We are two part-time academics. Ellen teaches in the English department and Jim in the IT program at George Mason University.

Fanny's _Evelina_ · 12 February 06

Dear Lady Mary,

I was just delighted to receive your letter. Long time no type. I don’t know that Harriet should have given you my letter, but in this instance custom is mere punctilio when we can renew our companionship this way.

I hope the children are well. Harriet has told me the Dowager Duchess has some surprize in store for them. Perhaps you could pump Lord Peter. I’m with Mr Knightley in not liking surprizes and I imagine Charles doesn’t either.

I write to tell you that a good friend, Judy G, is proposing a group read of Fanny’s Evelina on Eighteenth Century Worlds and to invite you and others who enjoy Fanny’s work to join us. I wish Jennica had the time, but fear she doesn’t. Anyway if she has any extra time, she will be busy with Mansfield Park.

I realize how busy you are (with your poetry too), but thought I would express my pleasure at your letter and offer this way to continue our friendship in another room here in cyberspace.

Fanny sends along a sketch she made of Covent Garden in 1766:

Adieu, my dear!


Posted by: Ellen

* * *


  1. Well, I thought I would have more time, because I made a time management schedule for myself that says when I have classes, when I have extra curricular activities, when I’m going to do homework, and when I have free time. It’s color coded. But I haven’t followed the schedule today. But maybe I’ll follow it tomorrow. But I make time management schedules every semester and don’t follow them, so why would I follow it this semester?

    I finished my first English paper of the semester today. I still don’t know how to cite things even though I asked my professor and I looked at my Penguin Handbook that explains MLA. I know I’m supposed to put slashes between the lines of a play. If there is a comma or a semi colon at the end of the line, am I supposed to put it before the slash, or leave it out? I thought I should leave the commas out, but then I went back and put them in. The handbook says that I’m supposed to use the word line or lines when I cite a line number, and then use only numbers in subsequent references. Does that mean that in the first parenthesis I write (line 48) and then in the rest of the parenthesis throughout the paper I write (93)? I found out that when there is an indented block of text I’m supposed to put the period before the parenthesis instead of after. That seems weird, because I feel like I’m missing the period because it’s not where I’m expecting it to be. Is there a reason English professors like parenthetical citation but history professors like footnotes? It doesn’t sound like my English professor will care if I did the citations wrong, because when I asked him how to do them, he said, "Now you’re getting technical." I knew how to do citations before, I just never did them for poems or plays.

    Speaking of English professors, my English teacher from 11th grade doesn’t like Jim Croce, and now I’m wondering whether it’s something that all English teachers don’t like, or whether it’s just her. Do you like Jim Croce? Except you saying you don’t like him either doesn’t mean that all English teachers don’t like him, and you saying you do like him doesn’t mean that she’s the only one who doesn’t like him. I like him. A lot of his songs have made me cry. I listened to my dad’s Jim Croce CD a lot in 11th grade, and every time I listened to it, I cried about a different song. Let me look at what songs are on that CD to see which ones made me cry. My dad let me take the CD to Sweet Briar. This isn’t in any particular order, just the order of the CD: "Salon and Saloon", I don’t remember about "Dreaming Again", but probably, "A Long Time Ago" definitely, maybe "Alabama Rain" I don’t remember about that one either, Maybe "Lover’s Cross" but that’s another one I don’t remember whether I cried, "These Dreams" definitely, and definitely "Photographs and Memories". Except that you wouldn’t care which songs made me cry if you haven’t heard the songs. That English teacher had a question wall. People wrote questions on a piece of paper and put it in the question box that was taped outside her door, and then every evening she would take the questions home with her and she and her husband would answer them. He taught English too. She would type up all the questions and answers and tape them up on the wall outside her classroom. Lots of people read the question wall. I asked a lot of questions. My last year at that school was her last year at that school, and I was dissappointed, because I wanted to ask more questions, and I would have e-mailed my brother all my questions so he could submit them to the question box for me. A few of my friends would be happy if she was still there, because then I would ask her all my questions instead of asking them. I don’t like it when my friends get annoyed when I ask too many questions, but I also don’t like it when they don’t get annoyed when I ask too many questions. At least one person thinks that my conversations consist only of questions, but most of what I’m writing now isn’t questions. But maybe it’s different if I talk to someone in person. I don’t think people know me very well. They would probably interact with me differently if they knew me better. Another thing is that if I talk about what I’m thinking and feeling, if what I’m feeling doesn’t make sense to the people I’m talking to, they think that I must not be feeling what I say I’m feeling. It’s annoying that people say I’m not feeling what I say I’m feeling. So, what I was saying went from talking about my English paper to complaining about people.
    Jennica    Feb 13, 8:15pm    #
  2. Dear Sylvia,

