ABOVE: The 1813 Cruikshank caricature of The Prince of Whales: The Fisherman at Anchor.................. Read Colleen Sheehan's articles (including the footnotes) for the amazing Jane Austen connection:



...Halloween, 2010, when I addressed the JASNA AGM in Portland re: "Remember the country and age in which we live": The Covert Death-in-childbirth Anti-parody in Northanger Abbey"



...to various JASNA chapters re: “The Shadow Story of Emma: Jane Austen, the Secret Feminist”:

In NYC....


...and also in Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Gainesville, Atlanta, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Sacramento.


I want to present to other JASNA chapters. Email arnieperlstein@myacc.net if you're interested!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The La Rochefoucauldian playfulness and epigrammatism of Jane Austen’s general style – especially---but not exclusively---in Pride & Prejudice

I am not the first Austen scholar to note the striking parallelism between the very famous and influential maxims of La Rochefoucauld, on the one hand, and the “epigrammatism” of Jane Austen’s “general style”, on the other. However, I will in this post be the first scholar to land that plane, so to speak, and definitively claim, and then prove by overwhelming circumstantial textual evidence, that this was not an accidental or unconscious parallelism on JA’s part. Instead, I will show that Jane Austen’s own epigrammatism—and not just in her most epigrammatic novel, P&P--was very consciously based upon that of the grandmaster French epigrammatist.

JA of course referred to her own “epigrammatism” in those playful above-quoted words, in her very famous “too light, bright, and sparkling” 1813 letter to sister Cassandra, in which she wrote what any alert reader will recognized as “solemn specious nonsense” about her recently published “darling child”, Pride & Prejudice, supposedly being “too light, bright, and sparkling”.


The earliest scholarly recognition I can find of synchronicity between JA and La Rochefoucauld (who was also a favorite of many other famous writers in many different languages who came after him, including England’s Lord Chesterfield, who was himself a source for Jane Austen’s writing) is in “Style and Judgment in JA’s Novels” by Frank Bradbrook, Cambridge Journal Vol. 4, #9 (1951) ppg 515-37, at p. 517:

“Directness and brevity find their appropriate consummation in the epigram, and here JA reminds us of La Rochefoucauld, La Bruyere, and their English imitators, Lord Halifax, Swift, and Lord Chesterfield, as much as of Dr. Johnson.  Comments such as ‘A large income is the best receipt for happiness, I ever heard of.’ ‘We all love to instruct, though we can teach only what is not worth knowing’, “Selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure’ abound. A character such as Mr. Bennet is a personification of this trait: the apparent cynicism of his reflections, and the characteristic irony with which they are expressed, correspond to a permanent attitude in Jane Austen…”

Bradbrook did not appear to recognize that JA was very consciously and specifically alluding to La Rochefoucauld. However, when Bradbrook quoted, as an example of JA’s epigrammatism, Elizabeth Bennet’s cynical, almost Zen Buddhist, comment spoken to sister Jane in P&P Ch. 54, “We all love to instruct, though we can teach only what is not worth knowing”, I’m pretty sure Bradbrook subconsciously had in mind La Rochefoucauld’s famous Maxim 377:   “We may bestow advice, but we cannot inspire the conduct.”

From Bradbrook, we move ahead over 40 years to Jane Austen's Novels: The Art of Clarity  by Roger Gard (1994), in which Gard quotes Willoughby…
 “I do not mean to justify myself, but at the same time cannot leave you to suppose that I have nothing to urge—that because she was injured she was irreproachable, and because I was a libertine, SHE must be a saint. If the violence of her passions, the weakness of her understanding”
…and then comments:
 “This has a whiff of La Rochefoucauld, a whiff of the writer of Lady Susan; it at once lifts us out of identification with Elinor’s point of view, and at the same time enhances our respect for her ability to cope with such truths.”
Again, the scholarly timidity, the failure to walk through the door that is already wide open.

