Historicizing Romantic Sexuality
"Pleasure is now, and ought to be, your business": Stealing Sexuality in Jane Austen's Juvenilia
Jillian Heydt-Stevenson, University of Colorado, Boulder*
Austen's Juvenilia, seen as a whole, represents a world in which young women consistently display excessive appetites--for food, drink, erotic pleasures, and material objects. While comic, such narrative excess also constitutes a pointed critique of the constraints Austen's society placed on women, constraints she not only exposes but also subverts by her young heroines' exuberant, even criminal refusal to deny their appetites and their demand for gratifications of all kinds. This essay appears in _Historicizing Romantic Sexuality_, a volume of _Romantic Circles Praxis Series_, prepared exclusively for Romantic Circles (http://www.rc.umd.edu/), University of Maryland.
She laughs at all of it: the advice from conduct books, philosophical tracts, sermons, and medical manuals; at the idea that women's sexuality should be closely guarded; that private pleasures should be controlled; that gender should dictate behavior; and that any conceivable appetite—sexual, criminal, alimentary, and liquid—should be governed. Austen's published novels laugh at all that too, but not with quite the same abandon as her Juvenilia, which, I argue, investigates excessive repressive constraints on women and, in turn, the heroines' excessive responses to those regulations. This essay addresses two major points: first, Austen's style reinforces the emphasis on excess in this culture; even at the level of narratology, the Juvenilia focuses on the superabundant. Virtually every story in the Juvenilia incorporates bizarre, if not absurd details: at the Masquerade in "Jack and Alice," for example, Charles stands in a room "3 quarters of a mile in length & half a one in breadth" (13). These laughable, preposterous features operate in conjunction with sophisticated mimesis, seemingly causing a contradiction between the realistic and the fantastic. This phenomenon has led some to see the texts as lacking unity—that is, as lacking purpose and or authorial control. While playfully keeping the reader off balance, the generic disparity nevertheless is often forcefully reconciled when we acknowledge that Austen is overlapping representational modes—realism and fantasy, the literal and the figurative—in order to highlight the absurdity of women's condition in this culture. I do not want to turn these stories into moral lessons—so often, the fragments captivate us through their joyful lawlessness—yet I do want to chart how these improbable adventures offer a perceptive and fearless analysis of her culture as they illuminate the liberation of the adolescent girl's sexual body.
Second, I explore the ways—all excessive—that the heroines react to the loss of many kinds of freedom. I focus primarily on theft, organizing the essay into sections on what and how culture steals from women and the ways they try to cope with or steal back their vitality: Cassandra purloins a bonnet, pastries, and a coach ride, and Eliza steals a bank note and another woman's fiancé. Characters defraud other young women's reputations and filch money from their parents; cousins steal from cousins and houseguests from their hosts. Drawing on eighteenth-century attitudes toward women and crime, as well as more current psychoanalytic theories, I examine how these young women tend either to internalize cultural violence by expressing their frustrations and needs in intoxication and food, a process that in itself devours their willpower; or they externalize that violence in sexual escapades and adventures in thievery. In this latter case, they express a desire for abundance that becomes a manic and triumphant celebration. As Avital Ronnell describes in Crack Wars: Literature, Addition, Mania, these pleasures cut addicts "off from the world . . . far from objective reality and the real life of the city and the community" while simultaneously offering "the supreme lucidity of intoxication, which arises when you have something in you that must be encrypted" (5). Austen's representations of her heroines' fighting and drinking and lovemaking and thieving—which meld together and function as substitutes for each other—offer a language for deciphering the robust, lusty female energy that social rules encrypt or entomb. In other words, these addictions and bacchanalian outpourings both hide and reveal larger social crimes against women themselves.
I: Women who Steal Pleasure
"She flew to her bottle & it was soon forgot"
In "Jack and Alice," Austen draws attention to the virtual inevitability of women's need to steal male attention and to "steal"—through some kind of psychotropic delight—moments of freedom from entrapping eighteenth-century codes. Inebriation, if not the wisest way to console and repress, is at least an opportune way to live with the knowledge that it is impossible to win affection. Alice Johnson, the heroine, commonly finds herself "in liquor" and, at one point in the story, "drunk" and so "heated with wine and raised by passion, she could have little command of her temper," which results in a "Dispute [that] at length grew so hot on the part of Alice that, 'From Words she almost came to Blows'" (18). Besides a family tendency toward "addict[ion] to the Bottle & the Dice," (13) the cause of Alice's suffering is her longing for the one available man—apparently there is only one—in the community of Pammydiddle, Charles Adams. When Lucy says of Charles that she could "not resist his attractions," Alice laments with a "deep sigh," longingly exclaiming, "Ah! Who can" (21).
These attractions are, of course, sexual. Austen unabashedly normalizes her female characters' panting longings and shows how those cravings to satiate unfulfilled love (and sheer erotic desires) through inebriation coincide with the extreme deprivation to which the characters are subjected. The story illustrates this deprivation when it describes how, at the masquerade birthday party, Charles dresses in a costume that perfectly exemplifies his extraordinary status, gained simply by the fact of being the only prospective husband around:
Of the Males a Mask representing the Sun, was the most universally admired. The Beams that darted from his Eyes were like those of that glorious Luminary tho' infinitely superior. So strong were they that no one dared venture within half a mile of them; he had therefore the best part of the Room to himself, its size not amounting to more than 3 quarters of a mile in length & half a one in breadth. The Gentleman at last finding the feirceness [sic] of his beams to be very inconvenient to the concourse by obliging them to croud together in one corner of the room, half shut his eyes by which means, the Company discovered him to be Charles Adams in his plain green Coat, without any mask at all. (13)Here in this miniature portrait of the way patriarchy relies upon illusion, Charles parodically plays the role of "oriental" eminence: he is static, sensuous, and passive, yet nevertheless despotically controls the female world around him. In this harem, Lady Williams and Alice, subjugated to his power, fight each other to gain the privilege of his attention. Austen exposes how Charles's supremacy is only a chimera maintained by the tiny community he rules. Stripped of his illusory status as "the Sun"—the beneficiary of primogeniture and, in nature and culture, the star around which everything revolves—he is merely "Charles . . . in his plain green Coat." But the "fierce" competition between women for this one source of light and heat leads Lady Williams to keep Alice drunk on her claret and to betray her friendship with Lucy, by urging her to leave Pammydiddle for Bath and advising her to marry "an unprincipaled [sic], illiterate man" (27).
Austen offers a dazzling metaphor that illustrates the mechanism of how women, so desperate for sexual and marital fulfillment that they try to steal it, must "poach" on their prey. In contrast to Alice, who internalizes her pain through drunkenness, Lucy will not succumb to melancholy, but instead manically pursues Charles, an absentee landlord she meets when he visits her village in Wales to collect his rents. This economic detail shows Austen linking exploitation of women to that of the poor and also aligning herself with the critique of "rackrents," such as we later see in Maria Edgeworth and Sidney Owenson. Lucy runs away from her family to pursue Charles, and enters his grounds in Pammydiddle, only to be caught in a poacher's steel trap. The game law of 1671 (not changed until 1831) designated hunting the "privilege of all gentlemen whose freehold property was valued at £100 or more a year (or whose leasehold totaled £150)" (Stevenson 79). On the one hand, women, like hungry villagers, must steal the "meats" available for upper class hunting and dining. On the other hand, however, they also resemble the more symbolically ambiguous status of the landowner who, not meeting these property qualifications, was barred from hunting game on his own land. Though of the gentry and though assured an inheritance, these women are considered criminals if they pursue either the felicity of the sport and/or marital sustenance. That Lucy feels the right to hunt Charles suggests Austen's radical assertion of rights for women, a parallel affirmation many men defended in their outrage against game laws, their anger stemming from a belief that English liberty was bound up in the ancient expectation that hunting was an unalienable right (Stevenson 79). Austen takes this revolutionary fight for rights to the death when Sukey Simpson murders Lucy because she has received a marriage proposal from the only apparently desirable husband in Bath, an elderly man of "princely fortune" (27). Although Sukey goes to the gallows for this criminal act (a rare example in the Juvenilia of a woman actually punished for wrongdoing), Austen makes the point that the marriage market itself is criminal, and though Sukey's actions are no doubt perverse, they appear normalized in a patriarchal system so corrupt.
Austen depicts such patriarchal corruption and sexual excess as permeating not only gentry culture but also the nobility. Making ribald asides about British royalty, specifically Prince George and Frederick, the Duke of York, she reveals how in a capitalist-driven system of marriage, high-class prostitution becomes an alternative to spinsterhood: Cecilia comments that if her sister "Caroline could engage a Duke, she might without censure aspire to the affections of some Prince—& knowing that those of her native Country were cheifly [sic] engaged, she left England & I have since heard is at present the favourite Sultana of the great Mogul" (29). The joke here is that the Prince's affections are not engaged in marriage, but in a series of erotomaniacal affairs. The contest between sisters is obvious, a hallmark of a society of deprivation, but in choosing to be a Sultana, Cecilia seeks pleasure for its own sake in a system that nevertheless buttresses patriarchal power—a reason why she can aspire to the Mogul's affections "without censure" (29, emphasis added). Ironically, however, as we have already seen with the power Charles wields in Pammydiddle, she need not have left England to find a harem that places women in competition with each other and which worships male gods. Austen undercuts the absurd humor of Cecilia's ambitions by linking them to English country life, but also by emphasizing how time curtails a woman's reign since she is only "at present" the Mogul's "favourite."
The allusions to royal passions in "Jack and Alice" form part of a pattern in the text of pointing out that sexual excess—from royalty down to gentry—accompanies the inability to gratify it; apparently for Cecilia, it is easier and more fulfilling to leave England, travel to the "East," and become an autocrat's mistress than it is to find a proper husband in Bath. While the nonsensical notion of an ordinary gentry coquette joining a harem seems to defy realism, Austen's link between the average girl and the mistresses (or prostitutes) to English royalty grounds that possibility firmly in actuality. In neither Alice's drinking, Lucy's man chasing, nor Cecilia's concupiscent fulfillment with the Mogul, does Austen judge these appetites as a moral failing. Instead, she frankly addresses female desires.
