Volume 4, Book 7, Chapters 1-5

Not Enough Naked Truth; A Renovation; Time Out to Recharge One's Battery; A Visit; Burney & Austen: Fidel and Lady Catherine de Bourgh!; An Incident; Cecilia: P&P and S&S; A Proposition; The Clandestine Marriage; A Letter; Mortimer's Long Letter

To Austen-l

August 29, 1998

Re: Burney, Cecilia, IV:7:1-5: Not Enough Naked Truth

As I glanced at this coming week's chapters and saw that again we have Cecilia fleeing one house and finding refuge in another, it struck me this ought to be a poignant book which enrages me. Here is a wealthy young woman who cannot find a place to be secure and at peace in. We could say her upbringing, the people whom she looks to for respect and companionship, her world (shopkeepers, business men, lawyers, prospective marital partners) would shun her were she to live alone.

And there's part of the problem. Not for a moment does Burney ever think to buck the values of her world. We are given no sense she could go out on her own -- as did a number of the radical or feminist Jacobin women.

One might say, well Burney went beyond this in The Wanderer. Although the heroine there is fleeing an abusive husband, still she tries to make it on her own. She takes jobs. Curious how Burney cannot conceive of an individual apart from a social context. Many writers of the time did; not everyone lived in a continual circle of friends. Far from it.

However, the reason the book does not have the effect on us its content ought to have goes deeper. It's in Burney's pride. Since she identifies with Cecilia, she cannot for a second show Cecilia to be truly vulnerable, to be faulty, to be weak, to have self-doubt in any radical sense. A woman who runs from house to house would have that. What else but self- abnegation and self-distrust would have made Burney succumb to her father's demand she sell herself to become a 24 hour a day manikin courtier. Cecilia reminds me of Sir Charles Grandison. The guard is never down. Not for a moment. Austen's goes down -- with Marianne, with Elinor, with Fanny, with Anne Elliot, to the side of the story devastatingly with Jane Fairfax.

Nowhere is the naked truth of a woman's life that is at the heart of this book shown to us without its being gussied up and obscured by the screen of language and false pride of Burney herself.

Again what might say, Well what do you expect? Even disguised as a novelist, she could not tell what life was really for her for it would bring derision, anger, rebukes, and no sales. This too holds for Austen.

When we read these insufferably snobbish scenes of Cecilia's response to Mortimer, let us keep in mind that Burney herself married a penniless French aristocrat and proceeded to support him on the earnings of her pen in a cottage she paid to have built on rented land.

Ellen Moody

Date: Sun, 30 Aug 1998
Reply-To: Jane Austen List

From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. IV, Bk. VII, Ch. I, A Renovation

With such a very long book such as this one, I get such a feeling of achievement when we begin another volume. Doesn't take much to give me a thrill!

Before Cecilia's chaise was well away, she found that it was being hotly pursued by poor Fidel, who must have been feeling forlorn, both his master and mistress having left him behind. After the wayward dog was returned home, Cecilia left the environs of Delvile Castle for what was prove to be a long time.

The vision of Mrs. Charlton was as welcome as a long drink of cool water on a hot day; " The sight of that lady gave her a sensation of pleasure to which she had long been a stranger, pleasure pure, unmixed, unaffected and unrestrained: it revived all her early affection, and with it, something resembling at least her early tranquility: again she was in the house where it had once been undisturbed, again she enjoyed the society which was once all she had wished, and again saw the same scene, the same faces, and the same prospects she had beheld while her heart was all devoted to her friends." (Oxford Cecilia, Ed. M. A. Doody and P. Sabor, p. 529)

Ah, but Cecilia, you can never go home again ...

While Mrs. Charlton had all the intelligence which Cecilia could desire in a congenial companion, her judgment was not always infallible. She was an old softie, and her sympathies were easily worked upon by any hard luck story going. Due to this weakness, the unfortunate lady had her two granddaughters take up residence with her, to save their inheritances from being drained by misplaced generosity.

Once again we come upon a situation that is commonly found in contemporary society. I know one beleaguered lady in her eighties who would be benefited by a medical treatment which would take one hour once a week. It could even be done in the comfort of her home, which would raise the cost from $45 to $60. Her children prefer to cart her off to her physician's office, a 45 minute drive each way, to have the physical therapist give her twenty minutes of the therapy twice a week. By doing this the treatment is covered by her insurance, and the money saved will remain intact for their inheritance. I hope when I am that age, I am mean enough to make my kids hesitate before they think of pulling that with me.

