Chapters 1 - 5

An Application; Group Hangings in Progress; Mortimer Delvile; Why It's Good Despite the Style; An Admonition; Cecilia & Mrs Delvile/Cecilia & Mrs Harrel; An Evasion; An Adventure; Debtors' Prison

Date: Sun, 5 Jul 1998
Reply-To: Jane Austen List
From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Volume II, Book III, Chapter I, An Application

At last we are into Volume II!

The house of cards that constituted the Harrel finances began their tumble down in this chapter, much to Cecilia's cost. One of Mr. Harrel's numerous debtors finally tired of his unpunctuality in paying bills, and turned the debt over to an attorney for collection. It was indeed unwise for Mr. Arnott to ever pay any of Harrel's bills, because of course he was the first person the spendthrift turned to when creditors became insistent. When Mr. Arnott hesitated, saying that it would be difficult to lay hands on the money for a few days without serious loss to himself, Cecilia foolishly offered to advance the money herself. She felt sorry for the unfortunate brother, who Cecilia now saw Harrel draining dry without compunction. What made her think he would not do the same to her? Especially considering this passage; " ... Mr. Harrel seemed rather to prefer it [Cecilia advancing the money rather than Mr. Arnott], yet spoke so confidently of his speedy payment, that he appeared to think it a matter of little importance from which he accepted it."

To obtain the money she wanted to advance the Harrels, as well as for repaying her favorite bookseller and further helping the Hills, Cecilia determined to call upon the guardian of her money (discarding Briggs' pretense of being a guardian to Cecilia herself). She avoided the fuss attendant on summoning a chair to the Harrel household by walking a few blocks, accompanied by a servant, to where she could commission a chair to transport her to the home of Mr. Briggs. Hopefully, she could achieve her aims and return by the time the Harrels usually breakfasted.

The route to Mr. Briggs' home was detoured by a crowd eager to catch sight of a criminal en route to the gallows. Cecilia ducked into a large home, requesting permission to remain while she sent her servant for a chair. When he returned and Cecilia was readying to depart whom should she see but Mortimer Delvile, who asked some rather cryptic questions. Cecilia hastily informed him she had not time to speak, but puzzled over the queries all the way to Mr. Briggs'.

" ' Will you not first, ' said he, handing her in, ' tell me what news you have heard?'

' News?' repeated she, ' No, I have heard none!'

' You will only, then, laugh at me for those officious offers you did so well to reject?'

' I know not what offers you mean!'

' They were indeed superfluous, and therefore I wonder not you have forgotten them.' "

Cecilia did not exactly receive a warm welcome at the Briggs household. The young servant told her that his master was ill. Cecilia asked when she could see him, and, not liking the answer, in a week, asked for pen and paper she could use to write him a note. She was given a small slate and pencil, for Briggs did not wish to waste paper and ink on any insignificant thing Cecilia might have to say. The shocking (to Briggs) request for 600 pounds was enough to bring him down stairs in person. It turned out that the true reason Briggs was reluctant to see Cecilia was that he normally " ' ... wears no great matters of cloaths when he is alone. ' " Probably to save on wear and tear. A recitation of complaints about the boy's stingy master was cut short by the appearance of Briggs himself. He had fallen into a ditch on his way home from the masquerade, injured himself, and had been ill. Of course he was too cheap to use the services of a physician, which at that point in history may have been just as well. Cecilia had chosen the worst possible time to ask Briggs for an advance of money. He was in an even less generous mood than usual. He flatly refused, and ordered her to return the books she had purchased. She overcame her aversion to asking a favor of Mr. Delvile senior, and determined to take her chair to his home to request his intervention in her favor.

I guess she didn't make it back for breakfast.

Jill Spriggs

Re: Group Hangings in Progress

In her posting on this chapter Jill concentrated on the Harrels' coming bankruptcy and Cecilia's efforts to extract 600 from Mr Briggs. It is a big sum, and perhaps we are to believe Cecilia paradoxically lucky that Briggs will not hand it over. On the other hand, I worry about her signing a bill for that sum, and wonder if she won't be threatened with debtors' prison before the book's end.

