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|She may have been joking ,but there was ( long)
Written by JulieW
(9/25/2005 4:59 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Oh, I'm sure JA was partly joking..., penned by Line
Will you allow me to quote from a recent post I made at L+T: I wont link it all as most of the post is irrelevant.But part is very pertinent to this point.
Here you are...
Please allow me to quote from Novel Values by Ruth Perry( Cambridge University press 2004).This is a fascinating book,( though not a particularly easy read,IMHO) which examines familial attitudes from 1743-1818.
Ms Parry first refers to the “one love for life formula” which she argues emerged in the mid 18th century. It was of course a formula that appears to have been applied only to women. The infamous double standard and its application is crucial to understanding the fate of the Maria Rushworths of this world.
“Among the better known texts dealing with this question “Sir Charles Grandison" , with its hero's tolerant pronouncement on his sister Charlotte’s youthful infatuation( and his subsequent desire to marry her to a respectable and devoted man who will protect and care for her even if he does not thrill hr) represents Richardson’s resistance to the ideology crystallising in his day about one-and only ecstatic love, eternal loyalty and the ineradibility of a man’s imprimatur on a woman’s impressionable sexual consciousness.
Marianne Dashwoods ardent belief in a first and only love in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility , a judgement she revises later in the novel after a little experience of life,was one of the many ways Austen mocked the widely debated question of pre-possession, sexual ownership and men’s propriety in woman’s consciousness.
Anne Elliott’s impassioned defence of woman’s fidelity in Persuasion , her cri de coeur that women love “ the longest ,when existence or when hope is gone” must also be read in the context of this late 18th century debate about the inalinability of womens love”
Women were expected to be faithful,demure and until marriage, virginal.After marriage they had to be chaste.
This led to women and girls with no sexual experience being prizes on the marriage market.
Like a commodity whose status is changed as soon as the wrapper is torn and it is converted from exchange value to use value( think of the price difference between a new car and one that has been driven for a few months, an eighteenth –century woman who had been engaged in heterosexual intercourse-even once- was devalued, particularly if her only property was her person. Newness constituted her moral capital and was the most significant form of property she possessed
Parry points out that this represented a shift in moral values in 18th century England compared with earlier times;
Its overvaluation of virginity, this preference for newness,for females who were sexually tabulae rasae,was, relatively speaking, a new thing in 18t century England. It would have made no sense in earlier periods when both men and women married alter and a third of all marriages were second marriages. In mid sixteenth century England 30% of all marriages were remarriages according to Wrigley and Schofields statistics, calculated by the numbers of widows and widowers marrying in the parish registers. Given this social reality the notion of constructing women as the property of one man and one man only ,with a value that diminished with more practical experience, would have been absurd…..Samuel Johnson who in 1735 married Elizabeth Porter a widow of forty with children,remarked to Boswell in 1769 that one of their mutual friends had” done a very foolish thing,Sir; he has married a widow ,when he might have had a maid”.Boswell also reports that Johnson once almost asked his “Tetty” not to marry again if he died before her, observing that in Johnson’s “fond preserving appropriation of his Tetty,even after her decease, he seems to have totally to have overlooked the prior claim of the honest Birmingham trader- the husband of her youth and the father of her children.” Johnson vehemently opposed the second marriage of his good and loyal friend Mrs Thrale in 1784 even though it promised her real happiness in contrast to her first marriage. Despite Johnson's disapproval..it proved a happy marriage…Such opposition to the second marriage of a respectable woman has hardly existed when Mrs Mary Pendarves Delaney chose to remarry forty years earlier, but the climate had changed.The libidinous desire of older women was becoming less socially tolerable; it confused property relations , including the property a woman had in herself.
JA herself seems to make reference to this attitude towards widows,by the way, in the opening chapters of Persuasion where she is refers to the failure of Lady Russell to re-marry.:
This friend, and Sir Walter, did not marry, whatever might have been anticipated on that head by their acquaintance. Thirteen years had passed away since Lady Elliot's death, and they were still near neighbours and intimate friends; and one remained a widower, the other a widow.
That Lady Russell, of steady age and character, and extremely well provided for, should have no thought of a second marriage, needs no apology to the public, which is rather apt to be unreasonably discontented when a woman does marry again, than when she does not; but Sir Walter's continuing in singleness requires explanation..
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