Tuesday 31 December 2013

William Walter Elliot- another type of hypocrite

From volume 2 chapter 5 of "Persuasion"- Anne Elliott about William Walter Elliot:

"...Though they had now been acquainted a month, she could not be satisfied that she really knew his character. That he was a sensible man, an agreeable man, that he talked well, professed good opinions, seemed to judge properly and as a man of principle, this was all clear enough. He certainly knew what was right, nor could she fix on any one article of moral duty evidently transgressed; but yet she would have been afraid to answer for his conduct. She distrusted the past, if not the present. The names which occasionally dropt of former associates, the allusions to former practices and pursuits, suggested suspicions not favourable of what he had been. She saw that there had been bad habits; that Sunday travelling had been a common thing; that there had been a period of his life (and probably not a short one) when he had been, at least, careless in all serious matters; and, though he might now think very differently, who could answer for the true sentiments of a clever, cautious man, grown old enough to appreciate a fair character? How could it ever be ascertained that his mind was truly cleansed?

Mr Elliot was rational, discreet, polished, but he was not open. There was never any burst of feeling, any warmth of indignation or delight, at the evil or good of others. This, to Anne, was a decided imperfection. Her early impressions were incurable. She prized the frank, the open-hearted, the eager character beyond all others. Warmth and enthusiasm did captivate her still. She felt that she could so much more depend upon the sincerity of those who sometimes looked or said a careless or a hasty thing, than of those whose presence of mind never varied, whose tongue never slipped.

Mr Elliot was too generally agreeable. Various as were the tempers in her father's house, he pleased them all. He endured too well, stood too well with every body. He had spoken to her with some degree of openness of Mrs Clay; had appeared completely to see what Mrs Clay was about, and to hold her in contempt; and yet Mrs Clay found him as agreeable as any body.

Lady Russell saw either less or more than her young friend, for she saw nothing to excite distrust. She could not imagine a man more exactly what he ought to be than Mr Elliot; nor did she ever enjoy a sweeter feeling than the hope of seeing him receive the hand of her beloved Anne in Kellynch church, in the course of the following autumn."

The 1st paragraph in the excerpt is reminiscent of Fanny Price's thoughts on Henry Crawford in "Mansfield park", but the rest is different, making William Elliot, compared to Henry, a more hypocritical hypocrite, less 'noticeable', more dangerous. For the time being I don't know what he'll do or what I'll think about "Persuasion" after reading the whole book, but this part is so astonishingly well-written, which, again, proves Jane Austen a master and the best at depicting phonies*, that I have to post it here. 

*: At this, in my opinion, she's also better than Tolstoy, at least "Anna Karenina" doesn't have such a variety of phonies as in her works, and the phonies in "Resurrection" are even more similar, less vivid, less convincing, more like caricatures, as at that point of life Tolstoy sacrificed his arts for philosophy and politics. 
This entry was intended to be published before midnight, but my writing was interrupted by fireworks :D So, 

Update at 4.40pm: 
I suppose the last good thing that happened to me in 2013 was the discovery of Jane Austen (not when I read the 1st book, "Emma", but when I came to see her greatness, 1st whilst rereading many parts of "Sense and sensibility" and then saw it more clearly in "Mansfield park"). For, along with this discovery, were several other changes. 1 is the view on life, human beings, myself, relationships between men and women... (which, in turn, affected my opinions of certain works, including "Jane Eyre"). More important is my view on literature, as I realise that the subject matter is not very important. A book is well written or badly written, that is all.

Monday 30 December 2013

Reading "Persuasion" || Jane Austen's sense of balance

"Anne wondered whether it ever occurred to him now, to question the justness of his own previous opinion as to the universal felicity and advantage of firmness of character; and whether it might not strike him, that, like all other qualities of mind, it should have its proportions and limits. She thought it could scarcely escape him to feel, that a persuadable temper might sometimes be as much in favour of happiness, as a very resolute character."
("Persuasion", Jane Austen) 
This quote sums up Jane Austen's view of life and the importance she places on balance, which has been expressed many times in her works- balance between sense and sensibility, between emotional display and restraint, between love and money in marriage, between the dismissal of and obsession with novels..., and now, between a persuadable temper and a resolute character. 


Among her heroines in the 6 novels, 3 are introverts- Elinor Dashwood, Fanny Price and Anne Elliot, and 3 are extroverts- Marianne Dashwood, Catherine Morland and Emma Woodhouse. I don't know yet how to categorise Elizabeth Bennet, not having read "Pride and prejudice".


"One man's ways may be as good as another's, but we all like our own best." 
(also from "Persuasion")


Her novels are valuable and significant both as literary works and as guides to life and self-awareness (and as sources of delight, amusement and comfort). I read them 1st as a reader, 2nd as a human being, and 3rd as a woman (and perhaps 4th, in a way, as a writer).  

Update on 1/1/2014: 
I've finished reading "Persuasion". A sad, beautiful work. I am pleasantly surprised to find myself loving and admiring Jane Austen more than I could ever imagine, having expected to only acknowledge, with moderation and hesitation, her talent and appeal. A wonderful feeling.

