The Nineteenth Century: ‘language really used by men’

  • Basil Cottle
Chapter

Abstract

It would be wrong to judge the realism of MARIA EDGEWORTH (1767–1849) from the genteel parlour-talk and posturing which I am about to quote; she was active in the work of education, especially for females, modifying the principles of Rousseau’s Émile, and she worked hard for victims of the Irish famine in 1846. But her novels can sound stuffy and privileged, with slothful conversations that never infringe propriety. This passage is from Chapter V of Patronage (1814):

‘Some of these novels are sad trash — I hope Mr Godfrey Percy will not judge of my taste by them: that would be condemning me for the crime of my bookseller, who will send us down everything new that comes out’. Godfrey disclaimed the idea of condemning or blaming Miss Hauton’s taste: ‘he could not,’ he said, ‘be so presumptuous, so impertinent.’ ‘So then,’ said she, ‘Mr Godfrey Percy is like all the rest of his sex, and I must not expect to hear the truth from him ... I would, however, rather have him speak severely than think hardly of me.’ ‘He has no right to speak, and certainly no inclination to think hardly of Miss Hauton,’ replied Godfrey gravely, but with an emotion which he in vain endeavoured to suppress. To change the conversation, he asked her opinion about a figure in the print. She took out her glass, and stooped to look.

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© Basil Cottle 1985

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  • Basil Cottle

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