Re: Cecilia, Vol. V, Bk. IX, Ch. I, A Cogitation
From Jill Spriggs
September 27, 1998
Poor Cecilia. Reminds me of the time I had my basement finished, and a job which was supposed to take six weeks stretched into six months. She had to choose between residing with Mr. Monckton and Mr. Arnott, both men in love with her (although she did not yet fully realize the state of Mr. Monckton's affections). The female parts of the equations were also uncongenial; the abhorrent Lady Margaret vs. the selfish brainless Priscilla. Seems to me it would have been better to sleep on the floor in her own home until the contractors finally finished their work. Since residence at an inn would be unsuitable for a "lady of the quality", Cecilia resolved to board " ... with some creditable family at Bury... " (Oxford Cecilia, Ed. MADoody and PSabor, p. 715). To achieve " ... a general arrangement of her affairs, and a final settling with her guardians ... it would be necessary she should go to London: but with whom, or in what manner, she could not decide." (p. 714) No longer trusting Mr. Monckton implicitly as in the past, for lack of a more congenial confidant, Cecilia consulted with him.
Mr. Monckton approved Cecilia's intention of boarding with a Bury family where he could have more freedom of access to his prey than he could in his own home, under the watchful eyes of his wife. The trip to London was less desirable, because she would be less under the thumb of her Svengali there. Cecilia was firm; she wished to feel free of her debt to Mr. Monckton as quickly as possible. Little did she know that paying off Mr. Monckton would not free her of his pernicious influence.
Mr. Monckton told her how to formally withdraw from the guardianship of her estate by the two remaining guardians, and recommended that she wait at his home until she received their answers.
In the meantime Cecilia tried to endear herself to the inhospitable Lady Margaret, but gave up in disgust. The loss she felt with the death of Mrs. Charlton steadily increased, assisted by the steadfast hostility of her hostess.
In less than a week, Cecilia received replies from both her guardians, the one from Mr. Delvile " ... couched in the haughtiest terms." (p. 718) He recommended that she come to town in a few days so he and Mr. Briggs could jointly sign off their guardianship in her presence. Cecilia shared the two letters with Mr. Monckton, who spared no opportunity to heap scorn upon the writers. So black did he paint the avariciousness of Mr. Briggs that Cecilia asked him how she could extricate her fortune from his clutches. This gave him the opportunity to arrange his affairs so that he could accompany Cecilia to the Big Bad City, and protect her from the greedy wiles of her guardians.
Now, how to go to London with Cecilia in such a way as to disarm all conjectures about his motives? By making Lady Margaret think it was all her own idea! Not an easy task for someone with " encreasing infirmities" (p. 719). Mrs. Bennet, Lady Margaret's paid companion, and an ally for other of Mr. Monckton's less savory adventures, planted the idea in her mistress's head that she could spoil his fun by accompanying him on this jaunt. The thought of disobliging her husband was irresistible, and the feigned looks of disappointment from her husband were infinitely gratifying. Mr. Monckton assured Cecilia of the unsuitability of her residing in an inn, and insinuated that people would surmise that she was secretly meeting Mortimer. This suggestion was sufficient to insure Cecilia's compliance with his plan.
This would not be a fun trip. Cecilia determined to limit it to two days, and immediately move to the home of the Bury family she would board with until her house was ready. Had she not learned by then that things would never go according to plan?
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. V, Bk. IX, Ch. I, A Cogitation
Monckton's obsession with Cecilia shows he either is not a mn of good sense or that he plans to do away with his wife. Did he expect Cecilia to sit around for years waiting for him to be free? Perhaps, some egotists are capable of anything.
What a work of art is man.... Monckton is intriguing. As far as I can tell in my reading no one thinks it so odd that eh amrried a woman so much older than he.
Lady Margaret's jealousy is understandable considering the womanizer she married and the difference in their ages.
Though I sometimes get very disturbed and am unhappy about the actions of the people in the novel, I never doubt that they could have existed or think that their actions are unnatural --- except for Mortimer's and Cecilia's.
I never would have read this book if it had not been for this little endeavor.
Re: Burney, Cecilia,V:IX:I: On Longing to Be Let Alone
In response to Jill, I'd like to say how striking is Cecilia's apparent helplessness. I already retracted my previous commentary for now I see that it is the building of her house she's waiting for, but still she seems unable to be alone. What's more that's an important theme.
In "Confabulation" we have a remarkable dialogue in which Belfield argues that the only way to create a life for oneself that will allow one to be oneself or fullfill one's gifts is to be independent of one's family; Monckton opposes this notion. I will talk about this debate in another post, but it is a debate the novel centers on. In this chapter Cecilia constantly longs to be let alone: "She more than coveted to be alone" (Oxford Cecilia, ed. MADoody and PSabor, p 717). She must go to people who care nothing for her, who don't begin to understand her; we see that Monckton's plan is to make her first dependent on his advice, then in deep need of it, and then unable to do without him. The contrast could be with Miss Bennet who is driven into becoming now a tool of Lady Margaret Monckton and then a tool of Mr Monckton (by-the-bye do we learn his name?).
Re: Burney: Cecilia,V:IX:I: A Portrait of a Marriage
"Monckton's obsession with Cecilia shows he either is not a mn of good sense or that he plans to do away with his wife. Did he expect Cecilia to sit around for years waiting for him to be free? Perhaps, some egotists are capable of anything.
What a work of art is man.... Monckton is intriguing. As far as I can tell in my reading no one thinks it so odd that he married a woman so much older than he. Lady Margaret's jealousy is understandable considering the womanizer she married and the difference in their ages.
Though I sometimes get very disturbed and am unhappy about the actions of the people in the novel, I never doubt that they could have existed or think that their actions are unnatural --- except for Mortimer's and Cecilia's.
I never would have read this book if it had not been for this little endeavor."
I am fascinated by this portrait of a marriage. Nothing sentimentalised here. Actually it is common in earlier literature, and especially that of the later 17th and into the early years of the 19th to find young men marrying older women for their money, and even much older. It is rare to see anything so frank and harsh; on the issue of reality, most people would hide their motives from themselves, and of course what the narrator tells us is not clear to Lady Margaret or Monckton.
I was impressed with some of the passage as so true about human nature generally too:
"The Angry and the Violent use little discrimination; whom they like, they inquire not if they approve; but whoever, no matter how unwittingly, stands in their way, they scruple not to ill use, and conclude they may laudably detest" (Oxford Cecilia, ed. MADoody and PSabor, p 717).
