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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, now living in "Portlandia"!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Which is the man? Which is the heroine? Which is the allusion?

The P.S. of my immediately preceding message promised that I would bring forward another "candidate" for the allusive source to which Jane Austen alluded in her coded message to her brother James in Letter 146 to his son James Edward (JEAL). Here it is now:

Act IV, Scene I, Which is the man? a comedy by Hannah Cowley (1785)

[In this scene in an Apartment at Lady Bell's, Mr Beauchamp waits an hour in order to tell Lady Bell something important]


Beauchamp: What a misfortune to a lover! I know one to whom your Ladyship appears the disdainful Daphne.— How happy, could he behold in your eye the encouragement of Atalanta's!

Lady Bell: (aside) Mercy ! for so bashful a man that's pretty plain.

Beauchamp: This is probably the last visit I can make you before I leave England. Will your Ladyship permit me, before I leave it, to acquaint you that there is a man, whose happiness depends on your favour? (agitated)

Lady Bell: (aside) So, now he's going to be perplexing again! (looking on her fan) a man whose happiness depends on me, Mr. Beauchamp!

Beauchamp. Yes, Madam!—and—and—(aside) I cannot go on. Why did I accept a commission in which success would destroy me?

Lady Bell. (aside) How evidently this is the first time he ever made love!
--—The man seems to have chosen a very diffident advocate in you, Sir.

Beauchamp: 'Tis more than diffidence, Madam, my talk is painful.

Lady Bell: (aside) Ay, I thought so!
You have taken a brief in a cause you don't like; I could plead it better myself!

Beauchamp: I feel the reproach.

Lady Bell: 'Tis difficult for you, perhaps, to speak in the third person?- Try it in the first. Suppose now, ha! ha! only suppose, I say, for the jest's sake, that you yourself have a passion for me, and then try—how you can plead it.

Beauch: (kneeling) Thus—thus would I plead it, and swear, that thou art dear to my heart as fame, and honour!—To look at thee is rapture; to love thee, though without hope,—felicity!

Lady Bell: (aside) Oh, I thought I should bring him to the point at last!

Beauchamp: (rising, aside) To what dishonesty have I been betray'd!—Thus, Madam, speaks my friend, through my lips; 'tis thus he pleads his passion.

Lady Bell: (aside) Provoking!
—What friend is this. Sir, who is weak enough to use the language of another to explain his heart?

Beauchamp: Lord Sparkle.

Lady Bell: Lord Sparkle! Was it for him you knelt? (he bows to her)— Then, Sir, I must inform you, that the liberty you have taken-
(aside) Heavens, how do I betray myself!
—Tell me, Sir, on.your honour, do you wish to succeed in pleading the passion of Lord Sparkle?

Beauchamp: {hesitating) My obligations to his Lordship—our relationship—the confidence he has reposed in me—

Lady Bell: Stop, Sir! I too will repose confidence in you, and confess that there is a man whom I sometimes suspect not to be indifferent to me;—but 'tis not Lord Sparkle! Tell him so;—and tell him that—that—_tell him what you will._

Beauch. (aside) Heavens, what does she mean! What language is this her eye speaks?

Lady Bell. Do you visit me this evening? Here will be many of my friends, and you shall then see me in the presence of the man my heart prefers.

(Beauchamp bows, and goes to the door; then returns, advances towards Lady Bell, makes an effort to speak; finds it impossible, then bows, and exit.)


So, what could it mean for Jane Austen to allude to this scene in sending a coded message to her brother James? Had James acted as a surrogate for a shy friend from Steventon or thereabouts who was interested in Jane Austen?

But perhaps some of you will now object, and say that while it was likely that both Jane Austen and James Austen knew Richardson's _Clarissa_ well, would they also have known a scene from a play written by the less famous Hannah Cowley?

To which objection my reply is simply to point you to the following passage from Jane Austen's Juvenilia epistolary mini-novel, _The Three Sisters_, written by JA within a few years after Cowley's play was published (in multiple editions). In this scene, sister Georgiana writes to her friend Miss XXX the gory details of how the Mr. Collins-like Mr Watts makes his pitch for Mary Stanhope's hand, and how Mary responds--look for the bold faced passage which specifically refers to Cowley's play:

"Fine weather, Ladies." Then turning to Mary, "Well, Miss Stanhope, I hope you have at last settled the Matter in your own mind; and will be so good as to let me know whether you will condescend to marry me or not."

"I think, Sir (said Mary) You might have asked in a genteeler way than that. I do not know whether I shall have you if you behave so odd."

"Mary!" (said my Mother). "Well, Mama, if he will be so cross..."

"Hush, hush, Mary, you shall not be rude to Mr. Watts."

"Pray Madam, do not lay any restraint on Miss Stanhope by obliging her to be civil. If she does not choose to accept my hand, I can offer it else where, for as I am by no means guided by a particular preference to you above your Sisters, it is equally the same to me which I marry of the three." Was there ever such a Wretch! Sophy reddened with anger and I felt so spiteful!