    I do hope you don’t mind Harriet’s showing me? I was so pleased with your letter. So far Peter is proving very hard to pump. (Even Bunter is being masterfully oblique, on the ‘phone…. so I know nothing, yet.) You know my mother as well as I do: as whimsical as anyone bearing the Wimsey name.
    – Actually, I should like some new books for the children, but I doubt it’s anything so simple she has in mind. I can’t imagine a better way of keeping them satisfied as we begin the Evelina read! I’ll ask Charles to look in at the bookshop on his way in.

    My thanks to Fanny, for the lovely sketch of Covent Garden. I look forward to the verbal ones to come.

    Affectionately yours,

    Lady Mary
    Julie Vollgraff    Feb 14, 1:44am    #
  3. P.S.

    Your letter got mislaid, mixed in with Charles’ papers, or I would have replied more promptly. My apologies!

    Lady Mary
    Julie Vollgraff    Feb 14, 1:50am    #
  4. Dear Jennica,

    I can’t speak for other English teachers, but myself I don’t think very small matters like where to place the punctuation that important. Just follow the MLA pattern and be consistent. In the world of real publishing, the particular publishing house will have its own format.

    I’ve never heard of Jim Croce!

    I thought I’d suggest a column you might like to read: Dr Diana, her Adventures. I linked it to the margin of this blog. She gives good advice.

    Chava    Feb 14, 10:04pm    #
  5. Dear Lady Mary,

    Not in the least. Harriet has my full confidence.

    I should think the Duchess herself would enjoy Evelina, and perhaps even more Madame D’Arblay’s journals. The five years at court particularly. I don’t know if the Duchess ever had an appointment at court, but she’d have an insider’s eye as she read. Did you notice how Harman suggested that Fanny fictionalized and imagined much in her journals so that they are borderline imaginative works? Harman is more candid than the other biographers this way.

    You mentioned Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda. Miss Edgeworth also wrote children’s stories, dreadful didactic stuff. We have to wait until the 19th century and books like Mary Lamb’s stories from Shakespeare for imaginative fanciful stories for children.

    I always thought Charles came out so attractively in Lord Peter’s adventures. Peter needed him. Also Bunter.

    I too am looking forward very much to Evelina. I’m feeling so hopeful about this my dear. I just know this is a good beginning for us as a group reading and talking together.

    You haven't said where you are living right now. I hope somewhere not too cold. We warm up during the day, but at night here it's dark chill winter. I'm told mulled wine is a great help.

    Chava    Feb 14, 10:15pm    #
  6. Maybe I want to join you reading Evelina. I’m not sure though.
    Jennica    Feb 15, 10:45am    #
  7. Dear Jennica,

    Do you really have the time? I think you’d like it. The first two letters go slow but then we have this vivid teenager’s life in London.

    Then can you get a copy or would you be willing to read it online:

    Here is an etext edition broken up into chapters:


    Here’s a bunch of things to look at and read:


    I had meant to tell Yvette that I too have trouble figuring out what size I wear. Manufacturers vary the numbers they put on sizes or how big they make a size. So at Orvis I wear size 10 I’ve discovered. They imagine they are flattering me. More expensive stories run their sizes bigger so as to flatter the customer—so they think. Do pass this on in case she doesn’t read this comment.

    Be sure you will not take from your other studies, Jennica. Miss Austen’s Mansfield Park is the masterpiece book. Evelina falls off badly at the end and is nowhere as deep, great, moving, poignant, beautiful as MP.

    chava    Feb 15, 11:19am    #
  8. That’s the reason it’s a difficult decision! I don’t want to not have time for my classes and get bad grades, but it sounds like I’ll enjoy Evelina, so I don’t want to miss out on something I’ll enjoy. Well, I don’t have to read it now. I could read it over the summer when I have more time and use my extra time now to read MP. Do you think that’s what I should do?