Lady Monckton is determined Monckton shall not enjoy himself; that spite is a major motive in the mutual relationship fits.
There is a Johnsonian element here. I don't know how many people in our group have read Rasselas. I did recently and there is a long disquistion on marriage which this chapter seems to have in mind. It's as if Burney is dramatising that sequence. Austen quotes from the Johnson about marriage having few pleasures, but celibacy being only pains (or words to this effect). Certain sentences also recall Rasselas (and S&S which recalls Rasselas at times too): Cecilia longs "to settle her plan of life, and fix her place of residence" (Oxford Cecilia, ed. MADoody and PSabor, p 715).
Like Nancy, I don't think I would have read this novel on my own. As a novel it is stilted and much of life's harder content individual content repressed or presented very indirectly, but as a book which brings before us real issues of life in Austen's time in a way Austen herself continually shies away from and are still with us, it is remarkably impressive. It is incisive and daring -- and in curious ways radical too.
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. V, Bk. IX, Ch. II, A Surprize
Silly Cecilia (hmm, rather euphonious, no?), to think she could get things wrapped up in London in two days. One would think that her travails with home renovations would have taught her better.
Soon after her arrival in London, her two guardians responded to her letter notifying them of her presence, by telling her that they could not come when she asked, Mr. Delvile's response being characteristically arrogant (how dare this little chit be so presumptuous as to summon me!). The sensitive Cecilia especially dreaded the meeting with Mr. Delvile, who in the best of circumstances was not a comfortable companion. It was almost like looking forward to root canal work on a certain date, only to be called on the morning of the projected procedure, postponing it for another week. Since Cecilia preferred a combined ordeal of meeting with both Mr. Briggs and Mr. Delvile, to drawing it out to two meetings, she wrote to Mr. Briggs, deferring the meeting until she would write to him again.
Cecilia was not having a rousingly good time in London, between the "parasitical conversation" of Miss Bennet, and "Lady Margaret's ill humoured looks" (Oxford Cecilia, ed. MADoody and PSabor, p. 722), Cecilia found solitude to be the most desirable alternative. She did find a diversion which I suspect many of us find enjoyable, that of visiting her bookseller. Who should she find in the shop but Nature Boy Belfield!
It appears that the appeal of Independence Through Labor had palled even more rapidly than most of Belfield's pursuits. A less physically grueling labor seemed to have its attractions; Belfield, like so many before and after him, had determined to support himself by his pen. (lucky for me I don't have to depend on mine for my daily bread!) Ashamed to be recognized by Cecilia, he fled from the shop without speaking to her, but she was assured by the bookseller that " ... he is a very great genius, and I doubt not will produce something extraordinary. " (p. 723) Cecilia wanted to be sent anything he published, but the bookseller told her that he was at that time publishing his work anonymously.
Seeing Belfield again, brought Henrietta to Cecilia's mind. No longer did she have apprehensions about the state of Mortimer's sentiments towards her friend, and Cecilia resolved to see Henrietta.
Henrietta's response to the unexpected appearance of Cecilia was gratifying. "Henrietta almost screamed at her sight, from a sudden impulse of joy and surprize, and, running up to her, flung her arms round her neck, and embraced her with the most rapturous emotion: but then, drawing back with a look of timidity and shame, she bashfully apologized for her freedom, saying, 'Indeed, dearest Miss Beverley, it is no want of respect, but I am so very glad to see you it makes me quite forget myself!' " (pp. 724 - 725) Cecilia reassuringly "returned her caresses" while Mrs. Belfield remonstrated with her daughter. Remember Mr. Hobson, from the night Mr. Harrel committed suicide? He also was of the party, and Cecilia was " ... much teized by meeting in such company..." (p. 725) The obtuse Mrs. Belfield and Mr. Hobson were insensitive to Cecilia's " ... frequent looks expressive of a wish to be alone with [Henrietta]" (p. 725). Mr. Hobson suggested a new round of tea and toast and butter, and Mrs. Belfield brought up the newest disappearance of her son. Cecilia, who had thought Belfield was again living with his mother, was surprised.
No wonder Belfield had not revealed his whereabouts. His mother told Cecilia what she would do if she found her son: " ' I would not taste a dish of tea again for a twelvemonth until I got him back to that lord's!' " (p. 726) Gee, that was two occupations ago!
Mr. Hobson was unimpressed by the title, " ' ... unless he has got a good long purse of his own, and then, to be sure, a Lord's no bad thing ... in my mind, it's a mere nothing, in comparison of a good income.' " He also let Mrs. Belfield know of his disapproval of the education of her son. She predictably waxed angry, insisting that " ' ... he always despised it from a child [thanks to her] ... I am sure he was born to be a gentleman.' " The pragmatic Mr. Hobson was having none of it. " ' ... if he had been brought up behind a counter, instead of dangling after these same Lords, he might have had a house of his own over his head, and been as good a man as myself.' " (p. 726) Mr. Hobson could not have hit on a more effective way of infuriating Mrs. Belfield, who felt that, poor as he was, her son was a much better man than that tradesman Mr. Hobson. She was sure that if her son had not been so backward about seeking a place at court, he could be an ambassador by that time. Mr. Hobson pointed out that the " ' ... great people keep things of that kind for their own ... relations ... What I say is this; a man's best way is to take care of himself. The more these great people see you want them, the less they like your company.' " (p. 727)
Mrs. Belfield would have done well to listen to her fat friend twenty years earlier. But of course, on this subject she was deaf.
The conversation began veering uncomfortably close to Cecilia, who saw Mrs. Belfield still cherished hopes of a matrimonial alliance between her son and the heiress. When the chat became pointedly directed at her by the mother and the tradesman, Cecilia began to wish herself away. The subject matter was abruptly changed with the arrival of a liveried footman, who had been seeking for Cecilia at the home of Mr. Monckton. He brought a message from Mr. Delvile, saying that he would call upon her two days later at noon, and requesting that she also summon Mr. Briggs, so they could get their business accomplished as quickly as possible.
When the footman left, Cecilia asked Henrietta how she could visit so they could converse alone. While they were trying to arrange this, Mr. Albany popped up. Mr. Albany remonstrated with Cecilia for failing to keep their appointment (what appointment?), and she asked him to come to see her at Mr. Monckton's house. She had had enough of the Belfield home. How ironic that both Mr. Monckton and Mr. Delvile would use her visits so destructively against her, when she had received so little pleasure from them!
