Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Les Goddesses

Addendum: Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 August, 3pm, at the ICA London. Tickets.

Another artistic interpretation of Mary Wollstonecraft. Somehow I missed this when it was at greengrassi in London a few months ago, but here comes another opportunity: Moyra Davey's Les Goddesses will be shown at the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art, 20 April to 7 May this year. The previous (longer?) manifestation of this, her third film, was was well and comprehensively reviewed by Gareth Bell-Jones in Art Agenda, with lots of stills: "With precise observation, this psychological self-portrait is a series of clues with no conclusion." Paul Teasdale of Frieze described the work in detail, saying it switches "between autobiography and historical inquiry". He found it:
disquieting in its simplicity. Using little more than a video camera and voice recorder, Davey films herself walking around her apartment with one earphone in, as she listens to and simultaneously repeats pre-recorded passages. At just over 100 minutes long, it’s the most sustained of her films and perhaps the richest. The set-up is clear: Davey recounts the lives of the writer and political activist Mary Wollstonecraft, her daughters Fanny Imlay and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later Mary Shelley), and their stepsister Claire Claremont (the piece is fastidiously researched: errata appear twice as subtitles to correct factual errors). These then segue into reminiscences about Davey’s own family.
It's all here on the website of the Glasgow Festival.
Moyra Davey’s latest film “Les Goddesses” (2011) focuses on the life story of Mary Wollstonecraft, her daughters and her lovers. Wollstonecraft was an Eighteenth-century British writer, philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights and her daughters were Fanny Imlay, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later Mary Shelley) and their stepsister Claire Claremont, nicknamed ‘Les Goddesses’. The daughters were all at some point romantically linked to Percy Bysshe Shelley leading to the tragic suicide of Fanny at 22, and in 1795 Mary Wollestonecroft also attempted suicide with laudanum following her failed romance to Fanny’s father Gilbert Imlay.

Sitting on the floor and pacing around a sunlit bedroom with a voice recorder and video, Davey adopts the tone of a researcher, recounting the biographies of the female lead Mary & her daughters with a forensic attention to detail. Gradually, however, narrative associations are introduced between the lives of the characters and the artists own family, as Davey divulges into anecdotes of her own youth and figures from her past. Whilst narrating Wollenstonecroft’s story with a cool objectivity, the artist punctuates the film with Black and white photographs of herself and her sisters as young women dressed in punk rock clothes, leading us to suspect that it is Davey who may be the true subject here.

In her own writing Davey has cited the ‘muse’ as an important idea and catalyst in her work and previous films, be it a person, a book, a place, or in Davey’s words “a floating abstraction that reveals itself unpredictably”. In this film the muse manifests in itself in all these forms, as Davey weaves together the characters who inhabit her external and inner worlds, both real and imagined, and her literary inspirations - at one point blowing the dust from books on her shelf by Anne Sexton, Mary Kelly and Sylvia Plath. Slowly through the piecing together images and language, and through the act of reading itself, a psychological portrait of the artist emerges.
It was Aaron Burr, sometime vice-president of the United States of America, latterly a wanderer in Europe, who gave the three girls of the Godwin household the collective label "les goddesses": Claire Clairmont, the earlier daughter of the second Mrs Godwin, Fanny Imlay, abandoned by the American adventurer, and Mary later Shelley, whose birth cost her mother's life. His epithet is a fortuitous link: tomorrow our attention turns to the United States.
Image courtesy greengrassi.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Swedish conference programme

On the 23 February 1792 Mary Wollstonecraft published a book that has become a milestone in the history of political philosophy and one of the founding texts of feminist political thought, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. On this the 220th anniversary of the birth of the Vindication we welcome all to a symposium dedicated to the philosophy and intellectual context of this remarkable thinker.
-- From the official conference website, for Mary Wollstonecraft: Philosophy and Enlightenment.  

I found out about this philosophers' confab in September, and now its organiser, Lena Halldenius, has written with more information on the proceedings. She also expresses no amazement that I will be, instead, at the other academic conference commemorating the publication of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, though honestly that decision had much less to do with the weather (I love proper snow!) and much more to do with networking for Mary on the Green, the project to raise a memorial sculpture. We'll have more on Mary Wollstonecraft: Legacies, and Gainsville FL, in another post soon.

As for the Lund symposium, there is full info at PhilEvents, a website compiling events in philosophy, brought to you by the Institute of Philosophy, at the University of London. The symposium has a Facebook event page, and though its organiser professes technological modesty (a repeating virtue, see below), there are high hopes of the talks being podcast. Watch this space! Would anybody attending like to tweet the day as it goes along?

Four of the five speakers have already provided their philosophical abstracts. There is Martina Reuter, of Helsinki and Jyväskylä, on "Rousseau, Macaulay and Wollstonecraft on Negative Education", and Alan Coffee, of Birkbeck, on "Freedom as Independence: Mary Wollstonecraft and the Grand Blessing of Life". I am particularly curious about the paper by Lena Halldenius herself, on "Drawing from the Original Source. Wollstonecraft on Morality and Nature":
My aim here is to analyze what acting morally means and requires in Wollstonecraft’s thought. This is usefully done partly by identifying what it is that makes moral agency so difficult. I argue that there are three components to Wollstonecraft’s theory of moral agency: an internal intellectual struggle, acting on a universal motive, and the activity of freely disposing of one’s person. The sometimes overwhelming difficulty of acting on the duty to be moral – despite a person’s very best intentions – makes up the stuff of Wollstonecraft’s novels. I will use her novels here to investigate how she lets ‘nature’ and its counterpoint ‘artifice’ serve to show of what this difficulty is made.
"The sometimes overwhelming difficulty of acting on the duty to be moral – despite a person’s very best intentions": yup, I can relate.

