Cecilia Read-Along Book V: Mr. [Spoiler redacted]-he dead

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

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This past week, two readers-along have finished the bookand at least one has run into a roadblock (or lack thereof – see Read the North’s thought provoking post). I know that most of you are trucking along, like me, but between work, travel, and being an unfit person at a fitness conference, I’m phoning it in on this update. Please, talk amongst yourselves, or read on for my super short recap.



Book V

Basically, Mr. Harrel makes good on this threat to off himself, and, being Mr. Harrel, does it in such a way as to cause the maximum trouble and heartbreak for his wife and friends. It really was shocking. I didn’t see it coming at all.

We had some comic relief in the awful, would-be matchmaking of Mrs. Belfield, and the wig-flipping antics of Mr. Briggs. Morty continues with the hot and cold routine. And as usual, our girl Cecilia is subject to rumours, proposals, and scheming for her hand.

We meet Lady Honoria, who is a force in the next book. A would-be (or will-be?) rivalry with Miss Belfield is introduced, but seems to go nowhere.

An important bit at the end: Mr. Monckton kindly pays the massive debt Cecilia took on for the Harrels. I am seriously displeased that Cecilia is now indebted to slimy Mr. Monckton. I expect he intends to collect in more ways that one.


Till next week!



    • Kristine

      I think it’s “verklempt”. And I agree. Lady Honoria is the most interesting character so far! She is so terrible but so amusing. I really needed that fresh air.

      • Melanie Kerr (@MelanieKerrAuth)

        Verklempt makes sense. I think you are right. Oh, Honoria just gets better and better as the book goes on. I know exactly what you mean about the fresh air! I clung to every scene she was in. She just came to life on the page, and I laughed out loud sometimes. I totally admire her conviction, ridiculous as it is. And Mr. Meadows is much in the same category for me. The skill required to be so completely laconic and unimpressed is actually pretty impressive, to get out of or around any sort of obligation…. I kind of love him. I kind of get how he was so fashionable in his stupidity (old sense of the word).

  1. Netta Johnson

    The main unspoken ‘obstacle’ was how the rules of 18th century english culture were oriented towards women. Cecilia was grown and wealthy, but she could not control her life. She couldn’t even effectively refuse suitors. Frances was not independent in her own life until she married around 40 (as ironic as it sounds, marrying a kind man was her only real route to ‘freedom’). As a critic of her contemporary society (though she was a creature of it herself), she created a book where the main character is seeking independence, and finds the wealth she inherited a hinderance to her doing so. Although Cecilia has three official guardians/protectors, (and some family friends), she cannot exert her own will in almost any matter. She is secretly sold in marriage, socially beset, emotionally blackmailed, and manipulated on all sides. If she wants to do something, she must go to a man she knows (but not any man, or in any way, since it would hurt her reputation to visit single men) and try to get him to act as her agent in some way or another, and almost always, instead of helping her, the man she turns to tries to use the position to take advantage of her. Only Mr. Arnott and young Delvile seem interested in helping her, and there are obviously issues there as well. Cecilia’s time is not her own, unless she wants to be ostracized for not returning an unwanted social visit within the prescribed period of three days (which was something Frances hated in real life). And ostracism was intense in those days. A woman who went down in the class system because her peers disapproved of her was at serious risk of, well, all sorts of things. One of the other lights FB wished to shine was related to tradespeople in the 18th century, who had little or no legal recourse for unpaid debts, unless they eventually pooled resources because the debtor owed so much that his class status could no longer protect him. Also, public suicide? So shocking for the 18th century. And gambling? Idleness of the rich? Although FB certainly wrote to amuse and instruct, her novel’s were very political and loved by many famous contemporary politicians (Edmund Burke loved it, while also observing that some of the plot lines were convoluted. 😉
    As to FB’s enduring popularity as an author, or lack thereof, I think her subsequent novels, ‘Camilla’ and ‘The Wanderer,’ diminished her reputation in later years, and so she ended her career on a lower literary-note, (Sir Walter Scott refers to her in his diary as ‘the celebrated authoress of Evelina and Cecilia,’ though she had two much more recent works. He also calls her ‘Madame D’Arblay’). Not to mention that her lengthy, verbose style doesn’t translate as well as Austen’s timeless brevity (‘Camilla’ seems to have been Austen’s fav, though, as she quoted it frequently in letters to Cassandra). Political novels hi-lighting societal problems no longer in effect (mostly) are also more of a challenge nowadays.
    I see obstacles. Maybe the problem is there are too many? Or that FB seems to be working too hard to place them in Cecilia’s way? So much to say here. I will stop. 😉

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

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