    I don’t know how much time I’ll have because maybe my time management schedule will give me more time, and maybe if I keep my room organized I won’t spend time looking for things and that will give me extra time. But why would I keep my room organized all of a sudden if I never have before?

    Two of my friends rarely have time to talk to me because they have too much to do, and it makes me feel like I should be busier than I am and it makes me feel like I’m not working hard enough. I feel like I have to get a 4.0 this semester, but in all the semesters before this I only thought I had to get between 3.3 and 3.5. I need a calendar, because I can’t start reading the ethnography for my anthropology class until I know when I have to have it read by, and I won’t know when I have to have it read until I can see it on my calendar. I don’t know why I can’t find out when it’s due by looking at the syllabus, and I don’t know why I need to know when assignments are due to be able to start them.

    I can’t wait to see what my grade on my psych test is. And what grades I’ll end up with at the end of the semester in my psych classes. Because if I get As in them then I should major in psych, but if I only get Bs I should switch majors, because that would mean I will have never gotten an A in a psych class. Except for the psych class I took at a different school.
    Jennica    Feb 16, 8:14am    #
  9. Dear Jennica,

    What I worry about is you’ll get involved in emailing back and forth with the group. That’s what makes reading together fun, but it is time-consuming.

    chava    Feb 16, 8:04pm    #
  10. I spend my time writing comments to you and reading your replies. I was thinking at the beginning of this semester what is a good use of my time and what is not. I decided that writing comments on your blog and e-mailing Emily is a good use of my time, but it’s not worth my time to e-mail anyone else.

    My friends don’t usually write e-mails back to me, so I don’t get an answer. Are people not willing to take the time to be my friend? Does it take more time to be my friend than to be other people’s friends? One person, or maybe more than one, said it takes more time to be my friend than to be other people’s friends.

    Instant Messenger isn’t a good use of my time either. Except the conversation I had with my roommate from first semester last year was a good conversation. Except it would have been better in person. It seems like the conversations I have on IM would be better in person or through e-mail. It seems like my conversations to Emily through e-mail and to you on your blog have more value than my IM conversations. I think I’d be happier if I just uninstalled IM from my computer. Then I’d be forced to talk to my friends in person because I don’t have IM as a form of communication, and talking in person is better than talking on IM. I’ve always known that I shouldn’t talk on IM, but I feel like I can’t delete it from my computer. I think I’m addicted to it. I constantly look at who is signed on, which is also a waste of time. Sometimes when I ask someone a question, they ask me if I’ll be on IM later, because they want to IM me the answer to my question. Why can’t they e-mail the answer or call me?

    The telephone is a good form of communication, but people don’t use it anymore. Actually IM is useful for me when I am meeting someone for the first time. When I want to be friends with someone I try to talk to them in person but I get nervous and I don’t know what to say, so I find out what their IM screen name is so I can talk to them on IM, and that makes becoming friends with them easier. I’m planning to give up IM for Lent, because I did that last year, and I got good grades, and maybe my good grades were from all the time I saved from not talking on IM, so I’m going to do it again this semester so I can get better grades. And it will be easier to give it up, because it’s an absolute. I can’t go on IM between this date and this date, instead of saying I won’t go on IM today, but then I am signed on and I see someone I want to talk to so I talk to them. I’ve been trying to spend more time with the friends that make me happy and less time with the friends that make me unhappy.

    Actually, I just realized that with one of my friends, I’m happy when I talk to her in person, but unhappy when I talk to her through e-mail or IM. So I really would be happier without IM. E-mailing my friends takes a lot of time, so maybe it would take too much time to be e-mailing with the group that’s reading the book. I have time to write on your blog and e-mail 3-4 e-mails to my friends a day, and write several shorter e-mails if I have a question for a professor or want to tell my parents something or if I have more to say to my friends, but I don’t think I would have time for more e-mails, so I shouldn’t join the group reading the book. That was a really long way to come to a decision that I’m not going to join the group.

    And I don’t think that keeping my room organized is going to save me any time either. I haven’t been able to find my half chaps this whole semester and they were hanging on a hook on my closet door right in front of me. You probably saw them when you dropped Isobel off or at families weekend. And I was just looking for a packet I’m supposed to read for a class, searching through my huge pile of disorganized papers, and the packet was right on top of the pile. I think I’ve gotten so used to having to search for everything that I can’t find stuff that’s put away because I’m not expecting it to be where it’s supposed to be.

