Volume 4, Book 8, Chapters 1-5

An Interruption; How To Control Someone; On the Road; That Poor Dog; A Consternation; Cecilia & Jane Eyre: Two Interrupted Weddings M D'Arblay; Burney & Austen, Cecilia& P&P: Mrs Delvile v Cecilia & Lady Catherine de Bourgh v Elizabeth; Mind-Forged Manacles; A Cottage; The Story of Belfield; Burney & Austen: Wedding v Marriage; Novels for & by Women; A Johnsonian Figure in the Landscape; Written Too Fast

Date: Mon, 14 Sep 1998
Reply-To: Jane Austen List
From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. VI, Bk. VIII, Ch I, An Interruption

After all but dragging Miss Larolles against her will to the inn, imagine Cecilia's perturbation when, " ... instead of finding, as she expected, Mrs. Charlton and fresh horses in readiness, Cecilia saw neither chaise nor preparation ..." Mrs. Charlton was calmly drinking tea with the apparently undamaged Mrs. Mears, and intended to repose the night in that inn, leaving the next morning. It must have taken a great effort for Cecilia to restrain herself from breaking into agonized screams. Instead, "Cecilia begged to speak with her alone, and then represented in the most earnest manner, the absolute necessity there was for her being in London that night..." (Oxford Cecilia, ed. MADoody and PSabor, p. 611) She persuaded the conveniently yielding Mrs. Mears that if she did not get to London immediately, Mortimer would have the right to think himself "extremely ill used" and Cecilia feel herself compelled make reparations by giving him that which he wished, her hand in marriage.

When all was in readiness for their departure, who should come "bouncing into the room" but Morrice (like a bad penny, that guy just keeps showing up at inconvenient times!). He made the pronouncement to all and sundry that he had found out who the mysterious man was who had been dogging them all afternoon. Cecilia, panicked, would have fled to the chaise, but Mrs. Charlton, interested in spite of herself and holding onto Cecilia's arm, compelled her to stay.

Morrice, having left the party in disgrace for having causing the poor little dog's second leg to be broken, had again run into the unfortunate Mortimer Delvile. Morrice could not see who it was, due to his being "muffled up". Determined to find out the identity of the mysterious stranger, Morrice first tried to engage him in conversation, then offered to accompany him on his ride. Mortimer tried to escape, but the leech like Morrice matched his pace. Morrice then needled him with, " ' Pray, Sir, did you know any thing of that company you were looking at so hard just now?' " until the infuriated Mortimer Delvile growled, " ' Pray, Sir, don't be troublesome.' " (p. 612) Morrice could hardly wait to get to the inn to share his discovery. Cecilia had tried to break away, but Morrice stood in her way, and shared his news with the room at large. At last Cecilia escaped with Mrs. Charlton, but not before Mr. Gosport took his chance to urge her to "... lodge an information at the Public Office in Bow Street... [ against that ] suspicious looking man" (p. 613)

In spite of the late hour, Cecilia and Mrs. Charlton managed to get to London that evening without being robbed, arriving at the accommodations Delvile had procured at around 10 PM. It didn't take long for Mortimer to arrive, the ardent lover with no idea of what lay in store for him after his day of aggravation.

With difficulty Cecilia was trying to stammer out her intentions to Mortimer, when Morrice again obtruded his unwelcome presence. The insensitivity of this guy was monumental: "The dismay and astonishment of Delvile at the sight of him could only be equaled by the confusion and consternation of Cecilia; but Morrice, perceiving neither, abruptly called out, ' Miss Beverley, I quite beg your pardon for coming so late, but you must know --' " (p. 615)

t turned out that Morrice had sought Cecilia out to give her the direction to a "dog doctor" for the care of Miss Larolles' dog. Mortimer in an undertone, promised to "get rid of him and return in an instant". Cecilia suffered from an "agony of distress surpassing all she had hitherto experienced." (p. 617) She knew that in her "neighborhood of voluntary spies" (remember that from Northanger Abbey?) the knowledge that Mortimer had been "detected watching her in disguise! he has been discovered at this late hour meeting me in private!" (p. 617) would quickly get back to his parents, with a destructive effect on her reputation.

Mortimer did not "return in an instant". At last he appeared, ".. in great disturbance and evidently much disturbed in temper." (p. 617) He demanded to know what the matter was, why she was evidently so disturbed and depressed. Mortimer begged to be reassured that Cecilia did not intend to back out of their intended marriage. Cecilia told him, painfully, that the letter was intended to do just that.

I liked Mortimer for one of the few times in this book in this following passage, which you will note is stripped of superfluous verbiage.

"Confounded and dismayed, for a moment he continued silent, and then passionately called out, ' Who has been with you to defame me in your opinion? Who has barbarously wronged my character since I left you last Monday? Mr. Monckton received me coldly, -- has he injured me in your esteem? Tell, tell me but to whom I owe this change, that my vindication, if it restores not your favour, may at least make you cease to blush that once I was honoured with some share of it!' " (pp. 617 - 618)

Cecilia reassured him that her feelings for him were unchanged, but " ' ... whatever is clandestine carries a consciousness of evil, and so repugnant do I find it to my disposition and opinions, that till you give me back the promise I so unworthily made, I must be a stranger to peace, because at war with my own actions and myself.' " (p. 618)

Mortimer warned her that the marriage must be performed, that their relationship was common knowledge. When Mortimer had accompanied Morrice to his lodgings, the "impudent young man" had teased him about his passion for Cecilia, and when he returned to her lodgings after seeing Morrice settled with a newspaper, he found Morrice again at his side. " ' I angrily demanded what he meant by thus pursuing me; he very submissively begged my pardon, and said he had had a notion I should come back, and had therefore only followed me to see if he was right!' " (p. 619) If Mortimer did not marry her, Cecilia's reputation would be ruined.

Cecilia begged him to leave, but Mortimer pleaded that she not " ' ... add to the misery of that loss, the heart-piercing reflection of having injured her whom of all the world I most love, most value, most revere!' " (p. 620)

Mrs. Charlton added her opinion: the reason they had made the trip to London would soon be so well known that it would no longer be "judicious nor rational" to postpone the marriage. Delvile thanked her emotionally for her agreement, and so inundated Cecilia with arguments and pleadings, that she ceased to argue, and only asked him to leave. He asked her to consider his reasons for their immediate marriage, and finally left. Cecilia urged Mrs. Charlton to go to bed, and went there herself, resigned to a night of "uninterrupted deliberation".

I am reminded of Peter Pan's reluctance to grow up; " ... the very liberty of choice she had so much coveted, now attained appeared the most heavy of calamities; since, uncertain even what she ought to do, she rather wished to be drawn than to lead, rather desired to be guided than to guide.' " (p. 621)

Finally, after that sleepless night of deliberation, she decided that, " ... so late to reject him must bring misery without any alleviation, while accepting him, though followed by wrath and reproach, left some opening for future hope, and some prospect of better days. " (p. 622)

She decided to marry him.

Jill Spriggs

Re: Burney: Cecilia,6:8:1: How To Control Someone

What Burney enables us to look at and examine is how society and families used to and to some extent still do manage to control their individual members, women especially. Burney shows us the thought processes that lie behind people allowing what they fear other people are thinking of them to control their behavior.

Like Jill I thought Mortimer had a particularly fine moment when he burst out with:

"Confounded and dismayed, for a moment he continued silent, and then passionately called out, ' Who has been with you to defame me in your opinion? Who has barbarously wronged my character since I left you last Monday? Mr. Monckton received me coldly, -- has he injured me in your esteem? Tell, tell me but to whom I owe this change, that my vindication, if it restores not your favour, may at least make you cease to blush that once I was honoured with some share of it!' " (Cecilia, Oxford ed, MADoody and PSabor, pp. 617 - 618).

