Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 7: The last painful moment


Image: abebooks.com

In Volume 7, several subplots (finally) wind down: Emily Jervois's crush on Sir Charles, Lady G.'s marital discord, Lady Clementina's familial discord, and Sir Hargrave Pollexfen's rake's progress.

Emily's confession: "Hide me from myself"


Let us sit down on this sofa, if you will not return to my closet.
Illustration drawn and engraved by R. Vinkeles. Image: Internet Archive

After the marriage of Harriet and Sir Charles, his beautiful 15-year-old ward Emily Jervois comes to live with the couple (as she pleaded to be allowed to do; see Volume 3: The mystery revealed and Volume 6: 18th-century Instagram culture). Emily, of course, is madly in love with Sir Charles. Both Sir Charles and Harriet have long been aware of Emily's feelings, but it occurs to none of the three people involved that this arrangement—whatever the outcome—can only end in tears.

Emily, though, quickly realizes that daily being forced to witness the couple's newlywed bliss is making her miserable. She comes to Harriet's door and makes her confession:
She threw her arms about me, and her tears ran over. This goodness kills me!—I am, I am, a most unhappy creature!—Unhappy from the grant of my own wishes!. . .O Lady Grandison! the deserving wife of the best of men, you ought to hate me!. . .You, madam, whom I best love of all women; but who ought to hate, to despise me!

Trust me, Love, with your secret. It shall never without your Leave pass this faithful bosom, if it be a secret that already I do not guess at.

She started—Guess at, madam!. . .O you cannot, cannot guess at it. If you did—

What if I did?

Then would you banish from your presence for ever the justly-hated Emily: then would you make my guardian renounce me!

Shall I, my dear, tell you what I guess?

Whisper me then, throwing about me the hand I held not: But whisper me that I may not hear.

You love your guardian, my Emily!—He loves you!

O madam!

He will always love you; so will I.

Banish the criminal from your presence for ever; rising, yet again laying her face on my shoulder—and clasping her arms about me, Hide me, hide me from myself.

No need, my dear. Every-body loves your guardian. You cannot love him but with innocence. Your Love is founded in gratitude. So was mine. Don’t I know how to allow for my Emily?. . .Depend upon my kindest allowances. I knew, before you knew it yourself, that you loved your guardian.
I knew I only wanted my guardian to love me, and to be allowed to love him. But what! thought I, at last, can I allow myself in loving a married man, the husband of my friend?
Emily admits to feelings of jealousy and envy, and the likelihood that she would "in time endeavour to supplant her friend; tho' at present she might shudder at the thought." There is only one way to overcome these dark feelings: to live where she will rarely see Sir Charles.
. . .O madam, I ought to fly; I am resolved, whatever it cost me, to fly. . .Advise me something—I see the folly of my wishing to live with you and my guardian.

And is it necessary, my dear, to a conquest of yourself, that we should not live together?

Absolutely so: I am convinced of it.

. . .I wept over her from joy, pity, tenderness. [1]
Emily is experiencing glückschmerz, the opposite of schadenfreude. If schadenfreude is our secret happiness at someone else's misfortune, glückschmerz is our secret heartache at someone else's joy. It is made more acute when the other person's good fortune is something the sufferer has also longed for. Emily goes to nurse her hopeless crush in Northamptonshire with Harriet's Grandmother Shirley. Poor Emily!

Lady Clementina comes to England: "Persuasion, cruel persuasion"


Taking the trembling hand; Welcome, thrice welcome to England, dearest Lady Clementine!
Illustration  engraved by Angus from a drawing by Stothard. Image: Internet Archive

Evidently Emily is not the only woman who wants to wallow masochistically in glückschmerz. After her family pressures her to marry the Count of Belvedere, Lady Clementina contrives to flee Italy and come to England to seek the protection of Sir Charles. As she exclaims, "I have been oppressed! Oppressed by persuasion! By a kneeling father! By a weeping mother! By entreating brothers! And this is but persuasion! Cruel persuasion!" Harriet feels that, for someone of Lady Clementina's acute sensibility, "Persuasion is compulsion." [2]

Six decades later Jane Austen, of course, would write a novel entitled Persuasion, in which Anne Elliot finds that she cannot resist the urgent entreaties of her surrogate mother, Lady Russell. But Austen brilliantly inverts the situation: Anne is persuaded, not to marry against her inclinations a man whom everyone approves, but to break off an engagement with a man she loves wholeheartedly but who is deemed unsuitable. A reader has to wonder whether Austen drew from Sir Charles Grandison in conceiving her masterpiece. If she did, she felt an artist's freedom to alter her model to fit her own purposes.
    Lady G.: "I will be all the mother"


    Wretch! screamed I—Begone—begone! Whence the boldness of this intrusion?
    Illustration engraved by Cook from a drawing by Stothard (1783). Image: Internet Archive

    Richardson had some remarkable attitudes for a middle-class man of his era. At the time, working-class women were routinely hired as wet-nurses for the newborn children of the gentry and nobility. Breastfeeding was considered to be disfiguring, it confined the new mother to the home, and it was viewed as an unrefined, almost animal activity. Yet Sir Charles Grandison contains a scene in which Lord G. discovers his wife breastfeeding their new daughter (named Harriet), and expresses a delighted approval that must have been shared by the author:
    [Yesterday] he entered my chamber; and surprised me, as I did him (for I intended that he should know nothing of the matter, nor that I would ever be so condescending); surprised me, as how? Ah, Harriet! in an act that confessed the mother, the whole mother!—Little Harriet at my breast; or, at my neck, I believe I should say—should I not?

    The nurse, the nursery-maids, knowing that I would not for the world have been so caught by my nimble lord (who is in twenty places in a minute) were more affrighted than Diana’s nymphs, when the goddess was surprised by Acteon; and each, instead of surrounding me in order to hide my blushes, was for running a different way; not so much as attempting to relieve me from the Brat.

    I was ready to let the little Leech drop from my arms—O wretch! screamed I—Begone!—begone! Whence the boldness of this intrusion?

    Never was man in a greater rapture. . .He threw himself at my feet, clasping me and the little varlet together in his arms. Brute! said I, will you smother my Harriet—I was half-ashamed of my tenderness—Dear-est, dear-est, dear-est Lady G.—shaking his head, between every dear and est, every muscle of his face working; how you transport me! Never, never, never, saw I so delightful a sight! Let me, let me, let me (every emphatic word repeated three times at least) behold again the dear sight. Let me see you clasp the precious gift, our Harriet’s Harriet too! to that lovely bosom—The wretch (trembling however) pulled aside my handkerchief. I try'd to scold; but was forced to press the little thing to me, to supply the place of the handkerchief—Do you think, I could not have killed him?—To be sure, I was not half angry enough. I knew not what I did, you may well think—for I bowed my face on the smiling infant, who crowed to the pressure of my lips.

    Begone, Lord G. said I—See! see! how shall I hold the little Marmouset, if you devour first one of my hands, then the other?

    He arose, took the little thing from me, kissed its forehead, its cheeks, its lips, its little pudsey hands, first one, then the other; gave it again to my arms; took it again; and again resigned it to me.

    Take away the pug, said I, to the attendants—Take it away, while any of it is left—They rescued the still smiling babe, and ran away with it.
    This tender scene brings about a reconciliation between the husband and wife—on the basis of her embrace of motherhood and domesticity:
    My lord then again threw himself at my feet—Pardon, pardon me, dearest creature, said he, that I took amiss any thing you ever said or did—You that could make me such rich amends—O let not those charming, charming spirits ever subside, which for so many days together, I missed. . .O my Charlotte! Never, never more shall it be in your power to make me so far forget myself, as to be angry!

    My dear Lord G.!—I had like to have said—I believe I did say—Then will you ruin, absolutely ruin, me! What shall I do—for my Roguery?

    Never, never part with what you call so!—

    Impossible, my lord, to retain it, if it lose its wonted power over you. I shall have a new lesson to learn. . .The infant is the cement between us; and we will for the future be every day more worthy of that, and of each other.

    My lord hurried from me in speechless rapture; His handkerchief at his eyes—Nurse, said I, bring me again our precious charge. I will be all the mother. I clasped it to my bosom. What shall I do, my little Harriet! Thy father, sweet one! has run away with my Roguery— [3]
    Richardson's evident approval of mothers breastfeeding their children is embedded in an ideology of female nurturance and wifely submission.


    Portrait of a family by Johann Friedrich August Tischbein, ca. 1795-1800. Image: Reading Treasure

    This is not the only instance in Sir Charles Grandison where progressive attitudes are expressed only to be immediately undercut. At the end of Volume 6, when Harriet Byron's friends and relatives gather for breakfast the morning after the wedding night, a semi-facetious debate on the relative capacities of men and women takes place. Sentiments are uttered that would not be out of place in an Austen novel:
    But pray, Sir Charles. . .let me ask your opinion: Do you think, that if women had the same opportunities, the same education, as men, they would not equal them in their attainments?
    He does not, alas, but that the possibility is raised is noteworthy. And Harriet's Grandmother Shirley goes to the heart of the matter:
    'I think,' said the venerable lady, 'women are generally too much considered as a species apart. . .Why must women always be addressed in an appropriated language; and not treated on the common footing of reasonable creatures?' [4]
    This question seems to have struck Jane Austen with particular force. In Pride and Prejudice, when Elizabeth Bennet refuses Mr. Collins, she says,
    'I thank you again and again for the honour you have done me in your proposals, but to accept them is absolutely impossible. My feelings in every respect forbid it. Can I speak plainer? Do not consider me now as an elegant female, intending to plague you, but as a rational creature, speaking the truth from her heart.' [5]
    And in Persuasion, Mrs. Croft upbraids her brother Captain Wentworth for not liking to have women on board a ship under his command:
    'But I hate to hear you talking so like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.' [6]
    Austen was frequently ahead of her time; Richardson was more often firmly embedded in his.

