At Lady Anne Percival’s, Belinda meets Mr. Vincent, who is a sexy Creole. You can’t have sexy Creoles, Maria Edgeworth! They’re supposed to be lecherous and effeminate and alcoholic gamblers and tainted by their sexual relations with their slaves in the luxurious and immoral West Indies and also racialized, even though they’re also supposed to be artless and hospitable and btw making lots of monies too! It’s not me saying this, um, obviously. But instead he’s all super-sexy. Like, way sexier than Mr. Darcy.
But also, you know, Mr. Vincent has SLAVES and all OH AND DID I MENTION HE HAS A BLACK SERVANT NAMED JUBA, WHO ISN’T HIS SLAVE BECAUSE YOU CAN’T HAVE SLAVES IN ENGLAND IN 1801, AND ALSO HE HAS A BLACK DOG THAT HE NAMED JUBA AFTER HIS SLAVE/SERVANT JUBA AND HOLY SHIT THAT’S NOT COOL, MR. VINCENT. And also he’s (Juba)(Juba the man, not the dog, and trust me there are a lot of “Juba the man, not the dog” jokes, hmm, maybe Edgeworth was trying to say something about slavery I don’t know) afraid of obeah, which is related to voodoo and often a derogatory and generalized term for all African/West Indian slave religious practices and supposed to be a sign of their superstition but is also all tied up in fears of rebellion and subversion? And there was a lot of writing about it from freaked-out colonists and it was also outlawed? And also Juba marries an English girl? And everyone’s cool with that???
Except that they weren’t, because for the 1810 edition Edgeworth both cooled things between Belinda and Mr. Vincent (partly because people were all, SHE CAN’T LOVE ONE GUY AND THEN ANOTHER ONE, THAT’S NOT HOW GIRLS WORK, MARIA EDGEWORTH), and also took out the interracial marriage plot altogether. In a letter to her father (reprinted in the Oxford Intro), she writes, “In the second volume there is no alteration of any consequence except that Juba the black servant is not allowed to marry the country girl Lucy; because my father has great delicacies and scruples of conscience about encouraging such marriages.” And you can totally tell that he was like “No daughter of mine–!” And she was all “But Da-ad, I want to write about interracial marriage!” And then he said “Belinda Eugenius Edgeworth, you settle down right this minute or you’re grounded for a week.” Or maybe. I mean, maybe. I don’t think Eugenius, but anyway.
Meanwhile, where is Clarence Hervey? Oh, I don’t know, MAYBE he is with the girl he’s got locked up in a house (well, a garden, too, I guess, and she wants to be there, but STILL) and trying to make into his perfect wife, Rousseau-style? WTF, right? And also he’s renamed her? I didn’t even know you could do that to grown women? Yeah, so I don’t want to spoil it, although I guess I kind of already did, but let’s just say it’s super-creepy, but also super-great, because it has all these weird connections to philosophy and women’s education and stuff AND ALSO THIS PART:
“To try and prove the simplicity of her taste, and the purity of her mind, he once presented to her a pair of diamond earrings, and a moss rose bud, and asked her to take whichever she liked best. She eagerly snatched the rose . . . .
“She placed it in her bosom, and then looking at the diamonds, said, ‘They are pretty sparkling things. . . .’ And she looked with more curiosity and admiration at the manner in which the earring shut and opened, then at the diamonds. Clarence was charmed with her. When Mrs. Ormond told her, that these things were to hang in her ears, she laughed, and said, ‘How! how can I make them hang?’
“Mrs. Ormond told her, that holes could easily be made in her ears, but running a steel pin through them. She shrunk back, defending her ear with one hand, and pushing the diamonds from her with the other, exclaiming, ‘O, no, no!—unless,’ added she, changing her tone, and turning to Clarence, ‘unless you wish it:–if you bid me, I will.’
Clarence was scarcely master of himself at this instant; and it was with the utmost difficulty that he could reply to her with that dispassionate calmness, which became his situation and hers.” (371)
IN OTHER WORDS: NOSEBLEED.
Seriously, though, I was ranting to my friend (and the, um, only person reading this), Savanna, the day that I read this part of Belinda, about how Freud is dead and how not everything is penises and vaginas. Then I read this and had to admit that some things—like, oh, roses and earring openings and pins—may, on occasion, be penises and vaginas.
Once I got to the Clarence-has-a-secret-woman-in-a-house part I couldn’t put the book down for the life of me. But this is getting way longer than it has any right to be. So, we are left with:
Will Belinda marry Mr. Hervey or Mr. Vincent? Will Lady Delacour live? Will she reconcile with Belinda or with her drunk-ass husband? Will there be more antislavery but still racist “grateful Negro” trope stuff with Juba (probably yes, since Maria Edgeworth literally wrote the book on the grateful Negro, and it’s called “The Grateful Negro”)? And ‘sup with Harriet Freke? Will there be GHOSTS as well as parallels between obeah and Methodism? Will Clarence Hervey’s Rousseauian natural ever find love or her parents or get out of that garden, cripes, Clarence, you really seem like an incredibly misogynistic dick sometimes?
Also, the metatextuality moments—and the Lady-Delacour-is-incredibly-awesome stuff—really comes to a head in the last couple of pages and I love it. But I’m not going to spoil it for you. You have to read it yourself! And you should do so right now because the book is that fucking good.