Thursday, June 16, 2011

Evelina, Volume 2, Letters 7-22 (38-53)

Reverend Villars reluctantly agrees to let Evelina stay with Madame Duval and the Branghtons in London for a month rather than let her allow her to return to France with the estranged grandmother. Evelina meets the Branghton’s boarder, Mr. Macartney, a poor Scottish poet. Later, Evelina comes across Mr. Macartney attempting, what she believes to be, suicide and she stops him. When Mr. Macartney recovers he is touched by Evelina’s kindness and is forever indebted to her.
While at Vauxhall with the Branghton brood and her new unwanted suitor, Mr. Smith, Evelina and the Miss Branghtons separate from the group. They are accosted by a group of brutes who manhandle Evelina. She is then saved by none other than Sir Clement. The persistent lover then manages to scheme his way into sharing a coach with Evelina so he can find out where she is staying.
Evelina finds herself back with the Branghtons in a pleasure garden, this time, Marybone-Gardens (aka Marylebone Gardens). Once again she becomes separated from the group and is rescued by two prostitutes. When Evelina and her two new friends find the party Evelina is horrified when the prostitutes decide to also join the party. Queue Lord Orville’s arrival to witness the motley crew. The next day Lord Orville arrives in Holborn to ask Evelina about the two women he saw her with and is relieved to find out that they aren’t normal acquaintances.

The name of the game this week is “trashy” because that is all I can think of whenever the Branghtons are in the picture. They are so socially unaware of what is acceptable. If I were to travel back in time, I know I would make a few social faux-pas due to the contemporary rules of etiquette but the Branghtons crass-ness transcends time to the point where I am aghast. When the awful Madame Duval told them her sad tale of the Captain’s haywire prank the Branghtons all laugh at her! I think we all know what they really think of their French relative now.

Evelina’s letter from June 10 (XXII) is packed with all sort of juice. It begins with an invitation from Mr. Smith to the Hampstead assembly which Evelina must decline as it would not be proper for her to attend unchaperoned (plus, ew!). Mr Smith has let on that he is more refined than the trashy Branghtons but hillbillies tend to habitate with other hillbillies, and Smith reveals himself as just as unrefined as them by not understanding the impropriety in inviting Evelina.

In a letter dated the following day Evelina writes to the Reverend with some disturbing news. The Scottish lodger made a suicide attempt virtually before Evelina’s eyes and had she not been there, he would have probably succeeded. The character of Macartney is a bit mysterious (I personally picture him to look somewhat like John Keats) and these major events cement him in Burney’s tale. But we as readers haven’t the faintest idea what Burney has in store for us with regards to Mr. Macartney just yet.

Evelina is unfortunate enough to have two negative pleasure garden experiences. These London gardens aren’t very pleasurable for her (ba-dum dish)! In the first, she is mistaken for an actress, aka prostitute, by some ruffians, and once again has no choice but to be saved by Sir Clement. The free license these men take with Evelina was pretty eye-opening to how women, particularly those alone were treated by men. At Marylebone it is those “actresses” whom Evelina was previously mistaken for who now save Evelina from men with ill-intentions (no wonder women didn’t go anywhere by themselves). It seems like this occasion was the one time Sir Clement didn’t happen to be around; but I did just die for Evelina when Lord Orville appeared. The poor thing. I am sure she wants him back in her life just as much as I, but not like this, no not at all. However, the fact that he checked in on her the day after their reunion had my hopes up. I was also quite impressed that he was able to find her despite only knowing she was in Holborn. It brought to mind Pride and Prejudice 1995 when Mr. Darcy was scouring the streets of London for Lydia and Wickham. Now where’s that fainting sofa?

