Volume 5, Book 10, Chapters 1-6

A Discovery; Making Individual Characters the Villains; An Interview; Monckton and Mortimer's Duel; A Summons; An Encounter/A Tribute/A Termination; "How very different, from our own dear Mansfield Park"; A Deliberation; A Decision; Beyond Coping; A Prating

Subject: Cecilia,. Vol. V, Bk. X, Ch. I, A Discovery

After Cecilia's eventful trip to London, for the wedding that did not come off, she must have greeted her subsequent trips to and from the metropolis with pleased surprise.

After her return, the curiosity of her guests remained unsatisfied. She did take Henrietta (whom I am showing an unfortunate tendency to call Harriet) aside and confide that she and Mortimer would soon be married (I thought Cecilia had an aversion to falsehood!). Henrietta, no pillar of insensibility (as Cecilia seemed to be), " ... sighed and changed colour; and hastily quitted the room that she might sob aloud in another." (Oxford Cecilia, ed. MADoody and PSabor, p. 833)

Cecilia wisely did not " ... impute to the bad passions of envy or jealousy, the artless regret of an untutored mind ...[and]... grieved for her situation with but little mixture of blame, and none of surprise." (p. 834) The relief of finally resolving her situation with Delvile gave her the heart to spare for her friend.

But Cecilia's serenity of mind would not last long.

Two mornings after Cecilia returned from her wedding, she received a visit from the pew-opener, who wished to tell her she had found out the identity of the woman who had disrupted Cecilia's first attempt at getting married. The pew-opener had seen the mysterious lady in church, and asked her identity of the footman for the carriage she entered. It turned out that the woman was none other than Miss Bennet, who was the companion of Lady Margaret.

" Shocked and dismayed, she now saw, but saw with horror, the removal of all her doubts, and the explanation of all her difficulties, in the full and irrefragable discovery of the perfidy of her oldest friend and confidant." (p. 835)

It was, of course, then proven that Mr. Monckton it was that had circulated the false and scandalous reports about her, in an effort to sabotage her marriage.

Many things finally made sense.

" The officiousness of Morrice in pursuing her to London, his visiting her there, and his following and watching Delvile, she now reasonably concluded were actions directed by Mr. Monckton, whose house he had but just left, and whose orders, whatever they might be, she was almost certain he would obey. Availing himself, therefore, of the forwardness and suppleness which met in this young man, she doubted not but his intelligence had contributed to acquaint him with her proceedings." (p. 836)

Cecilia also comprehended the reason for Monckton's aversion to the Delviles, and Lady Margaret's for her. His too obvious care for the state of her fortune, dislike of her charities, and "... wish to make her live with Mr. Briggs, all contributed to point out the selfishness of his attentions, which in one instance rendered visible, became obvious in every other." (p. 836)

What timing! At just that moment, what visitor should be announced but Mr. Monckton! Unable to face him, she sent word that she was busy and could not be disturbed. Well might Mr. Monckton leave, apprehensive and confused. Cecilia knew that soon he would return and demand an explanation.

Cecilia needed to have incontrovertible proof for her suspicions. She decided to have the pew-opener and Miss Bennet meet face to face. After Cecilia had that proof, she could confront Mr. Monckton and " ... at least save herself the pain of keeping up his acquaintance." (p. 837)

Jill Spriggs

Re: Cecilia, 5:10:1: Making Individual Characters the Villains

The novel climaxes in this final discovery after Cecilia and Mortimer have married. Once again we find some individual is evil. We can therefore (if we are so disposed) take what I'll call the Dickens solution to social problems: what we need is to put good-natured people in charge. If we can't do that, we turn to the Voltaire solution. We retreat and cultivate our own garden. If you are rich, the latter option, while probably lonely, may be feasible. Given what it takes to get into positions of power and authority, the former option is a fairy tale.

The same thing occurs Austen's P&P also -- which I agree with June is in mood, achievement, depth of understanding, characterisation -- wholly unlike Burney's Cecilia. There are, however, ways in which they are alike, and now having read both, I have to say Cecilia is an important literary source or background to P&P, and among the elements in which we can see this may be found the structure. In P&P although many social problems are laid before us, and the ability of people to be deluded or hypocrites is not denied, many of the troubles of the book, including Elizabeth's misjudgement of Darcy, are caused by Wickham. Wickham paid off and out of the way, and we are fine again. Austen also subscribes to the cultivate your own garden feel at the close of P&P where Darcy and Elizabeth can retreat into Pemberley and invite to the place the good people who have brought them together. Burney does suggest that all will not be bliss for Mortimer and Cecilia, just not quite so hysterical.

This is not meant to bash P&P but rather point out why people sometimes find it less compelling or more pure fairy tale book. Austen said it was too light, bright and sparkling and this is not just irony.

A slightly different comparison between the two books is also revealing. Note that Mortimer's letter to Cecilia at the center of the book only reveals to Cecilia what she knows already and is wholly about the hero; she must learn about Monckton separately. Darcy's letter to Elizabeth at the center of P&P also rereads all Elizabeth has concluded in a completely different perspective, and teaches her about Wickham at the same time. It is therefore more concise, more efficient, more dense with all sorts of implications and inferences about reality too. The idea for this kind of episode as a pivotal device may have come from Cecilia -- the parallels are just too striking to conclude anything else. This would also help throw doubt on the theory that First Impressions was epistolary.

Of course the name Bennet links the books also.

Ellen Moody

From: Oldbuks@aol.com
Date: Fri, 9 Oct 1998
Subject: Cecilia. Vol. V, Bk. X, Ch. II, An Interview

The meeting with Miss Bennet never took place. The servant sent to request the interview, after hours absent, returned with the appalling news that Mr. Monckton was dead. Cecilia characteristically was remorseful about the confrontation she had planned for the next day, forgetting how severely she had been wronged by this man.

Cecilia begged off dinner and went into her room to compose a letter to Mortimer telling him of all the events of the day. Being his wife gave her the relief of being able to " ... make him acquainted with all her affairs, and to tell the master of her heart every emotion that entered it." (Oxford Cecilia, ed. MADoody and PSabor, p. 838) Imagine her surprise when, as she was sitting at her desk writing her letter, she received a cryptic note:

" ' My Cecilia! Be alone, I conjure you: dismiss every body, and admit me this moment!' " (p. 838)

Cecilia went to her dressing room and awaited his return, telling her servants to show him in, and not to interrupt them. She saw that his hand had been shaking while he wrote it, and prepared herself for evil tidings.