What I'd like to point out is his frustration at her behavior. He is helpless against her illusion for in part it is an illusion that other people are thinking thus-and-such of her. Cecilia cannot know what other people think; in fact, such notions are childish. Other people most of the time only think of themselves. It takes a long time to realise one's insignficance to other people. Further, as Marianne tells Elinor, if they are going to tell what they fear what someone thinks of them to control their behavior, they shall never act on their own behalf wisely at all.

Cecilia's reply is equally interesting because here I think we see the thought processes that led Burney herself to obey her father and immolate herself into a court role:

"whatever is clandestine carries a consciousness of evil, and so repugnant do I find it to my disposition and opinions, that till you give me back the promise I so unworthily made, I must be a stranger to peace, because at war with my own actions and myself.' " (p. 618).

At every turn this girl is asking herself what Freud called what an imagined superego is thinking. Jill quoted the other line I was struck with too:

"uncertain even what she ought to do, she rather wished to be drawn than to lead, rather desired to be guided than to guide.' " (p. 621).

Notice also how she fears ridicule. The emphasis in the chapter on ridicule as a means of controlling other people through shame is interesting. There are no less than 2 pages on Cecilia's fear of this; Mortimer goes out of his way to assure her no one will laugh, and then goes on to say even if people do, no one can possibly be free of this (pp. 618-20). The defaming too is not linked to anything practical or substantial; it is fear of something within her tranquillity. (I cannot help here but remind everyone who is reading along about how Miss Lewinsky and President Clinton are now being publicly shamed -- and how it threatens his power -- it is important.)

There is some irony directed at Cecilia which reminds me of Johnson. On the last page of the chapter where she is gloomily rehearsing her "bitterness of regret for the error she had committed" [in coming to London, in seeing Mortimer, my God in simply being alive it appears], she thinks to herself "happiness will be unattainable for the rest of her life." Here I hear the irony of Johnson in Rasselas. Burney wants us to know Cecilia is overdoing it. The problem here is Burney still thinks Cecilia is right to push Mortimer away. For those who want to understand the thought processes of how individuals can be controlled by others, this chapter is startlingly explicit.

Ellen Moody

Re: Burney: Cecilia,6:8:1: On the Road

A while back Nancy Mayer (I believe it was, not sure) suggested there was something picaresque about Cecilia. I feel this chapter has a real sense of 18th century life. We get a sense of how isolated people could feel in a world where there are no means of mass or swift communication. We are in a story of people on the road, and they have little trouble getting themselves into isolated places away from others. As I read I was reminded of an excellent movie which really captures what the feel of like was like to people outside the big central cities of Europe, La Nuit de Varennes. Austen is not interested to give us the feel of this empty and somewhat frightening because vast landscape in which individuals wander from place of safety to place of safety (warmth, food, beds, an inn).

Somehow the sense of this was caught up for me in the line: "It was near ten o'clock before they arrived in Pall Mall." I got a sense of a dark large place in which individuals and parties of individuals fitfully moved

Ellen Moody

Burney: Cecilia,6:8:1: That Poor Dog

This is getting to be too much. Two broken legs! Am I to believe this dog survived? What is the poor thing being so mangled for? When Mortimer promises to get rid of the dog, what I am to suppose? He strangled the dog? Where are the howls?

Ellen Moody

If we can't kill it, it's immortal.
---Sign seen in front of gun store

No, no! Mortimer was offering to get rid of the pain in the ass, Morrice, not the dog. Morrice had shown up again to give Cecilia the name of a good dog doctor. I wonder why Mr. Bloodhound did not think to search out Miss Larolles, who would be the one who would want the information.

Jill Spriggs

This atmosphere adding to the nightmarish quality of this whole passage.

Jill Spriggs

Other parallels between the two scenes:

Both heroines in such a state of shock they are tearless, at least at first.

When pressed by their would be husbands, both plead illness.

I do not know if Charlotte Bronte ever read Burney. It seems plausible, and the stormy emotional scenes would probably have been more to her taste than the more internalized emotions written about in the novels of Austen. Nancy is right in that there is nothing remotely resembling it (the abruptly aborted wedding scene) in Austen's novels.

Jill Spriggs

Date: Tue, 15 Sep 1998
Reply-To: Jane Austen List
From: "Jill L. Spriggs" Subject: Cecilia, Vol. IV, Bk. VIII, Ch. II, An Event

Today's chapter contains some of the most realistic dialogue I have read in Burney. I especially enjoyed the true-to-life argument between our loving couple. More on that later ...

Not exactly the portrait of the young bride-to-be filled with happy anticipation, Cecilia was so depressed that Mortimer, when he came again the next morning, feared that her decision had been against him. She was not one to jerk her love around, so she quickly assured him that she had resolved to "fulfill her engagement". Her lack of enthusiasm boded ill; many qualms disturbed her peace of mind. Although she without question loved Mortimer, she had made the decision to marry him as the lesser of two evils. With a sense of dawning joy, Mortimer still offered to let her out of the engagement: " ' ... tell me if your reluctance has its origin in me, that I may even yet relinquish you, than merely owe your hand to the selfishness of persecution?' " (_Cecilia_. Oxford ed., MADoody, PSabor, p. 623). Cecilia reassured him: " ' in you I have all the reliance that the highest opinion of your honour and integrity can give me.' "

This soon pumped the ardent lover up, and he expounded so earnestly with "so much fervor of gratitude" that soon Cecilia began to "share in his contentment". (p. 624)

On again, off again. Cecilia went to Mrs. Charlton (who surely must have begun feeling she was too old for all this excitement) to ask that she attend the wedding, while Mortimer went to a new lawyer friend to ask him to give the bride away. They agreed to meet at the church, to assist the probably futile effort at secrecy.

Cecilia apprehensively hung back when the sedan chairs arrived. She "... sunk into a chair, and gave up her whole soul to anguish and sorrow." Mortimer returned to see why she had not arrived at the church, to find her dissolved in tears. When he asked what the matter was, she sobbed out, " ' Ah! ... Mr. Delvile! how weak are we all when unsupported by our own esteem! how feeble, how inconsistent, how changeable, when our courage has any foundation but duty!' " (p. 624)

I have been accused of having an overactive conscience, but Cecilia makes me look like a sociopath!

Mortimer tried to quiet the fears of his reluctant bride, and soothed her with " ' ... every anniversary of this day will recompense my Cecilia for every pang she now suffers!' " (p. 625) Cecilia promised she would do her best to get a grip, but Mortimer understandably took no more chances, staying with her in the sedan chair all the way to the church.

Mortimer, wanting no more hitches except his own, hustled Cecilia and Mrs. Charlton into the church, gave Cecilia a glass of water, then put her hand into that of Mr. Singleton, the new lawyer, who "led her to the altar". The die was cast, and Cecilia ceased struggling until the priest came to the part where he said, " ' If any man can shew any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together ... ' " both Cecilia and Mortimer had regrets: " ... a conscious tear stole into her eye, and a sigh escaped from Delvile that went to her heart ..." (p. 625) However, when the priest said, " ' ... let him now speak, or else hereafter for-ever hold his peace,' a female voice, at some distance, called out in shrill accents, ' I do!' " (p. 626)

Everything came to a halt, and all turned in time to see " ... a female form ... rushing from a pew, who glided out of the church with the quickness of lightning." (p. 626)

This passage strongly recalled to me the one in _Jane Eyre_ where Jane's and Rochester's wedding ceremony was interrupted by the lawyer of Mason, Rochester's brother-in-law. Of course, in that case, the interruption was explained, while in this it was not. But the ceremony was halted as effectually; Cecilia, at first giving signs of fainting, turned from Delvile when he tried to support her, and holding on to Mrs. Charlton, began to leave the church. Mortimer first asked the priest why he had stopped the ceremony, then attempted to arrest Cecilia in her determined flight. My heart went out to him as he adjured Cecilia, " ' ... turn, I conjure you! -- my Cecilia! -- my wife! -- why is it you thus abandon me? -- Turn, I implore you, and receive me eternal vows! -- Mrs. Charlton, bring her back, -- Cecilia, you must not go! --' " (p. 627)

C'mon, now admit it. Didn't that part leave a lump in your throat?

