Jane Austen's Names: Riddles, Persons, Places (2016)
* Chapter 7 *
Personal Names in the “Chawton” Novels
Names in Mansfield Park
The Penumbra of Mansfield Park
This novel presents us with varying locations and with a number of characters who travel within England and globally. Central characters have a variety of acquaintance. Austen builds up the sense of a larger Britain—and British Empire—through unprecedented use of persons who do not appear directly but create the impression of a wider world. Sir Thomas Bertram, however, appears exceptionally friendless. Despite a career as an MP, landed gentleman, and plantation owner, he prefers isolation. Eventually the author has to scare up “an old and most particular friend,” a Mr. Harding sufficiently “hard” to perform his task of conveying bad news about Maria in a series of (paraphrased) letters (III, ch. 16). Edmund (unlike his elder brother) also lacks friends but acquires one (with sisters) with whom he can stay during preparation for ordination. This “Mr. Owen” is referred to only by his surname, antique and Welsh (like “Price”). The sole reference to a working person on Mansfield lands comes from Edmund: “Which way did you turn after passing Sewell’s farm?” he asks Henry. “Sewell” from Saeweald (“sea-power”), a common Saxon name, suggests “sow well”—a name for a good farmer. While the young gentlemen are hunting and shooting, the real farming work is done.
Tom Bertram, unlike his father, seeks multiple friends. His acquaintance constitutes a penumbra on its own, admitting into the narrative a shower of comic down-market names: “Maddox” (from “Magog,” “fortunate,” Welsh and low); “Holford” (“ford in a hollow,” place in Somerset); “Anderson” (Norse, not genteel); “Sneyd” (from Old English sniđan, “to cut,” suited to a tailor or cutter). Tom prefers friends beneath his social level. The comical fuss of Andersons and Sneyds about being “out” or “not out” shows how families rising from the middle middle class affect this distinction as a badge of social position.
Portsmouth introduces a varied penumbra of persons surrounding the Price family—predictably low. Mr. Price, ignoring Fanny at her first arrival, greets William with information:
“I have been to Turner’s about your mess. . . . Captain Walsh thinks you will certainly have a cruize to the westward. . . . But old Scholey was saying just now, that he thought you would be sent first to the Texel.” (MP, III, ch. 7)
Turner was a genuine naval supplier of Portsmouth. “Walsh,” based on Anglo-Saxon waelisc (“foreigner”), originally referred to the dark-haired Celts, especially of Wales. “Scholey,” originally signifying a dweller on low-lying ground, has northern associations like the place name “Scholes” (from Old Norse skali). “Old Scholey” may be another retired Marine. William Price frets that Lucy Gregory of Portsmouth won’t pay attention to him before he is promoted. “Gregory” (medieval surname of Greek origin) is found in northern England and Scotland.
Northern and Scottish names dominate the Price connection. “Campbell” is the surname of the young surgeon on board the Thrush. “Mrs. Admiral Maxwell,” according to Mrs. Price, was Mary Price’s godmother, who gave the little girl the present of the silver knife. Mrs. Maxwell’s name thus vulgarly rendered demonstrates how highly this lower-middle-class neighborhood values the professional title as status. Government-bestowed titles, military or civilian (“General,” “Sheriff”), do not carry over to the wife; Admiral Croft’s wife is, correctly, “Mrs. Croft.” “Maxwell,” from Saxon “Macca’s wella” (“Maccus’s pool”) is the name of “a salmon pool on the Tweed” (Reaney & Wilson). Admiral Maxwell is a Scotsman who has made good in the Navy. Austen seems aware of the advantages England gained from the Act of Union. Smollett’s Lismahago in Humphry Clinker (1771) points this out: “They [the English] got an accession of above million of useful subjects, constituting a never-failing nursery of seamen, soldiers, labourers, and mechanics, a most valuable acquisition to a trading country, exposed to foreign wars, and obliged to maintain a number of settlements in all the four quarters of the globe.”1
Away from Portsmouth, aristocratic names enter the penumbra. The Honorable John Yates has visited the home of the Ravenshaw family. “Ravenshaw” sounds comically Gothic. A “Ravens-shaw” would be “a wood full of ravens”—a dark place inhabited by birds of prey. Lord Ravenshaw, patron of family theatricals, had at least the good taste to cancel the performance when the dowager died, a decent observance of which Yates complains (I, ch. 13).
Mrs. Rushworth (Maria) visits a couple named “Aylmer,” who have a holiday home in Twickenham (III, ch. 14). “Aylmer” is Old English (“son of Elmer”). The most distinguished “Aylmer” was Matthew Aylmer who served in the Royal Navy early in the eighteenth century. Admiral Aylmer became a Vice Admiral, eventually Rear Admiral, of the whole English fleet and was made Baron Aylmer. Admiral Crawford’s acquaintance could well extend to the families of eminent naval men. “Of Rears, and Vices, I saw enough,” as Mary notoriously remarks (I, ch. 6). Maria’s Aylmers could be imagined as descendants of Admiral Aylmer. We can assume that some of this Twickenham family knew Admiral Crawford, who once, as Mary relates, took “a cottage at Twickenham for us all to spend our summers in” (I, ch. 6). Almost certainly Maria Rushworth has been introduced to these convenient Aylmers through Henry Crawford, who saw they could assist him in his clandestine affair. (Presumably the Aylmers had assisted Admiral Crawford in his illicit loves. Was that why he moved temporarily to Twickenham?)
Mary Crawford alludes to her friend Lady Lascelles, who two years previously owned or rented “one of the best houses in Wimpole Street,” the house to be occupied during “the Season” by the new-married Rushworths (III, ch. 9). The real Anne Lascelles was the wife of Edward Lascelles (a Norman surname from the French place name Lacelle). Edward was made a Baron in 1796, so Anne became “Lady Lascelles.” She was never Lady Anne Lascelles, dying in 1805, before her husband was made first Earl of Harewood. The Lascelleses’ family fortunes had notoriously been built on the Barbados slave trade under Edward’s uncle, ruthless Henry Lascelles of Yorkshire, whose life is described with elegant detestation by Adam Nicolson in The Gentry.2 The family business center was in Mincing Lane in the City, but Henry Lascelles bought a house in Richmond, that suburb of costly villas. There wealthy Henry cut his throat on 6 October 1753. Henry Lascelles’s vault in Northallerton church was opened in February of 1814 (the year of Mansfield Park’s publication), reviving public memories of his “unprincipled” dealings, including contribution to the South Sea Bubble fiasco.3 Naming “Lady Lascelles” not only helps to date the time frame of the novel, it also reinforces the theme of slavery—associated with wealth and self-destruction.
Major Surnames in Mansfield Park
Sir Thomas Bertram is the master of Mansfield. Most characters are connected to him either directly or through his wife. “Bertram” is ultimately of Germanic origin: berht hraben = “bright raven” (a bird of the god Odin). “Bert” functions in Anglo-Saxon names (noted by Camden), but “Bertram” is not Anglo-Saxon but Germanic Norman. That surname became a first name before William left Normandy; Camden notes the barony of the Verdon family, “the first of whom, Bertram de Verdon, came over to England with the Normans.”4 A Bertram’s property is registered in the Doomsday Book. Eventually the family had a crest with the motto “J’avance.” Austen’s Bertrams, tall and blonde, seem more Germanic than French.
Sir Thomas marries Maria, most beautiful of the three Ward sisters. “Ward” (Old English weard) can mean a guard—or a person or thing guarded. A legal ward is a person under the governance of another, as an orphan not yet twenty-one can be “a ward of the court.” Fanny on coming to Mansfield is her uncle’s ward (without formal documentation). The Ward sisters, apparently parentless, must be wards of their uncle “the lawyer.” Maria’s having attracted Sir Thomas Bertram is greeted with near incredulity at “the greatness of the match” (MP, I, ch. 1). Reading the opening paragraph of the novel carefully, we can see that Maria was passive in this “match.” Perhaps younger than Marianne Dashwood when she became “the reward” of Brandon’s sorrows, Maria as a submissive ward was urged, even pushed, by her uncle into becoming “Lady Bertram.” Thus, that “it is every young woman’s duty to accept such a very unexceptionable offer” is understandably “the only rule of conduct, the only piece of advice” she can pass on to Fanny (III, ch. 2). Sir Thomas’s lecture to Fanny when she tries to refuse Crawford sufficiently informs us what pressures were put upon her less resistant aunt (III, ch. 1). Maria Ward will not run the risk of being termed “willful and perverse” or meet the fierce rebuke “you think only of yourself” (III, ch. 1). “Ward” is “Ead-ward” with the treasure cut out. The noun “wards” also means bolts and locks such as vex Maria Bertram facing the locked iron gate at Sotherton. A “warder” watches over someone locked up. The Ward sisters are under surveillance, under guard, locked in. The second Maria, more rebellious than her mother, urgently desires to get away from fences and iron gates, locks and bars.
“Bertram,” old and aristocratic, is a literary name. “Bertram” is the first name of Shakespeare’s most ungracious hero—or antihero. In All’s Well That Ends Well, Bertram figures in a story of attraction and repulsion, adoption and rejection, across class boundaries. Helena, orphaned daughter of a physician, has been taken in and brought up by the Count and Countess of Roussillon. Helena shrinks from calling the gentle countess “mother”—she does not wish the countess’s son Bertram to be her brother. Knowing her love is hopeless, she pines for the young man whom she sees every day:
Carries no favour in it, but Bertram’s.
I am undone; there is no living, none,
If Bertram be away, it were all one,
That I should love a bright particular star,
And think to wed it, he is so above me.
(All’s Well, act 1, sc. 1; Shakespeare Plays, 3:93)
The countess realizes Helena must be in love with someone: “this thorn / Doth to the rose of youth rightly belong.” “Young Bertram,” far from reciprocating Helena’s concealed passion, disdains the girl as a low dependent: “She had her breeding at my father’s charge” (act 2, sc. 3). Helena, heir to her father’s prescriptions and remedies, takes matters into her own hands, goes to Paris and offers to cure the sick King of France. As her reward for success, Helena requires Bertram for her husband. Bertram obeys the royal command but angrily leaves his nominal wife directly after the marriage ceremony, turning eventually to another woman. Only plot mechanics and the ruthlessness of Helena’s passion reunite the persistent, painfully constant woman and her pouting adolescent spouse.
Fanny Price, who is all reaction and rarely takes initiative, would never dream of actively seeking to get the man she wants. Yet Helena’s initial secret torment is very like the condition into which Fanny falls. Fanny is further handicapped by not being able fully to admit to herself what her feeling actually is. Guilt—at an almost incestuous illicit desire—intervenes. The audience or reader of Shakespeare’s All’s Well is likely to feel that Helena has married beneath her, that Bertram, surly and petulant, is too immature and selfish to be worth so much effort. Bertram, whose father died when he was young, dislikes the maternal trammels and hates the quasi-paternal power of the king. He grumbles against wardship in the first scene: “I must attend his majesty’s command to which I am now in ward, ever more in subjection” (act 1, sc. 1; Shakespeare Plays, 3:92; italics added).
Mansfield Park is not a repetition of All’s Well, but the play is a lively background to the novel. Fanny, once the target of her uncle’s “medicinal project,” is recalled as healer to a family smitten by illness, guilt, and sorrow. She gains a place as a feminine quasi-physician achieving importance from the needs to which she can minister, the pains that she can remedy—and at last gains the Bertram whom she desires. Images of stars and roses found in Shakespeare’s play appear in the novel. A young girl is enslaved in a hot rose garden where elder women command that the roses of youth be plucked and dried. Fanny and Edmund associate in stargazing. Fanny’s desire to go on the lawn and search for stars with Edmund is a mode of loving her “bright particular star.” But Fanny is not permitted even go out to the night lawn by herself. Austen’s novel traces in most of its characters that feeling of being “in ward.” We find out what it means to be under guardianship, “ever more in subjection.”
Sir Thomas Bertram is averse to obligations save those he creates or administers. He apparently shook off his wife’s connections in Huntingdon, save for Maria’s two sisters. Sir Thomas also appears—strangely—to have no relatives of his own aside from his offspring. The captive and largely isolated Lady Bertram becomes trained by her marriage into almost total passivity. Hoisted up to a position and style to which she was not accustomed, the subjugated Maria (née Ward) has made no rash moves, depending on quiet observation and her husband’s instruction. She could not possibly participate in educating her daughters, because she doesn’t know what they should know. By the time we meet her, Lady Bertram has spent the greater part of her lifetime in schooling herself out of spontaneity or opinions; she borrows any acceptable clichés she finds floating about her.
Mrs. Norris, eldest of the three sisters, wants to lead but is a social dependent. A clergyman was found who is willing to marry her, patently for the reward of the living of Mansfield. “Norris” might derive from the French for “north” or nourrice (“nurse”); Mrs. Norris, harsh as the north, is most un-nurturing. “Norris” is the surname of John Norris, cruel proslavery delegate portrayed by Thomas Clarkson, leading writer for the abolition.5 Moira Ferguson sees Mrs. Norris as Sir Thomas’s overseer, Fanny Price substituting for the slave.6 Elizabeth Ward’s husband, an Anglican clergyman, has the surname of that other John Norris, the mystic John Norris of Bemerton (1657–1712). This John Norris upheld a Platonist view of the nature of the soul and cosmos; spiritual love is one of his great subjects.7 Austen might be amused at the contrast between this idealistic English divine and the time-serving Reverend Mr. Norris (surely his first name must have been “John”?) with his unspiritual and unloving wife.
The third and youngest Ward sister, Frances, disregards golden opportunities arising from the Bertram connection. “Miss Frances married, in the common phrase, to disoblige her family” (MP, I, ch. 1). This reflects Sir Thomas Bertram’s view—he is the “family” whom she really “disobliged.” Probably the Mr. Price who courted Frances Ward was culturally and economically not really “beneath” the life to which Frances was accustomed. She moved a long way from her sisters, to the south coast and the bustling aggressive port of Portsmouth. Her overburdened untidy life with many children was probably not a surprise, although her husband’s disability and drinking made him a poorer provider than anticipated. She has to cave eventually and ask for help. But Frances Price (née Ward) at least is free of having to act in a constant charade.
On marrying Mr. Price (presumably a “William”) Frances Ward assumed an ungentle surname. “Price” is a name of Welsh origin, originally “ap-Rhys,” “son of Reese.” The Welsh were disdained by the English as natural inferiors, so a Welsh name was inevitably “low.” There is a pun in the use of this surname, for this family pays the real price for the luxury of Mansfield Park. Members of Fanny Price’s family know the price of an empire. They belong to the category of British folk that most fully pays the cost in supplying labor and cannon fodder. Their sailors and marines fight the French and maintain colonies like Antigua.
“Crawford,” like “Price,” is a name from the “Celtic fringe.” This is a Scottish name, either from Gaelic cru (bloody) + “ford” or Old English craw (“crow”) + “ford.” The “crow” would fit in well with the “raven” of the Bertrams. (Ravens and crows were long associated with battlefields, for these birds feast on the dead.) The comic “Lord Ravenshaw” fits in well with the ravens and crows of Bertrams and Crawfords. Carrion birds abound.
The real Crawford family seems to originate in Lanarkshire in Scotland. The 1789 Britannia discusses their residence under “Lothian.”8 A George Crawford (spelled also as “Crawfurd”) had published A Genealogical History of the Royal and Illustrious Family of the Stewarts in 1710 and compiled and published The Peerage of Scotland in 1716. A Crawford, it seems, might well be a Stuart enthusiast and supporter of Scots aristocracy. Any resident of the Alton-Chawton area, however, would most vividly recall the Battle of Alton and the royalist commander, Ludovic Lindsay, sixteenth Earl of Crawford. From the Alton point of view the Earl of Crawford left the loyalist town and his army in the lurch and treacherously skedaddled to Winchester, leaving the remnant of his men—and the locals—to be destroyed by Waller’s forces.
Is a “Crawford” loyal and noble—or treacherous? Henry Crawford, the hidden Scot, is, like the Ward sisters of Huntingdonshire, a kind of displaced person trying to fit in. The novel explores the vulnerability of that condition of displacement—the condition of the Ward sisters; of Fanny, William, and Susan Price—and of the Crawfords also. Austen’s novel suggests that this condition may be more likely to foster hesitation than strength, rendering obstacles harder to overcome. Only for William is this untrue, but even he needs patronage to gain promotion. Henry’s situation is externally fortunate. His Scots uncle Admiral Crawford has risen to some position and a degree of wealth. Henry owns an estate in Norfolk—not a county that Austen quite trusts; Mrs. Ferrars owns an estate there that she would give to Edward if he married to please her. How Henry came by the Norfolk estate is not clear. His position requires persistent self-fashioning as an English gentleman. One of the means he uses is the declaration of loyalty to Shakespeare; Shakespeare, he says, is “part of an Englishman’s constitution” (III, ch. 3; italics added). Henry’s situation fosters uncertain loyalties, uncertainties even in impersonation of Englishness.
If Henry Crawford the English gentleman is a “hidden Scot,” he is hidden in plain sight. That he is a “Celt” in origin emerges clearly in his looks. First adjudged by the Bertram girls as “absolutely plain, black and plain” (MP, I, ch. 5), Crawford is disparaged by Rushworth: “Nobody could call such an under-sized man handsome. . . . I should not wonder if he was not more than five foot eight” (I, ch. 10). Black-haired and dark-eyed Henry lacks the height and blond coloration of English upper-class males. Henry does not look Anglo. His sister finds favor with the Bertram sisters precisely because Mary, short, dark and vivacious, does not vie with their Germanic good looks: “Had she been tall, full formed, and fair, it might have been more of a trial” (I, ch. 5). Fanny—or Austen—may suspect that Henry Crawford’s impersonation of an English gentleman is inauthentic. Do some traits of his persona result from the acting required of the successful immigrant?
Mary Crawford displays a supposedly Celtic talent: she plays the harp and plays it well. It is no wonder that Edmund falls for this seduction, a relief from his Puritan household. Harp playing aligns Mary with contemporary literary heroines, especially those who represent the Celtic nations of Britain—as, arguably, Mary herself does. The first of these in importance is Glorvina, heroine of Sydney Owenson’s The Wild Irish Girl (1806), which Austen had read (17–18 January 1809; Letters, 166). Important novels published in 1814, the same year as Mansfield Park, present impressive and important Celtic harp players: in Scott’s Waverley, the Scots aristocrat Flora MacIvor; in Burney’s The Wanderer, the beautiful homeless Juliet, a French-educated gentlewoman who is half Welsh.
Late in Austen’s novel, the Scottish associations of Henry and Mary Crawford are stressed through the uncompromisingly Scottish names of Mary’s friends. A formerly close friend is “Janet Fraser,” whose step-daughter Margaret is vainly interested in Henry as a marital prospect. (Another hapless if pushy Margaret.) “Fraser” is the name of a clan from East Lothian, along the river Tweed. Janet’s maiden name was “Ross,” a Scottish surname derived from a place, “ross” being a Celtic word for “hill spur . . . heathy upland” (Mills, 395). Janet’s sister Flora Ross became “Lady Stornaway” on her marriage. “Stornaway” (Old Norse stjornavagr or “steering bay”) is—and was—the chief town and administrative center of the Outer Hebrides, as far away from the cultural center as one can get and still claim to be in Britain. We associate Mary with distant “Stornaway” shortly before the author will expel her from the novel. Stornaway represents the outer fringe indeed.9
In this novel some of the male and almost all the major female characters are foreign to their position and are continuously required to adjust to a more or less alien culture. The Scottish references circling about Mary Crawford serve quietly but effectively to make her a stranger. Orphaned, she has had to live in London with her uncle Admiral Crawford and her ill-used aunt, because there was nowhere else to go. The offensive womanizing uncle is the true blood relation. Admiral Crawford, like Colonel Campbell in Emma, benefited from the British government’s willingness to employ and promote talented Scots in the armed services. Like Fanny, Mary is a foster child, taken in—and into wardship—by prosperous relatives. Although Mary’s brother has an English estate, her uncle Admiral Crawford and probably her beloved aunt must be Scottish immigrants, either directly or by immediate descent. No wonder Mary’s social and affectional associations remain Scots-oriented. Her most dependable relative is her half-sister on her mother’s side.
Mrs. Grant, although not a Crawford, may be presumed to be a Scot also, and to have married a clergyman of Scottish descent. “Grant” is a simple name with a number of possible derivations; one meaning is “crooked,” as in a bend in a river.10 But by far the largest number of “Grants” are Scots, members of Clan Grant. Their name may mean “dark, swarthy,” or it may be derived from French grand, meaning “important” or “senior.” But Austen has her own pun on the name; Dr. Grant is granted so much for doing so little. Mary’s observations of him as a selfish bon vivant and a poor husband are undeniably true, like so much else of what she says. Mary is a truth teller, which elicits censure; others hush or disregard her.
Prices, Crawfords, and Grants are incomers, nomadic migrants or descendants of recent migrants from the Celtic fringe. That fact might suffice to render them heroic or deeply suspect. In this novel, the characters best rooted in English soil and least nomadic are not favorably presented. The most rooted person is Mr. Rushworth, descended from generations of owners of the extensive lands of Sotherton. Yet his name comically indicates the shallowness of a reed in a marsh. That name is also strikingly Puritan. John Rushworth of Acklington Park, Northumberland, was clerk to the House of Commons; in 1642 he recorded Charles I’s invasive attempt to arrest five members of Parliament. During the Civil War, John Rushworth acted as secretary for General Fairfax, carrying messages from Parliament to the front; he was known for diligence and speed “although once hoodwinked by a royalist messenger carrying the Great Seal” (ODNB). John Rushworth later wrote document-based histories, including the most complete description of the trial of Thomas Wentworth, in his Tryal of Thomas Earl of Strafford. There was, however, an earlier Catholic William Rushworth, a secret Catholic missionary, whose arguments for Catholicism were answered by leading Anglican divines (ODNB). What side are the Rushworths on? What is the true history of Sotherton Park? Did it pass during the Restoration from a Puritan family to one secretly Roman Catholic? Maria’s Mr. Rushworth is a James—a Royalist name. Yet in Austen’s flicker of comic historical reference he resembles the Puritan messenger rushing about importantly: Julia saw him “posting away as if upon life and death, and could but just spare time to tell us his errand” (MP, I, ch. 10). Dislikable Mr. Rushworth resembles—perhaps descends from—that officious Puritan enemy of the martyred Wentworth.
The Rushworths of Sotherton, whatever they once were, have sunk into comfortable inanity. At the turn into the nineteenth century they cannot uphold any demanding tradition or cause—royalist or Parliamentarian, Catholic or Puritan. Since Mr. Rushworth is of “the same interest” (I, ch. 4) as Sir Thomas, we may deduce that Rushworths are Whigs, but that is all. Rushworth’s ultra-English entertainments entail extinction of animal life and talking about it. Maria is “doomed to the repeated details of his day’s sport” (I, ch. 12; italics added).11
The Honourable Mr. Yates, who introduces acting and Lover’s Vows to Mansfield and runs off with Julia, is another young man of perfectly English fatuity. Younger son of a baron, irresponsible Yates scampers about on visits. His surname (an Old English word meaning “gates”) refers primarily to a gatekeeper. Unlike gate-preserving Rushworth, Yates is less a gatekeeper than (as we would say) a gatecrasher. Tom asks him to be “our manager” of their theater company, recalling Mary Ann Yates (1728–87), the actress who (with Frances Brooke) was once joint manager of the King’s Theatre (ODNB). Yates later refers to Tom as “Mr. Manager,” aware that Tom has taken the position for himself. (I, ch. 13, ch. 14.)
