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Written by Stephanie
(10/12/2012 10:50 p.m.)
Col. Brandon's story includes a passage about finding Eliza Brandon (and a former servant) in a spunging house. David M. Shapard has an annotation in my copy of the novel that says Author Austen got this passage wrong.
Spunging houses were for those who might be able to pay off their debts. Eliza had no means to do so, by this account, and so, would have been thrown into debtors' prison after being tried, to stay, perhaps for years, until they could find a way to settle with their creditors. Author Austen's people, gentility as they were, would be more conversant with spunging houses, than with true debtor's prisons, but Eliza had been excluded from proper society, and outcasts were not often kept out of prison in the hopes they could recompense their creditors. Author Austen speaking of the undercurrent of her society, may have mistaken spunging houses as being the equivalent of debtor's prisons.
I would have liked him to say something about Mrs. Brandon being allowed to take so young a child with her into imprisonment, too, but he is silent on the subject. It just seems so unlikely!
Also, no one ever seems to question Col. Brandon's rescue of Mrs. Brandon. He has not inherited yet, and somehow has the money to pay her debts, put her into comfortable lodgings, with nursing care, and, afterwards, to support little Eliza. Eventually, it is true, he DOES inherit, but the estate, according to Mrs. Jennings, is badly encumbered until he starts better management of it, so it would have been years after that that he starts financially profiting from his new standing. Did he need to borrow? Could he have saved that much from his Colonel-pay? Could he have some inheritance of his own, despite Delaford being under water when he came of age? Was he still drawing a salary, and would that not have precluded him from having a settled home for little Eliza, since soldiers are stationed wherever they are assigned?
If anyone has input on any of this, please post it!
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