Seeing that the bird was about to fly, Delvile turned his attention to the bad fairy who had overturned all his plans. " 'Where,' cried Delvile, half frantic, ' where is this infamous woman? This wretch who has thus wantonly destroyed me!' And he rushed out of the church in search of her. " (p. 627)

Everyone came out of their daze, and the lawyer offered to summon a coach, while the priest asked a pew opener if she knew of the woman, and how she had entered the church. Apparently she had come in during early prayers, and had hidden herself until the critical moment of the ceremony. Delvile returned as Cecilia was entering the hackney coach, and told that he had been unsuccessful in ascertaining the identity of the mysterious woman. He tried to arrest Cecilia in her flight, but the shock of the preceding events had robbed her of the power of speech, even of weeping. Poor Mortimer; in despair he cried, " ' You are mine, you are my wife! I will part from you no more, and go withersoever you will, I will follow and claim you!' " Cecilia pleaded that she was ill, and Delvile begged that she " ' ... rest on me! ... rest but upon me until the ceremony is over! -- you will drive me to despair and to madness if you leave me in this barbarous manner!' " (p. 628)

I have to admit this is even more dramatic than the corresponding scene in Jane Eyre, even though the largest obstacle is not legal, but Cecilia's own overactive conscience.

Mortimer pursued Cecilia as she fled into the cab, and with a look of fury at the rapidly growing crowd of interested onlookers, pulled up the glass, which I guess gave the occupants some privacy.

Get over it, Cecilia. Just marry the guy, for Pete's sake!

Cecilia, not up for a debate, resentfully gazed at her persistent lover. Delvile, also angry, cried, " ' Inhuman Cecilia! ... to desert me at the very altar! -- to cast me off at the instant the most sacred rites were uniting us! -- and then thus to look at me! -- to treat me with disdain at a time of such distraction! -- to scorn me thus injuriously at the moment you unjustly abandon me! ---' " (p. 628) Cecilia, in her turn, was also angry. " ' To how dreadful a scene ... have you exposed me! to what shame, what indignity, what irreparable disgrace!' " Mortimer tried to defend himself, asking what it was he had done.

" ' Whence,' cried she, ' came that voice which still vibrates in my ear? The prohibition could not be on my account, since none to whom I am known have either right or interest in even wishing it.' ' What an inference is this! over me, then, do you conclude this woman had any power?' " (p. 629)


Upon returning to the aborted bridal bower, Cecilia ran on ahead, leaving Mortimer to assist Mrs. Charlton up the stairs. He entered to hear Cecilia giving orders for a post chaise, so she could return to her home. He asked her if she " ' ... could suspect that the wretch who broke off the ceremony, had ever from me received provocation for such an action? ' " (p. 629) Cecilia essentially responded, in current language, if the shoe fits, wear it. Delvile was offended.

" ' You are right, then, madam,' cried he resentfully, 'to discard me! to treat me with contempt, to banish me without repugnance [did he mean with repugnance?], since I see you believe me capable of duplicity...' " (pp. 629 - 630)

Cecilia responded that since all their efforts had been thwarted, beset with obstacles at every turn, their marriage was obviously not meant to be. Mortimer, silent until the chaise arrived and Cecilia and Mrs. Charlton were preparing to leave, could hold his anguish in no longer. He remonstrated with her for her lack of trust, and pleaded with her to " ' Trust in my honor! Shew me but the confidence which I will venture to say I deserve, and then will that union no longer be impeded, which in future, I am certain, will never be repented!' " (p. 631) Cecilia told him that she must trust in her conscience, and she would not again consider marriage with him unless he had the consent of his mother (note that no longer did she condition for the consent of his parentS, only for that of his mother).

Cecilia told him not to follow her, seeing he was about to do so. He asked if he should solve the mystery of that morning, the reasons the mysterious woman had halted the ceremony, he could tell her the results he found. Cecilia did agree to that. And she also told him of her love, and the fact that, if there were no familial obstacles, " ' ... the choice of my heart would then be its glory, and all I now blush to feel, I should openly and with pride acknowledge!' " (p. 633)

She had to throw him a crumb to keep him going. And he would.

Jill Spriggs

Re: Jane Eyre and the Bronte heorines.: Cecilia (IV:8:2) & Jane Eyre: Two Interrupted Weddings M D'Arblay

I know the interrupted feast is a trope in literature, but had always assumed that the scene in Jane Eyre where Jane and Rochester's marriage is so abruptly halted and a voice cries out that he knows of an impediment, was theatrical and highly unusual. Maybe not. As I read this chapter, I wondered if Charlotte Bronte had read Cecilia and more than half-remembered it. I suppose this was everyone woman's bad dream. Since we must suppose all women learned to believe that marriage was the be-all and end-all of their lives, to have the cup dashed from one's lips just as one is about to drink in this way would rivet any women reader. I can't remember any similiar scene before Cecilia and the only one I know of afterwards is in Jane Eyre.

Does anyone else know of a novel in which the hero and heroine are at long last just about to swear their vows, and it is all suddenly cast aside, seemingly forever? I would really be interested to know.

I agree with Jill there was some very naturalistic dialogue in this scene. I mean if Burney is not going to write naturalistically at such a crucial point, when is it going to happen. Also we are prepared for more theatricality and melodrama. At such a moment one expects near-tragedy speeches. So Burney's style of language becomes acceptable.

I also here again did wonder if Bronte was remembering this scene. Did not Rochester say he would not part with Jane and would follow her to the ends of the earth before he lost her (in the scene outside her room later that evening). I seemed to hear the tones or note of Jane Eyre in the following paragraph:

'She was now getting into the coach herself, but Delvile who could neither brook her displeasure, nor endure her departure, forcibly caught her hand, and called out, "You are mine, and you are my wife! -- I will part with you no more, and go whithersoever you will, I will follow and claim you!"

"Stop me not! cried she, impatiently though faintly, "I am sick, I am ill already, -- if you detain me any long, I shall be unable to support myself."

"Oh, then rest on me! cried he, still holding her; "rest but upon me till the ceremony is over! -- you will drive me to despair and to madness if you leave me in this barbarous manner". A crowd now began to gather [and listen . . . (Oxford Cecilia ed., MADoody and PSabor, p 628).

This is effective. On one level it's a young girl's romantic dream. I think of the long 17th century French romances where men cannot exist without a specific woman. On the other, it is true to the passionate moment. He was about to marry her. Suddenly she wrenches away. Their dialogue rehearses the values of the time: had she married him, she would have been his; she would have had to obey him as her husband.

Another central element in Cecilia's sudden repugnance and refusal to return, which Jill's choice of quotation brought out was the humilation and shame Cecilia felt. As the crowd gathers and listens, she says she is 'half dead with shame and fear.' He is 'determined to make her miserable.' Indeed he does not care about her at this moment. He forces his way into the carriage, closes the door and drives away, and we get the dialogue Jill quoted, which I only repeat a bit of:

"Cecilia, in her turn, was also angry. " ' To how dreadful a scene ... have you exposed me! to what shame, what indignity, what irreparable disgrace!' " (p 629).

