Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

The Secret River, by Kate Grenville (date)

The Secret River, by Kate Grenville (2008)

The Secret River is a novel by Australian author, Kate Grenville. It explores the experiences of early convict settlement in Australia when fictional character, Will Thornhill, is transported from England 1806 and then pardoned to live as a free settler in New South Wales.

The story focuses much of the plot on William; first his early life, his transportation as a convict, and then the process and difficulties of becoming a landholder. His wife, Sal Thornhill, also travels to Australia with him and, together with their growing family, they eventually settle along the Hawkesbury River in what is now Sydney.

This novel explores the very natural conflict that occurred between white settlers and the native Aboriginals, as both groups fought for ownership over the land. The plot also contrasts the attitudes of those white settlers who had begun to realise that these native people were essentially the same as them – they loved their children, they loved their home -, with those who believed the natives were little more than animals.

Late last year I was contacted by a dancing friend of mine who was looking to gather together a group of “youngish” period dancers to dance in a scene of an up-and-coming movie-mini-series by the ABC, The Secret River. I was so excited to participate, as it was the first time I had been an extra in a movie, but the fact that is was a PERIOD movie really tickled me!

I am pleased to announce that the two-part mini-series premieres on Australian television on ABC, on June 14th and 21st, 2015. I will be watching to see if my scene made it into the final edit!

This book has also been adapted for the stage by Andrew Bovell, and was dramatised for audiences by the Sydney Theatre Company in 2013.

Related Posts

Every Savage Can Dance!

James Boswell’s Trip to Tyburn

Sources and Relevant Links

The Secret River, by Kate Grenville

The Secret River Airdate – view the trailer

The Secret River: An adaptation for the stage, by Andrew Bovell

The Secret River – pictures of the play

Read Full Post »

Pamela; Or, Virtue Rewarded,

Pamela; Or, Virtue Rewarded (1740)

Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded is a epistolary novel by Samuel Richardson, first published in 1740. It takes the form of a collection of letters written by a fifteen-year-old girl to her parents about her life as a maid in a squire’s household.

After Pamela’s elderly mistress dies, she is left in the employment of her mistress’s son, Mr B–. He initially shows her exceptional kindness, which then develops into amorous advances. Pamela is quite disturbed by her master’s designs on her virtue, especially when they begin to take a sinister turn. He accosts her in the summerhouse and in various other places around the house, demanding that she surrender her virtue to him. It becomes most alarming on a particular occasion when Mr B– hid himself in the housekeeper’s bedroom closet. Pamela had begun to sleep in Mrs Jervis’s bedchamber in order to better protect herself, and it was the closet in this room where he waited for Pamela to undress and get into bed.

I went to Mrs Jervis’s chamber; and, O dreadful! my wicked master had hid himself, base gentleman as he is! in her closet, where she had a few books, and chest of drawers, and such like. […] I sat myself down on one side of the bed, and she on the other, and we began to undress ourselves; […] I pulled off my stays, and my stockings, and all my clothes to an under-petticoat; and then hearing a rustling again in the closet, I said Heaven protect us! but before I say my prayers, I must look into this closet. And so was going to it slip-shod, when, O dreadful! out rushed my master in a rich silk and silver morning gown. I screamed, and ran to the bed, and Mrs Jervis screamed too; […] I found his hand in my bosom; and when fright let me know it, I was ready to die; and I sighed and screamed, and fainted away.

"Pamela swooning after having discovered Mr B in the closet. He (frighted) endeavouring to recover her. Mrs Jervis wringing her hands, and screaming." From a series of twelve illustrations to Pamela, by Samuel Richardson (1745, 2nd edition).

“Pamela swooning after having discovered Mr B in the closet. He (frighted) endeavouring to recover her. Mrs Jervis wringing her hands, and screaming.” From a series of twelve illustrations to Pamela, by Samuel Richardson (1745, 2nd edition).

By this stage Pamela had already decided to remove to her parent’s home, even though they are poor and could hardly afford to support her. Whilst her removal is put off multiple times by her new master, she is at length taken in Mr B–‘s carriage – not to her home – but to her master’s Lincolnshire estate.

"Pamela setting out

“Pamela setting out in the travelling Chariot (for her Father’s, as she is made to believe), takes her farewell of Mrs Jervis, and the other servants. Mr B observing her from the window by whose private order she is carried into Lincolnshire.” From a series of twelve illustrations to Pamela, by Samuel Richardson (1745, 2nd edition).

Why, dear father and mother, to be sure he grows quite a rake! How easy it is to go from bad to worse, when once people give way to vice!

She is placed in the care of a Mrs Jewkes, and is quite fearful of her master’s purposes by this kidnapping. The entire estate seems devoid of people who would help her from her predicament, excepting the local parson, Mr Williams. However, all his attempts of aid and all her attempts at escape are cruelly prevented.

Eventually, Mr B– comes to Lincolnshire to pursue his advances on Pamela. He tries to persuade her to become his mistress by forcing himself upon her and even offering her financial income if she accepts, but she is persistent in her refusal to voluntarily surrender her virtue to him. After a while, he seems to change his approach and decides that he should marry her, despite the many reasonable objections that would have existed in the eighteenth century (such as his family’s dislike of the match, the difference in their station in life, etc…).

Pamela decides, once she is convinced of the sincerity of his proposal, to accept him. She then continually pours out profusions of gratitude for the wonderful treatment and condescension he has shown her by asking her to be his wife.

O, sir, said I, expect not words from your poor servant, equal to these most generous professions. Both the means, and the will, I now see, are given to you, to lay me under an everlasting obligation. How happy shall I be, if, though I cannot be worth of all this goodness and condescension, I can prove myself not entirely unworthy of it! But I can only answer for a grateful heart; and if ever I give you cause, wilfully, (and you will generously allow for involuntary imperfections,) to be disgusted with me, may I be an outcast from your house and favour, and as much repudiated, as if the law had divorced me from you!

I found these constant effusions of humble praise quite sickening really. I mean, the guy had repeatedly tried to rape her! Not only was it a stretch of the imagination that such a “rake” would suddenly want to marry his maidservant because of her long-standing virtue, it was equally amazing that Pamela would suddenly forget how abominably she had been treated at his hands and accept him!

The story concludes with a visit from Lady Davers (Mr B–‘s sister) who violently opposes the match, but she is soon won over by the virtuosity and goodness of Pamela.