In these stories, women try to satisfy those desires by taking the male initiative and proposing to men. Although they generally turn to crime and addiction only after their assertion of "male" power fails, one can argue that in their society their initiative alone is at least as illegitimate as theft and drunkenness. When Alice inherits a fortune and proposes to Charles, that "glorious Luminary" (13) maliciously rejects the idea, suggesting that she is not "full" enough for him, that she cannot satisfy his appetites: "Your daughter, sir, is neither sufficiently beautiful, sufficiently amiable, sufficiently witty, nor sufficiently rich for me" (26). Though she has already shown a proclivity for anesthetizing her frustration, when Alice hears this news, she tries to "fill" herself up by displacing the affective onto the material: Alice "could scarcely support the disappointment—She flew to her bottle & it was soon forgot" (26). Here, Austen provides enough cause for Alice's requiring what Ronell calls the "partial separation from an invading presence" that alcohol or drugs provide (9). Placing less blame on Alice than she does on the social circumstances inspiring her heroine's turn to the bottle, Austen here looks at excessive appetites less as the result of an intractable will, than as the introjection of external pressures and repressive social codes.
Though drawing the story in bold strokes and relying on stock characters, Austen's treatment of drunkenness nevertheless remains subtle insofar as she, like medical writers, refuses the interpretation that drunkenness is merely a mark of license. Roy Porter explains how during the Romantic period, medical writers switched their focus from interpreting drunkenness as a sign of immoderation to, in Thomas Trotter's words, seeing it as a "disease of the mind"; like diagnoses of sexual perversions, medical discourse came to recognize "the intractability of the habit, and its unresponsiveness to medication"; this in turned "helped direct the medical gaze within, into the inner space of the delinquent recalcitrant will" ("Barely" 76). The Juvenilia certainly directs our gaze toward an examination of characters' motivations, but Austen clearly is not interpreting alcoholic (or, in other stories, gluttonous) excess as merely a phenomenon of the "delinquent recalcitrant will," for Alice's inebriation arises in large part from a cultural conditioning that simultaneously stimulates desire and enforces codes that inhibit fulfillment. "Jack and Alice" suggests to the reader that in Pammydiddle and Bath (that is, all of English society), alcohol first of all encloses the female energy that lacks any other outlet since women have so little control over their access to that secure future for which there is no substitute—marriage. Second, and simultaneously, the story reveals how drunken excess functions as a code that exposes cultural flaws. And Austen makes it explicit that there can be no outlet when women are, by custom's force, always the losers in a market that male buyers control.
A reading of the Juvenilia, however, might well lead a reader to feel that conservative moralists and repressive systems are fighting a fruitless battle. Most of the marriages Austen depicts are illegitimate; a few select characters are "natural"; appetites of all kinds (as we have seen) are voracious, and usually laws and legal procedures move too slowly for characters who want immediate sexual gratification. In Lesley Castle, the worlds of country and city alike superabound with sexual excess, whether adultery, sexual dissipation, or plain erotic longing. Eloisa Lutterell and her fiancé cause a scandal by meeting "both more frequent[ly] & longer" (129); Matilda's admirer, Fitzgerald, offers to escort her and Margaret to Italy, and their Step-Mother encourages this no doubt improper, though "agreeable," scheme (138). Louisa Lesley "wantonly disgrace[s] the Maternal character and . . . openly violat[es] the conjugal Duties" by eloping with "Danvers & dishonour" (110). Her husband recovers immediately, and in fact "even feels himself obliged to her for her Elopement, as he thinks it very good fun to be single again" (116). Their father's sensuality embarrasses his daughters, as he remains "a flighty stripling . . . fluttering about the streets of London, gay, dissipated, and Thoughtless at the age of 57" (111).
Lesley Castle's exploration of sexual excess relies on a protective shell of comical phantasm, which both masks and enhances the feminist and political critique that the work suggests. For example, Eloisa's fiancé has been killed in a tragic accident, causing her to endure convulsions, then insensibility, and finally delirium; her sister Charlotte, however, suffers from a "vexation" such as she has never "experienced": "what in the name of Heaven will become of all the Victuals" prepared for the wedding feast? (113). Oblivious to Eloisa's grief (though it is, no doubt, rather hyperbolic), Charlotte preposterously "join[s] in heartfelt lamentations on the dreadful Waste in our provisions . . . and concert[s] some plan for getting rid of them" (113). They enter into their "Devouring Plan . . . with great Alacrity" (114). Austen unites the two sisters' reactions at the level of a deliciously wrought metaphor: Charlotte's "devouring plan" suggests a post-wedding riot of consumption wherein feeding displaces sexual consummation, an association strengthened by the fact that the "Beef, Broiled Mutton, and Stewed Soup" were prepared "to last the new-married Couple through the Honey-moon" (113). Fifteen days later, she writes that
I have the satisfaction of informing you that we have every reason to imagine our pantry is by this time nearly cleared, as we left particular orders with the Servants to eat as hard as they possibly could, and to call in a couple of Chairwomen to assist them. We brought a cold Pigeon pye, a cold turkey, a cold tongue, and half a dozen Jellies with us, which we were lucky enough with the help of our Landlady, her husband, and their three children, to get rid of in less than two days after our arrival. (119)The anticipation of erotic frenzy promised by new marital bliss is displaced onto the cold meats, tongue, and jellies, which seem to require a lower-class army to dispense with them in less than two days. The metaphor also enables Austen to make sound social commentary, though not necessarily in a realistic mode, in that the two story lines together amplify the ever-present sense that like the victuals, which will go bad if not eaten before they decay, a marriageable girl is stamped with an expiration date.
The sisters' varying systems of deriving satisfaction (one through marriage, the other through cookery) provide other ways for Austen to manipulate the narratological instability in the story while focusing on sensual superabundance. On the one hand, Charlotte's initial rage that she had "been Roasting, Broiling and Stewing both the Meat and Myself to no purpose" (113) exposes the hot anger boiling underneath supposedly willing martyrdom or perhaps, more likely, unfulfilled desire. If Eloisa's "expiration date" foreshadows Marianne Dashwood's—her half brother exclaims that her "bloom . . . has been a very short one!" (S&S 227)—Charlotte's predilection for cooking over marrying foretells Emma Woodhouse's displacement of her sexual desires onto superintending the courtship rituals of others—"She would notice [Harriet]; she would improve her; she would detach her from her bad acquaintance, and introduce her into good society . . ." (E. 23). Specifically, Charlotte relocates her fleshly pleasures onto food, first the creaminess of desserts—her favorite figurative phrase is a "Whipt-syllabub" (sweetened milk or cream mixed with wine or cider and beaten to a froth) and second, the flesh that is eaten: "I shall be able to manage the Sir-loin myself; my Mother will eat the Soup, and You and the Doctor must finish the rest" (113). Further, her preference for catering over marrying—she "never wish[es] to act a more principal part at a Wedding than . . . superintending and directing the Dinner" (121); her belief that "few people understand the art of cutting a slice of cold Beef as well as I do" (128); her evaluation of the food she is served ("the Veal was terribly underdone, and the Curry had no seasoning" ) and her wish to have "been at the dressing of it" all imply that she is one of the few women in Austen to have a career objective outside of marriage. Finally, her artistry in the kitchen provides more long-term satisfaction than the hope of marriage when it becomes apparent that although Eloisa will not be enjoying the sexual pleasures of the honeymoon, Charlotte still gets the satisfaction of watching others devour her food. The Reverend John Trusler's The Honours of the Table for the Use of Young People (1787) warned that excessive eating "is now deemed indelicate in a lady, for her character should be rather divine than sensual" (qtd. in Lane, 77). While it is unknown whether Austen read this book, she appears to be rethinking the standard confirmation of the necessity for physical repression insofar as her characters' prodigal consumption of food and erotic pleasures compensates for other losses.
Austen also describes an economy of consumption in which sexuality and victuals are interchangeable. Though this is a common idea, her treatment of it in the Juvenilia takes on strong feminist tones. In Charlotte's devotion to food, her tragic response to the potential decay of wedding provisions, and her statement that she can "manage the Sir-loin myself," Austen may have had in mind a passage from Tom Jones: Fielding describes how, in the indiscriminate use of the word love for "the desirable Objects of all our Passions, Appetites, and Senses," one could be said to "be in Love with an excellent Surloin of Beef"—however, he continues, much as we may love a "Surloin," yet "we never smile, nor ogle, nor dress, nor flatter, nor endeavour by any other Arts or Tricks to gain the Affection of the said Beef, &c." (510-511). In a twist on Fielding's point, Austen shows us how Charlotte, the unattractive spinster sister, admires edible viands precisely because she does not require them to love her back. Charlotte, however, does long to be cherished for her cooking, and the loss of her sister's affection, when she becomes engaged to be married, upsets the emotional economy of the household, wherein "No one could sing a better Song than She, and no one make a better Pye than I . . . till Henry Hervey made his appearance in Sussex" (129). His entrance upsets the symbiotic relation between sisters as it introduces a direct sexual component that takes the place of displaced forms of pleasure such as cooking and music: and "tho' I constantly applauded even every Country-dance [Eloisa] play'd, yet not even a pidgeon-pye of my making could obtain from her a single word of approbation." Austen implies that Eloisa now has no need for the emotional synergy she enjoyed with her sister wherein they both, through acts of transference onto food and music, satisfied their sexual longings, since Eloisa has found a new, more libidinal release:
Before the arrival of [Henry's] Aunt in our neighbourhood . . . his visits to [Eloisa] had been at stated times, and of equal & settled Duration; but on her removal to the Hall which is within a walk from our House, they became both more frequent & longer. This as you may suppose could not be pleasing to [our Aunt] who is a professed Enemy to everything which is not directed by Decorum and Formality, or which bears the least resemblance to Ease and Good-breeding . . . . (129)Though Charlotte calls those "more frequent & longer" meetings as evidence of "Ease and Good-breeding," the line also hints toward a sexual excess that parallels that of the sensual gourmand or glutton.
Whether sought out for the sheer bliss of it or as compensation for other losses, the heroines' dependency on food or drink provides outlets for their stifled sexual and intellectual energy. In the next section, I will explore how, in making hedonism and rapture these young women's business, Austen exposes the interlacing ways in which the system that steers women toward internalizing violence through intoxication both equates the sexual and economic exchange of women and manipulates their desires for erotic fulfillment.
