Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Sylph, Letter 9

Mr. Grenville writes to Julia to see how she is adjusting to married life. He is concerned that he was too hasty in giving his permission for the union seeing as the couple barely knew each other. Grenville himself married Julia and Louisa’s mother for love and feels that element is an essential aspect of marriage. He then goes into history.

Grenville was married first to an heiress whom suffered an unfortunate dancing accident which left her prematurely in the throws of death. Her sudden death prevented her from signing over her estate to Grenville and instead it went to a Mr. Maynard’s daughter. When Grenville goes to explain to Mr. Maynard the estate is supposed to go to him he is treated quite badly, “He upbraided me with stealing an heiress and with meanly taking every method of obliging a dying woman to injure her relations, In short, his behaviour was rude, unmanly, and indecent.” Another daughter of Maynard tries to intercede on Grenville behalf but all in vain. A friendship soon blooms between Grenville and Miss (Maria) Maynard in the midst of these trials and he soon falls in love with her.

To cover debts Grenville enrolls himself in the military service and keeps up his love letters with Maria. The correspondence is suddenly cut off so he willingly looks toward an oncoming battle since he no longer has anything to live for. A messenger comes to tell him Maria is dead and he despairs but then it is revealed that the messenger is Maria in disguise. They profess their undying love for each other and then enter the battle side by side. After surviving the battle the two marry but Maria dies after her daughters' births. Grenville is devastated and recedes from society to raise his daughters as a single father.

Did UPS have to deliver this letter to Julia!? Good grief Mr. Grenville, that was long-winded! This detailed account serves to give us an idea of Julia’s background.
The Georgiana Connection
Georgiana has her protagonist coming from a union between two people very much in love, as was the case with Georgiana’s own childhood. This opens a window into how Georgiana felt in the early stages of her marriage: she was also confused by the lack of love in her marriage which was very apparent in her parents relationship. Georgiana did not have the background knowledge of how to deal with that sort of situation. Will Julia face the same conundrum?

The theme of an attractive woman cross-dressing, as Maria did, was not foreign to the 18th century audience. “Breeches roles” were often written into plays for the prettiest actresses as an excuse to show of their legs. However in the case of Maria disguising herself in order to find out her lover’s devotion, I was reminded of the traditional Irish folktune, The Banks of Claudy. The song tells the story of a sailor who disguises himself and approaches his lady-love to see if she is still dedicated to him after their time apart. It is unknown how old the song is but it seems to have been in existence in the early 19th century. Perhaps its origins go back even further? Then again, them theme isn’t that uncommon! The Grenville's romantic tale is far-fetched and seems the most unrealistic of all the events of the book. Georgiana's daydreaming sense of romanticism is apparent from this long letter.

Don't worry, Mr. Grenville doesn't write any further letters to his daughter. He must have overexerted himself with this one! What are your thoughts on this (rather long) letter?


  1. I am trying to think how the events described in this letter tie in with Julia’s new life in London. While this letter explains Mr. Grenville’s seclusion, and gives us a view of Mr. And Mrs. Grenville’s good character and strong personalities, the letter was very long compared to the previous eight letters. So, what clues am I missing in this letter that will eventually advance the story? Or am I wrong to think that because the letter is long, it is correspondingly important to the plot? I'm sure all will be revealed!

  2. I really had a hard time following Mr Grenville in his retelling of his and Julia's mother's history. Also some elements made me think, that Georgiana might have read 'Pamela' (the part where Maria is sent to relatives of her stepmother's) and I can see parallels to Burney's 'Cecilia'... When was that published? 1782... Or do I mix it up with 'Evelina' of 1778? 'The Sylph' was published 1779, right? Anyway I wasn't prepared to read sth like that by Georgiana. She's a really good author and I am looking forward to the following letters...

  3. The letter seems like a story all its own, and I am sure it will leave most going, "wait, why did we need to know ALL that?" Emmeline, I had trouble following, or maybe just getting into Grenville's story as well. The chapter is probably my least favourite; get us back to the scandal!

