FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER: @JaneAustenCode
(& scroll all the way down to read my literary sleuthing posts)
Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, now living in "Portlandia"!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The late Nina Auerbach’s early take on Mr. Darcy as the Austenian duke of dark corners & disguise

Ellen Moody posted the following today in Janeites/Austen-L about the recent death of literary critic Nina Auerbach:  “An obituary: she was an important feminist woman scholarship; often wrote of the gothic, has a book on DuMaurier, wrote influentially from a feminist progressive angry angle about Fanny Price”: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=nina-auerbach&pid=184181437

For over a decade, I’ve been aware of Nina Auerbach’s having been a pioneer among Austen scholars, in her early recognition of dark aspects of Austen’s radical feminist critique of Regency Era patriarchy, a critique that (as I agree with her) lurks in the shadows of all of Austen’s novels. So I think it a fitting memorial to Prof. Auerbach today, to quote from her literary criticism written during the Seventies, so that her own words can illustrate the prescience and evolution of her subversive insights into the most high profile of Austen heroes  —Mr. Darcy in P&P. In particular, vis a vis my claim (since 2005) that all of Austen’s novels are double stories, I find especially noteworthy Auerbach’s prescient insights into the doubleness of the Austen hero who famously (and disingenuously) sneered: “But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence.” As you’ll see, Auerbach didn’t quite believe him then, and I don’t believe him today.

Auerbach first dipped her critical toe into the deep waters of Mr. Darcy’s mysterious character in 1972 in "O Brave New World: Evolution and Revolution in Persuasion, " English Literary History 39 at p. 120, with this passing observation:   
“…Elizabeth was forced out of her childhood home by Mr. Collins, a horrible embodiment of the power of form to stifle humanity, and her problem in the book was to find a house she could live in. Wickham's ‘unhoused free condition,’ his world of impulse and feeling, was an illusion, easily dissolved by the power of money. Nature, growth, freedom, could survive only in the heavily fortified atmosphere of Pemberley, presided over by the equivocal figure of Mr. Darcy…To find this generosity of feeling, Elizabeth Bennet… retreated into the past: Elizabeth ensconced herself in Pemberley…But there were oppressive and equivocal elements in this protective world of tradition. Darcy's resemblance to his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, pointed to elements in his character of the anti-human pride of his class, although at times Jane Austen ignored Darcy's unpleasant side with skillful sophistry in order to maintain the light and bright and sparkling tone of the book.”

I love Auerbach’s characterization of Austen’s “skillful sophistry” at somehow keeping things comic and tragic at the same time. Then, four years later, in “Austen & Alcott on Matriarchy: New Women or New Wives?” in Novel 10/1 (Autumn 1976) 6-26, Auerbach unpacked her much more fully developed thoughts about Darcy:
“Lady Catherine's final challenge throws Elizabeth back on the female, matriarchal dream world she is trying to escape; in asserting the primary reality of men and patrilineal inheritance, she comes close to denying that she is her mother's daughter. Lady Catherine's withdrawal, and the reassuringly ardent Darcy's quick appearance in her place, suggests the salutary recession of the usurped power of all mothers before the meaning and form only men can bestow. For the acknowledged center of power is the shadowy Darcy. "As a brother, a landlord, a master, she considered how many people's happiness were in his guardianship!-How much of pleasure or pain it was in his power to bestow!- How much of good or evil must be done by him!". Looking at Darcy as his portrait immortalizes him, Elizabeth is overcome by a kind of social vitalism: she is drawn not to the benignity and wisdom of his power but to its sheer extent as such, for evil as well as good. What compels her in the portrait is the awesomely institutionalized power of a man; a power that her own father has let fall and her mother, grotesquely usurped. Loathing as she does the idea of any kinship to her mother, Elizabeth will doubtless be content not to have her own portrait displayed after her marriage. Thus Austen speculates: "I can only imagine that Mr. D. prizes any Picture of her too much to like it should be exposed to the public eye.-I can imagine he wd. have that sort of feeling-that mixture of Love, Pride & Delicacy" (24 May, 1813). After the clamorous anonymity of Longbourn, marriage waits for Elizabeth as a hard-won release into a privacy only Darcy can bestow. But underneath this pervasive largesse Darcy has as shadowy a selfhood as his aunt Lady Catherine. If Elizabeth's childhood is obliterated in memory, Darcy's is a muddled contradiction. The man who caught Elizabeth's eye before audibly insulting her was, according to his "intelligent" housekeeper, a fount of virtue from the beginning of his life. He was merely too modest to declare his goodness and Elizabeth too prejudiced to see it…A good deal of weight is put on this testimony, though it is oddly redolent of Mr. Collins extolling the condescension of Lady Catherine; and it meshes neither with the reliable Mrs. Gardiner's "having heard Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy formerly spoken of as a very proud, ill-natured boy", nor with Darcy's own meticulous diagnosis of his past…Darcy the man is as muddled a figure as Darcy the boy. Is he indeed converted into humanity by Elizabeth's spontaneity and spirit, or was he always the perfection that maturity allows her to see? Oddly, Elizabeth herself prefers the latter interpretation, replacing her power over him with a reassuring silliness: "And yet I meant to be uncommonly clever in taking so decided a dislike to him, without any reason. It is such a spur to one's genius, such an opening for wit to have a dislike of that kind. One may be continually abusive without saying any thing just; but one cannot be always laughing at a man without now and then stumbling on something witty". Elizabeth's selective memory serves her well here by erasing the fact that she had, and has, several good reasons for disliking Darcy; but she seems to need a sense of her own wrongness to justify the play of her mind. In choosing to emphasize her own prejudice over Darcy's most palpable pride, she can wonder freely at the power in his portrait while her own (if there is one) will be closeted away, invisible to all eyes but her husband's…
Objectivity, impartiality, and knowledge might endanger the cloak of invisibility which is so intrinsic a part of Jane Austen's perception of a woman's life. The sanctioned power of management with which she endows Darcy allows him to prove his heroism in the third volume by taking over the mother's role: like the shadowy "Duke of dark corners" in Measure for Measure, he moves behind the scenes and secretly arranges the marriages of the three Bennet girls….In becoming the novel's providential matchmaker, Darcy brings about the comic conclusion by an administrative activity for which Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine were, and Emma Woodhouse will be, severely condemned. In the end the malevolent power of the mother is ennobled by being transferred to the hero; and the female community of Longbourn, an oppressive blank in a dense society, is dispersed with relief in the solidity of marriage. “ END QUOTE

Darcy clearly continued to bubble around in Auerbach’s imagination thereafter, because 7 years later, we read, in “Jane Austen and Romantic Imprisonment” these additional thoughts, which I believe are the last that Auerbach wrote about Darcy:
“…Elizabeth Bennet in P&P is the simplest case: she assumes power by marriage to it, and the novel arcs with her comic rise. Unlike Catherine Morland and Marianne Dashwood, she falls back only in a muted, vicarious fashion through her sister’s humiliating elopement. The double prison quietly persists, however, in Darcy’s radically double character, his ambiguous affinity with his tyrannical aunt making him as suggestive a redeemer/jailer as Willoughby was. His humanization is so undefined a process that we can see the ‘shades of the prison-house’ [Wordsworth] closing on Elizabeth forever at Pemberley.”

