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|Something shocking from London
Written by Glenn
(4/10/2012 4:55 p.m.)
Chapter 14 makes me laugh and gives me a better understanding of Henry and Eleanor Tilney’s relationship as brother and sister. During their walk round Beechen Cliff, they first discuss Udolfo. Catherine thinks that Henry never reads novels (“gentlemen read better books”) but Henry says “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” This is in support of Austen’s defense of novels in the last paragraph of Chapter 5. After Udolfo, they discuss history- a subject quite boring to Catherine, and possibly Austen (re: her satire “The History of England”), because all the history books were written by men, who seem to have interest only in “The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences”.
Austen again speaks directly to the reader: The advantages of natural folly in a beautiful girl have been already set forth by the capital pen of a sister author; and to her treatment of the subject I will only add, in justice to men, that though to the larger and more trifling part of the sex, imbecility in females is a great enhancement of their personal charms, there is a portion of them too reasonable and too well informed themselves to desire anything more in woman than ignorance. The sister author is Frances Burney, who wrote about a dumb beauty, Indiana, in Camilla. Obviously, Austen is upset about the way men treated women in her era and even today she might have complaints about some men.
Next comes one of my favorite parts of this novel. Catherine says “something shocking will soon come out of London”. She is referring to a Gothic novel, but Eleanor thinks it is political unrest because Catherine says ” I shall expect murder and everything of the kind.” “Government,” said Henry, endeavouring not to smile, “neither desires nor dares to interfere in such matters. There must be murder; and government cares not how much.” Henry then uses his wit with both Catherine and Eleanor so they may understand each other. Eleanor, who truly understands her brother, has to apologize for his witty remarks.
“And now, Henry,” said Miss Tilney, “that you have made us understand each other, you may as well make Miss Morland understand yourself — unless you mean to have her think you intolerably rude to your sister, and a great brute in your opinion of women in general. Miss Morland is not used to your odd ways.” Then Henry says he thinks highly of the understanding of women in his company and Eleanor asks him to be more serious.
Henry: “Miss Morland, no one can think more highly of the understanding of women than I do. In my opinion, nature has given them so much that they never find it necessary to use more than half.”
Eleanor: “We shall get nothing more serious from him now, Miss Morland. He is not in a sober mood. But I do assure you that he must be entirely misunderstood, if he can ever appear to say an unjust thing of any woman at all, or an unkind one of me.”
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