    The Sylph and Evelina were published around the same time and Burney was actually accused of writing
    The Sylph, which she denied. But I think it is quite the compliment to Georgiana to have her writing confused with Burney's!

  4. To be honest, I got bored and stopped reading it. Now I have your synoposis, I can't bring myself to continue it.

    I'll pick up from the next letter.

  5. Okay - a long letter deserves a long(ish) comment, really, so here goes...

    I liked the fact that Mr G alluded to her previous attachment to Woodley, because it shows he understands his daughter, but I also couldn't help wondering why, then, he consented to her marriage so quickly.

    As for Mrs G #1, she had some stupid friends, but maybe this was subconscious wishful thinking on Georgie's part re: the Duke...although I doubt she was that cynical!

    (Pauses to vote for the first time!)

    The whole Maria fiasco seems to do a number of things in my view:

    1) It gives us a background for Julia

    2) It could be a suggestion that, just because a man doesn't openly emote, it doesn't mean he feels nothing (Sir William and the Duke?)

    3) It perhaps relates to Woodley's pursuit of Julia - which ended in a rather different way (thus far!)

    4) It shows off Georgie's authorial prowess

    5) It allows her fantasy of going into battle alongside men to be realised

    I think I'm done =p! Despite its length I really liked it!

  6. When women were first permitted onto the stage in 1660 when Charles II was restored to the throne, an interlude of 'breeched dancing' was often included, meant to attract an audience with the lure of a glimpse of an actress's legs. by Georgiana's day, women were taken seriously as actors in serious male roles. It was so commonplace that the notice would leave out any sensationalism and just state the actress and the role. THe theatre was one of the few places where women could earn their own income and control their fate. As well, the stigma of being an actress was lessening and the two worlds were beginning to mix. Actresses were examples of autonomous women and enjoyed all the freedom Georgiana lacked.

  7. I liked letter 9.
    From earlier letters I got the impression that Julia’s father was a reserved, but fond parent, and now we know the truth!
    Underneath his placid exterior, beats the heart of a passionate romantic who takes in smooth talking London rakes with broken legs, nurses them back to health, and then agrees to let them marry one of his daughters!

    I admit it bothered me that Grenville would give his consent for Julia’s hand to Stanley so easily, especially because of the excesses of his own privileged youth, but now that I know the circumstances of his and Maria’s relationship, I understand why he wouldn’t want to stand in the way of Julia’s happiness.

    Did anyone else feel like letter 9 was written by two completely different men?
    The first few pages sound like a doting father who has experienced a great deal of disappointment, but it struck me that as soon as Maria is introduced, and we hear the dramatic events of their relationship unfold, Mr. Grenville is suddenly transported back to his youth and he begins to sound like a besotted youth of 25. I thought it was an interesting choice.

    I only wish I had the same point of reference most of you have for the popular works of Georgiana’s day. I can practically feel all of the references in the book whooshing over my head as I read. ☹

    But, it isn’t detracting from my enjoyment. Looking at the comments, I’m getting lots of ideas about what to read next.

  8. I actually enjoyed this letter. We get a peak into Mr. G's life, and can begin to see how Julia may have been raised. I feel like Mr. H had so much guilt over the fate of both his wives, he made the unwise decisions to shelter his daughters from every unpleasant thing life holds. As a result, both girls made bad decisions in love. Very sad really. In his quest to protect his beloved children, he doomed them to A life without the love he himself was so lucky to have experienced.
    I can only hope Julia is able to redeem her situation by the end of the novel.

  9. @Tulip, I was going to say it's not that important of a letter but these lovely book groupies are opening my eyes, as I knew they would, to the further qualities of the letter.

    @Jessi, Congrats! I will assume you voted Whig considering the salon you are in ;)
    And I think your analysis is pretty spot-on.