Men, several of these stories suggest, are often thieves who "steal" women's physicality in order to pleasure themselves. Women's sexuality is rendered in terms of excess in this culture insofar as it is abundantly available to men. In only three pages, Austen's "First Act of a Comedy" sets up the framework for a spectacular collision of desires when Strephon, Chloe, Pistoletta, and her father all accidentally converge at a Hounslow Inn on their way to London. Intertwining the discourses of sexual love and alliance, the play's antihero, Strephon, exploits the surfeit of available female sexuality by inflaming the desires of two women, Chloe and Pistoletta, both of whom he has promised to wed. And not only is there a surplus of brides for one man, but a surfeit of exuberant energy in general. For example, Popgun, disproportionately enthusiastic about his daughter, his future son-in-law, and her marriage, delivers "My Girl, my Darling, my favourite of all my Children" to London to marry Strephon, to whom he will "bequeath my whole Estate" (173, emphasis added). And Chloe's own erotic exhilaration knows no bounds: glowing with anticipation, she breaks into song to celebrate her future marriage, which she sings "will be fun," a sentiment her chorus of ploughboys echoes with the refrain, "be fun, be fun, be fun, / And that to me will be fun" (173). She is even excited when she orders her dinner. After choosing the leg of beef and the "stinking partridge," she sings: "I wish I had here Strephon / For he would carve the partridge if it should be a tough one," another sentiment her chorus reiterates: "Tough one, tough one, tough one, / For he would carve the partridge if it should be a tough one" (174). Though one cannot determine whether or not Austen knew that "partridge," according to Eric Partridge, was slang for "a harlot" (late-seventeenth and mid-eighteenth-century), here the bawdy meaning would reinforce Chloe's enthusiasm for physical pleasures and spotlight what we learn later, that she seems to be supporting Strephon financially.
Even Austen's choice of names, Chloe and Strephon, which are famous in literature both singularly and when paired, have a rich history of sexual allusion that emphasizes this hypertrophic pursuit of physical pleasure. Both names stem from classical literature, and Chloe is one of the lovers in Longus's Greek pastoral novel, Daphnis and Chloe, in which two orphans from Lesbos, brought up by goatkeepers and shepherds, gradually fall in love and receive a sexual education from various mortal and mythological characters. The character of Strephon is always associated with eroticism and usually with erotic deception in popular music of the day and in works by authors as diverse as Ephelia's Love's First Approach (1679), John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester's "A Dialogue between Strephon and Daphne" (1691), Anne Finch's "The Wit and the Beau" (1713), Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's "Town Eclogues: Wednesday; Tête-à-Tête" ( 1716) Swift's infamous "Strephon and Chloe" (1731), and Janet Little's "Almeda and Flavia" (1792). After 1793, the tenable date for Austen's short play, we see the tradition continuing in Sarah Cassan's "On Mrs. Sandiford, ---- of Barbadoes" (1806) and in Lord Byron's "To the Sighing Strephon" (1807).
The play, however, splices this sensuous liveliness with acts of theft and forgery, here committed by the male character. Not only is Strephon engaged to two women, and not only does he plan to support himself in town with a "bad guinea," but he pawns Chloe's "undirected Letter" to pay the Postilion (174). The "bad guinea" may either be counterfeit or a coin that someone shaved small bits from and melted down to sell as pure bullion. In either of those senses, or in the fact that it might just be worn down and thus less valuable, no longer weighing what it is supposed to, it doubles as a sign of Strephon, who is a phony bridegroom, one who has diminished his value by splitting his worth between two women. The larger forgery taking place, however, is that in the very act of pawning her letter, Strephon puts a woman whom he plans to marry into "circulation." At the simplest level, he pawns the letter to the Postilion, planning on returning later to buy it with the remains of the counterfeit guinea he has cashed. This interpretation suggests he has put his fiancée in the "hands" of another man.
A wider-ranging analysis of the play's sexual politics emerges when we tease out the implications of the fact that this "undirected" or unaddressed letter can, it seems, be turned into cash. One hypothesis, noted above, is that Chloe has given Strephon a promissory note that she received from someone else. In the eighteenth-century, such notes could be bought and sold "promiscuously," transferred from one hand to another as credit for goods or services. Moreover, anyone in need of "ready money" could endorse the note and pass it on to another individual in exchange for cash. Promissory notes could and did circulate throughout the country much like banknotes—or young women. This would highlight the fact that not only Chloe, but Popgun is willing to hand his money over to Strephon since the father will "bequeath [his] whole Estate" to his future son-in-law. Further, if Chloe is supporting Strephon, the very idea of such an exchange before marriage breaches codes of modesty. If we return to the allusion to the stinking partridge, a potential code for harlot, we see that this bawdy detail reinforces what the text does offer us on the surface: the liquid nature of exchange in the play—money going to and fro, a woman's body standing in for the money for a bill, and two different brides affianced to the same man.
Because sexual and economic exchanges are virtually synonymous in this comedy, a further possible meaning is possible. Chloe's letter might be sold precisely as a text, as a woman's love letter, and it might be sold in that way for a couple of different reasons. First, since it is "undirected," then it might be possible to sell it to some other young woman, perhaps a less skillful or illiterate compositor, looking to send such a letter on her own behalf (Thomas DeQuincey, for one, admits in Confessions of an English Opium Eater that to stave off starvation, he ghost-wrote "love-letters to their sweethearts for young women who had lived as servants in Shrewsbury, or other towns on the English border" ). Secondly, Strephon could also sell it to a book dealer or printer as an authentic piece of sentimental correspondence. Such possible connotations, in a sense, also mark the letter as "promissory" even if it did not literally contain such a note: its value may lie in its status as a bearer of secrets and promises—the secret of Chloe's love, or the secret of her skill as an amatory writer. As Mary Favret argues, "the fictionalized letter traveled in a promiscuous no man's land; one could never determine to whom a circulating letter belonged. In the epistolary novel, expressive license and the heroine's vulnerability were intimately linked: the woman in these letters was up for grabs" (138). Polyvalent with emotional and financial possibility, Chloe's letter amplifies the criminal nature of the marriage market.
Austen represents the theft of women's sexuality in another way in these texts. When she critiques how female erotic desire is described in conduct books and the like, she shows how their sexuality is stolen and then returned to women in an altered form, as an excessive force that must be controlled. Moral tomes and lessons may superficially forbid female sexual expression, but they do so in a salacious way, one which encourages the reader to picture temptation, violation, or voluptuous surrender. Earlier in the eighteenth century, Daniel Defoe had nervously commented on this possibility in the introduction to his own conduct book, Conjugal Lewdness: Or, Matrimonial Whoredom:
The Difficulty before me is, to know how to reprove with Decency offences against Decency; how to expose Modestly Things which 'tis hardly Modest so much as to mention, and which must require abundance of clean Linnen to wrap them up in; . . . [critics] tell me it is an immodest Subject; that as it cannot be handled decently, and cannot be discours'd of modestly, so it is not intended to be so, but that 'tis a meer Bait to the Curiosity of that Part of the reading World, whose Vices are prompted as much by a pretended reproving them as by the plainest Expressions: That it forms the same Ideas in their Minds, and they receive the Notions of Vice in as lively a form by the very Methods taken to expose and condemn the Facts, as if those Facts were represented to the Opticks in all their shameless Nudities. (7-8)
Like Defoe, Vivien Jones acknowledges the salacious content of conduct books, but argues a very different point of view. Most conduct books, she points out, were "instruments of repression and confinement" which tended to disallow "female pleasure," emphasize "asexual 'modesty,'" and "inculcat[e] feminine propriety . . . and confinement"; however "their moral discourse of chaste conduct evokes precisely the desires and fantasies it claims to police" ("Seductions" 108). Because of this, "far from repressing sexual pleasure," such works could "open up spaces of fantasy and female desire which are potentially transgressive" (112, 116). Austen, aware of the stimulating content of these texts, addresses the possibilities for both prurient and liberating responses to immodest subjects.
In the stories I have discussed so far, the heroines' bodies are transgressively, even exhilaratingly, out of control. In Catharine, or The Bower, Austen moves inward, to the imagination, to argue that even in environments where the body is constrained, the imagination is free. And this is a subject that becomes complicated when we are discussing the imagination's sexual content. In "Scientific Forms of Sexual Knowledge in Romanticism," Richard Sha asks
what happens to visibility as a criterion of sexual knowledge when sexuality turns inward—when the imagination, mind, and the brain become understood as sexual organs? It is precisely this inward turn that makes sexuality a possible site of liberation for Romantic artists: sexual liberation at once becomes potentially reflective and strategic and difficult to survey. As the poet/physician Thomas Beddoes put it, "no one certainly, can regulate the imagination of another." Not surprisingly, the sexualized imagination and brain are insistently demonized because of their resistance to visibility . . . . The imagination engenders a profound epistemological panic because it confuses its own virtual sensations for actual foundational empirical experiences. (10)
Both Catharine (also called Kitty) and Mrs. Percival present fascinating, though opposing, cases for arguing that the sexual imagination resists whatever repressions may be foisted onto the body. The Juvenilia (and I would argue that this holds true for the later novels as well) suggests that Austen believes that sexuality—like creativity—is an arena that censorship often cannot reach or that censorship may stimulate but not tarnish. Catharine presents Kitty's imaginative function as a richly sensuous, liberating process insofar as it allows her to evade her aunt's authority in a way that leads to great pleasure and satisfaction. The bower becomes significant, then, as the externalization of this internal, unreachable environment where any kind of reverie is possible; for Kitty, under constant surveillance, the bower represents a winsome retreat that "possessed such a charm over her senses, as constantly to tranquillize her mind and quiet her spirits," a place which she believed "alone could restore her to herself" (193).
Austen's Catharine also makes transparent the misogynistic logic associating the bower with seduction that so much conduct literature depended upon. As a symbol of rampant female sexuality, the bower is a ubiquitous image throughout the eighteenth-century, appearing in texts ranging from Thompson's The Seasons to moral miscellanies such as Mrs. Bonhote's The Parental Monitor (1796). In another such moralizing text, the Lady's Miscellany, we find "On True Happiness, an Epistle Written to a Young Lady in the Country," a poem which prompts a heroine to avoid the "earth":
True happiness is not the growth of earth,
The toil is fruitless if you seek it there;
'Tis an exotic of celestial birth,
And never blooms but in celestial air
Earthly flowers trick women, "charm[ing] your fancy, gaily drest / In shining dyes—a native of the ground" (189). More of the same sort of attacks on bowers and their association with sexuality, though in this case nearly pornographic, appear in Richard Polwhele's "Unsexed Females," where he asks us to picture an "unsex'd" woman's body: "Scarce by a gossamery film carest, / Sport[s], in full view, the meretricious breast;" he then guides us to undress the woman farther, to "Loose the chaste cincture, where the graces shone, / And languish'd all the Loves, the ambrosial zone." In his almost masturbatory fantasy, he enjoins readers to watch how women's "bosoms heave" as they read Darwin's Botanic Garden, how they "pluck forbidden fruit, with mother Eve, / For puberty in sighing florets pant, / Or point the prostitution of a plant" (7-8). Polwhele's bower refers specifically to the "loose" desires of the recently-deceased Mary Wollstonecraft, who is the poem's primary target: there, "Bath'd in new bliss, the Fair-one greets the bower, / And ravishes a flame from every flower" (26).
