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

Monday, February 7, 2011

Eliza Bennet, another one of Jane Austen's Heroides

As soon as I hit the "send" button on my message about Marianne Dashwood as JA's version of Ovid's Dido in his Heroides-- expanding on Cathy Janofsky's briilliant intuition re same--- I searched to see which of Ovid's _other_ Heroides JA might have been focused on, and look at what I found immediately at the following blog post by another literature obsessive, Amalia Dillin:

http://blog.amaliadillin.com/2009/10/heroides.html

I quote the relevant excerpt:

"In the second letter, Helen responds with a refusal. At first, you can clearly see her offense. The way [Paris has] gone about his argument, implying that she's unchaste, or doomed to be so because of her birth, insults her and her mother, and she's clearly upset by his presumption. But as the letter goes on, we can see that her resolve softens. She's offended, and she knows his advances are wrong, and she has no wish to be disloyal to her husband, but he is very handsome, and she's clearly flattered by his attention and profession of love. She tells him that if he had come when so many sought her hand in marriage, she would have chosen to marry him above Meneleus, but now that she's married he has no right to ask it of her. He has no right to make any arguments or suggestions that she should turn to him, and refuses to allow him into her bed while her husband is away. At least for now. Especially in light of the fact that Paris has already abandoned one wife, and so she can't trust him to be faithful to her either. The whole thing kind of reminds me of Mr. Darcy's original proposal of marriage to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice when he explains in insulting terms the objection of her family and connections and low birth. (Could Jane Austen have been a fan of Ovid?) That's kind of the same way that Paris talks about Sparta and the circumstances of Helen's birth by Zeus and Leda--that is, Zeus somehow got Leda with child while disguised as a swan or something, I have to look it up. Even though Helen is a daughter of Zeus, or perhaps because she is a daughter of Zeus, a well known philanderer, she has adultery in her veins, and can't hope to remain virtuous."


And I will not pursue the implications of this further at this time, beyond saying that I am in Amalia Dillin's debt for flagging at least one other of the Heroides who was (to me, clearly) on JA's radar screen, and otherwise, as to how I explain this in terms of interpretation of P&P----"Please read my book!"


Cheers, ARNIE

1 comment:

Amalia T. said...

Thanks for the link and the quote! I have no trouble at all believing that Jane Austen had a classical education with an emphasis on literature :) And I have to admit, after reading your about me section and your theory about Willoughby as a stalker of Marianne, I am REALLY intrigued! Is your book available yet, or still being written?