Half a thought......
Posted by Caroline on March 07, 1998 at 20:28:32:
In response to Intellectuals and bluestockings, written by Helen on March 04, 1998 at 06:43:54
I've been mulling this over for a couple of days (it's started to invade my sleep, actually) and I haven't yet had an opinion 'gel' in this heat opressed brain, so forgive me if this comes out as pure waffle, won't you?
I've found something interesting in Enlightened England by Wylie Sypher. 1962, SBN 094251
Here's what he says about Bluestockings
The eighteenth century had a whole line of them, the most clubbable ,( in Johnson's phrase), banding into salons somewhat on the French pattern. Mrs. Vesey, Mrs. Boscawen, Mrs Delany, Fanny Burney--all were intelligent , if not learned. Some seemed learned: Mrs. Montague acheived an essay on Shakespeare in reply to Voltaire; and she and Elizabeth Carter read Tacitus "So as to always have a subject to correspond upon." Mrs. Carter, who walked or rode from four to five each morning and who is said to have translated Epictetus with a cold towel wrapped about her head, was perhaps more learned than charming. At the age of eighty-eight she cooly remarked "Nobody knows what may happen; I never said I would not marry." Hannah More, who dreaded pedantry, was asort of moving spirit in every philanthropy. Mrs Thrale refused to be shouted down by even Dr Johnson Mrs. Chapone, author of the official Bluestocking text - Letters on the improvement of the Mind- announced that women , as rational and accountable beings, are free agents as well as men
That last bit sounds almost like Mrs. Croft to me! This quote shows clearly why bluestockings would be frightening to the average country squire, but I cannot see anything in it which makes me think that JA wouldn't like them , except perhaps this, that they seem the kind of women constantly telling the world how to behave! Slightly further on in the book is another quite revealing bit;
Samuel Johnson represents a unique value in this age of reason. Like Swift or Burke, he is profoundly distrustful of intellectualism, abstraction and rationality. Johnson's Rasselas, like Swift's Laputans, cannot live by mind alone. Although Swift represents the Houyhnhnms as living by reason, and although Johnson mistrusts imagination as deeply as he mistrusts reason, yet what Johnson and Swift actually admire is reasonableness- the ability to live satisfactorily rather than to think abstractly................In fact, throughout the age of reason there was a widespread dislike of intellectualized systems , especially on the part of critics who espoused taste. (my emphasis, and sorry about the spelling, Helen, it's an American book!)
Now, I will admit at this point to never having tackled Rasselas (not even for Miss Matty and Miss Diana's sake!) and that my last encounter with the Laputans and the Houyhnhnms was in the company of a certain Ted Dansen (it wasn't my first, though, and I thought he dealt with them quite well!). However, I must say that this passage describing Johnson could just as well be applied to Jane Austen, don't you think? Numerous critics have decided that Johnson was a major influence of JA, so perhaps her attitude to intellectualism stems from his work, in part? As I said, this pea-brain of mine is going to take time, perhaps months ,to come up with a reasonable approach to this question,sorry... but it is an interesting one, isn't it?
- Take care of that brain of yours! ;-) Helen 13:37:19 3/11/98 (0)
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