Servants at Mansfield Park have modest surnames: Jackson, Ellis, Lee, and Chapman. “Ellis” is Norman “Elias.” “Chapman” indicates somebody who sells or barters; it has the same root (ceapan) as “Cheapside.” The governess, honored as “Miss Lee,” has a common surname derived from ley, essentially the same as the “aristocratic” name of the Leighs. (Did the author imagine herself as a Miss Leigh, parked forever upstairs in a schoolroom with spoiled children—the fate menacing Jane Fairfax?) Lee is often a gypsy name; Miss Lee bows out quietly and pursues her nomadic lonely way.
Wilcox the rheumatic coachman drove the Mansfield party to Sotherton in the depths of winter. His medieval English surname comes from nicknames for “William.” “Wilcox” can lend itself to sexual puns (as it does in Forster’s Howards End). A suitor ought to be making all the effort that Wilcox makes—his cock should be willing. But the supposedly male “sex drive” is largely absent; there is no sign of it in lackadaisical Mr. Rushworth. It was Mrs. Norris who eagerly insisted on the drive over ten miles of bad road. As Mrs. Norris boasts to Sir Thomas, she got that coach to move “in the middle of winter and the roads almost impassable” (II, ch. 20). Although Fanny is the heroine of the novel, Mrs. Norris functions as the novel’s Driver. Mrs. Norris drives the whole plot. She causes things to happen in the first place.
The most impressive name for a servant is “Baddeley.” The Bertrams’ butler is the only servant with a small speaking role and even at one moment an amused point of view (III, ch. 1, end). The name means owner of a “bad ley”—poor land. Yet that name suggests pretensions to gentility. A William de Baddeley lived in Essex in the thirteenth century; the family has a coat of arms and a crest. Baddeley the butler may be of as good blood as Tom Bertram—or better. In casting Lovers’ Vows Tom is most willing to undertake the role of Butler—suggesting that he and his butler might be interchangeable. And there is a little pun in the name—for almost everybody here is behaving “badly.”
First Names in Mansfield Park
The Crawfords and Their Associates
The negative aura of “Mary” in Jane Austen’s works cannot be missed. Mary Crawford is the heroine’s opposite and antagonist. Yet Mary is defensible and infinitely more complex than previous female antagonists to the heroine: Isabella Thorpe, Lucy Steele, Caroline Bingley. Lucy, strongest of these, is malevolent but easy to read. During the Bath interlude Austen wrote Lady Susan, an exercise or “riff” borne out of Mme De Staël’s controversial and successful epistolary novel Delphine (1802; translated into English 1803).12 Austen later recommends De Staël’s second novel Corinne (1807) (28 December 1808; Letters, 160–61).13 De Staël’s Delphine d’Albémar, a young widow, is exploited by the attractive—but cynical and self-interested—Sophie de Vernon. Delphine finds Mme de Vernon “the wittiest, most charming, most enlightened person I can imagine,”14 while scheming Mme de Vernon writes witty letters to others disparaging Delphine and her naïveté. Sophie de Vernon maneuvers her friend into sharing Delphine’s own inheritance. Pretending to assist the courtship of Delphine by Léonce, Mme De Vernon deliberately steals Delphine’s lover for her own daughter.
Ungrateful while appearing affectionate, Sophie de Vernon is beguiling even to the reader. This representation of attractive doubleness seems to have challenged Austen to present her own complex character to which she gives the same surname: Vernon. De Staël’s antiheroine eventually explains. When fatally ill, Sophie de Vernon confesses her deceitfulness to her friend, offering some justification. Finding her youthful thoughts and feelings were of no interest to others, “I shut everything I felt inside, and thus early acquired the art of dissimulation.” Married off at her guardian’s direction and against her desire she “felt hatred for a society that did not come to my defense.”15 Sophie, seeing her powerlessness, decided that all was fair in a battle she fought alone. Delphine’s affection returns for “that fascinating and guilty woman.”16 Austen wants to present her own attractive siren, duplicitous yet truthful, without staging a justification—or killing her off. But the strength, energy, and intelligence of Lady Susan cannot be discounted. Creating a Lady Susan enabled Austen later to come up with someone as complex as Mary Crawford, a counterweight heroine rather than comic female villain.
Mary is a sojourner in an alien culture searching for the truth in a land of cover-up. Many readers—like other characters within the novel—have been overeager to identify Mary as a dashing representative of the evils of London, an enchantress of the Town. She may be wealthy and dashing, but her clan “home” is Scotland and her major connections are Scots. Perhaps it is a tinge of Scottish bluntness or some effect of Scottish philosophy that induces Mary openly to notice uncomfortable points about human arrangements and behavior. Interlocutors shut her down when she gets too close to the truth—especially truth about the position of women and the miseries of marriage. She lets on that she notices the selfish greed of her brother-in-law and its effects on her sister. She suffered especially from having to observe for years the effects of her uncle’s constant and confident infidelity upon the health and spirits of his wife. Openly acknowledging that she notices—and is offended and hurt by—such things is, as Edmund says, “very indecorous” (I, ch. 7). Mary is at fault for not acting, not representing naive placid cheerfulness—such as is caricatured in hapless Lady Bertram.
Mary refers to friends with Scottish or northern first names, like “Janet,” the generally preferred version of “Jane” in Scotland—and in parts of the north of England. (Compare “Janetta” Macdonald in “Love and Freindship.”) No Home Counties girl would use it.17 Another friend is “Flora Ross”—a Jacobite name. Flora Ross must be one of the many girls of Stuart-supporting Scots families named after Flora Macdonald, rescuer of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Walter Scott named his Flora MacIvor in Waverley in honor of that actual heroine. “Flora” ought to have positive associations for Austen, a Stuart sympathizer
Henry Crawford has the first name of Jane Austen’s most amusing brother, whose flirtation with Eliza de Feuillide during family theatricals the young Jane had occasion to notice. Henry read the novel. “Henry is going on with Mansfield Park; he admires H. Crawford—I mean properly—as a clever, pleasant Man” (2–3 March 1814; Letters, 256). Austen seems amused at her brother’s inability to see his reflection. “I once saw Henry the 8th acted—Or I have heard of it from some body who did,” Crawford claims uncertainly (MP, III, ch. 3). But he has seen Henry VIII “acted”—impersonated by Sir Thomas, Tom, and himself. (There are touches of Henry VIII in fat, short-tempered Dr. Grant, as well.) Crawford, who reads aloud from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, displays some traits of that king: charm (in youth), bossiness, egotism, carelessness of others, and relations with a number of women. In the play, King Henry casts off the virtuous Queen Katherine, moving to marriage with Anne Boleyn; Wolsey, the intriguer, builds up great power and is thrown down. The destruction of the Old Religion is represented in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII by Katherine, the most sympathetic and dramatically powerful of the characters with the possible exception of Wolsey (and both fall). This play covers the time in which the abbeys were lost. Shakespeare’s somber drama exhibits a violent and unstable world. Further destruction is waiting in the wings, despite the forecast of the happiness of Queen Elizabeth’s reign—and Mr. Crawford left before the group reached the ending.
The most important Price to us is Fanny—whom we know by no other name. We mentally refer to her as “Fanny”–though we don’t think of Elizabeth Bennet as “Lizzie.” (The nickname, natural to a child, is used among Fanny’s two families.) But no one employs a more dignified first name; the Crawfords, who didn’t know her as a child, use “Fanny” among themselves. Her diminutive is strangely highly sexed, yet childish. We tend to consider Fanny Price as a child or childlike—perhaps she never fully grows up in our eyes or the eyes of others.
The Price family with its numerous children offers a wide range of first names, if not as extensive as the range of Willmots. John Price is an invisible brother, presumably the one who is “clerk in a public office in London.” There is a “Richard” (another hapless “Dick”), presumably the “midshipman on board an Indiaman” (MP, III, ch. 7). Sam, the eldest brother still at home by the time of Fanny’s visit, has the old-fashioned biblical name and low nickname, like Sam Watson, apprentice surgeon. The only other Old Testament name in Mansfield Park is “Rebecca,” the name of Jane Austen’s grandmother—here the name of the Prices’ overworked and much-scolded servant girl, probably a child herself.
Susan, fourteen when we meet her, is the next girl after Fanny. Next in the line of boys is little Tom. A baby when Fanny left home, he, like his rich cousin the heir, was named after Sir Thomas, who became this baby’s godfather after the thaw set in. (This pregnancy is referred to in Mrs. Price’s letter to Mrs. Norris in the first chapter.) Little Fanny loved Tom, but naturally he does not recollect her. Charles has arrived since Fanny’s departure; he is eight years old when Fanny first meets him in Portsmouth. The youngest child is Betsey, “about five,” a spoiled little girl, the only female child to whom Mrs. Price is disposed to be indulgent. One child is missing: “Another sister, a very pretty little girl, whom she had left there not much younger when she went into Northamptonshire, who had died a few years afterwards. . . . Fanny . . . had preferred her to Susan; and when the news of her death had at last reached Mansfield, had for a short time been quite afflicted” (MP, III, ch. 7). Betsey “brought the image of little Mary back again.” But Betsey is a disappointment, spoiled, overassertive, and sulky. Little Elizabeth, christened after unpleasant Aunt Norris, nicknamed Betsey, possesses that dominant streak we see in all of Austen’s “Elizabeths.”
Betsey never met Fanny before, never knew lost Mary, and has no concept of love’s connection with grief. Departed sister “Mary” seems a late invention of Austen, conjured up when the author must attend to emotional relations within the Price family. Hidden little Mary casts another light on Miss Crawford as Fanny sees her. Fanny can virtuously resist allowing that alien “Mary” to become a sister. The place of a sister Mary is already taken. Sister Marys are amiable nowhere else in Austen. Mary Bennet and Mary Musgrove are characterized by negative and unhelpful responses to the problems of existence. A decided departure, Mary Price is the most amiable of sister Marys—perhaps because she is so totally dead. Or perhaps just because she is authorially summoned to shove out the Mary whom Fanny perfectly repudiates. Yet dead little Mary is associated with her one hurtful memento—a knife, signifying severance, pain, and discord. (Proverbially, a knife should not be given as a gift, as it cuts friendship.)
Susan’s love for lost Mary, visible in the undignified squabble over the silver knife, attracts Fanny’s attention. Susan, or Susannah, name of a beautiful woman in a book of the Apocrypha, carries associations of physical stature, sexuality, and energy—associations deliberately played with in Lady Susan, in tension with the “low” social status of this Christian name. In Austen’s works, the name “Susan” always entails an emphasis on physicality—visible even in Susan Fitzgerald of “Lesley Castle” and differently in the initial descriptions of Catherine Morland, a quondam “Susan.” Susan Price, shrewd and robust, possesses energy along with a sense of order rare in the Price household. Susan is free of Fanny’s shyness and weakness. William recollects early liveliness in Fanny: “We used to jump about together many a time did not us? When the hand-organ was in the street?” (II, ch. 7). His innocent recollection introduces the streetiness and contaminating commonness that the Bertrams originally feared. Readers, like the Bertrams, readily assume that the original move to Mansfield was good for Fanny’s health—but was it? Might Fanny have been stronger—more like Susan—if she had stayed where she was?
Looking forward to her visit to Portsmouth, Fanny is delighted:
The remembrance of all her earliest pleasures, and of what she had suffered in being torn from them, came over her with renewed strength, and it seemed as if to be at home again would heal every pain that had since grown out of the separation (III, ch. 6; italics added)
Once she allows herself to think of it, she remembers Portsmouth as full of pleasure. Suffering was caused by transplantation; Mansfield has brought about unhealed pain. Sadly, the doubly displaced Fanny cannot fit back into Portsmouth. Susan, who never left home, took on the role of elder sister that Fanny unwillingly abandoned. Not given to reading, Susan prefers activity. (She has that in common with other Austen “Susans,” from Lady Susan to Sanditon.) In a manner impossible to Fanny, Susan transplanted takes on the Bertram household.
Her more fearless disposition and happier nerves made everything easy to her there.—With quickness in understanding the tempers of those she had to deal with, and no natural timidity to restrain any consequent wishes, she was soon . . . useful to all; and after Fanny’s removal, succeeded so naturally in her influence . . . as gradually to become, perhaps, the most beloved of the two. (MP, III, ch. 17)
There is something unnerving as well as admirable in Susan’s easy conquest of Mansfield Park. Aunt Norris was not altogether mistaken in her jealous fear of the Prices as encroachers. Susan replaces in Lady Bertram’s lax life not only dutiful Fanny but also Mrs. Norris. She supplies what Elizabeth Norris had and Fanny Price never could offer—dynamism and drive.
“Fanny” Price is singular in many respects among Austen’s heroines. From the outset she is denied her full first name. She is always referred to by her cute and sexually suggestive nickname, connecting her with the primary female body part and with childishness. Fanny and the elder Frances Price are at odds. In judging her mother “a dawdle, a slattern” (III, ch. 8), Fanny seems unreasonably critical. The girl has no experience of bringing up some nine or ten children in a small house with a low income and insufficient help. Fanny herself is often inefficient or ineffectual, even though she possesses some “spirit of . . . independence, and nonsense” of which Mrs. Norris complains (III, ch. 1).
Fanny tends to freeze in inward resistance. Her bolder mother initially expressed outward resistance, turning her back on the Bertrams. The likeness between mother and daughter is underlined by the shared name. Yet they will never truly recognize their likeness. Frances the First (Fanny Ward) resisted pressure, going her own way. She is better equipped to ride through the roughness of life than her eldest daughter. Frances the First has given birth to and bred a fine group of young people for England. Fanny’s elder brother William Price is the only admirable specimen of manhood to be met with in the whole of the novel. Courageous, practical, lively, affectionate, and strong, he has the virtues that nobody else can combine. His kingly name indicates that he is conqueror—an empire builder, a coming leader of men.
Sir Thomas Bertram bears a “Christian name” associated with a skeptical disciple, the Doubting Thomas of the New Testament. “Thomas” is associated with noncompliant saints and clerics: Saint Thomas à Becket, Sir Thomas More. Both came to sticky ends. Sir Thomas’s first name (not a kingly one) is perhaps not perfectly matched with his aggressive surname.
Each parent has the first child of the same sex as namesake, expected to reduplicate the parent. Thomas the heir’s nickname distinguishes him from his father—and Tom wants to be matey, disliking pomposity and distance. Sir Thomas, by contrast, has absolutely no concept of equality. He values inequality. Maria Bertram and her mother both have the popular variant of “Mary” (pronounced in the English manner). The name of Wollstonecraft’s daring and ill-used heroine in The Wrongs of Woman is also first name of a novelist esteemed by Austen.
But “Maria” is ambiguous. It is hard not to believe that a primary influence upon Austen in choosing this name for her transgressive young female character (and thus for Lady Bertram) was the notorious Maria Fitzherbert, secret “wife” of the Prince of Wales. Maria (née Smythe) (1756–1832), was related to the Earl of Sefton. Born (like Austen) in Hampshire, she was a Roman Catholic. The death of her second husband Thomas Fitzherbert in 1781 left her with a little house in Mayfair and a handsome income of £2,500 per annum. In 1784 she met George, Prince of Wales. “Prinny” was then young and charming, not the fat fellow he became later. Richard Cosway’s portrait of him in this period captures a sexually ambiguous glamour, an appeal enhanced by contemporary fashion (fig. 9). Maria became his mistress; George then wished to marry her. In Maria’s house in Park Street on 15 December 1785 (a day before Jane Austen’s tenth birthday) the two went through the marriage ceremony conducted by an Anglican chaplain in Holy Orders. But the marriage was illegitimate, banned according to constitutional riders issuing from the “Glorious Revolution.” A member of the royal family had to receive permission from the reigning monarch to marry. No member of the royal family could be permitted to wed a Roman Catholic. Maria Fitzherbert was impossible—King George III and Parliament made that clear. Pope Pius VII, however, recognized the marriage, increasing English antipathy. “A wife and no wife,” Maria inspired caricatures.
Weakened by debts—to be paid if he married according to legislators’ wishes—the Prince of Wales consented to marry Caroline of Brunswick in 1795. When they actually met on their wedding day George was repelled, becoming very drunk. According to report, the couple had intercourse only three times. Caroline gave birth to the legitimate heir, Princess Charlotte, in 1796. (Princess Charlotte was to die in 1817, not long after Austen’s death.) Thereafter, the royal “couple” lived apart. The Prince of Wales and his supporters wanted to obtain grounds for divorce. In 1806 the “Delicate Investigation” of Caroline by four commissioners and Spencer Perceval, conducted in hopes of evidence of Caroline’s adultery, fueled the anger of liberals and radicals. When the queen wrote to her husband an open letter stating her grievances, Jane Austen was sympathetic: “Poor Woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman,& because I hate her Husband” (16 February 1813; Letters, 208). The notorious “trial” of Queen Caroline in 1820 was mounted in hopes that her husband, now a King George lacking an heir, could remarry. Caroline died not long after being barred from the prince’s coronation in the summer of 1821.
Roger Sales in Jane Austen and Representations of Regency England (1994) sees Austen’s third published novel as a “condition of England” novel, reflecting the era’s instability. Tom Bertram is a careless Regent who abrogates his responsibility; Maria, venal in marrying solely for money, is sexually reckless, attaching herself to Crawford when there is no chance of his marrying her.18 Sales’s account introduces relevant material but seems too fixed in judgmental certainty. The novel itself allows us to see the characters from more than one aspect. Many English people considered Maria Fitzherbert a true wife and wronged woman. Others saw a wicked seductress. Several novelists used “Maria” as the name for a wife who leaves her husband—Wollstonecraft sympathetically, Jane West less sympathetically.
9. Richard Cosway, King George IV (1780–82). Photograph: © National Portrait Gallery, London.
The age was an age of breakages and fresh starts—an age of divorces. Austen in “Lesley Castle” had gaily imagined a new design whereby the family broken by the adultery of “the Worthless Louisa” refashions itself. By dint of becoming Roman Catholic in Italy each member of the unhappy pair can choose a new partner and “are at present very good Freinds [sic]” (Juvenilia, 143; 175). The first wife of the Earl of Morley, impatient with his infidelity, had eloped with Sir Arthur Paget, whom she married as soon as her divorce was final (shortly before the birth of her child by Sir Arthur). In 1808 Lord Paget had left his wife to elope with Lady Charlotte Wellesley, a married woman, marrying her after her divorce—and his own. “What can be expected from a Paget, born & brought up in the centre of conjugal Infidelity & Divorces? . . . I abhor all the race of Pagets,” Jane wrote in 1817, impatient at the news that the eldest daughter of Lord Paget was engaged to the heir of the Duke of Richmond (13 March 1817; Letters, 333). But she admired the new Countess of Morley, and the Austens had been on friendly terms with the Cravens until Lady Craven eloped with a lover and still kept up with her daughters. Given the new acceptability of divorce in high life, it is little wonder that Mary Crawford thinks that Maria, after being divorced by Rushworth, should marry Henry: “And, when once married, and properly supported by her own family . . . she may recover her footing in society to a certain degree” (MP, III, ch. 16). This plan cannot work, as Henry refuses to marry Maria.
Continuing problems regarding the royal princes ensured that Maria Fitzherbert was not forgotten, even if by the Regency that relationship had officially ended. The scandal of “Maria,” the royal mistress/wife, emphasized the name’s Catholic and Continental associations. Maria Fitzherbert also posed questions as to what constitutes “marriage.” Queen Caroline was to say bitterly that she committed adultery but once—in lying with the husband of Maria Fitzherbert. Perhaps the Prince of Wales really was married to Maria Fitzherbert, and all the rest was sham. This is a story in which everybody is pitiable and everybody behaves improperly—and everybody is unhappy. In that respect the royal scandal truly resembles Mansfield Park.
If the novel’s “Maria,” the elder Bertram daughter, introduces into Austen’s novel the problems of female sexuality (as society saw it), that theme is reinforced by the name of her sister Julia. Julia Bertram may have been in part inspired by the teenaged Julia Judith Twisleton, with whom the Stoneleigh heir James Henry Leigh fell in love; they abruptly married in 1786. Julia’s brother Thomas, still a schoolboy, eloped to Gretna Green with a girl with whom he had acted in a play—rather like Yates. Mary-Cassandra, Julia’s sister, committed adultery with much publicity; Jane Austen (with “a very good eye at an Adultress”) correctly identifies her at a ball in Bath.19 “Julia” was a Roman first name applicable to females born of the Julian clan. Emperor Augustus’s daughter Julia, beautiful but reputedly wayward, seems to have erred sexually somehow. The poet Ovid was thought to be privy to her bad behavior (if only by knowing about it), an offense punished by permanent exile. Augustus cast off his daughter Julia, exiling her to an island where the emperor ordered her to be slowly starved to death. The banishment of the historical princess is reflected in the sentence passed upon Maria Rushworth (née Bertram), exiled from home by paternal decree and kept on short allowance. The Bertram girls in childhood boast of their historical knowledge, including “the Roman emperors as low as Severus; besides a great deal of the Heathen Mythology” (MP, I, ch. 2). The Bertram sisters may recite the names of Roman emperors but pick up no useful warnings from imperial lives.
The central “Christian name” among the Bertrams is “Edmund.” In its Anglo-Saxon staunchness it is a total contrast to Continental “Maria” or Roman “Julia.” Attention is deliberately drawn to it by Mary Crawford’s dislike of the “the sound of Mr. Edmund Bertram,” which is “so younger-brother-like,” and by Fanny’s indignant rhapsody:
“To me, the sound of Mr. Bertram is so cold and nothing-meaning—so entirely without warmth or character!—It just stands for a gentleman, and that’s all. But there is nobleness in the name of Edmund. It is a name of heroism and renown—of kings, princes, and knights; and seems to breathe the spirit of chivalry and warm affections.” (II, ch. 4)
Mary thinks of the inferior status implied by inserting a given name between title and surname, whereas Fanny dwells on the aura of the first name. In this speech she can employ that cherished first name—though she never uses it in direct address, for she calls Edmund “cousin” while he calls her “Fanny.”20
“Edmund,” despite the “nobleness” felt by Fanny, is an ambiguous name. If we look into Shakespeare we can find that “Edmund” and “Bertram” are both rather bad fellows, though in different ways. To put these two names together constitutes a comical catachresis. In Shakespeare’s King Lear the good (elder) son and heir of the Duke of Gloucester is named Edgar, and the bad (younger) son is the bastard Edmund. Edmund Bertram is a younger son, but legitimate, and good where his brother is “bad.” The name is, as Fanny insists, kingly. The most common explication of the Anglo-Saxon name “Edmund” is that it means “wealthy protector,” although Edmund Gibson said it meant “happy peace.” “Edmund” became a popular name in England on account of King Edmund of East Anglia, martyr and saint. In 903 he was buried at the Benedictine abbey of Beodericsworth, a royal town in Suffolk, which became known as Bury Saint Edmund’s. A magnet for pilgrims, the abbey became rich and powerful until laid waste by the Dissolution.21 Edmund is certainly the name of a true Saxon king. But this king came to grief.
