Sullen Fires Across the
Essays in Transatlantic Romanticism
Money, Matrimony and Memory: Secondary Heroines in Radcliffe, Austen and Cooper
Jen Camden, University of Indianapolis
James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pioneers (1823) almost ends with the marriage of the hero and heroine, Edward Oliver Effingham and Bess Temple--almost ends, but doesn’t. Instead, the last chapter begins with Bess and Oliver walking towards the graveyard, discussing their future. When Oliver fails to guess Bess’s plans, she replies: "Do you forget Louisa, and her father?" (448). In the exchange that follows, their badinage over Louisa’s future frequently repeats that phrase: "you forget Louisa." As Oliver and Bess debate, readers are reminded that they have forgotten Louisa. Indeed, Cooper appears to have forgotten Louisa — she has not appeared since she refused to return to the mountain with Bess. Although Louisa attracts readers’ attention early in the novel, by the end she has faded from view, her heroic status replaced by Bess, the consummate "American girl." In this respect, Louisa functions as what I term a secondary heroine.
In this essay, I locate the erasure and then the return of Louisa as part of a larger narrative pattern of forgetting in the nineteenth-century novel. Specifically, I examine Ann Radcliffe’s A Sicilian Romance (1790), Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (1811), and The Pioneers to argue that each novel "forgets" a heroine, only to have her return at the end in a puzzling and uncanny "return of the repressed." Rather than understanding this return in psychoanalytic terms, however, I examine these heroines in terms of competing ideals of national identity and femininity. Specifically, I show that the primary heroines in these novels represent a socially-visible "sensibility" that represses the more invisible "sense" represented by the secondary heroines. In turn, these novels evoke readers’ sensibilities, either to enforce or, in the case of Austen, to question the role of sensibility in shaping the national identities of England and America through literary heroines. In this way, I demonstrate that the transatlantic transmission of the figure of the forgotten heroine  is illustrative of the cultural work performed by the novel as a genre in both England and America.
Several literary and historical narratives link the novels that I examine, most importantly, the cult of sensibility, the Gothic, and the marriage plot. The secondary heroine provides a way to locate these organizing narratives intertextually. While the primary heroines of Radcliffe, Austen and Cooper’s novels each possess sensibility, brave a form of the Gothic, and end happily married, the secondary heroine in each of these novels illuminates the work of sensibility, the Gothic and the marriage plot in stabilizing constructions of femininity and national identity and suggests, quite literally, the cost of sensibility. These secondary heroines suffer because of their lack of independent financial resources; they make visible the structure of wealth girding the nation, but masked by the sensibility of primary heroines. These secondary heroines respond to the overwhelming ideological power of sensibility by insisting that we remember the ordinary.
It has been common in recent years to study both British and American early novels in terms of the impact of the cult of sensibility on the history of the novel. Robert Jones opens his review of five recent books on this subject by remarking: "Earlier conceptions of sensibility as a particular literary, artistic or social mode--most often described as the ‘cult’ of sensibility — have given way to a history of the late eighteenth century that regards sensibility as the animating force for the whole period" (395). Recent considerations of sympathy, such as Audrey Jaffe’s Scenes of Sympathy: Identity and Representation in Victorian Fiction (2000) or Kristin Boudreau’s Sympathy in American Literature: American Sentiments from Jefferson to the Jameses (2002), extend the influence of sensibility well into the nineteenth-century. These scholars and others have uncovered the ways authors narrate the spectacle of suffering to provoke sympathy in characters and readers alike, and then use that sympathetic response to cement national identity or reshape social policies. However, attention to this spectacle, this scene of sympathy, has obscured the role of the secondary heroine. In both British and American Romantic novels, the heroine of sensibility embodies national ideals that the ideal reader internalizes via sympathy. This narrative strategy connects the British and American literary traditions through the cult of sensibility. In contrast, the secondary heroine’s lack of sensibility limits readers’ sympathy for her character and thus, at least initially, for the alternative possibilities of nationhood and womanhood she represents.
Before turning to the secondary heroine, I want briefly to follow the trajectory of the primary heroine in the three novels (and three genres) I consider in this essay. In the Gothic novel, the reader watches the heroine of sensibility appreciate the beauty of a piece of music or a picturesque scene and, through sympathy with her, learns to value that aesthetic. The Gothic plot disrupts these scenes of sensibility, but we return to them once the Gothic mystery has been resolved. The Gothic plot, therefore, serves as both interruption and test for the heroine of sensibility, and she is rewarded by the restoration of order, implicit in the return to the pastoral, and by the resolution of the marriage plot in favor of the hero of sensibility who shares her aesthetic tastes.
In the nineteenth-century novel, we see British and American authors incorporating heroines of sensibility to very different nationalist ends. In England, as we see in Sense and Sensibility, the narrator’s ironic distance from the marriage plots illuminates the excessive sensibility of the protagonists and calls into question the possibility of true sympathy. By setting her novel in a very familiar English landscape, Austen offers a sort of test case that asks how the sensibility endorsed by the eighteenth-century novel fares in quotidian England. In The Pioneers, Cooper’s heroine, Bess, is the heroine of sensibility who rightly appreciates the beauty of the American landscape and is able to respond appropriately to scenes of distress. However, Bess also establishes American domesticity through her management of Judge Temple’s house and his wayward subordinates and in her marriage to Oliver Edwards. In this way, Cooper establishes a new American sensibility able to face both the wilderness and the management of the hearth.
By writing a historical romance, Cooper is also clearly indebted to Sir Walter Scott, whose Waverly novels first appeared in 1814, three years after the publication of Sense and Sensibility and nine years prior to The Pioneers. In this essay, I focus on Cooper’s less-studied debt to Austen to understand the significance of the cult of sensibility to the development of the novel and the nation. In Radcliffe and Austen, the heroines are sisters, ensuring a common biological background; the difference between each heroine is one of sensibility. While Cooper insists that Louisa and Bess are different — both emotionally and biologically — Louisa’s social status is the key marker of difference. Cooper’s focus on the class identity of his heroines connects his version of the historical romance to Austen.
The secondary heroines I examine in this article — Emilia, Elinor and Louisa — receive little sympathy from their sister heroines of sensibility. Radcliffe and Cooper intentionally limit readers’ sympathy for these figures in order to consolidate national identity under the auspices of the heroine of sensibility, but in doing so reveal the ways that sensibility masks the link between money and matrimony. While Radcliffe and Cooper deploy very similar strategies of "forgetting" in the undomesticated landscapes of the Gothic and the American frontier, Austen reveals the limits of sensibility by giving narrative weight to pragmatic Elinor as well as to the more effusive Marianne. In Austen’s novel, the reader is encouraged to have sympathy for Elinor at least in part because Marianne and the other figures of sensibility do not. In reimagining the British domestic within the borders of home, Austen refigures the marriage plot to value the quotidian. Austen occupies a pivotal point in my argument: a point where British and American traditions divide. Austen’s valorization of the domestic is often located as a point of origin for the British realist novel. In the American tradition, Cooper responds to Austen by deliberately forgetting the secondary heroine in order to shore up the nationalist project of the historical romance. By forgetting the secondary heroine, Cooper attempts to create a new point of origin for the American novel.
Domestic Sense and Italian Sensibility in A Sicilian Romance
Whether with respect or derision, the nineteenth century looked back to "Mrs. Radcliffe," or "Mother Radcliffe," as Keats called her, as the exemplary author of the Gothic novel. It has become a critical commonplace to name Radcliffe the founder of a form of "female Gothic," though the scope of definitions of this term is as dizzying as the landscapes of her novels. E. J. Clery traces the origin of the phrase back to Ellen Moers in Literary Women, suggesting that Moers coined the term "in order to reveal a tradition of women’s writing, an alternative canon; by it, she meant simply ‘the work that women have done in the literary mode that, since the eighteenth century, we have called the Gothic’" (qtd. in Clery, "Ann Radcliffe," 203). Clery rightly continues to question the accumulated connotations now surrounding Moer’s coinage in order to raise the central question of her argument: "Why a heroine?" (203). The question raised by A Sicilian Romance, however, is why two?
