FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER: @JaneAustenCode
(& scroll all the way down to read my literary sleuthing posts)
Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, now living in "Portlandia"!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Northanger Abbey's Veiled Allusion to the Real Bluebeard of Bath....who was connected to Jane Austen!

[n Janeites this morning, Derrick Leigh wrote] "Jane Austen's great grandparents on the Leigh side were Theophilus Leigh and Mary Brydges. Their daughter Mary Leigh married the 4th baronet, Sir Hungerford Hoskyns in 1720."

Derrick, did you happen to notice the discussion that I initiated in these groups last November about the excellent presentation by Janine Barchas at the last JASNA AGM in Portland? In her presentation, Barchas laid out, in convincing detail, the multifaceted veiled allusion in Northanger Abbey to the Farleigh Hungerford castle outside Bath, and now her argument can finally be read in the recently published Volume 32 of the print Persuasions, at ppg. 115 et seq., under the title "The Real Bluebeard of Bath: A Historical Model for Northanger Abbey")".

I mention all this because, as I read your comment, above, I was struck by the close proximity of the names "Leigh" and "Hungerford", and I made an immediate semantic association of same to "Farleigh Hungerford".

And as you will see, below, that was a very fortunate association, and, given JA's many covert parodies of the Royal Family during her own lifetime, it is a wonderful and highly ironic serendipity that a significant advance in Jane Austen studies should be furthered by seemingly unrelated news about the latest addition to the modern Royal Family. Read on to see what I am talking about....

My immediate question upon reading your above quoted genealogical factoid was to ask whether "Hungerford" was just a name that percolated around England's noble families, such that there was no special familial linkage to be inferred by its usage? My guess was that it was a very unusual name that _would_ have been associated with a particular family, and therefore it probably _was_ a marker that somehow Sir Hungerford Hoskyns was genealogically connected to the colorful Hungerford family whose real life Gothic history JA alluded to, as Barchas brilliantly elucidated, in NA.

Well, it was my lucky day, because it turns out that my hunch was spot-on. Here is the icing on the allusive layer cake, the factoid which ties _all_ loose ends together, which I just found in Debrett's Baronetage, at p. 139:

"Hoskyns, of Harwood, Co.Hereford. 18 Dec. 1676. John Hoskynswas M.P. for Hereford, 1602 and 1613; /m. /Margery, da. of William Jones, of Llanwarren, co. Hereford, esq., by whom, amongst other children, he had, John, his youngest son, a serjeant-at-law, who was returned to the house of commons, for the same city of Hereford, 1627, in which it appears he had previously sat; because, it is related, that he was committed to the Tower of London, by order of king James 1., for a speech made in that house, reflecting upon mercenary Scottish favourites. He /m. /Benedicta, da. of Robert Moyle, of Buckwell, co. Kent, esq., by whom he had issue, /Benedicta, /m. John Markey, of Alton, co. Hereford, esq., and a son and heir,

1. Sir Bennet, created a bart., 18 Dec. 1676, /m. /ANNE, DA. OF SIR HENRY BINGLEY, of Temple Coombe, co. Somerset, knt., auditor of the exchequer, by whom he had issue, //Sir John, 2d bart. & William, of Kingston; and

2. Sir John, F.R.S., was knighted during the lifetime of his father, sat as member for Hereford during the reign of James II., and was a master in the court of Chancery, /m. /Jane, da. of sir Gabriel Law, of Newark, co. Gloucester, knt., (A LINEAL DESCENDANT, BY HIS MOTHER'S FAMILY, FROM WALTER, LORD HUNGERFORD, K.G., in the reign of Henry VI.,) by Anne, da, of sir Stephen Soame, of Haidon, co. Essex, knt, by whom he had, besides other issue, 1. Sir Bennet, 3d bart. & 2. Sir HUNGERFORD, 4th bart.....who, while a younger brother, served in several campaigns under the duke of Marlborough; m. MARY, DA. OF THEOPHILUS LEIGH, OF ADLESTROP, CO. GLOUCESTER, ESQ. (BY MARY BRYDGES, SISTER TO THE DUKE OF CHANDOS)..... " [END OF DEBRETT'S EXCERPT]