Sunday 29 December 2013

In defence of Fanny Price

I notice that Fanny Price has been accused of hypocrisy for distrusting and rejecting Henry Crawford due to inconstancy and then later accepting Edmund Bertram's proposal after he ceases to love Mary Crawford. 
The fact that Fanny is not as popular as, say, Elizabeth Bennet, is to me quite understandable, but the view above shows that the people who think so neither understand the 2 men in "Mansfield park" nor know the meaning of inconstancy. Fanny, albeit attracted to Henry in some ways, stays firm in her rejection not because he once expresses admiration for someone else and now wants to marry her, but because she's observant enough to see how Henry flirts with Maria and Julia Bertram, plays with their feelings, without serious feelings for either of them. "I cannot think well of a man who sports with any woman's feelings; and there may often be a great deal more suffered than a stander-by can judge of." Fanny can also see that he likes fun, easily grows bored, has no principle and has hardly any regard for how others feel, and she's insightful and wise enough not to have the illusion that he may change after marriage. 
Edmund is different. He doesn't play games with women. One cannot accuse him of inconstancy in the end simply because he leaves Mary for Fanny. For most of the novel he cares about both, in different ways, and sees clearly in his mind that the one he loves is Mary, who is fun and charming, who is not as mean as, and more likable than, Lucy Steele and Isabella Thorpe (Fanny is thus friendzoned, or cousinzoned). The reason he changes at the end of the book is the realisation that, because of his love, or infatuation, he has been blind to her faults and has never truly understood her character. It happens in real life, very often we are mistaken about somebody, especially when in love with them, until 1 incident exposes who they actually are. And, as Mary and he are not for each other, Edmund realises, at the same time, that there's 1 person for him, who has always cared about him and understood him, and vice versa. 
2 things that appear similar are not necessarily the same.  

Update on 30/12: 
Going around a bit more, I notice that there are even people who wish Fanny to end up with Henry and Edmund with Mary. They obviously don't get the book.
Besides, to add to what's been written above, I think many people are mistaken in calling Fanny priggish (and prudish) for her strict moral principle and for saying no to Henry, I don't look at it that way- it's not because of some abstract morality that she rejects him, it is made clear that she"cannot think well of a man who sports with any woman's feelings; and there may often be a great deal more suffered than a stander-by can judge of." 
Amusing. Perhaps that's why "Mansfield park" is not very popular among Jane Austen's fans. It's my favourite among her novels so far though. 

Thursday 26 December 2013

Finish reading "Northanger abbey"

As a novel by Jane Austen, "Northanger abbey" is quite weak. But, if it's difficult to put into words where her greatness is, as Virginia Woolf has said, "of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness" for it's in the nuances, the smallest details, it's equally difficult to say exactly why I find "Northanger abbey" inferior to her other works, particularly "Mansfield park", and guess that it's 1 of her weakest works. Many parts aren't polished or developed, and the book has a very hurried ending (like the ending of "Sense and sensibility"). 
Still, it is enjoyable and has many strengths, such as the parody of Gothic fiction, and the characterisation of Catherine Morland and Isabella Thorpe (the latter, in my opinion, is 1 of the best and most memorable characters in literature). 

Update at 9.55pm:
In this article Joan Aiken discusses how Jane Austen might have revised "Northanger abbey". She also confirms my feeling that this novel is very much like an early work, because in spite of its own merits and the faults of "Sense and sensibility", and because of little revision, it's weaker in terms of plot, technique, characterisation... Compared to other works by Jane Austen, it's thinner and weaker and not yet to have a masterful control of the smallest details. 
But, as written here, a more important difference is the attitude to life. 
After listing, exploring the weaknesses of this novel and suggesting what Jane Austen might have done, Joan Aiken, however, concludes: 

"Having conceived such a dislike of Bath as she did in later life, Jane Austen, I am sure, would, in a revision, have reduced the proportion of the story laid there.  The move to Northanger would probably have happened much earlier.
What else?  The bad characters would have become more unpleasant; the social stresses and tensions would have increased.
My expert audience will, long ago, have realized that I have laid down for Jane Austen a series of wholly conflicting and incompatible aims.  If she had expanded her cast and introduced several sub-plots, it would be almost impossible to maintain the Gothic pastiche element, for an essential aspect of Gothic melodrama is that the heroine must be all alone and unfriended in the midst of mysterious perils.
If the society around her were blacker and more corrupt, the heroine, unless she were an absolute simpleton, must be aware of this.  And she is no simpleton.
If there were to be a confrontation between Catherine and the General, then the ending of the book would lose its surprise.  Also, once she had verbally set herself up against him, the conflict between them would be almost impossible to resolve, except by his death of apoplexy, and such a death seems wildly outside the author’s usual range; it is true that she has Mrs. Churchill die, and so resolve the problems of Frank and Jane Fairfax, but as she has never appeared onstage the reader’s sensibilities are not jolted.
If all the other characters were allowed to impinge on the hero and heroine, then we would lose the freshness and spontaneity of the relation between Catherine and Henry.
How would the author have solved such intractable problems?  Who was Jane Austen writing for, anyway?  In the early days, as I said, I am sure that she was writing for the entertainment of her family circle.  Later on – though of course she continued to show her manuscripts to Cassandra and brother Henry, and in due course to the rest of the relations, I think that, basically, she was writing for herself, for her own critical ear.  As a worker in the same medium, I feel that, very strongly.  The revision that she made at the end of Persuasion, cancelling one chapter and writing in two more, shows us how acute and precise, even during severe ill-health, that ear remained.  She could not tolerate sloppy workmanship.
I think she realized the irreconcilable problems that a revision of Northanger Abbey would present; she could see, all too clearly, that if she began reshaping its framework, the story would lose its fun and engagingness and early sparkle.
What it would have gained, who can say?  But we can only salute the integrity that decided her to leave it alone, not to try and improve on it.  (Or maybe, of course, like many writers, she had grown impatient with editorial messing-about, and wanted to get on with the next work, with Sanditon.)
Whatever the reason, she has left us an exuberant, faulty masterpiece, and that is a great deal better than no masterpiece at all." 

