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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mary Wollstonecraft vis a vis Lewis XIV and Woman Lovely Woman in the Second Charade

The following is a p.p.p.s. I would like to add to my claim yesterday that JA alluded to Louis XIV and Mme. de Maintenon both in Persuasion (in Charles Musgrove's feisty little speech) and in Emma (in the second charade). Apropos the line "woman
lovely woman reigns alone" in that second charade, my Googling to find Jocelyn Harris had also noted Charles's speech in regard to the Prince Regent as the "rising sun", reminded me of Harris's 2007 Persuasions article where Harris so persuasively (ha ha) argued for the pervasive subliminal allusion to Wollstonecraft's Vindication in Austen's Emma.

And that gave me a crazy idea that turned out not to be so crazy after
all (and, as you will note at the end of this message, it turns out I am
not the first Austen scholar to have it), i.e., to take Harris one step
further, and see if Wollstonecraft's Vindication might not only be a
subliminal part of the feminist subtext of Emma, but might actually be
an almost explicit allusive source for the second charade itself ("Woman
lovely woman reigns alone") in Emma.

In that vein, take a look at these excerpts from Chapter 4 of AVOTROW,
which is entitled: "Observations on the State of Degradation to which
WOMAN is Reduced by Various Causes." (I've put the words I wish you to
take special note of in ALL CAPS, as being echoed in JA's second charade)

".....Women, I argue from analogy, are degraded by the same propensity
[as men] to enjoy the present moment; and, at last, despise the freedom
which they have not sufficient virtue to struggle to attain. But I must
be more explicit. With respect to the culture of the heart, it is
unanimously allowed that sex is out of the question; but the line of
subordination in the mental powers is never to be passed over. Only
"ABSOLUTE IN LOVELINESS*/,"/* the portion of rationality granted to
woman is, indeed, very scanty; for, denying her genius and judgment, it
is scarcely possible to divine what remains to characterize intellect......

"....I shall not go back to the remote annals of antiquity to trace the
history of woman, it is sufficient to allow, that SHE HAS ALWAYS BEEN
EITHER A SLAVE OR A DESPOT/*, */and to remark, that each of these
situations equally retards the progress of reason...."

"....EXALTED BY THEIR INFERIORITY (THIS SOUNDS LIKE A CONTRADICTION)
they constantly demand HOMAGE AS WOMEN, though experience should teach
them that the men who pride themselves upon paying this arbitrary
insolent respect to the sex, with the most scrupulous exactness, are
MOST INCLINED TO TYRANNIZE OVER, and despise the very weakness they
cherish..."

"...Often do they repeat Mr. Hume's sentiments; when comparing the
French and Athenian character, he alludes to women. "But what is more
singular in this whimsical
nation, say I to the Athenians, is, that a frolic of yours during the
Saturnalia, WHEN THE SLAVES ARE SERVED BY THEIR MASTERS, is seriously
continued by them through the whole year, and through the whole course
of their lives; accompanied too with some circumstances, which still
further augment the absurdity and
ridicule. Your sport only elevates for a few days, those whom fortune
has thrown down, and whom she too, in sport, may really elevate forever
above you. But this nation gravely exalts those, whom nature has
subjected to them, and whose inferiority and infirmities are absolutely
incurable. THE WOMEN, THOUGH WITHOUT VIRTUE, ARE THEIR MASTERS AND
SOVEREIGNS...."

And here's where Wollstonecraft finally finds her winding way to
Versailles....

"....THE PASSIONS OF MEN HAVE THUS PLACED WOMEN ON THRONES*//*; and,
till mankind become more reasonable, it is to be feared that women will
avail themselves of the power which they attain with the least exertion,
and which is the most indisputable. They will smile, yes, they will
smile, though told that--
"IN BEAUTY'S EMPIRE IS NO MEAN
AND WOMAN EITHER SLAVE OR QUEEN,
IS QUICKLY SCORN'D WHEN NOT ADOR'D"
But the adoration comes first, and the scorn is not anticipated.
LEWIS THE XIVTH, IN PARTICULAR, spread factitious manners, and caught in
a specious way, the whole nation in his toils; for establishing an
artful chain of despotism, he made it the interest of the people at
large, individually to respect his station, and support his power. AND
WOMEN, WHOM HE FLATTERED BY A PUERILE ATTENTION TO THE WHOLE SEX,
OBTAINED IN HIS REIGN THAT PRINCE-LIKE DISTINCTION SO FATAL to reason
and virtue.A king is always a king, and A WOMAN IS ALWAYS A WOMAN (AND A
WIT ALWAYS A WIT, might be added; for the vain fooleries of wits and
beauties to obtain attention, and make conquests, are much upon a par.)
his authority and her sex, ever stand between them and rational
converse...."