Traditionally these sisters, Emilia and Julia, have been read as representations of sense and sensibility, with Emilia’s "sense" quickly dismissed to focus on the education of Julia’s sensibility. Though Julia certainly takes on the status of primary heroine, Emilia is not neatly killed off, imprisoned or exiled. Instead, her story surfaces at several points to punctuate Julia’s Gothic adventures with an alternative narrative of domestic confinement and bereavement. In the conventional Gothic novel, the heroine survives her adventure to be married to the hero; Emilia has no adventure and survives the novel unmarried and with apparently no inclination to be married. Radcliffe’s insistence on Emilia’s return suggests that the restoration of order is not complete once the Gothic is explained and the hero and heroine reunited. While the Gothic now has an explanation, Emilia’s confinement in the Castle Mazzini does not. By encouraging readers to draw comparisons between their own domestic confinement and Emilia’s while suggesting the Gothic nature of that confinement, Radcliffe raises the possibility that the Gothic is not only in Sicily, but also at home.
By constantly providing a rational explanation for her supernatural events, it has been argued, Radcliffe educates her heroine and her readers’ sensibilities, teaching them to rely on their reason instead. However, Radcliffe not only "disappoints" us by revealing the rational behind the supernatural, she disappoints almost all of our readerly expectations, in effect refuting the rational reader’s attempt to relegate the plot of the novel to expected conventions. If the novel teaches Julia, and through Julia, us, that the mysterious light has a perfectly rational explanation, what the novel teaches us, but not Julia, is that we should not expect this novel to fall into conventional patterns so easily. By returning periodically to Emilia’s confinement, Radcliffe violates her own narrative pattern and raises the possibility that, for readers, Emilia, and not her mother, is the Gothic mystery that must be discovered at the heart of the Castle Mazzini.
The novel concludes by falling into the greatest of all possible literary conventions, the marriage plot, but I would argue that by establishing a pattern of narrative violation throughout the course of her novel, Radcliffe teaches readers to be disappointed in the tidy ending by revealing its constructedness. In turn, our dissatisfaction with the conclusion of the novel, our awareness that something is not quite right here, encourages readers to look for the rational explanation, the making-right, that Radcliffe has always offered. As Claire Kahane has convincingly argued:
This disjunction between the Gothic experience and the novel’s conclusion illustrates a pervasive ambivalence for the female reader in the Gothic paradigm. . . . Thus as in Udolpho and Jane Eyre, while the heroine ultimately moves into a space that she seemingly controls, that control is illusory, based as it is on social withdrawal and psychological repression, on an ultimate submission to patriarchal constructs of the feminine.[...] Both conclusions excise the Gothic terrors, idealizing the mother and the heroines as well. Yet beneath the pedestal lies an abyss; at the Gothic center of the novels, a fearsome figure in the mirror still remains, waiting to be acknowledged. (340)
Kahane sees the heroine’s confrontation with the mother as the dark center of the Gothic novel from which the heroine (and the reader) is "saved" by repression and a return to the pastoral/patriarchy at the conclusion of the novel. In the case of Julia in particular, her many attempts at escape lead her back to her true point of origin — her mother. Julia appears to be doomed to a fate similar to her mother’s, thus perpetuating the repetitious cycle of doubles and traps characteristic of this novel. In keeping with Kahane’s argument, it is possible to read Julia’s inability to escape from Sicily as a narrative device forcing her further inward towards the confrontation with her mother. However, despite appearances, A Sicilian Romance does not end by repressing the Gothic danger Julia had faced and ushering the hero and heroine into a comfortable pastoral landscape. Instead, the novel insists on the return of the repressed through both landscape and the secondary heroine.
We leave Julia at the close of chapter fourteen, hiding from the Marquis with no sign of escape. Her eventual escape with her mother, aided by Hippolitus, is destined to fail in precisely the same manner as her first attempt with Ferdinand. Julia’s encounter with her mother has not made it possible for her to escape Sicily. However, the discovery of Julia’s mother does change the narrative practices of the novel: the story of their escape and attempt to flee to Italy is told in the past tense, as all of the characters are seated around a happy villa fireside. Secure in the outcome for Julia—a happy reunion—the Gothic events of the story are made harmless and almost inconsequential. Indeed, our narrator does not indulge in the descriptions that have heretofore characterized the novel. In contrast to the lengthy description of Julia’s discovery of her mother, their reunion with Hippolitus is described as follows: "No color of language can paint the scene which followed; it is sufficient to say that the whole party agreed to quit the cell at the return of night" (195). Readers have followed Julia through all of the picturesque scenery of Sicily; now their journey to Palermo is condensed: "Having escaped from thence they proceeded to a neighboring village, where horses were procured to carry them towards Palermo. Here, after a tedious journey, they arrived, in the design of embarking for Italy" (197). The storm which (inevitably!) strikes their small vessel is contained in one sentence: "They soon had reason to repent their temerity; for the vessel had not been long at sea when the storm arose, which threw them back upon the shores of Sicily, and brought them to the lighthouse, where they were discovered by Ferdinand" (198). Compared to the tempest described earlier in the novel, the transformation in Radcliffe’s narrative tone is amazing. And although the narrator’s tone and manner of description appears to indicate that the narrative is headed towards resolution, the tempest, operating as a sort of deus ex machina, returns the characters to the shores of Sicily to fetch Emilia from the Castle Mazzini and reminds readers that they have forgotten Emilia for the majority of this tale.
Once the family has "settled their future plans," Ferdinand "hastened to the castle of Mazzini to fetch Emilia, and to give orders for the removal of his household to his palace at Naples, where he designed to fix his future residence. The distress of Emilia, whom he found recovered from her indisposition, yielded to joy and wonder, when she heard of the existence of her mother, and the safety of her sister" (198). The "distress of Emilia" is interrupted by the clause "whom he found recovered from her indisposition." Some might claim this is simply Radcliffe tying up loose ends; indeed, it might appear that Radcliffe has suddenly remembered that Emilia was left "confined to her bed by a dangerous illness" (193) after the deaths of the Marquis and Maria, but this is consistent with Radcliffe’s treatment of Emilia throughout the novel.
Emilia is gradually left out of the plot from the moment Julia sees Hippolitus. The morning after the ball, the narrator tells us "Julia found it impossible to support a conversation with Emilia, whose observations interrupting the course of her thoughts, became uninteresting and tiresome" (21). The introduction of "the Gothic" to the novel, in the form of the mysterious lights and sounds from the uninhabited portion of the castle, serves as much to throw Julia and Emilia back together, at least initially, as it does to ultimately unite Julia and Hippolitus. It is not the mysterious chambers of the castle, but rather the marquis’s decision that Julia should marry the Duke de Luovo that once again separates Julia and Emilia. Whether the suitor is the appealing Hippolitus or the vile Duke de Luovo, the effect of the marriage plot on Emilia and Julia is the same: separation.
