Mystery Men

June 19, 2011 at 9:39 pm (books, entertainment, travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

So, to get back to the book I’ve been reading: Priviledge and Scandal, by Janet Gleeson tells the life story of Harriet Spencer, later Countess Bessborough. I remember when the book first came out (2006 in the US), and one reviewer was quite negative, calling it a rehash of Amanda Foreman’s biography of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire mainly because (since they were sisters) it covered much of the same territory. Poor Harriet; and poor Janet Gleeson. It is a very decent read; evidently quite what I am in the mood for, at present.

It helps that the time period is well in the period in which the Smiths (in general) lived and which I am writing about — the more I read, the more some small puzzle piece sometimes clicks into place.

Anyway, I was struck, reading about Granville Leveson Gower (Harriet’s lover, by whom she had two children) and also of his friendship with Henry Richard Vassell Fox, 3rd Lord Holland (nephew of Charles James Fox). Curious, I do wonder how much Jane Austen might have come across concerning either man, for their early friendship, as Gleeson tells of it, so reminds me of Darcy-Bingley.

I mentioned this in my earlier post, a little teaser. Read that one to get an idea of why I immediately thought “DARCY” when first encountering this description of how people sometimes thought him haughty.

And it’s also the description of his new-formed “Grand Tour” friendship with Holland that struck me. Read this description: “Holland had not until now numbered Granville among his close friends — Granville’s hauteur was alien to Holland’s outgoing ebullience. But being onboard ship for three months had smoothed Granville’s affectations and perhaps too make Holland less choosy about the company he kept. ‘I think Leveson much improved both in intellect manner etc., and has lost that reserve which however laudable and prudent always prevents my liking a man much — I fancy my reason for not liking in this instance … must originate from self love and that I cannot much esteem …’.”

So Leveson Gower got better upon acquaintance! Just like Darcy.

Now how much, and what type of information, Jane Austen might have heard about the man — men, if I include Lord Holland, which in his amiability rather reminded me of Mr Bingley, I perhaps can never say. A bit of a coincidence? Or, did some little news tidbit or  gossip once plant the seed for this seemingly unusual friendship between two “opposites”? Inspiration does come out of the blue sometimes…, and takes on consequences of its own, far outshining the original thought.

updated 6/26/11: Am reminded: From the mouth of Jane Austen, when asked if she had portrayed an individual: “she expressed a very great dread of what she called an ‘invasion of social proprieties.’ She said she thought it fair to note peculiarities, weaknesses and even special phrases but it was her desire to create not to reproduce ….” (See Deirdre le Faye Jane Austen : A Family Record p233)


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