I'll concentrate on the crowd and what is happening all about Cecilia--again we have a kind of scene we don't find in Austen. I don't know if others have ever noticed Austen characters rarely find themselves in crowds in the streets. Cecilia gets caught up in a mob on their way to enjoy a group hanging. Doody includes a note which reminded me that in his Rambler No. 114, Johnson wrote passionately against capital punishment as meted out in his period. (He also wrote equally eloquently against imprisoning someone for debt, but that's another part of this novel and post.) Burney not only imitates Johnson's style; she shares his attitudes.

People might like to know something of what Johnson wrote. Basically his argument is that those who are powerful never think they will be murdered by their machinery; their pride and sense of superiority leads them to govern through terror and force rather than persuasion. One can observe again and again that after any long period of time governing bodies who practice terror and force are led by the political arrogance of the few to accumulate many crimes for which the punishment is capital, and the result is 'so many disprporitons between crimes and punishments, such capricious distinctions of guilt, and such confusion of remissness and severity, as can scarcely be believed . . . " As so many have argued since then is that far from deterring murder, the fear of capital punishment encourages robbers to murder those who could bear witness against them. Johnson is not against capital punishment per se but against its use in all cases but that of murder and even there to be used "as a last resort." He talks of the hardening of people from indiscriminate use of public executions, and how it poisons society by destroying trust (informers were paid). The piece would be modern but for his savagery towards those in power (to whom many people now pay pious respect) and his style--which is that of Cecilia.

Here is the paragraph which Burney may be alluding to in her depiction of the malefactors on their way to to their graves:

"The learned, the judicious, the pious Boerhaave relates, that he never saw a criminal dragged to execution without asking himself, 'Who knows whether this man is not less culpable than me?' On the days when the prisons of this city are emptied into the grave, let every spectator of the dreadful procession put the same question into his heart. Few among those that croud in thousands to the legal massacre, and look with carelessness, perhaps with triumph, on the utmost exacerbations of human misery, would then be able to return without horror and dejection."

"Prisons of the city emptied into the grave" and "legal massacre" are good.

He argues that if the state murders so ceaselessly and carelessly, "on what principle shall we bid them [criminals] to forbear?"

The mass hanging is of course a backdrop to Cecilia's distress, but it is not irrelevant. It is part of the amoral and violent world of the Harrels. I think Burney does succeed in creating an atmosphere of frenetic haste, high noise, fear, crowds, through the nervousness of Cecilia and what she observes. It is reinforced by Delvile's indifference to what is going on round them. He comes off badly in this scene--in fact thus far if we grant Monckton a natural predilection to be jealous and possessive over the woman he wants (Cecilia), if anything Monckton's behavior as a whole is more decent and reasonable and kind than that of Delvile.

Ellen Moody

To Austen-l

July 5, 1998

Re: Burney: Cecilia: Mortimer Delvile

Both Nancy and Jill have suggested that Mortimer Delvile is too soft by half. Remember most of the other people Cecilia has met are heartless. The conception here is similar to a new ideal of manliness which also lies behind Austen's Edward Ferrars and George Knightley. Remember how sensitive Knightley is; Edward seems to dread hurting other people's feelings. Compare this to Mrs Harrel and you will see Burney's point. I like Delvile thus far; he is a combination of Henry Tilney and a young George Knightley--thus far.

But wait. We have more to come. Also look at the name: Delvile. There's that "vile." Not "ville" (as I had been mistakenly typing). And "Mortimer" includes a "mort" which suggests death as well as earlier English heroes (the name Mortimer would have similar resonances to the name Edmund).

I admit to me the really interesting character is Monckton.