And then a few years after Gard, there was still no clear acknowledgment of JA’s intentionality of allusion to La Rochefoucauld in Rachel Brownstein’s 1997 chapter in The Cambridge Companion to JA, in which Brownstein begins by quoting Mr. Bennet’s most famous epigram  “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?" and then observes: 
“It is tempting to read Mr. Bennet’s remark as a self-conscious gesture by the novelist….One of her acquaintances [Charlotte Maria Middleton] recalled of Austen that ‘her keen sense of humour …oozed out very much in Mr. Bennett’s style”, and his accents, or the most cynical tones of La Rochefoucauld, are audible in a gossipy letter she wrote to CEA in 1799:  “Whenever I fall into misfortune, how many jokes it ought to furnish to my acquaintance in general, or I shall die dreadfully in their debt for entertainment. “

Brownstein, like Bradbrook and Gard, clearly had in mind, at least subconsciously, La Rochefoucauld, in this case the famous Maxim 31: “If we had no faults, we should not take so much pleasure in noting those of others.”  
Bravo to Brownstein for catching the connection between JA’s 1799 letter and Mr. Bennet, but still, Brownstein is one more scholar who doesn’t trust their intuition, and does not seem to realize that La Rochefoucauld is not just “in the air”, but is behind both of them.

And now here is the fourth and last scholarly connection of JA with La Rochefoucauld that I found-in Jon Elster’s  Alchemies of the Mind: Rationality and the Emotions (1999)  at p. 121:
“[JA’s] dialogues and authorial asides contain observations that could have come straight from La Rochefoucauld or La Bruyere. In Chapter 9 of P&P, for instance, we find an exchange that mirrors La Rochefoucauld’s comment on how absence affects love of varying degrees of strength.” 

This is the best of the four, and hats off to Elster for coming closest to acknowledging JA’s intentionality in alluding to La Rochefoucauld. Elster first quotes this passage of Elizabeth and Darcy’s repartee…
“"I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love," said Darcy.
"Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may. Everything nourishes what is STRONG already. But if it be only a slight, thin sort of INCLINATION, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it entirely away."
Darcy only smiled…”
….and Elster’s excellent summary makes it easy to locate La Rochefoucauld’s Maxim 269 as the source: 
“Absence weakens the minor passions and increases the great ones, as the wind blows out a candle and fans a fire. “

This example is particularly wonderful, because it is not a literal quotation, but is Elizabeth’s (and therefore obviously JA’s) brilliant ad libbed paraphrase, translating La Rochefoucauld’s metaphor of wind as feeding fire to a riff on Darcy’s metaphor of poetry as food feeding love.


Based on the above, I didn’t need any further prompting to begin skimming through La Rochefoucauld’s many maxims myself, and the following are what I found (and I’d be willing to bet that these are still not all there are hidden in JA’s varied, subtle palette of “epigrammatism”:

Maxim 386. What makes the vanity of others insufferable to us is that it wounds our own.
Maxim 33: Pride indemnifies itself and loses nothing even when it casts away vanity.

It’s obvious that Jane Austen had both of these maxims in mind, in tandem, when she wrote the following famous passage in Chapter 5 of P&P, in which first Elizabeth, and then Mary, channel La Rochefoucauld:

"His pride," said Miss Lucas, "does not offend me so much as pride often does, because there is an excuse for it. One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, everything in his favour, should think highly of himself. If I may so express it, he has a right to be proud."
"That is very true," replied Elizabeth, "and I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine."
"Pride," observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, "is a very common failing, I believe. By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed; that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us."

Now  you see what I meant by overwhelming circumstantial proof.

And how about this one?  Turns out that Mr. Darcy also read his La Rochefoucauld:

“A refusal of praise is a desire to be praised twice.”