As a story, it was quite repetitive and long-winded (common in the 18th century and especially common to Samuel Richardson), which made it a little annoying. It is surely unrealistic to think that a maidservant would have had that much paper available to her to write so copiously to her parents, let alone have the time to write it all! However, even though it does not make particularly easy reading for the modern bookworm, I can appreciate the story in the light of the culture of the time.

The eighteenth century had begun to see the rise of the novel, where a fictional story was used to communicate to the reader a moral message. Previous to this, a writer would usually communicate such moral-related content in the form of published sermons on religious themes, or in conduct books designed to provide rules on social behaviour. In this context, the author’s very heavy moral directive – that virtue (above all other characteristics) is to be preferred in women – is easier to understand. Samuel Richardson did not want to tell an interesting story per se, but wanted to communicate an important moral message and merely used a story to do it.

Pamela was quite popular in its day and went on to have several revisions, with subsequent editions adding chapters on Pamela as a mother to her young children. Richardson had intended it to promote virtue and religion among the youth of the day, however many people saw Pamela’s seeming uprightness to be covering a more sinister cunning designed to ensnare a squire in matrimony. This viewpoint occasioned several satires to be printed on the topic, including An Apology of the Life of Miss Shamela Andrews (1741), by Henry Fielding, and The Anti-Pamela; Or, Feign’d Innocence Detected (1741), by Eliza Haywood.

All in all, it was heavy going but interesting to read arguably one of the most popular novels written during the eighteenth century. What is your favourite eighteenth century novel?

Related Posts

Lady Susan: An eighteenth century epistolary novella

Sources and Relevant Links

Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, by Samuel Richardson (1740) – read online

Illustration Source: National Gallery of Victoria

An Apology for the Life of Mrs Shamela Andrews, by Henry Fielding (1741) – read online

The Anti-Pamela; Or, Feign’d Innocence Detected, by Eliza Haywood (1741) – read online

Read Full Post »

Dan Parkinson (1935-2001) wrote 33 novels during his lifetime, and after I discovered one of his books in a discount bookstore, it instantly hit my favourites list! Fox and the Faith (1987) is set in the year 1777 and follows the adventures of a young Irishman called Patrick Dalton, an officer in the British navy.

The Americans had begun their war for independence in 1775 as a result of several political struggles between the colonies and their British sovereign. The King of England had insisted that he had the right to tax the American people, but as British citizens the Americans wanted to have some Parliamentary representation. As Britain tried to increase its control on the colonies, the colonies tried harder to maintain some reasonable autonomy of themselves. On July 4th, 1776, thirteen American states declared their independence from the Crown.

A battle between an American ship (flying the brand new flag with 13 stars and stripes) and a British merchant in 1779. Painted by Francis Holman.

As the story opens, Dalton is first officer on the ship Herrett and they are heading to New York Bay to meet General Howe’s fleet. Along the way, they cross paths with a British warrant ship Courtesan, who is bringing home a prize, the schooner Faith. As they continue north, they are intercepted by two American privateers and Courtesan asks Herrett for help. Herrett is left mortally crippled from the battle and Courtesan leaves them to chase his prize and head for home. With his captain dead, Dalton brings the wreck of a ship home barely in one piece, with many of the crew either dead or injured.

Now berthless, and unable to lodge a complaint against the Courtesan, Patrick Dalton happens upon an old Irish friend, Clarence Kilreagh, who manages a local tavern. Kilreagh hears that there is a warrant out for Dalton’s arrest for his previous association with the Fitzgerald in Ireland. Whilst there is no doubt of Dalton’s innocence, in these times of war there would be no proper hearing, and Dalton would be forced to await death in a prison hulk.

In order to help Dalton escape, Clarence Kilreagh organises to break out a group of sailors from the Long Island stockade, held for assorted minor crimes, to crew the schooner Faith that sits alone on the bay. However, when they board the boat amidst other mayhem on the bay, they discover another small group of colonists had a similar idea. Led by a young girl called Constance Ramsey, this group was aiming to take back the ship that originally belonged to Constance’s father. They were quickly subdued by Dalton’s men and agreed to join him – if at least to escape the impending danger on the British-controlled bay!

What follows is a maritime adventure of escape from the British navy, as they sail the ship up the Long Island Sound. However, as soon as Jonathan Hart, captain of Courtesan, discovers his prize vessel has been stolen, he also pursues the fleeing Faith. And once the British navy put out an order to sink the Faith, everyone – British or American, privateer, pirate or navy – are all in pursuit of the little schooner.

After many sea battles, in which Dalton uses his wits and extraordinary seamanship to survive and flee, they take a much altered Faith back to Mr Ramsey in Wilmington. The crew has survived much, and now any who want to leave the Faith are able to. Constance Ramsey, having developed a tendre for Captain Dalton, reluctantly watches him leave to finally stand and fight Courtesan. An amazing battle ensues, where Dalton uses all of his wits to beat Captain Hart, and then still manages to sail his battered ship back into Delaware.

Once I had finished this book, I happened upon some more in the series at another discount store and immediately snatched them up! There are a total of four books in the set. They are:

  • The Fox and the Faith
  • The Fox and the Fury
  • The Fox and the Flag
  • The Fox and the Fortune
Unfortunately the series doesn’t feel like it finishes. I searched for more of the books in the series and I found out that Dan Parkinson had died at the age of 66, in 2001. According to his widow, he had 2 unfinished books in his computer. I wonder if the final Fox book was one of them.

I have read a bit of criticism over the historical accuracy of his books, in terms of ships and sailing terms, but seeing as I have next to no historical sailing knowledge it has not been something I have never even noticed. From what I can gather, the historical events do seem accurate, though American history is not one of my strong points!

Historical maritime novels are my cup of tea!

Related Posts

The Fox and the Fury – coming soon

Sources and Relevant Links

The Fox and the Faith – on Amazon

Dan Parkinson – A list of his books

Read Full Post »

Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) was a British novelist during the Victorian era and published several novels during her lifetime. One of these was North and South, which first appeared in serial form in 1854 for the journal Household Words, and was later published as a book in 1855.

North and South explores the differences between the lifestyle and culture in the south of England and that of the north, which was becoming more industrialised during this period. It also examines the relatively new types of relationships that were developing between business owners or manufacturers and their employees in a time of great industrial change.

The novel follows Margaret Hale, a young lady who moves with her father and mother from their family home in Helstone, a rural setting in Hampshire, England, to the busy and smoky manufacturing town of Milton-Northern, in the industrial north.

But Margaret was at an age when any apprehension, not absolutely based on a knowledge of facts, is easily banished for a time by a bright sunny day, or some happy outward circumstance. And when the brilliant fourteen fine days of October came on, her cares were all blown away as lightly as thistledown, and she thought of nothing but the glories of the forest.