Mortimer was so upset that he was scarcely understandable. At last he became "more coherent and considerate" and asked why she did not speak. Cecilia pleaded surprise. Mortimer told her that he and his mother were en route to go abroad, and he had intended to make a flying visit to say good-bye before they left the country. Typically, instead of just blurting out his news, he had to say a number of pretty things, all so obviously in a torment that Cecilia at last cried.

" ' Oh, Delvile! ... why will you not speak to me openly? -- something, I see, is wrong; may I not hear it? may I not tell you, at least, my concern that any thing has distressed you?' " (p. 840) The guy just could not spit it out. He asked for pen and paper so he could write to her, and got only a few words out before Cecilia again urged him, to share all that disturbed him; " ' Am I not your wife? bound by every tie divine and human to share in all your sorrows, if, unhappily, I cannot mitigate them!' " (p. 841)

Mortimer made some repentant noises expressing feelings that he had committed a rash act, and Cecilia patiently pleaded with him to tell her what was wrong. After almost four pages of shilly shallying, he finally got to the point.

After he and Cecilia had married, he left her and his mother to make his promised trip to Delvile Castle. While he was trying to tell his father of his marriage, unfortunately probably in his characteristically wordy fashion, Mr. Delvile interrupted him to tell him he had positive proof of "new and horrible charges" against Cecilia. The two quarreled, and Mortimer left swearing to clear Cecilia of the scurrilous charges, without having told his father of his marriage.

Mortimer sent a message to his mother asking her to begin their journey and he would meet her at Margate. His father had inadvertently named his authority, and Mortimer swore he would force Mr. Monckton to retract his lies. He galloped the whole distance to the home of Mr. Monckton, and confronted him. Mortimer (and Burney) for a change was concise.

" ' I accused him of his perfidy; he denied it; I told him I had it from my father, -- he changed the subject to pour abuse upon him; I insisted upon a recantation to clear you; he asked by what right? I fiercely answered, by a husband's! His countenance, then, explained at least the motives of his treachery, -- he loves you himself! ... But the moment I acknowledged my marriage he grew more furious than myself; and, in short -- for why relate the frenzies of rage? we walked out together; my travelling pistols were already charged; I gave him his choice of them, and, the challenge being mine, for insolence joined with guilt had robbed me of all forbearance, he fired first, but missed me: I then demanded whether he would clear your fame? he called out 'Fire! I will make no terms,' I did fire, -- and unfortunately aimed better!' " (p. 845)

Mortimer was seized by Monckton's servants; Monckton appeared to be dead. After he showed signs of life, Mortimer sent for his friend Biddulph, and was allowed to leave. Immediately upon firing, Mortimer was filled with remorse, more for the prospect of his having to come " ' ...to wound you [Cecilia] with such black, such fearful intelligence ...' " (p. 845) than for having injured Monckton.

Cecilia experienced a tumult of wildly conflicting emotions; disapproval of Mortimer's violence, compassion for the motives of his actions ("a generous ardor in her defense"), gratitude for the fact " ... that his confidence in her character, had resisted, without wavering, every attack that had menaced it, ... dread and sadness [of] his necessary absence, -- her own clandestine situation, -- and more that all, the threatened death of Mr. Monckton by his hands..." (p. 846)

Mortimer, depressed after having waited some time in vain for an answer, and auguring the worst from her reverie, tried to snap her out of it: " ' If it is yet possible you can be sufficiently interest in my fate to care what becomes of me, aid me now with your counsel, of rather with your instructions; I am scarce able to think for myself, and to be thought for by you, would yet be a consolation that would give me spirit for any thing." (p. 846)

Cecilia was giving the first evidences of her scattered intellects, and it would have behooved Mortimer well to have taken better note, but he was under such stress at that time that he did not notice. Too bad Mrs. Delvile was not there; I think she, ill as she was, would have handled all these traumas better. Mortimer was terrified by the signs of a wandering mind which he did note:

" ' Oh beloved of my heart!' cried he, wildly casting himself at her feet, ' kill me not with this terror! -- call back your faculties, -- awake from this dreadful insensibility! tell me at least you know me! tell me I have not tortured you quite to madness! -- sole darling of my affections! my own, my wedded Cecilia! -- rescue me from this agony! it is more than I can support! --' " (p. 847)

Cecilia obtained a transitory relief by bursting into tears, much to Mortimer's relief. Finally, after a Niagara of weeping, she "assured him he might depend upon her better courage for the future, and entreated him to consider and settle his affairs." (p. 848) Mortimer did not soon recover from the terror with which he contemplated the possible madness of Cecilia, and only the awareness of the passage of time goaded them into considering what course to take. Mortimer planned to either return to Delvile Castle and finish what he had begun, informing his father of his marriage and of dueling with Monckton, or to go to Margate and immediately accompany his mother to the continent. Cecilia urged him to go immediately to Ostend, where, if Monckton died, he would be safe from being arrested by the authorities. She told him that he could write the news of his marriage and duel to his father from there. Mortimer deplored his rash action, but Cecilia for the first time assured him

" ' ... as to his [Monckton's] wound and sufferings, his perfidy has deserved them.' "(p. 849) He asked Cecilia if circumstances should compel his prolonged residence in Ostend, if she would join him there, and she promised she would. Then she made a fateful request: " ' Shall I follow you at once?' "

Mortimer made a great error:

" ' No, my Cecilia, ... I am not so selfish. If we have not happier days, we will at least wait for more desperate necessity. With the uncertainty if I have not this man's life to answer for at the hazard of my own, to take my wife, -- my bride, -- from the kingdom I must fly! -- to make her a fugitive and an exile in the first publishing that she is mine! No, if I am not a destined alien for life I can never permit it. Nothing less, believe me, shall ever urge my consent to wound the chaste propriety of your character, by making you an eloper with a duelist.' " (pp. 849 - 850)

These silly kids decided not even to tell Mr. Delvile about their son's marriage, or the duel, until circumstances stabilized. Cecilia agreed to write Mortimer daily about the health of Monckton, and Mortimer would leave immediately so he could tell his mother the dreadful news before she heard of it from someone else.