Given that I ‘ve been writing for almost a decade now about the two Darcys that Jane Austen created, and how the dark Darcy only pretends to reform his character, I’d like to think that Nina Auerbach, who so long ago felt intimations of that darkness, would’ve found my shadow story theories persuasive. And if you were wondering how Auerbach’s subversive ideas about Darcy were received way back when? Well, I will conclude this post with two reviews which show that the world of Austen scholarship was definitely not ready for Auerbach’s radical innovative thinking 3 or 4 decades ago—and perhaps is not much more ready today:

Joel J. Gold in Modern Philology, Vol. 80, No. 3 (Feb., 1983), pp. 313-316
“It is difficult, for example, to harmonize the somewhat strained and subjective readings of "Jane Austen and Romantic Imprisonment" by Nina Auerbach, which presents Austen in "a special sort of agreement with her Romantic contemporaries", with the judicious, balanced appraisal of Patricia Meyer Spacks, who sees Austen's fiction embodying "values of the 18th and 19th centuries alike". Auerbach's subjective approach leads to some dark corners: she finds in both Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey "a similar rhythm of a painful journey toward what looks like freedom but is in fact a deeper prison of the mind”. Many readers have seen Marianne Dashwood's marriage to Colonel Brandon in such terms, but Catherine's to Henry Tilney? Consider Auerbach on the end of Northanger Abbey: "The mechanical, even faintly zombie-like quality of the final epithalamium-'Henry and Catherine were married, the bells rang and every body smiled' . . . in which the smiles seem as non-human as the bells-recalls the darker, enforced marriages of the unnatural in Romantic fiction, whose contrivance (as in Frankenstein or Melmoth) murders the living nature marriage claims to perpetuate". Not surprisingly, with Auerbach as guide, "we can see the 'shades of the prison-house' closing on Elizabeth forever at Pemberley" and Fanny Price transformed "from being the prisoner of Mansfield to the status of its principal jailer".

And a few months after that, Margaret Ann Doody responded with similar skepticism in Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 38, No. 2 (Sep., 1983), pp. 220-224:
“Nina Auerbach gives us a different kind of historical Austen. "Jane Austen and Romantic Imprisonment" rebels in Austen's name against the condescending praise (by G. H. Lewes and others) for her limitations; she is too often seen as "the artist of contentedly clipped wings". Auerbach sees in Austen an impatience with "pinched horizons," a Romantic insight into a claustrophobia Romantically evoked. This view has some merit as a reaction against platitudes, but certainly not every reader will perceive Darcy as a "jailer" or agree that "we can see the 'shades of the prison house' closing on Elizabeth forever at Pemberley". If we try to see everything we want in an author, we may in the end see nothing.”

Needless to say, I don’t agree with Gold or Doody, and I especially don’t believe that Nina Auerbach was guilty of “trying to see everything she wanted to see” in Jane Austen’s fiction. Quite the contrary, I see Auerbach as having been a clear-eyed, imaginative interpreter of the meanings hidden beneath the lines Austen wrote, and I hope that one day my own scholarship will fulfill the promise of the pioneering and still underappreciated insights of Nina Auerbach.

Cheers, ARNIE

@JaneAusten on Twitter

Friday, February 17, 2017

Jane Austen stoops to allude to Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer: Part One

Recently, in the following excerpt from a 2008 dissertation, I came across a surprising lead regarding an allusive source for Pride & Prejudice of which I had previously been unaware:

The Pleasures of Comic Mischief in Jane Austen’s Novels by Belisa Monteiro:
“…Readers have noted the remarkably theatrical opening of Pride and Prejudice— the comic dialogue largely devoid of narrative commentary, clearly reminiscent of stage comedy. But none have pointed out the striking resemblance between Austen's scene of marital discord—a husband and wife fundamentally at odds, the husband delighting in thwarting his wife's desires—and the opening of Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer, featuring Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle, another squabbling, middle-aged couple. The Hardcastles, owners of a country estate, argue over the merits of the fashionable custom of going to London for a little seasonal diversion. A pretender to fashion, the hopelessly rustic Mrs. Hardcastle wants nothing more than a sojourn in London's beau monde, while her husband retorts with satirical witticisms on the "fopperies" of the town. While the topic of dispute differs, the comic mode of marital argument
resembles that of the Bennets: the wife exasperatingly pleading for what she wants, and the husband pleasing himself in thwarting her entreaties. The effects produced on the reader and spectator are similar too: we find ourselves laughing with the satirical husband more than sympathizing with the frustrated wife, thus complicit in the element of cruelty underlying the husbands' enjoyment of their wives' torment. Indeed, the anti-wife humor, as ancient as Greek Old Comedy, enlivens and emboldens these satirical sketches of marriage. Moreover, Austen's humor is ultimately bolder: while Goldsmith, more attuned to the sentimental temper of Georgian culture, softens the satire by adding a touch of tenderness to Mr. Hardcastle's feelings for his annoying wife ("I have been pretty fond of an old wife"), Austen denies this mollifying stroke of affection in her depiction of the uneasy dynamics of the Bennet marriage.”
END QUOTE FROM MONTEIRO

It took only a few minutes to retrieve the first scene of She Stoops and verify that Monteiro was spot on:

SCENE—A Chamber in an old-fashioned House.  Enter MRS. HARDCASTLE and MR. HARDCASTLE.
MRS. HARDCASTLE. I vow, Mr. Hardcastle, you're very particular. Is there a creature in the whole country but ourselves, that does not take a trip to town now and then, to rub off the rust a little? There's the two Miss Hoggs, and our neighbour Mrs. Grigsby, go to take a month's polishing every winter.
[REVERSAL OF MRS. BENNET’S STANDING UP TO DARCY FOR COUNTRY LIFE]

HARDCASTLE. Ay, and bring back vanity and affectation to last them the whole year. I wonder why London cannot keep its own fools at home! In my time, the follies of the town crept slowly among us, but now they travel faster than a stage-coach. Its fopperies come down not only as inside passengers, but in the very basket. 
[MR. BENNET’S DROLL IRONIC WIT]

MRS. HARDCASTLE. Ay, your times were fine times indeed; you have been telling us of them for many a long year. Here we live in an old rumbling mansion, that looks for all the world like an inn, but that we never see company. Our best visitors are old Mrs. Oddfish, the curate's wife, and little Cripplegate, the lame dancing-master; and all our entertainment your old stories of Prince Eugene and the Duke of Marlborough. I hate such old-fashioned trumpery.
[MR. BENNET WHOSE OLD FRIENDS ARE HIS WIFE’S NERVES]

[THEN SKIP AHEAD TO MISS HARCASTLE’S ENTRANCE]
HARDCASTLE. Well, remember, I insist on the terms of our agreement; and, by the bye, I believe I shall have occasion to try your obedience this very evening.
MISS HARDCASTLE. I protest, sir, I don't comprehend your meaning.
HARDCASTLE. Then to be plain with you, Kate, I expect the young gentleman I have chosen to be your husband from town this very day. I have his father's letter, in which he informs me his son is set out, and that he intends to follow himself shortly after.
[MR. BENNET JOKING ABOUT BINGLEY AS FUTURE HUSBAND OF ANY BENNET GIRL]

MISS HARDCASTLE. Indeed! I wish I had known something of this before. Bless me, how shall I behave? It's a thousand to one I shan't like him; our meeting will be so formal, and so like a thing of business, that I shall find no room for friendship or esteem.
HARDCASTLE. Depend upon it, child, I'll never control your choice; but Mr. Marlow, whom I have pitched upon, is the son of my old friend, Sir Charles Marlow, of whom you have heard me talk so often. The young gentleman has been bred a scholar, and is designed for an employment in the service of his country. I am told he's a man of an excellent understanding.
[“DEPEND UPON IT” IS MR. BENNET’S PET PHRASE]

MISS HARDCASTLE. Is he?
HARDCASTLE. Very generous.
MISS HARDCASTLE. I believe I shall like him.
HARDCASTLE. Young and brave.
MISS HARDCASTLE. I'm sure I shall like him.
HARDCASTLE. And very handsome.
MISS HARDCASTLE. My dear papa, say no more, (kissing his hand), he's mine; I'll have him.
HARDCASTLE. And, to crown all, Kate, he's one of the most bashful and reserved young fellows in all the world.
[MR. DARCY’S RESERVE]

MISS HARDCASTLE. Eh! you have frozen me to death again. That word reserved has undone all the rest of his accomplishments. A reserved lover, it is said, always makes a suspicious husband.
HARDCASTLE. On the contrary, modesty seldom resides in a breast that is not enriched with nobler virtues. It was the very feature in his character that first struck me.
MISS HARDCASTLE. He must have more striking features to catch me, I promise you. However, if he be so young, so handsome, and so everything as you mention, I believe he'll do still. I think I'll have him.
[DARCY’S LIST OF NECESSARY ASSETS OF AN ACCOMPLISHED WOMAN]