Conduct books, advice manuals and polemics such as the ones I have cited here by Wright, Bonhote, and Polwhele steal women's sexuality, only to thrust it back at them in a contorted form. That is, they do not eradicate it, but return it in a way that incites the imagination to interpret sexuality as stimulating but negative, all the while rendering it a pleasure prohibited to the body. In Catharine, the extent to which Mrs. Pervical tries to regulate her niece's access to and feelings for this "bower" suggests the force of its threat, and the extent to which she fails to control what she cannot reach implies the power of its capacity for liberation.
In an environment of such repression and stimulation, advice literature functions like a stimulating drug in itself, one that urges young—and even elderly—women to distrust their sexuality and internalize it as a parasitical danger to their bodies. Through Aunt Percival, Austen concentrates not on the ways conduct literature can function positively to liberate female pleasure, but instead on the way mildly pornographic conduct book materials encourage the imagination to retain a hyper-attenuated focus on the perverse qualities of women's sexuality. Aunt Percival has internalized the ideology that women are both sexually voracious and in need of constant surveillance in order to control their erotic gluttony. Though the aunt's body remains chaste, her imagination is sexually active, a process that makes her miserable, and though I would not call this "liberation," it can be understood as a process that evades cultural constraints while simultaneously embodying them. Catharine suggests that the "sexualized imagination" is vicious only when repression perversely stimulates it. Because she has no empirical proof that Kitty "cannot withstand temptation," Mrs. Percival uses an object, the bower, to materialize and thereby control her niece's sexuality. And because her idea of this lovely grove is, like Polwhele's, a place of "loose desires" (Polwhele 25), she first simply tries to keep Kitty out of this refuge and in her own parlor (197), but later, once Stanley arrives, she decides she must destroy the bower. Mrs. Percival's reaction becomes excessive as she bloats this lovely, sensuous place of contemplation and reverie into a damp, vicious disease-ridden environment. Standing in the bower with Kitty to chastise her for allowing Stanley to kiss her hand, her aunt begins to feel a chill and exclaims that she "must and will have that arbour pulled down—it will be the death of me; who knows now, but what I may never recover—Such things have happened" (233-34). While conduct books equally concern themselves with female imagination and female sexuality, in Catharine Austen undermines the seducer's (that is, Stanley's) lascivious nature—paring debauchery down to a process of pure power-mongering—and rather shockingly transfers that lasciviousness to Mrs. Percival.
Thus, in laboring to control Kitty, Mrs. Pervical must necessarily attempt to imagine what her niece imagines, and this process, indeed, causes precisely the "profound epistemological panic" Sha describes when she cannot differentiate between her own "virtual sensations" and Kitty's "empirical experiences." The young girl's interest in sex is obvious through her flirtations and joyful interactions, but her Aunt's graphic imaginings manifest as perverse and brackish what she fantasizes that Catharine is literally doing, leading her to imagine her niece playing the willing companion—and even the temptress—to Stanley's flirtations. The vicious accusations she levels against her niece to Stanley's father clearly reflect the aunt's inabilities to differentiate between empirical facts and her own "virtual sensations." Kitty, she says, is
one of the most impudent girls that ever existed. Her intimacies with Young Men are abominable, and it is all the same to her who it is, no one comes amiss to her. I assure you Sir, that I have seen her sit and laugh and whisper with a young man whom she has not seen above half a dozen times. Her behavior indeed is scandalous, and therefore I beg you will send your son away immediately, or everything will be at sixes and sevens. (228)
To sit and laugh and whisper is to act in an "impudent," "scandalous," and "abominable way." Mrs. Percival's attitudes about London repeat her own wild imaginings: she could never let her niece visit the metropolis, "the hothouse of Vice," since Kitty was "inclined to give way to, and indulge in, vicious inclinations, & therefore was the last girl in the world to be trusted in London, as she would be totally unable to withstand temptation" (239). Her use of the word "vicious" suggests Kitty indulges in all manner of vices. Despite the elder lady's imaginative sexual surplus, no romance in fact materializes, though Stanley kisses Kitty's hand while the aunt watches—expressly to torment Mrs. Percival. Austen's unfinished novel simply stops with Stanley having left for France, leaving Catharine as chaste as he found her.
Finally, because those fantasies function at odds with the Catharine we meet, the aunt's imaginings also call the niece's supposed perversity into question and set into motion another set of visualizations about Catharine's sexuality, these more playful and appealing, the kind of normative expectations of much Romantic-era medical advice: "that love enhances bodily pleasure" (qtd in Sha, 11). Significantly, in the story Catharine can physically control manifesting her erotic desires, but her Aunt cannot control her own sexual fantasies. Austen thereby achieves the effect of normalizing heterosexual desire and pathologizing sexual repression while also expressing what must have been her poor opinion of the success such moral stories had in repressing women's sexuality or their desires.
III. Women Steal it back again
"But I kept my eye on it; and, as soon as I dared, caught it up, and never parted with it again from that moment."
The Juvenila's heroines try to emancipate themselves by stealing "back" what their culture denies them. Whether they succeed or not, Austen herself succeeds in using their criminality to explore the violence of normative social relations during her era. Because these stories link theft and sexuality, they suggest that these women are indeed stealing in order to retain, express, or regain their libidinal powers, and this is a point Austen continues to pursue in later novels, especially in Sense and Sensibility and Emma. Lucy Steele's last name blatantly calls attention to her identity as a thief (of husbands, tithes, and fortunes), and Austen casts her as a shrewd little vixen, who steals by seducing the entire Ferrars family, from younger son to haughty mother. In Emma, Harriet Smith confesses that during the height of their illusory courtship, she had purloined "the end of an old pencil,—the part without any lead" from Elton.
"This was really his," said Harriet.—"Do not you remember one morning?—no, I dare say you do not. But one morning—I forget exactly the day—but perhaps it was the Tuesday or Wednesday before that evening, he wanted to make a memorandum in his pocket-book; it was about spruce beer. Mr. Knightley had been telling him something about brewing spruce beer, and he wanted to put it down; but when he took out his pencil, there was so little lead that he soon cut it all away, and it would not do, so you lent him another, and this was left upon the table as good for nothing. But I kept my eye on it; and, as soon as I dared, caught it up, and never parted with it again from that moment." (339)
Here the normally passive Harriet slyly pounces at her first opportunity to secure something of the man she loves, a foreshadowing that renders less surprising her later assertive pursuit of Knightley, of whom she too has experienced a part—a dance. The drama of this event, her nervous anticipation, the risky, breathtaking moment when she "caught it up," the sexual implication of the pencil, the association between actual seduction and stealing the bodily metonymy—and then the blank emptiness, literally and figuratively, of the object, all underscore the fetishistic nature of her act. Taught to love a man with no "lead"—that is, no substance either of character or sexual potency—she steals an appropriate metonym, one that speaks for its inability to record a receipt for spruce beer, let alone produce a courtship narrative.
Standing out vividly in Love and Friendship, "Henry and Eliza," and "The Beautifull (sic) Cassandra," and suggesting that nebulous cross-over between sexuality and theft, is Austen's ability to use crime to enact a festive sort of emancipation, though it may be in some cases a "mad" "frenzy fit" (L&F 102) and to allow her criminal heroines glory in their success. As I have been arguing throughout this essay, the characters in these early works divide (quite loosely) into two categories, those who internalize cultural violence (Ronell 93) and those who eject this constructed rage against women: Alice (from "Jack and Alice") and Eloisa and Charlotte (from Lesley Castle) fall into this first category. Aunt Pervical also internalizes cultural rage but then projects outward onto her niece. In this section, I will be discussing the heroines who externalize their rage. Sophia, for example, from Love and Friendship warns Laura not to absorb social hostility or self-recrimination by fainting, but instead to disgorge the shame or pain and "Run mad as often as you chuse" (102). In Aberrations of Mourning, Laurence A. Rickels explains Karl Abraham's idea that mania "revers[es]" the "retentive tendency of melancholia":
mania celebrates the ego's sudden triumph over both ego ideal and the once-loved, lost, and subsequently introjected object. Whereas in melancholia the ego is vampirized by the introjected object, in mania the libido turns with ravenous hunger to the external world of objects; whatever appears before the manic's rapidly advancing probe is swallowed. But this pleasurable swallowing during the manic phase, which succeeds the melancholic's sense that he is excluded from the world of objects as though disinherited, corresponds to an equally rapid, equally pleasurable expulsion of the briefly retained objects and impressions. (6, qtd. in Ronnell 124)
In "The Beautifull Cassandra" (1787-1790), we observe the heroine "turning with ravenous hunger to the external world of objects." This, a "novel" of three pages, charts the adventures of the heroine, who having "attained her 16th year, was lovely & amiable & chancing to fall in love with an elegant Bonnet, her mother had just compleated bespoke by the Countess of _____ she placed it on her gentle Head & walked from Mother's shop to make her Fortune" (45). She next "devoured six ices, refused to pay for them, knocked down the Pastry Cook & walked away" (45). She does not just eat her ices, she "devours" them, and, in this sense, Austen's misspelling of "Beautifull" in the title of this short piece is apt insofar as it emphasizes the heroine's desire, here as throughout the Juvenilia, to "fill" herself, as she acts from a sense of deprivation or a sense of vibrant yearnings. When expected to pay after devouring her ices, Cassandra does not cower in the face of her crime, but aggressively spurns any responsibility for acknowledging or agreeing with the contract between selling and purchasing. Her physical strength seems prodigious here, as she "knock[s] down the cook" and then nonchalantly "walk[s] away," rather than running in fear. While she does later flee from a coachman whom she cannot pay, she asserts herself with equal fearlessness when she "placed her bonnet on his head & ran away" (46). Though offering some sort of reparation, this act of placing a female hat upon a man's head also blatantly disgenders him, as when Lydia Bennet, a later instantiation of these same energies, dresses up Chamberlayn as a woman in Pride and Prejudice. Cassandra is also "paying" the coachman with stolen goods—turning a purloined commodity into a kind of counterfeit currency, and thereby doubling her crime.