After Mortimer left, Cecilia returned to her vacant state until Henrietta returned to wish her good night and was disturbed by "... the strangeness of her look and attitude..." (p. 851) The affectionate girl offered to stay with the tormented woman, and was comforted for her own woes by assisting the one she so much loved.

Jill Spriggs

From Nancy Mayer:

Mortimer did not have a formal duel with Moinckton as he did not have his seconds call or go through the proper procedure. As he and Monckton were alone, Lady Margaret could have him taken up for murder or atleast manslaughter. The usual consequence of a fatal duel was that the victor fled to the continent. he had to stay there until it was deemed safe for him to return.

This scene explains why Mortimer went off without her. I must admit to being surprised to read that Mortimer had enough gumption to tackle Monckton. The duel was used as a means of retaliation against both crimes and insults. The law was of little use in these cases as it barely recognized the law of slander/ libel ( except against the Prince of Wales -Regent) unless the libel caused a loss of money. The victim had to bring charges against the perpetuator of a crime which meant that few charges were brought if a gently bred female was involved . The men prefered to shoot it out rather than have the female forced into the glare of indecorous publicity. Of course, the duel was based on a superstition of the middle ages (?) that God would be with the righteous and bring him victorious in such a trial of truth. If this was ever true in this sense, it was more so when the men fought with swords than when they used pistols.

Nancy M

Re: Cecilia: V:10:2: Monckton and Mortimer's Duel

Without the consummation of the marriage theses scenes are not rooted in concrete reality. Take for example the intense expression of necessary obedience to her husband which Cecilia exhibits. She must obey his orders: "Be alone ... dismiss everybody ... admit me this moment." This would make psychological sense were she really his wife. Freud argues the point of the virginity taboo is to make the first man the woman has her husband so that she is morally and emotionally enthralled by him. Mortimer's intense jealousy, hysteria and distress and Monckton's violence when he hears they are married would have some grounds if Mortimer had carnally known Cecilia. Monckton doesn't know she is still untouched, the marriage unconsummated (and therefore even in law readily annulled -- this is how Effie got free of Ruskin); but we do. The beginning of Cecilia's descent into withdrawal would also make more sense had she had the intensely emotional experience (or at least so we are asked to assume it was for gentry females at the time) of sex with the man who has possibly murdered another and will now have to flee her.

The comparison is to be sought in Les Liaisons Dangereuses. (published April 1782) La Clos wrote a review of Burney's Cecilia (published July 1782) which praised it very strongly. The difference between Burney's closing duels and the one which ends La Clos' book shows why the first feels so thin and unpersuasive. Valmont has had La Président de Tourvel; he has insulted her afterwards, jeered at her. He has had Cécile Volanges many ways. He has of course been the lover of the Marquise de Merteuil. When le Chevalier Danceny murders Valmont (and Danceny succeeds), he has seen the young girl he loves exploited, himself abused and betrayed. The two women have both lived to the hilt (excuse the Freudian expression) and suffered the extremes of passion. La Président descends to a state as bad as Cecilia's -- and it makes immediate sense. What ties and betrayal could either Cecilia or Mortimer feel without experiencing why such things can be betrayal and why it was felt the degradation needed to be redressed in a way the law was not capable of.

I also find the words Burney gives Mortimer to explain his refusal to take Cecilia with him ludicrous: '"Nothing less, believe me, shall ever urge my consent to wound the chaste propriety of your character, by making you an eloper with a duelist.' " (Oxford Cecilia, ed. MADoody and PSabor, p 850). The chaste propriety of her character? He cannot be real for Burney while she is writing this. The fault here is probably that Burney is writing outside her experience -- and La Clos is not. I should mention that there were a number of French women writing at the close of the 18th century who wrote as boldly and truly about the private experiences of people which led to this kind of revenge scene (and in different ways lies behind analogous ones today) as La Clos. I am not sure whether they were all married or not. Of course the French novel was labelled immoral.

The chapter has real merit too: in the beginning of a quiet tracing of Cecilia's inward collapse. There were some good lines; when Mortimer and Cecilia frantically discuss what to do next, the sentences are short, natural and persuasive; in general the depiction of Cecilia is done so as to prepare us for what's to come. I find myself alternatively so impressed and so irritated by Burney. Had I been made to believe in all Cecilia's sorrows genuinely throughout the book, had she really suffered tangibly and been surrounded by believable presences, I could respond to this descent. It's as if she is continually just missing greatness and instead straining for some effect which is intellectually understandable but not emotionally supported by any imaginative depths. This I take ultimately to be the result of self-censorship.

Ellen Moody

From: Oldbuks@aol.com
Date: Fri, 9 Oct 1998
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. V, Bk. X, Ch. III, A Summons

The jig was up. The secret of Cecilia's and Mortimer's marriage was out, and there was no husband there to support her in her time of urgent need.

First thing in the morning Cecilia sent to the home of Mr. Monckton and Lady Margaret for word about the health of its master. Monckton was still alive, but raving in his delirium constantly about the marriage of Miss Beverley and young Mr. Delvile. The next day brought more alarming news. Monckton had sent for his wife, and blaming her for his misery, even striking her, until she " ... dropt down dead in an apoplectic fit." (Oxford Cecilia, ed. MADoody and PSabor, p. 852) Cecilia saw the irony in Lady Margaret's dying at just the moment when it could no longer serve Monckton's purposes. She wrote the news to Mortimer at Ostend, where he wrote back telling her that his mother's weakness compelled them to rest there until she could recover from their crossing; she had suffered severely from sea sickness.

A week passed in this unsettled state. One morning Cecilia " ... was told a gentleman upon business desired immediately to speak with her." (p. 853) Apprehensively guessing some disaster involving Mortimer, she descended the stairs to find " ... an entire stranger; an elderly man, of no pleasant aspect or manners." He asked her name, she incredulously asked how he could presume to call upon her without knowing it. As Cecilia was about to leave the room, he persisted, and she finally responded that it was Cecilia Beverley. He objected that it was her maiden name, and then he asked her the name of her husband, seeking to find if he had complied with the terms of her uncle's will by changing his. Cecilia angrily asked " ' ... by what authority, sir, ... do you make these extraordinary enquiries?' " (p. 854) Of course, it was the person who stood to inherit the estate if Cecilia did not comply with its terms.

