Monday, May 17, 2010

The Sylph, Letters 24-30

Julia is able to acquire the address by which she can contact the Sylph and directly seek his advice. She tells Louisa that about her friendship with Miss Maria Finch and how she prefers her company to that of Lady Besford and Lady Anne.

Miss Finch pays Julia a visit one day and admits her crush on Baron Tonhausen, to which Julia tries to hide her distress. It is now more than apparent Julia has strong feelings for the Baron that she wishes to hide. Miss Finch relays a story of how she became smitten with the Baron involving him saving a poor young girl from the clutches of Colonel Montague.
Julia and the Sylph are quite regular pen pals now and she thanks him with a locket of her hair.

This is the second time in the novel where there has been a situation in which a supposed gentleman has attempted to force a woman into sleeping with them in exchange for getting out of a scrap. Sure, it is common enough to see that sort of drama in historical movies, but when it comes up more than once by an author who is writing about the same sort of people she interact with daily, it makes you think about just how often this depravity surfaced. Obviously it was frowned upon, but it has been happening to frequently for me to be comfortable!
The Georgiana Connection
In these last few letters we get better acquainted with Miss Finch who was briefly mentioned in Letter 14. Julia has finally seems to find a comrade in the beau monde with whom she gets along with. While Miss Finch isn’t a clone of Julia she is kind and a fun age-mate for her. I believe that this character is inspired by Georgiana’s own best friend from the time, Mary Graham. Like Miss Finch, Mary was close in age with Georgiana and kept her moral ground upon her entrance into society. When Mary was away she and Georgiana kept a regular acquaintance through letters and Mary filled her letters with that advice Georgiana craved.

There was also some girl dramz in this chapter. We finally see just how much of a crush Julia has on Tonhausen. She isn’t the only one! Ah, the age-old issue of having a crush on the same guy your best friend has a crush on. Only problem is, Julia has no claim to him. How do you think this situation will pan out? If Tonhausen and Miss Finch end up together how will that effect Julia and Tonhausen’s relationship?


  1. Poor Julia! I can remember a (very recent) similarly cringeworthy moment - and they're not nice. I also pity her having to hear that story of the Baron because it can only serve to increase her admiration of him; which is not what she needs right now!

    I find it very interesting too that, as Heather points out, Nancy Johnson's story is the second of its kind in the novel. Is this foreshadowing I wonder? Will our dear Julia fall in the same way?

    I do hope not (because she has renounced cards and this was her only debt to him - and even if she were to take them up again he seems too moral to take advantage of her) but on to the next four letters to see!

  2. to answer your question...hmmm... ok, so there's a difference between Georgie's life here- but not that much of a difference, since here too she would have to share a man and the friend (except in this case she's fond of both the man and her friend)..I have no idea what she's to do. But, what I can see here is that the Duchess almost seems to have written this book for her own personal therapy ; where she works out all her issues through Julia and her world.
    I've got to go read the next section now!

  3. the rendition of nancy's story reminded me greatly of 'the vicar of wakefield'.

    as for julia she started driving me crazy. i really think that she should stop feeling sorry for herself and get on with her life. all that she does is bemoans her fate. i understand that there was not many options for women at the time, but there must be something for her to do besides pining and whining or gambling. i find her idle and silly. and considering her partiality towards the baron i wouldn't be surprised if she stopped her friendship with miss finch on his account.

    and i am still surprised that she so easily trusted the sylph whoever he is. it seems to me again and again that she falls very easily under the influence of others.

  4. So now when we think back to Lady B's advice about dealing with an uncomfortable marriage,

    “Happy! Why yes, probably I am; but do not suppose my happiness proceeds from my being married…”

    do we have a different outlook on what she was saying? Perhaps Lady B was not just being an emotionless snob but a survivor of an awful aristocratic marriage. Quite honestly I wouldn't blame Julia in the least if she took this advice instead of always being the martyr. But based on her personality thus far, I think we are all assuming that probably won't happen.

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  6. Letter 27:

    I wish I could have seen Julia's face, when Miss Finch tells her:

    "Let the women be ever so exemplary, their conduct will have no influence over these prosessed rakes; these rakes upon principle, as that iniquitous Lord Chesterfield has taught our youth to be. Only look at yourself, I do not mean to flatter you; what effect has your mildness, your thousand and ten thousand good qualities, for I will not pretend to enumerate them, had over the mind of your husband? None. (pg.187)''

    I thought it quite a shockingly direct comment on Julia's husband and her situation as a married woman, in a not-love-match. Ot did I get this wrong?

  7. I expect people blackmail other people all the time in some way or another no matter what the age. I suspect Georgiana came across this behavior a lot because the aristocracy had very little else to do - and the Devonshire Set were notorious for being loose.

    Also regardin the detailed side-story, is this a common thing in 18th century novels to give these long personal stories? I've not read any others from this century, so I wonder if this is a period-specific artistic technique. I mean, there's character background in Barbara Pym and Muriel Spark's writing - or even Charlotte M. Yonge's Victorian era work - but never in such a prolonged detour. Could we expect that in Fanny Burney's or Henry Fielding?