Comment on Between within and without

  1. Okay, first of all, I'm so sorry this took so long! Academic schedules have been a bit punishing ever since the reveals went up, but I have a whole blissful week between exams/assessments now, and I'm so, so happy I get to spend some of that with this fic, because it is still 1000% lovely and glorious, and I’m so glad that my flailings made you want to write Eliot fic! I love Gwendolen dearly, and the universe of Daniel Deronda as a whole, and you’ve captured them both so perfectly here – it’s a pitch-perfect extension of George Eliot’s world, and all its little intricacies and ambitions and grand overviews of Victorian society. I love the conceit of the dinner party/séance/Gwendolen being back in London, and how it plays with mediums and their uneasy role in elite society with Miss Hulme being a character of such uncertain status but still part of this then-dazzling spiritualist tradition that had the potential to give her social infamy if not security. Catherine’s “Even the Queen and Gladstone are said to have dabbled. Can you somehow lead them to remember that first?” and her exchange with Klesmer over Debrett’s and furniture as method of spiritual communication were so much fun and so right for Eliot fic – they totally capture the lofty-yet-sardonic tenor of Klesmer’s thoughts and Catherine’s kind of calm, quietly wry attempts to keep peace with all the competing factions of the nineteenth-century society and they’re a lovely complement to all the finely-drawn intrigues that are there in the background of all Eliot’s scenes.

    I love all the richness of the Victorian era in Gwendolen’s thoughts on unfashionable London and how promenade to dine laced a hostess’s own intimate hopes for her guests to the most profound national consciousness of security and success through knowing one’s place and how she did recognize the dilemma of a woman without means, and it unfolds so lightly and naturally through the characters just like it does in Daniel Deronda itself, and the balance is just perfect. I especially love how this is done for the séance itself, with all the little hints at how spiritualism interacts with polite society in Mr Everett’s awkward acquiescence, and Klesmer and Mr Arrowpoint trying to evade it with as much as tact as possible, and the differing reactions of the Pentreaths, and how it starts for Gwendolen as a matter of pride and keeping poise vying with her boredom and sense of the absurd. You’ve fit so character psychology and social dynamics and historical detail the group responses to the séance, and I’m seriously awed and so happy that my letter inspired something so thoughtful and deft and intricate and lovely. <33333

    This is going to have to be part one of two because I have so much I want to swoon over with Gwendolen and the Klesmers, but I wanted to post this ASAP because I’ve kept you waiting far, far too long. This honestly gets more wonderful every time I re-read it, and I’m so full of thanks to you for writing this, so more of them are definitely forthcoming!

    Last Edited Thu 28 May 2015 12:27PM EDT

    Comment Actions
    1. BrightKnightie

      Thank you so much for this lovely, generous comment, and for returning and sharing it! It made my day not only when it first arrived, but on several occasions since, as I've left the tab open in my home computer and been so happy to see it. Please forgive my very slow reply; my workplace has been ... rather excessively demanding ... in recent weeks ~wry~ and the little hobby time I could squeeze out has gone to an annual ficathon that I mod.

      During the rereading for writing this story, I found the Gwendolen character shifting and deepening for me in ways that the Deronda character didn't (and, I suppose some critics have argued, hardly could; poor hero, locked in heroism). Gwendolen is one of the most round of characters, yet the roundness is more like a yarn ball than the proverbial onion. Pull the wrong end, and: knots! Thank you for leading me to get to know her yet again, and to remember that, as Eliot made her, she's likely to keep on shifting iridescently every time I read her as long as I live. :-)

      The importance of Catherine and Klesmer is something that has similarly grown for me through the years of acquaintance with the story. When I first read Daniel Deronda, I may have been mature enough to see them as a counterexample to the two main relationships in their stepping outside their culturally ordained groups for happiness, but now I think they're more the center point in a densely populated scale of relationships of varying degrees of intellectual/moral equality. (This can't be an original thought, but the commonalities between Gwendolen Harleth and Emma Woodhouse never struck me until this re reading.)

