Thursday, December 01, 2005

Eliza Haywood "The History of Miss. Betsy Thoughtless"

Eliza Haywood’s “The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless” is a fascinating narrative. There are interesting similarities between this novel and “Fantomina.” Haywood uses letters in each. There is a letter written by R. Wildly that is signed as “An everlasting slave” (105). In “Fantomina” Beauplasisir also ended one of his letter’s as: “Your everlasting Slave” (613). The female character in “Fantomina” writes a letter to Beauplasisir and identifies herself as ‘Incognita’ (612-613). When she meets Beauplasisir, she wears a mask and does not want to reveal her true identity and meets him in the dark (614). In “The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless,” Miss. Flora writes Mr. Trueworth a letter and calls herself ‘Incognita’ (305). Miss. Flora disguises herself at first in order to meet with Mr. Trueworth while not revealing her true identity. “I should before now have acquainted my reader, that the lady was not only masked, but also close muffled in her hood […]” (307). It is strikingly similar when Mr. Tureworth says he “[…] could not help thinking he had heard before accents very like those with which he was now entertained, though where, or from what mouth they had proceeded, he was not able to recollect” (312); To “Fantomina,” when Beauplasisir says: “[…] he did fancy he observed in the Face of the latter, Features which ere not altogether unknown to him, yet he could not recollect when or where he had known them [...]” (609).

Early in “The History of Miss. Betsy Thoughtless,” it is clear that Miss. Betsy is playful and very focused on herself: “Hurried by an excess of vanity, and that love of pleasure so natural to youth, she indulged herself in liberties, of which she foresaw not the consequences” (56). Miss. Betsy does not want to rush into marriage and toys with her different suitors. For example, “[…] all the idea she had of either of them, served only to excite in her the pleasing imagination how, when they both came to address her, she should play the one against the other, and give herself a constant round of diversion, by their alternate contentment or disquiet” (101). Miss. Betsy “[…] played with her lovers, as she did with her monkey, but expected more obedience form them […]” (296). Even though she appears to be a caring person, she does not spend too much time reflecting about events that might have been to her benefit to think more on. For example, she: “But alas! Those serious considerations were but of short duration […]” (236).

There are clear lessons about the importance of a woman’s reputation. Mr. Goodman explains to Miss. Betsy “[…] that the honour of a young maid like you, is a flower of so tender and delicate a nature, that the least breath of scandal withers and destroys it” (174). Mr. Trueworth also comments on Miss. Betsy’s reputation when he explains: “This caution ought to be more peculiarly observed in persons of your sex, as reputation in you once lost, is never to be retrieved” (232). Some of the advice or lessons provided in the novel are interesting. One instance is when Miss. Betsy reflects “It reminded her how inconsiderate she had been, and shewed the folly of not knowing how to place a just value on any thing, till it was lost, in such strong colours before her eyes, as one would scarce think it possible an incident in itself so merely bagatelle could have produced” (289-290). Another part that I found profound is: “There is an unaccountable pride in human nature, which often gets the better of our justice, and makes us espouse what we know within ourselves is wrong, rather than appear to be set right by any reason, except our own” (294).

It is disheartening that Miss. Betsy or (Mrs. Munden) when she finally does get married is unhappy. “Is this to be a wife? Is this the state of wedlock? – Call it rather an Egyptian bondage; - the cruel task-masters of the Israelites could exact no more. – Ungrateful man!’ pursued she, bursting into tears, ‘is this the love – the tenderness you vowed?’” (501). After Mrs. Munden is widowed she explains “[…] that if ever I become a wife again, love, an infinity of love, shall be the chief inducement’” (630). The reunion between Mr. Trueworth and Mrs. Munden is very moving: “[…] Oh Trueworth! – Trueworth!’ added she, ‘I have not merited this from you.’ – ‘You merit all things,’ – said he, ‘let us talk no more of what is past, but tell me that you now are mine […]” (631). It is exciting that the two lovers marry in the end.

