British Identities, Heroic Nationalisms, and the Gothic Novel, 1764-1824

By Toni Wein | Go to book overview
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1
Bearing Repetition

Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.

(Marcus Tullius Cicero)

In 1793, a group of Americans toured the estate of the quondam Englishman and financier of the American Revolution, Robert Morris. This group was a family, the Constables. What brought them there, who they were, what their connections, national affiliations, or means of acquaintance with so prominent a member of society: on all these topics, history has little to say. Nor do we know the purpose of their visit with any certainty, or the conversation that passed among them as they promenaded the grounds. We can, however, imagine their surroundings. Cookham forms the northwest parish of Windsor; the Castle is but one of many historical structures decorating the landscape, and the topography itself undulates with numerous other graces: chalk hills ring the town, while the Thames cuts through the valley, watering heath, parklands, and Windsor Forest, with Eton visible across the river. Perhaps memory can serve if imagination fails: Austen gives us Elizabeth perambulating Pembroke with Darcy, or Catherine Morland being shepherded around Northanger by Henry; Pope epically bodies forth the landscape's lushness, its productive nurture of England's greatness, furnishing both human leaders and creature comforts. And perhaps both of these aims lent motive to the Constables' visit beyond the usual curiosity of tourists, just as the Bennetts and the Morlands, less consciously, designed. For the Constables had a daughter, and that daughter seems to have made an impression upon the mind, if not the heart, of Morris's son, at least insofar as one of Ann Radcliffe's novels can testify. On the end-leaf of volume I of her The

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