SIR I have wondered at the lack of attention so far accorded, in the British press, to Joan Aiken’s sequel to Mansfield Park. (Gollancz, 183 pp, £7 95, 18 October, 0 575 03537 4) Who can she be, Joan Aiken, this assonantal sister of Jane? And is it presumption to try to extend the canon? ‘No, not presumption,’ she declares in a foreword. ‘Love and admiration. No one could presume to make any attempt to fill the gap.’ Yet here is a sequel to Mansfield Park that could have been called Love and Admiration, since the heroine must ponder before choosing (Miss Aiken would write ‘chusing’) the man she can love, but not especially admire.
The heroine? You remember, towards the end of Mansfield Park, that Edmund Bertram fetched back from her lengthy stay in Portsmouth, not just Fanny Price, but also her 14-year-old sister Susan. Four years have passed since then. Across at the parsonage, Fanny has given Edmund two children. Up at Mansfield, just as you see it on Angela Barrett’s pretty dust-wrapper, Susan, who is healthier and bolder than Fanny, has more than taken her place. Lady Bertram is positively pleased. Her second daughter Julia, now the Honourable Mrs Yates, lives nearby, scheming and spoiling just as she was taught by her late Aunt Norris. She is displeased, and ‘presumptuous’ is her word for Susan. At this point Sir Thomas dies, and someone must sail to Antigua to settle his affairs. Lady B deems Tom not well enough for tropics: he has suffered from ‘some strong hectic symptoms’. Edmund and Fanny set off on the trip, which proves more than a fortnight with Budget Holidays. Their place and duties in the parsonage, the post the Grants once held, will be undertaken during their absence by the Rev Francis Wadham and his sister Mrs Osborne. Both are extremely ‘agreeable’, to use the Austen word, and do well to swell an action, and start several scenes.
The new Sir Thomas, who is far too offhand anyway to have taken over the Antigua business, instructs his agent to find a tenant for the White House, where Mrs Norris used to live. Of all people, Henry Crawford rents it for his sister Mary. Throughout she has an illness less well-defined than hectic symptoms. She hopes that the air of Mansfield, which she remembers so fondly, will work a cure. This handsome and amusing pair, at the end of Mansfield Park, were flailing, almost drowning, in bad water, so you can imagine how the waters now muddy and inspissate. Miss Aiken shares Jane Austen’s ability to stir events to chapter-endings where at least one character lies all but literally bound in the road in the way of the evening mail.
The Crawfords were not really that bad. Really? The way he ran off with Mrs Rushworth? But did he actually do that quite the way the story got round? Mary Crawford said chivalrously to Edmund, in Mansfield Park, ‘I do not mean to defend Henry at your sister’s expense.’ But we are now to believe that she could have done so. Besides, Time, as Jane Austen wrote, ‘restores every body, not greatly in fault, to tolerable comfort’. Mary was more than a bit of a pill in rejecting Edmund, yes, but probably Edmund was too much of a stick, too virtuous, too unamusing for her, and better-suited to Fanny. Thus we are presented with Crawfords softened by time, and we are charmed again by Mary, when Susan, and Mrs Osborne, begin to pay calls upon the White House – even while Tom, prompted by Julia, will not receive her at Mansfield.
Of course this is pastiche, although the word sounds dismissive, and suggests something shorter, like a Beerbohm parody. I believe there is no issue to take with pastiche, or sequels to great novels. You cannot question the propriety, per se, of flattery’s sincerest form. And what oeuvre stands more in want of additions than Austen’s? Perhaps Conan Doyle’s and Ian Fleming’s. And, if the results be highly agreeable, who is displeased? Nor do I want to claim that Mansfield Revisited is almost as good as another Austen. I dare say it is more enjoyable than Northanger Abbey, which was so considerably spoiled by those sporadic attempts to satirise the gothick.
Miss Aiken’s novel is not so long as an Austen. I do not see clearly why this is, for there seems to be a full share of incident. No doubt, Miss Aiken does not dwell on incidents so minutely, perhaps from comparative lack of invention, but perhaps, too, in fear of that charge of presumption, should she present a book longer than half of four hundred pages. Nothing is skimped, all the same. The plot takes shape in an inevitable way, worthy of the great models, and its climax is pure Austen.
At first meeting, over billiards and midst talk of horses, Frank Wadham lets on to Tom that he is an amateur of archaeology, and he suspects they could find Roman remains, a villa or a way-station, at one or two points near the marches of Mansfield. What fun to excavate! Tom eagerly suggests an excursion. He would ride Pharoah, his new horse. The ladies would proceed in various carriages. Hampers would follow.