The attorney continued to press Cecilia, and she stammered out, " ' This demand, sir, ... is so extremely -- so -- so -- little expected --' " The attorney predictably felt that sentiment was not germane, and persisted. The next heir suspected that Cecilia was " ' ... actually married, and still enjoying your estate though your husband does not take your name.' " (p. 854) Cecilia responded with dignity that she was not accustomed to practice falsehood; the attorney was not impressed, and requested " ' ... you will satisfy him upon what grounds you now evade the will of your late uncle, which, till cleared up, appears a point manifestly to his prejudice.' " (p. 855) Cecilia pleaded for a week, the attorney reluctantly acceded.

Cecilia asked how Mr. Eggleston had heard of the purported marriage. It then became evident that he thought that the wedding which was aborted, was thought to have been completed. Cecilia blurted out that she had been married less than two weeks. The attorney disbelieved her, and informed her that Mr. Eggleston expected a " ' ... refund [of the income from the estate] from the very day of your marriage.' " (p. 855) Cecilia promised that would be no problem, the attorney skeptically said that remained to be seen. He enumerated the circumstances of the would be wedding, Cecilia responded that circumstances could be deceptive, and the attorney threatened to take the whole affair to a trial. Cecilia expressed shock that the attorney could use such language, the attorney felt that his client had been more than patient, and " ' ... eight months share of such an estate as this, is well worth a little trouble.' " (p. 857) Being informed that Mr. Delvile had left for the Continent, Mr. Eggleston's patience had been exhausted and he felt it was time to take action. He had money troubles, and suggested that she " ' .. advance a particular sum, till it suits you to refund the whole that is due to him, and quit the premises.' " (p. 857) Cecilia declared that ten days' interest would scarcely be worth the trouble, and she would leave the home she had waited so long for, as soon as she could.

With energy did Cecilia rue her secret marriage. Even Mrs. Delvile was included in her remonstrance with those who she felt should have protected her from "such disgrace". (p. 858)

Jill Spriggs

From: Robert Ward
Subject: Cecilia : An Encounter/A Tribute/A Termination

"Cecilia" winds at last to its conclusion. I cannot rid myself of the suspicion that its author was getting a little weary of her task. The plot becomes increasingly fanciful, and contrived (Cecilia going mad, Delvile chancing to meet Ralph), and the language and action becomes highly theatrical, with high-flown exclamations from all and sundry and emotive intensifiers to almost every verb and noun.

For example :

"Cecilia ... tremblingly called out ..."

"'Sweet powers of kindness and compassion!' cried the old man ..."

"'O do not wait to talk!' cried she ..."

"Delvile had vehemently advanced to catch her ..."

"Delvile, strating sudddenly at this call from the deepest horror into the most desperate rage, fiercely exclaimed ..." (why?)

" ... casting himself upon the ground by her side, 'Oh my Cecilia,' he cried, 'where hast thou been thus long? how have I lost thee? ..." (2nd person singular is surely a little archaic by 1782)

and so on.

All a little overdone I feel. The adventures of the increasingly tiresome Cecilia make me appreciate the sensible Fanny all the more : I can easily imagine her putting this novel done, smiling gently to herself : "How different - ", she would say, "- how very different, from our own dear Mansfield Park".

Or another author, coming to the end of Cecilia, saying to herself : "Hmph! I could write a better novel myself! What shall I call it? - ah, yes, that's a good title ..."


Re: Cecilia,V:10:3: "how very different, from our own dear Mansfield Park"

Robert's comment is funny.

This is a brief chapter which concentrates on money and hard-ball negotiations over money. What is striking is the difference between the grandiosity of the rhetoric and the reality of what's at stake. Cecilia is about to be kicked out of her house and she is threatened with debtor's prison unless she pays what she owes from the moment she lived there and was Mrs Delvile until the day she departs.

We could compare this to the usual happy ending. In novel after novel of the period after marriage, we are invited to believe the heroine's troubles end, all is well and must be well, and life basically seems to come to an end as the heroine crosses that threshold to security and joy.

Not so our Cissy. This is to Burney's credit. Let us not forget that. We might also recall that MP opens with three marriages, those of the Ward sisters. Life and money troubles did not end for the three sisters with marriage either; all is not uninterrupted security for Maria Bertam Rushworth nor would it have been for a Fanny Crawford or Mary Bertram either.

Ellen Moody

Subject: Cecilia, Vol. V, Bk. X, Ch. IV, A Deliberation

In spite of the fact that Cecilia clearly saw that " ... this man had been sent with a view of working from her a confession, and terrifying from her some money ..." (Oxford Cecilia, ed. MADoody and PSabor, p. 858), she also acknowledged to herself that " ... she now lived upon an estate of which she was no longer the owner, and that all she either spent or received was to be accounted for and returned ..." At first Cecilia wanted to send to Mortimer to find what she should do, but she feared his showing up just as Monckton died, and being arrested on the spot. She also hesitated to summon Mortimer while his mother was still in such a precarious state. Cecilia took the worst of all courses, and decided on " ... remaining quietly where she was, till she had better news from Delvile of his mother, or better news to send him of Mr. Monckton ... avoiding to alarm him by any hint of her distress." (p. 859 - 860)

Bad idea. Very bad idea.

Cecilia tried to wrap things up in her home, preparatory to leaving, and one of the first things she did was tell Henrietta that " ... they must soon part." (p. 860) The girl was so afflicted that Cecilia heartily regretted the necessity for their separation. Cecilia also notified Priscilla, who was more noisy in her lamentations, but, since Cecilia saw that her bereavement was selfish in origin, she had fewer compunctions about this friend's pain. More difficult was having to inform Mr. Albany of the change in her situation, and he left, convinced of the temporary nature of Cecilia's troubles.

Cecilia did keep busy the next few days.

Monckton lingered, Mrs. Delvile languished, and Cecilia was no closer to a solution for her quandary as the week drew to a close. She decided to ask for more time from Mr. Eggleston. The letter was answered by his son, and it was addressed to Mrs. Mortimer Delvile. Avarice was raging, and demanded satisfaction. Cecilia could see that no mercy would be forthcoming, and she realized the necessity, " ... to save herself an actual ejectment, by quitting a house in which she was exposed to such a disgrace." (p. 862)

There remained only one asylum to her (other than that of Mr. Arnott, which she apparently did not consider), and she resolved upon writing to Mr. Delvile, explaining her circumstances, and asking to be taken in, distasteful as the prospect was. Hoping for the best, but fearing the worst, she continued her preparations for her departure.

