by: Molly Ostrow, Katherine Herriman, Grant Patch, Sarah Janes, Eliza Larson, and Eliza Appleton.
Interchangeable texts: When we approached this assignment we were interested, foremost, in the ways that these texts were revisionists texts of previous ideologies of the epistolary woman trope.
The Woman of Colour:
“Dido is as much out of sorts as her mistress; she does not like the idea of the tonish (or rather townish) Abigail, and the monkey footman, who treated her with so much sang froid, at Clifton and in London. ‘But here,’ she says, ‘thanks to my good lady, – Dido be Missee below stairs, and treated by all as if me was as good as another, for all me be poor negro wench!’ Ah, my good Dido, perhaps both your ‘good lady,’ and yourself, may find the difference of entertaining, and being entertained! Yet Dido is determined that nothing shall be wanting on her part, towards receiving our guest stylishly; and she has been in a prodigious bustle ever since I made her acquainted with the contents of my letter.” (Anonymous, 127).
“I believe I held out my hand, and that lady was very near taking it in hers; but I fancy its colour disgusted her, for she recoiled a few paces with a blended curtesy and shrug, and simpering threw herself on a sofa. My uncle seemed to have no prejudices; and held me to his breast, and pressed his lips on my cheek; he then led his son to me, but again my eyes sought the carpet, though I was conscious of the trembling hand which held mine, he stammered out some words of pleasure and happiness. Honeywood was then introduced by his mother; the languid drawl of the fine lady, Mrs. Merton, detained him in conversation. Mr. Merton paid me the utmost attention, and, in part, relieved me from my embarrassment. I looked up, and for the first time saw Augustus Merton: – he seemed to have been examining me with scrutinizing attention. – Alas! I fear it was but a melancholy contemplation in a double sense; for I thought I distinguished a suppressed sigh, as he hastily addressed himself to Honeywood!” (Anonymous, 72).
1). How does Olivia come to understand her own race? How does her physical appearance and her interactions with others inform this characterization?
2). How does the bundling of letters revise and change the effect of the epistolary style? In comparison, how does the more conversational letter writing between Mary and her mother effect the The Victim of Prejudice?
3). How does the ending of The Woman of Colour revise or complicate the marriage plot of the novels we have seen previously this semester?
Victim of Prejudice:
“‘What is called, in your sex, honour and character, can, I fear, never be restored to you; nor will any asseverations or future watchfulness (to adopt the cant of policy and superstition) obliterate the stain. Who will credit the tale you mean to tell? What testimony or witnesses can you produce that will not make against you? Where are your resources to sustain the vexations and delay of a suit of law, which you wildly threaten? Who would support you against my wealth and influence? How would your delicacy shrink from the idea of becoming, in open court, the sport of ribaldry, the theme of obscene jesters?’ – I shuddered, groaned, and put my hand to my forehead: my brain seemed on fire. – ‘Simple girl! How impotent, then, is your rage! how weak your menaces! yet how charming your simplicity! – Be pacified! Be wise! Accept my honest contrition and the affluence I offer; regin unconrolled mistress of my fortune as of my heart.'” (Hays, 119).
“I arose with the dawn, and busied myself in preparations for my departure, repelling, with solicitude, every recollection that might enfeeble my spirits or unnerve my resolution. I repeated to myself incessantly, ‘Has not my kind patron just and irresistible claims upon the mind, which with unremitting assiduity, he has laboured to form? Dare I disappoint his hopes and disgrace his precepts in the moment of trial, the moment which decides the success of his cares? Have I not, in the whole of his past conduct, at once considerate, wise, and good, a foundation for my trust? Does he sternly call upon me to submit to authority? Is it to his own passions he requires the sacrifice of mine?Does he assume the vindictive tone of an infallible judge, from whose decisions there remains no appeal? Does he, with stoic pride, insult the sensibilities for which nature has incapacitated his heart, or which time and experience have combined to chill? Does he mock the feelings, does he contemn the weakness, which his firmer mind repels? Ah no! it is not the austere parent, the tutor, the patron, who, presuming on his claims, derides the tenderness and the ardour of youth; no, it is the friend, gentle, candid, benignant, contemning every privilege, disdaining all subterfuge, using no deception, who, while constrained to wound the heart through which he has been wont to diffuse gladness, weeps in tender sympathy; who, while he confesses reserve, and laments its necessity, appeals to the rectitude of his past conduct, appeals to the kindness to which every action, every expression, every feature, bear irresistible testimony. Nor shall he appeal in vain: a confidence thus generous I dare not betray. Far be from my heart, then, these weak and womanish regrets: to a determined spirit, to suffer is not difficult; but the vice of ingratitude shall never taint my soul.” (Hays, 40-41).
1). How is Victim of Prejudice a revisionist text of Pamela, Clarissa, and Anti-Pamela?
2). What are your thoughts on an author named Mary [Hays] writing about a character named Mary who has a mother named Mary? How does it affect your reading of the text and/or the author’s intimacy of the text?
3). With all of the rhetorical questions in the second passage, and the eloquence with which Mary speaks, how do her questions reflect her educated nature? What is the effect of the rhetorical question?
4). Looking at the passages from both The Woman of Colour and The Victim of Prejudice, what affects do devices such as rhetorical questions and italics do to the reading of the texts?