Volume 3, Book 5, Chapters 10-13

A Gamester's Conscience; Spectacular Bankruptcy and Suicide; A Man Of Business (Part One); Phantasmagoric: Suicide, the Spectacle; "Ill Usage" from her husband; Burney as Relevant; Domestic Violence as a Fact of Real Life; A Man Of Business (Part Two); The Crazy Mismatched Group in the Box Around the Madman; Priscilla very irritating; The Death Off-Stage & Through Cecilia's Consciousness; A Solution; Matter Enough for Many Novels and Aftermath; Austen and Burney: Dickensian Moments

Date: Sun, 9 Aug 1998
Reply-To: Jane Austen List
From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. III, Bk. V, Ch. X, A Gamester's Conscience

A gamester's conscience, or lack thereof.

During this week's installment the miserable slug Harrel finally put an end to his life. Too bad he could not have carried out his intention when first he threatened it, coercing our heroine to part with most of the money left her by her parents. Remember her secret prayer for her parents, uttered at the beginning of this book? They must have been rolling like the slots in a slot machine in their graves, at the awareness of the pass Cecilia had come to. Things would only get worse.

Cecilia's complacence at the prospect of her impending removal to the home of the Delviles was brought up short when Priscilla's maid burst into her room, beseeching her to " ... hasten to the side of her lady, who she feared was going into fits." Harrel, hoping for one last dash at the gambling tables he so loved, had told Priscilla that unless they could find 3,000 pounds, they could not leave the country without starving in the country of their refuge. Cecilia, appalled, remembered the warning of Mr. Monckton, and saw that " ... one year's income was already demanded, the annuity and the country house might [next] be required." She was glad not to be taken by surprise, and resolved that no entreaties would postpone her change of residence in the morning. Too bad our heroine was a pillar of Jello when it came to resisting tearful pleas; at least she was not quite so soft a touch as she once was.

With surprise Cecilia heard that Mr. Arnott had already been applied to, and refused this further encroachment on his fortune. Cecilia tried to comfort her friend, saying that only a few centuries (actually, only years, but centuries to Priscilla) of economy and Hamburger Helper dinners would surely restore them to prosperity. One accustomed to champagne does not easily adjust to beer, and this prospect did not console Mrs. Harrel. Priscilla heaped on the lamentations, and Cecilia resented her unjust observations. " ' Oh Miss Beverly, how happy are you! able to stay where you please, -- rich, -- rolling in wealth which you do not want, -- of which had we but one year's income only, all this misery would be over, and we might stay in our dear, dear country! ' " So quickly she had forgotten that they had already more than two years' income from the gullible heiress.

Mr. Harrel, after hearing that the petitions to Mr. Arnott and Cecilia had failed, left the house in pursuit of other patsies. Mr. Harrel brought the new prey with him to tea that afternoon; Cecilia's already spurned suitor, Mr. Marriot. A little more wary by this time, Cecilia surmised that Harrel was using the same approach on Mr. Marriot that he had with Sir Robert. She stayed for tea, then insisting on going to her room, despite "earnest entreaties" that she stay.

In an hour, Mrs. Harrel joyfully informed her friend that her husband had told her only 1,000 pounds more was needed for their removal. Cecilia refused, and Priscilla left, disappointed, resolving to try again with her brother.

When Cecilia went in for supper, she found that Mr. Arnott was absent, and Mr. Marriot was still there. She thought it best that she at that time inform the Harrels of her determination to leave the following morning. Cecilia's suspicions were confirmed by their reaction.

"Mrs. Harrel exclaimed her surprise aloud, and Mr. Harrel looked aghast: while his new young friend cast upon him a glance of reproach and resentment, which fully convinced Cecilia he imagined he had procured himself a title to an easiness of intercourse and frequency of meeting which this intelligence destroyed."

Cecilia again went to her room, where she instructed her maid to pack up her belongings for an expected change of residence. Not much time elapsed before Priscilla came to remonstrate with her friend, and Cecilia, for a change, was firm in her resolve. Cecilia urged the necessity of flight from their creditors, and Priscilla then told her friend that she feared "ill usage" from her husband. Cecilia angrily demanded if Mr. Harrel thought she was to be frightened into forking out by a threat of physical danger, but Priscilla displayed her lack of conscience when she replied,

" ' Oh, no, ... his expectations are all from my brother. He surely thought that when I supplicated and pleaded to him, he would do what I wished, for so he always did formerly, and so once again I am sure he would do now, could I but make him come to me, and tell him how I am used, and tell him that if Mr. Harrel takes me abroad in this humour, I verily think in his rage he will half murder me.' "

Cecilia was easily worked upon by her friend; she spent a sleepless night worrying, feeling responsible for Mr. Arnott's intransigence (which was her doing), and still deluding herself that Mr. Harrel's salvation was still possible.

Jill Spriggs

Re: Cecilia, III:V:10-13: Spectacular Bankruptcy and Suicide

Again I was struck by the kinds of events Burney presents to us: we have the spectacular bankruptcy and suicide of Harrel in yet another of Burney's long phantasmagoric chapters in which all society turns into a masquerade of fools, knaves, and witches. But we also have all the sorts of things that lead up to bankruptcy and suicide: continual overspending, indifference to tradesmen, irresponsibility, probably daily happenings in the lives of the aristocracy and smaller gentry of Austen's period. When we think about the content of Burney's books, we find that a good deal of what's wrong with the world today still is omitted from Austen's.

The reason I bring this up is I expect because of the style of the book and lack of inwardness in many of the characters it is difficult to believe it was as popular and influential as it was. I think what one has to do is remember its date: 1782. While the books of the 1790s are still today often ignored, laughed at, or damned with faint praise as women's romances (especially Radcliffe's), it was these and the epistolary novel which taught the great Victorians how to write inwardly and carry a story on through inward narrative. Austen was one of these people. We look over a divide at _Cecilia_ and cannot understand why she is not writing this way, and because the pleasures of such a text are not meant to be primarily inward, we think people must have exaggerated how much they liked the book. We read to discover the slightest touches of psychology because we think truth resides in these; that belief first became dominant in the later 18th century. It took the novel a while to embody it.