Evelina’s time with her dear grandmamma is almost up. That means no more London no more Branghtons. Madame Duval still thinks that she can manage to bring Evelina to Paris, but neither she nor her guardian are going to let that happen. Yet we are halfway through the book. What are your predictions for when Evelina is freed from this trashy crowd? And more importantly, Evelina just reunited with Lord Orville, what will become of the two’s relationship when Evelina leaves London?  And do we even care? I know I do but it seems many of our readers just aren't as smitten with Lord Orville as I.

In this grouping of chapters we are also introduced to many of the attractions of London of the time, many of which are gone now.  All the famous pleasure gardens Evelina manages to visit yet she also manages to have a bad experience there.  Has this book changed your view on  the highly romanticized London pleasure gardens?   (I'd still go!)


  1. I'm a little surprised Duval is settling for such a low-class part of town (surely at this point she's seen that there are nice places in London, and would know the difference? All I can attribute it to is thinking all of England is so worthless that there might as well not be a difference; I mean, the way she's acted so far doesn't suggest she loves her family more than she loves classiness or what she perceives as such, so I can't quite think it's just for convenience of staying nearer the cousins.)
    I also wonder a little -- just how did Lord Orville know, immediately, that those women were "of poor character" just by looking at them? It almost came off like he had to have employed them before to recognize them so fast.
    I am also all the more convinced that Robertson used Evelina for source material in David Garrick -- the characters of Smith and Brown were almost directly lifted for that play, names and personalities both intact. Additionally I started wondering a little as to when the story of Evelina is really supposed to be set? I think Marybone gardens were torn down the same year the book was published, if I have all my dates right. (Though the hairstyles described are definitely 1770s.)

  2. The letters this week were rather action packed. I could sympathise with Evelina during the dark alleys encounter as I remember as a teen having a couple of friends who were just a foolish about doing similar things and I well remember that trapped feeling. Luckily for me I could refuse to go with them in the knowledge I would be reasonably safe on my own, unlike women in those times.

    Mr Smith is just icky and slimy but Sir Clement much worse. I didnt mind him at first but dislike him after his behaviour this week.

    I still dont mind the crass cousins, they are better than Mr Smith at least!

    I am warming a little to Lord Orville though I do think he could have at least should have asked Evelina if he could be of any help when he met her, as Im sure he couldnt have failed to notice her distress.

  3. The pleasure garden scenes really did surprise me. As Evelina twice had somewhat similar experiences requiring a rescue, it made me think that pleasure gardens were perhaps not so pleasurable after all! It doesn’t seem to be a rule that ladies may not walk if unattended by gentlemen, as Evelina and Maria walked alone around the room at Ranelagh without incident. But the behaviour of the men Evelina encounters at Vauxhall and Marylebone is just scandalous. Still, I would still love to spend an evening at one of these gardens--in the company of someone like Lord Orville!

    I find the cast of characters featured in this week’s reading to be amusing in their awfulness. We have the Branghtons, (you describe them so well), and the self-centred, insensitive Mr Smith. It’s good to see Evelina using the rules of the assembly she learned at her first ball against this idiot, refusing to dance with him at the Hampstead assembly because she had already refused others. Mr Macartney, while a sympathetic character, is so very gloomy that he blackens the atmosphere every time he appears. Then M Du Bois, granny’s beau, writes a love note to Evelina! What can happen next?

  4. @Min Self, How incredibly interesting about David Garrick! If I were to set the book time period I would say the 1770's since it was written over the course of years due to Burney secretly penning it. Like you said, the hairstyles are very 1770s.
    As for the prostitutes that Lord Orville recognizes it seems as though prostitutes were very recognizable in the gardens merely for walking alone. One can only image that prostitutes stood out like a sore thumb for their physical appearance. I always think of Hogarth and his syphilis markings.

    @Carey, So as it now stand with you:
    Branghtons > Mr Smith > Sir Clement with Lord Orville gradually winning brownie points.

    @Vinery, I'm with you. Send me into the gardens with Orville any day! Last week it came up that the Branghtons are like the equivalent of the modern day chavs and with that viewpoint I've been having an interesting rereading of the book.
    ...and M DuBois coming out like that *throws up hands* What next!