    How about I stop typing now. I was going to start talking about religion, but it would be better to finish my reading for my classes.
    Jennica    Feb 17, 8:08am    #
  11. Dearest Jennica,

    For those alive to and in touch with their internal lives and those who are thoughtful, perceptive and want to reach out there’s nothing to equal communications through letters.

    A different self can come forth in letters—or email communications of the type we are enjoying with one another.

    The IM is just a replication of physical interaction.

    I’m like you: it’s easier for me to talk to someone when we are not face-to-face.

    There is though a danger in cyberspace. The new kinds of interaction we can enjoy here are terribly seductive. So you have to work out a schedule to keep the pleasures of these texts (wherever you go) limited.

    So, yes, and only if you have time, just try Mansfield Park, and, yes, only when you have the time, we can talk.

    chava    Feb 18, 8:46am    #
  12. Dear Sylvia,

    No, I am taking a break from my lovely fictive life in London (of the 1920s, no less!) and staying, for now, in Houston. Tonight it is nearly freezing, but that’s rare here. Mulled wine sounds marvelous; I am making do on very good hot tea. (A serious indulgence, with me; good, full-leaf teas.) I hope you are warm enough, too?

    Charles and Bunter make such a wonderful balance for Peter. I love their friendships. Truly, I believe Julie – whom you know – would marry a man who melded the right parts of Charles with a bit of Lord Peter, if she could find one! (With some of Bunter’s loyalty, superadded.) For myself, as Peter’s sister, I have and have had enough of him to feel I get on very nicely with Charles only! (smiling)

    My mother loves reminisces and diaries of all kinds; and I myself am looking forward to reading them, as well. Since I’ve married Charles, I am more careful of money than I ever was, but I find there are delights to planning, and a certain joy in obtaining what has long been wished for.

    The snippet of Belinda on the back cover much amused me; but I am glad to be warned off such dreadful-sounding stuff for children! It sounds like the kind of thing Gerald’s wife would like. I did buy Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare last month, in an edition with plates by Charles Rackham – ‘for the children.’ It looks lovely, and I have been savoring anticipation, without reading it yet.

    Yesterday arrived a volume I’d ordered before we began discussing Evelina: fairy tales by Mme. d’Aulnoy. She was Perrault’s contemporary, and the first to publish a fairy tale in French – outdoing him by a matter of months and coining the very term ‘conte de fées.’ (Sadly, unlike Lady Mary, I have to read them in translation.) The number of women writing fairy tales in this early flowering in the 1690s interests me; especially as I’ve read that they were not primarily folklorists, in any sense, but women using familiar plots and motifs in this new form, as a safe way to communicate truths which were taken askance (or much worse!) when stated openly. And there was much they appropriated that belonged to the court and the educated classes; no longer, these, merely the stories told to beguile cold hours around uneducated firesides or hours of tiresome needlework and laundry. They were, in some form, works of art, aimed at educated adults; not children.

    (Though I wish more people who aim at children would offer them real works of art.)

    At any rate, it will be interesting to read them and see; and to let Perrault’s equal in her own time, come first into my library, on her own.

    Regarding Burney: I found the suggestion of both unconscious dramatization and conscious practice in writing, both involving veering from literal truth-telling, rather compelling. (- Though perfectly aware I haven’t yet read the journals myself!) It seems consonant with Burney/d’Arblay’s character, the sense of being scrutinized, and the intensity of need one would feel for imaginative play as well as an outlet for ‘speech’ – for sheer communication. It doesn’t seem discreditable to me, certainly. Given the intensity, likewise, of her feelings for her father, the very peculiar re-construction of letters, etc, in the Memoirs seems… believable, comprehensible… if not greatly to be desired. I wouldn’t commend it, but I am able to understand how it would feel to her. And I can see how it would be freeing, in readers and biographers, to be able to see it this way; to recognize the rather different and not always literal truth one is seeing.

    A couple of days passed without my getting in much reading, but at present I am absorbed in earlier years of the d’Arblay’s marriage. I was so happy for Fanny…. Give her my regards – by way of the proper friends – if you will.

    With mine to you,

    Lady Mary
    Julie Vollgraff    Feb 19, 5:56am    #

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