Margaret’s father resigns his position as a clergyman due to doubts as to his religious beliefs, and decides – on the advice of a good friend, Mr Bell – to move to the north where he hopes to obtain a position as a private tutor. This change in abode creates quite a deal of anxiety and resentment for Margaret’s mother.

Miss Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe) in the cotton mill, North and South mini-series (2004).

Milton could be considered as the polar opposite of Helstone. Where Helstone is green and peaceful, Milton is grey and smokey, noisy and busy. The relationships between people in Helstone are the traditional relationships between people in a normal English village, with the landed gentry who own estates, and the servants, tenants, and clergy that make up the rest of the village. In contrast, the relationships in the town of Milton are based on employment 0r business. Here people are business owners or manufacturers, and employ workers in order to produce goods for sale.

In this new town, Margaret Hale is soon introduced to one of the owners of a local cotton mill, Mr John Thornton, as he is one of her father’s new students. She is struck first by his rude manners, and his preference for Milton over the aristocratic life in the south, as well as his attitudes towards wealth and progress. Later, she feels that he is also cruel and unsympathetic to the plights of his workers.

“It is no boast of mine,” replied Mr Thornton, “it is plain matter-of-fact. I won’t deny that I am proud of belonging to a town – or perhaps I should rather say district – the necessities of which give birth to such grandeur of conception. I would rather be a man toiling, suffering – nay, failing and successless – here, than lead a dull prosperous life in the old worn grooves of what you call more aristocratic society down in the South, with their slow days of careless ease. One may be clogged with honey and unable to rise and fly.”

“You are mistaken,” said Margaret, roused by the aspersion on her beloved South to a fond vehemence of defence, that brought the colour into her cheeks and the angry tears into her eyes. “You do not know anything about the South. If there is less adventure or less progress – I suppose I must not say less excitement – from the gambling spirit of trade, which seems to requisite to force out these wonderful inventions, there is less suffering also. I see men here going about in the streets who look ground down by some pinching sorrow or care – who are not only sufferers but haters. Now, in the South we have our poor, but there is not that terrible expression in their countenances of a sullen sense of injustice which I see here. You do not know the South, Mr Thornton,” she concluded, collapsing into a determined silence, and angry with herself for having said so much.

“And may I say you do not know the North?” asked he, with an inexpressible gentleness in his tone, as he saw that he had really hurt her. She continued resolutely silent; yearning after the lovely haunts she had left far away in Hampshire, with a passionate longing that made her feel her voice would be unsteady and trembling if she spoke.

Margaret also has the opportunity to become friends with some of the workers in the mills that live close by her. This gives her a sense of how their lives are affected by their working conditions in the cotton mills.

A crisis develops when the mill owners refuse to give a pay rise to the workers. The workers, in an attempt to force the mill owners hands, form a “Union” and decide to strike. Gaskell paints the two sides of the issue quite well, as the mill owners are unable to afford to give a rise in pay because their products are not obtaining a high enough price in the marketplace. The position of the strikers is also pitiable, for even though some are starving and unable to continue surviving on strike pay, the Union will not let them return to work.

Eventually, the desperation rises to a pinnacle when Irish workers are bought in to run the mill. The workers riot and Margaret is injured when she is visiting the Thornton’s mill.

Many in the crowd were mere boys; cruel and thoughtless, – cruel because they were thoughtless; some were men, gaunt as wolves, and mad for prey. She knew how it was; they were like Boucher, – with starving children at home – relying on ultimate success in their efforts to get higher wages, and enraged beyond measure at discovering that Irishmen were to be brought in to rob their little ones of bread. Margaret knew it all; she read it in Boucher’s face, forlornly desperate and livid with rage. If Mr Thornton would but say something to them – let them hear his voice only – it seemed as if it would be better than this wild beating and raging against the stony silence that vouchsafed them no word, even of anger or reproach.

When Mr Thornton proposes to her on the following day, feeling bound to do so in honour, she refuses him. He becomes even more convinced that she is a proud and haughty girl, as her London manners suggest.

Mr John Thornton (Richard Armitage) proposing to Miss Hale, North and South mini-series (2004).

By this time Margaret’s mother has become dangerously ill, and she writes to her exiled brother in Spain to come quickly in utmost secrecy. He arrives and, through a course of cruel coincidences, Mr Thornton comes to believe that Margaret is a loose woman who keeps the company of strange men at odd hours of the day, even refusing to admit it in the face of criminal prosecution. This further estranges the two, though it is as this point that Margaret begins to learn more of Mr Thornton’s good heart.

Margaret Hale is affected by death quite significantly through the course of the book. Her neighbour and friend, Bess Higgins, dies from “fluff on the lungs” due to a long exposure at the cotton mill. Margaret’s mother dies, after a long battle with illness, and then her father dies suddenly when he is away from home. Margaret struggles in different ways to deal with these losses, but particularly that of her father. At the time of her father’s death, she has quite reconciled herself to Milton ways and is forced to leave suddenly to live with her aunt in London.

Mr Bell, her father’s oldest friend and owner of extensive property in Milton, decides to leave Margaret all his possessions and then also suddenly dies. Margaret suddenly finds herself in charge of a large fortune, with Mr Thornton as one of her tenants.

Since the strike, the mill has been going badly, due partly to the long strike action as well as a downturn in the market for cotton. As a result, Thornton’s mill is forced to close. Margaret offers Mr Thornton an investment of some of her capital which would enable him to reopen to continue his trade. At this point they are reconciled to each other, having finally seen the good in each other.

Mr Thornton and Miss Hale: the best kiss in period drama!

I really liked the BBC mini-series, as well as the book. The book relies on quite a deal of narrative to tell the story, which the movie adaptation had to put into scenes. This means that the flow of the screenplay is a little different to the book, which tends to happen to any book that is made into a movie or mini-series. In addition, the mini-series is commonly thought to have the most romantic kiss of all period dramas!

And romantic kisses are always my cup of tea!

Related Posts

Emma Bovary: A lesson in happiness – other 19th century literature

Sources and Relevant Links

North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell (1855) – read online

North and South (2004) – the mini-series

Richard Armitage Online – about his role as Mr Thornton

Read Full Post »

I recently re-read one of my favourite books, Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. I had intended to do a post with a little blurb of the storyline and a little bit of my amateur text analysis and maybe some reflections on the themes. However, there seemed a hundred-and-one websites to find such information, and I resolved that I should not rehash that which has already been written, and probably by a person more skilled than me!