Except in Susan, who would have to stay behind with Lady Bertram, the idea generates pleasurable anticipation in the neighbourhood, as well as some keen calculation. Will this day afford a chance for Julia’s sister-in-law, the youngest daughter of an earl, to catch Tom, or will it be the more agreeable Miss Harley who flushes pink as a wild campion? Excursions were a standard device of Jane Austen’s, quite as useful as a ball. One thinks of the Cobb in Lyme, or how Elizabeth, all by mistake, finds herself viewing Mr Darcy’s country house, or, in Mansfield Park, the party setting out to play Capability Brown on Mr Rushworth’s behalf. Farcically, poignantly and memorably, Frank Wadham’s archaeological expedition down the lanes and across the bogs draws the strands of plot towards resolution. Historical research is not much advanced.
Jane Austen indeed practised the genre brought to mind recently by Edith Hope, of Hotel du Lac, in which the tortoise wins. ‘This is a lie, of course.’ Perhaps, but it is refreshing, such attention to the significance of unimportance, as opposed to ‘women with executive briefcases’. May Miss Aiken be encouraged to write Son of Persuasion, and the jockey wear the colours of a mouse.
SIR The discussion arising from Charles Hope’s review of Edgar Wind’s The Eloquence of Symbols (LRB, 15 March) has only recently come to my notice. May I add a postscript on a systematic problem which seems to me to have been overlooked? Associationism or empathy – that’s the question. In his review of E. H. Gombrich’s Aby Warburg, Wind insisted on the impact Robert Vischer had on Warburg’s psychology of art. He did this because he doubted Gombrich’s assumption that ‘in Warburg’s naturalistic philosophy of man’, as in Herbart’s theory of associationism, there is ‘little place for the creative imagination’. In Wind’s view, which I share, Warburg was not a Herbartian at all, but an adherent of the theory of Einfuhlung, according to which the imagination has an integrative function within the aesthetic act of endowing objects with our own feelings and emotions.
As to whether the term and theory of empathy were coined and developed by Robert Vischer, or by his father Friedrich Theodor, Wind certainly agreed with research on the subject, which attributed both term and theory to Robert. When, on the contrary, Hope maintains that the concept of empathy ‘can be found as early as 1843, in Friedrich Theodor’s Plan zu einer Neuen Gliederung der Ästhetik’, he is, I am afraid, conflating plan and realisation. In Friedrich Theodor’s Plan, Einfuhlung can be found neither as a theory nor as a concept, indeed, not even as a word, but only in modo absentiae, in a vague awareness of the problem, the solution to which was to await the advent of Robert. Since in his early writings Friedrich Theodor did not abandon the assumption of an objectively existing beauty, he could not arrive at the Kantian solution later advanced by his son, namely, that beauty is not given as an object, but is grounded in the aesthetic act of a subject projecting its feelings and emotions onto an otherwise dead and senseless object.
It is misleading of Hope to assume that, in disregarding Robert Vischer, Gombrich ‘was of course following the precedent set by Wind himself in a lecture delivered at the Warburg Library during Warburg’s own lifetime’. Apart from the fact that the lecture was delivered in 1930, a year after Warburg’s death, we must remember that Wind confined himself in it to a reconstruction of Warburg’s and Friedrich Theodor’s concept of the symbol. Since he did not deal with Warburg’s Fragments on the foundation of a monistic psychology of art, there was no need to mention Warburg’s debt to Robert Vischer. When, however, he reviewed Gombrich’s biography of Warburg, Wind was quite right to criticise Gombrich for omitting to mention Robert Vischer in his discussion of the Fragments, because it was largely this omission which led to Gombrich’s mistaken view of Warburg as an associationist. What did, in fact, take place ‘during Warburg’s own lifetime’ were several methodological conversations between Warburg and Wind. According to the Tagebuch of the Warburg Library, only two weeks before Warburg’s death the two men had a long discussion specifically about his Fragments. This personal exchange of ideas lends added authority to Wind’s various accounts of Warburg. On this ground alone, the decision to include in The Eloquence of Symbols Wind’s 1930 Warburg lecture and his critical review of Gombrich’s biography was, in my view, correct and reasonable.
University of Heidelberg
SIR Linda Colley’s review of Joel Wiener’s biography of Richard Carlile (LRB, 1 November) includes three unpleasant and unsubstantiated remarks about Carlile and sex in successive sentences. She says that ‘Carlile abused his wife.’ If this means that he said rude things about her, it is true, though he seems to have had good reason. If it means that he used violence against her, it may be true, though he rather than she seems to have been the victim of violence in a marriage which was unhappy from its start in 1813. Is there any evidence that he was more to blame than she was? She says that ‘marital breakdown and adultery led him to publish’ his pioneering pamphlet advocating female contraception. In fact, when he was converted to this cause in 1825, he had spent more than five years in prison, and more than two years on his own – after his wife had shared his cell for two years, during which she conceived and bore their last child – and there is no evidence of adultery on either side up to that time. He didn’t meet Eliza Sharples until 1832, more than six years after he wrote ‘What is love?’ Is there any evidence that his conversion was not as honest as he described? She says that ‘he refused to allow either his wife or his mistress to use the sponge.’ If this is true about Jane Carlile, it isn’t surprising, since he opposed contraception throughout the decade they had sexual relations. If it is true about Eliza Sharples Carlile, the only objective evidence is that she bore four children between 1833 and 1837, though no more before his death in 1843. Is there any further evidence either way?
