The importance of disagreement

Trans rights are held back by trans women working against them. I’ve just seen that one of them has written of me, Clare and I disagree on some issues but I suspect we agree on many others. Yes; but right now our disagreement matters more.

The most important issue in the struggle around trans rights now is the involvement of the hard-Right and far-Right. The Heritage Foundation works incessantly against women’s rights, even when it funds feminists. Its desire is a world run in the interests of the rich, where only the rich are free. I have changed my mind about my advice to Julie Bindel– she should shout this from the rooftops. The aim is to set left-wing trans women, and left-wing feminists, against each other so that we consume our energies and do not resist the hard-right.

“Gender-critical” campaigning against trans rights had been a mainly British phenomenon. The persecution in the US was from the hard-Right. Trump pleased his base with a ban on transgender troops. But now there is a “Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights” which entirely bizarrely suggests that the threats to women’s rights are surrogacy and transition.

On the re-affirmation of women’s sex-based rights, including women’s rights to physical and reproductive integrity, and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls that result from the replacement of the category of sex with that of ‘gender identity’, and from ‘surrogate’ motherhood and related practices.

What are the most important feminist issues? Worldwide, literacy and education must come pretty high; in developed countries, the gender pay gap affects most women; FGM; bodily autonomy, and access to family planning matters everywhere; I would argue even the number of women on the boards of the biggest multinational companies is more important to average American women than a few trans women.

The declaration argues, the concept of ‘gender identity’ makes socially constructed stereotypes, which organize and maintain women’s inequality, into essential and innate conditions, thereby undermining women’s sex-based rights. Rubbish. Transition only affects trans folk, not anyone else. I have no interest in other women behaving in a “feminine” way if they do not want to.

There was a launch in New York last Friday. Jean Hatchet may have revealed the funding for that.

I can see that if “femininity” does not fit you, you would feel irked, angry or hurt for someone to doubt you were a proper woman. For centuries women have been attacked as unfeminine, as bluestockings, for being too clever. Yet the heart of “transgender ideology” is the idea of gender identity, the knowledge at the heart of me, before any justification, that I am a woman. Therefore any woman can define her own womanhood. We are not the ones doubting or circumscribing your womanliness. All we do is assert our own. It would not affect women’s rights if even 5% of women were AMAB, but 0.1%?

I agree with them. They are women. Any time they want to talk, or find how we are natural allies, I am open to that. And I disagree. They are being set against their allies by their enemies, and the ridiculous self-justification they use for imagining attacking trans people is left-wing, principled, or against stereotyping of gender is utterly wrong.

And, what do I agree about, with that trans woman? I would like some accommodation with gender-critical feminists. What do I disagree? I condemn her utterly for writing for the Spectator. It is a right-wing rag. Yes, it’s nice to get your name on a well-read website, but not worth. betraying all you should hold dear. They want to criticise the prosecution by the prosecuting authorities of someone for doxxing a trans child, or pretend there is some “free-speech” issue around putting forward a view trumpeted in The Times four times a week, or even argue that trans women are not women. They are your enemy, and the enemies of all feminists. Yet you publish there, undermining everything you might want to achieve as a union activist, or even as a teacher. And these “feminists” undermine feminism by diverting feminist energy against trans women. I am with John Major on this- it’s time to “condemn a little more, and understand a little less”. Debbie Hayton: stop self-harming, and stop betraying feminism.

Sympathy for the anti-trans campaigners

Some of the stories these women tell, of how they changed from being “live and let live” to campaigning against trans rights, really speak to me. Then I feel anger and resentment against individual trans women, not just because they make it harder for the rest of us. The trans woman might tell the story differently, of course; yet I think how dare anyone do anything like that? Or there are things where I understand why trans people are like this, and understand why others might be offended.

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Anti-trans campaigners’ personal experiences

Some anti-trans campaigners become obsessive because of what they read or imagine- they read that the Girl Guides have a policy of including trans girls, and they imagine a trans girl committing sexual assault on a Guide camp. They think “What’s the worst that could happen?” Then their imaginations dream up the most awful things.