    Lady Clementina and the articles


    Sweet sisters! Lovely friends! said he, when come up to vs, taking a hand of each, and joining them, bowing on both.
    Illustration drawn and engraved by R. Vinkeles. Image: Internet Archive

    Lady Clementina is followed to England by her parents, siblings, and her hopeful admirer the Count of Belvedere. Sir Charles finds himself in the awkward position of sheltering Lady Clementina and acting as mediator between her and her family. Fortunately for his domestic harmony, Harriet is willing to do the emotional work of welcoming her former rival into her household and embracing her as a sister.

    Sir Charles draws up a set of articles that he asks Lady Clementina and her family to sign. She is asked to give up her wish of entering a convent, and while her family must agree "that they will never with earnestness endeavour to persuade, much less to compel, Lady Clementina to marry any man whatever." "These terms conceded to, on all sides," the articles conclude, "it is humbly proposed. . .that all acts of disobligation shall be buried in everlasting oblivion." [7]

    The convenant sealed, Lady Clementina, the della Porrettas and the Count of Belvedere sail back to Italy without Signor Jeronymo (who will visit Bath for the healing waters); Sir Charles and Harriet promise to visit them in Bologna soon. The Lady Clementina subplot ends with the Count hoping that, in time, Lady Clementina's feelings for Sir Charles will fade, and that, like Harriet, he will find himself grateful and happy in a second-place love.

    The death of Sir Hargrave: "The last painful moment"

    Harriet's final letters concern the miserable end of Sir Hargrave. He had been suffering ever since "a vile attempt on a lady’s honour" in France had left him badly bruised and bloody at the hands of her husband and brothers. He is left an invalid, and "is thought not to be out of danger from some inward hurt, which often makes him bring up blood in quantities." [8]

    He finally realizes that he is dying, and asks to see Sir Charles.
    He wrung his hands; wept; lamented his past free life. Fain, said he, would I have been trusted with a few years trial of my penitence. . .—O Sir Charles Grandison! It is a hard, hard thing to die! In the prime of youth too!—Such noble possessions!—
    And then he warned his surrounding friends, and made comparisons between Sir Charles’s happiness, and his own misery. Sir Charles, at his request, sat up with him all night: he endeavoured to administer comfort to him; and called out for mercy for him, when the poor man could only, by expressive looks, join in the solemn invocation. Sir Hargrave had begged he would close his eyes. He did. He staid to the last painful moment. . .Poor Sir Hargrave Pollexfen! May he have met with mercy from the All-merciful! [9]
    It is the end of Sir Hargrave, and, finally (after a last effusion of Harriet's about the matchless goodness of Sir Charles) of the novel.

    The end of the journey: "Too near the faultless character"

    I embarked on this journey through one of the longest novels in English because Jane Austen admired it so much. And it's clear why: Richardson portrayed the dilemmas of his heroines with an emotional vividness that elicits a deeply sympathetic response in the reader.

    But it is also clear that Richardson, as he himself admitted, "hardly knew what he would write from one letter to the next." [10] The endless reviving of seemingly exhausted subplots and the repetitive scenes of Sir Charles demonstrating his peerless virtue ultimately are wearing to the patience of even the best-intentioned reader. In the "Concluding NOTE by the EDITOR" Richardson, in a rare moment of self-awareness, writes of his hero that "it has been observed by some, that, in general, he approaches too near the faultless character which critics censure as above nature." The flaw of Sir Charles Grandison is that he is virtually flawless.

    This was a mistake that Austen never made. We return to the observation by Walter Scott, quoted at the outset of this series, that Austen's novels
    proclaim a knowledge of the human heart. . .presenting to the reader, instead of the splendid scenes of an imaginary world, a correct and striking representation of that which is daily taking place around him. . .The narrative of all her novels is composed of such common occurrences as may have fallen under the observation of most folks; and her dramatis personæ conduct themselves upon the motives and principles which the readers may recognize as ruling their own and that of most of their acquaintances. . .All of [her characters'] entanglements bring on only a train of mistakes and embarrassing situations. . .in which the author displays her peculiar powers of humor and knowledge of human life. [11]
    This is why, despite the profound changes in tastes and mores over the past two centuries, Austen can still be read with the greatest pleasure today. And why Sir Charles Grandison, despite a number of highly effective scenes and the intimate glimpses they offer into the thoughts and emotions of the female characters, requires an increasing effort of will for a modern reader as page follows page follows page and volume slowly succeeds volume. Many thanks to my readers for making that effort with me.

    Other posts in this series:


    1. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VII, Letter XV. Lady GRANDISON[, To Mrs. Shirley]. In Continuation.
    2. Lady Clementina: Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VII, Letter XVII. Signor Jeronymo della PORRETTA, To Sir CHARLES GRANDISON.
      Harriet: Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VII, Letter XXX. Lady GRANDISON[, To Mrs. SHIRLEY]. In Continuation.
    3. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VII, Letter XLIII. Lady G. To Lady GRANDISON. 
    4. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VI, Letter LV. Lady G. [To Lady L.] In Continuation. 
    5. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Volume I, Chapter XIX. 
    6. Jane Austen, Persuasion, Volume I, Chapter VIII.
    7. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VII, Letter XXXVI. Lady GRANDISON[, To Mrs. SHIRLEY]. In Continuation.
    8. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume IV, Letter XXXVIII. Lady G. to Miss BYRON.
    9. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VII, Letter LXI. Lady GRANDISON, To Mrs. SHIRLEY.
    10. Janet Todd, Sensibility: An Introduction. Methuen, 1986. p. 87.
    11. [Walter Scott] "Art. IX. Emma, A Novel" [review]. The Quarterly Review, Vol. XIV, No. XXVII, October, 1815, p. 188-201. http://www.bl.uk/collection-items/review-of-emma-in-the-quarterly-review-1815

    Wednesday, October 16, 2019

    Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 6: 18th-century Instagram culture


    Image: Google Books

    At the end of Volume 5 Sir Charles, having been refused a second time by Lady Clementina, returns from Italy to England. Now there is seemingly no barrier to his marriage to Harriet Byron.

    This is a situation that Jane Austen would have wrapped up in a couple of chapters—and did. In Sense and Sensibility's Volume III, Chapter XII, Edward Ferrars informs the Dashwoods that his fiancée Lucy Steele, now Mrs. Ferrars, has married his brother Robert; the novel concludes, with Elinor married to Edward and Marianne married to Colonel Brandon, two (short) chapters later. Austen was wise enough to know when her story was finished.


    Elinor Dashwood (Emma Thompson) and Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant) emerging from church as a married couple shortly after she has learned that he is free from his engagement with Lucy Steele. 

    So who can be in doubt of what will follow Sir Charles's return from Italy to the woman who loves him, and whom he loves? But Sir Charles Grandison will continue for two more volumes. Henry Austen's description of Richardson's "prolix style and tedious narrative" in the "Biographical Notice of the Author" published with Northanger Abbey and Persuasion seems ever more true as the novel approaches the long-delayed marriage of Sir Charles and Harriet. (It should be pointed out that Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are each only two volumes long from beginning to end.)

    Sir Charles: The "womanly man"

    Beyond Richardson's inability to recognize when his novel was over, another reason Sir Charles Grandison can begin to feel endless at this point is the character of its hero. Sir Charles is, in the words of Terry Eagleton, "a womanly man, for whom power and tenderness are fully compatible." [1] Richardson wanted to Sir Charles to be "an anti-Tom Jones," and created a character who combined feminine virtues—religiosity, sympathy, modesty, sobriety and chastity—with male freedom, wealth and social power. [2]

    But as Eagleton further notes, "it is clear enough to us that he can exercise such virtues precisely because he has power." [3] This is one reason Sir Charles Grandison lacks narrative suspense, at least with respect to the hero: for him there is very little at stake. Richardson had intended to show how the feminine virtues, particularly chastity, are equally important for men (all the rakes in the novel either reform, come to bad ends, or both). But "the blunt truth is that in patriarchal society it does not matter whether men are chaste or not. Grandison's virginity has no price, no exchange value" in the marriage market—unlike the chastity of women, who are rendered unfit for marriage once they have "fallen," even if they are victims of rape. [4]

    Because his hero is so unrelentingly good and is in such an unassailable social position, Richardson had to struggle to generate conflict and drama. Tom Jones gets into one picaresque scrape after another after his fall from Squire Allworthy's favor; Sir Charles, as Janet Todd observes, "has very little to do but extricate himself with honour from one lady, the foreign Clementina, and bestow himself on another, the English Harriet." [5] It is the question of Harriet's fate that generates what little suspense there is in the later volumes; the reader is to be forgiven if Sir Charles's vacillation between two beautiful, deserving women is not a compelling dilemma.

    "A second-place Love"

    Early in Volume 6, in a letter to her cousin Mrs. Reeves, Harriet squarely faces her situation:
    But were he to declare himself my Lover, my heart would not be so joyful as you seem to expect, if Lady Clementina is to be unhappy. What tho' the refusal of marriage was hers; was not that refusal the greatest sacrifice that ever woman made to her superior duty? Does she not still avow her Love to him? And must he not, ought he not, ever to love her? And here my pride puts in its claim to attention—Shall your Harriet sit down and think herself happy in a second-place Love?
    Lest Mrs. Reeves or the reader remain in any uncertainty, Harriet immediately answers her own question:
    Yet let me own to you, my cousin, that Sir Charles Grandison is dearer to me than all else that I hold most dear in this world:. . .and [if] he were to declare himself my Lover; Affectation, be gone! I would say; I will trust to my own heart, and to my future conduct, to make for myself an interest in his affections. . . [6]
    Harriet's point of "female delicacy" answered to her satisfaction, her Uncle Selby wants to move things along: "I am for sending up for Sir Charles directly. Let him come the first day of next week, and let them be married before the end of it." [7] The reader may assent wholeheartedly.

    But there remains the remarkable scene of Sir Charles's proposal to Harriet.

