Volume 2, Book 4, Chapters 1 - 5

money, money, money... ; A Sympathy; A Conflict; An Expectation; An Agitation; Suicides: Mr Harrel and Mr Macartney ....

From: van Leyen
Subject: money, money, money...
To: Jane Austen List

Ive also been wondering about Cecilias riches and where they exactly come from. That her "ancestors had been rich farmers" (p.5) doesnt really explain much. How could they accumulate so much wealth at a time where most farmers were poor? Were they bequeathed lands by the King? Ive finally caught up with the reading and I do enjoy the novel immensely. I can relate to Cecilias generosity. Her altruism is the driving force behind her squandering. She gives her money to the Harrels because she is still attached to Mrs Harrel secretly harbouring hopes of reforming her which, of course, are in vain. Cecilia gradually has to realize that high life and its splendours have corrupted a basically weak and shallow character. Mrs Hill plus children, the "deserving poor" are nicely contrasted with Mr Harrels profligacy, his meanness and cowardice. His strategies of evasion towards Cecilia have a very modern ring with me, no matter how stilted and Johnsonese Burneys diction is.

People who have ruined themselves and exploited the generosity of their friends *do* behave like this. Not only in the 18th century.

Andrea Schwedler

Date: Mon, 20 Jul 1998
Reply-To: Jane Austen List
From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. II, Bk. IV, Ch. II, A Sympathy

Cecila would have her opportunity for a conference with Mortimer the next day when she would be visiting Mrs. Delvile. I was amused by his reaction when she asked him if he would think it strange if she consulted him on some business. " ' I already think you very strange ... so strange that I know not anyone who at all resembles you.' " She then shared her concern with him about finding an occupation for the invalid, the prospect of which might facilitate his recovery. Mortimer, pleased that they had been thinking on such similar lines, told her his idea of Belfield finding employment as a tutor. While the two of them thought this a great idea, I suspect Belfield's mother, who had such high aspirations for him, would greet it with less enthusiasm.

Mrs. Delvile entered at that point, interrupting this flow of conversation. Young Delvile was so struck with their similarity of thought processes that he became absent minded and inattentive, having to be spoken to three times by his mother before he heard, and three times more before he acted on her reminder that he was to meet his father for dinner that evening.

Cecilia also was suddenly aware of her susceptibility, and fearing that a match between her and their son would not considered at all desirable by his parents, determined to conquer her partiality by keeping herself busy, " ... that her heart might have less leisure for imagination ...".

I suspect Cecilia's will power won't. p>However, at this time the combination of the distaste she had for her present abode, with her growing pleasure in the company of Mrs. Delvile (and her son), caused Cecilia to increasingly long for a change in her place of residence. Her unhappiness caused her to gradually forget her initial misgivings, and put a different reading on the sentiments of the Delvile family toward her.

"Delighted with so flattering a union of inclination with propriety, she now began to cherish the partiality she at first had repressed, and thinking the future destination of her life already settled, looked forward with grateful joy to the prospect of ending her days with the man she thought most worthy to be entrusted with the disposal of her fortune."

Uh, oh!

Jill Spriggs

I'd like to add to Jill's post on the above chapter that Delvile is in danger too.

The following description of Delvile goes straight back to Valentine and Proteus in Shakespeare's Two Gentleman of Verona. It's a sure sign the young man is head over heels when he goes into a reverie.

"Young Delvile was so struck with their similarity of thought processes that he became absent minded and inattentive, having to be spoken to three times by his mother before he heard, and three times more before he acted on her reminder that he was to meet his father for dinner that evening."

Mrs Delvile does not invite Cecilia to stay. Cecilia is struck by this; that's why she mentions it. There's no need for Cissy to go back to the Harrels. I see in this a plot thickening.

Ellen Moody

From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. II, Bk. IV, Ch. III, A Conflict
To: austen-l@vm1.mcgill.ca
July 12, 1998

Imagine Mr. Monckton's dismay when, confidently expecting two unbroken weeks of tete a tetes with his beloved, he found instead that the bird had flown to a place inaccessible to him. He did not allow much time to elapse after her return before he called upon her, to discover what damage had been done to his influence over her, and what he could do to undo it. Cecilia explained the reasons for her sudden removal, complained about the persistent attentions of Sir Robert Floyer, and Mr. Monckton promised to investigate. He felt that there must be a further, sinister reason for the continued efforts of Sir Robert to engage Cecilia. Mr. Monckton wanted to get to the bottom of Mr. Harrel's ulterior motives, before he attempted to personally intervene to rid her of this pest.