Mr. Monckton had been distressed when he found that Cecilia had left without leaving word of where she was; he was probably afraid that she was seeking out Mortimer. He had allowed himself to become comfortable with the idea that Cecilia was so dependent on him that she would not make a move without consulting him. He wanted all entertainment, all relief of her sadness, to "spring from himself". Allowing Cecilia to suspect this would adversely affect his prospects of ultimate possession of Cecilia and her fortune, so he was careful to " ... disguise his disappointments as well as his expectations..."(p. 730). Monckton was reassured when Cecilia told her of her exasperating visit to the Belfields, and when Cecilia asked him to find Belfield and notify him of his family's concern for him, he immediately set off. It did not take long, and Mr. Monckton made an appointment for Belfield to come for breakfast the following morning.
Cecilia was pleased, and in this refreshed spirit, wrote to Mr. Briggs and Mr. Delvile confirming the appointment for the dissolution of their guardianships.
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. V, Bk. IX, Ch. III, A Confabulation
The breakfast did not propose to be a comfortable meal. Miss Bennet sat like a lump, and Lady Margaret was her usual "ungracious" self. At least Mr. Monckton and Cecilia made an effort to make their guest comfortable, although the very touchy Belfield was quick to take offense at Lady Margaret's uncongeniality. His initial reaction was to desire to leave, but Mr. Monckton's and Cecilia's efforts to welcome him dissuaded him. He apologized for the poverty of his dress, attributing it as " '... the uniform of my corps ... emblematical of wit and erudition.' " (Oxford Cecilia, ed. MADoody and PSabor, p. 732).
When Cecilia praised Belfield for his ability to "sport" about his attire, he more somberly acknowledged that she must think him " ' ... the most unsteady and coward-hearted of beings.' " (p. 732 - 733) Mr. Monckton commented on Belfield's change of attitude: ' " Your language is wonderfully altered within this twelvemonth, ... the worthlessness of human nature! the miseries of life! this from you! so lately the champion of human nature, and the panegyrist of human life!' " (p. 733)
Belfield did seem to have acquired a new sensibility:
" ' Happiness is given to us with more liberality than we are willing to confess; it is judgment only that is dealt us sparingly, and of that we have so little, that when felicity is before us, we turn to the right or left, or when at the right or left, we proceed strait forward. It has been so with me; I have sought it at a distance, amidst difficulty and danger, when all that I could wish had been immediately within my grasp.' " (p. 733)
This was very perceptive, more than pretty much any other speech I have read in this book. I wonder what the happiness was, that Belfield saw he had allowed to pass him by. This statement reminds me of Mark Twain's "We are all about as happy as we make up our minds to be."
When Mr. Monckton sympathetically mentioned Belfield's sufferings, Belfield pragmatically avowed that he himself was their source and cause.
" ' I have generally been involved in them [his sufferings] by my own rashness or caprice. My last enterprise, especially, from which my expectations were highest, was the most ill judged of any. I considered not how little my way of life had fitted me for the experiment I was making, how irreparably I was enervated by long sedentary habits, and how insufficient for bodily strength was mental resolution.' " (p. 733)
Cecilia asked Belfield if, since his last endeavor had ended in failure, he would return to his family. He sheepishly admitted that independence was still his primary desire, and since he "loved not resistance", having no wish to return to the life they wished for him, he planned to continue to avoid them. Lucky him; it was an option not open to his sister. Mr. Monckton tried to douse Belfield with a cold shower of reality: " ' And what is this independence ... which has thus bewitched your imagination? a mere idle dream of romance and enthusiasm; without existence in nature, without possibility in life. In uncivilised countries, or in lawless times, independence, for a while, may perhaps stalk abroad: but in a regular government, 'tis only the vision of a heated brain ...' " (p. 734) Belfield acknowledged the inutility of independence of the corporeal body, but " ' ... may he not claim the freedom of his own thoughts? may not that claim be extended to the liberty of speaking, and the power of being governed by them? and when thoughts, words, and actions are exempt from controul, will you brand him with dependency merely because the Grazier feeds his meat, and the Baker kneeds his bread? ' " Again Monckton quietly asserted, " ' ... who is there in the whole world ... extensive as it is, and dissimilar as are its inhabitants, that can pretend to assert, his thoughts, words, and actions, are exempt from controul? even where interest, which you so much disdain, interferes not, -- though where that is I confess I cannot tell! -- are we not kept silent where we wish to reprove by the fear of offending? and made speak where we wish to be silent by the desire of obliging? do we not bow to the scoundrel as low as to the man of honour? are we not by mere forms kept standing when tired? made give places to those we despise? and smiles to those we hate? or if we refuse these attentions, are we not regarded as savages, and shut out of society?' " ( p. 735) Belfield discounted those as " ' ...matters of mere ceremony, that the concession can neither cost pain to the proud, nor give pleasure to the vain.' " Monckton asked him just what he considered an independent man to be.
" ' I hold that man,' cried he [Belfield] with energy, ' to be independent, who treats the Great as the Little, and the Little as the Great, who neither exults in riches nor blushes in poverty, who owes no man a groat, and who spends not a shilling he has not earned. ' " (pp. 735 - 736)
Monckton's response made me smile: " ' You will not, then, have a very numerous acquaintance, if this is the description of those with whom you purpose to associate!' " (p. 736) He found it difficult to imagine anyone being able to live by such strictures, but Belfield energetically declared, " ' Not only have I merely prescribed, ... I have already put them in practice; and far from finding any pennance, I never before found happiness. I have now adopted, though poor, the very plan of life I should have elected if rich; and my pleasure, therefore, is become my business, and my business my pleasure.' "(p. 736)
I suspect Belfield suffered from bipolar disorder. How else to explain these violent mood swings he was so susceptible to?