“The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless” is very interesting because of the many different events and outcomes that happen. I enjoy the development of the plot and like the ending.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Eliza Haywood "Fantomina"

Eliza Haywood’s “Fantomina” is a narrative about a female character who disguises herself as different women including Fantomina, Celia, a widow named Bloomer, and Incognita, an anonymous woman. This female character appears to be quite inexperienced, innocent and naturally curious at the outset. She wants to visit the theatre in order to discover what men are really like. In this narrative Fantomina appears overconfident. For example: “In this Manner did she applaud her own Conduct, and exult with Imagination that she had more Prudence than all her Sex beside” (Haywood 606). An interesting thing that I noticed about her was that she did not seem to mind that Beauplaisir, the man she loved believed that she was actually a different person and he assumed that he was having sexual relations with many different women. She disguised herself well enough to convince her lover to believe that he had been with many different women. It is only when she receives replies from two different letters she had sent to Beauplaisir that she exclaims: “’TRAITOR!”[…] as soon as she had read them, ‘tis thus our silly, fond, believing Sex are served when they put Faith in Man: So had I been deceived and cheated…” (610). This is very surprising because she is the one who initiates the interactions with her lover and knew all along what she was doing with him. Amazingly, she does not focus on the issue that her lover grows easily tired of each woman but instead, she actually thinks that he is a good man for continuing to have a relationship with Fantomina and the widow Bloomer. She believes that most men end relationships and she explains, “…for the most part, when they are weary of an Intrigue, break it entirely off, without any Regard to the Despair of the abandoned Nymph” (Haywood 611). It is interesting that her confidence continues as she believes that she is in complete control. She says: “…O that all neglected Wives, and fond abandoned Nymphs would take this Method! – Men would be caught in their own Snare, and have no Cause to scorn our easy, weeping, wailing Sex! – Thus did she pride herself as if secure she never should have any Reason to repent the present Gaiety of her Humour” (Haywood 613). “Fantomina” provides a fascinating insight into the world of a woman who takes control of her life and manages several situations with her lover. However, in the end she is punished by the moral consequences of her actions and becomes pregnant and is sent to a Monastery. As discussed in class, this makes Haywood’s story interesting because it about a woman taking control and managing in a man’s world but it can also be seen as a moral lesson.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Frances Burney "A Known Scribbler"

Frances Burney’s “A Known Scribbler” is an interesting way to present the life experiences of an individual. The fact that she includes: personal journal entries, letters written by her or addressed to her, reviews and personal stories make this work appear rich because of all the different perspectives. I like how Burney gives early journal accounts as a young girl. The journal entries appear to be typical of things a young person might say when attempting to record their thoughts in a journal. For example: “…I must confess my every thought, must open my whole Heart!” (Crump 53). Also, when she points out that “…I always write in it according to my real & undisguised thoughts—I always write in it according to the humour I am in…” (Crump 63). This demonstrates an eagerness and desire of a young person to honestly express their innermost thoughts and journal them for later review and reflection. Burney’s determination to do what she wants to do in life is evident early in her work. For example: “To unite myself for Life to a man who is not infinitely dear to me, is what I can never, never Consent to” (Crump 99-100). This indicates that Burney is willing to stand up for herself. The Reviews and discussions about Burney’s publication of “Evelina, or a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World” are interesting. Burney places great emphasis on not wanting people to know that it is her book and she is very pleased when she thinks that others will not discover that she is the author. “This was too much for me; I grinned irrestistably; & was obliged to look out at the shop Door till we came away” (Crump 152). However, even when others discover that Burney is the author of this novel, it actually is quite positive because this leads her to produce other books such as “Cecilia.” Her novel Evelina is described as “…a work that should result from long Experience & deep & intimate knowledge of the World; yet it has been written without either” (Crump 182). She wrote Tragedy “…about the middle of this August—90—The author [of Cecilia & Evelina [xxx] finished the rough first Draught & Copy of her first Tragedy” (Crump 257). It is interesting to learn what Mary Wollstonecraft says about Burney’s writing of “Camilla” …Camilla contains parts superiour to any thing she has yet produced” (Crump 286). Burney receives many complementary references about her writing. For example, ‘The Critical Review’ states: “The writer of Cecilia is not a common female, and we are confident the public will be gratified by hearing her sentiments on any subject to which she has turned her thoughts” (Crump 270). However, another work of hers “The Wanderer,” which in The Quarterly Review does not receive such positive comments. “The Wander has the identical features of Evelina—but Evelina grown old…” (Crump 311). The different opinions and ideas about her works make the novel interesting because of the different points of view.