Cecilia was compelled to tell Henrietta the date of their separation. The girl, not realizing the gravity of Cecilia's problems, asked plaintively why she was going to " 'cast me off! -- and when you will soon be too happy ever to think of me more!' " Cecilia disavowed any such intentions, attributing their parting to " ' ... unhappy circumstances which make our separating inevitable.' " (p. 864) Henrietta countered that she had to hear from the servants of Cecilia's marriage, and she knew Cecilia was going away to be with her husband. It seems that the servant who had taken the pleading letter to Mr. Eggleston had heard the whole story from the Egglestons' servants, and they were full of the fact that " ' ... their master was to come and take possession here next Thursday.' " (p. 865)

Cecilia, startled, pointed out the oddness of Henrietta's continuing to be envious of her when

" ' I am forced from my house! though in quitting it, I am unprovided with any other, and though him for whom I relinquish it, is far off, without means of protecting, or power or returning to me!'

' But you are married to him, madam!'

' True, my love; but also, I am parted from him!'

' Oh, how differently, exclaimed Henrietta, ' do the great think from the little! were I married, -- and so married, I should want neither house, nor fine cloaths, nor riches, nor any thing; -- I should not care where I lived, -- every place would be paradise! I would walk barefoot to him if he were a thousand miles off, and I should mind nobody else in the world while I had him to take care of me!' " (p. 865)

Priscilla then burst in demanding to know the truth of the rumors which were bubbling throughout the house. Cecilia gave her a true picture of the situation, with her words being punctuated by Henrietta's incessant tears.

Cecilia summoned her steward and asked him to give her an accurate reporting of all the household accounts, and asked him " ... instantly to go around to her tenants within twenty miles, and gather in, from those who were able to pay, the arrears now due to her ..." (p. 866) Since they had not expected such an abrupt request for payment, few had the money. Since Cecilia never allowed bills to go long unpaid, she owed little to the local merchants. She did her best to wrap things up.

Soon would descend the doom she was dreading.

Jill Spriggs

From Andrea Schwedler:

Quite so. I couldn't agree more - except for the bit on the "believable presences". Some of the supporting/contrasting characters are very believable in my view. For instance, Lady Honoria Pemberton, this Restoration wit "displaced" into the 18th century. I really like her (for instance her satiric comments on Delvile castle as some decaying Gothic mansion). Burney was too scared or too self-censorious to openly criticize what Mr Delvile sen. stands for (crumbling genteel patriarchy) so she sneeked in some of the best and lucid criticism into the mouths of (minor) characters such as Lady Honoria and Mr Briggs. Mr Briggs' crass language of gutters, and corpses and such reminded me of Swift's scatological poems. His very clipped, breathless style (I get the feeling that Burney very much, if guiltily, enjoyed writing his speeches) made me look up one of my favorite novels, Dickens' "Our mutual friend". There is an underlying darkness in Dickens' novel which reminds me of Cecilia's world. A society in endless pursuit of money, people seen as commodities, vulgarity etc. etc. The similarity of style is quite striking. And this was before I read Doody's introduction.

I don' have the time to read much criticism on Burney but maybe someone knows whether there is an article/book comparing Burney to Dickens?

Andrea Schwedler

From Dorothy Gannon:

Ah, yes. They don't write 'em like they used to.

I am not reading Cecilia this time around (though I anxiously await Jill Sprigg's summaries, which I am enjoying immensely, especially her asides). I read the novel a few years back, and I'm realizing from this group reading I've forgotten a great many details. What I remembered of the book, without any prompting, was the suicide scene at Vauxhall Gardens, which I thought brilliant, and the way the ending madness seems to go on and on.

Makes you appriciate Austen's ultra-quick wrap-ups, doesn't it? She does remark humorously in a letter about the fate of two lovers (real or imagined, I can't remember), how they will now need to be kept apart 'for five volumes.'

Dorothy Gannon

Re: Cecilia,V:10:4 What To Do Next?

I agree with Andrea that the characters surrounding Cecilia are often effective, and at times believable. I think that it's when I put the book down and begin to remember -- and the novelist wants us to do this too -- that I get a feeling of construction and antithesis that is too strong. As I am reading it makes sense. I think Burney is an intellectual novelist --rather like the Restoration and 18th century playwrights whose characters are turned into duellists endowed with extraordinary wit.

Except for the rhetoric (once again), this is a good chapter, not least of all because it's short. Have others noticed how short these chapters are?

Cecilia's problem is what to do next? This is no small difficulty. Mortimer is gone; she has no money, and therefore no friends worth the label as those who were affectionately attached to her have no money or place for her to go to themselves. Henrietta depended upon her. It is curious how the other characters don't seem to understand her desperation. This strikes me as the way in which Burney is always on the intellectual level persuasive. People never enter into others' desperation until after the crisis has hit and they can see the damage. When Cecilia is homeless, then they will understand. Whether they will help is of course another question ...

Ellen Moody

From: Nancy Mayer
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. V, Bk. X, Ch. IV, A Deliberation

Cecilia is presented as intelligent and clearthinking ( some of the time) and less affected by the mudfdles of the others-- yet she did not even think of going to the lawyer who had stood up with Devile and knew the date of the wedding and her circumstances.

I know it is fiction and I known that.Cecilia is merely a creation of Burney's and that ladies of that day probably did not think about going to a lawyer-- yet it is this lack of realism the alck of versimiltude that makes the story tedious. One is forever being jolted out of the state of "willing suspension of disbelief". It is like being hit with a snow ball while walking dreamily down a snow covered lane admiring the beauty of the landscape.

Cecilia has not been presented as being stupid nor as being locked into a sterotypical pattern of behavior yet she acts irrationally here. At the same time I find that Burney's touch falters here and I find the motivations for and the descriprions of the descent of Cecilia less than convincing.

Nancy Mayer

Subject: Cecilia, Vol. V, Bk. X, Ch. V, A Decision

It was going to be a bad day.