These mean spirited granddaughters did not allow Mrs. Charlton to cultivate friendships with anyone who might have mercenary motives. Since that encompassed just about everyone, one can imagine the pleasure with which Mrs. Charlton greeted the arrival of Cecilia. The orphaned child had regarded her as a mother, and the two were ecstatic. " The revival of this early connection delighted them both, it was balm to the wounded mind of Cecilia, it was renovation to the existence of Mrs. Charlton." (p. 531)

Cecilia soon notified Mr. Monckton and Lady Margaret of her arrival, asking when it would be convenient for her to call. Lady M of course gave a barely civil answer, but Mr. Monckton came right over. Mr. Monckton was surprised and elated at Cecilia's arrival, and almost complacent about his eventual prospects when he saw, thanks to his judicious questioning, that Cecilia had not left Delvile Castle with warm fuzzy feelings about the family and, by extension, their son. Mr. M felt increasing confidence of his returning power over Cecilia, when she resided in a place where he so evidently was the superior of all male company.

The next day Cecilia called upon Lady Margaret, whose heart Cecilia's absence had not made fonder. In fact, I think her suspicions must have been excited by her husband's prolonged absences during his trips to London, even if they had not been before Cecilia's departure. Lady Margaret's only companion, other than Miss Bennet's, was Mr. Morrice. He alone had sufficiently thick skin to endure her, helped by his hope of " ... a handsome legacy for his trouble." Lady Margaret's opening remark could hardly endear herself to Cecilia: " ' So you are not married yet, I find; if Mr. Monckton had been a real friend, he would have taken care to have seen for some establishment for you.' "

Of course, Mr. Monckton could hardly be considered a real friend.

Mr. Morrice recalled the night of Mr. Harrel's suicide, and apologized for his inattentiveness after the fact. He was presumptuous enough to ask for an introduction to Mr. Delvile, which Cecilia was aware the "Don Puffabout" (p. 95) would scarcely thank her for.

Once again Mr. Morrice proved himself an adept at verbal gymnastics. Always trying to say what would please, and quickly backpedalling when he found himself less than successful. He suggested that she would want to live in a house of her own when she reached her majority, a prospect of which Lady Margaret disapproved. Mr. Morrice agreed that of all things would be most dangerous for a young lady, and changed the subject to that of the forlorn aspect the isolated castle of Mr. Delvile. Cecilia stated that " ' ... I was very well satisfied with it.' " Mr. Morrice then enlarged upon the romantic aspects of " ' an old castle in a large park,' " which recalled Lady Margaret to a subject painful for Cecilia. " ' Aye, ' cried Lady Margaret, ' they said you were to become mistress of it, and marry Mr. Delvile's son: and I cannot, for my own part, see any objection to it.' " (p. 533)

Poor Cecilia. Neither could she.

Mr. Monckton then entered with some male guests and there was "general conversation" until Cecilia prepared to leave. He took this opportunity to show Cecilia "some alterations in his grounds", really desiring to ascertain if Cecilia yet suspected the motives for Lady Margaret's unfriendliness to her. Mr. Monckton knew that if Cecilia suspected the true state of things, she would avoid him completely, to avoid giving "encreased uneasiness" ( p. 534) to Lady Margaret. Mr. Monckton was working very hard to encourage Cecilia to make visits to Lady M without expecting a return, when Mr. Morrice startled them both by jumping out from behind a bush.

" ' So ho!' cried he with a loud laugh, ' I have caught you! This will be a fine anecdote for Lady Margaret; I vow I'll tell her. ' " (p. 534)

Mr. Morrice found he had chosen to tangle with a rattlesnake. Mr. Monckton shortly had him so befuddled he scarcely knew where he stood. I had to smile at one of his sallies:

" ' Why you won't pretend Miss Beverley say you were the truest Ouran Outrang, or man-monkey, she ever knew?'

' No, indeed, I did not!'

' No? -- Nor how much she admired your dexterity in escaping being horse- whipt three times a day for your incurable impudence? ' "

Cecilia adjourned to the chaise to allow Mr. Monckton time to mop up the bloody remnants of Morrice's self esteem. Needless to say, Mr. Morrice decided to say nothing of his encounter with Cecilia and Mr. Monckton. Cecilia determined not to soon visit Lady Margaret again, not because she suspected her jealousy, but because the lady's dislike for her was but too obvious.

Talk about ungratifying visits, Cecilia's next one was to her partner in adversity, Mrs. Harrel. The novelty of life in the country had soon worn off and Priscilla was sadly lost without " ... a party to form, nor an entertainment to plan, company to arrange, nor dress to consider ... " . I found the following portrayal of her personality right on the mark:

" ' This helplessness of insipidity, however, though naturally the effect of a mind devoid of all genuine resources, was dignified by herself with appellation of sorrow: nor was this merely a screen to the world; unused to investigate her feelings or examine her heart, the general compassion she met for the loss of her husband, persuaded her that indeed she lamented his destiny; though had no change in her life had been caused by his suicide, she would scarcely, when the first shock was over, have thought of it again.' " (p. 537)

Priscilla was glad enough to relieve the tedium of her country residence with a visit from the friend she had formerly regarded as tiresome, especially since Cecilia promised that she could come to her home as soon as she reached her majority.