Those who have taken courses in 18th century fiction might also remember a commonplace: there's very little of deep or original interest in England between the "four great men" of the earlier period (Richardson, Fielding, Sterne, Smollet) and the "minor" people of the 1790s. Then we get Austen. It's not a false statement. Professors endlessly assign Evelina or The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (a charming mellow book of 1771), and then jump to Emma. If one reads books of the 1880s they are often sentimental and silly; these are the typical books Austen is savaging in her juvenilia. It may seem strange to know Choderlos La Clos (of Les Liaisons Dangereuses) wrote a long rave review of Cecilia within a short while of its coming out, but one has to realize what else was there, and how Burney was openly presenting figures like Monckton, the Harrels, and their milieu and values when no one else was. In fact one needs to go to Thackeray to find anything like the Harrels again -- I am thinking of Becky and Rawdon Crawley.

This is the ancien régime exposed.

A third comment on the date: Austen was born in 1775, and Cecilia was published in 1782. This makes Austen 7 years old when the book came out. This is the era before children's literature, and what happened typically in such eras is that people who were not going to be readers simply didn't read very much until they were well into their late teens, but people who were going to be readers began to read adult books around age 12-13. This is an impressionable age. What I read in those years has stayed with me ever since. It includes _S&S_ and P&P. Even if I didn't understand it very well, the tone of integrity of Elinor's mind impressed me. Let us imagine Austen reading Cecilia around 12-13. It was a very respectable book; we may not like the self-censorship of it, but since Burney's heroine never has a sexy thought, the book could reach the narrowest of homes.

On another list I am on we are reading Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time, The Valley of the Bones (this is the first novel of the third movement, the 7th of 12). At one point the narrator Nick says:

"I was impressed for the ten thousandth time by the fact that literature illuminates life only for those to whom books are a necessity. Books are unconvertible assets, to be passed on only to those who possess them already."

I bring this up because 1) I have begun to read Lascelles and she brings home how Austen lived through books and Burney then becomes a world Austen dwelt in; 2) I think Burney lived through books similarly; 3) I want to express my gratitude to Jill for bringing Burney to life for us by bringing to it her inner life and abstracting the motherlode in it for us to share.

A friend wrote me about A Dance to the Music of Time (for whom the above statement of Nick's was a distressing truth): "must we divide the world between those to whom literature means a great deal and those for whom it might just as well not exist?" My answer is I hope not.

Ellen Moody

From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia. Vol. III, Bk. V, Ch. XII, A Man Of Business, Part one

August 12, 1998

Due to the unusual length of this pivotal chapter, I have broken it up into three posts.

Something was wrong, even more wrong than usual, and even our sometimes rather obtuse heroine noticed. Mr. Harrel was unable to cast off his melancholy air, and drank many glasses of champagne, as though he required courage for some difficult deed. Cecilia and Priscilla still thought it was his flight abroad that troubled him so. Harrel's farewell speech boded ill:

" ' ... my chaise will soon be ready, and I shall take of you a long farewell! -- all my affairs are unpropitious to my speedy return; -- the wine is now mounting into my head, and perhaps I may not be able to say much by and by. I fear I have been cruel to you, Priscilla, and I begin to wish I had spared you this parting scene; yet let it not be banished your remembrance, but think of it when you are tempted to such mad folly as has ruined us.' ... turning from her to Cecilia. ' Oh, Madam,' he cried, 'to you, indeed, I dare not speak! [but he does anyway] I have used you most unworthily, but I pay for it all! I ask you not to pity or forgive me, I know it is impossible you should do either.' [Cecilia interrupts, then ...] 'Do not hope,' interrupted he, ' be not so angelic, for I cannot bear it! benevolence like yours should have fallen into worthier hands. But come, let us return to the company. My head grows giddy, but my heart is still heavy; I must make them more worthy companions for each other.' "

Mr. Harrel entrusted a sealed packet to Cecilia and, momentarily serious, expressed remorse for the course his life had taken, and a wish that he had know Cecilia before the passion for gambling had overtaken him. Harrel tried to guide his female companions back to the crowds, but as they left the covered walk, they met Mr. Marriot, who greeted Harrel with reproaches for not answering a letter. Harrel promised to answer it the next day, and asked him to dine with them in the meantime. Priscilla and Cecilia were shocked, and asked how they were supposed to get home. Harrel, already past such petty considerations as that, urged them to not dispute. As the ever present Morrice left to search for a box where they could dine, Mr. Harrel met with one of his creditors, a man of business (after which the chapter is named) who angrily demanded payment for a debt three years old. Another of Harrel's creditors approached, and remonstrated with Mr. Hobson for his choice of such an unsuitable place for dunning. Priscilla was appalled by the fact that a swarm of creditors seemed to be descending upon them, and that Mr. Harrel reacted by inviting them all to dinner with them. Morrice returned and told of his ill success; the only box available was occupied by only Meadows, but he characteristically pretended not to understand when Morrice requested accommodation. Morrice brought the whole party to the box, only to be surprised by Mr. Meadows' abruptly waking up, and demanded that they leave him alone. Cecilia and Priscilla urged Mr. Harrel to give up the point and leave, but Mr. Meadows, noticing the women, invited them to be seated. Mr. Harrel, taking this as encouragement, brought the entire party into the box.

An aside. Many times when I have read Burney's , Austen's, Thackeray's, and Trollope's (and many others) books I have wondered what the different places mentioned looked like at the time written about. I have found some of my curiosity satisfied by Jane Austen's England by Maggie Lane (a book often mentioned on this list). Is there a counterpart for Burney's books?

Back to our usually scheduled post ...

Meadows uncharacteristically exerted himself to try to converse with Cecilia. I am going to have to remember Meadows' opinion of the exercise of walking, for future reference:

" ' O it gives me the vapours, the horrors, ... to see what poor creatures we all are! taking pleasure even from the privation of it! forcing ourselves into exercise and toil, when we might at least have the indulgence of sitting still and reposing! ' "

I have often read how, in the last moments before death, one's life flashes before one's eyes. In this very long chapter seems to be a review of all of the people known to Mr. Harrel, including all those he cheated and swindled.

