Mary Brunton: Discipline

Miss Ellen Percy is spoiled rotten and takes for granted her family.  With the early moralistic stirrings of pre-Victoriania*  Mary Brunton sets her heroine down a brutal series of trials and tribulations that remind me a little of the bleakness of Nathaniel Hawthorne mixed with a tamer vanilla Story of O.  There is a touch of the gothic, but almost in a farcial way–but with a much meaner touch than Austen’s Northanger Abbey.  The strong Methodist threads that reflect a personal spiritual journey can be embraced as an interesting look into the minds of religious movement within history. 

There are stark allusions to Job and the lessons of suffering after so much good fortune taken for granted. 

Jane herself was aware of Mary Brunton’s books, and found little to recommend them for the same reasons that many modern readers will turn away disappointed.  Discipline is long and takes itself very seriously.  There is little comic relief from the second half of the book.

But generally, I think it is well written and interesting.  I definitely had moments where I felt I was slogging through a depressing morass of vice and virtue.

But I also think it gives a fresh context to Austen’s writing.  That in and of itself makes this a worthwhile book to read.

See previous post for a link to a free e copy.

*Some mistake her for a Victorian writer because of her moralism.  But as she died in 1818, her success in the Victorian era would have been posthumous.  Her perspective was entirely formed in the Georgian and Regency eras.

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