This page is moving to http://www.jimandellen.org/austen/tuesdays.html. Please change your bookmarks. You will be taken there automatically in 30 seconds. If you are impatient, you can click here to be taken there immediately.

A Startling Pattern: Bad Tuesday

As a result of a careful scrutiny of the calendars in Austen's novels during which I constructed a calendar for each as part of an on-going study of her use of letters in all her novels, in order to shed light on the possible origins of P&P, S&S, and even in part MP as epistolary narrative, I have discovered that with the exception of Northanger Abbey, Austen pointedly makes certain similar kinds of pivotal events in her longer finished novels occur on a Tuesday. These events often include a snubbing or humiliation of the heroine or hero (or anti-hero or co-heroine) as a significant part of the event. In all but a very few of these, I did not have to work out that the day is Tuesday; Austen tells the reader this more than once.

In sum:

In Lady Susan (1805-6): Tuesday is the day of Lady Susan's major crisis in the novel: "Who should come on Tuesday but SIr James Martin" (Penguin ed, Letter 22, p. 74). The day that Sir James arrives reveals to the Vernons and Sir Reginald de Courcy for the first time why Frederica fled school. They can see she means to marry her daughter to an amoral dolt.

It is just at this point that suddenly several days are named and accounted for. Now we are told by Mrs Vernon that Sir James "arrived yesterday" (Letter 20, p. 70). So now we now that the very early morning on the next day when Frederica wrote her note was a "Wednesday:" "I got up before it was light -- I was two hours about it" (Letter 24, p. 79). Later that morning Reginald confronts Lady Susan and drives her into making Sir James leave Here is an exactly parallel scene to that of Marianne in S&S behind Frederica's letter to Reginald: Marianne and Frederica write letters to the men they love on Wednesday mornings at dawn while half-hysterical.

The truncated ending is, I suggest, the result of Austen's family calling a halt to this amoral unpleasant fiction. She had not intended to end it because there is in play another Tuesday, one which occurs between the day Sir James arrived at the Vernon home and the day Reginald came to London (see directly below). This Tuesday was the day Mr Johnson intended to leave London for Bath for this health (Letter 26, p. 87). As in Persuasion, Austen dropped this hook so as to work it out later: there would've been ugly times in Bath. In the event, Mr Johnson stayed.

The final crashing break between Reginald and Lady Susan occurs on a Tuesday. We are told that Reginald hastened to town on a "Monday" (Letter 42, p. 100) after Lady Susan upon being told by her to stay away for "some months" (Letter 30, p. 92). We are told several times in different ways that on the very same day Reginald arrived and while Mrs Johnson was out, Mrs Manwaring forced her way into Mr Johnson's drawing-room and was closeted alone with him and Reginald. On the next day, Tuesday, Reginald writes his note to Lady Susan telling her he now knows the truth (Letter 34, p. 95, beginning "I write only to bid you farewell"), to which she replies on the same day (Letter 35, p. 95, beginning "I will not attempt to describe my astonishment on reding the note, this moment received from you ..." ). If you work out the calendar, you discover the Tuesday that Mr Johnson had intended to go to Bath is this very day: so it's a bad Tuesday twice-over.

This second Tuesday confirmed over and over. We are told by Mrs Venon that Reginald came to Parklands on "Wednesday;" Lady Susan actually arrived on the same days, and stayed for "two hours" but was only able to take Frederica away with her (Letter 41, p. 99).


In The Watsons (1807): the opening sentence of this unfinished novel tells us the ball at which Emma sees Mr Howard for the first time and dances with little Charles was a Tuesday, October Oct 13th: the year may be either 1801 or 1803 or 1807; it matters not from the point of view of Tuesday. It may be said that this particular Tuesday is a beautiful one: Emma asks the young Charles Black to dance; but she also meets Mr Howard, the Osbornes, and Tuesday is a pivotal incident which later parts of the novel might have led the reader to see in multiple perspectives. So far as we know, the snubbed and hurt person is young Charles.