Mr. Arnott was even more pleased with Cecilia's visit than his sister. It was with regret that Cecilia found herself unable to return his love. Mortimer had " ... shut up her heart, for the present, more firmly than ever ... " . The initial agony of their permanent (as she thought) separation was gradually losing its sharpness. She had not confided her secret to Mrs. Charlton, and " ... allowed herself no time for dangerous recollection; strolled in her old walks, and renewed her old acquaintance, and by a vigorous exertion of active wisdom, doubted not compleating, before long, the subjection of her unfortunate tenderness." (p. 537 - 538)

Cecilia was proving to be stronger than Mortimer in exercise of self will.

Jill Spriggs

Date: Sun, 30 Aug 1998
Subject: Burney: _Cecilia_,IV:7:1 Time Out to Recharge One's Battery
To: austen-l@vm1.mcgill.ca

As everyone who has read Austen's novels knows, her heroines frequently take time out to recharge their batteries. Elinor, Marianne, Elizabeth and Jane Bennet, Fanny Price, Emma Watson, Jane Fairfax, Catherine Morland, Anne Elliot, and even on occasion Emma Woodhouse all retreat to their rooms upstairs to quiet their hearts, hide their agitation, calm their anger, or otherwise compose themselves before sallying forth to do battle with the world downstairs again. I take Burney's title for this chapter (Renovation) to refer to a similar regathering of one's forces or strength to come forth again. Life as battle.

Jill brought home to us a couple of things about this chapter I hadn't noticed. For example, have a look at not at how Mrs Monckton says something, but what she says. She is clearer sighted than our Cissy. She's right. She says, If onckton 'had been a real friend' to Cissy, 'he would have taken care to have seen for some establishment for' her. We know he was much happier to make her his debtor. She is pragmatic; what could be the objection to Cecilia on the part of the Delviles. Of course she'd like Cissy to marry. She is, however, against Morrice's suggestion that once Cissy inherits her fortune, she take up housekeeping on her own. It is often forgotten that the women of the older generation are if anything more against liberating the women of the younger generation than the men.

I thought the whole scene of Monckton, Cecilia, and Morrice well done. Burney was fascinated by monkeys and the like -- she saw the close similiarity between us and them: " ' Why you won't pretend Miss Beverley says you were the truest Ouran Outrang, >or man-monkey, she ever knew?'" I don't think Burney knew that orangutans are hermits. She did not have the benefit of Gildikas's book.

I agree the portrait of Priscilla's steadiness in grief is right on the mark. It's a hard thing to say but many people forget to miss other people if they get someone to replace them. Many people are not concerned with the inner nature of anyone else. Think of Sir John Middleton's amazement at the notion there is an inner nature to be described. "Oh, you mean his character?" (or words to this effect).

Burney is not a sentimentalist and she brings forth the average of humanity. Yet she does believe one can to some extent go home again. Maybe women of her generation needed to believe that. I rather think the real Burney knew better. I see more and more why so many writers say the Burney to study and watch is the woman; only through that perspective do these books begin to resonate their more hidden message.

Ellen Moody

Date: Mon, 31 Aug 1998
Reply-To: Jane Austen List
From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. IV, Bk. VII, Ch. II, A Visit

After a week in her new residence, a mysterious "country man" brought an unexpected visitor. Cecilia's maid entered her dressing room with Fidel, " who jumpt upon Cecilia in a transport of delight." (Oxford Cecilia, ed. M.A. Doody and P. Sabor, p. 538) The man had brought Fidel, gave him to Ralph (one of the servants), and left saying only that a letter of explanation would follow.

Mrs. Charlton was no dummy, and Cecilia saw that her interest was excited by her own "extreme agitation". Cecilia gave her a brief history of her ill starred involvement with Mortimer, and Fidel's relevance to their relationship. Mrs. Charlton was incredulous that any man could resist " ... the united allurements of so much beauty, sweetness, and fortune." (p 539) She suspected Cecilia's reserve was at fault.

Cecilia was bewildered by the meaning of this gift. She knew that Mortimer had asked that Fidel be sent on to him in Bristol, and that his mother would hardly disregard his wishes. She wondered if Mortimer would take the liberty of wishing " ... to present her with such a remembrance of himself ...". She would have to await the letter for the solution to the mystery. Cecilia wondered if Lady Honoria had persuaded him to sent her the dog, if she had told him that Cecilia " ... had herself requested to have him." (p. 539)

When that thought occurred to her, she wanted to return Fidel to the castle, but she determined to await the letter. Two weeks passed, however, and Cecilia realized that Lady Honoria had tossed in that red herring to buy herself time. Cecilia fretted and worried: " ... this present made her fear she was thought meanly of by Mr. Delvile; the silence of his mother gave her apprehensions for his health, and her own irresolution how to act, kept her in perpetual inquietude." (p. 540) The dog wished to accompany her everywhere, and his presence was a distraction.