Both enraged, but she is shamed, mortified, and the scene seems in her mind a nightmare. She is what she dreaded, a thing all will ridicule or think a whore, perhaps no longer a virgin and yet not a wife. (This was tough stuff then.)

As I remember Jane Eyre is deeply shamed, and then in Bronte's far bolder and more infinitely more rebellious book, Rochester proposes she become his mistress.

Their final quarrel was true to life; sharp, rebarbative, irritated, exasperbated, the lines short as they hit back and forth, with lines like,

''And may I not acquaint you with [who this was] should it be discovered?'

'I shall not be sorry to hear it. Adieu.'

But he's not taking that. Tell him they will meet again. Alas, we turn back to the rhetoric of the woman who obeys the cant of her period which appears -- in this book -- to be ingrained in Burney's mind. Was it?

No. I returned to Joyce Hemlow's account of Fanny Burney's own wedding to M. D'Arblay and what did I find. Her defying her father, who refused to be present at the wedding. Cecilia seems to say she will only be happy were Delvile's relatives to be there and approve. Fanny Burney dispenses with this. Only six friends or relatives attended the wedding of Fanny and M D'Arblay. It was performed in a country church, unobtrusively (neither had any money or any pretense to youth). In fact the scene in Hemlow's book reminds me of Jane's own wedding to Rochester; also of Plantagenet Palliser's daughter to a plain gentleman at the end of the six Palliser novels. They drove there in a borrowed shabby chabriolet; it was an old Norman church. Then the rites were repeated in a Catholic church. Afterwards we must assume they had a breakfast, went for walk, and returned home. Sans papa and all the paraphernalia of approval Cecilia seems to say she cannot do without.

This by the way is the way Fanny Burney phrased her "yes" to her General:

"Situation, I well know, is wholly powerless to render me either happy or miserable. My peace of mind, my chearfulness of spirits, my every chance of felicity, rest totally and solely upon enjoying the society, the confidence, & the kindness of those I esteem & love. These, I am convinced, will at all times be successful; everything else has at all times failed.

I feel I am learning so much about Austen in a new way by reading Burney

Ellen Moody

Date: Wed, 16 Sep 1998
Reply-To: Jane Austen List

From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. IV, Bk. VIII, Ch. III, A Consternation

By the end of this chapter, I was not liking Mrs. Delvile very much.

The excitement of the last couple of days exacted its toll, and Mrs. Charlton fell ill upon their return. Cecilia had plenty of food for thought. First she suffered guilt for having put her old friend through the wringer that way (forgetting it was just this friend who set things rolling by allowing Delvile to surprise her in that gazebo with Fidel), then she mulled over the identity and purposes of the unknown woman. "At one moment she imagined it some frolic of Morrice, at another some perfidy of Mr. Monckton, and at another an idle and unmeaning trick of some stranger to them all." (Oxford Cecilia, ed. MADoody and PSabor, pp. 633-634) She hardly thought Morrice would take that much trouble, and Cecilia felt Mr. Monckton, for all his disapproval of the projected alliance, " ...was a man of too much honour to break it off in a manner so alarming and disgraceful ..." (think again, honey!). Perhaps Mortimer had a former lover now exacting her revenge. Cecilia, however, " ... could only be steady in believing Delvile as unhappy as herself, and only find consolation in believing him, also, as blameless." (p. 634)

After three days of this emotional roller coaster, Cecilia was stunned to receive a visit from none other that Mrs. Delvile, who must have heard of the unconsummated doings of a few days earlier.

I am not going to do my usual painstaking reconstruction with this chapter because it is another I find very painful to read. This I must attribute to Frances Burney's very perceptive illustration of the susceptibility of a motherless girl to a woman she had come to love as a mother, and how that woman took shameless (at least it seems so to me) advantage of Cecilia's weakness. At first she greeted Cecilia coldly, then, as Cecilia conceded more and more, Mrs. Delvile gradually warmed. When Cecilia commented, " ' It is not in the hope of regaining your good opinion, -- that, I see, is lost!' " (p. 636) Mrs. Delvile gave the partial praise of, " ' No, not lost, ... but if once it was yet higher, the fault was my own, in indulging an expectation of perfection to which human nature is perhaps unequal.' " (p. 637)

Cecilia tried to tell Mrs. Delvile how her conscience had bothered her from the time she had agreed to marry Mortimer, Mrs. Delvile responded with, " ' A mind such as hers could never err with impunity ...' " (p. 636) She expressed misgivings about Cecilia's willingness to hear things she might not like; Cecilia responded in her own defense, saying that she could never be easy unless her conscience acquitted her of wrongdoing. Mrs. Delvile promised that Cecilia could regain her serenity of mind, and " ' ... make me think more highly than one human being ever thought of another... ' ", if she heard her out and complied with her recommendation.

Any doubt as to what that recommendation would be?

Mrs. Delvile told Cecilia she was there in lieu of Mr. Delvile, and " ' ... in the name of our whole family; a family as ancient as it is honourable, as honourable as it is ancient. Consider me as its representative, and hear in me its common voice, and common address.' " (p. 638)

Pretty ponderous, that. One almost expects to hear a peal of trumpets.

" ' My son, the supporter of our house, the sole guardian of its name, and the heir of our united fortunes, has selected you, we know, for the lady of his choice, and so fondly has fixed upon you his affections, that he is ready to relinquish us all in preference to subduing them. To yourself alone, can we apply, and we come to you --' " (p. 638)

Mrs. Delvile was saying, in a manner worthy of her husband, that she was requesting Cecilia give up Mortimer, so he could avoid a complete rupture with his family. She tossed in lots of flattery, but the fact remained that the clause in her uncle's will requiring that Mortimer take her name, was an insuperable obstacle. Mrs. Delvile knew she could not compel her son to give up his determination by persuasion or by force, so she was taking advantage of Cecilia's susceptibility to her, to request that she make the sacrifice of giving up the prospect of marriage to the man she loved, to spare him the alienation of his family. Cecilia agreed, but allowed herself this small rebellion when Mrs. Delvile was effusively pledging her undying affection:

" ' Do not talk to me of affection, madam, said Cecilia, turning away from her; ' whatever you had for me is past, -- even your esteem is gone, -- you may pity me, indeed, but your pity is mixed with contempt, and i am not so abject as to find comfort from exciting it.' "(p. 641)

Mrs. Delvile protested, but Cecilia asked if her carriage was not waiting. Mrs. D tried again.

" ' To part from you thus frigidly, while my heart so warmly admires you, is almost more than I can endure. Oh, gentlest Cecilia! condemn not a mother who is impelled to this severity, who performing what she holds to be her duty, thinks the office her bitterest misfortune, who foresees in the rage of her husband, and the resistance of her son, all the misery of domestic contention, and who can only secure the honour of her family by destroying its peace! -- You will not, then, give me your hand? -- ' " (p. 642)

I think she was asking a lot. For Cecilia to give up any idea of a marriage with her son, while professing her regard for the girl, and even wishing to retain the affectionate relationship they had once enjoyed. I think Cecilia was right to greet her overtures with frigidity. And I was disgusted when Mrs. Delvile, receiving the reluctantly proffered hand, put it to her lips. "Condescension", indeed.

Mrs. Delvile still had to see her son and inform him of the marriage that would never be. She asked to see Cecilia once again that afternoon, before she left. Of course, Cecilia agreed. All will to resist was sapped from her.