In S&S, the first traumatic day which Austen specifically names as Tuesday is the day that Willoughby comes to tell Marianne he must leave Dorsetshire because the night before (a Wednesday), Mrs Smith, his guardian found out about Miss Williams is a Tuesday, November 7, 1797 (see my essay in Philological Quarterley, p. 318). Willoughby says one week later when he snubs Marianne in public: ""I did myself the honour of calling in Berkeley-street last Tuesday . . . (28:148-49) Austen also makes the day that Frank Churchill left Highbury and came to see Emma in an interview where he thought he was going to marry her definitely a Tuesday (see below); there is also an interview between Frank and Jane which we do not see which would be the real parallel to this interview between Marianne and Willoughby. The day Willoughby "watches" Dashwoods "out of the house," and leaves his card, which Marianne sees when they come "in form the morning's drive" is said by Austen to be a "week after their arrival" in London and a "Tuesday" (see my essay, p. 320)

The central dreadful traumatic moment wherein Willoughby humiliates Marianne in public by the cold snub is registered by Austen very quietly as a Tuesday by having Willoughby say of the day he left his card instead of calling that it was a week ago precisely (see directly above): "I did myself the honour of calling in Berkeley-street last Tuesday . . . (28:148-49) which can be precisely dated as Jan 16, 1798 (see my essay in Philological Quarterly, p. 322); the following morning when in the early dawn we find her awake, and half-hysterical while writing her last letter to him in the dawn is clearly a Wednesday ("the next day", 29:152). There is a parallel with Lady Susan as Frederica writes her desperate letter to Reginald de Courcy on a Wednesday morning, the day after Sir James's Tuesday arrival.

The party at which Lucy Steele and Elinor Dashwood meet "their" prospective mother-in-law is called "the important Tuesday" (34:196-99); the calendar shows it occurs on Feb 13, 1798 (see my essay in Philological Quarterly, p. 323). It is at this party that Mrs Ferrars does all she can to mortify Elinor and Marianne becomes publicly deeply distresssed over Mrs Ferrars' treatment of Elinor. It is also on this day that Lucy makes her fortunate impression on Fanny Dashwood and Mrs Ferrars, which impression leads to Fanny inviting Lucy & Ann Steele to her house in order to fend off her husband thinking they ought to invite Elinor.


In P&P the Netherfield Ball at which the Bennet family so shames Elizabeth, and during which Darcy becomes aware that everyone is saying Bingley will marry Jane, which awareness leads him to removing Bingley occurs on Tuesday, Nov 26, 1811; Bingley remembers it months later as having occurred on Tuesday, Nov 26, and the year we owe to Chapman (though it has been disputed);

I will also say that using Chapman's calendar, one finds that Elizabeth meets Wickham in Meryton in front of Darcy and Bingley for the first time on a Tuesday, but since I had to work it out and since the mortification would have to be attributed to Wickham--though it is Darcy who goes white--it does not quite fit pattern; but still it's there, so I mention it.


In MP: we are told that Fanny and William arrive in Portsmouth on a Tuesday night which I make out to be Feb 7th (the year is either 1809 or 1797, the latter being Litz's choice, the former Chapman's); that night begins the long pivotal and medicinal lesson Sir Thomas meant Fanny to have; she is mortified, snubbed by her family (as after all she is not "theirs" any more).

We are told that the night of Mrs Frazer's party which is so fatal to Henry and Maria is a Tuesday, March 14th. We do not see the scene; we must piece it out from the letters, but when Maria snubbed Henry and he was humiliated, he determined to make her yield to him once again. This precipitates the final crisis and denouement of the novel


In Emma: the Coles's party where Emma makes such a fool of herself, telling Frank on the one hand the piano is a gift from Mr Dixon, is herself mortified by the piano playing of Jane, but at which Jane suffers far more from knowing what is being said about her, from the preening triumphant offers of Mrs Cole to let Jane use the piano anytime (echoing Lady Catherine de Bourgh to Elizabeth), from the flirting of Emma and Frank occurs on a Tuesday which day is mentioned more than once; Jo Modert (and I agree makes it out to be Feb 15th) which makes the day of the piano's arrival to be Valentine's Day (Mon, the 14th--Frank went for his haircut on Sat, the 12th);

Frank leaves Highbury on a Tuesday which Jo Modert (and I agree) makes out to be Shrove Tuesday; again we are not privy to the scene of Jane's loss but we see Frank try to and think he is confessing his love to the obtuse Emma; in 1814 Shrove Tuesday is Feb 22nd and it works out;

Emma's nadir, the day after Harriet has made her under she loves Knightley and made her partly believe Knightley loves her is a Tuesday; again we are told it is Tuesday more than once; the odd cold weather is emphasized; Jane too has her hard time for Mrs Weston has visited her and Mrs Weston reports their conference in a carriage; Emma writes to Harriet telling her they must not see each other; it is the next day, Wednesday, that the sky clears and Knightley proposes; this Tuesday is Old Midsummer Eve, July 5th, the Wednesday July 6th, is Old Midsummer Day.


