In Hartley House by Phebe Gibbe’s, the main character Sophia repeatedly references the works of other English authors. One in particular, is interesting to consider when we form connections about the similarities between their text and this text. Dryden is mentioned in Sophia’s narrative.
When she is telling her friend Arabella about the barges she writes:
“You have seen, as you suppose, some very handsome barges on the river Thames; but how poor a figure the handsomest would make, in comparison with the bugeros, or barged of Calcutta, I will endeavor to convince you.
As they approached, my ears drank in the most delightful sounds; a band of music, as is the custom, occupied each of them, playing the softest airs; and from the tout ensemble, brought Dryden’s Cydnus and Cleopatra to my recollection. “ (8-9)
It’s obvious, especially from the close reading on Wednesday, that Sophia is an adolescent that feeds into her own vanity. This inflated ego, is not terrible per se, but Sophia uses this vanity, as a way to show off literature she isn’t even familiar with!
we notice that Sophia is using words such as “bugeros” and “tout ensemble”. She is also undermining Arabella’s intelligence by essentially simplifying the words, that wouldn’t have been needed simplification if she had just said the word as it is instead of using another language to appear more cultured.
Ah yes, Dryden’s Cydnus and Cleopatra, no big deal. Except, Sophia, is that a thing? Does Sophia actually mean Antony and Cleopatra at Cydnus by…..William Shakespeare.
Sophia is exposing this pretentiousness and British insecurity on foreign land. She tries over and over again to quote British literature and reference classics.
This demonstrates elitism within british literature, Gibbe’s is satirizing how engulfed Sophia is with the aesthetic beauty of British literature, and ignoring the other issues at hand going on in the world.