This is clearly the source for this repartee between Bingley and Darcy:

"My ideas flow so rapidly that I have not time to express them—by which means my letters sometimes convey no ideas at all to my correspondents."
"Your humility, Mr. Bingley," said Elizabeth, "must disarm reproof."
"Nothing is more deceitful," said Darcy, "than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast."
"And which of the two do you call my little recent piece of modesty?"
"The indirect boast; for you are really proud of your defects in writing, because you consider them as proceeding from a rapidity of thought and carelessness of execution, which, if not estimable, you think at least highly interesting. The power of doing anything with quickness is always prized much by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance.

And it’s not just Mr. Bennet, Elizabeth, and Mary…..


At the beginning of this post, I claimed that JA did not only have La Rochefoucauld in mind while writing P&P, she also alluded to him in other novels.

First, here is Reflection 139:  “One of the reasons that we find so few persons rational and agreeable in conversation is there is hardly a person who does not think more of what he wants to say than of his answer to what is said. The most clever and polite are content with only seeming attentive while we perceive in their mind and eyes that at the very time they are wandering from what is said and desire to return to what they want to say. Instead of considering that the worst way to persuade or please others is to try thus strongly to please ourselves, and that to listen well and to answer well are some of the greatest charms we can have in conversation.”

Isn’t it obvious that Reflection 139 is the minds of both Anne Elliot and Cousin Elliot when they provide the best company to each other?:

"My idea of good company, Mr Elliot, is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company."
"You are mistaken," said he gently, "that is not good company; that is the best.

And then we have Maxim 245: “The height of cleverness is to be able to conceal it.”

Isn’t it obvious that Henry Tilney is showing off his literary erudition when he channels La Rochefoucauld as follows?:

“Where people wish to attach, they should always be ignorant. To come with a well-informed mind is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.
The advantages of natural folly in a beautiful girl have been already set forth by the capital pen of a sister author; and to her treatment of the subject I will only add, in justice to men, that though to the larger and more trifling part of the sex, imbecility in females is a great enhancement of their personal charms, there is a portion of them too reasonable and too well informed themselves to desire anything more in woman than ignorance. “

It’s no coincidence that the narrator of NA then goes on to speak wittily and epigrammatically about side-screens, perspectives, and other metaphors of visual art that translate readily into their  equivalents in words, in this case, JA’s infinitely subtle art of allusion to La Rochefoucauld.

And that being a ready an easy step to silence, I will bring this post to a close now.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Friday, August 15, 2014

Old Uncle Francis Austen’s Fairy Godmother

In this further post about Henry Austen’s letter to JEAL that appears at the end of Chapter 1 of RAAL’s Austen Papers, I want to unpack some hidden (or at least, little noticed) significant history of the life of Old Uncle Francis Austen, who, as I’ve said, became the de facto patriarch whose largesse provided great benefits to JA’s branch of the Austen family.

“There (at Sevenoaks) my Father’s Uncle, old Francis Austen set out in life with £800 and a bundle of pens, as Attorney, & contrived to amass a very large fortune, living most hospitably, and yet buying up all the valuable land round the Town --marrying two wealthy wives & persuading the Godmother of his eldest son, Motley Austen, to leave to her said Godson a small legacy of £100,000 — He was a kind uncle too, for he bought the presentations of Ashe & Deane, that your Grandfather might have which ever fell vacant first — it chanced to be Deane. He left your Grandfather a legacy of £500, though at that time he had 3 sons married & at least a dozen grandchildren.”

First, please notice and admire RAAL’s inobtrusive but skillful biographical contextualizing. Chapter 1 up till Henry’s letter was all about the amazing testimony to indefatigable maternal determination and courage left behind by Elizabeth Weller Austen, JA’s paternal great grand mother, and mother of Francis Austen. So the segue is quite natural and seamless from her story to Henry Austen’s summary of the greatest fruition of Elizabeth’s dogged determination, which was the astonishing success achieved by her second son, Francis. Apparently she was able to send Francis out into the world “with L800 and a bundle of pens” and a legal education, and he then parlayed those assets into a huge fortune over the remaining 7 decades of his extremely long life (curiously almost the same nonagenarian lifespan as was enjoyed by his greatnephew Admiral Francis Austen) and paid it all forward, too.