In Persuasion: the intensely dramatic concert party at which Captain Wentworth is partly snubbed; where he experiences an agon of jealousy; where Anne tries to come out of her shell and let him know how much she loves him, which is countercrossed by Mr Elliot'spresence occurs on a Tuesday which I make out to be Feb 21st 1815; the all important conference of Anne with Mrs Smith in which Mrs Smith spills all those beans occurrs on the next day, Wednesday; the days are carefully named.

I bring up two more Tuesdays which are there but not as clearly marked or worked up as the above: the day the Uppercross party arrive at Lyme is a Tuesday, but it must be worked out from the calendar; it would be Nov 22nd, and Louisa fell on Wednesday, the 23rd: events include Anne's first encounter with Mr Elliot on that Tuesday;

it will be remember that Charles Musgrove bought some tickets to go to the theatre on a Saturday night which can be worked out as Feb 25th, but Elizabeth had a party so he exchanges them and everyone was to go to the theatre on the next Tuesday. This Tuesday--during which Lady Russell would not have had the information Anne ought to have given her about Mr Elliot--never came off.


I found no pivotal Tuesdays in Sanditon and while Catherine goes for her first drive with the Thorpes on a Tuesday, which day is named and described as "a fine mild day in February " (I make it the 13th), the other dances, balls, snubbing and the ejection of Catherine from the Abbey occur on serendipitous days; there is no attempt to make them work out on a Tues/Wed pattern.

Answers to Suggestions from Members of Austen-l

I posted the above in a series of postings to Austen-L and C18-l. On Austen-l Stephen Bishop, Elvira Casal, and a few others suggested to me off-list and on list that this use of black Tuesday may related back to Mary Queen of Scots who Austen wrote about in her History of England, is said to have sympathized with, and who had a bad night one Tuesday in 1585 because she was executed the next day, Wednesday. Austen seemed to have sympathized with Mary (though I'm not sure she's not satiric about Mary too) and there's evidence Austen read and was influenced by Sophia Lee's The Recess an emotional memoir-novel in which we spend time with the traumatized and tragic twin daughters of Mary; nonetheless, the seriousness of the events and their connection to humiliation which connects them to Austen's presentation of many mortifying ogres and snobs in her novels beginning with Lady Grenville and Maria in the Juvenilia, going on through Aunt Norris and Fanny and then onto Sir Walter and Anne Elliot (her father prevented the marriage to Captain Wentworth as much as Lady Russell) to my mind suggests a depth of emotion here which may relate to something in Austen's private life which we can't know of because perhaps there's no record.

I have however found one pattern in two novels Austen knew well which has given me pause and made me think it could be an on-going in-joke: in Richardson's Sir Charles Grandison Charlotte is coerced into marrying Lord G on a Tuesday, and much fuss is made about this; it's called the important Tuesday; the letters are littered with references to the looming Tuesday, and then of course the dreaded Tuesday night (when Charlotte will have to go to bed with the man), and we are treated to how awkwardly she "navigates" Wednesday morning. Great debates occur whether Charlotte should have a public or private wedding on the important Tuesday. Now my view is whatever Austen's brother said about Grandison in his preface is suspect because he was presenting a pious face to the public. In many of her references to Grandison Austen mocks this book; she found it as ridiculous as she did fascinating. All this heave-hoing about Tuesday might have struck her as ludicrous.

But ah, in Clarissa it's not funny. The central event of this book is of course the rape, and guess what, it occurred in the wee hours of a Monday night into Tuesday morning, and Lovelace's famous letters where he said "And now Belford, I can go no farther. The affair is over. Clarissa lives" &c." is dated "Tuesday morn. " Clarissa herself goes mad all that Wednesday, sits--a la Marianne Dashwood and Frederica Vernon--from dawn to dusk writing mad letters to her rapist. And Clarissa too, no mean lady when it came to keeping time and accounts had her tombstone engraved with the date April 10th. Clarissa ran away with Lovelace from her father's house on April 10th; it was a Monday, but the letters and the trauma about it are written in a long letter dated Tuesday April 11th.