Emilia does not return to the narrative until the end of the first volume, when Madame de Menon’s accidental discovery of the marchioness’s intrigue forces her to leave the castle. Unlike Julia, who abandons friend and family without a word, Emilia’s distress at Madame de Menon’s departure is markedly vocal: "In madame she lost her only friend; and she too well understood the value of that friend, to see her depart without feeling and expressing the deepest distress" (102). This vocal distress is valorized by our narrator, who commends madame’s and Emilia’s grief at parting: "They left each other with a mutual sorrow, which did honor to their hearts" (103). By valorizing "mutual sorrow" and the expression of feeling, Radcliffe quietly rebukes Julia’s selfish sentimentality that prioritizes her own marital happiness over female friendships. Emilia’s narrative, when it surfaces, prevents readers from fully identifying with Julia’s narrative by making visible what Julia represses: the toll sensibility takes on other characters.
At the close of the novel, our narrator recounts the fate of each of the characters, beginning with the marchioness, followed by Hippolitus and Julia, Ferdinand, Madame de Menon, and lastly Emilia, whose future is elided with that of the marchioness: "Emilia, wholly attached to her family, continued to reside with the marchioness, who saw her race renewed in the children of Hippolitus and Julia. Thus surrounded by her children and friends, and engaged in forming the minds of the infant generation, she seemed to forget that she had ever been otherwise than happy" (199). The text only definitively states that Emilia is "wholly attached to her family," but the pairing of Emilia and the marchioness is suggestive. Although this pairing might appear to conflate Emilia’s imprisonment with that of the marchioness, there is a crucial difference: the marchioness married the marquis; Emilia has never been married. By having Emilia choose to remain with her family, unmarried, Radcliffe authors and authorizes an alternative to marriage, but perhaps more importantly, reveals the perilous position of women. Choosing a bad husband, such as the Marquis, or choosing no husband, as Emilia does, has the same effect: imprisonment.
Though Emilia, like her mother, may have "seemed to forget that she had ever been otherwise than happy" (199), by concluding the manuscript annals with this line Radcliffe reminds us that Emilia had indeed been "otherwise than happy" and points us back into the text. But where is the record of Emilia’s unhappiness? Where has she been for the last hundred pages? Emilia thus becomes a Gothic mystery and in the untold tale of her imprisonment within the Castle Mazzini the reader might infer instead a domestic double of Madame de Menon and Julia’s adventures. All we are told is that "the castle Mazzini, which had been the theatre of a dreadful catastrophe; and whose scenes would have revived in the minds of the chief personages connected with it, painful and shocking reflections—was abandoned"(198). Emilia is the chief personage connected with the castle Mazzini, having spent the bulk of the novel within its ramparts. If Julia is perpetually cast back "upon the shores of Sicily," Emilia is kept within the confines of the castle, without the hope of rescue from a suitor, and subject to Ferdinand’s "fetching" her to rejoin their friends.
The barely-narrated story of Emilia’s imprisonment is compelling if we remember that Emilia had never been impatient to leave the confines of the Castle Mazzini, as is made evident by her and Julia’s strikingly different reactions to the approaching festival:
Julia, who, in the distance, had considered the splendid gaieties of life with tranquility, now lingered with impatient hope through the moments which withheld her from their enjoyments. Emilia, whose feelings were less lively, and whose imagination was less powerful, beheld the approaching festival with calm consideration, and almost regretted the interruption of those tranquil pleasures, which she knew to be more congenial with her powers and disposition. (15)
Emilia’s contentment with her tranquil retirement is only troubled by the disappearance of those female friends and relatives whose company she enjoys. Julia’s entry into the world through her attachment to Hippolitus exiles her from Emilia, and, at least for the first volume of the novel, from Madame de Menon. This exile begins long before Julia’s escape, when her preoccupation with Hippolitus renders Emilia’s conversation "uninteresting and tiresome" (21).
By entering the world through heterosexual desire, Julia subjects herself to competing authorities: Hippolitus and her brother, Padre Abate, as well as the Marquis and Duke. In contrast, Emilia remains subject to her father’s authority, but suffers because of the preoccupation of the household with the impending threat of Julia’s marriage, whether to Hippolitus or to the Duke. In the novel, Radcliffe describes two scenes as "known only to those who have experienced a similar situation": the first is Emilia’s "anguish" (103), at the departure of Julia and then Madame de Menon; the second is "the strangely mingled emotions of joy and terror that agitated Hippolitus" (164) upon the rediscovery of Julia in the caverns of the banditti. Clearly the gothic excess of the latter makes it unlikely that any reader would identify with Hippolitus; moreover, that Radcliffe’s readers were predominately middle-class women makes their identification with a young Neapolitan aristocrat even more suspect. Emilia’s domestic confinement, on the other hand, would echo their own, and they would certainly be sensible to her pain at the loss of her female friends.
Thus Julia’s Gothic adventures illustrate the perils and the inescapability of not only the Sicilian landscape but the tandem impossibility of escape from the competing patriarchal authorities of the father, whether embodied in the aristocratic Duke, the Catholic Church (certainly already suspicious to a Protestant like Ann Radcliffe), or the literal paternal figure. However, Emilia’s untold story, her confinement in the Castle Mazzini, which despite its Gothic secrets must also be described as her home, allowed the readers of Radcliffe’s novels a space in which to realize their own English identity within the novel, both in their complicity with the Gothic structures that nearly killed the Marchioness, whom Emilia is said to be so much like, but also in the difficulty of completely abandoning those structures. For readers of A Sicilian Romance, the forgotten heroine’s return, like the return to Naples, is a return of the repressed. While readers may wish to forget Emilia, as Julia does, to do so requires that they repress the narrative of her confinement. Emilia’s return reminds readers that the dangers apparently surmounted in Sicily are not so safely distant from their own shores.
A New British Domestic: Sense and Sensibility
In Sense and Sensibility, the frequent cases of mistaken identity that drive the plot, the incorporation of the picturesque and the sublime, and, of course, the silences and secrets that estrange our characters from each other are all reminiscent of the Gothic. Most readings of Austen limit her response to the Gothic to a discussion of her early novel, Northanger Abbey. The Gothic elements of Northanger are contained by Henry Tilney: it is Henry who first suggests to Catherine the Gothic possibilities of the Abbey, and Henry who undoes the Gothic spell by asking: "Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you. . . . Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?" (270). By using Henry to contain the Gothic possibilities Catherine imagines, Austen ensures that their marriage provides the kind of rational explanation Radcliffe offered to her readers.
Sense and Sensibility opens with the exile of the women from their home, Norland, by the conditions of their father’s will. In effect a social-realist parody of the conventional Gothic cruel father who drives his daughter beyond the pale, the unintentional cruelty of Mr. Dashwood sends his daughters and wife outside of the domestic. The world they encounter is not filled with banditti or inescapable caverns, but it is equally challenging, as they attempt to negotiate the British economic system. Austen juxtaposes the heroine of sense, Elinor, with the heroine of sensibility, Marianne, to discipline readers into emotional and fiscal management. Critics have long argued over the respective status of these two heroines; I argue that Marianne is the primary heroine, and Elinor is the secondary heroine. In doing so, however, I do not mean to suggest that Elinor is less significant than Marianne. Instead, I argue that Elinor lines up with the category of the "forgotten heroine," but that Austen’s project is to insist that we remember her.
In the eighteenth century, the manifestation of proper sensibility was a marker of class status. However, the later appropriation of the discourse of sensibility by the middle class devalued the performance of sensibility. Although Marianne’s spectacle of sensibility gets readers’ attention and often our sympathy, it is Elinor’s more difficult and often less interesting attempt to negotiate the English class system in search of financial security that Austen trains her readers to appreciate. In this respect, Austen builds on Emilia’s domestic confinement in A Sicilian Romance. Emilia values female friendship, but is financially dependent on her father. By choosing not to marry, she necessarily chooses domestic isolation until the family is reconfigured in Naples. The death of the father at the start of Sense and Sensibility leaves the Dashwood women without any financial resources: they cannot remain at home. By devaluing Marianne’s encomiums on the English landscape in favor of Elinor’s pragmatic approach to economics, Austen establishes a new British domestic. This new domestic recognizes that the sensibility of the Dashwood girls does not ensure happiness, as it might in one of Marianne’s novels; instead, the Dashwoods are dependent on the sympathy of their relations, their own ability to economize and, lastly, on the possibility of marrying well. In short, the Dashwood women need money, and the juxtaposition of Elinor and Marianne is in some ways a competition to determine the best way to get it. This competition reveals the correlation between economic and emotional management.