First the letter from Mr. Delvile arrived. I am not sure why Cecilia bothered with writing him. Waiting for the answer took valuable time that would have better been spent in more constructive activities, like getting hold of Mortimer, for example. It was about time for him to start acting like a spouse and not a lover. Of course Mr. Delvile declined to believe that Mortimer would do anything so undutiful as to marry someone so distasteful to his father. Before Cecilia had time to fully digest the import of the letter, Mr. Carn, the attorney, arrived. Cecilia pleaded for more time, but the man was seriously lacking in pity genes. Only if she managed to cough up some cash would she be allowed to stay. In fact, she was expected to reimburse Mr. E. for the income on the property, before she paid her servant's wages. She came back with " ' If you mean the arrears of this last fortnight or three weeks, I believe I must desire him to wait Mr. Delvile's return, as I may otherwise myself be distressed for ready money.' " (Oxford Cecilia, ed. MADoody and PSabor, p. 868)

Mr. Carn was having none of it. " ' That, madam, is not likely, as it is well known you have a fortune that is independent of your late uncle; and as to distress for ready money, it is a plea Mr. Eggleston can urge much more strongly.' " (pp. 868 - 869)

Cecilia found it odd that Mr. Eggleston could be in such need of money he could have had no idea was coming to him until recently. Mr. Carn felt that comment was irrelevant. He did say that his employer had stated that if Cecilia wished to stay until her husband returned, she could have the use of an apartment in his [Mr. Eggleston's now!] home. Cecilia declined the honor, and Mr. Carn recommended that she put her seal upon anything she claimed as personal property.

Cecilia retired to the asylum (brief as it would be) of her own room, to ponder which course might be best. She was apparently paralyzed, unable to act. The mental weakness had commenced, and she at first determined upon the irrational action of waiting quietly until she could find out Mortimer's opinion on what she should do. Then should she not have been sending an express to him at that moment? Not passively sitting until her fate should overtake her?

Momentarily she considered again boarding with Mrs. Bayley, but could ill contemplate the prospect of " ... continuing in her native county, when deprived of her fortune, and cast out of her dwelling ... from being every where caressed, and by every voice praised, she blushed to be seen, and expected to be censured ..." (p. 868)

The pampered petted princess, Cecilia, who prided herself on her disregard for money, was now to find out what the lack of it would mean.

Cecilia finally decided that her only possible course would be to go abroad, to join her husband. " ... she resolved without delay to seek the only asylum which was proper for her, in the protection of the husband for whom she had given up every other." (p. 869) She decided to go to London, settle her route for flight, and join Mortimer before news of her distress could reach him. She relegated to her steward the responsibility for releasing all the servants and settling all her accounts, except the one with Mr. Eggleston, which she resolved to leave to her husband. Cecilia had her maid pack up her clothes, and the servants take " ... complete inventories of what every room contained," (p. 869), putting her own seal on all the cabinets and drawers containing personal belongings.

It must have seemed like the end of the world, both to Cecilia, and all the other inhabitants of that house.

Cecilia had initially intended to personally convey Henrietta to her mother, but another plan came to her. Cecilia proposed to Priscilla that she take Henrietta with her as a companion, when she returned to her brother. It was her hope that the two disappointed lovers would find consolation in each other. Both Henrietta and Priscilla were thrilled with the idea, and Henrietta wrote to her mother notifying her of her change in abode.

What a sad bunch it was when the time for the final separation came! The most pathetic grief came from her dear Henrietta, who was suffering the dual pangs of parting from her dearest friend, and envy of the husband that friend was going to.

After the departure of her friends, Cecilia declined supper, working steadily on the last few "matters to settle" she had, when she, going down a hallway, she found all her employees assembled en masse. She asked what the matter was, and they all asked why they had been discharged. Cecilia sadly told them she had no money to pay them anymore. A chorus of pleas to serve her without pay touched her, and she promised that when she was settled, whoever among them was still without employment, would receive preference when she would again be establishing a household. Of all her servants, she kept one man, Ralph, and her personal maid.

Sleepless, Cecilia racked her brain for any task still undone. She remembered the pew-opener, and the few women who she had given weekly pensions to. She would have to let them know that morning that they must get along without her help, but would assure them that some day, when she was back on her feet, she would again assist them. That morning would be even more difficult for Cecilia than the day before.

t was very unwise for Cecilia to personally go to each of her pensioners to inform them that the largesse was about to be discontinued. It was a duty better delegated to her steward. Word quickly got around and her chaise was surrounded by the impecunious, clamoring for money, bewailing their lot. That softie Cecilia " ... was extremely affected; her liberal and ever-ready hand was every other instant involuntarily seeking her purse ..." (p. 873) Her slender means were much diminished by this last indulgence in her role as Lady Bountiful.

After running the gauntlet of the poverty stricken, Cecilia decided to call one last time at the Grove to find out how Mr. Monckton was doing. At least in this she received comfort: "... she heard that he was suddenly so much better, there were hopes of his recovery." (p. 875) Then, she should have overcome her compunctions about summoning her husband for her assistance. She could have stayed with Mr. Arnott for the few days it would take for Mortimer to come. But Cecilia decided, in spite of the cessation of danger from Mortimer's being arrested for murder upon returning, to go by herself and join him with his mother in Ostend. This from someone who had never in her life had to make such arrangements for herself. " ... she knew nothing of the route but by a general knowledge of geography, which, though it could guide her east or west, could teach her nothing of foreign customs, the preparations necessary for her journey, the impositions she should guard against, nor the various dangers to which she might be exposed, from total ignorance of the country through which she had to pass." (p. 874)

Even Cecilia was aware that commencing on this journey alone was hazardous, and she characteristically made the lame brained decision to " ... resolve to continue privately in London till some change happened in her affairs." (p. 874) Cecilia reminds me of a domestic house cat turned loose in the country, its callous owners assuming it could look after itself in the wild. All its feral instincts atrophied from disuse, it is the easy prey of predators and starvation. Easy prey was what Cecilia would prove to be.