Many bad things were said about Richard Carlile during his life. It is a pity to say such things more than a century after his death without giving any evidence, especially when there are so many good things to say about him – such as that he did more than any other single person for freedom of thought and expression in this country.
SIR Both Eric Warner (Letters, 18 October) and John Bayley (LRB, 6 September) miss the essential point about Virginia Woolf: her manic-depressive illness. This explains the division between her hyperactivity and ‘that opposite pull, the need for solitude and “silence" ’, which, never being integrated in her personality, in turn accounts for the failure of her fiction to link mind and heart. She is either retreating into self or manically trying to escape from it, never therefore discovering it, never therefore acquiring the self-understanding that is a prerequisite for development as an artist. She is always a brilliant adolescent, letting off fireworks in the Diary, then brooding about the surrounding smoke in the novels. She is the heroine of the perpetual adolescent. Is it any wonder she has ‘become a cult’ in our time?
SIR Paul Milican (Letters, 4 October) fails to inform us of some salient facts in the debate over the miners’ strike, which is not surprising because they make his arguments look, in places, pretty silly. He tells us that since 1979 alone over fifty collieries have been closed. Why not inform us at the same time that Mr Callaghan’s government closed 300 pits? To read Mr Milican’s letter, one would think that pit closures began in 1979, not a decade and a half before. It is true that the NCB has not kept exactly to its pledges in the ‘Plan for Coal’. It has bettered them by investing £650 million more in the coal industry than had been agreed under the plan. Of somewhat lesser import, Mr MacGregor is not a North American, as Mr Milican puts it: he was born in, and lived for a considerable number of years in, Scotland.
SIR I have just seen R.W. Johnson’s review of The Missing Dimension, edited by Christopher Andrew and David Dilks (LRB, 6 September). He states, which the relevant passage in the book does not, that Sir Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen’s ‘laxity’ over the Cicero affair ‘led to the leak of the D Day plans to the Germans’. This is untrue. ‘Laxity’ may be a just word to use, but yet another appearance of the assertion that there was a D Day leak from Ankara must be rebutted. Of all the curious things that have been said, or turned into a film, about Cicero, this myth seems to have survived the longest. Sir Hughe, while accepting the official criticism directed at him over Cicero’s activities in his Embassy, always wanted to be allowed to contradict the D Day leak notion himself, but submitted to the Foreign Office’s wish not to encourage any further discussion of the affair. In 1964, however, he received written confirmation from the Foreign Office that D Day had not been compromised via Cicero and permission to arrange for the following sentence to be included in his obituary ‘it is now known that there is no truth in suggestions which have been made in the past that the date or the details of the Overlord operation were betrayed to the Germans through Cicero.’ When Sir Hughe died in 1971, this was done and his family and friends believed that the ghost had finally been exorcised. No further comment is needed, except to say that renewed confirmation will doubtless appear with the publication of Professor Hinsley’s fourth volume of the history of British Intelligence in the Second World War.
St John’s College, Cambridge
SIR My attention has been drawn to the letters you have published under this heading, and to the contributions to the feminist cause which have recently appeared in your paper. I was pleased to think that all such questions of status may soon be determined rationally, that the tide of prejudice may be on the turn, and that my master’s voice may be about to become a three-part choir. There is one activity – more of a privilege, really, than a right – about which my friends and I have long felt wistful. Perhaps one day we will be allowed to insult, stone, shoot and blast whoever it is we don’t like. I loved, incidentally, the lively way your correspondents tackled that Michael Stewart on the subject of mineral rights.
The Kennels, Ascot
SIR I am preparing a reconstruction of the journal of Anthony Anthony, surveyor of the Ordnance at the Tower of London from 1549 to 1563. Anthony’s work was not only a private diary and commonplace-book, but also a highly detailed chronicle of events in London and the Home Counties between 1517 and 1563. My edition is based upon transcripts by John Stow, Raphael Holinshed, Elias Ashmole, Thomas Tourneur, Gilbert Burnet, and an unidentified antiquarian whose initials were B. B. The original manuscript has not been cited by historians since the beginning of the 18th century. I am anxious to trace it or to establish beyond reasonable doubt that it has been lost or destroyed. I should be most grateful if the owners of the original manuscript or anyone who knows of its fate would be so kind as to write to me. I suspect that if the manuscript survives, it may not be obvious at once that Anthony was the author. Alternatively, I should be very obliged for information about Ashmole’s whereabouts on 16 November 1659, the date when he made his copy.
The Queen’s College, Oxford