I am also interested in "Wollstonecraft on the Virtue of Chastity", as discussed by Sandrine Berges, who has been kind enough to write for this blog, and who I'll be sorry to miss.  Mary and the Slutwalk and Mary, molls, and modesty looked at the under-read chapter of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman that begins with a paean to that virtue:
MODESTY! Sacred offspring of sensibility and reason!—true delicacy of mind!—may I unblamed presume to investigate thy nature, and trace to its covert the mild charm, that mellowing each harsh feature of a character, renders what would otherwise only inspire cold admiration—lovely!
The Bilkent philosopher doesn't write like that.
In the Vindication of the Rights of Women, Wollstonecraft offers one of the very few existing philosophical discussions of the virtue of chastity.  I argue that her account is Aristotelian, focusing as it does on the idea that chastity is a firm character trait rather than a natural disposition, and that it is a mean between a vice of excess and one of deficiency. Her account is somewhat complicated by the fact that she explains chastity as a derivative of modesty, not understood as a sexual virtue, but a just understanding of one's own worth. In that sense her account is very close to an account of modesty offered by Irene McMullin in her 2010 paper. The linking of modesty and chastity enables Wollstonecraft to give an account of chastity different from those of her predecessors, such that a feminist would be comfortable accepting it, but it also raises some potential worries about whether concerns of chastity place an unreasonable burden on women. I will argue that responding to these worries by further developing the account in fact gives us some of the tools we need to combat oppressive prejudices and related practices traditionally born of concerns for chastity.
 [Addendum: the conference now has a poster to download.]

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bronze bell, death knell

I was more shocked than I should have been to learn that the statue of Dr Alfred Salter has been stolen from its bench by the Thames. There is little doubt that the metal has by now been melted down for scrap. For some time I had been meaning to write of sculptures; I have quite specific and personal preferences for my vision of Mary Wollstonecraft. Sadly, I no longer see a bronze statue of her gracing Newington Green. Mary on the Green will triumph, I have no doubt, but not in a semi-valuable metal.

I had wanted for her something along the heart-warming lines of John Betjeman, whom we visited at St Pancras station. He at least is overseen by many people walking about, bright lights, CCTV.  The First Wave, at the Women's Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, upstate New York, is locked away securely. But what of the busts of Virginia Woolf, in Sussex and London? There are at least three versions of the Famous Five, outdoors in Canada: are they safe?

A little context on the mettle and the metal of the man. It sounds dry to say Alfred Salter (1873-1945) was a notable public health physician; it sounds idealistic to say he chose to live and practise in the dockers' slums of Bermondsey; it sounds heroic to say that he sacrificed his daughter to his principles. (She died of diphtheria, or was it scarlet fever, aged 11.) I first heard of the theft at Ian Bone's blog, where he reports that little Joyce and cat, also in bronze a few metres from the doctor on the bench, have been taken into care by the council, or, as London 24 put it, "Dr Salter feared stolen for scrap - daughter and kitten in hiding". The whole touching three-piece sculpture is (was?) called Dr Salter's Dream, created by Diane Gorvin, and beautifully set in place, like Betjeman, but in this case on the optimistically named Cherry Garden Pier. I had had it - and the sculptor - on my list of inspirations for Mary on the Green, and it would have appeared here next month anyway. But now it is gone.

In its account of the theft, the Evening Standard says the sculpture is worth £17 500, which seems odd. Perhaps that was the price paid to the sculptor, though given that it was only twenty years ago, the figure seems low. Surely it was insured for more? And in the end, it may only have been "worth" a couple of hundred quid to the thieves. What scrap merchant would accept a statue? The night theft the following month of a significant Barbara Hepworth bronze from gated Dulwich Park led to coverage of the issue by BBC news and the Wall Street Journal. The Daily Star of Lebanon chose to focus on Salter as the exemplar of the thefts:
For years a bronze statue of Alfred Salter sat on a bench looking out on a quiet bend of the River Thames, a memorial to a doctor who dedicated his life to a London district once infamous for Dickensian levels of poverty and disease. Now the bench is empty after his statue fell victim to a wave of metal thefts sweeping Britain, threatening artworks and ravaging infrastructure as thieves seek to capitalize on rising metal prices and a cash-in-hand scrap industry.
What would Mary say?

Next Friday I'll have more on sculpture, and I promise it will be just as inspiring, without the tragedy.

[Addendum: Sculptor Diane Gorvin got in touch, and alerted me to a nascent campaign to raise a new statue to Alfred Salter, and, this time, his wife Ada too, the first female mayor in London. "A committed pacifist and Quaker she was imprisoned for a short time during the First World War", and her legacy in Bermondsey is the trees she planted and the housing she established.]
Images from Wikicommons: the six-penny doctor, By Teddychen81 (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]; daughter and cat, Stephen Craven [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)].

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lost daughter: Jane Austen, part six (Russo and Broemel)

And now to a more formal analysis of the influence of Mary Wollstonecraft on Jane Austen, continuing on from our first look at the connection. By serendipity, this month sees Women in Revolutionary Debate: Female Novelists from Burney to Austen by Stephanie Russo of Macquarie University. (That is in Sydney, Australia, where there's a suburb named after Mary's nephew.) It has just been published by Hes & de Graaf, who describe it thus:
In the later 18th and earlier 19th centuries novels were believed to have the power to change behaviour, and affect the political landscape of society on a large scale. The English response to the French Revolution can be traced through a reading of the novels of the period. The French Revolution in itself was indelibly associated with the domestic arena, and, thus, by extension, with women. Again and again in novels of the period, and particularly in women’s novels, the stability, or otherwise, of the family reflects the stability of government and of the nation. It was through the medium of the novel that women could enter the debate on revolution, using their novels as means through which to explore many of the dominant social and political issues of the day.
The novel was a medium uniquely suited to an exploration of revolutionary ideologies in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The emerging form of the novel offered a unique opportunity for women to present new, challenging perspectives on the revolutionary crisis of the 1790s. The works of Frances Burney, Charlotte Smith, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Robinson, Maria Edgeworth, Mrs Bullock and Jane Austen, all occupy an important place in this debate, and indeed, in the history of the novel. They demonstrate that women were at the forefront of development of the form of the novel itself.
 The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers says the monograph is
a very good read, and a highly important work for everyone who is interested in the history of ideas, culture and society, and, in particular, in the history of women who did not only embroider cushions while waiting in the parlour for Mister Darcy, but who took their opportunities to change their situation and to influence their society by means of literature.
So, a side by side comparison of the novels of Mary and Jane! Alas, the book-buying budget is not up to 60 euros. In fact, it is probably about 60 euros short of the sum needed. Still, there are libraries, are there not?