On Austen-L I got some responses which were informative about Austen's calendars. For example, Eugene McDonnell posted a lovely piece on the calendar in Emma which brought out its tonally idyllic quality. People have talked about the repeating pattern of the dragon lady older woman who bullies and poisons the existence of the younger dependent girl (classical instance: Mrs Norris making Fanny's every minute a misery). I have been made to remember the small playlet of Grandison probably written by Austen, known to her family, and itself a kind of mock as well as tribute to the power of this book. The play also shows how well the whole family knew Grandison


Now here are some responses I wrote to various people on Austen-l and C18-L who looked carefully into the matter and made suggestions and offered objections and qualifications.

In response to Elvira Casal's speculations, yes it's possible we have here one of those thing critics are disposed to call "in-jokes" or "family jokes" in Austen's novels of which they say there are many, as Catherine Morland's father's name being Richard and still he was respectable, not neglected, not poor, and a clergyman. Elizabeth Jenkins makes much of Austen's response to Mary Queen of Scots, and if Austen was alluding to Sophia Lee's Recess in Henry Tilney's speech to Catherine Morland in NA and through Elinor and the characterization of Marianne in S&S (see how neatly I stick in things that need to be proved as if they were proved :) ), if I say she had read Sophia Lee's book with attention (which she probably did--it was all the rage and Lee lived in Bath), she would have emersed herself in a story about Mary Queen of Scots's daughters where they are continually snubbed, humiliated, ejected, subjected to mortifying displays, and have no recourse but that of leaving a tear-drenched manuscript, of writing, writing, writing about it.

Still the circumstances of each of the incidents are not romantic; they have in them no reference to history or gothic novels. They are also strikingly alike. On the issue, could it have been unconscious? I am beginning to be convinced not. There's a wonderful passage in Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest where the hero hearing pieces of the puzzle about his birth of which he still knows nothing, says something like well once is coincidence, and maybe twice, but all these times seems to indicate deliberation, a pattern (that's a paraphrase). What seems to me striking is that one does not have to work out it's a Tuesday; we are again and again told. In most of the calendar studies of Austen's novels days have to be worked out; it's not hard and Austen is just chock-a-block with data for the reader who's into this way she has of structuring time. It is a serious consideration, that of giving the reader a realistic sense of time, one historical or the world's and the other psychological and that of the story and weaving them together, and she's brilliant at it. But it's also a game of sort.

I responded to Kathy Born's suggestion that the curious pattern of consistent Tuesdays in Austen could be an in-joke as follows:

I would be more comfortable with this idea if I thought she meant the pattern and its source to be recognized. It is true that her family might have been "in" on it, but it is not as clearly marked a pattern as say her references to the name Richard. All the remarks her family made publicly about Grandison suggest a pious regard for the novel; it is Austen who mocks it. No-one in her family analyzes Clarissa with the sexual framework she applies to it in Sanditon. This throws us back onto Mary Queen of Scots who from The History of England seems to have been a subject the family bandied about--as also Richard III (who comes in for a mention in Catherine or the Bower).

I responded to Rachel Morton's further objections as follows:

I am tempted to agree that the repetition of such a pattern over a long number of works and years represents a kind of in-joke for many reasons. My sense of Austen is her deeply-felt comedy represents her way of dealing with the pain of life. The calendars themselves are constructs, ways of intensifying her reveries, pacing the movement of her plots, and rooting the dramatic and pictorial narratives and meditations in a framework which the reader can identify with and move through. This is clearly something someone does quietly. The calendar in Emma is particularly playful: Jo Modert shows Austen plants ironic clues for us, and aligns significant events with festivaland other seasonal days. It is the one calendar where Christmas day is specified: I mentioned the piano arrived on Valentine's Day and Frank attempted to confess to Emma on Shrove Tuesday; Mr Elton left Highbury and Emma was forced to tell Harriet the ugly truth on Dec 28th, Innocents Day; Harriet is attacked by the gypsies on Friday the 13th; the visit to Donwell Abbey occurs on Midsummer Eve--and is also Harriet's birthday, that is June 23rd (we are actually told not only Harriet's birthday and her age, but Martin's-- he was 24 on the June 8th the summer before the novel opens); the trip to Box Hill occurs on June 24th, Midsummer Day, and so on. This is lovely and fanciful, and one is loathe to attach it to some deep stress.