Has anyone noticed that neither Burney nor Austen choses a coquet for a heroine. But then again women who flirt with men are still not an ideal type for women readers. George Eliot loathed the Rosemary Vincys of the world (a coquet in Middlemarch). There is also no Valancourt.

To Nancy: Burney writes with a different ideal in mind. She is not writing psychological fiction which moves. Think of her book as an outgrowth of the journalism of the day, of the exemplary fictions and ironical meditations thereon that we find in Johnson's Ramblers, Idlers, and Adventurers. We have to remember this book was written at least 10 years before the sudden pouring out of fiction that occurred in the 1790's.

Maria quotes the following passage:

" Curiosity, however, was universally excited, and her retreat served but to inflame it: some of the ladies, and most of the gentlemen, upon various pretences, returned into the pit merely to look at her... "(Oxford, 1988, p. 139)

I take this to be descriptive. Men were allowed to exhibit their impulses more freely than women.

Ellen Moody

To Austen-l

July 7, 1998

Re: Cecilia: Why It's Good Despite the Style

This is written in response to Jill's intriguing comment, Why is it she enjoys Cecilia and it has many passages which are written in a difficult and abstract Johnsonian style which plays games with psychological and moral antitheses in a way which no longer appeals. She placed this against James's Golden Bowl where the style, she thought, got in the way.

I have an answer :). It is probably wrong. But here goes.

Cecilia has content. It fills the mind. This week's chapters are a good example of this: a hanging, debt, poverty, sickness, misers, people dying from a duel, a heroine in an attic who recalls Marmontal's opera-like sentimental maidens on the Alps of France. It engages thought; it teases the heart in its way. Many of the characters lack depth; they are antitheses. There are too many of them to remember. They speak in stilted ways at times. But in each scene there is plenty of intelligent thought and a serious criticism of life attached to real life as Burney knew it.

The problem with James's Golden Bowl is we are in an elusive world where we are not sure what is bothering people. They have plenty to eat; the problems are often so supersubtle that we are not quite sure what they are. Equally important you can't parse the sentences. You are not sure what they are saying. Sometimes after much effort you can reduce them down to a few words. I have here summarized and paraphrased a common complaint against James's late books voiced by some of his contemporaries. It is partly unfair, but not wholly.

In sum, with all its faults, Cecilia conveys much concrete content and intelligent thought about it for us to engage one. This is one problem with Radcliffe (in comparison). An awful lot of her book is so much "poetry," intimations and glimpses of some beauty she can't quite express, a sense of stillness, a way of conveying irrational fear, uncanny dread, and sadomasochism in its more polite manifestations. I like Radcliffe. But there are those who can't understand why we have all these words on the page.

Ellen Moody

From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Volume II, Book III, Chapter III, An Admonition
To: austen-l@vm1.mcgill.ca

When Cecilia gave the Harrels the bad news of her failure to obtain money from Briggs, Harrel shared the idea he had which doubtless he had ready. Surely he must have known what Briggs' answer would be. I find the aversion to "Jew moneylenders" that I find in many novels of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, distasteful. Antisemitism was pervasive and signs of it was seen even in a novel by our Divine Miss Jane. At least it was comparatively mild in what I remember of Burney's novels, especially when contrasted with that seen in Dickens and Wharton. I think the horror with which the moneylenders were regarded must compare to the way we would react to borrowing money from a loan shark.

Mr. Arnott bore most of the blame for getting Cecilia into the pickle she found herself in, eventually. When the news of Cecilia's failure became apparent, he again renewed his offer to help, in spite of the cost he would incur when liquidating his assets. The pivotal conversation:

" ' [Mr. Harrel] Well, my good brother, I hardly know how to suffer you to sell out at such a loss, but yet, my present necessity is so urgent ---'

'Don't mention it,' cried Mr Arnott, ' I am very sorry I let you know it; be certain, however, that while I have anything, it is yours and my sister's.'