Cecilia could not think who to consult when she went to London. Her manservant Ralph had lived nearly his entire life in Suffolk, and her maid was equally inexperienced with travel abroad. Cecilia could only think of hiring a French servant when she went to London, to assist her with her interactions with the French. But how to find one which would not impose upon her, was beyond her ability. She hoped to minimize her danger by " ... overtaking [Mortimer] in his route within a day or two of her landing." (p. 875)

Cecilia much regretted the loss of her friend Mr. Monckton, who in the past she would immediately have consulted in such a quandary as this. There was no one else she could look to for counsel. The only man she could think of to supply his place, was Mr. Belfield. The lies spread about their relationship by Mr. Delvile and Mr. Monckton made her hesitate to resort to him, but " ... he was the friend of Mortimer, whose confidence in him was great, and his own behaviour had uniformly shewn a respect far removed from impertinence or vanity, and a mind superior to being led to them by the influence his gross mother." (pp. 875 - 876)

Cecilia also remembered that she had promised Henrietta to inform her mother of her change in residence, and to reconcile her to it. She decided to go to Portland-Square, see Mrs. Belfield, and to boldly ask to see her son. If she insulted Cecilia with her "forward insinuations" she decided to set her straight once and for all by telling her of her marriage to Mortimer.

After visiting the Belfields, Cecilia determined to call upon Mrs. Hill and ask where she could procure inexpensive lodgings, as " ... money was no longer unimportant to her." (p. 876) Leaving her maid in the chaise, and sending Ralph ahead to Mrs. Hill's to see about procuring lodging, Cecilia went alone into the home of the Belfields.

Sinister music playing ...

Jill Spriggs

To Austen-l

October 16, 1998

Re: Burney: Cecilia, V:10:5: Beyond Coping

In her commentary on Chapter 5 (ironically titled "A Decision"), Jill writes:

"Cecilia retired to the asylum (brief as it would be) of her own room, to ponder which course might be best. She was apparently paralyzed, unable to act. The mental weakness had commenced, and she at first determined upon the irrational action of waiting quietly until she could find out Mortimer's opinion on what she should do."

This is well said. So too:

"Momentarily she considered again boarding with Mrs. Bayley, but could ill contemplate the prospect of " ... continuing in her native county, when deprived of her fortune, and cast out of her dwelling ... from being every where caressed, and by every voice praised, she blushed to be seen, and expected to be censured ..." (p. 868)

Mortification is a strong element in many of the most powerful scenes Austen wrote too. It is what people will sometimes do anything to avoid, give up anything, run anywhere.

The two young women who are glad to get away and forget Cecilia find analogues in moments in Austen's heroines lives, but not the desperately poor who clamour about her for money. Then again none of Austen's heroines but Emma was an heiress and Emma never condescended in the manner Cecilia has. Too worldly smart I guess.

The way we are to read these chapters is not with our common sense daylight minds, not in the spirit of moralising from our somewhat comfortable perspectives about what Cecilia ought to have done. What Burney is asking us to do -- and along with Andrea that is the way I read these closing chapters -- is to enter into a realm where we meet those strong states of mind and motives that actuate people, and which they normally try to hide from others and subdue or repress in themselves. The courage Burney exhibits is her invitation to enter into an imprudent but very state of mind, something the world likes to call abnormal, but is anything but. Not only does she invite us to see the world through this perspective, but she has asked us to understand it results from the hardships and indifference which are the basis of the way society is structured. The lawyer is within his rights; the law supports him and Mr Egglestone and everyone will shrug at Cecilia. What a poor sap! they will say.

In Cecilia the reader is led to identify with and understand a stae of mind people are taught to fear, to despise, and to keep away from themselves, taught to think can never happen to them. She tries toe draw us into emotions like anxiety and isolation -- as does Austen with Anne Elliot. In this chapter she adds to this trauma and shame which she dramatised very strongly in the story of Marianne Dashwood. I think we are automatically unable to say we identify in public. In fact the purpose of novels is to allow us to read this kind of thing and understand and identify in private. If there is a problem in literary criticism, it is the impulse to appear ever so reasonable lest some other critic laugh at us, jeer. There is always the danger of behaving as if the book or character were on trial before a jury, and saying to a central character in them, 'I put it to you, Mrs Cecilia Delvile, is not this a very dumb way to behave? It is like asking Othello why he got so excited over a handkerchief. Equally wrong-headed is the social inference people want to erect so as to justify their reading this kind of thing. Ah yes Burney writes this way and I read it so as to improve society, so as to teach this lesson about women and society or that about money or the other about class.

The "lesson" here is of the deepest kind. It is the truth about human nature under duress which happens every day. Suicide is not the unnatural act the moralists say it is.

Burney hasn't the gift of simple words to handle such a series of scenes

To Austen-l
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. V, Bk. X, Ch. VI, A Prating
October 19, 1998

I am sure each of our fellow readers has already finished this book, and it is with considerable difficulty that I am compelling myself to sit down and post on these last few chapters. They were difficult to read, and I only find consolation in the fact that there are only 41 pages of agony, as opposed to about 600 pages of it in The Wanderer.

Cecilia, maintaining her sanity by the slenderest of threads, had decided to call upon the Belfields, asking for Mr. Belfield, to request advice of him. The obliviousness of Mrs. Belfield and Mr. Hobson (who always seemed to be present at Cecilia's most painful moments) to Cecilia's distress did not seem to me to be at all unrealistic. Most people are self involved to the point of not noticing anyone with any veneer of normalcy. It must have been immediately apparent to all but the most obtuse that every nerve of Cecilia's was humming with tension.

Mrs. Belfield was in the company of Mr. Simkins and Mr. Hobson, who each in turn fought for the floor in parading obsequiousness. Cecilia had succeeded, in a brief interval when each of her antagonists must have been pausing for breath, to let Mrs. Belfield know that her daughter had " ... made a little change in her situation." (Oxford _Cecilia_, ed. MADoody and PSabor, p. 877) Interrupting a soliloquy of Mr. Hobson's, Mrs. Belfield asked, " ' You can't have got her off already!' " (p. 878) Cecilia could not of course tell Mrs. Belfield of her true reason for encouraging Henrietta to become the companion of Priscilla Harrel, knowing it " ... would be sufficient authority to her sanguine expectations, for depending upon a union between them, and reporting it among her friends." (p. 878) Cecilia only said that she was compelled to make an emergency trip out of the country, and asked Belfield if he could help her to obtain a trustworthy foreign servant. This excited much comment from the chatty crowd, and it was with difficult that Belfield was able to break in and tell Cecilia he knew of just such a man. Mr. Hobson, Mrs. Belfield, and Mr. Simkins must again make their presence be known, this time discussing at length the oddness of Mr. Delvile's visit. Belfield again interrupted to ask if the man he was recommending could call upon her the next day. The following passage illustrates the tediousness of all those interchanges that day.