  5. Susan (lifetakeslemons)June 16, 2011 at 12:23 PM

    Oh, my, the melodrama. I found myself laughing, probably cruelly, while reading the letter from Mr. Macartney, the Scot. I mean, come on. His father and his half-sister? The novel lost my sympathy there because I am truly beginning to feel like I’m spending too much time around a drama-stricken teenaged girl. Around every corner is some kind of dangerous adventure, but maybe that’s how Town felt to young women at the time. I am still smitten with the pleasure gardens, even after reading Evelina’s accounts. I know Vauxhall had a worse reputation than Ranelagh, which drew a more refined crowd. As I understand it, Vauxhall’s charm depended on the mingling of classes, including the ubiquitous C18 prostitute. Really, prostitutes were everywhere during this period. That’s why it came to no surprise when Evelina encountered the “actresses” and Lord Orville could recognize them with a look. Although, I must say, it crossed my mind that he might be more familiar with their sort than Evelina would like. He was a lord, after all, and lords notoriously had mistresses and visited prostitutes. But, I digress. Hallie Rubenhold’s book on Harris’s List is an amusing read if anyone’s interested. In the 38 years the list of Covent Garden prostitutes was in print, it sold 250,000 copies. Make your own conclusions, I dare you.

    @ Heather Carroll: Keats is perfect for Macartney. I pictured him similarly.

  6. This week's reading reminded me of an E! reality show. All that was missing was a fist fight in a limousine.

    Like Carey, I remember having friends who would get me into situations I would have rather not have been in. (At least they were funny after the fact- not like Evelina's adventures.)

    The behaviour of the men is shocking! No matter what the class, they all behave like baboons. A woman alone is an invitation to a molestation. And Mr Smith? He really thinks he's something else. I was beginning to think that M Du Bois was the only sensible guy around. And then that note- Oh dear. Well, at least he keeps his hands to himself.

  7. Mr Smith, yuck. I may have a soft spot for Willoughby but no-one will ever get me to like Smith. Incidentally Smith was Samuel Johnson’s favourite character and he used to do impressions of him, which I can completely imagine. All that creepy crawling ‘I don’t care about me, whatever the ladies want’ stuff. All that mock concern when it is obvious that he couldn’t care less for anyone but himself.

    The Vauxhall scene is my favourite in the book so far. The day I read it, I went to the Museum of London and they replay parts of it in the Vauxhall Gardens Experience they have there. There is the bit with the dumb Mr Brown looking ‘half the garden’ for her and the bit with her on in the Dark Lanes being saved by my old mucker Willoughby. Again, she is in his debt - but I still reckon they are as honourable as his intentions can get.

    I like the bit where they make Smith look silly talking about the paintings, ‘I think a pretty picture is a-a very-is really a very - is something very pretty.-’ Now if that isn’t one of the most perfectly captured little piece of embarrassment. If you notice, Madame Duval’s reaction is not to laugh, but to agree. I think the mystery of her closeness to the Branghtons is simply that although she is rich and can buy rich clothes, she has not taste.

    Not feeling McCartney - feel his going to be the sentimental subplot for people to work their sensibility on...also Orwell, decent fella - but not a vivid character yet.

  8. @Susan @Chrisbookarama, But isn't the silly drama of high society one of the reasons we have come to love our beloved 18th century? (It's a good spectator sport)

    @Grub Stree, Now that's funny! I can see him catch old Johnson's fancy. Now you must tell me more about this Vauxhall garden experience! I am totally in the dark about it!

  9. It's part of the museum of London on the lower floor, after taken you past part of Newgate jail, a whole compter cell, sedan chair, watches and dressmaking etc... there is a little room done up like a garden with mannequins in recreation C18th wear and a place to walk and benches. There are two screens integrated into it, one with the eating boothes and one in the dark lanes, and at random intervals little scenes are played on them. I've spotted some Evelina, and some Oliver Goldsmith stuff there too.