Near the end of the novel in pp. 298-304, when she describes her breast operation, she uses very descriptive language and the subject matter is difficult to read about because of the graphic details of the operation. The personal pain that she describes is in some ways heart wrenching. Another part of her work that I find especially interesting is the account she provides in her struggle to survive when she is trapped during the storm (Crump 320-331). Her expressions and emotions in this life threatening situation are engaging.
It is also touching to read about the sorrow and grief that Burney experiences following her husband’s death. “…I will give this expansion to my feelings for a few minutes—a poor half hour---every Evening I pass alone, to unburthen the loaded heart from the weight of suppression during the long & heavy day.—(Crump 333-334). Burney is intriguing and the method that “A Known Scribbler” presents is a fascinating way to learn about the life of Frances Burney and her works.

Alexander Pope "The Dunciad"

Alexander Pope’s “The Dunciad” is an interesting poem that presents a number of ridiculous imaginary contests. According to the opening section of “Book the Second” in the “Argument” the contests takes place between poets, critics and their patrons, party-writers and also booksellers. Pope identifies a number of these literary individuals by name and places them in the contests where they must perform absurd tasks. For example, there is a contest that takes place at Bridewell in which Pope explains is a place “…where Fleet-ditch with disemboguing streams / Rolls the large tribute of dead dogs to Thames/” (Pope 271-272). “The Fleet Ditch was the sewer outlet for the city at the time, where all of the gutters of the city washed into the river. It was silted, muddy, and mixed with river and city waters”( Using the disgusting nature of Bridewell, Pope has the party-writers running through, throwing bits of sewage and diving in this mess to win the contest. Pope sarcastically infers that these party-writers could do very well in this type of contest because of their writing. Another contest involves individuals such as Norton, an author and poet, Webster, a newspaper editor, Whitfield a preacher (Pope 238-258) who are required to make loud and silly noises: “There cat-calls be the bribe / Of him whose chattering shames the monkey tribe: / And his this drum whose hoarse heroic bass / Drowns the loud clarion of the braying ass’ (Pope 231-234). This indicates that Pope is making fun of their writings and how they use them to gain the attention of their audiences. The final contest involves reading out loud some works of Henley and Blackmore which causes everyone to fall asleep. “Through the long, heavy, painful page drawl on; / Soft creeping, words on words, the sense compose / At every line they stretch, they yawn, they doze” (Pope 388-390).This demonstrates the extent to which Pope is ridiculing the authors and their works.
In the poem, Pope’s use of numerous references of individuals makes this satire complex and difficult to follow without background information about the people and circumstances. However, it is quite clear that the purpose of this poem is to insult and criticize certain individuals in the literary world of Popes time.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Essay Topic

The writer and the work that I have chosen as a topic for my paper is Aphra Behn’s The Rover. My paper examines some of the expected rules for men and women and how men are favored in the society. Anne Russell suggests that the women in The Rover are forced to choose between marriage, prostitution or the convent and they use these positions to gain strength and independence. Behn uses comedy to present her view and to reveal the hypocrisy of men and the unfair system in which women are immersed.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Delarivier Manley "The Adventures of Rivella"