The need to consume and the simultaneous inability to buy lead her to steal, a variant form of consumption. Elaine S. Abelson points out that for female thieves, "shoplifting was a form of consumer behavior" (167). Leslie Camhi similarly observes that "[i]t is an entire social order that the female kleptomaniac calls into question by her actions. It is, perhaps, this very gamble with an entire social identity that compels her, the unconscious need to establish the fraudulence of inherited wealth and social position . . . . Thus the difference between buying and stealing . . . becomes increasingly attenuated . . ." (123 qtd. in Pinch). Cassandra's need for the sensory stimulation of theft/consumption seems almost a birthright to her as she walks "Thro' many a street . . . and met in none the least Adventure till on turning a Corner of Bloomsbury Square, she met Maria. Cassandra started & Maria seemed surprised; they trembled, blushed, turned pale & passed each other in a mutual silence" (46). This last sentence, a parody of sensibility, no doubt, suggests less the presence of guilt at being on the street and enjoying private pleasures that have suddenly become public, but instead the need to imagine and even make an adventure where there is none, to live an adventurous—and in this example, erotic fiction. When she returns from home after seven hours of theft and assault and battery, she is "pressed to her Mother's bosom" and "smile[s] & whisper[s] to herself 'This is a day well spent'" (47). The word spent, here, intimates how her adventures and crimes connote a physical excess that has consumed, yet satisfied her.
Though according to eighteenth-century law, Austen's heroines, Cassandra in particular, generate enough "excitement" to be arrested for several capital crimes, their escape from any sanction for their malefactions is consistent with the historical record of how women were punished, despite the fact that they violate customary gender roles. Cassandra, Eliza, Laura and Sophia and so many more of the heroines of Austen's Juvenilia transgress, in the active sense of that word: they "walk" outside of the boundaries prescribed to them according to their gender, class, and age. In doing so, they enter into what Bryan Reynolds, in Becoming Criminal, calls "transversal territory" insofar as they strive to "transcen[d], fractur[e], or displac[e] the constantly affirmed world of subjective territory" (19). All of the women of the Juvenilia, with the exception of Charlotte, who commits suicide, feel guiltless. When Sophia, from Love and Friendship is caught stealing a banknote, she cries "Wretch . . . how darest thou to accuse me of an Act, of which the bare idea makes me blush?" (96). Her language perhaps deliberately sexualizes the crime. Because Cassandra's actions in part seem unintelligible, her own and the other heroines' sense of self-righteousness sounds sociopathic, if not anarchical; however, insofar as they escape punishment, Austen is presenting a historically accurate view of the criminal justice system, since, according to Frank McLynn, women
were . . . usually treated more leniently by juries and judges, who were more inclined to reprieve and pardon them when found guilty. On capital charges, they were more likely than men to be acquitted, more likely to be found guilty on a reduced charge, and if convicted more likely to be reprieved. Only 12 per cent of the accused in the home countries in 1782-7 were female. Yet female acquittal and partial verdict rates were nearly 40 percent higher than average and their sentences relatively light, even when allowance is made for the fact that women tended to be accused of less violent crimes and less serious property offences. . . . . [W]omen charged with homicide were likely to be accused of murder. But apart from murder, women convicted of capital crimes had a better chance than men did of escaping the gallows. Out of 467 offenders executed in London and Middlesex in 1771-83 only seventeen were women. In the years 1660-1800, 80 percent of female offenders in property crimes in Surrey were reprieved. (128)
In Love and Friendship, Sophia, for example, though caught in the act of stealing a banknote from her cousin, is simply kicked out of the house, though he knows this is the fifth time she has stolen from him; in contrast, her husband, Augustus, is imprisoned at Newgate for having purloined money from his father. McLynn goes on to explain, however, that women were treated leniently only if they followed the "unspoken rules of gender and sex roles"; if they instead acted "'mannishly,' aggressively, or without due deference" (129), they tended to be convicted and treated more harshly.
From the point of view of eighteenth-century criminal history, both "Cassandra" and one of Austen's most notorious and thrilling fragments, about the serial killer Anna Parker, who finds love and wealth by the end of her one-epistle story, appear to manipulate those gender conventions in radical ways by being both "mannish" and yielding. In "A Letter from a Young Lady, whose feelings being too Strong for her Judgement led her into the commission of Errors which her Heart disapproved," Miss Parker occupies two subject positions simultaneously: in one, she follows the rules of gender by expressing guilt and, in the other, she transgresses those by planning further crimes:
Many have been the cares & vicissitudes of my past life, my beloved Ellinor [sic], & the only consolation I feel for their bitterness is that on a close examination of my conduct, I am convinced that I have strictly deserved them. I murdered my father at a very early period of my Life, I have since murdered my Mother, and I am . . . going to murder my Sister . . . . But now I am going to reform. (175)It is unclear why she has murdered her family, but by helping "Colonel Martin of the Horse guards" swindle his elder brother out of his fortune with her false testimony, she wins a marriage proposal (175). Given the delicious anarchy of this story, it may seem as if Anna emerges triumphant from her crimes because she acquiesces to gender conventions: she scrutinizes her "conduct" (a conspicuous word here since it implies demeanor and not character), accepts her guilt, and now promises to change. More likely, however, is the probability that she is juggling those conventions by pretending to feel remorse only now that she is fully successful. Further, whether she complies with or finesses the system, her letter also reveals the inefficacy of the kind of verbal whippings the conduct books and moral miscellanies mete out, since her awareness of her felonies does not guarantee her reform and her crimes do not lead to punishment. In the story about Cassandra, however, Austen's social history is unequivocally radical, for when this heroine steals a bonnet, she transgresses gender expectations in multiple ways, charting her own course through London, and blissfully exerting her power without a moment's remorse. To steal a bonnet is both to embrace a gender role (taking the metonymic sign of femininity) and transcend it, since it is acquired by anti-social means. Because she vanquishes such devitalizing influences single-handedly, however, this heroine's "day well spent" exposes how cultural rules—which strive to contract women's freedom and blunt their expressive capacity—fail.
Shoplifting and sexual expression function in "Cassandra" and Love and Friendship as substitutes for each other and as ways to compensate for other losses of liberty and self-expression that the stories hint at. Elaine Abelson records how many women thieves "described the overwhelming temptation, the 'physical inability to resist' the magnetism and lure of the displays [. . .]. Although this routine explanation quickly became a cliché, it fulfilled social expectations. Women were expected to succumb to temptation" (168). What is interesting about the Juvenilia, however, is that although these women fulfill a cliché—they "succumb to temptation," Austen gives their longings a context and naturalizes them as thoroughly as if they were stealing because they were starving.
In several cases, however, the heroines are stealing, ironically, that which does belong to them, or rather to their family, but which cultural attitudes toward women and property deny them. By normalizing theft, Austen can examine a social organism in which women must "steal" their rightful inheritance. This helps explain why Eliza, in the seven-page "Henry and Eliza: A Novel," "the delight of all who knew her," "educat[ed] . . . with care and cost," taught "a Love of Virtue and a Hatred of Vice," "steal[s] a banknote of £50" from her parents, and why, once caught in the act, this "beloved" and "adored" child would be "turned out of doors" (34). It may seem impossible to attribute rational or at least psychological motivations in a story where a child of three months offers "sprightly answers," hungry children "bit[e] off two of [their mother's] fingers," and a woman raises an army to "entirely demolis[h] the Dutchess's [sic] Newgate" (33, 37, 39). Yet we discover later all kinds of reasons and motivations which, while presented in phantasmagoric contexts, are not without significance. Sir George and Lady Harcourt, allegedly the adoptive parents of Eliza, whom they discover as a three-month old in a haycock, are in fact her biological parents, a fact the mother later admits to her husband:
"dreading your just resentment at her not proving the Boy you wished, I took her to a Haycock & laid her down. A few weeks afterwards, you returned, & fortunately for me, made no enquiries on the subject. Satisfied within myself of the wellfare (sic) of my Child, I soon forgot I had one, insomuch that when, we shortly after found her in the very Haycock, I had placed her, I had no more idea of her being my own, than you had . . . ." (39)
As readers have noted, this passage reveals feminist savvy since the preference for boy babies and a mother's fear of disappointing her husband explains a mother's "forgetting" that she gave birth and abandoned her child, and her later "remembering" enacts the psychic economy of a woman functioning in a patriarchal society.
Stealing from her parents, purloining her benefactress's future son-in-law for her own husband, and then raising an army against that woman and demolishing her private prison all speak to Eliza's hunger to secure her rightful inheritance in a world that literally denies women their due under primogeniture. Although Sir George "freely forgive[s] the robbery [Eliza] was guilty of" when he finds she is his "real Child" (39, 38), the laws concerning women's ownership of private property make it seem unlikely that she would inherit whether she were adopted or "real." A woman's triumph in a corrupt society signals the conclusion of this story: selfishness, narcissism, libido, indulgence, and betrayal all enable Eliza to live and to thrive. "Henry and Eliza" suggests these are also positive terms for individualism, self-love, liberty, and social consciousness. Eliza's expression of female power, a power that she will not deny or repress, springs forth vibrantly. Exiled by her parents, she expresses her self-love in a sensuous, voluptuous way by sitting beneath a tree, "happy in the conscious knowledge of her own Excellence." She composes a little song she sings to herself for "some hours": "Though misfortunes my footsteps may ever attend / I hope I shall never have need of a Freind [sic] / as an innocent Heart I will ever preserve / and will never from Virtue's dear boundaries swerve" (34).