"Well then (said Mary in a peevish Accent) I will have you if I must."

"I should have thought, Miss Stanhope, that when such Settlements are offered as I have offered to you, there can be no great violence done to the inclinations in accepting of them." Mary mumbled out something, which I who sat close to her could just distinguish to be "What's the use of a great Jointure, if Men live forever?" And then audibly "Remember the pin-money; two hundred a year."

"A hundred and seventy-five, Madam."

"Two hundred indeed, Sir" said my Mother.

"And Remember, I am to have a new Carriage hung as high as the Duttons', and blue spotted with silver; and I shall expect a new saddle horse, a suit of fine lace, and an infinite number of the most valuable Jewels. Diamonds such as never were seen, [2] and Pearls, Rubies, Emeralds, and Beads out of number. You must set up your Phaeton, which must be cream-coloured with a wreath of silver flowers round it; You must buy 4 of the finest Bays in the Kingdom and you must drive me in it every day. This is not all; You must entirely new furnish your House after my Taste, You must hire two more Footmen to attend me, two Women to wait on me, must always let me do just as I please and make a very good husband."

Here she stopped, I beleive rather out of breath.

"This is all very reasonable, Mr. Watts, for my Daughter to expect."

"And it is very reasonable, Mrs. Stanhope, that your daughter should be disappointed." He was going on, but Mary interrupted him: "You must build me an elegant Greenhouse and stock it with plants. You must let me spend every Winter in Bath, every Spring in Town, Every Summer in taking some Tour, and every Autumn at a Watering Place, and if we are at home the rest of the year (Sophy and I laughed) You must do nothing but give Balls and Masquerades. You must build a room on purpose and a Theatre to act Plays in. The first Play we have shall be Which is the Man, and I will do Lady Bell Bloomer."

"And pray, Miss Stanhope (said Mr. Watts), What am I to expect from you in return for all this."

"Expect? Why, you may expect to have me pleased."

"It would be odd if I did not. Your expectations, Madam, are too high for me, and I must apply to Miss Sophy, who perhaps may not have raised her's so much."

"You are mistaken, Sir, in supposing so, (said Sophy) for tho' they may not be exactly in the same Line, yet my expectations are to the full as high as my Sister's; for I expect my Husband to be good-tempered and Chearful; to consult my Happiness in all his Actions, and to love me with Constancy and Sincerity."

Mr. Watts stared. "These are very odd Ideas, truly, young Lady. You had better discard them before you marry, or you will be obliged to do it afterwards."

My Mother, in the meantime, was lecturing Mary, who was sensible that she had gone too far, and when Mr. Watts was just turning towards me in order, I beleive, to address me, she spoke to him in a voice half humble, half sulky.

"You are mistaken, Mr. Watts, if you think I was in earnest when I said I expected so much. However I must have a new Chaise."

"Yes, Sir, you must allow that Mary has a right to expect that."

"Mrs. Stanhope, I mean and have always meant to have a new one on my Marriage. But it shall be the colour of my present one."

"I think, Mr. Watts, you should pay my Girl the compliment of consulting her Taste on such Matters."

Mr. Watts would not agree to this, and for some time insisted upon its being a Chocolate colour, while Mary was as eager for having it blue with silver Spots. At length, however, Sophy proposed that to please Mr. W. it should be a dark brown, and to please Mary it should be hung rather high and have a silver Border. This was at length agreed to, tho' reluctantly on both sides, as each had intended to carry their point entire. We then proceeded to other Matters, and it was settled that they should be married as soon as the Writings could be completed. Mary was very eager for a Special Licence and Mr. Watts talked of Banns. A common Licence was at last agreed on. Mary is to have all the Family Jewels, which are very inconsiderable, I beleive, and Mr. W. promised to buy her a Saddle horse; but in return, she is not to expect to go to Town or any other public place for these three Years. She is to have neither Greenhouse, Theatre, or Phaeton; to be contented with one Maid without an additional Footman. It engrossed the whole Evening to settle these affairs; Mr. W. supped with us and did not go till twelve. As soon as he was gone, Mary exclaimed "Thank Heaven! he's off at last; how I do hate him!" It was in vain that Mama represented to her the impropriety she was guilty of, in disliking him who was to be her Husband, for she persisted in declaring her aversion to him and hoping she might never see him again. What a Wedding will this be! END OF EXCERPT FROM GEORGIANA'S LETTER


So, which was JA's allusion, to Richardson or to Cowley? I say, to both! And I also say, that there is also a connection to the novel that James's daughter Anna was writing in 1814 under her aunt's loving wing---the title of which was "Which is the heroine?" And we may also wish to note that "Beauchamp", in addition to being the name of the shy suitor in Cowley's comedy, is also an important name in Anna Austen's published story Mary Hamilton.

Wheels within wheels.

Cheers, ARNIE

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The play "Which is the Man?" was well known to Jane Austen's cousin Eliza de Feuillide as it was one of the two plays she commissioned to be put on at the theatre when she was staying in Tunbridge Wells.