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.
This post is about a forgotten four-volume novel, and is part of an exploration of portrayals of merchants from Bristol and their families in novels of this period. I'm interested in this topic because of Mrs. Elton.
She brought no name, no blood, no alliance [to her marriage with Mr. Elton]. Miss Hawkins was the youngest of the two daughters of a Bristol — merchant, of course, he must be called; but, as the whole of the profits of his mercantile life appeared so very moderate, it was not unfair to guess the dignity of his line of trade had been very moderate also. Part of every winter she had been used to spend in Bath; but Bristol was her home, the very heart of Bristol; for though the father and mother had died some years ago, an uncle remained—in the law line—nothing more distinctly honourable was hazarded of him, than that he was in the law line.
This is no less than what a reader of the time would expect, because Mrs. Elton's father was a Bristol merchant. I'll explain presently.
First, what does Austen's little dash between “Bristol” and “merchant” signify? You can almost hear the the dismissive snicker. is Austen hinting that Mrs. Elton's father was a slave-trader? (cont'd)