The suitors Cecilia had rejected while her uncle was alive, returned to renew their suits. Among them was Mr. Biddulph, who had originally told Mortimer of her. He gave her the unwelcome news that, " ' I am, indeed, greatly grieved to find, by all the accounts I receive of him, that he is now in a very bad state of health.' " (p. 541) This, combined with the lack of mail from Mrs. Delvile, caused Cecilia to surmise the worst. Fidel was proving to be quite a comfort, and she consoled herself by " ... fancifully telling him her fears, [and] she imagined she read in his countenance the faithfullest sympathy."

Cecilia, planning to move to a home that had belonged to her uncle, spent her time giving orders necessary to ready it for her residence. At this time Cecilia at long last received the long anticipated letter from Mrs. Delvile. She apologized for her long silence, and said "various family occurrences" had prevented her writing earlier. Mrs. Delvile said that they had all returned to Delvile Castle, and Mortimer was preparing for an extended sojourn abroad. She also added a postscript: " ' We have lost our poor Fidel.' "

While Cecilia was pondering the best course of action to take in response to this startling bit of news, Lady Honoria was announced. Fidel was hidden, and she went to receive her visitor.

Lady Honoria was travelling with her father to visit "a noble family in Norfolk" and had persuaded him to take an ale break at an inn while she stopped to visit her friend. Lady Honoria requested information about Cecilia's activities, but what she really wanted to know, was how Cecilia would react when she found out that Fidel had been purloined and sent by her. Lady H also wished to scold a bit because Cecilia had fled when she fetched Mortimer, claiming that Cecilia wanted him to "comfort and take leave of [her]". " ' But really it made me look excessively silly, when I have forced him to come back with me, and told him you were waiting for him, -- to see nothing of you at all, and not be able to find or trace you. He took it all for my own invention.' "(p. 543)

Surprise, surprise!

Lady Honoria's frank assessment of the sensibility of the two did make me smile:

I am missing Lady Honoria's frank assessment of their sensibilities.

Nancy Mayer

Did you not see, on page 543 of the Oxford Edition, this passage from Lady Honoria, on her visit to Cecilia?

" ' Why now suppose I had brought you together, what possible harm could have happened from it? It would merely have given each of you some notion of a fever and ague; for first you would both have been hot, and then you would both have been cold, and then you would both have turned red, and then you would both have turned white, and then you would both have pretended to simper at the trick; and there would have been an end of it.' "


Jill Spriggs

Re: Burney & Austen: Fidel and Lady Catherine de Bourgh!

Reading over Jill's posting today I came to realise another rather funny parallel: in Cecilia when Lady Honoria gifts Cecilia with Fidel and thereby brings Cecilia's love affair to the attention of Mrs Charlton who forwards it and Mortimer himself to Suffolk who then discovers Cecilia's love for him, Lady Honoria performs the same function as in P&P Mrs Bennet and Lady Catherine. Mrs Bennet insists Jane go by horse and rejoices in the rain; this brings Jane close to Bingley and begins their love affair; Lady Catherine comes to visit Elizabeth and demand Elizabeth give up Darcy; when Lady Catherine's indignation leads her to then turn to Darcy and tell him, Darcy learns Elizabeth cares for him. I, for one, find Lady Honoria, Mrs Bennet and especially Lady Catherine distasteful types, and think we are supposed to draw back from the inner natures of each and reprehend the values they stand for. Yet they all lead to the heroine's final happiness.

I don't think Austen was imitating Burney. Rather this shows their minds worked in the same way, and that's as important in assessing their connection as any particular concrete imitation. The joke is Fidel plays the same role as Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

Ellen Moody

From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. IV, Bk. VII, Ch. III, An Incident
September 1, 1998

Of course Mortimer came back to fetch his dog. And Mrs. Charlton came pretty close to the mark when she guessed that Cecilia's reserve kept him from abandoning all scruples to "throw himself at her feet". I cannot blame Cecilia for resenting those scruples. But in this chapter, hotter heads prevailed, and the hormones got the better of good sense. And hot was just what these two were, for each other.

How it must have hurt, to know that even Mrs. Delvile concurred with the necessity to separate Mortimer and Cecilia. " Her [Cecilia's] own pride, excited by theirs, made her, indeed, with more anger than sorrow [an aside: I was thinking that the saying was 'more sorrow than anger' so I looked it up in Hamlet, and sure enough, it was; I like how Burney turned that phrase about in this instance], see this general consent to abandon her... " ( Oxford Cecilia, ed. M. A. Doody and P. Sabor, p. 546) When she thought of the ill health that had dogged Mortimer's departure, and the possibility of his never recovering, Cecilia sought refuge in garden gazebo, with the company of Fidel.

To the dog alone could Cecilia confide her fears, and imagine the consternation of this very self controlled girl when, in the midst of her lamentations, who should pop up but his truly.

When I read the following passage, I had the irresistible mental image of one of those cartoons where the startled toon had his eyes start from and pop out of his head, to return with a "boing" !

" Her astonishment at this sight almost bereft her of her understanding; it appeared to her super-natural, and she rather believed it was his ghost than himself. Fixed in mute wonder, she stood still though terrified, her eyes almost bursting from their sockets to be satisfied if what they saw was real."

The corporeal reality of Delvile was proved to be all too real when he " ... instantly flew to her, penetrated with gratitude, and filled with wonder and delight, which, however internally combated by sensations less pleasant, were too potent for controul, and he poured forth at her feet the most passionate acknowledgments." (p. 547)

Cecilia's feelings were also "internally combated by sensations less pleasant"; she hastened to assure Mortimer that she had nothing to do with the theft of the dog, and was humiliated when Mortimer replied, " ' And did she also tell you to caress and to cherish him? -- to talk to him of his master --' " Well might Cecilia cry, " ' ... to what has my unguarded folly reduced me!' " Less giddily, Delvile asked why Cecilia was obviously intent on returning to her formerly cold reserved self, " ' ... to sour the happiness of a moment that recompenses such exquisite misery!' "

Even in the heat of his ecstasy, Mortimer has to bring in the fact that their love will cause "such exquisite misery". His emotions of relief and pleasure were alloyed with "sensations less pleasant". The guy makes me so angry I want to slap him. Cecilia would find in her lover no pillar of strength upon which she could lean. All strength for these two would have to come from her.

After several paragraphs of self abuse on the part of Cecilia, she was finally mollified by Mortimer's avowals: " ' I find her more excellent and perfect than I had even dared believe her; I discover new virtues in the spring of every action; I see what I took for indifference, was dignity; I perceive what I imagined the most rigid insensibility, was nobleness, was propriety, was true greatness of mind! ' "

The guy can cover his ass. He did briefly allow himself to forget all the dreadful repercussions of the love he and Cecilia so unwisely shared. But not for long. Mortimer asked to have an audience with Cecilia the next morning, so he could devote that night " ' ... solely to deliberation; to-morrow shall be given to action. Without some thinking I dare venture no plan; -- I presume not to communicate to you the various interests that divide me, but the result of them all I can take no denial to your hearing.' " (p. 550)

With much difficulty did Cecilia get Mortimer to leave her, and when she finally returned to the house, the "smile of much meaning" with which Mrs. Charlton greeted her, told volumes about Mrs. C's intent, and Cecilia scolded her for the "dangerous imprudence she had committed in suffering her to be so unguardedly surprised." (p. 551) With about as much effect as all Elinor's remonstrances had upon Mrs. Dashwood. (Thanks, Ellen, for another perceptive post!)

Mortimer had asked at the door for Miss Beverley, and Mrs. Charlton, liking his looks, " ... had suddenly conceived the little plan which she had executed ... " . Cecilia still did not understand why Mortimer had come in the first place.

The mystery would be solved in the next chapter. All that mattered was that all disguise was at an end. Delvile " ... was now become acquainted with his power, and knew himself the master of her destiny ... ".

Too bad. He would prove a weak reed upon which to lean.

Jill Spriggs

Re: Burney: Cecilia:IV:7:3: & P&P and S&S

As we move towards the letter from Delvile in which he explains his behavior -- which seems to me _the_ source for the climax at Rosings in P&P and makes me begin to doubt P&P was a letter novel -- I recognise all sorts of parallels between P&P and Cecilia. There's the scene in the garden itself, the coming upon one another, and some of the language:

"'Come, dear Fidel!' cried he, still detaining her, 'come and plead for your master! come and ask in his hame who now had a proud heart, whose pride is now invincible_'' (Oxford ed, PSabor and MADoody, Cecilia, p. 548).

It is Cecilia who is now accused of pride, and of course Elizabeth is as guilty of offended pride as Darcy is of snobbish prejudice.

Of course the language here is impossible; no one ever spoke to anyone the way these two young people do. I can only hope that having written Camilla after a real wooing, marriage, and child, Burney will not write such extravaganzas. On the other hand, despite the overblown language, the emotion of the scene feels real and it's effective. He is relieved to know she loves him; she is relieved that he knows. I think this level of caught by the narrator, as when she says to Cecilia it all seemed "a vision of her imagination." Emma cannot quite believe it's Knightley when she goes walking out into her garden.

I'll bet there is another 18th century novel or play of this period which this scene takes off from but we just don't know it. I like Jill's allusion find of Hamlet.

Jill and I are agreed that Mrs Charlton plays the Mrs Dashwood role in encouraging Mortimer to catch Cecilia unawares: the language recalls how we are supposed to regard Mrs Dashwood's behavior first at Norland Park where she was pleased to allow Edward and Elinor to spend much time together and later when she let the same situation develop much more intensely between Willoughby and Marianne (a "dangerous imprudence [which] she had committed in suffering her to be so unguardedly surprised." [p. 551]). I've suggested that Moreland Perkins is not quite right to argue that Edward is the a wholly original conception defying the macho male by suggesting some ways in which Mortimer resembles Edward Ferrars; Willoughby too is, as Jill remarks of Mortimer, a weak reed. That's partly his trouble. Willoughby runs away whenever the going gets rough.

An absolutely thorough modernisation of the language might turn this novel into a typical masterpiece theatre 6 part movie.

Ellen Moody

From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. IV, Bk. VII, Ch. IV, A Proposition

September 2, 1998

Nowadays if someone says, "I have a proposition for you," the speaker often will be eyed askance. Delvile's proposition deserved the same treatment.

The next morning Mrs. Charlton saw to it the lovers would be left alone. But these were not conventional lovers, and instead of each flying to the other's arms, awkwardness and restraint reigned. Cecilia asked after Mrs. Delvile, then conversation sputtered while Mortimer tried to whip up the courage to share his plan to overcome the obstacles facing their marital union. He sputtered out some cryptic nonsense about how at first he made his plans consulting only himself, but reconsidered because there were many who would be affected by his decisions. Cecilia rightfully "made him no answer" since he had given her nothing to respond to. He did not inspire confidence with his next speech:

" ' Upon you, madam, ... all that is good or evil of my future life, as far as relates to its happiness or misery, will, from this very hour, almost solely depend: yet much as I rely upon your goodness, and superior as I know you to trifling or affectation, what I now come to propose -- to petition -- to entreat -- I cannot summon courage to mention, from a dread of alarming you! ' " (Oxford Cecilia, ed. M. A. Doody and P. Sabor, p. 553)

Have any of my readers ever suffered a medical procedure at the hands of someone who, in a misguided effort to be gentle and spare pain, instead draws it out at agonizing length? You want to shout, "Just get it over with! Even if it hurts!" Cecilia should have been warned at this point of what a pillar of jello her prospective spouse was, and thought twice about taking him on.

When Cecilia greeted his awkward efforts with silence, Delvile protested, " ' Is Miss Beverley ... determined not to speak to me? Is she bent upon silence on to intimidate me? Indeed if she knew how greatly I respect her, she would honour me with more confidence.' "

Cecilia should have retorted, " I will when you give me something to respond to." But since this was the eighteenth century, instead she asked, " ' When, Sir, ... do you mean to make your tour?' "

Mortimer again began spewing avowals of passion, but still offered nothing concrete. He offered to make Cecilia his "counselor and guide" but when she responded by urging him to begin his European tour immediately, he hastened to add that, before he could accept her advice, she must do something which would

" ' ... fit you for the charge ... you must be invested with fuller powers, you must have a right less disputable, and a title, that not alone, inclination, not even judgment alone must sanctify, -- but which law must enforce, and rites the most solemn support!' "

Cecilia, feigning not to understand, said, " ' I think then, ... I must be content to forbear giving any counsel at all, if the qualifications for it are so difficult of acquirement.' " (p. 554)

I cannot help but contrast Jane Austen's scenes of high passion with Burney's. Can anyone imagine, even in the eighteenth century, anyone spouting a speech like Delvile's in this instance?

" ' Resent not my presumption, ... my beloved Miss Beverley, but let the severity of my recent sufferings palliate my present temerity; for where affliction has been deep and serious, causeless and unnecessary misery will find little encouragement; and mine has been serious indeed! Sweetly, then, permit me, in proportion to its bitterness, to rejoice in the soft reverse which now flatters me with its approach. ' " (p. 554)

Gag ... retch ...

Cecilia, "abashed and uneasy", realized that Mortimer was saying a lot without coming to the point, and tried to leave, but was detained by that wordy lover and (at great length I am sure) compelled to admit " a frank confirmation of his power over her heart, and an ingenuous, though reluctant acknowledgment, how long he had possessed it." (pp. 554 - 555)

Although at first he was ecstatic over Cecilia's reluctantly admitted confession, Mortimer soon had second thoughts: "The joy with which he heard it ... was not of long duration, a sudden, and most painful recollection presently quelled it, and even in the midst of his rapturous acknowledgments, seemed to strike him to the heart." Seeing Cecilia's reaction to his abrupt change in mood (you know, I start to think the guy is a nut case), Mortimer whined, " ' Ah! Miss Beverley, what words will I find to soften what I have to reveal! to tell you that, after goodness, candour, generosity such as yours, a request, a supplication remains yet to be uttered that banishes me, if refused, from your presence forever!' "

Again the painfully prolonged medical procedure comes to mind. At long last Mortimer managed to blurt out his plan. " ... all his hopes of being ever united to her, rested upon obtaining her consent to an immediate and secret marriage." ( p. 555)

Cecilia greeted this proposition with the scorn it deserved and tried to depart in high dudgeon, but was detained by her would be suitor, who feebly asserted that

" ' ... my scheme ... is the result of deliberation, and ... springs not from unworthy motives.' " ( p. 556) He protested that her purity was valued as "the chief source of my admiration", but Cecilia was not mollified, asking him why then had he proposed "such a project". With difficulty Mortimer admitted that " ' ... my family, I am certain, will never consent to our union!' "

Cecilia had sufficient self esteem to angrily reply, " ' Neither, then, Sir, ... will I! The disdain I may meet with I pretend not to retort, but wilfully to encounter, were meanly to deserve it. I will enter into no family in opposition to its wishes. I will consent to no alliance that may expose me to indignity.' " (pp. 556 - 557)

In the course of trying to persuade Cecilia to reconsider, Mortimer let slip the reason for his visit. His friend, and Cecilia's spurned suitor, Mr. Biddulph, had written and congratulated Mortimer on his conquest. He mentioned that Fidel was Cecilia's cherished companion (guessing the dog was a gift of Mortimer's), and noted that " ' ... at the sound of your name, she blushes; at the mention of your illness, she turns pale ...' " Cecilia "burst into tears" when she realized that her partiality was common knowledge. She ordered Mortimer from her presence, and when he asked when he could return, she cried, " ' Never, never! ... I am sufficiently lowered already, but never will I intrude myself into a family that disdains me!' " (p. 558)

Mortimer swore no one in his family disdained her, that it was only the "fatal clause" that was the obstacle. Using a large number of high flown words, he tried to sweet talk Cecilia into contemplating the step he proposed, and did succeed in softening her enough to agree to receive a letter in which he would better explain his reasons for the proposal of a secret marriage. In spite of being gratified by all his soft soap, " ... she resolved never to comply with so humiliating a measure, but to wait the consent of his friends, or renounce him for ever." ( p. 560)

Ellen has proposed the possibility of a parallel to be drawn between tomorrow's letter, and the letter from Darcy to Elizabeth after her rejection of his marriage proposal. It will be interesting to read it with that in mind.

Jill Spriggs

Subject: Cecilia, A Proposition
To: Jane Austen listserv

Jill, I must tell you I'm enjoying your synopsis of Cecilia immensely. I agree with your assessment of Mortimer, especially with each word he utters. What a dope! What Cecilia sees in him is a mystery. I guess he just must be so much better than her other suitors, he shines in comparison.

I loved her advice to him in this chapter to head on over to the continent with all possible speed. She really ought to stick to that advice and not be talked into anything by this silver-tongued devil.

I too look forward to the "Letter" to come. I suspect, I'll prefer Mr. Darcy's to Mr. Devile's since I have in everything else so far.

Sallie Knowles

Re: Burney, Cecilia:IV:7:4: The Clandestine Marriage

To understand what an insult plus danger to Cecilia Mortimer's proposal of a secret marriage constitutes one has to read Lawrence Stone's Uncertain Unions and Broken Vows. Unless a marriage was performed before properly identified witnesses, signed before some official of the state, it was common for the man or woman or various family members later to try to get out of all obligations. The whole point of the Act of 1753 was to regularise and stop secret marriage.

There is something contradictory or not probable here. If Mortimer really were as sensitive and in love as he claims to be, a man just quivering with sensibility and honour, he would not make such a proposal. Lovelace makes these proposals, not Mortimer. Of course the 18th century might have said Mortimer is kidding himself, and has persuaded himself he really will hold fast to his vows without the paraphernalia of the state and witnesses to keep him to it, but it just is not quite in accord with the uprightness of character Burney has endowed him with.

As in all Austen's novels and as in Evelina, there is a deliberate avoidance of the moment in which the man and especially the woman avow their love. Lascelles explains this away as embarrassment before a press that will make an auto- biographical connection. I think it goes deeper. Jill quoted a portion of it to which I'll add some more lines so that we may all see how reminiscent of such moments in Austen such a scene is: ''Cecilia, "abashed and uneasy", realized that Mortimer was saying a lot without coming to the point, and tried to leave, but was detained by that wordy lover, and

after a short conversation, on his side, the most impassioned, and on hers the most confused, obtained from her, what indeed, after the surprise of the preceding evening she could but ill deny, a frank confirmation of his power over her heart, and an ingenuous, though reluctant acknowledgment, how long he had possessed it.

This confession, made, as affairs now stood, wholly in opposition to her judgement, was torn from her by an impetuous urgency which she had not presence of mind to resist ... The joy with which he heard it, though but little mixed with wonder, was as violent as the eagerness with which he had sought it; yet it was not of long duration, a sudden, and most painful recollection presently quelled it, and even in the midst of his rapturous acknowledgements, seemed to strike him to the heart" (Oxford ed, MADoody & PSabor, pp. 554 - 555).

