MARIANNE AND WILLOUGHBY, LUCY AND COLIN: BETRAYAL, SUFFERING, DEATH AND THE POETIC IMAGE
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Many of the song lyrics in Jane Austen’s personal music books (some collected or transcribed by her, some inherited or passed on from family members) are couched in the sentimental poetic diction prevalent in the eighteenth century, with highly conventional pastoral settings and imagery. I have been particularly struck by a long ballad in seven parts titled ‘Colin and Lucy’, which is a 1783 setting by Tommaso Giordani of a 1725 poem by Thomas Tickell (1685-1740) describing the betrayal, death and revenge of a wronged woman. The printed music of this ballad is in a book inscribed by Jane Austen, and it seems likely that she was familiar with it and probably sang and played it herself. Several incidents included in the song are echoed and perhaps deliberately parodied in Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility (1811), although the rhetoric and imagery are strikingly different. The novel’s language, though often dramatic, is matter-of-fact and literal. In this paper I will discuss the ballad’s musical and lyrical rhetoric and how Austen alters and undercuts its poetic imagery in her treatment of similarly dramatic (though not fatal) events in the novel.