I call them campaigners, but the campaigns may just consist of posting horrible stuff about trans women on line, or reading others’ postings. And they may escalate to writing to MPs. It does not mean people will necessarily be hostile IRL, but they are on line.

Some have particular personal experiences which lead them into campaigning against us, and those experiences can be particularly minor and petty.

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Why did you become an anti-trans campaigner?

A thread on a site where anti-trans campaigners go asks them how they started with that campaign. It has over six hundred responses, and the personal stories are fascinating. Why would people invest so much time and energy in trying to evict 0.1% of women from women’s spaces? Why do they spend so much time on line, radicalising each other, nursing their wrath to keep it warm? There is qualitative evidence there, and I hope serious research is done to draw some conclusions from this archive. Meanwhile, here are some quotes and stories.

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Why would you want to see him? Because it seems possible we could have true authentic communication, heart to heart; not deceiving each other, or concealing; without masks.

OK. Why not? Because I am not sure that authentic communication is possible. I think he wants to pastor me. He, the wise, spiritual soul, reaches out to me because he wants to help me see the truth and heal, because he is kind like that. Then all my anger and my contempt for him might just spill out. I might just shout at him, and relationships would have broken down even further.

Right. So- you want to be authentic, but the thing which most terrifies you is that you might be authentic?

Well, when you put it like that-

I didn’t put it like that when I first called the Samaritans this morning. I told the woman that I wanted to pour out at her the rage and contempt I feel, because I do not normally express that. I just don’t, normally. I don’t have anyone I can shout at like that, and often it seems people punch down because they are unable to punch up- get angry with a convenient target rather than the source of their anger. She would not like that.

So she asked a few questions, in an even tone, and I answered, feeling frustrated and perplexed, and then she asked, “Is it because of abuse?”

Oh, God. Is she asking me to justify my anger? So I said yes. Much of my anger comes from childhood abuse. I was completely controlled, not allowed an independent thought. In response to further questioning, I say my father was as much under my mother’s thumb as I was. Did you have any siblings? How was it for them? So I challenged the question and she explains something and then I answer it.

My sister was conforming at home but managed to make an independent life for herself outside it. For example once I went to visit her in Edinburgh when she was training to be a nurse, and she met me at Waverley station and we walked to the pub to meet her flat-mates, also student nurses. When we got to the pub, Olive said, “Oh, Susan, you’ve got your English accent on”, that is, the accent my sister used when at home. I remember that evening she had a fag and told me not to tell our parents. I remember that now, I did not tell it to the Samaritan.

And then I got very upset and said all the time I am telling this story I am thinking you won’t believe me and you will think that story irrelevant proving nothing and I have this voice in my head saying what are you making a fuss about and you’re playacting and there is nothing to fuss about.

I wasn’t hit, often. I asked a woman does your husband hit you and she said “Only occasionally”. I asked a man if he hit his wife and he said “Only when she needs it”. I was hit once or twice but mostly the control was by extremely conditional positive regard.

This is why those men did not testify against Michael Jackson. He climbed inside their heads. There was a little Michael inside their heads telling them what to say, what was the only loving and right thing they had to say.

In the same even tone, she asked, “Are you suicidal?” No I’m not frelling suicidal. I mean I would rather be dead but right at this moment I am not about to kill myself. But I didn’t say that- I just thought it, and was silent for a bit. So she asked whether I had had counselling and I shouted at her for asking these stupid questions. That is, I got to be authentic, and it did me no good at all. To show me that I had not discomposed her, she asked another question in the same supercilious tone. So I told her to fuck off and rang off.

The second Samaritan was even more frustrating. She asked if I would mind telling my name, and I could not answer. I want to relieve feelings of anger and frustration by shouting (not at you, I would say, it’s not personal, please don’t be offended) and my voice will sound male. Should I say Clare, or Stephen? What about Hillary? I am silent, because the question just bamboozles me.