Cecilia sought refuge in her own apartment, not being equal to conversation with Mrs. Charlton.

" A misery so peculiar she found hard to support, and almost bursting with conflicting passions, her heart alternately swelled from offended pride, and sunk from disappointed tenderness." (p. 643)

Poor baby!

Jill Spriggs

Re: Burney & Austen, Cecilia(IV:8:3) & _P&P_(II:14): Mrs Delvile v Cecilia & Lady Catherine de Bourgh v Elizabeth

I agree with Jill that any sympathy the reader felt for Mrs Delvile when she seemed to resemble Mrs Tilney (the General's dead wife of NA) or Elizabeth Lady Elliot (née Stephenson, Anne's mother) in the earlier chapters comparing the Delvile ancestral home to a castle are quickly dissipated in this chapter. I was reminded of Elizabeth's encounter with Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Unlike the earlier analogous situation and parallel when Mortimer wrote Cecilia the letter explaining all to her, which I am convinced lies behind the device of Darcy's letter to Elizabeth, I don't believe this scene lies behind Austen's heroine's highly unpleasant, indeed rawly abrasive encounter with Lady Catherine. Rather I think the scene in P&P harks directly back to the scene of the Juvenilia Letters where Lady Greville so mortifyingly castigates Maria in public, making her stand out in the cold wind and forcing her to miss her supper, insulting her all the while. This has its roots in Austen's imagined and real experience. Nonetheless the two scenes are absolutely analogous and comparison sheds light upon them both.

In brief: Elizabeth refuses to knuckle under for a moment. Elizabeth asserts Lady Catherine has no right whatsoever to demand of her nephew that he behave like an object belonging to a family; he need not sacrifice himself to the family aggrandizement and pride. In fact it is hideous and inhumane of Lady Catherine to demand it. Of course there is this difference. At no point has Elizabeth been led to feel the slightest bit of affection and loyalty to Lady Catherine; Lady Catherine has been obnoxious, insufferable, and cold to Elizabeth at each turn. As Jill says, Mrs Delvile can manipulate Cecilia because Mrs Delvile is the one friend Cecilia has made in the book thus far -- except for Mrs Charlton who is clearly a grandmother to Cecilia. Cecilia has also felt for Mrs Delvile. Finally Mrs Delvile does not insult Cecilia, but attempts emotional blackmail through flattery and psychological pressure. Still it is a direct encounter over a coming marriage, many of the terms of the dialogue are similar. Since Austen took the letter device, she knew of this scene.

I also see some similiarities in language now and again. I hear the tones of Lady Catherine in Mrs Delvile's "Miss Beverley, however little acquainted with the state of our family affairs..." (Oxford Cecilia, ed MADoody and PSabor, p. 636). Here is Lady Catherine introducing the story of how she and Darcy's mother came to plan the marriage of the two cousins in their cradles.

Burney is consistently better at pictorial-psychological narration in the omniscient form than she is at either dialogue or straight narration, e.g., "Cecilia started at the question; her heart beat quick with struggling passions ... (p. 638).

I like the fact that Cecilia sees through the pose. So many people refuse to admit they see through such a pose, or maybe don't see through it. Self-delusion is one way of making oneself more comfortable when one is knuckling under to injustice. Cecilia doesn't kiss the whip. Yet she obeys it. We may here have insight into what went through Burney's mind when she obeyed her father or conventional perversions of her spirit.

Now if Burney meant to convey something more in the vein of Mrs Harlowe coerced reluctantly into insanely pressuring Clarissa to marry Solmes, and we were intended to feel Mrs Delvile was twisting herself into knots as she pressured Cecilia, Burney has not succeeded. Now it may be we are supposed to feel Mrs Delvile would rather not have behaved this way. That of course would be the way in real life someone might excuse such behavior. My boss made me; the good cop bad cop game. If so, it doesn't come across.

I thought this was another effective chapter.

Ellen Moody

To: Jane Austen List

I have a Virago edition of Cecilia in which neither the chapter numbers nor the pages are the same as the editions used . Unfortunately this edition lacks annotation; the foint used is also small. On second thought, the small print could well be a necessity as my book has 919 pages as it is..

Neither Mrs. Deville nor Cecilia consider her as being married. Mrs. Deville has Cecilia promise to turn Mortimer from the door without seeing him which would not be a proper suggestion if the two were married. I would fly to the arms of the man I wanted to marry, say let's have the preacher finsih the job, and then ,make certain it was a legal and binding ceremony. I certainly would not turn him from the door on the word of His mother.

Despite the rules and the laws a nd the customs of different times, women of spirit and courage throughout the centuries have defied all to marry the men they wanted.

Poor baby, indeed. Poor dumb chick who seems to be able to act only when it is detrimental to her own fortune, happiness, and future.

Nancy Mayer

From: Nancy Mayer
Subject: Re: Cecilia, Vol. IV, Bk. VIII, Ch. III, A Consternation To: Jane Austen List

I have known women like Mrs. Deville. Some Southern women have the part down to a "t". They can make one feel a worm, a slug, the lowest of the low with that air-- words are not always needed... "I am so disappointed in you.' No wonder Cecilia is crushed.

Mrs. Deville is a hypocrite. She is also a manipulator. Like the batterer she makes the victim feel that her pain and troubles are her fault. "I am only punishing you for your own good.. You know you did wrong."

Do you think we are meant to admire and agree with Mrs. Deville? It was years later before Fanny had the courage to marry against her family's wishes.

Is there suppose to be a moral to this besides pride and prejudice? A moral that is not yet apparent.

Nancy Mayer

Subject: Burney & Austen, Cecilia (IV:8:3) & P&P(II:14):
Mrs Delvile v Cecilia & Lady Catherine de Bourgh v Elizabeth
X-To: Jane Austen List

I thought this was another effective chapter.

Effective, but not pleasant. the emotions aroused by this chapter are not thise which are conducive to a quiet night's sleep; on the contrary, I find that the emotions brought forth by this chapter are not at all pleasant. They have even stirred me to pepper the list with many messages. Nancy mayer

I suggest Nancy's comment is just how Burney wanted us to feel as we read along:

Poor baby, indeed. Poor dumb chick who seems to be able to act only when it is detrimental to her own fortune, happiness, and future. Nancy Mayer

Now if we do feel this, the book then becomes a quiet critique of a society which has internalised its prison in its women's minds. No need for moats now.

Again we can compare Austen. Fanny's self-abnegation turns out to reward her in the end. We could thus say that Burney is the more radical.

I admit I find the whole account of Cecilia's indebtedness confusing. Perhaps though it will be cleared up later.

Ellen Moody

To Austen-l

Re: Cecilia, Vol. IV, Bk. VIII, Ch. IV, A Perturbation

September 17, 1998

Cecilia, in the depths of misery after her visit with Mrs. Delvile, was informed that Mortimer was waiting to see her. The sight of the one whom she loved and could never have, would be infinitely painful. The greeting she gave him was hardly warm.

" ' Mr. Delvile,' she cried in a hurrying manner, ' why will you come? Why will you thus insist upon seeing me, in defiance of every obstacle, and in contempt of my prohibition?' " (Cecilia, Oxford ed., MADoody and PSabor, p. 643)

Mortimer was startled, and reminded Cecilia that she had commissioned him to see her after he had made inquiries as to the identity of the elusive woman who disrupted their wedding. Noticing her face which bore the signs of weeping, this goofball asked, " ' Oh my Cecilia! have I any share in your sorrow? -- Those tears, which never flow weakly, tell me, have they -- has one of them been shed on my account? ' " (p. 644)

No, I stubbed my toe, you dolt!