Mr. Monckton also cautioned Cecilia not to advance the Harrels any further money. Her guilty reaction revealed what she did not say and Mr. Monckton, after pumping her skillfully, found out that she had gone through a money lender to obtain the money.

A slight digression. Why are guardians appointed for minors? To protect them from doing damn fool things like throwing their money away on things like dog races and smooth talking profligate spenders. Also to keep them from entering into contracts of which they are too immature to know the consequences. Why is it when Cecilia realized that advancing Harrel the money which he would supposedly use to extricate himself from the straits he found himself in, was instead used for further runs at the gaming tables, she did not take advantage of the laws which were enacted for just this kind of situation? Somehow she looked at the debts as though they had been entered into of her own free will, rather than as the result of brow beating and coercion. What she needed was a good attorney, to stand up for her rights.

While Mr. Monckton was still visiting Cecilia, she received a message from Mr. Delvile requesting her presence so he could discuss business of importance with her. Cecilia thought (and hoped) he might be proposing a union between her and his son (boy, was she misjudging him) and her excitement was apparent to Mr. Monckton. He was uneasy, and questioned her about her stay with the Delviles. She held forth enthusiastically about Mrs. Delvile, but became embarrassed when speaking of Mortimer. Bad news for Monckton; he tried to give Cecilia a bit of a reality check. The fact that he so thoroughly mistook the motives that underlay their actions, gave his warnings less credibility. He tried to warn Cecilia that they would try to arrange a marriage between her and their son for her fortune, planning to use it to renovate deteriorating estates, and always disdain her as their social inferior. She knew better, at least of Mrs. Delvile and her son, and she was willing enough that her fortune should be put to this use. Mr. Monckton's arguments actually added force to Cecilia's own hopes. He saw the anger he excited in Cecilia with his attacks on the characters of the Delviles (especially Mrs. Delvile), and decided to beat a well judged retreat. He returned to the subject of Mr. Harrel and Sir Robert, hoping to dispel the unfavorable impression he had been giving. He had effectively destroyed the " ... soft serenity to which she had yielded every avenue of her soul ...". She looked forward to the meeting with Mr. Delvile with uneasiness. Well may she!

Jill Spriggs

In response to Jill's on the Delvile's, Monckton's dismay at the notion Delvile senior might propose Delvile junior to Cecilia and Mr Delvile's attitudes:

I think we are just not shown enough of Mrs Delvile. Things remain on a level of vagueness and generality. We have no idea if she would favor a union between her son and Cecilia, and if so, why.

Ellen Moody

From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. II, Bk. IV, Ch. IV, An Expectation
To: austen-l@vm1.mcgill.ca

With hope and trepidation, Cecilia went to her meeting with Mr. Delvile the next day. It was not regarding that which she hoped, a proposal of marriage with his son. While he was holding forth on the dangers of different classes mixing, Cecilia pondered how wrong Mr. Monckton was about the intentions of the Delviles. She did feel, however that his warning was confirmed; " ...how inevitably, in a family of which Mr. Delvile is the head, should I be cruelly held down, as the disgrace of their alliance!"

Mr. Delvile had summoned Cecilia because he found that she had never confided to his wife the true circumstances of the duel, and he also wished to make an inquiry the nature of which startled Cecilia. He asked why she had refused to consider marriage with someone who was " ' ... in every way the superior of Sir Robert except in fortune, and the deficiencies of that the splendour of your own may amply supply.' " Apparently this was one more suitor of whom Cecilia had never been told by Mr. Harrel. Nothing for him to gain, I suppose. Mr. Delvile must undoubtedly been a stupid man; it is as though he studied how to be most offensive; " ' I know not, indeed ... in what estimation you may have been accustomed to hold rank and connection, nor whether you are impressed with a proper sense of their superiority and value; for early prejudices are not easily rooted out, and those who have lived chiefly with monied people, regard even birth itself as unimportant when compared with wealth.' "

Well, thank you very much, your majesty!

The silly girl still did not realize that Mr. Delvile was not going to propose an alliance with his family. " ... she thought herself already insulted by a prelude so ostentatious and humiliating to the proposals which were to follow, and she angrily determined, with whatever pain to her heart, to assert her own dignity by refusing them at once, too well satisfied by what she now saw of the present, that Mr. Monckton had been just in his prediction of the future."