Instead, I thought I might show you how I share my love of literature, in particular Pride and Prejudice, with my like-minded friends. I got the idea after seeing a card that a fellow card-maker had made.

“Miss Eliza Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, “despises cards…”

When I saw my friend’s card, I distinctly remember feeling a sudden and intense feeling to rush straight home (maybe even running some red lights) to read the book again! I remember really enjoying that feeling. Almost an awakened desire. And I remember thinking what a cool gift that is to give to someone.

Mr Darcy stood near them in silent indignation at such a mode of passing the evening…

That weekend, I hightailed it to the second-hand shop and searched for a copy of Pride and Prejudice amongst the piles of discarded paperbacks. Ten minutes and two dollars later, I was heading home with my creative juices fairly pouring!

She could only imagine, however, at last, that she drew his notice because there was a something about her more wrong and reprehensible, according to his ideas of right, than in any other person present.

Once I was seated at my craft table, I promptly opened the book, scanning the pages for a suitable text. I had never been so eager to begin tearing pages out of a book before!

Chapter Eight: At five o’clock the two ladies retired to dress, and at half-past six Elizabeth was summoned to dinner.

I decided, in order to increase the enjoyment of the card, the entire page of text should be visible so that you could read the full script across the page. Nothing would annoy me more than to have a page chopped up into pieces that rendered the text unrecognisable.

“It is from Miss Bingley,” said Jane, and then read it aloud.

I also decided that it would be cool to match the text content to the type of card it was going to be. So maybe a wedding text them for a wedding card. Or a sickness text theme for a get well card. Or a gratitude text theme for a thank you card. It doesn’t always work that way, but it is cool if it does!

“I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love,” said Darcy.

To this day, this has remained one of my favourite themes for card-making. As you can tell by the similar nature of most of these designs, I often sit down and make about ten at a time. These are the only ones I have left at the moment. They are pretty simple but, for my fellow literature-lovers, they are cards that really stand out!

“My dear Miss Eliza, why are you not dancing?”

Since I first got this great idea, I have made cards featuring other literature texts, including Romeo and Juliet, and Anne of Green Gables. Maybe I might share some of these with you another day!

Cards are my cup of tea!

Related Posts

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

On Love, Shakespeare and Marianne Dashwood

Sources and Relevant Links

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen – read online

A book review of Pride and Prejudice

Read Full Post »

During the 18th century, there were many changes in society. The ongoing changes to agriculture and farming (the agricultural revolution) combined with the increased use of machinery and manufacture (the industrial revolution) created enormous social changes, as large influxes of people moved from the country to the city to find employment.

These led to huge problems within cities that had suddenly swelled to accommodate greater numbers of people. Overcrowding, disease, lack of sanitation, poverty, hunger and crime were quite frequently the result for the working classes.

Rapid change always tends to threaten the stability of a society, and so there were many people who were alarmed by these changes. In order to keep a sort of social order, publications began to abound on all sorts of moral topics. Conduct books were written to help guide young men and women through a wise path to adulthood. Novels were written with thinly veiled moral instruction to its readers. Journals, such as The Spectator and The Gentleman’s Magazine, discussed a variety of issues relating to propriety and manners. And pamphlets were written to alert people to the dangers of all manner of behaviours.

Josiah Woodward first published his pamphlet, entitled A Kind Caution to Profane Swearers, in 1705. He was a minister in the Church of England and this particular publication was reprinted several times in the following 100 years. It was designed to arrest the sad decline of manners that the author evidently perceived in the society around him.

Nothing can be more piercing to the Heart of a Christian, than to hear the Multitudes of Oaths and profane Speeches which proceed out of the Mouths of many People, without any Sense of the Evil they do, or Fear of any Thing they must suffer for so doing. To hear the Great and Terrible Name of God polluted by Men, which is adored by Angels; and to consider how often that Sacred Name is profaned in common Discourse, which we are scarce worthy once to mention in our Prayers, is very horrible to all that have not lost the Sense of a Supreme Being.

Opening lines of A Kind Caution to Profane Swearers, 1770 edition.

In this pamphlet, Josiah Woodward laid before his readers a total of thirteen reasons to consider desisting from the ugly practise of swearing. Whilst several of these points seem to overlap, I have reproduced a portion of them here.

1. In the first Place, it must appear to the Sense of all Mankind, the rashest and foolishest Thing in the World, to provoke the Wrath of an infinitely powerful Being, and that meerly for the Sake of a few needless and impertinent Words, by which he may be justly provoked to cut you off in a Moment, and to cast you into remediless Torments.

He then draws a parallel between this danger and that of reviling “a General at the Head of his Army” or waking a sleeping lion.

2. And in the next Place, your Baseness and Ingratitude is as great as your Danger, for it is a most senseless Thing to despise that Almighty Being which you at other Times adore. Is it not a ridiculous Folly to fall on your Knees to God one Hour, and to Blaspheme Him the next?

I found this point interesting, as some individuals in the eighteenth century did seem to vary their observance of religious commands depending on whether it suited their fancy! James Boswell relates an incident in his diary where he was sitting in church planning how he could sleep with a woman.

What a curious and inconsistent thing is the mind of Man! In the midst of divine service I was laying plans for having women, and yet I had the most sincere feelings of Religion. I imagine that my want of belief is the occasion of this: So that I can have all the feelings. I would try to make out a little consistency, this way. I have a warm heart and a vivacious fancy. I am therefore given to love, and also Piety or gratitude to God, and to the most brilliant and showy method of pubic Worship.

From: James Boswell’s London Journal 1762-1763, 28th Nov 1762.

3. This [swearing] is such an Extremity of Sin, as can only be matched in Hell, where all are desperate, and without Hope of Mercy. … But for Man, that swims in the River of God’s Goodness, and is visited with fresh Presents of his Love every Moment; for this favourite creature to set his mouth against the Heavens, and to blaspheme a gracious, a patient, a bountiful God, is a Height of Sin which exceeds the Blackness of Hell itself.

It does seem odd these days to think of swearing as exceeding the “Blackness of Hell”. Many injustices crop up in my mind as more deserving of this description!

4. And all this is done against God, without so much as pleasing any one of our Senses. It is a tasteless and fruitless Sin. It brings no Pleasure to the Palate, nor Gain to the Purse. And it may even puzzle the profane Person himself to tell us for what it is he sells his Soul.