I wouldn't use the word "masterpiece"- such a word should be used sparingly (Joan Aiken, after all, seems to be obsessed with her and wrote 6 Austen-inspired books). But this is an interesting point nevertheless.

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Parody of later works

Reading "Northanger Abbey", I find it impossible to read volume 2 chapter 6 without thinking of "Wuthering heights", and volume 2 chapter 8, "Jane Eyre". 
Like the way "M. Butterfly" (David Henry Hwang) makes a twist on "Madame Butterfly" (Giacomo Puccini), "Wide Sargasso sea" (Jean Rhys) attempts to change the readers' perception of "Jane Eyre", "The French lieutenant's woman" (John Fowles) responds to the Victorian novel, this novel by Jane Austen is a parody of Gothic fiction and accidentally makes fun of "Jane Eyre" and "Wuthering heights". Funnily enough, "Northanger Abbey" was 1st sold in 1803, revised many times and published in 1817, while "Jane Eyre" and "Wuthering heights" came out in 1847, and in fact Charlotte and Emily were born in 1816 and 1818 respectively.
Isn't that something?
[While I don't know anything about Emily but her only book and some poems and a few things others have said about her, I reckon Charlotte didn't read "Northanger Abbey", only "Pride and prejudice" and "Emma". It must be quite interesting to imagine what she would have thought if she had, especially when one has seen how she reacted to "The tenant of Wildfell hall", an anti-Gothic novel, or at least, a novel meant to deconstruct the Byronic hero (such as Rochester).] 

Update at 3.49pm: 
While checking that today's indeed Bogey's 114th birthday, I realised that I'd totally missed Jane Austen's 238th birthday- 16/12/1775- 16/12/2013, and at the same time, that I'd changed my view on her works 1 day before that. 
I should have written a few words on her talent and significance and influence, but perhaps it was enough. 

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Lucy Steele and Isabella Thorpe

Reading "Northanger Abbey" at the moment. 
As it turns out, master at describing, depicting and dealing with phonies is not J. D. Salinger, nor F. Scott Fitzgerald, as I have thought, but Jane Austen. The best character in this novel is Isabella Thorpe. At 1st she's reminded me of Lucy Steele (in "Sense and sensibility"), both of whom are self-serving, mercenary, hypocritical, artificial and full of flattery, then it turns out that in some magical way, Jane Austen's able to portray them as 2 distinctive individuals, so whereas Isabella Thorpe's energetic, rapid, enthusiastic, flirtatious, flexible, manipulative in a loud way with exaggeration of affection, taking advantage of language, talking in circles around anybody, transforming into whatever she knows others expect her to be, Lucy Steele is artful, affected, in a more gentle, calm, cold, cunning way, and mean almost to the point of being ruthless. In fact I find myself at loss to use my own words to say how different they are, so I'd better let Jane Austen demonstrate it. 

""You will think my question an odd one, I dare say," said Lucy to her one day, as they were walking together from the park to the cottage—"but pray, are you personally acquainted with your sister-in-law's mother, Mrs. Ferrars?"
Elinor did think the question a very odd one, and her countenance expressed it, as she answered that she had never seen Mrs. Ferrars.
"Indeed!" replied Lucy; "I wonder at that, for I thought you must have seen her at Norland sometimes. Then, perhaps, you cannot tell me what sort of a woman she is?"
"No," returned Elinor, cautious of giving her real opinion of Edward's mother, and not very desirous of satisfying what seemed impertinent curiosity— "I know nothing of her."
"I am sure you think me very strange, for enquiring about her in such a way," said Lucy, eyeing Elinor attentively as she spoke; "but perhaps there may be reasons—I wish I might venture; but however I hope you will do me the justice of believing that I do not mean to be impertinent."
Elinor made her a civil reply, and they walked on for a few minutes in silence. It was broken by Lucy, who renewed the subject again by saying, with some hesitation,
"I cannot bear to have you think me impertinently curious. I am sure I would rather do any thing in the world than be thought so by a person whose good opinion is so well worth having as yours. And I am sure I should not have the smallest fear of trusting you; indeed, I should be very glad of your advice how to manage in such an uncomfortable situation as I am; but, however, there is no occasion to trouble you. I am sorry you do not happen to know Mrs. Ferrars."
"I am sorry I do not," said Elinor, in great astonishment, "if it could be of any use to you to know my opinion of her. But really I never understood that you were at all connected with that family, and therefore I am a little surprised, I confess, at so serious an inquiry into her character."
"I dare say you are, and I am sure I do not at all wonder at it. But if I dared tell you all, you would not be so much surprised. Mrs. Ferrars is certainly nothing to me at present—but the time may come—how soon it will come must depend upon herself—when we may be very intimately connected."
She looked down as she said this, amiably bashful, with only one side glance at her companion to observe its effect on her.
"Good heavens!" cried Elinor, "what do you mean? Are you acquainted with Mr. Robert Ferrars? Can you be?" And she did not feel much delighted with the idea of such a sister-in-law.
"No," replied Lucy, "not to Mr. Robert Ferrars—I never saw him in my life; but," fixing her eyes upon Elinor, "to his eldest brother."" 

