This is the second in my series about women writers of Austen's time.
Click on the "Authoresses" category on the right for more.
Elizabeth Helme (1753?-1814?) wrote several best-sellers.
This discussion of Helme's novel Modern Times contains spoilers.
“Devereux Forester’s being ruined by his Vanity is extremely good; but I wish you would not let him plunge into a ‘vortex of Dissipation’. I do not object to the Thing, but I cannot bear the expression;–it is such thorough novel slang–and so old, that I dare say Adam met with it in the first novel he opened."
-- Jane Austen, giving advice to her niece about novel-writing, September 28, 1814
Maybe Jane Austen had Elizabeth Helme’s Modern Times: or, The Age We Live In, in mind when she gave her writing advice to her niece. Modern Times was published in April of 1814 and contained four "vortexes," including two "vortexes of dissipation."
If Austen had read Helme's book, she might have wondered, in her turn, if Helme had read Sense & Sensibility; Modern Times features a family named Willoughby and the main character is a Colonel Brandon type. Sir Charles Neville wasn’t allowed to marry the girl he loved so he joined the army and went abroad for many years. Plus there are two sisters and the older one is virtuous and sensible while the younger one isn't. But otherwise Modern Times, and Helme, are very different from Austen.
Modern Times is dedicated by permission to the Countess Cowper. Emily Lamb, Countess Cowper, was at the very top of the social and political tree, a patron of Almack’s, and later the wife of a prime minister. Her mother was notorious for her many love affairs and Countess Cowper herself had a long-standing relationship with Lord Palmerston, whom she married after Lord Cowper died.
Emily, Countess Cowper
(1787–1869) by William Owen