HARDCASTLE. Ay, Kate, but there is still an obstacle. It's more than an even wager he may not have you.
MISS HARDCASTLE. My dear papa, why will you mortify one so?—Well, if he refuses, instead of breaking my heart at his indifference, I'll only break my glass for its flattery, set my cap to some newer fashion, and look out for some less difficult admirer.
[ELIZABETH BENNET’S TRADEMARK WIT & RESILIENCE IN THE FACE OF SNOBBERY]

[THEN ONE MORE BRIEF FAST FORWARD TO...]
MISS HARDCASTLE. No; nothing of all this. I have been threatened—I can scarce get it out—I have been threatened with a lover.
MISS NEVILLE. And his name—
MISS HARDCASTLE. Is Marlow.
MISS NEVILLE. Indeed!
MISS HARDCASTLE. The son of Sir Charles Marlow.
MISS NEVILLE. As I live, the most intimate friend of Mr. Hastings, my admirer. They are never asunder. I believe you must have seen him when we lived in town.
MISS HARDCASTLE. Never.
MISS NEVILLE. He's a very singular character, I assure you. Among women of reputation and virtue he is the modestest man alive; but his acquaintance give him a very different character among creatures of another stamp: you understand me.
[AND IN THOSE LAST EXCHANGES WE HAVE JANE & ELIZABETH DISCUSSING BINGLEY & DARCY; THEN FOR GOOD MEASURE, THERE’S THE MODEL FOR COLONEL FITZWILLIAM’S PRECIS OF DARCY’S SITUATIONAL CHARACTER!]

So it’s clear from the above that She Stoops to Conquer was not only a source (as has previously been noted by Austen scholars) for Emma and Sense & Sensibility, but even more so for P&P---- not just in the above quoted opening scene, but thereafter at various points in the remainder of Goldsmith’s famous play, which I’ll catalog tomorrow in a followup post.

But I will close today with the startling realization I came to as I browsed in the final Act of She Stoops: i.e.,  it stared me in the face that the first reader to notice the allusion in P&P to She Stoops was none other than Sir Walter Scott, when, in 1816, he wrote the following drolly sarcastic encapsulation of tthe romantic climax of P&P:   “They chance to meet exactly as her prudence had begun to subdue her prejudice; and after some essential services rendered to her family, the lover becomes encouraged to renew his addresses, and the novel ends happily..... "

Now, read the following romantic climax of She Stoops, when Marlow (“Darcy”) and Miss Hardcastle (“Elizabeth”) finally connect romantically, and at the end you’ll see the exact passage that Scott was winking at: 

MISS NEVILLE. No, Mr. Hastings, no. Prudence once more comes to my relief, and I will obey its dictates. In the moment of passion fortune may be despised, but it ever produces a lasting repentance. I'm resolved to apply to Mr. Hardcastle's compassion and justice for redress.
HASTINGS. But though he had the will, he has not the power to relieve you.
MISS NEVILLE. But he has influence, and upon that I am resolved to rely.
HASTINGS. I have no hopes. But since you persist, I must reluctantly obey you. [Exeunt.]
SCENE changes.
Enter SIR CHARLES and MISS HARDCASTLE.
SIR CHARLES. What a situation am I in! If what you say appears, I shall then find a guilty son. If what he says be true, I shall then lose one that, of all others, I most wished for a daughter.[THERE IS THE SOURCE FOR MR. BENNET’S SOLOMON-LIKE RESPONSE RE: ELIZABETH LOSING ONE OF HER PARENTS NO MATTER WHETHER SHE ACCEPTS MR. COLLINS’S PPOPOSAL OR NOT]

MISS HARDCASTLE. I am PROUD of your approbation, and to show I merit it, if you place yourselves as I directed, you shall hear his explicit declaration. But he comes.
SIR CHARLES. I'll to your father, and keep him to the appointment. [Exit SIR CHARLES.]
Enter MARLOW.
MARLOW. Though prepared for setting out, I come once more to take leave; nor did I, till this moment, know the pain I feel in the separation.
MISS HARDCASTLE. (In her own natural manner.) I believe sufferings cannot be very great, sir, which you can so easily remove. A day or two longer, perhaps, might lessen your uneasiness, by showing the little value of what you now think proper to regret.

[AND NOW, HERE IS THE PASSAGE THAT SCOTT WINKED AT]
MARLOW. (Aside.) This girl every moment improves upon me. (To her.) It must not be, madam. I have already trifled too long with my heart. My very PRIDE begins to submit to my passion. The disparity of education and fortune, the anger of a parent, and the contempt of my equals, begin to lose their weight; and nothing can restore me to myself but this painful effort of resolution.

And as my very eloquence begins to submit to my fear of going on too long, I will end Part One now, and be back with Part Two tomorrow.

[Added 02/19/17: Subsequent to writing the above post, after a bit more creative Googling, I came upon a 2016 review of a performance of She Stoops by a very sharp elf of a theater critic, Nancy Churnin, who at one point wrote the following about She Stoops: 
"It’s a tale of pride and prejudice that may have influenced characters that Jane Austen would make famous in her novel about proud Fitzwilliam Darcy and spirited Elizabeth Bennet 40 years after this play’s debut."]

Cheers, ARNIE

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Elizabeth’s inspiring persistence in resistance to oppression….in Pride & Prejudice

Elizabeth Bennet, the heroine of Pride & Prejudice, is most beloved, perhaps, for her fearless persistence in speaking truth to, and resisting, power, especially in situations when a female is under pressure to be silent and acquiesce in an injustice being imposed on her or on one of her loved ones. One of the most thrilling scenes in all of literature is the confrontation between Elizabeth and Lady Catherine de Bourgh in the wilderness at Longbourn, when Elizabeth’s refusal to acquiesce in the latter’s demand that she promise never to accept a marriage proposal from Darcy, sends the latter off fuming in apoplectic rage.

In light of very recent events in the news involving female persistence in resisting oppression, and refusing to be suppressed and silenced, it’s worth taking note of two such occasions when Jane Austen actually uses the word “persist” in her most famous and popular novel, never dreaming that she would be inadvertently echoed by a latter day male version of Lady Catherine from Kentucky.

First, in Chapter 20 of P&P, we read Mrs. Bennet’s ill-advised assurances to Mr. Collins that Elizabeth will be forced to accept his repulsive proposal of marriage; at which points Mr. Collins narcissistically points out that Elizabeth’s persistence in rejecting him suggest she would a defective wife who would make him an unhappy husband:

“But, depend upon it, Mr. Collins,” she added, “that Lizzy shall be brought to reason. I will speak to her about it directly. She is a very headstrong, foolish girl, and does not know her own interest but I will make her know it.”
“Pardon me for interrupting you, madam,” cried Mr. Collins; “but if she is really headstrong and foolish, I know not whether she would altogether be a very desirable wife to a man in my situation, who naturally looks for happiness in the marriage state. 
IF THEREFORE SHE ACTUALLY PERSISTS IN REJECTING MY SUIT, 
perhaps it were better not to force her into accepting me, because if liable to such defects of temper, she could not contribute much to my felicity.”
“Sir, you quite misunderstand me,” said Mrs. Bennet, alarmed. “Lizzy is only headstrong in such matters as these. In everything else she is as good-natured a girl as ever lived. I will go directly to Mr. Bennet, and we shall very soon settle it with her, I am sure.”

And all Janeites know that Mr. Bennet thwarts his wife and his would-be son-in-law, by eloquently rewarding his favorite daughter’s persistence with his witty parody of the Biblical Solomon, which takes Elizabeth off the hook!