My attention was caught initially by the huge incongruity of the three sums mentioned in rapid succession in the above passage, and my sense that Henry Austen was hinting that everything was not quite kosher about the way that Francis Austen amassed fortunes for himself and his son/namesake.  Let’s see if you agree.

First, we hear that Francis started out with 800 pounds--a relatively modest sum in hand starting out in life as a young lawyer. As you’ll recall, Francis , all his younger siblings, and his widowed mother Elizabeth Weller found themselves basically out in the cold, inheritance speaking, as Francis’s elder brother John Austen V received practically all of the large estate of their grandfather John Austen III.  Of course, we got NONE of that crucial background in JEAL’s Memoir, but the reason, I already pointed out, clearly was JEAL ran like hell far away from any suggestions in Austen family history of the two Austen family disinheritance injustices that JA covertly alluded to in S&S Chapters 1&2.

Anyway, second, we hear that somehow old Francis “contrived to amass a very large fortune” which allowed him to buy “up all the valuable land round the town”. Well, you might well wonder how exactly did Francis contrive to pull off this extraordinary financial coup?  The answer, I believe, lies in what I first learned about Francis earlier in 2014, which I blogged about here. It’s a key fact you hear about from precious few Austen biographers—Francis somehow became the attorney for a number of heavy hitting aristocrats in Kent, most of all the 3rd Duke of Dorset, the notorious John Sackville, who I first identified six months ago as a major (and negative) historical source for characters in various of JA’s novels:  
Here’s the most relevant part of that post of mine from March, 2014: 

“…As Pat Rogers noted, the Duke of Dorset was intimately involved during his entire lifetime with Jane Austen’s great uncle, Francis Austen, and also with his son, Francis-Motley Austen, both attorneys and local men of substance.  They were lifetime residents of Sevenoaks, and in many ways the role that both Francis and his son played for the Sackvilles of Knole seems to have been uncannily similar to the role played in the backstory of P&P by the senior Mr. Wickham who was steward to Mr. Darcy’s father at Pemberley.
Again, as with the Duke of Dorset as Darcy (and I just noticed the names Dorset and Darcy even sound alike!) make of it what you will, my point is that knowing this close personal connection between Jane Austen and the Duke of Dorset only makes all the allusions to him in the novels that much more likely, but also that much more subversive, as surely many members of Jane Austen’s family would not have been too thrilled to know that Jane Austen was skewering the greatest patron of her great uncle in not one but several of her novels! Now you begin to understand why Jane Austen would have concealed these subtexts as she did!”

So, it seems to me that Francis was one of those attorneys who managed to use his legal practice to earn more than legal fees-he was clearly a man of  some personal charisma, able to woo and win rich wives, able to maneuver himself into longstanding representation of very rich, influential clients. Old Uncle Francis had to have been a very very savvy, adept player, a man who in some ways reminds me of Lucy Steele, who uses her wits and fearless chutzpah to opportunistically maneuver herself to the top of the Ferrars family. I seriously doubt that old Uncle Francis got to where he got, by being a straight arrow and totally ethical practitioner of the law.

Now when I wrote the above about Francis and his boss the Duke of Dorset, I had not read Henry’s letter, and so it was news to me that one of old Francis Austen’s greatest financial scores came when he persuaded the (apparently) very wealthy Lady Falkland to leave 100,000 pounds-worth of property to her godson Francis Motley! I became curious to know the circumstances of that bequest, indeed, of how that great lady came to be named godmother to the second son of a lawyer—was that a common occurrence in the middle of the 18th century?  I’d guess not.

Lady Falkland, born Sarah Inwen, married, firstly, Henry Howard, 10th Earl of Suffolk; then married, secondly, Lucius Charles Cary, 7th Viscount Falkland in 1752. She died in 1776. So, her first husband died in 1745, she remarried in 1752, and her godson, Francis Motley Austen, was born in 1747, his mother having apparently died in childbirth.  