From the professional to the amateur (and how we love the enthusiasts): via the useful suggestion of a fellow blogger, I've begun to read the huge resources at www.theloiterer.org, a Jane Austen website set up in 1998, "Revised: September 1, 2001" and apparently not touched since then. It runs to long, detailed pages full of quotes from the Austen canon, biographies, history, other novelists' work - but not other bloggers. No comments or feedback and definitely no social buttons. This is (relatively) early web stuff, thinking things through for oneself and using a static website as a way to keep all those thoughts in one coherent, self-governed place. Self-publishing in the old sense. The "editor", who in fact seems to have written reams and reams, goes by the name of Sophia Sentiment, but also admits to Linda Broemel. She claims James Austen's words as self-description: 'eccentric by principle' and 'irregular by system', but this is an excess of modesty. She has given us Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Other Contemporaries of Jane Austen and Women Writers and Other Influences In Jane Austen's Time
In this second page, we turn to the literature of Jane Austen's time. The emphasis is on those things that Jane Austen might have read - on possible Jane-Austen influences. We will discover that Jane Austen's time seems to have been a golden age for women writers. We also attempt to understand how the male voices of our Lady's time thought about women. - What were their attitudes?
Then The Gathering Storm: Godwin, Malthus and revolutions and a few dozen other long essays (Mary Shelley and Marxism ,Wollstonecraft on Dr Fordyce's sermons, Women and inheritance, Henry Fielding on love, Anti-Catholic riots in London 1780). There are tables of contents to whet the appetite.

My own Austen musings led me to discover her secret nod, in which she names a contentious protagonist after two of the most formative individuals in Mary Wollstonecraft's life. Since becoming aware of the theories of Arnie Perlstein and the others we've looked at earlier, I have re-read parts of Northanger Abbey. For those of you who haven't memorised the Janeite canon, that's the one that mocks or spoofs the gothic genre, and it contains the famous defence of novel-reading, by a man of marriageable age. (He also has certain telling things to say about the nature of men and women, character and reason.)  I note with interest that Isabella Thorpe, the young schemer who ensnares first Catherine Morland's brother and then Eleanor Tilney's, is said to live at Putney, a village long swallowed by the growth of Victorian London, as was Newington Green. Putney Bridge was the site of Mary's second suicide attempt. Why else would JA name-check it? But not only these facts set out the influence that the polemicist had on the novelist: even the prose style echoes it. When the heart-sore Henry James* writes to his sister to reveal the deception of her erstwhile friend, he says, "if ever man had reason to believe himself loved, I was that man." Cf. "If ever there was a book calculated to make a man in love with its author, this appears to me to be the book." OK, that's not Mary herself, but her husband, or I should say, widower. Quibble. It seems clear to me that Jane Austen was responding to Mary Wollstonecraft's life and work.

But really, that may be enough Austen for now: six servings in a row. Just one more thing: the wonderful Chawton House has a wealth of resources about female writers, and Valerie Patten has written a fine potted biography of Mary Wollstonecraft there, which you may prefer to mine.

Tomorrow, a new series, weekly, infinite, no rush: statues. Finally!

[*Slip of the pen. I wrote "heart-sore Henry", when of course it should have been "jilted James". I do know the difference, really, but was led by astray by alliteration. Thanks, commenters, for keeping me on my toes.]

Jane Austen, by her sister Cassandra. (1773-1845) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lost daughter: Jane Austen, part five (Gilbert)

And thus to the blog post by Lauren Gilbert, historical novelist, that started this whole series on the connections between Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft. Did the former read the latter? She begins with some good old fashioned archival research, of the sort that turned up the father of Claire Clairmont:
I contacted Jane Austen’s House and Museum, Bath Central Library, Jane Austen Centre, and Chawton House Library. No catalog of Rev. George Austen’s library is known to exist. (Jane Austen’s House and Museum does have a copy of the inventory of the contents of the Steventon Rectory but no catalog of his books.) The Bath Central Library indicated that VINDICATION was on the catalog for Marshalls Circulating Library on Milsom Street dated 1808; it is the only one they have in Jane’s time frame. Since VINDICATION was published in 1792 and was a well-known work, this argues that the book was probably available via a circulating library when Jane Austen lived in Bath, or visited in London or other cities.
So far, this is more or less what we already knew from part two, Margaret Kirkham's research decades ago. But  it goes on to mention a Lost Son to add to my little list of people influenced by Mary.
Jane is known to have had a copy of HERMSPRONG, or man as he is not by Robert Bage (philosophically, Mr Bage embraced the idea of the superiority of the “natural man”, considered women the equal of man and supported women’s rights, and was known to have had a high regard for Mary Wollstonecraft; these ideals are demonstrated by the story in HERMSPRONG). Jane’s copy is in the Huntington Library (her signature in all 4 volumes). This would argue a mind open to the ideas expressed in VINDICATION. There is also a theory that Jane would not necessarily referred to Mary Wollstonecraft’s work or influence, due to Mary’s unconventional morals and lifestyle (see Claire Tomalin and Miriam Ascarelli).
Lauren Gilbert concludes that JA "was exposed to and affected by" and indeed "profoundly influenced by" the second Vindication. "That Mary Wollstonecraft’s work was known to Jane Austen is not a point of serious debate that I can find." This agrees with what Lyndall Gordon says (part three in our series). JA's novels serve as warnings of what happens when women are raised to be, as Mary put it, "alluring mistresses" rather "than affectionate wives and rational mothers". The blogpost ends by claiming "almost direct references" in the novels to the polemic. Everyone's favourite spinster novelist:
... with her light touch and subtle humor, highlighted the issues Ms. Wollstonecraft raised. While she could not very well have acknowledged this influence at the time she published, Ms. Wollstonecraft’s reputation being what it was, I think Jane Austen clearly carried Ms. Wollstonecraft’s ideas regarding the education of women, and a higher concept of marriage, forward.
This is in agreement, in more restrained form, with the enthusiastic theories of Arnie Perlstein, part four in our series, who holds JA to be a secret radical feminist: if you hold the texts up to the candleflame in the right way, the invisible lemon juice darkens, and the hidden message become legible.

