Monday, May 10, 2010
The Sylph, Letters 10-14
Julia reflects on her father’s long letter to her and questions her potential for happiness in her own marriage. She tiptoes around her Sir William so as not to offend him. Julia also reveals that she doesn’t like her two protectors, Lady Anne and Lady Besford. In a discussion with Lady Besford, Julia is disgusted by her frank honesty of the ton lifestyle and how her happiness cannot be attributed to her marriage, “Happy! Why yes, probably I am; but do not suppose my happiness proceeds from my being married…” A new character is also introduced, Baron Tonhausen, a new member of Sir William’s friend circle. Julia notes how this foreign noble seems out of place in the set because he seems to have a similar moral outlook to her own.
Julia writes again to her sister to tell her that she had the pleasure of running into an old acquaintance from their childhood, a Lady Melford. Although nobility, Lady Melford is a fresh breath of air for Julia, being different from Sir William’s hedonistic set. Sadly though, after delivering some helpful advice she leaves for her estate.
After remarking about the lack of her husband’s presence to her sister, Julia is invited to the opera by Lady Anne, only to discover her Sir William is already there, with another woman, a Lucy Gardiner. After Julia retreats with Lady Anne and the usual group her coiffure catches on fire but is put out by Baron Tonhausen. That night when Julia meets up with Sir William in her dressing room he is very affectionate to her, and then later admits to what he knows Julia already knows. He is not ashamed of being with Miss Gardiner and passes the dalliance off as something not to be worried about; Julia is too submissive and exhausted to argue with him about it.
A few days later a riot erupts at the play that Julia is seeing and Baron Tonhausen rescues her from the stampede of people fleeing. Julia faints on the carriage-ride home and then later looses the child she was carrying.
While I wasn’t surprised by Julia’s reaction to Lady Besford’s revealing conversation about married life in the ton I found Julia unnecessarily rude to her ladyship. Lady Besford is frank and a result of the society she lives in, so I was quite shocked that the docile Julia’s morals were so wounded as to be well, bitchy, to Lady Besford. I am all for woman to speak her mind, but for some reason I was bothered by Julia’s sudden decision to abruptly begin doing so with Lady Besford. It seemed out of character, perhaps. Or maybe I just want to see her standing up to her husband and not her companion.
The Georgiana Connection
Being raised in a household where her parents were continuously together, Georgiana, like her protagonist, was perplexed by her husband’s solidarity. The scene in which Julia’s hair caught on fire is another hint Georgiana gives to her readers to reveal the anonymous author’s true identity. Georgiana popularized the four-foot hair tower, which concerned many over the fire risks. While many rumors went around that Georgiana’s pouf caught on fire it is likely that the duchess managed to avoid the mishap Julia experienced.
I would like to know how do you feel about Julia? Do you like her or is she too extreme of a foil to the ton to be a relatable character?