    Here's a photo©+Museum+of+London.jpg

    Best museum ever (and it's sister museum The London Docklands, is good too)

  10. I liked how you mentioned the theme is "trashy" because that's what went through my mind. Madame Duval and Branghtons and Mr. Smith are all "white trash". I don't care if they have money, money doesn't buy class. Speaking of which, neither does being a baronet (I'm looking at you Sir Clement). Sir Clement "rescues" Evelina but then takes her down an alley. Yuck.

    Again, I'm going to be hard on Lord Orville because I think he deserves it. I agree with @Carey, that if he saw Evelina with women he identified as prostitutes and that she appeared uncomfortable (the way she described it in the book, I'm sure there was some fear in her eyes as they were bullies) he should have offered himself as an escort from her "friends". I'm not saying he's a bad guy, I just think that he needs to grow a pair or something.

    Mr. Macartney equals emo drama queen. Wow. Trying to Kill himself, sulking around, flinging himself into chairs. He's a bit too much, it's hard to feel sorry for his misery as I suspect we are supposed to.

    Honesty, with Evelina experiencing so much with the Mirvans and now this set, she still seems rather naive. I would have thought she'd have "caught on" by now.

  11. The Branghtons aren’t trashy from the standpoint of their class and their position, they simply are upwardly mobile and stand out based on their language, their fashion. In their own class Mr Brangton would be respected for the businessman he is. He has some money and position within the entrepreneurs which make up his set or ton so he can bring his family to Marybone and Vauxhall. They would be able to recognize their ‘betters’ and would emulate them not very successfully. They certainly would be better than the loose ladies of the evening and pickpockets, and their daughters will marry slightly above them and his grandchildren will do even better.

  12. @Grub Street, Now I am just KICKING myself for never going there when I lived in Essex! I tried to get to as many museums as possible, but it is so difficult in such a small amount of time! Well now I know what I am doing the next time I am there.

    @Jael, Mr Macartney is outside of your window with his radio... ;)
    (so very emo)

  13. Is it supposed to be satire on the novels of the time or a sentimental novel itself, I wonder? It seems to be a good guide to morals, manners and public places of the time – I certainly have learnt quite a lot and much quicker than Evelina – and I would call it a satire of its kind. But then there is Mr. Macartney who seems to be a very sentimental character and whose story is supposed to move us to pity and compassion, not to mention Evelina herself – so beautiful an angel that everyone falls for her! - and the very tone of her letters that are filled with overflowing language and emotions. Or is it just your usual novel of the time? - very sentimental and filled with horrific pictures of the main heroine's numerous and quite unpleasant adventures?

    I must confess that its number as well as the number of stupid, ill-bred, illiterate, disagreeable characters on every page gets on my nerves a great deal. It lacks certain elegance of style and all these adventures that Evelina experiences are very similar and just keep repeating themselves. If I were Evelina and I would have to stay for a month with Madame Duval and meet on a daily basis with the likes of Branghtons, Mr. Smith or Mr. Brown or – god forbid! - Sir Clement, I would have pretended that I am extremely ill and would have stayed locked up in my room for the duration of my stay in London.

    I think I understand that from the point of view of the author and the reader of the 18th century, it would be quite a shocking and hilarious novel and one would spend hours reading it aloud with family and friends so as to enjoy all the horrors of Evelina's situation and all the absurdity of her relations and many suitors and, naturally, talk about it later or make comparisons or repeat the most ridiculous lines and have quite a laugh. But I grew up reading Jane Austen and I must confess that I miss her elegance of expression and her quiet, unobtrusive simplicity that doesn't fail to be exciting nonetheless.

    But M. Du Bois! I actually liked him before he went and fell for our heroine too!