According to the most popular version of his story, King Edmund, tortured by Danes, refused to renounce his religion. He was then condemned and executed by being shot full of arrows. This story of “the martyrdom of King Edmund” is told in Gibson’s Camden:
For there, this most Christian King, because he would not renounce Christ, was by the most inhuman Danes (to use the words of Abbo) bound to a tree, and had his body all over mangled with arrows. And they, to increase the pain and torture, did, with showers of arrows, make wound upon wound, till the darts gave place to one another. And as a middle-aged [i.e., medieval] poet has sung of him:
Iam loca vulneribus desunt; nec dum furiosis
Tela, sed hyberna grandine pluma volant.
New wounds, repeated left no room for new,
Yet impious foes still more relentless grew,
And still like winter-hail their pointed arrows flew.22
The story of the killing of Edmund is told in Joseph Strutt’s “Supplement” to Antiquities, Manners, Customs, &C. of the English, with an illustration, Condemnation and Execution of Edmund (fig. 10). In this depiction, we see in the top strip the English king being condemned by the Danish leader. In the second strip, Edmund is tied to a tree with three archers shooting at him.
10. Joseph Strutt, Condemnation and Execution of Edmund (1792). Plate 2 from Supplement to The Regal and Ecclesiastical Antiquities, Manners . . . &c. of the English. Photograph: © The British Library Board.
Metaphorically, this is what happens to Edmund Bertram. Whenever he stands up for something, he gets shot at. When he stands up for family prayers, he is criticized and changes no practices—least of all those in his parental home. Camden’s editor Bishop Edmund Gibson (1669–1748) in 1705 published Family-Devotion; or, An Exhortation to Morning and Evening Prayer in Families, a tract “reprinted well into the nineteenth century” (ODNB). Edmund Gibson argues much as Edmund Bertram does at Sotherton:
For if Men think not of these Things at the most seasonable Times . . . it is not likely that they will fall into such Thoughts in the midst of their Business or Pleasures. It is to be fear’d, that there are too many Persons and Families, who are sunk into this unthinking State.”23
Unlike Edmund the bishop, Edmund Bertram is not applauded. His little attempts to change his sisters’ behavior or to get the play project cancelled all attract hostility and come to nothing. Edmund is the butt of jokes and sneers. Sir Thomas Bertram finds it convenient to allocate to Edmund the impossible task of monitoring the family’s behavior without delegating to him any authority whatsoever. He is supposed to rule without power. A trifle scared of Tom, whom he cannot quite manage, Sir Thomas doesn’t want to put paternal authority totally to the test. (It helps if we imagine Tom as looking something like Cosway’s insolent Prince of Wales.) Sir Thomas trusts Edmund—and disparages him. Edmund is comfortably at hand to blame when things go wrong. “Sir Thomas’s look implied ‘On your judgment, Edmund, I depended; what have you been about?’” (MP, II, ch. 1). Edmund is a Regent without any writ, a ruler with no scepter. Responsibility without power is no Regency at all.
Tom occasionally jabs Edmund with reminders that Mansfield Park will belong to him. He is true Regent: “Manage your own concerns, Edmund, and I’ll take care of the rest of the family” (I, ch. 13). Unlike constant King Edmund, the younger Mr. Bertram, target of unreasonable demands, is not quite able to martyr himself. He always gives way, even participating in Lovers’ Vows. He betrays Fanny’s cause, joining his father in pressing her to marry Henry Crawford. Alternating between delicate indecisions and a tendency to cave in, Edmund the bullied is never happy with a moral position. He just gets shot at again. Unable to repel the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, he is easily depressed—and expects to be discouraged.
The combination of “Edmund” with “Bertram” is negative. “Edmund” is a hapless kingly saint (though in King Lear his name belongs to an ill-fated thorough bastard). “Bertram” is Shakespeare’s sulky ill-judging boy. Both are shot at. Helena in All’s Well regrets that she has unintentionally driven Bertram into danger:
and is it I
That drive thee from the sportive court, where thou
Wast shot at with fair eyes, to be the mark
Of smoaky muskets? O you leaden messengers,
That ride upon the violent speed of fire,
Fly with false aim . . .
. . . do not touch my lord:
Whoever shoots at him, I set him there.
(All’s Well That Ends Well, act 3, sc. 4; Shakespeare Plays, 3:341)
The king, speaking his exasperation with Bertram, imagines shooting the lad: “Tho’ my revenges were high bent upon him, / And watch’d the time to shoot” (act 5, sc. 3; 3:341). Helena’s incompetent adolescent Bertram and the passive martyr Edmund, pierced with a hail of arrows—both are marks to be shot at.
Henry Crawford wanted to make “a small hole in Fanny Price’s heart” (MP, II, ch. 6). The cruel metaphor conveys the result of shooting with a bullet rather than an arrow. Henry seems an invulnerable shooter, not the prey. But his sister sees Henry as a target: “And then, Fanny, the glory of fixing one who has been shot at by so many” (III, ch. 5; italics added). In a story where there is little happiness to be found, Henry both evokes and assails the happiness of others—but he too is shot at, most disastrously by Maria. (He does procure happiness for William Price, who can now be literally shot at with more distinction.)
As in Shakespeare’s All’s Well, at the end of this story leading characters are tamed. At the end of Mansfield Park, characters do (however reluctantly) what others would have them do—or disappear. Saved from disappearing into the grave, Tom knuckles under. Edmund settles for submission and makes no further heady excursions into exogamy. Having thrown one daughter away, Sir Thomas, like an unrepentant King Lear, finds a superior substitute. Sir Thomas forgets his early warnings against endogamy and the unsuitability of “cousins in love, &c.” (I, ch. 1). “Fanny was indeed the daughter that he wanted” (III, ch. 17). She was not the wife or lover that Edmund wanted. Emotional dependency and sexual attraction are different things. Jealousy is always the test of love in Austen. Edmund was never jealous of Henry Crawford but promoted an engagement between Henry and Fanny.
Edmund not sexually attracted by Fanny? Never mind. Fanny was attracted to him, as Helena to Bertram. Yet if it is not right for a woman to marry without love, a man also should be free not to marry where he does not love. Like a good boy, however, Edmund gives his father the daughter he wants. Shakespeare’s title All’s Well is ironic, and Austen’s ending is troubling. We are assured in the very last sentence that Fanny will be happy in the parsonage—still within the domain and control of Sir Thomas Bertram. Formerly Fanny has never been able to approach the parsonage “but with some painful sensation of restraint or alarm” (III, ch. 17) Have “restraint” and “alarm” really passed from her life—or Edmund’s? The pair sink back into safe wardship. “I was in safe hands”—in Edmund’s chilling phrase (I, ch. 11). Is all well—or are things too true to be good?
Names in Emma
Penumbra in Emma
Surrey and Its Past
In Mansfield Park names proliferate, fitting the centrifugal movement of the characters. This is a novel of Empire, even while the center attempts to remain fixed. In Emma, Jane Austen locates the action in one very English place (Highbury) but deploys a number of names of various origins, indicating different regions, activities, and social levels. Local names in Emma are current and credible in relation to class and place.24 Austen keeps true to the geography and history of Surrey. The background of old Highbury and of Emma’s area of Surrey is reflected in typical names of the region. Temporal change is consistently registered in the mobility of Highbury’s inhabitants—or visitors—on their way up or down the social scale. Yet the community is bound together by little rituals and observances. The time scheme of the novel emphasizes the liturgical year and the rural calendar, as if Time (properly observed) can bind people together.
“Lower” denizens of Highbury blend in complicated ways with the “higher.” Mr. Knightley works closely with William Larkins, his agent or steward. The suffix “kin” means “small” or “little”; the root Lar is nickname for “Lawrence”—“little Larry.” A “lark,” morning songbird of rural fields, is also slang for a festivity or jest. William Larkins adds to festivity by carrying the apples to the Bates household. One of the few visible working-class males, he is a connector. “Farmer Mitchell” (surname derived from “Michael”) supplied an umbrella to Mr. Weston (it rains a lot in Highbury), enabling initiation of courtship. That Mr. Weston refers to him as “Farmer Mitchell” not “Mr. Mitchell” allots him the “yeoman” status into which Emma wants to push Robert Martin.
Harriet Smith refers to people connected with her school, including Miss Nash (head teacher) and Miss Prince. Miss Nash has a collection of three hundred riddles. She admires Mr. Elton and also his yellow curtains. Her name may be suggested by Beau Nash, for Miss Nash is the school’s arbiter elegantarium, the setter of style and judge of taste, even if her origins are humble. Her sister married a linen draper. Miss Prince is the inferior teacher, second to Miss Nash. Neither of these is entertained at Hartfield.25 Harriet also refers to “the two Abbots,” schoolfellows at Mrs. Goddard’s. This would be a local name, reminding us that Donwell Abbey once had an abbot whose servants might be surnamed “Abbot.” This surname is highly appropriate to the county of Surrey; George Abbot (1562–1633), born in Guildford, became Archbishop of Canterbury. Miss Bickerton, another “parlour-boarder” at Miss Goddard’s, panics at the gypsies and runs away leaving Harriet to shift for herself. “Bickering” is quarreling, and a Bicker-ton suggests a querulous settlement. But the place name “Bickerton,” pleasantly georgic, refers to “farmstead of the bee keepers” (Mills).
Henrietta Bates, a prolific source of names, increases our sense of the dimensions of Highbury. Most names mentioned by Miss Bates reflect Surrey (county of her birth, if not of her parents) and its past. She roots the story in a region with an active population. “John Saunders,” probably a local blacksmith, is the man to whom she would have taken her mother’s spectacles to be mended. There is a “Sanders Place” in Surrey, its owner claiming descent from a pre-Conquest owner, Watkin de Sanderstead. Such touches prove how alert Austen is to the local culture of the region she portrays.
“Wallis” is the surname of the local baker; “Wallis” (Norman French waleis, “foreigner”) was used from the Middle Ages for a Welsh or Cornish person. The Bates family lacks cooking facilities, so their apples are baked in the Wallis oven. While some say that Mrs. Wallis “can be uncivil and give a very rude answer,” Miss Bates asserts, “They are very civil and obliging to us, the Wallises, always” (II, ch. 9). People working in hot kitchens are often portrayed as irritable, but Miss Bates needs to keep on the good side of Mrs. Wallis.
At the ball at the Crown, Miss Bates is in her element—she knows everybody. From her confusing delighted monologue (III, ch. 2) emanate multiple names reflecting the locality. The Otway family is greeted by Miss Bates; the name can indicate somebody coming from an “Otterway.” The dramatist Thomas Otway wrote two of the best-known English tragedies, The Orphan (1680) and Venice Preserv’d (1682). In including an “Otway,” Austen plays with the tragic potential of a story like that of Highbury’s Orphan Jane. The “Dr. Hughes” turning up at the Crown with a son (an ever-comic “Richard”) must be a Doctor of Divinity; were there another medical practitioner in Highbury we should have heard of him. “Hughes” originated in Carmarthenshire in south Wales and to the English ear remains a Welsh name. Mrs. Stokes is the active landlady of the Crown Inn. “Stokes” is a sturdy common surname, deriving from the Old English word for tree stump (stocc or “stock”). On the outskirts of Cobham, a Surrey town close to fictional Highbury, lies the village of Stoke d’Abernon. A Mrs. Gilbert attends the ball at the Crown, but “does not mean to dance,” probably because she is past thirty. The name “Gilbert” means “bright pledge” or “hostage,” in reference to the Germanic custom of sending a child to be adopted into the home of a potential enemy. (It would have made a suitable name for Frank.) “Gilbert” fits the locality. “FitzGilbert” was the name of the Norman family who first took over the village of Stoke d’Abernon. Mrs. Gilbert’s husband is probably descended from some inferior branch of the FitzGilberts.
In another connection, Miss Bates mentions “old John Abdy” and his son the hostler. Employed by the Crown Inn, young John takes care of both riding horses and the draught horses. Although he has a good job, he is unable to take care of his elderly bedridden father without some parish assistance. Aged, rheumatic, and bedridden, John Abdy was parish clerk when Miss Bates’s father was clergyman. (Such a “clerk” was expected to read psalms and lead the responses.) The old man was literate, but his circumstances are poor. “Abdy” means “one employed at an abbey” (Rainey and Wilson)—a name well suited to the area of Donwell from its pre-Dissolution days. Miss Bates’s knowledge of the parish exhibits a much wider and more sympathetic view of Highbury than Emma’s. Was Henrietta Bates a kind of unofficial curate to her father? She ought now to be numbered among the working women, for she is keeping up with the parish while looking after her invalid and decaying mother in their cramped apartments—no light task. Mr. Elton has the sense to listen to her advice.
Penumbra of the External World: Associates and Personal Circles
Jane Austen’s delineation of Highbury makes extensive use of persons the reader only hears of, creating a variegated halo of Surrey associations and a more complex picture of Highbury. Austen also gives to visitors or new residents coming into Highbury their own individual halo of new associations. Emma is extremely resourceful in producing faraway persons who do not appear directly or dramatically. Different groups revolve around secondary or tertiary characters. The associations of names familiar to them and nobody else creates and substantiates the personalities of these characters, as well as establishing the constant existence of a world beyond Highbury’s borders.
Jane Fairfax’s Friends. Jane’s status in the novel means that absent persons important in her life take on more weight than such shadowy persons usually do. “Campbell,” name of a surgeon on William’s ship referred to in Mansfield Park, turns up again in Emma. Still mute, this “Campbell,” has moved upward in rank and narrative importance. Generous Colonel Campbell and his wife took in the orphaned Jane Fairfax to be cared for and educated with their own daughter. “Campbell” is the name of a major Scottish clan, whose traditional head is the Duke of Argyll. The Campbells fought against the English at the Battle of Flodden (1513); they were defenders of Mary Queen of Scots and of the Old Pretender.26 Later generations of Campbells made their peace with the government and played their part as empire builders. Scots, mere apothecaries in Austen’s early fiction, become noticeably evident in her later fiction as able members of the armed services, like Crawford in the Royal Navy. Yet Colonel Campbell (and his no doubt Scottish wife) might be looked down upon by English officers and civilians.
Jane’s friend Miss Campbell does not marry an English gentleman but an Irishman, Mr. Dixon, who is “not strictly speaking, handsome” but “far from it—certainly plain” (II, ch. 3). The Scots name “Dixon” (“son of Dick”) was carried to Northern Ireland by Scottish settlers in Ulster; Elizabethan policy furthered the suppression of the natives by encouraging Protestant settlers. Oliver Cromwell ruthlessly put down the native Catholics, and William of Orange followed suit; subjugation of the native Irish supposedly ensured the permanence of Protestant settlements and the power of English landowners—the “Ascendancy.” Mr. Dixon with an estate in Northern Ireland must be by descent a Protestant and by attachment an “Orangeman.”
Austen’s running joke against the name “Richard” or “Dick” works against Mr. Dixon. He who is so “plain” might be part Celt—like “black and plain” Henry Crawford. Dixon may also be relatively poor. Miss Campbell (neither beautiful nor highly talented) takes him on faith; they met at a resort. An Irish gentleman might seem more obtainable than an English one. The Campbells, much better off than the Bates family, are limited by what we would term their ethnic identity.
Such problems are brought openly into the conversation when Emma asks Mr. Knightley “about your friend Mr. Graham’s intending to have a bailiff from Scotland. . . . But will it answer? Will not the old prejudice be too strong?” (I, ch. 12). “Graham” is a Scottish name—appearing in “Love and Freindship,” where the heroines “rescue” Janetta from her affianced Graham (Juvenilia, 122). “Graham” resonates. James Graham, Marquis of Montrose, is a Scots and Stuart hero. An aristocratic Covenanter who fought for Charles I and then for Charles II, Montrose was captured and executed with cruel spite. Johnson in his Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland admires “the great Montrose”—but the English don’t usually think of romantically loyal heroes when thinking of Scots. The “old prejudice” might even hamper Jane Fairfax, protégée of Campbells, in pursuit of employment in teaching. In Richardson’s continuation of Pamela, Mr. B. considers employing a Scots tutor for his son. But “this person” must have had “the native Roughness of his climate filed off and polished by Travel and Conversation” and “should, by all means, have conquer’d his native Brogue.”27
Mrs. Elton’s Circle. A cloud of names is introduced by the former Miss Hawkins. It is a rule in etiquette not to talk to your present company about persons they cannot know. Fortunately for us, Mrs. Elton—like Lady Catherine De Bourgh—repeatedly breaks this rule. She creates an extravaganza of names, not rooted in Highbury and its corner of Surrey but floating about in comic fireworks. One of her friends has the last name “Jeffreys” (from Galfridus); its strongest association is with the notorious Judge Jeffreys of the Bloody Assizes. Other female friends of Augusta Hawkins include “the two Milmans,” both of whom gave up music after marriage. “Milman” is low, meaning “worker at a mill.” One of the Milman sisters is “now Mrs. Bird”—ironic, as she stopped emitting any music after she caught a husband. Yet another Milman sister is now “Mrs. James Cooper.” “James” is the name of Austen’s elder brother, and Cooper is the surname of some of her cousins. There are aristocratic Coopers—the first Earl of Shaftesbury chief among them. But Austen is quite ruthless in her commandeering of names. A “cooper” puts the hoops on barrels and tightens them so they are sound and don’t leak. The name refers to common labor on a basic product.
Mrs. Elton’s friend Mrs. Jeffreys is “Clara Partridge, that was” (II, ch. 14). This surname reminds us of Fielding’s Partridge in Tom Jones, Tom’s putative father and sidekick. Partridge, a semiliterate schoolteacher, is a gossip and devout coward—a partridge is a timorous game bird. How can one have a famous (clara) partridge? Here is another bird to go with “Miss Hawkins” and Mrs. Bird. One of the best names of Mrs. Elton’s gallimaufry is “A cousin of Mr. Suckling, Mrs. Bragge” who “moves in the first circle” (II, ch. 17). Bragge (“active,” “lively”) comes from the Norse braggi, a hero. The concept readily transfers to someone who only thinks he is heroic: “to brag” is to boast (usually foolishly) of oneself. The popular card game “Brag,” an ancestor of poker, is the subject of a verse by Austen: “Alas! poor Brag, thou boastful Game!—What now avails thine empty name?” (Later Manuscripts, 249). Mrs. Elton might herself be termed “Mrs. Brag.”
Mrs. Elton is most insistent that Jane Fairfax should take a post as governess with “Mrs. Smallridge.” The surname is locative; Smallridge near Axminster is defined by the “small ridge” in the area. At Mrs. Smallridge’s home Jane would have the advantage of dwelling only four miles from Mrs. Elton’s alliterative sister Selina Suckling at Maple Grove. The “small” in this potential employer’s name indicates her small importance, while the “ridge” indicates that she is prickly or difficult. Mrs. Smallridge’s four children will undoubtedly be spoiled brats.28
The most oft-repeated name of all Mrs. Elton’s horde is that of her brother-in-law—“Suckling.” This name was an Old English word for a baby, one still sucking at the breast—the Old English suffix ling is diminutive. The Cavalier poet Sir John Suckling (1609–42) was still known and quoted. (His family name came from an ancestor who held land by socage and was a “socling.”) The real poet’s father actually made a second marriage to a Jane Hawkins (ODNB). So there is a genuine association of these two names. Austen is making comic fun, indicating the newness of Mrs. Elton’s brother-in-law’s family—little shoots that come out of nowhere. Any claim on their part to gentility is in its earliest infancy.
The funniest name of all Mrs. Elton’s numerous acquaintances, however, is “dirty”: “People of the name of Tupman” who “came from Birmingham” (II, ch. 18). A “tupman” keeps “tups”—rams—whose greatest use is servicing ewes to produce more sheep. (The same word is the root of the surname “Tupper.”) “Tup” and “tupping” were current—the sense that of a well-known four-letter verb beginning with “f” and the participle/gerund that goes with it. Iago taunts Brabantio about his daughter’s consorting with Othello: “Ev’n now, ev’n very now, an old black ram / Is tupping your white ewe” (Othello, act 1, sc. 2; Shakespeare Plays, 8:324). Dickens picks up the name “Tupman” for comic use in The Pickwick Papers.
Central Surnames in Emma
Going Up and Going Down
“Woodhouse” is an Anglo-Saxon locative meaning “house in (or by) a wood.” A De la Woodhouse was given land after the Conquest. The family name, as Janine Barchas demonstrates, connects with the Wentworths.29 Emma in reaction to Mr. Elton’s proposal defensively muses on her superiority of rank: “He must know that the Woodhouses had been settled for several generations at Hartfield, the younger branch of a very ancient family—and that the Eltons were nobody” (I, ch. 16). Mr. Elton may not know all of this. We cannot be sure how distantly self-aggrandizing Emma and her father may link to the “very ancient family” of Wentworth-Woodhouse. In the property and manners of Emma’s father we see no hints of old aristocracy, nor does Mr. Woodhouse mention any relations save his own progeny. Knightleys provide assistance, status support, and descendants. Mr. Woodhouse’s family may have been “settled in Hartfield” for a while, but not as true landowners. “The landed property of Hartfield was inconsiderable. . . . But their fortune from other sources was such as to make them scarcely secondary to Donwell Abbey itself” (I, ch. 16).
Emma, who thinks Harriet incurious about her background, is not too curious or clear about where her own money comes from. “Other sources”—investments now, perhaps commerce? Given the history of the Wentworth-Woodhouses, income might well come from coal mines.30 (The treatment and condition of miners was little better than those of slaves.) Emma, “an imaginist,” represents her father’s power as she imagines it, but Mr. Woodhouse plays little or no part in the power regimes of Highbury. (For those who do, see “Male Leaders and Suitors,” below.) Choosing Harriet Smith as a friend, Emma consciously condescends to descend—a ploy useful to her defensive need for superiority. “Smith,” commonest of English laboring names, covers the shame of Harriet’s real mother as well as the name of an unknown father. Emma thinks Harriet stupidly placid regarding her unknown identity, but Harriet’s favorite reading matter—stories of orphans, half-orphans, women abused or neglected by parents—is an index of her inner concerns. Emma, casting herself as the parish’s Great Lady, is playing a role above her station. She is not landed gentry. There is no doubt that she marries up. And her money in stocks and shares, perhaps ultimately derived from coal under the ground, will be plowed back into the cornland of Donwell.
As well as invoking the Great Name Matrix, Emma’s surname may conceal a pun, in a novel whose “Emmagrammatology” contains multiple wordplays.31 Separated into its syllables, a “wood-house” is a homely shed for fuel. That is its meaning in the first volume of Clarissa, in which a “Woodhouse” (always capitalized) is the site in which secret messages are deposited—a go-between. Lovelace “behind a stack of wood” surprises Clarissa “returning from the Woodhouse.”32 Frank uses Miss Woodhouse as an unconscious go-between, a cover or false address for contact with a secret love. One of the older meanings of “wood” (wode) is “mad.” Is the Woodhouse home a “wood-house”—a “madhouse”? Not only her father but Emma can obsess as well as fantasize.