    The offer: 18th-century Instagram culture


    "Again he kissed my hand, rising with dignity. I could have received his vows on my knees; but I was motionless."
    Illustration engraved by Angus from a drawing by Stothard (1783). Image: Internet Archive.

    Epistolary novels provide readers with a sense of immediacy, particularly when the correspondents are reporting their reactions in the midst of the situations they're describing. As Sir Charles's sister Charlotte tells her, "I love, Harriet, to write to the moment. . .No pathetic without it!" [8]

    In that same letter, right after expressing a fear that Lady Clementina will have second thoughts about renouncing Sir Charles, Charlotte records a conversation with her sister Lady L. as it is happening. An excerpt will give the flavor:
    Your servant, Lady L.

    And your servant, Lady G.—Writing? To whom?

    To our Harriet—

    I will read your letter—Shall I?

    Take it; but read it out, that I may know what I have written.

    Now give it me again. I’ll write down what you say to it, Lady L.

    Lady L. I say you are a whimsical creature. But I don’t like what you have last written.

    Charlotte. Last written—’Tis down.—But why so, Lady L.?

    Lady L. How can you thus teaze our beloved Byron, with your conjectural evils?

    Ch. Have I supposed an impossibility?—But 'tis down—Conjectural evils.

    Lady L.
    If you are so whimsical, write—'My dear Miss Byron—'

    Ch. My dear Miss Byron—'Tis down.

    Lady L. (Looking over me) 'Do not let what this strange Charlotte has written, grieve you:—'

    Ch. Very well, Caroline!—grieve you.—

    Lady L. 'Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.'

    Ch. Well observed.—Words of Scripture, I believe.—Well—evil thereof.—

    Lady L. Never, surely, was there such a creature as you, Charlotte—

    Ch. That’s down, too.—

    Lady L. Is that down? laughing—That should not have been down—Yet 'tis true.

    Ch. Yet 'tis true—What’s next?

    Lady L. Pish—

    Ch. Pish— [9]
    And so on.

    Harriet so takes to heart Charlotte's admonition to "write to the moment" that, during the visit Sir Charles makes to the Selbys in order to declare his love to Harriet, she repeatedly runs out of the parlour and upstairs into her "closet" (dressing-room) to write to Lady G. about her emotional turmoil:
    They wonder at my frequent absences. It is to oblige you, Lady G. and indeed myself: There is vast pleasure in communicating one's pleasures to a friend who interests herself, as you do, in one's dearest concerns. [10]
    It is the 18th-century version of Instagram culture: the urge to document an experience as it is happening becomes more important than the enjoyment of the actual experience itself.

    Sir Charles, perhaps realizing that Harriet's closet is her refuge, finally follows her there (in the company of her Aunt Selby) and makes his offer. Harriet never actually verbally accepts (she writes only "I bowed assentingly: I could not Speak" [11]). But she does not decline, and Sir Charles, together with all of Harriet's relations, takes the lack of a "no" to mean "yes."

    Setting the date: "A few Femalities"


    "I looked down—I could not look up—I was afraid of being thought affected—Yet how could I so soon think of obliging him?"
    Illustration engraved by Birrel from a drawing by Stothard.
    Image: Internet Archive.

    The next step, of course, is to set a date. Sir Charles presses Harriet for an "early day"; Harriet insists on waiting for letters expected from Italy, which will carry the news of whether Lady Clementina has changed her mind. (Since Lady Clementina has twice already been given the opportunity to change her mind, the reader may think that this is taking obligingness a step too far.) Sir Charles ultimately is able to convince Harriet to agree to marry in a month—barring a reversal on the part of Lady Clementina.

    In the meantime news of the impending marriage reaches Harriet's former suitors, and the couple must deal with each of them in turn. Sir Hargrave Pollexfen, Harriet's abductor and would-be rapist, is now mortified by the contrast between Sir Charles' felicity and his own misery. Mr. Fowler pleads for one more visit. Mr. Orme is so overcome by the melancholy thought of Harriet's happiness with another man that he takes to his bed. Mr. Fenwick, on the rebound, proposes to Harriet's cousin Lucy Selby (she thinks about it for a moment—perhaps the seed of the Charlotte Lucas-Mr. Collins subplot in Pride and Prejudice?—but wisely turns him down). Mr. Greville, who, it turns out, has been stalking Harriet, alternates among angry threats, tears of self-pity, and maudlin congratulations of the happy couple. (These scenes are quite effective in making the reader squirm along with Harriet.)

    Sir Charles, perhaps wearied by the neediness of his fiancée's admirers, suggests to her that after the wedding they and her relatives should flee Northamptonshire for Grandison Hall:
    Compassion for your neighbouring admirers, will induce you to support me in this request. . .Now, madam, an excursion of a month or two. . .will wean, as I may say, these unhappy men from you. Mr. Orme, Mr, Greville, will not then be obliged to quit their own houses, and this neighbourhood. I shall not, whenever I step into company, see dejected men, whose dejection is owing, as they will think, to my happiness. [12]
    And there are the disappointed women to consider as well: Lady Clementina (whose long-awaited letter urges Sir Charles to marry to remove the temptation he represents further out of her reach), Lady Olivia (who also wants Sir Charles to marry as soon as possible), Lady Frances N., and Lady Anne S., of whom Charlotte writes, "I dare not tell my brother how much she loves him: I am sure it would make him uneasy." [13]

    Perhaps the most to be pitied is Emily, who reacts badly when Charlotte tells her of the impending marriage:
    The dear girl tried to be joyful, and burst into tears!

    Why weeps my girl?—O fie! Are you sorry that Miss Byron will have your guardian? I thought you loved Miss Byron.

    So I do, madam, as my own self, and more than myself, if possible—But the surprise, madam—Indeed I am glad! What makes me such a fool?—Indeed I am glad!—What ails me to cry, I wonder! It is what I wished, what I prayed for, night and day. Dear madam, don’t tell any-body. I am ashamed of myself.
    The sweet April-faced girl then smiled through her tears.
    I was charmed with her innocent sensibility; and if you are not, I shall think less of you than ever I did yet. . .
    I am sure Emily is no hypocrite: She has no art: she believes what she says. . .Yet it is possible that the subtle thief, ycleped Love, had got very near her heart; and just at the moment threw a dart into one angle of it, which was the something that struck her, all at once, as she phrased it, and made her find tears a relief. [14]
    Amazingly, Emily renews her request to live with Sir Charles and Harriet after the marriage. And even after Emily's tears bring her secret feelings for Sir Charles to everyone's awareness, Harriet agrees. Curiously, while walking in the garden Harriet then accidentally (or "accidentally") drops a single page from one of her letters that happens to reveal Emily's love for Sir Charles, and he finds it. Such a paragon of virtue is he, though, that he forbears to read any of it, and accedes to Harriet's request for Emily to live with them. As Harriet writes to Charlotte,
    Poor Emily! that is a subject which delights, yet saddens, me—We are laudably fond of distinguishing merit. But your brother’s is so dazzling—Every woman is one’s rival. . .You ask, if, after all, I think it right that she should live with me?—What can I say? For her sake, perhaps, it will not: Yet how is her heart set upon it! For my own sake, as there is no perfect happiness to be expected in this life, I could be content to bear a little pain, were that dear girl to be either benefited or pleasured by it. Indeed I love her, at my heart—And what is more—I love myself for so sincerely loving her. [15]
    This cannot turn out well; surely more tears will follow.

    The wedding: "Like milk-white heifers led to sacrifice"


    "The Doctor gave it to Sir Charles; who, with his usual grace, put it on the finger of the most charming woman in England."
    Illustration drawn and engraved by R. Vinkeles. Image: Internet Archive.

    The wished-for day finally arrives, and Harriet, pale and trembling, is led into the church.
    Sir Charles bowed to the minister to begin the sacred office. . .Emily changed colour frequently. She had her handkerchief in her hand: and (pretty enough!) her sister Bride-maids, little thinking that Emily had a reason for her emotion, which none of them had, pulled out their handkerchiefs too, and permitted a gentle tear or two to steal down their glowing cheeks. I fixed my eye on Emily, sitting outward, to keep her in order. . .
    To the question, to my brother, 'Wilt thou have,' &c. he cheerfully answered, I will. Harriet did not say, I will not. [16]
    Again, Harriet seems to be unable to give an audible affirmative.

    The service concluded, the wedding party returns to Selby House for the nuptial celebrations. Lady G. writes,
    The sweet girl was so apprehensive. . .After all, Lady L. we women, dressed out in ribbands, and gaudy trappings, and in Virgin-white, on our Wedding-days, seem but like milk-white heifers led to sacrifice. [17]
    This is remarkable language for an 18th-century novel, especially one written by a man.

    And so the milk-white heifer is led to the inevitable sacrifice:
     . . .About Eleven, Mrs. Selby, unobserved, withdrew with the Bride. . .My brother instantly addressed me—My Harriet, whispered he, with impatience, returns not this night.
    You will see Mrs. Selby, I presume, by-and-by, returned I. . .
    His eye was continually turned towards the door. Mrs. Selby, at last, came in. Her eyes shewed the tender leave she had taken of her Harriet.

    My brother approached her. She went out: he followed her. In a quarter of an hour she returned.
    We saw my brother no more that night.
    We continued with our dancings till between Three and Four. [18]
    Jane Austen would wind up the novel in a few sentences at this point, but Richardson will continue for another volume. What, the reader will be forgiven from wondering, could possibly sustain the story for another 350 pages? Surely, in a desperate bid to provide some narrative interest, Lady Clementina won't come to England?