The Dashwood women are in financial need, but support from their relations is highly unlikely. John’s discussion with Fanny concerning the interpretation of his father’s last wish that he would "assist his widow and daughters" (6) reveals their want of true sympathy. Their overmanagement of financial resources — in short, their greed — makes them unsympathetic to the Dashwoods. John and Fanny are more attentive to their own comfort, and imagine how they would feel if they were in place of the Dashwoods quite literally, by moving into Norland and lamenting the loss of the original linen and china. In their limited understanding of the economic plight of Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters, they imagine them either well-married, or able to shift on the inheritance they already have. In contrast, Austen places the Middletons, whose excessive hospitality also discomfits the Dashwoods. It is notable that their hospitality not only consists of financial support through the low rent at Barton cottage, the frequent invitations to dinner, and the journey to town, but also extends to the preoccupation of Sir John and Mrs. Jennings with the intimate details of the social lives of the Dashwood sisters. Thus even financial generosity is not necessarily equivalent with true sympathy, a requisite for proper sensibility. Their overexuberance to see the girls married results in a great many awkward misunderstandings concerning the three primary suitors: Willoughby, Colonel Brandon, and Edward Ferrars.
The three suitors, in turn, offer different representations of wealth and economy as they operate in England; the financial practices of Austen’s men are an echo of their true sensibilities. Willoughby’s excessive spending and want of management not only results in debt but also in his dishonorable relationship with Eliza. Willoughby is, we discover, not what he seems, and thus true sympathy with Marianne is impossible. Colonel Brandon’s history is determined by both wealth and sensibility: his love for Eliza was obstructed by his parents’ determination to wed her to his older brother for the sake of uniting their family fortunes. Brandon’s careful management of his own wealth and his generosity to Edward are reflections of his appropriate sympathy for others and management of his own emotions. Although Brandon styles himself a "poor narrator," he knows when it is appropriate to divulge information, and when it is best to conceal what one feels. In contrast, Edward’s financial security as a gentleman, unallied to any sort of profession, leaves him adrift and susceptible to the superficial charms of Lucy Steele. Only after Edward is tethered to Lucy by their engagement does he begin to understand his failure of sensibility. His subsequent disinheritance requires that Edward find a profession; his new responsibilities as pastor render him fit for the anti-Gothic new world of sense that Austen constructs as the English ideal. Austen does not imagine a world of independent women possessing rooms of their own, but instead suggests that economic and emotional management on the part of men and women will secure domestic England.
The Dashwood women will achieve financial security through marriage, but they must first learn to economize for themselves. It is only after they have successfully negotiated domestic economy and sensibility that these heroines can identify and thus sympathize with the management of sensibility and wealth by their suitors. While the Gothic novel opposed the greed of the father to the sensibility of the daughter, Austen’s domestic novel requires that her heroines manage their money and their marriages (and understand the relationship between the two).
Even before Elinor learns of Edward’s engagement to Lucy Steele, she does not openly display her feelings: "Without shutting herself up from her family, or leaving the house in determined solitude to avoid them, or lying awake the whole night to indulge meditation, Elinor found every day afforded her leisure enough to think of Edward" (90). The negative construction of this sentence invites comparison with Marianne, who would, of course, shut herself up, leave the house, or lie awake the whole night to think of Willoughby. By illustrating the negative consequences of Marianne’s excessive sensibility, Austen trains her reader away from the narrative of sensibility epitomized in the story of the two Elizas, and into an understanding of the British domestic, in which the real tragedy occurs, as George Eliot would later remark, in "the roar on the other side of silence." Marianne’s disdain for the Colonel and preference for Willoughby and his sonnets mark her as a descendant of the Gothic heroine of sensibility. However, as we have seen in the embedded narrative of the Elizas, such heroines no longer end happily. Elinor’s silence (although probably initially as disappointing to Austen’s readers as it is to Marianne) grants her desire, whereas Marianne’s multiple letters to Willoughby produce little effect. Marianne’s letters are manifestations of her sensibility, but Austen reveals that if an excess of wealth does not support that excess of emotion, it has no effect. In Austen’s new domestic England, happiness is preserved, at least fictionally, for those capable of emotional management.
By reforming her expectations from Gothic to domestic, Marianne is able to find some sort of contentment. Brandon’s connection to Willoughby through the two Elizas makes Marianne sympathetic to him, and out of that sympathy their attachment is formed. This sympathy is in contrast to Marianne’s pride in her "sensibility." Whereas Marianne’s sensibility values her individual response to Norland or to Cowper, and finds sympathy with those who share her exact response, as Willoughby appears to, Marianne’s discovery of sympathy is not linked to appearance (Brandon is, after all, twice her age and fond of flannel waistcoats), but rather to Adam Smith’s understanding of sympathy: "As we have no immediate experience of what other men feel, we can form no idea of the manner in which they are affected, but by conceiving what we ourselves should feel in the like situation" (10-11). Marianne imagines herself in the place of each Eliza and realizes that her sensibility is not individual and individuating, but dangerously common. Through the first Eliza, Marianne becomes aware of the possibility of parental prejudice to her lack of wealth; through the second, Marianne furthers the correlation between wealth and sympathy: if one’s wealth is contingent on another, one’s sympathy must follow. However, by imagining herself in the place of Eliza, Marianne is able to imagine herself in Brandon’s care.
Marianne’s first moment of sympathetic identification is not with either Eliza, but with Elinor. Marianne has sympathy for Elinor because Elinor is experiencing something that Marianne has also experienced: the marriage of a former suitor. When their man-servant informs the Dashwoods that Mr. Ferrars is married, Marianne’s reaction illustrates that she has literally imagined herself in Elinor’s place, but in doing so prevents others from sympathizing with Elinor:
Marianne gave a violent start, fixed her eyes upon Elinor, saw her turning pale, and fell back in her chair in hysterics. Mrs. Dashwood, whose eyes, as she answered the servants inquiry, had intuitively taken the same direction, was shocked to perceive by Elinor’s countenance how much she really suffered, and in a moment afterwards, alike distressed by Marianne’s situation, knew not on which child to bestow her principal attention. (310)
Although Marianne’s "violent start" is solely occasioned by her concern for Elinor’s feelings, it produces much the same effect as her previous effusions of sensibility — it gets everyone’s attention. By the time Marianne has been attended to by her mother and the maid, Elinor "had so far recovered the use of her reason and voice as to be just beginning an inquiry of Thomas, as to the source of his intelligence" (310). Elinor’s suffering is barely noticed by the characters within the narrative, as is made evident by Mrs. Dashwood’s shock at Elinor’s countenance. In maintaining this distance from her own suffering, and seeking always the benefit of others, Elinor resembles Austen’s narrator, whose ironic distance from narrative events disallows sympathy, or at the very least, reveals the ways in which sympathy functions within its own economy, whereby one must construct a narrative which will engage the sympathy of the listener. Marianne is never fully aware of the way a story is told, she instead responds to stories that appeal to her. Elinor initially uses silence to manage her emotional response to narratives (such as Lucy Steele’s account of her engagement to Edward), but eventually learns to tell her own story in order to manage Marianne’s emotions.
