Diana: "I think Arnie has done some excellent logical work in piecing together JEAL's motives, but perhaps goes a bit too far in demonizing him. What if he
did want to present himself and his family to the public in a pleasant Victorian light, that doesn't make him a monster. The Victorian way of framing a memoir wasn't warts-and-all realism. JEAL couldn't help being his father's heir, and he was fairly hard up at times until he finally got the money, long after JA's death. "
As I have previously argued, I believe that JEAL went far far beyond Victorian proprieties. And apropos warts, I think it's a crucial distinction that it's not JA's warts I am accusing him of intentionally covering up, it's his own, and those of his benighted benefactor.
As for JEAL being hard up at time, that must have been before 1828, when he married Emma Smith, because it is my understanding that Emma Smith was very wealthy, and that meant that after he married her, he was very wealthy too. And he had received a first rate education at Oxford, etc. Or do you have other info I am unaware of?
I think it bears repeating that what I find most noxious about JEAL's presentation of JA's life and works is that he relegates to the dumpster the pervasive message of all of JA's novels and letters, which was the way that women's lives were so constrained as to money, travel, courtship, and family matters. He gets a zero out of 100 in terms of his presentation of that fundamental aspect of JA's worldview, and the icing on the cake is his suppression of the specific way that he PERSONALLY was the biggest winner of that zero-sum game, and JA personally was the biggest loser. The hypocrisy is over the top awful.
"He had a lot of ill health himself and a very numerous family."
And who exactly is responsible for that very numerous family? Do you really think his wife was constantly on his case to make her continuously pregnant for 15 years? If he had illness, it was obviously not so serious as to prevent him from siring all those children!
"Primogeniture was the custom of the land and it meant women and dependents not getting the money. The whole point was keeping the
fortune together, in the hands of the eldest son; if you spread it around to all the sisters and cousins and aunts, it wouldn't be a fortune anymore. "
Isn't there such a thing as a matter of degree? Did I suggest that JEAL should have given his two sisters one third each of his wealth? Sure, that would have been a noble thing to do, but I am talking about much less than that. It seems obvious that whatever he gave to Anna was so little that she was forced to shuttle around in rented housing for a long while. Had he been more generous to her, there would not have been SUCH a large gap between his quality of life and hers during the last 30 years of their lives.
"The "daemon of the piece" was James Leigh Perrot in not making some provision for his widowed sister, and the disappointment certainly didn't help Jane
Austen's declining health any, poor soul. It's perfectly clear, from S & S if nowhere else, what she thought of this system of inheritance. But it
*was* the existing system. Perhaps JEAL felt guilty about it by 1870, which is why he tried to cover it up."
I don't think he felt guilty, in the sense of pangs of conscience, anymore than,e.g., Nixon et al felt guilty about Watergate- JEAL was engaged in a coverup, pure and simple. Had conscience been involved, what better moment to express it, and to come clean, than at the end of his own long life? No, he went to his grave having successfully pulled off that coverup, and everything in that Memoir speaks to his own sense of smug entitlement!
From the Archives: Harriette Wilson on Virtue
23 hours ago