-Call me shapeshifter, I said.
-Oh, it’s too early in the morning for that.

I have authentic love and creativity and a desire to communicate and deep playful joy, and also anger which I can’t admit and others sense. Sometimes they think I will get violent, but I never do- when I am hit I don’t hit back, I just freeze.

So I rang off, rang back, and the third was a genial old buffer. And I thought I will see X but not Y. I can be authentic with X. So I started to email that, then stopped. I could just not see him, but don’t want to be a coward. So I remain undercided, and dissatisfied.

Knowing what you feel

“You self-sabotage, you know,” she said.

-I know.
-If you believe you can, you’ll stop, and if you don’t believe you can, you won’t.

Um. I get overturned in these sessions, and I hope they do me good, but after this one I was fleeing consciousness: put the telly on but also start scrolling facebook or the Guardian opinion pages for second-hand emotion, righteous anger against Brexiters or whoever. After a session of both, at eleven, I feel a brain-fog. I can’t think straight, leave alone discern what I feel. I ought to go to bed. I stay sitting there, then it’s midnight. And there’s the moment when I think shall I watch something else?

What happened, was, she sympathised; and immediately I felt something entirely different.

I called something like this cognitive dissonance, before. I didn’t mean that I held two contradictory views at once; I meant that I could not know what was going on, because the fact that I seemed to perceive something or believe it to be true was not evidence for or against its truth. I had nothing to hold on to, no way of understanding, no trust at all in my abilities, or my self. I would have periodic states of complete disorientation. And this was like that. The effect was to have me not knowing what I felt, listless and febrile at once, unwilling to do anything, and certainly not wanting to meditate. That’s what gets through the fog, but-

the fog could be defensive?

The fog shuts me down! I hate it!

I had thought I felt resigned. I will move forward. I will behave sensibly. And it seemed that what I was feeling was congruent with these rational desires. I was going to write that she only sympathised and I felt entirely different, but it wasn’t even that. I looked back at my transcription-

yes, I transcribe my counselling sessions. It is the only way I can remember them. Otherwise, I remember a distorted image of them. Like just now. All she had said was “Oh!” I saw her face, over Skype. Yes. That is how I could imagine her sympathetic, concerned-

you see what I mean by confusion? It’s not so bad five days later.

And what I felt, in that moment, was- well, this is what I said.

At this moment I am feeling bitterness anger and rage which
no-nono! At this precise moment talking to you I am feeling bitterness anger and rage that
I have not articulated
to myself.

because there is
the person you need to be in society
to show
to show yourself to others and
there is
The ID monster from Forbidden Planet, basically, underneath. hahhhh

I imagine- I can’t admit feelings to myself because- I need to be able to present as the person acceptable in Society. So, because the unacknowledged feelings
because I fear the
unacknowledged feelings
because I fear the unacknowledged feelings I
will make me unacceptable I can’t admit them even to myself. So.
The other thing that I wanted to talk about is what I’ve, what I’ve been doing because I think
this is

so I changed the subject. I do that when uncomfortable.

Anger with the result. So she asked me about the immediate provoking incident. And I said,

My basic feelings at the moment are sadness and confusion because again I don’t know and I can’t tell you. I did something which
is completely justified and anyone who saw it should have realised how badly I have been provoked and with
how much love and creativity I had sought to address an impossible situation
I did something which was the final straw. Well, this is all too difficult and we can’t

Or I did something which would be unacceptable in any context.

Or I did something which
it doesn’t matter what happened what matters is
what people-other people
think about it.

I don’t know.
-You don’t know
Yes. I-I mean that I don’t Know.

And I didn’t know. There is me trying to be objective, and me believing myself wronged. There is the isolated moment or various things leading up to that moment. The shit hits the fan moment was when I was shouting angrily and personally at a woman who is much smaller than I am, who was sitting about ten yards away during meeting for worship.