Cecilia told him to give her his news, because she had some for him he would not enjoy hearing. Mortimer, apprehensive, pressed her to tell him " ' What dreadful blow awaits me?' ", adding that he had been unable to ascertain the identity of the woman, in spite of the fact that " ' ... since we parted I have not rested a moment.' " (p. 644)

As Cecilia was attempting to tell Delvile of her determination to end their relationship, one of the Charlton granddaughters made an untimely entrance, asking her to see her ill friend. Cecilia fled, not to Mrs. Charlton's room, but to her own, unable to face either Mortimer or her friend. After waiting in vain some minutes, Mortimer sent up a message asking to see her again. Cecilia responded that she was not well and could not.

The justifiably annoyed Delvile sent a note telling her that he would wait at his friend Biddulph's home for her to decide to see him again, remonstrating with her for leaving him in such suspense. Cecilia, knowing that she had not the self control to see Delvile without repining over her loss, sent a note to Mrs. Delvile, notifying her of her son's presence in Bury, and asking if she (Cecilia) or she (Mrs. Delvile) should notify Mortimer of Mrs. Delvile's presence, and asking to know what she wished.

After she had sent the note, Cecilia recalled with sorrow her "cold and sullen behavior to Mrs. Delvile". Seems to me the behavior was justified. But this paragon regretted her intractability, and decided to " ...make reparation both to Mrs. Delvile and herself for that which was past." (p. 647) She would need all her fortitude for the coming interview she would have in the next chapter, with Mrs. Delvile and her son. The greatest strengthener of her resolve was the knowledge that the Delviles felt a marriage between Cecilia and Mortimer would be disgraceful.

Cecilia returned to her nursing of Mrs. Charlton and preserved her tranquility by avoiding the subject of Mortimer when they conversed. This calmed her enough so she was able to hear the announcement of the arrival of Mrs. Delvile without dropping any china.

Mrs. Delvile was all gratitude, but the terms of praise she used must have been galling to Cecilia: " ' Saver of our family! preserver of our honour!' " Cecilia apologized for her ill nature of the morning; Mrs. Delvile responded with effusive praise, which Cecilia received " ... as a confirmation of her rejection ... " (p. 648) responding only with a courtsy.

Mrs. Delvile then asked about the whereabouts of Mortimer, adding that she thought it would be best if neither saw the other again. After Mrs. Delvile adeptly guilt tripped her by asking if she wished " ' ... to see Mortimer merely to behold his grief...' " Cecilia reluctantly agreed. It was so sad to read her, " ' I will be ruled by you wholly; I will commit to you every thing ... ' " then see Mrs. Delvile follow up by taking advantage of her power, reinforcing the necessity for the lovers never seeing each other again. More and more she prodded until at last Cecilia cried, " ' Enough, enough, ... I will not see him, -- I will not even desire it!' " (p. 651) Glorying in her triumph, Mrs. Delvile tried to assuage Cecilia's hurt by assuring her, " ' Were any obstacles but this insuperable one in the way, should nobles, nay should princes offer their daughters to my election, I would reject without murmuring the most magnificent proposals, and take in triumph to my heart my son's nobler choice!' " (p. 652)

Cecilia begged Mrs. Delvile not to make it so difficult for her not to regret the loss she was enduring. Mrs. Delvile left, and Cecilia was at last free to indulge freer reflections.

Mrs. Charlton was eager to know the results of the events of the morning, and Cecilia could not deny her some explanation. Her friend " ' ... accused Mrs. Delvile of severity, and even of cruelty; she lamented the strange accident by which the marriage ceremony had been stopt, and regretted that it had not again been begun, as the only means to have rendered ineffectual the present fatal interposition.' " (p. 653)

Cecilia did not regret the interruption of the wedding ceremony, only the obstacle that had caused it. She wondered how Mrs. Delvile had found out about the intended marriage, but could not be surprised, because half of England seemed to know.

Delvile was again announced, and again she refused to see him. He sent a pleading note, vowing to return again in an hour. Cecilia felt herself unequal to an interview, and determined to fly to the home of Mrs. Harrel, resolving not to return to Mrs. Charlton's until Mortimer and Mrs. Delvile had left Bury. Well Cecilia knew what pain as well as pleasure her visit would give to Mr. Arnott, but she could see no other way to avoid meeting with Mortimer. Cecilia sent a note of explanation to Mrs. Delvile, and left before Mortimer returned.

Jill Spriggs

Date: Fri, 18 Sep 1998
Reply-To: Jane Austen List
From: "Jill L. Spriggs"
Subject: Cecilia, Vol IV, Bk. VIII, Ch. V, A Cottage

Here is the chapter Ellen referred to earlier this week, in which Belfield again makes his appearance. Belfield reminds me of a friend who, after college, could not decide what he wanted to be when he grew up. He lived for a while off his wife, playing golf during the day and playing in bar bands at night, he worked for a while as a car salesman, he was employed at a paint factory formulating pigments, and taught anatomy at a medical school, before he decided to go to medical school. He was in his middle thirties when he finished his training and started to make a living. Even now his restless nature is only submerged, and he still has thoughts of living on a beach somewhere playing his guitar for food. Four children and a mortgage make these longings impractical. How long will it take Belfield to decide what he wants to do when he grows up?

Evidently transportation by carriage was fraught with peril; once again in this book a carriage overturned (must have been the high center of gravity). Cecilia and her maid were unhurt, but a man who came to assist them was injured by the carriage wheel's rolling over his foot. Cecilia urged the driver to take the man home in the chaise, while she and her maid continued to Mr. Arnott's on foot, with the manservant on horseback for protection. The accident was fortunate in that it obviated the necessity for explanation of the true reason for the visit. Cecilia was hustled to a room to recuperate (do you suppose her maid servant received the same treatment?) and was thankful that she escaped the need for conversation at least for that evening.

Cecilia did not have a restful night, worrying about the reaction of Mortimer when he discovered her flight. Mrs. Harrel came to her early the next morning, " ... eager to learn why, after invitations repeatedly refused, she was thus suddenly arrived without any ..." (Cecilia, Oxford ed., MADoody and PSabor, p. 656) Fortunately for Cecilia, Priscilla was easily diverted, and soon began a litany of complaints about the tediousness of country life. Mr. Arnott was not so easily distracted, and, like Cecilia, had spent a sleepless night worrying about one he loved. Since Priscilla had given up her researches into the reasons for Cecilia's surprise visit, he did also, resolved only to enjoy it while it lasted. He soon detected her fatigue, and the sadness of her countenance, which intensified his own. Mrs. Harrel also saw the altered looks, but attributed them to the accident the day before, assuaging her concern.

Cecilia sent to find out the status of the injured Samaritan of the day before, and proposed to Mrs. Harrel a walk to visit him, offering " ... him some amends for the injury he had received." (p. 657) They found him a lodger in a cottage owned by another day laborer, working in the garden. When they approached, he attempted to limp away, but ".. a glance ... of his eye..." (p. 658) was enough for Cecilia to realize with a shock of recognition that it was Belfield. Seeing he did not wish to be betrayed to her party, Cecilia hid her surprise, and returned to the cottage, asking after "John". He had been there for a week, and Cecilia, feeling sorrow for the plight he was in, began to return with her friends home. She was stopped en route by Belfield, who it seems had decided to brazen it out. He insisted to Cecilia, Mrs. Harrel, and Mr. Arnott, on the felicity of his present situation.

Cecilia asked, " ' Is this the great secret of happiness, ... nothing at last, but total seclusion from the world?'