"She put it into her hands as she spoke; and when Elinor saw the painting, whatever other doubts her fear of a too hasty decision, or her wish of detecting falsehood might suffer to linger in her mind, she could have none of its being Edward's face. She returned it almost instantly, acknowledging the likeness.
"I have never been able," continued Lucy, "to give him my picture in return, which I am very much vexed at, for he has been always so anxious to get it! But I am determined to set for it the very first opportunity."
"You are quite in the right," replied Elinor calmly. They then proceeded a few paces in silence. Lucy spoke first.
"I am sure," said she, "I have no doubt in the world of your faithfully keeping this secret, because you must know of what importance it is to us, not to have it reach his mother; for she would never approve of it, I dare say. I shall have no fortune, and I fancy she is an exceeding proud woman."
"I certainly did not seek your confidence," said Elinor; "but you do me no more than justice in imagining that I may be depended on. Your secret is safe with me; but pardon me if I express some surprise at so unnecessary a communication. You must at least have felt that my being acquainted with it could not add to its safety."
As she said this, she looked earnestly at Lucy, hoping to discover something in her countenance; perhaps the falsehood of the greatest part of what she had been saying; but Lucy's countenance suffered no change.
"I was afraid you would think I was taking a great liberty with you," said she, "in telling you all this. I have not known you long to be sure, personally at least, but I have known you and all your family by description a great while; and as soon as I saw you, I felt almost as if you was an old acquaintance. Besides in the present case, I really thought some explanation was due to you after my making such particular inquiries about Edward's mother; and I am so unfortunate, that I have not a creature whose advice I can ask. Anne is the only person that knows of it, and she has no judgment at all; indeed, she does me a great deal more harm than good, for I am in constant fear of her betraying me. She does not know how to hold her tongue, as you must perceive, and I am sure I was in the greatest fright in the world t'other day, when Edward's name was mentioned by Sir John, lest she should out with it all. You can't think how much I go through in my mind from it altogether. I only wonder that I am alive after what I have suffered for Edward's sake these last four years. Every thing in such suspense and uncertainty; and seeing him so seldom—we can hardly meet above twice a-year. I am sure I wonder my heart is not quite broke.""

"The next morning brought Elinor a letter by the two-penny post from Lucy herself. It was as follows:
"Bartlett's Building, March.

I hope my dear Miss Dashwood will excuse the liberty I take of writing to her; but I know your friendship for me will make you pleased to hear such a good account of myself and my dear Edward, after all the troubles we have went through lately, therefore will make no more apologies, but proceed to say that, thank God! though we have suffered dreadfully, we are both quite well now, and as happy as we must always be in one another's love. We have had great trials, and great persecutions, but however, at the same time, gratefully acknowledge many friends, yourself not the least among them, whose great kindness I shall always thankfully remember, as will Edward too, who I have told of it. I am sure you will be glad to hear, as likewise dear Mrs. Jennings, I spent two happy hours with him yesterday afternoon, he would not hear of our parting, though earnestly did I, as I thought my duty required, urge him to it for prudence sake, and would have parted for ever on the spot, would he consent to it; but he said it should never be, he did not regard his mother's anger, while he could have my affections; our prospects are not very bright, to be sure, but we must wait, and hope for the best; he will be ordained shortly; and should it ever be in your power to recommend him to any body that has a living to bestow, am very sure you will not forget us, and dear Mrs. Jennings too, trust she will speak a good word for us to Sir John, or Mr. Palmer, or any friend that may be able to assist us.—Poor Anne was much to blame for what she did, but she did it for the best, so I say nothing; hope Mrs. Jennings won't think it too much trouble to give us a call, should she come this way any morning, 'twould be a great kindness, and my cousins would be proud to know her.—My paper reminds me to conclude; and begging to be most gratefully and respectfully remembered to her, and to Sir John, and Lady Middleton, and the dear children, when you chance to see them, and love to Miss Marianne,
I am, &c.""