Mr. Monckton asked acidly if he had become a " .. Knight errant to the booksellers...' " Mr. Belfield found the analogy apt: " ' ... the assailants of the quill have their honor as much at heart as the assailants of the sword.' " (p. 736) Mr. Monckton was tempted to ridicule Belfield's aspirations, but seeing Cecilia's approbation of his sentiments, he instead said, " ' Spoken like a man of honour, and one whose works may profit the world!' " (p. 737)
Cecilia urged Belfield to " ... suffer your sister and your mother to partake of it ... for who is there that your prosperity will make so happy? ' " He still found it difficult to face them, " ' I have not courage to meet their tears, which I am sure will not be spared when they see me.' " Cecilia gently teased him, " ' 'Tis from tenderness, then, said Cecilia, half smiling, ' that you are cruel, and from affection to your friends that you make them believe you have forgotten them?' " This approach worked, and Belfield leapt from the table, ready to " ' ... go to them this moment!' " (p. 737) Mr. Monckton pointed out that it might be best if he finished his breakfast first.
Cecilia continued to press her advantage. She urged that " ' ... your friends can have no mortification ... so hard to bear as your voluntary absence; and if they see but that you are happy, they will soon be reconciled to whatever situation you may chuse. " (pp. 737 - 738) Belfield responded about rhapsodizing about the felicity of his occupation. Even Mr. Monckton warmed a little: " ' Let fortune turn which way it will ... you may defy all its malice, while possessed of a spirit of enjoyment which nothing can subdue!' " (p. 738)
With ill luck, Cecilia chose that moment to puncture Belfield's balloon by reminding him that he was just as enthusiastic about his career as a menial laborer. He explained why the occupation had palled: " ' To rise at break of day, chill, freezing, and comfortless! no sun abroad, no fire at home! to go out in all weather to work, that work rough, coarse, and laborious! -- unused to such hardships, I was unable to bear them ...' " (p. 739)
I am reminded how, in Rasselas, Princess Nekayah had the Marie Antoinette fantasy of a pastoral asylum with little lambs frisking about her. It seems to be a common fantasy among the aristocracy, the nobility of agricultural labor. They did not realize, as Belfield quickly did, that it's damn cold getting up before dawn, without the luxury of a fire, and blisters that are not allowed to heal by rest can be very uncomfortable.
Cecilia had stemmed the floodtide of Belfield's grandiose plans of a literary life, and she was unjust when she blamed Monckton for Belfield's resumed reluctance to visit his mother and sister. That was all her own work. She did attempt to undo the harm by telling Belfield that she would visit his family and tell them to expect him, and he must visit them or make her out to be a liar. The grateful Belfield told Cecilia to beware of the risk she ran of having her name prominently emblazoned in the dedication of his first publication; Cecilia expressed her willingness to run that risk.
After Belfield left, Mr. Monckton commented on Belfield's genius, and the need for a channel for that intellectual energy. There are many contemporary young men who might suit Cecilia's comment:
" ' I knew not, ... the full worth of steadiness and prudence till I knew this young man; for he has every thing else; talents the most striking, a love of virtue the most elevated, and manners the most pleasing; yet wanting steadiness and prudence, he can neither act with consistency nor prosper with continuance.' " (p. 740)
Cecilia visited Belfield's mother and sister, telling them of his current course, and urging them to restrain their apparent unhappiness upon seeing him. Unused to any restraint of her emotions when it came to her son, Mrs. Belfield misery was of course so "clamorous and unappeasable" Cecilia began to understand Belfield's reluctance for a scene he saw too clearly, would ensue. She left the house, " ... beseeching Mrs. Belfield to moderate her concern..." (p. 741), and returned to Lady Margaret's house to mull over the meeting she would have the next day with Mr. Delvile, and worrying about the health of his wife.
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. V, Bk. IX, Ch. IV, A Wrangling, Part One
September 30, 1998
Because this is one of those long chapters, I will separate it into two posts.
It was not going to be a good day.
Mr. Monckton, whose motives could ill bear close inspection, left the house soon after breakfast, urging Cecilia not to tell her guardians of the debt she had contracted. Cecilia needed no urging; she had had her actions questioned enough times before, to make this the natural course for her to take.
An hour before the appointed time, Mr. Briggs was announced. He wanted to time remonstrate with the heiress alone. The loss of the money he would have enjoyed if Cecilia had resided with him, was what he first wished to complain of, but seeing that Cecilia was downhearted, he quickly changed tacks, and asked, " ' what's the matter, Ducky? a'n't well? look as if you could not help it.' " Cecilia denied any illness. Briggs then perceptively guessed, " ' hay? what are fretting for? -- crossed in love? -- lost your sweet-heart?' " In spite of Cecilia's hasty denial, Briggs did not believe her, and assured her there were plenty more fish in the sea. I did like the fate he proposed for Mr. Delvile: " ' Fit for nothing but to be stuck upon an old monument for a Death's head.' " (Oxford _Cecilia_, ed. MADoody and PSabor, p. 742)
Mr. Briggs finally came to the real reason for his early arrival. He wished Cecilia to allow him to continue managing her money. Cecilia declined the honor. Mr. Monckton had warned her about the avariciousness of the stock jobber. In this he did Mr. Briggs an injustice, and was judging him to be motivated by the same greed that was his. Mr. Briggs was actuated by nothing more than the pleasure of money in his hands, and I strongly suspect that if Cecilia had disregarded Mr. Monckton's advice, and her own instinctive revulsion of this man, she would have been better off. When Mr. Briggs found out about the huge loans made for the sake of Mr. Harrel, he would have had them nullified, stating that a minor cannot contract valid loans, and at least Cecilia's patrimony would have remained intact.