I also feel sadness, confusion and despair. Then I changed the subject again.

So it was possibly a bad time for that soft, gentle man to phone me, even four days later. He wanted us to meet, and I have this terrible urge to bully him, when he apologises for what he says.

“Bless you, if I’m allowed to say that”, forsooth. Say what you want. Don’t say what you don’t want to say, just because you feel you ought, and don’t say something then start questioning. I mean FFS. (I would be picking on him for doing what I do, of course; I doubt and second-guess, but would not say so in this particular situation.) So I started on about how early Quakers would not, as a matter of Principle- what a lot of Principles they had!- say “Bless you”. And I have been needling him, pointlessly, in my emails since.

One of the theories I have read is that no-one has an “Authentic self”, that we just have different ways of manifesting depending on circumstances.

That was Thursday, and on Monday I was with Lucie. I got out my phone to forward her an email, and listened to her chunter on brightly about how good what was going to happen was, and I talked a bit about The Heart Goes Last, a comedy by Margaret Atwood. One of the characters, her job is to put down undesirables- they are strapped down, she gives them an injection- and it’s played for laughs when she is instructed to put down her husband. So then I kept out my phone, and am checking other apps while Lucie chuntered on, in a complete state of lack of caring, and wondering as I did it. I imagine a teenager with a teacher, and the teacher getting steadily more enraged by the teenager’s lack of affect, but Lucie just chatted on brightly about how good etc etc, and ended the meeting early. I suppose that’s a win.

New Philosopher

A man, hiking, saw a bear, high above him in a field of bushes, and admired her gait and her light gold fur. Then he saw her again, following his path, only a hundred metres away. He realised she wanted to eat him.

I remember a distinct thrill of pleasure… as a matter of perspective. The feeling was tied most closely to relief. Every other thing I’d been worrying about that day, from whether I’d worn enough sunscreen to whether my partner really loved me, fell aside. I had one concern: to get away without being eaten.

It is an amazing thought, close perhaps to the “Rock Bottom” of alcoholics anonymous: the moment when you see everything entirely clearly and all your illusions fall away. We have various wants- to look good to ourselves and others, to achieve some possibility only if it is possible, not to pine for it if not- and they are gone, and mind, body and spirit are united in one purpose. After such an experience, all is changed, changed utterly: a terrible beauty is born.

The bear is shot by a park ranger, and the writer lives to share his insight with the New York Times, and go back to cursing at his phone while travelling in a car- “rolling across the Earth in 4,000 pounds of steel”. I hope he wasn’t driving. Yet something of the experience remains, of being part of the natural world… one cell in the great, breathing locomotion spreading from sunlight to leaves to root stems to bugs to birds to bears. All of us fragile, all of us fleeting, all of us prey.

I am not sure the writing entirely works. Would it instil the sense of wonder if you had not considered it yourself? Being part of creation is a standard spiritual experience, though I can remember the time before I had it. I still curse my smartphone, or gaze at it seeking validation which it gives unpredictably- perhaps does not really give validation at all. I love the thought of all worries falling aside, though. This is the important thing, Now.

I found it in New Philosopher magazine, a handsome quarterly on glossy paper whose only adverts are for subscriptions to itself. On the back, it says “For curious people looking for solutions to the fundamental issues faced by humankind”. I found it hideously bourgeois. The articles are about a thousand words, saying things I more or less knew, and that article on the bear was in the NYT in August. There are a few quotes, without context: Truly man is a marvellously vain, diverse, and undulating object, said Montaigne; But how can I be a logician before I’m a human being! asked Wittgenstein. It includes philosophers! But that does not make the target reader one.

