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.