By Elsie B. Michie
It is a well-recognized tale line in nineteenth-century English novels: a hero needs to make a choice from cash and love, among the rich, materialistic, status-conscious girl who might improve his social place and the poorer, altruistic, independent-minded girl whom he loves. Elsie B. Michie explains what this universal marriage plot finds approximately altering reactions to funds in British culture.
It was once within the novel that writers came across area to articulate the anxieties surrounding funds that constructed besides the increase of capitalism in nineteenth-century England. Michie focuses specifically at the personality of the rich heiress and the way she, not like her male counterpart, represents the tensions in British society among the will for wealth and development and the phobia that financial improvement could blur the conventional limitations of social classes.
Michie explores how novelists of the interval captured with specific vividness England’s ambivalent emotional responses to its personal monetary successes and engaged questions similar to these raised by means of political economists and ethical philosophers. each one bankruptcy reads a novelist along a modern philosopher, tracing the advance of capitalism in Britain: Jane Austen and Adam Smith and the increase of business society, Frances Trollope and Thomas Robert Malthus and industrialism, Anthony Trollope and Walter Bagehot and the political impression of cash, Margaret Oliphant and John Stuart Mill and professionalism and managerial capitalism, and Henry James and Georg Simmel and the shift of monetary dominance from England to America.
Even the nice romantic novels of the 19th century can't disentangle themselves from the vulgar query of cash. Michie’s clean interpreting of the wedding plot, and the alternative among girls at its center, exhibits it to be as a lot approximately politics and economics because it is ready own choice.
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Extra resources for The Vulgar Question of Money: Heiresses, Materialism, and the Novel of Manners from Jane Austen to Henry James
Miss Annesley, Georgiana Darcy’s paid companion, is described as “a genteel, agreeablelooking woman, whose endeavour to introduce some kind of discourse, proved her to be more truly well bred than either [Miss Bingley or Mrs. Hurst]” (173). The interior of Darcy’s house is so impressive because “it was neither gaudy nor uselessly fine; with less of splendor, and more real elegance, than the furniture of Rosings” (159). ” (159) could be read as alluding to the engrossed rich women who play such a key role in the novel.
Yet the cultivation depicted in novels of manners makes them crucial texts for defining what constitutes culture at any given moment in time. which is made up of half-uttered or unuttered or unutterable expressions of value” (206). The fictional rich woman is a particularly useful resource for accessing “the whole evanescent context in which [a novel’s] explicit statements are made” (Trilling 206). While the marriage plot allows the novel to make a clear statement about where its values lie, the rich woman evokes the economic context those values are intended to counter.
In charting the ways in which Emma Woodhouse’s happy self-involvement leads to what she finally comes to perceive as an injury to all three women, the novel represents the self-interest triggered by wealth as embedded at a deeper and more psychological level than is true of the rich women in Austen’s previous novels. at the expence of other people, the natural preference which every man has for his own happiness above that of other people” Social Distinction in Jane Austen 33 (Theory of Moral Sentiments 82).
The Vulgar Question of Money: Heiresses, Materialism, and the Novel of Manners from Jane Austen to Henry James by Elsie B. Michie