Next up: a whole book on Women in Revolutionary Debate: Female Novelists from Burney to Austen.  And the Loiterers - like the current Idler, not dawdling at all.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lost daughter: Jane Austen, part four (Perlstein)

We have been looking at the opportunities Jane Austen had to read Mary Wollstonecraft. The consensus is overwhelming that the opportunity was there: there are family connections, tenuous but real, as pointed out by Claire Tomalin,  and access to circulating libraries during Austen's years in Bath. More importantly, though, is the textual evidence that the ideas laid out in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman -- the need for rational education and a marriage of mutual respect -- find fictional flesh in the examples and counter-examples of the novels, as we saw the other day. I even found a hidden clue, a secret nod, embedded in the name of one of the most contentious characters.

The first post of this series touched on the difference between Tory feminism and Enlightenment feminism, drawing on Jane Austen, Feminism and Fiction by Margaret Kirkham, which we looked at in more detail in the second post. This book, in its 1983 original or its 1996 second edition, I'm not quite sure, was reviewed by Margaret Doody. I haven't seen the review, but it was thoroughly picked apart by one Arnie Perlstein, an unlikely, to put it mildly, contributor to the discussion. There is no more passionate defender of Jane Austen as a radical feminist than this outsider. I think we can call him, as Ms magazine called Bob Lamm when he liberated Mary from the dungeons of the National Portrait Gallery, a male feminist.

The biography on his blog:
I'm a 59 year old independent scholar (still) working on a book project about the SHADOW STORIES of Jane Austen's novels (and Shakespeare's plays). I first read Austen in 1995, an American male real estate lawyer, i.e., a Janeite outsider. I therefore never "learned" that there was no secret subtext in her novels. All I did was to closely read and reread her novels, while participating in stimulating online group readings.
Then, in 2002, I whimsically wondered whether Willoughby stalked Marianne Dashwood and staged their “accidental” meeting. I retraced his steps, followed the textual “bread crumbs”, and verified my hunch. I've since made numerous similar discoveries about offstage scheming by various characters.
In hindsight, it was my luck not only to be a lawyer, but also a lifelong solver of NY Times and other difficult American crossword puzzles. These both trained me to spot complex patterns based on fragmentary data, to interpret cryptic clues of all kinds, and, above all, not to give up until I’ve completed the puzzle--and literary sleuthing Jane Austen's novels (and Shakespeare's plays) is, bar none, the best puzzle solving in the world!
If you like fisking, take a look: Margaret Doody's misguided review of Margaret Kirkham's Pioneering, Prescient & Spot-On 1982 book Jane Austen, Feminism and Fiction. I didn't see this until later. I first came across his forensic examination in November, when he claimed that Jane Austen was haunted by the Ghost of Mary Wollstonecraft, and got in touch in the comments. (Dear reader - please do the same!)

He posts about once a day, essays or diatribes rich in iconoclastic ideas and mad enthusiasm. I suspect the lawyering is a bit slow in Florida at the moment, and I for one am glad of it, if that gives room for the flowering of amateurism (a term of high praise in Wollstonecraft Towers). Here is a fair flavour of his argument:
I think JA was haunted by the Ghost and the memory of Mary Wollstonecraft, a woman who was brave enough to speak out on behalf of women very publicly, and who, after her death, was vilified because she had been so brave.

It's no accident, therefore, that JA alluded SPECIFICALLY to the very radical polemical novel CALEB WILLIAMS (written in 1809), which, after all, just happened to be written by Godwin, who just happened to have been the husband of...............Mary Wollstonecraft!
Here is an example of the sort of convoluted crossword theory he favours. I'm not saying he's wrong; I'm just saying  you need to have a special sort of mind to follow the thread. Ariadne and the Minotaur?
So it means that when I interpret Henry Tilney as having an epiphany about his mother's death as a result of Catherine's detective work at the Abbey, this is deeply connected to JA's allusion to Godwin's 1809 novel, a novel written a few years AFTER Godwin had a chance to see how the Far Right seized on his Memoir of his dead wife as grounds for crucifying her reputation in the court of public opinion.

So JA is telling us, covertly that (i) in a way, Godwin was Henry Tilney, because he eventually "got it" that he had screwed up, and he wrote Caleb Williams as penance, and (ii) in another way, Godwin was GENERAL Tilney, who did regret the role he played in bringing about his wife's death.
He speculates about Godwin's role:
And the most awful thing is that Godwin "killed" his wife TWICE, and both times it was "involuntary womanslaughter"--the first time, by getting her pregnant, leading to her physical death in childbirth, and the second time by writing her Memoir (perhaps trying to resurrect her), but having it backfire, and instead leading to the public assassination of her character!
And he sums up his view of Jane Austen's feminism:
I believe that for a very long time, maybe her whole adult life, JA played with the idea of going public with her true feelings. But in the end of the day, every time she put quill pen to paper, she chose to go undercover -- but I get the very strong sense that she always felt ambivalent about that painful decision. The regret that Catherine and Eleanor express when they talk about Mrs. Tilney is, I think, JA's own regrets....

So Northanger Abbey is in a very real sense JA's eulogy to the greatest feminist "heroine" of her time.
He also speculates in Jane Austen the radical but covert feminist Part 268 that Mary Bennet is Jane Austen's alter ego, named after Mary Wollstonecraft.  He agreed that I was barking up the right tree as regards name clues, and commented that Mary Bennet is "the most important surrogate for Mary W in all of Jane Austen's fiction":
...what you have is Mary Bennet as JA's covert self portrait! JA has led the reader down the garden path, seeing if we will take the bait and join with the rest of the Bennet family in unjustly and at times cruelly scorning Mary, but hoping that we will struggle with our inner Mr. Bennet and instead realize that we've been guilty of a wrong first impression of Mary, and reconsider.

So we have a surface parody of Mary, but a veiled anti-parody which vindicates Mary (who I claim is named after Mary Wollstonecraft). And I claim exactly the same sort of anti-parody in Northanger Abbey which has a surface parody of Catherine, but a covert anti-parody which vindicates Catherine's keen perceptions.
Enough to make anyone dizzy. Next time, a look at the post that kicked this all off, from historical novelist Lauren Gilbert.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lost daughter: Jane Austen, part three (Gordon)

We have been looking at whether Jane Austen was influenced by Mary Wollstonecraft.  Kirkham and Ascarelli think so. Today we look at the views of Lyndall Gordon, Mary's most recent biographer.

