Mary Wollstonecraft, an eighteenth-century writer, philosopher, and feminist, hardly needs introductions. The Regency Writings Repository is now enriched of her political pamphlet A Vindication of the Rights of Men, in a Letter to the Right Honourable Edmund Burke; Occasioned by His Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) in which she argues against aristocracy and in favour of republicanism. She invokes an emerging middle-class ethos in opposition to the vice-ridden aristocratic code of manners.
The Three Sisters is one of the frankest portrayals of “marriage as prostitution” (as Mary Wollstonecraft described marrying for material reasons) within all of Austen’s writings.
Miss Stanhope takes no pains to conceal her motives while negotiating her price:
“You must build me an elegant Greenhouse and stock it with plants. You must let me spend every Winter in Bath, every Spring in Town, Every Summer in taking some Tour, and every Autumn at a Watering Place, and if we are at home the rest of the year (Sophy and I laughed) You must do nothing but give Balls and Masquerades. You must build a room on purpose and a Theatre to act Plays in. The first Play we have shall be Which is the Man, and I will do Lady Bell Bloomer.”
Which is the Man is a play by Hannah Cowley about a fascinating widow who cannot make up her mind among several admirers.
In 1787 Austen’s family considered performing it at Steventon. Although other plays ended up being performed then, Austen was well familiar with Cowley’s plays, and quoted lines from them in her letters.
You can read it in Austenette’s Repository. Follow the link Which is the Man
When talking of love it is important to define the word. Is it emotion, feeling, decision or all of the elements? According to some Christians i.e. Anglicans and Catholics four kinds of love must be present for the Holy Matrimony to be valid and complete. I’ll try to explain, on their example, Elizabeth’s growing love for Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.
There is a lot of confusion as to when and why Elizabeth Bennet fell in love. (See this post at Austenprose and subsequent comments for example, but it’s only one of many such opinions.) This post is to show that the reason of it does not come from any imperfection of Lizzy’s affection or Austen’s writing, but rather our modern notions that downplay the significance of love.
In Rambler 97 Samuel Richardson argues in favour of the course of courtship of his own youth. It is interesting to see how much the mores had changed between his times and those of Austen.
Austen famously paraphrased his words in Northanger Abbey:
for if it be true, as a celebrated writer has maintained, that no young lady can be justified in falling in love before the gentleman’s love is declared, it must be very improper that a young lady should dream of a gentleman before the gentleman is first known to have dreamt of her.
It is likewise significant to note that no positive hero of Austen’s ever seeks the lady’s family’s approval for courtship or asks for her hand before her own consent is given. Such a kind of behaviour is left to men like Mr. Collins or Henry Crawford.
You can read the Rambler 97 in The Repository.
Relevant posts at Austenette:
While it’s not news that blue coat was fashionable among young men of Austen’s era, not everyone might be aware that it was due to Goethe’s influence.
In The Sorrows of Young Werther we read:
It cost me much to part with the blue coat which I wore the first time I danced with Charlotte. But I could not possibly wear it any longer. But I have ordered a new one, precisely similar, even to the collar and sleeves, as well as a new waistcoat and pantaloons.
But it does not produce the same effect upon me. I know not how it is, but I hope in time I shall like it better.
I uploaded Daniel Defoe’s short essay on The Education of Women. The more of his works I read the more I wonder whether Austen in particular was influenced by Defoe, or just everyone was, and so the ideas present in his writings were generally embraced by the time Austen was born.
In this Defoe argues in defence of female education, bringing arguments, including a great deal of reading, that make one think of Elizabeth Bennet.
I created the Regency Writings Repository for original texts written during and before Austen’s times. It will be a sub-Austenette blog, since I consider the prose, poetry and non-fiction (philosophical essays, conduct books) of her era a key to understanding Austen.
I hope you’ll find it interesting and useful. I’m going to write commentaries as I add to the list.
I posted my loose and shortened translation of Adam Mickiewicz’s Forefathers’ Eve, Part II. If you’re interested in Polish romantic writings the page additionally includes some information about the author and his views.
Did Austen want to prove Geothe wrong?
…I told them my very best tale of the princess who was waited upon by dwarfs. I improve myself by this exercise, and am quite surprised at the impression my stories create. If I sometimes invent an incident which I forget upon the next narration, they remind one directly that the story was different before; so that I now endeavour to relate with exactness the same anecdote in the same monotonous tone, which never changes. I find by this, how much an author injures his works by altering them, even though they be improved in a poetical point of view. The first impression is readily received. We are so constituted that we believe the most incredible things; and, once they are engraved upon the memory, woe to him who would endeavour to efface them.
The Sorrows of Young Werther