Elinor tells Marianne about Edward’s engagement twice. The first time, the narrator suppresses her account and tells us instead: "Her narration was clear and simple; and though it could not be given without emotion it was not accompanied by violent agitation, nor impetuous grief.—That belonged rather to the hearer, for Marianne listened with horror, and cried excessively. Elinor was to be the comforter of others in her own distresses, no less than in theirs" (227). Elinor’s narrative, intended to "suggest a hint of what was practicable to Marianne" (227) in the management of one’s sensibilities, only provokes Marianne’s sensibilities. Elinor must reconstruct her narrative to appeal to Marianne’s sensibilities. Her second narration, full of dashes and emotional confessions, finally moves Marianne to realize how selfish she has been in her own distresses. But perhaps Marianne goes too far in embracing "sense"—as the narrator tells us, she embarks on a rather excessive course of study, and in the end, marries Colonel Brandon out of pure sense: "With such a confederacy against her—with a knowledge so intimate of his goodness—with a conviction of his fond attachment to herself, which at last, though long after it was observable to everybody else—burst on her—what could she do?" (333). Marianne’s new responsibilities, however, are still those of pre-industrial England. She and the Colonel have no profession except for the management of their estate and the village. It is significant that the narrator focuses not on Marianne’s happiness, but rather on the Colonel’s — describing Marianne as his "reward" that "consoled for every past affliction" (334) and thus coding their life together as outdated.
It is instead Elinor, who tempers sensibility with sense and who persists in her first very reasonable attachment to Edward, whom the narrative quietly endorses. Elinor and Edward’s residence in the parsonage at Delaford marks them as resolutely middle-class. Their very real concerns with household economy result from their similar economic situations. Each is unexpectedly disinherited: Elinor, by her father’s early death and the entailment of Norland; Edward, by his misstep with Lucy and the resultant forfeiture of his "right of eldest son." However, the novel discourages reliance on these antiquated legal mechanisms of acquiring property and wealth, and instead rewards Edward’s and Elinor’s characters, which earn them the living at Delaford and the grant of ten thousand pounds from Mrs. Ferrars. In doing so, Austen not only revises literary tastes from Gothic to domestic, but also envisions a new British domestic that is not bound by the artificial economies of sympathy and primogeniture. Marianne’s marriage to the man in the flannel waistcoat is dissatisfying because it undoes the reader’s nostalgia for uncomplicated sentimental resolution. In this new domestic, for Marianne to find her sentimental equal she will have to look to an older man, an older generation. Elinor’s rather uninteresting marriage to Edward is in fact progressive. The seamy economic underbelly of the national romance is thus made explicit and renounced in favor of a sort of national realism. Austen directly confronts the vestiges of British aristocracy that the Gothic had located in the past and on the Continent and devalues the means by which they sustain power.
Remembering the Rival: Louisa Grant
Austen’s gentry and middle class represent a very narrow swath of the British class structure. In James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pioneers, the construction of American identity in the wake of revolution assembles a more socially diverse group of characters, but Cooper ultimately reimposes aristocracy as the best means of ordering the previously "composite order" of Templeton. The marriage of Elizabeth and Oliver at the close of The Pioneers does, as many critics have argued, establish the ideological stakes of the new nation, while attempting to reconcile or erase alternative possibilities: Indian John dies, Natty heads west, and Edwards/Effingham’s complex ancestry seems to satisfy all of the quibbles over land ownership and law that have plagued Templeton. However, one alternative remains: Louisa Grant.
Critics have long dismissed Louisa Grant as a bland foil who renders Elizabeth, or Bess, more brilliant, but to dismiss Louisa requires that we ignore Cooper’s insistence on her presence in the text. Louisa’s exile at the close of the novel removes the last impediment to Oliver and Bess’s marriage—Bess’s rival —and reveals that Bess does, as she claims, "manage more deeply than you imagine, sir" (449). By resigning the future of Templeton, and by extension, America, to Bess’s management, Cooper writes Louisa out of the novel and with her the alternative subjectivity she represents. In doing so, Cooper chooses the stable narratives of aristocratic primogeniture to consolidate the new nation even as he raises, if only to dismiss, the possibility of a meritocracy.
The first appearance of each heroine is significant in determining the relationship between the heroine and the possible direction of the nation: Louisa and Bess are each initially obscured from the reader’s gaze, but both become visible and audible when they resolve an awkward situation. When Bess and Judge Temple approach Templeton, Bess is buried beneath layers of garments. However, she casts aside her cloak and her silence to tend to the young hunter, Oliver. As Janet Dean has already noted, something of Bess’s character is revealed in this action: her sensibility to the young hunter’s dangerous wound overcomes her prudence in sheltering herself from the cold air. Throughout the novel, Bess braves the elements of the American frontier—scaling the Vision, paddling in the canoe, walking unattended in the woods—as she says, "My father’s daughter fears nothing, sir" (188). Her temerity—attached to her status as heiress—is requisite for the frontier, where she must be willing and able to meet the challenges of the wilderness. Her self-identification—"my father’s daughter"—underscores the literal genealogy of this temerity. By deploying her status as heiress, Bess establishes her authority over the American landscape.
In contrast, the reader is introduced to Louisa at the first formal service held at the new church. Louisa is the only member of the congregation familiar with the correct responses and willing to speak them out loud. Bess and Oliver, we later discover, have been raised in the city and are familiar with the service, but Bess does not speak until she hears Oliver join Louisa. Certainly her motivations are not as pure as Louisa’s piety: it is only once Oliver tacitly rebukes her silence that she joins the prayer to maintain his good opinion. Richard Jones’s attempt to impose one permanent church in Templeton is unsuccessful because the only attendees familiar with the proper responses are those who have spent time in the city, as opposed to the frontier.
The parishioners, accustomed to a rotating minister, do not know what the appropriate responses are in the Episcopalian service; they may, in fact, be somewhat suspicious of the service because of its ties to England. The narrator informs us that after the American Revolution, the Episcopalian church "languished" until American ministers could be ordained in England: "Pious and suitable divines were at length selected, and sent to the mother country, to receive that authority, which, it is understood, can only be transmitted directly from one to the other, and thus obtain, in order to preserve, that unity in their churches, which properly belonged to a people of the same nation" (102). The Episcopalian church, therefore, appears to function as a transatlantic bridge between England and America and suggests an alternative to nationalism, one that incorporates the English, the Americans, and the Native Americans under the umbrella of Christianity. Cooper makes clear that the authority of the Episcopal divines is more tenuous than the authority of law, embodied in Judge Temple. While Judge Temple’s questionable legal practices are always effective, Cooper’s history of the Episcopal Church in America, his depiction of the first Episcopal service in Templeton, and Reverend Grant’s unsuccessful attempt to perform the last rites for Indian John all depict the church as ineffective. Although the church appears as an ordering structure in the new colonies, alongside government and the law, it does not carry the authority of these other structures of order: while Reverend Grant attempts to convert Native Americans, and Louisa lives in fear of them, Bess’s marriage to Oliver at the conclusion erases the threat of the many claims to Templeton through primogeniture, and exiles Louisa and her father to Boston. The ideological impact of the conclusion of the novel is so forceful that it is easy, perhaps, to forget that Louisa’s attachment to Oliver is not entirely unfounded; in the early chapters of the novel, Oliver’s attentions seem devoted to her: "Drawing her arm through his own, he lifted his cap from his head, allowing the dark locks to flow in rich curls over his open brow, and walked by her side, with an air of conscious pride, as if inviting an examination of his inmost thoughts" (140). Solicitous of her comfort, Oliver saves Louisa from a falling branch: "the figure of Louisa, slowly yielding in her saddle; and but for his arm, she would have sunken to the earth" (240). By constantly placing Louisa in situations where she is dependent on Oliver, Cooper seems to forward a romance plot between them.