Bourgeois- it would not challenge me, but confirm that I am an educated, cultured person. I could read it and refresh my sense that all is right with the world and me, if I were bourgeoise myself. It is mildly entertaining, but as I am looking for answers- even the heady feeling of knowing my one concern– I find it frustrating, promising yet withholding. I learn that 60% of mammals are livestock, 36% humans, and just 4% wild animals. I think to myself, that’s a bit like the proportions of dark energy, dark matter and baryonic matter, because I’m well read that way, and move on. It has that gorgeous image by Lucas Cranach which I had not encountered before. It irritates me that it is so consciously well-written.

There are occasional interesting moments. A man spots a teenage girl, alone. “Wow, you’re really beautiful, you know,” he says. If she ignores him, dismisses him, or accepts the compliment with grace and walks off, he knows she’s not his girl. But if she pauses, smiles shyly, fishes for more, he knows he has a victim. It’s an article on people trafficking. Being too bourgeoise for my own good, I had not thought of that.

Our brains make up only two per cent of our body mass but consume 20 per cent of our calories. Fascinating.

It loves encomia from readers, and after someone gushed “I feel like I have been waiting for this magazine all my life” printed that twice, on pages 7 and 124. It is entertaining, and I find it mildly disappointing. It would not have this shocking early 19th century portrait of a boy in girl’s clothes.

Quaker appeal procedure

The proposed changes to the Quaker appeal procedure are not useful for dispute resolution. At YM 2018, a Friend made the analogy of amendments to the Church Government sections being like filling in potholes in a long worn-out road: the old patches need patches. This is one of the clearest examples.

Currently, any decision of an AM adversely affecting a member can be appealed. First you appeal to the AM clerk, who should refer the matter to Friends previously appointed by the AM to help settle disputes. If dissatisfied, the appellant can appeal again, to a neighbouring AM, and then to Meeting for Sufferings. The clerk of MfS shall appoint an appeal group of five Friends.

This all may seem unwieldy. A person of closed mind with a bee in their bonnet could tie up many Friends, even though repeatedly told they are wrong. Lots of people are discerning about the dispute, taking energy which could be devoted elsewhere. An elder who wanted to exclude a Friend for the good of the Meeting, and who bravely took that step, whose leading was recognised by elders and overseers than by the AM- who has done right in difficult circumstances- could be stressed by a panel of five examining what they have done, if they regret any incidental part of it, or are self-doubting. An appeal is by its nature backward-looking: it makes the weight of things done wrong, and done to others’ harm/ which once you took for exercise of virtue unbearable. Conflict transformation asks, what could these people, with their love, creativity and good will, best do now?

It’s much easier when the closed-minded Friend resigns in a fit of pique, or sees that people do not want to worship with them and has too much pride to keep wanting to attend. That may happen, or a Friend might feel that their spiritual journey or worship-life is no longer benefited by being with Quakers. In 2017, 110 members resigned. They may be leaving for all sorts of reasons, but some will be tragic: people are moved to shake the dust from their feet, when a dispute could have been sorted earlier, nipped in the bud with more love and better communication skills, or possibly better spiritual discipline in Meetings for church affairs.

In 2017, 125 memberships were terminated by the AM. The published tabular statement since 2013 no longer breaks down that number between the three grounds (QFP 11.30-34). So it is unclear how many cease attending, and how many have been apparently at variance with the principles of the Society so have been expelled. These are the grounds:

a over a prolonged period a Friend has ceased to show any interest in the life of the Society and there seems no reasonable likelihood of renewed participation;

b a Friend’s address has been unknown for a period of at least three years and cannot, after a careful search, be ascertained;

c the conduct or publicly expressed opinions of the member are so much at variance with the principles of the Society that the spiritual bond has been broken.

Membership need not be terminated. Elders could simply forbid someone to attend meeting for worship. This breaks the bonds of friendship, but does not give rise to a right of appeal, or even require the matter to be brought to AM. Sometimes “advice and counsel are, and are likely to continue to be, without their desired effect”- if elders and overseers decide this, and decide that no further discernment on the matter is necessary, should all this dirty linen be washed in public at AM? Then, should it be subject to the judgment of other Friends?