Of course, Cecilia was very young, and not very wise. Reminds me of the saying, " So soon old, so late smart!" She refused Mr. Briggs' offer. He prepared to do warm battle for this honor, and Cecilia was not sorry to receive an interruption in the form of Mr. Hobson, who had come from the female Belfields, who were, as he put it, " ' ... at their wit's ends.' " (p. 743) Cecilia begged to know what was the matter, but Mr. Hobson enjoyed the sound of his own voice (as, apparently many did, in this book) and took one and a half pages to tell her that the women were upset because Mr. Belfield had never shown up, as she had promised. Annoyed by the implication that she somehow had control over Belfield's movements, she hastened to assure him that she had no idea where he was. Mr. Briggs quickly suspected that Mr. Belfield was the secret lover, which Cecilia vainly denied. He asked if Belfield "had the ready" and he deduced from Mr. Hobson's vague reply that he did not. The two began to do battle over life styles (the virtues of water gruel versus tea and toast for breakfast, "plaistered pate"s versus bob jerom wigs, the profligacy indicated by indulgence in oysters ...), and Cecilia was actually relieved when a rap on the door indicated the arrival of Mr. Delvile. It was not, however, Mr. Delvile, but Mr. Albany, and the variety of visitors began to resemble the group Cecilia was with when Mr. Harrel met his end. Mr. Albany was ready to conduct Cecilia on a mission of mercy, and her refusal was not greeted with complaisance. When she told him of her recent loss of Mrs. Charlton, he replied that benevolent actions would soon assuage her grief. She told him that she had business she must conduct, but offered to at least give him the money he needed for the purpose of the day. Of course, all hell broke loose, the tradesmen being for the first time united in "mutual consternation" followed by "mutual displeasure". Instinctively they were intimidated by Albany's "stern gravity" and his " language too lofty for their comprehension". (p. 747) Mr. Briggs tried vainly to stop Cecilia from giving the half guinea that Albany requested, but the girl would not be thwarted. Briggs burst out in a tirade of outrage, which Mr. Albany met with more language that he could not understand. Mr. Hobson suggested that Albany was an actor, for " ... my notion was the gentleman might be speaking something by heart" (p. 749). Indignantly Mr. Albany denied being of that profession, and the puzzled materialists tried to comprehend what this mysterious man could be about. The tradesmen concluded that Mr. Albany must be a cheat (and surely greedy dishonest evangelists could not have been more unusual then than they are now), and tried to warn Cecilia from parting with any more of her lovely cash.
Cecilia would be relieved from this wrangling by the arrival of Mr. Delvile.
Re: Cecilia,V:9:4: The Money and London
I am still puzzled about the money. I don't get it. Jill probably has it right -- at least her interpretation would make sense of the plot so far as we have it. Mr Briggs for all his repulsive conduct is not a crook and has no desire to turn Cecilia into a wife or utterly dependent mistress. Thus when Monckton takes over his function, and Burney has gone to the trouble to underline the unreality of a large part of her inheritance, I know trouble is to come. Still, she was underage. Is or is she not responsible for the debt? I suspect that as in Clarissa where Richardson never makes it clear whether Clary could have prosecuted Lovelace for rape or litigated with her family for her property, so plays the rope at both ends, Burney is leaving things vague so as to create suspense but not closing herself off from a cheerful ending.
Belfield has himself brought before us the real lives of the desperately poor and the irrational life of London from the point of view of a hanger-on. The arguments in the chapter between Briggs and Holson over their dialectically opposed attitudes towards money and creature comforts, and then the quarrel between Briggs, the miser, and Albany, the crazed misanthropic philanthropist over whether one should or should not be charitable, we get remarkable glimpses of the terrible life of the London poor. For example:
'"Ungentle mortals!' cried Albany, 'in wealth exulting . . . think you these wretched outcasts have less sensiblity than yourselves . . . Think you the naked wanderer begs from choice?'
'Give him a whip!' cried Briggs, 'sha'nt have a souse! send him to Bridewell! nothing but a pauper; hate 'em, hate 'em all! full of tricks; break their own legs, put out their own arms, cut off their fingers, snap their own ancles, -- all for what? to get at the chink . . . ought to be well flogged; have 'em all sent to the Thames [to drown themselves]; worse than convicts'" (Cecilia, Oxford ed., MADoody and PSabor, p. 750).
I am reminded of Jesse Jackson's phrase that for many poor black man jail is a step up, a step up. These people cripple themselves so they can get into the workhouse and then there not be worked to death; it was also a sure-fire way to escape pressing. Burney expects us to turn from Briggs remembering the reality behind his hard-bitten phrases. The religious hysteria of Albany may be seen as the observe reaction to the same realities of life in 18th century London.
Cecilia is still relatively helpless. She cannot control Briggs; she needs Monckton to act for her.
Still what I liked best about this chapter was the incisive dramatic confrontation between Mr Delvile and Cecilia at its close.
October 1, 1998
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. V, Bk. IX, Ch. IV, A Wrangling, Part Two
If Cecilia was chagrined to find herself with the polyglot crew at Vauxhall, the night of Mr. Harrel's suicide, imagine how she felt about her company when Mr. Delvile arrived. He did immediately divert Mr. Hobson and Mr. Briggs from their wrangle about the proper uses of money. Mr. Briggs found more entertainment in teasing the susceptible Mr. Delvile. Vainly did Cecilia try to bring the attention of Briggs and Delvile to the business at hand: " ' Sir, here is pen and ink: are you to write or am I? What is to be done? ' " (Oxford Cecilia, ed. MADoody and PSabor, p. 753). Briggs facetiously deferred to " ' ... his Grace the Right Honourable Mr. Vampus ... my Lord Don Pedigree ... Squire High and Mighty ... tell all his old grand-dads else: keeps 'em in a roll; locks 'em in a closet; says his prayers to 'em; can't live without 'em: likes 'em better than cash! -- wish had 'em here! pop 'em all in the sink!' " With some justice Mr. Delvile responded indignantly: " ' If your intention, Sir, is only to insult me, I am prepared for what measures I shall take. I declined seeing you in my own house, that I might not be under the same restraint as when it was my unfortunate lot to meet you last.' " (p. 753)
Poor Cecilia, seeing that Mr. Delvile was about to crack and commence pounding on Mr. Briggs with his walking stick, begged Briggs to cease and desist and get to business. Mr. Albany poked his head into the fray, to the delight of Mr. Briggs: " ' There, there,' cried Briggs, holding up his finger at Mr. Delvile, ' have it now! got old Mr. Bounce upon you! give you enough of it; promise you that!' " (p. 754) Albany, using his typically florid manner of speech, not surprisingly stupefied Mr. Delvile with surprise. It was indeed as far in manner from that of Mr. Briggs as it is possible to get. While the stunned Delvile was still gaping at Mr. Albany, Mr. Hobson had to get into the act, and infuriated Mr. Delvile with the suggestion that he " ' ... take [Mr. Briggs] by the hand...' " (p. 754)
Mr. Delvile turned upon Cecilia, indignant at being forced to keep company with this bunch, and asked if they were to be witnesses to the signing of the dissolution of the guardianship. Hobson hastened to deny this suggestion, and caused Cecilia agonies of mortification by asking if she knew where Mr. Belfield was living. Cecilia did notice the pointed way in which Mr. Delvile observed her at this query, and Mr. Hobson did not help matters by his response to Cecilia's heated denial: " ' Well, ma'am, well, I mean no harm; only I hold it that the right way to hear of a young gentleman, is to ask for him of a young lady ...' " (p. 755)
Mr. Hobson and Mr. Briggs made their peace, but Mr. Delvile was so furious with all the irreverent regard for him that he indignantly demanded of Cecilia, " ' If you have collected together these persons for the purpose of affronting me, I must beg you to remember I am not one to be affronted with impunity!' " (p. 755)
Cecilia, while she vainly searched for some way of appeasing the fury of Mr. Delvile, was appalled to see Mr. Albany remonstrating with Mr. Delvile: " ' Oh pride of heart, with littleness of soul! check this vile arrogance, too vain for man, and spare to others some part of that lenity thou nourishest for thyself, or justly bestow on thyself that contempt thou nourishest for other!' " (p. 755)
Actually, I thought this made more sense than almost anything else from Mr. Albany so far in this book.