      (I should say, some of the characters' remarks about spiritualism in this story are adapted from period newspaper passages cited in The Darkened Room by Alex Owen, including "even the Queen and Gladstone." I'd previously known that Queen Victoria had tried spiritualism, but I was very amused to see Gladstone listed!)

      Again, thank you! Thank you very much!

      Comment Actions
      1. Oh gosh, I hear you completely on the workplace demands, and I'm sorry this is so disgracefully late again! But, now for the third part of the review I've owed you for far too long. :D

        First of all, splendid as Gwendolen is, I’m so glad she’s got the Klesmers there to support her. One of the things I really wanted to see beyond the novel was Gwendolen with friends in addition to Daniel, and everything about her bond with Catherine and Herr Klesmer in this fic is beautifully done, and they’re just such a lovely presence in Gwendolen’s life and the fic as a whole. I love the balance between Catherine’s serene fortitude and the strength of her convictions, and between Klesmer’s tenderness and indomitability, and all the little moments where they’re appreciated by Gwendolen have such a perfectly understated sweetness. [O]nce recognized, the beauty of her brave soul had drawn Gwendolen like a lodestone and Klesmer’s mobile face flickered with shifting emotions, as if under a firework exhibition of fleeting illuminations are especially gorgeous – I love that your Gwendolen’s realisation that [a]dmirers were pleasant; someone to admire was essential, and that she has the fabulous Klesmers as two of her guides. :D

        As for Gwendolen herself – one of the (many!) things I love in this fic is little moment at the very beginning with Gwendolen and the mirror, and her checking “she could meet her own gaze with neither revulsion nor complacency.” It’s a brilliant callback to the mirror scenes in the novel, and resisting revulsion and complacency is a really perfect encapsulation of her character arc, with Eliot always prodding her towards greater heights rather than more unsatisfying plateaus or furrows. And every time I come back to this fic, I’m completely bowled over by how beautifully you’ve captured the sweep of her character development, from little gestures of kindness to acts of grander defiance. It’s so lovely to see how her efforts to be counted on the side of excellence have paid off, from being a worthy audience member and hostess with a finely-honed appreciation for the intricacies of household management to her knowledge of herself as a women who must bear her demons and her angels together, and who does such a spectacular job of it in the séance. I love how your Gwendolen’s kept her archness and determination to live, but has a new maturity and wider understanding of the world to give her character a mellowness and depth, and offset her keener edges. The warmth of her friendship with Catherine when she’s bantering about golden arrows, hand her directing the post-séance conversation with the knowledge of how easy it was to blight another’s life, to deal a crushing blow from amidst self-placating, self-deceptive intentions to mitigate that blow are all so satisfying to read, and I love how this sense of duality in Gwendolen folds into the duality of within/without in the fic as a whole. The contrast between Gwendolen’s scarred psyche and unblemished outer woman and the resolution this gets in the séance is all beautifully realised, and most of all, I loved reading Gwendolen triumphing over her spiritual dread with all her impetuous intensity and her growing sense of moral certitude.

        This fic does a completely beautiful job of capturing the wideness of Eliot’s world and the iridescence of Gwendolen, as it goes from supernatural heights back to drawing-room realism, with Gwendolen grasping her demons during the séance and then looking at the lustrous white paint on her gloves and realising what she must do in the here and now, and that sense of liminality and boundlessness is so perfect for Gwendolen’s character arc, where she learns one’s girlhood need not set the upper bound of one’s life. I love the impression of strength and possibility that shines through in the last image of Gwendolen riding out as a better woman than she was a girl, and the final scene is such a lovely coda for the Klesmers and Gwendolen – I seriously couldn’t have any better gift, and I’m so glad to have inspired you to write Eliot fic! You have all my thanks again, as always. <333

        Comment Actions