This is the proposed right of appeal- see the YM programme p12.

4.25 Right of appeal against decision

If a member is dissatisfied with a final decision of an area meeting affecting her or him (e.g. if membership has been terminated) and feels that the area meeting has acted unjustly, unreasonably, with insufficient knowledge or not in right ordering, them personally and adversely, and provided that

i. the decision concerns the termination of membership; and
ii. the grounds of the appeal are that the decision was not made in right ordering, or was not made with knowledge of the relevant facts, or was unreasonable; and
iii. experienced mediators have been involved and the matter is not resolved;

the member may appeal to the clerk to Meeting for Sufferings against the decision of the area meeting.

The rules for that appeal are the same as now, but the circumstances where it can be made are much less. There is this odd need for “experienced mediators” to have been involved. In theory, an AM could prevent an appeal simply by failing to use experienced mediators, for then the grounds for an appeal do not arise. Would an AM expel someone without attempting mediation? Should the mediators be from outside the AM?

The proposed amendment does not require, or even recommend, experienced mediation before someone is told not to attend meeting. I think it should. If we “seek to promote reconciliation in the wider world”, we should not fail in that among ourselves.

We recognise that one person in a whole community can be right, and no-one stand up for them. We remember George Fox interrupting the King’s priests, and being stoned by the congregation. A bruised reed we will not break. Unfortunately, where there are tensions in meetings we do not always handle them well, and Friends may come to the conclusion that the problem is a particular individual. How much do we trust that decision, when the one individual disagrees?

We plan to move from a system of several possible appeals, where a single former Friend can refuse to accept a decision and get many Friends united against them, yet get many more Friends outside their AM to investigate repeatedly, to a system where almost no appeals are possible but the formal appeal remains in peculiar, restricted circumstances. Both before and after the proposed changes, the appeal process can be circumvented by a decision by elders rather than the AM, from which there is no formal appeal. Both before and after, there may of course be informal appeals, by emails, phone calls and meetings between individual Friends.

Why not abolish the right of appeal entirely?

Perhaps we will revise to have a requirement to use experienced mediators in matters of dispute. Could the lone Friend request mediation?

A summary of the review group’s report is at p37 of the YM programme. They recommended that “greater priority is given to conflict transformation locally with appropriate external support”. That is not proposed in any change to QF&P. The proposed addition just says that “conflict transformation should be considered”. The report says that at least sometimes “mediation and conflict transformation have not been attempted or have failed… so disputes do not get resolved and the parties involved suffer continuing distress.”

Rather than having a right of appeal which often will not apply, even where someone can no longer worship with Friends, I propose we have no right of appeal at all. Rather than simply patching, the whole matter of disputes among Friends needs resurfaced. For me, the priority should be bringing our disputes out into the open, and resolving them, rather than letting them fester. And no-one should be expelled from a meeting without experienced mediators being used.

Phantom Fears

Looking at the transphobes, you would think trans women outnumbered cis women. There’s now a Women’s Human Rights Campaign seeking the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls that result from the replacement of the category of sex with that of ‘gender identity’, and from ‘surrogate’ motherhood and related practices. It’s now sharing worldwide- three British transphobes are off to New York to speak on the matter, and try to increase the hatred of trans women in other countries. Perhaps the Koch brothers are paying, again.

0.1% is my estimate of the proportion of people who transition. This is a lot less than the 1%-odd that Stonewall estimates. How long does it take to see a thousand people? Consider the poor transphobe. Walking down a city centre shopping street at noon, she might pass a thousand people in a few minutes. Her eyes are drawn to the trans person, because she is overly sensitive to trans people and her brain always picks them out. But, they’re walking in the opposite direction, they don’t notice her, and probably their existence has not ruined her life, or even her day, unless their mere existence provokes her to dwell on how much she hates trans women.

I clock other trans women occasionally, but not that often.

