Book Review: The Clergyman’s Wife

The Clergyman’s Wife by Molly Greeley is one of the best adaptations of a Jane Austen book that I have read. The main character is Charlotte Lucas; the book imagines her life after she married Mr. Collins. In Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte’s decision is a practical one. She tells Elizabeth, “I am not romantic you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home.”[1]

Greeley does an excellent job portraying the limited choices available to women like Charlotte who remains unmarried at 27 and is not a beauty. The fact that Mr. Collins is gainfully employed as a minister and has a wealthy woman, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, as a benefactor probably would have been enough to make him a good catch. However, his prospects which include being the heir to Longbourn really sealed the deal.

One of the most interesting parts of the book is Greeley’s expansion of the Greeley back story. The knighting of Mr. Lucas was not a complete blessing. The Lucas family was better off, financially when he owned a haberdashery shop. The family’s social elevation reduced the marriage options for both Charlotte and Maria.

The plot involves Charlotte forming a friendship with a local farmer, Mr. Travis. Through this friendship, she gains a better sense of what a marriage built on love and mutual interests might be like. Charlotte also realizes that this was not ever a viable option for her.

In the other good adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Longbourn, by Jo Baker, Mrs. Bennett dies, and Mr. Bennett lives into old age. In that book, the entail of Mr. Bennett’s estate is not discussed. Because Charlotte is Greely’s heroine, the entail becomes a plot point in The Clergyman’s Wife.

After Charlotte has been married for several year, lost a child at birth and has a young daughter, Mr. Bennett dies. The estate at Longbourn now belongs to Mr. Collins. The inheritance requires the Collins to leave Hunsford and Lady Catherine de Bourgh. It also means that Charlotte and Mr. Travis must part.

In Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte makes a practical choice which Elizabeth disparages. Elizabeth has a much happier outcome when she marries Mr. Darcy. The Clergyman’s Wife has a more realistic ending for Charlotte and by inference many women in the early 19th century. In the end Charlotte’s need to have both love and economic security remains unmet.

[1] Jane Austen, The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, annotated and edited by David M. Shapard.

Most Viewed Posts

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my goals for 2020 but I didn’t say anything about my plan around posting and tweeting.  I will continue to post every week and tweet at least once a today.

I thought it would be fun to look at what were most viewed posts in 2019. By far, Methylated Spirits, which got 1,948 views, was the most popular. I posted this on July 8, 2013. Next was HomePage/Archives with 831 views. This is actually always my most current post.

My most viewed post that I wrote in 2019, besides the Home Page, was Schlenly Distillers Corporation with 295. A post, Skating, that I wrote about a test my coach gave me got 37 views while the post I wrote prior to competing, Skating Competition, Part 1, got 33. The post I wrote after I competed, Skating Competition Part 2, only got 9.

I don’t really know how to evaluate these statistics so I will probably just continue to write about what interests me and what I am doing. In April I am giving a paper about Faculty Wives Cookbooks at the Popular Culture Association  annual meeting so maybe I will attend a session that will generate as much interest as Methylated Spirits did.

 

Prohibition, 100 Years Later

On January 17, it will be 100 years since Prohibition went into effect. Because of the current political climate  around immigration, I  am posting an excerpt  from Brewing Battles that describes the treatment some German-American brewers received  during the enactment of Prohibition.

The brewing industry was overwhelmingly German; most German-Americans drank beer as did many other Americans. Although German-Americans maintained many ties to Germany, the vast majority were second or third generation Americans. The founders of most breweries had immigrated to America in the 1840s and 1850s. World War I generated a tremendous amount of public hostility against Germans and German-Americans. For brewers and their fellow ethnic citizens, the war period was a test of their dual identities.