Then, shortly thereafter, in Chapter 24, after Bingley abruptly and inexplicably up and leaves Jane pining away in Meryton, Elizabeth, speaking with Jane, persists in attributing bad actions and bad motives to the Bingley sisters, in regard to their influencing their brother Charles to suspend his courtship of Jane:

“…I intreat you, dear Lizzy, not to pain me by thinking that person to blame, and saying your opinion of him is sunk. We must not be so ready to fancy ourselves intentionally injured. We must not expect a lively young man to be always so guarded and circumspect. It is very often nothing but our own vanity that deceives us. Woman fancy admiration means more than it does."
   "And men take care that they should."
   "If it is designedly done, they cannot be justified; but I have no idea of there being so much design in the world as some persons imagine."
   "I am far from attributing any part of Mr. Bingley's conduct to design," said Elizabeth; "but without scheming to do wrong, or to make others unhappy, there may be error, and there may be misery. Thoughtlessness, want of attention to other people's feelings, and want of resolution, will do the business."
   "And do you impute it to either of those?'
   "Yes; to the last. But if I go on, I shall displease you by saying what I think of persons you esteem. Stop me whilst you can."
   "YOU PERSIST, THEN, IN SUPPOSING HIS SISTERS INFLUENCE HIM."
   "Yes, in conjunction with his friend."
   "I cannot believe it. Why should they try to influence him? They can only wish his happiness; and if he is attached to me, no other woman can secure it."
   "Your first position is false. They may wish many things besides his happiness; they may wish his increase of wealth and consequence; they may wish him to marry a girl who has all the importance of money, great connexions, and pride."

Once again, Elizabeth persists, this time in speaking inconvenient truth subversive of the cruel exercise of power by the wealthy, snobbish Bingley sisters.

So, something tells me that Jane Austen would be smiling at the way so many women and men have responded so positively to the fearless leadership the other day of a latter day Elizabeth, who persists in speaking truth to power, a truth that no rule created by the pen of men can ever silence.

Cheers, ARNIE

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Friday, February 3, 2017

Sting Re-Covered

Jackie and I went to see a band last night that performed astonishingly powerful and convincing covers of many of the greatest hits of the Police, and also several from Sting’s long solo career --- it was 2 ½ hours of almost continuous rock-music listening ecstasy, with even better musicianship than we got in the original recordings from decades ago; and the lead singer in particular did Sting better than Sting himself sang back in the day.

But here’s the thing – the lead singer of the cover band we saw last night was….. Sting himself!  ;)

Sorry for the brief deception, but I wanted to get the point across of how amazingly good a concert it was that we (and 5,000 of our fellow Portlandians) were privileged to experience; and in particular how Sting, despite being old enough to be on Medicare (he turned 65 in October), is still at the absolute top of his game as a musical performer – in particular, he, unlike some other iconic male rock vocalists like Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, and James Taylor, seems to be singing even better than he did in the early Eighties – he was sipping vinegar apple cider during the show, so you aging rock stars, take note of that magic elixir!

When I bought our tickets a few months ago, my modest expectation was that Sting, together with his new “Police-Men”, Dominic and Rufus Miller (father and son) on guitars, and Josh Freese on drums, were mostly going to be doing cuts from their new album – which I found to be pretty good on prior listening, but not in the same league with Synchronicity or Nothing Like the Sun – and do a competent job of it. So I thought it would be a wonderful nostalgic experience—and in Jackie’s and my case, it would also be filling an old void, because when we went, with great expectations, to see Sting in Miami in the late Nineties, he was in the midst of a respiratory illness which, despite his heroic efforts, diminished his powerful unique voice. This time, at the very least, we’d get to hear Sting sing live with his real voice --- but boy, did he and his musical accomplices ever wildly exceed expectations last night!

From the first minute of the show (which began exactly at 8 pm as scheduled, a sure sign of the strong professionalism of this tour) to the end of the third and final encore at 10:30 (again, as advertised), the able replacements for Summers and Copeland made it clear that the only irreplaceable part of the Police’s greatness was Sting himself. Plus, a great extra bonus of the evening was that Sting & his new musical crew (actually, Sting pointed out that he and Miller the father went back 3 decades of music making)  were backed up during the entire show by the members of the Last Bandoleros, a great young Tex-Mex-ensemble out of San Antonio who (joined by the equally talented accordionist Percy Cardona) performed a fabulous opening set; and also by Sting’s own son, Joe, who performed 3 enjoyable solo songs–and it was a little spooky hearing his unmistakably Sting-like voice, singing clever lyrics like his Dad’s with lots of flair, compensating for his not having inherited his father’s superabundance of raw vocal talent.

So the whole show was a kind of big-band rock concert, with tight harmonies, a great wall of well defined musical contours impeccable playing of all instruments, and just a general collective euphoria, expertly and continuously fed by Sting’s mastery of stage presence, that did not stop till the end of the haunting final encore. That was “The Empty Chair” played by Sting alone on acoustic guitar, a song about James Foley, the brave journalist so horribly murdered publicly by Isis a few years ago, a song Sting wrote for the soundtrack of Jim: The James Foley Story, for which Sting worthily received an Oscar nomination.

And the best news for Sting fans around the country is that this was only the second stop in his North American tour (they played Vancouver, BC two days ago), and the schedule… http://www.sting.com/tour      ….reveals that they’ll be hitting pretty much every major city in the US during the next month, before they finish their tour in Europe.

And finally, if you want verification of my rave review, to be sure this wasn’t just my relief at finally hearing Sting sing without laryngitis, just read the following writeup they got after their Vancouver gig, which mine independently echoes on many points:


So, if you were ever a Sting fan, DON’T MISS HIM NOW, and get his latest message in a bottle, while the getting’s great!

Cheers, ARNIE

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Triumph of the Other Whale: Darcy’s tempting, pleasing, & dangerous mouth & lips

A Janeite friend who prefers to remain in the background recently suggested to me that I take a closer look at the passage in P&P when Mrs. Gardiner refers to Darcy as having “something pleasing about his mouth when he speaks”, because it relates to my longstanding claims that Darcy is a Satan who tempts Elizabeth into falling in love with him, and giving up her self in the process. That suggestion quickly led me to search the usage of the word “mouth” in P&P –it turns out there are only three usages; which, when viewed as a group, have a striking resonance amongst them, which ultimately leads to dark corners of the shadow story of P&P, as you’ll see, below.

First, Mrs. Bennet, when she visits Netherfield, takes a metaphorical potshot at Darcy’s closed mouth:        “…What an agreeable man Sir William is, Mr. Bingley, is not he? So much the man of fashion! So genteel and easy! He has always something to say to everybody. That is my idea of good breeding; and those persons who fancy themselves very important, and never open their mouths, quite mistake the matter.” So, Mrs. Bennet uses the concrete metaphor of Darcy’s failure to open his mouth, and speak in a gentlemanly way, as a way of highlighting his poor breeding and excessive sense of self-importance.

Then, a dozen chapters later, at the end of the Netherfield Ball, the narrator echoes Mrs. Bennet’s mouthy metaphor in exactly the same sense, i.e., to refer to the lack of good breeding in the Bingley sisters, who complain and are inhospitable. We can readily imagine Mrs. Bennet telling her sister about the Bingley sisters the next day in those identical words: “The Longbourn party were the last of all the company to depart, and, by a manoeuvre of Mrs. Bennet, had to wait for their carriage a quarter of an hour after everybody else was gone, which gave them time to see how heartily they were wished away by some of the family. Mrs. Hurst and her sister scarcely opened their mouths, except to complain of fatigue, and were evidently impatient to have the house to themselves. They repulsed every attempt of Mrs. Bennet at conversation, and by so doing threw a languor over the whole party…”

It didn’t take me long to extend the scope of my wordsearching to include the word “lips”, and to confirm what I had vaguely recalled, which is that the opening of Darcy’s “lips” was also a subtly repeated motif:

[Mrs. Bennet]“I beg you would not put it into Lizzy’s head to be vexed by his ill-treatment, for he is such a disagreeable man, that it would be quite a misfortune to be liked by him. Mrs. Long told me last night that he sat close to her for half-an-hour without once opening his lips.”