"They met by appointment; and as Isabella had arrived nearly five minutes before her friend, her first address naturally was, "My dearest creature, what can have made you so late? I have been waiting for you at least this age!"
"Have you, indeed! I am very sorry for it; but really I thought I was in very good time. It is but just one. I hope you have not been here long?"
"Oh! These ten ages at least. I am sure I have been here this half hour. But now, let us go and sit down at the other end of the room, and enjoy ourselves. I have an hundred things to say to you. In the first place, I was so afraid it would rain this morning, just as I wanted to set off; it looked very showery, and that would have thrown me into agonies! Do you know, I saw the prettiest hat you can imagine, in a shop window in Milsom Street just now—very like yours, only with coquelicot ribbons instead of green; I quite longed for it. But, my dearest Catherine, what have you been doing with yourself all this morning? Have you gone on with Udolpho?"
"Yes, I have been reading it ever since I woke; and I am got to the black veil."
"Are you, indeed? How delightful! Oh! I would not tell you what is behind the black veil for the world! Are not you wild to know?"
"Oh! Yes, quite; what can it be? But do not tell me—I would not be told upon any account. I know it must be a skeleton, I am sure it is Laurentina's skeleton. Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it. I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for all the world."
"Dear creature! How much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you."
"Have you, indeed! How glad I am! What are they all?"
"I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocketbook. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time."
"Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?"
"Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them. I wish you knew Miss Andrews, you would be delighted with her. She is netting herself the sweetest cloak you can conceive. I think her as beautiful as an angel, and I am so vexed with the men for not admiring her! I scold them all amazingly about it."
"Scold them! Do you scold them for not admiring her?"
"Yes, that I do. There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves; it is not my nature. My attachments are always excessively strong. I told Captain Hunt at one of our assemblies this winter that if he was to tease me all night, I would not dance with him, unless he would allow Miss Andrews to be as beautiful as an angel. The men think us incapable of real friendship, you know, and I am determined to show them the difference. Now, if I were to hear anybody speak slightingly of you, I should fire up in a moment: but that is not at all likely, for you are just the kind of girl to be a great favourite with the men."
"Oh, dear!" cried Catherine, colouring. "How can you say so?"
"I know you very well; you have so much animation, which is exactly what Miss Andrews wants, for I must confess there is something amazingly insipid about her. Oh! I must tell you, that just after we parted yesterday, I saw a young man looking at you so earnestly—I am sure he is in love with you." Catherine coloured, and disclaimed again. Isabella laughed. "It is very true, upon my honour, but I see how it is; you are indifferent to everybody's admiration, except that of one gentleman, who shall be nameless. Nay, I cannot blame you"—speaking more seriously—"your feelings are easily understood. Where the heart is really attached, I know very well how little one can be pleased with the attention of anybody else. Everything is so insipid, so uninteresting, that does not relate to the beloved object! I can perfectly comprehend your feelings."
"But you should not persuade me that I think so very much about Mr. Tilney, for perhaps I may never see him again."
"Not see him again! My dearest creature, do not talk of it. I am sure you would be miserable if you thought so!""

"Catherine, in some amazement, complied, and after remaining a few moments silent, was on the point of reverting to what interested her at that time rather more than anything else in the world, Laurentina's skeleton, when her friend prevented her, by saying, "For heaven's sake! Let us move away from this end of the room. Do you know, there are two odious young men who have been staring at me this half hour. They really put me quite out of countenance. Let us go and look at the arrivals. They will hardly follow us there."
Away they walked to the book; and while Isabella examined the names, it was Catherine's employment to watch the proceedings of these alarming young men.
"They are not coming this way, are they? I hope they are not so impertinent as to follow us. Pray let me know if they are coming. I am determined I will not look up."
In a few moments Catherine, with unaffected pleasure, assured her that she need not be longer uneasy, as the gentlemen had just left the pump-room.
"And which way are they gone?" said Isabella, turning hastily round. "One was a very good-looking young man."
"They went towards the church-yard."
"Well, I am amazingly glad I have got rid of them! And now, what say you to going to Edgar's Buildings with me, and looking at my new hat? You said you should like to see it."
Catherine readily agreed. "Only," she added, "perhaps we may overtake the two young men."
"Oh! Never mind that. If we make haste, we shall pass by them presently, and I am dying to show you my hat."
"But if we only wait a few minutes, there will be no danger of our seeing them at all."
"I shall not pay them any such compliment, I assure you. I have no notion of treating men with such respect. That is the way to spoil them."
Catherine had nothing to oppose against such reasoning; and therefore, to show the independence of Miss Thorpe, and her resolution of humbling the sex, they set off immediately as fast as they could walk, in pursuit of the two young men."

"... "Oh! Don't defend her! And then the brother, he, who had appeared so attached to you! Good heavens! Well, some people's feelings are incomprehensible. And so he hardly looked once at you the whole day?"
"I do not say so; but he did not seem in good spirits."
"How contemptible! Of all things in the world inconstancy is my aversion. Let me entreat you never to think of him again, my dear Catherine; indeed he is unworthy of you."
"Unworthy! I do not suppose he ever thinks of me."
"That is exactly what I say; he never thinks of you. Such fickleness! Oh! How different to your brother and to mine! I really believe John has the most constant heart."
"But as for General Tilney, I assure you it would be impossible for anybody to behave to me with greater civility and attention; it seemed to be his only care to entertain and make me happy."
"Oh! I know no harm of him; I do not suspect him of pride. I believe he is a very gentleman-like man. John thinks very well of him, and John's judgment—"
"Well, I shall see how they behave to me this evening; we shall meet them at the rooms."
"And must I go?"
"Do not you intend it? I thought it was all settled."
"Nay, since you make such a point of it, I can refuse you nothing. But do not insist upon my being very agreeable, for my heart, you know, will be some forty miles off. And as for dancing, do not mention it, I beg; that is quite out of the question. Charles Hodges will plague me to death, I dare say; but I shall cut him very short. Ten to one but he guesses the reason, and that is exactly what I want to avoid, so I shall insist on his keeping his conjecture to himself."