Google led me to a transcription of Lady Falkland’s Will—and here is the relevant verbiage, setting forth the disposition of her residuary estate after payment of some pecuniary bequests:

“After my debts and the said legacies are paid, all other my lands in the counties of Essex, Kent, Middlesex, Bedford, Cambridge, Lincoln, or elsewhere, and all my real and personal property, IN TRUST FOR MY SAID HUSBAND Viscount Falkland FOR LIFE, AND THEN to sell and pay thereout: [various additional pecuniary bequests totaling about 25,000 pounds, plus]  Sackville Austen, second son of said Francis Austen, 500L; John Austen, youngest son of said Francis Austen, 500L… RESIDUE TO FRANCIS MOTLEY AUSTEN, esq. absolutely. My executors to be said Lord Falkland, Francis Austen,  Esq. of Sevenoaks, Francis Motley Austen, esq. of Wilmington, co. Kent, and William Hucks, Esq. the son of Thomas Hucks, Esq….Proved 22 June, 1776, by Francis Austen, esq. and William Hucks, esq. two of the executors, power reserved to .Francis Motley Austen, esq. and Lord Viscount Falkland, the others, the said Lord Viscount Falkland consenting.”

Given that Lady Falkland wound up leaving the lion’s share of her estate to Francis Motley Austen, I have to wonder about the relationship in 1747 between the widow of an earl and her attorney, such that she would agree to be godmother to his son, and then, nearly 30 years later, treat that godson as if she had been her only child. Makes me wonder whether Francis Motley was her (biological) child, conceived and born while she was in between aristocratic husbands!

I get the feeling that this is exactly what Henry Austen is hinting at….and I also hear  irony in Henry Austen reciting, right after he has told the tale of Francis Motley Austen’s fairy godmother leaving him a “small”  amount of 100,000 pounds, the following:

“He was a kind uncle too, for he bought the presentations of Ashe & Deane, that your Grandfather might have which ever fell vacant first — it chanced to be Deane. He left your Grandfather a legacy of £500, though at that time he had 3 sons married & at least a dozen grandchildren.”

Given that old Francis Austen died a very rich man, and left a son who was also a very rich man,  I am not sure how generous a legacy of 500L was for a nephew, Revd. Austen, with eight children and not a large income. Was Henry hinting that old Francis could have done better by Henry’s dad?

And my final question is, why is it that I am the first Austen scholar to even talk about any of this?

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What Le Faye and JEAL didn't want Janeites to know about Satire of Austen Family History, Part 37

In response to my immediately preceding post, Nancy Mayer  wrote: "It doesn't matter what anyone says because you insist that JEAL was engaged in some sort of conspiracy to hide something from the public. You just do not want to admit that he was under no obligation to write the book you think he should have written."

First, Nancy, I don't just insist, I have been patiently & extensively documenting (at last count) at least two dozen different editorial frauds that JEAL committed from one end of the Memoir to the other. I never shoot from the hip based on a "feeling".

Even I had no idea 4 years ago when I first began to collect them, that there were so many. It still amazes me, the breadth and depth of JEAL's sheer chutzpah. And I believe I'm still not quite done, there's still more, as this latest point about JEAL putting the kibosh on Henry's letter illustrates. 

When I finally pull them all together in one unified closing argument in a single long chapter, showing how they are all part of a consistent pattern, the effect will be devastating. Whereas, other than your repeated vague, telegraphic defenses of the Memoir, which beg every imaginable question, you have never laid a substantive glove on any of my indictments of JEAL's editorial frauds. Even now, I invite you to quote from my posts and demonstrate where I am making unreasonable or inaccurate claims. I don't believe you can.

