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

Monday, February 14, 2011

Important P.S. re Lady Middleton’s Delicacy, Mrs. Jennings’s Ill Wind, and the High Crimes and Misdemeanors of….Colonel Brandon?

I inadvertently left one important area uncovered in my post earlier today under the above Subject Line....

....and it has to do with Warren Hastings's reactions to P&P and S&S, respectively.

In Letter #87 written to CEA by JA while staying with Henry at Henrietta Street over a period of two days, 9/15-16/13, JA mentions Warren Hastings not once but twice, and both times in relation to JA's novels:

"First Lady Robert is delighted with P&P and really was so, as I understand, before she knew who wrote it, for, of course, she knows now. He told her with as much satisfaction as if it were my wish. He did not tell me this, but he told Fanny. And Mr. Hastings! I am quite delighted with what such a man writes about it. Henry sent him the books after his return from Daylesford, but you will hear the letter too............I heard Edward last night pressing Henry to come to you, and I think Henry engaged to go there after his November collection. Nothing has been done as to S&S. The books came to hand too late for him to have time for it before he went. Mr. Hastings never hinted at Eliza in the smallest degree. Henry knew nothing of Mr. Trimmer's death. I tell you these things that you may not have to ask them over again.There is a new clerk sent down to Alton, a Mr. Edmund Williams, a young man whom Henry thinks most highly of, and he turns out to be a son of the luckless Williamses of Grosvenor Place. I long to have you hear Mr. H.'s opinion of P. and P. His admiring my Elizabeth so much is particularly welcome to me."

I note first that P&P has been out in the world for over seven months by this time, but the second edition of S&S (i.e., the one with the deletion of the sentence about "Lady Middleton's delicacy") is still two months away from publication. Therefore, it appears that the copy of S&S which Henry sends to Daylesford for Warren Mr. Hastings is the _first_ edition, the one which _has_ that potentially offending sentence in it that connects Lady Middleton to Mrs. Jennings's claim that Eliza Williams is Colonel Brandon's illegitimate daughter.

I find it utterly characteristic of JA that she wishes for Hastings to read both novels, given that I believe not only that Colonel Brandon is a representation of Hastings in S&S, but also that Eliza Bennet and Eliza Williams, respectively, are representations of Eliza Hancock Austen, who has died only four months earlier. To me this is exactly what JA does with _Emma_--she contrives to have the Prince Regent call upon her to dedicate the novel to him, knowing that he is utterly unaware that she has satirized him mercilessly in it. And so I believe the same it the case with S&S--JA wants the butt of her covert critiques to read the novels and enjoy them. She seems to derive some thrill of danger from this, as she is confident that the great man will not notice the satire, and will come away thinking he has been applauded--but that perhaps a shadow will pass across the back of his mind, one that may irritate him without his even realizing why.

But I think JA is most curious to know if Hastings will take the hint of the two references to Brandon's illegitimate daughter, combined with other items connecting him to Hastings, such as the duel, and all the stuff connecting to Tysoe and Phila Austen. Whereas in P&P JA writes "His admiring Elizabeth so much is particularly welcome to me."--this seems sincere, as Eliza Bennet is in part a tribute to Eliza Hancock Austen, and her Beatrice-like sparkling with and vivacity, and JA believes that Hastings did have a soft spot for his "daughter". But it's also why JA writes "Mr. Hastings never hinted at Eliza in the smallest degree" in the immediately preceding sentence. I suggest that this is not Eliza Bennet (who is referred to sentences later as "Elizabeth"), but Eliza _Williams_ from S&S--and the way JA encodes this is two sentences later when she refers to various members of the Williams family. If they are actual people in the first place, and I think they are, I suggest that even so they are mentioned in _that_ sentence in the letter, sandwiched between sentences about Hastings, purposely to flag for CEA's sensitized eyes a veiled reference to Eliza _Williams_!

But....whether Hastings, or someone else, noticed the indelicate allusion in the first edition of S&S, something happened between the writing of Letter #87 and the publication of the second edition of S&S, to cause JA to remove that explosive hint. I don't think she did it voluntarily, she was having way too much fun with it in Letter #87!

And there is one other coded reference in Letter #87, where JA reveals her true--and very negative---feelings about Warren Hastings, the chirpy bubbly tone of those paragraphs notwithstanding. It is when JA describes Hastings as "such a man".

While the innocent meaning of that phrase is one of awe in the presence of greatness--_such_ a man! ---that same phrase can also mean something quite the opposite--and that should ring a bell for you to Jennifer Ehle speaking about Wickham, and saying:

"How is such a man to be worked on?....Yet he is such a man!"

In fact, over 3/4 of the dozen usages of that phrase "such a man" in all of JA's novels are _negative_ in connotation, and only a handful are positive. And I do believe that after reading Sheridan's closing argument, JA did indeed think of Hastings as "such a man" in the most negative sense possible! As evidence thereof, I quote again twice from Sheridan's descriptions of Warren Hastings (whom he refers to as "the prisoner"), where the phrase "such a" is used in describing Hastings in a very negative light:

"I cannot look at the prisoner without knowing and being compelled to confess, that there are persons of _such a turn of mind_ as to prosecute mischief without interest, and that there are passions of the human soul which lead, without a motive, to the perpetration of crimes.

"Here, then, we have in the person of the prisoner both the accuser and the judge. With much caution, therefore, should this judge be heard who has apparently at least, a profit in the conviction, and an interest in the condemnation of the party to be tried. I say nothing of the gross turpitude of _such a double character_, nor of the frontless disregard of all those feelings which revolt at mixing offices so distinct and incompatible."

Cheers, ARNIE

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