And it appears that Elizabeth listened to her mother more than she would admit, because on two occasions during the Hunsford episode, her thoughts echo her mother’s usage of that same metaphor:

“But why Mr. Darcy came so often to the Parsonage, it was more difficult to understand. It could not be for society, as he frequently sat there ten minutes together without opening his lips; and when he did speak, it seemed the effect of necessity rather than of choice—a sacrifice to propriety, not a pleasure to himself….Mr. Darcy, who was leaning against the mantelpiece with his eyes fixed on her face, seemed to catch her words with no less resentment than surprise. His complexion became pale with anger, and the disturbance of his mind was visible in every feature. He was struggling for the appearance of composure, and would not open his lips till he believed himself to have attained it. The pause was to Elizabeth’s feelings dreadful.”

And, as I reflected still further, I realized that it was not only the words “mouth” and “lips” that popped up in similar contexts throughout P&P, it was also Mrs. Gardiner’s usage of the word “pleasing” that is repeatedly echoed, often so as to refer to how a person opens his mouth to speak pleasingly:

First, Mrs. Bennet about Darcy again: “But I can assure you,” she added, “that Lizzy does not lose much by not suiting his fancy; for he is a most disagreeable, horrid man, not at all WORTH PLEASING. So high and so conceited that there was no enduring him! He walked here, and he walked there, fancying himself so very great! Not handsome enough to dance with! I wish you had been there, my dear, to have given him one of your set-downs. I quite detest the man.”

And Jane says to Lizzy about the Bingley sisters: “…they are very PLEASING women when you converse with them. Miss Bingley is to live with her brother, and keep his house; and I am much mistaken if we shall not find a very charming neighbour in her.”

And Darcy isn’t the only one of Elizabeth’ s suitors described with that word: Mr. Bennet says it with thinly veiled yet safe irony to the unwitting Mr. Collins: “You judge very properly…and it is happy for you that you possess the talent of flattering with delicacy. May I ask whether these PLEASING ATTENTIONS proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are the result of previous study?”

And the narrator is serious in using it in her description of Wickham’s first impressions on Lizzy: “His appearance was greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure, and VERY PLEASING ADDRESS. …”

So, I believe that Jane Austen, who was ever meticulous and thematic in her repetitive usage of distinctive keywords in passages scattered through her novels, intended to distinctly echo those earlier passages using “mouth”, “lips” and “pleasing”, in the later passage my friend had first pointed me to, in which the Gardiners debrief with Eliza their unexpected (and surprisingly pleasant) Pemberley meeting with Darcy:

“I was never more surprised than by his behaviour to us. It was more than civil; it was really attentive; and there was no necessity for such attention. His acquaintance with Elizabeth was very trifling.”
“To be sure, Lizzy,” said her aunt, “he is not so handsome as Wickham; or, rather, he has not Wickham’s countenance, for his features are perfectly good. But how came you to tell me that he was so disagreeable?”
Elizabeth excused herself as well as she could; said that she had liked him better when they had met in Kent than before, and that she had never seen him so pleasant as this morning.
“But perhaps he may be a little whimsical in his civilities,” replied her uncle. “Your great men often are; and therefore I shall not take him at his word, as he might change his mind another day, and warn me off his grounds.”
Elizabeth felt that they had entirely misunderstood his character, but said nothing.
“From what we have seen of him,” continued Mrs. Gardiner, “I really should not have thought that he could have behaved in so cruel a way by anybody as he has done by poor Wickham. He has not an ill-natured look. On the contrary, there is something pleasing about his mouth when he speaks. And there is something of dignity in his countenance that would not give one an unfavourable idea of his heart….”

Now, on the surface, there’s already something PG-13 about Mrs. Gardiner’s reference to Darcy’s mouth-the fairest reading is that she’s suggesting to Elizabeth that Darcy’s mouth (and not just his spoken words) is sexy when he speaks; and Darcy’s sexy mouth is then, as my Janeite friend also suggested, a satanic temptation that Elizabeth, as a Regency Era Eve, will have a hard time resisting! And here’s where that motif gets more interesting still. Even though Mrs. Gardiner was not present at any of those earlier scenes explicitly referring to Darcy’s mouth and lips, her comments to Elizabeth read as if Mrs. Gardiner somehow had overheard those conversations, and was taking pains to specifically rebut Mrs. Bennet on that specific point, by bringing attention to how pleasing Darcy’s mouth now was, when he was speaking (words which are themselves also pleasing). So, could this be a clue slipped in by Jane Austen, alerting readers that Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Gardiner, offstage and beyond Elizabeth’s awareness, have both been collaborative members of the matchmaking team that has deliberately brought Elizabeth to “accidentally” meet Darcy at Pemberley, as I have often asserted is the case in the shadow story of P&P? I would say it is!

But what else might it mean beyond that? My experience interpreting Austenian tea leaves was telling me that there had to be a reason why JA subtly but repeatedly kept raising in the reader’s mind the concrete image of Darcy’s mostly closed mouth and lips, when abstract references to his speaking would’ve sufficed. That same experience reminded me that when I was grappling with a question about JA’s hidden meaning, in these novels by a clergyman’s learned daughter, the Bible often provided the answer. And a quick Biblical word search on “open” and “mouth” led me right to it! In Numbers 16, we hear of the revolt by Korah and his Israelite followers against the God-given authority held by Moses and Aaron—and then we immediately hear graphic, concrete detail as to how God savagely punishes this revolt, with the method described in 16:23-33:

“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, ‘Speak unto the congregation, saying, Get you up from about the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.’ And Moses rose up and went unto Dathan and Abiram; and the elders of Israel followed him. And he spake unto the congregation, saying, ‘Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of their's, lest ye be consumed in all their sins.’
So they gat up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little children.
And Moses said, ‘Hereby ye shall know that the Lord hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind. If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then the Lord hath not sent me. But if the Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the Lord.’
And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.”

The above incident of the earth opening her mouth to swallow Korah and his followers, who challenged Moses’s authority and demanded an equal share of power, is also recalled in Numbers 26:10 and then again in Deuteronomy 11:6. So it seems that two of the writers of the Torah (the Priestly Writer and the Deuteronomist) wanted to send a clear message to those Israelites reading it who might at any point wish to follow in those upstart footsteps and usurp official religious authority: Do that, they’re being warned, and the earth will open her mouth and swallow you (and everyone you’re close to) up!

Which brings me back to Elizabeth and Darcy. She, like Korah, is an upstart who dares to challenge the authority of the likes of Darcy and Lady Catherine, who behave as if their great power in English society is just, God-given, and eternal. Mrs. Gardiner’s reference to Darcy’s pleasingly open mouth at Pemberley is therefore also a veiled warning to Elizabeth (which she does not hear) to the effect that if Eliza marries Darcy, he’s going to swallow her up, the way the earth swallowed up the revolutionaries in Numbers 16. I think many readers of P&P who’ve questioned the suspiciously rapid evaporation of Elizabeth’s “upstart pretensions” vis a vis Darcy during the final third of the novel might find that a very apt metaphor indeed!

And that in turn led me to yet another source for the notion of Darcy swallowing Elizabeth whole --- Numbers 16 resonates with what I wrote last year… http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2015/05/jane-austens-triumph-of-wha-of.html …when I suggested that Darcy was very like a “whale” who swallows up smaller sea creatures, the way the Prince of Whales ruled the seas in Charles Lamb’s satirical 1812 (the year JA finalized P&P) “Triumph of the Whale”, which, as many of you know, JA alluded to a few years later in the “courtship/Prince of Whales” Charade she wrote for Chapter 9 of Emma.

And, coming full circle, that brought me back to the Satanic Paradise Lost subtext of Lamb’s poem, which Susan Allen Ford pointed out to Colleen Sheehan a decade ago. So my shy Janeite friend was right: Mrs. Gardiner’s choice of metaphor about Darcy’s pleasing open mouth did indeed point back to Milton’s version of the Garden of Eden! And as a bonus, Lamb’s poem alerts to yet another Biblical subtext, because it slyly refers to the Prince of Whales as being similar to the Biblical Jonah’s “great fish”:

Had it been the fortune of it
To have swallow’d that old prophet,
Three days there he’d not have dwell’d,
But in one have been expell’d.