I am surprised that Mr. Delvile did not share the fate of his wife; so filled with rage that he was unable to speak other than in broken sentences. If he had popped a blood vessel, it might have solved a lot of problems for Cecilia and Mortimer.
After trying to palliate the offense he had caused by his presumption, Mr. Hobson made his exit, as had Mr. Albany after his last exhortation. Mr. Briggs, after promising Mr. Hobson that he would refrain from further provocation, at last settled to business, and after again warning Cecilia about Mr. Albany, departed, leaving her alone with Mr. Delvile. What visitor would be most ill timed at that moment? Mr. Belfield, of course!
In rather obscure language he told Cecilia that he had been reunited with his family, and left as suddenly as he came.
Mr. Delvile, before he summoned his chair, took advantage of Cecilia's solitude to give her " ' ... some counsel relating to your future establishment.' " (p. 757) Like a baseball pitcher, he had to wind up before he got to his point. He scolded her for her fussiness in choosing a husband: " ' ...young women of large fortunes my have little trouble in finding themselves establishments, they ought not, therefore, to trifle when proper ones are in their power, nor to suppose themselves equal to any they may chance to desire.' " (p. 758)
Cecilia was of course offended, for it was fairly obvious that he wished her to accept the proposals of Lord Ernolf. She let him know that she regretted Lord Ernolf's continued desire for an alliance with her, and he asked if she had another in mind. When she disclaimed any such desire, Mr. Delvile further pressed, asking if " ' ... some inferior offer has more chance of your approbation...' " (p. 758). When Cecilia again denied this charge, Mr. Delvile warned her against contemplating an inappropriate match, and also cautioned her to be careful of her reputation. Cecilia indignantly asked what grounds he could have for such a statement, and Mr. Delvile alluded to " ' ... frequent visits to a young man ...' " (p. 759).
It is strange to me that Cecilia can be so obtuse, when she pretended to have no idea to what young man Mr. Delvile was referring. Forcing him to be more specific, Mr. Delvile elaborated: " ' ... as I had already been informed of your attention to him, the corroborating incidents of my servant's following you to his house, his friend's seeking him at yours, and his own waiting upon you this morning ...' " (p. 759). Vainly did Cecilia try to tell him that the incidents were " ' ... the most accidental and unmeaning ...' ", Mr. Delvile found her denials difficult to credit. He became more brutal: " ' I should not then have suffered the degradation of seeing a son of the first expectations in the kingdom upon the point of renouncing his birth, nor a woman of the first distinction ruined in her health, and broken for ever in her constitution.' " (p. 760)
Cecilia was at a loss for words, but when the triumphant Mr. Delvile prepared to leave, Cecilia gathered her scattered faculties for one more effort: " ' Go not so, Sir! ... let me at least convince you of the mistake in regard to Mr. Belfield -- ' " He paused to let fly one last devastating blow: " ' ... doubtless, as you are your own mistress, your having run out a great part of your fortune, is nothing beyond what you have a right to do. ' " (p. 760)
When Cecilia begged an opportunity to make an explanation, and revealed that the loan had been made for the sake of Mr. Harrel, Mr. Delvile smugly declined to believe her, and left the girl aghast.
Mr. Monckton had been at work.
Re: Cecilia, V:9:4: Mr Delvile plays Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Burney is at her best when she writes sheer dramatic narrative; her diary and letters are chock full of these; the success of Evelina is due to the book's reliance on them; the scene between Mr Delvile and Cecilia is very good.
Mr Delvile seemed to me a Lady Catherine de Bough in this scene: brutal in his arrogance, unashamed, sneering, nasty. While all long I have seen the analogy with Sir Walter Elliot, the power of the scene turns the conception into a Lady Catherine. If you apply Mr Albany's remonstrance to Mr Delvile to Austen's Lady Cat you will see this:
" 'Oh pride of heart, with littleness of soul! check this vile arrogance, too vain for man, and spare to others some part of that lenity thou nourishest for thyself, or justly bestow on thyself that contempt thou nourishest for other!' " (Cecilia Oxford ed., PSabor and MADoody, p. 755).
It was in this scene I also saw hints for Marianne's great distress and terror at the thought that the reason Willoughby has turned from her is he's been told something sexually unsavoury about her and has believe it.
I did think Burney really captured the venom people can and do throw at one another through controlled irony. The following also tolls a warning bell about Cecilia's loss of a great deal of money to Monckton:
'"This intrepidity in a young woman', said he, ironically, 'is certainly very commendable; and doubtless,as you are your own mistress, your having run out great part of your fortune, is nothing beyond what you have a right to do."
"Me!" creid Cecilia, astonished, "run out great part of my fortune!"
"Perhaps that is another _mistake_! I ahve not often been so unfortunate; and you are not, then, in debt?"
"In debt, Sir?"
"Nay, I have no intention to enquire into your affairs..."
I liked how she ran after him, and pulled him at the door, and when she sought to explain away the mistake by saying she gave the money to Harrel, he is so supercilious and cold. It's like talking to steel -- Lucy Steele's name is redolent of her venom, but this stuff is much rawer (pp. 760-1).
I am sometimes tempted to think that ours is a more polite age -- at least when people are face to face. But then I remember how it was when I lived in a family setting and the astonishingly ugly things people were capable of saying . . .
: From Jill Spriggs:
That was a thought I never had, but it is so perfect.
Re: Cecilia: Burney and Mrs Thrale
I agree with Nancy that we can see a number of Burney's close associates in the characters in Cecilia. It is said it's even clearer in The Witlings and that's why her father and Mr Crisp would not permit her to publish it.