The sensible Mr. Simkens, another of Mr. Harrel's creditors enjoying this dinner, came to some conclusions about Mr. Meadows: " ' ... if I might take the liberty just to put in, I think if he neither likes walking, nor riding, nor sitting, nor standing, I take it he likes nothing.' "


Captain Aresby then joined the group, much to the bewilderment of the creditors, who could not understand "one word in ten" that the Jargonist said. Harrel, by this time thinking only of his bottle and the deed he would shortly do, seemed unaware of what was going on around him. Cecilia, becoming increasingly incensed by being detained for what seemed to her just another night of meaningless revelry, was increasingly longing to be gone. Not just yet!

Jill Spriggs

Re: Burney: Cecilia, III:5:11: Phantasmagoric: Suicide, the Spectacle

This is indeed another one of Burney's phantasmagoric chapters set in a large public place where even if people aren't literally in masquerade, each plays his part according to a role.

What is it Shakespeare said about "All the world's a stage..." The curious thing about this insight is it is not only ultimately deeply sceptical about all value, but it casts shadows on the idea there is any one reality.

The depiction of Harrel is powerful. Burney seems unable to give us a sense of a deep-musing consciousness, but as sheer external dramatic narrative this is an effective piece because Harrel's desperation pervades the scene. It seems nightmarish. All the different types come up and harass or laugh or look uncomfortable or startled. Morrice, as ever, busies himself sitting everyone and looking after their creature comforts.

There is something heroic about Harrel, something magnificent. Nancy is right to say we now realise among the man's other problems he is a compulsive gambler. Gambling is back in in the US. Where it was once illegal, it is now legal or about to be legalised. Casinos open up everywhere. Sometimes one wonders why anyone ever thought the world could be run according to rational and enlightened self-interested ideas. In 1782 the philosophes were in the midst of their campaign to get rid of state-lotteries. I believe our founding fathers (enlightenment types) thought such things were monstrous as well as ways of getting large amounts of money from the deluded poor.

Monckton's presence adds something dark and sinister partly because he is so intelligent and can articulate what is morally right or wrong in a sensitive imaginative way. Yet of course chooses not to follow these precepts except when it suits him.

I imagine LaClos reading this. Let us think of an English version of Madame de Merteuil sitting by her Valmont nearby as La President de Tourvel laments sorrowfully over what possibly could be troubling poor Mr Harrel.

Ellen Moody

Re: Burney: Cecilia, III:5:11: "Ill Usage" from her husband

No where in Austen do we get a sense that men were allowed to beat their wives in the 18th century. No where do we get a sense of any particular male in the books beating his wife -- or threatening her. Mary nags Charles, but he doesn't pull his arm back and let her have it -- as he might have in real life. We get violence in the Juvenilia, but it is displaced and so exaggerated and caricatured, we don't quite take it seriously. It is not prepared for, and anyway there is no emphasis on individual relationships. One of the undercurrents of the Harrels' relationship which makes it less sentimental than the relationship between Rawdon and Becky is Priscilla's fear of Harrel. I take it that she is not prone to imagining things or fretting about what doesn't happen. She is very alive to physical discomfort. There are hints in the earlier chapters that she is afraid of him. In these five we see he has threatened to beat the hell out of her if 1) she doesn't get money from our Cecilia; and 2) Cecilia leaves the house; and especially if 3) they go to Europe. I think Mrs Charlotte Smith's poems in a very guarded way suggest her husband beat her when they lived in a remote farmhouse in France together. The eyes of the world were not on people in remote places -- still aren't.

Mrs Harrel's fear of Mr Harrel is not played up or Gothicised; all the more is it effective when you think about it: "I verily think in his rage he will half murder me.' " It's too bad Burney censored her heroine as an aspect of herself so that we couldn't see what would be also been the reality: Mr Harrel wrenching Cecilia's arms for example. This kind of violence does occur sporadically in Evelina (from Sir Clement Willoughby, in the gardens), though it's muted.

Here one should really read Laurence Stone's Uncertain Unions and Broken Vows.

Ellen Moody

Re: Burney as Relevant

At 06:37 PM 8/9/98 -0400, Nancy Mayer wrote:

I am surprised that those who complain of the irrelevancy of Austen to today's world are not falling all over themselves to read, praise and quote Burney. If Cecilia were written in today's language it could pass as a commentary of today. We would have to jazz Cecilia up a bit to make her more active and dress the people in contemporary clothes while substituting cars for carriages as well but when we have done that we would have a novel that still talks about values that are curent today.

The miser still values accummulation of money over all else. The man of pride is affronted at the thought that ONE of THOSE People ( substitute race religion sexual orientation or occupation for People) would have the audacity to think s/he would be welcomed as a member of his family. We still have people who gamble themselves into debt; we have those who live in credit until they have to declare bankruptcy. We have silly women whose only activity appears to be going to the mall and spending money when she is not partying. They are all still with us including the man shot by someone who took offense at a minor action. There is the poor family suffering from the death of ther main bread winner about whom the employer cares little.

We may not approve of Cecilia's actions or her response to these people but I have known each and every action described to us to have been repeated in today's world. Some I have known the participants personally others I have read about in the paper.

Burney is not irrelevant but her style of writing makes seeing the relevancy difficult.

Nancy Mayer

Very well put Nancy. I expect the content of the novel was a strong reason for its popularity and influence.

The curious thing is I think during the 19th century and until recently Burney was seen as a deep conservative, yet everything she puts forward feeds into the Jacobins novels of the 1790s. In fact she is far more daring and explicit in her portraits, and is much less sentimental and didactic. We have few goody-goodies. Another thing Burney shows us is how inadequate are the political labels we attach to novelists of this period.

Ellen Moody

True - but my point was that 5am (ugh! the thought makes me shudder - I'm not one of nature's early risers!) was not quite so horrific as it might seem to today's clockwatching age. Undoubtedly Priscilla was trying to hustle Cecilia, but even then she had some extenuating circumstances in that she was genuinely worried about their impending bankruptcy, which was rather more serious in 18th century than it might be today.

Interesting also that Burney (unlike Austen) acknowledges domestic violence as a fact of real life. At times Austen's world is a bit on the well-ordered side; there's something of a dark undercurrent to Burney (cf for example The Wanderer)


Re: Burney: Domestic Violence as a Fact of Real Life

Yesterday Robert wrote:

"Interesting also that Burney (unlike Austen) acknowledges domestic violence as a fact of real life. At times Austen's world is a bit on the well-ordered side; there's something of a dark undercurrent to Burney (cf for example The Wanderer).