I believe it quite likely that Jane Austen intended all of the above subtext on Mrs. Gardiner’s comments about Darcy’s pleasing mouth to be seen as a danger to Elizabeth. And to hammer the point home, even after hearing about Darcy’s pleasing mouth, we get several more echoes of the word “pleasing” as the story moves swiftly toward its climax, with the final one being this one, after Darcy stays silent while visiting Longbourn for the first time, leaving Elizabeth in an agony of uncertainty:   “…She could settle it in no way that gave her pleasure. “He could be still amiable, still PLEASING, to my uncle and aunt, when he was in town; and why not to me? If he fears me, why come hither? If he no longer cares for me, why silent? Teasing, teasing, man! I will think no more about him.”

Teasing before pleasing, you might say, was the romantic technique exercised by the satanic Mr. Darcy, just to let Elizabeth know who’s boss. And it all rotates around the pleasing nature of Darcy’s opening of his mouth and lips, with all the pleasures, temptations, and dangers that it provided.

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Even more of the Shadow Stories of Jane Austen the Secret Radical (Feminist)

After a long gap, the past few days have been busy in the review department for Helena Kelly’s 2016 book Jane Austen - the Secret Radical, to which (some may recall) I wrote a strong first reaction a few months ago here… [“ALL the Shadow Stories of Jane Austen the Secret Radical (Feminist)”  http://tinyurl.com/j6mh3k4  ]. In that earlier post, I laid out, one by one, several very very VERY curious and suspicious points of correspondence between the detailed section of her book discussing Northanger Abbey --- and even the title of her book --- on one hand, and my own previously published ideas (online, in live presentations at Austen conferences in both England--where she was present—and the US, as well as in Deborah Yaffe’s detailed chapter about my Austen heresies in Among the Janeites), on the other.

The more high profile recent review is by JASNA headliner Devoney Looser (who’s been writing insightfully about Jane Austen’s feminism for over three decades) in The Times Literary Supplement, in which Looser (much like John Mullan in his Guardian review of Kelly’s book a month ago) mostly damned Kelly’s book with faint and mocking half-praise. As I may not have mentioned in my earlier post, I personally experience a pang of sharp Austenian irony as I read the mostly negative reviews of Kelly’s book, because she is in many ways writing the kind of book I might’ve written in 2009, had I not continued my research the last 8 years, and fleshed out countless additional connections, a process Kelly clearly did not follow, as her reviewers have noted that in much of the book she essentially shot from the hip with only a few bullets in her weapon.

The recent review that prompted me to speak my mind again today about Kelly’s book is not Looser’s, however, it is this one: http://www.regencyhistory.net/2017/01/jane-austen-secret-radical-by-helena.html
January 18, 2017 “Jane Austen - The Secret Radical by Helena Kelly” - a review  Rachel Knowles
Knowles’s review made me painfully aware for the first time of yet another bit of “borrowing” (from my publicly expressed ideas about Jane Austen) on Kelly’s part, this time regarding Sense & Sensibility:
“The irresponsibility of men?: In the chapter on Sense and Sensibility, Kelly suggests that Jane was indirectly criticising the men in her family for failing to provide adequately for the women who were dependent on them – Jane, her sister Cassandra, and their mother. I already knew how hard Jane had found it when her father suddenly decided to give up the living at Steventon and uproot his family from the only home they had ever known and settle them in Bath, but I had never really considered the alternative. Kelly writes that Jane’s father need not have given up the majority of his income to his eldest son – who, by the way, already had the means to support himself – but could have hired a curate to help him and retained most of the income to support his wife and daughters. Another question that I had never asked was why, after the death of Jane’s father, it took Jane's rich brother Edward Knight four years to offer his mother and sisters a permanent home.” 
END QUOTE FROM KNOWLES REVIEW

That sent me right back to find the referenced passage in Kelly’s chapter about Sense & Sensibility:
“There are one or two other elements in S&S which may perhaps point to revision taking place after 1805, and even as late as 1809-10…it was in the summer of 1809 that Jane, her sister Cassandra, their mother, and their old friend Martha Lloyd set up home together in the village of Chawton in Hampshire, in a cottage made available to them by Edward Austen. Edward owned a large house and estate at Chawton in addition to his Kentish property. Chawton Cottage resembles, in almost every particular, even name, Barton Cottage, the small house to which the Dashwood women—all four of them—are obliged to remove…This could almost be a description of Chawton Cottage, which is now open to visitors at the Jane Austen House Museum. Both the real and the fictional cottages are part of the estate of a rich male relation.  Edward’s generosity was welcome, but it was a trifle tardy. The Reverend Austen had died in January 1805, meaning that it took Edward four and a half years to get around to providing his widowed mother and his sisters with a home, four and a half years in which the Austen women had moved from Green Park Buildings to other sets of rooms in Bath, first on Gay Street, then on Trim Street; had paid lengthy visits to Kent, to Bristol, to Gloucestershire, to Staffordshire, before moving to Southampton, to the house in Castle Square where we encountered Jane at the beginning of Chapter 1. So far as we can tell, the offer of the cottage at Chawton arose almost immediately after the death of Edward’s wife Elizabeth-an intriguing coincidence, though one about which we can do no more than speculate.
This isn’t the only apparent autobiographical echo in S&S. The annual income of the Dashwood women, after Mr. Dashwood has died, is L500. The Austen women had around 450L per annum to keep themselves on, plus Martha Lloyd’s contribution…Whether it was intended or not, the most painful echo surely lies in the open pages of S&S, where the security of the Dashwood girls, and their mother, is sacrificed to the future of a toddling little boy; where a home, and almost everything in it, is lost, taken over by a sister in law who is seen as a usurper. This- as we know from Jane’s letters of January 18010- is very much what happened, what she felt had happened, in her own family. The family home given up; financial possibilities sacrificed, and all for a small boy who was unlikely to want for much, all for a dream of carrying on the family name, of shoring up the family legacy. Was James Austen’s wife Mary, who brought friends to look around the Steventon vicarage while her inlaws were still living there, a real-life version of S&S’s acquisitive Fanny Dashwood, with her eye for ‘china’ and ‘any handsome article of furniture’? Well, perhaps. It’s tempting to believe so. At any rate, Jane specifically states that the Dashwood women take both the ‘books’ and Marianne’s ‘handsome pianoforte’ away with them, which is more than she had been allowed to do herself.”
END QUOTE FROM KELLY

I am now going to walk you through exactly the same sort of specific point-by-point comparison I did in my earlier above-linked post about Kelly’s borrowing of my argument about Mrs. Tilney in NA, and show you that Kelly did pretty much the same thing with my argument about S&S as well!

So, from the above excerpt, I first want you to note the following six bullet points in Kelly’s argument:

ONE: Edward Knight’s “generous” grant of possession of Chawton Cottage to mother and sisters was “a trifle tardy”, Kelly emphasizes repeatedly that it took him “four and a half years” to do this;
TWO: The intriguing coincidence that Edward’s “generosity” was acted on “almost immediately after the death of Edward’s wife Elizabeth”;
THREE: The sacrifice of financial security for “the future of a toddling little boy”;
FOUR: Mary Lloyd Austen is referred to as a “usurper” in Jane Austen’s eyes;
FIVE: Mary Lloyd Austen is seen as a real life Fanny Dashwood glomming onto personal belongings; &
SIX: The loss of Jane Austen’s books and piano.

Now, I will provide you with brief excerpts of my earlier versions of each of these six bullet points in several blog posts of mine all written within a few months of each other nearly 5 years ago (and double posted by me to the Austen-L and Janeites groups) --- obviously long before Kelly wrote her book, and long after (as I explained in my previous post about her book) she heard me speak, and knew that I called Austen a radical feminist. If anyone wants more detail, just follow the URLs I provide, below, and read my points in full context, so you can verify my claims that Kelly, with S&S as with NA, borrowed my points one by one. And please be sure to read to the end of this post, to read one important caveat.