5. And it is further to be considered, That the Tongue of Man is his Glory, and human Speech a Sort of Miracle in Nature. And it is given to Man, that he might glorify God who gave it to him. And will you, dare you pervert the Use of so divine a Gift?

6. And it is a very unhappy Circumstance of their Sin, that the Returns of it are frequent. Though it is of so horrible a Nature, and of such infinite guilt, yet it may be repeated many Times in a Minute, yea, we find some multiplying their Oaths in the same Breath.

This is an interesting point. The author goes on to say that with many other sins, repeat offences are, by their very nature, difficult. “If a Man be overcome with Drink, there must be a considerable Space of Time ere he can be so again; or if he be given to profane the sacred Day of our Lord, he cannot do it every Day.”

7. Here the author reiterates how profane men despise the name of God, even though every other part of God is out of their reach and beyond their influence.

8. For hereby you harden Infidels against the Christian Religion. It cannot be expected that they should honour your God, when you yourselves despise him; or that any should embrace your Religion, when you yourselves trample it under your Feet.

And even those who have “never heard the Name of Christ will fare better in the last Judgement, than such as know it and blaspheme it.”

9. Yea, God himself testifies, that his Name is great among the Heathen, Mal. 1:11. And we find an Heathen Emperor making a Decree, that whosoever spake any Thing amiss of Almighty God, should be cut in Pieces, and his House made a Dunghill, Dan. 3:29.

This biblical reference is from the Book of Daniel, and relates the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were saved by God after King Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into the fiery furnace. The King then gives orders for everyone in the land to worship this God.

10. The author here states the law in regards to swearing. As good a reason as any to stop, I suppose!

The Act of Parliament (passed in the Nineteenth Year of his late Majesty’s Reign) justly takes Notice, “that the horrid, impious, and execrable Vices of profane Cursing and Swearing (so highly lothsome and offensive to every Christian) are become so frequent and notorious, that unless speedily and effectually punished, they may justly provoke the Divine Vengeance to increase the many Calamities these Nations now labour under. And therefore it is enacted, That if any Person shall profanely Curse or Swear, and be thereof convicted on the Oath of any one Witness, before any Justice of the Peace, he shall forfeit, as follows:-

Every Day-Labourer, common Solider, common Sailor, and common Seaman, One Shilling.

Every other Person, under the Degree of a Gentleman, Two Shillings.

And every other Person, of or above the Degree of a Gentleman, Five Shillings.

And in Case any Person shall after Conviction offend a Second Time, he shall forfeit Double; and for every other Offence after a second Conviction, treble the Sum first forfeited.”

11. At this point, the author hopes that by such a “slight Infliction” (which, I presume, is the fine), that the sinner might be “brought to a timely Sense of their Sin and Folly”.

12. Upon the Whole, How is every Lover of God, of Man, and of the Public Good, bound in Conscience to oppose this vile and horrible Sin? to reprove it, to shame it, and, in all fit Circumstances, to inform the Magistrate of it, and do their utmost to banish it from human Society?

In short, do everything you can to stop this offence against God. Can you imagine the state of the eighteenth century law courts if every swearer was reported to the Magistrate?

13. … But let me entreat all Persons whatsoever, that have Reason and Self-love, that they cast not themselves into this accursed Herd of Blasphemers, lest after a little partnership with them in their Sin, they be for ever conjoined with them in their Punishment.

Whilst we can laugh about the immense importance that eighteenth century clergyman placed on the sin of profanity, this pamphlet shows – to me, at least – how deep and unsettling the concern was over such rapid and vast changes to society.

I find this aspect of the eighteenth century really intriguing. During this time, there was the continuance of the agricultural revolution, the emergence of the industrial revolution, the American Revolution (1775-1783), and the French Revolution (1789-1799). This was a period of time where everything that had been considered solid and unchanging in society, was changing violently! And when I read this pamphlet in the light of that information, it makes a bit more sense.

Note: All italics are present in the original text.

Related Posts

Hogarth: Gin Lane and Beer Street – a pair of paintings intended to instruct society on the dangers of drinking gin in the mid-eighteenth century.

Do Women REALLY Talk Too Much? – Some snippets from some conduct literature of the eighteenth century.

Sources and Relevant Links

A Kind Caution to Profane Swearers, by Josiah Woodward (1770) – buy through Amazon

A Kind Caution to Profane Swearers, by Josiah Woodward – available online, reprinted at the end of The Solider’s Monitor; being serious advice to Soliders to behave themselves with a just Regard to Religion and true Manhood, by the same author (1760).

Boswell’s London Journal, 1762-1763 – buy through Amazon

The Book of Daniel (Chapter 3) from the Bible – read online

Manner’s, Morals and Class in England: 1774-1858, by Marjorie Morgan.

Read Full Post »

Sarah Hurst’s diaries reside in the Horsham Museum, but have been transcribed and printed.

Sarah Hurst was born in 1736 and died in 1808, and was the eldest daughter of a tradesman. She began writing these diaries when she was 22 years old.

Her father, Richard Hurst, had a tailor’s business in Horsham, West Sussex, in England, and it is from here that the diaries were primarily written. Sarah worked in her father’s business, serving customers in the shop, keeping his accounts, assisting with tailoring, and taking frequent journeys to London to restock the shop and to bank or invest the profits.

She was often out walking around Horsham with her friends, and visiting people in the town environs. In her spare time she wrote poetry and essays, read various books, and did needlework and sewing. Sarah also managed to visit and stay for longer periods with her friends and family that lived in the nearby areas.

The Causeway in Horsham, where Sarah Hurst would often walk.

Her love of reading and writing, as well as her intelligent reflections on the world, signify that she had received some sort of education. The diaries do not give specific information about this, but it is possible she was educated in a boarding school at Lewes or Brighton, or possibly went to school in Horsham.

At the age of sixteen, Sarah had fallen in love with a Mr Henry Smith, who was a young marine in the navy. Throughout most of their relationship, he was serving in the Marine Corps during the Seven Years war against France, and steadily received promotions throughout his career.

Sarah Hurst says in her diary that she carried on a “Clandestine Correspondence” with Henry Smith for an amazing seven years, until 1758, when she sought to put an end to it and told her father. He gave his “reluctant consent” for them to correspond and they wrote to each other until their marriage in 1762.

The editor of this work writes that not many women’s diaries have survived from the eighteenth century, and even less works of writing have survived from the women of the middle classes in this era. For this reason, Sarah Hurst’s reflections and insights into life at this time are quite revealing.