Austen builds up a Highbury full of personalities, activities, and the acquisition of objects—a piano, a dining table, possibly a carriage. The histories of inhabitants vary. Some persons are recent comers to the “populous village, almost amounting to a town”; others arrive within the course of the year (Emma, I, ch. 1). Mrs. Bates, elderly widow of the late vicar, seems at first glance a fixture at Highbury, where she and her middle-aged daughter are living in semigenteel poverty. They have no relatives aside from an orphan niece. Evidently the vicar was a stranger to the village. The Bates family were always newcomers. Without kin, save for Jane who “had yet her bread to earn” (II, ch. 2), the lonely female family has descended, depending upon neighbors for social standing and even supplementary economic support. “Bates,” first recorded in the thirteenth century, is derived from the Hebrew first name “Bartholomew” (ironically “rich in land”). This respectable but not high name could be derived from an occupation, a “batter” or “beater” of metals. In this all-female Bates family sexual partners are dead or absent—so it is a surprise when one member of the family attracts a lively male.
Miss Bates’s clergyman father has recently been replaced by the young Reverend Philip Elton. His surname might have been suggested by the name of the teenage orphan Clara Elton, heroine of Agnes Maria Bennet’s Juvenile Indiscretions (1786) whom we see first at a school, like Harriet Smith. The name “Elton” could mean a beautiful or noble town (Aethel + tun/ton). More probably, it means “eel-tun,” a settlement rich in eels, like “Elton” in Huntingdonshire. Eely Mr. Elton is on the lookout for a wife who can bestow social and financial advantage. Impossible that Emma would marry someone from “Eel-town”!
“The charming Augusta Hawkins” arrives in midnovel; a woman from the Bristol area searched successfully for a husband in Bath. Her attraction lies largely in her “possession of an independent fortune, of so many thousands as would always be called ten” (II, ch. 4). “Hawkins” derives from Anglo-Saxon hafoc, or hawk, relating to the elite practice of hunting with a hawk or falcon. This lady is “a little hawk,” or more correctly the descendant of someone who looked after a hawker’s little bird. Miss Hawkins descends like a hawk upon her prey, an eel from Eel-town only too anxious to be caught.
Mr. Weston has been steadily moving up, a rise facilitated by freedom from rearing his son. The Coles are another family moving up. The name “Cole” means “dark” or “swarthy,” also “coal” (cf. German Kohl). The family, with more gentility than one might expect, acquired a crest in the reign of Henry IV. The most famous “Cole,” however, is “Old King Cole” in the rhyme or song:
Old King Cole was a merry old soul,
And a merry old soul was he;
He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl,
And he called for his fiddlers three.
This suits the Cole family of Highbury, jolly folk, given to entertaining.
The Cox or Coxe family (name spelled both ways in the text), local representatives of the legal profession, are present at gatherings but don’t have speaking parts. “Coxe” is most probably derived from the Old English and modern British English word for what the delicate Americans call “rooster.” It might, however, be simply locative (from “haycock”) for somebody living by a hay field. Slightly pejorative, the name indicates a person “cocky” and vulgar. In 1800 Austen comments on meeting again “two Miss Coxes”: “I traced in one the remains of the vulgar, broad featured girl who danced at Enham eight years ago.” (20–21 November 1800; Letters, 61). Emma inwardly describes William Coxe as a “pert young lawyer” (I, ch. 16; italics added). The “dirty” meaning is not quite absent. The cocky Coxes are on their way up. Mr. Perry the apothecary is another professional man; his work gives him access to all sorts of households. “Perry” may originally have indicated someone who lived near pear tree(s); the alcoholic drink made of pear juice, agreeably associates the apothecary with healthful pleasure.
Women are active in this narrative, and not just in the upper levels of the novel’s society. The novel presents a number of working women. Mrs. Goddard runs her own school. “Goddard,” a Germanic name that arrived with the Normans, means “good” plus “hardy.” The best-known Goddard is the medieval bishop who founded the hospice for travelers in what became Saint Goddard’s Pass. Homely Mrs. Goddard is connected thus with the “Swisserland” of which Frank Churchill dreams (III, ch. 6). Closer to home, “Goddard” is also the name of the sympathetic London apothecary who treats Clarissa in Richardson’s novel. Miss (Anne or Anna) Taylor, Emma’s governess, is another of Highbury’s working women. Attractive and gentle, if not in her first youth, she has a “low” surname deriving from a working occupation. However, it also suggests piety and daily goodness; Jeremy Taylor, seventeenth-century Royalist clergyman, was the author of the still-current devotional classic Holy Living. Mr. Weston, who first married up and was looked down on by his wife, looks downward for his second wife. Miss Taylor’s refinement and education, however, will be of advantage to their children. Upon her marriage Anna Taylor gains a comfortable house with servants and a carriage. She moves up.
Jane Fairfax and Anna Taylor, governesses future or past, represent the height of professions for working women—not very high. Working women on the lower end of the scale populate the novel. Most servants mentioned are female. Important servants are called by their last name, like “Serle,” Mr. Woodhouse’s cook, who knows how to boil an egg and make gruel. Norman “Serle”/“Searle,” relating to armor, may denote someone who scours armor rather than an armor wearer. Mr. Knightley’s housekeeper is “Mrs. Hodges,” a pure English surname derived from an old nickname for “Roger.” Mrs. Elton’s housekeeper “Wright” appears to act not only as housekeeper but also as hairdresser and lady’s maid. “Wright” meaning “maker” is also a name element in words like “Cartwright.” Such common surnames are workaday names at the lower level. The Bateses’ little slavey “Patty” doesn’t rate a surname.
Obliging Mrs. Ford is one of the many active working women encountered in a novel in which women’s economic role is a quiet theme. (Her pleasant efficiency suggests that the Ford family is making money and moving up.) Ford’s shop is one of the signs of blending and connection. “Ford” refers to a place where a watercourse may be crossed without a bridge. The name is poetically resonant, indicating getting through obstacles, overcoming difficulty. In Ford’s shop people meet without the bridges of formality. Center of Highbury, Ford’s shop is a place of crossings, where top people meet and mingle “with the second rate and third rate of Highbury” (Emma, II, ch. 1). It is in Ford’s shop that Harriet remeets the Martins after refusing Mr. Martin. Harriet shops there, and Miss Bates, and so does Frank Churchill, who buys a pair of gloves in order, he declares, to make himself a citizen of Highbury: “It will be taking out my freedom” (II, ch. 6). Frank will allow himself a good deal of freedom before he is done with Highbury.
Emma complacently quotes A Midsummer Night’s Dream (I, ch. 9); some critics see the novel as thematically related throughout to that play.33 There is enough “Midsummer madness” certainly in the strawberry party and the Box Hill expedition, on Midsummer Eve and Midsummer Day (New Style). The Merry Wives of Windsor, however, also seems a presence here, with its grittier, more prosaic vision of the summer world of folly and courtship. (Windsor is visited by Frank and Mr. Churchill, once free of that un-merry wife Mrs. Churchill.) In Shakespeare’s Windsor play we find a “George” (Page) and a secretive “Frank” who is also a “Ford”; jealous of his wife, Frank tries to keep an eye on her, in a plot full of hidden games. Young Frank Ford is a masquerader, playing at being “Mr. Brooke.” (Mr. Weston’s Frank is a masquerader, his buying gloves is partly a blind, and “Mrs. Ford” makes a good merry wife of Highbury.) When Frank purchases gloves at Ford’s shop in order to become “a true citizen of Highbury” (Emma, II, ch. 6) is he taking out citizenship in the comic world?
Emma resents the rise from the middle class of those beneath who manifest unpleasant symptoms of budding gentility. Her father does not seem struck by the Coles’ inferiority to himself; in general, Mr. Woodhouse does not share Emma’s snobbery. “Snobbery” is an inappropriate term. In Austen’s day—as in Thackeray’s—“snobs” are low persons who intrude on the genteel and attempt to mimic them. “Snob” is not commonly used for the truly genteel trying to hold the line. But gentility—as this novel demonstrates—is elastic and relative. Austen actually creates and fully delineates a modern “snob” in Emma Woodhouse. That Emma is not quite alone, however, in her lingering feeling that the Coles are still “low” is reflected in one telling adjective used by Miss Bates, who refers to “the worthy Coles” (III, ch. 2). The spoken qualifier “worthy” indicates that the speaker regards the person spoken of as socially inferior, if meritorious. Nobody speaks of “the worthy Weston”—though Mr. Weston has done almost exactly what Mr. Cole is doing now. He rose through joining his brothers in trade in London, prospering sufficiently in business to buy a small property in Highbury. But Mr. Weston married into the gentry. And he is a native of Highbury.
Orphans and Rival Heroines
Austen populates her tale with numerous orphans or half-orphans: Jane, Emma, Isabella, Frank. There is also the parentless, dispossessed Harriet. Frank lost his mother, as did Jane at age three; Emma and Isabella lost their mother, but not in infancy. Surviving fathers have qualities that make them unsatisfactory as parents. Jane lost both mother and father (and from her mother she has inherited a fatal disease.) To varying degrees, all of these orphans or half-orphans need reassurance. Isabella is happiest, having early found a substitute parent in her husband and in her own parenting. The other orphans are secret, cautious, distrustful, and maneuvering, in very different ways.
Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill challenge Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley for central roles. They are insider-outsiders—both having lived away from Highbury, though one parent lived or lives there. They bring strangeness, glamour, and interesting names. In Susanna Minifie Gunning’s Anecdotes of the Delborough Family (1792), a Captain (later Colonel) Fairfax elopes with Lucy Darlington, daughter of a rich banker. After he dies, Lucy loses all their money and then dies also, leaving a son in the military and a daughter. Orphaned “Emely” Fairfax is brought up as a lady and well educated by Sir James Edmonds, an affectionate but elderly benefactor. The backstory of Jane Fairfax may owe something to this earlier “Miss Fairfax.” (Gunning’s Miss Fairfax has to share the narrative center with her brother and does not have the story to herself—but Jane also never has a story to herself.)
Undoubtedly, Jane Austen exhibits a political consciousness in pairing a Jane Fairfax with a Frank Churchill. These two characters wear labels of historical-political significance that put them at odds. “Fairfax” is Anglo-Saxon, meaning “fair-haired” (faeger + feax). It is odd that the young woman bearing this surname should be so noticeably dark-haired. Jane’s surname, not very common, is that of Oliver Cromwell’s most powerful and efficient general, Thomas, third Lord Fairfax (1612–71). Antipathy seems natural between a Woodhouse, connected to the Stuart-supporting Wentworths, and a Fairfax who assisted the chief regicide.34 In Gunning’s novel the traditional Whig gentry (Fairfax) are warned against allying themselves too closely with the interests and attitudes of the new moneyed class. Jane’s father Lieutenant Fairfax heroically died “in action abroad,” patriotically fighting the French (II, ch. 2). There is no alliance with the moneyed class, but perhaps Jane can bring one about in connecting with Westons and Churchills.
Characters in Emma are engaged in rivalries for the affections and loyalties of other characters—and of the readers. The opposition between Emma and Jane, who (unbeknownst to themselves) are twin rivals for the post of heroine, forms the central axis of the novel.
Austen is playing with a novel mentioned by Harriet—a broad clue persistently misunderstood by readers. Regina Maria Roche’s The Children of the Abbey pits the heroine Amanda Fitzalan, virtuous and beautiful, though poor, against the objectionable rich young woman, Lady Euphrasia. Austen (who had already drawn on Roche’s novel in Pride and Prejudice) reworks the situation, and even particular scenes, especially that in which the elegant heroine’s playing and singing charms the company and humbles the haughty and more privileged young woman. At a party in Portman Square, Lady Euphrasia and her set plan to embarrass the ignorant Irish girl. Lady Euphrasia’s best friend, Miss Malcolm, exclaims, “I have no patience with such creatures forcing themselves into society quite above them.”35 When required to play and sing, Amanda far outdoes Euphrasia: “Her style became so masterly and elegant, as to excite universal admiration, except in the bosoms of those who had hoped to place her in a ludicrous situation.” Lady Euphrasia reacts angrily:
“I declare, I never knew anything so monstrously absurd,” exclaimed Lady Euphrasia, “as to let a girl in her situation learn such things, except, indeed, it was to qualify her for a governess or an Opera singer.”36
Here we have a template for central situation in Austen’s Emma, even a particular scene: the party at the Coles (Emma, II, ch. 8). Elegance is a trump card in both narratives. Emma is not crudely and overtly malicious like Euphrasia—though she is malicious. She experiences “mixed feelings,” all the more once Frank begins to sing with Jane. A sense of her inferiority to Jane makes Emma all the more likely to yield to the temptation of pseudo-pitying her, as well as sharing unkind gossip—which she herself manufactures. At moments, Emma unconsciously indulges inner gloating over the prospect of Jane’s talents descending into the thankless work of a governess. After the Coles’ party the naively sycophantic Harriet comfortingly voices the opinions Emma would like to be allowed to indulge:
“Well, I shall always think that you play quite as well as she does. . . . And I hate Italian singing.—there is no understanding a word of it. Besides if she does play so very well, you know, it is no more than she is obliged to do, because she will have to teach.” (Emma, II, ch. 9)
Austen switches the poles of Roche’s narrative; in the new narrative focus, readers’ sympathies go to the “the mean girl,” while the talented disadvantaged beauty has to fight (often in vain) for an equal place in the narrative.
Male Leaders and Suitors: Knightley, Martin, Churchill, Weston
Emma—probably rightly—counts the Woodhouses among the leading families of Highbury, although feeble Mr. Woodhouse turns to Mr. Knightley for management of his monetary and business affairs. The undeniable leadership and economic power of Highbury reside in Mr. Knightley. If not without limitations, Mr. Knightley is no mere sign of social stability but an active force. Some readers find his name too allegorical, a Spenserian outcropping of conservative chivalry. But it is sufficiently realistic. Mr. Knightley is in a middle state; he has no title with which to decorate his name—a “real” knight would be called “Sir George Knightley.” “Martin” is in this text arguably a more interesting name than “Knightley,” common as “Martin” appears.
“Martin” originates in Latin martianus, a fighter, follower of Mars, god of war. Martianus became a Roman proper name. In the fourth century AD a young Hungarian of good birth named Martianus was a mounted Roman warrior. As he was riding through the streets of Amiens, a shivering beggar asked for his help; Martianus took his sword and cut his own cloak in two, giving half to the beggar. That night, he dreamed a dream in which Christ appeared as the beggar, and told the young man that he had shared his cloak with the Savior and yet was not baptized. Martianus not only underwent baptism, he also became such a convinced Christian that he gave up war and tried to work for peace. When his commanding officer rebuked him for cowardice in not going into battle, the young man offered to strip himself naked of clothes as well as weapons and so to face the opposing army. Saint Martin is—oddly—the patron saint of soldiers. But he ought to be the patron of all who struggle for peace.
Saint Martin became a popular object of devotion, particularly at Tours. His saint’s day, Martinmas, or the Feast of Saint Martin, is 11 November (Armistice Day). Many churches and towns took on the name. (I was born in Saint Martins-by-the Sea, New Brunswick.) Saint Martin’s popularity did not diminish after the Reformation; Saint Martin-in-the-Fields was rebuilt after the Fire of London, retaining its name and importance, if not the fields.37 Saint Martin’s image, variously and widely reproduced, is that of a knight riding upon a horse, taking out his sword to slash his cloak in half. It is an upper-class icon—a man of the knightly class, on a beautiful prancing steed. Sharing his coat with the beggar, half and half, may seem ungenerous—why not magnanimously give the whole? On the other hand, the division is a statement of equality. It expresses sharing rather than condescending donation. Saint Martin, we are told, was laughed at for “the figure he made” in his half-cloak but did not care. Martin is an egalitarian saint; in the army “he contented himself with one servant and him he treated as if he were his equal.”38 Martin was clear thinking: “Though a stranger to secular learning, he was in his discourses clear, methodical . . . and powerfully eloquent.” His friend Sulpicius adds that he “never heard any man speak with so much good sense.”39 Compare Mr. Knightley on Robert Martin: “He always speaks to the purpose; open, straight forward, and very well judging” (Emma, I, ch. 8).
Saint Martin represents a manliness that is not belligerent and not afraid to give. All of this could easily be known to Jane Austen—from, for instance, the Rev. Alban Butler’s multivolume Lives of the Primitive Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints (quoted above). Information about saint’s days appeared in almanacs or diaries, like one for 1789 in which Saint Martin comes just ahead of Saint Swithin—subject of Jane Austen’s last composition. We may take it that Robert Martin’s first proposal to Harriet is made at Martinmas. Though he is rejected, his power ultimately prevails.
The yeoman status of Mr. Martin, so unpleasing to Emma, is expressed in his “ordinary” surname. But Martin, the unmounted knight who never does a mean or ungenerous thing, is a counterpart of “Mr. Knightley.” Robert Martin is the second “knight” in Highbury—and in Austen’s novel. In the spiritual order the two men balance each other and are not, as Emma thinks, at different ends of a vertical scale. Mansfield Park almost piercingly illustrates the struggles and pain required to sustain inequality. In that novel most characters accept or actively pursue inequality, damaging others—and themselves. In Emma efforts to venerate or impose inequality will generally be thwarted.
“Churchill” is a most eminent if irritating name, its power bursting into the center of the novel. The name “Churchill” began as a locative, referring to a person who lives “by the church on the hill.” “Churchill” became the name of an exceedingly famous family—of dubious glory in the eyes of Stuart supporters. Austen used the name before; in Lady Susan the Vernons’ estate in Sussex is “Churchill,” which may make the Vernons somewhat suspect. Jane Fairfax’s surname on its brighter side reflects a Puritan love of truth as well as courage—and constancy. Courage and constancy do not apply to Frank Churchill. As we have seen, John Churchill switched sides during the invasion of the Prince of Orange, breaking his oath. Treachery gained him honor and rewards from the new King William III. John Churchill later successfully led the British forces against the armies of Louis XIV on the Continent. Churchill was made Duke of Marlborough by Queen Anne; Blenheim Palace (named for his victory at Blenheim in 1704) was supposedly a gift from a grateful nation.
John Churchill—devious, inconstant, and self-interested—had dash and flair. He knew how to seize a chance. That surname hints at ruthlessness, dishonesty—and a happy outcome, through calculation and luck. A Churchill betrayed a Stuart king; to that extent the name can pair well with that of a Stuart-killing Fairfax. Frank’s adoptive surname (his mother’s)—already his middle name also—bodes continuous success. The irritable and imperious Mrs. Churchill, his aunt, in her controlling qualities (at least as these are seen by the Westons) somewhat resembles the formidable Sarah Churchill (née Jennings).
Frank Churchill, however, is at birth a Weston. He and his father presumably have the same name: Francis Weston. The Weston pair, father and son, however disarming, introduce in their very names elements of sexuality, gamesmanship, gallantry, and danger. “Weston,” indicating a westerly village or incomer from the west, is “the name of an old Surrey family” as Fiona Stafford points out.40 But the name “Francis Weston” directly connects with one of the most colorful and bloody episodes of the reign of Henry VIII—that period to which Austen perpetually returns. Sir Francis Weston was an attractive young courtier, companion of Henry VIII, good at games and sports. The Tudor writer George Cavendish, defensive biographer of Wolsey, disapprovingly refers to Francis Weston as one “that wantonly lyved without feare or dreade . . . following his fantzy and his wanton lust.” The poet Thomas Wyatt laments his loss: “Ah! Weston, Weston, that pleasant was and young, / In active things who might with thee compare?”41 In 1536 when he was only twenty-five, handsome young Francis Weston was one of the men beheaded for alleged adultery with Anne Boleyn (or “Anna Bullen”). Some careless flirtatious words spoken to Henry’s Queen were used against him. Francis and others were collateral damage in Henry VIII’s effort to get rid of Anne Boleyn and marry Jane Seymour.42
Certainly, Miss Taylor’s husband has a happier fate. Francis Weston the elder in middle age successfully marries his Anne; he keeps a steady head, despite his good fortune and his love of company and good times. But he is loose-lipped. In Battleridge, the historical novel by Jane Austen’s mother’s cousin, a character of that name has some similar characteristics: “Mr. Weston, in his good-natured manner then retailed the harmless part of the neighbourhood’s gossip.”43 Mr. Weston in Emma is a persistent gossip; yet, combining innate good nature with the civility inculcated by trade, he usually avoids offense. He is sufficiently a courtier to make elaborate compliments, as he does at Box Hill.
His son, “Frank Churchill Weston Churchill,” more strongly resembles the Tudor young gentleman and is the same age. Our Francis Weston too is good at games, plays, and flirtation—sometimes going too far. Frank flirts, offering his “attentions” to Emma, attentions that—so he claims—were returned “with an easy, friendly, good-humoured playfulness” (III, ch. 14). That is probably a good description of the real relation between the Tudor Francis Weston and Anne Boleyn—but “playfulness” did not save them.
“The child of good fortune,” as Emma says (III, ch. 14), Francis Churchill Weston Churchill escapes the ill luck that might befall someone so fond of playing on the edge. To borrow Wyatt’s phrase, Austen’s Frank Churchill is “pleasant and young” and good at “active things” (like riding and dancing). But he is dangerous to himself and others, plunging the woman he loves into misery. At the end, however, he pays for nothing. Like Henry VIII rather than Francis Weston, he gets his Jane. Frank is not Henry VIII; he is not a ruler. By station and temperament he is a mere courtier, however well he thinks of himself, in his jangling fusion of the airy and doomed Francis Weston with the devious successful Churchill.
First Names in Emma
Austen employs “Emma” in early works, as well as for her two Surrey heroines, Emma Watson and Emma Woodhouse. Germanic in origin, “Emma” is a royal name. Though it should lead the list of first names, it will here be discussed last, in order to give it its full due. Names of secondary and minor characters offer some range of choice. Poor Miss Bates’s name, “Henrietta,” might indicate a faint Catholic (or high Anglican) sympathy—or merely her mother’s reading of Charlotte Lennox. We know Miss Bates’s name only because her mother calls her “Hetty.” Nobody else calls her by her first name. As Maggie Lane points out, once her mother dies she will never hear her first name again.44 Other first names in Emma have been recycled from Austen’s earlier works. The outstanding “odd” names are “Philip,” “Augusta,” and “Selina.”
Mr. Elton’s “Philip” is unusual; the name of a saint, it was a bit too Greek and foreign for eighteenth-century gentry. “Augusta Hawkins” is an oxymoron, the bird of prey or ugly saleswoman (“hawker”) in conflict with a grandiose empress. “Augusta” (feminine form of “Augustus”) came in with the Hanoverians. It indicates the Hawkins family’s social climbing—we last heard of it in the “Miss Sneyd” encountered by Tom in Ramsgate. This name connects with some contemporary scandal. In 1793 Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, married Lady Augusta Murray, in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act. The marriage was declared void in 1794, but the couple continued to live together until 1801.
