Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tender & Liberal Spirit

If I am vain of anything, it is of my eloquence. Consideration & Esteem as surely follow command of Language, as Admiration waits on Beauty. And here I have opportunity enough for the exercise of my Talent, as the cheif of my time is spent in Conversation. Reginald is never easy unless we are by ourselves, & when the weather is tolerable, we pace the shrubbery for hours together. I like him on the whole very well; he is clever & has a good deal to say, but he is sometimes impertinent & troublesome. There is a sort of ridiculous delicacy about him which requires the fullest explanation of whatever he may have heard to my disadvantage, & is never satisfied till he thinks he has ascertained the beginning & end of everything.

This is one sort of Love, but I confess it does not particularly recommend itself to me. I infinitely prefer the tender & liberal spirit of Manwaring, which, impressed with the deepest conviction of my merit, is satisfied that whatever I do must be right; & look with a degree of contempt on the inquisitive & doubtful Fancies of that Heart which seems always debating on the reasonableness of its Emotions.

Jane Austen, Lady Susan, Letter 16. It's not surprising, of course, that Lady Susan prefers it to be assumed that whatever she does is right; nor that reasonable restraint of the passions is the chief impediment to being manipulated by someone who tells a good story. I have mentioned before that Lady Susan reminds me of Milton's Satan or Tolkien's Saruman, with their treatment of language as a means of power rather than a service of truth; this is one of the letters in which the parallels become very clear on this point.

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