I found Sarah’s writing very insightful and intelligent. Whilst a fair proportion of the diaries relate simply to the things that she had done during the day, she frequently takes the opportunity to reflect on life around her. Above all, I was quite amazed by the fact that people’s natures remain much the same, regardless of the era in which they live and the type of clothes they wear!

I also really love how reading someone’s personal letters or diaries enables you to hear their voice quite clearly, even though so much time separates you. Such personal writing ensures that their personality and passions are printed soundly on the paper you read from.

I have reprinted a selection of quotes from Sarah Hurst’s diaries, grouped below according to topic.

Role of Women in Society

15 Feb, 1759

How trifling, how unimportantly, does my time pass away, I wish I had been a man I might then have signalis’d myself in the service of my Country, but now I must live and die in wretched obscurity.

Education of Women

27 Aug, 1759

Read in Montaigne’s essays, he don’t approve of Women’s having a learned education, are our minds then not worth improving, these Lordly men will have it so.

11 Sept, 1759

Montaigne thinks poetry a proper amusement for women, am glad he will allow us to do any thing besides spin and knit.

23rd Oct, 1761

How I love to hear the conversation of learned Men, what poor ignorant insignificant creatures are we Women but as we have no business but with domestic concerns ’tis thought of no consequence, yet I cannot help repining that I know no more.


28th May, 1759

‘Tis quite diverting to observe the different behaviour of the Country people, uncultivated by education, how are such generally despised and for what, their misfortune not fault.

12th July, 1759

We all walk in the Park, then on the Causeway with Mrs Tredcroft, who says that trade people going to the Assembly at Brighthelmstone has spoilt it, for people of Quality don’t chuse to be in company with them. Certainly when they chuse their private friends it shou’d be those whose education and manners bear the nearest affinity to themselves, but objecting against meeting them in public is full as absurd as disliking to travel the same road or going by the same means to Heaven. Sure these sentiments cannot be call’d noble, that word implies a general complacence and diffusive Benevolence, which are peculiar [particular] Priviledges of Quality and a generous education, while on the contrary I shou’d imagine such confin’d notions cou’d only harbour in a Plebeian Soul.


7 April, 1760

There is something irresistably engaging in a pretty face. I cannot wonder the men are so soon struck with it. External Beauty wou’d certainly be a very great blessing, were it not too often attended by self sufficiency and affectation.


2 Sept, 1761

Very busy all day ironing, low Work for a person of my genius, ha ha ha, hence arises all the vanities and absurdities in Life. We fancy we ought to move in a higher sphere, and so despise the employments of our station; how truly laughable is this; The highest wisdom consists in performing contentedly the duties of our situation, self is a very dangerous thing and ought never to engross our attention for as often as it does, so often do we overrate our abilities, and imagine Fortune has been extreamly remiss in not rewarding them. The hardest lesson in the World is humility, the voluptuous shall become temperate, the miser generous, and the fickle constant before the proud are humble. I have more than the seeds of this fault in my disposition, and often think my rank in Life far below my merit, when most certainly ’tis far above them.


10th Feb, 1762

How much perplexity attends love affairs of all kinds whether the Heart is engag’d or not, it takes away all the pleasure of that part of Life most capable of happiness, when health glows on the cheek and the spirits move in a brisk circulation.


27 Feb, 1759

‘Tis not without some reason that Libertines fear Matrimony, how few there are that behave well in that state. I am inclinable to think all those who disagree in marriage wou’d be equally faulty and unhappy in any other situation, ’tis a solemn alteration of circumstances and the consideration that it may be for the worse makes it more so.


21st Dec, 1759

Mrs Bridger sends for us. We wait on her and play at cards. How trifling is this way of spending time, almost below the dignity of a rational creature, but our choice in amusements is as different as out places and indeed, if we reflect on our natural tendency to vice, ’tis well if they are only trifling, for alas they are too often criminal.

Diaries are my cup of tea!

Related Posts

A Recipe to Soften the Hardest Female Heart, a post about a poem in The Gentleman’s Magazine (1765)

The Boy and the Nettle, a post about a poem in The Gentleman’s Magazine (1765)

Sources and Relevant Links

The Diaries of Sarah Hurst, 1759-1762: Life and Love in Eighteenth Century Horsham, transcribed by Barbara Hurst, edited by Susan C. Djabri. – buy through Amazon

Read Full Post »

Once you have made a Regency neckcloth, you might be interested in learning how to tie it!

Neckclothitania was a pamphlet published in 1818 and illustrated some of the popular ways of tying men’s neckwear at this time. According to the author, there were many ways of tying a cravat and he had only intended “to merely give a slight sketch … of a dozen or so most in use.”

The illustration that accompanied his descriptions is reprinted below.

The frontispiece illustration of Neckclothitania (1818)

Way of Folding

Regency cravats were very well starched, so they needed to be folded so they could be placed around the neck without getting unintended creases in them!

After having folded the neck-cloth, and made it of the depth, &c. according to the wearer’s taste, let the two ends be turned over, as in the frontispiece, the right-hand end, to be turned down, the left-hand end, to be turned up. The advantages of following this rule, will soon be discovered. It removes the awkward appearance caused by crossing the ends behind [the neck]; the ends are also by this means brought forward in a smooth and uncrumpled state, and fit to make the knot. It also makes the neck-cloth lay smooth and even behind, a thing which has hitherto been too much neglected – The same care almost should be given to the back as the front part.

The way of folding

This way of folding creates a smoother look at the back of the neck.

Tying a Cravat

The Basic Knot

Step One: After arranging the neckcloth around the neck, cross the right end over the left, forming an X.

Step Two: Pull the right end through the top so it hangs down creaseless. This will form the front of the knot.

Step Three: Holding the left end in a loop to the side…

Step Four: …Turn the right end under and pull through the loop.

Step Five: Tighten

Step Six: Arrange the knot to sit flat, so the front face of the knot is uncreased.

Obviously, a blue shirt is not quite period, but I have used it so the detail of the cravat tying is a bit more apparent! This knot was made with a triangular cloth (see the Mathematical Tie, below) and took an enormous amount of practise to achieve a look that at least resembled the illustration above. I now have the highest respect for fashionable gentleman!

As far as I can discover, the basic manner of construction of both a Barrel Knot and a Gordian Knot are the same as described above. The main difference between them is that they are arranged differently once they are completed. One is thicker and one is thinner, as seen in the illustration in Neckclothitania.

This basic knot is used in the Oriental, Mathematical, Osbaldeston, American, Trone d’Amour, Irish, and Horse Collar Ties. The minor differences between these ties are noted below.