The two gentlemen were then retiring together; but Cecilia, shocked for Mr. Arnott, though unmoved by Mr. Harrel, stopt them to enquire what was the way by which it was meant she could borrow the money?

... The heart of Cecilia recoiled at the very mention of a Jew and taking up money upon interest, but, impelled strongly by her own generosity to emulate that of Mr. Arnott, he agreed, after some hesitation, to have recourse to this method. "

Mr Harrel was surprised at the sum Cecilia wished to borrow, 250 pounds more than that which he had requested, but did not question her. Of course, he tried to get 200 of it for his own purposes, but by then the exasperated Cecilia had had her well of generosity run dry. " ... she answered very gravely that the money she had just received was already appropriated to a particular purpose, and she knew not how to defer making use of it."

Mr. Harrel certainly did his best to wheedle the money from Cecilia, and she finally relented. leaving only 50 pounds for her bookseller. She must have had a pretty good idea what her chances of repayment were. About as good as the Hills'.

The silly Cecilia thought to take advantage of Priscilla's momentary gratitude to lecture her on economy and frugal living. She had the same success such lectures generally do. " They then separated; Mrs. Harrel half angry at remonstrances she thought only censorious, and Cecilia offended at her pettishness and folly, though grieved at her blindness."

Her first visit from Mrs. Delvile provided a grateful diversion, followed by news brought by Mr. Arnott that Belfield was well enough to leave his lodgings and go into the country. Cecilia wondered if Mortimer's hints as to Belfield's health were constructed to elicit information about her feelings for him (Belfield). Her knowledge of his character made it seem that this reason for his teasing was not true. She worried that Belfield's reason for leaving was his "impatient spirit" and that he had travelled prematurely, but she had no way of hearing of him since he was gone.

Mr. Monckton visited that evening, and Cecilia as usual shared all her concerns, then with the Harrels' extravagance. She considerately withheld the news of her assistance, and the means by which she achieved it. "Mr. Monckton ... pronounce[d] Harrel a ruined man, and thinking Cecilia, from her connection with him, in much danger of being involved in his future difficulties, he most earnestly exhorted her to suffer no inducement to prevail with her to advance him any money, confidently affirming she would have little chance of being ever repaid."

It's too late, baby, now it's too late ...

Cecilia expressed disappointment in her childhood friend, and embarrassment that she could ever have selected her as a friend. Monckton tried to console her, but one wonders if he realized the irony of her response: " ' Well, then ... at least it must be confessed I have judiciously chosen you!' "

No, Cecilia, it seems that you were no better at choosing friends than lovers!

Cecilia then told Monckton of Mrs. Delvile's visit, wishing he could know her as she did, then of Belfield's improved health and departure from town, which he confirmed. Monckton cautioned Cecilia against the artifices of the Delviles, he suspecting that they were trying to ensnare her for their son. The artificer suspecting all about him of artifice!

Jill Spriggs

To Austen-l

July 9, 1998

Re: Cecilia, II:3:3: Cecilia & Mrs Delvile/Cecilia & Mrs Harrel

I was wondering if anyone else has noticed how when Cecilia meets Mrs Delvile and they sit and talk, we are repeatedly told what a kind, gracious woman Mrs Delvile is, what a delight to talk to, and how they spent hours in happy chat. But we are not shown this. I have no sense of Mrs Delvile as a living character at all.

In comparison each time Miss Larolles appears, we hear her voice, get a gesture, and then there she is, vividly before us. But she is a caricature; she is "built" like a Dickens or humors character. These are figures who each time they appear make the same sort of gesture or even the same one, say the same kinds of things. But we are laughing at a similar kind of joke; a real presence is not quite there.

Now the scene Jill described between Priscilla Harrel and Cecilia is one of the best so far between women. Cecilia versus this or that man we have had. We have had Cecilia and Mrs Harrel in brief before. This is extended. I at any rate have met people just like this; there is nothing exaggerated about her indifference which shades into irritation at Cecilia. As in life, it's hard to tell whether she doesn't understand or not. Experience has taught me such types do understand. The pretend not to. I also notice that Burney is aware of how important it is to keep actual dialogue reasonably short. No antithesis inside suspended sentences here.