In contrast, Bess repeatedly refuses Oliver’s aid. Until she can ascertain his real identity, she will not be dependent on him in any way. Bess’s status as heiress makes it particularly important for her to keep her distance from this unknown quantity. Louisa, on the other hand, finds the various potential identities for Oliver — Native American, for example — troubling, but not troubling enough to prevent her attachment to him. Louisa’s insistence on seeing the good in Oliver overwhelms these other considerations, and highlight’s Bess’s distancing strategies. Bess sees the transformation of the American landscape; Louisa notices the transformation in Oliver. Bess sees a subject to sketch; Louisa sees how superior Oliver is to his companions. Bess may see the American landscape in its totality, but she does so because her class status requires her to see herself apart from the landscape and its inhabitants.
As the novel progresses, sympathy develops between Oliver and Bess, but Oliver is consistent in his attentions to both young women. Bess and Oliver’s shared sensibilities are evident despite their attempts at secrecy: for example, Oliver’s hand rests naturally on the piano, despite his hunting garb. Bess reads Oliver’s sensibilities as evidence of his true identity, and only waits for more tangible confirmation of his worthiness. Cooper foregrounds these scenes of sensibility to prepare readers for the revelation of Oliver’s identity, but distances us from Louisa by limiting our perception of her to the perspectives of the other characters. This narrative distance echoes Austen’s use of Mrs. Jennings to relate Elinor’s marriage, and to similar effect. Louisa is made auxiliary to the other characters, and particularly to Bess.
However, Cooper complicates the novel’s endorsement of Bess through depictions of Bess’s jealousy. Bess’s jealousy reveals the merit of Louisa, and the extent of her own management. When Oliver expresses surprise at her desire to send Louisa away, Bess questions his motivations: "fixing her eyes with a searching look on his countenance, where they met only the unsuspecting expression of manly regret" (449). Oliver passes her test, but Bess’s jealousy forces readers to question her motivations for exiling Louisa at the end of the novel. Bess is right to be jealous, for Louisa is the only other woman in the Patent who is her equal; indeed Remarkable Pettibone, admittedly for selfish reasons, prefers Louisa to Bess: "Now, to my reckoning, Lowizy Grant is much more pritty behaved than Betsy Temple" (176). Bess herself acknowledges Louisa’s superiority, although her sincerity is questionable: "‘Nay, Louisa, humility carries you too far. The daughter of a minister of the church can have no superiors. Neither I nor Mr. Edwards is quite your equal, unless, ‘she added, again smiling, ‘he is in secret a king’" (279). Rather than locating superiority in social status, Remarkable and Bess each assign an alternative form of value. Remarkable suggests that Louisa’s "pritty" behavior surpasses Bess’s temerity; Bess suggests that Louisa’s place in the Christian hierarchy, as the daughter of a minister, gives her a higher station than herself or Oliver, unless Oliver is "in secret a king." Bess quickly changes the compliment to Louisa into a prying barb at Oliver’s secrecy, one that reveals her own anxieties about Oliver’s social status and national identity. Louisa’s social status can be located, but Oliver’s is a contradiction: his sensibilities suggest that he is from the same social class as Bess, but his attire and association with Natty and Indian John complicate Bess’s reading of his sensibilities. Oliver is also Young Eagle: both his Native American and English names prevent Bess from reading his social status because neither name provides a genealogy. Oliver is an assumed name, and Young Eagle is a name given to him by Indian John to mark his adoption.
In contrast, Louisa’s legible social status obscures her merit, especially in conversations between Oliver and Bess. It is easy to lose perspective of the "real" Louisa in the complex motivations behind all of these speeches, until Louisa speaks for herself: "It is sometimes dangerous to be rich, Miss Temple; but you cannot know how hard it is to be very, very poor. . . . Ah! Miss Temple, you little understand the troubles of this life, I believe. My father has spent many years as a missionary, in the new countries, where his people were poor, and frequently we have been without bread; unable to buy, and ashamed to beg, because we would not disgrace his sacred calling" (305). This almost untold story of Louisa’s past opens a gap in the history of Louisa narrated in the text. While the Louisa visible to Bess and Oliver lacks the polish of Bess’s education, wears garments inappropriate to the season, and is in general "timid" and "maidenly," Louisa has known "the sick and the hungry" (305), the death of her siblings and the horrors of poverty. Louisa’s class position as minister’s daughter has not granted her the respect and superiority that Bess and Oliver imagine, but instead has insured nothing but suffering and hunger, as the Grants conscientiously attempt to maintain the same level of subsistence as their parishioners. Bess’s status as "the heiress" may make her the more obvious choice for Oliver, but it has also preserved her from the suffering Louisa has endured. Bess deploys her status to justify a sort of exceptionalism: as "my father’s daughter" she may board a canoe or witness a turkey shoot without impinging on her maidenly delicacy. She assumes her position as mistress over Remarkable Pettibone by adopting the title Miss Temple and exiles Oliver from her walk with Louisa because she does not want to entertain "particular attentions" from someone whose family history is unknown. Bess’s apparent fearless independence is tempered by a rather Old World sense of social propriety and class distinctions. Louisa’s experiences of poverty and suffering complicate the novel’s attempt to dismiss her as unfit for the frontier: instead, it becomes clear that Louisa’s merit is overshadowed by her class identity. Cooper introduces the possibility of an alternative system of value, but forecloses it in favor of a conclusion that establishes the legal right of white Americans to the land through the very same strictures of primogeniture that Austen had called into question.
After her indirect rescue of Bess and Oliver, Louisa never reappears in the novel. However, she is discussed by Oliver and Bess, and narrated once by Cooper, during the strange comedy of Monsieur LeQuoi’s proposal. Janet Dean has read these proposals as "the connection between marriage and nationhood," arguing that Elizabeth, should she accept Monsieur LeQuoi, would become French, and relinquish her property in Templeton and, by implication, "the promise of the American future" (1-2). Dean ignores Monsieur LeQuoi’s subsequent proposal to Louisa, which is also rejected. Monsieur LeQuoi’s proposals are offered "as a duty which a well-bred man owed to a lady in such a retired place" (444), and remind us that Louisa is as qualified as Bess to receive them. Louisa’s refusal, however, is significant in that through it, Louisa exiles herself from the marriage plot. There are no other young men in Templeton, as Oliver observes, "I really don’t know any one hereabouts good enough for her" (448); and by refusing Monsieur LeQuoi, Louisa, in effect, refuses marriage. Aside from Cooper’s account of her refusal, Louisa is removed from the novel. Bess’s plans for Louisa’s future are, as Oliver notes, evidence of how deeply she manages, but seem unlikely to agree with Louisa’s own desires or tastes. It is almost impossible to imagine Louisa in a situation where she "may meet with such society, and form such a connexion, as may be proper for one of her years and character" (449): society has never been Louisa’s forte. Thus Cooper requires the reader to imagine Louisa’s future as one outside the marriage plot Bess and Oliver imagine, and allows for another possibility. In this respect, Louisa’s exile might be compared to Natty’s — although it is difficult to think of the timid Louisa as "the foremost in that band of Pioneers" (456). The conclusion of The Pioneers opens the possibility of an ever-receding frontier, but the subsequent Leatherstocking tales look back instead to narrate Natty’s past. While Cooper asks the reader to imagine Natty’s journey west, he sends Louisa back east to settled Boston.
