Saturday, July 18, 2009

Darcy's 'Implacable Resentment': Literary Background?

John Home (1722–1808)
By Sir Henry Raeburn
Painted c. 1795-1800
(Image from Wikipedia)

I'm still in the initial stages of my research on Darcy's "implacable resentment" but have found the expression used by the character Lady Randolph in the 1756 tragedy Douglas, by John Home:
Oh! rake not up the ashes of my fathers:
Implacable resentment was their crime,
And grievous has the expiation been.
These lines occur early in the play, suggesting that "implacable resentment" plays a significant role in this drama, but I will need to take a closer look.

I also found some intriguing lines in a play by Nicholas Rowe, whose image follows:

Nicholas Rowe
(Image from Wikipedia)

The play is Rowe's 1703 drama, The Fair Penitent, which has these intriguing words of Horatio:
I am not apt to take a light offence.
But patient of the failings of my friends,
And willing to forgive; but when an injury
Stabs to the heart, and rouses my resentment,
(Perhaps it is the fault of my rude nature)
I own, I cannot easily forgive it.
Horatio refers to his "rude nature" -- by which he means his unrefined character -- and attributes to this nature his difficulty in forgiving a resentment that stabs to the heart. This isn't precisely the same case as Darcy, for the latter has a refined character, but both appeal to their basic nature as explanation for their 'implacable' resentment. This play, incidentally, has the character Lothario -- who surely has some influence on Austen's shaping of her dissolute character Wickham.

I also want to note what appears to be a rich resource for my investigation of "resentment," an article by Niel Hargraves, "Resentment and History in the Scottish Enlightenment" (Cromohs, 14 (2009): 1-21), for this article "explores the ways in which Scottish Enlightenment writers such as Lord Kames, Adam Smith, David Hume and William Robertson used the concept of 'resentment'" to analyze "the role of the passions in human relations."

That sounds promising.

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At 3:32 PM, Anonymous Malcolm Pollack said...

I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that resentment persists; the word means, after all, "to feel again".

And again and again...

Of course, "implacable resentment" is more commonly known in these parts as "holding a grudge". The wiusest words I know on the topic are from the great philosopher and raconteur Buddy Hackett, who said:

"Never hold a grudge. While you're busy holding that grudge, the other guy's out dancing."

At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Malcolm Pollack said...

Oops - that's "wisest"...

At 3:58 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Darcy seems not to have cared much for dancing. But he didn't hold a grudge very long in Elizabeth's case, either, so he got the girl after all.

By the way, "resentment" is often paired with its opposite, "gratitude," in Adam Smith's discussion of the moral sentiments. That might prove important in Austen, too.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:06 PM, Blogger Teacher Leo said...

One of my favourite writers is Jane Duncan (sharing a first name with Austen) and she loves to play with words in unusual ways.
Holding a grudge, according to her, is to provide fertile soil for a thorny little plant to grow which provides you then with lots of rods to beat other's backs.
I never came across any play she made on resentment, but I would speculate that the re part is significant here. As Malcolm points out, re does mean doing again and again the thing that follows.
And of course sentiment could have been shortened to sentment, but I'd like to break this down further - sent as in the past tense of send. I know it is actually from the Latin sentire, to feel, but let us think for a moment about the sent as in posted to - could we not say that people feeling an implacable resentment keep sending their feelings over and over again, often futilely, against the object of the grudge?

At 7:37 PM, Blogger Sperwer said...

I liked this line in the beginning of Hargreaves article: "Indeed, for many the Scottish past was a storehouse of memorialized conflict, and had a power to perpetuate a sense of grievance and tribal hatred that seemed to threaten to undo the entire project of the Scottish Enlightenment." I'm intrigued by the possibility of replacing "Scottish" with "Korean" and "Scottish Enlightenment" with "Korean modernization" (or some such) and following through with a parallel analysis. Well, not quite parallel, because I'm not aware of any modern (or historical) Korean analogue for the Scottish Enlightenment - at least in relation to what Hargreaves describes as the Scottish Enlightenment's interest in historical narrative and the role of the passions in such a narrative.

At 6:20 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Teacher Leo, on the positive side, if holding a grudge provides rods with which to beat others' backs, then it has some use.

More seriously, the etymological work that you and Malcolm performed went far beyond my own. I had never before made the link to "sentiment," and every time that I typed "resent," I found myself thinking "re-sent"?

I therefore like your wordplay. Perhaps you could make a parable around that.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:27 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

"Indeed, for many the Korean past was a storehouse of memorialized conflict, and had a power to perpetuate a sense of grievance and tribal hatred that seemed to threaten to undo the entire project of the Korean modernization."

Yes, that seems to work, Sperwer, for "han" is a sort of resentment, isn't it? I've not yet read the article, so I'm not prepared to say much of intelligence at the moment . . . but perhaps over a few beers on the coming Friday or Saturday? I'll send you an email to set something up.

Jeffery Hodges

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