I think the absence of this kind of material in Austen's books is important in understanding the problem that critics and readers have who want to make her books socially relevant have when they come to argue for their point of view. Warren Roberts is forced to argue that because something is not in the text, because Austen is silent about it, its important. Others take slight vague hints about slavery or other really dreadful and common behavior of her period and build long essays or books on them. The kind of hint I am thinking of here is how we are told of the whipping or flogging of a soldier as part of a report which goes to show that "nothing much happened, just the usual sort of thing"). Those people who want to read in Austen's books a happy complacent acceptance of the world can do this with ease, and many readers of Austen are people who don't want to hear about unpleasant things -- like blood and terror and the grinding sordid dunning of creditors who are not bad guys because they have been fleeced by these apparently comfortable and immune gentry and artistocrats. Some sequels show that there are readers who find in Austen Harlequin romances.

Of course we don't know that Austen's letters did not include a good deal more of the more harsh and directly and actively painful aspects of real life than the kind of gossip Cassandra didn't destroy. We are missing "the majority" of her letters said one of her descendants.

Many people today are uncomfortable asserting that a book is great or important based sheerly on its aesthetic values. They think it must have social relevance or not be important, and that social relevance must be progressive or enlightened and hopeful. Literature courses turn into cultural studies courses. That one can havea deep rich and satisfying private experience which relates to one's own life in ways that issue in no useful action or improvement of the world is something which does not count in what's published. A rare exception to this is Byatt and Sodre's Imagined Characters. Even this is too upbeat. An interesting difference between Byatt and Sodre's book and Lascelles' is the latter cannot be turned into sociological gossip while Byatt and Sodre's can.

Cynically but truly enough one reason for the need to justify literary studies either as socially relevant or giving us historically important truths is the need to justify a salary. The average person respects science so there is also a need to pretend to objectivity and to make theories which give literary studies a patina of hard work. I am always amused by the idea that older critical books are obsolete because we have "gone" beyond that in the 1980's. It shows a complete misunderstanding of the nature of reading imaginatively, of how the experience of reading is meaningful to people for real. Not that there aren't books which are written to issue in action. Cookbooks and mechanical handbooks come to mind.

The key to Austen's books is they are finally inward. They are about the anguish or joy of what goes on in the mind of those characters in them capable of feeling deeply and wanting to act morally. They are about perceptions of the absurdity of our lives. They are also at times as dark as Burney's but the darkness is in how Austen's heroines perceive life and people not what her characters actually do. Words have great power words to give some people pain -- then again domestic violence is something that probably comes on top of perception. So Austen's novels are tamer and allow readers to read them as accepting and hiding the real world.

Ellen Moody

Date: Thu, 13 Aug 1998
Reply-To: Jane Austen List
From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. III, Bk. V, Ch. XII, A Man Of Business, Part two

I wonder how many people these boxes were built to accommodate. It sounds like it was getting pretty crowded.

Sir Robert at a distance saw the party, and that it contained Mr. Marriot, angrily approaching the box and demanded conversation with Mr. Harrel. He soon perceived how intoxicated Harrel was and any remonstrance would be in vain. It was then that Sir Robert noticed the polyglot assemblage within, and indignantly asked the reason. Burney does manage to get off some well turned phrases, and I especially enjoyed this one: "Mr. Hobson, who, to the importance of lately acquired wealth, now added the courage of newly drunk Champaigne ..." Hobson was not about to relinquish his place, but the more politic Simkens hastened to offer his. Harrel responded to Sir Robert's angry inquiry with another invitation to join the party. Sir Robert, quite offended that Harrel had so lost his senses as to even assemble such a group, refused, proceeded to offer provocation to Mr. Hobson the bricklayer, and only the terror of Mrs. Harrel, and the dignified pleas of Cecilia, induced them to desist. Sir Robert gave over the effort, and took Morrice's place next to Mrs. Harrel. Mr. Simkens scolded Mr. Hobson for his lack of decorum, and Mr. Harrel continued to pour down the wine, becoming more and more indiscreet. He urged Simkens to return to his seat, and canvassed Morrice to go out and bring back more company. Cecilia in an undertone, asked Morrice to bring no one, and he promised to comply. Harrel then began to loudly sing (recalling to me the image of Joseph Sedley, also in his cups, singing in _Vanity Fair_; was it not also in Vauxhall?) and Cecilia heartily regretting ever consenting to accompany him that evening, began to ponder possibilities for getting Priscilla back home. Sir Robert, seeing her unease, offered to escort the two of them home, and Cecilia despite her aversion for him, was considering his offer, when Mr. Marriot angrily shoved in his oar, feeling that he should at least be allowed to accompany the ladies home in return for his two thousand pounds. When Morrice returned without any more company, Mr. Harrel noisily prepared to procure some himself. Cecilia and Priscilla pleaded with him to desist insulting them, and he, suddenly embracing and kissing his wife, " .. wildly jumping upon his seat, he leapt over the table, and was out of sight in an instant." At first they thought he had finally left for his chaise, but the sound of a pistol shot put an end to this surmise.

I know a woman whose husband committed suicide, and this is the method he chose. He requested that she invite their two closest friends to their home for dinner one evening. They noticed that he seemed abstracted, but did not comment. When dinner was finished and the women were clearing the dishes, he excused himself and went to the bathroom. Seating himself in the tub, he shot himself, so as to make the mess which they would have to clean up less onerous. He planned it that way so that his wife would not be alone with him when he killed himself; she would have her dearest friends there to support her. Could it be that Mr. Harrel for the first time in his life, did his best to be kind in the method he chose for doing away with himself? His wife would not be compelled to see the body, there would be others there to deal with the consequences of his decision. And Cecilia would be there to comfort her friend.

Jill Spriggs

Re: Cecilia,III:5:12: The Crazy Mismatched Group in the Box Around the Madman

I hadn't thought of what a crazy mismatched group Harrel was bringing into that box. Also Jill is right: it seems to be pretty crowded in there. Cecilia must be positively squeezed. Was not Evelina similarly squeezed on some occasion in Evelina? Yes the intoxication of Joseph Sedley occurred in Vauxhall too. Now that it was that prevented Becky from landing Joseph as a husband. The next day he was so sick and embarrassed he fled. I thought one of the reasons Simkens declined to be as obnoxious as Sir Robert Floyer is Floyer is pretty quick with that sword. I have read of several cases in the latter 17th and early 18th century were an aristocrat got away with murdering someone in a duel because he was an aristocrat (in case anyone thinks times have changed, I allude to a famous athlete who recently got away with... as have some movie-stars in the recent past). Duelling was for gentleman; only they were "allowed."