Perhaps one could conclude it is easier to write about unhappiness, conflict, and trouble than gracious kind talk. Though I believe the latter exists, and in a way we see a bit of it occur between Monckton and Cecilia who seem to live on the same wave length. They understand one another.


Subject: Cecilia, Volume II, Book III, Chapter III, An Admonition

OK. This chapter made me start to wonder if Cecilia is any less naive than Evelina. I am really reading in agitation now thinking 'What's next?'. She must know the Harrels will never pay her back. She must know what it means to borrow from a Jew. She does it to save Mr Arnott. She has a good heart but this is too much. Who is Mr Arnott to her? If she had been in love with him I would have understood. The problem is once you lend money to such people they will keep asking until they suck your blood dry. Cecilia borrowed L600, gave Harrels L350 and kept the rest for her bookshop bill and help the Hills.

Surely, the next morning at breakfast Mr Harrel is in dire need of L200. Cecilia understands his hints but "was too much displeased both by his extravagance and his indelicacy, to feel at all inclined to change the destination of the money she had just received". When Mr Harrel stooped hinting and directly asked for it "Cecilia, whose generousity, however extensive, was neither thoughtless nor indiscriminate, found something so repulsive in this gross procedure, that instead of assenting ti his request with her usual alacrity, she answered very gravely that the money she had just received was already appropriated to a particular purpose, and she knew not how to defer making use of it."

Mr Harrel really knows how to play her so he didn't have to work too hard before Cecilai broke down and gave him the money. Well, that's the last she is seeing it. L550 gone like that. On top of it, she has to pay it back to the money-lender with interest. I sarted to hope Mr Harrel would blow up his brains soon or she'll be in big trouble (BTW for first-time readers like me can we put spoiler alerts? I know it is irritating for people who has read it before and I agree it would be ridicilous for Austen's books, but everytime I read a comment like "Cecilia is gonna be in big trouble for not doing so now" it takes away my fun. I keep expecting huge disasters every page)

thus far if we grant Monckton a natural predilection to be jealous and possessive over the woman he wants (Cecilia), if anything Monckton's behavior as a whole is more decent and reasonable and kind than that of Delvile.

I have been thinking of the above that Ellen wrote on 6 Jul 1998, and really, up to know we haven't seen anything bad from Monckton aside from Burney's comments. He is trying to poison Cecilia against the Delviles but that is understandable due to his jealousy. In this chapter he is very sensible while explaining her why she was so much deceived in her friend. He gives sound advice about not to give them money for "she would have little chance of being ever repaid." Alas, it's already too late for that one. I wish she would have confessed him that she already lent them money.

"We all love to instruct, though we can teach only what is not worth knowing."

Aysin Dedekorkut

To chime in with Aysin: I agree Cecilia seems either naive or just plain dumb to think the Harrels will pay her money back to her. But I wonder if we are not reading psychologically when we what we have is a plot device and attempt to make a moral point. As when Austen is not consistent with her portrait of Catherine Morland, so Burney makes Cecilia suddenly dumb about the Harrels when (unlike Evelina) she has shown a consistent worldliness and disillusion in all or most other cases.

Ellen Moody

From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, II:3:3: Cecilia & Mrs Delvile/Cecilia & Mrs Harrel
To: austen-l@vm1.mcgill.ca

I found Priscilla's reaction to Cecilia's well meant admonishments, quite life like. Those of us who are parents learn (hopefully) that all unsought for advice is tuned out. I remember how, as a child, my mother would lecture me endlessly about my manifold flaws. She was also a believer in corporal punishment (wielded by hairbrushes, ping pong paddles, pancake turners, yard sticks ...) and I remember begging her, "Just hit me and have it over with!" Unfortunately, that precipitated both another beating and another lecture (now this hurts me more than it hurts you ...). Both kids and adults detest being lectured to, no matter how justified the lecturer.

