Hurrah for reading many books at once. Despairing at Coelebs, I’m returning to The Discarded Son, or The Haunt of the Banditti, by Regina Maria Roche (love her). I haven’t read too far into in, but I really liked this passage:

In allowing his daughter to have been educated in the religious tenets of her mother, Munro would have done no violence to his own feelings; since, though decidedly of opinion that, from the wavering nature of man, a settled form of religion was necessary for all, he was equally so, that if the heart was sincere in its devotions, it mattered not to God what that form was. In short, various were the roads, he conceived, to heaven; and that the untutored Indian, who fancies he “sees God in clouds, and hears him in the winds,” so that he performs his allotted part to the best of his abilities, will have an equal chance of happiness with the most enlightened bishop.


Since Catholics are often demonized in novels at this time (and lots of other times), it’s great to see a progressive attitude (even towards ‘Indians’). Now, if we can get some friendly Jews into Roche’s books, I’ll be happy. I wish the TV preachers of today were half as reasonable as say, an author in 1790 something.


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And now for something completely…boring. Coelebs in Search of a Wife, by Hannah More. I knew it was going to be religious, and possibly boring but I really hope Coelebs finds a cliff to fall off of, instead of  wife. I pity the poor woman. It’s not as bad as say, Pamela, which made want to poke my eyes out with a stick, every time her parents wrote a simpering answer to her, but it’s close. Coelebs is religious, we get it, but he’s trying to find a wife based on his mom’s advice (you know how THAT goes) and manages to offend everyone while criticizing all these poor girls. And I swear if anyone else is described as ‘meek’ I’ll scream. Were it 1800 or so, I would be the worst novel reading, fashion following, gossipy lady ever, because they seemed to have not just all the fun, but the only fun. Give me a neglectful, rakish husband any day, over Coelebs.

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On to a new year!

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.).

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Finished with Cecilia, and I can’t even get into how angry this book made me! I need some time to decompress before I type up a general rant about Mortimers, useless ‘heroes’ and how I loved this book. It will come.

For now, I am thrilled to have found this amazing ‘A catalogue of the library of the late John: duke of Roxburghe’. He apparently had over 1300 books (a whole ton of which are novels) which were sold at auction after his death. Fascinating. This will no doubt lead to a way longer list of books I am looking for and will spend too much time trying to find.


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Cecilia just got real, as they say. Why did I never read this before? I’m on volume 3, people are dying, mothers are arguing, interlopers are trying to interlope and her fiance has turned into a giant spineless jellyfish. I need Miss Larolles to come back! I feel so much for Cecilia right now. What WAS her father thinking by giving her terrible guardians and saddling her with this whole name clause. It’s like he wanted her to marry some poor, nameless, desperate man. Hang in there, Cecilia! Damn the patriarchy! I hope the end is not totally depressing.

I do love though that it’s Jane Austen reference month here. Miss Bennett in this book (and this is apparently the source of the P&P title), Charles Bingley in Children of the Abbey. Good stuff.

In other magical news, an impromptu trip to a huge used bookstore led me to buying 3 teeny books: Vol 2 of Children of the Abbey (1827 edition), Vol 1 of Scottish Chiefs(also 1827) and Volume 8 of Clarissa (1793). All books I have already, but I could not resist their teeny charms. Seriously, they are each about 3 inches high. No wonder Mr. Collins could tell that a book was a ‘novel’ and not Fordyce’s sermons. Most other books from that period seem to be a little bigger, though I could be totally mislead here. Most of my other books are 1850s+.

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I have a Kindle…

I have a Kindle! Yes, I sold out. I’m just glad to have it! Now I have no excuse to not be reading Cecilia, which I have been, on this tiny little plastic screen. So much easier to put in my purse. Enough of the Kindle commercial here…Cecilia! It’s become amazing. Mr. Harrell is dead (finally, yeesh, how long was he going to threaten to do so?), Ce is staying with the Delviles and a certain Honoria is needling her night and day. Cat’s out of the bag that she loves young Delvile, but will they live happily ever after? *dun dun duuuun* I see why this was a huge hit in the 1780s and well after. I am really not looking forward to having to read school books again. Jan 9th is too soon. At that point this blog may turn more to kvetching about school and less fun reading. *sigh*


I read elsewhere about reading Clarissa in ‘real time’ aka on the date each letter was written, which seems like a good way to chop it up over a year. I think Clarissa is on my 2012 list now, as well as ALL these wonderful free Google e-books from the 1790-1800s. Hurrah.

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29 December 2011 · 1:31 am

Hey, it’s about books!

I put Cecilia down for a bit, mostly because of its size. It really is not easy to carry a 900+ page novel around-I wish they would return to Ye Good Olde Days of releasing books in volumes. At least then I wouldn’t need so big of a purse. I am seriously considering a Kindle, for the larger and/or only in e-book works. Aaaaanyway…

Children of the Abbey, was, as usual, awesome. I think this is the third or fourth time I have read it and it just gets better and better. It’s not really a gothic, as there’s maybe 20 pages of ‘oooh, what’s behind that door?’. It’s more of a ‘girl defending her virtue and trying to get her happy ending’ sort of book. It really has THE WORST hero ever-Lord Mortimer. Yes, he’s what she wants, but why? At least that’s what I ask myself over and over. When Amanda’s (our enduring heroine) virtue is besmirched (in gossip, not in actuality) by the evil Belgrave and other nosy Parkers, not only does Mortimer believe it, but instead of just leaving her alone, he tries to offer her carte blanche instead. Ugh! And don’t even get me started on his gambling addicted, snobby father. Amanda is great though, and so is her loyal and honorable brother, Oscar, though it does get frustrating that no one will ever give this girl a break, and her father is too wimpy and self-pitying to stand up for her. Pretty much, it’s Gossip Girl in 1796, except really well written with a great heroine with bad taste in men. I can only hope she lords his father’s mistakes over Mortimer for a good couple of years, just to make up for the whole believing the gossip thing.

Moving on…on volume 3 of Cecilia. I will say it is a bit draggy in parts (apparently Fanny Burney wanted to cut it a bit, but publishers had deadlines. Nothing changes.) and you’d think people would have learned not to give credit to the Harrels! I find her a bit more human than Evelina (who I love) but she needs to get OUT of there. I swear most 18th century books are about how you have to listen to your parents, and how they make terrible decisions. At least Cecilia is defending her pocket book (poorly, I might add) instead of her virtue. I love several of the supporting folks, especially Miss Larolles. She’s amazing-almost smart, but completely vacuous & caught up in the party scene. Imagine if she was sent to a good school? She could be a lawyer or serve in Parliment and talk anyone’s ear off. I hope she keeps coming around.

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