Her little mantra here, wherein she expresses hope that she can survive without losing her "Virtue" to a "Friend"—a man, we presume—further fuses the nexus between stealing and sexuality, an eighteenth century ideology arising from the premise that there was a link between erotic expression and the acquisition of wealth. And in fact, Eliza does "swerve" from "Virtue's dear boundaries." Her ability to have such "pleasing reflections" about herself as well as her "enchanting" appearance stimulate the Duchess to express her spontaneous love for Eliza: she "no sooner beheld our Heroine than throwing her arms around her neck, she declared herself so much pleased with her, that she was resolved they never more should part"; Lady Harriet, like her mother, is "so pleased with [Eliza's] appearance that she besought her, to consider her as her Sister"; Mr. Cecil, Harriet's fiancé wants immediately to marry the heroine and since the Duchess's chaplain was also "very much in love with Eliza" the private union was "easy to be effected" (35). As Margaret Doody and Douglas Murray point out, however, this is not a legal union, but merely a pro-forma ritual to justify an illegitimate sexuality: "Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act (1753) required either the publication of banns or a special license from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Here the duchess's chaplain is guilty of a felony; he is liable to fourteen years' transportation" (Doody, Murray 298-299). Impoverished in the world after her husband's death and hoping to "receive some Charitable Gratuity," Eliza positions herself such that the Postilion has "an opportunity of admiring the beauty of the prospect"—the beauty, apparently, being Eliza herself standing out in the roadway.
Eliza's theft from her parents, the presence of other aristocrats in the novel, and her revolutionary energy suggest Austen is linking the heroine's crimes to seditious activities at home and abroad. Although we cannot know whether this was written after 1789, it is possible that when Eliza "raised an Army, with which she entirely demolished the Dutchess's Newgate," Austen refers to the French peasants who demolish their own "Newgate," better known as the Bastille. Claudia Johnson argues that this text "was written before any actual unrest in England as a result of the events in France"; however, "Henry and Eliza" could certainly be placed in the context of another "delivery," that of London's Newgate during the Gordon Riots of 1780, wherein hundreds of prisoners were set free, most of them committed for crimes against property. Both of these "liberations" did what Eliza does: "gained the Blessings of thousands & the Applause of [their] own heart[s]" ("Henry and Eliza" 69). The pairing of her thievery and her destruction of the Duchess's Newgate resembles those riots, wherein, as Peter Linebaugh explains in The London Hanged, the rioters who freed "hundreds of prisoners on a single night" were not "the misguided actions of an ignorant, drunken mob, . . but on the whole, journeymen or wage earners, [whose] . . . targets were chosen less because of their religious affiliation than because of their wealth" (333-4). Thus, while the Duchess's private Newgate can stand in for the actual Newgate, it could also refer to the other occurrences that week in 1780, to wit, the "liberating" of other private homes owned by aristocrats, as well as other jails, magistrates' houses, and crimping and spunging houses (Linebaugh 336). From this point of view, Eliza's thefts from her parents, who "punis[h] the idleness of [their haymakers] by a cudgel," function as an apt fictional representation of crimes against the aristocracy during the Gordon Riots.
In Love and Friendship, taking back manifests itself as sheer Dionysian excess. There, the heroines' energy, so refreshing, though irritating, in comparison to the proper characters, as well as that strong undertext of social critique prevalent throughout the Juvenilia, reveal a celebration of liberation and gratification, even though it is satirized and even though it suggests some kind of loss at the core of its anarchy. The characters' complete insensitivity toward others offers an obvious parody on sensibility. There seems to be no room for reading the text in any other way, so tight is the caustic attack on Laura's bizarre inversion of events in order to see them as "reflect[ing] Honour on [her] Feelings and Refinement" (104). Yet, Laura and Sophia are not such monsters that one cannot sympathize with them, and, despite their absurdity, the rules they defy often need to be broken. The novel begins with loss and the story records the need to "fill" up constantly so as to experience instantaneous and sensuous satisfaction. As Laura and Sophia bolt through England and Scotland, marrying lovers they just met, losing them just as fast, as they rush through their money and that which belongs to others, as they steal to meet their needs, as they eschew any reasonable, sensible plans or interpretations for the "high" of instantaneous symbiosis, as they rush to meld with nature's beauties, their libidos turn, as Cassandra's did, "with ravenous hunger to the external world of objects" (Rickels 6). Raving incoherently in the face of her husband's death, Laura cries out, "Look at that Grove of Firs—I see a Leg of Mutton—They told me Edward was not Dead; but they deceived me—they took him for a Cucumber—" (100). Obviously hilarious, and equally obviously a parody of King Lear's speech on the moor, it is important to note that Laura focuses specifically on objects of consumption, an interesting irony, as Susan Fraiman points out, since the women and their husbands "will not admit the need for any currency but love" (76). She sees a literal object—a grove of firs and inside that sees perhaps a sheep—which becomes in her state of fragmentation, a fragment itself—just the leg of the animal and the animal after death and processed for consumption. "They," however, take Edward as a Cucumber—slang for tailor? Or a phallic symbol or pure vegetative life, again, ready to be eaten? In this moment, worthy of a surrealist painting, the object's transformative power takes on a life of its own so excessive that it mystifies and yet remains tangentially referential.
Their rhapsodic feats of liberation, which leave their over-wrought brains "tremblingly alive" (78), center mostly on gratifying sexual desire and the heroines' frantic search for consanguinity. In contrast to "Jack and Alice," where Alice's situation preys upon her, Laura and Sophia strive to triumph, albeit manically, over what they lose or fear losing. Laura's ancestry and childhood all set off triggers for sexual excess—"my father was a native of Ireland and an inhabitant of Wales; my mother was the natural daughter of a Scotch peer by an Italian opera-girl—I was born in Spain and received my education at a convent in France" (77). Her family history of illegitimacy and her genealogical associations with Italy, Spain, and France would have been for the British multiple signifiers for erotic hypertrophy and exuberant corruption. And Laura fulfills these stereotypes: when a stranger arrives at her door and almost immediately cries out to her, "Oh! When will you reward me with Yourself?" Laura replies, "[t]his instant," and in a frankly questionable legal arrangement that allows wholly for instant sexual gratification, they "were immediately united by my Father, who tho' he had never taken orders had been bred to the Church" (82). She allies herself with Sophia in a homosocial friendship which is deeply erotically inflected: upon meeting for the first time, the two girls instantly "flew into each others arms & after having exchanged vows of mutual Friendship for the rest of our Lives, instantly unfolded to each other the most inward Secrets of our Hearts—" (85). Their search for stimulation leads them to fantasize sexually about others and, in one instance, to concoct a passionate love affair between Janetta and Captain M'Kenzie that leads to the couple's doomed marriage. Insatiably longing for physical and emotional arousal, they are wounded if a stranger does not instantly greet them with affection. When Lindsay's father and family respond to them with "Coldness and Forbidding Reserve"; Laura is shocked that his sister does not open "her arms . . . to receive me to her Heart, tho' my own were extended to press her to mine" (82).
The main characters' longings exceed the heteronormative trajectory, so common to this period, that begins with romance and ends in marriage. In a scene that intimates same sex love, Edward and Augustus "fl[y] into each other's arms" and exchange deep avowals of love: "My Life! My Soul!" (exclaimed the former) "My Adorable Angel!" (replied the latter) (86). These passionate embraces cause the women to faint, perhaps suggesting that evidence of love between their husbands arouses them or perhaps because it is easier dealt with by repressing it in a swoon; the men's homosocial (and perhaps homoerotic) preference for each other over their wives is certainly fulfilled when Edward chooses to abandon Laura to accompany Augustus to jail and the two are not found until they die together after a carriage accident. Discussing this novel, Susan Fraiman argues that Austen, "particularly defiant of heterosexual last rites," has the inseparable "male cousins Philander and Gustavus crown their theatrical collaboration by removing 'to Covent Garden, where they still Exhibit under the assumed names of Lewis and Quick'" (78; Austen, 109). Thus, despite the emphasis in medical manuals of the Romantic period on subsuming sexuality under the call for reproduction, even if that call did justify sexual pleasure, Love and Friendship offers multiple instances of emotional and physical fulfillment outside those confines. Roy Porter explains that "as part of the movement toward heightened sensibility, sex itself was being elevated, sublimated into the ideal realm of the mental pleasures" ("Barely Touching" 75). However, for Laura and Sophia the somatic and the mental pleasures merge, whether they are imagining M'Kenzie panting for Janetta or experiencing the sensation and pleasure they receive from "press[ing]" their hearts against each other. In "Medicalizing the Romantic Libido," Richard Sha argues that
The general shift from a seventeenth-century vascular understanding of the body to an eighteenth-century sense of the body as a complex network of the organs of sensation, the nerves, solidifies the links between individuality and sensations—sexual and aesthetic. It is this solidifying connection between sexual desire and identity fostered by the medical literature of the period that concerns me here: as Habermas helps us to see, having an appropriate relation to pleasure and sexual pleasure makes humanity—one's right to participate in the public sphere—intelligible. (2)Significantly, Laura and Sophie (as well as Cassandra and Anna Parker) function outside this "appropriate relation to pleasure," but also appear to act as if their longings, generated by their "organs of sensation," do solidify their sense of identity.
Against the girls' manic desire to fill up, to intoxicate themselves with love and with symbiotic attachments, the story posits a series of losses. The epigraph reads "deceived in Friendship & Betrayed in Love"; the first two letters from Laura to her old friend, Isabel, and Isabel's daughter, Marianne, tell of Laura's loss of her youth, beauty, charms, and accomplishments. Also "altered now!" is her former sensibility which was "too tremblingly alive to every affliction of my Freinds [sic] "—but one she doubts was a fault (78). Whatever resists their attempts to fill up, whatever threatens to reject them and turn them inward toward contemplation, they themselves triumph over by ignoring or punishing. For example, when she is reproached by Isabel, Laura "paid little attention to what she said, & desired her to satisfy my Curiosity by informing me how she came there, instead of wounding my spotless reputation with unjustifiable Reproaches" (104). Although Sophia and Laura "faint alternately on a sofa," readers familiar with this text know that the exhortation that persists after reading "Love and Friendship" is not so much a solemn homily—that is, sensibility can be used to justify selfish behavior (which it does in fact prove)—but the radiant moral that one should "beware of swoons. . . . A frenzy fit is not one quarter so pernicious; it is an exercise to the Body & if not too violent, is I dare say conducive to Health in its consequences—Run mad as often as you chuse; but do not faint—" (102).