The veil of illusion fell; the true nature of her summons was to discover why she had refused to consider a union with Lord Ernolf. Cecilia, in shock, responded that she had never met Lord Ernolf nor his son. Of course, this would not be germaine to the subject, and Cecilia was showing just how naive she could be. She told Mr. Delvile that she had no knowledge of this proposal. Mr. Delvile then annoyed her by guessing that the engagement with Sir Robert must have progressed farther than he thought; Cecilia indignantly denied this.

I just love the dry humor of Burney in these passages about Cecilia's feelings regarding her meeting with Mr. Delvile: " Her heroic design of refusing young Delvile by no means reconciled her to the discovery she now made that he had not meant to address her; and though she fretted at this new proof that Mr. Harrel scrupled neither assertions nor actions to make her engagement with Sir Robert credited, her disappointment in finding that Mr. Delvile, instead of pleading the cause of his son, was exerting his interest for another person ... " And, "Cecilia now perceived she might plan her rejections, or study her dignity at her leisure, for neither Mr. Delvile nor his son seemed in any haste to put her fortitude to the proof."

Jill Spriggs

Date: Thu, 23 Jul 1998
From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. II, Bk. IV, Chapter V, An Agitation
To: austen-l@vm1.mcgill.ca

We all have been waiting for this. We knew it had to come sometime. Things began getting pretty ugly around the Harrel household, at least ugly on a whole new level. It was also in this chapter that we saw Mr. Harrel call all his skills in female manipulation into play. I am reminded of all those horror movies where we see the stupid female hearing a noise outside her house (or apartment or tent) and going outside to investigate, when the monster/murderer/rapist is lurking. We are screaming at the inanimate screen, "Don't go out! Call the police!" but of course they never do and all that is left the next morning is a bloody pile of anonymous body tissue. And that is all that will be left of Cecilia's once glorious fortune, after Harrel finishes with it.

I can't help comparing this scene of aborted suicide to the one in Sir Charles Grandison when Harriet Byron prevented the suicide of someone who turned out to be her half brother. That scene involved pistols which Harriet's brother first intended to use to scare someone out of their money, but then determined to use on himself. The appearance of Harriet, then her obviously empathetic persuasion was all that was really needed to dissuade him. She did give him money, but this was only a further extension of her compassion, and he never asked for it. In the scene we found in _Cecilia_ the suicide had such an appearance of premeditation, of cold blooded manipulation of Cecilia's emotions, it gave me a feeling of revulsion. Frances Burney certainly wrote this scene well, as she did all the ones portraying the frenzied fevered life of the Harrels. Even Cecilia recognised how she had been used, and I was disgusted with our heroine when she did not take the opportunity to reconsider when she realized the extent of the money Harrel required of her. She signed the hated papers, immediately regretting her actions, thinking of the many worthier recipients she would then be unable to help.

After Cecilia had reluctantly given her signature, she found that was not all Harrel wished. To her shock, he urged her to join him and his wife in an evening at the Pantheon, to disguise from the world the precipice upon which they were all dancing. Of course Cecilia went; it seems she had undergone a surgical operation to have her backbone removed.

Jill Spriggs

Burney: Cecilia,II:IV:V: Suicides: Mr Harrel and Mr Macartney ....

When I read Harrel's antics, I thought of the near-suicide of Macartney. On the one hand, this is a much more adult scene. We are to believe Macartney really mean to kill himself and plucky Evelina saved him. It's a simple scene in that way. Here we are not sure Harrel isn't applying pressure and isn't himself far too terrified to go through with it.

I know when we read Austen novels and others of the realistic school we are given a picture of life lived under control, decorously. But what happened to families when the door was shut; what occcurred up in the bedroom. This suicide- trauma motif seems to hark back to trauma Burney witnessed at home. Think of her sisters and the repressions they submitted to.

I also can't see how Cissy is going to have any thing left real soon, and we have hundreds of pages to go.

Ellen Moody

From: Sallie Knowles
Organization: Great Basin College
Subject: Cecilia, v.II,bk IV,chap V "An Agitation"
To: Jane Austen listserv

What an idiot Cecilia is turning out to be! Very well put Jill; I was indeed wanting to scream at her to turn around and lock herself into her room as quickly as possible when she learned the extent of his debts to just those few creditors who have come gunning for him. You have to know there are more out there for heavens sake.

I agree with the fake suicide ploy too. I haven't read Sir Charles Grandison, but that scene sounds like the one from Evelina when she stops Mr. McCartney from what she thinks is his intended suicide.

I was rather hoping this was a successful suicide and we were done with Mr. Harrel. Not far enough along in the book yet? Sometime before Cecilia ends up in debtor's prison because of his debts would be nice ;-}


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