Delarivier Manley in her, “The Adventures of Rivella” provides a fictional account mixed with biographical information as well as some detailed descriptions that give hints about counterparty individuals and events. It was interesting that Manley told the story of Rivella through the eyes of a male. She begins her story with the fictitious characters of Sir Charles Lovemore and Chevalier D’Aumont who are in a private conversation. Sir Charles discusses his personal interaction with Rivella and her life experiences. However, it is confusing and contradictory when Rivella’s appearance is discussed because Lovemore indicates that her appearance is pleasing yet at the same time, the story indicates she suffered from small pox which permanently scares the victims. Lovemore indicates that he loves Rivella and presents her as a wonderful, witty, and alluring female. However, she falls into disgrace and is imprisoned because of her writings. The story is further complicated when various characters and their activities are revealed and that they take place in relation to actual events such as the deposition of James II (Manley, 60). The names of the fictional characters in some cases refer to actual individuals and their identity is provided in Appendix A (Manley 118-120). Manley discusses actual events, comments about herself, and gives information about contemporary individuals which is confusing for the modern reader but exposing and scandalous to her contemporaries. Rivella discusses her involvement with unethical individuals in a major lawsuit that mirrors an actual lawsuit. Rivella is ruined in her marriage and also reveals that she is the author of the controversial Atalantis. Lovemore says, “… she told me that her self was author of the Atalantis…” (Manley, 107). Rivella causes much scandal and innocent individuals are harmed by her writings. When confronted with these charges by Lovemore, she simply says that she did this because she hates men and wanted to expose individuals to vent her anger. Lovemore says, “…I began with railing at her books; the barbarous design of exposing people that never had done her any injury; she answered me she was become misanthrope, a perfect Timon, or man-hater…” (Manley, 107). Manley’s approach in Rivella is interesting because she speaks through a male and uses a fictional account to reveal private information about contemporary individuals, insights about herself, and attempts to justify her motives and actions. Perhaps her overall justification for her indiscretions is as Lovemore states: “…what is not a crime in men is scandalous and unpardonable in woman…” (Manley, 47).

Mary Astell and Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Astell’s “Some Reflections Upon Marriage, Occasioned by the Duke and Dutchess of Mazarine’s Case; Which is Also Considered.,” is an interesting writing about her thoughts on marriage and education. It was encouraging that Astell did not simply condemn men but rather discussed what could be improved upon as they choose wives. Astell indicates that friendship is a key feature in building a positive marriage. She stressed that men should treat females with respect: “Let us then treat the Ladies as Civilly as may be…” (Astell, 6). Astell indicates the importance of the equality that should be reflected between both sexes: “…and one Person is not in reality better than another…” (Astell,10). This demonstrates her concern for women to be valued. Astell wrote about the importance of a good education for women: “…methinks it is strong enough to prove the [58] necessity of a good Education and that Men never mistake their true Interest more than when they endeavour to keep Women in Ignorance” (Astell, 12). Also, she states that this education will provide women with improved abilities. For example, “…the more Sense a Woman has, the more reason she will find to submit to it…” (Astell,12). This identifies her determination to make the wellbeing of women a priority and that like men, they should be given the opportunity to receive a good education.

Astell’s comments and discussion about the importance of women’s education can be compared to Mary Wollstonecraft’s views about equality for women and their right to be educated. Wollstonecraft writes: “There must be more equality established in society, or morality will never gain ground…” (A Vindication of the Rights of Women, 109). Wollstonecraft can also be compared to Astell in that she believes that if a woman is properly educated she can develop a meaningful friendship with her husband. “Besides, the woman who strengthens her body and exercises her mind will, by managing her family and practicing various virtues, become the friend, and not the humble dependent of her husband…” (A Vindication of the Rights of Women, 29). Astell spoke about the relationship between the strength of the mind and body when she said: “Strength of Mind goes along with Strength of Body, and ‘tis only for some odd Accidents which Philosophers have not yet thought worthwhile to enquire into, that the Sturdiest Porter is not the Wisest Man!” (Astell, 18) It indicates that simply because men may possess greater physical strength does not mean that this gives them wisdom. This is similar to what Wollstonecraft said about the“…bodily strength seems to give man a natural superiority over women…” (A Vindication of the Rights of Women, 36). Both Astell and Wollstonecraft believe that a woman’s mental abilities should not be based on their bodily strength.

