In this blog, I mainly discuss my adventures and research – hence the name, but this evening please permit me a short reflection on the past year. This time last year was one of the most difficult periods of my life. Nothing particularly bad had happened. On the contrary, I had submitted my PhD at the end of January and was awaiting my viva. Several of my friends had already passed their vivas and were waiting for the June graduation. I made a somewhat ambitious decision to graduate with them, but considering my viva was in April, it would mean I would need a straight pass or VERY minor corrections to make the graduation deadline. If anyone wants to know exactly how I was feeling during this period, you can read my blog posted on the SGSAH site from last year.
I dug myself a hole of self-doubt, which lead to an ugly spiral of feeling completely out-
of-control. I didn’t know how or where to look for academic positions, what the next step was in terms of research, and at every turn questioned if I was good enough for the education I had just undergone. In a period of what should have been freeing and relaxing, I felt nothing but dread and panic. After the viva and graduation, this feeling lifted a little, but I still didn’t feel like myself and was desperately searching for opportunities to gain back structure, confidence and self-worth.
I tell you this because if it had not been for that period of ‘desperation to achieve’ I would not have pushed myself to apply for the current Visiting Fellowship I am on, which allows me to sit in a beautiful four-poster bedroom looking out into one of the most picturesque countryside’s I have ever seen. Nor would I have had the opportunity to travel to the other side of the world as I did last month. I may not have a permanent academic position as yet but I have achieved a lot since completing my PhD and this will hopefully stand me in good stead for positions that do arise. I also feel revitalised and filled with ideas that can be turned into larger, long term research projects. I realise I will not always feel in-control while I don’t have a permanent job, but this period away has helped me to centre myself once again and recognise my achievements. So, if there are any PhD students or recent graduates reading this who are feeling the same – there is light at the end of the tunnel and don’t let self-doubt get in the way of opportunity.
I will leave my reflection there and move onto the scandalous music masters!
There are a number of literary accounts that paint a sordid image of the music master. Les Liaisons Dangereuses [Dangerous Liaisons] is one of the most famous examples where the young Cécile falls for her dashing, young music tutor Chevalier Danceny. But this extends into other literary examples. I was reading the 1835 novel Maid in the Village by Mrs Kentish this afternoon, which provides a similar example of the dastardly music master who lusts after his young, virginal student. The novel reads like early 19th-century ‘Mills & Boon’! To give you an example, the young instructor Ambrosio is described as having ‘first placed [the young Aurora’s] pretty fingers on the strings of the guitar [and] had taught her to mingle her sweet voice with his in the melodies of her country’ (Kentish; 1835: 35). It describes them as having been childhood friends, but the older Ambrosio, who had been Aurora’s first tutor in English, drawing and music at some point changed his motives for teaching her. Indeed, her parents are delighted about their daughter’s rapid improvement made possible through Ambrosio’s constant attention, but he states that ‘a far more powerful motive urged his stay!’ The author could not have given a bigger *nudge, nudge, wink, wink* to Ambrosio’s intentions with being explicit!
While there are these obvious accounts of the ulterior motives of the music master who lusts after their student, I also came across an account from the point of view of a fictional father who feared a music master becoming affectionate with his daughter. In The Women of Fashion or the History of Diana Dormer from 1767 there is a letter exchange between Eliza Camply who is discussing her niece and Mrs Frampton. Camply notes that the father of her niece desired his daughter to improve her sweet singing voice, but would only allow a blind organist into the house to give her lessons. While the situation is noted as not being ideal, Camply assumes that her niece’s genius would allow her to improve rapidly (1767: 47).
In a follow up letter, the same niece seems to have had the opportunity to learn from a younger music master called Henry. Her aunt describes how her temperament is much more ‘agreeable’ and the pair openly ‘avow their Friendship’. It does not explicitly state that Henry and her niece are more than teacher and student, but the emphasised discussion on their strong friendship and her change of mood is perhaps hinting (1767:66-67).
These are just the couple of accounts that I came across today and while they do not specifically discuss the dynamics between teacher and student, this literary, fictional gossip about the student-teacher relationship is perhaps a reflection of real-life situations. After all, the fictional gossip had to be based on something…