Posted by Valerie Mc. on January 29, 1998 at 21:01:08:
In response to What decade(s)?, written by gkb on January 28, 1998 at 23:58:38
] I think one has to work fairly hard to find a handle for any political beliefs in her miniatures of realism. Where did she stand on the question of slavery? Of land enclosure? Of American and French Revolutions? The little bits of ivory do not support these large panoramic views!
It's always interested me how assiduously she seems to avoid commenting on anything outside the personal realm. But of course there's a heavy dose of realism in that, too - people usually are only concerned about events that directly affect them.
I think a couple of snippets are telling. At the end of Persuasion, she mentions Sir Walter's failure to support himself in the position "in which Providence had placed him." And in Emma, the heroine doesn't expect extraordinary virtue "from those for whom education had done so little." But it never occurs to Emma to do anything about the general state of education in the country; all that's required of a gentlewoman is soup and advice.
This seems to add up to a very conservative worldview, with everyone's station appointed by God and any attempt at social change almost impious. (I was just thinking about Mr. Suckling who was "Always rather a friend to the Abolition." This almost looks like a telling little portrait of Abolitionists as social climbers who take up the cause half-heartedly as a talking point.)
Have you read Flora Thompson's Lark Rise to Candleford? That's a great memoir of the very end of the gentry/peasant system, from the viewpoint of the peasants. The peasants were not necessarily as grateful for the soup, etc. as the ladies thought!
Posting followups to old messages is disabled; instead go to the main index and post a new message which mentions this one.