Louisa, therefore, has a double function within The Pioneers: she represents, on one hand, a possible alternative to the marriage plot by choosing independence rather than a marriage of convenience with Monsieur LeQuoi. On the other hand, Louisa also stands in as representation of what is lost through the solidification of American identity emblematized in the marriage between Bess and Oliver. For while their marriage can be read as reconciling competing nationalisms — British, American and Native American — in favor of a new, legitimate order, the exile of Indian John, Natty, and Louisa from that new order points to what is lost in the consolidation of American identity. Natty and Indian John live on in the rest of the Leatherstocking tales, but Louisa’s prehistory and subsequent fate are left unnarrated, pointing to the erasure of women by history unless they are allied to the dominant hierarchies of power. But the forgetting of Louisa also suggests the significance of women in consolidating national identity: the possibility of Oliver and Louisa’s marriage must be eliminated, and is, in fact, so frequently raised and discarded that it persists even after the marriage of Bess and Oliver. The narrative’s inability to forget Louisa underscores Bess’s methodical elimination of any other claim to the American landscape she and Oliver inhabit. Louisa’s suffering, allied to her status as a minister’s daughter, poses an alternative hierarchy of value that reveals the economic underpinnings of the legal unification of Templeton, and thus America. Bess’s sensibilities surmount the American wilderness, just as Marianne’s effusions over dead leaves and Julia’s ever-ready lute surmounted the British and Sicilian islands, respectively, but each of these heroines indulged their sensibilities at the expense of a secondary heroine who remained at home. Emilia, Elinor and Louisa each suffer, and attention to their suffering reveals the cost of sensibility.
Conclusion: Who Can Afford Sensibility?
For Radcliffe, the forgotten heroine serves as a site of readerly identification, in which the barely-told narrative of Emilia’s loss of her friends to the Gothic plot, set in play by Julia’s desire for Hippolitus, is similar to the less Gothic experience of so many young women as they reached marriageable age. Julia’s adventures in Sicily point to the dangers of wealth and aristocracy: the Marquis’s desire to profit by marrying Julia to the Duke de Luovo, the banditti rampant in the Sicilian caverns, the greedy Padre Abate’s attempt to coerce Julia into becoming a nun. The restoration of the Marchioness, the marriage of Julia and Hippolitus, and the return to Naples under the direction of Ferdinand resolve these issues by instituting a stable domestic family. However, Emilia’s narrative clearly does not belong in the crags and caverns of the Sicilian landscape in the manner that Julia’s does. Rather, through Emilia, Radcliffe offers readers a way back from Italy to England, and suggests that the stability of the domestic is always available there, but also always compromised.
Austen’s novel is set in the domestic England Emilia emblematizes. In Austen, both heroines marry at the end, and so we must instead understand why Elinor seems "forgotten" throughout much of the text while we are preoccupied with Marianne. Elinor’s silences, her ability to manage her emotions rather than indulge in them, mark her as already having successfully exchanged the discourse of sensibility for that of sense. Marianne’s reeducation teaches her the dangers of a hero like Willoughby, and her marriage to Brandon, who shares a similarly Gothic past, is coded as traditional and even antiquated. Elinor and Edward’s residence in the parsonage at Delaford makes them dependent on the Brandons, but they are also depicted as progressive: the parsonage has been remodeled, and their prosaic wish for "rather better pasturage for their cows" is indicative of their mutual proficiency in financial, as well as sentimental management.
In writing a novel clearly preoccupied with a romantic reconciliation of history, Cooper selects an outspoken and wealthy heroine to create a new and uniquely American aristocracy that resolves, however superficially, America’s tenuous position as former colonial subject and nascent colonial power. However, Louisa’s experiences of poverty and hardship, when contrasted with the luxuriant excess of Judge Temple’s house, suggests a correlation between financial security and sensibility. Bess’s bravery is, quite literally, a luxury she can afford. In contrast, as the sole surviving child of Reverend Grant, Louisa has witnessed the price of temerity, and her father cannot afford to lose her assistance. Bess’s plans for Louisa, in tandem with the exile of Natty and the death of Indian John, attempt to remove the threat that suffering poses to the national romance.
The relationship between these novels and the cult of sensibility is complex, and is explicitly tied to concerns of national identity. At the height of the cult of sensibility Radcliffe’s novel introduces two sisters, not for the purposes of a contrast novel that exalts one sister and deprecates the other, but rather to provide an alternative narrative to the Gothic plot that anticipates Austen. While Radcliffe’s Emilia still inhabits Sicily, she rarely ventures outside the confines of home. In turn, Austen’s critique of sensibility is also a critique of the fantastic displacement common to the Gothic novel. Readers who identified with a victimized Italian noblewoman, according to Austen, have more important, and perhaps more terrifying challenges to face in domestic England. Austen’s heroines ask readers to choose between two versions of English identity: the familiar heroine of sensibility, who is comically out of place in quotidian England, or a pragmatic heroine of sense, who is capable of navigating the changing class structure of early nineteenth-century England. In turn, Cooper’s romance adopts Gothic strategies to displace and resolve competing national origins. Although the landscape of The Pioneers is explicitly American, it is clearly not the America familiar to Cooper’s readers. By reintroducing the heroine of sensibility as the emblematic American girl, Cooper exploits her ideological power to exile competing national identities, including that of the secondary heroine.
1 Oliver’s name and heritage is a source of confusion in the novel, and the revelation of his heritage is key to Cooper’s reconciliation of the competing Native American, British and American claims to Templeton. In this essay, I refer to Edward Oliver Effingham as Oliver, and to Elizabeth Temple as Bess.
3 I do not wish to conflate sympathy and sensibility; for the purposes of this essay, I consider sympathy to be one of the qualities necessary to possess sensibility. To possess sensibility, as Margaret Anne Doody has defined it, is "to possess the capacity of human sympathy, as well as the capacity for aesthetic responsiveness" ("Introduction," xiv). The power of sympathy, according to Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), is to bridge this divide between individual minds: "As we have no immediate experience of what other men feel, we can form no idea of the manner in which they are affected, but by conceiving what we ourselves should feel in the like situation" (10-11). Smith suggested that observing a fictional sentimental hero or heroine’s response to an occasion for sympathy, such as suffering or beauty, and the narrative reward of that appropriate behavior, or punishment of inappropriate behavior, enabled the reader to internalize sentimental ideals. In turn, the reader’s appropriate response to the representation of a scene of sympathy allows the reader to claim to possess sensibility. Thus, despite the decline of the "cult of sensibility," theories of sympathy continued to impact the novel.
5 Elizabeth Barnes’s States of Sympathy is particularly useful here. In States of Sympathy, Barnes suggests that early sentimental seduction novels and the domestic fiction of the 1850s are connected by a common preoccupation with sympathetic identification: "Whereas seduction fiction depicts the middle-class family as a closed system—a nuclear and potentially incestuous unit based on the affiliation of blood ties—the domestic story represents the family as a collection of shared values and emotional experiences" (15). Cooper rewrites Radcliffe and Austen’s sisters into friends to ensure that Louisa is, in effect, always already forgotten—exterior to the family unit of Templeton.
6 Race is, of course, also a central issue in The Pioneers. Cooper locates the threat of miscegenation in his male characters, especially Oliver. Oliver’s manifestations of an appropriate sensibility — his hand resting naturally on the piano, for example — assure Bess and the reader that the apparent markers of racial identity (his name and knowledge of their language, his time with Natty and Indian John) must be misleading. Cooper’s conclusion not only erases the threat of miscegenation, but it reveals that Oliver is the rightful heir of Templeton, reinstating the importance of primogeniture in legitimating the new nation’s claim to the American landscape.
8 See, for example, George Levine, who suggests in The Realistic Imagination: "Realism got its second full start in the English novel (after Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding) in the work of Jane Austen" (35).