    Next time: Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 7: The last painful moment

    Last time: Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 5: Italy vs. England


    1. Terry Eagleton, The Rape of Clarissa: Writing, Sexuality and Class Struggle in Samuel Richardson. University of Minnesota Press, 1982, p. 96. 
    2. Brian Southam, ed., Jane Austen's 'Sir Charles Grandison.' Oxford University Press, 1981, p. 20.
    3. Eagleton, p. 97. 
    4. Eagleton, p. 99. However, when Eagleton continues by saying "unlike Clarissa, he is not a commodity on the sex and property market," he is clearly in error. As Mr. Reeves writes, "But Sir Charles has a great estate, and still greater expectations from my Lord W. His sister says, he would break half a score hearts, were he to marry." (Volume I, Letter XXVII)
    5. Janet Todd, Sensibility: An Introduction. Methuen, 1986, p. 69.
    6. Samuel Richardson, The History of Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VI, Letter VII. Miss BYRON, To Mrs. REEVES.
    7. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VI, Letter VIII. Miss BYRON, To Lady G.
    8. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VI, Letter IX. Lady G. To Miss BYRON.
    9. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VI, Letter IX. Lady G. To Miss BYRON. 
    10. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VI, Letter XVIII. Miss BYRON[, To Lady G]. In Continuation.
    11. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VI, Letter XXII. Miss BYRON[, To Lady G]. In Continuation.
    12. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VI, Letter IX. Lady G. To Miss BYRON. 
    13. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VI, Letter XI. Lady G. To Miss BYRON. 
    14. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VI, Letter IX. Lady G. To Miss BYRON.
    15. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VI, Letter XXVIII. Miss BYRON, To Lady G.
    16. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VI, Letter LII. Lady G., Miss SELBY, To Lady L.
    17. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VI, Letter LIII. Lady G. To Lady L. In Continuation.
    18. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume VI, Letter LIII. Lady G. To Lady L. In Continuation.

    Sunday, September 29, 2019

    Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 5: Italy vs. England



    In Volume 4 Sir Charles returned to Italy in an attempt to heal his friend Sir Jeronymo and to renew his addresses to Lady Clementina. So perhaps before we delve into Volume 5, which is largely concerned with that lady, it's time to examine how Italy and England are contrasted in Sir Charles Grandison.

    Opera vs. oratorio

    The musical form most strongly associated with Italy, of course, is opera. And in Sir Charles Grandison opera signifies passion, danger, impropriety, extravagance, display, frivolity, and sensuality. Opera is associated with characters who are morally questionable, such as:
    • the tempestuous Lady Olivia, who first sees and conceives a fierce (and nearly murderous—see Volume 4) love for Sir Charles at the opera in Florence.
    • the profligate Sir Thomas Grandison, the father of Sir Charles, Lady L. and Charlotte, who enthusiastically entangled himself "in the diversions of this great town; and was the common patron of all the performers, whether at plays, operas, or concerts." [1]
    • the frivolous Mr. Everard Grandison, Sir Charles' cousin, "a great frequenter. . .of all manner of public spectacles; a leader of the taste at a new play, or opera." [2]
    Interestingly, opera is also associated with mixed characters such as Charlotte Grandison and Emily Jervois, who are fundamentally well-meaning but do not always exercise good judgment or behave with proper decorum. Both of them often sing "Italian airs" while accompanying themselves on the harpsichord. And once Charlotte marries, opera becomes the audible symbol of her defiance of her husband's authority:
    Nay, it was but the other day that he attempted to hum a tune of contempt, upon my warbling an Italian air. An opera couple, we! Is it not charming to sing at (I cannot say to) each other, when we have a mind to be spiteful? . . .Such a foe to melody, that he hates the very sight of my harpsichord. He flies out of the room, if I but move towards it. [3]
    Italy is not only the source of that exotic and irrational entertainment, opera, it is also "the land of masquerades." [4] After Harriet Byron comes to London for the first time she is taken under the wing of the fashionable Lady Betty Williams. As Harriet writes her country confidante, Lucy Selby:
    I am to be carried by her to a Masquerade, to a Ridotto; when the season comes, to Ranelagh and Vauxhall: In the mean time, to Balls, Routs, Drums, and-so-forth;. . .If you find that I prefer the highest of these entertainments, or the opera itself, well as I love music, to a good play of our favourite Shakespeare, then, my Lucy, let your heart ake for your Harriet: Then, be apprehensive that she is laid hold on by levity; that she is captivated by the Eye and the Ear; that her heart is infected by the modern taste. . . [5]
    The masquerade ball that Harriet attends (and is abducted from) in Volume 1 is held "at the Opera-house in the Hay-market." This theater (then known as the King's Theatre) had been associated with Handel's Italian opera companies in the 1720s and early 1730s, and in the late 1740s was the site of "Balls, Masquerades and Assemblys." [6]


    The Old Opera House, Haymarket, London, by William Capon, 1783. Image: Victoria & Albert Museum.

    A recurring motif in the novel is Harriet's mortification that when she is rescued from Sir Hargrave Pollexfen by Sir Charles she is still wearing her eye-catching masquerade costume. Sir Charles, we learn, does not approve of masquerades: "Masquerades. . .are not creditable places for young ladies to be known to be insulted at them. They are diversions that fall not in with the genius of the English commonalty." [7] Indeed, many of the attendees are dressed as characters from the commedia dell'arte, including Sir Hargrave, who comes dressed as Harlequin.


    Mr. [Tom] Ellar as Harlequin. Image: Museum of London

    Ridottos were balls featuring masquerade that often involved gambling on cards and other games of chance. Ranelagh and Vauxhall were Italianate pleasure gardens on the banks of the Thames featuring musical performances, al fresco dining, and assignations among revelers on the tree-lined paths.


    Vauxhall Gardens by Thomas Rowlandson, ca. 1784. Image: Victoria & Albert Museum

    This print by Thomas Rowlandson depicts a Vauxhall concert by singer Mrs Weichsel. In the audience at the center are the society beauties Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and her sister Henrietta, surrounded by men. To the right, the young Prince of Wales whispers in the ear of his mistress, the actress Mrs. Mary "Perdita" Robinson, who is accompanied by her much older husband. Seated at the table on the far right is "The Old Bawd of Sutton Street," a notorious madam.

    James Boswell, who is depicted in the supperbox at the left dining with Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith and Hester Thrale, wrote that Vauxhall was "a mixture of curious shew, — gay exhibition, — musick, vocal and instrumental, not too refined for the general ear." [8] The "not too refined" songs performed at Vauxhall were written by opera and theater composers such as John (Johann) Christian Bach, James Hook, and Thomas Arne. The subjects of many songs, according to a Vauxhall songbook published in the mid-18th century, included "the bottle, hunting, mirth and jollity," as in Arne's duet "Colinet": "Ring the Bells and fill the Bowl / Revel all without controul." Not the kind of music, one imagines, with which demure unmarried women should admit a familiarity. [9]


    Colinet, sung by Mr. [Thomas] Lowe & Mrs. [Ann] Lampe.
    Image from the "Pleasure Gardens Compendium" in the collection of the Handel House Foundation, Halle.

    In a scene from Volume 2 that encapsulates the way Richardson employs music to reflect moral values, Harriet is asked to perform for the Grandisons while staying with them after her rescue from Sir Hargrave:
    I was asked to give them a lesson on the harpsichord after tea. Miss Grandison said, Come, come, to prevent all excuses, I will shew you the way.

    Let it then be, said Mr. [Everard] Grandison, Shakespeare’s Cuckow. You have made me enter with so much comparative shame into myself, that I must have something lively to raise my spirits.

    Well, so it shall, replied Miss Grandison. . . Accordingly she sung that ballad from Shakespear; and with so much spirit and humour, as delighted every-body. [10]
    This is a moment that can slip by a modern reader, but which is very telling. The song Charlotte sings, although not further identified, is likely to be "When daisies pied," the song of Spring from Act V of Love's Labours Lost, in the setting by Arne [11]:



    When daisies pied and violets blue
    And lady-smocks all silver-white,
    And cuckoo-buds of ev'ry hue
    Do paint the meadows with delight,
    The cuckoo then, on every tree,
    Mocks married men; for thus sings he, Cuckoo;
    Cuckoo, cuckoo: O word of fear,
    Unpleasing to a married ear!

    When shepherds pipe on oaten straws
    And merry larks are ploughmen's clocks,
    When turtles tread, and rooks, and daws,
    And maidens bleach their summer smocks
    The cuckoo then, on every tree,
    Mocks married men; for thus sings he, Cuckoo;
    Cuckoo, cuckoo: O word of fear,
    Unpleasing to a married ear!

    The cuckoo's song is a harbinger of spring, of course, but "cuckoo" is also a word of fear for married men because the word "cuckold" derives from it (cuckoos, of course, lay eggs in other birds' nests). A ribald song alluding to women's sexual infidelity could only be rendered fit to be sung by an unmarried woman due to its origins in Shakespeare. It tells us much about Everard Grandison that he requests this song, and something about Charlotte that she accedes to his request.

    After Charlotte's eyebrow-raising performance, it is her sister Lady L.'s turn:
    Come, my dear, said the kind countess, I will prepare you a little further. When you see your two elder sisters go before you, you will have more courage.
    She sat down, and play'd one of Scarlatti’s lessons; which, you know, are made to shew a fine hand. And surely, for the swiftness of her fingers, and the elegance of her manner, she could not be equalled. [12]
    Domenico Scarlatti's Essercizi per gravicembalo (Exercises for harpsichord), K. 1-30, is a collection of thirty harpsichord sonatas published in London in 1738 or 1739. Perhaps Lady L. played the technically challenging Sonata K. 18, here performed by the swift fingers of Chiara Cattani:




    Scarlatti's music, like opera, connects Italian flamboyance with feminine display.

    Finally, it is Harriet's turn:
    It is referred to you, my third Sister, said Sir Charles (who had been taken aside by Mr. Reeves; some whispering talk having passed between them) to favour us with some of Handel’s musick: Mrs. Reeves says, she has heard you sing several songs out of the Pastoral [Ode L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, ed Il Moderato], and out of some of his finest Oratorios.

    Come hither, come hither, my sweet Harriet—Here’s his Alexander’s Feast: my brother admires that, I know; and says it is the noblest composition that ever was produced by man; and is as finely set, as written.