There are several ways to understand what all the indirect sex in the Juvenilia signifies. Austen clearly is not Aphra Behn or Delarivier Manley, who "wrote popular novels that combined political scandal with graphic sexuality," as Bradford Mudge points out in The Whore's Story (136). However, such material as Austen includes has significance for those studying Austen and the history of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century sexuality. First of all, most readers agree that the Juvenilia's raw erotic energy punctures the mythic representation that Austen's writings sprung from the head of late eighteenth-century culture in a form that was utterly refined, the very template of decorous propriety and deportment. What connection we should draw between these earlier works and her mature novels has been a debated topic. In my opinion, the stories are not anomalies of her youth and expressions of a vernal freedom later wholly censored. Instead what we find in the Juvenilia points toward what we should also pay attention to later: the critical and historical significance of the erotic content in her polished and urbane works. Thus, when Austen begins writing for publication, the joyful abandon we find in the Juvenilia does not "die," nor is it entirely repressed, and neither is the critical acumen she demonstrates in these early stories, where she satirizes the hypocritical rules some conduct books disseminate about sexuality. In other words, these "wild" characters are not so wild that they cannot be stand-ins for "normal" women who read advice manuals that pathologize desires or feelings these female readers know to be legitimate.
Second, historians of sexuality might find instructive the authority Austen gives to the power of the sexual imagination in these stories and to her fictional characters' implementation of that imaginative energy: on the one hand, her heroines demonstrate how young women can and did revolt against an "official line" that sent out contradictory expectations for female identity. While censorship did intensify during Austen's lifetime—in 1787, William Wilberforce founded the "Proclamation for the Encouragement of Piety and Virtue, and for the preventing and punishing of Vice, Profaness, and Immorality" (Peakman 41)—readers today do not have to assume that cultural restraints exerted a completely successful hegemonic control over female desire. As Leslie A. Adelson argues, "History without bodies is unimaginable. How odd then that the grand abstraction of history would seem to obliterate the very concrete stuff of which it is made" (1). Austen takes a different direction from most conduct literature as she protests against the demonizing of women's erotic desires. And though she acknowledges that social rules can control women physically, and they can of course be internalized as self-imposed rebukes in acts of self-censorship, ultimately she clears a space for at least the imagination to spring forth in protest. Vivien Jones points out that the aim of conduct books was to teach women "how [they] might create themselves as objects of male desire, but in terms which . . . contain[ed] that desire within the publicly sanctioned form of marriage" (qtd. in Ellis 28). The problem Austen isolates is what happens when women transform themselves into "objects of male desire" but lack the opportunity to marry: where does the energy go? Or, alternatively, what happens when women vigorously pursue their pleasures—an activity conventionally thought of as "male"?
But the historian of sexuality could also note that Austen is not just reacting against certain theories, but also endorsing other discourses, at least as mainstream as the repressive hypotheses. The Juvenilia includes, for example, a variation on "Enlightenment attitudes toward sexuality": as Roy Porter puts it, that "nature had made men to follow pleasure, that sex was pleasurable, and that it was natural to follow one's amorous urges" (Facts of Life 19). The notion that sex kept (married) women healthy, the sexual lexicon in botany and science (including theories of electricity), the erotica of picturesque description—all of these gesture toward a sexual climate that women could enjoy and that in part encouraged erotic fantasy. Is it surprising then that indirect sex would show up in writings by women about women? Finally, Austen dramatizes for us that these heroines' manic acts arise from loss: that transgression in these stories is not just anarchy, but a reaction to culture's attempts to entomb their potential for physical delight. As Carole Pateman argues, "the social contract is a story of freedom; the sexual contract is a story of subjection" (2). The heroines in Austen's Juvenilia could be said to be trying to live according to a social rather than a sexual contract.
Physical intoxication both reveals and befuddles. So does a generic style that is hilariously silly and blatantly serious. Austen offers various ways of critiquing, mourning, and triumphing over cultural rituals and rules that inter women. She allows us to revel with her characters as they satisfy their Bacchanalian desires with food and drink and erotic delights. The undercurrent of these saturnalias is a melancholy deprivation of freedom and possibilities in tiny worlds such as "Pammydiddle" that cheat women out of their potential. To fend off such larceny, these heroines choose to stimulate and or to stupefy themselves—with food, with drink, with sex—to express a joy and frustration they cannot suppress. Austen uses Dionysian indulgences to provide an outlet for their energies, as a way to avoid internalizing violence, and also as a way to suggest that these manic revelries speak to an inner loss that, in turn, arises from social pressures and constraints. A short novel, like Catharine, is typical, as it embodies those codes in gruesome form, yet also reveals how obviously women's sexuality is both "up for sale" and firmly taboo—stolen from them and replayed back in perverse form: it is their worst power and their only power, so much so that one wonders how an unmarried or unattractive woman in her culture is ever fed. Though their intoxication reveals the wounds culture inflicts, and their inebriation and eroticism illuminates a manic and ravenous turn away from those fractures, still, in drinking, eating, sensualizing, and stealing, these young women achieve a brief and exhilarating victory as they steal their bodies back.
II. Men who Steal Women's Sexuality
"Do, do, do what you will, do what you will with Chloe"
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Aristotle's Compleat Master-Piece, in Three Parts, Displaying the Secrets of Nature in the Generation of Man. 31st ed. London, 1776.
Austen, Jane. Austen, Jane. The Novels of Jane Austen. 1923. Ed. R.W. Chapman. 3rd ed. VI vols. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1988.
Bonhote, Mrs. The Parental Monitor. London, 1796.
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Cassan, Sarah. "On Mrs. Sandiford, ---- of Barbadoes." Poems. London: G. Sidney, Northumberland Street, Strand, 1806.
Chaber, Lois A. "Transgressive Youth: Lady Mary, Jane Austen, and the Juvenilia Press." Eighteenth-Century Fiction 8.1 (October 1995): 81-88.
Defoe, Daniel. Conjugal Lewdness; or, Matrimonial Whoredom. A Treatise concerning the Use and Abuse of the Marriage Bed. 1727. Gainesville, Florida: Scholars' Facimiles and Reprints, 1967.
De Quincey, Thomas. Confessions of an English Opium Eater. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975.
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D'Urfrey, Thomas, ed. Wit and Mirth: Or Pills to Purge Melancholy. Six Volumes. Facsimile reproduction of the 1876 reprint of the original edition of 1719-1720. New York: Folklore Library Publishers, 1959.
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Ephelia. "Love's First Approach." Female Poems On Several Occasions. 2nd ed. London, 1682.
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Fielding, Henry. The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling. Introd. and commentary by Martin C. Battestin. Ed. Fredson Bowers. Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan UP, 1975.
Fraiman, Susan. "Peevish Accents in the Juvenilia: A Feminist Key to Pride and Prejudice." Approaches to Teaching Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Ed. Marcia McClintock Folsom. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1993.
Grey, J. David, ed. Jane Austen's Beginnings: The Juvenilia and Lady Susan. Ann Arbor and London: UMI Research Press, 1989.
Grose, Francis. A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. London, 1785.
---. A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. 2nd ed. London, 1788.
Halperin, John. "Unengaged Laughter: Jane Austen's Juvenilia." Jane Austen's Beginnings: The Juvenilia and Lady Susan. Ed. J. David Grey. Ann Arbor and London: UMI Research Press, 1989. 29-44.
Heydt-Stevenson, Jillian. Jane Austen's Unbecoming Conjunctions: Subversive Laughter, Embodied History. New York: Palgrave Press, forthcoming, 2005.
Johnson, Claudia. "'The Kingdom at Sixes and Sevens': Politics and the Juvenilia." Jane Austen's Beginnings: The Juvenilia and Lady Susan. Ed. J. David Grey. Ann Arbor and London: UMI Research Press, 1989.
Jones, Vivien. "The Seductions of Conduct: Pleasure and Conduct Literature." Pleasure in the Eighteenth Century. Eds. Roy Porter and Marie Mulvey Roberts. New York: New York UP, 1996.
Lane, Maggie. Jane Austen and Food. London and Rio Grande: The Hambledon Press, 1995.
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Longus. Daphnis and Chloe. Paul Turner, Trans. Baltimore and London: Penguin Books, 1968.
Martin, Ellen E. "The Madness of Jane Austen: Metonymic Style and Literature's Resistance to Interpretation." Jane Austen's Beginnings: The Juvenilia and Lady Susan. Ed. J. David Grey. Ann Arbor and London: UMI Research Press, 1989.
Mennell, Stephen. All Manners of Food: Eating and Taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the Present. 2nd edition. Urbana and Chicago: U of Illinois P, 1996.
McLynn, Frank. Crime and Punishment in Eighteenth-Century England. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
McMaster, Juliet. "Energy versus Sympathy." A Companion to Jane Austen Studies. Ed. Laura Cooner Lambdin and Robert Thomas Lambdin. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000.
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Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley. "Town Eclogues: Wednesday; The Tête-à-Tête." Six Town Eclogues. With some other Poems. London: M. Cooper, 1747.
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Partridge, Eric. Shakespeare's Bawdy: A Literary and Psychological Essay and a Comprehensive Glossary. 1947. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1968.
---. A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, 7th ed. New York: Macmillan, 1970.
Pateman, Carole. The Sexual Contract. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1988.
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Porter, Roy and Leslie Hall. The Facts of Life: The Creation of Sexual Knowledge in Britain, 1650-1950. New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1995.
Porter, Roy and Mikuláš Teich, eds. Sexual Knowledge, Sexual Science: The History of Attitudes to Sexuality. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994.
Porter, Roy. "'The Secrets of Generation Display'd': Aristotle's Master-piece in Eighteenth-Century England. "'Tis Nature's Fault": Unauthorized Sexuality during the Enlightenment. Ed. Robert Purks Maccubbin. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987.
---. "Barely Touching: A Social Perspective on Mind and Body." The Languages of Psyche: Mind and Body in Enlightenment Thought. Ed. G. S. Rousseau. Clark Library Lectures 1985-86. Berkeley, Los Angeles, Oxford: U of California P, 1990.
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---."Medicalizing the Romantic Libido: Sexual Pleasure, Luxury, and the Public Sphere." Romanticism on the Net 31 (August 2003). 1-28. <<a href="http://www.erudit.org/revue/ron/2003/v/n31/008690ar.html" target="_blank">http://www.erudit.org/revue/ron/2003/v/n31/008690ar.html>
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Strachey, C., ed. The Letters of the Earl of Chesterfield to his Son. 3rd ed. 2 vols. London: Methuen, 1932.
Swift, Jonathan. "Strephon and Chloe." The Complete Poems. Ed. Pat Rogers. London and New York: Penguin, 1983.
Thompson, James. The Seasons. Ed. James Sambrook. Oxford: Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1981.
Trussler, John. The Honours of the Table for the Use of Young People. London, 1787.
Wright, George. "Henrietta: or, the Penitent Daughter" and "On True Happiness, An Epistle Written to a Young Lady in the Country." The Lady's Miscellany; or Pleasing Essays, Poems, Stories and Examples for the Instruction and Entertainment of the Female Sex in General, in every Station of Life. London, 1793.
* I want to offer many thanks to Richard Sha, Anna Brickhouse, Alex Dick, and Mary Favret for their inspiring suggestions as I was writing this essay.
1The quotation in the title is from The Letters of the Earl of Chesterfield to his Son (Vol. 2, 133, qtd. in Porter and Hall's The Facts of Life 19).
2 Approaches to the literary significance of the Juvenilia and of the relationship between Austen's Juvenilia and her later works vary. My argument contrasts to those below insofar as I see a closer link between the published and the unpublished writings than most critics and I interpret them as more politically charged—indeed, as significantly so—than most other readers. For example, Lord David Cecil called them "squibs and skits of the light literature of the day" (qtd. in Doody xxiii); Doody argues that Austen had to control her exuberance in her later texts: "She could not laugh so loudly in the later works. She could not be wild as she had been in the notebook Volumes. She had to become genteel, and act like a lady" (xxxviii). Sometimes they are read as insights into Austen's life: biographer Jon Spence argues that the Juvenilia provide a rich source of knowledge about Austen's young life, especially because "there is no conventional source of personal information about her [. . .] between the ages of eleven and twenty" (ix-x). Often critics read them as a precursor, a key, to the published works: "The juvenilia are precocious and sometimes amusing but they are by no means brilliant. . . . They are chiefly interesting in illuminating . . . Austen's first struggles to find a literary voice of her own" (Halperin 30). The Juvenilia Press focuses on the "concept of 'play,'" which "allows one both to avoid the implied teleology of apprenticeship and to approach juvenilia on their own terms" (Robertson 293). My own point of view is closest to that of Claudia Johnson's, especially insofar as she argues that "Austen treats conventions not as sterile devices, but as structures of human possibilities which evolve from specific social and political situations [. . .]" (52). Johnson does not discuss the role of crime in the Juvenilia in the same detail as I do.
3Brian Southam argues that in "Lesley Castle," "singly the letters are quite successful, but as a whole the work lacks unity" (32).
4Margaret A. Doody has written persuasively on the importance of the Juvenilia as texts in themselves and not as the works of an apprentice: "Jane Austen was not a child as a writer when she wrote these early pieces. She possessed a sophistication rarely matched in viewing and using her own medium [. . . ]" (xxxv). Juliet McMaster explores how in juvenilia in general the presence of "sexual knowingness in a child, especially a girl" is usually met with "resistance": "[w]riting and doing it are seen as perilously close, although the same assumption would not apply in the case of subjects less loaded" ("Virginal Representations" 304-5, 302).
5Margaret Drabble finds in them "another Jane Austen, a fiercer, wilder, more outspoken, more ruthless writer, with a dark vision of human motivation [. . .] and a breathless, almost manic energy" (xiv).
6Juliet McMaster sums it up: "[t]hese females are frankly in pursuit of good male bodies and, by implication, good sex. The long tendency of sentimental fiction to etherealize the heroine can hardly survive against this gust of earthy comedy" ("Energy"178).
7As Doody and Douglas Murray point out in their edition of the Juvenilia, the Prince Regent's affairs were well known, including his liaison with Mary Robinson and, in 1785, his well-known, though invalidated marriage to Maria Fitzherbert (295-6).
8For illegal marriages, see "Henry and Eliza," "Love and Friendship," "Sir William Mountague," and "Letter the second From a Young lady crossed in Love to her friend" from "A Collection of Letters." For "natural" children, see "Love and Friendship" as well as the children conceived by characters in "Henry and Eliza," and "Letter the second From a Young lady crossed in Love to her friend."
9Wit and Mirth: or Pills to Purge Melancholy (six volumes) identifies this as ‘"A Song' in the Comedy call'd the Biter, Set by Mr. John Eccles, and Sung by Mr. Cook" (345).
10In Wit and Mirth, at least sixteen songs alone have either Chloe or Strephon in their title, and these songs are, on the whole, erotic in nature. Here are two examples: in "A Song," Chloe "Kiss'd him up before his Dying, / Kiss'd him up, and eas'd his pain" (I, 329); in "Young Strephon and Phillis," Strephon "clasp'd her so fast: / ‘Till playing and jumbling, / At last they fell tumbling; / [. . . .]'Till furious Love sallying, / At last he fell dallying, / And down, down he got him, But oh! oh how sweet, and how soft at the Bottom" (VI, 221). Wit and Mirth, a facsimile reproduction of the 1876 reprint of the original edition of 1719-1720, clearly remained popular for over 150 years. It would be impossible to determine exactly what songs Austen knew, though she had to have been familiar with a lot of popular music. In The Innocent Diversion: A Study of Music in the Life and Writings of Jane Austen, Patrick Piggot admits as much: "it would be idle to pretend that many of the songs and piano pieces which Jane Austen copied with such care and labour into her books are of a good musical standard. [. . .] ‘Taste' is not very evident in her choice of music, too many of the items in her collection being no more than superficially pretty and sometimes worse than that [. . .]" (153).
11Whether or not people took coins from each other often depended on how worn the coin appeared. I am very grateful to Alex Dick for his expertise in this point and in the analysis of pawning an undirected letter that follows.
12Many thanks to Mary Favret for her valuable insights into this passage.
13For further discussion of the associations between this arbor (bower) and disease, see my book, Unbecoming Conjunctions.
14It is funny, then, in a sly, joking sort of way, that Mr. Elton is described as "spruce, black, and smiling" the night Emma finds him "actually making violent love to her" (129). The repetition is significant. According to the OED, when applied to costume, it suggests "a lively air, fashionable dress;" (Chesterfield, 1792), but it also carried connotations of an artificer, as in "Your spruce appearance is a perfect forgery" (Young 1755 Centaur ii. Wks. 1757 IV. 148) The OED cites a chronological range of sources using the word in this way: Ben Jonson refers to " A Neat, spruce, affecting Courtier (1599); Burney to "He'll make himself so spruce, he says, we sha'n't know him (1796 Camilla IV. 163).
15Though Abelson is writing about thefts occurring around 100 years later than Austen, the women she describes sound in many cases like those in the Juvenilia. See When ladies go a-thieving: Middle-Class Shoplifters in the Victorian Department Store.
16Reynolds does not discuss the Juvenilia.
17This was a commonplace reaction, Bleson argues, among later nineteenth-century offenders: once apprehended, "contrary to all logic and to the evidence, more than one woman rejected any conscious motive and adamantly defended herself with the assertion, ‘I am an honest and respectable woman.' This level of denial was pervasive. [. . .] Aware of the normative distinctions between stealing and not stealing, these women were seemingly incapable of sensing emotionally that their shoplifting was wrong. They told themselves they were innocent, and, however fragile their defenses, they did not think of themselves as thieves" (167-8).
18They are in another way, of course, punished for their selfishness (Sophia, Augustus, and Edward all die and Laura ends up alone). As Patricia Meyer Spacks argues, "[t]he most frequently recurrent plot-generating characteristic of persons in the juvenile fiction is relentless self-interest: what we might call narcissism" (127).
19The story's plot alludes to that of Tom Jones, another orphan who is abandoned by his mother, and who is then "found" and "adopted" into her family only to be later thrown out of the house because of supposed criminal activity. Tom, like Eliza, is of course recognized and rejoins his proper family in the end.
20Dating certain pieces from the Juvenilia can only be approximate. "Henry and Eliza" is found in Volume I, which Chapman and Southam date from 1787-1790, though as Southam points out, this text was dedicated to Miss Cooper, who married on December 11, 1792 (15). Since Austen most likely wouldn't denominate her childhood friend by her maiden name after her marriage, "Henry and Eliza" could have been written up until the wedding date, though it is not clear whether it was written before or after the fall of the Bastille.
21Linebaugh explains that trial records show that 80 of the 117 prisoners freed from Newgate had committed crimes "against property" (336).
22Ellen E. Martin, though arguing that the Juvenilia both "cr[ies] out for interpretation, and resist[s] it thoroughly," nevertheless offers the interesting reading that in Laura's reference to the "indigestible leg of mutton, [she] obtrusively substitut[es] it for the leg of the wrecked hero"; this is "interpretable only by a desperate appeal to the heroine's conflation of culinary and sexual appetites" (84). I do not agree that such an interpretation is a desperate move or that the texts are resistant to interpretation.
23Lewis and Quick were noted actors: William Thomas Lewis—who was in such plays as Inchbald's Everyone Has His Fault and Cowley's Bold Stroke for a Husband—was at Covent Garden for 35 seasons and was the acting manager of Covent Garden between 1782-1893. He was known for parts in comedy of manners and farce. John Quick—who was in the same two plays listed above, started at the Haymarket and moved to Covent Garden; one of the best loved and highest paid actors in the CG Company, he was known for his comedy acting, creating more than 70 original roles. As far as I know there is no evidence that either Lewis or Quick were homosexual; of course, no actor could be labeled a sodomite in a visible way since it was a capital offense—thus, the playwright, Bickerstaffe, fled the country when he was accused of this "crime." I gather from Fraiman's essay that she is capitalizing on the men's close relationship (they live, travel, and work together) and the fact that even if they are not lovers, they have formed a relationship that is nontraditional by eighteenth-century standards, insofar as it is not defined by marriage. Thanks to Jeffrey N. Cox for his expertise in this matter.
24Though the point of coition in Aristotle's Masterpiece is reproduction, this popular medical manual ignored eighteenth-century gender prejudices, and in it "women enjoy parity in sexual desire, and female desire is not viewed as grotesque or psychopathological [. . .]" (Porter, "Secrets" 14-15).
25Roy Porter goes on to state that the Romantics rejected "Enlightenment sensuality as gross and materialistic" for the "idealization of love, and particularly of woman" (Facts of Life 32). Although sensibilities do shift throughout the nineteenth century, I believe that Porter's statements here are too sweeping and inclusive.