' No, madam,' answered he, " It is Labour with Independence.' " (p. 659)

Sounds like a Communist Manifesto.

Puzzled, Cecilia resolved to keep Belfield standing on that sore foot, and away from his work, no longer. She promised to come see him before she finished her visit with her friends. When Mr. Arnott asked Cecilia to feel free to invite Belfield to his home, Belfield instantly proclaimed his intention to " ... have done with visits and society ..." (p. 660)

Belfield admitted that at first he had shrunk from being seen by these acquaintances from the past, but feeling more at ease, invited them to the cottage, where he related the events of the previous months.

The very touchy Mr. Belfield had reacted with indignation when Lord Vannelt, his employer, presumed to treat him as an inferior. He realized that Lord Vannelt was not at fault, but the problem was that he was unwilling to act as anyone's subordinate. " ' I resolved to give up patronage forever.' " (p. 661)

Belfield devoted time and thought to what his next pursuit should be. He totted up all the occupations he had pursued with ill success, and the reasons why. He decided the world " '... was only made for the poor and the rich, ... [and] determined to quit it forever, and to end every disappointment by crushing every hope.' " (p. 663) He wrote to Lord Vannelt, asking him to send his possessions to his mother, and to his mother, to tell her he was well and would write more later.

At first Belfield had decided to become a hermit, but unremitting seclusion with his own thoughts proved to be unhealthy for both mind and body. I had mentioned earlier that I had never seen the influence of Burney's friend Samuel Johnson in her writing. Now I have, in this passage:

" ' Guilt, cried I, may, indeed, be avoided by solitude; but will misery? will regret? will deep dejection of mind? no; they will follow more assiduously than ever; for what is there to oppose them, where neither business occupies the time, nor hope the imagination? where the past has left nothing but resentment, and the future opens only to a dismal, uninteresting void? No stranger to life, I knew human nature could not exist on such terms; still less a stranger to books, I respected the voice of wisdom and experience in the first of moralists, and most enlightened of men, and reading the letter of Cowley, I saw the vanity and absurdity of panting after solitude.' " (p. 663)

Giving up the idea of retreat to a hermitage, he decided to live in the world, but a different one from any he had known before. Fatiguing his body with physical labor enabled him to sleep deeply and well, and his mind ceased to be tortured with futile thoughts.

Cecilia had wanted to hear Belfield's story so she could ascertain how she would best assist him. She saw that he wished not assistance, and when she commented that she hoped someday to see him in a happier condition, Belfield emotionally denied the possibility.

Cecilia then asked Belfield if his mother and sister knew of his activities. Evidently not. He swore,

" ' I will not abuse their affection, nor suffer them again to be slaves to my caprices, nor dupes to their own delusive expectations. ... I fear much the affliction of their disappointment, and, for a while, shall conceal from them my situation, which they would fancy was disgraceful, and grieve at it as cruel.' " (p. 665)

When Belfield lauded the virtues of physical labor, Cecilia asked him why the lot of the poor, who were compelled to engage in it, was held to be so unfortunate. Belfield essentially said that they didn't know any better.

It would not take long for him to change his mind. And the difference of his lot from that of the truly poor, was that he had a choice.

I was amused by one of Cecilia's little speeches to Belfield:

" ' ... surely it is no more than justice to acknowledge, that hard- heartedness to distress is by no means the fault of the present times: on the contrary, it is scarce sooner made known, then every one is ready to contribute to its relief.' " (p. 667)

Spoken by a young woman who had obviously led a very sheltered life! And how odd; wasn't the ambition she held most dear, that of relieving the plight of the poor from her largesse?

Cecilia saw that it would be difficult to formulate a plan for the relief of a man so "jealous in honour". (p. 667) Fear of being misconstrued reinforced her reluctance. She resolved to wait an opportunity for assisting him without danger of misrepresentation.

Jill Spriggs

September 18, 1998

Re: Burney: Cecilia, IV:8:4: Mind-Forged Manacles

Here we have another remarkable chapter which lays bare before us the kind of thinking that permits a society to imprison its individuals and make them immolate themselves before the Gods of Mammon and Prestige. Maybe by making the "insuperable obstacle" Cecilia's name Burney brings home to us (albeit not wholly consciously) how absurd are many of things for which people destroy their lives and pervert their natures and those of others. Very famously a scholar named Foucault blamed the 18th century as a time when instead of relying on external controls, the culture of the period sought to find methods to form personalities so as to inculcate internal controls.

I thought Jill had some funny bits both in this one and in the one on Belfield, viz.,

"No, I stubbed my toe, you dolt!

"This calmed her enough so she was able to hear the announcement of the arrival of Mrs. Delvile without dropping any china."

"Cecilia asked, " ' Is this the great secret of happiness, ... nothing at last, but total seclusion from the world?'

' No, madam,' answered he, " It is Labour with Independence.' " (p. 659)

Sounds like a Communist Manifesto.

Puzzled, Cecilia resolved ..."

It seems to me in Jill's parody we find suggested what is ridiculous in both Belfield and Cecilia's behavior. We can regard them as comparable in some ways: the ultimately virtuous.

I did feel for Mortimer though Jill's right to suggest Burney makes him into a milksop. Again I wonder if it's partly deliberate. I think that Burney means us to see Mrs Delvile as wholly wrong in this may be partly demonstrated by Mrs Charlton's response and comment:

"Her friend " ' ... accused Mrs. Delvile of severity, and even of cruelty; she lamented the strange accident by which the marriage ceremony had been stopt, and regretted that it had not again been begun, as the only means to have rendered ineffectual the present fatal interposition.' " (Cecilia Oxford ed., MADoody and PSabor, p. 653).

On the other hand, the fact remains that until Burney at long last broke away from her position in court -- and that only happened because she became so ill -- she did obey, she would, Anne Elliot-, and Evelina-like justify her the authority figures around her.

The interchange of letters does not work except if we can throw ourselves back into the novels of the early part of the century and read them as icing on the cake and dialogue on a stage of the mind (pp. 646-7). We have to rely on the narrator, but she analyses for us the way Burney herself allowed her mind to be controlled by her father, adopted father, step-mother and the world she was surrounded by:

"To a mind priding in its purity, and animated in its affections, few sensations can excite keener misery, than those by which an apprehension is raised of being thought worthless or ungrateful by the objects of our chosen regard. To be robbed of their society is less bitter, to be robbed of our own tranquillity by any other means, is less afflicting" (p. 654).

A strong passage. What controls us more than when we are told we are ungrateful by those we are taught to love. Whose society do we otherwise have in this capitalist and deeply regimented world (as to classes and families) of the later 18th century?

I really hated Mrs Delvile when she congratulated Cecilia on getting above "the ungenerous triumph of little female vanity" in her rejection of Mortimer. Is this the way the world defines love? Are we any different today? What we sell and rent ourselves for has changed, our pretenses over love have changed, but has the behavior?

I rather suspect Foucault was wrong and the mind has always been imprisoned through inculcation from childhood by family members -- and by fear of recrimination if nothing else. Who can stand alone?

Ellen Moody

Re: Burney: Cecilia: The Story of Belfield

I wish Burney had centred her novel on Belfield. I think I would loved the book had she done that. After Monckton who is kept away from us altogether too much, Belfield is the most interesting character in the book. He belongs to a late 19th century novel about a young man who has gone desperately wrong because he was made to live on the fringes of the aristocracy by deluded and shallowly ambitious parents. I can see an opera. I can hear the plangent songs of despair.

Alas alas. Psychologically and morally considered, he's really the best thing in the book thus far. Perhaps after Karen Kwast writes her book on Dick Musgrove from the point of view of one of his sisters, I will write a sequel to Cecilia and call it Labour With Independence -- from a wholly sardonic point of view.