She contends that the young Jane very likely had the opportunity to read Mary's works. In the chapter "Vindication" of her 2005 Vindication, she points out that The Female Reader, an anthology which Mary compiled for Johnson, was published when Jane was 14, "reading at home, and the perfect recipient for this book". There are plenty of Austen parallels, examples in each of the six canonical novels, and the juvenalia as well, that show the folly of the miseducation of daughters and of unequal marriages. Her novella ''Catherine'' appeared within a year of Rights of Woman. "Wollstonecraft's ridicule of women's inflated gush and plaything eduction reappears in Austen's ridicule of Camilla" and her useless, ladylike accomplishments. "Wollstonecraft's voice sounds once more when Elizabeth Bennett will not grovel to imperious Lady Catherine de Burgh in Pride and Prejudice", in contrast to the vacuous Bingley sisters, who focus all their attention on marriage and men.  The biographer links the two women backwards as well, crediting Mary with an "infallible Austen eye for the tendency of able men to mate with inferiors". See also her essay on Persuasion: "Jane Austen is often co-opted for conservatism, but her novels question traditional authority and female artifice."
Front Cover
Here's a passing reference to the impact of Mary Wollstonecraft, and how she has become embedded in how we now read Austen, even had the author not intended it. Olwen Hufton's two-volume overview of women's history in Western Europe, The Prospect Before Her: 1500-1800, mentions Fanny Price "in her clear-sighted notions of the appropriate, and her eschewing of the trivial, [as] something of a spiritual legatee of The Vindication."

Coming up next: an outsider reads the canon. We meet Arnie Perlstein, and you won't forget him.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Lost daughter: Jane Austen, part two (Kirkham and Ascarelli)

In the last post we looked at the Wikipedia article on Styles and themes of Jane Austen, more specifically the section on gender. Was Austen a feminist? Had she read Mary Wollstonecraft, and what did she think of her? The article is well referenced, and that section draws heavily on two sources, Jane Austen, Feminism and Fiction, a 1983 monograph by Margaret Kirkham, and a 2004 essay by Miriam Ascarelli, A Feminist Connection: Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft

Kirkham's book was re-issued in 1996, when she wrote a lengthy preface in which she brings the intervening years of criticism into focus. (Thirteen years between first and second editions: I notice that more than another thirteen have passed.) From that preface:
This book was first published in 1983 when feminist criticism was becoming respectable, but it evolved from much earlier. During the 1960s research on the history of the theatre in Bristol and Bath led me to think about life in Bath at the turn of the nineteenth-century, when Austen lived there. Reading the newspapers, in search of items about plays and players, I picked up other information....I began to get a clearer picture of the milieu in which Austen lived from the age of twenty-five to thirty and to wonder why more had not been written about it....
...by the early 1970s, with feminism in the air, oddities in the Austen biography began to connect with more general questions about how women's Lives were written (especially by brothers and nephews) in the nineteenth-century. Then came Lloyd W. Brown's 1973 article, making direct comparison of Mary Wollstonecraft and Jane Austen. Previously I might have thought it unlikely that Austen had read A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, since I had imagined her reading as confined to what was there in her father's or brothers' libraries, or what might have been on the shelves of a country circulating library, but by 1973 it was clear that in Bath, Austen would have had no difficulty in choosing her own reading, from extra-familial shelves....
There was no direct evidence that Austen had read Wollstonecraft, in Bath or at any other time, but it now seemed much more likely. In any case, the similarities between parts of the Vindication, and ideas and attitudes apparent in the Austen novels had come to seem too striking to ignore.
Kirkham's book (first or second edition? not sure) was reviewed by Margaret Doody. I haven't seen the review, but it was thoroughly picked apart by one Arnie Perlstein, an unlikely Janeite, as he is the first to admit. I'll have more on him and his view of Austen as a radical feminist in another post.

The Wikipedia article also draws on a more recent essay. Ascarelli summarises the arguments around Jane Austen's possible feminism -- "or to use the proper scholarly term, proto-feminism" -- contending that yes, she was a "formidable feminist critic". She concludes, "Why, then, does Austen fail to give Wollstonecraft any credit for contributing to her thinking?" answering her own question,"I think it was simply too dangerous." She refers to Claire Tomalin as an Austen biographer, but of course she began the biography-writing phase of her career with Mary Wollstonecraft -- the first one, I believe, since the start of second-wave feminism. So Tomalin, now all over the media with her bicentennial Dickens book, may be in a uniquely rich position to comment on the influence of the polemicist on the novelist:
How could a young Jane Austen not take notice [of the furore around the posthumous Memoirs]? Austen biographer Claire Tomalin offers some convincing biographical evidence that Austen is likely to have known of Mary Wollstonecraft and her work. She notes that Sir William East, the father of one of George Austen’s former pupils, was a benefactor of Wollstonecraft. Furthermore, Sir William was a neighbor and friend to Austen’s uncle, James Leigh-Perrot. After Wollstonecraft attempted suicide in 1796, Sir William was credited with being particularly kind to her during her recovery. While this does not specifically link Austen and Wollstonecraft, it makes it plausible that the Austen family knew of Wollstonecraft and her ideas (Tomalin 158).

Jane Austen probably made a mental note to stay away from partisan politics and to keep her thoughts about Wollstonecraft to herself. Thanks to her skills as a writer, her balancing act worked. She managed to infuse her books with a Wollstonecraft-like feminist critique that is less politically charged but just as potent.
Coming up next, Lyndall Gordon and more examples of reading Jane.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jane Austen: a lost daughter? Part one

There has been much speculation about whether Jane Austen read Mary Wollstonecraft, and if so, what the novelist made of the polemicist. I've been meaning to write about this possible connection, having lightly touched some months ago on the secret nod by which "Jane Austen's choice of the name Fanny Price [was] a coded reference to two of the most formative people in Mary Wollstonecraft's life" -- Fanny Blood and Richard Price. I have been spurred to write more by this week's offering by Lauren Gilbert, author of the recent Heyerwood, a Georgian/Regency romantic novel. Did Jane read A Vindication of the Rights of Woman? A very good question. I'll look briefly at, and devote a few linked posts to, the main arguments -- or at any rate the argumentative. I have five lined up so far.