    She made me sit down to the instrument.

    As you know, said I, that great part of the beauty of this performance arises from the proper transitions from one different strain to another, any one song must lose greatly, by being taken out of its place: and I fear—

    Fear nothing, Miss Byron, said Sir Charles: your obligingness, as well as your observation, intitle you to all allowances.

    I then turned to that fine piece of accompanied recitative,
    Softly sweet, in Lydian measures,
    Soon he sooth’d his soul to pleasures. [13]



    Alexander's Feast is Handel's setting of Dryden's ode to the power of music. The air Harriet performs is part of a section devoted to music's capacity to awaken and express the most tender feelings. The contrast with Charlotte's indecorous theater song and Lady L.'s elaborate showpiece could not be more stark.

    Later, at Charlotte's wedding to Lord G. in Volume 4, Sir Charles is himself prevailed upon to perform, and he conspicuously chooses a piece from the same work:
    . . .they besought Sir Charles to sing to my playing. He would not, he said, deny any request that was made him on that day.

    He sung. He has a mellow manly voice, and great command of it.

    This introduced a little concert. Mr. Beauchamp took the violin; Lord L. the bass-viol; Lord G. the German-flute; and most of the company joined in the chorus. The song was from Alexander’s Feast; the words,
    Happy, happy, happy pair!
    None but the good deserves the fair;
    Sir Charles, though himself equally brave and good, preferring the latter word to the former.  [14]
    As Richardson's readers would have known, this air includes a duet in its second part in which the Sir Charles's and Harriet's voices would have intertwined. The duet is an expression of the harmony of their intimate feelings which they have not yet been able to acknowledge openly.



    The chief barrier to the acknowledgment of those feelings, of course, is Sir Charles's prior attachment to Lady Clementina (first revealed in Volume 3), to whom he is about to renew his offer of marriage. First, though, her "disturbed intellects" must be calmed.

    The first meeting does not go well.


    "Quitting her mother's hand, now changing pale, now reddening, she arose, and threw her arms about her Camilla."
    Illustration engraved by Walker from a drawing by Stothard (1783). Image: Internet Archive

    Sir Charles visits the della Porretta family's house in Bologna, to which Lady Clementina has lately been returned. The entire family is present at their reunion:
    She saw me. Saw me greatly affected. She started. She looked again; again started; and, quitting her mother’s hand, now changing pale, now reddening, she arose, and threw her arms about her Camilla—O Camilla! was all she said; a violent burst of tears wounding, yet giving some ease to every heart. I was springing to her, and should have clasped her in my arms before them all; but the general taking my hand, as I reached her chair, Dear Grandison, said he, pronouncing in her ear my name, keep your seat. . .

    When I turned to the company, I found the dear Clementina, supported by the two marchionesses, and attended by Camilla, just by me, passing towards the door, in order, it seems, at her motion, to withdraw. She stopt. Ah, Chevalier! said she; and reclining her head on her mother’s bosom, seemed ready to faint. I took one hand, as it hung down lifelessly extended (her mother held the other); and kneeling, pressed it with my lips—Forgive me ladies; forgive me, Lady Clementina!—My soul overflowed with tenderness. . .I could not say more. I arose. She moved on to the door; and when there, turned her head, straining her neck to look after me, till she was out of the room. I was a statue for a few moments; till the Count, snatching my hand, and Father Marescotti’s, who stood nearest him, We see to what the malady is owing—Father, you must join their hands!—Chevalier! you will be a Catholic!—Will you not?—O that you would! said the Father—Why, why, joined in the Count, did we refuse the so-earnestly requested interview, a year and half ago?

    The young marchioness returned, weeping—They will not permit me to stay. My sister, my dear sister, is in fits! [15]
    Sir Charles is now being pressured once again by Clementina's family to change his religion, and Clementina's "malady" has returned full force. As musicologist Jessica Waldoff has written, quoting historian John Mullan, "In the sentimental genres. . .'feeling is above all observable, and the body through which it throbs is particularly excitable and responsive. . .It is "sensibility," connoting both the involuntary action of the organs and muscles and the susceptibility of men and women to shocks of passion or disappointment, which, in excess of anatomy, allows internal disorder to become observable.'" Waldoff further notes of scenes such as Clementina's fits, "Contemporary audiences valued what modern commentators resist, namely, the sentimental artwork's willingness to represent the immediacy of feeling. . .Illness, Mullan suggests, is 'the last retreat of the morally pure.'" [16]

    The renewal of the offer


    "Leave me, leave me, said she; and putting a paper in my hand, and shutting to the door, instantly, as I saw, fell on her knees."
    Illustration drawn and engraved by R. Vinkeles (1800). Image: Internet Archive

    Sir Charles gains the family's permission to renew his offer of marriage to Lady Clementina on the same terms as before: she would be able to keep her religion and her own confessor, and raise any daughters in her faith (Sir Charles reserved the religious education of any sons to himself). Sir Charles further promises that their family would spend significant time in Italy with her relatives.
    Tears stood in her eyes; she seemed in great perplexity. She would twice or thrice have spoken; but speech was denied her: at last, she gave me her hand, and directed her steps, trembling to her closet. She entered it. Leave me, leave me, said she; and putting a paper in my hand, and shutting to the door, instantly, as I saw, fell on her knees; and I, to avoid hearing sobs which pierced my heart, went into the next apartment, where were her mother and Camilla, who had heard part of what had passed between us. [17]
    Lady Clementina, aware that a renewal of the offer was planned, gives a response to Sir Charles in writing; she expresses her fear that with his example before her daily, she would not be able to remain steadfast in her faith:
    My duty calls upon me one way: my heart resists my duty, and tempts me not to perform it. . .O thou most amiable of men! How can I be sure, that, were I thine, thou wouldst not draw me after thee, by Love, by sweetness of Manners, by condescending Goodness? [18]
    Once again she refuses Sir Charles's offer.

    The farewell


    "She condescendingly inclined her cheek to me: I saluted her; but could not utter to her what yet was upon my lips to speak."
    Illustration drawn and engraved by R. Vinkeles (1800). Image: Internet Archive

    There is nothing left for Sir Charles to do but to bid Lady Clementina farewell:
    Dear Lady Clementina, my happiness is bound up with yours.

    Ah, Sir, I am not greater than you: and I am less than myself. I was afraid when I came to the trial—But is your happiness bound up with mine? O that I may be happy for your sake! I will endeavour to make myself so. . .Bear witness, my sister; forgive me, my mamma: but never did one mortal love another, as I do the man before us. . .Be you my brother, my friend, and the lover of my soul: this person is unworthy of you. The mind that animates it, is broken, disturbed—Pray for me, as I will for you—. . .
    I kneeled to her, clasping my arms about her: May you, madam, be ever, ever happy! I resign to your will—And equally admire and reverence you for it, though a sufferer by it. . .

    I raised her, and arose; and kissing first one hand, then the other, and bowing to the two marchionesses, was hastening from her.

    She clapt her hands together—He is gone!—O stay, stay, Chevalier—And will you go?—

    I was in too much emotion to wish to be seen—She hastened after me to the stairs—O stay, stay! I have not said half I had to say—

    I returned, and taking her hand, bowed upon it, to conceal my sensibility—What further commands, with a faltering voice, has Lady Clementina for her Grandison?

    I don’t know—But will you, must you, will you go?

    I go; I stay; I have no will but yours, madam. . .

    Clementina sighed, sobbed, wept; then turning from me, then towards me; but not withdrawing her hand; I thought, said she, I had a thousand things to say—But I have lost them all!—Go thou in peace; and be happy! and God Almighty make me so! Adieu, dearest of men!

    She condescendingly inclined her cheek to me: I saluted her; but could not utter to her what yet was upon my lips to speak. [19]
    Sir Charles returns to England, and to Harriet.

    Next time: Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 6: 18th-century Instagram culture

    Last time: Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 4: The return to Italy


    1. Samuel Richardson, The History of Sir Charles Grandison, Volume II, Letter XI. Miss HARRIET BYRON, To Miss LUCY SELBY.
    2. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume II, Letter II. Miss BYRON[, To Miss LUCY SELBY]. In continuation. 
    3. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume V, Letter IX. Lady G. To Miss BYRON. 
    4. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume II, Letter XXXI. Miss BYRON[, To Miss LUCY SELBY]. In continuation. 
    5. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume I, Letter V. Miss BYRON, To Miss SELBY.
    6. 'The Haymarket Opera House', in Survey of London: Volumes 29 and 30, St James Westminster, Part 1, ed. F H W Sheppard (London, 1960), pp. 223-250. British History Online, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vols29-30/pt1/pp223-250 [accessed 24 September 2019].
    7. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume I, Letter XXVII. From Mr. REEVES, To GEORGE SELBY, Esq, In Continuation. 
    8. Information about Rowlandson's print is from the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Yale Center for British Art. The print was issued ca. 1784, but it depicts an imaginary scene of no specifiable date. Goldsmith died in 1774, the year the Prince of Wales turned 12. 
    9. Vauxhall Gardens, 1661-1859: Vauxhall Songbooks: http://www.vauxhallgardens.com/vauxhall_gardens_songbooks_page.html
    10. Sir Charles Grandison,  Volume II, Letter II. Miss BYRON[, To Miss LUCY SELBY]. In continuation. 
    11. From the Folger Shakespeare Library: "The words of the song are from Shakespeare’s Love’s labour’s lost, apparently used in the version of As you like it [performed at Drury Lane in 1740] for which Arne supplied incidental music; otherwise, there is no Love’s labour’s lost music by Arne." See https://hamnet.folger.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?BBID=232951
    12. Sir Charles Grandison,  Volume II, Letter II. Miss BYRON[, To Miss LUCY SELBY]. In continuation.  
    13. Sir Charles Grandison,  Volume II, Letter II. Miss BYRON[, To Miss LUCY SELBY]. In continuation.
    14. Sir Charles Grandison,  Volume IV, Letter XVI. Miss BYRON[, To Miss SELBY]. In continuation.
    15. Sir Charles Grandison,  Volume V, Letter I. Sir CHARLES GRANDISON, To Dr. BARTLETT.
    16. Jessica Waldoff, Recognition in Mozart's Operas, Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 133, 145, and 163.
    17. Sir Charles Grandison,  Volume V, Letter XXIV. Sir CHARLES GRANDISON, To Dr. BARTLETT.
    18. Sir Charles Grandison,  Volume V, Letter XXIV. Sir CHARLES GRANDISON, To Dr. BARTLETT.
    19. Sir Charles Grandison,  Volume V, Letter XXXIX. Sir CHARLES GRANDISON, To Dr. BARTLETT.

