Persuasion 200: The Musgrove Family Laments Their Poor, Lost Dickie by Jack Caldwell — 32 Comments

  1. I loved reading this post! The siblings all remembering how mean Poor Dickie was Of course a parent would remember with fondness…and as Monica said, “the ill-fitting uniform was brilliant.” I have a bit of a sick sense of humor, so, I found the eviscerated body being placed in a barrel of spirits of wine and the family’s reaction laughable, since it made the sisters side with their mama. I am so glad Mary wasn’t there…although it might have made the scene even funnier. Thank you for the humorous start to my morning! 😉

  2. I agree the eviscerated body in the spirits was brillant. The bland Charles just opening his mouth and let it roll. Poor Mrs. Musgrove…mother’s often have a hard time seeing their sons as others do. Mary would have swooned for attention had she been there. Good thing she stayed with Anne, who would have enjoyed this episode.

  3. The boy was probably not even twelve years old when he was sent off. I have never understood Austen’s slighting remarks about a boy or the mother’s fat sighs.
    Richard Edgeworth brought up his son Richard according to the precepts of Rousseau where the child was not disciplined and nnot made to study anything. When the child was about ten, his father thought he was an unmannerly lout and shipped him off to the navy to be disciplined. The boy was probably not as pleasant a baby and young boy as Charles had been-Charles was obviously the petted heir– but I don’t see why Austen made fun of Mrs. Musgrove’s fat sighs for a boy no one much liked. LIttle boys can be demions but really how bad could a nine year old be ?
    It was quite common to send boys off to the navy at 10 or so, Even Earl Spencer sent two of his off. The boys had no choice. Once inthe navy it was either do well or be flogged to death.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Jane Austen had two brothers in the Royal Navy, both rising to Admiral, so her views were undoubtedly influenced by their experiences. Boys were indeed young when they entered the navy, but there was a difference between midshipmen, or “young gentlemen,” and cabin boys.

      Midshipmen were the sons of the gentry, and they were trained to become officers. It was strange to have 13 or 14 year-olds giving orders to men old enough to be their fathers, but such was life in the navy. For promotion, the boys had to pass examinations to make lieutenant. While discipline could be harsh, it was nothing compared to what occurred “before the mast.”

      The cabin boys were like the rest of the crew. Advancement was limited without education. The punishments were harsh, as well. Only non-commissioned men were flogged.

      For more information, I refer you to Richard O’Neil’s “Patrick O’Brian’s Navy,” an excellent resource about life in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars.

      • I have several books on life in the navy including Jane Austen and the Navy Dudley Pope’s Life in nelson’s Navy, the Wooden World, Social Life of the navy, and others. I also have read a bit about Jane Austen’s brothers . Richard Musgrove was a member of the gentry so was probably in the same class as Austen’s brothers. It seems Charles Austen was as ready to follow his brother Francis as Jane was to follow Cassandra. These boys did have a choice of the navy or the church. Earl Spencer’s sons had no choice but they were not sent away because of misbehaviour, nor was their absence unremarked , at least by their sister.
        Still, I think that saying that a ten year old boy — or even a twelve year old brat was never missed nor truly grieved for is a bit harsh . One can always grieve for lost potential.

  4. Nancy-Little boys at nine or ten can be a trial and a half! One of my friends sons wound up going to military school at 11 because he thought it fun to start fires and use his sisters dolls for fuel. He was also known to hide his father’s keys and phone and then never be able to tell anyone where he put them. I think the final straw was when he told one of his teacher’s he’d been beaten up and not fed for a week so he could get out of school. After Child Services got involved it was time for a change in his life. LOL

    Jack, as usual so very well done. Fighting Freddie huh? Well, when you’re fighting memories it makes you fight everyone else methinks. =D I guess Poor Dickie had the face and temperament only a mother could love?

  5. My favorite: “Yes, of course!” Louisa grew gloomy again. “Alas, poor Richard—and poor Charles, too! Our brothers have had a sad lot, indeed.”

    This was a good read, especially made interesting when we heard of all the mischief Dickie got into within his own family. I have a brother, a son, a grandson and, also, taught in elementary school and worked in Children’s Services so know first hand how much energy boys seem to have over that of girls. They can’t seem to sit still even in school until about age 8. Ironically, my Bible Study group has, also, often commented how the unrest/wars in the world are due to male testosterone. And, if not in battle, they have to butt heads on the athletic fields or in the arena. Everything is a competition.

    Thanks for the chapter, Jack.

    • It is true wars can be caused by testosterone, but so were great cities and useful inventions. Competition built civilization. Throughout history, women have tamed men, and thank goodness for it. The One who made us knew what He was doing.

  6. Oh, Jack, I just knew you’d do something extraordinary with this scene! So much in this to laugh and smile about that it would be hard to choose a favorite moment. It could be the ill-fitting uniform or the way Charles keeps inserting reality into the conversation, but I thought I’d lose it when you started talking about preseving the body in a barrel. So like Charles to be matter-of-fact about something like that since he’s a hunter. Thanks for starting my day with a smile. Brilliant!

  7. Had a good chuckle over Charles’ comments. I’m sure that Charles never forgave ‘Dicke’ for ruining his first fowling piece.

  8. I am new to this site but love these additions to my favorite book. These additions have a wonderful insight that I think Ms. Austen would be proud of.

  9. This installment made me laugh…how differently the Musgrove children remember Poor Dickie than their parents…Charles was hilarious and Louisa very insightful…Louisa grew gloomy again. “Alas, poor Richard—and poor Charles, too! Our brothers have had a sad lot, indeed.” This was a nice break from the sadness that Anne endures, looking forward to her happy ending..

  10. Heh-heh! Charles is willing to see the truth about his brother, but the rest of his family is not so willing. I wonder if Mrs Musgrove will show her Dickie’s letters to the Admiral and Mrs Croft during one of your weeks to write…

    Thanks for the giggles, Jack!

  11. This is brilliant, Jack. I loved Charles Musgrove (junior’s) asides, esp re dying of a cold and what they might have had to do to the body to get it back home.

    Loved it!

  12. You captured the scene so well, Jack. I know it is ungrateful for Charles to say bad things about his younger brother. But the truth is when someone you love passes away, parents always dwell on the good and ignore the negative things while siblings can remember the past well – the good and the bad.

    It’s good of you to tie in with the original story on how the harp ended up at the cottage. I’m off to catch up on the other instalments now.

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