....and need I point out how JA has echoed the excerpt from Anna
Laetitia Barbauld's (nee Aikin) song that Wollstonecraft quoted, and
need I also point out that the words "SO FATAL to reason and virtue"
also reminds us of the very excerpt from Garrick's Riddle that is quoted
by Mr. Woodhouse in that same Chapter 9:

Kitty, a fair but frozen maid,
Kindled a flame I yet deplore,
The hood-wink'd boy I called to aid,
Though of his near approach afraid,
SO FATAL to my suit before.

.....and Wollstonecraft clearly is obsessed with Louis (or Lewis) XIV,
as she revisits him one more time, at length, later in that same Chapter
4 of AVOTROW:

"....Lewis XIV, during the greater part of his REIGN, was regarded, not
only in France, but over all Europe, as THE MOST PERFECT MODEL OF A
GREAT PRINCE. But what were the talents and virtues, by which he
acquired this great reputation? Was it by the scrupulous and inflexible
justice of all his undertakings, by the immense dangers and difficulties
with which they were attended, or by the unwearied and unrelenting
application with which he pursued them? Was it by his extensive
knowledge, by his exquisite judgment, or by his heroic valour? It was by
none of these qualities. But he was, first of all, the most powerful
prince in Europe, and consequently held the highest rank among kings;
and then, says his historian, 'he surpassed all his courtiers in the
gracefulness of his shape, and the majestic beauty of his features. The
sound of his voice noble and affecting, gained those hearts which his
presence intimidated. He had a step and a deportment, which could suit
only him and his rank, and which would have been ridiculous in any other
person. The embarrassment which he occasioned to those who spoke to him,
flattered that secret satisfaction with which he felt his own
superiority.' These frivolous accomplishments, supported by his rank,
and, no doubt, too, by a degree of other talents and virtues, which
seems, however, not to have been much above mediocrity, established this
prince in the esteem of his own age, and have drawn even from posterity,
a good deal of respect for his memory. Compared with these, in his own
times, and in his own presence, no other virtue, it seems, appeared to
have any merit. Knowledge, industry, valour, and beneficence, trembling,
were abashed, and lost all dignity before them."

Are we not reading here a description of Emma herself? And also of the
"aimable" Frank Churchill, who, it has been well established, is also a
representation of the other royal "rising sun", i.e., the Prince of Whales?

And I just did some more Googling and now see that Peter Knox-Shaw, in
his excellent 2004 book JA and the Enlightenment, citing Claudia Johnson
and others as background, actually preceded Harris on making an explicit
connection of Wollstonecraft to Emma in general and also preceded me in
connecting Wollstonecraft to the second charade in particular. I direct
your attention to his excellent discussion of this topic at ppg 204 et
seq, including the following particularly interesting comments:

"The charade on court-ship that Mr. Elton writes [as I noted last week,
it is my opinion that in the shadow story of the novel, Frank writes the
charade, not Mr. Elton] for Harriet's riddle-book but intends for Emma,
pictures exactly the sort of courtship that Wollstonecraft has in mind,
only from a masculine viewpoint. Each of the two syllables is encoded in
a way that underlines the sovereignty of men....In paying court,
however, all is turned topsy-turvy--men now play the part of slaves,
women become queens...It is altogether apt that JA should introduce this
brand of courtship in the context of a game and under the title CHARADE,
for though the pattern of conduct to which Mr. Elton subscribes is so
entrenched as to count as a cultural form, we are constantly reminded of
its artificiality. What begins as fiction, ends as fiction too.....

So, I claim that "Lewis XIV" is the icing on the cake "baked" by
Knox-Shaw, Harris and myself, consisting of all these wonderful and
telling connections of Wollstonecraft to JA's Emma, and I think it fair
to say, Q.E.D., and, notwithstanding Mr. Woodhouse's trepidations, I
believe that a few slices of this caek would be "exceedingly wholesome". ;)

Cheers, ARNIE

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