Love and Pedagogy



“Your lessons found the weakest part,” Vanessa complained to her tutor Cadenus, “Aim’d at the head, and reach’d the heart.” Swift and Vanessa weren’t the first couple, not yet the last, to discover that the master-pupil relationship can be a highly aphrodisiac one.2 From Heloise and Abelard to Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins, history and literature produce recurrent examples of relations that evolve from the academic to the erotic. And Jane Austen’s novels afford in themselves a range of possibilities in the operations of teaching and learning as an emotional bond. As Lionel Trilling points out, Jane Austen “was committed to the ideal of ‘intelligent love,’ according to which the deepest and truest relationship that can exist between human beings is pedagogic. This relationship consists in the giving and receiving of knowledge about right conduct, in the formation of one person’s character by another, the acceptance of another’s guidance in one’s own growth.”3


Young Lady Pedagogic Relationship Good Girl Passionate Love Good Pupil 
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  1. 2.
    The phrase is Pamela Hansford Johnson’s. “The Sexual Life in Dickens’s Novels,” Dickens 1970, ed. Michael Slater (London: Chapman & Hall, 1970), p. 179.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Geoffrey Gorer explored this aspect in the novels in “The Myth in Jane Austen,” American Imago, 2:3 (1941), pp. 197–204.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    See David Smith, “Incest Patterns in two Victorian Novels,” Literature and Psychology, 15:3 (Summer, 1965), pp. 135–62.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    See Gordon S. Haight, George Eliot: A Biography (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), pp. 27, 49–50.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Sincerity and Authenticity, p. 82. Since I wrote this essay, a great deal has been written on the mentor-pupil relationship in the eighteenth-and nineteenth-century novel. It would be anachronistic to attempt an updating, but one treatment of the subject that stands out and needs mention is Susan Morgan’s “Why There’s No Sex in Jane Austen’s Fiction,” Sisters in Time: Imagining Genders in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 23–55.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Unsigned review of James Austen-Leigh’s Memoir of Jane Austen in the North British Review (April, 1870). Reprinted in Jane Austen: The Critical Heritage, ed. B.C. Southam (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968), pp. 244 and 246.Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    See Arnold Kettle’s section on Emma in An Introduction to the English Novel (London: Hutchinson’s Universal Library, 1951).Google Scholar

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© Juliet McMaster 1996

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