    Friday, September 20, 2019

    Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 4: The return to Italy



    In Volume 3 of Sir Charles Grandison, by allowing Harriet to read his letters Sir Charles informs her of his prior attachment to Lady Clementina, the daughter of a noble Italian family whom he met during his exile from England. However, apparently insurmountable religious differences and her family's hostility to the match have separated the couple.

    The fourth volume features returns of various kinds:
    • Harriet, after a long stay with Sir Charles' family, returns to her relatives in Northamptonshire
    • The Countess of D. renews her campaign to win Harriet's hand in marriage for her son, the Earl of D.
    • Lady Olivia returns to her attack (literally) on Sir Charles' chastity
    • Charlotte Grandison is commanded to reconsider a suitor in whom she has declared a decided indifference
       
    • And Sir Charles returns to Italy to visit Lady Clementina.
    All of these returns bring up the question of repetition in Sir Charles Grandison. A certain amount of repetition is built into the epistolary form, as the same events get described from different perspectives. Some authors have used this to advantage. In The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771), Tobias Smollett creates comedy from the deflation, complication or contradiction of one person's account of events by other correspondents.

    Repetition in Sir Charles Grandison is not generally used in the service of humor, unfortunately. Instead, it is used to reinforce character traits (such as Sir Charles' endlessly demonstrated virtue, generosity and manliness), reintroduce narrative dilemmas (such as Harriet's uncertainty about whether Sir Charles returns her feelings), and recapitulate moral lessons (such as Sir Charles' strictures against duelling). As Terry Eagleton writes,
    Walter Scott tells of an old lady who chose to hear Grandison read to her in preference to any other work, as she could fall asleep and wake up again without missing anything of the story. [1]
    It's in Volume 4 that readers may begin to feel more than a bit like that old lady.

    "A man whom there is no resisting": Sir Charles as matchmaker and marriage counselor

    Over the course of the novel Sir Charles regularly acts as matchmaker and marriage counselor. In Volume 4:
    • After extracting his elderly, gout-ridden uncle Lord W. from his extramarital relationship with his domineering servant Mrs. Giffard, Sir Charles arranges a marriage between Lord W. and the 34-year-old spinster Miss Mansfield. Miss Mansfield is the daughter of Lady Mansfield, a widow who has fallen into genteel poverty. 

      Miss Mansfield will act as Lord W.'s caregiver and, replacing Mrs. Giffard, as his household manager. And, should he still be capable of having sex, she may provide him with an heir. In return Lord W. will assure that she, her mother and her siblings are made financially secure for the rest of their lives. It seems a marriage based more nakedly than most on the exchange of money (his) for services (hers).

      The scene in which Sir Charles makes the marriage proposal on behalf of Lord W. to Lady Mansfield and her daughter (whom, by the way, Lord W. has never met) is remarkable: Miss Mansfield remains silent throughout, and finally accepts her fate mutely by bowing her head (as one bows one's head to the executioner). Sir Charles tells her, "I dare say that he will engage your gratitude, and I defy a good mind to separate love from gratitude." [2] The voiceless Miss Mansfield cannot afford to demur.
    • Sir Charles reconciles Sir Harry Beauchamp with his quarrelsome wife. She was a wealthy widow who had wanted the handsome young Mr. Edward Beauchamp, Sir Harry's son and Sir Charles' friend, for a second husband. When Mr. Beauchamp turned her down ("perhaps with too little ceremony") and Sir Harry, knowing nothing of her interest in his son, began to pay his own addresses to her, she married Sir Harry to "put both father and son in her power." [3] The ill-advised marriage results in Edward Beauchamp's exile to the continent.

      Lady Beauchamp and Sir Harry argue heatedly about whether Edward should remain abroad; she wants him to remain on the Continent and Sir Harry wants him to return. But Sir Charles, using his charm and raillery, is finally able to win Lady Beauchamp over in spite of herself. Mr. Beauchamp is finally allowed to return to England and marital harmony is established.

      When Harriet learns of Sir Charles' behavior towards Lady Beauchamp, she writes Lucy:
      It absolutely convinces me, of what indeed I before suspected, that he has not an high opinion of our Sex in general. . .He treats us, in Lady Beauchamp, as perverse humoursome babies, loving power, yet not knowing how to use it. [4]


    "Sir Harry cleared up at once—May I hope, madam—and offered to take her hand."
    Illustration engraved by Walker from a drawing by Stothard. image: Internet Archive
    • Sir Charles' "opinion of [the] Sex" is even clearer in his treatment of his sister Charlotte. He all but forces her to accept as her betrothed Lord G., a suitor she considers nothing more than "a good natured silly man." In the eighteenth century, of course, marriage for women was not only a lifetime commitment, but due to the high rate of maternal mortality a life-threatening one.

      After Charlotte's reluctant acceptance of Lord G., Sir Charles insists on a quick marriage: within a week (!).  Although Charlotte is wracked by doubts, even at the church door, she finally resigns herself to the union: "'Do as you will—or rather, as my brother will.—What signifies opposing him?'"[6]
    "Bad is my best": Emily and her mother.


    "Anne saw her first, I alighted, and asked her blessing in the shop."
    Illustration engraved by Walker from a drawing by Stothard. Image: Internet Archive

    At the end of Volume 3 we were left with the suspicion that Emily was manipulating Harriet Byron with the ultimate aim of seducing Sir Charles. In Volume 4 we learn that Emily has been borrowing substantial sums of money from Sir Charles' sisters Lady L. and Charlotte Grandison/Lady G. and purchasing goods (including a carriage) for her mother with the aim of "enlarging her power to live handsomely." [7] Again, our suspicions are raised. Our concern is heightened when Sir Charles, at Emily's urging, raises her mother's allowance to four hundred pounds a year. Instead of antagonists, are Emily and her mother really in league?

    "Vindictive, even to a criminal degree": Lady Olivia.


    "She pulled out of her stays, in fury, a poniard, and vowed to plunge it into his heart." 
    Drawn and engraved by R. Vinkeles, 1799. Image: Internet Archive

    Sir Charles met the tempestuous, passionate Lady Olivia during his first visit to Italy. Now she has followed him to England, willing to abandon her religion and relations if Sir Charles will accept her. Instead, he tells her that he is about to embark on a return journey to Italy to visit Clementina and renew his promise of marriage to her.
    She would have had him put off his journey. She was enraged because he would not; and they were high together; and at last she pulled out of her stays, in fury, a poniard, and vowed to plunge it into his heart. He should never, she said, see his Clementina more. He went to her. Her heart failed her. . .He took it from her. [8]
    Sir Charles leaves for Italy as planned; Lady Olivia decides to stay in England until his return, seeking hope in a hopeless situation.

    "They had by terror broke her spirit": Lady Clementina's trials.


    "She heard them, and screamed, and leaving the ladder, ran, to avoid them, till she came in sight of the great cascade."
    Illustration engraved by Heath from a drawing by Stothard. Image: Internet Archive

    In Sir Charles' absence Lady Clementina has been turned over to Lady Sforza and her daughter Laurana to see if their "harsh methods" will succeed in bringing her out of her despondency. But the mother and daughter have ulterior motives for their severe treatment of Clementina: if Clementina enters a convent to escape her severe treatment, a vast estate originally intended for her will instead be inherited by Laurana. And Laurana is hoping not just for riches, but for a husband. As the Marchioness della Porretta tells Sir Charles:
    We suspected not till very lately, that Laurana was deeply in love with the Count of Belvedere; and that her mother and she had views to drive our sweet child into a convent, that Laurana might enjoy the estate; which they hoped would be an inducement to the Count to marry her. . .

    Can we so reward Laurana for her cruelty? Especially now, that we suspect the motives for her barbarity? Could I have thought that my sister Sforza—But what will not Love and Avarice do, their powers united to compass the same end; the one reigning in the bosom of the daughter, the other in that of the mother? Alas! alas! they have, between them, broken the spirit of my Clementina. [9]
    Sir Charles' return to Italy.

    In Volume 3, Sir Charles had left Italy knowing that Lady Clementina's brothers (except his friend Jeronymo) vigorously, not to say heatedly, opposed their marriage. But time and the persistence of Lady Clementina's mental distress have softened their hostility, and some members of the family have asked him to return to see if fulfilling Lady Clementina's request to have another audience with Sir Charles will bring her calm.

    Sir Charles also intends to renew his friendship with Jeronymo, whose life he saved in Volume 3. However, the wounds Jeronymo received from his would-be assassins have stubbornly refused to heal. On his return to Italy Sir Charles has brought with him Mr. Lowther, a skilled surgeon, to attend to both Jeronymo's wounds and Lady Clementina's "disturbed intellects."

    The della Porretta family has invited Sir Charles to return; will they also allow the renewal of his marriage proposal to Lady Clementina? And if so, will she now accept his terms?