The "Walter, Lord Hungerford during the reign of Henry VI" who is named by Debrett is described as follows in Wikipedia: "Walter Hungerford was the youngest son of Robert Hungerford, 3rd Baron Hungerford and Eleanor, was M.P. for Wiltshire in 1477, and, as a partisan in earlier days of the house of Lancaster, obtained a general pardon from Richard III on his accession in 1483. He was, nevertheless, arrested by Richard on the landing of the Earl of Richmond in 1485, but escaped from custody, and joined Richmond's army. At the battle of Bosworth he slew, in hand-to-hand combat, Sir Robert Brackenbury, lieutenant of the Tower of London, under whose command he had previously served, and was knighted by Henry VII on the battlefield. Farleigh Castle and some other of the forfeited family estates, though not the family honours, were restored to him, and he was made a member of the Privy Council. ....In 1497 he assisted in quelling Perkin Warbeck's rising. After the accession of Henry VIII he continued a member of the privy council, and, dying in 1516, was buried at Farleigh. His wife was Jane....and his only son Edward was father of Walter, Lord Hungerford (1503–1540)......"

And that last-named "Walter, Lord Hungerford (1503-1540)" was _exactly_ the same guy whom Barchas devotes a great deal of ink to in her article, indeed he is none other than "The Real Bluebeard of Bath" in her article title!

I capitalized, for emphasis, three parts of that quotation from Debrett's---first, the reference to a woman named "Anne BINGLEY" who married Sir Bennet Hungerford--okay, that surname was not rare, and could be pure coincidence; but second, and clearly _not_ coincidental, this same Walter, Lord Hungerford, had a descendant, Jane Law, who was the mother of the _same_ Sir Hungerford Hoskyns, 4th bart., who married Mary Leigh, as Derrick stated, above!

And now I will show how the veiled allusion to Lord Hungerford and to Jane Austen's own matrilineal ancestry in NA is more than a genealogical parlor game, which relates to my _third_ capitalized bit from the above Debrett's listing, the marriage of Mary Leigh to Sir Hungerford Hoskyns, 4th bart.

Even if there had been no actual family linkage between "Farleigh Hungerford" and "Sir Hungerford Hoskyns", even if this had been just a random coincidence of names, I claim that JA, who knew her _own_ family lineage pretty well, would have seen the wordplay potential of the closeness of these names when she decided to represent Farleigh Hungerford in NA. I know this because I also know that JA was well aware of one extremely important fact about her own Leigh lineage (her "Leigh-niage", if you will), which was directly connected to that same theme of death in childbirth, which I claim is _THE_ central theme of Northanger Abbey. I have argued that Mrs. Tilney is the symbol of all English wives who died in childbirth, the victims of their "Bluebeard" husbands. That was the subject of my own talk at the JASNA AGM, and when I listened to Barchas in November detailing her own wonderful discovery about the wife-killing "Bluebeard" Hungerford husband at Farleigh Hungerford, I knew that this fit perfectly with my own "Bluebeard" exegesis of NA, based on the completely different death in childbirth theme.

And in support of my argument at my AGM talk, I also pointed out one of the very personal connections of this death in childbirth theme to Jane Austen's own family---that same Mary Leigh (nee Brydges) whom you mentioned, above, Derrick----the wife of Theophilus, and great grandmother of JA herself---died in childbirth after bearing her twelfth child!

But what I did not realize till this morning, when I did the sleuthing which I've outlined above, was that JA may very well have selected Farleigh Hungerford, and in particular its most notorious resident, the wife-killer Walter Hungerford, as a crucial allusive source for NA, precisely _BECAUSE_ she already was well aware of the above described genealogical connection---as per my third capitalized section---of JA's _own_ maternal great grandmother (who died in a wifely victim of childbirth) to her "sisters" in wifely victimhood, the three wives of that evil Walter Hungerford!

And, by the way, you will want to read P. 122 of the current Persuasions for Barchas's detailed account of how things went down for Walter Hungerford and, in particular, his third wife, Elizabeth, who managed to survive him and even prosper after his death!

I just rescanned Barchas's article as carefully as I could, and I still cannot find any indication that she realized the connection of the Hungerford family to the Austen family, and I know that she did not draw any connection between the "Bluebeard" antics of Walter Hungerford and the death in childbirth theme which I have described in NA.

So I claim that when you combine Barchas's original discoveries from her article together with my own original additions to same, you get an enormous synergy, which brings out in 3-D a particularly important example of what Jocelyn Harris called "Jane Austen's Art of Memory"!

Cheers, ARNIE

No comments: