It has been a short while since this blog has seen any new content. Oh I am still enjoying the 20th Century texts, however, I have not yet churned out a post that will not make me look like a cathartic poet who needs release of her emotions through writing these blog posts.
Reading The Female Quixote (Charlotte Lennox) brought a slight reprieve to my other reads, but it was a wonderful prelude to re-reading Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen) now. But it was no wonder, since Austen herself used it as an inspiration for her first piece of work (Northanger Abbey, written in her early twenties!). Unlike Austen’s first fully written novel, however, The Female Quixote does not receive as much publicity and fanfare today.
According to Wikipedia, Norma Clarke has ranked it with Clarissa, Tom Jones, and Roderick Random as one of the “defining texts in the development of the novel in the eighteenth century”. Not that Wikipedia has been a defining authority on books and Literature but it would astonish me to think that Wikipedia would purposely fool its earnest readers to gain more credibility to its perceived nature by academics.
Written in imitation of the manner of Cervantes (Don Quixote), Lennox was a female writer with a great amount of humour and sensibility. Possibly a female celebrity writer in her hey-day, given that Samuel Johnson was rather enamoured with her literary output. Nonetheless, Austen today overshadows her female contemporaries.
No matter. They all enjoyed writing about fops (Sir Clement Willoughby), men with little or no sense (Mr. Collins) and (hypochondriac) women who indulged too much in the social life that dresses becomes their only occupation (Mrs. Allen).
“I will allow the Ladies to be sollicitous about their Habits, and dress with all the Care and Elegance they are capable of; but such Trifles are below the Consideration of a Man, who ought not to owe Dignity of his Appearance to the Embroidery on his Coat, but to his high and noble Air, the Grandeur of his Courage, the Elevation of his Sentiments, and the many heroick Actions he has perform’d”
– The Female Quixote, P. 280, Charlotte Lennox.
Indeed, even fops today are regarded with a degree of censure by me. Oh don’t mind me, I have no quibble with the man who dresses “nicely” but there is a fine line between dressing attractively and dressing to attract. Although Arabella was prone to such romantic sensibilities and foibles, she does make a sharp observation about society, that appearances are of utmost importance. “[H]eroick Actions” are more likely secondary or forgotten. Their superciliousness would raise the eyebrows of our fellow Austenites.
Oh but tis a perennial ailment of society today too, but instead, gaining the approval of the media and society.