The friends were not able to get together for any confidential discourse till all the dancing was over; but then, as they walked about the room arm in arm, Isabella thus explained herself: "I do not wonder at your surprise; and I am really fatigued to death. He is such a rattle! Amusing enough, if my mind had been disengaged; but I would have given the world to sit still."
"Then why did not you?"
"Oh! My dear! It would have looked so particular; and you know how I abhor doing that. I refused him as long as I possibly could, but he would take no denial. You have no idea how he pressed me. I begged him to excuse me, and get some other partner—but no, not he; after aspiring to my hand, there was nobody else in the room he could bear to think of; and it was not that he wanted merely to dance, he wanted to be with me. Oh! Such nonsense! I told him he had taken a very unlikely way to prevail upon me; for, of all things in the world, I hated fine speeches and compliments; and so—and so then I found there would be no peace if I did not stand up. Besides, I thought Mrs. Hughes, who introduced him, might take it ill if I did not: and your dear brother, I am sure he would have been miserable if I had sat down the whole evening. I am so glad it is over! My spirits are quite jaded with listening to his nonsense: and then, being such a smart young fellow, I saw every eye was upon us."
"He is very handsome indeed."
"Handsome! Yes, I suppose he may. I dare say people would admire him in general; but he is not at all in my style of beauty. I hate a florid complexion and dark eyes in a man. However, he is very well. Amazingly conceited, I am sure. I took him down several times, you know, in my way.""

Sunday 22 December 2013

Fanny Price and Jane Eyre

This entry shall have 2 parts:
Part 1:
1/ Whilst both are in an inferior situation, both are independent and have their own set of principle, Jane Eyre has many other admirable qualities that can't be found in Fanny, such as strength, toughness, boldness, courage, endurance, vivid imagination, frankness... She works as a governess and later as a teacher, and earns her own living. The fact that she leaves Rochester on her own, when figuring out about Bertha Mason, and goes away regardless of the future, is already enough to show that she can do things Fanny's never capable of, and it's because of her strong mind, boldness and determination that she's more valuable to a woman reader than someone like Fanny. Fanny can sometimes be moralistic and self-righteous to the point of being priggish and unlikeable, she can sometimes be rather selfish, and passive, not doing anything for herself and her family.