How interesting it is that Burney never gives away the secrets of her heart in her diaries or letters, and that even in the fiction these secrets -- these passionate revolts and outpourings -- are only there indirectly, obliquely and we are asked to believe the heroine is a paragon of conventionality. Burney had courage, but not enough.
Subject: Re: Cecilia, Vol. V, Bk. IX, Ch. IV, A Wrangling, Part Two
I like Mr. Briggs more in this scene than in any other so far. Devile is truly on his high horse to the bewilderment of the reader as well as Cecilia. There are too many people and verbal blows in this section for comfortable reading.
Date: Fri, 2 Oct 1998
Subject: Cecilia, Vol. V, Bk. IX, Ch. V, A Suspicion
With much anguish, Cecilia reluctantly began to suspect that Mr. Monckton must have been the person who told Mr. Delvile of the loan she had incurred in the behalf of Mr. Harrel. Cecilia, who tended to wear her emotions on her sleeve, was "cold and reserved" when Mr. Monckton came to ask how the meeting went with her guardians. Noticing this, he asked if something had gone wrong. Cecilia, struggling to disguise her too apparent feelings, shared the difficulties she had had with "the obstinacy of Mr. Briggs". Mr. Monckton was not thrown off long by this evasion, and renewed his inquiries. Cecilia finally told Monckton of her scene with Mr. Delvile. The crafty Monckton did the only thing he could to gull Cecilia; he offered " ' ... to go myself to Mr. Delvile, and insist upon his clearing me.' " (Oxford Cecilia, ed. MADoody and PSabor, p. 764) Cecilia, dismayed at such a prospect, instead asked Mr. Monckton how she could discover the author of such a treachery against her. What an actor he was!
"He was evidently, however, and greatly disturbed; he declared his own wonder equal to her's how the affair had been betrayed, expressed the warmest indignation at the malevolent insinuations against her conduct, and lamented with mingled acrimony and grief, that there should exist even the possibility of casting the odium of such villainy upon himself." (pp. 764 - 765)
Once again I see a lot of Machiavelli in Mr. Monckton.
Cecilia's soft heart rebelled against her involuntary surmises, and she wanted desperately to believe that one of her earliest friends could not be capable of such treasonable guile. Mr. Monckton expertly dissembled:
"It is true,' said he, with an air ingenuous though mortified, ' I dislike the Delviles, and have always disliked them; they appear to me a jealous, vindictive, and insolent race, and I should have thought I betrayed the faithful regard I professed for you, had I concealed my opinion when I saw you in danger of forming an alliance with them; I spoke to you, therefore, with honest zeal, thoughtless of any enmity I might draw upon my self; but though it was an interference from which I hoped, by preventing the connection, to contribute to your happiness, it was not with a design to stop it at the expence of your character, -- a design black, horrible and diabolical! a design which must be formed by a Daemon, but which even a Daemon could never, I think, execute!" (p. 765)
But a "Daemon" it was.
Cecilia's suspicions were temporarily assuaged by "the candour of this speech" (p.765). She still was torn with conflicting emotions, and decided to give Monckton the benefit of the doubt until the mystery could be solved.
Cecilia returned to her problems with Mr. Briggs, and Mr. Monckton promised to go with her to his home the next morning and wrest control of her remaining fortune from him. Mr. Briggs was extremely reluctant, but after an intense battle, he relinquished the charge which he had so enjoyed. All her accounts were in order; he loved money so much that the charge of even someone else's had given him boundless pleasure.
Mr. Monckton told Cecilia how to "... [make] a general arrangement of her affairs." (p. 766) She left the income from her uncle's property in the hands of the steward he (the uncle) had employed, and sold the stocks from her parents to pay off Mr. Monckton and her bookseller.
It took a week, instead of two days, to complete all these transactions, and Cecilia spent the chief of them alone, no longer able to console herself with visits to her friend Henrietta. The scene with Mr. Delvile provided much food for thought. Cecilia thought about Mortimer's reaction to the story about Mr. Belfield, which she was sure his father would share. She felt almost sure that Mortimer would not believe it. Worry about the health of Mrs. Delvile caused more unease, especially since she felt she was the cause, albeit unwilling.
The return of Mr. Albany was a welcome relief from these uncomfortable thoughts. In spite of the fact that Mr. Monckton tried to dissuade Cecilia from going on more missions of mercy (he wanted all Cecilia's money for himself), she went out one fine morning, taking her footman for protection.
They visited a " ... miserable house in a court leading into Piccadilly, where, up three pair of stairs, was a wretched woman ill in bed, while a large family of children were playing in the room." (p. 767) Cecilia proved herself fully capable of handling the situation: " ... she sent for the woman of the house, who kept a Green Grocer's shop on the ground floor, and desired her to hire a nurse for her sick lodger, to call all the children down stairs, and to send for an apothecary, whose bill she promised to pay. She then gave her some money to get what necessaries might be wanted, and said she would come again in two days to see how they went on." (p. 768)
Cecilia, expanding under the praise of Mr. Albany, asked what else they could do. Mr. Albany, wisely not using up his benefactress too quickly, said that was enough for one day. Two days later he again came for her, and they revisited the invalid. The recovering woman turned out to have seen Cecilia before; she was the pew opener who had been present the day of Cecilia's aborted wedding. Albany was shocked to find out why Cecilia had been so saddened, and promised not to again touch the sore spot.
Cecilia found that the woman had been forced to give up her office of pew opener, and was suffering the privations of want in spite of the help that the rector and the curate of her church had procured for her. Kids are pretty expensive!
Albany understood the melancholy that afflicted Cecilia as they returned to Lady Margaret's home, and gave her a blessing: " ' Peace light upon thy head, and dissipate thy woes!' " (p. 769) Cecilia thought peace would not soon be coming, when reminders of her lost love would continue intruding.
Mr. Monckton misunderstood the reason for Cecilia's subdued spirits when she returned, and tried to dissuade her from her benevolent outings. " ' You trifle with your own happiness ... by witnessing these scenes of distress, and you will trifle away your fortune upon projects you can never fulfil: the very air in those miserable houses is unwholesome for you to breathe; you will soon be infected with some of the diseases to which you so incautiously expose yourself, and while not half you give in charity will answer the purpose you wish, you will be plundered by cheats and sharpers till you have nothing left to bestow.' " (pp. 769 - 770)
While Cecilia acknowledged there was some truth in what Mr. Monckton said, the projects she had embarked on were the only pleasure she indulged herself with, and she sorely needed some happiness, if only momentary.