In loos, it must be very rare. You are in a queue with five ahead of you, and when you get to the front there are three behind and two washing their hands. It’s a one in a hundred chance that one of them is trans. Most loos are not that crowded.

So women’s rights are not particularly affected by trans rights. The obsession some transphobes exhibit is completely disproportionate to their actual experience of trans women. The experiences which make them think about us is almost entirely moaning on-line about us, and reading others’ moans. For example:

I had no idea what was going on with the proposed changes to the GRA, etc in my own country. Well, of course not. It does not matter to anyone but that 0.1%.

Eventually looked into [trans issues] and shit my pants! I’ve been peaking daily ever since. But it’s what she reads, and the message-boards she goes on, that “Peak Trans” her, not real life experiences.

What about this one? My next experience was with a lecturer at the University who transitioned from mtf. They were very sweet and gentle and their joy at transitioning was quite touching. Never made any move to colonize women’s spaces, didn’t get stampy about accidental misgendering. No problems. So, the actual trans person she knows, she likes. It’s all the others she reads about that are so awful. Several of them say that Caitlyn Jenner being some magazine’s “Woman of the Year” was the thing that made them obsessive (sorry, they say “Peak transed” them): 32 out of 500 mention Caitlyn in one thread. Most of them don’t mention personal experience, it’s always just something they’ve read.

It is a right pain when they say they met a trans woman they didn’t like. Oh, brilliant. So now they judge us all, because every trans woman obviously has every bad characteristic any trans woman has ever been accused of. How any of us are outside prison I don’t know.

Of course, the same applies to us. We read about transphobia all the time, but encounter it a great deal less. Let us shed our phantom fears. We meet transphobia in real life very rarely.

Northanger Abbey

A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.

I did not understand Northanger Abbey in my mid-twenties. I had not then read Ann Radcliffe, or had any idea of Gothic novels. Now, having read The Mysteries of Udolpho, I enjoy it more. Catherine Morland, the heroine, travels with her friend to Bath with suitable quietness and uneventful safety. Neither robbers nor tempests befriended them, nor one lucky overturn to introduce them to the hero. Nothing more alarming occurred than a fear, on Mrs. Allen’s side, of having once left her clogs behind her at an inn, and that fortunately proved to be groundless. Mrs Allen, a childless matron, has nothing in her head but the beauty of her own gowns.

I enjoyed Udolpho, but found its author often tells rather than shows, and some of the occurrences stretched my credulity. Now, I am laughing out loud- literally- at 200 year old jokes. Jane Austen was 27 when she completed the novel. Here is Miss Austen on the travails of the novelist: Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried… [novels are] work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.

She is quite serious, and you dare not contradict her.

Contrast, She was heartily ashamed of her ignorance. A misplaced shame. Where people wish to attach, they should always be ignorant. To come with a well-informed mind is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can. Mr Thorpe, however, reveals his ignorance by his ridiculous boasting, none of which is credible.

I wonder what it was like to be her, so much cleverer than anyone she met. What might she be like to talk to? As a novelist, would she seek to discover the character of the other, so she could skewer it in a book?

Catherine’s heart was affectionate; her disposition cheerful and open, without conceit or affectation of any kind — her manners just removed from the awkwardness and shyness of a girl; her person pleasing, and, when in good looks, pretty — and her mind about as ignorant and uninformed as the female mind at seventeen usually is. She says what she believes and wants to do right. She finds Mr Tilney’s attentions delightful, though he mock her a little, and Mr Thorpe’s repulsive, even though she might not immediately see how full of shit he is.

“Yes, my dear Catherine, it is so indeed; your penetration has not deceived you. Oh! That arch eye of yours! It sees through everything.” Catherine replied only by a look of wondering ignorance. Poor Catherine. She ends the novel happy, in the older sense of being blessed as well as in the sense of a feeling. I care about this ingenue. I am sad in her brief miseries, and delighted by her joys. People say things they do not mean, and poor Catherine is confused- as am I, sometimes.