2/ This is an excerpt from "Mansfield park":
"Having visited many more rooms than could be supposed to be of any other use than to contribute to the window-tax, and find employment for housemaids, "Now," said Mrs. Rushworth, "we are coming to the chapel, which properly we ought to enter from above, and look down upon; but as we are quite among friends, I will take you in this way, if you will excuse me."
They entered. Fanny's imagination had prepared her for something grander than a mere spacious, oblong room, fitted up for the purpose of devotion: with nothing more striking or more solemn than the profusion of mahogany, and the crimson velvet cushions appearing over the ledge of the family gallery above. "I am disappointed," said she, in a low voice, to Edmund. "This is not my idea of a chapel. There is nothing awful here, nothing melancholy, nothing grand. Here are no aisles, no arches, no inscriptions, no banners. No banners, cousin, to be 'blown by the night wind of heaven.' No signs that a 'Scottish monarch sleeps below.'"
"You forget, Fanny, how lately all this has been built, and for how confined a purpose, compared with the old chapels of castles and monasteries. It was only for the private use of the family. They have been buried, I suppose, in the parish church. There you must look for the banners and the achievements."
"It was foolish of me not to think of all that; but I am disappointed."
"It is a pity," cried Fanny, "that the custom should have been discontinued. It was a valuable part of former times. There is something in a chapel and chaplain so much in character with a great house, with one's ideas of what such a household should be! A whole family assembling regularly for the purpose of prayer is fine!"
"Very fine indeed," said Miss Crawford, laughing. "It must do the heads of the family a great deal of good to force all the poor housemaids and footmen to leave business and pleasure, and say their prayers here twice a day, while they are inventing excuses themselves for staying away."
"That is hardly Fanny's idea of a family assembling," said Edmund. "If the master and mistress do not attend themselves, there must be more harm than good in the custom."
"At any rate, it is safer to leave people to their own devices on such subjects. Everybody likes to go their own way—to chuse their own time and manner of devotion. The obligation of attendance, the formality, the restraint, the length of time—altogether it is a formidable thing, and what nobody likes; and if the good people who used to kneel and gape in that gallery could have foreseen that the time would ever come when men and women might lie another ten minutes in bed, when they woke with a headache, without danger of reprobation, because chapel was missed, they would have jumped with joy and envy. Cannot you imagine with what unwilling feelings the former belles of the house of Rushworth did many a time repair to this chapel? The young Mrs. Eleanors and Mrs. Bridgets—starched up into seeming piety, but with heads full of something very different—especially if the poor chaplain were not worth looking at—and, in those days, I fancy parsons were very inferior even to what they are now."
For a few moments she was unanswered. Fanny coloured and looked at Edmund, but felt too angry for speech; and he needed a little recollection before he could say, "Your lively mind can hardly be serious even on serious subjects. You have given us an amusing sketch, and human nature cannot say it was not so. We must all feel at times the difficulty of fixing our thoughts as we could wish; but if you are supposing it a frequent thing, that is to say, a weakness grown into a habit from neglect, what could be expected from the private devotions of such persons? Do you think the minds which are suffered, which are indulged in wanderings in a chapel, would be more collected in a closet?"
"Yes, very likely. They would have two chances at least in their favour. There would be less to distract the attention from without, and it would not be tried so long."
"The mind which does not struggle against itself under one circumstance, would find objects to distract it in the other, I believe; and the influence of the place and of example may often rouse better feelings than are begun with. The greater length of the service, however, I admit to be sometimes too hard a stretch upon the mind. One wishes it were not so; but I have not yet left Oxford long enough to forget what chapel prayers are."
Edmund looked round at Mr. Rushworth too, but had nothing to say.
"Your father's return will be a very interesting event."
"It will, indeed, after such an absence; an absence not only long, but including so many dangers."
"It will be the forerunner also of other interesting events: your sister's marriage, and your taking orders."
"It is fortunate that your inclination and your father's convenience should accord so well. There is a very good living kept for you, I understand, hereabouts."
"Which you suppose has biassed me?"
"But that I am sure it has not," cried Fanny.
"Thank you for your good word, Fanny, but it is more than I would affirm myself. On the contrary, the knowing that there was such a provision for me probably did bias me. Nor can I think it wrong that it should. There was no natural disinclination to be overcome, and I see no reason why a man should make a worse clergyman for knowing that he will have a competence early in life. I was in safe hands. I hope I should not have been influenced myself in a wrong way, and I am sure my father was too conscientious to have allowed it. I have no doubt that I was biased, but I think it was blamelessly."
"It is the same sort of thing," said Fanny, after a short pause, "as for the son of an admiral to go into the navy, or the son of a general to be in the army, and nobody sees anything wrong in that. Nobody wonders that they should prefer the line where their friends can serve them best, or suspects them to be less in earnest in it than they appear."
"No, my dear Miss Price, and for reasons good. The profession, either navy or army, is its own justification. It has everything in its favour: heroism, danger, bustle, fashion. Soldiers and sailors are always acceptable in society. Nobody can wonder that men are soldiers and sailors."
"But the motives of a man who takes orders with the certainty of preferment may be fairly suspected, you think?" said Edmund. "To be justified in your eyes, he must do it in the most complete uncertainty of any provision."
"What! take orders without a living! No; that is madness indeed; absolute madness."
"Shall I ask you how the church is to be filled, if a man is neither to take orders with a living nor without? No; for you certainly would not know what to say. But I must beg some advantage to the clergyman from your own argument. As he cannot be influenced by those feelings which you rank highly as temptation and reward to the soldier and sailor in their choice of a profession, as heroism, and noise, and fashion, are all against him, he ought to be less liable to the suspicion of wanting sincerity or good intentions in the choice of his."
"Oh! no doubt he is very sincere in preferring an income ready made, to the trouble of working for one; and has the best intentions of doing nothing all the rest of his days but eat, drink, and grow fat. It is indolence, Mr. Bertram, indeed. Indolence and love of ease; a want of all laudable ambition, of taste for good company, or of inclination to take the trouble of being agreeable, which make men clergymen. A clergyman has nothing to do but be slovenly and selfish—read the newspaper, watch the weather, and quarrel with his wife. His curate does all the work, and the business of his own life is to dine."
"There are such clergymen, no doubt, but I think they are not so common as to justify Miss Crawford in esteeming it their general character. I suspect that in this comprehensive and (may I say) commonplace censure, you are not judging from yourself, but from prejudiced persons, whose opinions you have been in the habit of hearing. It is impossible that your own observation can have given you much knowledge of the clergy. You can have been personally acquainted with very few of a set of men you condemn so conclusively. You are speaking what you have been told at your uncle's table."
"I speak what appears to me the general opinion; and where an opinion is general, it is usually correct. Though I have not seen much of the domestic lives of clergymen, it is seen by too many to leave any deficiency of information."
 "Where any one body of educated men, of whatever denomination, are condemned indiscriminately, there must be a deficiency of information, or (smiling) of something else. Your uncle, and his brother admirals, perhaps knew little of clergymen beyond the chaplains whom, good or bad, they were always wishing away."
"Poor William! He has met with great kindness from the chaplain of the Antwerp," was a tender apostrophe of Fanny's, very much to the purpose of her own feelings if not of the conversation.
"I have been so little addicted to take my opinions from my uncle," said Miss Crawford, "that I can hardly suppose—and since you push me so hard, I must observe, that I am not entirely without the means of seeing what clergymen are, being at this present time the guest of my own brother, Dr. Grant. And though Dr. Grant is most kind and obliging to me, and though he is really a gentleman, and, I dare say, a good scholar and clever, and often preaches good sermons, and is very respectable, I see him to be an indolent, selfish bon vivant, who must have his palate consulted in everything; who will not stir a finger for the convenience of any one; and who, moreover, if the cook makes a blunder, is out of humour with his excellent wife. To own the truth, Henry and I were partly driven out this very evening by a disappointment about a green goose, which he could not get the better of. My poor sister was forced to stay and bear it."
"I do not wonder at your disapprobation, upon my word. It is a great defect of temper, made worse by a very faulty habit of self-indulgence; and to see your sister suffering from it must be exceedingly painful to such feelings as yours. Fanny, it goes against us. We cannot attempt to defend Dr. Grant."
"No," replied Fanny, "but we need not give up his profession for all that; because, whatever profession Dr. Grant had chosen, he would have taken a—not a good temper into it; and as he must, either in the navy or army, have had a great many more people under his command than he has now, I think more would have been made unhappy by him as a sailor or soldier than as a clergyman. Besides, I cannot but suppose that whatever there may be to wish otherwise in Dr. Grant would have been in a greater danger of becoming worse in a more active and worldly profession, where he would have had less time and obligation—where he might have escaped that knowledge of himself, the frequency, at least, of that knowledge which it is impossible he should escape as he is now. A man—a sensible man like Dr. Grant, cannot be in the habit of teaching others their duty every week, cannot go to church twice every Sunday, and preach such very good sermons in so good a manner as he does, without being the better for it himself. It must make him think; and I have no doubt that he oftener endeavours to restrain himself than he would if he had been anything but a clergyman."
"We cannot prove to the contrary, to be sure; but I wish you a better fate, Miss Price, than to be the wife of a man whose amiableness depends upon his own sermons; for though he may preach himself into a good-humour every Sunday, it will be bad enough to have him quarrelling about green geese from Monday morning till Saturday night."" 