ONE: Edward Austen Knight waited 4 ½ years to be generous:
“I also start from the opinion I have sincerely held for some time, based on all the facts we know about the Austen family history, which is that after the 1805 death of Revd. Austen, the Austen women were condemned to live in a kind of limbo of totally inadequate housing--and the one person who was in the best position to take them from limbo to paradise was Edward Austen Knight-yet he failed to provide them with the keys to Chawton Cottage for FOUR LONG YEARS…”

TWO: Coincidence that Edward acted “almost immediately after the death of Edward’s wife Elizabeth”. And expressing that coincidence repeatedly in various ways:
[in literally the next paragraph in the same post in which I wrote the verbiage re Point ONE, above!];
“Think about it. Edward Austen Knight woke up every day for 1,461 days, and thought, "I am NOT going to provide adequate housing to my mother and sisters today". At least John Dashwood's decision to stiff his mother and sisters out of his father's precatory deathbed request was made during ten minutes of conversation with his wife, and then what was done was done. Edward had to re-make this decision every day for all that long time period. The example of Fanny and John Dashwood's "King Lear" conversation makes you wonder whether JA thought that Edward, perhaps, had not made this decision entirely on his own, and, indeed, did not require repeated reminders from his wife as to why they really could not afford to be too generous to his mother and sisters. All we know for sure is that when Edward Austen Knight's wife dies, within ELEVEN DAYS thereafter, BOOM!----apparently out of nowhere, EAK makes the decision to provide the Austen women with Chawton Cottage. Look at Letter 60, dated 10/24-25/08, if you don't believe me. It's astoundingly obvious when you connect the dates AND the dots. And that is why I am far, far from being the only scholar to reject the claim of coincidence. I am among the many who believe that it was precisely the death of the sister in law who carried such an animus toward JA which was the salvation of the Austen women.

THREE: The sacrifice of financial security for “the future of a toddling little boy”;
http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2012/03/dear-morland-poor-little-harry-jas.html (March 2012) "Dear Norland" & "Poor Little Harry”: JA's Exile from Steventon: Part Sixty Seven
In the aftermath of the 2011 JASNA AGM a few months ago...I wrote a post which laid out the multigenerational Austen family history underlying the multifaceted allusion by Jane Austen in Sense & Sensibility to the real life dispossession of JA (and her parents and sister, too, of course) from Steventon Rectory by JA's brother James and his wife Mary in 1801. 
That was part and parcel with my previous repeated echoing and extending of several earlier Austen scholars who had pointed out the obvious allusion to James and Mary Austen's 1801 "home invasion" in Chapter 2 of S&S, the famous "King Lear" allusion in which John & Fanny Dashwood sliced and diced the senior Mr. Dashwood's dying bequest to his wife and three daughters (John's half sisters), Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret.
However, it was only yesterday that I connected the dots between that veiled but nonetheless well-recognized allusion to James & Mary Austen in Chapter 2 of S&S (with the backdrop of the Austen family history detailed in my above linked post), on the one hand, and the veiled allusion to JANE Austen's own(and famous) reaction to being dispossessed from Steventon in Chapter 5 of S&S, on the other…
in closing, I just realized that even James Edward Austen Leigh himself gets skewered in S&S, in the character of the spoiled "poor Harry" Dashwood:  "It was very well known that no affection was ever supposed to exist between the children of any man by different marriages; and why was he to ruin himself, and their poor little Harry, by giving away all his money to his half sisters?.....He did not know what he was talking of, I dare say; ten to one but he was light-headed at the time. Had he been in his right senses, he could not have thought of such a thing as begging you to give away half your fortune from your own child...Consider ...that when the money is once parted with, it never can return. Your sisters will marry, and it will be gone for ever. If, indeed, it could be restored to our poor little boy...." etc etc.

FOUR: Mary Lloyd Austen is referred to as a “usurper” in Jane Austen’s eyes
“And we know from Letter 35 that Jane Austen left Steventon for Bath during the first week of May, 1801, which means that the time span from the moment JA first learns of the move to Bath, until she finds herself living in Bath, is between just over five months. Hmm......So yes…surely by May, 1801, after an eternity lasting nearly six months (it would be very much the exaggerating mindset of a grasping, greedy USURPER to refer to a time period of five months and four days as "nearly six months") that would try anyone's patience, Mary Austen was indeed quite anxious to have her tiresome in-laws gone from Steventon already. After all, who knew what sort of horrid, malicious rumors these overstaying-their-welcome ingrate in-laws might spread about Mary's attempts to feather her new nest properly, if they continued to be so inconveniently impolite as to remain physically present in Steventon to bear accurate witness to the details of the Massacre,

FIVE: Mary Lloyd Austen is seen as a real life Fanny Dashwood glomming onto personal belongings;
"half a year's residence in her family afforded": The Six-Month Massacre of Steventon
..the following passage in Letter 36 dated May 13, 1801:  "....James I dare say has been over to Ibthrop by this time to enquire particularly after Mrs. Lloyd's health, & forestall whatever intelligence of the sale I might attempt to give.-Sixty-one guineas & a half for the three cows gives one some support under the blow of only Eleven Guineas for the Tables. Eight for my Pianoforte, is about what I really expected to get; I am more anxious to know the amount of my books, especially as they are said to have sold well." 
So you say, "almost reasonable"? I think JA's Letters 29-36, as well as Chapter 2 of S&S, tell us pretty clearly what JA thought and felt about the Massacre of Steventon---a massacre based firmly on the following principle enunciated by JA in Letter 37 dated May 22, 1801:  "The whole World is in a conspiracy to enrich one part of our family at the expence of another.” 
And it is quite interesting to read the characterization of all of the above that was written 70 years later by the real-life model for Fanny Dashwood's "poor little Harry": 
"The loss of their first home is generally a great grief to young persons of strong feeling and lively imagination; and Jane was exceedingly unhappy when she was told that her father, now seventy years of age, had determined to resign his duties to his eldest son, who was to be his successor in the Rectory of Steventon, and to remove with his wife and daughters to Bath. Jane had been absent from home when this resolution was taken; and, as her father was always rapid both in forming his resolutions and in acting on them, she had little time to reconcile herself to the change." 
Tell me, was Jane Austen prescient or not, when she put the following words in Fanny and John Dashwood's mouths in Chapter 2 of S&S: 
"....why was he to ruin himself, and their poor little Harry, by giving away all his money to his half sisters?.... Consider...that when the money is once parted with, it never can return. Your sisters will marry, and it will be gone for ever. If, indeed, it could be restored to our poor little boy—" 
"Why, to be sure," said her husband, very gravely, "that would make great difference. THE TIME MAY COME when Harry will regret that so large a sum was parted with. If he should have a numerous family, for instance, it would be a very convenient addition." 
That time _did_ come for the elderly James Edward Austen Leigh when he wrote the above passage in the Memoir, and tried to whitewash over JA's obvious bitter resentment against James & Mary (i.e., against his own parents!) by reframing JA's unhappiness as a response to her father's overhasty decision making predilections, and utterly omitting any reference to James or Mary in that regard! 

 & SIX: The loss of Jane Austen’s books and piano.
[See the references to JA’s books and piano in the above quoted passage in Bullet Point FIVE]

Note in particular that the order of the points made by Kelly is exactly the same as the chronological order of my blog posts which I believe were her primary source therefor. Another coincidence? Of course not! So there you have it, Part Two of my (perhaps, alas, still incomplete) documentation of the borrowings of my ideas by Helena Kelly in her book, without any attribution to me. And now for my promised caveat. Part One was my first post about Kelly’s borrowing of my argument that Mrs. Tilney was Jane Austen’s death-in-childbirth symbol, as to which I continue to assert that I am the first Austen scholar to ever make that claim. Therefore, borrowing of same is a far more serious misdeed, since mine was a totally original interpretation, with a list of bullet points comprising it.