More on Belfield later this evening.


Reply-To: Jane Austen List
From: Ellen Moody
Subject: Burney & Austen: Wedding v Marriage; Novels for & by Women

This is written in response to Nancy Mayer.

We have to distinguish between the wedding and marriage itself. Austen herself does not care for big ceremonies -- as she does not care for lies and falseness. It is Mrs Elton who sneers at the modesty of Mr Knightley and Emma's marriage (though apparently modern movie- makers think Mrs Elton's attitude is shared by movie-goers). In Burney's Cecilia as in other documents and novels of this period and others we find an intense emphasis on the wedding itself. It seems to be an important goal for many people to shine in the light of others' admiration and envy; to be a star for a moment -- however factitious or ephemereal may be the source of such shining. People today spend thousands and thousands; in Austen's time such ceremonies also demanded the presence of leading family members. Part of Cecilia's distress comes from the lack of approval and lack of ceremony. I was pointing out that in real life Burney herself knew the value of such things was superficial except for those who live by networking.

As to marriage, I would suggest the only heroine in Austen who comes near the problem Cecilia has in the first place is Anne Elliot. None of others appears to dream of marrying without the parent's approval; it doesn't come up. Here we find Burney moving into territories Austen eschewed until late in her career. Further, is there a heroine who is out on her own? All of them live within a family circle. Some of the anti-heroines and subsidary females are out on their own: Lucy and Ann Steele, Lady Susan, Mary Crawford. That's about it. Bronte has gone much further than Burney. Burney must give her heroine guardians, money, access to friends. Jane is alone. She ends up offering a soiled glove to someone in exchange for a piece of bread; she is thrown pig's feed as the pig don't want it.

I would like to offer up a perspective here: there is such a thing as a woman's novel. Long ago both Patricia Meyer Spacks and Ellen Moers wrote of books which all women who are readers read and are part of their memories and fall into a tradition of women's literature. This has been taken up in so many ways; Elaine Showalter; Eva Figes, Susan Gubar have all dealt with this vein or steam or kind of book. So too Brownell. I think Burney's books don't go beyond this tradition. That's one problem with them. But they are central to it and can when compared to the reality of Burney's life, as partly reflected in her diaries show us where women are today too.

Ellen Moody

Re: Burney, Cecilia:IV:8:5: A Johnsonian Figure in the Landscape

It was on another list that I suggested this chapter is written out of a characteristically Johnsonian slant. To compare this one to the closing chapters of S&S where Elinor plays the part of Imlac lecturing to Marianne and her mother is instructive because in Austen's the outer structure of the chapter recalls Johnson, but the inner life of it is filled with romantic material from novels of the period, especially the French and erotic ones which S&S resembles.

Burney's chapter has an inner life which recalls Johnson's point of view. In brief Belfield is an Imlac presented through a Rousseauistic and sentimental slant. It's as if Rousseau has rewritten Rasselas. Belfield has tried it all; from an lower middle class family, he allowed his mother to spend the family's fortune to send him to university; he has travelled; tried to network himself into positions; tried professions, and what he has discovered is the inner life of all these makes them worthless. Everywhere hypocrisy, coldness, ambition, and nothing is done for itself but to compete; what people want is to triumph. So he has opted out. He is now a day-laborer. His mother and sister will no longer starve; he will no longer be humiliated as he tries to make his way. He works so hard and long at night he is too exhausted to brood. Nature is beautiful.

However, unlike Rousseau and even in Johnson we find this figure mocked. Cecilia thinks he is mad.

The conversation recalls the mode of _Rasselas_ and its content again and again:

'And if this', cried Cecilia, 'is the life of happiness, why have we so many complaints of the sufferings of the poor . . .

'They have known no other life . . .' (Cecilia Oxford ed., MADoody and PSabor, p 665)

Cecilia and Belfield also discuss solitude in terms which recall those of Rasselas. Company offers little satisfying companionship; but solitude is not the way to find happiness.

On the other hand, many of the sentiments uttered by Belfield are wholly just. What's more they come out of the perspective which would find Cecilia's obedience to Mrs Delvile absurd, perverse, self-destructive. Let us recall how strong a part her fear of ridicule and being shamed played in Cecilia's decision to abandon Delvile at the altar. I will quote just one. Delvile says (and has examples from his own life to prove it) that

"oppression in a general sense provokes the wrath of mankind, the investigation of its minuter circumstances [in a particular individual] nothing but derision."

A spirit which was capable of passionate revolt wrote this.

Just like Rasselas? While much that Belfield has to say about human nature and society is correct as far as it goes -- a pessimistic view of the world -- instead of subjecting these to irony alone, Burney hopes to offset them by the amazed incredulity of her heroine. The result is most readers will side with the heroine. I think this suggests Burney herself was ambivalent. Also as Belfield presents his case from his point of view there is no sense of irony in his voice; he never for a moment distances himself from what he is saying. The lines are also drenched in emotion. There is no self-directed irony.

And the text goes no deeper into the imagination of a Belfield, into what he is thinking and feeling as he goes about his new life. That is what I think a later great novel could have been created from. The hunger of the imagination for a better world which turns bitter and suicidal because there is none. Only the Mrs Delviles/Lady Russells, only the petty and those who win on their terms and drink champagne with the Harrels.

Ellen Moody

To Austen-l

Re: Burney's Cecilia Written Too Fast

I have been reading Edith Wharton's _The Writing of Fiction_ and think she puts her finger on a central flaw or problem in Cecilia. She says the finest art is one which has no irrelevant details, in which the author selects, distills, and allows the abundance of his or her imagination to overwhelm him or her so that an impression of thinnness and less felt life emerges. Since she also inveighs against the multiplot design of Victorian novels, she probably would use this criticism against far more major authors than Burney too (Dickens, Thackeray, Trollope, Elliot). But I think Burney actually loses an illusion of reality and thins our sense of an enveloping consciousness (Cecilia's) by not giving herself the time to decide what to chose and what to omit.

One key to this mistake lies in the pressure put on Burney to produce this book. This book was written in a very brief time. Remember Burney produced a play; there are but 4 years from Evelina to the printing of Cecilia. Now this speed was the result of pressure from her father and Daddy Crisp. This is ironic. She had to hide the book from them lest it hurt her "reputation;" when Evelina is a success she is rushed into another book and pushed so that it's done while she's still a "hot property" because they want to make money and connections off of her new kind of reputation. Wharton says it needs time to brood, to write, rewrite, and turn and return to chose use just that crucial set of characters and situation and moment (as when Wentworth drops his pen in White Hart Inn as Anne is speaking of how woman love longest) which will convey an indepth lived sense of moral life through dramatic pictures.

Wharton also says great art can only emerge when the author dismisses from her mind her publisher, what the average person might just think of her work, the pressures around her, and really writes out of her heart creating the best she can and taking as long as she has to, to do it. Now that's what Austen did, not that she planned it that way, but that as circumstances turned out, and as she was left in peace by her family, she wrote and rewrote her books many times before they were finally printed. I am of the school which believes that not only the first three novels (S&S, P&P, and NA) were revised more than once, but that MP and perhaps Emma too underwent revision upon revision. The evidence of the calendar for the first suggests this; so too do dates mentioned in the second. The difference between Persuasion and The Watsons also argues that the former is the result of drafts upon drafts. My view of Sanditon is it is the one text we have from the later Austen which is a very early draft (maybe that's why we have the Dickensian flair in some of it).

Ellen Moody

Ellen Moody.
Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
Page Last Updated 18 January 2003