Mary Crawford, in this extract, shows some prejudices, but in these discussions, I generally find myself siding with her instead of Fanny. I don't even have a word to call Fanny, but this is another thing at which Jane Eyre is better than Fanny, because Jane Eyre makes a clear distinction between religion and morality and the novel deals with some bad Christians such as Mr Brocklehurst and St John Rivers.

3/ Another aspect in which "Jane Eyre" beats "Mansfield park" is its originality, its fire. "Jane Eyre" attracts, intrigues, engrosses, scares, haunts, shocks, enrages, and excites many such strong emotions. The readers can't forget the red room, Rochester's bed in fire, Richard Mason covered with blood, Bertha Mason's appearance and laugh, the torn wedding dress, St John Rivers's perfectly beautiful but emotionless face... and above all, Jane Eyre's childhood and suffering and all the injustices she faces. Jane Austen's novels are very natural and realistic and may have deep impression and influence on the readers, but are never 'explosions'.

Part 2: 
"Jane Eyre", on the other hand, has many defects. Some of them have been discussed on my blog before, such as problems with the plot: Jane Eyre, after leaving Rochester, ends up at the most impossible place- her cousins' home; when she leaves St John Rivers and returns to Rochester, she finds everything conveniently solved and now, with Bertha dead and herself inheriting a fortune, is able to marry him. As Virginia Woolf has written, in "A room of one's own", Charlotte Bronte once in a while preaches about gender inequality, which deviates from the narrative, and she seems to write with a bit too much indignation.
Not only so, the link at the top shows that there are other 'nuisances' about this novel, such as ethnic slurs. 
It also reminds me of an essay I read a while ago in my "Fiction and film" course- "The sultan and the slave: Feminist Orientalism and the structure of "Jane Eyre"" by Joyce Zonana, which can be read here:
"Bronte's use of feminist orientalism is both embedded in and brings into focus a long tradition of Western feminist writing. Beginning early in the eighteenth century, when European travelers' tales about visits to the Middle East became a popular genre, images of despotic sultans and desperate slave girls became a central part of an emerging liberal feminist discourse about the condition of women not in the East but in the West. From Mary Wollstonecraft to Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Margaret Fuller and Florence Nightingale, one discovers writer after writer turning to images of oriental life- and specifically the "Mahometan" or "Arabian" harem- in order to articulate their critiques of the life of women in the West. Part of the larger orientalism that Edward Said has shown to inform Western self-representation, the function of these images is not primarily to secure Western domination over the East, though certainly they assume and enforce that domination.4 Rather, by figuring objection- able aspects of life in the West as "Eastern," these Western feminist writers rhetorically define their project as the removal of Eastern ele- ments from Western life. Feminist orientalism is a special case of the literary strategy of using the Orient as a means for what one writer has called Western "self- redemption": "transforming the Orient and Oriental Muslims into a vehicle for... criticism of the West itself" (Al-Bazei 1983, 6).5 Specifically, feminist orientalism is a rhetorical strategy (and a form of thought) by which a speaker or writer neutralizes the threat inherent in feminist demands and makes them palatable to an audience that wishes to affirm its occidental superiority. If the lives of women in England or France or the United States can be compared to the lives of women in "Arabia", then the Western feminist's desire to change the status quo can be represented not as a radical attempt to restructure the West but as a conservative effort to make the West more like itself. Orientalism- the belief that the East is inferior to the West, and the representation of the Orient by means of unexamined, stereotypical images- thus becomes a major premise in the formulation of numerous Western feminist arguments." (Joyce Zonana)
And "This Western man is "Eastern" in his ways, and for Jane to be happy, he must be thoroughly Westernized." (Joyce Zonana)

The essay goes on to list heaps of examples, hints, signs of Feminist Orientalism in "Jane Eyre", which I always overlooked during the 2-3 times reading the book, and now having known Charlotte Bronte's attitude (any European treatment of women found as objectionable is labelled as Eastern, like Mary Wollstonecraft had done) and learnt about this 'trend' among many 19th century feminists, I find it utterly impossible to look at the book the same way as before. 

In the end, I must repeat once more that, albeit starting to appreciate Jane Austen's works, I am still a fan of the Bronte sisters, especially Emily, and by no means, a detractor of Charlotte Bronte, especially when I've read only 1 novel by her whereas, by Jane Austen, I've read "Emma" and "Sense and sensibility" and "Mansfield park" and am now reading "Northanger Abbey". Any such comparison isn't fair, Virginia Woolf says Charlotte's masterwork is not "Jane Eyre" but "Villette". Having said that, I'm not blind to the flaws of "Jane Eyre", my favourite novel of junior high school years, and now, see even more things I would like to write about. A book itself stays the same, our perception of it changes over time as we grow.
Any thoughts?