In today’s post, I do NOT claim to be the first Austen scholar to generally point out disturbing parallels between (i) the real life moves of the Austen family from Steventon to Bath in May 1801, and then of the Austen women from Southampton to Chawton Cottage in January 1809, and (ii) the fictional move of the Dashwood women from Norland to Barton Cottage during the first few chapters of S&S, which conflates key aspects of those two real life moves.  I am, and always have been, a stickler for giving credit to pioneers of original thinking, about Jane Austen or any of the other authors I write about, and so I want you all to know that there have been at least two other scholars who paved the way, long before I ever suspected there was anything hidden in Austen’s novels.

Most significantly in this regard, on several occasions, I’ve applauded the late Allison Sulloway for her rarely noticed 1976 (and therefore far-ahead-of-its-time), frankly feminist take on Jane Austen and the Province of Womanhood --- in particular the following excellent analysis of painful Austen family history hidden in plain sight in S&S, at 102-3:    
“Austen’s open contempt for her brother James and his wife, Mary, at least in her letters, does not make pleasant reading, but the sources of her grief and anger against them are even more unpleasant. Their worst offense to this affectionate aunt was that they treated their daughters with all the varieties of hostility and contempt that Fanny Price’s two families inflicted on her. And their indifference to the plight of James’s mother and sisters is contemptible. They flaunted their new carriage and pair, their trips, and their plentiful servants, while the little band of women who were now classified with ‘the genteel poor’ scrimped and hoped for tips and presents from wealthy relatives. Mary complained of everybody’s housekeeping except her own, and James infuriated his fiction-writing sister by visiting the three women whenever he became bored with his wife, and by behaving in a boorish fashion, slamming doors, and demanding instant service as a male right. James must have been a rather unpleasant man even as a young curate. When Mr. Austen relinquished his ecclesiastical living in favor of James and then retired to Bath, James coolly bargained for all the household goods at Steventon, for the books, pictures, and silverware, in exactly the same cheap and contemptuous way as did the John Dashwoods in S&S. The cruelest ‘melancholy disproportion’ of all was that Austen’s precious piano and her equally precious books, which she had been able to purchase out of her annual allowance of L20, all had to be sold, not only to finance her father’s retirement in the city of Bath, which she hated, but even more bitter, to help James’s acquisition of the Steventon living from which she was now being expelled….”
END QUOTE FROM SULLOWAY

Then David Nokes, in his excellent 1998 bio, Jane Austen: A Life, struck a similar chord at p. 237:  
‘Mr. Bent [the auctioneer] seems bent upon being very detestable, ‘she wrote, ‘for he values the books at only L70.’ When she thought of Edward, with all the wealth of Godmersham at his disposal, and James and Mary benefiting from their move to the rectory, she was disposed to be bitter. ‘Mary is more minute’ she noted sourly. Away in London, Eliza was soon hearing rumours of the grand style that was now being affected by the new curate of Steventon. ‘He has made such alterations and embellishments’ she told Phylly, ‘that it is almost a pretty place.’ Austen wrote Cassandra with understandable rancor that even Mr. Austen’s tractable and sweet going little mare had now deserted him, to trot over and pay permanent court to the crown prince of the Steventon rectory, before Mr. Austen and his family of women had even removed to Bath. Yet James had but recently ‘bought a new horse; & Mary [had] got a new maid.’  The pictures, the flatware, and other household goods went to James, while Mr. Austen was frantically ‘doing all in his power to increase his Income by raising his Tythes.’..When Austen remarked, ‘The whole World is in a conspiracy to enrich one part of our family at the expense of another.’ She was expressing the very economic underpinnings of S&S…”  
END QUOTE FROM NOKES

So let me be very clear --- I’ve never pretended that my argument that JA depicted her own nuclear family’s relocation history in S&S was original--what I do claim is that I’ve developed multiple lines of fresh supportive evidence for the general claims originally made by Sulloway, Nokes, et al. And that matters, because Kelly decided to replicate those very same fresh lines of evidence that I bundled together in a more persuasive argument than merely general assertions, however correct.

What raises my blood pressure is not simply that Kelly is writing about these same themes as if she were the first Austen scholar to think them up (as far as I can see in the online version of her book at Google Books, she does not cite Sulloway, Nokes, or myself, for any of these ideas). That’s bad enough, but it’s not uncommon. No, just as I described in my previous, above-cited post, the devil’s in the details, and the numerous, specific details of Kelly’s argument about S&S demonstrate (exactly as they do in her borrowing of my Northanger Abbey argument) that her primary source for these ideas was almost certainly me. She is a careless borrower, and does not work particularly hard to disguise it. That’s what she did in NA, and now I know, that’s what she also did vis a vis S&S --- and look at how reviewers, like Criado-Perez in her glowing Guardian review of several months ago, and now Knowles in her less than glowing review of the other day, just happen to notice and mention the very points that Kelly borrowed from me. This is not an accident, and it’s not okay.

I conclude by making clear what I did not in my first post--- I did those extra years of research and waited till now to finally land the plane and get my book done this year, precisely because I understand how high the bar is on showing that what I call the Myth of Jane Austen as a conservative is in its totality just that, a fraud perpetrated on the world for two centuries. It’s a very tall order, and now I believe I can successfully meet that challenge. So stay tuned the rest of 2017, but in the meanwhile don’t let negative reactions to Kelly’s book make you think her title (or should I say, my title that she borrowed) is wrong – the argument that Jane Austen was a secret radical feminist just needs to be made much more carefully and completely.

Cheers, ARNIE

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

In Austen-L, I received a lovely response from Elaine Pigeon:

Elaine: "Arnie, I read your post with interest. It is hard to pinpoint the plagiarism as Ms Kelly has been crafty by drawing on facts that are within the public domain, but for you, it must be glaringly evident since she follows the same developmental order and even uses a few words that you do, like usurp — how telling! The fact that she has met you and even attended one of your talks says a lot."

Elaine, first I truly am grateful to you (and all others who have responded similarly in the past few months) for your careful reading of my later post about Kelly's book, it means a great deal to me to receive such careful and well-considered support. I am not sure from what you wrote whether you read my first post a few months ago about Kelly's "borrowing" from me -- it is much more obvious and significant-- and so (as you suggested later in your reply) the combination of what I describe in the two posts is ten times more telling than when each is taken separately. 

Just as the quadruple coincidence in P&P (Wickham, Darcy, Collins & Mrs. Gardiner "independently" zero in on Elizabeth Bennet at nearly the same time) is exponentially less likely to be random than a single coincidence, so too is the quadruple "borrowing" from me by Kelly exponentially less likely to be "great minds think alike". As I wrote in my first post, even I was amazed when I realized the full extent of what she took from me, and also the many ways she would easily have become closely acquainted with my work, after those two close encounters at Chawton House (2009) and Oxford (2007). 


Elaine: "Had she acknowledged you (and the others) it would show the thinness of her contribution."

Exactly so! In a way, I should be flattered, because she clearly found my arguments and evidence convincing enough to give them such a full repetition in her book.

"Although the chapter on S&S may not be enough to go on, I would say that cumulatively it does add up. I wonder how the woman imagines she can every present at an Austen conference or be accepted by Austen scholars? I encourage you to pursue this."

I will continue this measured approach for now, making sure that people who know about her book, especially reviewers, also know about how much it took from my work. In the end, I now believe, after reading the reactions she has gotten, that she will have helped pave the way for my own book to come -- I will aspire to show skeptics the right combination of evidence to convince them, in ways that Kelly was just not up to the task of doing. As I wrote yesterday, she even took from me stuff I was saying ten years ago that I no longer say (like "Everything you think you know about Jane Austen is wrong"), because I received such useful feedback in these groups that such statements are not going to be received well-and I also arrived at a much more nuanced understanding of the shadow stories I had discovered. Kelly just skimmed the cream off the top, and that will not cut it.