After Jill told her story of someone she knew who committed suicide, I sat back and tried to think if I have ever known anyone who committed suicide. I have read about this, and known people who knew someone, but not myself been personally acquainted with a successful suicide. Attempts, yes. But attempts are sometimes calls for help. Jill offers a sympathetic interpretation of Harrel's behavior. DId he do it in public and with Cecilia nearby to make it easier for Priscilla? It's attractive, and maybe so. After all once he is dead, Priscilla cries and remembers how she knew him originally. He also has a moment of tenderness for her for a split second before he remembers how shallow, frivolous and uncaring has been her behavior since their marriage. We ought not to make them real people, but perhaps Burney wants us to remember they never had children too.

I hazard the guess that also Burney has given us a convincing portrait in this scene of a man who has gone more than half-insane. People who kill themselves are often in the grips of a kind of madness. He is frenzied in his behavior, driven. He is neurotic in his gestures. Obsessive. Perhaps he didn't want to go off without making a final spectacle of himself as Somebody. He didn't want to go out like some squirrel squashed by a car. He wanted a Fuss Over Him. It would give the act some meretricious meaning. He would be Remembered.

Do others have other ideas.

Ellen Moody

Date: Thu, 13 Aug 1998
From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Burney: Priscilla very irritating

I agree with Ellen about the unsympathetic qualities of Priscilla. I do think that Burney deliberately created her this way, and after, all, have not we all known our Priscillas? Powdered princesses, even moaning their difficult lots in life?

Jill Spriggs

Subject: Cecilia, III:5:12: The Crazy Mismatched Group in the Box Around the Madman

Dear Ellen;

He didn't want to go out like some squirrel squashed by a car.

I loved that! Elegantly put!


From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. III, Bk. V, Ch. XII, A Man Of Business, Part three

Sir Robert again offered his services in getting the ladies home, but they could not abandon the scene just yet. Cecilia had difficulty in resisting the impulse to see for herself what was happening, but she could not leave her friend. All but Mr. Marriot and Sir Robert had left them, and Cecilia and her friend felt increasingly panicked by the lack of news. First Mr. Marriot was begged to get some news, and when he did not return, Sir Robert was " ... entreated to procure information." Every moment passed with leaden feet, and alone the women waited for news. They saw a waiter pass covered with blood, and when they asked what it was from, he answered, " ' From the gentleman, ma'am, ... that has shot himself ...". Priscilla fainted, and Cecilia, feeling rather woozy herself, lowered the two of them to the ground as gently as she could. They were finally offered assistance by an elderly gentleman, who told them that Mr. Harrel was not yet dead. Cecilia was goaded into action; she flew about the garden, sending waiters after medical help, and toward the fatal scene. Mr. Marriot found her, assured her that Harrel was already being attended by a surgeon who happened to be present in the gardens at the time of the attempt. His opinion was that the wound must be mortal, and soon they were joined by Sir Robert, who informed them that all was over. Cecilia, in spite of the usage she had received at the hands of Harrel, then had to be supported to the nearest box and receive a dose of "hartshorn and water". Cecilia, upon recovering, hastened to the side of her friend, who was recalling only " ... the Mr. Harrel that had won her heart." Cecilia found a room in which Mrs. Harrel could be tended to, and she, with the assistance of Mr. Marriot and Sir Robert, made arrangements for the body. She was appalled that, in the fifteen minutes between his shooting and his death, not one friend came forward to make his last moments easier. Sir Robert, probably hesitating to soil his snazzy clothes with blood, defended himself, " ' Where would be the good, ... of supporting a man in his last agonies?' " His unfeeling attitude was no surprise to Cecilia, who ignoring his callousness, asked him what should be done. On response to his advice, she summoned undertaker's men to remove the body to the nearest undertaker's. She asked Sir Robert to stay with his friend until the body was removed, but he agreed only on the condition that she remain until he returned, " ' ... for I have no great ambition to sacrifice the living for the dead. ' " Cecilia scornfully replied, " ' I will promise nothing Sir,' ... shocked at his callous sensibility; ' but if you refuse this last poor office, I must apply elsewhere; and firmly I believe there is no other I can ask who will for a moment hesitate in complying. ' [I really like this part:] She then went back to Mrs. Harrel, leaving, however, an impression upon the mind of Sir Robert, that made him no longer dare dispute her commands."

Cecilia then had to find a way of getting her friend back home. She felt she needed assistance that she would not find if she employed a hackney coach, and she hesitated to make use of Mr. Marriot's offer of his family coach. In spite of her reservations, she decided to accept his offer. He soon returned from his mission of sending for his carriage, urging the women to not think of leaving yet; Mr. Harrel's corporeal remains were just then being transferred to the undertaker's coach. While they waited, Sir Robert returned and confidently expected to have the honor of accompanying the ladies in his coach. An ugly scene threatened between Sir Robert and Mr. Marriot when who should very fortunately appear but Mortimer Delvile. Cecilia begged the thunderstruck Mortimer's protection. He of course complied, and with some relief Cecilia quitted her two would be rescuers. While she was away arranging for the assistance of Priscilla to their chaise, Mortimer heard the horrible tale of the events of the evening, and gave Cecilia, upon her return, much praise for her presence of mind. Imagine the chagrin of the two would be suitors, to be balked of their glory and left behind to cover the bill for the evening.

Too bad!

Jill Spriggs

Re: Cecilia, III:5:12: The Death Off-Stage & Through Cecilia's Consciousness

I too thought the last third of this chapter remarkable. I am now wondering if "a man of business" ironically refers to Harrel as well: after all, it was money that did him in.