I won't attempt to summarise all the academic and popular writing on this subject. What strikes me is the passion with which many seem to want Jane Austen to be what I call a Lost Daughter, that is, someone significantly influenced by MW, even if that influence has to be expressed covertly. And, of course, I am not a little envious (in the positive, aspirational sense) of how much attention Jane Austen receives, not only from the academy, but in overwhelming public support. She is widely read for pleasure, and even more widely appreciated in endless cinematographic re-imaginings. Both scholars and enthusiasts come together in venues such as the Jane Austen Society of North America. I could wish for nothing better for Mary Wollstonecraft - academic interest in her works is re-awakening, in fields beyond women's studies, and I have hopes for Mary: the Movie, but as yet there is no Mary Fan Club or Wollstonecraft Society. Give me time....

Wikipedia (which, as I've said before, provides an excellent overview of Wollstonecraft's life, work, and circle) give a good short introduction to the possibilities of a link. Styles and themes of Jane Austen
has, at the time of writing, 174 references, to dozens of scholarly works, even if it hasn't jumped through the time-consuming hoops to win the bronze star of a Featured Article. It sums up, "There is intense scholarly debate regarding whether or not Austen's works follow in the tradition of Enlightenment feminists such as Mary Wollstonecraft." Stripped of its informative but distracting links, and of the references, which you can follow up there if you wish, the relevant section reads:
Since the rise of feminist literary criticism in the 1970s, the question of to what extent Austen was a feminist writer has been at the forefront of Austen criticism. Scholars have identified two major strains of 18th-century feminism: "Tory feminism" and "Enlightenment feminism". Austen has been associated with both.
Tory feminism, which includes such writers as Mary Astell and Dorothy Wordsworth, is a tradition of thought which recognized that "women were treated as an inferior class in a man's world". Writers in this tradition urged women to counter this discrimination through moral and spiritual self-cultivation and charitable service to the family and community. [Marilyn] Butler has argued that Austen belongs to the Tory feminist tradition because of her stylistic and thematic affinity to the writings of Maria Edgeworth Moreover, Austen's "heroines' subordinate role in the family,...their dutifulness, meditativeness, self-abnegation, and self-control" are characteristics shared by the heroines of conservative authors such as Jane West and Mary Brunton.
Enlightenment feminism, which includes such writers as Catherine Macaulay and Mary Wollstonecraft, is a tradition of thought that claims that "women share the same moral nature as men, ought to share the same moral status, and exercise the same responsibility for their conduct". Margaret Kirkham has argued that Austen is part of this tradition because, for one, her "heroines do not adore or worship their husbands, though they respect and love them. They are not, especially in the later novels, allowed to get married at all until the heroes have provided convincing evidence of appreciating their qualities of mind, and of accepting their power of rational judgement, as well as their good hearts." Anne Elliot, the heroine of ''Persuasion'', is an example of such a protagonist. Kirkham argues that Austen knew and admired the works of Mary Wollstonecraft, particularly A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). Moreover, she and others argue that Austen's novels followed in the tradition of the radical Jacobin novels of the 1790s, which often dealt with feminist issues.
The main works referred to are Jane Austen, Feminism and Fiction, a 1983 monograph by Margaret Kirkham, and A Feminist Connection: Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft, a 2004 essay by Miriam Ascarelli. I'll write more about these next time.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Liberating Mary

I would like to think that Mary Wollstonecraft attracts the right sort of visitor, certainly to the city where she spent most of her life, and possibly elsewhere. Last week we met literary pilgrim Alexis Wolf (and a few days ago I met her in the flesh in Newington Green, for a visit to the Unitarian church and then coffee at the Belle Epoque). This week we have another American in London, whose adventures date back decades. The tale of how Bob Lamm "liberated Mary" from the bowels of the National Portrait Gallery first appeared in Ms. Magazine in 2004, when he was called "an intrepid male feminist". So, with his kind permission, I reprint his essay in full.

[The image he is referring to is the last one of her, when she was pregnant with Mary. It is by John Opie, and can be seen on the NPG site. The Cornish sensation had painted her c. 1790 as well; that portrait is held by the Tate.]

No visit to London can really begin for me until I go to the National Portrait Gallery, near Trafalgar Square, and pay my respects to a lovely painting of Mary Wollstonecraft that I helped liberate from the gallery’s “dungeons.”

The seeds of my rescue began in the late 1970s, when I visited the gallery but couldn’t find a painting of Wollstonecraft. 
A few years earlier, my men’s study group on early feminist literature had devoted six months to the life and work of the inspiring English writer of the late 18th century, best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

I subsequently lectured at women’s studies classes about this eloquent crusader who offered challenging political insights and was bold enough to attack in print some of the most famous men of her time, among them Burke, Rousseau and Talleyrand. Because of my great admiration for Wollstonecraft, she was on my mind when I walked through the National Portrait Gallery and then stopped at the gift shop.

In a most unlikely place — the “G” section of the postcards — I suddenly recognized a postcard of her labeled “Mary Godwin (née Wollstonecraft).” [Dreadful, but not unprecedented. See the Camden Council placard in St Pancras churchyard, detailed here. -- Ed.] In her 30s, Wollstonecraft had married the British philosopher William Godwin but had continued to use and write under her own name. The National Portrait Gallery either hadn’t noticed or didn’t approve. The postcard indeed featured a portrait of Wollstonecraft, but where was the painting itself?

At the information desk, I learned that the portrait (by John Opie, circa 1797) was currently housed in the storage area. The gallery’s walls included few paintings of women — most of whom were best known for some biological or romantic connection to a famous man. At the same time, there was apparently no room for a portrait of England’s feminist pioneer. The story might have ended there, but the woman at the information desk volunteered that a visitor could request to see any painting not on display. The timing was right, a guard was found and I was soon down in a storage room standing before Opie’s striking portrait.