Second (and again), if JEAL's Memoir had already gone to that final resting place where obsolete, prejudicial, self-aggrandizing, self-indulgent, fraudulent memoirs by family members of long dead great geniuses go to be forgotten, I would not waste breath on it. But you keep ignoring the astonishing ongoing vitality of JEAL's Memoir in the minds of many many Janeites, academics, journalists, and lay readers alike. This is a serpent coiled around the Tree of False Knowledge that needs to be put to sleep, so that truth can emerge out from under JEAL's Memoir's huge shadow. Your lack of interest in finding something closer to the truth about JA is surprising to me.

Third, you beg the question of the moral obligation of a memoirist (to present and future generations of readers of JA's writing) to tell the truth about his illustrious aunt to the best of his ability. JEAL had reason to know, because he was the first true biographer of JA in print, that his Memoir had the potential to shape public opinion about JA's life and writing for a very long time to come. So, I think there was a very strong moral fiduciary duty on JEAL above all not to allow his own narrow, self-serving interest to color his presentation of facts.

He was no imbecile, he was a very well educated public intellectual, still in possession of all his faculties, he knew right from wrong, especially when wrong was being done for self-interested reasons. He was no unconscious editorial sinner, he knew exactly what he was doing. The pattern of selective distortion of truth only in certain targeted areas reveals that he was not  simply a poor editor who botched everything---he only got things very wrong when, tellingly, it was in his personal interest to do so.

And what remedy do I seek? Only to demolish the bona fides of JEAL's Memoir in regard to all its frauds, and make room for the truth.

Nancy also wrote: "It is a loving tribute by a nephew who recognized his aunt's greatness even if he didn't present it in the best possible manner. It is thanks to JEAL that we have any of the biographies of Austen."

And that last statement is utterly offbase--had it been RAAL and not JEAL who was in that position in 1870 to write the first Memoir of Jane Austen; who had the luxury and the privilege and the responsibility of that unique access to that priceless primary data, we'd have seen a VERY different Memoir, and we'd have had even more and better biographies of JA in followup, and a lot sooner.

In that sense, JEAL is like Le Faye, too---Le Faye often gets credit for having first brought forward so much information about JA's life and letters--but had another biographer, such as, e.g., David Nokes, who did not have as a prime directive the suppressive of "dangerous" information, then the updated Family Record and edition of JA's Letters would also have been a radically different piece of work. And things coming to light in 2014 because of probers like myself would have surfaced a half century ago.

And I'm sorry, I don't think it's "loving" to suppress important aspects of a deceased loved one's true character, and to present an image of her to the world that he knew to be false, as if the true Jane Austen was not worthy of being displayed to universal view. What he did with CEA's 1810 sketch of JA is the quintessence of JEAL's editorial frauds--and a week doesn't go by even in 2014 without that phony cow-like Jane Austen staring vacantly into space, instead of the true Jane Austen with her plain hard features and piercing, shrewd, almost frowning stare.

I cannot forgive him for this Big Lie, until it has been consigned to the dustbin of literary history.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

P. S. re more of what JEAL didn’t want Janeites to know about Austen Family History, Part 37

Responding to my post yesterday about Henry Austen’s letter to JEAL, in which I wrote, in relevant part…

“JEAL, in his 1870 Memoir, intentionally and deceptively suppressed evidence of JA’s satire of dark chapters in Austen family history; then RAAL, in both his 1911 JA’s Life & Letters and his later Austen Papers, sought to atone for his grandfather JEAL’s editorial sins by revealing
what JEAL had concealed or obfuscated…”

…Nancy Mayer wrote the following rebuttal in Janeites: 
“JEAL was writing the life of Jane Austen and selected the parts that affected her. He wrote of her father but not uncles and great uncles. His focus was on Jane and not the ancestors….JEAL was writing a Memoir -- a short biography of his aunt and not a long family saga.”

Nancy, I’m glad you made your case so clearly, because it allows me to easily demonstrate that your claim is patently and completely inaccurate, as follows:

First, I’ve already established that JEAL chose not to include the first 300 words of Henry’s letter  to JEAL, a passage that would have given JEAL’s readers an entertaining, informative snapshot of the life of Old  Francis Austen, who was the closest thing to a patriarch of the family that JA was born into. Plus, that pithy, witty excerpt would have had the added bonus of being written with a subtle irony that was, as Diane pointed out, strikingly reminiscent of JA’s writing its  elf. An editorial no-brainer, in other words.