    Next time: Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 5: Italy vs. England

    Last time: Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 3: The mystery revealed


    1.  Quoted in Terry Eagleton, The Rape of Clarissa, University of Minnesota Press, 1982, pp. 96-97.
    2. Samuel Richardson, Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 4, Letter II. Miss [HARRIET] BYRON[, To Miss LUCY SELBY]. In Continuation.
    3. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 2, Letter XXXVII. Dr. Bartlett[, To Miss BYRON]. In Continuation.
    4. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 4, Letter III. Miss [HARRIET] BYRON[, To Miss LUCY SELBY]. In Continuation.
    5. Loudon I. (1986). Deaths in childbed from the eighteenth century to 1935. Medical history, 30(1), 1–41. doi:10.1017/s0025727300045014. According to this study, between 5 and 29 of every 1000 births resulted in the death of the mother. These figures do not count maternal morbidity, which involves death from complications of pregnancy or birth. 
    6. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 4, Letter XV. Miss [HARRIET] BYRON[, To Miss SELBY]. In Continuation.
    7. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 4, Letter XXXIV. Miss JERVOIS, TO Miss BYRON.
    8. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 4, Letter XXIV. Miss [HARRIET] BYRON[, To Miss SELBY]. In Continuation.
    9. Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 4, Letter XL. Sir CHARLES GRANDISON, To Dr. BARTLETT.

    Sunday, August 25, 2019

    Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 3: The mystery revealed


    Image: Internet Archive

    Volume 3: The mystery revealed

    In the previous volume Harriet Byron had been brought to confess her love for Sir Charles Grandison to his sisters, Lady L. and Charlotte. But although they assure Harriet that they are in favor of the match, they hint to her that Sir Charles may have an attachment to "some foreign lady" (see Volume 2: The confession).

    "A Series of Letters Published from the Originals." I haven't yet commented extensively on the epistolary form of Sir Charles Grandison, but it's a crucial aspect of the novel. As in Richardson's earlier novels, in Sir Charles Grandison he maintains the fiction that he is merely the collator and editor of genuine letters that have come into his possession, rather than the author of the letters himself.

    Although no one was fooled, Richardson thought the pretense heightened the illusion of immediacy and the emotional engagement of readers. He claimed that he was presenting "a species of writing. . .that may be called new," which involved "every one putting him and herself into the character they read, and judging of it by their own sensibilities." Women readers in particular were intended to identify strongly with women characters "writing of and in the midst of present distresses! How much more lively and affecting, for that reason, must her style be." [1] 

    And he was not wrong. His first novel Pamela (1740) became a huge hit: "Fashionable ladies displayed copies in public places, and held fans painted with pictures of its best-loved scenes. Pamela became a play, an opera, even a waxwork" [2]. It is said that in one village where the novel was being read aloud in the village square to the rapt inhabitants, when the end of the final volume was reached and Pamela and Mr. B. were married, the audience "were so delighted as to raise a great shout, and procuring the church keys, actually set the parish bells ringing." [3]

    Clarissa (1747-48) also gripped readers; Lady Mary Wortley Montagu reported weeping over scenes that reminded her of her own father's attempt to coerce her into marriage with a man she detested. "This Richardson is a strange fellow. I heartily despise him and eagerly read him, nay, sob over his works in a most scandalous manner. The 2 first Tomes of Clarissa touch'd me as being very ressembling to my Maiden Days." [4]


    Portrait of Samuel Richardson, "Author of Clarissa," by Joseph Highmore, 1750 (detail). Image: Wikimedia Commons

    And copies of Sir Charles Grandison were jealously guarded by their owners; Richardson's friend Elizabeth Carter wrote him that she didn't dare share with her acquaintances a pre-publication set that he had sent her because "I apprehend there would be so much scratching & clawing that it would be impossible to keep him in my possession & he would run some hazard of being scattered to the four winds of heaven." [5]

    Richardson's influence lasted for decades after the first publication of his books. It can be traced in later writers such as Fanny Burney (see Jane Austen's favorite novelist) and Jane Austen (see Volume 1: The abduction), both of whom adopted the epistolary form and elements of his plots when writing their first novels. [6]

    The social network. It is a contradiction of letters that they are personal and intimate, but also intended for someone else's eyes; they are social, as well as private, documents. They are the spontaneous productions of the moment that are "the very soul of Nature," candid and unreserved, but are written with an eye to the effect on their reader(s). [7] And in Sir Charles Grandison, each correspondent writes in the knowledge that their letters will be read not only by the recipient, but by their friends and relations as well (or at least read to them). In her letters to Lucy Selby, Harriet even includes joking asides intended for her uncle, Lucy's father. (Of course, the reader of the novel becomes a part of this community of sharing as well, which also heightens engagement.)

    This sharing has significant effects. Harriet's letters to Lucy about her abduction by Sir Hargrave Pollexfen are shared not only with all of her own relatives, but with Lord and Lady L., Charlotte Grandison, Sir Charles's mentor Dr. Bartlett, and Sir Charles himself. By allowing her relatives and acquaintances to vicariously experience her terror and desperate courage, Harriet cements her place in their affections.

    But sharing letters can not only be a way of tying readers more intimately together, but of distancing them. Sir Charles, we suspect, is not blind to Harriet's growing feelings for him. One of the running jokes in the novel is that Harriet believes that she has succeeded in concealing her secret love, while to everyone else (including the reader) it is utterly apparent. After he reads Harriet's letters about her abduction and its aftermath, Sir Charles shares the letters he wrote to Dr. Bartlett about the trip to Italy from which he has recently returned. Does this gesture contain a message for Harriet?


    Map of Bologna (detail) by Johannes Blaeu, 1640. Image: Wikimedia Commons

    Sir Charles in Italy. In Sir Charles' letters from Italy we learn of his encounters with the noble della Porretta family. One of the sons of the family, Jeronymo, lives a dissolute life. He is attacked by hired assassins as he is travelling through the woods (the favors of "a Lady, less celebrated for virtue than beauty" are the point of contention between Jeronymo and a rival [8]). Sir Charles happens to be passing by, chases off the assassins, and transports the wounded Jeronymo to a nearby town where he can be treated. In gratitude, the family invites Sir Charles back to the family estate in Bologna while Jeronymo recovers there.

    Lady Clementina. While staying at the della Porretta palazzo, Sir Charles begins giving English lessons to the family members—including the beautiful daughter, Clementina. The inevitable happens: after many turns about the garden in the company of her maidservant Camilla, Clementina is slowly (very slowly) brought to confess that she has fallen in love with her handsome English tutor.


    "Ay, now you come with your beseeches again: but if you love me, Camilla, leave me."
    Illustration engraved by Blake from a drawing by Stothard

    And, although he does not make a like declaration, Sir Charles has also fallen in love with her. But there are two obstacles. The first, seemingly insuperable one, is that she is Catholic, and he Protestant, and neither is willing to convert. The second obstacle is the men of the family (except the grateful Jeronymo), who are appalled that Clementina would fall in love with a foreigner and a heretic. The family is closely tied to the Catholic church—one of Clementina's three brothers is a bishop—and an alliance with a Protestant is unthinkable.


    "She turned her face toward me as I drew near her; and, seeing who it was, stopt."
    Illustration engraved by Heath from a drawing by Stothard (1783).

    "Her rage and despair." Sir Charles, conscious of Lady Clementina's own objections and her family's implacable opposition, decides that it would be best for him to leave Bologna, and ultimately returns to England. His absence, and Lady Clementina's recognition of the insurmountable barriers between them, throws her into a crisis. When Sir Charles' friend Mrs. Beaumont goes to visit her, she finds her "in a deplorable way: Sometimes raving, sometimes gloomy; and in bonds—Twice had she given them apprehensions of fatal attempts: They therefore confined her hands. . .When they knew you were actually gone from Bologna, they told her so. Camilla shocked me with the description of her rage and despair, on the communication. This was followed by fits of silence, and the deepest melancholy." [9] Like Clarissa, Clementina also begins to starve herself: "She is so loth to take nourishment, and when she does, it is so very abstemious, that the regimen is hardly necessary." [10] Everyone fears for Clementina's sanity, and even her very survival.

    Well, perhaps not everyone. Clementina's widowed aunt Lady Juliana Sforza and her daughter Laurana think that the family is being too soft on Clementina. As Mrs. Beaumont reports, "Lady Juliana de Sforza is earnest to have her with her at Urbino, or at Milan, where she also has a noble palace; but I hope it will not be granted. That Lady professes to love her; but she cannot be persuaded out of her notion of harsh methods which will never do with Clementina." [11] As we will learn, Lady Sforza has ulterior motives for wanting Clementina treated like a madwoman or confined to a nunnery.

    The invitation. The della Porrettas did not allow Clementina to have a farewell interview with Sir Charles, but some members of the family begin to think that Sir Charles should be invited back to meet with her.
    "Her head runs more than ever upon seeing her tutor, her friend, her Chevalier, once more. . .Could she but once more see him, she says, and let him know the cruelty she has been treated with, she should be satisfied. He would pity her, she is sure, though nobody else will.
    "The bishop has written to beg, that Sir Charles would pay them one more visit at Bologna. . .It is but within these few days past that this new request has been made to him, in a direct manner. The question was before put, If such a request should be made, would he comply?" [12]
    Is the della Porretta family's opposition to the marriage of Lady Clementina and Sir Charles weakening? Will Sir Charles return to Italy to see her and perhaps renew his offers of marriage, crushing Harriet's own romantic hopes?

    Lady Olivia. Complicating matters is Lady Olivia, a noblewoman from Florence. She first sees Sir Charles at the opera, where he defends a woman being persecuted by a rejected lover. Twice thereafter he meets her in company at invited gatherings, and soon she (like seemingly every woman who encounters Sir Charles) has conceived a fierce passion for him. But Lady Olivia is "violent and imperious in her temper"; she makes an open declaration to Sir Charles, which he rebuffs as gently as he can.
    I could not have been happy with her, had she been queen of the globe. I had the mortification of being obliged to declare myself to the Lady's face: It was a mortifi­cation to me, as much for her sake as my own. I was obliged to leave Florence upon it, for some time; having been apprized, that the spirit of revenge had taken place of a gentler passion, and that I was in danger from it. [13]
    This is not the last we will see of the fiery Lady Olivia.