Cecilia thought of the Hills, and decided to visit them and see how her first project in charity was doing. " ... the prosperity in which she found this little family, amply rewarded the liberality she had shewn to it, and proved an irresistible encouragement to similar actions." She promised to continue paying for the children's educations, paid the rest of Mrs. Hill's share in the business she was partnering, and gave Mrs. Hill money for presents for all. (p. 770)
The pew opener Cecilia decided to remove to the country, where the clean air might help in her recovery, and where she could continue to help her as needed, while seeing to the educations of the children.
I enjoyed reading of the different reactions of Mr. Monckton and Mr. Albany to Cecilia's projects. " These magnificent donations and designs, being communicated to Albany, seemed a renovation to him of youth, spirit, and joy! while their effect upon Mr. Monckton resembled an annihilation of all three! to see money thus sported away, which he had long considered as his own, to behold those sums which he had destined for his pleasures, thus lavishly bestowed upon beggars, excited a rage he could with difficulty conceal, and an uneasiness he could hardly endure; and he languished, he sickened for the time, when he might put a period to such romantic proceedings." (p. 771)
Cecilia, her business completed, resolved to return to the country. Lady Margaret and Mr. Monckton would follow.
Thus when Monckton takes over his function, and Burney has gone to the trouble to underline the unreality of a large part of her inheritance, I know trouble is to come. Still, she was underage. Is or is she not responsible for the debt?
By taking over her debt, Monckton makes Cecilia beholden to him, psychologically as well as monetarily. If Cecilia would have gone to Briggs to extricate her from her awkward situation, you can be sure he would have overturned the debt in any way necessary. The circumstances of the loan (Harrel's taking advantage of his ward) would have become public, an event which Monckton also did not wish to become public. The way he managed it, he was easily able to thwart any prospects of a marriage with the Delviles (so he hopes) by sharing the information with Delvile, Sr., putting his own slant on it. Being aware of Mr. Delvile's already existing aversion to the match, he knew that Mortimer's father would be unlikely to investigate closely a charge which he is quite willing to believe.
So, if Cecilia had allowed Briggs to extricate her from the loan, it would have been done in a public manner which would have cleared her name for having dealt with moneylenders. Monckton preferred that she be helped secretly, giving him a sinister hold over her.
Re: Cecilia:V:9:5: Mrs Lefroy & Delvile, Cecilia as Marianne & v Emma
Again I am going to try to add to Jill's posting by pointing out some interesting parallels between Burney's and Austen's novels and attitudes taken over from their similarly constricted lives as genteel women.
As I was reading Burney's description of Cecilia's continued loyalty to and affection for Mrs Delvile after all Mrs Delvile has done to hurt her permanently, I remembered the detail which Dorothy Gannon alluded to, and Nokes revealingly overlooked. Like Cecilia, and Burney herself with Mrs Thrale, Austen had a friendship with a woman, Mrs Lefroy, much older than herself who, from the evidence we have, and from its reflection in Austen's novels, we have reason to believe cut Austen off permanently from a young man who was beginning to fall in love with her and whom she was beginning to love. Yet when Mrs Lefroy dies we have a poem in which Austen grieves over her death and says she will miss her badly. I suggest the reason Nokes ignores this is there is little record of the friendship -- why would there be if Mrs Lefroy and Austen met regularly, and equally importantly, it doesn't fit in with the kind of behavior modern people sympathise with because they don't live under the same conditions.
What were these? Well here again is what Burney says about Cecilia's grief for the death of Mrs Charlton who was not her congenial soul-mate at all:
"those who live in the country have little power of selection; confined to a small circle, they must be content with what it offers; and however they may idolize extraordinary merit when they meet with it, they must not regard it as essential to friendship, for in their circumscribed rotation,whatever may be their discontent, they can make but little change" (Oxford Cecilia, ed. PSabor and MADoody, p 712).
Mrs Lefroy was congenial to Austen; Austen probably rare met any very intelligent women who did understand. Mrs Thrale and Fanny Burney were similarly well- matched. If the older woman betrays the younger, what is she to do? And so we can understand how Burney speaks of Cecilia's pity for Mrs Delvile's bad health and loneliness:
"She had always preserved for that lady the most affectionate respect, and could not consider herself as the cause of her sufferings, without feeling the utmost concern, however conscious she had not wilfully occasioned them" (p. 767).
I again see the Marianne parallel. We are told how Cecilia is "filled with horror and consternation" at the charge she may be sexually intimate in some way with Belfield because it is "destructive of her character" (p. 762).
On the other hand, Cecilia's trip to the desperately poor and her helping them is presented with real specifics and details. This contrasts to Austen's way of sliding over Emma's trips to the poor as Lady Bountiful. I don't say Austen doesn't want us to understand the desperate condition of the people Emma helps, but Austen wants us to understand this only from the perspective which commends Emma's behavior to them. They seem to exist to teach us Emma has a heart and charity. In Burney, they are brought forward as people in their own right even if the episode is too short and the depiction conventionalised.
Re: Cecilia:V:9:5: Cecilia and Monckton p>I just hope Burney doesn't throw this situation away but develops it thoroughly in the way she did the Harrels.
There are some good moments. Jill has pointed to Monckton's clever undermining of Cecilia's suspicion by himself immediately wanting to go to Delvile and demand Delvile clear the imputation. Cecilia is in Monckton's hands in an number of ways, including her inability to control the various men around her.
I thought the following vignette was also effective:
"A suspicion now arose in her mind which made it thrill with horror; 'good God!' she exclaimed, 'can Mr Monckton--'
She stopt, even to herself;--she checked the idea;--hse drove it hastily from her;--she was certain it was false and cruel;--she hated herself for having started it" (Oxford Cecilia, ed. PSabor and MADoody, p 763).
This makes me think of the chapter wherein Emma finally acknowledges to herself she loves Knightley, except Cecilia cannot acknowledge what she suspects to herself. What would she do? Jill points out Briggs would have been true to her in his way; Mortimer tried. She has cut herself off from them.
Eva Figes argues there is a strong gothic element in Burney -- as the gothics are romantic projections of the real conditions of women's lives. I can see this in Cecilia.