Instead, JEAL chose to cherry pick and then clunkily rewrite a few tidbits from Henry’s introductory section , and weave them into a generally misleading paragraph about Revd. Austen’s beginnings. But then, in direct contradiction of your claim, JEAL immediately segued into a 600-word passage (i.e., twice as long as the introductory excerpt from Henry’s letter), a long passage providing all manner of trivia about Theophilus Leigh, who was…..JA’s maternal ANCESTOR! (that scent you now detect is the aroma of your claim about no ancestors going up in smoke).

But it’s even worse.  To add editorial insult to injury, shortly thereafter JEAL launched into a 1,200-word passage (i.e., four times as long as the Henry Austen excerpt JEAL shunned) that mostly has absolutely nothing to do with JA’s own life, and only two fleeting and oblique  touches on her writing. I reproduce that 1,200 word passage, below, in full, to illustrate just how much precious space in the Memoir JEAL was more than happy to devote to trivia and social background remote from JA’s own life.  

But, as I also realized overnight---I could have predicted that JEAL’s perverse editorial strategy would dictate JEAL taking a pass on Henry’s brilliant summary re Francis  Austen. Why? Because the last thing JEAL was going to include in the Memoir was a letter written by Henry Austen---not only because it broadly hinted at family secrets, but also because, as I posted only a few months ago, JEAL knew he was going be setting his Uncle Henry up later in the Memoir as the fall guy whose 1816 bankruptcy was the “true” cause of JA’s serious health relapse, instead of the actual main cause (as per JA’s own words), which was the disinheritance of the Austen women by Uncle Leigh Perrot, in favor of JEAL’s father James, and, ultimately behind James, JEAL himself:

So, in summary, let’s call JEAL’s editorial choices for what they are, and not  sugar-coat and rationalize his many serious editorial frauds—even though his Memoir was written nearly a century and a half ago, it continues to exert a strong influence on current thinking about JA’s life and writing—an influence that needs to be nullified, so that truth can emerge from the shadows.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter


“I am tempted to add a little about the difference of personal habits.  It may be asserted as a general truth, that less was left to the charge and discretion of servants, and more was done, or superintended, by the masters and mistresses.  With regard to the mistresses, it is, I believe, generally understood, that at the time to which I refer, a hundred years ago, they took a personal part in the higher branches of cookery, as well as in the concoction of home-made wines, and distilling of herbs for domestic medicines, which are nearly allied to the same art.  Ladies did not disdain to spin the thread of which the household linen was woven.  Some ladies liked to wash with their own hands their choice china after breakfast or tea.  In one of my earliest child’s books, a little girl, the daughter of a gentleman, is taught by her mother to make her own bed before leaving her chamber.  It was not so much that they had not servants to do all these things for them, as that they took an interest in such occupations.  And it must be borne in mind how many sources of interest enjoyed by this generation were then closed, or very scantily opened to ladies.  A very small minority of them cared much for literature or science.  Music was not a very common, and drawing was a still rarer, accomplishment; needlework, in some form or other, was their chief sedentary employment.
But I doubt whether the rising generation are equally aware how much gentlemen also did for themselves in those times, and whether some things that I can mention will not be a surprise to them.  Two homely proverbs were held in higher estimation in my early days than they are now—’The master’s eye makes the horse fat;’ and, ‘If you would be well served, serve yourself.’  Some gentlemen took pleasure in being their own gardeners, performing all the scientific, and some of the manual, work themselves.  Well-dressed young men of my acquaintance, who had their coat from a London tailor, would always brush their evening suit themselves, rather than entrust it to the carelessness of a rough servant, and to the risks of dirt and grease in the kitchen; for in those days servants’ halls were not common in the houses of the clergy and the smaller country gentry.  It was quite natural that Catherine Morland should have contrasted the magnificence of the offices at Northanger Abbey with the few shapeless pantries in her father’s parsonage.  A young man who expected to have his things packed or unpacked for him by a servant, when he travelled, would have been thought exceptionally fine, or exceptionally lazy.  When my uncle undertook to teach me to shoot, his first lesson was how to clean my own gun.  It was thought meritorious on the evening of a hunting day, to turn out after dinner, lanthorn in hand, and visit the stable, to ascertain that the horse had been well cared for.  This was of the more importance, because, previous to the introduction of clipping, about the year 1820, it was a difficult and tedious work to make a long-coated hunter dry and comfortable, and was often very imperfectly done.  Of course, such things were not practised by those who had gamekeepers, and stud-grooms, and plenty of well-trained servants; but they were practised by many who were unequivocally gentlemen, and whose grandsons, occupying the same position in life, may perhaps be astonished at being told that ‘such things were.’
I have drawn pictures for which my own experience, or what I heard from others in my youth, have supplied the materials.  Of course, they cannot be universally applicable.  Such details varied in various circles, and were changed very gradually; nor can I pretend to tell how much of what I have said is descriptive of the family life at Steventon in Jane Austen’s youth.  I am sure that the ladies there had nothing to do with the mysteries of the stew-pot or the preserving-pan; but it is probable that their way of life differed a little from ours, and would have appeared to us more homely.  It may be that useful articles, which would not now be produced in drawing-rooms, were hemmed, and marked, and darned in the old-fashioned parlour.  But all this concerned only the outer life; there was as much cultivation and refinement of mind as now, with probably more studied courtesy and ceremony of manner to visitors; whilst certainly in that family literary pursuits were not neglected.
I remember to have heard of only two little things different from modern customs.  One was, that on hunting mornings the young men usually took their hasty breakfast in the kitchen.  The early hour at which hounds then met may account for this; and probably the custom began, if it did not end, when they were boys; for they hunted at an early age, in a scrambling sort of way, upon any pony or donkey that they could procure, or, in default of such luxuries, on foot.  I have been told that Sir Francis Austen, when seven years old, bought on his own account, it must be supposed with his father’s permission, a pony for a guinea and a half; and after riding him with great success for two seasons, sold him for a guinea more.  One may wonder how the child could have so much money, and how the animal could have been obtained for so little.  The same authority informs me that his first cloth suit was made from a scarlet habit, which, according to the fashion of the times, had been his mother’s usual morning dress.  If all this is true, the future admiral of the British Fleet must have cut a conspicuous figure in the hunting-field.  The other peculiarity was that, when the roads were dirty, the sisters took long walks in pattens.  This defence against wet and dirt is now seldom seen.  The few that remain are banished from good society, and employed only in menial work; but a hundred and fifty years ago they were celebrated in poetry, and considered so clever a contrivance that Gay, in his ‘Trivia,’ ascribes the invention to a god stimulated by his passion for a mortal damsel, and derives the name ‘Patten’ from ‘Patty.’
The patten now supports each frugal dame,
Which from the blue-eyed Patty takes the name.
But mortal damsels have long ago discarded the clumsy implement.  First it dropped its iron ring and became a clog; afterwards it was fined down into the pliant galoshe—lighter to wear and more effectual to protect—a no less manifest instance of gradual improvement than Cowper indicates when he traces through eighty lines of poetry his ‘accomplished sofa’ back to the original three-legged stool.
As an illustration of the purposes which a patten was intended to serve, I add the following epigram, written by Jane Austen’s uncle, Mr. Leigh Perrot, on reading in a newspaper the marriage of Captain Foote to Miss Patten:—
Through the rough paths of life, with a patten your guard,
   May you safely and pleasantly jog;
May the knot never slip, nor the ring press too hard,
   Nor the Foot find the Patten a clog.”