Like Jill I was struck by Cecilia's speech to Sir Robert Floyer:

' I will promise nothing Sir,' ... shocked at his callous sensibility; ' but if you refuse this last poor office, I must apply elsewhere; and firmly I believe there is no other I can ask who will for a moment hesitate in complying. '

I find I underlined it. There is a brilliance in keeping the suicide somewhat off-stage and having us spend the time with Cecilia and Priscilla wondering what is happening. I thought the long scene (in my Oxford Edition, pp. 415-417) effective. While Burney clearly thinks death must of necessity be a significant thing; nonetheless, Harrel's final moment caught in a single sentence reminded me of some modern novel where the character dies surrounded by strangers who are perplexed what to do with the body as much as anything. Sir Robert was not the only one who would not touch him:

"He had lingered, she found, about a quarter of an hour, but in a condition too dreadful for description, quite speechless, and, by all that could be judged, out of his senses; beyond any power of relief, that the surgeon who every instant expected his death, said it would not be merely useless but inhumane, to remove him till he had breathed his last. He died, therefore, in the arms of this gentleman and a waiter" (p. 417).

I saw in the appearance of Delvile a new plot turn. Burney makes it quite clear in this moment that Delvile loves Cecilia but has been unwilling to let Cecilia know this. We were not sure of this before. For example:

"Approaching her with that air of gravity and distance which of late he had assumed in her presence, he was beginning some speech about his mother; but the instant the sound of his voice reached Cecilia,she joyfully clasped her hands, and eagerly exclaimed, 'Mr Delvile -- O now we are safe! - this is fortunate indeed!'

'Safe, Madam,' cried he astonished, 'yes I hope so! -- has anything endangered your safety?'

'O no matter for danger,' cried she, 'we wil now trust ourselves with you, and I am sure you will protect us.'

'Protect you! repeated he again, and with warmth, 'yes, while I live! -- but what is the matter? -- why are you so pale? -- are you ill? -- are your frightened? -- what is the matter?' (p. 423).

Cecilia cannot blurt it out, but just asks Delvile to take her and Priscilla back to his house, which he does. He goes off to get the carriage, of course learns what has happened, and returns in an emotional flurry which leads him again to speak with intense affection to her (p. 422).

So we are set up for another turn. The two young women are to be taken to St James's Square. Cecilia will be lodged with the Delviles. We know Delvile loves Cecilia but has been hiding it.

What is to be done with Priscilla? To tell the truth, since Burney's book always remains a book, I am worried that once Priscilla is taken care of (the next chapter is called "the solution"), Burney will not have as fascinating or vivid a series of events to go with.

Of course there's Monckton. He waits in the wings.

Ellen Moody

From: Nancy Mayer
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. III, Bk. V, Ch. XII, A Man Of Business To: Jane Austen List

August 13, 1998

The Pleasure Haunts of London during Four Centuries by E. Berefore Chancello (1925) has an illustration of Vauxhall of 1780. Though the focus of the picture is on a woman singer, there are pictures of boxes inthe background. Eight people can be seen in one box which is at least the size of a theatre box. The pipe organ is also inthis box. Below this is another box in which a man sits at a table attended by several servants. Most of the people are walking around -- promenading.

I do not think that the people were suppposed to spend the evening in these boxes. Unlike the theatre these boxes are mainly for eating. People walked around to here the music, see and be seen, and enjoy the gardens. Ursula, I believe, put a picture of Vauxhall on a website, earlier. I do not know if it is still there.

Nancy Mayer

Nancy's post makes me wish there were an equivalent of Jane Austen's England called Fanny Burney's England. Instead of chapters on lovely holiday spots on the western shores of England, we'd have disquisitions on gambling halls, the courts, the opera, places where men picked up whores, perhaps pictures of medical doctors, France during the Napoleonic era right after the revolution had failed.

Maybe we should write Maggie Lane and suggest it?

I do think we might consider Burney's private or inner life, the things she saw which she didn't record or analyse, things which she censors out as related to Harrel's suicide, Priscilla's frantic fears, and Monckton's dark ways. Monckton gives Cissy a great deal of money at the end of this week's chapters. Not one I'd like to owe money to.

Imagine if she could have given us a bedroom scene.


From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. III, Bk. V, Ch. XIII, A Solution

Upon their arrival at Portman-square, Delvile requested that the ladies remain in the carriage while he went alone to the house. His surmise was correct; while Mr. Harrel was ending his life, an execution was taking place in his house. Mortimer urged them to repair to his home. Cecilia, fearful of offending his father, but able to think of no alternative, reluctantly accepted. It appeared that Mrs. Delvile, hearing rumors of the execution, and worried by the nonappearance of Cecilia, had sent Mortimer to Vauxhall in search of her.

How did she know Cecilia was at Vauxhall?

Mortimer showed the women to their room, and offered to tell his parents the story of the events of the night when they arose. It was 6 AM, and Cecilia would not quit the side of her friend, who had " .. cried herself to sleep like a child. " At 10 AM a message came from Mrs. Delvile asking if Cecilia would join them for breakfast. She met Mortimer on the stairs. He was again ready to greet her with reserve, but the sight of " ... her paleness, the heaviness of her eyes, and the fatigue of long watching betrayed by her whole face ..." caused him to betray his concern for her health.

Cecilia's fear for the disapprobation of Mrs. Delvile were relieved by her kind reception. Praises were given for her presence of mind, and she finished with, " ' You are indeed a noble creature! I thought so from the moment I beheld you; I shall think so, I hope, to the last that I live! ' " Note that, "I hope"!

Mrs. Delvile eased Cecilia's plight by anticipating her permanent change of habitation, and inviting her to make her home with them for the remainder of her minority.

She then mentioned the plight of Mrs. Harrel. Cecilia, bringing forth the packet with which Mr. Harrel had entrusted her, asked advice for her course of action. Mrs. Delvile suggested that she summon Mr. Arnott, and any other friends she thought could give her advice following the dead man's instructions. Cecilia returned to her friend before the arrival of Mr. Delvile, much relieved and more able to act the role of consoler and friend.

