This blog explores social attitudes in Jane Austen's time, discusses her novels, reviews forgotten 18th century novels, and throws some occasional shade at the modern academy. The introductory post is here. My "six simple questions for academics" post is here.
CMP#132 Some nobility, but mostly Bristol vulgarity
Although the title promises the reader a story about nobility behaving badly, Lord Raymond's dissolute dad was just part of the backstory. In this book, we get more emphasis on portrayals of uncouth, small-minded people from the merchant class of Bristol, namely, miserly old Mr. Filmore, his grandson Samuel, and their friends the Middletons who have Theodosia in their clutches. That’s great for my purposes. I am exploring the hypothesis that in the novels of the long 18th century, the objection to Bristol merchants—such as Mrs. Elton’s father in Emma—is not that they were involved in the slave trade, it’s that they were not genteel. In the novels I've been exploring, Bristol merchants and their families are used as comic characters, as foils to the heroine, because of their vulgarity and presumptuous attitudes.
To return to the novel: It seems our (anonymous) author found her comical and villainous characters to be intrinsically more interesting than her hero and heroine. Lord Raymond, says sententious things like: “It would very ill become me, Mr. Milner, to arraign my father’s conduct…” (Even though his dad was a complete waste of space who gambled away large fortunes before dying young in France and leaving huge debts behind him.) We have a sentimental storyline with Lord Raymond and Theodosia, but the more energetic storyline involves the Filmores. Young Samuel elopes with Lady Arabella, a scheming noblewoman. He assures Lady Arabella that Lord Raymond is dying, which means Samuel will succeed to the title. Samuel wants to get his hands on her fortune. Lady Arabella wants to get married to Samuel before he finds out she doesn’t have a fortune...