The Oriental Tie: “…is made with a very stiff and rigid cloth… Care should be taken, that not a single indenture or crease should be visible in this tie; it must present a round, smooth, and even surface…”. The cloth is laid creaseless on the front of the neck and wrapped around so the ends come to the front again for tying in a knot.

The Mathematical (or Triangular) Tie: “is far less severe than the former – there are three creases in it.” It appears that the front face of the cravat that is laid against the neck is deliberately creased in particular places, and that these creases form the major differences between these types of ties. This tie has two diagonal creases from under each ear to the knot, and a horizontal crease at the centre front which reaches to each side indenture.

The Mathematical Tie, with my best efforts at collateral and horizontal creases! Made with a triangular cloth measuring 11 inches wide at the centre and 80 inches long, folded in thirds lengthwise. The benefit of using a triangular tie for these knotted Tie styles is that the ends are less bulky and are easier to tie.

The American Tie: “differs little from the Mathematical, except that the collateral indentures do not extend so near to the ear [the diagonal crease between the ear and the knot are not as long], and that there is no horizontal or middle crease in it.”

The Irish Tie: “This one resembles in some degree the Mathematical, with, however, this difference, that the horizontal indenture is placed below the point of junction formed by the collateral creases instead of being above.” You can see in the illustration that the front face of the cravat has the two diagonal creases with a centre front horizontal crease below. [It’s all so complicated!]

The Trone d’Amour Tie: “is the most austere after the Oriental Tie – It must be extremely well stiffened with starch.” There is only “one single horizontal dent in the middle” of the front face of the cravat.

The Osbaldeston Tie: “This neck-cloth is first laid on the back of the neck, the ends brought forward, and tied in a large knot, the breadth of which must be at least four inches, and two inches deep. This tie is very well adapted for summer; because instead of going round the neck twice, it confines itself to once.”

The Horse Collar Tie: “It is certainly the worst and most vulgar… It has the appearance of a great half-moon, or horse-collar”. I presume the author refers to the great horizontal crease that goes right through the middle of front face of the cravat, making it look like the collar of a horse pulling a cart. He gives no instructions for how to achieve such a look!

The Napoleon, Ballroom and Hunting Ties are also similar in design.

The Napoleon Tie: “It is first laid … on the back of the neck, the ends being brought forwards and crossed, without tying, and then fastened to the braces, or carried under the arms and tied on the back. It has a very pretty appearance, giving the wearer a languishingly amorously look.” [Now, don’t we all want that!]

The Ballroom Tie: This is laid on the front of the neck first and so “it unites the qualities of the Mathematical and Irish, having two collateral dents and two horizontal ones… It has no knot, but is fastened as the Napoleon.”

The Hunting Tie: “is formed by two collateral [those diagonal ones again] dents on each side, and meeting in the middle, without any horizontal ones”. It could be fastened with a Gordian knot or be crossed over like the Napoleon and Ballroom Ties (as it has been in the illustration).

The Ballroom Tie, with my attempt at collateral and horizontal dents! Made with a cloth measuring 6″ x 80″, folded in half lengthwise and attached at the back with a safety pin.

The Mailcoach Tie or Waterfall: “is made by tying it with a single knot [what I would call half a knot], and then bringing one of the ends over, so as completely to hide the knot, and spreading it out, and turning it down in the waistcoat. The neck-cloth ought to be very large to make this Tie properly”. When the author says large, he probably means both long and wide, as this looks like it goes several times around the neck and needs to be wide enough to create a nice fall at the front. “A Kushmeer shawl is the best, I may even say, the only thing with which it can be made.”

The Mailcoach Tie, made with a cloth measuring 10″ x 50″. This sized cloth is wide enough to get a nice waterfall, but is way too short. Muslin would be great for this tie.

The Maharatta or Nabob Tie: “is very cool, as it is always made with fine muslin neck-cloths – It is first placed on the back of the neck, the ends are then brought forward, and joined as a chain-link, the remainder is then turned back, and fastened behind.” I presume it is turned back over the shoulder, rather than under the arms.

The Maharatta Tie, made with a cloth measuring 10″ x 50″, folded in half lengthwise and safety-pinned at the back of the neck.

Having Trouble?

Neckclothitania also gave it’s readers some handy hints on a number of topics relevant to the tying of neckcloths.

When a starched neckcloth is brought home from the wash, it will be immediately seen, that one side is smooth and shining, the other more rough: this is occasioned by the one side being ironed, and the other not. I do it myself, and consequently recommend it to others, that the rough side should be worn outside during the day, but, that, on putting on a cloth for the evening, the smooth side should be the visible one.

Does your cravat come loose from your waistcoat and fly about? Do you need a Regency tie clip?

After the knot is made, take a piece of white tape, and tie one end of it tight, to one end of the neckcloth, then carry the tape under your arm, behind your back, under the other arm, and fasten it tightly to the other end of the neckcloth. The tape must not be visible. This way prevents the knot from flying up, which would thereby shorten the length of the cloth, and in short greatly injure its appearance.

Mr Darcy (Colin Firth)

How do you get that very suave “Mr Darcy” appearance?

On putting on the neck-cloth, take that part which is immediately under the ears, with your thumb and finger, and pull it up till it reaches the ear, and continue to make it maintain permanently that position – Nothing displays more mauvais gout [Translation: bad taste], than seeing a cloth forming a straight line from the chin to the ear.

…after the neckcloth is finished, you should pass your finger along the upper ridge, in order to make it lay smooth, and look thin and neat.

Are you struggling to be properly swathed in neckcloth?

Let the front part of the cloth be brought in a line with the extremity of the chin – Nothing gives a person more the appearance of a goose, than to see a long part of the jaw and chin projecting over the neckcloth.

In Elegant Conclusion

Only slightly tongue-in-cheek!

Independently of all these numerous advantages – what an apparent superiority does not a starcher give to a man? It gives him a look of hauteur [height] and greatness, which can scarcely be acquired otherwise – This is produced solely by the austere rigidity of the cravat, which so far, by any means, from yielding to the natural motions of the head, forms a strong support to the cheeks. It pushes them up, and gives a rotundity of appearance to the whole figure [face], thereby unquestionably giving a man the air of being puffed up with pride, vanity, and conceit, (very necessary, nay, indispensable qualifications for a man of fashion) and appearing as quite towering over the rest of mankind, and holding his fellow-creatures covered with the deep disgrace of his disgust.