Priscilla was just awakening when Cecilia returned, and she then sent invitations to Mr. Arnott and Mr. Monckton to be present when the packet was opened. Mr. Arnott soon came; he was already in town, being informed by a servant commissioned to watch over his sister, of the events of the night before. Those two were suffering the pangs of guilt; Arnott because he feared his flight must have precipitated Harrel's suicide, and Cecilia, because she disregarded Priscilla's pleas to summon her brother. Mr. Arnott and Cecilia wished to break the seals on Harrel's packet, but hesitated to do so without a third witness. The arrival of Mr. Monckton was uncertain, and Cecilia made the unwise decision to request the help of Mr. Delvile. When she arrived in the breakfast room, her reception was this time not quite so warm; " Mr. Delvile looked displeased and out of humour ... ", probably with the part his charge had played in the ugly proceedings of the night before. Cecilia, disregarding the bad vibes, requested that he be present at the opening of the packet. Mr. Delvile was indignant that such an office would be requested of him, and Cecilia retreated, defeated. As she was informing Mr. Arnott of the ill success of her mission, she was followed by Mortimer, who offered to act the part requested of his father. After a little urging, she relented, and the three of them opened the packet.

Inside a note from Sir Robert was found, demanding satisfaction of a gaming debt, since, " ' ... all prospects are now over of the alliance ...' " There was another from Mr. Marriot, requesting a return for the 2,000 pounds he had paid for the privilege of access to Cecilia.

Last came a letter to his wife, Cecilia, and Mr. Arnott. The most significant lines:

" ' This is what I have wished; wholly to be freed, or ruined past all resource, and driven to the long-projected remedy.

A burthen has my existence been these two years, gay as I have appeared; not a night have I gone to bed, but heated and inflamed from a gaming table; not a morning have I awaked, but to be soured with a dun!" He blamed his wife for not steering him into wiser courses (as if anyone could have!) and asked forgiveness for " ' ... where I have least deserved it! Mr. Arnott -- Miss Beverly!"

In spite of their numerous wrongs, Cecilia and Mr. Arnott wept over this epistle, while Mortimer read it with "astonishment and detestation". At this point Mr. Monckton arrived, and Delvile, seeing Cecilia in the care of her old family friend, departed. She left the packet with Mr. Monckton while she went upstairs to prepare her friend for a conference with her brother. The brother and sister greeted each other with tears (boy, they are a weepy bunch!) and Cecilia left them alone, meeting Mr. Monckton in another room, explaining all the allusions in the letters he did not understand. Mr. Monckton remonstrated with Cecilia upon finding that she had supplied Mr. Harrel with the 1,000 pounds for his last run at the tables. He also moaned about the unsuitability of the guardians her uncle had obtained for her. Mr. Monckton told Cecilia about Harrel's last night at the tables, when he lost the whole 3,000 pounds on one throw of the dice. He knew he had used up all his resources for further cash, so he then " ... went home, loaded his pistols, and took the methods already related to work himself into the courage for the deed."

Cecilia also found that Harrel had kept his creditors at bay by claiming that, when Cecilia reached her majority, she would clear all his debts. Thus the urgency of her remaining in his residence.

Mr. Monckton inquired disapprovingly why Cecilia was in residence at the Delviles when she had determined to find refuge with Mr. Briggs. " ... she gave a circumstantial account of her visit to him, related the mean misery in which he lived, and told him the impracticability of her residing in such a house." He could no longer scold; he accepted the inevitable.

At that point the true deviousness of Monckton's character was revealed. He asked Cecilia what she had borrowed from the money lenders. It was 9,050 pounds, almost the totality of her 10,000 pound inheritance from her parents. He knew that such a debt, contracted of a minor, could not be binding. He did not tell her this; he instead offered to pay off her debtors himself, accepting her repayment when she turned twenty-one. His only condition; that their transaction should be secret. If it was made public, the unnecessity of it would surely have been made known by Mr. Briggs. Cecilia, by that time averse to secrecy in any matter, declined this condition. Mr. Monckton did not press, but promised to make the arrangements the next day, before she would be leaving town with the Delviles.

Mr. Arnott and Priscilla were still weeping away when Cecilia rejoined them. They agreed that he would take Priscilla to his country house, then return to town to make arrangements for the funeral, and to see if anything could be rescued from the creditors. When Cecilia was summoned to dinner, she accompanied the pair to their chaise, and parted with Priscilla with many "protestations of faithful regard".

Mortimer was no longer to be seen that day. The next, she met Mr. Monckton at the money lender's place of business, where she saw all her old bonds destroyed, and new ones of her debt to Mr. Monckton drawn and signed. With apprehension Mr. Monckton saw Cecilia's time of residence with the Delviles begin. Cecilia, contented with her day's work, indulged herself with a visit to the Hills before her return to St. James-square.

Jill Spriggs

August 16, 1998

Re: Cecilia, III:V:13: Matter Enough for Many Novels and Aftermath

I was struck as I was reading this chapter by the sheer amount of events, types, plotlines, and details we are given. We have enough here for five, much less one novel. I know that in a typical Dickens novel there is enough material for at least 5, but there is a difference in that Dickens de-emphasises some characters and plotlines and details so that we see them at a distance, as it were, get a glimpse of a novel going on elsewhere we could be reading but are not.

Another important aesthetic element Burney has not sufficiently dealt with is climax. One should not have too many climaxes, or, to put it another way, those climaxes one has ought to come towards the end of a book and be intertwined with one another. The climax of the Harrel story does lead to Cecilia coming to live with the Delviles and puts her in Monckton's power. But this becomes just one turn in the plot. One wonders what subsidiary group of characters will Burney come up with next? Or will Monckton come to the center of the stage? By-the-bye, Cecilia's lack of sexual knowledge is the only thing that makes credible her relative unawareness of how Monckton can now use that enormous debt to get her to marry him -- we are I guess not to think for an instance our paragon would ever consider going to live with anyone outside marriage.

The scene between Cecilia and Delvile père was striking. In many ways Delvile reminds me of Sir Walter Elliot. I think Austen and Burney are caricaturing the same type. Apparently this kind of man was common in this period. Ouch. I think they are still with us, but they keep their arrogance and shameless self-centered approach to life to themselves when in public. I was also struck by the real worldliness of Mr Delvile's reasons for not wanting to become involved. It showed in Burney an understanding of how ugly scandal and defamation can work to hurt someone very far away from the original events. I think most people never consider very much how things look in public from far off from them.