The Hawkins parents named their other daughter “Selina.” They had not caught on to the fact that upper-class people tended to shun “fancy” or classical names, preferring tried-and-true names of monarchs and saints. Like “Julia” and “Augusta” this is a non-Christian “Christian name.” Austen may have recollected Lady Selina Dangle in Susannah Gunning’s Anecdotes of the Delborough Family. “Selina” had already been used negatively by Mary Robinson in Angelina; the villain is the delightfully fashionable and malicious “Lady Selina Wantworth”—a play on the “Wentworth” that so attracted Austen. These novels may also have influenced Frances Burney’s choice of the name in The Wanderer for Selina Joddrell, the feminist Elinor’s foolish younger sister. The Joddrell girls’ disagreeable aunt is named Mrs. Maple, perhaps feeding into Austen’s name for the Sucklings’ “Maple Grove.” Selina Suckling (née Hawkins) is supposed to visit Highbury but never appears. Like the moon after which she is named, she is inconstant and sometimes invisible.
A number of names in Emma are names of Austen’s own family members, comically demoted. “William” has descended since Mansfield Park, reserved for “low middle” characters who do not participate directly in the dialogue, like William Larkins or William Cox. “James” is the name of the Woodhouse coachman. “Harry” (a nickname for or version of “Henry”) is a footman. “Henry” remained in high estimation, but “Harry,” like other nicknames, did not. (In the twenty-first century it has gone up again with Prince Harry.)
The person of lowest estate in Emma is the Bateses’ servant “Patty.” She is probably an orphan charity child, adding to the novel’s orphan population. Patty makes apple dumplings as well as cleaning, washing, and fetching fuel and (probably) water. She is furthest from the pileup of monarchical names and pretensions. Mrs. Elton rightly notes that Patty has too much to do to be asked to fetch letters from the post office. It is disconcerting that Jane Fairfax, acutely aware of the menacing slavery of her own position as a governess, is not bothered by the position of her little slavey.
Unusually dispassionate regarding her own name, Austen had already used “Jane” variously—for a sweet Jane Bennet or a vulgar Jane Watson. Jane Fairfax, proud, talented, and beautiful, is reserved; Jane Bennet, who favors candor, also gives too little away. Jane Fairfax, in striking contrast to Emma, is a dark-haired, secretive, and probably consumptive heroine. In creating Lady Susan Vernon in response to de Staël’s counter-heroine, Austen raised her powers to the intricacy of Mary Crawford. In Emma the character of the counter-heroine is not quite as complex, but the narrative’s use of her is very complex indeed. We cannot know Jane Fairfax on first reading. Jane Fairfax is in striking contrast to Emma, “the picture of grown-up health,” assured of her place in the sun. Blonde Harriet Smith, cheerful and a little stupid, stands in also as an opposite or complement to both these rival queens. Miss Woodhouse’s initial reaction to Harriet seems unconsciously based on Emma’s own reading of two novels: Sir Charles Grandison, with its blonde orphan heroine Harriet Byron, and Evelina, in which the pretty girl, apparently a bastard, is at last acknowledged as the daughter of Sir John Belmont. Emma in her way is a Quixote, like Catherine Morland—or Elizabeth Bennet, upon whom Tom Jones has made too deep an impression.
The first name of Mrs. Weston (née Taylor) is the name of a British queen and also of a major saint—Virgin Mary’s mother, grandmother of Jesus. Mr. Weston refers to his wife as “Anne,” but Miss Taylor’s baptismal name may be “Anna,” the name given to her baby daughter—the name of one of Jane Austen’s favorite nieces. Mrs. Weston conceives and produces a child during the course of the action; the other character to bear a child in the course of an Austen novel is fatuous Charlotte Palmer. “Anna” or “Anne” is a good name for a motherly character, and Miss Taylor was Emma’s substitute mother. But Austen’s “Annes” are often left behind, overlooked, secondary—even in Emma, where Anne Cox’s hopes of Robert Martin come to nothing. Austen is about to use “Anne” for her forsaken heroine in Persuasion.
Robert Martin dignifies a first name that last served for silly Robert Ferrars. Mr. Knightley’s first name is “George,” the name of the king, and of Jane Austen’s father, and of course of England’s patron saint. The character dignifies a name last adorning Wickham—Austen does not reserve it for virtuous characters. But Mr. Knightley is truly what King George III claimed to be, patriotic land worker and husbandman. George Knightley, the true “Farmer George,” is unalterable King of Highbury. Mr. Knightley’s younger brother, the barrister, is “John”—a name not reserved to high or low; it is also the name of the hostler and his bedridden father. John Knightley is slightly self-regarding and sometimes sharp-tempered. Austen characters named “John” hug their own limitations and do not excel in control of temper or regard for others—see John Thorpe, John Dashwood, and John Willoughby. Sir John Middleton, though likewise tactless, is an exception in good will and a decided contrast to John Knightley in his love of hospitality and social gatherings.
Mr. Weston and his son are both named “Francis”—name of Austen’s great-uncle and of a brother. Naturalized in England, Francesco/Francis is the Christian name of a great medieval saint and French kings. Anything but “Frank,” the witty young gentleman is neither honest nor open. Was Frank Churchill forced into deceit through his secret engagement? Or did he choose the secret engagement because of its scope for his talent in masquerade, dissimulation and equivocation? Frank probably will never care overmuch for candor, though his last letter belatedly shows how well he can assume it. George Knightley, disliking Frank before he meets him, takes out his incipient jealousy in an anti-Gallican remark—Frank may be “aimable” but not really “amiable” (I, ch. 18). He associates “Francis” with Frenchness. But then, Mr. Knightley does not know he is jealous. Frank arouses jealousy when he flirts—or pretends to flirt—with the Queen of Highbury. He does not pay with his head—he gets away unscathed, successfully using Emma as a cover.
As in all of Austen’s novels, but most expansively here in Emma, names capture verbal comedy as well as political and social stresses. Their syllables provide puns, charades, and riddles—openly in the novel with Mr. Weston’s riddle on Emma’s first name, “What two letters of the alphabet . . . express perfection?” (III, ch. 7). The comic battle in the novel is the fight for supremacy among rival would-be monarchs of little Highbury. Emma would be Queen of Highbury, but Jane has a claim, and Augusta Elton has imperial ambitious to reign and go first. Miss Bates supports that claim: “Dear Mrs. Elton, how elegant she looks! . . . Now we all follow in her train. Quite the queen of the evening!” (III, ch. 2). How galling to Emma to hear Augusta Elton proclaimed queen of the ball at the Crown! And what could the venue be named but the Crown? Francis (Frank) has the name of a French monarch and a strange position as son and heir, an irresponsible Prince of Wales. Even the rising Mr. Cole has the name of a comic king. Emma—who always wants to be first—wins the position at last, like Queen Alice in Through the Looking-Glass. Emma puts an end to the game by marrying King George—Mr. Knightley. Like her predecessor Queen Emma, after marrying one monarch she may give birth to another.
The historical Queen Emma, wife of two Saxon kings (Ethelred II and Canute), and mother of Edward the Confessor, was Norman but acceptably identified as English.45 Emma remained especially popular in Austen’s native Hampshire, especially Winchester where the queen once lived. The historical Queen Emma, handsome, clever, and, rich—and well-born—was wife of two kings and mother of another. But she did not have an easy time. At one point she had to flee for her life; to protect her sons she learned to navigate the power politics of Danes and English. Her son Edward the Confessor, jealous of her offspring by Canute, was particularly hard on her. The most colorful of the stories asserts that, not content with stripping her of her possessions, Edward accused his mother of having carried on “a scandalous commerce with Alwin, bishop of Winchester.” Tobias Smollett in his History includes the traditional tale: “As he [the Norman archbishop] could not prove his allegations by evidence, he insisted upon her proving her innocence by undergoing the fiery ordeal. She accordingly walked, blindfold, over twelve burning plowshares, without being hurt, to the astonishment of. . . . spectators.”46 David Hume stoutly denies this tale: “The invention of monkish historians . . . propagated and believed from the silly wonder of posterity.”47 But this long-cherished story, complete with Saint Swithin intervening on Queen Emma’s behalf, retained its appeal. The familiarity of this Ordeal is proved by the picture The Ordeal of Queen Emma painted by William Blake (fig. 11). Blake’s immediate target is the injustice of kings and religious hierarchies.48 Emma Woodhouse passes through her own comic and critical Ordeal of Emma while we provide the spectators. And—despite setbacks and comic failures—she succeeds in being Queen Emma of Highbury and the unrivaled heroine of the story.
11. William Blake, The Ordeal of Queen Emma (ca. 1790?). Private collection. Author’s photograph.
At the time the novel was written, however, it would be impossible to ignore associations with another leading “Emma,” often seen in prints, portraits, and caricatures. The most celebrated “Emma” of the period is the woman born Amy Lyon, daughter of a blacksmith. She acted as a maid to actresses in London, and then became part of a show as “Goddess of Health” in the quack James Graham’s “Temple of Health.” This enterprise offered sexual rejuvenation; its chief feature was a bed on which the patient(s) could experience electric shocks. After further adventures Amy Lyon became the mistress of the Honorable Charles Greville and at his instigation changed her name to “Emma Hart.” Under this new name she became a favorite subject of the artist Romney (fig. 12). Greville eventually needed to break off this affair and marry. He sent his mistress to Naples for a vacation to visit his aging uncle, Sir William Hamilton; on arrival in Italy Emma discovered her long-term relationship had ended.
Sir William Hamilton, a connoisseur, delighted in Emma’s beauty and encouraged her in an act she devised herself, part mime, part dance. In Emma’s famous “Attitudes,” she posed as and interpreted famous women of literature and history, including Medea and Cleopatra. To Greville’s chagrin, Sir William Hamilton married Emma in 1791. Horatio Nelson visited Napoli in 1793 and returned after the Battle of the Nile, badly wounded, having lost one arm. Lady Hamilton helped to nurse him back to health, and the hero became Emma’s lover (fig. 13). For a time the three lived in London, a ménage à trois. Sir William died in 1803. Lord Nelson was killed at Trafalgar in 1805, believing a grateful nation would look after Emma. Nelson was wrong; Emma died in debt. But her beauty, his heroism, and their love affair had streaked across Britain like a meteor.
A few touches in Austen’s novel hint at an affinity between respectable Emma Woodhouse and the notorious and delightful Emma Hamilton. Austen is unlikely to have known of Cornelia Knight’s opinion that Emma Hamilton was “a singular mixture of right and wrong,” though that would describe her heroine.49 Austen’s Emma does not exactly indulge in literal performance of “Attitudes,” although she certainly has a variety of poses and mental postures. As an artist, she makes her surrogate Harriet pose and perform, even if afraid of her “not keeping her attitude and countenance”—an attitude in which Harriet undoubtedly has taken instruction from Emma (I, ch. 6). “Hart-field” contains the old surname of Emma Hart. Mrs. Weston says, “There is health not merely in her bloom, but her air, her head, her glance.” Emma is “the complete picture of grown-up health”—like the “Goddess of Health” in James Graham’s show (I, ch. 5; italics added). Austen’s Emma, if technically “virtuous,” is not exactly constant or right thinking: she plays with Harriet as a doll, she unwittingly leads Mr. Elton on, she invents as well as circulates malicious rumors, and she mentally toys with Frank as a suitor. Only when pricked by jealousy does she see that Mr. Knightley is what she wants. Jealousy makes her vulnerable. She sustains self-respect but is saved from being in love with herself. Her beautiful survival shines on others.
12. George Romney, Emma, Lady Hamilton (1785). Photograph: © National Portrait Gallery, London.
Judgment is disarmed by multiplicity, the multifaceted nature of being. But multiplicity needs community in good times and bad. Who could not imagine a communal monument where Emma standing outside Ford’s shop watched the children at the baker’s window? A First World War monument to the fallen, such as most English towns and villages possess. On it we would read the names of Martin and Knightley and Cole and Ford. Highbury does not dwell in separation, and the whole community survives. Not only Emma but all Emma’s characters attract warmth in our sympathy or laughter, in contrast to the cold judgments that close down Mansfield Park, where there is no beautiful survival, where exogamy is forbidden, and nothing is shared.
13. William Beechy, Horatio Nelson (1800). Photograph: © National Portrait Gallery, London.
Names in Persuasion
In Persuasion, Austen finally comes to the heart of her labyrinthine Great Name Matrix and discovers the riddle: the central name from which all others branch is “Wentworth.” Austen expands her exploration of ethnicity and dissonances seen in Mansfield Park and Emma. In a mobile and shifting world, it is increasingly hard to “place” a person. Political identities and ideologies raise conflicts, yet sometimes resolution or compromise may be possible. Ignorance about others and oneself is an obstruction, but we need to take risks. Persuasion is a study of love and risk—perhaps partly a response to Sir Walter Scott’s criticism in his 1815 review of Emma that Austen sacrificed romantic feelings to realism, caring nothing for love.50 Anne Elliot, “forced into prudence in her youth . . . learned romance as she grew older—the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning” (I, ch. 4). Persuasion, like Emma, begins as a novel of rural life, but it continues the work of Mansfield Park as a study of war and Empire.
Surnames in Persuasion
Elliots and Their Central Associates
The most important surname is “‘Wentworth,” first encountered as surname of an absent personage of no account.
“You misled me by the term gentleman. I thought you were speaking of some man of property: Mr. Wentworth was nobody, I remember; quite unconnected; nothing to do with the Strafford family. One wonders how the names of many of our nobility become so common.” (Persuasion, I, ch. 3)
Sir Walter complains that he could not recognize in an allusion to “a gentleman” a mere curate. This Rev. Mr. Wentworth (brother of Frederick) is not truly “a gentleman” but “nobody,” owner of no property. Such Wentworths must be riff-raff, no connection of the beheaded earl. It was indeed easy to lose sight of the less showy line of Wentworths in favor of the superopulent Fitzwilliams or the glamorous Watson-Wentworths and Wentworth-Woodhouses mocked by Mary Robinson in her comic invention of the “Wantworth” family. Sir Walter’s ability to close his eyes to reality provides a clue that the opposite of what he says is likely to be the case—Frederick and his siblings are related to the martyred Strafford. Sir Walter consistently deceives himself regarding the progress of names. Throughout the centuries, service has been rewarded by titles continuously raising “common” names to the elite.
“Wentworth” is an English Anglo-Saxon name, and Austen values it not only for its historical associations but for its punning meaning—Frederic went, but he was worth something. And Old English weorth means “valiant” as well as “worthy.” “Elliot” is an ancient name, sometimes connected with the Hebrew for “the Lord on High” or with “Elias” (Hebrew prophet Elijah). Information in Sir Walter’s Baronetage tells us that members of our imaginary Elliot family acted as sheriff or served as MPs for a borough (a “pocket-borough”?). Raised to the dignity of a baronetcy in the reign of Charles II, an ancestral Elliot was perhaps rewarded for loyalty at the Restoration; there is no indication of military service. How loyal were they? Was one of the three parliaments they sat in the Long Parliament—or Rump Parliament? Sir Walter married Elizabeth Stevenson; the simple Nordic genitive is the kind of surname Austen usually attaches to working-class or bourgeois persons. (A “Mr. Robinson,” the Musgroves’ apothecary, attends little Charles.) Sir Walter maintains no connection with the Gloucestershire Stevensons. Marriage brought no additional status, though presumably an infusion of much-needed money—as Sir Walter’s heir achieved wealth in marrying a butcher’s rich granddaughter (II, ch. 9). The deceased wife and mother, meekest of Austen’s Elizabeths, is but a short line of type, her appearance and nature in shadow. She lived to regret that “youthful infatuation which made her Lady Elliot” (I, ch. 1).
The Baronetage kindly picks up the Elliots in Cheshire (whence the Leighs sprung into history), on their move southward (like the Leighs).51 Once the Elliots would have lived much further north; Sir Walter’s name is Scottish. The most important “Elliots” of Austen’s day were Scots, Whig politicians with Scottish titles. Sir Gilbert Elliot (1751–1814) was born in Edinburgh, eldest son of the third baronet and his wife Agnes, a daughter of Hugh Dalrymple who had “Murray-Kynynmund” tacked onto his name. The real Dalrymples were a legal dynasty, a family of lawyers and judges from Berwick on Tweed. “Dalrymple” is a Gaelic locative meaning “a dweller in the territory of the crooked stream.” Gilbert Elliot and his brother were sent to Paris with David Hume as their tutor. In 1776 he became a Whig MP and a friend of Edmund Burke. In 1797 he added his mother’s multiple surnames to his own, becoming Gilbert Elliot Murray-Kynynmund. That year he was made Baron Minto—as a consolation prize for not being supported in his bid for a seat in Parliament. He was able to insert his feckless brother Hugh into the governorship of the Leeward Islands, ruled from Antigua. Gilbert’s chief advisor was his cousin William Elliot (who also craved a seat in the House of Commons). That cousin William Elliot had turned decidedly against reform can be seen in a letter he wrote to Sir Gilbert during the French Revolution:
Reform, as you observe, implies innovation; and innovation, which is in itself dangerous, cannot fail of leading to destruction when the people are under the dominion or frenzy.52
Austen’s mature William Elliot shares such views: “his feelings . . . were only too strict to suit the unfeudal tone of the present day” (Persuasion, II, ch. 3).
Sir Walter expresses his “feudal” views in adulation of rank and title. In making “Lady Dalrymple” Sir Walter’s admired relative, Austen endorses the Scottish origin of her family of Elliots—despite Sir Walter’s emphasis on English gentility, purity of name, and heritage. Tweedside lawyers are hardly glamorous. Yet Sir Walter is infatuated with his own relationship to Lady Dalrymple. If the history of the real Elliots is imagined to obtain, starting with the marriage of Gilbert Eliot to Agnes Dalrymple, then the Dowager Lady Dalrymple is Sir Walter’s relation only through his maternal line.
Jocelyn Harris first noted the nominal connection with “Mrs. Grace Dalrymple Elliot, a fashionable demi-rep called ‘Dally the Tall,’ who supplanted Mrs. Robinson in the affections of the Prince of Wales.”53 Janine Barchas has elaborated on the scandals that sprouted after Sir John Eliot married Grace Dalrymple; Persuasion may “fold in high-society scandal.” There is a hidden joke, a potentially dirty meaning, in wishing to see “Lady Dalrymple.”54 Sir Walter utters the name of his dull relative in reverent adulation, unaware of any comic implications.
The most notable—and inglorious—Dalrymple of Jane Austen’s day, however, was not the courtesan Grace but General Sir Hew Dalrymple (1750–1830). When Sir Hew took over from Wellesley as commander in the Iberian Peninsula, England had just won a great victory, defeating the French army in Portugal. But in August 1808 General Hew Dalrymple signed an armistice agreement, “the Convention of Cintra,” allowing the French soldiers to be evacuated from Portugal—with their loot. The British government was greatly chagrined; there was an official inquiry in November-December of 1808. Hew Dalrymple was contemptuously known as “the Dowager” from that time.55 Persuasion has an inset political joke: “Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple” (Persuasion, II 4) might almost be the recently disgraced General Dalrymple in drag—befitting his soubriquet.
The dowager’s daughter, the Honorable Miss Carteret, has inherited a name of humble origins, whether French quartier or English “carter” (a hauler). George Carteret, one of the eight original proprietors of Carolina, in 1664 received half of New Jersey. In Richardson’s Clarissa, Lovelace mocks the real monument set up in Westminster Abbey to commemorate a Dame Elizabeth Carteret; “this Dame in effigie” has “one clumsy foot lifted up” so as to “make one imagine, that the Figure . . . was looking up to its Corn-cutter.”56 Sir Walter speaks excitedly of Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret as “family connections among the nobility of England and Ireland!” (II, ch. 5). Curiously, he does not mention Scotland. “Noble” persons with Scots or Irish titles are generally considered somewhat inferior to those with purely English titles and lineage. Sir Walter’s truckling to these people shows his abject neediness, his sincere adulation of mere title, and his actual distance from the top layer of the highborn in either kingdom.
Sir Walter, unreasonably fastidious, has a large blind spot. His merely Scottish (or Scots-Irish) background strikes him not at all. The Baronetage soothes him with the past—but it serves as “consolation” in a distressed hour because it spares him from noting too much of the past. He seems unconscious that title and lands were produced by no acts of military valor. Yet perhaps he does notice, subliminally—he resents fighting men and the honors accorded them. Sir Walter hates some aspects of the aristocratic ideal. In a novel that highlights courage, fortitude, and risk, Sir Walter, a middle-aged failure, is altogether deficient. Wrapped not only in the general falsehood of mere title, but also in his personal cocoon, Sir Walter is not only unwilling but unable to see—let alone admire—noblesse of spirit.
In contrast to the sleekly pragmatic and sycophantic Elliots we have a fiery “Russell.” Norman “Russell” means “little Red” (as in “red-haired”); “Don Roussel” is a comic term for a fox. This surname has extremely strong Whig connotations. Lord William Russell was among those accused of participating in the Rye House Plot to kill King Charles II; for this he was beheaded in 1683. Russell and Sidney, Whig aristocrats, are republican martyrs and heroes. Russells and Elliots were on opposite sides in the Civil War and during the Restoration. The name “Russell” was highly visible in Austen’s youth; the Duke of Bedford (1765–1802) was a Russell. (That duke’s younger son, Lord John Russell, was to be author of the Reform Bill of 1832.) If an Elliot and a Russell might be at odds, a Wentworth and a Russell would inevitably come to open hostility. Both sides have literally gone to the block for opposing beliefs. Eventually—so we can hope at the end of Persuasion—after Waterloo has been won and the true peace can commence, Lady Russell and Frederick will come to terms with each other.
Lady Russell’s name suggests red hair. We also have “sandy-haired” Colonel Wallis, who, despite this defect, is sufficiently good-looking for Sir Walter not to mind walking with him. The name, a variant of “Wallace,” refers to various groups of borderland Celts. (In Emma the surname served the baker of Highbury and his wife.) Red-haired Colonel Wallis is likely one of the Britons of Strathclyde, a “North Briton.” We hear of other Scots in the army and navy. Wentworth might have been asked to take “Lady Mary Grierson” and her brood in his ship. “Grierson” is a version of MacGregor; Lady Mary’s husband is apparently a Scottish naval captain. Colonel Wallis, like Colonel Campbell (in Emma) and Admiral Maxwell (in Mansfield Park), is a Scot making his way upward through wartime service—something Sir Walter does not in this instance seem to resent. (Is Sir Walter subconsciously appeased by the colonel’s Scottishness as well as his good looks?) We find another Scot, at a different level. The Elliots’ gardener is “Mackenzie,” an old Scots name, Mac + Coinneach meaning “son of Coinneach (comely)” (Reaney & Wilson). (How suitable that even Sir Walter’s gardener should be named “son of a handsome man”!) The gardener’s combination of Scottish identity and working-class skills seems normative, but in this narrative a number of Scots names turn up among persons in different classes.
Aside from the Wallis couple, Sir Walter does not introduce names of many acquaintances. He recollects “old governor Trent” as a gentleman who once lived in Monkford; Trent (name derived from the river) sounds like a retired colonial governor. Mary mentions a dinner party given by the Pooles. “Poole,” another watery name, is Anglo-Saxon, neither rare nor aristocratic. The range of political allegory and aesthetic play within the novel is brought down to earth—literally—with Mrs. Clay. Mrs. Clay, of the primal Adamic material, is as common as dirt. Her father is Mr. Shepherd, another allegorical name—he guides his ignorant sheep (weak Sir Walter and his daughter) to where he wants them to go. Shepherd is the first driver of the action. He decides that Kellynch will be let and finds the Crofts to rent it. He sends Sir Walter and his eldest daughter to Bath, saving them from themselves by shelving them inexpensively, probably permanently. And he sends Anne bumping into the world where she will find better things than in Kellynch.