" ' I ask pardon for just putting in,' cried Mr. Simkins, before Cecilia could answer, and again bowing to the ground, ' but I only mean to say I had no thought for to be impertinent, for as to what I was a going to remark, it was not of no consequence in the least. ' " (p. 881)

Then shut the * * * * up!

Mrs. Belfield then shared the news that her son had entered upon yet another occupation, that of book keeper. After his initial embarrassment, Belfield admitted his error in supposing his previous vocation of author to be peculiarly fitted for his temperament.

" ' Deceived!' cried he with energy, ' I was bewitched, I was infatuated! common sense was estranged by the seduction of a chimera; my understanding was in a ferment from the ebullition fo my imagination! But when this new way of life lost its novelty, -- novelty! that short-liv'd, but exquisite bliss! no sooner caught than it vanishes, no sooner tasted than it is gone! which charms but to fly, and comes but to destroy what it leaves behind! -- when that was lost, reason, cool heartless reason, took its place, and teaching me to wonder at the frenzy of my folly, brought me back to the tameness -- the sadness of reality!' " (p. 882)

Does this sound like anything we have heard before? More and more I think Burney was pretty accurately describing a sufferer from a bipolar disorder.

Even Mrs. Belfield was wearying of her son's flightiness.

" ' ... it's a hard case, ... madam, to a mother, to see a son that might do whatever he would, if he'd only set about it, contenting himself with doing nothing but scribble and scribe one day, and when he gets tired of that, thinking of nothing better than casting up two and two!' " (p. 882)

Mr. Hobson urged the virtues of business, Mr. Simkins commiserated on the pleasantness of pursuing pleasure, and Belfield, nettled, set to defending himself, all concern for Cecilia's errand at an end. Cecilia labored to bring the subject of Belfield's concern back to her need of a foreign servant, and asked if he could counsel her on how to " ' ... travel expeditiously, [therefore] you may perhaps be able to instruct me what is the best method for me to pursue.' " (p. 884) Mrs. Belfield, seeing an opportunity to facilitate the desired romance between her son and the (perceived) heiress, urged Cecilia and her son to continue their conversation alone in the next room. Cecilia protested that they were not going to discuss anything that could not be heard by all, After repeated interruptions by the elephant hided Hobson, Mrs. Belfield impatiently turned both Simkins and Hobson out, pulling the door closed after her, leaving Cecilia and Belfield alone, to her distress. Belfield, much provoked by the previous exchange, tried to mollify Cecilia's offended sense of decorum, by assuring her that he had no designs upon her hand in marriage. Cecilia decided to " ... continue her enquiries, and, at the same time, to prevent any further misapprehension, by revealing her true situation." (p. 885) Unfortunately, at this moment the pair were surprised by Mortimer.

Cecilia would have flown into his arms, but he was apparently not in a receptive mood. All his worst fears had, to his horrified eyes, just been confirmed. Cecilia pleaded with him to go with her into her chaise, so she could explain the latest turn on her fortunes, but Delvile was too tortured by jealousy to be able to hear. The exchange between these two at this point has to be the most painful in the book. Each, too torn with emotion to be comprehensible, in turn supplying fresh pain to the other. Mortimer gave Cecilia a letter, then commanded the postilion to drive her away, he knew not where.

The letter told Cecilia that he had been unable to resist the suspense of waiting for word about Monckton, and had returned to England to hear personally of his recovery (or lack thereof) and to personally notify his father of their marriage. Cecilia realized upon reading the letter that his unaccountable behavior was due to jealousy, and he was completely in the dark as to the peril of her situation. Cecilia jumped out of the moving chaise, and ran back to Mrs. Belfield's, where she " ... knocked at the door with violence ..." (p. 889) She found, horrified that Belfield and Delvile had gone out together, and, convinced that they were about to fight a duel, she demanded of Mrs. Belfield where they had gone. Cecilia was relieved to find that Mrs. Belfield had sent the willing Hobson after them, but was distressed when he returned, only saying that they had gone into a coffee house. Cecilia determined to follow them without delay, fearing the consequences resulting from Mortimer's passionate temper. Her chaise being off in a direction different from that to the coffee house, she begged Mr. Simkins to accompany her there until they could procure a hackney coach. Finally arriving at the coffee house, she found to her despair that she had missed them. Cecilia decided to go to Mortimer's family home in St. James Square, as the only place where she could possibly meet him. Cecilia knew the hazard of this trip, since it was unlikely that Mortimer had thought of making the important communication to his father. After his confrontation with Mr. Monckton, Cecilia justly feared the results of Mortimer's fury.

Catastrophe was piling on catastrophe.

Jill Spriggs

Re: Burney, CeciliaV:10:6, A Prating

This chapter was well titled, and as we wind down (or up) to our finale, I agree with Jill on the matter of this chapter. The comedy is tedious, and the repetition of what we have just gone through -- yet another duel, the result of mistaken jealousy on Mortimer's part is on the way -- equally thin. One needs to ask why?

My answer is this: Burney is not incapable, but unwilling to show her heroine morally wrong. The book reminds me of Sir Charles Grandison because Richardson also would not allow his hero to appear anything but praiseworthy from the point of view of the average reader. Nowhere in Grandison does Sir Charles defy any conventional morality. In Cecilia we are called upon to feel sorry for Cecilia but not to look into her heart and find a rebel, a wounded victim (and society has many). In Austen we are repeatedly given heroines who don't exemplify what is admired by many people (Fanny Price, Anne Elliot, Marianne Dashwood and Jane Fairfax are among the most obvious). What really does cause a tone of real agony to rise in the throat? What deprivation is it really bothers us? The intimate cruelty and hardships which families foist on individuals in their midst Burney turns from by which I mean she really justifies these. She apparently knows nothing of sex as yet. So she falls back on these conventions.

If we are to think Camilla and Wanderer are serious and living books (I would say Evelina is girlish and sentimental and artificially comic very often), Burney needed to live more as a woman, break the self-censorship, have a tight plot, and simplify her language. Also stop having so many antithetical types.

Ellen Moody .

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