The painting shows Wollstonecraft in simple clothing — a black beret and a loose white blouse — without any of the lacy feminine frills of that era. She seems intelligent, serene, hardly the dangerous radical so vilified by her enemies. 
Against a dark background, a single light source brilliantly illuminates Wollstonecraft’s face and blouse, as if the artist saw Wollstonecraft’s burning feminist spirit as a beacon of truth amid the prejudice and ignorance around her.

During visits to London over the next few years, I retraced these steps to see Opie’s portrait and lamented that others wouldn’t get that opportunity. In early 1984, however, I quite literally encountered an obstacle: A guard said I couldn’t see the painting because there was “something in the way.” The assistant registrar, Andrea Gall, was called in and countered, “So let’s move it!”

We did, and as we admired the portrait together, we wondered why it was not on display. The time had come to protest Wollstonecraft’s imprisonment. I requested a meeting with Jacob Simon, the new curator for the gallery’s 18th-century collection. When we spoke in his office, I urged him to find room for the painting and to label it just as she is remembered, Mary Wollstonecraft. He was polite but noncommittal.  Later that year, Mr. Simon sent me a carefully worded letter stating that the Wollstonecraft portrait would soon go on display — but only for four months, to take the place of a painting of Wordsworth on loan to another museum.

Thrilling as this news was, I was also saddened because I wouldn’t be in London again during those months and thus would never see the fruits of my protest. Then, shortly thereafter, I learned that the portrait had been cleaned, given an impressive new frame and was now hanging for all to see … under the name of Mary Wollstonecraft!

Now I regretted even more that I’d never see the portrait on the gallery’s walls. But when the Wordsworth painting returned to its home in early 1985, I received stunning news and Jacob Simon became a true hero. Despite his original plan, he never took down the portrait of Wollstonecraft, and it has remained on display ever since.

She can be found today in a small room with stained wooden floors, along with portraits of her husband, William Godwin, and their daughter Mary Shelley. (Wollstonecraft died in 1797 shortly after giving birth to the younger Mary, best known as the author of Frankenstein.) Wollstonecraft and her loved ones look out proudly at an illustrious array of companions: Percy Shelley, Wordsworth, Keats, Byron, Coleridge, Blake and Austen. 
Virginia Woolf wrote of Wollstonecraft, “One form of immortality is hers undoubtedly: She is alive and active, she argues and experiments, we hear her voice and trace her influence even now among the living.”

And, I’m delighted to say, we see her portrait as well.

Originally published in the United States by Ms. Magazine in their fall 2004 issue, pp. 72-73.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Femininity and Literary Culture

Daffodils in the snow. Merrie England!
Ah, January: springtime, according to the British academic calendar! The terms used to go by boy-girl names like Hilary, but then the authorities decided to re-set the clock, in the manner of the Gregorians, minus the medieval chanting, so spring begins once the Christmas decorations are down, and with Hogmanay headaches still thumping.

From the oeuvre of Dr Guest
And this term has one module to look forward to, if you are lucky enough to be at (or within begging distance of) the University of York. (In England. Not the one in Toronto. Not New York. Old York. That one.) Harriet Guest, the director of the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies, will be teaching the MA module entitled Femininity and Literary Culture: English Women Writers and the Politics of the 1790s and guess what, it focuses on Mary Wollstonecraft:
This module will explore on changing uses of the language of sensibility and its implications for the status of women at the turn of the century. It will focus on representations of Wollstonecraft, and of women who bear some resemblance to her, in texts more or less sympathetic to the arguments of her Vindication of the Rights of Woman. We will consider the implications of her death and of the war with France for representations of women in sentimental fiction.
Check out the provisional list of seminar texts:
  • Mary Hays, Memoirs of Emma Courtney (1796)
  • Mary Wollstonecraft, Letters written during a short residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (1796)
  • Mary Wollstonecraft, The Wrongs of Woman, or Maria (1799)
  • Charles Lloyd, Edmund Oliver (1798)
  • William Godwin, Memoirs of the author of the vindication of the rights of woman (1799), Hays’ and other posthumous accounts (photocopies).
  • Mary Robinson, Memoirs, and The Natural Daughter (1799)
  • Amelia Opie, Adeline Mowbray (1805)
  • Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility (1811)
Daffodils in the snow from Johnny Durnan 
[CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The right sort of visitor

A few months ago I came across this rather lovely literary pilgrimage to the first grave of Mary Wollstonecraft. The pilgrim is an earnest American undergraduate:
Alexis Wolf studies English Literature and French Language at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. She is currently living in France, conducting research on Romantic era female travel writers. Alexis’ work has appeared in a variety of American journals, and she hopes to pursue Life Writing at a graduate level.
So, with her permission and that of the editor of the University of California Berkeley's Comparative Literature Undergraduate Journal,  where the article first appeared this past autumn, I take pleasure in bringing you the unabridged "A Quiet Type of Pilgrimage". I've saved it for New Year's Day: it might inspire in you a resolution, perhaps to travel in Mary's footsteps, or to commit your energy to a campaign, or to write up your notes of a long-ago adventure, or to undertake another challenge. This will be the longest post this blog has ever seen, I think. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the indulgence of sinking your teeth into something substantial.


I: Waking in up in Norfolk Square
Opening up my eyes in this impossibly tiny hotel room, I remember just where I am, and the grey light streaming in through the tall window makes me breathe a sigh of relief. After nearly a month of motion—beautiful sun and travel—I was unsure how I would be able to switch my brain over into the dreary and dreamy realm that I sought to explore. Arriving in London late last night the air was fine and embracing, much too warm for April. This morning, however, the sky has brought the delicious gift of rain, a dim horizon, much needed for getting into the mood of Mary Wollstonecraft.
London has greatly changed in the 200 or so years since my heroine lived in it, but a few pieces of her perhaps remain. I hope to visit her here and invoke her feelings, aided by this morning’s merciful cover of gloom. The weather reminds me of a particularly dark period of time that was so important in my lady’s history—the thunderstorm-filled weather of the summer of 1797, forever remembered by Mary’s family as a literal foreshadowing to her untimely death in childbirth. I plan to employ this rain to suppress my giddiness over the chance to seek true connections here, both between myself and Mary, and between us and this city.
The tube stations and grand squares are noisy and swollen with people, but inside of me there exists a solitary place that lives just for us. I know its possible that the hush of a few museums and sacred places might help me to find what I am searching for.