Jill Spriggs

Date: Wed, 8 Jul 1998
Reply-To: Jane Austen List
From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Volume II, Book III, Chapter IV, An Evasion

Two weeks passed fairly uneventfully. Sir Robert persistently wooed, Mr. Arnott silently adored, and the Harrels busily blew the bucks. Cecilia for some unknown reason thought that Mr. Harrel actually would repay the 200 pounds he had borrowed. " ... she began to grow very impatient, but not knowing what course to pursue, and wanting courage to remind Mr. Harrel of his promise, she still waited the performance of it without speaking."

Not very wise. Of course, saying something would not have helped either.

The Harrels were preparing to spend their Easter holiday at their country home, but Cecilia was busy with her pet project, the Hills. The unfortunate carpenter had just died, and Cecilia, after a few days for the funeral, sent for Mrs. Hill and repeated her promise of help. Mrs. Hill hesitantly mentioned an opportunity she had for purchasing a partnership with her cousin in a haberdasher's shop; Cecilia of course immediately promised the sum necessary. She them inquired what plans had been made for the children. When Cecilia found that the exhausted mother had made none, she arranged for accommodations for her, her sixteen year old daughter, and the two youngest children with the cousin who was to enter into business with Mrs. Hill. The two middle children would be placed in an inexpensive school where they would learn to do plain sewing.

Cecilia's plans for the Hills required ready money, so she plucked the courage to beard the lion in its den. After breakfast one morning she asked Mr. Harrel about the money, saying " ... she fancied he had forgotten the 200 pounds which she had lent ..." He thought it could not have been so important and as she had waited so long, she could wait a little longer. He then hastily bid her adieu. From that time, Mr. Harrel never allowed himself to be alone with Cecilia, knowing full well she would not press for her money in the presence of strangers. She used the 50 pounds left from the moneylender, for the Hills' immediate needs, and resolved to go without, herself, if more money was required before her minority was up. The needs of the Hills were met, at least temporarily.

Jill Spriggs

Subject: Cecilia: II:3:4: An Evasion
To: austen-l@vm1.mcgill.ca

I found Cecilia's pleasure in helping the Hills quite plausible. I would also like to be a Lady Bountiful; the difficulty is in finding the money, and more, helping without weakening.

I wonder what it was that the dreaded Jewish moneylender would do to people remiss in paying. Were they so feared because they would have your legs broken, like modern loan sharks? The only interaction I can recall offhand is Anthony Trollope's Phineas Finn with the moneylender who followed him everywhere, pleading, "Do be punctual! If you only would be punctual!" I can't imagine this treatment having much effect on the Harrels.

Jill Spriggs

From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: _Cecilia_, Volume II, Book III, Chapter V, An Adventure

When Cecilia was feeling " ... so light, so gay, so glowing ... " Albany made one of his characteristically unexpected appearances as she strolled, having just left her chair. He initially greeted her with indignation, having been repulsed at the Harrels' door when he attempted to see her. I am sure the way was barred on orders of Mr. Harrel, who wished to see no more of Cecilia's money going into hands other than his. I wonder if Albany knew of the connection between Cecilia and Mr. Belfield, or if he regarded the painful situation in which Belfield and his sister found themselves as one of the many in which he took an interest, for no reason other than wanting to obtain help for them. Cecilia was proud of her benevolence to the Hills, who after all she found on her own. And Albany was not so all seeing as he pretended, for he apparently knew nothing of Cecilia's efforts for the Hills. Did it not count because he did not bring the Hills to Cecilia's attention?