Some of the nation’s most prominent brewers faced these issues of loyalty and cultural identification as soon as America entered the war. One of New York’s most prominent brewers was George Ehret, Sr., the nation’s largest brewer in 1877. In 1914, Ehret, an American citizen, returned to Germany to live. In 1918 his son, George Ehret, Jr., turned over the family property with a value of $40 million to the federal government. A. Mitchell Palmer, who was then the Alien Property Custodian, found Ehret, Sr. to be “of enemy character.” Ehret had not broken any laws but appeared to be friendly with and under the protection of “powerful men.” He had also given large amounts of money to the German Red Cross since 1914. Palmer stated that Ehret, who was 83, could get his property back if he returned to America. He would then lose “his enemy character.” The Ehret family’s status as influential New Yorkers and wealthy Americans apparently did not mean as much as his German affiliations.[1]

Lily Busch, widow of Adolphus Busch, suffered similar problems. The Buschs, if not the country’s wealthiest brewing family then certainly its most ostentatious, owned several estates including a castle on the Rhine in Germany. Adolphus died in 1913; estimates of the value of his wealth ranged from $30 to $60 million.[2] Both Adolphus and Lily were born in Germany; Lily had become a naturalized citizen of the United States. When World War I broke out she made her German home a war hospital and served as a nurse. The German government took her property because she was an American citizen; the United States viewed her as enemy alien since she was in Germany. When she returned to the United States in 1918 the government seized her property and placed her under a form of house arrest. She died in 1928.[3]

The prosecution, if not persecution, of these prominent brewers and their families indicated the deep unease Americans felt about the presence of Germans in their country. The rhetoric of the Prohibition movement for most of its existence had been positive, extolling the virtues that removing alcohol from society would bring. . . . The final push that brought Prohibition, the Eighteenth Amendment, and the Volstead Act into being became negative and played on people’s fears as American faced a world that was unfamiliar and rapidly changing.

Jacob Rupert, owner of the New York Yankees and Jacob Rupert Brewery with Miss Harwood, 1921. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

 

[1] “Nation Gets Ehret Property,” New York Times, May 14, 1918, 1.

[2] “Adolphus Busch Dies In Prussia” New York Times, October 11, 1913, 15.

[3]; “Mrs. Lily Busch of St. Louis Dies,” New York Times, February 26, 1928, 27.

© All Rights Reserved Amy Mittelman 2020.

Goals

My main goal for 2020 is to finish my book on faculty wives. I hope to complete chapter five, which I have been working on for over a year, shortly. I would then have five or six chapters left. At the very least, I need to pick up the pace.

When I was thinking about my progress, I realized that I would need more structure, focus and motivation to achieve this goal. Beginning the end of January, I will be participating in the year long non-fiction manuscript group that the Pioneer Valley Writers Workshop offers. Most of the other members of the group will be memoirists but I think paying for the workshop and having regularly scheduled meeting once a month will provide a lot of structure and motivation.

The other writing commitment that I am undertaking is being part of Nerissa Nield’s Writing It Up in the Garden workshop for ten weeks. This is two hours once a week. Both of these writing groups require a commitment which I hope will benefit my rate of production for the book.

Besides writing the book, my other big commitment is to my ice skating. Having competed in October, my focus is now on being part of an adult group number, for the annual skating show of the Skating Club of Amherst. I hope I will be less nervous skating on home ice. My other skating goal is to complete at least one three turn this year. Here is link to a video, by a professional, of a three turn. After today I will have 357 days left to do it.

Because finishing my book is imperative, I am going to try to keep my schedule free from the other activities. This will not be easy; I have trouble saying no. The only thing I will consider getting involved in is efforts to defeat Donald Trump.

What are your goals for 2020? I would love to hear them.

New Decade

Since this is the first day of a new decade, I am going to reflect a little bit more deeply than I usually do in this yearly post. The years 2010 -2019 had some real highs and some real lows. During the decade my older son graduated from college, I had a bat mitzvah and my son got engaged. The lows included both of my in-laws dying as well as my brother. My brother died of ALS and this past June, my beloved cousin, Lowell received the same diagnosis. The decade was what you would expect out of life;  both good and bad occurred.

Moving to this past year, 2019,I did compete in ice skating which was a very memorable if not entirely positive experience. I have been working on the fifth chapter of my book for over a year which is not a very good pace.

I had 43 posts which is less than last year but, given the turmoil of my life from June until November, I feel pretty good about that number. Posting every week was difficult; I did the best I could. I tweeted 585 times which is 1.6 a day. This year my tweeting came more in spurts depending on a particular political moment or not. I feel good about my tweeting.

Next week I will talk about my plans for the new year. Happy New Year!