The closing lines are effective, but how much better it could have been had Burney tried to visualise or dramatise the moment through realistic dialogue -- which she is capable of. The first paragraph recalls several of Austen's scene (Henry Tilney and Catherine, Elinor Dashwood and Edward, Darcy and Elizabeth the second time), even to the rhythm of the lines. I am disappointed at this prudery. It is prudery.

Jill's commentary brings out the salient lines of each chapter, and some central problems and strengths in each, without ever either condescending or overpraising Burney. That Burney has become neither a target or excuse for acrimony nor a totem and excuse for self-satisfied display is due to her tasteful and sensible commentaries.

Ellen Moody

From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. IV, Bk. VII, Ch. V, A Letter

September 2, 1998

Mortimer's letter had at least one thing in common with Darcy's. They were both long.

Mrs. Charlton was eager to receive the good news, but when she heard of the offer Mortimer had made, she was as filled with indignation as Cecilia. Mrs. C agreed with her determination to refuse all further contact until any proposals should be seconded by the would be lover's parents.

Two hours after he left, his letter arrived. His ability to write so quickly passes belief. This was one long letter to be composed in such a short time.

First Delvile bemoaned Cecilia's reluctance to receive letters from him, assuring her of his above board intentions. He weakened his own case, however, by promptly assuring her that " ' ... I have no resource, no alternative, between receiving the honour of your hand in secret or foregoing you for-ever.' "

Mortimer explained the extent and strength of his family's pride in their lineage, and their guardianship of the honour of the name. He was one of the tribe, and " ' ... almost the first lesson I was taught was that if reverencing the family name to which I am born.' "

The letter was a teeming mass of contradictions, but the upshot was that, in return for his giving up his name, he requested that their marriage be kept secret. Not permanently, but only until the ceremony had been performed. Mortimer was so sure of the love of his parents, and their affection for Cecilia, that he was sure that the wayward couple would speedily be forgiven.

Cecilia showed the letter to Mrs. Charlton, who was won over by " ... the frankness with which he had stated his difficulties... " Cecilia still remembered Henrietta Belfield, and decided to first ask about the true nature of their friendship, and then agree to marry him if he first asked the permission of his parents. She suspected he would not. And Cecilia could not so betray the love and regard Mrs. Delvile had always shown for her.

Jill Spriggs

September 3, 1998

Re: Burney: Cecilia,IV:7:5: Mortimer's Long Letter

While Mortimer's letter differs from Darcy's in its subject matter,

It was intended to play a similar pivotal role in the book. Alas, it really doesn't. If we had had no idea that the obstacle to a marriage between Mortimer and Cecilia was the demand that anyone who married her and wanted to inherit her property take her name, then the letter would have the effect of a revelation. But Cecilia has guessed this and it's been made plain for us from a series of hints.

Darcy's letter also reveals some truths about his inner character and history and nature which Elizabeth is completely ignorant of. It begins a revolution in attitudes in Elizabeth towards Darcy and Wickham; it also make us change our minds about what has gone on before, and return to the first part of the novel to reread and see it from Darcy's point of view. Finally it begins a change in Darcy himself. This last Austen is not as successful at showing since Darcy is kept off stage for too long and we see him Before and After (as it were) but not over the long haul of change, which I think Austen intended to do for Wentworth. Still even if she isn't as successful as she meant to be, she has a certain success.

Mortimer's letter does not reveal a man we never expected was there; it is not a startling new perspective on all that has gone before.

That said, it does reveal how much he cares, and I think to the 18th century reader was an important sign that after all Mortimer would marry Cecilia once the obstacle was removed. The obstacle is Cecilia's money and we can remember that Cecilia has been working at losing that as fast as reasonably can be expected.

On the rhetoric I thought I would comment this: while the language and attitudes of Mortimer are extravagant and unreal, the formality of his language is not. I was reading selections from the letters of Anthony Trollope's father and mother before they married, and they do write to one another in what we would consider an oddly stilted and self-conscious manner. They hit a note of distrust and wariness -- which Austen also uses in her letters to her niece about whether the niece should marry or not, and which we can find everywhere in Richardson's fictional letter novels. This hard-core lack of sentiment towards other people's motives lies behind the overdone rhetoric which at the time would have been "read" as a version of politeness and respect. It is hard to get back to the past and read the words in the hum and buzz of an earlier time, and perhaps we should not entirely discount this posing language as improbable to the ears of an 18th century young man and women. Once they got away from the chaperones, and were left to themselves, given the growth in prudery and the strong taboos against any lady yielding the slightest sex to a young man before they were engaged -- perhaps the discomfort the language of Mortimer and Cecilia to one another bears witness to is real or was probable.

Ellen Moody

Ellen Moody.
Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
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