Albany's disregard for the social conventions caused embarrassment for both Cecilia and the young woman he brought her to see, uninvited. He left them alone, relying on Cecilia's native compassion to do what needed to be done. Cecilia's initial distrust due to fear of being imposed upon was disarmed by the girl's indignant refusal of money, but imagine her feelings of dismay when she found that the sick relation the apparently "genteel young woman, well dressed" was nursing, without a physician's assistance, was Belfield, not gone to the country as he had claimed, but languishing without a doctor because he lacked the means to pay one. When the sister found that Cecilia was Miss Beverly, she was appalled, sure Mr. Belfield would be furious with her for betraying her secret. Cecilia promised to say nothing, but requested permission to return the next day, to ascertain what assistance she could provide. Cecilia was also interested in the lovely Miss Belfield, and intended to help her also if she could.

Too bad that 200 pounds had been given to the infinitely less deserving Mr. Harrel.

Jill Spriggs

To Austen-l

July 10, 1998

Re: Cecilia: III:3:4: Debtors' Prison

Jill asks,

I wonder what it was that the dreaded Jewish moneylender would do to people remiss in paying. Were they so feared because they would have your legs broken, like modern loan sharks? The only interaction I can recall offhand is Anthony Trollope's Phineas Finn with the moneylender who followed him everywhere, pleading, "Do be punctual! If you only would be punctual!" I can't imagine this treatment having much effect on the Harrels.

Jill Spriggs

By the time of Phineas Finn when I think one could no longer be put into prison for debt it is something of a puzzle. It seems to be a dread of embarrassment, loss of face, and loss of reputation. If you lost your reputation, you might lose position and therefore your place. Reputation was acceptance by the community and that transformed itself into income -- especially for the middle class.

I am not sure when the laws were changed, but feel confident in 1782 you could be thrown into prison for debt. Prison life has always been awful. It was especially bad before tax money was allocated for food, beds, and necessaries. It was an ugly system of bribery and bullying inside. The worst kinds of coercion and human daily politics went on in such places. Johnson has a powerful Rambler against throwing people into prison for debt -- the argument is this makes it impossible for them ever to pay, but the passion of the piece resides in his evocation of life in prison.

I suppose Cecilia is in no real danger as Briggs would not let them take her away. Or would he?

Ellen Moody

What fun women could have in those days, no?

Nancy makes a good point about the abduction of heiresses going on well into mid-eighteenth century England. I really recommend as a good read as well as a book chock-a-block with startling information about the private lives of the middle class in this period Lawrence Stone's Broken Vows and Uncertain Unions. By delving into court depositions, trials, and various documentary records he goes beneath the coded language of novels to bring out what life was like for the gentry.

I also forgot about the women who took their children to live with their husbands in prison. Of course if you had the money to buy food and a bed, it was not that bad. But many didn't. I have read accounts of prison life of the period which show drunkenness was very common (liquor was sold), prostitution, and also various kinds of scary coercion (using dungeon-like cells) on the more vulnerable personalities.

I am puzzled like Sally. I don't know what to expect from Cecilia's signing that bill. Poor girl. Her finances are muddled.


August 2, 1998:

Jill wrote:

Re: Catching up on posts;

On another list Becky Sharp's observation that she could be a lady with 5,000 pounds a year, and the realization that she was proposing an annual income of around 1 million dollars a year, only points up how ludicrous it was for Cecilia to give 7,000 pounds to Harrel's creditors. And how silly it was to hold herself, as a minor, bound by the signing of documents upon which Harrel coerced her signature.

Jill Spriggs

Yes. It points out how unreal and extravagant are the sums Burney has Cecilia throwing around. Her Cecilia is not connected up to the limitations of reality.

A second problem I discern are too many suitors. It does seem as if sometimes Burney just does not know what to do with her heroine so another suitor pops up. She does not want to unwind the Delvile plot and is not ready to kill off Monckton's wife and seems unable to find another plot device. Also too many of the men have names with start with "M:" Monckton, Morrice, Marriot, Mortimer (Delvile). I expect Mr Harrel to turn out to be a Maurice. :) If an Irishman should show up he's sure to be a Michael and fall in love too.


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