The names of the navy men and those associated with them offer an interesting and highly varied collection. “Wentworth” ought to be considered chief among the names of naval men, although it is first introduced as the surname of a clergyman, Frederick’s brother Edward. Mrs. Croft, Admiral Croft’s wife, is Frederick’s sister. “Croft” is a common noun, originally indicating a small enclosed field, or a peasant’s piece of land, and then the peasant’s simple cottage. There were, however, Norman “Crofts”; a “Richard de la Croft” existed in 1230 (Reaney & Wilson). And among the baronets of which Sir Walter might read, Croft of Croft Castle obtained the title in 1671. This long-surviving family died out in the 1790s for want of an heir—which, as Janine Barchas notes, adds an extra significance to the childlessness of the admiral and his wife, “a fact treated unfeelingly . . . as a practical boon.”57 In Admiral Croft Austen redeems the name of the villain of Emmeline, Sir Richard Crofts, the mean lawyer of low Scottish origins who persecutes Emmeline at Lord Montreville’s bidding. Charlotte Smith uses “Crofts” to indicate someone low in every respect.58 The word conjures up the most humble kind of dwelling—a “croft” is the very opposite of a Kellynch Hall. The Crofts of Persuasion are natural, spontaneous, and unpretentious, in total contrast to the vanity and arrogance of Sir Walter and Elizabeth. Their speech is also colloquial, in contrast to the heavy preworked speech patterns of a Sir Walter.
Sir Walter offers a negative list of naval men as emphatic proof of the offensively low personnel. “A man is in greater danger in the navy of being insulted by the rise of one whose father, his father might have disdained to speak to.” The father of Lord St. Ives was “a country curate, without bread to eat.” Sir Walter is not put out by the fact that Anglican clergy are ill paid, but offended that “I was to give place to Lord St. Ives, and a certain Admiral Baldwin.” The ugliness of naval life intrudes in Admiral Baldwin: “His face the colour of mahogany, rough and rugged to the last degree, all lines and wrinkles, nine grey hairs of a side, and nothing but a dab of powder at top.” Sir Walter inquires of Sir Basil Morley, “a friend of mine,” who this “old fellow” might be and is astonished to hear that instead of being, as he estimates, sixty-two, Admiral Baldwin is only forty. Such degrading sights should be eliminated: “They are not fit to be seen. It is a pity they are not knocked on the head at once, before they reach Admiral Baldwin’s age” (I, ch. 3).
Sir Walter trusts for information to another baronet, whose unusual first name “Basil” means “king” (in Greek) and whose Anglo-Saxon surname “Mor-ley” means “clearing near a marsh or moor.”59 “Lord St. Ives,” as new-made baron, takes precedence over the baronets. He took as title the name of his home town—Saint Ives, Cornwall (on the “Celtic fringe”). This coastal town, named after a Celtic female saint, was engaged for centuries in boat building and the export of tin; many of its inhabitants were seamen. Sunburned Admiral Baldwin’s name predates the Norman Conquest: bald + win equals “bold” + “protector.” “Bald” puns on the advancing baldness of Baldwin’s pate. He is the kind of doughty fighter on whom English safety has always depended.
Sir Walter never considers what evils might ensue if the ruling class did not contribute fighting men. Sir Walter and those like him have adopted a kind of perverse “feminine” role in which they are protected, sheltered even from sun and rain, and never expected to fight—bearing out Mary Wollstonecraft’s charge that the very rich, treated like invalids or women, do not know enough of the world and are therefore unfit for power.60 Sir Walter wrongly identifies soft privilege as characteristic of rulers and, with unconscious male jealousy, verbally caricatures active Admiral Baldwin.
This novel plays even to a disturbing extent with variation and changes in gender expectations. Sir Walter in the patriarchal position acts “feminine,” gazing into looking glasses. But the most hardy and courageous of men are also “feminine,” like Captain Harville with his domestic talents. Conventions of gender differences are questioned in relation not only to war and love, but also to business, economics, pastimes, and the rubs of daily life. Mrs. Croft, more alert than her husband in business regarding the rental, corrects her husband’s inexperienced driving by putting her steadying hand on the reins. There is no perfect “feminine” or “masculine” way of being.
In the second volume, naval persons in Bath are referred to by Admiral Croft with approbation, canceling Sir Walter’s diatribe. Croft sees men differently, though he does characterize or “brand” Admiral Brand (Old Norse surname) and his brother as “Shabby fellows!” for stealing men from fellow captains (II, ch. 6). Croft’s friend “Captain Brigden” carries the word “brig” (or ship) within his name, though the surname originally means “homestead by a bridge” (Old English brycg). Sir Archibald Drew is accompanied by a grandson starting a naval career. “Drew” probably comes from Old French dru, “sturdy.” “Archibald” comes from Old Germanic via French (“Archambault,” “Archbald”); ercan + bald = “truly bold.” This man is genuinely bold, strong twice over. This name picks up and reinforces the “bald” Admiral Baldwin. These names contain ancient untitled sterling honor.
Naval characters appear dramatically at the novel’s center. Captain James Benwick has a first name belonging to Austen’s eldest brother (used most recently for a coachman in Emma). “Benwick,” Anglo-Saxon bean-wick, means “bean place” or perhaps “grassy place.” It is the name of a town in Cambridgeshire. “Harville” is a little grander, perhaps. It sounds French, but comes from Old English (“Herd” + welle), “place by a well.” The Harvilles, poor and struggling, practice the true “old English hospitality” that the Elliots have forgotten (or never known), though the Harvilles are living in “rooms so small as none but those who invite from the heart could think capable of accommodating so many” (I, ch. 11). As in the name “Croft,” naval officers’ big-heartedness is attached to small accommodation.
Musgroves and Inland Rural Life
Mary Musgrove (née Elliot) feels she has bestowed honor upon mere Musgroves. Jane Austen had once known of a Miss Musgrove (5 September 1796; Letters, 8), and one of her own godmothers was Jane Musgrave. The name signifies “mouse-grove,” though mus might refer to other animals like the weasel (mustela) that Charles Musgrove pursues. “Charlton Musgrove” in Somerset reflects the owner of the manor, Richard de Mucegros. That hamlet could have confirmed the choice of a name suitable to Somerset. Austen had already used her godmother’s form of that surname in The Watsons, in which flirting Tom (originally “Charles”) Musgrave is too lightweight to interest Emma Watson, though he attracts her sisters. In Persuasion the Musgrove young people have youthful vivacity and charm but seem lacking in intellect, depth, and steadiness. Austen uses “Musgrove” or “Musgrave” for slightly ambiguous rural characters.61
The family of Musgroves rose to possession of a motto, “sans changer”—“without change.” But the Musgroves in Persuasion are changing. In touches like the veranda tacked on to the remodeled farmhouse and the girls’ harp, we see awkward transition from old rural life. The senior Musgroves, an old-fashioned couple, are relatively uneducated, hospitable, and fond of domestic enjoyments. They possess a certain antique fortitude. They have lost a child to the war; they nearly lose an adult daughter to a serious accident. Unlike Sir Walter, they love their children. Watching that unromantic daily parental love can be hard on Anne, who has not experienced parental love since her mother’s death.
The novel reflects and inspires a quiet nervous tension, as various disasters occur to the characters in illness, accident, or enemy action. Mary Favret in War at a Distance points out that the alarm and anxiety of a time of war color and infect the novel. Remarking on the recurring image of the fallen human figure in Persuasion, Favret suggests that the death of Dick Musgrove (whom Anne mentally rejects so heartily) may have “involved some sort of fall, because falls—to boys and young women—just happen throughout this novel.”62 The Musgroves in their rural peace are affected by the Napoleonic conflict; no inland refuge is unaffected by naval battles. The alarms of war combine with everyday concerns; anxiety seeps through and around time. Anne’s fiercely mocking and surprisingly angry rejection of “stupid and unmanageable” Dick Musgrove, Favret argues, is a little more comprehensible if we realize that—according to the novel’s time scheme—the lad’s death happened not long after Anne had physically recovered from the illness that followed her loss of Wentworth. The intelligence of the boy’s death “had worked its way to Uppercross, two years before” the time of the main action (I, ch. 6). So—two years ago Anne had heard of a death that took place at a time when she was just recovering from grief. The death of Dick would have underlined the possibility of Frederick Wentworth’s death throughout the past two years. He could be dying on some foreign shore or at sea—could already be dead—even buried at sea. And Anne would not know. Anne doesn’t want to hear more of the Musgroves’ grief because it jangles her own. Wentworth is now in the same room with her but ignoring her—and already Anne knows he thought her “so altered he would not have known [her] again” (I, ch. 7).
When her lost lover is in close proximity, and Mrs. Musgrove is engaging his attention, Anne loses herself—or consoles herself—in the Kellynch mode. She already resented the unnecessary fuss made over Richard, her judgment blending with Sir Walter’s tone to form a brutal narrative: “The Musgroves had had the ill fortune of a very troublesome, hopeless son; and the good fortune to lose him before he reached his twentieth year” (I, ch. 6). This judgment is in tune with her father’s style of lethal contempt: “a pity they are not knocked on the head at once.” Now, with Mrs. Musgrove separating her from Frederick, who is dutifully enacting sympathy, Anne seeks the relief of perfect contempt by focusing on Mrs. Musgrove’s appearance: “He attended to her large fat sighings over the destiny of a son, whom alive nobody had cared for” (I, ch. 8). This is a complex instance of style indirect libre. Anne tries to catch herself: “Personal size and mental sorrow have certainly no necessary proportions. A large bulky figure has as good a right to be in deep affliction, as the most graceful set of limbs in the world.” But she explodes again into a Kellynch aesthetic of offense: “There are unbecoming conjunctions . . . which taste cannot tolerate.” Exactly so does Sir Walter judge—and judge of women: “He had counted eighty-seven women go by, one after another, without there being a tolerable face among them” (II, ch. 3, italics added).
The mental insulting of Mrs. Musgrove is one of the few moments when we see Anne as her father’s daughter—and it is a low moment. Anne has brought something of Kellynch with her to Uppercross. This is a moment of painfully blended anachronism, with a heroine caught in the phase of first love eight years ago and in the pain of the present, reflecting her conditioning of painful endurance with her father’s voice in her ears. Anne is guiltless of speaking her contempt, unlike Emma sharply putting down Miss Bates—but both characters are motivated by angry jealousy that they take out on the least armed female target. Anne relieves herself according to family habit. Her disparagement of stupid “Dick” inwardly crystallizes a permanent anger at the status of Walter’s stillborn son, important enough to be mentioned in the Baronetage, while she—a living daughter—has been so much neglected.
If we read back from Anne’s interior outburst to Sir Walter’s disparaging speeches, we may discern that the baronet hides from himself his own rage of disappointment and a kind of postponed mourning. After all, he lost his wife and though he perpetually searches for beautiful women he has not acquired one. Efforts to marry again have apparently been rebuffed for financial reasons. While time drifts on, other men—despite imperfections of which their mirrors should inform them—are gaining honors. All four Elliots—Sir Walter, Elizabeth, Mary, and Anne—are responding in different ways to a similar fear of being left out, unwanted, passed over.
In Bath, Anne is most happy to see Mrs. Musgrove again, because Mrs. Musgrove wants to see her. “Mrs. Musgrove’s real affection had been won by her [Anne’s] usefulness when they were in distress.” Anne now participates in the family affection and rejoices in it. “It was heartiness, and warmth, and a sincerity which Anne delighted in the more, from the sad want of such blessings at home” (II, ch. 10). Now Anne can express coherently what Musgroves offer that Elliots lack—but she is no longer on the outside looking in.
When he appears at Uppercross, Wentworth is an uncanny creature of resurrection. Being alive is an attribute not to be taken for granted. Frederick talks in a rational joking way about dangerous experiences—including the possibility that the wretched ship of his first command might easily have gone to the bottom. “‘I should only have been a gallant Captain Wentworth, in a small paragraph at one corner of the newspapers; and being lost in only a sloop, nobody would have thought about me.’ Anne’s shudderings were to herself, alone” (I, ch. 8). But her retrospective horror and complex grief blending past and present are interrupted by Mrs. Musgrove’s lamentations. Anne cannot always be passively shot at by life; she must fight back. Seeing Wentworth alive does nothing to repair emotional loss, heightened by jealous apprehension of fresh loss (as the Musgrove girls flirt with the new Wentworth and he with them). Anne’s responses are colored by recognition of the random possibility of death. Death and loss render her aggressive. Anne, who has partly died but cannot be mourned for, wishes to delete from significance all her rivals—including the dead Musgrove sibling openly mourned for. She does not lose outer self-control. What Anne loses in the early scenes at Uppercross is perspective—one of the great themes of this novel.
Charles Hayter: Representation and the Art of Perspective
Mary Musgrove looks down on her husband’s cousins the Hayters. Charles Hayter, a clergyman, is heir of Winthrop. The walk to Winthrop is undertaken by Louisa in order to reunite Henrietta with Charles Hayter, leaving Wentworth for herself. “Hayter,” probably from atte heyt, refers to one living upon or near a hill, though it sounds like the word for “hedge,” haigh—and an important hedgerow figures in the scene. The most striking fact about Charles Hayter’s name, however, is that it is the name of an artist. Charles Hayter (1761–1835) was a well-known painter of miniatures. Janine Barchas observes that the introduction of a “Charles Hayter” stresses the importance of a miniature within the novel, when Captain Harville is commissioned to reset a “small miniature painting” of Benwick.63
Charles Hayter was the undoubted expert on the “two inches of Ivory.” In 1813 “Mr. Hayter, Portrait Painter (In Miniatures and Crayons)” published An Introduction to Perspective, Adapted to the Capacities of Youth, In a Series of Pleasing and Familiar Dialogues. The work on perspective also contains instructions on painting miniatures on ivory. In an oft-quoted letter of 1816 Jane Austen wrote to her nephew James Edward comically protesting her innocence of theft in the disappearance of “two Chapters & a Half” of his manuscript:
What should I do with your strong, manly, spirited Sketches, full of Variety & Glow?—How could I possibly join them to the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a Brush, as produces little effect after much labour? (16 December 1816; Letters, 323)
This ironic allusion to herself as a mere miniaturist—in a letter written on her own birthday!—should be set beside the commentary of the literal miniaturist, Charles Hayter. He forcefully addresses his reader on the subject:
There should be but one distinction between large and small pictures, namely, “the difference of their size”; to prove which I have only to refer you to Mr. Bone’s enamels . . . the small dimensions of a work ought not to lessen its importance, for a good miniature must contain all that a good life-siz’d picture should, except quantity.64
(Bone probably amused Austen.) Here follows detailed advice on ivory and brushes. Hayter also urges his student to work diligently: “Wait patiently and attentively for the completion of your picture, before you indulge your flatterers with the opportunity of praising you. It is an intoxicating tribute, and should be received with great caution.”65 Austen subtly turns the tables on James Edward, offering him the “intoxicating tribute” before his work is finished. It seems likely that she was reading Hayter’s little treatise in the year preceding this birthday (her last) when she picks up the issue of the “two Inches of Ivory.” She knows that her works are art, possessing all the qualities that could be desired, except mere “quantity.” Throughout Persuasion she has been deliberately working in a very stripped-down mode.
In his illustrated work Charles Hayter discusses composition related to perspective: the horizon line, the position of the eye. He explains the “bird’s eye view” or, as young Eliza suggests, “a balloonist’s.”66 A drawing or painting, Hayter says, has a kind of fourth wall or window through which the artist views the picture, the “transparent plane.” Hayter advises, “in every thing you draw, you are to conceive you are drawing, on a glass or transparent plane, objects which are supposed to be on the other side.”67
Austen herself is an expert in metaphorical perspective and indicates that she knowingly deals with the “transparent plane,” with points of view and differing sight lines. She has already excelled in the use of perspectives. In Persuasion she draws the different perspectives quickly and clearly into complex relations. Human perspective on life is overtly discussed:
Anne had not wanted this visit to Uppercross, to learn that a removal from one set of people to another, though at a distance of only three miles, will often include a total change of conversation, opinion and idea. She had never been staying there before, without being struck by it, or without wishing that other Elliots could have her advantage in seeing how unknown, or unconsidered there, were the affairs which at Kellynch-hall were treated as of such general publicity and pervading interest. (I, ch. 6)
Changing moral sight lines may be painful but must happen when vantage points are altered. The wrench is better than deluding oneself in the belief that an individual view is universal, that everyone shares one single perspective. Slippage of perspective is indicated in the introduction of the miniature of Benwick into the narrative, for he “gives himself away” in effigy twice, to a different object and a different vision. The portrait of Benwick remains the same object, while the eyes that will look upon it, bestowing meaning, change altogether. Fanny Harville’s viewpoint having vanished, there remains that of Louisa, who has shifted her ground most painfully to let go the vision of Wentworth and accommodate a vision of Benwick.
A number of references to seeing through windows and to lines of sight are found in Persuasion, in which looking is a master motif.68 And how do we see? Often through the transparent plane. The plane is not always perfectly transparent, nor the vision entirely clear. On her last evening at Uppercross, Anne looks through the windows of a forsaken and dreary house: “A small thick rain almost blotting out the very few objects ever to be discerned from the windows.” Next day in Lady Russell’s carriage she can “look an adieu to the cottage” through “the misty glasses” of the coach windows (II, ch. 1). External influences may not impede transparency. Sitting by a window in Molland’s, Anne looks out the window at the rainy street and descries “most decidedly and distinctly” Captain Wentworth walking down it. But next day Lady Russell, rather than noticing Wentworth walking down Pultney Street, appears engrossed in looking out for “drawing-room window-curtains”—fabrications that deliberately render a plane not transparent but opaque (II, ch. 7). Mary looks out of the inn window and sees Mr. Elliott and Mrs. Clay, despite Anne’s protestations that Mr. Elliot is away (II, ch. 10). In Persuasion, what is seen through a window is reality, if limited reality. But the transparent plane cannot alter the perversity of objects on the other side. Questions of vision, perspective, and proportion are raised in the amusing encounter with Admiral Croft looking into a print shop window:
“But what a thing here is, by way of a boat. Do look at it. Did you ever see the like? What queer fellows your fine painters must be, to think that any body would venture their lives in such a shapeless old cockleshell as that. And yet, here are two gentlemen stuck up in it mightily at their ease, and looking about them at the rocks and mountains, as if they were not to be upset the next moment, which they certainly must be.” (II, ch. 6)
We don’t know whether the picture is a contemporary work of scenery and sensibility—or even a print of one of Raphael’s Hampton Court cartoons, a New Testament theme representing the disciples fishing in a boat.69 According to Sir Joshua Reynolds, “How much the great style exacts from its professors to conceive and represent their subjects in a poetical manner, not confined to mere matter of fact, may be seen in the Cartoons of Raffaelle.”70 Admiral Croft, looking through his own “transparent plane,” is slightly perturbed by loss of “mere matter of fact” and a threat to stability. Croft cannot even look into a print shop without seeing the possibility of accident and overthrow—offered in abundance in this novel in Austen’s own picture of life, a story stressing the ever-present possibility of disaster.
The introduction into the novel of a “Charles Hayter” is Austen’s secret smile at her own secret understanding of art and perspective. Charles Hayter the character never speaks in the narrative but is known through the various perspectives of others. Nobody possesses the perfect command over space and time that renders one perspective or point of view totally coherent or satisfactory. Anne Elliot herself has fragmented and vertiginous points of view. And time is very odd—in a novel in which the hero’s name contains a verb in the past tense. Is anything finished or begun? Is the war actually finished? As Mary Favret says, “Anne’s love for Wentworth, in fact, has to break through such false peace and tidy chronology into the stir and roar of a messier, potentially traumatic history.”71 The novel ends with a prospect of unfinished war and unpredictable suffering that yet must be anticipated but cannot be controlled.
Mysterious Mrs. Smith and Verbal Art
Anne’s old friend Mrs. Smith, crippled and poor, is a treasury of nominal penumbra. Through her we gain an impression of Bath’s variety and perspectives. Her landlady is “Mrs. Speed” (speed can be helpful to an invalid). Nurse Rooke (also called “Mrs. Rooke” as a courtesy title) attends both Mrs. Smith and Colonel Wallis’s wife in childbirth and lying-in. Nurse Rooke, who sounds like a large member of the crow family, does not “rook” her patients in fleecing them, but does extract money from them for charitable uses. Useful, efficient, self-reliant, neither idealistic nor romantically attached, this working woman knows her own value. She also comforts patients by telling them the news, putting them back in the social picture. Nurse Rooke picks up information and disperses it from house to house, as crows or rooks pick up shiny objects and place them elsewhere.
Although Mrs. Smith cannot get about, she benefits from news. For Anne the concert was a momentous singular event, but Mrs. Smith knows more about such a regular feature of Bath life. Mrs. Smith presumes the Ibbotsons were there, and “Old Lady Mary Maclean” who “never misses” (II, ch. 9). The Ibbotsons’ Norse name suggests northern origin. “Maclean” is yet another Scots name, derived from the Gaelic: “Son of the servant of St. John.” Lady Mary Maclean is another respectable wealthy upper-class migrant from the “Celtic fringe.” In her widowhood Lady Mary came to Bath in order to save money. “The little Durands were there, I conclude . . . with their mouths open to catch the music; like unfledged sparrows. . . . They never miss a concert.” These Durands are probably two aging ladies, whose persistent attendance exhibits their endurance. Mrs. Smith’s verbal caricature resembles Rowlandson’s visual caricature of Bath concerts (fig. 14).
14. Thomas Rowlandson, The Concert (1798). From The Comforts of Bath. Photograph: Bridgeman Art Library.
Mrs. Smith herself is apparently of Scottish ancestry. When Anne was sent to boarding school after the death of her mother, “Miss Hamilton, now Mrs. Smith, had shewn her kindness in one of those periods of her life when it had been most valuable” (II, ch. 5). “Hamilton” has been Anglo-Saxon (“settlement on a flat-topped hill”), but since the Middle Ages the name is predominantly Scottish. Medieval Hamiltons intermarried with the Stuarts. The second Earl of Arran, a Hamilton, was Regent of Scotland during Mary Stuart’s infancy. He sheltered Mary in 1568 after the queen made her escape from prison in an island on Loch Leven. The third Marquess of Arran, ardent royalist, was made Duke of Hamilton by Charles I. That first Duke of Hamilton was captured by the “Roundheads” at the Battle of Preston, taken to London, and beheaded. His successor to the dukedom was killed defending Charles II in the Battle of Worcester. The fourth duke of Hamilton supported the Jacobite cause and died in a duel. Hamiltons (not excluding the Sir William who collected volcanoes and married Emma Hart) seem energetic, loyal, and ill-fated.
