January 08, 2004

Tales and Novels, vol. I, Maria Edgeworth

I don't know why I enjoyed these moralizing tales so much, although there is a Rational Toy-shop, which is a great name. She lays into a couple of specimen young persons for their Romantic twaddle, and it's newfangled twaddle to her, not a stage all young persons go through.

The greatest weakness, as stories, is that one knows on introduction who is going to be Good, once educated, and who Bad. No-one changes.

The oddity of the education is that none of the children are being principally educated by their own mothers. Most of them are motherless; two mothers have given over their children to governesses (one Good, one Bad). The lucky mother may be educated by her governess, so maybe she's an exception to the rule of fixed natures. The Good Governess has escaped from the French Terror, which may well be connected to Romantic politics, now that I think of it. Certainly Edgeworth is suspicious of the French.

My favorite tale was the last, "The Knapsack", which is actually a play about the return home of a Swedish regiment. I like it because it's a good format for uncomplicatedly good characters, like the perky-peasant operas. There are even songs:

I.
There's the courtier, who watches the nod of the great;
Who thinks much of his pension, and nought of the state:
When for ribands and titles his honour he sells--
What is he, my friends, but a fool without bells?
II.
There's the gamester, who stakes on the turn of a die
His house and his acres, the devil knows why:
His acres he loses, his forests he sells--
What is he, my friends, but a fool without bells?
III.
There's the student so crabbed and wonderful wise,
With his plus and his minus, his x's and y's:
Pale at midnight he pores o'er his magical spells--
What is he, my friends, but a fool without bells?

I can imagine the home-theatricals of the virtuous performing it; there's one foolishly self-centered woman, and no villain at all.

URI: http://www.gutenberg.net/browse/BIBREC/BR8826.HTM

So wrote clew in Fiction (18th c.). , Fiction (19th c.). | TrackBack
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