There is a vein of understanding about how the world operates in Burney's books which I think Austen understood but which Austen does not bring into her novels. On this element of bad publicity and the use of good reputation to pressure your connections to get for you to satisfy your appetite for sex or luxuries or longing for power, money and futher upper-class or prestigious connections, consider Harrel's "selling" Cecilia to Marriot for a couple of thousand pounds. Since Cecilia is such a sexual innocent, this does not resonate fully in the book. But this sort of thing went on at court -- French and English. It is part of the scene in Les Liaisons Dangereuses; it is alluded to and made explicit in memoirs of the courts of the later 17th, the one Burney resided in and the French courts before and after the revolution. In Victorian novels one comes across stories which male writers can dare to tell of an old man trying to get rid of a young wife by inviting a friend over and giving him ample opportunity to cuckold him in order to collect evidence to divorce the wife (this is one of the plots in The Claverings by Anthony Trollope).

One can to stop and think about what one is reading. I think the central flaw in this book is there is just too much here. Burney has ten novels which call out for uncensored development. It's true she may not have had the psychological acuity to imitate the consciousness of a mind and pull a story out of this (which Austen does). But also as a woman and dependent daughter Burney didn't dare to do more than broach the topics of selling one's women for money and position or revenge, of the use of money to get power over others, and of the reality that ugly scandal can hit people in ways they cannot control and scandal is what people thrive on and many get a kick out of saying ugly things (to recur to the topic which will be in the newspapers in the USA tomorrow, I fear no one will pay attention to what Clinton is doing to help the Russian crisis in the banks over their rubles).

Yes the Arnotts are weepy bunch (Priscilla was born Arnott). But if you think about the world Burney is describing I suppose I don't blame them. It's curious how Harrel's note suggests he longed to do away with himself for quite a while, knew he was living the life of a useless sleaze, loathed himself at some level. I also liked Cecilia's remark about Priscilla's dismissal from the the world's stage: "she hoped that a new scene, with quietness and early hours, would restore both the bloom and sprightliness which her late cares and restlessness had injured" (p. 426). The only trouble with this is Cecilia is crediting Priscilla with how she would have felt. When Priscilla meets another male who will provide, she will marry and it will be as if Harrel never existed and Priscilla if pushed will rationalize away all that happened so she is not to blame.

Ellen Moody

To Austen-l

August 16, 1998

Re: Austen and Burney: Dickensian Moments

Last night I went to see Great Expectations: The Musical. It was very good as a dramatisation of Dickens's novel; it was strong on sentiment and something I'll be content to call charm. These neither Austen nor Burney have. What they do have is a love of words as funny, especially when they reveal the inner pragmatic absurd man (or woman).

Among Austen's Dickensian moments are many of the long speeches by Mrs Elton in Emma. Equal to her is Mr Parker of Sanditon, among whose speeches perhaps something of Jingle's "sagacious dog -- very" speech may be on occasion heard:

"'Our Coast is till full,' repeated Mr Parker, 'On that point perhaps we may not totall disagree; at leat thre are _enough_. Our Coast is abundant enough; it demands no more. Everybody's Taste and everybody's finances may be suited. And those good people who are trying to add to the number, are in my opinion excessively absurd and must soon find themselves the Dupes of their own fallacious Calculations. Such a palce as Sanditon, Sir, I may say was wanted, was called for. Nature marked it out, had spoken in a most intelligible Characters -- The finest, the purest Sea Breeze on the Coast -- acknowledged to be so -- Excellent Bathing -- fine hard sand -- Deep Water 10 yards from the Shore -- no mud -- no Weeds -- no slimy rocks . . . But Brinshore, Sir, which I dar say ou have in your eye -- the attempts of two or thre Speculating People about Brinshore, this last Year, to raise that palry Hamlet, lying, as it does, between a stagnant marsh, a bleak Moor and the constant effluvia of a ridge of petrefying sea weed, can en in nothing but their own Disappointment. What in the name of Common Sense is to recommmend Brinshore? A most insalubrious Air -- Roads proverbially detestable -- Water Brackish beyond example -- impossible to get a good dish of Teat within 3 miles of the place . . .

And so he rushes on. It is as good as Diana Parker's long speeches and letters.

Well the first of this week's chapters of Burney's Cecilia brings us three similar types: there's Mrs Belfield who believes Cissy is dying for her young son; and there are the two eminently reasonable and ever so humane creditors, Mr Hobson and Mr Simkins. Probably what is the problem in this chapter is Burney doesn't let go. She persists in controlling these voices. They are kept withint the bounds of a scene or speeches. Dickens and Austen invite us to delight in their delight. Burney shies away.

Still the speeches are there. There's Mrs Belfield's: "to be sure what I think I think" (Oxford ed, MADoody and PSabor, V 3, Book 6, Ch 1, p 442).

Then there's Mr Hobson reasoning about Mr Harrel's suicide:

"And man has a right to his own life, you'll tell me; but what of that? that's no argument at all, for it does not give him a bit the more right to my property; and a man's running in debt, and spending other people's substances, for no reason in the world but just because he can blow his brains out when he's done -- thought its a thing neither lawful nor religious to do; -- why it's acting quite out of character, and a great hardship to trade into the bargain" (p. 447).

Here's a typical bit of Simkins to Cecilia on last night's work:

"'Sad work, ma'am,' said he, 'who'd have thought Mr Harrel asked us all to supper for the mere purpose of such a thing as that? . . . But when a man's conscience is foul, what I say is it's ten to one but he makes away with himself. Let every man keep clear of the world, that's my notion, and then he will be in no such hurry to get out of it" (p. 444).

This is delicious. Simkins doesn't understand the other meaning of the phrase, "Let every man keep clear of the world" is keep well away from everyone, period.

There is also much snobbery here. We are invited to laugh at the dithering fools who are anxious to make money as the greatest joke of all. Today my husband said to me that I was "dissipating his substance, and with gay abandon," which I denied. What was funny was the language. Joe Gargery could do no better than Mrs Belfield, Simkins, and Hobson.

Some of the comedy here is I suspect supposed to double back. Simkins, Hobson, and Mrs Belfield are all ultra-polite to Miss Cecilia. What would they say if they knew she had lent Mr Harrel over £9000 of her substance and was only in funds due to Mr Monckton? Indeed Cecilia seems to have forgotten this; she worries only because her "bookseller" is yet unpaid.

Funny, funny chapter -- if only Burney could have let go a bit more.

Ellen Moody

Contact Ellen Moody.
Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
Page Last Updated 9 January 2003