Mrs. Smith is not above reproach in her plan to put to personal use Mr. Elliot’s courtship of her friend. But this former Miss Hamilton, another Scot eking out her resources in Bath, along with Lady Mary Maclean, the Dowager Lady Dalrymple (and the Elliots themselves), is in peculiarly grim circumstances:
She was a widow and poor. Her husband had been extravagant and at his death, about two years before, had left his affairs dreadfully involved. She had had difficulties of every sort to contend with and in addition to those distresses had been afflicted with a severe rheumatic fever, which, finally settling in her legs, had made her for the present a cripple. (II, ch. 5)
Once she realizes Anne will not marry William Elliot, Mrs. Smith relates his part in her story. Mr. Elliot, her husband’s best friend, led him, she claims, into extravagance. Named as executor in Mr. Smith’s will, Mr. Elliot refused to act, thus leaving Mrs. Smith without resources, too poor “to purchase the assistance of the law” (II, ch. 9). This account turns Anne altogether against the charms of Mr. Elliot. (Later, her husband will help in straightening out Mrs. Smith’s affairs.) The commonness of “Smith,” pointed in the case of Harriet Smith, attracts comment within the novel. Sir Walter Elliot loathes the little vulgar name: “A widow Mrs. Smith,—and who was her husband? One of the five thousand Mr. Smiths whose names are to be met with every where” (II, ch. 5). Yet this Mrs. Smith is unique. In financial straits and poor health, she maintains her vivacity and eventually speaks the story of her wrongs.
Charlotte Smith, poet and novelist, had dared to speak of her own wrongs. Through the perverse incompetence of her husband and a legal error of her father-in-law, she lost her fortune and was hard pressed to support her children. Charlotte (née Turner) made a name as a writer. Subscribers to Elegiac Sonnets numbered eminent writers, including Burney and Cowper. Her novels were popular, although her more radical works were less well received in the mid-1790s. The 1797 edition of Elegiac Sonnets includes an engraving based on her portrait by Opie (fig. 15). Under the picture is a verse inscription:
Oh! Time has Changed me since you saw me last,
And heavy Hours with Time’s deforming Hand,
Have written strange Defeatures in my Face.72
“Defeatures” may have influenced Keats’s “misfeature” in his 1818 sonnet “The Human Seasons.”73 Charlotte Smith, like Anne Elliot, has undergone change, sorrow as well as time revising her appearance. Charlotte Turner Smith’s end was indeed melancholy. A Chancery suit leached away the family money. Increasing illness and sharp poverty hampered her writing. By 1798, as she complains in the preface to Marchmont, she did not even have access to books. In pain from gout and arthritis, she praises the kind generosity of her “physician at Bath” for “every skilful exertion which I could not purchase” as he tried to save the life of her dying daughter and to attend herself.74Charlotte Smith died in poverty in 1806, some months before the Chancery suit wound to an end.
Like Jocelyn Harris, I certainly believe (and have long taught) that the poems Anne recollects during the autumnal walk to Winthrop come from Elegiac Sonnets and that the sufferings of the heroine’s fictional friend reflect those of Mrs. Smith the novelist.75 Harris does not note the fact that both Charlotte Smith and Anne Elliot are written on by the unkind “Time and heavy Hours”: “You were so altered he would not have known you again” (Persuasion, I, ch. 7). “Oh! Time has changed me since you saw me last,” exclaims the poet—aligning herself with the battered sailors and ugly women condemned by Sir Walter. Austen’s own opinion of Charlotte Smith’s works is higher than modern critics have been willing to understand. Smith’s narrative techniques offered valuable models to the young Austen. Smith is a strong predecessor in expressing the unorthodox belief that a woman should not marry without love. In her last completed novel Jane Austen inscribes a sadly playful wish that the author to whom Austen knew she owed a debt, the Mrs. Smith who did indeed go to Bath, could have been cured there, finding friends who would restore her income and welcome her companionship. Sir Walter Elliot has never heard of that Mrs. Smith whom Jane Austen loved—the sort of Mrs. Smith who is not “to be met with everywhere.”
15. Pierre Condé, Charlotte Smith (née Turner) (1797). Engraved from a portrait by John Opie (1792). Photograph: © National Portrait Gallery, London.
First Names in Persuasion
Many of the Christian names in Persuasion are Austen standards: an elder sister Elizabeth (as in The Watsons); a difficult sister Mary (as in Pride and Prejudice); an authoritative cousin William. Mr. William Walter Elliot discards “Walter” but retains the conquering Whiggish “William” without the valor of William Price. The baronet’s unusual first name sounds like a family inheritance from Elizabethan times. Sir Walter Raleigh appears in Austen’s “History of England” as held in “great veneration” if imperfectly praiseworthy as “an enemy of the noble Essex” (Juvenilia, 186). Raleigh risked his life at sea and in battle, fighting against Spain or exploring South America; he was everything actively patriotic that Frederick Wentworth is and our misnamed “Sir Walter” is not. Elizabeth Elliot, haughty and vain, has too long been Virgin Queen of Kellynch, a cold maiden “out” for “thirteen revolving frosts.” Sir Walter and his daughter are stubborn living anachronisms, stuck in a mock-Elizabethan diorama.
Other names repeat those of earlier novels. There is—or was—a delicate and lovable Fanny (already dead). There is an apparently sober, slightly weak (if poetic) James. Three personages are named “Charles”: Charles Musgrove, Tory squire given to field sports; his little son, the Charles who dislocates his collarbone; and cousin Charles Hayter, clergyman heir of Winthrop. The reiterated royalist name seems to allude to a pro-Stuart past, indicating the politics of Musgroves and Hayters.76 Mrs. Smith’s deceased husband was yet another “Charles”—which does seem rather too much of a good thing. The first name of Lady Russell’s deceased husband is “Henry.” Henrietta Musgrove’s first name was last used for Miss Bates. But, as Jocelyn Harris notes, the name of the Duke of Monmouth’s mistress, Lady Henrietta Wentworth, is evoked within a text that presents us with a “Henrietta” and several honorable “Wentworths.”77
Henrietta’s sister Louisa has a slightly more modern Continental first name, last used as the first name of Mrs. Hurst (née Bingley). Admiral Croft cannot remember Louisa’s first name, which seems to him newfangled: “I always forget her Christian name. . . . I wish young ladies had not such a number of fine Christian names, I should never be out, if they were all Sophys or something of that sort” (II, ch. 6). “Louisa” is not beyond the Austen pale; Jane’s brother Edward’s daughter Louisa was born in 1804. “Sophia” meaning “Wisdom” is appropriate for brave and sensible Mrs. Croft. That name, once equally an import, had become familiar. Admiral Croft uses the affectionate English diminutive “Sophy,” breaking with traditional etiquette in referring to his wife not only by her first name but even by her nickname. Yet we don’t look down on him for this breach. Persuasion favors the colloquial and informal—at least when backed by genuine simplicity and affection.
Austen takes care in naming major characters in Persuasion, but at the third-tier level when in want of a name she tends to call everybody “Charles” or “Mary.” Wentworth was nearly asked to ferry a Lady Mary Grierson with her children. Mrs. Smith’s landlady Mrs. Speed appears to be a “Mary,” unless that is the name of her maidservant. A Lady Mary Maclean was presumably a member of the concert audience. We don’t know Mrs. Smith’s own first name. Yet why should that not be “Mary”? In a ballad known as “The Four Marys,” “Mary Hamilton” is the apocryphal doomed lady-in-waiting to Mary of Scots, probably conflated with the real Scottish Mary Hamilton, lady-in-waiting to Czarina Catherine, executed in Russia in 1719. Hamiltons’ lives are touched with disaster.
A few unusual first names appear. Pagan “Penelope,” name of Odysseus’s faithful wife, earlier used for Emma Watson’s disagreeable and contriving sister, is now the property of the middle-class widow looking for a mate. Penelope Clay cannot afford to be faithful to the memory of her dead husband—nor to Sir Walter. She tires of throwing time and attention away on him and on Elizabeth (perhaps Penelope’s true erotic admirer). A “Lady Alicia,” blue-blooded model of meanness, happily for Elizabeth set an example by not inviting relatives to dinner (II, ch. 10). Biblical names are for servants. Mary Musgrove’s nursery maid is “Jemima” (Hebrew, “dove” or “bright day”), name of Job’s eldest daughter born after his ordeal. “Jemima” was the name of niece Anna’s first infant. “As I wish very much to see your Jemima, I am sure you will like to see my Emma,” Jane wrote (December 1815–January 1816; Letters, 310). Perhaps Austen registers discontent with the biblical attachment of Evangelical Benjamin Lefroy. Literature associates this name with servitude. In Wollstonecraft’s The Wrongs of Women (1798), Jemima, illegitimate and abused, becomes an attendant at a madhouse. In the cancelled chapter 10 of Persuasion’s second volume, a “Stephen” serves the Crofts in Bath. Had Austen forgotten the maiden name of the heroine’s mother—“Stevenson”? Or is she underlining its commonness?
Hitherto Austen has used “Anne” for subordinate and inferior characters. Silent Anne De Bourgh and vulgar Nancy Steele are both beginning to wither on the vine—as Anne Elliot feels she is doing. Shyness, weakness, social incapacity, and even aging go with an “Anne.” Anne Thorpe (of the thick ankles) doesn’t get taken for a drive. Anne Taylor, like Anne Elliot, is no longer in her first youth when she finds her second spring. Anne Elliot bears the name of a major female saint and the last Stuart monarch. But—in marked contrast to Emma—she is a queen ignored. A woman of quiet strength, Anne is often left out, her best qualities mishandled as exploitable resources. A middle child, Anne has been easy to overlook, but not to deceive. Younger Mary was deceived, kept ignorant of William Elliot’s failed or nonexistent courtship of Elizabeth and of Anne’s broken engagement to Wentworth. Mary’s constant fear that she is being kept out of things has some psychological justification.
There was a famous “Ann Elliot,” an actress (1743–1769), mistress of the dramatist Arthur Murphy, and later of Frederick, Duke of Cumberland (fig. 16). She is recollected in the Life of Arthur Murphy (1811) by Jessé Foot, whose description makes her seem a little like Austen’s Emma: “Somewhat above the middle stature . . . her eyes were dark hazle [sic] and her hair a beautiful brown.” Foot memorably remarks, “Every thing about her was sylphic and enchanting.”78 The enchantment of the short-lived graceful Ann floats over the heroine of Persuasion, a woman of “slender form” with “delicate features and mild dark eyes” (Persuasion, I, ch. 8; ch. 1). This is not how Anne sees herself, but the actress suggests the “sylphic” young woman Frederick first saw.
The name “Frederick” (attached historically to a real “Ann Elliot”) appears in a variant version in a story by twelve-year-old Jane Austen—her first story in Volume the First. “Frederic and Elfrida” offers another case of a postponed wedding; Elfrida suffers from too great a delicacy to come to the point. Years fly by. Only when Elfrida sees that Frederic is attracted to a much younger girl, who treats her as “little less than an old woman” does “the horror” overcome her inhibition:
The instant she had the first ideas of such an attachment, she flew to Frederic and in a manner truly heroick, spluttered out to him her intention of being married the next Day. . . . he not being the least terrified boldly replied,
“Damme Elfrida—you may be married tomorrow but I won’t.”
This answer distressed her too much for her delicate Constitution. She accordingly fainted and was in such a hurry to have a succession of fainting fits, that she had scarcely patience enough to recover from one before she fell into another.
Tho’, in any threatening Danger to his Life or Liberty, Frederic was as bold as brass yet in other respects his heart was as soft as cotton and immediately on hearing of the dangerous way Elfrida was in, he flew to her and finding her better than he had been taught to expect, was united to her Forever—. (Juvenilia, 11–12)
16. Anon., Miss Ann Elliot (1811). From Jesse Foot, The Life of Arthur Murphy, Esq. Reproduced from the original held by the Department of Special Collections of the Hesburgh Libraries of the University of Notre Dame.
This comical narrative forecasts the story of Persuasion—the story of an engaged couple who cannot marry because of the lady’s nice considerations. Growing older, the woman has to see her beloved’s sexual attention turning to another younger object—until she intervenes and changes the situation. The young Jane Austen who wrote “Frederic and Elfrida” can have had little idea of the passion and grief within such a situation. The author of Persuasion knows. Persuasion’s story concerns a woman who broke off an engagement not out of false delicacy but because she was persuaded the marriage was not for her lover’s good. This heroine never faints and cannot bluntly voice her feelings. Her intervention is unintentional—Anne shows her worth at the time of Louisa’s accident. Slowly, Frederick Wentworth, knowing nothing of the ordeal Anne has undergone, recognizes that he still desires her.
The name “Frederick” has a special resonance. In Smith’s Emmeline, Delamere’s handsome youth, his impetuosity, his ardor were qualities the ironic contrarian reader Jane Austen insisted on seeing as superior to the virtues of supposedly preferable Godolphin. The association of this name with impetuous desire extends to the teenaged “Frederica” in Lady Susan. Qualities young Jane liked in Delamere are given to the impetuous and courageous Frederick Wentworth. Between Elfrida’s Frederic and the mature Captain Wentworth we find the privileged swaggering Captain Frederick Tilney, heir apparent of Northanger Abbey. He is certainly “bold as brass,” if “soft as cotton” in the presence of his father. In all instances of a “Frederick” Jane Austen seems to investigate what masculinity might be and how women see it. Smith’s Delamere was an interesting avenue to the contemplation of erotic males. And in Persuasion the name is the best tribute to the author of Emmeline—herself an apparition in the pages of the haunting story of death and resurrection.
Names in Sanditon
Surnames in Sanditon
Heywoods and Parkers
Variously spelled “Haywood” or “Heywood,” the heroine’s locative surname comes from Old English haeg + wudu: “enclosed wood” or stand of oak trees. Several small Midland towns are called “Haywood.” The name evokes simple “hay.” Mr. Heywood, “Hale” and “Gentlemanlike,” first seen “among his Haymakers” suggests the sturdiness of Old England and the English rural life (Sanditon, Later Manuscripts, ch. 1). But that opening can also remind us of the comic opening of “Henry and Eliza,” where the parental landowners are first seen in the hay field:
As Sir George and Lady Harcourt were superintending the Labours of their Haymakers, rewarding the industry of some by smiles of approbation, and punishing the idleness of others, by a cudgel.” (Volume the First, Juvenilia, 38)
It is as if young Austen parodied in advance that image of Farmer George rewarding the hay maker. In this last novel, Mr. Heywood seems deliberately overdone as an English rural type—John Bull making hay, a parodic Farmer George. A prodigy of begetting, he fathered fourteen children, vying with the Willmots of “Edgar and Emma.” Deconstruction in “Henry and Eliza” of the benevolent landowner (with knowing reference to the forced nature of rural labor) casts its playful shadow—or streak of light—over the opening of Sanditon. We should not readily determine that the “point” of the unfinished novel is simply to make us appreciate traditional values and rural life, as against modern speculations by the barren seashore.
The most celebrated eighteenth-century “Haywood” or “Heywood” is the novelist Eliza Haywood, author of Love in Excess (1719), The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless (1751), and other works. Eliza Haywood specialized in delineation of the passions, the power of Eros, and female experience of constraint. A name so strongly associated with fiction prompts us to look at Sanditon as a fiction about fiction. Fiction figures within the story itself, not only in a beachside library and an evocation of Camilla but also in Sir Edward Denham’s ravings in favor of (male) erotic passion in modern narrative (ch. 8). Haywoodian “love in excess” is parodically represented. If Persuasion is a response to Scott’s critique, Sanditon is a riposte.
Yet, rather than fixing its gaze upon poetry or prose, this novel focuses on the fictions of capitalism. Advertising is everywhere—of clothes, of houses, of seaside resorts. Rather than passion, people search for pleasure and money. After the generosity and courage of characters in Persuasion, who more than sufficiently counteract the mean, it is disconcerting to come into such self-centered postwar materialism. Advertising to do with health is commercially dominant. Mrs. Griffith, educator and guardian of a young heiress, competently fends off others’ attempts to meddle with her charge’s health. Just as we are thinking this admirable we find that Mrs. Griffith makes an exception “in favour of some Tonic Pills, which a Cousin of her own had a Property in” (ch. 11).
The Parkers’ name suggests staid fixity in a bounded location, but the couple is moving when we first see them, just before their carriage overturns in the “rough Lane” outside the Haywoods’ home. The name “Parker” originally indicated a man who enclosed land or “man in charge of a park.” In Austen’s time the most notable “Parker” was aristocratic John Parker of Saltram, created first Earl of Morley in September 1815.79 Austen seems to have become acquainted with Frances, his second wife, Countess of Morley, through Henry, who may have visited Saltram in Jane’s lifetime.80 But the most interesting “Parker” with the Morley title is a man of the Tudor period.
Henry Parker, tenth Baron Morley (ca. 1480–1556), was educated in the house of Lady Margaret Beaufort. Like other powerful “Beauforts,” Lady Margaret descended from one of the bastards of John of Gaunt born to Katherine Swynford. Margaret had married Edmund Tudor, and after his early death remained a Tudor supporter. Formidable and pious, she was praised by Henry Parker to the Catholic princess who became Queen Mary I. Baron Morley had much to endure under the rule of Henry VIII. A supporter of the old religion, he was required to furnish armed men to put down the Pilgrimage of Grace. Connected with the Boleyns, Henry Parker was driven, during the period of Anne Boleyn’s trial in 1536, to convict his own son Lord Rochfort of misbehavior with the queen and hence of treason (ensuring Rochfort’s beheading). The presence of the name “Parker” relating to “the Anne Boleyn complex” so important to Jane Austen is striking in combination with another name with similar associations in the case of Lady Denham (née Brereton) (see below).
We may surmise that Sanditon’s Mr. Parker, an antihero confident in his own well-meaning, will be careless of the welfare of others, even committing some act that looks like betrayal, as well as finding himself entrapped, betrayed, and ruined. A certain extravagance associated with the Parkers of Saltram suggests that Austen’s Mr. Parker, if faithful as a husband (unlike famous contemporary Parkers), will come to financial grief. In Saltram a delightfully furnished Chinese bedroom had a (non-Chinese) marble fireplace, bearing images of bears robbing beehives and the motto “Take what you want says God. Take it and Pay for it.”81 This might be a motto for the Parkers of Saltram—and the Parkers of Sanditon.
Austen’s Mr. Parker is the latest in her series of British land enclosers and land exploiters. Rather than privatizing agricultural land, Mr. Parker is treating sea and shore as a kind of “park”—his site for development and takeover. His admiring wife is incapable of argument, and the rest of his family (except his brother Sidney) does what they can to assist. This new form of “imparking” requires mobility and communication—the Parkers live in a flutter of newspapers, letters, advertisements, and searches, wheels a-rolling and post a-flying. (They seem to be waiting for the telegraph to arrive—as it soon will.) Their business and bustle may reflect Jane’s observations of her brother Henry and his banking business. Its flurry of success quickly ran into failure before Waterloo year was out. Henry was a bankrupt in March 1816. Henry’s crashed bank took a lot of other family money with it.82 The Austen family’s game of “Speculation” had led to defeat.
Hollies and Briars: Lady Denham’s Prickliness
Mr. Parker’s coadjutor in his busyness is a lady with a very Anglo-Saxon surname: “valley homestead or farm” (denu + ham). The surname was famous chiefly on account of John Denham the poet of “Cooper’s Hill.” Lady Denham possesses a real park, spoils of her second marriage to now deceased Sir Harry Denham of Denham Park: “For the Title, it was to be supposed that she had married” (ch. 3). Late in life she became a “Lady.” Her maiden name was Brereton—surname of her young relative Clara. Anglo-Saxon “Brereton” (brer + ton) is a farm amid the briars. Lady Denham’s family seems to have arisen from the briar patch. The only notable real-life ancestor would have been the William Brereton who was executed at the time of the execution of Francis Weston—and of Parker’s son Rochfort—on trumped-up charges of adultery with Anne Boleyn. William Brereton probably had no flirtatious link with the queen; his beheading seems to have been ensured by Thomas Cromwell as a payback. William Brereton had been deeply involved in taking over and pocketing the wealth of dissolved abbeys. Here again in Jane Austen’s fiction, a character profits from ruthless ancestors who found their advantage in the Dissolution. Lady Denham, solid Saxon with an eye to the main chance, has something in common with General Tilney and his ancestors.
Lady Denham’s first husband, Mr. Hollis, was “an elderly Man” when he married. The most interesting “Hollis” of Austen’s time was Thomas Brand; of low birth, he accompanied Thomas Hollis on the Grand Tour and was left Hollis’s property in 1774, taking his friend’s surname. He spent money for support of groups promoting science, political reform, and Dissent, and bequeathed all his Hollis property to a friend in 1804 (ODNB). This example of homosexual emancipation exhibits property movement according to choice, without reference to bloodlines or marriage. Such transfer aside from bonds of blood or obligation connects with the position of childless Lady Denham, inheretrix of property that she can dispose of at whim. But her deceased husband in acquiring his wealth seems to reflect the Tudor Sir William Hollis (or Holles) who snapped up property by tricky business deals, making loans and then suddenly foreclosing. (He obtained lands from Sir William Fitzwilliam and Sir Thomas Elliot, among others.) Though anti-Protestant, Holles profited from the Dissolution. He “speculated in the lands of dissolved religious houses” (ODNB). Perhaps one of Lady Denhams’s Hollis in-laws will be one too many for the Parkers.
On her first husband’s death “Mrs. Hollis” acquired all his property, including “a large share of the Parish of Sanditon, with Manor &Mansion House” (ch. 3). When she marries Sir Harry Denham of Denham Park she is “too wary to put anything out of her own Power,” and her second husband “cd. not succeed in the veiws [sic] of permanently enriching his family” (ch. 3, Later Manuscripts, 416). The Hollis property remains, still hers to bequeath as she wishes. No entail, will, or promise binds her. She is perfectly free to speculate with her property—even to waste it.
The final lines of the manuscript present images of the two dead husbands in Lady Denham’s “sitting room.” Dead Sir Harry is represented by a “whole-length Portrait of a stately [originally “portly”] Gentleman, which placed over the Mantelpiece caught the eye immediately,” while dead Mr. Hollis is represented only in “one among many miniatures in another part of the room.” In death they are divided. “Poor Mr. Hollis!—It was impossible not to feel him hardly used; to be obliged to stand back in his own House [originally “room”] & see the best place by the fire constantly occupied by Sir H. D.” (ch. 12). Lady Denham values the dead men according to their status alone. It will serve her right to lose Mr. Hollis’s “own House.”
“Hollis” is “Hollies,” a descriptive locative, “dwelling by the holly trees.” A certain prickly quality may be expected of a Hollis—and a doubly prickly quality in Lady Denham, formerly “Hollis” (née “Brereton”). She is scratchy as briars and prickly as hollies. In the manuscript we can follow Austen’s understanding of that point when she describes the fencing of the grounds of Sanditon House with “rows of old Thorns & Hollies.” (Hollies, valued of old as winter cattle feed, might abound in ancient hedges.) Austen thought better of that phrase, and drew a line through “& Hollies” as overegging the pudding (ch. 12, Later Manuscripts, 551).
Lady Denham is the oldest active person in Austen’s oeuvre—seventy years old at the time Sanditon opens. Physically lively and mentally commanding, she is Mr. Parker’s partner and chief investor in what we might call “Sanditon Limited.” Concerned with making the seaside resort a money-making operation, Lady Denham possesses inadequate economic insight. She desires numerous visitors to reward her investment—but without any corresponding increase in local demand for service and foodstuffs, which will raise wages and prices. Mr. Parker endeavors in vain to explain to Lady Denham the harmony of market forces. (Parker, probably like Jane Austen, seems to have read some Adam Smith.)