I need only appeal to any common observer, to prove the veracity of the above assertions – Let any person take a stroll up and down some fashionable street of the metropolis, at the proper time of day, and remark the men who do and who do not wear starchers: What a conscious sense of their own superiority in the former! What a full conviction of their own paltriness and insignificance in the latter!!

What a picture that paints!

The next item in Mr Knightley’s wardrobe is a waistcoat.

To read all of the “MY Mr Knightley” posts in order, go to My Regency Journey.

Related Posts

MY Mr Knightley: Making an 18th Century Shirt

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Neckcloth

Sources and Relevant Links

All quotations from Neckclothitania; or Tietania, being an essay on starchers, by one of the cloth – read it free as an ebook on Google. Whilst the frontispiece illustration is referred to in the text, it is not included in this particular scan.

The Regency Neckcloth – this site has full descriptions of the particular ties from Neckclothitania.

Ways to tie an 18th Century Cravat – Jas Townsend & Son You Tube video

Read Full Post »

“Full and half full dress for April” in Le Beau Monde, 1808

The second item of clothing in my men’s Regency wardrobe will be a neckcloth or cravat. In Regency times, a cravat was used for the same purpose as a bow-tie or neck-tie is currently used in today’s society. It was pretty much a “dressing” for the neck of a shirt.

Cravats originated in the early 1600’s when the use of Elizabethan ruffs began to fall out of fashion. The French had copied the fashion of the Middle Eastern men who wore a simple strip of material tied in a knot around the neck.

This new form of neckwear was in use throughout the 18th and 19th century in various forms and were known by several different names, including stocks, neckerchiefs, and scarves. During this time they varied in style, material and colour, but they all consisted of a strip of fabric that went around the neck and was fastened in some manner.

The 18th century lace cravats gave way to plain white linen ones during the Regency era. By 1818, pale coloured cravats were introduced for daywear (according to Neckclothitania, a pamphlet discussing various ways to tie neckcloths). Later in the 19th century, black cravats and then patterned ones appeared. The forerunner of the modern tie was developed in the late 19th century.

Making a Cravat

During the Regency, neckcloths were cut differently depending on the way in which they were tied. The materials they were made out of also differed depending on the manner of tying, as some required a more delicate flowing fabric, and others required a stiffened appearance. My next post in this series will cover the different ways of tying cravats.

There are two basic ways to make a Regency cravat. Either:

  1. Cut a long strip of cotton or linen material about 4 to 8 inches wide and at least 60 to 80 inches long, depending on the types of ties you will make. If you want your cravat to go twice around the neck then 80 inches is best.
  2. Or cut a triangular piece of material, with the base of the triangle 60 to 80 inches long and against the selvedge. The height or point of the triangle should be centred in the middle and measure 10 inches high.

A drawing of how to cut a triangular cravat

The picture above shows the cutting line when a length of material is folded with selvedges aligned. The height of the triangle is 10 inches (remember to allow a little extra for a seam allowance) and the length along the selvedge should be half of the finished length.

You can also cut a second triangular neckcloth (or a rectangular one) out of the other selvedge edges.

Once the material is cut and opened out, you will have an isosceles triangle with two edges to hem. Hem the raw edges and you are ready to begin tying!

My next post in this series is on tying a cravat.

To read all of the “MY Mr Knightley” posts in order, go to My Regency Journey.

Related Posts

MY Mr Knightley: Making an 18th Century Shirt

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source, Le Beau Monde or Literary Fashion Magazine, April 1808.

History of Cravats

Neckclothitania; or Tietania, being an essay on starchers, by one of the cloth – read it free as an ebook on Google.

Read Full Post »

Jane Austen wrote an unpublished manuscript around 1795-ish (about the same time as Sense and Sensibility) called Lady Susan. For a description of the original story, you can read my post, Lady Susan: An eighteenth century epistolary novella.

Lady Vernon and Her Daughter, by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway

In 2005, Jane Rubino and her daughter, Caitlen Rubino-Bradway, rewrote this story as a novel and called it Lady Vernon and Her Daughter. As Lady Susan had been written in a very 18th Century manner, these authors attempted to update the story as Jane Austen may have done if she had revisited it in her lifetime. That is, they tried to make it more like a Regency romance, rather than an 18th Century moralist tale.

In order to do this, the story has been changed quite remarkably from its original, making use of the idea that the way people present themselves to others is not always an accurate representation of who they really are.

Lady Susan was originally portrayed by Jane Austen as a manipulative, controlling and seductive woman, willing to use other people ruthlessly to obtain her own ends. In contrast, Lady Vernon is portrayed as a misunderstood woman who is fiercely maligned and gossiped about by her so-called friends and family.

So, what Jane Austen represented as fact in her story, these authors have represented as hearsay. Lady Vernon still has a reputation as a manipulative controlling person, but those closest to her – like her daughter, Frederica, and her childhood friend, Sir James – know that this is not really her.

There is something really wrong – in my mind – about changing the plots of historical literature! In fact, I even struggle watching movie adaptations of historical literature because of the changes that are made to the story line. When I first began reading this book, I really hated the way the plot had been changed. It was really difficult for me to like Lady Vernon as a character – as the authors evidently wanted me to do -, especially because Jane Austen had originally not intended this character to be liked.

That being said, once I had struggled epically through half of the book (trying not to lose the motivation to finish reading it!), I began to appreciate the clever twist to the original story.

As Lady Susan was originally a epistolary novel (a novel made up of largely of letters to and from each of the characters), it is quite plausible that the characters may not have represented the truth to each other. It is even plausible that Susan may not have represented her own motives or personality accurately in her own letters. It is this plausibility that Lady Vernon and her Daughter hinges on, using it to twist the original story. So, the motives and personalities of each of the main characters are inverted. Good becomes bad, and bad becomes good. Close friendships become distant, and distant acquaintances become best friends.  Those who were deceived are now in possession of the whole truth, and vice versa.

One of my main criticisms of this book (aside from the unsettling changes to the original plot) is the level of character development. I got quite lost at the beginning of the story, finding it quite difficult to understand the different characters and how they differed from each other. This was probably exacerbated because of the plot changes. It wasn’t until about halfway through that I really settled into the story and felt I knew the characters well.

To anyone thinking of reading this book, I would recommend to also read Lady Susan (either before or afterwards), as it does make the appreciation of the book richer.

Have you read this novel? What did you think of it? How does it compare to Lady Susan?

Related Posts

Lady Susan: An eighteenth century epistolary novella

Sources and Relevant Links

Lady Vernon and her Daughter (2005), by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway – buy online

Lady Susan, by Jane Austen – read online

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »