Fair travelers, journey to the master post if thou art lost.
Predictions about Cecilia’s suitors are running rampant in last week’s post, but this week, it’s all about money. Cecilia seems to the be only person with enough of it, but until she turns 21, she must rely on her guardians to access it – and none of them are making that easy. I am uneasy about her money being in the hands of these three peculiar, and in at least one case, horrid men. That usually doesn’t turn out well. Just ask RiRi:
A few readers are off the wagon, while a few are just climbing on. I’m reading ahead in Book V and believe me, you wanna stick around. Book III is short but can be confusing, so let’s break it down with gifs o’ plenty:
Cecilia’s money troubles start when the vile Harrells hit her up for a couple hundred pounds, which seems hella inappropriate, given she is their ward. Cecilia visits Mr. Briggs, to get an advance on her allowance, and he won’t give her a penny. She asks her other guardian, Mr. Delvile to intercede, but that’s like, so beneath him. (And if fellow read-alongers are right, he probably doesn’t have the cash anyway.) Cecilia must return to the Harrells empty handed.
The Harrells are not dissuaded, and suddenly “remember” that she can just borrow the money from “a Jew” which seems sketchier than a Pay Day Loan. She borrows what the Harrells need plus an extra 200 pounds for her own purposes, which Mr. Harrel promptly borrows as well! He is shameless! When Cecilia suddenly needs her money back, to help the hapless Hill family, Mr. Harrell avoids her and generally behaves abominably.
Cecilia manages to cobble together enough to get newly-widowed Mrs. Hill and daughters set up in a profession, but just barely. Exasperated, Cecilia has a heart-to-heart with Mrs Harrell, suggesting she take drastic measures to reduce their debt. Mrs Harrell’s response sheds some light on their predicament:
“I must own I don’t take it very kind of you to say such frightful things to me; I am sure we only live like the rest of the world, and I don’t see why a man of Mr Harrel’s fortune should live any worse. As to his having now and then a little debt or two, it is nothing but what every body else has. You only think it so odd, because you a’n’t used to it…”
Mr. Monckton warns Cecilia to beware further shenanigans. His advice would be almost be admirable, if his chief concern weren’t how much money Cecilia will have left when he’s free to pursue her himself. Meanwhile, young Mr. Delvile has been acting very odd, alternately avoiding Cecilia and making cryptic guesses as to her engagement status.
Halfway through the Book we switch focus to Mr. Belfield. Last we heard, Mr. B was feeling better after being shot be Sir Robert in a dispute over who would hand Cecilia into her carriage (really) and was going to hang out in the country for a while. Actually, his injury is worse, and now that he’s not a fashionable man of the “ton” doing Don Quixote impressions, his friends have abandoned him. We find out that he was never one of them to begin with – his father was in trade, and his mom decided early on to try and make a gentleman of him. Now he’s sick, broke, and living in a run-down walk-up flat.
This switch in focus was the most abrupt of the book so far. Cecilia is just walking down the street when she runs into Mr. Albany (the man-hater, or as I think of him, shit-disturber) who insists she follow him into an apartment. Mr. Albany introduces Cecilia to Miss Belfield, but not by name, and Cecilia thinks it’s just a new charity case until she discovered that Mr. Belfield is lying sick in the next room.
While trying to find a doctor to treat Mr. Belfield, Cecilia discovers that he has another mysterious benefactor: young Mr. Delvile. Rather than bringing them closer together, Morty deduces that Cecilia must be in love with Mr. Belfield rather than Sir Robert – indeed, no one is willing to believe she could be indifferent to both.
Mean while, the Harrells are preparing to go to their summer home for a holiday (from…what?) and Cecilia and Sir Robert are to be in the party. Sir Robert continues to act as if he and Cecilia are already engaged, commenting on her activities in a very presumptuous way:
Sir Robert Floyer, turning to her with a look of surprise, said, “If you have such freaks as these, Miss Beverley, I must begin to enquire a little more into your proceedings.”
Repulsed by him, and by what her going will signal to the world at large (Cecilia and Sir Robert, sitting in a tree…) Cecilia takes Mr. Monckton’s advice and refuses to go. He probably didn’t intend for Cecilia to worm her way into the Delviles house of the two weeks though.