    The machinations of Mrs. Jervois. Meanwhile, in England Sir Charles is beset by the troublesome mother of his ward Emily Jervois. Mrs. Jervois turns up repeatedly, demanding to see her daughter. With such a woman nothing can be taken at face value, even maternal love, and indeed it becomes clear that her plan is to marry Emily against her will to one of Mrs. Jervois' confederates in order to seize control of her wealth. That wealth is astonishing: Emily will be mistress of £50,000 inherited from her father (and currently held in trust by Sir Charles). Mrs Jervois enlists two men in her plan: her supposed new husband, the supposed Major O-Hara, and his supposed brother-in-law, the supposed Captain Salmonet.

    Mrs. Jervois and her companions insist on seeing Sir Charles and issue high-handed threats to sue him over custody of Emily. When Sir Charles shows them to the door, the hot-headed Salmonet draws his sword and threatens Sir Charles in his own house. It does not end well for the intruders.


    "I drew, put by Salmonet’s sword, closed with him, disarmed him, and, by the same effort, laid him on the floor."
    Illustration engraved by Blake from a drawing by Stothard (1782)

    Salmonet has his sword taken from him and finds himself on the floor hors de combat; the Major is also soon swordless. Seeing the defeat of her champions Mrs. Jervois flees in terror, and her two belligerent companions are unceremoniously ejected.

    As is turns out, Mrs. Jervois and her husband are dependent upon an allowance set up by Emily's father that Sir Charles also controls. He has the power to pay her £100 or more annually, and lets her know in no uncertain terms that any further trouble from her will result in the reduction of her allowance to the minimum. But we wonder whether that threat will be sufficient to end her scheming.

    "Eyes swimming in tears." Emily's emotional turmoil is not limited to her justified fear of her mother. Harriet suspects that she is in love with her guardian:
    . . .Emily is cherishing (perhaps unknown to herself) a flame that will devour her peace. . .I watch the countenance, the words, the air of the girl, when he is spoken of. And with pity I see, that he cannot be named, but her eyes sparkle. . .So young a creature—Yet how can one caution the poor thing? [14]
    Harriet finds a way. She comes to Emily's room as she is about to go to bed, dismisses the servants for the night, and then turns the conversation to their favorite subject, Sir Charles. After confirming what she already knows—that Emily shows all the symptoms of first love—Harriet confesses that she too "greatly esteems" him. Emily teases her: "Esteem! Is that the word? Is that the ladies’ word for love?" [15]

    This exchange of confidances is not only an acknowledgment of the growing intimacy between the two, but also intended by Harriet as a warning to Emily about the necessity of guarding her feelings (just as Harriet receives that warning when she learns of Sir Charles' prior attachment to Lady Clementina).

    After Harriet's confession, Emily sweetly tells Harriet, "I wish my guardian to be the happiest man in the world; I wish you, madam, to be the happiest woman: And how can either be so, but in one another? Upon my word, I wish no one in the world, but you, to be lady Grandison." [16]

    Is Emily really as guileless as she appears? And is she entirely unconscious of the effect of her blossoming beauty? At times it even seems that she is intent on seducing Harriet:
    And then the poor girl threw her arms about my neck, smothering me with her kisses, and calling me by all the tender names that terror and mingled gratitude could suggest to her. [17]
    But her eyes swimming in tears, her earnest looks, her throbbing bosom, her hands now clasped about me, now one another, added such graces to what she said, that it is impossible to do justice to it. [18]
    O madam—(flinging her arms about me, and hiding her face in my bosom) Have I not cause to sigh? [19]
    Emily's tears, sighs, kisses, ardent embraces and throbbing bosom are brought to bear in an extraordinary scene that immediately follows Harriet's confession. Emily, clinging to Harriet, asks her to intercede on her behalf with Sir Charles after their marriage:
    I have but one fear—

    And what’s that?

    That my guardian won’t love me so well, when he marries, as he does now. . .he would not take my hand so kindly as now he does: he would not look in my face with pleasure, and with pity on my mother’s account, as he does now: he would not call me his Emily: he would not bespeak every one’s regard for his ward.

    My dear, you are now almost a woman. He will, if he remains a single man, soon draw back into his heart that kindness and love for you, which, while you are a girl, he suffers to dwell upon his lips. You must expect this change of behaviour soon, from his prudence. You, yourself, my love, will set him the example: you will grow more reserved in your outward behaviour, than hitherto there was reason to be—

    O, madam! never tell me that!. . .Would you, madam, were you Lady Grandison (now, tell me, would you) grudge me these instances of his favour and affection?

    Indeed, my dear, I would not: if I know my own heart, I would not.

    And would you permit me to live with you?—Now it is out—Will you permit me to live with my guardian and you?—This is a question I wanted to put to you; but was both ashamed and afraid, till you thus kindly emboldened me.

    Indeed I would, if your guardian had no objection.

    That don’t satisfy me, madam. Would you be my earnest, my sincere advocate, and plead for me? He would not deny you any thing. . .—Dear, dear madam! you are moved in my favour—Who could have forborn being affected by her tender prattle? and she threw her arms about me; I see you are moved in my favour!—. . .

    I could not bear this.
    No more, no more, my lovely girl, my innocent, my generous, my irresistible girl!—. . .I folded her to my heart, as she hung about my neck. . . [20]
    Emily has turned Harriet's admonishment about her too-visible signs of emotional attachment to Sir Charles into permission for her to continue to seek "instances of his favour and affection." She has also enlisted Harriet as her advocate in her campaign to live with the couple, should they marry. Harriet seems remarkably sanguine about the prospect of sharing her future home with a beautiful young woman who has all but declared her passion for her husband-to-be.

    Harriet does not seem to recognize that she has made all the concessions in this encounter. And whatever the conventions of 18th-century romantic friendships between women, the end of their intimate tête-à-tête sounds like nothing so much as the parting of two lovers:
    I must leave you, Emily.

    Say then my Emily.

    I must leave you, my and more than my Emily.—You have cured me of sleepiness for this night!

    O then I am sorry—

    No, don’t be sorry. You have given me pain, ’tis true; but I think it is the sweetest pain that ever entered into a human heart. Such goodness! such innocence! such generosity!—I thank God, my love, that there is in my knowledge so worthy a young heart as yours.

    Now, how good this is! (and again she wrapped her arms about me) And will you go?

    I must, I must, my dear!—I can stay no longer. But take this assurance, that my Emily shall have a first place in my heart for ever. I will study to promote your happiness; and your wishes shall be the leaders of mine.

    Then I am sure I shall live with my guardian and you for ever, as I may say: and God grant, and down on her knees she dropped, with her arms wrapped about mine, that you may be the happiest of women, and that soon, for my sake, as well as your own, in marriage with the best of men—my guardian!. . .

    I struggled from her.—O my sweet girl! I cannot bear you!—I hastened out at the door, to go to my chamber.

    You are not angry, madam? following me, and taking my hand, and kissing it with eagerness. Say you are not displeased with me. I will not leave you till you do.

    Angry! my love! who can be angry? How you have distressed me by your sweet goodness of heart!. . .

    And I kissed her once, twice, thrice, with fervor; and away she tript: but stopt at the door, courtesying low, as I, delighted, yet painfully delighted, looked after her. [21]
    Is Emily really all sweetness and innocence? Or—child of a conniving mother—is she playing a deep game?

    Next time: Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 4: The return to Italy 

    Last time: Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 2: The confession


    1. Quoted in Terry Eagleton, The Rape of Clarissa, University of Minnesota, 1982, pp. 25-26.
    2. Mark Kinkead-Weekes, Introduction to Pamela, Everyman, 1966, p. v, quoted in Eagleton, p. 5.
    3. Stephanie Fyshe, The Works of Samuel Richardson, University of Delaware Press, 1997, p. 60. 
    4. Letter of 22 September 1755 from Lady Mary Wortley Montagu to her daughter Lady Bute. From Montagu, Selected Letters, edited by Isobel Grundy, Penguin, 1997, p. 415.
    5. Quoted in Eagleton, pp. 28-29. 
    6. Burney's Evelina (1778) is a series of letters featuring the misadventures of a young heroine who, like Pamela, Clarissa, and Harriet Byron, is persecuted by harassing suitors. Austen's Lady Susan (written in 1794, when Austen was 19), Elinor and Marianne (the first version of Sense and Sensibility, written in 1795), and probably First Impressions (the first version of Pride and Prejudice, written in 1796-97), were also written in epistolary form; the first wasn't published in Austen's lifetime, while the latter two were rewritten as narratives before publication.
    7. Eagleton, p. 45. 
    8. Richardson, Sir Charles Grandison, Volume 3, Letter XX. Miss BYRON[, to Miss SELBY]. In Continuation.
    9. Volume 3, Letter XXXII. Miss BYRON, to Miss SELBY.
    10. Volume 3, Letter XXXII. Miss BYRON, to Miss SELBY.
    11. Volume 3, Letter XXXII. Miss BYRON, to Miss SELBY.
    12. Volume 3, Letter XXXII. Miss BYRON, to Miss SELBY.
    13. Volume 3, Letter XX. Miss BYRON[, to Miss SELBY]. In Continuation.
    14. Volume 3, Letter III. Miss BYRON, to Miss SELBY.
    15. Volume 3, Letter VII. Miss BYRON, to Miss SELBY. 
    16. Volume 3, Letter VII. Miss BYRON, to Miss SELBY.  
    17. Volume 3, Letter V. Miss BYRON, to Miss SELBY.
    18. Volume 3, Letter V. Miss BYRON, to Miss SELBY.
    19. Volume 3, Letter VII. Miss BYRON, to Miss SELBY.
    20. Volume 3, Letter VII. Miss BYRON, to Miss SELBY.
    21. Volume 3, Letter VII. Miss BYRON, to Miss SELBY.