    @Priya, I give actresses of the time a lot of credit. They really infiltrated the British caste system. In the previous and following century it would be very rare for women from the lower classes to associate or even marry with people of nobility and even royalty. Perhaps that freedom is what ladies such as Marie Antoinette truly craved in their dalliances with acting.

    @Keri, you just made me LOL at this part, "Underneath his placid exterior, beats the heart of a passionate romantic who takes in smooth talking London rakes with broken legs, nurses them back to health, and then agrees to let them marry one of his daughters!" Awesome.
    But I see what your saying, the second half did have him reverting to the love-struck 25 year old. But I believe that's part of him being an example of the enlightened man. Of course everyone from Wales in this book, is an example of Enlightenment.

    @cymbliss, So it is safe to say to you don't think Julia will be sending any upsetting marriage issue-ridden letters to her father?

  10. As we don't hear what became of Mr. Maynard after Mr. Grenville won his court case against him, I wonder if we will have an evil grandparent character appear later on in the book.

  11. As I was reading about Maria and all that she had to endure in order to be with Mr. Grenville, I was wondering: Is it really worth it? She didn't even know him all that well. Were all those trials and tribulations really justified? It was so beyond naive that I could hardly believe it. Am I very cynical? And Mr. Grenville is so sappy - more so than any female could ever be.

  12. I couldn’t help but think about Grenville’s letter as an allegory for misfortune when we are fools for love, though I don’t think Julia will be lucky enough to have Sir William die on her. Portrayed as emotional to the extreme (Romeo and Juliet, anyone?), Grenville’s passions did not serve him well, and although he desires Julia’s happiness, I do think he suspects the opposite. As an enlightened man, edified in the realities of fashionable society, his desperate need for confirmation of Julia’s felicity leads me to believe he frets over her marriage to Sir William more than a typical father would. In trying to be a good father and let his child experience the world, he ignored his prejudice and now he’s realizing his mistake.

    Since his tale seemed fanciful to me, I found it more useful to regard the events as metaphors: the repeated deaths, the debtor’s prison, marching into battle against an enemy who literally holds his life in the balance vs. Mr. Maynard who is out to ruin him by material means. In some way Julia can relate to all of these. Death as abandonment of love or innocence; the debtor’s prison equaling marriage to a dissolute rake; battle equating to the outcome of her future. I just hope Julia has a fraction of her mother’s spunk and masters Sir William’s game, besting him when he’s down on his luck!

  13. @Farida My impression - and I only got up to Maria's visit to the prison, sorry, Heather!- was that Maria basically took a stand to which she got committed. That stand was Mr. Grenville's rights as her cousin's widower and from there she probably just got committed to him as a person. Anyway, love can start in all sorts of ways. This was how their love started.

  14. @Heather Carroll egads no! She would not be wrong to worry her doting papa would do himself an injury out of guilt.

    I agree with Susan R. that Mr. G is beginning to feel he made a mistake letting Julia marry on such short acquaintance, and to a "man of fashion" no less! If he were to discover her lack of marital bliss, I can see one of two things happening. He either storms to town and demands satisfaction, or he writes a long winded apology for his failings and throws off his mortal coil.

  15. Tulip - I guess you are right:)) They like making vows and then committing to them with all their hearts and souls. In the same way Mr. Grenville committed himself to the life away from the world.

  16. @Heather - of course ;)! Tho' it seems not to have done much good...where's Georgie when we need her?!

  17. Ah the power of hindsight, Mr. Grenville. Perhaps that rich, gimpy, stranger was not the best to let your daughter marry without much thought?

    After all, when was a teenage girl ever good at picking out a guy to spend the rest of her life with? I shudder to think about my first serious boyfriend. *wince*

    @Susan, You're right! The letter is filled to the brim with morals and metaphors, as well as giving us readers background information. I hadn't thought of that before.

    @Jessi, Girlfriend must be rolling in her grave at this point!