Cecilia has a lovely stay with the Delviles, but is confused once again when they do not take her broad hint and invite her to live there permanently; she is even more confused by young Mr. Delvile’s continued hints at her imagined engagement, first to Mr. Belfield, now to Sir Robert.
The masquerade may be over, but no one is what they seem in Book III. The Harrels and the Belfields are trying to hide their financial status from the world, while Mr. Delvile is hiding his feelings from Cecilia. Cecilia’s heart is much speculated upon, but no one besides Mr. Monckton has an inking. Cecilia struggles to make sense of it all – as do we, at times, fair readers!
“I know not in what unaccountable obscurity,” cried Cecilia, “I, or my affairs, may be involved, but I perceive that the cloud which I had hoped was dissipated, is thicker and more impenetrable than ever.”
Modern Life in the 18th century
YOLO: It’s tough to live in the moment.
Few are the days of felicity unmixed which we acknowledge while we experience, though many are those we deplore, when by sorrow taught their value, and by misfortune, their loss.
#IntrovertProblems: Mrs. Delvile has them.
Yet I am no enemy to solitude; on the contrary, company is commonly burthensome to me; I find few who have any power to give me entertainment, and even of those few, the chief part have in their manners, situation, or characters, an unfortunate something, that generally renders a near connection with them inconvenient or disagreeable. There are, indeed, so many drawbacks to regard and intimacy, from pride, from propriety, and various other collateral causes, that rarely as we meet with people of brilliant parts, there is almost ever some objection to our desire of meeting them again.
- How, and why, is Mr. Albany up in everyone’s business?
- How do Cecilia’s other guardians not guess what’s up with the Harrells? They believe that she owes 600 pounds to “book sellers” (Google tells me 600 pounds in 1780 is the equivilent of about $120K CAD today)?
- Why don’t we see or hear from Mr. Belfield himself?
Cecilia’s Squad: updated
New stuff from Book III in bold:
- Our Heroine: Cecilia Beverley: 20, orphan, heiress
- Her guardians:
- Mr. Briggs, a business man who will provide “vigilant observance” of Cecilia’s fortune and often provides comic relief
- Mr. Delvile, “a man of high birth and character” who will make sure Cecilia “should in nothing be injured”
- Mr. Harrell, husband of childhood friend, chosen simply so Cecilia can live with said friend. In debt to Cecilia.
- Her suitors:
- Mortimer Delvile, the white domino, and potentially our leading man. Can a 21st century reader deal with a romantic lead named “Mortimer”?
- Mr. Monckton: married to a 76-year-old crabby pants, he’s real annoyed when, just a few years after marrying this old lady for money, a 17-year-old heiress moved in next door. Timing is everything!
- Mr. Arnott: brother of childhood friend Mrs. Harrell, lays it on pretty thick, likes that Cecilia “isn’t like the other girls,” gag me…
- Sir Robert Floyer: Fashionable, friend of Mr. Harrell, super creep (WHAT is with the staring??) presumed fiance of Cecilia
- Mr. Belfield, 18th century slacker: “too volatile for serious study, and too gay for laborious application” now financially ruined and lost a duel to boot
- Captain Aresby, likes to throw French phrases around, not annoying at all
- Her friends
- Miss Belfield, sister of Mr. Belfield
- Mrs. Delvile, wife of her guardian and mother of her potential love interest, Cecilia loves her while everyone else hates… what’s up with that?
- Mrs. Harrell: A childhood friend who moved to the big city some years ago. Moving to frenemy status soon!
- Mr. Morrice: Her friend whether she wants him or not. This guy cracks me up.
- Mrs. Hill, a poor woman who I thought would con Cecilia, but ends up exposing the truth about the Harrels. Widowed. Working in a hat shop thanks to Cecilia.
- Her frenemies
- Miss Larolle: “flirting, communicative, restless, and familiar” she is the 18th century equivalent of a basic bitch.
- Miss Leeson: “silent, scornful, languid, and affected,” definitely afflicted with resting bitch face.
- Mrs. Belfield, “coarse and ordinary” mother of Mr. Belfield
- Mr. Meadows, who has “something like a conversation” with Cecilia at a party (he’s not very bright)
- Mrs. Mears, “whose character was of that common sort which renders delineation superfluous”
- Mr. Albany, aka “The Man-Hater” which sounds like it should be my new favourite feminist blog – he shows up all over the place, saying the things no one else dares.