9 Literally, in Elizabeth Nollen’s essay, which claims that Julia and Emilia served as a model for the Dashwood sisters of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Valdine Clemens and Brigitta Berglund also claim that Emilia contrasts Julia’s sensibility.
11 This has become such a critical commonplace it seems almost unnecessary to offer sources, but, for the sake of illustration: see, for example: Kate Ellis, "Ann Radcliffe and the Perils of Catholicism" where she distinguishes between Catholic superstition opposed to pious sensibility: E.J. Clery reads this pedagogy in Marxist terms as enabling the reader to indulge in a consuming "passion that is economically desirable but morally problematic; happily...sublimated by the same means, in sympathetic identification with the virtuous and most immaterial heroine" ("Ann Radcliffe," 212). More straightforwardly, see Fred Botting, "Dracula, Romance and Radcliffean Gothic"; Scott Mackenzie, "Ann Radcliffe’s Gothic Narrative and the Readers at Home," John Stoler "Having her Cake and Eating it Too," James Watt’s Contesting the Gothic and Michael Gamer’s Romanticism and the Gothic.
14 Although Julia does escape from the church and from her father, Ferdinand assumes the head of the household. Additionally, as Toni Weir has argued, Ferdinand’s adoption of military dress consolidates his virility as the hero. Tellingly, Weir does not read Hippolitus as the hero of A Sicilian Romance, although Weir does make arguments concerning feminized heroes at other points in the book.
16 Although Captain Tilney’s subsequent actions suggest that he is not much better than a Gothic villain, Henry once again intervenes by proposing to Catherine anyway, locating the Gothic in the past.
17 There are two major critical camps: pro-Elinor and pro-Marianne. (However, within these critical camps is a strong tendency to insist that Austen troubles a simple division between sense and sensibility, or between Elinor and Marianne.) For pro-Elinor readings, see: James Thompson, Marilyn Butler, Stuart Tave, and Barbara Seeber. See also Alistair Duckworth and Mary Poovey. For pro-Marianne readings, see: Angela Leighton, Julie Shaffer, and Karl Kroeber. Laura Goodlad explicitly connects Austen to both the French Revolution and English nationalism: "Austen’s early novel contrasts Elinor’s ideal Englishness, a synthesis of "sense" and "sensibility" with Marianne’s immoderate Frenchness" (60). Other readings of the novel, including Poovey, Kroeber, Butler, and Leighton, have argued that Elinor’s reserve is Augustan, Classical, or in other ways outdated and is contrasted with Marianne’s more modern Romantic sensibility. I argue, instead, that Marianne’s sensibility is depicted as outdated, whereas Elinor’s "sense" is progressive and tied to economics, rather than aesthetics.
18 Scholars of this novel have addressed, rather extensively, the strange paradox that readers are sympathetic to Marianne, even though Austen appears to punish her excessive sensibility in the novel’s conclusion. As Tony Tanner has noted: "As in behavior, so in language, Marianne gives an added dimension of warmth and vitality to the world of the book and Jane Austen was well aware of it" (96). Where Tanner and others struggle is in reconciling Marianne’s sympathetic character with Austen’s treatment of Marianne in the conclusion. I argue that this struggle comes from a critical forgetting of Elinor, who is alternately dismissed as an "overpowerful ideology that has limited value and that therefore deserves deauthorization" (Shaffer, 143), or as "the bearer of a more or less fully developed historical and national consciousness" (Goodlad, 65).
19 See Tara Ghoshal Wallace’s article, "Sense and Sensibility and the Problem of Feminine Authority," for an interesting reading of Fanny, and other monstrous women in Austen. Wallace suggests that Elinor is actually aligned with authoritative figures like Fanny and Mrs. Ferrars and is emblematic of Austen’s own authorial anxieties.
20 Lauren Goodlad argues: "Nevertheless, the greatest irony, as we shall see, is that Austen’s resort to the logic of Spivak’s ‘soul making’ project is less a defense against Marianne’s emancipatory politics, than against the increasing sway of Lucy’s bourgeois epistemology" (76). Although Lucy’s desire to know how much everything costs is clearly a dark echo of Elinor’s attempts to economize, it is Lucy’s corresponding over-management of her own sentimental economy that the novel condemns.
21 Marilyn Butler has argued that Austen’s use of "free indirect speech" gives readers access to Elinor’s point of view, rather than Marianne’s (190). Similarly, Stuart Tave has claimed: "Sense and Sensibility is the story of Elinor Dashwood. The action of the novel is hers; it is not Marianne’s and it is not equally divided between the sister’s; it is Elinor’s. The whole of Marianne’s story is included within Elinor’s: Marianne’s begins later and it ends earlier"(96). However, both of these readings overlook the ways in which Elinor’s narrative is packaged (so to speak) for Marianne’s consumption.
22 Strangely, despite consistent critical attention to and praise of Austen’s use of language, critics have ignored this exchange between Elinor and Marianne. For discussions of Austen’s use of language, see Thompson, Tanner and Kroeber.
23 Laura Goodlad has interpreted Marianne’s status as "mistress" as revealing "the potential complicities between domestic and imperial dominions"(76). But in 1811, the year of Sense and Sensibility’s publication, the British Empire had just lost a colony (America), had mistakenly supported the French Revolution, and was about to enter the War of 1812. Rather than reading Marianne as emblematic of an ascendent imperialism, therefore, I argue that she is allied with an outdated feudal agrarian culture.
25 Additionally, Natty has trained Oliver to be both a good shot and a conservationist. Elizabeth’s affection for and debt to Natty ensures that they both will abandon the "wasty ways" that had threatened the natural resources of Templeton.
26 See, for example, Joy Kasson: "Elizabeth Temple’s education shines more brightly when she is contrasted with simple Louisa Grant" (57); John Sheckter: "In The Pioneers, references to ‘the delicacy of her sex’ and ‘natural feminine timidity’ almost always occur in connection with the thoroughly conventional Louisa Grant, to contrast her lack of imagination and her cowardice with the energy and courage of Elizabeth" (41); or Abby Werlock, for a similar reading.
28 I use this term advisedly. I do not mean to suggest that Louisa is "better" than Bess — Louisa’s racism and timidity are very unappealing qualities. Rather, I argue that Bess’s class status is what enables her lack of fear (for Louisa’s racism is really a sort of fear, rather than a belief in the inferiority of the other). By writing Louisa out of the novel, Cooper affirms class hierarchies at the expense of any alternative system of order, including both the religious hierarchy suggested at times by Bess herself, Richard Jones, and Reverend Grant, but also a similar secular hierarchy that would privilege Louisa’s suffering as a mark of merit, rather than Bess’s wealth.
31 Natty’s journey westward may be thought of as "progress," in opposition to Louisa’s return east, which suggests a sort of regress towards England. However, Natty’s age, his departure from the gravesite of Mohegan John and Effingham, and the narrator’s claim that "He had gone far towards the setting sun" all point to a strange contradiction in Natty’s journey westward: is he really "opening the way for the march of the nation across the continent" (456)? Or do all of these images of age and death gesture instead to a conclusion? Cooper seems to suggest both simultaneously; as Natty himself remarks, "Tis like the dead there, who thought, when the breath was in them, that one went east and one went west, to find their heavens; but they’ll meet at last; and so shall we, children. --- Yes, end as you’ve begun, and we shall meet in the land of the just, at last" (454). But it is impossible for Bess and Oliver to "end" as they have "begun," just as it is impossible for Natty to remain ahead of the "march of the nation" in his journey west. Instead, Natty and Louisa are each subsumed by the culture from which they attempt to differentiate themselves.
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