Cecilia Read-Along Book IV: Blackguards and revelations

Fair travelers, journey to the master post if thou art lost.

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Over on Twitter, the fantasy casting continues. After determining that most of us are too old to know of any actresses young enough to play Cecilia, I reached out to one of our younger readers-along (early 30s! If you’re younger, please weigh in) who is pushing hard for Juno Temple, but I’m all about Saoirse Ronan. Both potential Cecilias have something to say to young Delvile (I’m not a fan right now):

Juno Temple

Juno Temple



Book III ended with everyone hiding the truth, so of course, some truth comes out in Book IV. Read on for the revelations, and more than a few blackguards.

Book IV

We open with a short update on Mr. Belfield. I’m tired of Mr. Belfield. But this is all probably going to be important later. Anyway, Mr. B is sad because he’s not rich anymore, and both Cecilia and Morty want to help get him a job. I think Mr. Belfield needs some tough love.



Cecilia and Morty discover that they’re both trying to help Mr. Belfield and they’re like “OMG samesies” and apparently this is enough to base a relationship on. This is kind of cute though:

Her heart made no resistance, for the attack was too gentle and too gradual to alarm her vigilance, and therefore, though always sensible of the pleasure she received from his society, it was not till she returned to Portman-square, after having lived under the same roof with him for a fortnight, that she was conscious her happiness was no longer in her own power.

But here comes Mr. Monckton with the buzz kill: he warns Cecilia that the Delviles are broke too (does anyone have any money, other than Cecilia?) and they’re likely scheming to marry Morty off to her to access her fortune, after the disposal of which, she’ll be discarded.

When old Mr Delvile demands an audience with Cecilia the next day, and starts prying into her engagement status, she fears Monckton was right- but Mr. Delvile isn’t interested in her availability for Morty, rather, he wants to know why on earth she turned down the proposal of some Earl we’ve never heard of. Cecilia has a pretty good excuse: he never proposed to her. Apparently, the Earl’s father proposed via Mr. Harrel, who of course turned him down, as he’s hellbent on marrying Cecilia off to Sir Robert. All this drama and she’s not said two words to most of these dudes.

Cecilia’s got bigger fish to fry anyway. She heads home to the Harrels and is accosted by a distraught Mr. H who, through machinations that were truly painful to read, cons Cecilia out for nearly eight thousand pounds – which my handy-dandy historical money converter tells me is 1.2 million pounds today, or over two million Canadian dollars. We learn the seriousness of “taking an oath” and how truly desperate the Harrels are, not just short of cash but actually and totally insolvent. As much as Mr. Monckton’s intentions are shady, I was desperate for him to bust in! Or Briggs! Even a Delvile! How badly did Cecilia’s uncle fuck this guardianship up?

When the Harrels insist on attending a party that night – the same night that Mr. Harrel threatened suicide, took a huge portion of his ward’s fortune, and had baliffs in the house – Cecilia knows she fucked up too. And good. They are never going to change, and she could give them every penny she has and they’d spend it all on crap.

In case she doesn’t feel bad enough, Mr. Monckton lectures her about how stupid it was to give them money. I feel sick for Cecilia: she’s 20 years old and thrown in with a bunch of degenerates (or dissapaters, as she would say) and Mr. Monckton is lecturing her? Why don’t you actually do something, ya dummy?

Cecilia to Mr. Mockton

Cecilia to Mr. Mockton

Before we get to Monckton, we do get another delightful interlude with Mr. Gosport, who, to be fair, now expounds on the idiocy of the menfolk in fashionable London. We are introduced to the INSENSIBLISTS, as represented by Mr. Meadows, and the JARGONISTS, represented by Captain Aresby. They both kind of sound like modern hipsters to me.

Then we’re back to people fucking around with Cecilia… Sir Robert contrives to make it look like he and Cecilia are have an, ahem, private moment just as Morty walks in. The nerve!


But this incident pushes Cecilia into declaring, once and for all, that she rejects Sir Robert’s proposal, in front of Morty and Mr. Delvile Sr, and you’d think that’d be the end of it (you’d be wrong, dear reader, but that’s for later…)

As Book IV closes, we’re all getting ready for the Harrell’s big “we’re still rich, really!” party. Cecilia decides that if Morty doesn’t show up, they are never, ever, ever, getting back together. Like, ever.

Modern Life in the 18th century

Trolls: Mr. Albany doesn’t need a social media platform to troll the various men and misses of the ton. He just walks down the street, making comments.

“O, I assure you,” said Miss Larolles, “he attacks one sometimes in a manner you’ve no idea. One day he came up to me all of a sudden, and asked me what good I thought I did by dressing so much? Only conceive how shocking!”.