“My dear Madam, they can only raise the price of consumeable Articles, by such an extraordinary Demand for them & such a diffusion of Money among us, as must do us more Good than harm.—Our Butchers & Bakers & Traders in general cannot get rich without bringing Prosperity to us.—If they do not gain, our rents must be insecure—& in proportion to their profit must be ours eventually in the increased value of our Houses.” (ch. 6)
Lady Denham obstinately clings to the values she knows: “But I should not like to have Butcher’s meat raised, though—& I shall keep it down as long as I can.” She resists bringing in a resident physician: “It wd. be only encouraging our Servants & the Poor to fancy themselves ill, if there was a Dr. at hand” (ch. 6). Enticing invalid visitors to Sanditon while banning medical attendants, she plans to fob invalids off with the use (for a fee) of her deceased husband’s exercise machine (his “Chamber Horse”) and the milk of her asses. Lady Denham, self-willed and prickly, comically combines grasping conservatism with an expansionist greedy capitalism. As Charlotte decides, Lady Denham is “Sordid” (ch. 7). Her boasts about her own perfect health may be hubristic. Lady Denham might suddenly depart this life, leaving the finances of Sanditon up in the air. The death of Mr. Parker’s partner may have been planned as one of the complications plunging Sanditon into its inevitable crash. Yet Lady Denham is so lively and irritating that we cannot imagine her failing to survive.
Workers and Visitors
Many common persons with common surnames visit or work in Sanditon. The central penumbra of names is also the setting. We hear of a poor family named “Mullins,” whom Mr. Parker wishes to assist, “as their distress is very great” (ch. 12). “Mullins,” Norman but not all grand, is a form of mulliner (“mill worker”). Appropriately, William Heeley is a shoemaker and shoe seller. (“Heeley”/“Healey” is the name of a town in Yorkshire.) Mr. Parker rejoices at seeing in Mr. Heeley’s window “Blue Shoes, & nankin Boots!” (the kind of boots that Emma Watson could not afford). These are to Mr. Parker “Civilization, Civilization indeed!” (ch. 4). As D. A. Miller notes, “Heeley” is another of the many names beginning with “H” in Sanditon, including Heywood, Hastings, Hailsham, and Hollis. Miller identifies this as “Anti-Style,” a sign of incipient death in “the undoing of Style by wordplay.”83 But wordplay in Austen is creative life, not death. The repeated aspirate serves to highlight puns in, for example, “Hastings” and “Heeley.” The Parkers’ old house is temporarily occupied by one “Hillier” who thus dwells in the valley while the Parkers have moved to the top of the hill—so the Hilliers are really Valley-ers, and the Parkers are Hillier (ch. 4). The consistent aspirate is also hidden comic prophecy of what will blow the house down.
A “Jebb” (from short form of “Geoffrey”) who owns a shop has a name appropriate to south Sussex, unlike “Whitby,” owner of the shop tended by Mrs. Whitby. “Whitby’s” is the circulating “library,” bookstore, and trinket mart. Mr. Whitby’s family originated in Yorkshire’s Whitby—another seaside town. (Unlike brand-new Sanditon, Whitby is historically important for an abbey and famous abbess.) The Parkers are trying to encourage “old Stringer” as a grower and seller of vegetables, while they have their own gardener, old Andrew. “Stringer,” ancient occupational term for one who makes bowstrings, is “a common Yorkshire name” (Reaney & Wilson). Low or working-class names suggesting northern origin keep cropping up in Sanditon, indicating postwar mobility. The English population is moving about, going to the south coast where new jobs are once the fear of invasion has gone.
“Mr. Woodcock,” the hotel keeper, who assists the Parker sisters in getting out of the carriage, bears the name of an edible bird (Old English wudocuce). The name was probably at first a nickname, “later used to mean ‘a fool, simpleton, and dupe’” (Reaney & Wilson). Polonius’s phrase comes to mind: “Ay, springes to catch woodcocks” (Hamlet, act 1, sc. 6; Shakespeare Plays, 8:156). Mr. Woodcock has probably invested deeply in his new hotel; if so, this poor woodcock will be one of the earliest major victims of the crash, caught in the “springe” that Lady Denham and Mr. Parker have set to entrap others’ money—and themselves.
In the sixth chapter of Sanditon Austen accesses a new means of producing a festival of low or absurd names. At the outset of Persuasion she gave us the arranged informational focus on one family’s name in a list of short entries in the Baronetage. By contrast, in Sanditon we are shown a different (parodic) objective informational source, this time an informal list of “Subscribers” at the library. This random list of discrete unimportant persons disconnected from each other is the reverse of the organized account offered in Sir Walter Elliot’s favorite volume. Mr. Parker eagerly peruses the list but is disappointed by names he understandably judges “without distinction.” These are lower-class names—not a high-class Norman in sight. With one exception, the featured names have no direct relation to land or landscape. They tend to refer to towns, occupations, or parts of the body. “Mrs. Mathews” and her female offspring can shed no social grace upon the town. The Gospel of Matthew records Christ’s warning us against building on sand. “Brown” (substituted for “Henderson” in the manuscript), referring originally to skin or hair color, is one of the commonest and dullest English surnames after “Smith,” also represented in the Subscribers’ book by “Lieutenant Smith.”
“Mr. Richard Pratt” hints at the delightfully ridiculous. “Richard” is always wrong. “Pratt” is tricky name. Is this tricky Dick perchance Lucy’s uncle? “Captain Little” is an oxymoron giving and then denying authority. “Captain Little” with touching social naïveté gives his home address as “Limehouse.” If not quite the slum it became later, Limehouse in London’s dockland was insalubrious and crowded. Site of lime kilns (lym + oasts) since the fourteenth century, Limehouse was always industrial, a place for shipbuilding and ropewalks. Charles Dickens’s godfather owned a sail-making business here. Captain Little, retired on a small pension now the war is over, lives in a cheap and familiar place near shipping. “Limehouse” nicely cuts against the pseudo-gentility of “Sanditon.”
The Rev. Mr. Hanking’s surname is a diminutive derived from “hand.” A “little hand” is not rendered any grander by belonging to a mere curate. Mr. Beard of Gray’s Inn represents another part of the body. “Mrs. Jane Fisher,” a widow, may have come to fish for a husband for herself or her daughter, Miss Fisher. They arrived with “Miss Scroggs,” whose wonderfully ugly surname is unromantically Scottish. It means “someone who lives by the brushwood”; there were many Scroggses around Peebles. “Mrs. Davis,” with a name associated with Wales and Saint David, appears to have traveled with “Miss Merryweather.” This most attractive of these personal epithets caps the comical list. “Merryweather,” description in the common riddle pattern (myrige + weder), is appropriate only to blithely cheerful persons. It may indicate that we will in the end come into merry weather.
True Norman names are represented elsewhere in the two Misses Beaufort (beau + fort, “beautifully strong” or “well fortified”). These two young ladies with “Miss Lambe” make up the entire “seminary” attributed to Mrs. Griffiths. Their surname is aristocratic—but the Beauforts (historically connected with Parkers) were descendants of bastards. Possessing “tolerable complexions, shewey figures, an upright decided carriage & an assured Look,” these unconsciously vulgar visitors intend “to be the most stylish Girls in the Place.” Showing off their harp, their sketching and themselves, the sisters attempt to attract male attention. Their object is “to captivate some Man of much better fortune than their own” (ch. 11). That description is so definitive that it is hard to imagine such characters unfolding any nuances of personality. But this pair is obviously intended to figure later in group or party scenes. The historical connection between “Parker” and “Beaufort” may even indicate that one or both will have a role in development of events, even in precipitating the crash. Their name hints that they are too well fortified to injure themselves seriously in any crash or conflict.
Miss Diana Parker dwells in a confusing and magnifying fog of friends and friends of friends. For six hours she massaged the ankle of a coachman, servant of her friend “Mrs. Sheldon,” whose name chimes with the general themes of hypochondria and bizarre treatment of the body (ch. 5). John Sheldon (d. 1808), anatomist and surgeon, fell in love with a dying young lady and had her corpse embalmed and preserved, keeping this relic at home. Upon John’s death Mrs. Sheldon gave the mummified beloved to the Royal College of Surgeons (ODNB). Diana habitually supplies a penumbra which (unlike that of Mrs. Elton, for instance) directly affects developments in the story. Diana trusts in communication with her particular friend Fanny Noyce. (This surname [noyous] indicates something annoying, as in noisome or noisy.) Through the annoying Fanny Noyce’s particular friend Miss Capper (“maker of caps”) Diana has made remote contact with a Mrs. Darling (“little dear”) who was on good terms with a Mrs. Griffiths. The truly Celtic name “Griffiths” was Breton before coming to Wales. The Parkers’ butler Morgan has a Welsh surname derived ultimately from Pictish. Three Welsh names (Davis, Morgan, and Griffiths) are encountered in a very short work. The novel integrates ethnic diversity—British ethnic diversity. Antique names not descended from Anglo-Saxon or Norman—“barbaric” names—turn up in unusual number in Sanditon. These “low” names, not ruling-class appellations, mark persons rising into respectability and visibility. They are indicators of a population becoming increasingly mixed and mobile.
Through Fanny Noyce, Diana assured herself of the advent of Mrs. Griffiths, supposed to be bringing West Indians to Sanditon. Through a quite different friend, Mrs. Charles Dupuis (“of the pit or well”), she had distant contact with a male resident of Clapham teaching at a seminary for young ladies in suburban Camberwell. Sanditon was thus recommended to that seminary. Two roundabout circuits collapse into one. The imagined two groups (one, a family of “West Indians”; the other, a girls’ school in Camberwell) prove to be one and the same. Mrs. Griffiths brings three young ladies, one a West Indian, a Creole heiress of mixed blood.
This Miss Lambe, age seventeen, is black and wealthy, presumably the heiress of a plantation owner. Miss Lambe, “half mulatto, chilly & tender” (ch. 11) seems a lamb ready to be thoroughly fleeced. The ugly but exact phrase “half mulatto” says that her mother was of mixed race, product of sexual encounter between a white man (likely a plantation owner or his relative) and a black woman (most likely a slave). Jane Austen takes us closer to the West Indies than she did in Mansfield Park. Austen may well have been influenced by a recent novel—the anonymous The Woman of Colour, published in 1808, hard on the heels of the Act ending the slave trade. Its heroine, Olivia Fairfield, “a mulatto West Indian” as she calls herself, is the illegitimate daughter of a planter by Marcia, an enslaved black woman. Olivia travels from Jamaica to England because her father’s will left her a fortune which is to go to her cousin Augustus Merton if he is willing to marry Olivia and change his surname to “Fairfield.” If Augustus is not willing to marry her, the money will go to Augustus’ rude elder brother and even more disagreeable wife. Olivia and Augustus do marry, but a resurrection of Augustus’ supposedly dead first wife renders that marriage invalid. At the end of the story Olivia returns to Jamaica to work on the education and welfare of black women and women of color.
Olivia Fairfield, central epistolary narrator of her novel, has more confidence and sense of humor than we may expect from Miss Lambe. Miss Lambe’s venture into Sanditon society may, however, include some of the trials encountered by Olivia. Her future sister-in-law on first meeting will not touch Olivia’s hand: “I held out my hand, and that lady was very near taking it in hers; but I fancy its colour disgusted her, for she recoiled.”84 One of Augustus’s female friends says to him “upon my honour she is not near so dark as I expected to find her”–which Olivia overhears (The Woman of Colour, 117). Who can doubt that Miss Lambe is both toadied and snubbed by the strong conceited Beauforts?
The younger Miss Beaufort is “Letitia,” from the Latin noun “laetitia” meaning “joy,” “gladness” or “pleasure.” (A certain slightly fake classical paganism colors Sanditon.) The best known “Letitia” was Anna Laetitia Barbauld, a well-known writer, critic, and editor.85 The name refers us again to the study of fiction.86 But there is an immediately relevant fictional predecessor. In The Woman of Colour the disagreeable blonde woman who will not touch Olivia’s hand is “Letitia Merton.” We may expect the social conjunctions of the Beaufort girls, their West Indian schoolmate, Lady Denham’s relatives and other inhabitants of Sanditon to be fraught more or less hidden disagreeableness.
First Names in Sanditon
The first name of Sanditon’s “heroine”—or central point-of-view personage—is “Charlotte.” Austen employed this name throughout her career. In “Frederic and Elfrida” Charlotte Drummond, a rector’s daughter too willing to oblige, accepts two proposals and then drowns herself (Juvenilia, 5–9). Most of Austen’s “Charlottes” are good-natured but more calculating than Miss Drummond. Like Goethe’s Lotte, they have a strong streak of practicality, avoiding imprudence and wastefulness. Charlotte Luttrell in “Lesley Castle” is more concerned with spoilage of the wedding feast than with the death of her sister’s fiancé. Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice (another cook—she makes mince pies) does not let Mr. Collins go to waste. A Charlotte Davis, mentioned bitterly by Isabella, was allegedly dangled after by Frederick Tilney during his last two days in Bath—“I pitied his taste” (NA, II, ch. 12). But that offstage Charlotte apparently packed the captain off to his regiment without getting embroiled.
At age twenty-two, Charlotte Haywood is the oldest of Austen’s heroines save Anne in Persuasion—and, unlike Anne, she has had no former experience of love. Neither is Charlotte Heywood an “imaginist” like Emma Woodhouse, although her imagination responds a little to the situation of the orphaned Clara. Charlotte seems the Austen heroine least likely to become entangled in emotional difficulties. She is neither vulnerable like Marianne, Fanny, and Anne, nor prone to enthusiastic mistakes like Catherine, Elinor, Elizabeth, or Emma. Charlotte’s emotions are not to the fore. More surprisingly, we cannot feel they would be interesting—it is her dry inner remarks on others’ foibles and her own that provide interest. Sanditon is not really a “love story.” From the outset, we are effectually promised that the heroine’s emotional development will not be at the center of concern. Charlotte surely will find a satisfactory young man without our worrying much about her. Yet—the double meaning hidden in reference to the “Heywood” who wrote Love in Excess might hint at possible passion or perplexity (though these may affect only Miss Lambe).
Sadly, we do not yet know Miss Lambe’s first name (Viola would be a nice choice). Some of the first names in this unfinished work are common Austenian, while others are unusual. Mr. Parker is a Thomas (“Tom” to his relatives). With his impulsive desire to meet people whom he does not yet know, he seems a bit like Tom Bertram. His wife’s name, “Mary,” has been passed on to their little daughter. The narrator criticizes Mrs. Parker’s passive complicity, providing no check on her husband’s follies. She is not a whiner like Mary Musgrove, a tedious plodder like poor Mary Bennet, nor a charmer like Mary Crawford. But all four have in common a certain weakness, an unconscious self-indulgence.
“Susan” is “Susannah,” heroine of the Apocryphal story of chastity falsely accused. Beauty, however, like display of chastity or cunning seductiveness (such as we see in Lady Susan), is comically absent from Susan Parker. Her body, however, is emphasized in a singular manner. Instead of adorning or cosseting her physical being, hypochondriac Susan Parker insults her body with somatic drama—as in having three teeth drawn on the spur of the moment. The only thing she has in common with the Apocryphal Susannah is that she may bathe (in the mode approved at Sanditon). She shares with Lady Susan Vernon and Susan Price (and probably with the ur-version of Catherine Morland) a concern with the physical and diurnal and an aversion to books, theory, rational consideration of the future, and abstract contemplation.
Diana Parker bears the name of the Roman goddess of the moon, hunting, and chastity. One of the pagan names of which Camden complained, “Diana” is unusual in Austen’s time—though there was adulterous Lady Diana Beauclerk who married her lover (to Johnson’s disapproval). Beauties like the Duchess of Devonshire were painted with the attributes of the moon goddess. Diana punished the hunter Actaeon who spied on her bathing by having him torn to pieces by his own hounds. The story of the beautiful woman spied on links the story of Diana and the Apocryphal Susannah; Renaissance artists deal with both scenes as opportunities for display of the female body, fantasies of voyeurism and punishment. Diana Parker, determined to bathe with the help of a bathing machine, comically lacks any pornographic promise as a bathing beauty. In Burney’s Camilla (invoked in this narrative), there is a comic and distressing scene in Southampton: the heroine and vulgar Mrs. Mittin, though not bathing, are caught and trapped by jeering men in “one of the little rooms prepared for the accommodation of bathers.”87 Sir Philip Sidney—whose surname also appears among the Parkers—had written in his Arcadia quite a hot scene of a lover (disguised as a woman) looking at beautiful sisters naked in the water. We may well suspect that an important scene to come in Sanditon was going to involve a comic version of the Arcadian erotic, a scene of a bathing machine, women, the sea, and one or more gazers.
The chastity of Diana Parker is unquestionable. Both Parker sisters have turned against sexuality. Busily destroying themselves with violent medical treatments—and with chaste anorexia and herbal teas—the Parker spinsters need not worry about a love life. Diana is a busybody, a little like Mrs. Norris, proving her importance by rushing into projects, and repaying herself by insane binges of hypochondria, outdoing even the expert Mr. Woodhouse. Diana refers to the moon, and the moon can cause lunacy. Diana and Susannah work hard at turning their brother into an hypochondriac too. The terms “chilly” and “tender” and the theme of hypochondria appear in The Woman of Colour; Wealthy nabobs returned from exploiting India complain about the cold; Mrs. Ingot encourages her teenaged son to huddle in cashmere and lie on the sofa—“my tender sensitive sapling Frederic” (The Woman of Colour, 109).
Diana Parker is not the only character with a pagan first name. Clara Brereton’s adjectival name is Latin for “clear,” “bright,” or “famous.” Its relation to “Clarissa” is surely an influence on Sir Edward’s decision to seduce her in the best Lovelacean tradition, but we are assured that “Clara saw through him, & had not the least intention of being seduced” (ch. 8). It is most likely that in the end he will marry her.
The niece of Lady Denham’s deceased second husband, however, is named after Queen Esther, the heroine whose name entitles a book of the Hebrew Scriptures. Esther courageously spoke out even in face of the displeasure of the king, her husband, risking death in order to help her people. “Esther” (originally Persian, relating to the goddess Ishtar) has often been favored among English Christians but was not much in use in Austen’s own time. Haughty and silent to supposed inferiors, Esther flatters Lady Denham. The perfect sycophant, she seems extremely unlikely to stand up against power—unlike her heroic Jewish namesake. But Esther Denham might surprise us.
Edward Denham has a Saxon and kingly first name. The first name of Austen’s richest brother, it served the ambiguous Edward Ferrars. This Edward has the surname of a poet. But he talks arrant nonsense, consumed by a jargon of Romanticism. No “guardian of treasure,” he imagines himself a seducer and destroyer, a Lovelace. He supposes Clara will fit in his scenario, but she is too well defended, too prickly—with that briar-patch surname. (But then, a Tudor ancestor with her surname met a sticky fate on a sexual charge.) This Edward seems oddly sterile. The fact that he is “running up a tasteful little Cottage Ornée, on a strip of waste Ground” epitomizes his folly (ch. 3). He is situated firmly in the marginal wasteland, even before we hear what hash he makes of literary terms, genres, and enthusiasms.
Tom Parker’s youngest brother, Arthur Parker, at age twenty-one, has learned from his sisters the privileges of hypochondria. Deluding his enablers (happy to endow him with lumbago), he chooses no profession. Indolent cocoa-drinking Arthur totally contradicts the patriotic name of the heroic King Arthur who led the Knights of the Round Table—although he is drawn to the table. Sidney Parker, the middle brother, has another patriotic name, a surname made into a first name. This is only the second occasion (the first being Fitzwilliam Darcy) of Austen’s use of that formula for the name of a prominent character. “Sidney” flies the Whig flag.
We meet Sidney Parker in the very last fragmentary chapter. Remarks quoted by his family indicate some wit and a sense of humor. Enriched by a personal inheritance, Sidney appears skeptical of the family projects of resort development and hypochondria. Austen’s original title may have been The Brothers, putting the three Parker brothers at the center.88 Different reactions to the creation and effects of the crash will be seen in Mr. Parker, Arthur, and Sidney—as doubtless the Austen brothers displayed themselves variously during Henry’s bankruptcy.
Sidney Parker also seems the right age (“about 7 or 8 & 20”) to offer a love interest to Charlotte. Yet all we are told about him on the first meeting is that he will stay at the hotel with friends, and not with his relations, and that he is “very good-looking, with a decided air of Ease & Fashion, and a lively countenance.” This is altered from the more negative “very much the Man of fashion in his air” (ch. 12, Later Manuscripts, 550). Even the revised phrases are no endorsement. Austen’s heroines do not marry for “Ease & Fashion.” Sidney Parker seems like an upgrade of Tom Musgrave, similar—but inferior—to Frank Churchill. Entanglement with the Parkers seems hazardous to one’s health and finances. That this young man has such a Whiggish name seems an indication that he is not to be an Austen heroine’s final choice.
Sidney may be more impressive to the teenager, Miss Lambe. Some critics have overemphasized the fact that Miss Lambe does not speak, but she has only just arrived in Sanditon at the point where Austen stops writing.89Mansfield Park and Emma exhibit in Mary Crawford and Jane Fairfax Austen’s disconcerting ability to create what I have called “a counterweight heroine.” Arriving on our scene later than the settled heroine, the counter-heroine is talented and dark or dark–haired. (Elizabeth Bennet, though a true heroine, with her brown skin and quick wits—in marked contrast to the conventionally lovely Jane—partly originates this Austenian type.)
It is on the cards that Miss Lambe is designed as the important counterweight to Charlotte. Lonely and displaced, this alternative heroine of Sanditon is surrounded by developers who wish to exploit her fortune. She has no relations nearby; unlike placid Charlotte and tough Clara Miss Lambe will be emotionally vulnerable. “Chilly and tender” is a description emanating from exploiters, however, and may not be the whole truth about who she really is. Edward Denham, so openly crass, is unlikely to be Miss Lambe’s heartbreaker—Sidney Parker is a more dangerous candidate. The “hero” who will marry Charlotte may not yet be visible. He might be one of the friends of Sidney Parker—and Sidney would function better as an “Anti-hero”—to use the term in “Plan of a Novel.” Sidney, however, surely would not be the “totally unprincipled & heart-less young Man, desperately in love with the Heroine” (“Plan of a Novel,” Later Manuscripts, 227). Perhaps we should attend to Sir Edward, comic opponent of Sanditon’s heroine. Sir Edward, muddled in poetry, fiction, Romanticism, and Lovelace, expresses in his comic disquisition on the Novel (ch. 8) a belief that hero and villain is the same thing nowadays. He may well be right. The real “hero” and “villain” of this financial adventure story is Mr. Parker, abetted by mean Lady Denham whose pride in her own perspicacity renders her certain to fall. Base fictions of health, wealth, and success constantly intrude on the sea and sunshine. The confused sterility of advertisement compasses most characters, and all language tends to become subsumed into advertisement. Mr. Parker even considers his handsome brother Sidney an attraction to lure women to Sanditon. Realities of body and mind are sucked into the fictions of the wasteland, the beach of salt sand.