    Lord Orville... Well, I do understand that he is supposed to be a model of a hero and opposed to all the other man who importune Evelina with their attentions: a lord of perfect breeding and excellent manners, but he appears so cold and distant! I know, I know – manners and conduct! - but still...there have been so many times when his involvement could have saved Evelina from embarrassment and mortification and all he ever did was look away or walk away or stand – watchful – but aside. What's good about his excellent manners and conduct if he can't save our heroine from others and oftentimes from her naïve – or is it now silly? - self?

    So my questions are: Will Evelina grow up and become smarter about dos and donts of the society? Will Lord Orville show himself the hero (I assume) he is supposed to be? What's up with Mr. Macartney? Why did we have to read so poignant a tale of his? What is his future role in the novel? And how long are we to remain in the company of Evelina's insufferable relations?

  14. @Farida, Like you and @Chrisbookarama I had similar feelings about poor Mr DuBois. I really liked him, he seemed a sane member of the party but then he had to go and send that letter...ugh.

    I think Mr Macartney is an example of the enlightened male, something looked very well upon at the time. Perhaps that is why he was, as @Grub Street pointed out, a favorite of Samuel Johnson. His flowery letter is incredibly sentimental and laughable in modern terms but that was quite normal at the time. Georgiana's letters to Bess are much similar. Purposeful tears were known to be shed on letters, accompanied by proclamations of said tears.

    One can only wonder if Evelina will learn from his errors...but then again we wouldn't have much of a novel left to read if she did!

  15. I feel people are being a bit unfair to Evelina, she is learning - the incident at the Hampton Assembly show her using her knowledge to make Mr Smith look silly - and to end his pursuing of her.

    Odd thing about the sentimental novel, I've yet to read one that didn't also have a squinted eye at the same kind of novel and I think Evelina is far closer to Tom Jones then The Vicar of Wakefield.

  16. This section was probably the hardest one for me to read. I just cringed for poor Evelina, was so mortified for her. The Branghtons are so Jersey Shore (though I suppose a different Jersey...). Ugh! It's a shame she's so innocent/helpless. I was hoping she'd just tell them all to stuff it and leave. ;)

  17. More than likely most of us would be like the Brahngtons, as much as we hate to admit it.
    The people who Evelina hangs with elsewhere are from the very upper part of society, if I am not mistaken. I am actually surprised that Evelina is so taken aback by their behavior. I guess it is a country mouse, city mouse thing, maybe. They (the B-tons)are, more than likely, what most of London would have been like back then.

  18. @ Susan, Wow! I think you are being unfair to us and quite harsh. There is a huge difference between being from a lower part of society but with good manners and totally ignorant and ill-bred. It has got nothing to do with your situation in life. And I don't think that it would matter in the case of Branghtons or their likes if they were from the upper class - they would be just as trashy and crass. Besides, there have been enough examples in "Evelina" to prove that even people from high society can behave with as little decorum and no propriety as her relations. It's all a matter of upbringing, common sense and understanding - but no one is saved from being vulgar and insupportable, no matter their rank. I'm sorry but I'm quite offended by such a comparison.

  19. Re: the gardens
    That was the entertainment then.
    A promenade.
    When I lived in Sevilla people entertained themselves similarly.
    We walked in the gardens all the time. All over there, there are parks and gardens and people spend time outside, people watching etc.
    About the Branghtons:
    I guess that is true. Vulgar and rude is vulgar and rude, no matter what one's station in life, and they are vulgar in many situations. I have been feeling sorry for Evelina in that she has to suffer them. I just always try to remember that when I read this type of literature the upper crust being portrayed is not from whence I came, in all {probability}.

  20. If the Branghtons lived in Australia in these times they would be what we call Bogans (if anyone has seen Kath and Kim they would know what I mean).

    I hope I'm not as vulgar as the Branghtons but I'd say I am closer to them than I am to Evelina!

  21. Hehe, one of my good mates always calls herself a Bogan.