Manspreading: Men feeling entitled to take up as much space as possible – timeless.

The gentleman opposite to them proved to be Mr Meadows: Morrice, therefore, was much deceived in his expectations, for, far from giving up his place, he had flung himself all along upon the form in such a lounging posture, while he rested one arm upon the table, that, not contented with merely keeping his own seat, he filled up a space meant for three.

A truncated recap today, folks. Who’s keeping up? Who do you want to throttle more, Morty or Mr. H?


  1. Melanie Kerr

    Mr. Meadows cracks me up actually. But my fave character hasn’t hit the scene yet. At least I don’t think she has in book 4. I’m ploughing through books, so I can’t remember exactly when things happened. I hate Mr Harrell and his wife and everybody. Even Cecilia annoys me. And I am CERTAIN he was not permitted to borrow money from his ears without the court’d permission. Honestly, why doesn’t she have a lawyer! I’m sticking with Ben Whishaw for young Delvile. Are we building up to a complete cast list in the final post? I think Mr Albany should have the air of a gentleman fallen on hard times. He has to be intense but compelling in order to believe Cecilia would follow him. That’s why I suggested Charles Dance. Plus, I just want to cast Charles Dance in everything because I so swoon over the sound of his voice. “Mr. Tulkinghorn!” I’m having difficulty casting Mr. Monckton. I want him to be broad-shouldered and have a beard, but I think I’d settle for Michael Sheen. He can seem both creepy and innocent, lovely and horrid. Everybody’s a creep in this story. I’m pretty sure our Frances was a bit of a misanthrope and then some!

  2. Netta Johnson

    So many things! Burney really excelled at making you cringe for the poor heroine. She put them in so many awkward situations and then arranged the plot so that it seemed like the only place they could have been. I agree, Melanie, about her misanthropy. She was such a quiet person, I bet this was all her pent-up thoughts and feelings from being in so many situations and feeling unable to act or speak, as a woman. When I first read it, I was in agony at all the Mr. Harrell nonsense.

    Laura, I love the connection between Meadows and manspreading. So great.

    I can’t believe y’all don’t adore Delvile? So confusing! I can’t wait till next week. The summer is passing so slowly. 😉

  3. Caitlin Higgins

    After reading this, I think I missed a lot of context in book IV! I wonder if at some point they will ever explain why her uncle would ever trust these people with her inheritance! Maybe he didn’t know. My favourite part of this book was Sir Robert’s game playing. I know these people are supposed to be adults, but I do I keep comparing them to teenagers? I don’t blame Celcilia one bit for trying to run and hide. Mr. Monkton reminds me of a soap opera Character. This book would make an awesome premise for a soap opera.

    I am very proud of myself for not only sticking to this read along, but I am keeping up!

    • Netta Johnson

      Yeah, I was thinking this too, but I think somewhere Frances says that her uncle thought that Mr. Harrell would just make her comfortable living with her friend, Mr. Briggs would safeguard her money and Mr. Delvile would take care of her social connections. How wrong he was… 😉

  4. Melanie Kerr (@MelanieKerrAuth)

    I do adore Delvile! I wouldn’t cast Ben Whishaw if I didn’t. I think he shines the most brightly in his opening scenes, at the masquerade. At this point, I definitely hate Mr. Harrell the most, though Robert Floyer is a close second! what a creep. Has anyone else noticed that words are not capitalized after exclamation marks in this book? I also quite despise Mrs. Belfield, and Mr. Delvile Sr. In fact, I’m not sure there is anyone I actually like, except the ridiculous characters, who amuse me with their stubborn commitment to folly. Otherwise, it’s just Cecilia herself, and maybe Henrietta. And even Cecilia is a bit annoying sometimes. She never should have lent that money to Harrell! Also, there is a LOT of comma-splicing going on in this book. I am surprised and intrigued by this. I will have to go back and read Austen closely to see if this changed between 1780 and 1812. I will have to get an original edition, though, for this kind of research.

  5. marypat45

    Can anyone tell how much time has passed from the beginning to Book V? I’m wondering how close Cecelia is to being responsible for her own money. And when she is, how much interference will she yet have to endure from the men who are supposed to be guarding her interests?

    • lauratfrey

      I *think* at the beginning of the book, she is 8 months away from turning 21 and being responsible for her own money, though I don’t know how these things worked in the 18th c. I feel like not a ton of time has passed, like, maybe a few weeks? She acts like she’s got years and years to wait. Sometimes I’m like, girl, just lock yourself in your room for the next 6 months!

  6. Pingback: Cecilia Read-Along: Summer Reading for People Who Don’t Like “Summer Reading” | Reading in Bed

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