II: The Portrait Gallery
It is a thrill to come to the National Portrait Gallery. I am looking for my friend. I’ve been here before, and I probably looked right at her face, but I didn’t know her yet.
Entering into the top floor of the gallery I recognize some of the portraits of the Elizabethan royalty, hung on the walls, grand and tall and ruffled yet so severe. Wandering through the halls I’m taking time to find the one I really want, the lady that I came to see.
Along the way I meet some women writers that came before her—Elizabeth Burnet is a pretty lady holding a bible, a religious devotional educator from 100 years before A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was written. She has a knowing look on her face and gave all of the money that she made as an author to the poor. Mary Wollstonecraft started out as a religious educator as well, before branching out into the distance, and her faith always seemed to keep living on in her words even after she had been deemed unholy by society.
I meet another woman down the hall, “Elizabeth Carter as Minerva.” I sit down to draw her for a moment. Carter was a classicist, poet and scholar, one of the founders of the famous Bluestockings circle. The placard by her portrait says, “In an age when few women received a formal education, the self-taught Carter was upheld as a role-model for intellectual women.” The painting depicts her as the goddess of wisdom and warfare—perhaps a not-so-subtle reference to the fact that women such as Carter had to fight to keep their place within an intellectual world controlled by men.
There are so many inspiring women hidden within the history of feminism, and in the National Gallery their portraits stand out to me among the scores of frames containing the paintings of prolific male scholars and politicians. Not always respected in their lifetime, now they hold a level of equality within this monument. I look around the halls for Aphra Behn, another woman writer that I consider an acquaintance if not a friend, and it takes me a while to locate her miniature portrait, concealed under a velvet curtain to protect it from the light. Behn was one of the first professional British female writers, and Virginia Woolf wrote, “Women should let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” I love being here, surrounded by these important stars. I feel so happy and grateful, and ready to find the confidante I came here to see.
Walking into room 18, the Romanticism chamber, I have to hold in some tears that rise to my eyes when I finally see Mary Wollstonecraft. The portrait was painted while she was pregnant with Mary Shelley, just a short while before her death. The likeness was made by her friend, John Opie, who meticulously captured the mix of intelligence and disdain on her face. The painting hung above her husband William Godwin’s fireplace for the rest of his life, and was often admired by her motherless daughters while they sat in his library and studied her works. In the portrait Wollstonecraft wears a white cotton gown and a black cap that was fashionable during the French revolution, and it effectively expresses her views on dress—that clothing should not hide or distort the human form—but rather ‘adorn the person and not rival it’. Aside from all the historical implications of the picture, Mary Wollstonecraft is breathtaking. Arranged in a perfect square, facing each other from across the room, are Mary and Percey Shelley, perpetually gazing over at Wollstonecraft and Godwin.
I ask for a stool from a docent and attempt to draw, trying hard to capture something telling in the face of this well-worshipped image. Occasionally other museum patrons stroll into the room, searching their brochures and panning the walls looking for Jane Austen’s portrait, only to realize it is not one of the grand paintings on the wall, but rather a miniature pastel contained in a solitary standing case. Before they stroll out of the room some of them peak over my shoulder, perhaps expecting to see a trained hand at work. I hope they are not disappointed by my sloppy impersonations—for me, the purpose of this exercise was simply to reach a higher level of intimate connection. Mary Wollstonecraft’s words are vitally important, but I also felt a pull to better know her face. The hours pass and within the silence of the gallery I begin to recede into the lines I’m forming, my intensity fastening me onto moments borrowed from another time.

III: King’s Cross
It took me about two hours to find St Pancras old church, lost in the gigantic area of enormous buildings surrounding the train station. Eventually, though, I met a friendly person on the street who pointed me back in the right direction. She even had an inkling of who I might be looking for.
Inside of the St. Pancras old church the gorgeous long notes of a medieval choir are playing on a stereo. The chapel is quite small and parts of it date from the fourth century. In 1797, when Wollstonecraft’s funeral took place, when she was buried in the church yard, this area was a rural community barely touching the edge of London. Before she died Mary would come here with her young daughter, Fanny, to play in the fields. It was quite different from the sprawling center of the King’s Cross neighborhood that it is today. The graveyard of the church, which used to be much bigger before the railroad was set down, looks more like a park than a cemetery. The rain has stopped for about an hour and there are people in business suits eating their lunch, lounging on benches and reading the paper. They look at me like the creep that I am, searching through the weathered gravestones, a literary tourist. After stooping down low to examine some crumbling tombstones, I finally find the right one.
When Wollstonecraft’s daughter, Mary Shelley, herself died, her son Percy Florence followed his mother’s wishes and had his grandparents’ bodies exumed and moved to Bournemouth, which is where Shelley spent the last days of her life. Here in London there remains a large tomb on the spot where Mary Wollstonecraft once laid, the placard worn down but legible. The other side commemorates William Godwin. His portion is much harder to decipher, with moss encroaching on his name and accomplishments. I pull a newspaper out of my bag and sit on it on the damp ground before a thick spread of yellow daffodils. It is here in this spot where Mary Shelley and Percy supposedly declared and consummated their love on a summer’s evening while Claire Clairmont strolled nearby, acting as a lazy chaperone. Wollstonecraft’s grave was sacred to them, the most romantic spot in the whole world to solidify their union.
It is always strange enough to visit someone’s grave, but even more so to know that their bones have been taken away. How much ghost memory does a place keep? I sat and thought of Mary Wollstonecraft walking here, rather than being buried. It is so important to pay respect to the people you love, and I have come to love her. I visited on April 27th, the 251st anniversary of her birth, and I felt bad for coming to her empty-handed. So I went into the church, put a pound in the collection box and lit her a candle. I am not a religious person but the flame made sense, to send a little spark in the direction of a long-departed woman who has so inspired me with her words, encouraged me across centuries to find my own, to keep striving and fighting. I came to this city so briefly, just to look for her here. I saw the painting of her face and the place where she used to rest under foot, but of course it didn’t change a thing. For me, she still lives in the air, in my head, in her books. After 200 years London is changed beyond what she would recognize. Still, I came to meet her here. I endeavored to know her just a little better. Under my breath alone in the church, I thanked her for igniting me.