It is interesting to see the similarities between Astell and Wollstonecraft’s writing. Both attempted to provide a rational examination of the relationship between men and women and identify the inequalities of the relationship. Each suggested changes that would lead to increased equality for women.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Aphra Behn - The Rover

Aphra Behn’s “The Rover” is an interesting and humorous play that has a major focus on the female characters. A number of female characters have prominent roles and are portrayed as strong and independent. In the first act, Hellena can be regarded as an individual who strives for what she wants. She is able to convince Florinda to go to a Masquerade. Throughout the play her character continues to develop with clear motives and personal goals. For example, Hellena pursues Willmore. This is a quality that is usually attributed to a man. The man is typically seen as the pursuer. By the end of the play, Hellena is able to convince Willmore to marry her despite his initial hesitation. This again shows strength and determination in this female character. Angellica is another female character who initially and innocently accepts what she is told but after being betrayed, she takes initiative and seeks revenge on Willmore. She wants to keep a close eye on Willmore and in Act III Scence 1 she instructs Sebastian to follow the woman she saw with Willmore. Later, in Act V Scene 1 she comes close to killing him for being unfaithful. This demonstrates that Angellica is not content simply with being a victim but instead stands up for herself by confronting Willmore in a violent manner. Lucetta also is a female who demonstrates independence and wit. In Act III Scene 2 she is able to trick Blunt into believing that she will have sexual relations with him but instead robs him and leaves him without the majority of his clothes.

Throughout the play it is evident that not all the females are victims. In Act III Scene V, Florinda is almost forced by Willmore to engage in sexual relations with him against her will but it does not happen because Belvile and Frederick arrive in time to stop Willmore. Another time Blunt and Frederick almost sexually abuse Florida because they thought that she was a harlot but they decide to wait for Belvile when they discover that she knows him and offers Blunt a ring. The play had many humorous moments especially when the men had their plans interrupted or frustrated.

The play outlined a general standard for treatment of women by men. If a woman was perceived to have character or position, she was treated with respect and dignity. However, if a woman was perceived as less respectable or a harlot, the men felt they were free to treat her any way they wanted. In Act V, it is astonishing to see how quickly Frederick and Blunt ask Florinda forgiveness for their actions when they discovered she is Bevile’s betrothed.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Margaret Cavendish

“The Blazing World” which Cavendish described was interesting. Her characters and their functions were unusual. For example, when she described the list of the people of that world “…Some were bear-men, some worm-men, some fish or mer-men, otherwise called sirens, some bird-men, some fly-men, some ant-men…” (Cavendish, excerpt 15). As a new Empress of the Blazing World she attempted to arrange the world for the better based on what she knew about the real world she had lived in. Although she could claim to have some ability to do this, it seemed apparent that some of the actions were arbitrary and despite her subjects praise, lacked any important or lasting outcome. The purpose of her writing became more unclear as she moved between the Blazing World and her natural world. Cavendish became even more confusing when she entered the mind of the Duke following the Duchess; “And then the Duke had threw souls in one body” (Cavendish, 32). Overall, I was dissatisfied that there did not seem to be any significant outcome of her writing after leading the reader on such a fanciful journey.

The liberating language that Cavendish used for women in “Female Orations” grabbed my attention. I thought it was interesting how each orator responded to the former orator as each presented their argument concerning the state of women. This was an effective conversation that outlined several perspectives. Cavendish brought some balance to the severe criticism of men. For example, one orator pointed out that men that ‘admire’ women should not be regarded negatively; “but we have no reason to speak against men, who are our admirers and lovers;” (Cavendish, section III). She indicated the importance of men and that it is natural for women to “…love men, praise men, and pray for men; for without men, we should be the most miserable creatures that Nature hath made or could make” (Cavendish, section III). Also, placing full blame on men or ‘Nature’ does little to bring resolution or direction in life. I was pleased that she indicated that women should not simply become like men but can live vitally as their own person while cooperating with men and still be “pleasing to God and men” (Cavendish, V).

The comparisons that Cavendish discussed in “Nature’s Cook” were a bit disgusting. This was especially true when she described food and awful diseases in relation to one and another. Her descriptions about body parts, ulcers, ‘gravie’, pox, chops and flesh made the poem very graphic. To some extent, this could be seen as a form of ‘black humour.’ Cavendish’ descriptions about death were exaggerated and emphasized the hopelessness and suffering that could be part of the lives of some of her readers. I found this depressing and do not agree with her overwhelmingly negative descriptions of the human condition and death.