Though a minor character in Camilla, the obsequious and acquisitive Mrs. Mittin not only constantly surprises the heroine but also unfavorably impresses readers with her impertinence and disregard of decorum. The popularity she seeks and partially enjoys in the fictional world does not seem to be matched by responses among readers in the real world over the last two centuries. However, by the laconic statement, “But I do my own way,” she lays claim to autonomy; the ways in which she demonstrates her status as a free agent within the novel provide us with a fresh viewpoint on the works of Frances Burney.
This article investigates how Burney's invention of Mrs. Mittin provides an early instance of a phenomenon discussed by Marilyn Friedman in her account of autonomy in Autonomy, Gender, Politics. It links Mrs. Mittin's acquisitive desire and autonomy to her quest for respectability, and attributes her ability to climb the social ladder to these two dominant characteristics. It also examines Burney's skepticism about contemporary conduct book teachings for women on modesty, and observes that Burney deems the notion of modesty ineffective for women who, like Mrs. Mittin, live at the bottom of the social hierarchy and have to confront the “gothic economics” of the world on a daily basis. This article shows that Burney's portrayal of Mrs. Mittin illustrates her belief that women can take control of their own affairs and offers us an alternative picture of eighteenth-century Englishwomen.
KEY WORDS: Frances Burney, Mrs. Mittin, autonomy, respectability, acquisitive desire, modesty
在《卡蜜拉》中雖然是個次要角色，那善於諂媚奉承 且物慾旺盛的米頓女士，除了時常出其不意地使女主人翁 感到詫異之外，她的鹵莽無禮和無視禮儀的態度，也在讀 者眼裡留下不佳的印象。她在小說的虛擬世界裡所追求和 部份感受到的群眾魅力，與過去兩個世紀以來讀者對她的 看法似乎大相逕庭。然而，米頓女士藉由簡短明確的陳述 ─「但我依照我的方式」─聲明她的自主性。在小說裡她 所展現的一切操之在我的自信，提供我們法蘭西絲柏尼作 品所蘊涵的另一面。 本文首先檢視柏尼筆下米頓女士的自主如何呼應弗 萊德門在《自主、性別、政治》書中，對「自主」一詞所 下的定義。本文將連結米頓女士的物慾和自主與她對社會 地位的追尋，並將其社會地位的提升歸因於前述兩項主要 特質。文中亦探討柏尼對當代行為指南強調女性謙遜美 德，所抱持的懷疑態度，並指出柏尼認為對和米頓女士一 樣，隸屬社會階級底層，必須每天面對外在世界殘酷可怕 經濟問題的女性而言，此謙遜特質根本毫無效用。本文主 張柏尼刻劃的米頓女士不僅闡明她相信女性能夠掌控自 己大小事物的理念，更提供我們十八世紀英國女性的另類 描繪。