I took a few days off there. Crazy times here at the old house, mostly involving bad lodgers, who are right now moving out. 6 days late. Hurrah! Now it’s time for more house renovations! Yay! Eventual built in bookshelves! Yay!
I’ve only read one book this week-The Farmer of Inglewood Forest by Elizabeth Helme. A misleading title, as there are several farmers of Inglewood Forest, and most of the action doesn’t concern them. It’s a great book if a bit unsurprising if you’ve ever read a gothic or any sort of 18th century romance. There was rather a lot of vice portrayed, most of it involving adultery, gambling, seduction and incest, but of course, everyone who sins, dies. So great, nasty, sinful characters in theory, but they all feel bad about it in the end, which is always a little disappointing to me, as I like my evil a little more complicated.It was interesting how quick the characters succumbed to vice though! Not sure if that’s a comment on London, or virtue untested by temptation, but one week in the big city and it was on. I spent 4 days in London once and managed to escape unscathed, but who knows if I had stayed a whole week?
There’s a lot of commentary on slavery and racism, too, unfortunately along with the stereotype of the protective servant who lives for their master a la 1930s movie ‘mammies’. However, at least slavery IS discussed and one of the characters pays to have some slaves freed from Jamaica. I wonder how big of a deal this was to readers in 1796, at least in England. I need to do some research on this because I have no idea how slavery was regard by the everyday person at this time. Helme does seem to touch on the edgy issues, as in the last book of hers I read (Louisa) there are vegetarian Dissenters in a cottage in the country. Perhaps she regarded country folk as more forward thinking, since they weren’t busy sleeping with everyone? Or they are more compassionate? I’m not sure.
While this is not a feminist book, it’s pretty even in its punishment of vice regardless of sex. The ‘good’ women are pretty lame and annoying though. No one’s really smart or plucky in this book though. Everyone is kind of dopey and following either G_d or their loins. There’s no condemning of women for being the weak ones or anything, but there’s really no heroine to root for, until the end of the book.
So maybe this isn’t the most shining review of a book ever-there’s no ghosts, everyone is punished, etc, BUT the important thing about this book is that it was obviously an influence on Mansfield Park. Jane Austen must have liked it enough to lift the ‘glamorous brother/sister from the city cause trouble’ plot for her own. If that’s not enough to make you read it, I can’t help you. (Oh, and it’s available for free everywhere. Open Library seems to have the best copy available IMO. Read the pdf, not the crappy OCR’d version, if you have a Kindle.).