Now if the Tuesday pattern is a joke, and then I would say the family knew, I would favor Richardson. Austen wrote a funny play for the family to perform. They all read Richardson. It does suggest they were all as able to laugh at the semi-hysteria which runs through Clarissa and took a robust attitude towards sex and rape, for if it is Richardson it seems to me Clary's rape between Monday and Tuesday, her running away on precisely those days, and the date engraved on the tombstone does link up a comic perspective with a traumatic one. There is certainly something ridiculous about the novel Clarissa. So I would go for a mock on Grandison and Clarissa more than the Mary Queen of Scots. The latter is just not that significant; it's only one work, one Austen wrote when she was young, and one could argue she is also ironic towards Mary.

Still there's the repeat of the humiliations, the snubbing, the outcast, and that brings us right back to the most charged and least subtle of these scenes in the Juvenilia: Lady Grenville's brutal treatment of Maria, and that is autobiographically rooted, and it's precisely that sort of scene that leaves no document, no trace. Some people on this list scoffed at Miss Bates's deep pain; so would many people. An incident that wounds one person is not noticed by many. We are further forever hindered and cut off from Austen's private life by Cassandra's having destroyed what the niece called the majority of the letters. The majority.


I also answered questions about Richardson which could be summed up as, "What could Tuesday have been to him?"

In brief, Richardson suffered many losses and trauma and humiliation in his life. He lost his first wife, and six babies before he married for the second time. I forget whether of the six any were born alive, but all were boys and all died within a short time after they were born. One may have reached toddling age, but I'm not sure anymore. The death of the first wife also occurred in the same two year period in which Richardson's father and brother died. Eaves and Kimbel, Richardson's biographers--the biography is massive, has not been surpassed and is based on a heroic gathering of original documents-- connect the strong obsession with death in Clarissa to these bleak years in Richardson's life. They write that Richardson was devastated by these continual deaths, and talk of a long nervous period in his life.

By the time Richardson became known to upper middle class people--or the gentry--Richardson came from the kind of people the Austens did not associate with, a notch below the Watsons, people who put their sons out to apprenticeships and their daughters out to service; by the time, I say, people who wrote about Richardson got to know him as a person he had some peculiar ways probably due to the pressure of an existence which included for many years an 18 hour work day and much personal grief. One of these was he tended not to argue with his second wife or four daughters by her, but when there was a dispute, he would go upstairs and write a letter and send it down to them. He left six volumes of letters which were edited by Anna Barbauld, but probably these represent only a small percentage of the letters he wrote. He was a printer by trade, and lover of books, and himself reedited Defoe's Tour and was careful what he printed (he read it).

Richardson is by-the-way not known for his light-heartedness or any cool distance from his characters or books.

I am wrote in response to Juliet Youngren. Juliet, I have shown that there is something to be explained here beyond an in-joke since as I said before in-joke are usually clear, pointed, and brief or somehow marked (as in the jokes about Richard) not something one must hunt out--I am struck by the really close similarity in the pivotal events in a number of ways and their repetition throughout Austen's career from the time of the really savage depiction of the brutally coarse Lady Greville's humiliation of Maria in the Juvenilia. It's not funny. Again and again too it's a case of a party (as in it in this third letter and in the early Catherine, or the Bower--which however does not dovetail the narrative into a calendar), a group family setting. It's anything but trivial and unimportant.

And I am intrigued because NA doesn't have this pattern. The reason I'm intrigued is that often one reads that NA "must" be early even though it clearly is the product of a mature revision and sparkles and moves in ways the extant S&S which is in fact the earliest and least mature aesthetically speaking of the novels. People are always at a loss to "prove" NA is early. In fact its rapidity of movement, expert control of internal and external time, brilliant incisive writing and allusions of all sorts, is reminiscent of Persuasion. I rather think the chance that led them to be printed together has something to tell us. Both Bath novels too (by-the-bye). Maybe the Tuesday pattern is our one clue to suggest it was in its earliest drafts first. It has a clearly worked out calendar; in fact at times it is more nailed down to day-by-day movement than the other 5. It suggests Austen used calendar time to teach herself how to represent time in a manner that has verisimilitude and can make the reader feel he or she is in a real world like his or her own as to time and distance. Myself I believe Lady Susan is not an early novel; it's too disillusioned, too knowing. So Tuesday being worked into the novel can be an indication it came after Austen started to work this curious pattern into her books.


Home
Contact Ellen Moody.
Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
Page Last Updated: 10 March 2001